Sunday, 26 September 2010

Book review: Magic, Mysticism & The Molecule by Micah Hanks

All through human history, we've had contact with The Other- ghosts, spirits, fairies, extraterrestrials- it seems the guise changes but the core phenomena remains more or less the same. Much of this contact is transient, indeed this seems to be one of it's defining features, there seems to be little rhyme or reason to it. However, some people have sought out contact with these other intelligences, and this book looks at the various methods that have been used through history.
The book's broken down into three broad sections, as per the title, looking at the use of magic, mysticism and mind altering substances in the pursuit of making contact with the Other, taking in everything from John Dee, Alister Crowley's Amalantrah working (where he claims to have made contact with an entity he named Lam, the drawing of which looks suspiciously close to the modern image of a grey, and some have claimed that this ritual, and/or Jack Parson's attempted Moonchild ritual in 1946 opened a doorway for the UFO phenomena to begin in 1947), Ouija boards, psychomantiums (particularly interesting as the author has some direct experience of this), through to altered states of consciousness, thoughtforms  and the possible influence of electromagnetic energy on human consciousness and much more.
It throws up some fascinating possibilities- that altered states, be they induced by rituals, physical ordeals or mind altering substances may allow us access to other realities or to perceive things that we ordinarily can't. For instance, the parallels between shamanic experience and alien abduction narratives are difficult to ignore, being drawn up, often towards a bright light to be met by diminutive entities who will perform painful procedures (medical experiments in UFOs, shamen often report being taken apart and re-assembled). This is especially fascinating in light of the fact that the human brain can produce the hallucinogenic molecule DMT under circumstances that are not yet full understood.
Even if all this can be explained in terms of brain chemistry or hallucinations, it still begs the question why certain images recur, especially across time and different cultures. Do we have the trope of small beings who interfere with us medically hardwired into our brains, and if so why?
My favourite part has to be the final chapter, which ties together Nikola Tesla, HP Lovecraft and contemporary research into DMT- in "From Beyond", Lovecraft identified stimulation of the pineal gland as a method of perceiving extra dimensional entities, and recent research as identified this gland as being the site of where DMT molecules are manufactured in the brain.
This gives you a good insight into what the book's like- it weaves strands from Forteana, biology, psychology and anthropology into one coherent whole. Hanks' writing style is amiable and accessible, with a healthily skeptical attitude. It's solidly researched and referenced, so if anything in particular piques your interest, you'll have no problem in following this up.
I'd highly recommend reading this if you've an interest in strange phenomena and want to get beyond the gosh-wow-its-all-real/oh-no-its-not dichotomy that most books serve up. A worthy additional to any Fortean's bookshelf.
As a footnote, Micah's website, The Gralien Report is well worth checking out, you'll find a bunch of his writings on there.

No comments:

Post a Comment