Electric                    Astral               Pre-historical
Universe              Catastrophism        Reconstruction


Articles & Products Supporting the Pre-historical Reconstruction and Plasma Cosmology
 home       features       science/philosophy       wholesale store       used books        contact

Site Section Links

Introduction Material
The Third Story

Cosmology, Origins
The Nature of Time
Nature of Time video
The Nature of Space
The Neutrino Aether
Nature of Force Fields
Relativity Theory

Geophysical Material
Origin of Modern Geology
Niagara Falls Issues
Climate Change Model
Climate Change Questions

Philosophy Material
Philosophy Links

Reconstruction &
Mythology Material
Modern Mythology Material
Language/Symbol Development
1994 Velikovsky Symposium
Horus Journals TOC
Kronos Journals TOC
Pensee Journals TOC
Velikovskian Journals TOC
Selected Velikovskian Article

Miscellaneous Material
Modern Mythology
State of Religious Diversity
PDF Download Files
Open letter to science editors


KRONOS Vol V, No. 1



Editor's Note: This article was first submitted to Catastrophist Geology and is scheduled to appear in one of its forthcoming issues. It is printed here by permission of the author.

Anomalistics may be defined as the serious and systematic study of all phenomena that fail to fit the pictures of reality provided for us by common sense or by the established sciences. Although the term itself is my coinage,(1) the area of investigation which it designates is at least sixty years old.

The precursory genius of anomalistics as I define it was the British geneticist John B. Haldane, who was fond of commenting on "the inexhaustible queerness of things" and is widely quoted as having observed that "the universe is not only stranger than we imagine but stranger than we can imagine". The first investigator, however, who made anomalies the primary focus of his activities was the American journalist Charles Hoy Fort. Fort, whom we may fairly regard as the founder of anomalistics, made the first massive compilation of oddities from the world press. Another American journalist, Robert L. Ripley, whose syndicated column "Believe It Or Not" appeared in nearly all United States newspapers, was the first popularizer (or, as his detractors may prefer to phrase it, the first vulgarizer) of anomalistics.

The first organizer of anomalistic field-work was the Scottish American biologist Ivan Sanderson, who founded The Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in Columbia, New Jersey. Among living anomalists, the one who probably comes closest to embodying their collective investigatory enterprise is the American engineer William R. Corliss, who publishes the Sourcebook Project, a compilation of anomalistica drawn from scientific periodicals, in Glen Arm, Maryland. The leading patron of anomalistic research, finally, is the American inventor Arthur M. Young, President of the Foundation for the Study of Consciousness in Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, no consistent typology of anomalies has yet been developed or even proposed in an explicitly reasoned manner. If we follow the lead of the experimental sciences, we can set up a five part typology based on a widely accepted (though apparently anonymous) sequential scheme for the goals of science. These frequently cited goals are, in order of progression:

1. description
2. classification
3. explanation
4. prediction
5. control

In these terms, a descriptive anomaly would be a mystical experience, which is characterized by most mystics as ineffable that is, incapable of being verbalized and therefore, by definition, indescribable. A classificatory anomaly would be the invertebrate taxon onychophora, of which the best known genus is Peripatus. Anatomically, the onychophora are intermediate between the arthropod phylum, including insects, and the annelid phylum, including earth-worms. Some taxonomists therefore classify onychophora as arthropods, others as annelids, and still others as a separate and independent phylum. An explanatory anomaly would be the "sky-quakes" which occurred during the winter of 1978-1979 over the Atlantic Ocean shelf between South Carolina and Connecticut. Although the prevalent explanation of these explosive sounds is that they are sonic booms from Concorde airliners, this explanation fails to account for several peculiarities of the sounds, most obvious of which is the fact that they have been reported by newspapers in the area since 1805. A predictive anomaly would be the adoption, during the middle of the first millennium B. C., of Aramaic as the common language of the ancient Near East between Egypt and India, which it remained till the Islamic conquest of the 7th century A. D. The wide-spread use of any language normally results from military conquest, population explosion, or literary prestige. As far as is known, however, the Arameans were themselves a relatively minor group of pastoral nomads. At the time of the overthrow of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, a well-informed linguistic prognosticator would probably have predicted that their imperial language, Akkadian, would be superseded by Persian or perhaps by Greek but hardly by any of the West Semitic vernaculars. An anomaly of control, finally, is provided by local weather, concerning which we now have a wealth of information but which we can scarcely even forecast, much less manipulate with any assurance of even minimal success.

