Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hindu Magicians: Fakirs or Fakers??

Once again into uncharted waters.... the nice thing about going into a subject which one is a complete ignoramus about, is that it's easier to maintain humility. I already know that I don't know what I'm talking about. So, the trick is to try to find some people who do. For this post, I'm going to lean on a guy named Louis Hoffmann, a debunker, but maybe an honest one, and Louis Jacolliot, a romantic, also, I believe, an honest one. Tossing in Joseph Jastrow, a born-early CSICOPian, and John E. Wilkie, a hoaxer, plus Thomas Maurice, a pre-times-of-prejuduce scholar, and it's a merry mush indeed.

Inspiration for the post was an article, originally from Chambers Journal and reprinted/pirated in Littell's Living Age, March 1902. "Indian Conjuring Explained". Why did Hoffmann [above] write it?

Hoffmann was a professional magician along with being a college teacher. He found himself in that period at the end of the 19th century where many such people thought that there was a crucial war going on between science and superstition, and superstition needed to be put down if modern civilization was ever going to break free from the Dark Ages and progress to true enlightenment. Well, OK, good in theory --- often miserable in practice. But that was where the mind of Louis Hoffmann was.

This was the time when, to the horror of conservatives like Hoffmann, groups like the Society for Psychical Research and The Theosophical Society were rising. Surely civilization would go under if these sorts of things were not exterminated. Belief in magical violations of physical laws was obviously one such dangerous error. "Indian Magicians" were the worst example of such contamination of clear thought.

Hoffmann was inspired by Joseph Jastrow, the non-spiritual godfather of CSICOPians to come. Jastrow was a psychologist who believed that all human reports of anomalistic occurrences were the products either of deliberate deception [liars], bad memories, or perceptual errors. He's the guy who gave us those clever mistake-prone illusions like the one below. [DUCK or RABBIT?].

In his Debunking Hall-of-Fame book, Jastrow explains why you can never trust human testimony, particularly when that testimony doesn't adhere to things we all know to be true [well, he doesn't say it like that, but as he conveniently has no criteria for figuring out ANY accurate observation from inaccurate ones, that is what this sort of position reduces to]. Anyway.... he proceeds to heap a heavy blasting on things like psychic phenomena and untrained observers in general. Hoffmann found this to be a very congenial way to view reality, as most people who believe that their observations are superior to others do. Because Hoffmann WAS an expert stage magician, he had some validity to being a superior observer of how other things looking like stage magic might be done, so OK --- I'll take him as an expert in some things and proceed with an open mind, although I don't like his general attitude.

Hoffmann seems to have been mobilized in his noble quest to make the world safe from Indian Conjurors by something the guy above did. He's John E. Wilkie, a staff writer for a Chicago newspaper, who decided that it would be great "news" to just make up a bunch of crap about Indian magicians and publish the hoax as real. The inclusion of the badge above is that Wilkie was shortly appointed to leadership in the U.S.Secret Service [the guys who protect the President]. The juxtaposition of these two elements of Wilkie's career fairly boggle the mind. Nevertheless, he DID write the article, and in it featured the idea of the "Indian Rope Trick" which is so iconic in our imagery of Hindu "magic". The idea of the Indian Rope Trick so caught the imagination that it established that it was in mysterious India that open demonstrations of high magic could be seen surpassing that of all other nations. This put Hoffmann into attack mode.

Hoffmann as a magician already "knew" [believed] that this phenomenon [and all the rest of the alleged Indian trickery] was nothing but that. He was confident that if he went to India and observed the acts in the flesh, he would easily see through them. And this is what his article proceeds to tell us. In it Hoffmann violates the prime rule of the stage magician: to never tell a non-member of the fraternity the actual secrets of how the tricks are done. Apparently Hoffmann considered the dangers of belief in these things so great that such a violation was justified.

