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Is this book notable or noxious? Read my review and get the inside dope

Operations of Increasing Order

And Other Essays on Exotic Factors of Intellect, Unusual Powers & Abilities Etc. (As Found in Psychic Science)
John Curtis Gowan
The Author
Edition / Year
In the section labelled

Operations of Increasing Order is one of those books which have more quoted material than original writing in them. In such cases the author's voice can be rather drowned out by all those others he's added to the choir. "Quotations under 500 words are authorized if credit is given" he pronounces grandly on the copyright page, which seems mightily presumptuous for a work that largely consists of passages lifted from other writers.

What, though, does Gowan want to tell us? It boils down to modern science being weird and therefore a lot of other weird stuff, in particular tall tales of extraordinary human powers, being more than likely true. It's a po-faced version of the works of Charles Fort and Robert Ripley. The "operations of increasing order" of his title are supernatural abilities which, he says, arise from some class of phase changes to the human condition, though his argument is so hand-wavy, vague and reliant on shaky analogies that I hesitate to try to paraphrase it.

In the usual state of entropy (balanced between order-disorder) in both man and physics, macroscopic statistical laws (e.g. gas laws) hold: but as entropy (randomness) is removed from either system, there arise discontinuous phase changes in which different laws obtain, (e.g. quantum mechanics, siddhis). These singularities are most commonly seen in the most ordered operators (e.g, helium with 4 protons, highly evolved meditators, Dodd's order to an ordered power). For it is the removal of entropy which allows the simplicity of the laws (formulas) covering nearly perfect order to be seen in manifestation; such laws are of a different order than macroscopic statistical laws (e.g. the comparison be tween a pushing, shoving mob, and the same number of soldiers marching in the perfect order). 

This is dream logic, or in daylight terms, gibberish.

Gowan reckons that he can explain all sorts of phenomena along similar lines, and provides a useful taxonomy from which the following table is derived:

COSMOGENIC: Physical (Body Powers) 

  1. sensitivity to psychic impressions, telepathy, dowsing.
  2. physical mediumship, communication with dead, poltergeist phenomena, apports, psychokinesis, materializations.
  3. obe, bilocation, time warp, teleportation, clairvoyance. 
  4. endo- and exothermic reactions, firewalking, psychic heat, SHC.
  5. stigmata.
  6. luminosity, aura, electromagnetic effects. 
  7. independence from physical functions, inedia, non-somnia.
  8. mortem excursus, knowing time of death, post mortem effects, incorruptibility.
  9. levitation.
  10. invisibility.
  11. body size and weight changes, elongation, abnormal strength, (24, 45)
  12. externalization of sense organs, odor of sanctity, (see 4.35), (48)

COSMOGENIC: Mental (Knowledge Abilities)

  1. knowledge of arrangement and motion of stars.
  2. vision of cosmic beings.
  3. calm.
  4. vision through opaque objects, miraculous sight.
  5. miraculous touch, ability to heal through laying on of hands, understanding of body system.
  6. miraculous hearing.
  7. empery over self, others (healing), animals, weather, miracles.
  8. adamic ecstasy, cleansing doors of perception, gemei schaftgefuhl.
  9. infused knowledge, omniscience.
  10. continuous contact and union.

You will get some idea of the scale of Gowan's ambition if you look at that list and consider that he attempts to describe and explain all of these phenomena in this one book, in fewer than 400 pages. As we don't have the time and patience to follow him along all of these paths, let's just take one example, that of ectoplasm.

Ectoplasm being produced by a medium

The production of "ectoplasm" by mediums during seances has been widely debunked by investigators. The ability to hide some cheesecloth or paper about one's person and bring it out at an appropriate moment while pretending that it represents the manifestation of some mysterious spiritual essence requires no supernatural powers, merely some basic skill at conjuring. Gowan, needless to say, believes in it wholeheartedly.

After quoting at length a number of supposed authorities including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and establishing that ectoplasm is a whitish, sticky, gelatinous substance - much resembling gauze that an exotically-accented woman has kept stuffed in her mouth - he finally gives us the analysis we have been waiting for:

Perhaps we can make some progress in understanding these extraordinary phenomena by looking at them in the light of the Pribram-Bohm hologram theory, which states that what we perceive is but a virtual image of a hologram already imprinted on the brain. It is thus possible to imagine a meta-event or paraprocedure (these words are not adequate since the situation is outside time and space) in which there is a brief theophany of some aspect of ultimate reality. This opening, however, falls upon minds unprepared for it, — that is upon a clouded hologram in the brain — and what has to happen in the physical world of effect is a “saving of appearances,” — a perturbed re-arrangement of matter, something like the awkward execution of a sudden military order by troops not quite accustomed to it. 

Rare is the mind which can penetrate so deeply the mysteries of the cosmos.

Gowan does recognise that his project is just the start of a wider enterprise, and at the end of this volume he helpfully lists several questions that might form the basis of the next phase of research, including this plum:

The Properties of Unbonded Water. Ordinary water is nearly 100% hydrogen bonded [...]. Holy water or magnetized water is water whose hydrogen bonding is reduced only a few percent from that. What might be the curative and other properties of Water not hydrogen bonded at all? 

Steam, John, you just invented steam.

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