The trouble with this typology, of course, is that, having been set up for the natural sciences, it is poorly adapted to religious, humanistic, and social studies. An alternative typology is one that is drawn from within the study of anomalies rather than from outside it. Such a typology, of my own devising, is the following categorization:

1. paradoxes
2. displacements
3. improbabilities
4. deviations
5. unexpected occurrences
6. unexplained phenomena

An example of a paradoxical entity is light, which seems not only to consist simultaneously of corpuscles and of waves (an apparent contradiction which some neologists have sought to resolve by referring to photons as "wavicles") but also to undulate in interstellar space, without a sustaining medium comparable to the fluids or solids through which sound waves move.

An example of a displaced entity is provided by the occasional discovery, in quarries and other excavations, of live amphibians or reptiles in small rock cavities without visible outlets.(2) In many such cases, the displacement is not only spatial but temporal as well, since the rock is believed by geologists to have been formed thousands if not millions of years ago.

An example of an improbability is the extraordinary similarity amounting, with most symbols, to identity between the Harappan script of the pre-Aryan Indus Valley and the rongo-rongo script of Easter Island. Though both scripts remain undeciphered, it is hard to believe that they are not varieties of a single writing system. Yet (in a manner reminiscent of the imprisoned animals just cited) the two scripts are separated by temporal as well as spatial gaps, belonging not only to opposite hemispheres but, by consensual dating, to different and non-adjacent millennia.(3)

An example of a deviation is the behavior of water, which is the only common substance known that expands rather than contracting when it solidifies. This chemical contrariety has crucial biological consequences. For, if water, like most other substances, were to contract as it solidified, bodies of surface water would freeze from the bottom up and, during protracted cold spells, be converted totally into ice. Under such circumstances, it is doubtful that any multicellular organisms, much less higher animals, could survive.

An example of an unexpected occurrence is the development, between World Wars I and II, of that reactionary type of political totalitarianism known as Fascism in Italy, Falangism in Spain, and National Socialism in Germany. Prior to the 1920's virtually all political theorists had foreseen a struggle between liberal capitalism and Marxist communism. But none, apparently, had anticipated this anomalous tertium quid that very nearly conquered the world in the early 1940's.

An example, finally, of an unexplained phenomenon is orogeny, or mountain-building. Although various explanations of our planet's rocky upthrusts have been put forward over the years, the only one currently in widespread geological favor is the view that mountain ranges are products of collisions between the drifting tectonic plates on which both continents and sea-floor segments ride. Yet there are major ranges, such as the Rockies of western North America, that seem to be too far from accepted plate boundaries to be accommodated by this explanation.

The difficulty with the preceding categorization, apart from its relative subjectivity, is that its categories lack discreteness. Every displacement, for example, is to some degree paradoxical, improbable, deviant, unexpected and, if not unexplained, at least resistant to explanation.

A third possible typology of anomalies classifies them in terms of the types of questions raised about them by sceptics. For events, the question most often raised is whether they, actually occur. Happenings that fall into this category are: ball lightning, human cannibalism, and faith-healing. For objects, the question most often raised is whether they exist. Entities that fall into this category are: quarks (hypothesized nuclear particle components), sasquatches (living apemen), totemism (a preliterate ideology involving human descent from non-human ancestors), the mind (as something distinct from the body), and God. And for categories themselves, the question most often raised is whether they are objective that is, whether they inhere in nature (in accordance with the so-called "God's Truth" view of categorization) or are merely analytical conveniences for scholars (in accordance with the so-called "hocus-pocus" view of it.). Classes that fall into this category are: numbers, biological taxa (such as genera and species), culture (in its technical ethnological sense), and phonemes (distinctive units of sound in language).

