More psychic adventures in my family.
In this week’s Skeptical Inquirer (Vol.37 No.3) there is a report of an archeologist suing the makers of the Indiana Jones movies for a piece of their profits because their movie, the plaintiffs claimed, is based on a well-known myth about a stolen crystal skull—stolen from an ancient Mayan temple. If you cannot follow the logic here, don’t worry; neither can I. The story, which was made up, of course, is of a girl celebrating her seventeenth birthday by wandering around in a jungle in South America and finding a crystal skull in one of the nearby Mayan temples. Actually, her father, an explorer and adventurer, bought it from an antiques dealer many years later. None of this is surprising, or particularly interesting to me—except that I realize now that this was one of the crystal skulls my brother told me about many years ago.
There were two crystal skulls. I saw pictures of both of them. I liked one of them a lot. It was carved from a solid lump of glass and looked just like a human skull. It was the right size, too. It would have made a great paperweight. The other one was carved clumsily. It passed through my brother’s hands briefly, as I remember; but I am not sure. It happened during a time when there was a lot of psychic stuff going on, and I had trouble keeping up. My brother may have been inclined to the supernatural before he started making movies, but now that he was making money from filming these phenomena, they were all around him. Every few days I got a new dispatch from the front lines.
My brother, (Aaron): “This guy materializes small bits of material just by concentrating on a religious icon.”
Me: “Is that so?”
Aaron (some time later): “I contacted Mom through these three different mediums.” (Our mother had been dead about eight years.)
Me: “No kidding? Shouldn’t that be media, if it’s plural?”
Aaron (some time later): “I have this photograph in a safe deposit box. No one has access to this box but me; but every time I look at the picture, there is another figure in the picture. I showed this photograph to a member of the family that had it originally; and they usually recognize the person. It’s usually an uncle or a cousin.”
Aaron (some time later): “Twenty thousand people in Brazil saw a flying saucer.”
I was struck dumb by this bulletin. In the first place, I did not really see this as a psychic event—which was my brother’s specialty. And then I was distracted from the main point—whatever that might have been—by stray thoughts: Who was counting all these people? What were they doing before the U.F.O. showed up? Were they singing and dancing? I recognize that this was a silly thought, but all I knew about Brazil was that they liked to dance there.
One day Aaron told me about the skull. I remember him telling me It was discovered by the daughter of an archeologist; so I assume it was the same skull referred to in the article above. There can’t be too many young women wandering around the jungles digging up crystal skulls. This skull—and the other one—had psychic powers. I do not remember what they were, except that this skull had one remarkable power. According to Aaron, the skull could predict macroeconomic trends. Since I had other things to think about back then—trying to support a family, for instance, on three thousand dollars a year—I did not think twice about this skull’s particular skills. But now I wonder. First of all, I womder how it was discovered that this skull had such a sophisticated understanding of economics. After all, the skull was carved—so the story goes– by the Mayans , who knew something about astronomy but not much about the movement of large sums of money across national boundaries. For one thing, they had no national boundaries. These are the issues that strike me now:
For purposes of thinking about it, let’s grant that this skull had psychic powers. That would mean that the Mayans, who knew so little of the world that there are no Mayans left, nevertheless knew how to impregnate a lump of glass with powers unknown to the world today. You can see the thinking behind this idea. Mayans=ancient civilization=arcane knowledge. Also skull-shaped object=something spooky=mysterious powers. But, then—
- How exactly does one communicate with an inanimate object? Does it light up in the dark when it wants to say something? Does it use a spirit guide like the ones dead people use in séances? Does some gifted person stare at the skull and announce to everyone else what the skull is thinking? (I find myself once again distracted here by stray thoughts. I can see straight through the skull. It has no brains. It is a somewhat amateurishly carved piece of glass. Does that make it hard for the skull to think truly wise thoughts? Probably not. I have become too cynical listening to my brother tell tales from the crypt.)
- Assume for the sake of argument that we have devised a way to communicate with the crystal skull. Assume, for the sake of argument, that the skull is inhabited by a wise spirit, as opposed to most of the talking heads we listen to on cable television. What do we want to ask the skull first? Surely we would want to learn answers to our basic questions:
“Is George going to be fired from his job?”
“Does Shirley really love me?”
“How can I get my son to stay away from Marijuana?”
“Is this mole going to turn into cancer?”
Or the Big questions:
“What is the meaning of life?”
“Does God exist? Which God is best?”
“Does love really rule the world?”
- If the crystal skull answered any/all of these questions, it would not be regarded as a specialist in economics. It would be regarded as an all-around expert, like most psychics. That means these questions were not answered properly. That means that after not answering the basic questions, and not answering the Big questions, the questioner (truth-seeker?) had to keep asking more and more questions until he finally came to an area, economics, where the crystal skulll was on the ball—so to speak. I regard this as not credible. The questioner would have had to work his way through a dozen subjects—politics, pediatrics, cooking, agriculture, etc.—before getting to economics. If the skull showed no special expertise in any of these fields, the questioner would have given up his enquiries long before finally getting to economics. And, if I understand my brother correctly, the skull was not even expert in all of economics, but solely in macroeconomics. Imagine that conversation:
“Tell me, skull, do you have an opinion about the relevance of gross domestic product to the exchange rate? Or vice-versa?” Or, “Do you think E.T.F,s are a good investment at a time of world-wide rising unemployment?” (At the time of which I am speaking, there were no exchange traded funds, so this conversation is entirely imaginary.)
Actually, I cannot imagine this conversation. I know that if I were talking to a crystal skull and it made a foolish response, (or, possibly no response at all) I would no longer interrogate it. Certainly, it would not occur to me to ask it about macroeconomic trends.
I think it is possible that my brother made the whole thing up.
On the other hand, it is true that this archeologist from Belize is suing Indiana Jones and his friends for removal of the crystal skull from South America—where it never was. Apparently.
I don’t know what happened to the other Crystal Skull, the good-looking one. I like to think that wherever it is, it is using its immense mystical powers to do good. (c) Fredric Neuman 2013