Interviews With The Fantastic
InterGalactic Interview With James Morrow
by Darrell Schweitzer
[conducted at Readercon, 2007]
Born in Philadelphia in 1947, James Morrow spent his adolescent years making
short 8mm fantasy films with his friends, including adaptations of Samuel Taylor
Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart." His affection for satiric and philosophical fiction comes largely from
the novels he studied in his high school World Literature course.
A self-described "scientific humanist," his work not only satirizes organized
religion but also elements of humanism and atheism. The author is best known for
his magnum opus, the Godhead Trilogy. The first installment, Towing Jehovah,
winner of the World Fantasy Award, recounts the efforts of a supertanker captain
to entomb the corpse of God in an Arctic glacier. The sequel, Blameless in
Abaddon, tells of a small-town judge who prosecutes the Corpus Dei before the
World Court. In The Eternal Footman, God's skull goes into geosynchronous orbit
above Times Square, causing a plague of despair.
Other James Morrow novels include This Is the Way the World Ends (1986), a
Nebula finalist, and Only Begotten Daughter (1990), winner of the World Fantasy
Award. His early short fiction is collected in Bible Stories for Adults, including the
Nebula Award-winning fable, "The Deluge." City of Truth, his one and only
novella, also received a Nebula Award. Jim's current project is Prometheus Wept,
which he describes as "a combination of Frankenstein and Lolita."
The author presently lives in State College, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Kathryn,
his son, Christopher, and their dogs. He devotes his leisure time to his family, his
Lionel electric trains, and his DVD collection of guilty-pleasure Hollywood epics.
SCHWEITZER: So what's all this stuff about reason? Your latest novel, The
Last Witchfinder is not so much about witches and devils but about rejecting the
belief in them.
MORROW Morrow: The Last Witchfinder doesn't deal with what many people
mean by witches, witches as a feminist cult of healing and cosmic consciousness,
nor is it about the sort of witchcraft we associate with the Third World, having to
do with, again, curing disease, or perhaps with raising the dead. I am addressing
the big problem that emerged in early Renaissance Europe, and which quickly
became a kind of holocaust: the problem of the specifically Christian heresy of
If you told fortunes in those days or practiced some other esoteric pursuit --
herbal healing, whatever -- you were vulnerable to the charge of Devil worship.
The problem was not the practices per se, but the redefinition of them as evidence
of a Satanic compact. Today Catholic scholars would argue that this kind of
persecution was itself heretical, and should have been perceived as such. And,
indeed, in the medieval era the Catholic Church held it to be anathema to go after
But, for whatever reasons, theologians in the early Renaissance began noticing
how damn much demonology there is in the New Testament. Jesus is forever
casting out evil spirits and consigning demons to the bodies of pigs, wicked spirits
that were once inside people. So you can't really argue that Christian demonology
is an aberration. Sad to say, the persecutions trace to theologians paying attention
to what's actually happening in the Gospels. It's not all that's happening, but there
is an enormous amount of demonology in the New Testament, which seems to
suggest a Satan, a Devil, a Dark One, has dominion over this world, and once
you've interpreted the Gospels in that way, you start looking around for the agents
of that Devil.
SCHWEITZER: Do you think the witch-hunting came from the top down or the
bottom up? That is, was it a means used by the authorities to control the masses, or
was it a matter of popular hysteria over matters people could not control -- the
Black Death, Muslim pirates raiding the coasts of Europe, famines, etc. --
demanding action from the government?
MORROW: I imagine both were going on at the same time. But what interests me
-- as a person who takes a very dim view of religious arguments about how the
world works -- is the top-down, institutionalized persecution of supposed witches.
It was highly systematic, codified in the Malleus Malificarum of Kramer and
Sprenger. There was a whole elaborate infrastructure of ecclesiastical and civil
courts to prosecute the agents of Lucifer.
Of course, one can also psychologize about outbreaks of witch persecution. This is
especially common in the case of Salem: there are scholars who say, "Well it
wasn't really about theology, it was really all about neighbors settling scores with
one another." Or they'll say, "The Puritans were obviously taking their fears of the
Indians and projecting them onto their neighbors." Arthur Miller's play The
Crucible seems to say the Salem tragedy was really about the frustrated libidos of
the girls who brought the accusations. Some historians even insist it was really all
about the girls going batty because they were eating bread contaminated with
ergot, a fungal disease of rye plants.
