by L. Dan Massey, Jr.
The ancients sought a supernatural explanation for all natural phenomena not within the range of their personal comprehension; and many moderns continue to do this. The depersonalization of so-called natural phenomena has required ages, and it is not yet completed. But the frank, honest, and fearless search for true causes gave birth to modern science: It turned astrology into astronomy, alchemy into chemistry, and magic into medicine. (*901)
The intellectual history of the human race is punctuated by the names of those scientific visionaries whose superior grasp of the relationships of reality ever and again enabled them to explain and to expound the associations of cause and effect by which the elements of everyday experience are determined. The physical record of the cultural attainments of humankind is likewise marked by the relics of engineering prowess which bear silent witness to an inspired vision of a different, more practical kind. Scientists are remembered for what they help their fellow man to understand. The practical physical works which engineers help their fellow man to create are often the only record of the conceiving mind behind the action.
Though most people tend to conceive of science and engineering as basically the same activity, and although our culture often treats the professions almost interchangeably, the two disciplines, though related, are fundamentally different in their approach and goals. Basically, the scientist seeks to expand knowledge of reality, while the engineer seeks to expand control over reality. In contemporary technological culture, the scientist pursues his objective by use of the methods of rational analysis and drawing upon a body of understanding established with great effort over many centuries. The modern engineer likewise uses methods of rational analysis and works with theories developed and tested by the scientific method. However, the engineer will also draw on a large body of practical information to achieve the desired goal.
To the scientist, practical knowledge is of value when it suggests possible directions for fruitful exploration by experiment and analysis. The scientist then seeks to find an all- encompassing theoretical viewpoint which illuminates the underlying process. The engineer, on the other hand, is satisfied to have and to use practical knowledge for its own value in furthering the control of reality. The engineer will use practical knowledge effectively even when there is no clear explanation for why it works.
For these and related reasons, the span of control over reality which engineering has provided to humankind has usually been somewhat greater than the scope of understanding of the controlled reality provided through established science. In the twentieth century, with the increasing effectiveness and breadth of scientific theories, the intrinsic advantage provided by pragmatic engineering appears to have diminished.
As a modern example of this, consider the recent discovery of so-called high temperature superconductors. These materials were discovered about five years ago by careful experimentation pursued in spite of a well-established theory seeming to suggest such phenomena were impossible. Although no theory yet satisfactorily explains the high-temperature phenomenon, it is clear that it results from a different physical process than that which accounts for the low-temperature case.
Let me explain this in greater detail. A conductor is any material which will pass an electrical current. All known materials which conduct electricity at room temperature exhibit a characteristic called resistance. That is, they appear to resist the flow of an electric current to a greater or lesser degree. This resistance eventually robs the current of its energy, which is converted into heat, the random vibrations of the atoms of the conducting material. A number of years ago, when mechanical refrigeration had become perfected to the point that it was possible to liquefy helium, experimenters immersed samples of conducting material into liquid helium so that they were cooled to the point that the internal vibrations of heat were almost totally suppressed. In these very cold materials a new phenomenon, called superconductivity, was observed.
Superconductivity is the passage of an electric current through a material without any resistance. A ring of superconducting copper (or lead or aluminum or iron) will conduct an electric current virtually forever without the application of an external power source. For many years there was no known explanation for this phenomenon, yet experimenters continued to find new materials which could become superconductors at higher temperatures, hoping someday to develop a material which might exhibit the property at room temperature. Eventually a theory was proposed which explained superconductivity in terms of the quantum physics of solid materials.
To understand this theory it is useful to recall the much earlier theory by which Louis deBroglie explained the physical stability of the hydrogen atom. DeBroglie suggested that the orbiting electron of hydrogen created a wavelike disturbance in the content of space by its passage. According to the classical electromagnetic theory of Maxwell, the radiation of this wave would rob the electron of kinetic energy, causing it to slow down and be drawn into the nucleus. DeBroglie's insight was that, if the electron circled the nucleus rapidly enough, it would encounter the field of its radiated wave (on a subsequent oscillation) and would draw energy from the wave. He suggested that, for electron orbits of certain specific sizes, determined by the wavelength of the radiated wave, the gain of energy from the radiated field would exactly balance the loss to the radiation by the acceleration of the electron in its orbit, producing a stable atom.