I do not believe that Hoffmann even went to see the Indian conjurors himself but simply heard reports from other western magicians who went there to debunk. This isn't ideal scholarship, but OK if he had good reason to trust his sources. He DOES tell us his view of this sort of thing right at the beginning.

Quoting Jastrow as to all things anomalous: "The cases cannot be explained as they are recorded, because, as recorded, they do not furnish the essential points on which the explanation hinges". What Jastrow and Hoffmann are saying here is that everyday people are bad observers who miss the crucial things that they need to see if they or the rest of us are going to explain these things in mundane terms. That is: they take the a priori stance of "it cannot be therefore it isn't", as Allen Hynek used to say. But their position is even more deeply stupid than that. ANYTHING "unexplainable" is so BECAUSE we have not been able to determine [as of yet] the truthful "essential points" required for an ultimate explanation. Duh.... THAT's ALL of the frontier of Science no matter how you define it. That's what labeling something as "unknown" or "anomalous" is all about. Sometimes these guys' mental processes beggar the imagination.

But Hell with that, what did Hoffmann say? He could be correct on this topic even with his screwed up mindset, as he is at least an expert on something which seems relevant.

Hoffmann states that to begin with these street magicians are not Hindus at all but common [meaning low-class] "Mohammedans". He says that their outstanding feature is lack of clothing [an obvious slur in my reading], then goes on to say that they wear a loincloth and a turban. He wants to emphasize that they DO have clothing afterall, as he requires them to in order to explain how certain tricks are done. He then goes on to reveal the trick secrets of the following:

1]. turning one mouse into two [the second is in the armpit];
2]. the "diving duck" [the wooden model is attached through the bottom of the water tin by a "hair", which is pulled to submerge it on call];
3]. the "jumping rabbit" [the model is secured to the bottom of the water vessel by a slowly dissolving gum. When dissolved a spring catapults it out of the water.];
4]. the "lotah" refilling water vessel [hidden compartments inside big jug which will only dump contents into small center cavity if you take your finger off the key airhole];
5]. disappearing person in the basket [easy escape net and trick door release for escape leaving clothes behind in the empty net];
6]. death of a thousand cuts [small person can press onto inner edge of container and sword thrusts do not go there, etc];
7]. the mango trick [explanation is complicated, but involves two mangoes on branches when audience thinks one, and large mango seeds one of which is doctored to be ready to pop open revealing a miracle growth];

Then he says, as a finale, "of the mythical feat of throwing a rope in the air, up which a man, boy, or animal climbs and disappears, all that need be said is that no such thing ever happened". That's it. No one's ever seen this he says. Some charmers occasionally balance a still, stiff rope for a few seconds in their hands. People's bad minds then expand seconds into minutes, ropes into ropes with people climbing up them, "It is easy to trace the process".

Well, man, you had me fairly convinced on all the stage magic stuff, but that last batch of stinking dingoes' kidneys lost me. What a dishonest supercilious pronouncement! I am still willing to buy that there is no such thing as the Indian Rope trick, but not on the basis of this clown.

But if not Hoffmann, then who?

The fellow at the left is Louis Jacolliot. He might not be the right guy for the job either, but at least he has a different [and first hand] perspective. Jacolliot was born in 1839 and became a French barrister in a French "possession" [economically-controlled territory] in India at a young age [about age 31, I believe]. He was essentially a materialist who regarded religion and particularly these effusions of religion, as frauds. He was, however, surrounded by the stuff in Chandernagore, and often had fakirs present themselves to him as was their custom to any authority. For a while he just "summarily dismissed" them. Their continual flow, however, finally cracked through to his curiosity, and he began admitting them singly to show him what they would, but only under his rules-of-evidence as he saw it. I.E., no associates, no paraphernalia not approved by him, willingness to be "inspected" at any stage of the actions, etc. He was handling this like a court-of-law officer collecting admissible evidence.

