Anatomy of a Mystery
To conclude, I propose to discuss a few key questions and make a few observations of the material presented in this book.
Let us begin with what is probably the most crucial question of all:
Who or what is Tom?
As I see it, there are five possibilities to be taken into consideration:
1. Tom is a pure invention, a creation of Andrija, Phyllis or John or of the three of them in collusion.
2. Tom is an unconscious invention, a composite created out of information contained in the minds of the sitters by the well-known mediumistic process of 'withdrawal' of such information.
3. Tom is a secondary personality of Phyllis's, endowed with psi abilities, that takes over when she is in a dissociated state of consciousness.
4. Tom is a spirit, a discarnate entity with extraordinary powers of invention and cognition.
5. Tom is what he says he is, an intelligent being from another part of the cosmos.
The possibility of fraud and invention can, I think, be quite definitely ruled out on the basis of what we now know of the personalities of John, Andrija and Phyllis, the manner of their coming together, and their sustained commitment and dedication. Some hyper-sceptical readers may not agree, and some, it occurs to me, may even suspect that I have made
the whole thing up, but I think that the majority will agree with me that possibility number 1 can be eliminated. So we are left with two parapsychological hypotheses (possibilities 2 and 3) and two hypotheses that we may call transcendental (possibilities 4 and 5), all four of which come down to the basic question whether Tom exists independently of the three and their shared situation. Let us see what relevant evidence we can marshal from the communications that might throw some light on this question. In view of the complexity of the material and of the problem it poses, the most convenient approach will be to break down and analyse the evidence under a number of sub-headings.
Alleged identity and abilities
Tom states repeatedly in the communications that he represents-, as spokesman, and is one of the Nine governing principles and powers of the universe. 'But,' he insists, 'we are not God. All of you and all of us make God.' He is always insistent that man's tendency to worship and deify what he does not understand only inhibits his own and the planet's development. 'We are not your gods,' he says, 'we do not rule you or control you. We are all one and we work in harmony with you.' Men have conceived God as being omnipotent and omniscient, and according to Tom this erroneous belief has made the work of the Nine very difficult; Far from being omniscient, they are puzzled by the ways of the world and of men. 'It is important for us to learn, through you, of the nature of the physical,' says Tom, and again, 'We cannot do for this planet what this planet must do for itself.' But if the abilities of the Nine and their associated civilisations are limited, they are certainly impressive by human standards. They include mind-reading, prophecy, materialisation and dematerialisation, the ability to interfere with the mechanisms of motor cars and clocks, to mention but a few. Such alleged abilities, particularly the psychophysical ones that suggest an advanced technology, would argue in favour of possibility number 5 if they could be both consistently demonstrated and proved to be effects with no conceivable natural causes. But the Nine, according to Tom, are disinclined to produce signs and wonders to order, for they have tried such tactics in the past and have only been deified for their trouble, which annoys them because it is man's co-operation and not his worship that they need in order to accomplish their purpose.
This is a coherent attitude. Tom exhibits a robust intelligence and a consistency of purpose and attitude that is suggestive if not evidential of his independent existence. As William James remarked, most mediumistic trance utterances have 'a generic similarity in different individuals' and consist of 'a curiously vague optimistic philosophy-and-water' and could have been written by the same author. The Ossining group's communications do not fall into this category. Whoever or whatever Tom is, he is impressively original. But of course so are the people he is involved with. The question is, is he original in a different way? One way of approaching this question is to consider how he interrelates with the others.
Patterns of relationships
Both as a teacher and as a colleague in an undertaking, Tom consistently exhibits superior wisdom, knowledge and psychological insight. He understands the problems the three have with their own personalities and in their relations with others and particularly the problems they have encountered through their involvement with and dedication to the work. He has repeatedly warned them, collectively and individually, of the dangers of excessive zeal.
When reporting the communications, I have had to be very selective for in the period covered by this book there were more than one hundred hours of taped material. From that I have selected some passages to bring in at this point as examples of psychological and moral statements that suggest Tom's independence of mind.
Early in the work, Phyllis had marital and family problems as a result of her commitment, and in one communication that she channelled Tom made a strong statement a propos this: 'The Being is confused. There is within her the essence of truth, but remember there is also the strong desire to be involved with you. It is true that she is dedicated to what she believes is her dedication, but you do not remove yourself from what you are responsible for without doing it in a manner that does not cause a friction of great hurt to someone else, because you also are responsible for the soul of that person ... She cannot run from what she must settle first before she can be free.'
John, too, has on several occasions been admonished for his excessive zeal, which tends to take the form of an intense and unremitting application to the work. 'We ask you to relax,' Tom told him. 'It does not help your work for you to be intense. It is important that you have some form of what you call relaxation or diversion, such as to turn on your television, to listen to music, or to read, or to walk, or to visit with gentle friends on a different subject. It is important in your physical world to maintain a balance, and you cannot maintain a balance if there is not a diversion. You must relax in order to function at a higher level.'
This is pertinent advice which shows a shrewd insight into John's character. In another communication, Tom probed deeper and said: 'His weakness is a triple weakness. It is a weakness of guilt, and the guilt then creates another problem with Sir John, for he tries to remove his guilt by doing, and then he begins to build a resentment and a feeling of pity for himself. Sir John, what we are trying to say to you is that you strive so hard for balance that you are always unbalanced, and in that situation those that love you and that you love are the ones that are hurt by you, and when you are in that situation of trying so hard to be balanced, it is when you are easily led astray. You are a paradox, Sir John. At times you are overly generous, and then the goodness that you have done on the one hand you wipe out on the other. It is your constant attempting to balance. But if you will not try to balance, all of a sudden you will be balanced.'
