Saturday, August 30, 2014

Esotericism and the intellectual humanist

After a lifetime of travel, field investigation and study of UFO, Fortean and paranormal phenomena American journalist John A. Keel reached the conclusion shared by many researchers into these areas: we live in a multiverse inhabited by a variety of diverse intelligences. In his last book, The Eighth Tower (1975), he wrote: "Today many scientific disciplines are moving in the same direction, not realizing they are mapping a very old country. In a few years, perhaps even in our own lifetime, all sciences will suddenly converge at a single point, and the mysteries of the superspectrum will unravel in our hands." (p. 216).

John Keel´s prophetic assertion comes to my mind when I study the new books by academic physicists and astronomers postulating a multiverse. One of these academics is Swedish-American cosmologist Max Tegmark, professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Techology and also scientific director of Foundational Questions Institute. His latest book, Our Mathematical Universe, has recently been published in a Swedish edition, Vårt matematiska universum.

The multiverse theory is today presented from different scientific disciplines; physics, astronomy, psychology, parapsychology and since the 1970s it has been a prominent hypothesis among ufologists and Forteans (John A. Keel, Jacques Vallee, Allen Hynek). This is an interesting cultural phenomenon. A sort of re-enchantment of the world advocated by scientists and scholars (instead of disenchantment), to use the terminology of sociologist Max Weber. But as John Keel so aptly remarked this is "mapping a very old country". A country for centuries studied in the Esoteric Tradition. Academic and scholarly interest in this heretic and forbidden science has seen a remarkable renaissance during the last decades. It has been realized that the Esoteric Tradition can be regarded as the third intellectual force or pillar in cultural history alongside religion and science.

Esotericism as a serious academic pursuit must of course adhere to strictly empirical research and the attitude of "methological agnosticism" argued by Wouter J. Hanegraaff, professor of History of Hermetic Philosophy and Related Currents at Amsterdam University. But no academic student can work totally free of any basic paradigm or worldview. An interesting problem of scientific credibility is to what extent can an academic scholar of esotericism also be an advocate of the Esoteric Tradition?

The field investigator of UFO, Fortean and paranormal phenomena who after years of study and with a mass of empirical data realizes that the reductionist/materialist worldview is untenable and a paradigm or theory encompassing a multiverse must be formulated, face the dilemma of finding a reasonable and intellectually acceptable alternative working hypothesis. I have for some years in my blog and latest book argued that the Esoteric Tradition as formulated Helena P. Blavatsky, Alice Bailey and Henry T. Laurency constitutes the best and most interesting multiverse paradigm and theory to explain the multitude of intriguing phenomena documented by many researchers.

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky 1831-1891

The perhaps most difficult question to answer is: can a critical, scientifically minded researcher and intellectual humanist accept a controversial worldview like esotericism as a working hypothesis? What are the problems and dangers? My answer to the first question is that I have found esotericism, especially as presented by Bailey and Laurency of such intellectual and humanist quality that they are worthy of consideration both as a worldview and ethical compass. Of special importance is that Bailey and Laurency also have solved the basic epistemological problem of how to intellectually relate to the claims in esotericism. Here two quotes of relevance:

"Reasons for the appearance of phenomena are being everywhere sought, and societies are formed for their investigation and demonstration... Three types of people will respond to this book. They are: 1. Those open minded investigators who are willing to accept its fundamentals as a working hypothesis... they will be frankly agnostic, but willing temporarily, in their search for truth, to try out the methods and follow the suggestions laid down for their consideration... Our attitude should be that of reasonable enquiry and our interest that of the investigating philosopher, willing to accept an hypothesis on the basis of its possibility, but being unwilling to acknowledge as proven truth anything until we know it for and in ourselves." (Alice Bailey, A Treatise of White Magic, 1971 ed. pp. 6, 32).

"To scientists without experience of other worlds than the physical, hylozoics can, of course, be only a working hypothesis...a working hypothesis acceptable to those philosophers and scientists of the future who will seek for a tenable world view and life view, realizing that there must be superphysical worlds and kingdoms." (Henry T. Laurency, The Way of Man, 1988, online ed. pp. 5, 40)

"Even if by thorough study you are however much convinced that the hylozoic system agrees with reality, yet you must view it as a working hypothesis... This principled attitude is necessary to avoid all manifestations of dogmatism, fanaticism, and intolerance." (Henry T. Laurency, Knowledge of Life Four, 1995, online ed. p. 29-30).