I apologize to the members of my audience who are familiar with the more modern interpretations of quantum mechanics for this naïve explanation. I have chosen it because it better supports an intuitive understanding of the accepted explanation of low-temperature superconductivity. Basically, the theory which explains superconductivity asserts that the movement of electrons through a bulk conductor is, at sufficiently low temperature, analogous to the movement of a single electron through an atomic orbit. The passage of an electron through a conducting material disturbs the alignment of the nuclei of atoms within the material. The forces between the atoms try to oppose this motion with the result that a vibratory wave of energy passes through the material. Since the electrical current consists of a vast number of electrons slowly migrating through the material in a common direction, it is very likely that the wave action which retards one electron will accelerate the motion of another in the current so that there is no net loss of energy to the current.
A very low temperature is required for this phenomenon to be observed because the natural thermal vibrations of the atoms of the material tend to disrupt the electron flow in ways which prevent this coupling from occurring. Looked at another way, there is a lot of background noise in the material until it is made very cold. This background noise limits the distance over which the coherent wave induced by the passage of one electron can affect the motion of another. If the distance over which the emitted wave remains coherent does not include a large enough volume of the material to provide a suitably positioned electron to receive the emitted energy, the wave will be dissipated as heat in the material, which will then behave like an ordinary resistive conductor.
This theory seemed to imply that, above a very cold temperature, superconductivity would be impossible. Although the physicists who developed the low-temperature theory won a Nobel prize for their work, some experimenters continued to search for materials that would superconduct at much higher temperatures.
A limited number of applications of low temperature superconductivity were achieved, some on a very grand scale, such as the superconducting magnets for the Tevatron particle accelerator which has recently begun productive work at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. This mammoth engine for high energy physics research contains hundreds of very large superconducting magnets for the simple reason that it is more cost-effective to refrigerate the magnets than to provide the power to overcome conventional electrical resistance.
About five years ago, a team of experimenters working in Germany discovered a ceramic material of very poor conductivity at room temperature which becomes superconductive when cooled to the temperature of dry ice (much warmer than liquid helium). Immediately large numbers of experimenters worldwide undertook to duplicate and to extend this initial work. Without any clear understanding of the underlying phenomena, these teams achieved a rapid series of successes, so that the application of superconductive material to everyday needs has come several steps closer to reality.
At the moment there is still no generally accepted theoretical explanation for this new class of superconductive phenomena, yet work continues unabated to achieve practical commercial application. It remains to be seen whether theory will precede application; however, it seems clear that the first practical applications will emerge from painstaking practical experiments guided by only a rudimentary understanding of the underlying processes and not from any grand synthesis of theory which explains everything with a few equations. Of course, eventually theory will catch up and, probably, open doors to applications undreamed of in the present crude experimental stage.
This single case fairly represents the nature of humankind's scientific and technological progress. Although we generally reach towards a deeper understanding of the natural world, the most successful and powerful motivator is usually the desire to attain control. Initially we achieve control by practical methods, that is, by doing what has been found to work, even when we do not fully understand the reasons for it working. The extension of practical control usually occurs from a foundation of fully understood, less complex phenomena. Eventually, the discordance between practice and theory becomes so extensive that a reformulation occurs in the way the real phenomena of experience are understood. This reformulation, called a paradigm shift, leads to new theories which provide deeper, more comprehensive understanding of the real world.
The practical, pre-scientific applications of experience have, in recent years, been rather undramatic. The achievements of engineering that is not based on a deep theoretical foundation have been eclipsed by recent successful applications of theory. For example, neither nuclear weapons nor nuclear power were achieved until after the theory of relativity and the principles of quantum mechanics were available to provide a basic understanding of the processes involved. In an earlier era, radio transmission and electrical illumination were developed almost entirely upon the predictions of electromagnetic theory, yet the practical reception of radio waves and the practical production of electric light depended, at first, on pre-scientific applications of practical knowledge.
