The Magazine

Believing Is Seeing

The continuing saga of human credulity.

May 27, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 35 • By LAWRENCE KLEPP
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It would have been interesting if Lamont had defended, as a member of a “Parapsychology Unit,” the reality of some psychic phenomenon such as ESP, or had given more than a passing one-sentence glance at UFOs and the Loch Ness Monster. Or if, as a former magician, he had devoted more time to exposing the tricks of the levitating and spoon-bending trade, the way the magician James Randi has so damningly done here in the United States. It would also have been interesting if he had gone into more detail about Home, the subject of a biography he has previously written, and other celebrity mediums. Instead we get pages and pages of arguments about arguments. The reader’s eyes go glassy while working through long passages full of sentences like these:

This was part and parcel of the modern sceptical movement, from which the word “sceptic” emerged, though whether this is a new “kind of person” depends on what one means by “kind.”

Extraordinary beliefs are based upon particular events, the ones in which people believe.

But in expressing beliefs about the facts, and in disputing whether they are facts at all, there have been ongoing circular arguments involving belief, the facts and expertise.

You are getting sleepy .  .  . The reader can only conclude that Lamont’s true métier isn’t either professor or professional magician. His book has an uncanny power to put you into a deep trance, apparently insensible to all outward stimuli. Mesmer rides again. 

Lawrence Klepp is a writer in New York.