The chief problem with this typology is that it excludes too many interesting anomalies about which these particular questions are rarely raised, though other, equally probing questions may be raised about them. Such anomalies are: retrograde rotation, such as that of the planet Venus; the self-beachings of whales; the seeming senselessness of myths; and the resistance of humor to analytical explanation.

What, if any, typology of anomalies is then left to us? The one used, at least implicitly, by such practicing anomalists as Sanderson and Corliss is the familiar spectrum of disciplines known to us from university catalogs. Beginning (very scantily) with such "soft" subjects as theology, it proceeds through the humanities to the sciences, which it treats in order of increasing "hardness" social sciences first, life sciences second, and physical sciences last. At first blush, it might seem that the number of anomalies per subject would vary directly with its softness, since softer disciplines are less tightly organized. In fact, however, quite the reverse is true, for reasons which a moment's reflection makes clear: the softer a subject-matter is, the more difficult it is to distinguish normal from anomalous phenomena within it.

Consequently, it is in the physical sciences that anomalies are most conspicuous, so that a listing of anomalies by disciplinary area ought probably to begin with the physical and end with the "spiritual". In these terms, a good example of a physical anomaly is provided by quasi-stellar objects, or quasars, which are star-sized bodies that appear to radiate as much energy as entire galaxies do. What this implies, in turn, is that quasars are powered by an energy source which exceeds that of thermonuclear energy by about ten orders of magnitude.

A good example of a biological anomaly is provided by extinction, the death not just of individual organisms but of entire taxa, ranging in scope from species to phyla. Extinction is anomalous in both a general and a specific sense. In its general sense, extinction is not explained by the prevalent Darwinian theory of environmental unfitness, since the only evidence for that unfitness is the extinction itself. In a specific sense, moreover (as applied to particular taxa), extinction is not merely unexplained but paradoxical, since some groups of which the best known are the saurischia, or large dinosaurs seem not merely to have survived but to have flourished immediately before their geologically sudden disappearance.(4)

A good example of a social science anomaly is the archaic megalithic complex, of which the best known specimen is probably the great stone circle at Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. In an apparent effort to contain (since they cannot eliminate) the strangeness of this complex, in which both the methods and the motives of construction remain obscure, archeologists have written about it as though it were confined to pre-Roman Europe. In fact, however, it is found on every continent but Australia and may date from any or all of the last seven millennia. Associated with it, furthermore, are some artifacts which are so puzzling that most archeologists do not even try to explain them away; they simply do not mention them at all. In this category are the hundreds of granite and limestone spheres, ranging in diameter from a few inches to eight feet, found in rainforests and even on mountain-tops in Costa Rica and Guatemala, none of which seem to have been quarried in the immediate vicinity of their present locations.(5)

Outside the sciences, anomalies are, as we have noted, less clearcut. But one can cite as anomalous the long-standing philosophical dichotomy of mind and matter, as one can also cite the perennial difficulty of defining religion. Depending both on circumstance and on the definer, religion can consist essentially of a creed, a code, a cluster of rituals, or a response to occult phenomena.

