This book is nothing like you think it is going to be, based only onthe title. Just wanted to get that out there from the get-go. It is Harpur’s theory of what are those folkloric creatures, strange phenomena, unusual events or the unexplained or downright ludicrous tales, collectively known as forteana, after the writer Charles Fort, who also did research into anomalous phenomena.
In the book, Harpur systematically examines such phenomena as fairies, UFOs, Men in Black, White Ladies, Black Dogs, lights in the sky, lake monsters, ghosts, mystery cats, kaptars, yowies, Yetis, etc., the BVM (blessed Virgin Mary) sightings, and crop circles, among other topics.
His basic premise is that our psyche extends beyond our physical human bodies. He leans heavily on Jung’s Archetypes of the collective unconscious, suggesting that visions and apparitions might well be the projection of those unconscious Archetypes.
He calls all these various paranormal phenomena collectively the daimonic reality, and tells us that although this stuff may have some physical reality, such as crop circles, or Yeti footprints or UFO landing traces, it is not literally real. It is literally metaphor. He believes that our modern society has no room for the irrational and the incomprehensible, and that instead of fairy folk myths, or origin tales, we are compelled to convert all that anomalous phenomena into scientificism – scientific and technical explanations. He points out that even physics, with its ever diminishing size of the foundation of matter – molecules, atoms, quarks, down to claimed entities that have never actually been seen, only postulated, the dual nature of some particles as waves/particles, are really simply more daimonic reality covered over by quasi science.
He insists that this side of our nature, our unconsciousness, has been demonized by the Christian church, whereas other older beliefs, such as even the ancient Greeks, had gods in their pantheon of both good and evil, benevolent and mischievous.
He discusses shamanism, quests, and the division of spirit and soul, and says that as we push our daimonic side further and further away, these ‘daimons’ have to resort to more and more effort to get our attention. Whereas in the past we had fairy rings, we now have crop circles. Where we before had tales of fairies abducting people and children and leaving a log in the bed in place of them, we now have UFO alien abductions, with the abductees often exhibiting physical scars from the experience.
He calls these kinds of episodes ‘being enchanted’, and says that to understand it all, we need to believe and yet not believe. We have to straddle both worlds in order to comprehend the unliteralness of the physical appearances.
It all brings to mind Julian Jaynes’ concept of the early not-quite-fully-developed mind as bicameral in The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind ,and how he believes early Man heard voices which dictated his daily life, and that Man was not at one time fully conscious in the way we are now. Harpur’s views of the forteana suggest that possibly the modern mind is not quite so fused as we might wish, and we still have vestiges of that early bicameral mind.
I found Daimonic Reality a brilliantly fascinating read, and while some of it might have been a smidge hard to follow, or to even agree with, or to depart into flights of ridiculous sublimity at the end, it definitely offers food for thought.