Alice Bailey and Henry T. Laurency constantly in their works reiterate the necessity of treating the esoteric worldview as a working hypothesis and the only tenable scientific and intellectual attitude to the presented claims. A problem on a different level are all the odd and naive believers and sects who claim to be exponents of the Esoteric Tradition but simply present a sad travesty of esotericism. In this group we also find the more potentially dangerous groups using esoteric ideas to promote various ringt-wing or neo-Nazi ideologies. This aspect of esotericism has been thoroughly documented by the late academic scholar Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke in Black Sun. Aryan Cults, Esoteric Nazism and the Politics of Identity (2002).

From a Swedish perspective this problem is of special significance as the publisher of the Henry T. Laurency books, Lars Adelskogh, unfortunately combines his publishing venture with political right-wing activism, holocaust revisionism, antifeminism and the anti-modernist ideas of Traditionalism. Ideas which are anathema to the spirit of the Esoteric Tradition and must in todays unstable and troubled world be regarded as potentially a threat to democracy, freedom and human rights. Politically the Esoteric Tradition has more of left-wing ideas which I have noted in several blog entries. An esotericist who clearly understood that the Esoteric Tradition was basically politically left-wing was Riley Crabb, director of Borderland Sciences Research Foundation 1958-1985. He devoted many articles in The Journal of Borderland Research to explain this political dimension to esotericism, which of course rendered him many enemies.

Riley Crabb 1913-1994

I view the Esoteric Tradition as an enlarged or deeper form of humanism. This must be obvious to anyone reading the books by Alice Bailey, amanuensis for the Tibetan. The student is constanly reminded to strive for the good, the true and the beautiful. Something sorely needed on this interplanetary Alcatraz. For the active field investigator of UFO, Fortean and paranormal phenomena looking for a working hypothesis or paradigm I present the answer given to me by the British esotericist and ufologist T. Bryon Edmond in 1976: "Basically I am agnostic, but I accept Theosophy provisionally because it answers more questions in a logical and scientific way than any other religion or philosophy that I know of."

Friday, August 15, 2014

Seeing fairies

Anomalist Books continue to publish interesting and high quality writings in the UFO, Fortean and paranormal field, classics as well as new titles. The latest is a tome that most probably will be regarded as seminal by academic scholars, Forteans and esotericists: Seeing Fairies by the late Marjorie Johnson. This Nottingham lady celebrated her 100th birthday in 2011. Unfortunately she didn´t live to see the English edition of her book as she died in 2011.

Among folklorists and Swedish ufologists it has been customary to claim that in the old days people experienced fairies or little people but today they encounter space people. After reading Seeing Fairies it becomes obvious that this claim is simply not valid and must be reevaluated. People still encounter fairies but are perhaps even more reluctant to openly tell of these experiences than UFO witnesses. The social stigma is too great. Johnson´s book is a documentation of 400 authentic reports of fairies from the archives of the Fairy Investigation Society. Reports cover the period from around 1900 until the 1990s. The foreword is written by historian Dr. Simon Young describing Marjorie Johnson as an "intelligent, dedicated and passionate woman".

Of special interest to UFO and Fortean field investigators is that Simon Young has brought the sleeping Fairy Investigation Society (FIS) to life. It was originally founded in 1927, open only to "believers" in fairies but has now been refounded with a somewhat altered ideological footing: "The refounded FIS will be open, instead, to anyone who is interested in fairy lore, believers or otherwise: it is hoped that membership will strech from hardened folklorists, through Forteans, to the outer fringe of modern "fairies" and fairy mystics". This is an excellent, open minded approach reminiscent of the third way ufology of UFO-Sweden, formulated by the former UFO-Sweden chairman Mr. Clas Svahn. After reading Seeing Fairies I enrolled as a member and am looking forward to the database on fairy sightings and encounters to be launched in 2015.

That there is a close connection both historical and in regard to phenomena between encounters with UFO humanoids and fairies has been obvious since the publication of Jacques Vallee´s classic Passport To Magonia in 1969. Many books have since been published following in the Vallee footsteps. UFO-Sweden has published sightings of leprechauns in various publications as field investigators now and then stumble on witnesses who recount not only UFO observations but encounters with the little people. I presented one of these very intriguing reports, the Helge Eriksson case, 1931, in a former blog entry. An interesting article from a different perspective, Encounters With Immaterial Beings, can be found in the German magasin Journal for Spirituality and Transcendental Psychology.