Andrija, too, has received psychoanalysis and pertinent advice about his personal problems from Tom, and I only need refer the reader to his quarrels with Tom, over Phyllis when they were in Ankara and on the subject of 'sirens' at Ossining in February, to establish the point that by functioning in relation to the three as a teacher and counsellor, one might even say as a guru-figure, and by exhibiting subtle psychological insight, acumen and wisdom in this role, Tom affords us strong evidence of his independent existence. It would be naive, however, to claim that it is conclusive evidence. In some recorded cases of dual or multiple personality, a secondary personality has shown remarkable insight into the psychology of the primary personality. In the recent and immensely complex case of Sybil Dorsett, for example, one of Sybil's sixteen other selves was so knowledgeable about the other personalities inhabiting Sybil's body that she was able to help the psychiatrist, Dr Wilbur, integrate them all into the 'new Sybil'. I know of no case, though, in which a secondary personality has shown wisdom and insight comparable to Tom's in respect of other people, or made so many statements of wide general relevance exhibiting a profound understanding of human life and character and a consistent moral viewpoint.
Let us pass from Tom-as-teacher to Tom-as-colleague. There are many passages in the communications that sound for all the world like company board meetings with Tom officiating as Chairman. To pursue the analogy, it is as if the company were a holding company, Universe Unlimited, and the meetings concerned primarily but not exclusively with the present problems of its subsidiary, planet Earth. The Chairman has long experience of the problems of the subsidiary, which has not only consistently failed to contribute to the growth of the company as a whole but now is in such a sorry plight that it threatens to cause the company to stagnate or even have to go into liquidation. On several occasions in the past the Management has invested fresh capital in attempts to raise the level of the subsidiary's productivity, and the Chairman can tell you all about these occasions, who was involved in them, what they accomplished at the time and why they ultimately failed. He knows it all, he was there, and he remembers. But he suffers from one of the drawbacks of top management: inadequate expertise in dealing with conditions at shop floor level; and he is bound by the policy of the company not to intervene in the autonomy of subsidiaries. Which is why he needs understanding and active colleagues on planet Earth.
John feels strongly that the Nine have frequently demonstrated an uncanny understanding of the shop floor level in spite of their claims to the contrary, claims which, he believes, 'have been made merely to let us off the hook at times when we were not able to handle what they were telling us about our own weaknesses'.
As an example of the board meeting type of session, I would refer the reader to the discussion of the need for a statement of purpose and programme (pp. 144-6). Here, as in many of the communications, we witness a vigorous and intelligent exchange of the views and attitudes of independent minds. There is genuine give and take. A problem is posed, different feelings and opinions with regard to it are aired, and an understanding is reached through the introduction of a point of view not previously entertained, a point of view, moreover, that is recognisably consistent with Tom's general philosophy and ostensible situation. Authentic dialogue and dialectic are frequently to be found in the communications, and it is this fact, rather than their information content, that poses the biggest challenge to the parapsychological hypotheses. Mental contents are one thing, and mental functions quite another, and when we encounter the latter exercised with versatility, spontaneity and generic consistency it is difficult to resist the conviction that we are in the presence of an independent mind.
So I think we may say, by way of summary, that in relation to Andrija, John and Phyllis, Tom manifests a superior wisdom and psychological insight in the role of teacher, and an originality and dialectical vigour in the role of colleague, that are difficult to reconcile with the view that he is a product of one or more of their own minds.
Other mental functions and attributes
As I have listened to the recordings of the communications in sequence over the past months I have been struck by three particular characteristics: Tom's faculty for total and accurate recall of the content of earlier communications, the factual and conceptual consistency of the communications as a whole, and a curious decline in the language of the communications with the passage of time.
These three points may be illustrated with one example. The reader will recall that the very first time Tom appeared was when Phyllis fell into an involuntary trance at Count Pino Turolla's house in Miami and uttered a chant in an ancient language. Tom explained that the language came from some 34,000 years ago, when there were 'Three cultures, three divisions from three areas of the universe. One came with love, one came to own, and one came to observe ... The one that observed recorded it, the one that possessed controlled the minds. The being that came tried to prevent ... There was a massacre. . . A much more advanced civilisation began then was lost.'
That was in March 1974. Six months later, in October 1974, Andrija referred back to this communication, and without prompting Tom said, 'We spoke, at that time, of a massacre.' Another year passed, and in October 1975, John again referred to the first communication and asked how it related to what they had learnt since. Tom answered: 'If you will review of those of your communications, it is of a similar. There were of those that began of that of the Earth and that of the seeding. And that of the doctor came in that of the time. And there were of those of the negative forces that came to attempt to control. If you can recall, we have told you of that too. And there were those such as that of Altea and of other higher civilisations, that had of the observation and remembrance of this. And there was of you, and of our doctor, that in truth observed; and that of us.' Then John asked about the massacre and received the reply, 'It was a diminishing of spiritual self.'
This communication is of much later vintage than others in this book, and the decline in the language will be apparent to every reader. Asked to explain this, Tom has said that it is due to a gradual exhaustion of the channelling faculties of 'the Being', and in view of our ignorance of the mechanisms referred to we either have to accept this or put it down to a refinement of cunning on Phyllis's part. If it were the latter, it would be a rather supererogatory refinement and one that would be tedious to sustain.
The chief interest of the above-quoted passage, however, is that it elaborates a communication that antedates it by eighteen months with information received in the interim. References to 'the seeding', the previous incarnations of Andrija and John, the civilisation of Altea, and the attempt of the negative forces to exercise control, both elucidate the original message and are elucidated by it.
This is but one example. Statements like, 'If you review your tapes . . .,' and 'If you recall . . .,' occur constantly in the communications, and subsequent checking has always confirmed that the point referred to has indeed been previously communicated. Tom's faculty of total and instantaneous recall is certainly impressive.
