Reviewed by Mike Gleason
The Origins of Psychic Phenomena
by Stan Gooch
Published 2007 by Inner Traditions
Paperback 272 pages
More Information on this book at Amazon
To be quite honest, I wasn't sure how to respond to this book when I began to read it for a couple of reasons. First, the title of the book The Origins of Psychic Phenomena
seems to promise more than the subtitle, "Poltergeists, Incubi, Succubi, and the Unconscious Mind". The title has far broader implications, since psychic phenomena extend far beyond the narrower limits imposed by the subtitle. Second, I'm not sure I agree with the author's definition of succubi. My copy of the abridged OED does not carry the same definition which the author uses.
His reliance on some rather dubious sources (Montague Summers, for example) does not, in my opinion, strengthen his case. Reliance on ancient documents to strengthen his case is understandable, but I feel that it is necessary to consider the cultural background and/or personal biases, of those who translated those documents.
He makes connections between poltergeist activity (a fairly-well documented, if poorly understood, phenomenon) and spontaneous human combustion (neither well-documented not understood) and spontaneous external fires. These "connections" are supported ONLY by conjecture with no accepted hard evidence. While there MAY be a connection, it has by no means been proven conclusively. The theory may by valid, but there may also be other explanations.
The author actively discourages belief in any external existence of poltergeists, UFOs, incubi and succubi, demons, ghosts, etc. He postulates the power and the ability of the individual human mind to produce all these effects. To that extent, this book is properly classified as parapsychology.
It definitely helps to have a firm grounding in the understanding of psychology and the human mind. A basic knowledge of the anatomy of the brain would also be an advantage.
The more I read of this book, the less sure I was of how to take it. One the one hand it is a basic job of reporting, on another hand it is speculative, and on yet another hand it is ego-boosting for the author. This is not to say that any of these presentations are "right" or "wrong". It is merely an indication that I, personally, was unsure of what to make of the book.
The author sees a possible connection between left-handedness, shortness, the size of the big toe, and the relative size of the cerebellum and the psychic phenomena he investigates. This caused me to be even more unsure of how to relate to the book.
This is not a book which needs to be in your library, unless you are particularly interested in the topics. It is, however, well- written and informative. How valid the author's conclusions are is for you to determine.