This is rather extraordinary to say the least. Once again, the theory is good; what about the practice? We must admit that Jacolliot, as an amateur, could still be faked out or guilty of one of Jastrow/Hoffmann's human frailties [and consequently they still be correct], but at least he deserves a hearing.

Jacolliot's information, and his theories, were published in an 1875 book [title translated into English] Occult Science In India. We English-only people got to read it in 1884. [so it was out there before either Wilkie's hoax or Hoffmann's dismissal]. I got a recent version hidden on dusty shelves of the local Olde Curiosity Shop-type bookstore here on the Market in Wheeling. Paid 50cents. When I opened it up and began to read, I walked back to the bookstore and gave the owner two more bucks. Right or wrong, the material in the book was/is intriguingly done.

One of the first things that has interested me upon getting back to Jacolliot due to Hoffmann's article was that Jacolliot seems to have "interviewed" an entirely different group of people. Hoffman says that all these crude magicians were lower-class Mohammedans. Jacolliot says none of them were. Instead, the people that he observed were all Hindu practitioners, even if, admittedly, of a lower caste or division among Hindu monks. This might seem puzzling [was to me] but it seems that the term "Fakir" has a complicated origin and evolution. Because of this complication, I will probably not get the following quite right, my friends. I only hope that it is in the ballpark.

The concept of "fakir" does seem to be an Islamic word coming out of the Sufi sect, perhaps in the Middle Ages. The term seems to have originally referred to some form of advanced practitioner of altered states of consciousness and an almost literal "enlightenment" [a glow even]. Somewhere by the reign of the Mughal emperor of India, Jahangir, fakirs had become active visitants at court, bringing petitions of favor. These could have been governmental alms for monastics, or could have been for other causes, but little is known. In 1638, the western world heard of the persons known as fakirs through a book by W.Bruton titled Newes from E. Indies. In 1763, Luke Scrafton wrote Reflections On The Government Of Indostan, where the activities of fakirs in soliciting alms from wealthy individuals for their orders was a featured aspect of who they were. This seems to indicate that this class of fakir mendicant was not the street magician-type of conjuror, but persons more like those encountered by Jacolliot.

Also, as years went on, the term expanded to embrace not only Sufi practitioners but Yogic practitioners engaged in similar "demonstrations" and supplications for their monasteries. So, a best guess might be that by the 1800s Yogic "fakirs" were visiting persons like Jacolliot, as had been their custom, and willing to demonstrate abilities to him in order to support their requests for some legal or monetary petitions. This scenario makes some sense, to me at least, out of the differences in the basic assumptions and claims of the two westerners [Hoffmann and Jacolliot].

Another confusing element in these things are these guys. I suppose that some portion of the "modern" ones could be labeled "fakirs" in the phony sense of the word, if they are just fanciful street-bums with a begging bowl alongside. But genuine practitioners of the discipline shown here are not "fakirs" at all, but persons who are beginning on the path of physical denial. Their whole idea is not to "do" anything at all, but in theory, empty themselves of connectivity with the sensorium of the normally experience world, and achieve some form of ego-denial. It's a physically-based pathway to selflessness [allegedly] rather than a mental-discipline meditative one not involved with the above sort of rigorous "flesh denial".

These people in my opinion have "got it entirely wrong", and waste their gifts in a paradoxically selfish pursuit of peace without doing anything productive for their neighbors --- just like western ascetic hermits. [that is my bias as some of you will remember from the Seraphim post a little while ago. At least he got his head right and went "out" and began to do service. If these guys like the one above get off their bed-of-nails butts after a while and begin doing selfless societal service, then I applaud their temporary separation from the world]. As to the "miracles" of being able to sit on a bed of nails, or in some cases endure piercings or breath-control or lying down so long in one place that plants grow around you, I do not see any miracles there at all. Even the bed-of-nails has been explained by physics.

