John Michell

Barking up the wrong tree?

The Vanishing Face of Gaia: A Final Warning, by James Lovelock He Knew He Was Right: The Irrepressible Life of James Lovelock and Gaia, by John Gribbin and Mary Gribbin James Lovelock is an English scientist, recip- ient of many awards, and he is a pleasant writer, moderate in tone and conciliatory towards his critics.

Spirits, shamans and sceptics

When Professor Braude, a philosophy lecturer at the University of Maryland, told colleagues about his interest in psychical research, he was shocked and astonished by their reactions. They were angry and scornful and accused him of pandering to unreason. It would be the ruin of his career, they threatened. What is wrong with these people?

The lunatic space race

The 1960s brought in the Beatles, drugs, long hair, hippy communes, eastern gurus and the alternative culture, so called. Against all this was the ‘straight’ world whose denizens were short-haired Frank Sinatra fans in suits. The two types seemed quite different from each other, but one thing they had in common was their obsession with

Toeing the party line

John Brockman, the New York literary agent and science writer, had an artist friend, James Byars, who had a grand idea. It was ‘to gather the 100 most brilliant minds in the world together in a room, lock them in and have them ask each other the questions they were asking themselves’. The result, he

Fasten your seat-belts . . .

The end of the world is nigh. Well, of course it is. Everything falls apart, sooner or later, including ourselves and the Earth we live on. We are particularly vulnerable today, with so many mortal threats to civilised existence competing for attention — war, pestilence, pollution, economic breakdown and moral collapse. Ian Rankin adds another

Stranded by the tide of fashion

Colin Wilson is a very great man, ‘the only important writer in Europe’. That is his own estimation, and I do not quarrel with it because Wilson’s self-esteem is not just vanity but necessary to his career. As he sees it, the pattern of our lives is created by ourselves through the use of imagination

The endurance of oracles

State constitutions throughout the ancient world were designed to imitate the order of the universe. Their model was an esoteric code of number, harmony and proportion which was supposed to reflect the perfectly structured mind of the Creator. From this procedure came a form of society, like those of archaic Greece, where the nation was