The subject of UFOs - flying saucers - used to be a matter of violent controversy. Now the argument has subsided into a kind of sullen deadlock. The people who read Flying Saucer Review are more certain than ever that the phenomena are genuine - whether or not they are really ’visitors from outer space’. The skeptics now simply decline to discuss the matter, as if it were really too silly for words. Yet if they were not hopelessly intolerant and narrow-minded, the present book would lead some of them to agree that ’ufologists’ are not all cranks and gulls.
The central figure in this book is Dr Andrija Puharich, an electronics engineer and inventor, described by Aldous Huxley as ’one of the most brilliant minds in parapsychology. Puharich is probably best known for his ’discovery’ of Uri Geller, the Israeli psychic who was launched to fame in the early 1970s when he bent spoons on British television. By that time, Puharich was already the author of two remarkable books: The Sacred Mushroom, describing his investigation of a Dutch sculptor who produced detailed memories of a ’past life’ in ancient Egypt, and Beyond Telepathy, a balanced account of some impeccable experiments with well-known ’psychics’. No ’psychical researcher’ in England or America had the slightest doubt that Puharich was a serious and totally honest observer of parapsychological phenomena.
And when his book Uri: A Journal of the Mystery of Uri Geller was published in 1974, everyone expected it to be another cautious and well-documented account of laboratory investigations into Geller’s powers. What actually appeared left everyone staggered and bewildered. According to Puharich, strange voices spoke out of Geller’s mouth - or from above his head - declaring themselves to be ’Space Intelligences’ who had selected Geller to be their Messenger in Chief to the human race. And the rest of the book was a catalogue of preposterous marvels, with the ’Space Intelligences’ causing car engines to stop, making objects appear and disappear, even ’teleporting’ Puharich’s camera case several thousand miles . . . Critics decided there could be three possible explanations:
(a) Puharich had been hoodwinked by Geller
(b) Puharich was lying
(c) Puharich had gone mad.
Even the most ardent ufologists found the book impossible to swallow, for the catalogue of marvels simply went on too long; it left the head spinning
Having met Uri Geller myself, my own theory was that he was undoubtedly genuine and had some odd ability to produce ’poltergeist phenomena’. Poltergeist means ’rattling ghost’, and among the thousands of cases on record, some date back to the Middle Ages. At a fairly early stage, people noticed that the disturbances - objects flying through the air or loud bangs and crashes - usually occurred in the neighbourhood, of a disturbed adolescent, often an epileptic or hysteric. Nineteenth-century investigators were inclined to believe that such people were ’natural mediums’, through whom ’spirits’ wished to communicate.
Then, in the 1880s, Freud ’discovered’ the unconscious mind - or at least, popularized the concept - and the Society for Psychical Research quickly saw that this could be a plausible and natural explanation. Of course, it left unexplained the question of how a person’s unconscious mind could cause objects to sail through the air; but it seemed a step in the right direction. In fact, since then, ’split brain research’ has taken an even more important step towards an explanation; researchers have discovered that we have two people living inside our heads, in the left and right sides of the brain. The left half is the rational, logical person you call ’you’; when someone asks ’you’ questions, this is the part that replies. A few centimeters away, in the right cerebral hemisphere, there is another ’you’, a dumb, instinctive ’you’ who operates almost entirely by intuition. If the two halves are split - as they sometimes are in epileptics - the left half ceases to know what the right half is up to, which explains how a person can cause poltergeist effects without having the least idea that he (or she) is responsible. Almost certainly, the right half is the culprit, together with its various allies in the older parts of the human brain.
On the strength of Puharich’s earlier books, I am inclined to believe that he, as well as Geller, has a highly active unconscious mind. And this could explain the storm of ’psychic phenomena’ that began to occur as soon as the two got together. This is the theory that I have suggested in my book The Geller Phenomenon. I should add that both Geller and Puharich, while not actually discounting it, are inclined to be doubtful. But then, they would be. The Uri and Andrija I have talked to live in the left side of their heads....
All of which brings me to another old friend, Stuart Holroyd, the author of this book. I have told elsewhere (in Voyage to a Beginning) how we became literary allies in the 1950s, and how the mutual stimulation led me to write The Outsider, and Stuart to write his own first book Emergence from Chaos, a study in poetry and religion. My book was the first to appear, in May 1956, and it made me an overnight reputation; moreover, since it appeared on the same day as Osborne’s play Look Back in Anger, I found myself linked with Osborne as an ’Angry Young Man’. We achieved overnight notoriety and a great deal of publicity. Stuart’s book appeared a few months later. It was less successful than my own, partly because by this time he was also known as an Angry Young Man, and the highbrow critics were already sick of the absurd publicity we were receiving.