The most famous modern story of pre-scientific invention is surely the legend of Thomas Edison's search for a material suitable to be the filament of an electric lamp. The theoretical science which underlay Edison's invention was the knowledge that a current passed through a resistive conductor could produce enough heat to make the conductor emit light. A second, equally important piece of knowledge was that highly heated things tend to melt or vaporize; therefore, the desired material would be something which did not melt or evaporate at white heat. A third point was that many things which do not melt or evaporate will burn, so that oxygen must be excluded from the hot filament.
This much had been well understood for many years before Edison began his search. In fact, the principles had all been fully tested and proven in numerous laboratory experiments. It remained to find a material which would meet the practical requirements of a lamp filament (which must also have included mechanical durability and low cost). For this Edison undertook systematic research using the only known method, trial and error. Having eliminated a vast number of possibilities for various well-understood theoretical reasons, he then systematically tested every remaining candidate until he found something acceptable. The major problem with such searches is that the theoretical reasons used to exclude a possibility may not be valid for the exact situation in which a solution is sought, so that many good possibilities are never really evaluated.
As we look back through the centuries, the quality of human technical invention becomes increasingly dominated by the pre-scientific. The earliest steam engines, used to pump water from mines, operated with extremely low efficiency because they were built on the practical observation that expanding steam can do useful work. Later, as a deeper, theoretical understanding of thermodynamics developed, it became clear that greater power could be obtained from smaller machines with less use of heat. The early steam engines were not magical to anyone who troubled to understand the simple mechanical principles involved, yet they represented an unfamiliar synthesis of everyday knowledge to achieve practical control over important phenomena. The records of the time show that, to many thoughtless people, they appeared to border on the supernatural.
Pre-scientific growth of technological control mechanisms is excruciatingly slow, by modern standards. The further we look back, the smaller the theoretical base on which innovations are founded and the more painstaking the search to find efficient solutions. In addition, the record grows more shadowy, since only a few of the artifacts of pre-scientific engineering have been preserved. We can still examine the architecture of major buildings, the properties of household artifacts, the fabrication of weapons, and the layout of irrigation, drainage and aqueduct systems. In addition, there are written or visual records of the design and appearance of mills, clocks, building and dockyard machines, ships, wagons, and military engines, as well as chemical and medical recipes.
Fragments of pre-scientific technology have survived from almost all major planetary cultures. Within any cultural stream we know the most where written records survive. Only the greatest artifacts survive across thousands of years because of size and durability. A few others have been preserved because of great cultural significance or on account of accident. Against this backdrop, we see that the general human attitude towards technology has only recently (on a historical time scale) become relatively rational. In past ages the practical knowledge of how the world worked (and even the fact that the world worked systematically at all) was held by the few and applied by the few, sometimes to benefit and other times to exploit or mystify the ignorant.
In the final analysis, the human approach to control over reality begins with the observation of a desired result in nature and progresses to attempts to recreate the conditions under which the result occurred. Unfortunately, there is no obvious way for the pre-scientific mind, initially lacking any method for systematic discovery, to detect among the multitude of apparent conditions the few which effect the desired result. As a result, early human attempts to establish reality control rapidly become engulfed in large numbers of irrelevant beliefs, or superstitions.
An interesting example of this is described in The Urantia Book, in connection with Andon's discovery of a way to make fire:
Andon signified to his mate that he thought he could make fire with the flint. Finally, one evening about the time of the setting of the sun, the secret of the technique was unraveled when it occurred to Fonta to climb a near-by tree to secure an abandoned bird's nest. The nest was dry and highly inflammable and consequently flared right up into a full blaze the moment the spark fell upon it.
But it was a long time before the twins learned that dry moss and other materials would kindle fire just as well as birds' nests. (*712)
These pre-rational confusions can only be eliminated by systematic collection and analysis of experiential observations and by faith that such results are meaningful for achieving enhanced reality control, and this is the beginning of the emergence of the scientific attitude. In many ways, the practically tested conclusions of rational analysis are the scientific theories of the past; however, they are so far separated in their world view from our present-day understanding as to merit the designation pre-scientific.
