The Romance of the Occult, or the Will to Believe, exerts a special hold on Englishmen, from the earnest founders of the...

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MYSTERIES

The Romance of the Occult, or the Will to Believe, exerts a special hold on Englishmen, from the earnest founders of the Society for Psychical Research down to the present author. Clues to this voluminous exercise in belief/understanding lie in the stream-of-consciousness outpouring of the first few pages of text, which touches upon everything from Margaret Murray and Stonehenge to Madame Blavatsky and the midwife toad. Wilson's glib pen flows to embrace all, looking for links, speculating on connections. Loving time is spent elaborating the career of archaeologist Tom Lethbridge, the Cambridge don-cum-dowser who developed a vast numerology of dowsing: so many inches of pendulum swing for copper, so many for truffles (!), etc. WiLson discovers he has the gift, too: on what rational or non-rational basis could it rest? The musings mount along with anecdote, theory, myth, and case history, as he explores the major categories of the paranormal, e.g., possession, poltergeists, reincarnation, the cabala, astrology, alchemy, PK. In many instances, Wilson sees emanations of the old (White Goddess) religion or evidence for the workings of a superconscious mind. (The ""force"" may well be with us!) In such a muchness there is little critical evaluation. The reader must be wary or indulgent, aware that while Wilson attacks the Golden-Bough approach to anthropology, he is himself searching for an elemental unity in all the mysteries. He is at his best in describing the panic attacks of anxiety which beset the writer on deadline, a situation which led him to introspection and self-mastery, emerging with a Gurdjieffian concept of a ""ladder of selves."" Enthusiastic, uncritical, but withal, a certain style, a certain appeal.

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 1978

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 1978