In the 1970s there was a marvelous underground documentary titled Biofeedback: Yoga of the West. In it Elmer Green of the Menninger Foundation did several tests on yogis of accomplishment. There were interesting Mind-Body controls demonstrated, but nothing that I, or I believe Larry Dossey, would call particularly miraculous. The "best" feat that I saw in the documentary was the apparent effective control of the bleeding and healing process following a nerve-racking jamming of a sail-maker's needle right through Jack Schwartz' bicep. [In one class on campus, a student fainted and crashed to the floor during showing --- thankfully not in my classroom.] The bottomline here is: whether it's street beggars or actual sannyasi flesh-deniers, these are not the fakirs we're talking about here.

Let's then consider that we have established some reason to believe that Jacolliot and Hoffmann were talking about two different groups of people, and that Jacolliot was talking to neither the common street conjuror nor about the flesh-denier public ascetics. Let's at least consider that he MIGHT have been talking to the persons who actually could DO something. Maybe they couldn't, and maybe he was wrong, but he seems to have gone into this business with intellectual honesty and a "plan" to investigate the claims. He says that in the book he will describe only those things in which he was a direct participant and "we shall describe things just as we saw them, without taking sides in the dispute". Despite that noble intent, however, these demonstrations completely wowed Jacolliot, ultimately turning him into a person intensely interested in Brahmin theories and history, and whether there was a close connection between early Christian, Jewish, and Hindu thought with the Brahmin ideas having precedence. Thus, by the time that the writing began, he was so deeply immersed in Brahmin philosophy [a legitimate thing here, as he was searching in a scholarly vein to put what he'd experienced into context], that the reader must wait until page 200 before encountering his stories of the fakir-yogis.

The print is small below, but hopefully there are plenty of data-bits to allow you to hit the magnify functions on your computers and read Jacolliot's words.

There were four chapters near the end of the book wherein Jacolliot told of what he had done and seen. They are detailed and mind-blowing. I am going to give the details of the first of those chapters and then you can get a copy and read the others. This first chapter he called "The Leaf Dance".

A Hindu "Fakir" was sent by the guru of the local pagoda, as word had gotten around that Jacolliot was interested in their claims. The fakir entered dressed as usual in just a loincloth. He asked what the Sahib wished of him. Jacolliot responded that he had heard that fakirs could move objects without touching them, and would like to see that power demonstrated. The fakir said that he personally had no power but only communicated with the spirits and it was they who did the actions; nevertheless, he would be happy to intercede with those spirits to demonstrate this.

During these extended "experiments" the fakir provided nothing of his own vis-a-vis the objects used. Everything was requested from Jacolliot, who did the providing from his own household. What the fakir requested was seven flower pots filled with earth, and seven wooden sticks, and seven largish recently picked leaves. The pots were laid out and the sticks implanted standing upright [either Jacolliot or his servant did everything, and the fakir never touched anything]. The leaves were stuck on the sticks simply by pushing the point of the sticks through them. The leaves quickly dropped down the sticks and landed on the pots, creating a sort of organic pot cover.

The fakir was in a sitting position about 6 feet away. He raised his arms above his head and uttered an invocation [aloud] in Tamil. I find it interesting enough to quote it here:

"May all the powers that watch over the intellectual principle of life {Jacolliot inserts "kche'tradja" in the text} and over the principle of matter {"boutatoma"} protect me from the wrath of the pisatchas {evil spirits}, and may the immortal spirit, which has three forms {"mahatatridandi", the trinity}, shield me from the vengeance of Yama".

He then stretched out his hands in the direction of the pots [still six feet away] and remained motionless as if in a trance. Every so often his lips moved soundlessly. Several minutes passed and Jacolliot began feeling a soft flow of air, occasionally. About 15 minutes into the event, the leaves began to move slowly up the sticks, and then slowly descend. This up and down behavior was repeated many times. Jacolliot could go over to the leaves and watch them closely from any angle, even between them and the fakir, and not influence the behavior. Jacolliot had instantly gone from amused superioristic skeptic to mind-blown confusion.