The fascination of early superstition was the mother of the later scientific curiosity. There was progressive dynamic emotion--fear plus curiosity --in these primitive superstitions; there was progressive driving power in the olden magic. These superstitions represented the emergence of the human desire to know and to control planetary environment. (*970)
So, in earlier times the linkage between engineering and science was less clear than it is today. Many things were known to work, even though no one understood why they did. I will use the term magick to characterize these pre-scientific approaches of engineering to achieving control over reality. I have chosen the older spelling of the word, as is common in the Western esoteric tradition, to distinguish it from consciously planned deception, such as prestidigitation, and from the supernatural delusions of superstition, of which The Urantia Book warns:
if modern methods of education should fail, there would be an almost immediate reversion to the primitive beliefs in magic. These superstitions still linger in the minds of many so-called civilized people. And intelligent human beings still believe in good luck, evil eye, and astrology. (*972)
The pre-scientific, or magickal phase of humankind's expanding control over reality is simply that type of engineering in which results are achieved without recourse to a fully rational analysis of causes and effects in terms of well-understood fundamental principles. The penetration of human understanding into a phenomenal domain begins with the observation and application of magick. Magick which has become systematized to the point that it can be executed successfully from a purely mindal viewpoint comes to be considered common sense or practical knowledge. Once an explanation has been provided, reducing the knowledge to a systematic combination of thoroughly reliable principles, the phenomenon is considered to be a part of practical science and is ready for full engineering application.
These considerations bring me to the second, and altogether stranger part of this presentation, for I desire to discover with you those elements of contemporary thought and experience from which control of new types of reality may someday emerge. I will show you where some magick is now. Let me clarify my terms:
The term magick denotes a relationship between human intention and reality extension. The magickal relationship is hidden from understanding; it is occult. Yet the cumulative experience of the individual and the community progressively shows the relationship to be reproducible, implying that it must have a causal foundation. Once this causal foundation has been illuminated, the relationship is no longer occult and is no longer considered magickal. It has become scientific.
We know that the finite reality of everyday experience exists in four domains--literal, mindal, spiritual, and personal. We also have certain indications from The Urantia Book concerning relationships of human intentional control in these different domains of reality. For example, in the spiritual domain we believe and often perceive that the intentional remembrance of the mortal life of the Creator Son enables the extension of his real presence into our conscious here and now. The recognition of the remembrance supper as a magickal relationship between human intention and spiritual extension exists in some form in almost all sects of present-day Christianity.
On the other hand, The Urantia Book tells us that the human control relationship is quite limited with respect to at least some literal realities:
The spirit can dominate mind; so mind can control energy. But mind can control energy only through its own intelligent manipulation of the metamorphic potentials inherent in the mathematical level of the causes and effects of the physical domains. Creature mind does not inherently control energy; that is a Deity prerogative. But creature mind can and does manipulate energy just in so far as it has become master of the energy secrets of the physical universe. (*1222)
When man wishes to modify physical reality, be it himself or his environment, he succeeds to the extent that he has discovered the ways and means of controlling matter and directing energy. Unaided mind is impotent to influence anything material save its own physical mechanism, with which it is inescapably linked. But through the intelligent use of the body mechanism, mind can create other mechanisms, even energy relationships and living relationships, by the utilization of which this mind can increasingly control and even dominate its physical level in the universe. (*1222)
Between these two extremes, there is much room for exploration and speculation. In the few minutes that remain to this presentation, I would like especially to focus your attention on the relationship between the intention of will and its extension to mindal realities. Is it not reasonable to expect that there exist ways in which human mindal intention relates directly to human mindal extension? The Urantia Book has much to say about such relationships within the individual personality, but what of the relationship between the mindal levels of several personalities? Exactly what is meant by mind gravity? What does it mean to exchange your mind for that of Jesus? In a few instances, The Urantia Book provides some suggestive or insightful comments. One of the more remarkable is this:
