After hearing an interview with Matthew Tompkins, I’ve been enjoying his book, The Spectacle of Illusion. As an experimental psychologist and magician, Tompkins writes the fascinating story of spiritualism and those who expose the mental tricks used by psychics, mediums and the rest.
I was very interested to read that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle believed in the “paranormal” of seances even after his friend, Harry Houdini, showed him how the trickery was done.
Here’s the passage from Tompkins:
“In 1879, American neurologist George M. Beard (1839-1883) predicted that methodological scrutiny of spiritualist claims could lead society to a radical new scientific revolution. This new breakthrough would not offer us insight into the world of the dead, but rather the living human nervous system.” Beard felt that “all the world would know that spirits dwell in the cerebral cells” and that it was “not our houses but our brains that are haunted.”
Tompkins concludes that “the explanations related to tricks of our minds can be even more wonderful than supernatural explanations.”
This reminded me of something John Muir said about the natural world being more wonderful than supernatural explanations and “miracles.”
What if people could find as much fascination and wonder in our amazing physical universe as they do in the “paranormal” spirit-worlds of imagination?