BOOK REVIEW

Details:

Publisher: SNU Publications (www.snu.org.uk)

First Published: 1996

ISBN: 0-902036-13-0

Pages: 384

Price: 12

 

"The Archives of the Mind"

By Prof. Archie Roy

 - Reviewed by David Lorimer -

          Archie Roy is emeritus professor of astronomy in the University of Glasgow and a former president of the Society for Psychical Research. In this comprehensive book about the possibility of survival of consciousness, he challenges the uninformed reader to take the evidence seriously and the sceptic to advance detailed refutation of detailed case histories, observing that 'uninformed criticism can seriously damage your reputation'. This remark should be true, but does not apply in a climate of shared scepticism where even investigation of the evidence can damage your credibility! In this respect it is a pity that such a good book was published by the Spiritualist Press rather than a mainstream publisher.

The book presents over twenty of the best authenticated cases from over a century of research, all of which suggest that a materialistic approach does scant justice to the scope and complexity of the phenomena. Some are classic stories such as the Palm Sunday case involving A.J. Balfour, the 'Swan on the Black Sea' with Geraldine Cummins, the investigations of early psychical researcher Richard Hodgson, the astonishing literary output of 'Patience Worth' and a number of cases of children remembering previous lives from the archives of Ian Stevenson. The material is well summarized with tables where appropriate; recall is detailed and precise, as with two cases involving action in the last world war which were verified from public archives. The author illustrates a novel approach to one reincarnation-type case by asking six professors of history to assess the obscurity and difficulty of access to historical details emerging from the memory in question; this includes rate of ease of knowing and of finding the source of such information on a scale of one to five. Many of the sixty facts verified are near the five end of the scale. Such qualitative analysis strengthens the case for paranormal explanations.

No reader who arrives at the taxonomy of cases after 300 pages can fail to be impressed with the quality of the material presented. What, however, does it all add up to? Roy begins by dismissing the coincidence and fraud theories, leaving himself three options: super-ESP, survival and a form of William James's cosmic reservoir idea. He then develops computer analogies as an argument for the third hypothesis that gives the book its title. A PC plus a modem gives the user access to an almost unlimited amount of organized information which can be accessed through the use of key words. He seems to be proposing an akashic record model, but unfortunately confuses the issue with a reference to Jung's collective unconscious. The fundamental question here concerns the relationship between the self and memory. What survives? Survival theories postulate the continuation of self-consciousness, while the archives of the mind are in some respects passive and unconscious until activated by a medium or 'transformed by the terminal facilities into a "person" or "player", dramatized using available data' (p.339).

The hypothesis has the advantage over the super-ESP theory of picturing a multi-dimensional web accessible through 'key words' rather than a random search through isolated minds, but does it do justice to the whole range of phenomena discussed? A possible mechanism is investigated in the final chapter, but I cannot help thinking that the author's enthusiasm for his computer analogy has run away with him when he refers to survival as 'self-active computers relating to each other without human operators and using programs archived in the Internet'. I prefer the interpretation of the cross-correspondences advanced by Myers, Gurney and Sidgwick, that they were indeed still working together to produce the evidence: memory and self-consciousness persist. It is highly probable that our existing models of the self are limited and in need of refinement, but the evidence nevertheless remains and demands an explanation. I can highly recommend this book both as an introduction to the field and a stimulating survey for those more versed in it.

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Professor Emeritus of Astronomy in the University of Glasgow, Archie E. Roy is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, The Royal Astronomical Society and the British Interplanetary Society. He is also a member of the Society for Psychical Research and the Scottish Society for Psychical Research being a past-President of both and the Founding-President of the latter. A member of the International Astronomical Union, it recently honoured him by naming an asteroid after him. He has also been elected a member of the European Academy of Arts, Sciences and the Humanities. He is a Patron of the Churches Fellowship (Scotland) for Psychical and Spiritual Studies and a member of the Scientific and Medical Network.

He conducts research in astrodynamics, celestial mechanics, archaeoastronomy, psychical research and neural networks. He has published 20 books, six of them novels, some 70 scientific papers and scores of articles. Several of his books have been published in the United States, France, Russia, Italy and India. In a varied career he has traveled widely and lectured in many countries, directed Advanced Scientific Institutes for NATO, edited journals and newspapers, and investigated haunted houses and haunted people.

 

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