In addition to the anomalistic imbalance between the arts and the sciences, a drawback to the categorization of anomalies by discipline or disciplinary areas is that, during the past generation, a number of new disciplines have appeared which are difficult to locate with any precision on the traditional disciplinary spectrum. Of these, the most conspicuous, though not the most difficult, is parapsychology, the study of such phenomena as telepathy (mind-to-mind communication) and psychokinesis ("mind-over-matter" activity). Though it overlaps to some degree the domains of physics and religion, parapsychology, as its name suggests, has its center of intellectual gravity in the disciplinary vicinity of psychology among the social sciences. Noetics, the study of consciousness, while clearly related to both psychology and parapsychology, leans in the direction of ontology, epistemology, and other philosophical subdisciplines and ought perhaps, therefore, to be classified as one of the humanities rather than as one of the social sciences. Thanatology, the study of death and attitudes toward death, likewise has psychological affinities. But it also exhibits biological and religious overlaps which make it hard to classify on the spectrum.

Two new disciplines whose ramifications are so broad that they defy placement are futuristics, the study of the future, and "ufology," the study of unidentified flying objects. Because futuristics bears on every subject matter with the possible exception of those laws of God and nature that are regarded as timeless, it can be localized only with regard to its practitioners, most of whom come or came from the social sciences. Ufology (the semi-acronymous term for a field of investigation which I would prefer to call bradyology, meaning "the study of slow-moving objects") is, if anything, an even more polymathic enterprise than futuristics. It involves astronomy, physics, chemistry, oceanography, and meteorology within the physical sciences; zoology, physiology, and medicine within the life sciences; folklore and psychology within the social sciences; history and philosophy within the humanities; and ethics and theology within religious studies.

All things considered, the disciplinary typology of anomalies seems to be, despite its occasional drawbacks, the least troublesome one. It is, consequently, the one which we shall use throughout the remainder of this paper.

Closely related to the question of typology is that of terminology. Although in theory it is of no scholarly concern what any datum is called so long as it is consensually defined, in practice names do affect scientists as well as humanists and sometimes even determine their reactions to the topics named. Recently, for example, an article on sky-quakes appeared in Science magazine. And one of the reasons why it passed the strict editorial scrutiny characteristic of that journal is, I think, that the anomalous detonations described in it were referred to in the title as brontides a word of Greek derivation meaning "thunder-like sounds".(6) Another anomaly whose colloquial name may disincline potential investigators to study it is "spook-lights," the small, moving lights, similar to but clearly not identical with ball lightning which have been most recently observed along a one-mile stretch of railway track in Washington Township, N. J.(7) The Hellenic synonym that I have proposed for spook-lights is photophasms, meaning "light phantoms". (Thus far, however, I have not observed any scholarly rush toward either the term or the topic!)

To a large extent, what is or is not considered anomalous depends on the intellectual fashions of the time and place in question. Two decades ago in the United States, any geological evidence suggestive of continental drift seemed anomalous; today, any evidence calling drift into question seems equally anomalous. Much the same is true of the view that life naturally evolves in the universe wherever Earth like environments occur. The way one answers the questions whether continental drift occurs and whether extraterrestrial life exists depends primarily on the paradigm, in Thomas Kuhn's sense,(8) within which one is conducting his scientific deliberations. For this reason, anomalistics is inextricably bound up with what I call paradigmatics,(9) the comparative study of scholarly presuppositions.

A question that is repeatedly raised with regard to anomalistics is that of its utility, presumably on the assumption that a field of investigation which has no evident use ought not to be admitted to the roster of scholarly disciplines. In response to that question, the anomalist may at first be inclined to reply with a question, as Benjamin Franklin reportedly did when, having been asked of what use electricity is, he answered: "Of what use is a baby?" Apart from its flippant tone, this answer has the merit, at least implicitly, of suggesting the serendipital quality of anomalistics. For, while the anomalist may initially have been drawn to anomalous subjects by nothing more exalted than a penchant for the wild, the weird, and the wonderful, he soon finds that this penchant has unanticipated but valuable results.

Of these valuable results, the one most often mentioned by anomalists is the reformulation of scientific theories as a consequence of discrepancies between them and anomalous data which seem to contradict them. An example of such reformulation is the shift from Renaissance creationism to Victorian evolutionism as a result of the increasing difficulty of fitting fossil organisms into a Biblical framework.