He asked if it were alright to examine everything, and was immediately told yes. He looked at leaves in hand, sticks in hand, emptied pots and inspected dirt, all without any hint at all of what could cause this action. He then discarded the pots and got goblets from the kitchen. He prepared the sticks himself and placed them. He placed leaves himself, and asked the fakir to move to 12 feet away. "Would the spirits be willing to act now?" The fakir said nothing, merely resumed his arms extended position. In 5 minutes the leaves began migrating up and down the sticks again.

Stunned Jacolliot asked if pots were even necessary? The fakir said no. Jacolliot got a wooden plank and put holes in it to hold the sticks. No difference; the leaves moved. "During the next two hours I repeated the experiment in twenty different ways, but always with the same result." Flabbergasted, Jacolliot was reduced to only two hypotheses: either this was really happening, or he was a victim of some form of hypnotic illusion [he used the term "magnetic influence" as that is what they were calling Mesmerism back in France at the time.] He, of course, didn't BELIEVE that he was just falsely seeing illusions in the midst of all his analytical reasoning and redesigning experiments, but he had to take the concept into account as an intellectually honest researcher.

He came up with an idea. Would the spirits be willing to give him a different sort of signal? Would they be willing to tell him something? The fakir said: "Ask anything you please, the leaves will remain still if the spirits have nothing to say. If, on the contrary, those who guide them have any communication to make, they will move upward along the sticks".

Jacolliot had a set of zinc blocks used in stamping letters on paper. He tossed them into a linen sack. The fakir resumed his stance. Jacolliot began taking blocks from the bag and calling the letters. Nothing. No movement, nor letter sense, for the first 14 blocks. Jacolliot withdrew an "A". The leaves started. They would move or stop with each letter drawn. The result, pushing aside the duds where no movement occurred, spelled in the order drawn: Albain Brunier, died at Bourg-en-Bresse (Ain) January 3, 1856. All this being correct of a close friend, Jacolliot was so disturbed that he dismissed the fakir to rest and think.

Jacolliot had the fakir back to his house for 15 days, always with reiterations of these tests and always with the same results. With one exception... Jacolliot wondered if he himself must play some important role in the second of the two phenomena [the "message" information]. He, by intently concentrating upon a slightly misspelled name for his deceased friend COULD make such a slight variation occur, but not the date or location of the death. He began to feel that these phenomena were very real, and, although he did not use the words, had to do with a psychic utilization of some force [to move objects] or mental access [to tap into some form of communing mind for information]. Jacolliot was a bit angry with himself for engaging in even this speculation, but as a French materialist, he could not accept the fakir's version that this was being accomplished by some entities in the spirit world. Still, one wonders, with a disciplined thinker like Jacolliot, how challenged was he trying to remain materialist-reductionist in the face of frankly non-material "forces" and paths-of-knowledge like he felt could be going on? It is a nervous intellectual who wants to remain a materialist yet gets slapped in the face by things violating simple physics textbook assumptions. [The soviets tried to have their borscht and eat it too by embracing the reality of things like Kulagina's PK while attributing it to some invisible natural force seeable in Kirlian photography --- the "political" reason why Kirlian photography was popular there].

Grab a copy and read the other three chapters in Jacolliot's book --- bogglingly worth it. He himself was obsessed by the things he'd seen so greatly that he spent years studying Brahminism trying to better understand. He began to see the different stages of Hindu paths to enlightenment, and that his fakir was a successful but lower stage. The fakirs were the "third" class, the ones that went into the public to show the results of the beliefs to the authorities and make relations with them. He in fact began seeing the pattern of "three" all over his studies. When I read these things, I began to get a vague feeling that I'd heard this before.