Among the 400 reports documented in Seeing Fairies there are several cases of special interest to ufologists: multi-witness reports, time loss, abductions, luminous phenomena in connection with fairies. An index and some statistics would have been useful. The close connection between the Esoteric Tradition and fairies is well documented in Marjorie´s book. She herself had several encounter with the little people and she makes frequent references to esotericists like Charles Leadbeater, Geoffrey Hodson, Alice Bailey and Flower Newhouse. The best and most detailed taxonomy of non-human entities from an esoteric viewpoint is the theosophical classic The Astral Plane (1896) by Charles Leadbeater, an excellent companion volume to Seeing Fairies regardless of your favourite multiverse paradigm.

Finally some quotes from Marjorie Johnson´s foreword to her book: "Certain people refuse to believe in fairies because they remain invisible to them, so they think they must be figments of the seer´s imagination... Our eyes can take in only a limited number of vibrations, so there must be countless beings around us who are invisible to us because they are on a different wavelengths, and that might apply to some of the inhabitants of other planets... I hope my readers will keep an open mind, and then they might experience some of the fairies´ radiant carefree joy, and perhaps regain that sense of wonder that is sadly lacking in the lives of so many people in the world today."

Sunday, August 10, 2014

UFO-Sweden projects and planning

This weekend several members of the UFO-Sweden board gathered at the AFU premises in Norrköping for discussion and planning of various projects. On Saturday UFO-Sweden chairman Anders Berglund and Johan Gustavsson, head of the reporting central met with Tobias Lindgren to lay the groundwork for Project Kolmården in the summer of 2015. A group of field investigators from UFO-Sweden will then concentrate their research efforts on a small area north of Norrköping where a lot of UFO activity has been reported for many years, especially in the 1970s and 80s. Field investigators will actually go from house to house in search of UFO or Fortean phenomena witnesses. This will be in combination with an intense media campaign to inform local residents of the UFO-Sweden project.

Anders Berglund searching for UFO reports in the Kolmården area

A contemplative Johan Gustavsson planning the Kolmården Project

From left: Johan Gustavsson, Tage Bång, Anders Berglund, Tobias Lindgren, Anders Skoglund, Christoffer Mossberg

This is not the first time for such a UFO-Sweden project. Similar studies were initiated in Värmland 2002 and 2004 and also the so called Mien Project in Småland 2007. The result was most rewarding with many new UFO reports documented. 

Anders Persson documenting a UFO report during Project Värmland 2002

Clas Svahn presenting the days work at the Mien Project 2007

Beginning August 30th a second expedition to lake Nammajaure will take place with a renewed attempt to find the ghost rocket that landed and sank in this northern lake in July 1980. Here is Clas Svahn´s announcement of the expedition:
"In a couple of weeks I will lead an expedition to Lake Nammajaure where a Ghost Rocket landed and sank in July 1980. Seen by two excellent witnesses in broad daylight during its flight over them, down to the lake and the landing.
The lake is situated in a remote area within a National park and we will carry all instruments, tents and personal packings through the woods.
This is UFO-Sweden's second attempt to find the strange ”rocket”. The first search was made in 2012 but now we are returning with better instruments and an expert on ground penetrating radar plus a TV documentary team that has followed me and UFO-Sweden since nearly five years. 
Please take a look at our information page
And if you are interested in helping us to make this within our small budget, all contributions are very welcomed."

My own AFU initiative this weekend has been a few hours work doing the final arranging of the Sven Magnusson archive. Sven Magnusson was editor of the Swedish magazine Sökaren from 1964-2008. Articles covered every conceivable subject within the UFO, paranormal, spiritual and new age field but usually the quality of the material printed was of high quality and Sven succeded in attracting the best minds and writers on these taboo subjects. His international correspondence file is a who´s who of active writers and researchers from the 1960s onward. Here a few names: Rupert Sheldrake, Ian Stevenson, Charles Tart, Hans Bender, J.B. Rhine, D. Scott Rogo, Allen Hynek, John Keel, Jerome Clark but also contactees like Daniel Fry and Ray & Rex Stanford.