These interpretations are all interesting -- but, again, let's remember that the
phenomenon of witch persecution went on for nearly three hundred years. That
doesn't sound like hysteria to me. That sounds like something systematic and
institutional. As I mentioned earlier -- and this was a discovery that I made while
researching the book -- witch persecution is, alas, a logical implication of
Christian theology. Yes, there is also some demonology in the Old Testament, but
we find it largely in the famous translation authorized by James I, who fancied
himself an expert demonologist, even wrote a book on the subject. The King
James Bible was translated by witch believers, and this state of mind influenced
many of their word choices. Think about that notorious line from Exodus, "Thou
shalt not suffer a witch to live." Today a Hebrew scholar would translate it in
much more innocuous terms. It would come out something like, "Thou shalt not
provide a fortune-teller with his means of livelihood."
SCHWEITZER: Describe your book for our readers. It's about someone who
wants to put an end to the witchcraft statues.
MORROW: A big influence on The Last Witchfinder is a book called Masks of
the Universe by the physicist Edward Harrison -- whom I must get in touch with:
I don't think Harrison knows there's a novel floating around that traces directly to
his notion of the witch-universe, the "psychic space" in which most people lived
during the Renaissance. The big discovery I made, as I continued my research,
was that a person born around 1678 would have lived in the transition from
Harrison's witch-universe to what we now call the Enlightenment. So I said to
myself, "Hey, that's pretty damn dramatic. I won't need a huge cast of characters
to make this epic happen. It can be one woman's quest. It will be the story of
Jennet Stearne and her obsession with bringing down the conjuring statues of her
Also, being a feminist -- and knowing, as with Only Begotten Daughter, that for
me it's always fruitful to put a strong woman at the center of a novel -- I imagined
Jennet as not only living through the great rotation, from the witch-universe to the
scientific worldview, but actually helping to make it happen. She participates
actively in the paradigm shift, by campaigning to destroy the 1604 Witchcraft
Statute of James I, which gave an outward appearance of rationality to the witch
SCHWEITZER: Curiously, you did this as a form of fantasy novel.
MORROW: I was just on a Readercon panel about the continuum that ranges
from mimetic fiction to the fantastic, from characters who merely change
internally versus those who come to a completely new understanding of how the
world works. I think The Last Witchfinder ranges freely around among all these
coordinates. Obviously it's not a fantasy in the wizards-and-elves sense, but rather
a kind of postmodern experiment that maps pretty well onto strictly mimetic
historical fiction -- though, of course, it's all told by a very unusual narrator.
As you know, The Last Witchfinder is a book written by a book. It assumes a
universe in which books are conscious and have agendas and write other books.
So this free-floating spirit of Newton's Principia Mathematica is able to move
effortlessly through time and space and therefore comment on the philosophy of
science and Jennet's efforts to bring the new universe into being.
Up to a point, my Principia narrator is even willing to talk about the downside of
science and technology. Near the end of the book, he-she-it visits the Place de la
Révolution in Paris at the height of the Terror and possesses a priest who is
subsequently marched to the guillotine -- the French Revolution, of course, being
Exhibit A in any indictment of the Enlightenment. The Principia is willing to
acknowledge that, while the Enlightenment came along just when it was needed, it
was by no means an unalloyed blessing.
At the same time, The Last Witchfinder is obviously a defense of the
Enlightenment. I take Exhibit A seriously -- but it's hard to find Exhibits B, C, D,
and E after that. The Marxist totalitarian states are "atheist" or "neo-Enlightenment" in name only. Operationally, they function exactly like
theocracies. No doubters allowed.
SCHWEITZER: At one of the funnier moments, the Principia does a critique of
the Universal horror films of the 1940s, House of Dracula and so on. What does
this do to the drama of the story to have this clearly artificial framework, which
makes you stand outside of the story? It constantly reminds us that this is a story.
MORROW: I was certainly taking a risk. I tried to keep these interruptions by
the Principia Mathematica to a minimum, so the "color commentary" occurs only
once per chapter, and with clearly marked transitions: I use a typographical trick
whereby the last sentence of a Principia interlude blends into the first sentence of
the next scene in the main story. The preponderance of the scenes belong to a
more-or-less realistic drama set in the past. I tried to establish that when Jennet
and the other main characters are on stage, we are really in their heads, not the
Principia's head. We're not getting the book's subjective account of the action.
The events are supposed to be happening before our own eyes.
I did have a lot of trouble selling this book, and one of the agents I approached
suggested removing the Principia narrator. He said, "I don't know if I can make
things happen with this book, boosting you to a new level in your career. But if
you'd take out the framing device, we would clearly have a flat-out historical
novel, and that might go over better with editors."
