Recently I discovered David Jay Brown’s 2005 book, Conversations on the Edge of the Apocalypse: Contemplating the Future with Noam Chomsky, George Carlin, Deepak Chopra, Rupert Sheldrake, and others.
With respect to the ‘apocalypse’ part, Brown seems to define this as the self-extermination of humanity, an improbable idea to me, at least not one to worry about when we’re 8 billion strong and still spreading.
There is a charming interview with Noam Chomsky, where he’s asked what he thinks of the concept of ‘after-life’, and he answers, “Your dead, that’s it”. I guess Chomsky was chosen as the ultimate sceptic to start that conversation, which is an important thread throughout the book.
There is NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who was most famously known for his ESP experiments on the way to the moon and back. Well, we learn that those investigations never stopped. Though Mitchell died in 2016, they continue today through the Institute of Noetic Sciences that he founded.
There is British biochemist/ paranormal researcher Rupert Sheldrake, author of the bestselling books Dogs Who Know When They’re Owners are Coming Home, and The Sense of Being Stared At. In addition to his usual views (Sheldrake is one of the best at exposing the irrationality of mainstream science’s refusal to acknowledge the reality of paranormal phenomena), here we get his journey to New York city to investigate the African grey parrot Nkisi, whose owner had told Sheldrake the bird (who like some other African greys had learned to speak and understand much human language), was commenting on her dreams during the night! Following careful experiments with the Nkisi, Sheldrake concluded that it really was doing that, and more.
Just think of what it means if some parrots, with a much smaller brain than a human, have telepathic powers beyond any human’s. In my novel Skol, AI researchers in the 22nd century devise the SIT test to measure the intelligence of all species, and the result is that homo sapiens, the ‘wise hominid’, ranks only 17th on the ladder of intelligence. There are many good reasons for that, which you can contemplate if you read the book.
Dean Radin, paranormal research psychologist, comes in to provide fascinating ideas about the nature of ‘God’ and the ‘afterlife’.
I’m passing over so many interesting people – including Brown’s discussion with comedians George Carlin and Paul Krassner (the best comedians are serious people, practising a psychology of their own), and his interview with magician Jeff McBride, that has so transformed my view of the immediate future (the next two decades maybe) that I’ll have to devote at least one future post to him.
Finally, there are some paranormal items where I’ve always been on the skeptic’s side of the fence. One of these was alien abductions. I couldn’t perceive them to be anything other than uninhibited self-indulgent fantasy, or outright madness.
Then I encountered Brown’s conversation here with psychiatrist John Mack who studied these people extensively:
“What do you personally believe is really going on?” Brown asks, and Mack replies:
“That they are being abducted, in a sense. Abduction is a bad word. Something very powerful is happening to them. …..It’s totally real. At the same time, I’m not sure how it’s real – in other words, in what dimension it’s occurring.”
Mack’s experience, you need to know, went beyond that of most psychiatrists – when he was young he went to Africa to talk to medicine men there, who, he says, “have a whole classification of beings”that they encounter in their psychic explorations. He says he couldn’t deal with that initially, but over time they forced him to change his concepts of reality.
Those African medicine men, Mack says, recognize the alien abductors. Apparently these intrusions into the psychic world of people have been recognized and discussed by shamanic men and women, not just in Africa but around the world, for a long time.
As someone who spent much of 40 years as an investigative insurance adjuster, reading reports of psychiatrists and psychologists on the enigmatic psychology of motor vehicle accident victims, I have a deep respect for them. So I was taken aback here. I too have been forced to rethink my approach to ‘reality’, to realize that I still don’t know much about what is going on in the world of Mind.
If there’s anyone who can take you beyond your preconceptions it’s John Mack. Unfortunately he died in 2004, so he barely made it into this book. He had so much to say in this interview, that I could go on and on, but I’ll stop with this statement he makes near the end:
It is our birthright to know something beyond the material world. We’ve treated the universe like it was just dead material – you know, matter and energy. If these beings do reflect some kind of intelligence in another dimension, then when they show up for people, the people don’t have any choice but to acknowledge their reality. This then begins a very powerful psychological opening process for them so that they then come to realize that we are connected with much more – not just with these beings, but other energies, other entities. And it begins a kind of enlightenment process which can be very disturbing, but they come to realize that the universe is an intelligent realm, not just a physical fact.
That is an enormous statement. But Mack said much more. I’m now half way through his 1999 second book on ‘alien abductions’, Passport to the Cosmos, and I’m lost in wonderment at so much that I didn’t know.
Back in the 20th century, psychologist C.G. Jung predicted that the 21st century would finally see mainstream science come to grips with paranormal phenomena. I used to say, “Well, they haven’t started yet.” But now I see that it has begun. Mainstream science is still struggling hard to prevent recognition of anything deemed paranormal, but read Conversations on the Edge of the Apocalypse, and you’ll see that so much is happening now that it’s beyond their power to stop it.