Along with the fakirs, there are also natural medicine healers --- of course there must be, we say. They are the equivalent of the ones who watch nature closely in all regions. They're the equivalent of the Wise Woman of Lisclogher, or the witches and wizards of the forest edges. Some going by the name are "snake-oil-salesmen" and charlatans, but some seem not at all to be. They seem remarkably like the fakir with the odd things he can do to demonstrate whatever it is he does, but cannot do just anything. There seems to be something more "universal" hiding in here somewhere.

But as to our original adventure: could it be that debunker Hoffmann took the sloppy looks that his colleagues gave him of common street conjurors and accurately explained them, and then quit without ever touching the real phenomena? Did Jacolliot get closely in touch with it, and witness truly mind-altering things? The only other easy hypothesis it seems to me is that Jacolliot is just a liar. The theory of "hypnotic illusions over multiple days and consecutive hours, all in a materialist lab-bench experimenter's mode" doesn't seem remotely reasonable to me. Jacolliot either saw what he saw or he lied about it.

But how could he have simply seen it? It's impossible isn't it? Brahmin teaching says no. One of the attainments of the successful self-denier and emptier practitioner is the acquiring of gifts from the gods [usually Ganesh, above, or Hanuman]. These gifts [pictured as the eight demigod ladies with Ganesh] are the Siddhis. The Siddhis are described in many [different to me] ways in the scriptures, sometimes emphasizing "merely" wisdom in different ways, but sometimes in spectacular "powers" which the western world would designate as paranormal. If a fakir [the lower monk] had achieved the paranormal abilities [the lower expressions of the Siddhis], then yes, some psychokinesis and telepathy would be in the order of things. If the fakir was indeed successful at his ascension to a selfless state, then, yes, he would view the powers as not being his own. If the exercise of such power was a threat to selflessness and a cause of ego-inflation, then, yes, he would invoke a mantra to remind him of the spiritual dangers of doing this. So.... does Jacolliot's experience lend data to the claim of the Brahmin achievement of the Siddhis? I am at this point only capable of open-minded wonderment that what I thought was a skeptical "done deal" might in fact NOT be so.

Some readers doubtless [and I understand] will consider the material above "Out Proctor" in terms of being "just too much", but this does not seem that way to me. The claims here have a very old cultural context and a metaphysical setting which would "explain" in some sense exactly what was going on. We also have centuries of anecdotes about the abilities of [true] Hindu and Buddhist ascetics, and the skeptical counterclaimants are not convincing that they have ever touched the correct contacts. There is a CSICOP-equivalent Indian Rationalist Society today going around debunking the same charlatan sorts of people who Hoffmann attacked, and equal lack of convincing anyone with an open-mind that they are seeing the actual phenomena. Still, maybe they are doing the best they can. I have no theoretical problem with "rational skepticism" by the way, especially if the things investigated include claimed phony cures [a MAJOR concern] or money rip-offs [a trivial one]. This is the one area that I and the Magician's Union are precisely in synch.

But, on our current subject, I see no cause to dismiss, and a fair amount of cause to say: maybe this is actually good stuff. So, not Out Proctor for me. But, so as not to disappoint, let's head out there briefly anyway. I went over to my bookshelves and noticed a somewhat rare resource sitting there which is threatening to be forever un-read. You can see it in the picture above. It is the Reverend Thomas Maurice's  seven-volume Indian Antiquities or Dissertations relative of the Ancient Geographic Divisions, the Pure System of Primeval Theology, the Grand Code of Civil Laws, the Original Form of Government, and the Various and Profound Literature of Hindostan. [The title actually goes on much further]. This behemoth was written at various times in the 1790s, and not, as you can see, with the best paper or publishing art. If the world is dependent upon me to extract the gems of knowledge and wisdom from this, we are in failure mode. But I can at least pick it up and look inside.

Too bad that I'm not thirty years younger yet still retired, as the books seem quite fascinating just on skimming-and-dipping. The reason that I'm lumbering all of you with this at the moment is that Maurice was a good scholar, writer, poet, and well-placed with wealthy [book and manuscript-owning] families and as assistant manager of manuscripts at the British Museum to "read the best stuff" [and the rarest] and maybe see things freshly that were blocked to his compatriots [due to better resources] and to us today [due to our worse ingrained biases]. Whether that leads to Truth, well, that's another thing. But it definitely leads to creative thinking.