However, since paradigm shifts often seem to have little more to do with ultimate truth than do changes in sartorial fashion with ultimate beauty, I prefer to justify my own anomalistic involvements primarily in terms of the efficacy of anomalistics in linking conventionally disparate disciplines. We have already noted the fact that some anomalies, such as fire-walking, require their investigators to involve themselves (however reluctantly) in virtually every disciplinary area of research from theology to physics. It is an exceptional anomaly that permits its investigator to work exclusively in a single discipline. When, in fact, one tries to isolate a narrowly focused anomaly such as imaginary numbers (like 1) in mathematics he quickly finds that, by implication at least, the search leads both to philosophical questions, such as the objectivity of numerality, and to psychological questions, such as the nature of imagination.

In this connection, what seems to me to be particularly commendable about anomalistics is the fact that it strongly counteracts the besetting sin of contemporary academia fragmentation. We live in an age in which psychologists, for example, find it difficult to talk not only with non-psychologists but even with one another: psychoanalysts and experimentalists, for example, share almost nothing with one another in terms either of interests or of methods. And anomalists can, I think, make a major contribution to the reintegration of the literally disintegrated scholarship which they encounter in nearly every area of their investigations.

Yet another value of anomalistics, as I see it, is that it restores a proper balance, now missing in most of the conventional disciplines, between search and research. Outside libraries, the term search is rarely even used in contemporary academia. Yet logically, as the late Ivan Sanderson repeatedly observed, not only does search precede research, but search the (often intuitive) quest for information or insight can occur in the absence of research, while research is dependent on prior search. Nonetheless, most academicians confine themselves to research, which consists, strictly speaking, of the testing of hypotheses and the verification of investigatory results produced by search. In terms of the Paleolithic life-ways which apparently shaped contemporary human behavior, we might say that searchers are the hunters who track and capture elusive quarry, while researchers are the camp-bound individuals who dissect and distribute what the hunters bring in. This is not to say that research is unimportant: all scholarship needs to be checked and, ideally, rechecked. My point is, rather, that many scholars who have the intellectual courage and ingenuity to be searchers unnecessarily confine themselves to the role of researchers because they are not fully aware of the primary option that is open to them. Anomalistics, by performing the Zen-like task of shattering the customary presuppositions of conventional scholarship, can help open-minded investigators to take the kind of fresh look at their data which produces new intellectual syntheses.

Because of their inherently disturbing nature, anomalous data tend strongly to polarize responses to them. A majority of respondents to anomalies may be characterized either as debunkers or as cultists. Debunkers handle unwelcome data by denying their existence. Instead of attempting the difficult task of explaining anomalies, they retreat to the easier procedure of explaining them away that is, characterizing them as apparent rather than real. Cultists, on the other hand, though equally reluctant to try explaining anomalies, express that reluctance inversely, by revering each anomaly for its own sake and erecting a mystical ethos around it. In no area of anomalistic investigation is this polarization more salient than in that of the study of unidentified flying objects. Debunkers usually regard such phenomena as being, at best, involuntary misperceptions and, at worst, deliberate hoaxes; while cultists are inclined to respond to UFO experiences or reports by forming religious associations around a doctrine of salvation or instruction by celestial visitors.

At this point a word of caution is in order. Because both the term "debunker" and the term "cultist" are highly emotive, it would be easy though ill advised to assume that all debunking is unjustified and every cult a fraud. Most advertising, for example, merits at least partial debunking. And cults are, both etymologically and ethnologically, wellsprings of culture, which includes the benefits as well as the burdens of the various ways of life that we have inherited from our ancestors.