Always respect the personality of man. Never should a righteous cause be promoted by force; spiritual victories can be won only by spiritual power. This injunction against the employment of material influences refers to psychic force as well as to physical force. Overpowering arguments and mental superiority are not to be employed to coerce men and women into the kingdom. Man's mind is not to be crushed by the mere weight of logic or overawed by shrewd eloquence. While emotion as a factor in human decisions cannot be wholly eliminated, it should not be directly appealed to in the teachings of those who would advance the cause of the kingdom. Make your appeals directly to the divine spirit that dwells within the minds of men. Do not appeal to fear, pity, or mere sentiment. In appealing to men, be fair; exercise self-control and exhibit due restraint; show proper respect for the personalities of your pupils. Remember that I have said: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock, and if any man will open, I will come in." (*1765)
Consider the things which this statement seems to characterize as "psychic force." They are: overpowering arguments; mental superiority; weight of logic; shrewd eloquence; and emotion, including fear, pity, and sentiment. The idea that such phenomena of influence exist between minds is not remarkable. These are obvious extensions of a person's mental function influencing that of another. The intentional basis of these mindal extensions is unspecified, but it is clear that the intention to change another's mind extends in these cases through the observable information-patterning of the physical environment. The only occult process is the personal mechanism of will by which the intending individual takes extensible action.
Is it possible, however, that there is more to this whole thing than the obvious act of deciding what to say and of saying it? Is there some quality of mind which mediates the exchange of viewpoint beyond the information content of the observable utterances? Let us examine a series of remarkable statements.
Mind Planners. These seraphim are devoted to the effective grouping of morontia beings and to organizing their teamwork on the mansion worlds. They are the psychologists of the first heaven.
Even on Urantia, these seraphim teach the everlasting truth: If your own mind does not serve you well, you can exchange it for the mind of Jesus of Nazareth, who always serves you well. (*553)
Because of the presence in your minds of the Thought Adjuster, it is no more of a mystery for you to know the mind of God than for you to be sure of the consciousness of knowing any other mind, human or superhuman. Religion and social consciousness have this in common: They are predicated on the consciousness of other-mindness. The technique whereby you can accept another's idea as yours is the same whereby you may "let the mind which was in Christ be also in you." (*1123)
Spirit-gravity pull and response thereto operate not only on the universe as a whole but also even between individuals and groups of individuals. There is a spiritual cohesiveness among the spiritual and spiritized personalities of any world, race, nation, or believing group of individuals. There is a direct attractiveness of a spirit nature between spiritually minded persons of like tastes and longings. The term kindred spirits is not wholly a figure of speech. (*82)
The fact of the cosmic mind explains the kinship of various types of human and superhuman minds. Not only are kindred spirits attracted to each other, but kindred minds are also very fraternal and inclined towards co-operation the one with the other. Human minds are sometimes observed to be running in channels of astonishing similarity and inexplicable agreement. (*191)
Adam and Eve, like their fellows on Jerusem, maintained immortal status through intellectual association with the mind-gravity circuit of the Spirit. When this vital sustenance is broken by mental disjunction, then, regardless of the spiritual level of creature existence, immortality status is lost. Mortal status followed by physical dissolution was the inevitable consequence of the intellectual default of Adam and Eve. (*845)
Adam and Eve could communicate with each other and with their immediate children over a distance of about fifty miles. This thought exchange was effected by means of the delicate gas chambers located in close proximity to their brain structures. By this mechanism they could send and receive thought oscillations. But this power was instantly suspended upon the mind's surrender to the discord and disruption of evil. (*834)
I believe that, if you will reflect on these and related statements from The Urantia Book, you will find that there is an underlying thread of an idea, which is that there is a finite space of mindal realities. In this space, mental state is defined by a positional metaphor and mental function (state transition) is defined by motion in response to the influences of mind circuits, mind gravity, and individual volition. Let me underscore this view of mind function with an additional quotation, which summarizes and applies the thought.
