On The Threshold

Some while ago, whilst listening to The Mystic Menagerie Podcast, co-presenter Dan Baines mentioned an article he had discovered in the May 1921 edition of The Occult Review, which made mention of a very curious book.  This issue of The Occult Review may be read here, but the pertinent passage is quoted below:

“On April 3 last, at Kingston-on-Thames, there passed away Mr. John Herbert Slater, a writer better known to the book collector than either to the occultist or the man-in-the-street. He was, however, the author of an interesting work entitled Problems of the Borderland, which certainly deserves a greater popularity than it has ever obtained. Probably most of those who knew Mr. Slater as the author of Book Prices Current and Engravings and Their Value, little suspected that this kindly and genial gentleman was deeply interested in occult research, and in especial a keen student of the philosophical side of occultism. Problems of the Borderland claims to be “a summary of some of the elementary teachings of a very ancient faith, which, though not generally known, have nevertheless been preserved to us, to some extent at least, by the writings of mediaeval and later adepts, and also by tradition.” A perusal of the book, which still remains at the original price of 3s. 6d. net, is well worth the while of every serious student of the occult.”

Dan, whose blog may be read here and is always a treasure trove of material on fairy lore, the supernatural, and all things weird and wonderful, had managed to get hold of a copy of this old book and had discovered that it seemed to exhibit strange properties, such as completely vanishing for a while, only to later reappear in a room where it had never been.

Intrigued, I determined to hunt down a copy myself.  It wasn’t easy and it certainly wasn’t cheap.  I could find only two copies for sale online worldwide, and at prices close to three figures.  I ordered the one which promised to be in best condition and sat back to await its arrival.

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When I received it, the book was indeed in good condition for its age.  Nevertheless, the paper was so old and brittle that the pages literally cracked as I turned them, no matter how carefully.  This rare book could so easily become rarer still.  So the question became, was it worth preserving?

The answer is a definite Yes!  The book is not quite what I expected it to be upon ordering, but it has a quaint, antique charm all its own in its use of language and its notions.  But it certainly deserves to survive and to be read by a new generation of readers.

To get the negatives out of the way first, it is most definitely old-fashioned in both its language and its attitudes.  Some of the sentences are so tortuous, lasting entire paragraphs.  But this is a feature of its time and those occult readers who have read the writings of many of the Golden Dawn or Theosophical luminaries will have struggled through much, much worse.  The book also contains a strongly ascetic tone which is at odds with my own conception, but this too comes with the territory.

What this book has to offer are some insights into the fourth dimension, its nature and its influence, and the ways in which we humans interact with it, which are quite unique in their thought and nuance in my experience.  The author’s speculation upon spirits and the means by which they may influence and manifest, through to actual materialisation, is also one of the most thorough and rational discussions I have read on the subject.

So there is plenty of gold to be mined from this source, and it is a damn shame that so few people have ever read it and that it looked as though it would in all likelihood vanish altogether.  For this reason, I decided to republish Problems of the Borderland, and it is now available on Amazon and Lulu for considerably less than Dan and I paid for it.

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There is no ebook version, as this simply felt completely inappropriate for this title to me.

The Amazon edition can be obtained through these links for the USA or the UK.

The Lulu edition is obtainable here.

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Event Horizon

They say that black holes have an event horizon.  This is the distance from the collapsed star where the point of no return is reached.  Beyond this point, nothing – not even light – can escape the gravitational field.  Once you reach the event horizon, there’s no turning back.

I entered a black hole last night.  Not a super-massive anomaly in space, but the black hole which was once the dungeon where prisoners were shackled in the old courtroom in Peel, beneath the building which is now the Leece Museum.  The building dates back to the 1500s and is reputedly haunted by several ghosts.  I attended a ghost investigation there last night, the evening of 1 August 2015, arranged and hosted by the good folks of Isle of Man Ghost Tours.  I entered the black hole and crossed an event horizon, which cannot be uncrossed.

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The evening began with everyone trying out dowsing rods.  These reacted well and I found the process quite fascinating.  We were encouraged to ask questions, looking for yes or no answers to be indicated by the rods.  This was good fun and I was content to wander about the dungeon with my rods, listening to others ask their questions.  I’m fully able to accept the ability of the rods to detect a ‘presence’ or an ‘energy’ and respond decisively to it, but personally I’ve never warmed to the notion of the yes / no question routine, either by this or any other method.  I can accept a direct flash of insight or a spontaneous psychic message if they stand up to scrutiny, but the yes / no questioning doesn’t cut my sceptical mustard.  But it was fun and others were enjoying it and I was happy just walking about with my rods, seeing what they could detect.

Then my rods doubled back upon themselves, pointing directly at me.  Try as I might to realign them, they kept swinging insistently back to that position.  Emma, the medium working with the Ghost Tours folks, came over and our little group discovered what was going on as I passed over the event horizon and experienced something which cannot be unexperienced.  I was struck by a most uncharacteristic emotional response as I realised how linked the past and present were, spanning some fifty years of family history and location.  Plans which I have shared with very few people (and am not about to share here either) were openly revealed and discussed, and as Emma moved off to assist another group, she correctly named my grandfather.  This was a very real phenomenon, which shook me.  I always keep an open mind about things and am aware of several different possible explanations of this particular event, I won’t pin the hypothesis down to a certainty or a belief.  But I will certainly assert that the phenomenon was very real and it was beyond the pale.

Returning upstairs, the group experimented with electronic voice phenomena.  There was little response this night (sometimes there’s more, sometimes there’s less), though the downstairs group reportedly got some good recordings, and there may be more when the recordings are properly listened to.  We were played some interesting recordings from prior investigations, and there were a couple of very definite noises heard upstairs, including somebody loudly whistling at one point and the sound of footsteps climbing the stairs behind us and beginning to cross the floor (everyone was all together and the sounds could be heard to emanate from the empty boards right in the room with us).

We were treated to another experience before the evening closed.  As I stood with the two friends I had arrived with, we observed an empty water bottle which had been standing on top of one of the museum’s display cases, begin to move of its own accord.  It began to vibrate on the spot very rapidly, then swayed back and forth at an ever increasing speed before it fell over and rolled to the ground.  We stared at each other amazed, then picked it up and put it back.  A few seconds later, it began to tremble and then rock rapidly back and forth again.  By now a few other people had gathered around.  We tested the floor and the case (both solid), there was no way we could discern that any vibration could possibly be conveyed through to that bottle.  A camera was set up to watch the bottle in case it happened again and set recording.  The bottle sat still after that, but when the camera was picked up later, it was discovered that the recording had been paused as soon as it had begun.  It seems someone was determined not to have their picture taken!

Every walk, talk and presentation I have attended with Isle of Man Ghost Tours has been interesting and entertaining.  This was my first actual investigation with the equipment, but it won’t be my last.  These aren’t the first ghostly experiences I’ve had in my life, but they’re the first for a number of years, the first under these investigative conditions, and the personal revelations of the evening were very important and emotional indeed.  Treat yourself.  Take a walk on the dark side…