Nonetheless, I believe that, in most cases, neither reductionism nor mystification is the best response to anomalous phenomena. What anomalists need, I think, is the ability to tolerate uncertainty indefinitely, if necessary, rather than yielding to the temptation to convert that uncertainty into the certainty of either dogmatic dismissal or equally dogmatic sacralization. Such toleration, of course, is difficult to sustain. If anomalists were to choose a figure from classical mythology to symbolize their enterprise (as futurists have chosen Proteus, the legendary prophet who eluded his questioners by continually changing his shape), that figure would probably have to be Tantalus, the royal demi-god who was punished for offenses against the gods by being kept eternally close to the food and drink which he craved but never being allowed to partake of them. All anomalists are, to some degree, tantalized by the anomalies that they study. But none, probably, are more frustrated than those who, in exasperation, decide that they must, somehow, "clear this matter up, once and for all". For, if they are intellectually honest, they usually find that more intensive investigation only increases their puzzlement. At this point, they may be forgiven for toying with the paranoid notion that they are victims of that nearly universal figure in the world's folklore, The Trickster, half god and half animal, who teases and taunts, though he rarely harms, all those who seek to capture or control him.

Of the various scholars who have dared to pit themselves repeatedly against The Trickster, there is none, I think, who has done so more successfully than the Russian-American psychoanalyst Immanuel Velikovsky. Velikovsky has consistently viewed anomalies not as obstacles to understanding but as opportunities for the creation of a new polymathic paradigm, in terms of which the history of our species, our planet, and our solar system must be extensively revised. Among the anomalies that stimulated his grand reformulation are: the sporadicity of ice ages; the missing links between related organic taxa; the relatively sudden extinctions of apparently flourishing animal groups; the relatively sudden collapses of pre-Homeric civilizations in Europe and Asia; the mysteriously vitrified forts of megalithic age; and the virtual universality, in the world's mythologies, of tales of universal destruction by fire and flood. From these and other anomalies, Velikovsky inferred planetary displacements leading to terrestrial cataclysms in both historic and prehistoric times.(10) Though not mentioned by him, there are other anomalies that seem to me to strengthen his hypothesis. Among these are incomplete but widespread pieces of evidence to the effect that some pre-Achaemenid technologies and sciences were more advanced than those of later millennia(11) and that the pre-Viking Americas were visited in significant numbers by at least three different Old World peoples.(12) In each case, protohistoric catastrophes might have destroyed the delicate organizations involved and traumatically converted the memory of them into vague and dream-like oral traditions.

What seems to me to put Velikovsky into a category distinct from such "true believers" as Erich von Däniken and his followers is the fact that Velikovsky's record as a scientific prognosticator far exceeds not only theirs but also that of more conventional scientists whose view of both solar and terrestrial history is rigidly uniformitarian. Among the predictions made by Velikovsky in the 1940's which have been confirmed by subsequent discovery are these: that Jupiter produces radio emissions; that Venus is incandescently hot; and that Earth has a magnetosphere.(13) Although no major representative of the international scientific establishment will explicitly admit that Velikovsky's predictions can be ascribed to anything more than incredibly good luck, some have already admitted it implicitly by adopting his views (without, of course, any public acknowledgement of the fact that they have done so). A conspicuous example of this tactic is provided by Stephen Jay Gould, the widely read science columnist of Natural History Magazine. Having gradually abandoned a uniformitarian model of Earth history in favor of a catastrophist model, he has effectively covered his tracks by referring to catastrophic evolution as "punctuational change".(14)

The ostracism of Velikovsky, like that of his anomalistically oriented psychoanalytic precursor Wilhelm Reich,(15) inevitably raises the question of the nature of science. Is it primarily empirical, as it seemed to be with Thomas Edison, or theoretical, as it clearly was with Albert Einstein? Is it basically "common sense," as Bertrand Russell once maintained, or "uncommon sense," as I myself have characterized it?(16) Is it invariably sober and austere, as the images both of "the ivory tower" and "men in white" suggest, or is it capable of accommodating what is often stigmatized as a "gee whiz" approach? The only unprejudicial answer to this question must surely be that it is all of these and more, and that the more diversity it can generate and sustain, the more richly productive it will be.