Likewise does the Infinite Spirit draw all intellectual values Paradiseward. Throughout the central universe the mind gravity of the Infinite Spirit functions in liaison with the spirit gravity of the Eternal Son, and these together constitute the combined urge of the ascendant souls to find God, to attain Deity, to achieve Paradise, and to know the Father. (*155)
I suggest to you that, within the universe view propounded by The Urantia Book, inter-mindal communication occurs without the mediation of observable physical energy streams modulated by information patterns. I further suggest that, where the transmission of physically detectable information structures (such as speech) appears to enable intermindal communication, the total observed effect also involves the action of occult (hidden or unobserved) mind phenomena. The communication of ideas which occurs when we read The Urantia Book is not simply the decoding of the letters and words on the printed page. Rather, the text serves as a material information carrier which, through the decoding process, affects the state of the electrochemical mind to strengthen the mind gravity grasp of the Spirit.
At the present stage in planetary development our understanding of mind phenomena is decidedly pre-scientific. In spite of the sincere efforts of generations of diligent students, neither psychology nor psychiatry have advanced towards effective, scientific understanding, much less control, of mental phenomena. In fact, neither discipline has succeeded in clearly defining the object of its study. Such epistemological issues as the distinction between the organic brain and the rational mind, to say nothing of the meaning of spirit and personality, continue to be matters of heated philosophical debate. Alchemy was more scientific than this by the time its practitioners had generally agreed to talk about earth, air, fire, and water.
Notwithstanding this paucity of rational analysis, practitioners of psychology and psychiatry often manage to accomplish useful results. In fact, they do this by magick, clothed in a semi-scientific rationale. If their magick appears to be more effective than some other magicks, it is surely because much honest critical effort has been expended to try to discover what magick works and what circumstances allow a magick to work. There are plenty of magicks that work much better than psychology, while still being magickal. Computer program design is, surprisingly, a largely magickal discipline that has worked quite effectively for many years, but is only recently starting to become scientific. To say something is magickal we do not mean that it is imaginary or ineffective. Rather, we mean that it works by an occult process. One does not get something for nothing. It often takes a great deal of effort to make one of these magicks work.
Of course, some magick is ineffective for its intended purpose. The results achieved are uncorrelated with the effort expended, either because the basic principle is false (superstitious) or because the antecedent requirements are poorly understood. I will call magick which works effective magick. There are undoubtedly many magicks which are effective. Most magicks are only partially effective because of the problem of poorly understood antecedent requirements, and this, together with the extensive prevalence of outright superstition, brings down much modern skeptical criticism on all magickal endeavors.
An examination of human beliefs, as well as the material I have quoted from The Urantia Book, suggests that of all the widely reported magickal phenomena, direct mind-to-mind communication, telepathy, might work (occasionally) because of a real, but occult, process. During this century a relatively large amount of investigative effort has been focused on demonstrating the reality of telepathy and other parapsychological phenomena such as clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis. The fact that these experiences, particularly the appearance of precognition, are familiar to many people in their everyday life has done much to bolster popular belief in the reality of these things. Unfortunately, the relatively large amount of effort expended in parapsychological investigations has not yielded any clearly demonstrated, reproducible evidence of the reality of any of the claimed effects. The tendency of many self-proclaimed "psychics" to try to deceive naïve researchers, together with the occasional unscrupulous or self-deceived researcher, has given the field of parapsychological research an unsavory air in skeptical circles.
We could infer from The Urantia Book that very strong emotions might be communicable directly from one mind to another by physically occult psychic means. I will call this limited form of inherent, direct mind-to-mind communication telempathy. If I were to seek to demonstrate the reality of this phenomenon, I would want to work with subjects whose minds and value systems were as similar as possible to (perhaps) enhance whatever mental resonance would occur and to control the confounding effects of interpersonal variation in nature and nurture. Young homozygotic twins, never separated since birth and sharing an intensely spiritual contemplative nature would probably be ideal experimental subjects.
