I’ve been inspired to put this article together by a recent brilliant poem by Jack Preston King on Medium (click here). I especially loved the line he chose by W. B. Yeats for his epigram: “The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper”. This suggests that there is a hidden world which most people with their everyday vision, including me, just can’t see. This hidden world is none the less real. I believe that its observable manifestations are what I would call paranormal events, and what Jack in his poem is calling magic.
Someone whose vision is not restricted in this way would be called a clairvoyant, literally someone who can see clearly what is really going on. Here are some examples of people who seem to have been able to see this hidden world, or have been aware of its reality.
I’ll begin with William Blake, whose art was inspired, contrary to what one might think, by actual experiences, not his imagination. The Blake expert Kathleen Raine says: “Such visualizations seem to have come from some intermediate realm… peopled by shifting forms and images”. “There is the suggestion of an interpenetration of worlds or modes of consciousness” (1).
William Wordsworth seemed to understand all this in his famous poem: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood. This is the beginning of stanza 5: “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: the Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, hath had elsewhere its setting, and cometh from afar. Not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come from God, who is our home. Heaven lies about us in our infancy! Shades of the prison-house begin to close upon the growing boy”.
There is also Plato’s famous allegory of the cave, taken from his book The Republic. He compares the human condition to prisoners in a cave chained so that they can only look straight ahead of them and cannot turn their heads. All they can see is a wall onto which are projected shadows of figures who are in reality standing behind them. Since that is all they have known, they take these shadows to be reality, and do not understand that what they are seeing is something emanating from elsewhere, a byproduct of a different level of reality.
So both Wordsworth and Plato use the image of either a prison or a prisoner to describe the perception of a normal adult. This is the human condition that Yeats was referring to above, a state in which our senses are not developed enough to see, and are therefore prevented from seeing, or according to Wordsworth have lost the ability to see, the hidden world beyond. (See the appendix below for a further, lengthier, example.)
Jack Preston King and I are both engaged in a battle against materialist, naturalistic (i.e. atheistic) science. Scientists of that persuasion claim that they are the authorities, they know what is true, and mock foolish people who cling to ancient ‘superstitions’. They think that we should all have grown out of them following the so-called ‘Enlightenment’.
I am currently writing a series of articles about Christianity, and have recently been reading a book by Rudolf Bultmann, Jesus Christ and Mythology (2). Although not a scientist himself, he talks like them, and makes many statements typical of them. I’ll choose just a couple. He rejects the conceptions of heaven/earth/hell, miracles, the intervention of supernatural powers in the course of events and the inner life of the soul, and possession by evil spirits. He says: “This conception of the world we call mythological because it is different from the conception of the world which has been formed and developed by science since its inception in ancient Greece and which has been accepted by all modern men. In this modern conception of the world the cause-and-effect nexus is fundamental”. “There are still many superstitions among modern men, but they are exceptions or even anomalies. Modern men take it for granted that the course of nature and of history, like their own inner life and their practical life, is nowhere interrupted by the intervention of supernatural powers”. (I am astonished by his supreme confidence, or should I say arrogance? On the contrary I – and I assume Jack Preston King – take it for granted that supernatural powers do intervene in everyday life. It is depressing, however, that Bultmann should be advocating the prison-house as the optimum mode of being.)
From the perspective of this article, such scientists are trapped in the prison of their own minds, yet they actually celebrate this, arrogantly railing against those who have escaped the shades of the prison house, and seen the light.
For one more example of someone who can really see, I can’t resist recounting my favourite story in the Bible, that of Elisha’s servant, found in the Second Book of Kings chapter 6. The situation is as follows. The king of Aram is at war with Israel, and makes various plans. Unfortunately for him Elisha seems to have clairvoyant abilities, and keeps warning the king of Israel about what the king of Aram is up to. Suspecting a traitor in his own ranks, he questions his officers, who tell him that there are no traitors, rather that “it is Elisha, the prophet in Israel, who tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedchamber”. The king’s response is to send an elite force to surround the city where Elisha is staying. The next morning Elisha’s servant gets up, goes outside and sees the siege. Understandably perturbed, he calls out to him, “Oh no! Master! What will we do?” Elisha replies, “Stop being afraid, because there are more with us than with them!” Obviously the servant does not know what Elisha is talking about, so Elisha prays, asking the LORD, “Please make him able to really see!” And so when the LORD enabled the young man to see, he looked, and there was the mountain, filled with horses and fiery chariots surrounding Elisha!
(1) William Blake, Thames and Hudson, 1970, p178
(2) SCM Press, 1960 — the quotes which follow are on p15 and p16.