Figuring that Theodore Dreiser, Jack Womack and Paul Thomas Anderson can't all be wrong, am delving into Charles Fort's books, which are available online (I prefer the e-books, which are available for 99 cents each). Have known about Fort and Fortean phenomena (rains of frogs, etc.) for decades but was curious about the actual writing.
Enjoyed the first half of Lo! but then he spent the second half trying to convince me that earthquakes, strange lights in the sky, and stellar novae were all connected, and that it was just as reasonable as not to assume that earth hangs immobile within a shell of stars much nearer than we're told they are. This was written in the late 1920s, but c'mon.
Am now reading Wild Talents and this passage from Chap. 10 leapt out at me from the e-reader, while on the subway:
My suspicion is that we've got everything reversed; or that all things that have the sanction of scientists, or that are in agreement with their myths, are ghosts; and that things called "ghosts," are, because they are not in agreement with the spooks of science, the more nearly real things. I now suspect that the spiritualists are reversedly right -- that there is a ghost-world -- but that it is our existence -- that when spirits die they become human beings.
I now have a theory that once upon a time, we were real and alive, but departed into this state that we call "existence" -- that we have carried over with us from the real existence, from which we died, the ideas of Truth, and of axioms and principles and generalizations -- ideas that really meant something when we were really alive, but that, of course, now, in our phantom-existence -- which is demonstratable by any X-ray photograph of any of us -- can have only phantom-meaning -- so then our never-ending, but always frustrated search for our lost reality. We come upon chimera and mystification, but persistently have beliefs, as retentions from an experience in which there were things to believe in. I'd not say that all of us are directly ghosts: most of us may be the descendants of the departed from a real existence, who, in our spook-world, pseudo-propagated.
That's damn good.
Addendum: But let's be clear that Fort isn't a mystic, except to the extent he makes a personal religion out of contrarian argument. Nowadays his thinking might be called post-structuralist, focusing on paranormal phenomena more for what they say about the failures of enlightened science to explain them than what Jack Womack calls "the Woo-woo." Fort scoffs at official excuses such as "it must have been product of mass hypnosis" and spins amusing counter-theories; the above passage is an especially good example. Critical satire, anticipating Philip K. Dick's dream realities by some twenty years.
Addendum 2: And it must be Fortean non-coincidence that two days before I wrote this (without my seeing it) the Smithsonian had an article about the connections of earthquakes and lights in the sky (but not stars going nova). Fort would have had great fun with
“The process starts deep in the crust, where rocks are subjected to high stress levels, prior to the stress being released to produce an earthquake,” Thériault says. In certain types of rock, Freund has shown in lab experiments, this stress can break apart pairs of negatively-charged oxygen atoms that are linked together in peroxy bonds.
When this happens, each of the oxygen ions are released, and these can flow through cracks in the rock, towards the surface. At that point, the thinking goes, high-density groups of these charged atoms will ionize pockets of air, forming a charged gas (a plasma) that emits light. [emphasis added]
"The thinking goes." Peroxy bonds.. plasma... And we are also told of luminous owls.