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BELIEVING THE UNBELIEVABLE

 ‘As we move on to examine several areas of baffling phenomena, the very ubiquity of much of this data invites reflection. Even a fairly cursory look into these ‘unbelievable’ realms, leads us to suspect that we are perhaps further than we hoped from a complete understanding of the Universe and all its wonders...

...we start to find that the implications involve psychic research, folklore, theology, psychology and ontology as much or more than physics and zoology. We begin to see that we are dealing with ancient racial archetypes; the good fairy, the bad fairy, the trickster and the bogeyman.

There’s also the heavenly messenger, the satanic messenger, various monsters – and the things that go Bump in the night.

In Store Price: $AU25.95 
Online Price:   $AU24.95

ISBN: 978-1-921406-55-3  
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 287
Genre: Non Fiction

 
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By the same author:
Cowboy Kurosawa

Author: John Worth
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2009
Language: English

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Author Biography  

After a varied early life roaming around the country, working as a Cray fisherman, fencing along the rabbit proof fence, the author spent some years in Germany and England studying art. He has spent many years working in Europe and Australia as an artist, and is also the writer of several other books.  

After completing Believing the Unbelievable, he also lays claim to the title of Time Lord.

INTRODUCTION  

The underlying purpose of this book is to attempt to throw some light on that most perplexing but fascinating of phenomena: the occurrence of seemingly acausal events in everyday life. In the course of doing so, we will take a look at some strange mysteries, weird and seemingly inexplicable events, and examine the various reasons why we find it difficult to reconcile these events with our rational view of the universe.

This book is for those who demand logical explanation; who maintain a healthy skepticism, yet at some time in their lives may witness events and phenomena which this ‘rational view’ precludes us from understanding. We find such occurrences unsettling, often frightening and in a real sense, unacceptable. Why?

Mankind has always sought answers to such questions, and we can learn much from the accumulation of human wisdom dealing with these arcane areas.

In researching this book for a number of years, one of the most profound insights comes from Karl Jung, writing in an introduction to his book Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle. It is about clarity of language.

Coincidence, says Jung, is not an explanation for a meaningful conjunction of events, but merely the name of the phenomenon. Suddenly we realize that we have been mistaking the question for an answer.

Later, Jung goes on to define his concept of synchronicity as an apparently meaningful coincidence of the most extraordinary kind, across space and time. Such events, Jung claims, are without explicable cause and effect, i.e. acausal.

We will look at some of Jung’s ideas throughout this book, together with other researchers who may help to throw some light on these tantalizing and often bizarre areas.

Writers who have helped me greatly towards some insight are people such as Arthur Koestler, The Roots of Coincidence; Professor John Gribbin, Time Warps; Professor Paul Davies, About Time, Einstein’s Unfinished Revolution; and many others too numerous to mention. Their ideas will, however, crop up throughout this book. In researching this book I have been constantly reminded of the old saying – no man is an island.

To get back for a moment to Jung’s statement that the word ‘coincidence’ is only the name, not the explanation. He hit the nail right on the head as it were; by using such words as ‘co-incidence’ or for another example, ‘déjà vu’, we allow ourselves to dismiss such baffling incidents that we all experience from time to time. Put them out of mind.

Our difficulty in coming to terms with seemingly acausal (i.e. having no obvious cause-and-effect sequence) events such as meaningful coincidence, telepathy, déjà vu, foretelling of future events, etc., is that they cut right across our logical/rational understanding of how the universe works. We will be examining this dichotomy in depth.

As we move on to examine several areas of baffling phenomena, the very ubiquity of much of this data invites reflection. Even a fairly cursory look into these ‘unbelievable’ realms leads us to suspect that we are perhaps further away than we hoped from a complete understanding of the universe and all its wonders.

In the first couple of chapters, the purpose is to establish how our logical understanding is closely bound up with our notion of time. It is this concept ‘Time’ which is the crux; it is through this notion of time passing that we have constructed systems and theories to explain everything in terms of cause and effect. History tells us how these causal theories became more and more sophisticated, culminating in Newtonian physics.

