Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Anomalist 14: Electric!

Electricity of the Mind is the brand new volume in the long-running series known to Forteans everywhere as The Anomalist. Indeed, we're now up to Volume 14, and, I'm pleased to say, the quality, quantity and range of topics covered are all as good as ever. I always look forward to a new TA, as they're the kind of title that you can dip into, and read whichever chapter catches your eye first.

For me, it was Aeolus Kephas' excellent and highly-thought-provoking piece that focuses upon two individuals who have most assuredly left a mark on Forteana, non-fiction writing, literature and more: Whitley Strieber and Carlos Castaneda. This is a superbly-written submission that delves deeply into the world of what Kephas describes as the "Literary Shaman."

The author does a fine job of dissecting and analyzing the characters, motivations and body of work of both men; he tackles the issue of fact vs. fiction and how we should interpret their written output; and offers deep thoughts on the profound influence both men have had upon their audiences. Arguably, this contribution alone makes Electricity essential reading.

As someone with a deep fascination for cryptozoology, I read with great interest Chris Payne's piece on the seemingly-never-ending controversy surrounding the alleged continued existence (or not) of the thylacine of Tasmania. Although brief in length, Payne's paper gets right to the point, carefully analyzes the data, and offers a firm opinion regarding the status - and future-status - of the beast. The story isn't over yet. But, as Payne makes clear, it may very well be soon.

Dwight Whalen's contribution concerns a series of aerial apparitions in the skies of Hetlerville, Pennsylvania in 1914 that would have put the Angel of Mons saga to shame - and maybe even did so. I had not previously heard of the Hetlerville sightings - of houses, of children and of angels in the sky, no less - and, so, digesting Whalen's findings on this curious affair was most instructive. Of course, down-to-earth explanations - no, not just looming war-nerves - exist to explain the events. But, in cases like the this, the truth is appropriately very much in the eye of the beholder. But, whatever it was that provoked so much wonder in the skies of Hetlerville all those years ago, Whalen reveals all. A fascinating and little-known slice of early 20th Century Forteana.

Mark Pilkington's History, the Hive Mind, and Agrarian Art, tells the eerie story of the equally-eerie parallels that exist between certain elements of the Crop Circle controversy and the content of a 1973 science-fiction film: Phase IV. Did the film leave its mark on some of the early circle-makers - just like they left their sculptured marks in the fields of jolly old England? And, if so, is this all down to mere chance and coincidence? Or should we consider the possibility that something stranger might be afoot; something that might even have Charles Fort, himself, nodding sagely from beyond the icy grave? Very possibly.

I have to confess that when I saw that Ulrich Magin had written a paper on out-of-place volcanoes, I considered that it would surely be way too dry and academic for such a volume as The Anomalist! But, I was wrong! This is an engaging and captivating piece that looks at the claims of volcanoes spontaneously appearing here, there and everywhere - and then seemingly vanishing without trace. Sounds strange? It is! But, Magin skillfully holds the attention of the reader, reveals a surprisingly large number of such cases, and offers solid explanations for what may be afoot. A fine addition to the book.

As for the rest of EOTM, it's all top-notch, and includes contributions from Theo Paijmans on Forteana and the age of digital-newspapers; Cameron Blount on Peru's Moche and Nazca cultures; Mike Jay on Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the realm of the supernatural; and much, much more.

Well worth investing in, Electricity of the Mind makes for great, late-night, thought-provoking reading. And here's looking forward to issue 15!


Elf Hellion said...

Excellent review, Nick, always a series worth checking out!

borky said...

Nick, as my evil twin in a previous life - Gran'ma says, "Hi!" - I bet you ANY money you used to read Colin Wilson.

I still esteem him very highly, except in one area: his pronouncements on Carlos Castaneda.

I started reading Wilson in the '70s and right up into the '90s I wouldn't touch Castaneda 'cause of Col'.

Yet when, out of desperation for something new to read, I eventually did I was astonished at how powerfully his own experiences reflected my own.

Even the recapitulation thing Col' says was just a device to justify writing new books is frankly b*ll*cks - and I hate dissing Col', I really do - the only difference between me and Castaneda being Carlos only seemed to have intermittent access to his 'key' memories, whereas I've always seemed able to remember everything, (though reading Carlos made me pay much closer attention to any 'videotapes' being played back to me).

Maybe it's me and I'm not as clever as all these blokes like Aeolus and Brucie Duensing - which I freely admit - but Carlos' books read astonishingly straightforwardly, (except for the structural analysis thingy in the back of the first one; though, contrary to what Aeolus says, if you read it like one of those 'difficult' pieces of Gurdjieff's which require you to REALLY concentrate, it actually contains separate insights which only turn up throughout the later books).

But you actually have to read Carlos' books - not like Col', superficially skim them - hence Col's reference to Carlos supposedly having sex (with the witch with the crazy dog that locks him out of his car), which according to Col' was merely an attempt to spice up both the books and sales.

In actual fact Carlos furiously knocked her back, (unless maybe the books've been edited since Col' read them).

I keep reading about this 'dark' Carlos who supposedly turned to the dark side, or got overwhelmed by his ego, or failed to understand his role or the materials he was tasked with transmitting, contaminating them with his own musings.

My take? The teacher was Don Juan; the teaching was the revelation of the assemblage point, and the need to conserve enough of the mental energy we normally squander (paying too much attention to socialising processes like watching TV, gossiping, mobile 'phoning, Facebooking, blogging[!], etc., etc.), in order to build up sufficient spare capacity to be able to shift the assemblage point in a controlled way, (rather than in, for instance, random mood swings).

So - nope! - sorry, Carlos didn't fail: he succeeded marvellously well, and anyone who's reading this, don't wait three decades like I did before reading his books!


23 said...

I have followed a bit of Aeolus Kephas work and have appreciated some of his work centered on shamanism. However, he stretched the boundary for me when he claimed sole responsibility for creating 911 through his use of magick.

His inebriation with power and self delusion has left a bad taste in my mouth and I find it hard to take his work seriously.