I am inclined to believe, for various reasons, that such experiments would be relatively encouraging. I think the problem of modern parapsychological research has been an unremitting desire for the premature attainment of statistically significant physical results. Such results are desired because they would give the subject "scientific" status and might lead to direct applications. The Urantia Book does not encourage much hope that "hard" phenomena like telepathy, psychokinesis, or precognition can occur without the mediation of volitional spiritual forces. If only "soft" phenomena like telempathy have an independent basis in reality (and it is by no means certain that they do), then the objective evidence will be difficult to develop and relatively unpersuasive to the dedicated skeptic.
It is clear that not all universe phenomena have, at the present stage of human scientific development, a rationally scientific explanation. Not all universe phenomena have even been observed or characterized. The skeptic who seeks to limit the range of things that may be designated real phenomena to those things which are rationally explained defines a phenomenally impoverished universe. The naïve believer who considers every magickal statement to be true turns the universe into an undifferentiated and incoherent morass of causeless effect and inevitable contradiction. The task of the rational pre-scientist (the magician-engineer, usually called a wizard) is to balance belief and skepticism in perfecting the practice of a magick, discovering something that really works.
There are many magickal beliefs of humankind that are at least a little true. Even the abomination of astrology contains a tiny fleck of fact (in an ocean of superstition) in its recognition of the twelve-fold classification of human personalities. From this viewpoint we can examine additional areas of partial truth in which future expansion of human intentional control may be expected. As always, there is a real problem in discerning the genuinely magickal from the fruits of fraud or self-deception. The desire for the extraordinary combined with the will to believe provide ample incentive to self-deception. When the subject of such inquiry is the psychic mind itself, the focus of both love and will, we should not be surprised if self-deception sometimes escalates into outright delusion. It is no accident that so many explorers of this frontier have relied on spiritual realities to stabilize and to guide their work.
The twentieth century has witnessed an extraordinary blossoming of the exoteric, as opposed to the esoteric, side of human intentional control through the products of scientific and engineering endeavor. This visible success has held the stage, front and center, while material-minded charlatans have foolishly aped the scientific process, diverting attention from remarkable esoteric disclosures. I would like briefly to probe this esoteric side of the modern age.
From time immemorial there have been isolated groups within the larger human society who have possessed (and usually concealed their possession of) a greater knowledge of planetary realities and cosmic circumstances than the human norm. The Urantia Book confirms the existence of such groups at various stages in planetary history. Machiventa Melchizedek taught truths of Havona and Paradise to Nordan the Kenite and his associates. While in Egypt, Jesus was seen by spiritual descendants of Ikhnaton from Memphis, who understood certain phases of his divine mission. On Urantia today, there exists a cosmic reserve corps of universe-conscious citizens.
Over the centuries many other groups of people have, for various reasons, concealed the true nature of their beliefs and practices from a larger, unsympathetic community in which they functioned. In modern Western society during the last hundred years many of these groups have felt relatively secure in making their unorthodox world view public. With the vast increase of international travel and communication our understanding of the variety of human psychic expression has been greatly broadened. As one example, a remarkable Englishwoman, Alexandra David-Neel, traveled to Tibet and returned with a first hand account of and experience in tantric yoga. Her reports greatly influenced a number of imaginatively inclined individuals who perceived and elaborated the relationships between surviving pagan shamanic traditions and the new revelations of Tibetan esoteric practices.
By 1900 it was no longer fashionable to burn witches, and the early years of the century witnessed a virtual explosion of interest in the esoteric, with the formation of public Secret Societies dedicated to promulgating a syncretic occult viewpoint assembled from esoteric and pagan sources with a large dash of florid imagination, sometimes amplified by recourse to psychotropic substances. Eventually the subject passed from fashion, if not interest, resurfacing again in the sixties and seventies and settling down into a preoccupation with self-transformation during the eighties.
An important thread in this development has been the exteriorization of a body of extraordinary material purporting to disclose the Hermetic Tradition, the Secrets of the Ages, the Meaning of the Qabalah, the Philosopher's Stone, the Awakening of Kundalini, the True Masonic Rituals, the Mystery of Hasan al-Sabah, the Knowledge of the Rosy Cross, the Wisdom of the Sufis, and so on and so forth. Some of these materials may have actually come from private specialists and may have carried a flake of arcane and ancient truth. Whatever the source and truth content, the esoteric tide has also produced a large number of promoters, ranging from Aleister Crowley to Timothy Leary and Ram Dass and beyond.