Still, it made Stuart a secure reputation, and a play called The Tenth Chance, presented at the Royal Court, made it clear that he also possessed a true dramatic talent. He followed this up with a book that combined philosophy and autobiography (Flight and Pursuit, 1959), and then abruptly left London and the literary scene, married, moved to the south coast and established a language school, which he ran for fourteen years, in which time the only books he produced were on English literature and history for the educational market, and an autobiographical novel, Contraries, describing the old ’Angry’ days of the fifties and the love affair that led to his second marriage: a book which revealed that in the 1970s he was writing with a new kind of assurance.
In early May 1974, a friend who runs a Dutch ’occult’ magazine rang me from The Hague to ask me if I could attend -and report - a series of lectures on paranormal phenomena in London. (I had written The Occult in the late sixties, and it had gained me a reputation as some kind of authority on the subject). I said it was impossible at such short notice, but that I had a friend in Hastings who was a good writer and a conscientious reporter. He was not - as far as I knew -interested in the ’occult’, but might be willing to take on the job ... In fact, Stuart agreed, and attended the May Lectures, organized by Puharich and Sir John Whitmore. His report appeared in the Dutch magazine Bres, and was reprinted in a book The Frontiers of Science and Medicine, the editor, Rick Carlson, commenting that ’Holroyd’s material is, to some extent, duplicative, but the duplication is worth it; first, because the subjects are complex and occasionally arcane and second because his insights are incisive and his writing lucid’.
As a result of attending the Lectures, Stuart became as fascinated by the subject as I am myself. And for the same reason. Both of us are centrally preoccupied with religion and mysticism - that is, with human consciousness, and the insights it can achieve. Both of us had formerly been inclined to dismiss ’occultism’ as wishful thinking, and to regard its exponents as cranks. Yet if the roots of mystical revelation lie in the unconscious mind, as I am relatively sure they do, then there is an immediate connection between these and so-called ’paranormal powers’. Hindu mystics have always recognized this; the power to perform strange ’miracles’ is just one of the less important by-products of the path to sainthood. And once we begin to talk about well-authenticated instances of telepathy, second-sight or fore-knowledge, we are also asking fundamental questions about the universe we live in. For example, if there is even one single provable instance of a glimpse into the future, then there is something basically wrong with our notion of time. And since the existentialist philosopher wants to know who we are and what we are doing here, paranormal research immediately becomes an important possible source of information.
Stuart Holroyd plunged into the subject with his customary passion and enthusiasm. The result was a remarkable book, Psi and the Consciousness Explosion that appeared in 1977. By that time, he had also turned his wide-ranging knowledge to account by writing no less than four books on paranormal subjects -telepathy, dreams, magic, astral projection - for a series I was then editing.
In the present book, he tells of his meeting with Whitmore and Puharich in America, of how he became aware of the astonishing continuation of the ’Space Intelligence’ communications, and how he was persuaded to make his own assessment. It seems to me that Puharich showed considerable wisdom in agreeing to Stuart’s writing the book, rather than writing it himself. He is too eccentrically brilliant to make a good writer; he gives the impression that his mind is moving twice as fast as his pen. But, more important, Stuart Holroyd is uninvolved. As a writer, his interest is in human psychology; therefore it would not make any basic difference to him if Puharich, Whitmore and Phyllis Schlemmer all turned out to be insane; the story would be equally absorbing. Yet, as will be seen, the one thing about which he has no misgivings is that of their sanity. Beyond all doubt, something very strange has been happening, and is continuing to happen, even as I write these words. It would be absurd not to acknowledge that it could be a matter of genuine extra-terrestrial communication. Yet on the present showing, there is simply not enough evidence to give real support to that possibility. Then what the hell is going on?
I would agree that the remarkable events described in this book cannot easily be explained in terms of my ’poltergeist phenomena’ theory either. Strange entities, claiming to be super-beings from ’another dimension’, warn us that the planet earth is close to a serious crisis, and that this is why they have been forced to intervene so directly. Much of what they say strikes me as convincing, and all of it is interesting far more so than the majority of ’spirit communications’ of the past. Could it be, perhaps, that the original poltergeist theory was correct, and that poltergeist phenomena are due to ’spirits’ who operate through human ’mediums’? I have suggested elsewhere that the ’spirits’ who communicate at séances may be the crooks and con-men of the spirit world, habitual liars with nothing better to do. Could this explain why the landing on planet Earth has not yet materialized?
In this book, Stuart Holroyd has presented you with all the facts, upon which you can make your own judgment. He has told the story with honesty, clarity and intelligence, and brought to bear on it his immense knowledge of this strange field. Whether or not you find the story of the Space Intelligences totally unacceptable, I think you will agree that it is an absorbing and disturbing narrative.