Copyright 1989, 1997, 2015 by Jim Hull

(Please cite the author if you quote from this work)


Remember the race between the tortoise and the hare? Let's pretend science is the tortoise, and the occult is the hare. The race is on! The hare bounds ahead... Occultists claim there's a world of magic out there. It's full of spirits, other dimensions, astral travel, mind-reading, UFOs, monsters in the deep. All this makes the discoveries of science seem pretty tame. After all, science must go through a painstaking process of experiment, verification, and public debate before even minor breakthroughs are accepted. On the other hand, occultists make lavish claims because, as they argue, the paranormal is not subject to vetting by the rational mind. And who knows? Maybe they're right.

So let's see what sort of things science, in its boring, plodding way, has discovered: We've learned the universe is fifteen billion years old. All creation began as an infinitely small dot, then exploded outward to form countless stars. There are places in the heavens so dense that nothing can escape their gravity, not even light. Light itself can travel six trillion miles in one year, but takes more than fifty thousand years to cross our galaxy. Try that on your bicycle.

The stars are suns, shining from the unimaginable heat of their interiors. Some stars are so huge they can crush the lead inside them into gold, the alchemist's dream. Then they explode, spewing matter through space, matter that later coagulates into planets such as our own. Our earth has supported life for billions of years. One hundred million years ago (more than a million lifetimes) giant monsters roamed the planet, some eighty feet long. Today humans, their brains containing fifteen billion nerve cells, have dominion. We can speak to people half way around the globe (telephones). We can see others thousands of miles away (television). We can fly through the sky to almost anywhere (aircraft). Acapulco would be nice right now...

These are a few of the things we've learned with our slow, tedious science. Isn't it odd that so tentative a system of knowledge, so cautious, so hesitant, so insistant on proof, should discover truths more astounding than the wildest fiction?

"But!" reply the occultists. "Science ignores anything it can't see in the physical world. It doesn't deal with the spiritual plane." So by default the occultists get to decide what's so in the esoteric realms, right?

Actually, science has no rule about what's physical and what isn't. Science merely wants to know what's provable in public. It can be physical, emotional, spiritual, ethereal, whatever, as long as others can make it happen, too.

And that's where occultists fall short. James Randi, former magician and MacArthur Fellow, has an open offer of $10,000 to anyone who can demonstrate occult powers. So far, though many have tried, no one has done it. It's easy to make wild claims about dowsing, the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs or ESP, but it's another to demonstrate scientifically (so all can see the effect for themselves) that they're true.

"But I meditate, and I've seen amazing worlds beyond our own. How can I show them to you? You've got to meditate and see them for yourself." Those worlds may be real. But they might as well be hallucinations if we can't go there together. (Some scientists believe our universe contains ten dimensions, only four of which - three in space, one in time - have "uncurled" to make us possible. Who knows what might lurk in those other six dimensions?)

I've seen some amazing mind-reading done by magicians. And I've seen keys bent, instant surgery, even water turned into rice. And it's all tricks. Tricks are scientific: they're easy to reproduce. Indian fakirs can create, say, a cup of rice out of a cup of water. The tourists love it. But even mystical philosopher Alan Watts laughed at that trick. If the fakirs were serious, he said, they'd make trainloads of rice fall from the sky. That would do some good.

Occultists make loud claims. And who knows? Many of those claims may yet turn out to be true. But they're not proven yet. Meanwhile, cautious science has already discovered truths and powers far beyond those claimed by occultists. And scientists have only been at it in earnest for about two hundred years. No telling what they'll discover next.

....Looks like the tortoise won the race again.

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But caveat auctor: Jim reserves the right to put your little screed on his Web site! (And he has no dignity about this, so be careful what you say...)


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