Well, I just wasn't prepared to do that. Sure, I suppose that if that same agent had
said, "If you kill the ghostly narrator, I can get Knopf to give you a hundred
thousand dollar advance, and they will promote it as a breakthrough in historical
fiction," then, yeah, I might have bitten that apple. But he was merely saying,
"Consider taking out that clever postmodern gimmick, but even then I'm not sure
that I could sell it."
SCHWEITZER: It would have changed the tone of the book profoundly. It seems
to me that a straight, realistic treatment of this story wouldn't be as funny. It would
be full of pain and loss and rage. It would be all about this woman avenging her
beloved aunt who was burned at the stake in an act of gross injustice. But as the
book exists, it has an arch tone which steps aside from the material.
MORROW: In retrospect, I see you're right. I don't think I consciously added
the humor to leaven the horror. But maybe intuitively, as I was writing, I thought,
"Well, I'd better make the Principia interludes funny, and that will serve as a
corrective to the distressing subject matter."
But even with the satiric tone, I know the book makes people squirm. I didn't hold
back when describing the ordeal of being tested for the Satanic compact: for
example, the way a suspect was pricked with a needle to see if one of her
blemishes bled, because if it didn't bleed, that proved that the protuberance was
really a teat for suckling an animal familiar, or else it was a mark indicating that
the woman was bonded to Satan. I also dramatize the other main ordeal -- the
cold-water test -- pretty vividly. You tied a rope around the witch's waist and
threw her into a river. If she floated, she was guilty, because water is the medium
of baptism. Pure, running water is offended by a Satanist's flesh and wants to eject
it. If the suspect sank and was thus vindicated, the witchfinder would try pulling
her out in time, although I am sure there was more than one case of the accused
witch drowning while being proved innocent.
One editor who almost bought the book felt that, even with all the funny
observations by the Principia, the book was too morbid in tone. But I didn't want
to compromise the torture and testing scenes, because the witch persecutions were
really a kind of holocaust, as I said earlier. And yet, for whatever reasons, I still
added a lot of satiric distancing. I guess that's the sort of writer I am.
SCHWEITZER: I think a lot of satire works this way. If you had written the
novel absolutely straight, it might have been too shrill. Often the grimmest and
blackest and most terrible things have to be treated in a funny manner, even if they
build up to tragedy. You can name any number of writers who do this, T.H. White
most especially. What I am suggesting is that the distancing is necessary because
of the nature of the material. Otherwise you wouldn't be able to make it bearable.
MORROW: Novels that seem shrill, to use your word, preachy, novels that
somberly tell the reader how he or she is supposed to be feeling about the material
-- such books don't enjoy the same affection in our hearts as the more playful and
satiric works. I think of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, which is unrelievedly grim,
totally without humor. Yes, it did galvanize people to reform some of the practices
of the meat-packing houses, but that wasn't an artistic accomplishment. One critic
made a remark to the effect that Sinclair "aimed to touch people's hearts and
ended up hitting them in the stomach." Readers were repulsed to learn that the
meat that ended up on their dinner table very likely contained bits of rat meat.
I've started an historical novel that will be in some ways analogous to The Last
Witchfinder. I want to dramatize the story of Charles Darwin and the arrival of that
universe, today's universe, in which we perceive ourselves as animals and
understand they we're evidently connected to all the other species on the planet,
and they're connected to each other as well. It won't be a biographical novel about
Darwin, but rather an epic about the exploits of a character who's living during
Darwin's life and times.
The whole story will elapse between the voyage of the Beagle, which ended in
1834, and Darwin's publication of his theory in 1859. Many years went by during
which Darwin temporized and procrastinated and anguished over going public
with his big idea. I have what I think is a pretty neat plot device whereby a clever
woman, scheming but sympathetic -- I think her name will be Chlöe -- she has
occasion to recapitulate Darwin's travels, collecting the very same specimens.
Chlöe is hoping to claim a huge cash prize being offered by a Percy Bysshe
Shelley cult. They'll award it to anyone who can prove or disprove the existence
of God. Chlöe herself doesn't care about the God question one way or the other,
but she plans to argue the case for atheism because she needs the money. Her
nautical adventures will be as mimetic and dramatic as I can make them.