Such a Utopian view of science, however, probably hinders more than it helps us to understand why scientific ostracisms occur. To this end, we are doubtless better advised to inquire not so much about the nature of science in the abstract as about the nature of scientific communities as social concretions. When we do, we find that they exhibit as elaborate a complex of rules, roles, and rituals as do most other human social subgroupings. And their prime rule, not surprisingly, is adherence to the basic consensus of the moment, innovative deviation being permitted only in matters of detail. Though intellectual in form, this consensus is emotional in substance: departures from it threaten the scientific community not merely with uncertainty about the nature of reality but, more seriously, with apprehension about the stability of the social order. Challenges to the consensus quickly mobilize retaliatory defenses, generated by what Reich called "emotional plague" that is, rigid conformism and compulsively punitive responses to serious non-conformity.(17)

Many scientists, in justifiable reaction against what they perceive as psychoanalytic reductionism, will object that the emotions of both the orthodox and the heterodox are equally irrelevant and that what must ultimately decide the fate of any theory is its consonance with the facts. To view facts as a court of last appeal, however, seems to me to constitute a fundamental misunderstanding of what "facts" are. Unlike objects and events, facts are not data of experience. Neither the writing of a book nor the book itself, for example, are facts. But that the book exists and that the writing occurred are facts. In other words, facts are not ultimate constituents of reality but, at most, postulates about those constituents. They are what semanticists call low-level abstractions and so differ more in degree than in kind from theories, which are, in the same parlance, high-order abstractions.(18) Theories may indeed be gaseous, but facts, far from being "hard" as many scientists wishfully conceive them, are at best soft and malleable. To say, then, that one man's fact is another man's fancy is more than a facile quip. It is a realistic recognition of what few scholars readily concede: that no postulate is self-evident.

Returning to the subject of scientific ostracism, we may take it for granted, I believe, that no scholar who focuses his attention on scientific anomalies can expect much more than marginal status in his profession. For anomalies subvert the scientific consensus. Yet it would be a mistake, I think, to assume that the more anomalistic an investigator is in his interests, the better scholar he is. Blind conformity can be and often is matched by equally blind non-conformity. And the intellectual rebel who invests more energy in his rebellion than in his intellectuality soon ceases to contribute significantly to knowledge. Moreover, once an anomalist ceases to make an honest effort to explain anomalies or, worse yet, begins to magnify or even invent anomalies there is a real danger that he will convert anomalistics into what might well be called "anomalitis": a morbid preoccupation with oddities and abnormalities. The inclination to multiply anomalies unnecessarily might also result from having developed a vested occupational or financial interest in them. (Freak-shows aside, however, such interest still seems to be sufficiently rare as to present only minimal hazard.)

To be sure, before Western science developed the relative rigor which has characterized it for the past three centuries, the scholarly ethos was almost as receptive to marvels, monsters, and mysteries as was the popular ethos. It may be, in fact, that the best way to characterize a magician (in the classical sense, not referring to an illusionist) is as a deliberate creator of genuine anomalies. Such anomalies range from modern medical hypnosis through self-levitation to the miracles described in various scriptures of antiquity. Rather than referring to such practices as unscientific or even anti-scientific, perhaps we should follow William Irwin Thompson in regarding them as examples of "Pythagorean science" as opposed to the "Archimedean science" to which we are accustomed.(19) In any case, as Arthur Clarke reminds us, "Every uncomprehended technology is, in principle, magic".(20) An anomaly of intellectual history is the fact that alchemy and astrology, two disciplines which are regarded by most modern intellectuals as sterile pseudo-sciences, absorbed much of the intellectual energy of many of the best minds of the Old World ecumene for at least two millennia. While this fact alone need hardly stampede us into an orgy of disciplinary revivalism, it can and should challenge our understanding both of what these studies were and of what they did. In any case, it seems virtually certain that they did more than prepare the way for contemporary chemistry and astronomy. In conclusion, anomalistics as I have here outlined it seems to me to be a worthy, if sometimes hazardous, enterprise, with a largely untapped potential for intellectual profit. If, while exploring it, we can preserve a requisitely delicate balance between sceptical imagination and imaginative scepticism, we should find anomalistics a productive as well as an enjoyable endeavor.