This overall body of expression contains many themes, of which self-transformation is probably the most orthodox and conspicuous. Among the conspicuous heterodox themes is a preoccupation with the use of sexual "energy" (kundalini) either to transform the self or to effect the individual will. While different commentators have different ethical views of these practices, reflecting individual and cultural preconceptions, there is general agreement that, when properly controlled, this energy can be used to reprogram the unconscious reactions of one's mind or to affect the unconscious reactions of another's.
The fact that such beliefs have been so widely held and protected against ages of persecution by great secrecy does not, of course, make them true. The idea that strong sexual fantasies can affect individual behavior does not seem particularly remarkable to a generation raised on Freud and television. On the other hand, the idea that one person's single-minded fantasies can directly affect another person's perceptions and behavior is quite another matter. If we sought a word to express this idea in unsensational terms, I think we might choose the word I have already introduced to describe the hypothetical direct communication of emotional states from one mind to another, telempathy.
To accommodate those among my audience who are totally put off by this entire line of discussion, I will conclude this talk with a true, historical story, which is also a parable about prophecy, magick, and shamanism. I leave its interpretation as an exercise for the reader.
Ever and anon, true prophets and teachers arose to denounce and expose shamanism. Even the vanishing red man had such a prophet within the past hundred years, the Shawnee Tenskwatawa, who predicted the eclipse of the sun in 1808 [sic] and denounced the vices of the white man. Many true teachers have appeared among the various tribes and races all through the long ages of evolutionary history. And they will ever continue to appear to challenge the shamans or priests of any age who oppose general education and attempt to thwart scientific progress. (*988)
By 1806, Indiana Governor William Henry Harrison had become disturbed by the actions of Tenskwatawa and his followers in conducting witch hunts and burnings among the Shawnee, Wyandot, and Delaware tribes. He made the following speech to the Delawares concerning Tenskwatawa:
Who is this pretended prophet who dares to speak in the name of the Great Creator? Examine him. Is he more wise or virtuous that you are yourselves, that he should be selected to convey to you the orders of your God? Demand of him some proofs at least of his being the messenger of Deity. If God has employed him, he has doubtless authorized him to perform some miracles, that he may be known and received as a prophet. If he is really a prophet, ask of him to cause the sun to stand still--the moon to alter its course--or the dead to rise from their graves. If he does these things, you may then believe that he has been sent by God."1
During the spring of 1806 several astronomers had visited the Ohio Valley in preparation for a total eclipse of the sun scheduled to occur on June 16. Somehow (through either divine or secular sources) the Prophet had learned of the eclipse.2
Delaware messengers brought copies of Harrison's speech to Greenville, where the Prophet considered the governor's challenge.
In early June Tenskwatawa assembled his followers at Greenville and astonished even his most devout disciples by declaring that he would use his power to darken the sun at midday. Instructing his audience to spread word of the upcoming miracle, the Shawnee directed them to reassemble at Greenville on June 16, when the Master of Life would send a Black Sun as mute testimony of the Prophet's authority.
Realizing that the upcoming event would undoubtedly increase his influence, Tenskwatawa enhanced the drama by remaining in his lodge throughout the morning of June 16. Then, as the noon sun faded into an eerie twilight, the Shawnee holy man appeared among his frightened followers, shouting, "Did I not speak the truth? See, the sun is dark!" The Prophet then assured his frightened audience that just as he had darkened the sun, so he also would restore its former radiance, and as the eclipse ended, the Indians were much relieved.3
(C) Copyright 1991, L. Dan Massey, Jr.
L. Dan Massey, Jr.
1 Quoted in Edmunds, R. David, Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership, p. 86.
2 Quotation from ibid.
3 Quotation from Edmunds, R. David, The Shawnee Prophet, pp. 48-49.
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