At the same time, I'm once again going to use a postmodern, playful element,
whereby an insane bishop locked up in an asylum will be visited by homing
pigeons, which are reporting in to him from a second expedition -- one that's out
to find Noah's ark on Mount Ararat in Turkey. The Noah's ark team also hopes to
claim the big prize, by proving God's existence. It will soon become clear to the
reader that, as a function of the bishop's insanity, the pigeon messages are actually
from the future: accounts of evolutionary thinking post-Darwin, such as
Mendelian genetics and the deciphering of the DNA molecule. And, of course --
because the Bishop is crazy -- these messages also contain far more information
than you could squeeze onto a piece of paper wrapped around a pigeon's leg.
SCHWEITZER: This is pretty much what you've always done with fantastic
elements from the beginning of your career, use them satirically. I observe the
paradox that most fantasy is about things we don't believe in and don't want to
believe in. It is much easier to write a story in which witches or demons are real
than one in which they are not. Do you have a sense of this?
MORROW: I think the reason that William Morrow ultimately published The
Last Witchfinder as mainstream historical fiction -- and I'd have to say that,
because of that decision, the book got a lot more critical attention than normal --
is that my witches do not have supernatural powers. My demons and devils are
purely human inventions. The world of the novel is non-supernatural -- anti-supernatural, really, as we've been saying -- even though at the same time there's
this crazy central conceit of a conscious book.
I guess my fantasy novels are ultimately pretty paradoxical. They use the
supernatural to argue against the supernatural. In the case of Only Begotten
Daughter I took the Christian argument at face-value. There is a creator God, and
this deity has a particular interest in our species and this particular planet. But
after taking that claim at face-value, I began exploring the possible psychology of
a supernatural being, so that my heroine Julie Katz, who happens to be the
daughter of God and the half-sister of Jesus Christ, decides she doesn't really want
to be divine. She ends up hating supernaturalism. She becomes an advocate of
evolution and subscribes to the scientific understanding of reality. I guess the book
is questioning the assumption that embracing the Christian worldview -- or any
other variety of supernaturalism -- is some sort of accomplishment or end state.
Something like the opposite, I'd say. There are always more questions to ask.
You mentioned the Universal horror movies that are satirized at one point in The
Last Witchfinder. I always find it strange how in, say, the Mummy series -- most
of which starred Lon Chaney, Jr. -- when we get to the end of the picture, the
characters don't seem to have noticed that the entire fabric of consensus reality has
evidently changed completely. Everything that modern humans assume about
Nature being driven by rational laws, without a supernatural substratum, has just
been proven utterly wrong -- and yet the characters go right back to living their
mundane little lives, as if the paradigm shift hadn't occurred. It's a very bizarre
convention. Because if you really had a mummy running around in Louisiana or
New England that would throw the entire Enlightenment argument about how the
world works out the window. The Universal monster movies always beg the
question of why the heroes and heroines don't have nervous breakdowns at the
True, in the universe of these movies, the vampires and werewolves and mummies
operate by laws, too, and so you have Edward Van Sloan knowing exactly what it
takes to vaporize a vampire, or Turhan Bey knowing exactly how many tana
leaves it takes to get Kharis's heart beating, and how many it takes to get him
shuffling around and abducting people. But these aren't remotely scientific
principles. There's no explanatory mechanism involved. They're magic. Maybe
someday I'll write a mummy novel in which the characters think through the full
epistemological implications of their adventures, and end up going insane.
SCHWEITZER: I suspect that the serious answer to this is that most Americans
today still live in the witch-universe. The Enlightenment has not penetrated below
the level of the intellectuals. Even to this day most people believe in psychics,
UFOs, astrology, ghosts, and such. They probably do believe in forms of magic.
Certainly a lot of them do. Then there is the Christian Fundamentalist side of the
population, which is enormous, who would probably be afraid to read your book
because it would evoke the Devil. So I think the real answer is they're still in the
MORROW: Good point. I suppose The Last Witchfinder is not about the death of
the witch-universe per se. It's about the death of the witch-universe as a political
force that made courts and magistrates behave in abominable ways toward people
we would now regard as innocent of any demonic compact. Of course, these
victims weren't necessarily people of tremendous virtue. They weren't John
Proctor in The Crucible. They weren't pure of heart. They were the outcasts. They
were the people upon whom this sort of persecution could be performed with
I guess I'm saying that, yes, as individual private selves, we all want to live in a
supernatural universe. It's instinctive, and we all have a right to our private
fantasies. Nevertheless, the reining intellectual consensus, thank God, is that
promiscuous supernaturalism is not the case, and we have no business putting
gods and demons at the center of our political institutions. It's been remarked that
the most important word in the United States Constitution is the one that isn't
there -- the word "God." I think that's genuine progress.
