Sunday, June 8, 2008

"The Unbearable Strangeness of Being"

A wonderful missive from the venerable Michael Prescott:

Anyone who spends much time laboring in the vineyards of psi, even an armchair investigator like myself, becomes aware of the vast number - the truly extraordinary number - of claims that have been made throughout history, and continue to be made today, of miraculous, bizarre, unexplainable phenomena. Every kind of strangeness has been reported by apparently sober witnesses. There is a whole field of study, Forteana, which involves collecting such reports, which easily run into the tens of thousands.

To me, the existence of this mass of material is a bit unsettling. It suggests three basic possibilities, none of which is very palatable. The first possibility is that these weird claims are true, in which case reality is bafflingly and perhaps frighteningly strange. The second possibility is that these claims are false, in which case there is a great horde of otherwise normal people who believe things that are, in fact, crazy. This, too, is rather bewildering and scary; it means the human race is largely insane; psychosis is rampant; we are surrounded by nuts, and may be nuts ourselves. Then there is the third possibility, the one I personally find most likely - namely, that some of these things are true, and some are not, and a great many occupy a wide swath of gray area, an ambiguous borderland where the labels "true" and "false" are not easily applied. And this is, in some ways, the most disturbing prospect of all, because it suggests that we can never be quite sure what is real and what isn't. We can make educated guesses, we can say that one case seems valid and another seems bogus, but we can't really know and we could be quite wrong.

Click here to read the rest of Prescott's essay, "The Unbearable Strangeness of Being."

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