Even more impressive is the consistency of the factual and conceptual content of the communications. There is nothing ad hoc about the information, no sense of its having been built up as the communications have proceeded. It carries the stamp of something revealed rather than created, of something that existed in toto before the first communication was received. Tom's initial elliptical reference to the three cultures, of which tone came with love, one came to own, and one came to observe', encapsulated a mass of detailed information that was to be elaborated in later communications. It is information, one feels, that was already there; and to say 'already there' implies the existence of an independent mind, unless we wish to invoke the ancient esoteric belief in the 'Akashic Records', which is a point I shall return to later.
If either of the hypotheses I have categorised as 'transcendental' were correct, we would expect Tom to exhibit ESP abilities. The term, of course, means extra-sensory perception, and as neither a discarnate entity nor an extra-terrestrial would have a sensory system like that of a human being he would not be subject to the limitations of human sensory systems. Tom does, in fact, convincingly exhibit faculties of telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition. Often in the communications he says, 'Yes, Sir John?' or 'Yes, Doctor?' and invariably John or Andrija responds immediately with a question or by making a point that clearly was on his mind and he was waiting to put. They became accustomed to this and it soon ceased to surprise them, and the listener to the tapes, too, tends to become blase about small marvels when the frontiers of his credulity are under barrage from much bigger guns, but the evidence for Tom's infallibly right anticipatory telepathy and mind reading is convincing and has to be taken into account in any attempt to determine who or what Tom is.
Evidence for precognition is also convincing, particularly with regard to developments in the Middle East political situation, as I pointed out in the final chapter of the narrative. As regards clairvoyance, Tom has often allegedly exercised this faculty in order to report to his colleagues on the deliberations taking place in the higher political echelons in the US, Russia, Israel and the Arab countries, but of course the truth of these reports is difficult to verify. (Though occasionally one can pick up an intriguing hint of a correspondence. For example-, within days of the completion of their last mission in Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported the visit of a top Russian missile expert to Syria. Also the allegation that the US was considering military action in Saudi Arabia seemed too fantastic when Tom made it in November. But in January Dr Kissinger made a faux pas by stating publicly that the use of force against the oil-producing countries would be dangerous, but could not be ruled out. And during his Middle East trip in March he had to make a special visit to the Saudi Arabian capital to explain himself to King Faisal.)
To conclude this section, then: the evidence for the exercise of supernormal (by human standards) memory functions, and of what we would call ESP faculties, together with the inherent consistency of the communications, supports the same conclusion as was arrived at in the two previous subsections of this discussion: that Tom is an independent intelligence of some kind. In other words, it weights in favour of our original hypotheses 4 and 5.
Let us now approach the question of Tom's identity from another angle and consider:
The content of the communications
In recent years a great deal has been published on the subjects of UFOs, prehistoric civilisations on Earth, the visits and influence of extra-terrestrials, Atlantis, reincarnation, the intelligence of dolphins, the New Age, and the-traditions of the Apocalypse. These are also the predominant themes of the communications. Depending on your point of view, you might argue that this correspondence indicates that objective truth is now being revealed to different individuals and groups on Earth, or that it is a case of the exponential growth of a congeries of baseless beliefs powered by man's incorrigible need for novelties and wonders. William James observed that 'The Zeitgeist has always much to do with shaping trance phenomena', and he raised the question whether 'all subconscious selves are peculiarly susceptible to a certain stratum of the Zeitgeist and get their information from it'. This is a question we should certainly bear in mind when considering the significance of the fact that the content of the communications corresponds with that of a great deal of contemporary popular esotericism. But to speak of getting information from a stratum of the Zeitgeist is rather vague. It is not a description of how the information is obtained, but an observation that it corresponds with information from other sources. It is an insight worth pursuing, though, so let us consider the possibilities as to how and whence the information content of the communications is obtained. Again I suggest five possibilities for consideration:
1 That the information is stored in Phyllis's unconscious memory and becomes accessible only when she is in trance.
2. That in trance Phyllis establishes a rapport with the unconscious minds of the sitters and draws the information therefrom.
3. That she draws the information from the consciousness of a distant person or persons, or by clairvoyance from books, etc.
4. That she has access to the cosmic reservoir of information and memories that esotericists call the Akashic Records.
5. That she is indeed 'channelling' information that emanates from a non-human intelligence.
I will make a few remarks on each of these possibilities. With regard to the first, in the critical literature of psychical research the possession of unlikely knowledge is often put down to 'cryptomnesia', or unconscious memory. If the person has at any time had access to the information in question, even by glancing through a book many years before, it is theoretically possible that a 'photographic memory' function of the unconscious may be triggered into action when the person is in an altered state of consciousness such as trance. However, Phyllis is not a bookish person nor widely read, and considering the wide range of subject matter covered by the communications, and also the fact that there is internal consistency between information in different categories (for instance cosmology and the interpretation of Revelation), cryptomnesia seems a highly improbable explanation. It is also, incidentally, one that Tom is well aware of. In one communication he said: 'If one of your channels were a student of the book (the Bible), and then in her channelling or her dream state or her inspirational state she received information as in the book, would you know if it were true or in her mind? ... It is better for the channels not to have previous knowledge.'
The possibility that Phyllis relays back information which she draws from the minds of the sitters is on the face of it more plausible. Andrija, particularly, is a knowledgeable and widely-read man. There are problems with this explanation, however. For one thing, the range and quality of the content of the communications does not vary with the identity of the sitters. Andrija was not present, for instance, when Tom elaborated his statement about the beginnings of civilisation on Earth (see P. 31g), and in the period subsequent to the one covered by the present narrative there have been many sessions in which he has not participated, and some from which John has been absent, but the content of these communications is totally consistent with the rest.