What I found here was another scholar noticing the dominance of a pattern of three in Hindu religion in the large [ex. Brahma/ Shiva/ Vishnu] and down into all manner of detail. He noticed the three levels of what we might even call three ascetic castes, just like Jacolliot. And then in volume five he went Out Proctor. Here it came. The unfocused intuition that I was getting while reading Jacolliot. For Maurice, the Hindu ascetics were like the Druid ascetics. The fakirs of Jacolliot were like the outward going "druids" directly so-called. The higher castes were like the druidical students/meditators who stayed in the houses of learning and meditated/ observed either nature's wisdom [the middle caste] or supernatural/spiritual wisdom [the highest caste]. Maurice was so impressed by what he felt he was finding that he postulated an ancient connection between wisdom-seekers all across the early civilizations, building their philosophies with local differences of vernier, but on essential similar grounds.

That ought to let your imagination soar for a while.

Oh yes... the Indian Rope Trick. Jacolliot never saw it either.

What he DID see was a fakir, in his own house as usual, suddenly lift himself slowly upwards [ took more than eight minutes] to a height of ten to twelve inches. He maintained this height for almost five minutes.

Who needs a rope??


  1. Who needs a rope indeed. As usual you manage to make a compelling read out of an immense subject dear professor. Jacolliot is now high on my christmas wish list.

    1. I know your not a big fan of John Keel, however, he spent sometime in India and Nepal and wrote about the rope trick in his book Jadoo. As always, a very interesting article, Professor.

    2. Here's an opinion on John Keel which shouldn't be taken as anything more than that: Keel seemed to me to be intelligent, creative, and egocentric. When you put that together with the need to sell writings to make a living, you have a tough situation to navigate [i.e. there is a temptation to make things up, exaggerate, and accept questionable stories]. I cannot think of anyone in Keel's situation who has managed to deal with these temptations successfully other than Jerry Clark. Because of that, I must take anything written by Keel with full crap detectors up and alert. This characteristic of sloppy authorship [vis-a-vis the truth] DOES seem to get worse with such guys the further along in their careers they go though, and earlier Keel seems more caring than latter Keel. Because JADOO is VERY early Keel, maybe it is more believable.

      Again... just one person's opinion.

  2. just type "sidharkal" in google you will find a lot more interesting stuff

  3. Just saw a show on television recently about the Indian rope trick - very interesting and actually did show someone performing it at the end. I don't remember the name but shouldn't be too hard to track down.

  4. Any comment on Peter Lamont's The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick?

    Lamont is a historian of magic and has been involved with parapsychology.

    1. Since Lamont is a stage magician I assume that he takes the same line on this that Louis Hoffmann took, as described above. In a way, Hoffmann already described the way in which this entered western history ... but, no, I haven't read that book.

  5. Great and interesting read! You have peeked my interest in the book 'Occult Science in India' by Louis Jacolliot. I have a great fascination and drive to seek hidden knowledge!! I am so thankful to have come upon your blog!!

  6. im a bit curios prof, you mention john keel a lot in your blog posts and (i think) use him as an example of ufologist gone bad (too sensationalism).. but whats your opinion on the modern lunatic fringe like bob lazar and john leaf and bill cooper ? i know your opinion on greer so do you have the same opinion on these 3 ?

    1. You already asked about Lear and I answered.... what's going on with these repeat questions??

      Cooper is a greater nut than any of them. Believes that you can walk on the Moon with no helmet.

  7. Very interesting. There are several versions of Jacolliot's book in the internet archive. This seems to be the one you read.

    1. Don't know which that is. My library's version is the 1884 edition by John W Lovell Company, NY



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