Sven Magnusson in 1977

For anyone interested in borderland research and philosophy Sökaren is still a treasure trove of interesting articles and data. Sven Magnusson was a good friend and collegue and I am glad to have made his acquaintance. A wise and bold writer always challenging the reductionist, materialist world view with new intriguing data from the forbidden sciences. 

Sven Magnusson 1930-2008

Sunday, August 3, 2014

AFU premises, plans and a prayer

On this exceedingly hot and humid day I decided to visit and photograph all of the AFU premises to get a sort of state of the archives. AFU consists of ten premises but I visited nine of these as the tenth is simply a repository for various office supplies and furniture. The total area is 459 square meters and shelf capacity more than 2.000 meters. Our dream of course is one single facility. Now there is a constant time consuming and laborious transfer of material between the premises. On our AFU site you can find basic data on the premises including photos but there is a constant change going on so if you join me for this tour you will find the present state of the premises with a few thoughts and plans added.

We now have 23 people working at AFU with various tasks and projects. Six of our staff are stationed at the main office. This is also the premise for AFU and UFO-Sweden board meetings and where guests are first introduced to the archive, our history and work.

AFU headquarters

AFU headquarters

Digitizing and clippings
Close to our headquarters we have the premise for digitizing, where also some of our staff work with the many and varied clippings collections, UFO, Fortean and paranormal clippings. We have so far digitized 140.000 clippings from the CFI collection (Charles Fort Institute), 27.000 Swedish clippings and many Swedish UFO magazines. Also thousands of letters from correspondence files.

Part of the digitizing premise

Clippings collections

Final storage premise
Some time ago we used this facility for the large CEI (Centro de Estudios Interplanetarios) donation from Barcelona. But now all the books from this collection have been catalogued and incorporated in the main UFO/Fortean library. Today we use most of this facility as a final storage premise.

Final storage premise

Magazines, personal and organizational files
Our magazines collection is growing with leaps and bounds as donations are coming in a steady stream from all over the world. We now have around 50.000 copies of magazines. Personal and organizational files are also growing fast. Ordering these documents is a time consuming enterprise. 

Magazine archive

Organizational files

Incoming collections
This premise would give anyone a headache with shelves full of more or less unsorted collections donated to AFU. My collegue Anders Liljegren who often works in this premise has a truly stoic temperament and simply says: Well, you just take one thing at a time. Presently Anders is trying to put in order the very disorganized Flying Saucer Review archive. 

Incoming collections

Incoming collections

The Hilary Evans Library
The basic part of this library consists of the enormous and valuable collection donated by Hilary Evans in 2010. Here you will find religion, philosophy, psychology, parapsychology, spiritualism, sects and cults, esoterica and folklore. Recently the shelf capacity has been increased as this library is also growing very fast. 

The Hilary Evans Library

The Hilary Evans Library

The Hilary Evans Library

The UFO/Fortean library
This is our oldest library facility housing books on UFOs and Forteana. We try to collect three copies of every book published on these subjects, from all countries, languages and editions.

The UFO/Fortean library

The UFO/Fortean library

Finally we have two premises that actually belong to UFO-Sweden but are administered by the AFU staff. The UFO-Sweden magazines store and shop and close to this premise the UFO-Sweden book store and shop.

UFO-Sweden magazine store and shop

UFO-Sweden book store and shop

While touring the AFU premises today I felt both glad and proud that we after 40+ years have succeeded in building the largest UFO/Fortean archive/library in the world. But I also experienced frustration of not having enough time for all projects that should be implemented. Here are stored such vast quantities of intriguing material and data. Will there in the future be qualified scholars, cultural heretics and intellectual iconoclasts who will benefit from these collections for their research? There are many scientific and religious fundamentalists out there who already have the answers to the existential riddles and questions posed by the data in AFU. Let them read this daily prayer.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Where have all the lodges gone?

The title alludes to the old folk song by Pete Seeger - Where Have All the Flowers Gone?. I came to think of this famous song when studying the history of the Swedish Theosophical Society (Adyar). In 1925 there were 44 local lodges in cities all over Sweden, even in, at that time, rather small towns like Boden, Eslöv, Kungsbacka, Säffle,Uddevalla. Theosophy can almost be regarded as a form of people´s movement in 1920s Sweden, with a deep cultural impact. These and other interesting data on the Theosophical Society in Sweden I have found in an unpublished manuscript, Fakta samlade ur Teosofisk Tidskrift 1890-1968 (Facts gathered from Theosophical Magazine 1890-1968). This is an impressive documentation amassed and typewritten by Mr. Göran Söderqvist, board member and archivist for the Swedish Theosophical Society (Adyar).

