until the whole world was seen to be fascinating. It taught me that ‘higher consciousness’, ‘positive consciousness’, can be achieved by an act of focused concentration. In Beyond the Occult I also quote the experiences of a writer called R H Ward, whose book about psychedelic drugs, A Drug-Taker’s Notes , is a modern classic. Early in the book, Ward describes how he once had a remarkable experience under dental gas. He writes: ‘I passed, after the first few inhalations of the gas, directly into a state of consciousness far more complete than the fullest degree of ordinary consciousness.’ He had a sense of enormously extended vision, so that his mind was aware of all kinds of things that would normally have been beyond his natural range of awareness. Like Robert Graves behind the cricket pavilion, he seemed to understand everything. And as he continued ‘rising’, he seemed to pass through a ‘region of ideas’. ‘All was idea, and form did not exist.’ And he adds: ‘It seems to me very interesting that one should thus, in a dentist’s chair and the twentieth century, receive practical confirmation of the theories of Plato.’ In short, Ward had seen the truth of Plato’s notion that the universe consists of two worlds: a world of becoming, and a world of true being. He had also seen the falseness of Heraclitus’s belief that the only world is the world of becoming. If we think once more of Dostoevsky in front of the firing squad, we can see that the expectation of death galvanized him to a new level of attention, in which he concentrated the mind as never before — and as I concentrated my mind as I drove through the snow. It is this act of concentration — like pulling back a spring-loaded piston, or the string of a crossbow — that gives the mind the ability to become aware of the immense depths that lie ‘below the iceberg’.
Part One Hidden Powers
Introduction My serious interest in the paranormal began twenty years ago, in the late 1960s, when an American publisher asked me if I would be interested in writing a book about ‘the occult’ — a subject that had achieved immense popularity ever since a book called The Morning of the Magicians by Louis Pauwels and Jacques Bergier had sold over a million copies in France in 1960. I accepted in a fairly light-hearted spirit. Like most people, I had always enjoyed reading speculations about Atlantis, the Loch Ness monster and the ghosts of Borley Rectory, and had accumulated a fairly large library of second-hand books and cheap paperbacks on such matters. But I had another reason for accepting. For many years I had been possessed by a strong conviction, amounting to a certainty, that all human beings possess ‘hidden powers’. Some of these powers came under the general heading of extra-sensory perception; I had suffered my wife’s birth pangs, and on one occasion experienced her toothache. One close family friend had described how she found herself floating up above her body during a serious illness, while another had foreseen a traffic accident — a collision with another taxi — at least a minute before it happened. But it was not this type of ‘hidden power’ that really interested me. I was even more fascinated by those strange moments of pure joy in which we experience an almost god-like sensation of power or freedom. The following, for example, is taken from a friend’s account of an ‘illumination’ that happened when he was hitch-hiking around the world in 1964: I had been through a great deal of emotional turmoil and privation during my travels and arrived at the port of Limassol [in Cyprus] with great relief at having left the scenes of my suffering behind me. One evening I was sitting gazing vacantly at the sea in the afterglow of sunset, having just finished a meal in a little Greek eatery, feeling very tranquil and relaxed, when I began to feel a strange pressure in my brain. It was as if some deliciously loving