However, with the increase of scientific rigor, the ‘embarrassing bits’ that wouldn’t fit theory became more and more obvious.

Modern post-Einsteinian physics has long abandoned the Newtonian causal theories as total explanation for the universe, as of course they can no longer use the idea that time is a fixed certainty. For all those non-physicists like myself who would wish to have a basic grasp of where modern physics is heading I recommend John Gribbin’s Time Warps and John Horgan’s The End of Science. They deal lucidly with some of the later developments in the understanding of physics with regard to time, and where this clashes with our everyday earth-bound notions of time.

It is important in the context of our thesis, how to believe the unbelievable, that we establish this first crucial point. It is the gradual evolution of this concept Time that has changed and molded our perception and understanding. Time is perhaps mankind’s greatest feat and it has served us so well. But this servant is also, we may find, a bit of a tyrant.

To conclude this introduction, let us hear from Plato on the subject of perception. Plato’s classic analogy of The Cave is about the eternal confrontation between common-sense observation and higher realities. Plato’s analogy is to imagine humanity as cave-dwellers, prisoners forced to look only and always at the back of the cave. The shadowplay from any activities going on outside the cave in the sunlight, and thrown up on the back wall of the cave, Plato suggests, is all that we see. It is accepted by us, the cave dwellers, as reality.

It is perhaps as much through such images as by his arguments that Plato became and remains the quintessential philosophical focus, in the Western tradition at least, for all those who consider our everyday world of common sense and common experience perhaps less ‘real’ and therefore less ‘true’ than a higher level of consciousness and understanding.

 

PROLOGUE        

Time before Time 

 

To undertake this examination of the concept of time and how much it colors and shapes our understanding, it is useful to start at the beginnings of mankind’s development of the notion of time measurement; why it became necessary for us to evolve it, and where it has led us.

So let’s begin with a brief run-through of where we started in dim pre-history, to where we are today. Perhaps mankind’s greatest gift was always the predisposition to seek an explanation for all things that puzzle us. We have had it right from the start, since our earliest beginnings. Curiosity, the desire to know how things work, is a defining characteristic of humans.

It is this curiosity, this deep desire to know, which has given rise to our enormous body of myth and legend, which people from the distant past have constructed to give meaning to the world around us, the cosmos and our place in it.

Take for example the situation of a group of hunter-gatherers, either fifty thousand years ago or recent Aboriginal people of Australia. There would always be an older man or woman around the campfire at night who could relate tales to explain the stars, the moon and the sun; why people were born, and why they die – indeed why everything. If the listeners were satisfied with this wisdom, the wise elder, who was perhaps too old to hunt or gather food, would possibly be offered respectful tidbits. On the basis of this earned respect, the wise one may then have begun to prescribe herbal remedies, devise rituals and taboos. This is the beginning of science; it is also the beginning of religion, of philosophy, of medicine and art.

Anthropologists have noted that all societies have constructed belief systems totally adequate to give them efficient mastery of their environment. For example, the way ancient tribal lore, referring to every detail of their country, completely explains their territory and its workings to traditional tribal people in central Australia. These people so totally identify with and understand their traditional country they do not see themselves as something apart from it; they are it, it is them. They find it stressful and de-humanizing to live apart from it.

It could be put that although far removed from these tribal imperatives, we still feel something of this about the place we came from, the country where we were born when we are far away. We call it homesickness.

For these nomadic tribal people the connection is total; the enormous body of myth, legend and ritual has woven an incredible and unbreakable bond. So without calendars or even the concept of time, such hunter-gatherer people all over the world could predict at what season certain foods or water would be available within their territorial range. They did this through their intense involvement with and awareness of the environment. Time did not pass for them; all creation was a great cycle of birth and renewal, the daily revisiting of sun and moon, the waxing and waning of the moon, the changing of the seasons, all part of the cycle. Everything was comprehended through explanatory myth, sign or portent.

