Saturday, July 20, 2019

E F Benson

This writer was unknown to me prior to several years ago when I stumbled across him whilst browsing through some horror collections. His horror short stories are collected in this volume:

I became interested because he's probably a distant relative of my clan, which also originated from the London area. Benson is one of three brothers who all wrote prodigiously around the turn of the century (last century, not this one). The other two also wrote some horror stories, collected in another Wordsworth volume (older edition, which I purchased used but haven't read yet).

Every week or so I'll read another story, haven't finished the book yet but I did make note of a couple things with my postits. These ghost stories were written at the height of spiritualism; seances and so forth.

His stories are frequently included in horror anthologies you can find at places like Barnes & Noble.

p153 - Outside the Door - a couple of lengthy quotes which I thought were exceptional and extremely relevant;  I edited them down to the basics.

"We are only just beginning to conjecture how inextricable is the interweaving between mind, soul, life - call it what you will - and the purely material part of the created world. That such interweaving existed has, of course, been known for centuries...that anger produced chemical changes in the blood, that anxiety led to indigestion...(etc) that under the influence of strong passion a man can do things which in his normal physical state he is incapable of performing. Here we have mind...producing changes and effects in tissue, that which is purely material."

" some force, out of that innumerable cohort of obscure mysterious forces with which we human beings are garrisoned, can pass, as it is constantly doing, into material things. The laws of its passing we know not..."

There's more to this world than we can observe with our senses. 

p159 - The Terror by Night

"We are all of us probably 'receivers' to some extent, and catch now and then a message or part of a message that the eternal waves of emotion are ceaselessly shouting aloud to those who have ears to hear, and materializing themselves for those who have eyes to see. Not being, as a rule, perfectly tuned, we grasp but pieces and fragments of such messages, a few coherent words it may be, or a few words which seem to have no sense."

Written decades before the flying saucer and New Age channeling crazes, he seems to be describing them perfectly. Colin Wilson in his book Mysteries (to be added to the blog later, lots of post-its in that one) says that 1/3rd of all people are psychic, so you'd have to be one of those 1/3rd to witness or rather produce (consciously? unconsciously?) any phenomena; non-psychics can witness others' anomalies. I am not one of those 1/3rd, whether that's good or bad.

p249 - Machaon - one of the characters discussing channeling

"My gifts have nothing to do with this person who sits eating and drinking and talking to you. quite expunged before the subconscious part of me...gets into touch with discarnate intelligences. Until that happens, the door is shut, and when it is over, the door is shut again, and I have no recollection of what I have said or written. The control uses my hand and my voice but that is all. I know no more about it than a piano upon which a tune has been played."

So what are these discarnate intelligences? During the spiritualist craze, they were dead relatives or perhaps dead writers or gurus or other known personalities. The modern ones, space aliens? That's what they're pretending to be (see Dolores Cannon et al). But what are they really?

p341 There's no such thing as time really; it has no actual existence. Time is nothing more than an infinitesimal point in eternity, just as space is an infinitesimal point in infinity. At the most time is a sort of tunnel through which we are accustomed to believe we are travelling. - One of his characters says this. I agree. No such thing as time. Time Tunnel indeed; 60's TV show. I don't think we watched it very much, some other show was on at the same time.

p401 Is (the control) really communicating, or am I only putting down the thoughts of my subconscious self. Is she really an independent intelligence, or is she part of your own. Outside normal perceptions. Possible that you may get those facts through telepathy. - Characters discussing their mediumship. They could just as well be talking about hypnosis & aliens.


Benson has a series of unrelated books that are quite amusing, the Mapp and Lucia series. Comedies set in twenties Britain about socialites battling for supremacy in their small towns.

In the first story they get involved with yoga and then a spiritualist, both adventures turning into a comedy of errors. Hilarious stuff. Great writer.

p21 - Character talking about yoga, an example of a few pages I tagged:

"Om. I understand the ejaculation to be Om. And there are very curious physical exercises; you have to hold your ear with one hand and your toes with the other, and you may strain yourself unless you do it properly. That was the gist of it."

 And that's the gist of this blog entry.

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