Telepathy is said to work regardless of distance, so it may be argued that Phyllis is still drawing on Andrija's unconscious even when he is not present. But the parapsychological studies that have demonstrated telepathy at a distance have also shown that information thus obtained tends to be fragmentary, discontinuous, imagistic rather than conceptual. There is no evidence that coherent and sustained thought can be conveyed or picked up telepathically. The same applies to the hypothesis of selective clairvoyance. As much of the information is elicited by questioning and not simply given, and as it builds up into a consistent pattern piece by piece over a period of time, in order to support the clairvoyance hypothesis we would have to assume the working of a consistent principle of selectivity and that a multiplicity of channels to different kinds of information would be simultaneously open. This is what Professor Hornell Hart, discussing the survival question, called the 'super-ESP' hypothesis. The acquisition of virtually any information can be attributed to 'super-ESP', and if the communications consisted only of information the hypothesis might apply. But, as we have seen, they consist of much more, and the teaching, the exhortation, the pertinent psychoanalysis, the spontaneous wisdom, the personal criticism and the vigorous dialectic, are all factors that argue against the 'super-ESP' hypothesis.
So again logical considerations weight in favour of possibilities 4 and 5. As for the 'Akashic Records' explanation, the idea that there exists a cosmic reservoir of information and memories that can be tapped by a gifted psychic, there would seem to be little to choose, from the point of view of plausibility, between this and the non-human intelligence hypothesis. It is perhaps relevant to note that the Edgar Cayce material, which has some characteristics in common with the Ossining communications, was said to have been derived from a kind of cosmic reservoir of knowledge, and that in later communications Tom has said that such does in fact exist.
The method of argument by elimination which I have followed in the foregoing pages can only, of course, favour one of several predetermined conclusions, and so it is always open to the criticism that there may be other hypotheses that have not been taken into account. I cannot think of any, however, and I would submit the conclusion that the evidence we have surveyed is compatible with our hypothesis number 5: that Phyllis is channelling information that emanates from a nonhuman intelligence; whereas it is not compatible with the more obvious psychological and parapsychological explanations.
But the term 'non-human intelligence' could apply to either of our original hypotheses 4 and 5: a discarnate spirit or an intelligent being from another part of the cosmos. Can we now determine which of these alternatives the facts favour? I believe we can consider a few points that are germane to the question, though I am well aware that some readers with a philosophical turn of mind will consider that to attempt rationally to choose between two hypotheses when there is no empirical basis for belief in either of them is an absurd enterprise. For the sake of the argument, we have to assume that both spirits and extra-terrestrials might exist. The reader might recall the conclusion reached by the Columbia Professor of Logic and Ethics, James Hyslop, that 'In a number of cases, persons whose condition would ordinarily be described as due to ... some form of mental disturbance, showed unmistakable indications of invasion by foreign or discarnate agencies.' The formulation 'foreign or discarnate entities' corresponds with our hypotheses 4 and 5.
So, assuming that they both exist, how would you distinguish a spirit from an extra-terrestrial? Well, for a start, the content of their respective communications might be a pointer. There is quite a substantial literature of alleged spirit communications, but they tend to fall into William James's 'philosophy-and-water' category. As that most critical of early psychical researchers, Frank Podmore, wrote of the Rev. Stainton Moses' Spirit Teachings: 'It needed not that a spirit should descend from the seventh sphere to preach views which could be heard from any Unitarian pulpit.' Such teachings, which are usually obtained through automatic writing, generally consist of pious sentiments, exhortations to a more noble way of life, and descriptions of 'the next world', all couched in a pedestrian and woolly language which makes a sarcasm of the term 'inspirational writings', which is often applied to them.
Podmore's remark about Spirit Teachings implies, particularly for the modern reader, that Stainton Moses' automatic writing was channelling nothing more than contents of his own unconscious. But this is not a justified conclusion on the evidence of the content alone. If spirits are, as both some of their own alleged testimonies and esoteric traditions maintain, the surviving non-physical part of former human beings reluctant to leave the Earth and its physical attractions, we should not expect them to be wiser or much more knowledgeable than human beings. The only thing they would know more about would be the mode and conditions of post-mortal existence. The content of 'spirit literature' tends to bear this out.
The Ossining communications clearly do not belong to this genre. Their philosophy and cosmology are broader than those of any so-called spirit teachings. Tom says at one point, 'What we ask we are asking from a universal point, and not from an earthly or a spirit point. There are many things in which you on the planet Earth are involved that in truth do not have the nature of the universe but only of the planet Earth or of the spirit planes that surround the planet Earth.' The 'spirit planes', of which in spiritist literature there are generally held a to be six, with the Earth constituting a seventh, physical plane, have been described in many 'inspirational' writings, but such writings do not offer any description of the universe as a whole such as we get from Tom. Nor do they represent a consistently universal viewpoint. Throughout the communications all problems, all situations, personal, interpersonal, political, ethical, religious, are consistently analysed and regarded sub specie aeternitatis. There is no evidence in the literature of putative spirit communications that a spirit would have either the knowledge or the motivation to maintain a consistently universal point of view.
But couldn't a mischievous spirit have invented the whole thing, and enjoyed improvising and elaborating the story over the years? The correct predictions, the good sense and wisdom, and the implicit morality of the communicators, I think, argue against such a frivolous explanation.
These points also make it unlikely that manipulative spirits should be responsible because the motive normally attributed to these spirits, namely that of gaining control over many souls, is missing. The trio, after all, have never been encouraged to collect followers.
As I have said, arguments by elimination cannot be conclusive, but this discussion has, I think, established that there are strong supportive arguments for the extra-terrestrial hypothesis. Personally, I would be happier with this hypothesis if we didn't have Atlantis, UFOs, Apocalypse, dolphins, ancient civilisations, consciousness expansion, previous incarnations and the New Age all in the same package. But perhaps the Zeitgeist of the 1970s really is in touch with the 'unified infinite intelligence'. If that were true, we would surely be on the threshold of a New Age. It would be rather less exciting, however, though not much less remarkable, if something purporting to be the 'unified infinite intelligence' should be in touch with the Zeitgeist.