Göran Söderqvist

Göran Söderqvist´s documentation would be excellent and important data for any academic scholar writing a doctoral thesis on Theosophy in Sweden. As I have mentioned several times in this blog I find the lack of scholarly research on this subject quite remarkable, especially since academic interest in what is named Western Esotericism has experienced a renaissance during the last decades. A few academic essays have been written at Swedish universities but no in depth research resulting in a doctoral thesis.

Today the Swedish Theosophical Society have only two lodges and six local representatives, according to the society homepage. The decline in lodges and membership is often debated among active Theosophists. The decline started after the crisis when Jiddu Krishnamurti in 1929 renounced his role as World Teacher and rejected Theosophy as a valid world view. Instead he started promoting a form of confusing advaita mysticism which is still published in many Theosophical journals. Sweden is no exception and the result is a unhappy mixture of esotericism and mysticism which can hardly appeal to the intellectual student. This could be one of the reasons for the decline in membership and lodges.

I commented on this problem in the mailing list theos-talk in 2013:
"In my view, one of the great riddles of the Theosophical movement is how so many Theosophists can still promote the teachings of Krishnamurti. I can well understand the frustration of Geoffrey Hodson when confronted with the peculiar form of Advaita mysticism of JK. An intellectual quicksand that gets you nowhere and with no relation to Esoteric Science. Blavatsky with her forthright manner and vulcanic temperament would probably have given JK a harsh reprimand if they had lived during the same age. And Laurency, with his Blavatskyan temperament, is very critical and clear in his analysis of JK. Unfortunately this essay is only in Swedish. Finding books by Krishnamurti in Theosophical bookshops is like finding books promoting atheism in a catholic bookshop while the nice and naive manager of the shop doesn´t understand the difference between the two radically different world views. A sad state of affairs."

Various esoteric sources are quite clear in their assessment of Krishnamurti. Here a few quotes:
"Krishnamurti´s Advaitism, which is not to be confounded with the recognized form of that noble philosophy, will, I fear, lead his followers nowhere except perhaps to hypocricy and self-delusion" (Cyril Scott, The Initiate in the Dark Cycle, 1992 ed., p. 139).

"Krishnamurti is a warning example of the risks involved in the forced cultivation of latent qualities... His later production indicates that he lapsed to the stage of the mystic, and from there to life-blind fictitiousness, rather reminiscent of Zen Buddhism, according to which one experiences “true reality” by emptying one’s consciousness of all its content acquired throughout one’s incarnations. In that procedure one is supposed to attain to nirvana or annihilation. Is there any crazy idea that people will not swallow?" Henry T. Laurency, Knowledge of Life Three, 6.10)

According to Alice Bailey the Krishnamurti episode was an experiment that backfired (Alice Bailey, Discipleship in the New Age, vol two, 1980 ed. p. 171). Laurency is of the opinion that Charles Leadbeater and Annie Besant overestimated Krishnamurti´s capacity and forced him to a intellectual and spiritual overtraining. Theosophy as a movement could still continue to have a progessive cultural impact if Theosophists abandon the mysticism of Krishnamurti and continue promoting the Esoteric Tradition as a science, as exact as any academic discipline. They must also be more open to and understand the continuity of the tradition in the writings of Alice Bailey and Henry T. Laurency. If not the Theosophical Society will in the future only be of interest to scholars of history of religion and academic esotericism.

The great cultural influence of Theosophy in Sweden will hopefully be recognized, studied and documented by academic scholars in the near future. Theosophy has influenced royalty, artists, writers, scientists, politicians, philosophers and intellectuals during an important and revolutionary phase in Swedish history. One small part of this impact I have documented in my book Gudarna återvänder. Ufo och den esoteriska traditionen. (Return of the Gods. UFOs and the Esoteric Tradition). The Swedish UFO movement was actually founded by active members of the Theosophical Society (Adyar). From a global perspective their is still much research to be done in this direction.