It was the building of this collective wisdom that gave mankind the edge, made us more flexible and gave us wider options when confronting nature compared to the other mammals.

Explanatory myths are still used by us today, even when we actually know that they are not true. For example, the statement ‘the sun rises in the east and sets in the west’ still has currency. Everybody with some education if pressed will say, ‘Yes, of course, the truth is that the Earth revolves around the sun, not vice versa.’

However, this explanatory myth is still current because it is still useful in our daily life; it is also very hard to reject our common-sense understanding. We may come to see that the notion of time passing is another of these useful myths.

Though the hunter-gatherer societies achieved mastery over the other species, gained understanding of their environment, a body of law and wisdom, language, and of course learnt to use fire, they were still controlled by seasonal change, availability of game and forage. They were nomads by necessity. These people lived and survived without the notion of time, as we know it, for millennia. It is interesting to note here that in the timeless continuum of the Aboriginal people, it was possible to accept events which to us, from a time-obsessed culture, are impossible to fit into our causal world view.

Professor Paul Davies discusses this in his book About Time:

 

This paradoxical conjunction is captured in its most developed form in the ‘Dreaming’ concept of the Australian Aborigines, sometimes referred to as the Eternal Dreamtime. According to the anthropologist W.E.H. Stanner, our understanding of the Dreaming is that it records a sacred heroic era when mankind and nature came to be as they are; but neither time nor history as we understand them is involved in this meaning.

 

He goes on to point out that the nomadic Aboriginal people had no word for time as an abstract concept, therefore the sense of history is wholly alien to them.

Although the Dreamtime seems to suggest an historic past age, it is wrong to think of that age as being over, or separate somehow from now. One should not try to fix the Dreaming in time, Davies insisted.

 

What Europeans call the past is, for many Aboriginal people when talking of the Dreaming, both past and present, so that this whole concept is alien to the European mind. We have become obsessed with rationalizing and measuring time in our everyday lives, but Western man’s linear time concept is like a road we travel down.

It is a road that may lead to progress, but the psychological price we pay for embarking upon it is a heavy one.

As with all nomadic cultures, in the harsh environment of the Australian desert the tribal people had to obey some hard cultural imperatives.

When a person became aged and infirm, for example, or immobilized through disability, they were deemed to have reached their last campfire. Their people could not survive by carrying them, or supporting them in any way. Supplies of available food, water and firewood were gathered; after tearful farewells the old or infirm were left to their fate.

Make no mistake, it was always a heart-rending decision. For the same reason, others, for example the Inuit of Northern Canada, reportedly had something similar. The old one was put onto an ice-floe.

Over the millennia all hunter-gathers would have had to face such cruel moments. When the opportunity arose to leave grandma or granddad in a good place, perhaps with water and easy food availability, of course people did out of necessity.

Eventually small groups would elect to stay together under such good conditions for longer periods of time; perhaps when next the nomadic clan group returned to this place the people who remained had somehow survived and prospered. Maybe they had learnt to dry fish, or mill wild grain etc; some such factors that allowed them to be sedentary, for a short time at least. Eventually this started to be considered an ideal life situation. For although free, the nomad is vulnerable.

The search for a good waterhole, an oasis, Shangri-la, is a deep and ancient drive within us. It is well summed up in the hobo’s yearning song:

 

O, the buzzin’ of the bees and the cigarette trees,

The soda water fountain,

The lemonade springs and the bluebird sings

In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.

Similarly, the Australian song:

 

Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong,

Under the shade of a coolibah tree …

 

It is no accident that the hobo, or swagman as we call him in Australia, should utter such sentiments. Forced to drop out of society by economic circumstances or personal inability to ‘fit in’, he rapidly reverts to what we always, until the last few thousand years, were: nomads.

And as he takes up the nomadic life, he also returns to the yearning for that mythical good camping place of plenty: the Garden of Eden.

Interestingly, it is still an almost universal urge. We love to have fountains and ponds, parks where we live. Perhaps instinctively, we all still carry this desire to be near an oasis.

 

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