Now, I know that our postmodern brethren have problematized, I think
legitimately, the notion of progress. You always have to ask, "Progress for
whom?" But I think even the Bush Administration recognizes that fundamentalism
is a terrible idea. I am continually struck by the irony of Bush and his henchmen
being perfectly happy to allow a low-grade, smiley-face, feel-good theocracy
emerge on these shores, even as they pursue the opposite agenda in Iraq. I think of
the recent Supreme Court decision that taxpayers cannot sue the government for
having recently broken down the wall between church and state through so-called
faith-based grants. I think of Bush going on record as saying he thinks Intelligent
Design is commensurate with Darwinism and should also be taught in public
school classroom. I think of his canceling stem-cell research for reasons that
ultimately trace to his supposed personal relationship with Jesus.
At the same time, we have the Bushies realizing that what they want in the Middle
East is a process we would have to call secular and rational. Saddam Hussein
constantly used religion to manipulate his bleeding country, even though it was
technically not a theocracy, and now the great fear -- great and also justified -- is
that this same theocratic impulse will reemerge in Iraq in a different form, and that
society will become every bit as much of a nightmare as it was before we invaded.
Certainly for women Iraq threatens to become a nightmare. The Koran has very
little in it that's good news for women.
The Bushies would never admit this paradox. They would never come out and say
they're contradicting themselves. But what they're hoping for is some kind of neo-Enlightenment, secular democracy in Iraq -- a regime that religious skeptics like
Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson would recognize and salute for its lack of a
supernatural argument at its center.
SCHWEITZER: Despite which, in the United States, there was just a few years
ago an episode of witchcraft hysteria in a day-school, in which they managed to
get all the children to testify about Satanic ritual abuse. Remember that? It was
Salem all over again, with neighbor suspecting neighbor, and people being
assumed guilty until proven innocent and guilty by association. It was exactly the
MORROW: That sort of hysteria, when it crops us, is always very disturbing. But
at least today -- here in the post-Enlightenment West -- today we pretty much
accept the idea that our courts and other legal institutions have an essentially
secular mission. The Devil doesn't routinely appear before judges and juries
anymore. Our justice system is not shot through with supernatural assumptions
about the world, or even shot through with theism, and so the fantasies of children
as no longer admissible, as they were in Salem. Yes, you do have to put your hand
on the Bible when you testify in court, but after that something resembling reason
So while that Satanic ritual abuse phenomenon was horrible, it was also short-lived, because at a certain point it became clear that the accusers didn't have cases,
that they had run out of evidence, and that the children themselves were being
manipulated. Anyone who knows even a little bit of child psychology would
recognize that these kids were telling their supposed deliverers what they wanted
to hear. The motto of the people who thought they were acting in the alleged
victims' interest was "Believe the children." Well, it turns out that what they really
meant was "Believe the children unless the children say they haven't been
It was a terrible abuse of the trust that a child naturally has in adults, ironically in
the name of protecting children. I think virtually no evidence emerged that ritual
Satanic abuse was actually occurring. But, yes, it was hysteria, and one can
certainly psychologize about it, as one can do about Salem. My novel is about the
fact that at least we've gotten rid of fantasy, private delusion, and religious mania
as admissible evidence. It suggests that, in certain public contexts, theism is a
luxury we simply can't afford.
SCHWEITZER: Then again, you've written about God being dead and found
floating in the Atlantic. I can't imagine this has been published in, say, an Arabic
MORROW: [Laughs] Not likely. But I have to say I get quite a bit of fan e-mail
from believers, and that's very gratifying to me. I think I value those letters even
more than the ones I get from militant atheists, who cheer me on and say, "Go for
it, Jim. Give the carcass of organized religion another kick in the groin."
I'm pleased to find there are a lot of readers out there, people of faith, who enjoy
my novels as theological speculation, as thought experiments that satirize the
misuses of religion. You can be part of an institution and still perceive its dark
side. You don't have to resign from an institution to critique it. You might actually
be doing the world more good by staying within your church and trying to reform
it. In that regard, I may be in a worse position to do good than believers. I'm not
actively trying to change the homophobia that seems rampant in so many
evangelical churches, but there are people inside those evangelical churches, I am
sure, who are making arguments against that kind of bigotry.
SCHWEITZER: At what point in your life did you abandon God and discover his
corpse was floating in the Atlantic?