1. Roger W. Wescott, "Anomalistics: The Outline of an Emerging Field of Investigation," Research Division, New Jersey Department of Education, Trenton, N. J., 1974 (reprinted in Cultures Beyond the Earth, Arthur Harkins, ed., Vintage Books Division, Random House, N. Y., 1975).
2. Sabina W. Sander son, "Entombed Toads," Pursuit (The Journal of the Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained), July, 1973; and Gary Mangiacopra, "The Entombed Turtle," Pursuit, April, 1976.
3. James Bailey, The God-Kings and the Titans, St. Martin's Press, N. Y., 1973; p. 199.
4. Adrian J. Desmond, The Hot-Blooded Dinosaurs, Dial Press, N. Y., 1976.
5. Eleanor Lathrop, "The Mystery of the Prehistoric Stone Balls," Natural History Magazine, September, 1955 (reprinted in Strange Artifacts, William Corliss, ed., The Sourcebook Project, Glen Arm, Md., 1974).
6. Thomas Gold, "Brontides: Natural Explosive Noises," Science Magazine, 27 April, 1979.
7. C. Louis Wiedemann, "Results of the New Jersey 'Spook Light' Study," Vestigia Newsletter, Spring 1977.
8. Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, University of Chicago Press, 1963.
9. This term is adapted from Magoroh Maruyama's term "paradigmatology." (M. Maruyama, "Paradigmatology and its Application to Cross-Disciplinary Communication," World Anthropology, Mouton, 1973).
10. Immanuel Velikovsky, Worlds in Collision, Doubleday, N. Y., 1950; Earth in Upheaval, Doubleday, N. Y., 1955; and Ages in Chaos, Doubleday, Garden City, N. Y., 1952.
11. Andrew Tomas, We Are Not the First, Putnam's, N. Y., 1971.
12. Cyrus H. Gordon, Before Columbus, Crown Press, N. Y., 1971; Ivan Van Sertima, They Came Before Columbus, Random House, N. Y. 1976- and Alexander Von Wuthenau Unexpected Faces in Ancient America, Crown Press, N. Y., 1975.
13. Alfred De Grazia, ed., The Velikovsky Affair, University Books, New Hyde Park, N. Y. 1966; Lewis M. Greenberg, ed., Velikovsky Reconsidered, Doubleday, Garden City, N. Y., 1976; and C. J. Ransom, The Age of Velikovsky, Kronos Press, Glassboro, N. J., 1976.
14. Stephen J. Gould and Niles Eldredge, "Punctuated Equilibria: The Tempo and Mode of Evolution Reconsidered," Paleobiology, vol. 3, 1977.
15. Ola Raknes, Wilhelm Reich and Orgonomy, St. Martin's Press, N. Y., 1970.
16. Roger W. Wescott, The Divine Animal, Funk and Wagnalls, N. Y., 1969; chapter 9, "Art, Science, and Religion as Windows on Reality".
17. Wilhelm Reich, Selected Writings: An Introduction to Orgonomy, Noonday Press Division, Farrar, Straus, and Cudahy, N. Y., 1961.
18. Samuel I. Hayakawa, Language in Thought and Action, Harcourt, N. Y., 1949.
19. William Irwin Thompson, At the Edge of History, Colophon Books Division, Harper, N. Y. , 1972.
20. Arthur C. Clarke, Profiles of the Future, Harper, N. Y., 1963.

 home       features       science/philosophy       wholesale store        policies        contact
Mikamar Publishing, 16871 SE 80th Pl,  Portland  OR  97267       503-974-9665