Monday, March 8, 2021


W. Y. Evans-Wentz (1878-1965) and Our Place in the Cosmos

W. Y. Evans-Wentz was an anthropologist, born in New Jersey, who focused in his work on what William James called "the varieties of religious experience."  I knew him from a young age as editor for the English-speaking world of "The Tibetan Book of the Dead," the ancient text used to counsel the dying person on his pathway from one life to the next or, if the dying person is really enlightened, on his pathway from one life to no life, which corresponds to nirvana.  In photos that accompany the text in his celebrated book, he stands next to a Buddhist mentor, and both look permanently and appropriately "blissed out."

So I was surprised to discover that, earlier in his life, Evans-Wentz directed his attention not to the demons who are said to terrify us as we navigate between incarnations, but to the fairies, the elves, the leprechauns, the "Gentry" of Ireland and other Celtic lands (this last appellation because the common folk recognized that they operated spiritually on a more exalted plane than the one to which we are confined).  These led him into theosophy, which led him to W. B. Yeats and T. E. Lawrence, who counseled him to "go East young man."

There is a theory afoot now, and gathering strength, that helps to connect the two passions of Evans-Wentz, if a spiritually enlightened man can be said to have passions.  Serious students of various anomalies -- alien abductions, near death experiences, encounters with terrifying humanoids that are facilitated by ayahuasca, precognitive dreams, past-life regressions -- have included the late Harvard psychiatrist John Mack and the French astrophysicist/computer scientist Jacques Vallee.  They tie these phenomena all together in such a way that it becomes almost beside the point to ask whether they are "real."  All are windows onto other parts of a multiverse that even the most mainstream of physicists now take seriously.  Why they are being opened to us just now in a public way, as in the case of the impossible flying objects captured on radar over the last decade or so by the United States Navy, is a great mystery.

What frightens me the most about this new perspective, though, is that some say it reveals more clearly to us a Great Intelligence that is the Source of everything, and driving everything, but One that is entirely without compassion.  Let's hope that they are wrong in this.

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