Which brings us to the second key question that I wish to discuss in this Conclusion:
Is the material of the communications original?
We have already established that the themes are not original but the question is whether Tom's contributions to them are. Before we attempt to answer this, let us be clear about what we might infer from the presence or the lack of originality in the communications.
It is not simply a matter of the more originality the more apparent authenticity. This is true for some types of statement but not for all. We have in the communications statements of various kinds, for instance: (a) statements of verifiable fact, (b) statements of non-verifiable fact, (c) statements of alleged fact, (d) predictions, (e) exhortations, (f) philosophical statements, (g) psychological statements, (h) moral statements.
The term 'original' implies different things with respect to these different types of statement. It may imply the exercise of supernormal cognition (types (a) and (b)), or mean novel (types (c)), unexpected (type (d)), insightful (type (g)), or without precedent or parallel (types (f) and (h)). Now, originality in statements of types (a), (b) and (d) (for instance: Assagioli had a bad day today (a)); At a secret meeting the Israeli leaders decided to make a foray into Lebanon (b); There will be a settlement between Israel and the Arabs in July (d) is suggestive of the operation of a more-than-human intelligence. Originality in statements of type (c) (for example about Atlantis, the beginnings of Earth civilisation at Aksu, and about the universe and its other civilisations) is certainly consistent with the existence of such an intelligence. But in statements of types (f) and (h) unoriginality would tend to support the extra-terrestrial intelligence hypothesis if the communicators' claim to have been influencing Earth civilisations and using other human channels throughout history were correct. We would, if that were the case, expect to find historical precedents for and parallels with their philosophy and teaching.
And indeed we do.
Parallels with Gnosticism
I have already remarked that the term 'Aeons', by which Tom refers to himself and his peers, is used with the specialised meaning of 'beings beyond space and time' in certain rare texts of the Gnostic philosophers. Now, Gnosticism is a philosophy and a religious view of man, the world and the cosmos that was widespread throughout the near and middle East before Christianity, and that profoundly influenced certain aspects of Christian thought and teaching. With elements derived from, or corresponding with, Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, Iranian and Jewish traditions, Gnosticism may be regarded as a syncretic or as a seminal philosophy. Much of its literature was suppressed and destroyed by State Christianity and the Church Fathers in the first centuries of the Christian era, so it is not easy for us to understand how influential and widespread it was. The classic study of Gnostic literature, G. R. S. Mead's Fragments of a Faith Forgotten, is aptly titled. But it is no exaggeration to say that among the tenets of this forgotten faith are some of the oldest, most universal and most tenacious beliefs of mankind.
Tom's definition of the nature and purpose of the soul is pure Gnosticism. He likens the soul to a spark that is 'a particle of us' (the Aeons) and whose purpose is 'to return whence it came'. Now compare this with Mead's summary of the Gnostic myth of the creation of man by the demiurgic angels or nature-powers. According to this myth, at first 'the naturepowers could only evolve an envelope or plasm, which could not stand upright, but lay on the ground helpless and crawling like a worm. Then the Power Above, in compassion, sent forth the life-spark, and the plasm rose upright, and limbs developed and were knit together, that is to say, it hardened or became denser as race succeeded race; and so the body of man was evolved, and the light-spark, or real man, tabernacled in it. This light-spark hastens back after death to those of its own nature, and the rest of the elements of the body are dissolved.'
Gnosticism makes much of the forgetfulness of the soul or light-spark 'tabernacled' in the physical body and of the 'density' of the physical world that the spiritual powers in man and in the cosmos have to contend with. And Tom says, 'sometimes we peer at you and we say, "The three of them have forgotten who they are, and they are trapped in the physical and the thinking of the physical." ' The use of the term 'the thinking of the physical' in this context is interesting, for in the Gnostic text, the Pistis Sophia, there is an account of the evolution of the soul, which Mead summarises as follows: 'Having descended to the lowest depths of chaos, she at length reaches the limit, and the path of her pilgrimage begins to lead upward to spirit again. Thus she reaches the middle point of balance and still yearning for the Light, rounds the turning point of her cyclic course, and changing the tendency of her thought or mind or nature, recites her penitential hymns or repentances. Her chief enemy is the false light, the desire-nature . . .' (my italics).
Here is another quotation, and I invite the reader to guess whether it comes from the communications or from another source: 'Jesus was born like all other men; he differed from the rest in that his soul, being strong and pure, remembered.' In other words, he remembered who he was, where he came from and what his mission on Earth was. The words could be Tom's, but in fact they are Mead's statement of a tenet of Gnostic Christian belief.
While we are on the subject of Jesus, here is another interesting correspondence. In a communication on 4 January 1975 Tom stated: 'The being Jesus Christ was all of us at once. Jehovah came with the perfect goodness that is in each of us. Within us, as within you, there are various elements, but Jehovah had from each of us the most perfect of the elements of us.' Now compare this with Mead's statement of the Gnostic interpretation of the beginning of the Fourth Gospel: 'The Logos ... contained in Himself the whole substance of the Aeons.'
