I read The Mind of a Mnemonist when it was new — must have run across it in a Bozeman bookstore — and, though I had not read Borges yet, it was indeed like one of his fables was declared true. I was too inexperienced to realize the book was a bit slippery and evasive to be trusted as straight science or even faithful reporting — in retrospect, very similar to the shadow play of Carlos Castaneda. Two points continue unchanged: you really, really wanted the story to be true because S. was a sort of magic man; it was gratifying to see the book become such a hit — was as captivating as I thought it was.
Place is in a real pickle now. I suspect they will get the donations to survive for the nonce, but such a shaky foundation is not good. I’m not as upset as I once would have been, not least because I thought the elan never came back after Barbara Mikkelson departed. Now we find out her ex, Dave M., got his start spreading false information as well as debunking it. Yich.
Those with less faith in God tend to have more in Aliens. I came to the conclusion, back when I was regularly writing about pseudo-science, particularly extraterrestrial encounters, that the believers were more alt-religious than anything else. Which meant it was a topic where you weren’t going to change very many minds.
But something seems a bit off about this essay. As I noted yesterday talking about the story of Gef!, there was obviously a lot of superstitious belief when people were plenty more religious. I will agree that there’s clearly been a rise in superstitions with scientific veneers in the last century. (I like to say that the three great myths of our time are “U.F.O., E.S.P. and W.M.D.” — hawhaw.) And all are clearly intertwined in a search for meaning beyond the mundane.
There’s no point resisting the conclusions of this essay.
I’ve been fascinated by the manuscript ever since I heard about it as a romantic book-boy out in the sticks. I mentioned it early on in this blog. But I looked at my reproduction around the time I did that post and was disillusioned — how could I have thought the text was a made-up language? It’s merely decorative script-babble. Plus, the mysterious, secret-knowledge manuscript was a lot more common fantasy back in the ’60s and ’70s. I’m almost cynical enough now to put down the Voynich as being too famous for being famous.
One of my earliest favorite things on the interweb. I realized you could take a prime public temperature by seeing what rumors were taking hold currently. I noticed Barbara Mikkelson’s entries disappeared quite a while back and I wondered what the hell had happened. Too bad she’s out of the picture — enjoyed her wry humor touches quite a bit.
One great idea not good enough, huh? I saw the Maneuver work in real life back in Missoula. But I had only the barest hints that Dr. H was involved in so many jive-ass other trips. I’ve never understood the mentality that thinks if one off-the-wall brilliant idea works, most likely damned near everything that’s off-the-wall is also undiscovered brilliance.
It’s the third review here that I’m really linking to. I’m not surprised that the general course of this book is toward the pitiful and depressing (and pretty damned morbid, too). But even worse is that paranoia and anti-science conspiracy theories remain not only potent but increasingly powerful factors in the information age.
About 25 years ago, I regularly reviewed popular science books and wrote about pseudo-science and what I foolishly thought would be its steady decline. As a kid, I half-believed in sea monsters and bigfoot and whatever because I simply didn’t know enough facts. It became obvious: hey, the extinct sea-going giant lizards were more fun than any sea monster fantasy.
But for entirely too many folks, it doesn’t work that way. Their paranormal obsessions aren’t fact-based, they’re faith-based. Socially, and especially politically, there’s worse things to believe in than alien cattle mutilations.But it’s all on a spectrum of willed human delusions that I’m very sad to see re-affirmed over and over in my lifetime.