The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher

By Martin Gardner | Go to book overview

4 Shirley MacLaine

Personally, I used to believe in reincarnation, but that was in a previous lifetime.

-- Paul Krassner

John McTaggart Ellis McTaggart, who died in 1925, was one of Cambridge University's great eccentrics. He claimed to be a follower of Hegel, though other Hegelians considered him a renegade. In his peculiar philosophy, space, time, and matter are all illusions arising from our "misperception" of reality. The only real world is a community of selves, each undergoing endless reincarnations. Although time is unreal, history had a beginning and will end when all souls are united by love in a timeless perfect state.

For McTaggart, Hegel's Absolute is the totality of all selves, but with no more selfhood of its own than London has. McTaggart was almost alone among Western philosophers in combining atheism with a belief in the survival and preexistence of the soul. Bertrand Russell wrote that, during his student days at Cambridge, he and McTaggart were "intimate friends" until Russell, in a "rash moment," read Hegel and discovered that his works were "little better than puns." The breakfasts at McTaggart's bachelor lodgings, to which his favorite students were invited, were famous, Russell recalled, for their "lack of food." Students took to bringing their own eggs. When Russell decided that stars really existed even when no one was aware of them, McTaggart "asked me no longer to come and see him because he could not bear my opinions. He followed this up by taking a leading part in having me turned out of my lectureship."

In H. G. Wells novel The New Machiavelli, McTaggart appears as "dear old Codger . . . as curious and adorable as a good Netsuké . . . his round innocent eyes, his absurdly nonprehensde fat hand carrying his cap, his grey trousers braced up much too high, his feet a trifle inturned, and going across the great court with a queer tripping pace . . . it was a wonderful web he spun out of that queer big active childish brain that had never loved nor hated nor grieved nor feared nor passionately loved-- a web of iridescent threads . . . as flimsy and irrelevant and clever and

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The New Age: Notes of a Fringe Watcher
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 7
  • Preface 9
  • Part 1 11
  • 1 - Project Alpha 13
  • 2 - Margaret Mead 19
  • 3 - Magicians in the PSI Lab 25
  • 4 - Shirley MacLaine 32
  • 5 - Freud, Fliess, and Emma's Nose 38
  • 6 - Koestler Money Down the Psi Drain? 44
  • 7 - Targ: From Puthoff to Blue 50
  • 8 - The Relevance of Belief Systems 57
  • 9 - Welcome to the Debunking Club 65
  • 10 - The Great Stone Face 72
  • 11 - From Phillips to Morris 79
  • 12 - George McCready Price 93
  • 13 - Wonders of Science 99
  • 14 - Tommy Gold 103
  • 15 - Rupert Sheldrake 109
  • 16 - The Anomalies of Chip Arp 115
  • 17 - Thoughts on Superstrings 119
  • 18 - The Third Eye 123
  • 19 - Irving Kristol and the Facts of Life 129
  • Part 2 135
  • 20 - The Great SRI Die Mystery 137
  • 21 - Perpetual Motion 145
  • 22 - Psychic Surgery 167
  • 23 - 666 and All That 170
  • 24 - D. D. Home-Sweet-Home 175
  • 25 - PK (Psycho-Krap) 179
  • 26 - Chicanery in Science 182
  • 27 - Fools' Paradigms 184
  • 28 - Look, Shirl, No Hands! 188
  • 29 - The Channeling Mania 202
  • 30 - Who Was Ray Palmer? 209
  • 31 - Prime-Time Preachers 223
  • 32 - L. Ron Hubbard 246
  • 33 - Psychic Astronomy 252
  • Name Index 265
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