Jesus remembered who he was, whence he came and what he had to do because his soul was 'strong and pure'. The ideas of purity, purification and refinement are recurrent in the communications. In one of the earliest communications, channelled by Phyllis from 'Ryr', there occurs a statement of the basic Gnostic insight: 'When we return to your physical world, we oftentimes forget the spiritual side of our nature.' This is followed by the statement that souls have 'evolved through processing, in other words through being progressively purified and refined. And Ryr adds: 'The work is not just our work. It is the work of the universe.' This latter idea is interesting, for the outstanding contemporary Gnostic scholar, Hans Jonas, writes that, 'this process (of the evolution of the soul] is part of the restoration of the deity's own wholeness'. Possibly this is the most fundamental correspondence between the philosophy expressed by Tom and Ryr as spokesmen for the Nine, and Gnosticism: the idea that the evolution of individual souls has a cosmic significance, that whatever is achieved by and in the microcosm resonates in the macrocosm. Mead wrote: 'whether we interpret their allegories from the macrocosmic or microcosmic standpoint, it is ever the evolution of the mind that the initiates of old have sought to teach us . . . The material mind was to be purified, and so become one with the spiritual mind'. In the communications, this process of evolution of the mind is spoken of as the 'raising of the consciousness of the planet', which Tom defines as bringing souls out of darkness, and further elaborates that 'when we say darkness we do not mean negativity but true darkness, for they do not see and do not understand the cosmic'. So the raising of consciousness, the evolution of mind, is to be accomplished through the communication of knowledge and understanding. This again is pure Gnosticism. The word Gnosis means 'knowledge', and in its religious aspect Gnosticism is a belief in salvation through knowledge. And it is to Gnostic tradition that we owe the symbolic equation that runs right through Western thought and literature, of darkness with ignorance and light with understanding.
The poet Kenneth Rexroth, in an Introduction to a modern edition of Mead's Fragments, specifies as characteristically Gnostic 'the concept of the universe as a moral battleground, existence itself as the struggle of light against darkness'. In Judaism and Christianity as well as in Gnosticism, he remarks, we have a cosmic drama, focused on man, 'a drama in which the individual worshipper plays a primary role'. In the communications the trio, both as individuals and collectively, are said to be playing a primary role in the cosmic drama currently being played out, which consists of battles being fought out both 'in the spheres' and on the physical planet Earth. The Battle of Armageddon has been in progress 'in the spheres', Tom has said, since November 1974, and the work of the trio on their visits to the Middle East was to prevent a corresponding situation flaring up on Earth. A propos this, an explanation of Mead's is interesting: 'The "wars in heaven" precede the conflict of good and evil on Earth.'
Gnosticism, then, teaches the reincarnation and evolution of souls, the forgetfulness that follows entrapment in the density of the physical, the fact that the refinement and purification of the individual soul has cosmic significance, that salvation is achieved through gnosis, knowledge, and that the universe is a moral battleground where individual human struggle counts. All these teachings, together with the characteristic Gnostic symbolism of the 'light-spark' of the soul, the opposition of darkness and light, and the cosmic battle, are also to be found in the communications. That the material of the communications is simply derivative from Gnostic sources, through the conscious or unconscious mind of one or more members of the trio, is a possibility that we can discount for reasons already adequately gone into. How, then, are we to explain these parallels? I would like to leave the reader to ponder an explanation suggested by Mead in the Prolegomena to Fragments of a Faith Forgotten:
The soul of man returns again and again to learn the lessons of life in this great world-school, according to one of the great doctrines of general religion. If this be so, it follows that when similar conditions recur a similar class of souls returns to continue its lessons of experience. It may well be even that many of the identical souls who were embodied in the early centuries of Christianity are continuing their experience among ourselves today. For why otherwise do the same ideas recur, why do the same problems arise, the same ways of looking at things? They cannot fall into our midst from the "Ewigkeit"; must it not be that they have been brought back by mind to whom they have already been familiar?
Parallels with Esotericism
Esotericism, which is known to its devotees as 'The Ageless Wisdom' or 'The Secret Doctrine', is a corpus of knowledge and teaching allegedly possessed by the 'Esoteric Hierarchy' or the 'Masters of Wisdom', portions of which have from time to time been released to mankind through various channels. In modern times the two main channels have been Helena Blavatsky and Alice A. Bailey. When Mrs Blavatsky published her Isis Unveiled (1877) and The Secret Doctrine (1888), the Hierarchy completed the first stage of a three-stage plan for the unfoldment of the Ageless Wisdom. The second, or intermediate stage, was accomplished through the series of books written by Alice Bailey between 1919 and 1949. The third stage, according to the teaching, will be the 'Revelatory', and, beginning after 1975, it will comprise communications on a world-wide scale employing, in addition to human channels, modern media such as television and radio.
Theodore Roszak, who is Professor of History at California State University as well as a most perceptive and eloquent observer of the contemporary cultural scene, has written of the modern esotericists, with particular reference to Mrs Blavatsky, that 'if we search the strange mythological extrapolations of these occult evolutionists to discover the vision they offer of human potentiality, we may, at the very least, find them among the most innovative psychologists of our time. In their work, we see the evolutionary image being used for the first time in the modern West as a new standard of human sanity - or rather as a newly rediscovered standard, for to a degree that far surpasses the work of Nietzsche or Bergson, they remain unabashedly loyal to the schools of the Hidden Wisdom, and so link contemporary thought on human potentiality with a rich basis in tradition!
You will look hard, outside the ranks of the devotees, for a favourable opinion of the esotericists prior to 1975, when Roszak published this opinion in his book, Unfinished Animal. Significantly, the book is sub-titled 'the aquarian frontier and the evolution of consciousness'. The term 'aquarian' is one that has found its way out of esoteric doctrine into popular usage and understanding in recent years. The astronomical fact that in the 1970s the solar system is moving into the sphere of influence of the constellation Aquarius and out of that of Pisces is regarded by esotericists as the most significant cosmic event, so far as mankind is concerned, since the entry into Pisces, which inaugurated the Christian era. A new age, as different from the old as the Christian era was from the age that preceded it, is upon us, and the belief that it will be an age when humanity will take a great evolutionary leap forward is another esoteric idea that has become exoteric recently.
At the beginning of the Aquarian age, moreover, the tradition holds that much more of the Ageless Wisdom will be revealed than ever before, for mankind will be in the process of becoming sufficiently evolved to be able to understand it and benefit by it. The tremendously increased interest in revealed teachings and religion of all kinds in the present decade would certainly seem to bear this out.