MORROW: It's true that I was once a believer, as a kid. My parents were not
aggressively religious, but I think they did have an inoculation theory of church-going. You should give your son a small and harmless dose of religion, lest he
discover one day that he had no natural defenses against it. I imagine they were
afraid that otherwise I would show up and say I'd decided to become a monk or
So they gave me a generic, white-bread religious education, dragging me to a
Presbyterian Sunday-school in Willow Grove, Pennsylvania. Naturally I ended up
believing. How could I not? This was suburban Philadelphia in the 1950s. God
was the default assumption. God in the air. God was in the water. I never thought
of God as a thesis, a hypothesis about how the world works. I thought of God as a
fact. Adults seemed to agree on this fact, and adults don't lie, so they?
Luckily, back then suburban Presbyterianism was a pretty tepid thing. It was not
salvationistic. It did not threaten us kids with images of eternal damnation and
fears that our sins would catapult us into the fiery abyss. But I do remember
assuming that God was behind it all, and I know I prayed for good fortune in my
My inverse road to Damascus was the World Literature course I took as a tenth-grader. Those of us in the honors English class at Abington Senior High School
found ourselves suddenly confronted with the miracles and splendors of Western
literature: plays and poems -- and especially novels -- that were alive with ideas,
usually subversive and skeptical ideas. We learned that novelists were often
people at odds with the received wisdom of their day. They were contrarians.
These voices stood outside of their cultures and critiqued them -- and, above all,
they were honest voices: at least, that's what I found in Voltaire's Candide and
Camus's The Stranger and Kafka's The Trial and Flaubert's Madame Bovary.
Even a believer like Dostoyevsky -- we did Crime and Punishment -- even
Dostoyevsky dramatized belief as something that is troubling and paradoxical and
The honesty of these writers -- the voice of an anguished atheist like Camus --
that struck a chord with me. It really was a kind of revelation. It garnered my
respect in a way that my Sunday-school teachers never did. The Presbyterians
seemed to dodge all the hard questions. They weren't liars, exactly, but
intellectually, for me, they left much to be desired. Gradually my faith evaporated.
Of course, it also helped that I'd never had an experience with the supernatural. I'd
never encountered an angel or witnessed a miracle.
SCHWEITZER: How do you think you'd respond if you did?
MORROW: [Laughs] That's a really good question. I'd like to think that, if I
really believe my own worldview, my first question would be, "Might I account
for this angel, or this out-of-body experience, or this miracle, or whatever, in
strictly material terms?" But, sure, okay, if my supernatural experience was
something utterly unequivocal, fine, I guess I'd try to swallow it.
But let's remember that most religious arguments about the world are far more
optimistic and soothing than the secular-humanist view. We'd all like to believe
our deaths aren't synonymous with oblivion. We've all got a built-in -- and highly
suspect -- motivation to believe in the miraculous. We're predisposed to embrace
supposed evidence for the supernatural simply on the grounds of our mortality.
Religion solves the death problem, so of course it's always going to win the battle
for the private human psyche.
So I like to think it would take more than one angelic visitation to convince me
that angels are factual. It's often said that extraordinary claims require
extraordinary evidence. I hope I would spend a lot of time worrying about whether
I was deluded, whether my angel was entirely subjective, whether he was just
wishful thinking, whether this was incipient schizophrenia.
I am continually struck by the fact that, whether the argument is coming from the
New Age camp -- "crystals heal," "astrology works," that sort of claim -- or by
those with conventional religious views -- I am struck by that fact that the main
thing that's going on in every such instance is a person, a mere human being,
standing in front of you insisting that the supernatural is the case. That's it. Period.
A person. Nothing more, nothing less.
At the last Conference on the Fantastic in Fort Lauderdale, I noticed that our
pathetic little convention was happening alongside a presentation attended by
thousands of people who all wanted to hear this guy talk about life after death. He
had lots of messages from beyond the veil that he wanted to share. The crowd
lapped it up. Nobody seemed to notice that all they were actually getting was a
person very much like themselves, and in many cases probably better than
themselves -- more honest, less egomaniacal, less publicity hungry -- doling out
the inside dope on the afterlife.
There is nothing you can go out and do yourself to corroborate the worldviews of
charlatans. In those few cases where those of New Age or supernatural persuasion
have allowed a test, some tentative attempt at falsification, their claims and beliefs
have always come a cropper. Every systematic investigation of astrology or ESP or
prayer suggests that there's absolutely nothing happening there. This malarkey is
not a new understanding of reality. It's wish-fulfillment at best. It's stuff that we'd
prefer to be the case. But it doesn't seem to be the case -- not in this life, and not
in this universe.