The New Age, esoteric tradition maintains, will culminate in the reappearance of The Christ, and this event will be preceded by 'the externalisation of the Hierarchy', that is to say, the appearance in the world of a number of great initiates and men of wisdom who, while doing normal worldly jobs, will be serving as guides and spiritual leaders. These members of the Hierarchy, it is said, have long been preparing themselves for existence in the unfamiliar confines of the physical body. Their work of preparation will be assisted by a large and continually growing group of people in all countries and walks of life, who are known as 'the new group of world servers'. The Christ, who last incarnated as Jesus of Nazareth, will return near the beginning of the Aquarian age when through the work of these precursors man has manifested in his political, economic and social relations a will to base his conduct on the principles of co-operation, sharing, goodwill and mutual responsibility. He will return to complete the work begun in Palestine two thousand years ago, which could not be brought to fruition at that time because mankind was not sufficiently educated and spiritually evolved to understand and apply the teaching. With the circumstances prevailing in the present age - a general higher standard of education, widespread awareness of the imminence of a planetary crisis, and the availability of media of mass communications - the task of world transformation will this time surely be accomplished.
The esoteric teachings do not maintain that the Hierarchy hail from elsewhere in the cosmos, but apart from this the message corresponds pretty closely with what Tom says about the New Age, the landing, the preparations for that event, the previous work of the Christ through Jesus of Nazareth, and the raising of consciousness. Let me quote a passage from the teachings of 'the Tibetan', channelled by Alice Bailey, to illustrate how close these correspondences are:
The New Age will bring in eventually a civilisation and a culture which will be utterly different to anything hitherto known. I would remind you here that all civilisations and cultures are externalisations - modified, qualified and adapted to racial and national needs - of the potent, vibrating and planned activity of the world of initiates and disciples who constitute the Hierarchy of the time. Their plans, Their thinking and Their living potency pour out ceaselessly, and affect the consciousness of Their disciples; these latter step down the inflowing energies so that the thinkers and idealists can grasp these new emerging truths more accurately. Eventually the truths thus grasped change the consciousness of humanity as a whole and raise it - if you like that phrase; thus modes of daily living, civilised methods of conduct and cultural developments eventuate. All this is traceable to the group of initiates upon the inner side, who thus serve their fellow men and carry forward, consciously and with intent, the Law of Evolution.
Both the esotericists and the Ossining communications envisage a necessary change in human consciousness being effected through occult influence, by means of energies and knowledge being channelled from a higher source. Both see the preparatory work being carried out by groups of human beings throughout the world who have volunteered to be 'in service', and both express awareness of the hazards and difficulties of working in this way. In the story the present book has related there have been failures, backslidings, wrong turnings taken, interpersonal conflicts disrupting the work, and the reader might have asked on several occasions why the Nine, if they are as powerful and as knowledgeable as they are supposed to be, allow these things to occur or fail to foresee that they are going to occur. Tom has explained this in various places, and when we recall his explanations the following words of 'the Tibetan' have a familiar ring:
They [the Hierarchy] impress the Plan and some suggestion as to its scope upon the mind of some man or some woman upon the physical plane. If that mind is unstable or oversatisfied, if it is filled with pride, with despair, or with self-depreciation, the vision does not come through with clarity of outline; if the emotional body is vibrating violently with some rhythm set up by the personality, or if the physical vehicle is ailing, and concentrated attention is therefore prevented, what will happen? The Master will turn sadly away, distressed to think of the opportunity for service that the worker has lost through his own fault, and He will seek someone else to fill the need - someone perhaps not so fundamentally suitable, but the only one available on account of the failure of the first one approached.
The idea that there exist extra-terrestrial intelligences that are at the present time implementing a Plan for the planet Earth and for man's further evolution, and that the success of the Plan depends upon man's having the imagination to comprehend new knowledge and the will to act on it, are common to both esoteric teachings and the Ossining communications. Other features the two sources have in common are the doctrine of reincarnation, that of the multiple 'bodies' - the physical, the etheric, the emotional, etc. - that man possesses, a cosmology based on the concepts of polarity and balance, and a scientific philosophy and psychology developed around the imagery of fire, light, energy and vibration. The correspondences, indeed, are so close that it is surely not merely idly fanciful to wonder whether the Ossining communications might not be a principal part of the Revelatory phase of the unfolding of the Ageless Wisdom, which esoteric tradition maintained would begin about 1975.
Parallels with other contemporary communications
In one of the communications Tom said that there were other groups and individuals in the world who were in contact with other extra-terrestrial units, but stressed that Phyllis was the only channel for the Nine, and that the communications with the Ossining group were the most complete and detailed that were being channelled to Earth at the present time. When I first heard this statement I thought it would be very interesting to try and track down some of these other communicators and see if the information they were getting corresponded with that channelled by Phyllis. If such correspondences were found, this would surely be the most conclusive evidence possible that the information emanated from a source independent of all the groups involved in communications. The problem was how to locate the other communicators. We had one example in the case of Andrew Watson, Lyall's brother, who had been out of touch in South Africa and independently communicating with 'Aragon'. But his material was not published, and our knowing about it was seemingly fortuitous, so it seemed impossible to know how many similar cases there might be and how one could get to know about them.
However, in the course of the last few months, by browsing through bookshops and book catalogues, I have come across accounts by two putative recipients of communications from extra-terrestrials which have striking correspondences with the Ossining material.
The first is related by Brad Steiger in his book, Revelation: the Divine Fire. The channel for this material is named Charles, lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and is described as 'a blue-collar worker of modest education'. The communicating entity identified itself by the name 'Ishkomar'. In the following transcription of some of the Ishkomar material I have italicised interesting points of correspondence with the Ossining material:
I was brought to the vicinity of this planet approximately thirty thousand years ago, by your method of time measurement. Your planet and the living forms upon it have a specific value to us. Your form of life has a particular value to us. For this reason, at about the time I was brought to the vicinity of your world, we interfered with the natural development of the species of man that inhabited this planet. Our purpose was to shorten the cycle of development necessary for the human inhabitants of this planet to be of use to us. We have worked patiently with you for over thirty thousand years. The development brought about would have taken, by normal cycles, over two hundred and fifty thousand years. Our intent, however, is not to control or to rule over you. Intergalactic law within our group forbids this. We are, however, permitted to guide you. Your acceptance of us is by your own choice.
We, however, are not alone in our interests in your world. There is in existence with us another group. Their interests are not necessarily harmful to you, yet their methods are in direct opposition to ours. They also have interfered with the development of your planet. They wish to reach their ends, not by co-operation, but by control and domination.
You must reach a high level of mental development and knowledge to be able to understand our purposes. We have attempted to gain your co-operation for thousands of years. We have been vigorously opposed by the other group. We must achieve our goal by guidance of your kind, but you must desire guidance for us to be of assistance to you.
We are using many methods at this time to inform your people of our presence and our immediate purposes. The time is quite near for co-operation between us to begin. Your next step upward will soon begin. Full knowledge of our presence will soon be known to your people. There will be, at that time, great upheavals on your planet. We regret this cannot in any way be avoided. We, therefore, have warned man repeatedly to prepare for these events, both mentally and physically.
I am sure that the correspondences with the Ossining material, particularly with regard to the points italicised, will be clear enough to the reader to require no further comment. The same is true of some of the 'Mark-Age' material channelled by the medium Nada-Yolanda, a substantial corpus of communications received over the last fifteen years from which I have extracted the following significant passages:
The space people who are here at this time are here to aid the spiritual program . . . The space brothers, both physical and etheric, are here to supplement, not to replace, your own God consciousness, your own intunement with your high Self . . . They can do many things with their equipment in order to awaken and to stimulate certain spiritual centers, to help you along the path. The time is short; and that is why they have come to aid this planet, and the race upon it, to evolve a little bit more quickly.
As you know, con-ling into this particular aspect of your world and history we can and do desire to raise your vibrational frequencies to accept and to utilise properly the new rate of vitality of your present expression or vehicles ...
You have upon your planet thousands upon thousands who have no idea of spiritual enlightenment, who have no desire or need for psychic explanations, yet they are receiving inspirationally and through mental telepathic guidance our ideas and our future aims. You have them in every walk of life ...
You have people who have come from other planets who know no such thing as life on other planets, who even may not believe in life on other planets. Yet, they are in your Earth's atmosphere waiting, living the life - normal, so-called average, everyday, prosaic lives, according to you who are studying and they still are receiving. Their teachers are around them. Their high Selves know who they are and what their destiny is ...
Within every single human being is a transmitting and sending set of vital energy, which is the vital energy of the universe. The purpose is that each one of you should be able to be transmitters and receivers of this energy, to perform and create as co-creators with God. This is why we try to make you understand that we are not here to control you or to hurt you. We are here to help you understand your true roles and to help your true powers, which you have forgotten on this particular planet called Earth. Although you may have incarnated from very high etheric realms and other planets which have exercised these powers and rights, while you are in the Earth vibration, incarnated in this set of vibrations, you have lost or have forgotten, as though in a dream state, those natural, inherent rights and powers ...
When we use this vehicle - for instance, when we use Yolanda's body - it is strictly through the dedication and the free will of the high Self consciousness. Before incarnating into this life she dedicated her vehicle to these teachers to do this ...
We protect and teach and guide you because you are of us and one of us. But you have volunteered your missions, we have volunteered ours ...
You are being taught the meaning of co-operation, coordination with every other realm, dimension and planet, because one cannot be out of order or out of character while the others are being geared to a certain role and a certain function ... If you are not in co-operation with them they cannot move forward with ease and harmony ... You are holding them up ... If they are hindered or held back to do a role or play a part in your evolution or growth, they cannot expend that time's energy upon their own evolutionary growth ...
We bring this message through to you at the peak of the cycle known to this unit as the action cycle because it precipitates several plans in the overall program ... Plan one is space communication, physical and mental, accepted and presented to the mass media. Plan two is occupation by space brothers for further illumination of integrated solar federation of planetary brotherhood. Plan three is mass education on the spiritual program known as evolution into the fourth dimensional consciousness.
To say the very least, the parallels and correspondences we have noted in the foregoing pages indicate that the Ossining communications are not an isolated phenomenon or the product of somebody's crazed subconscious. They have links with history, with esoteric tradition and with other contemporary psychic phenomena. Whether they are something more than a remarkable and fascinating psychic phenomenon, whether they really do emanate from an extra-terrestrial source, are questions that we should, by all accounts, soon have unequivocal answers to.
Speaking of the landing, let us give Tom the last word. In a communication held on 11 January 1977, just before this book was delivered to the publishers, John asked whether 'what has been stated in the book fully covers what you want said about the landing?' Tom replied:
'It is important that it be stated in the chronicle of the three of you that there will be physical civilisations that will come to raise the level of this planet Earth, to bring it out of its own contamination, to purify it and to prepare the people to keep it in a pure state so that it does not become in a collapsed state for future generations. This is the most beautiful of all the planets that exist in the universe. It has the greatest variety. That is expressed in the book, but it is also important to tell the readers that there is hope for future generations on this planet. For in truth if this planet may be purified, then it will be the greatest paradise for all souls. It is also important that they understand that each of them is responsible for him or her self, for their neighbours, for future generations and for the universe. And if they believe that they will have life after their physical death, then they must understand that what they do in this life they must undo in the next. It is of the greatest importance that they understand the necessity for the purification of this planet Earth, and that they understand, too, that it cannot be done with their technology, for the time is past for so saving it. This must be told so that they will not create difficulty for the civilisations that will come.'