Category Archives: religion

Knock, Knock

In which The Author has an answer to cold callers

For no apparent reason, a few of my Facebook friends have embarked on a discussion about evangelists tonight. Maybe the Jehovah’s Witnesses are on the prowl in Aberdare. I’m safe, as I’ve been in the pub since midday. Unlike the Sally Army, the Jovies will never cross the threshold of a pub in case they get sucked into the morass of vice and sin.
Having said that, I know a number of ex-Witnesses who have descended deep into the depths of beer, drugs, sex, music, and other unsavoury pursuits. I met most of them in the Carpenters Arms in Aberdare, which was not a place you’d expect to find your average God botherer.
As I told you in Meet the Parents, my own relationship with organised religion has been sketchy at best since I was in primary school. Go back a generation and things changed radically. Dad, Uncle Pat, Auntie Josie and Cousin Denis were stalwarts of St Joseph’s RC Church in Aberdare. Mother was raised in the Pentecostal chapel in Hirwaun. I came out of this bizarre melting pot as an atheist at best.
But Dad never broke free of the indoctrination he was subjected to as a youngster. I was privileged to witness his final assault on the God-botherers. Very late in his life, Dad was in the kitchen, getting ready to plate up his Sunday dinner. Through the kitchen window he spotted some Jovies doing the rounds of our little estate in Llwydcoed. He probably wouldn’t have mentioned it, but they used to come around every single week. Dad lived in a first floor flat, so it wasn’t convenient for him to plod downstairs to every random caller. The same was true for most people who lived in Penyard. At least they could opt out of junk mail. Following Dad’s tip-off, I virtually counted down the seconds until the God-botherers knocked on the door.
Dad charged downstairs and thrust open the front door. In front of him were two teenagers, a boy and a girl, each immaculately dressed and holding a handful of tracts.
‘Hello,’ said the boy, ‘We’d like to talk to you about the Bible.’
‘Really?’ said Dad. ‘Let’s talk about my favourite piece of scripture, shall we? Matthew, Chapter four, verse four.’
Without a hiccup, the young man said, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone—’
‘That’s the one,’ Dad said sharply. ‘Now, I’m just about to take a leg of lamb out of the oven – so fuck off!’

Mere Coincidence …?

In which The Author ponders the deep
structure of the Universe

(First published on MySpace, 14 July 2007)

I started reading the novels of the brilliant English SF writer Ian Watson when I was still in school. I don’t think I fully (or even partially) understood them at the time, but I’ve gone back to them on several occasions. The latest revival of interest was sparked by the sudden reappearance of The Embedding (see ‘A Mysterious Book‘) a couple of weeks ago. Since then, I’ve been rereading his backlist – except for Alien Embassy, which I can’t find. I don’t recall lending it to anyone.
I’m currently halfway through Miracle Visitors. Now, there’s a whole wedge of weird coincidences connected with this book over the years. And it makes me wonder …
In the novel, Mr Watson’s characters all have strange paranormal experiences (alien encounters, animal mutilations, MIB visits, tape recordings suddenly being erased, and so forth). They agree to describe them as the external manifestations of an unknown force which they call ‘the Phenomenon’. They can’t agree whether the Phenomenon is an extraterrestrial intelligence, something from within the earth, or the unconscious mind connecting with quantum events across space and time (a bit like Jung and Pauli’s work on synchronicity). The events of the novel are set in train by a young student, under hypnosis, recalling an alien abduction around his sixteenth birthday. Everyone who comes into contact with him is in some way affected by the Phenomenon.
Since I reread the book in my late twenties, I’ve also become aware of the Phenomenon. Intriguing question: Was my awareness also triggered by reading the book?
Years ago, I struck up a conversation in the shop with a guy named Carl Blewitt. He was also interested in psychological phenomena and what we can loosely term ‘the Unexplained’. It turned out that we’d read some of the same books, and had had a number of similar bizarre experiences. We met up several times and corresponded for a time until he went to live in Australia. Carl promised he’d keep in touch, although he did say that it might not be by ‘conventional means’.
A few weeks later, one of the tabloids had a debate on the letters page about football teams. A reader called Carl had written in, slating off Manchester City. One reader wrote in to correct his errors, and the letter was published under the headline CARL REALLY BLUE IT! Or, read aloud – Carl Really Blewitt!
Anyway, while they were down under, Carl’s Irish girlfriend had a bad time at the hands of the Aussies – so much so that they split up and returned home a short time later. I bumped into Carl in Cardiff – the last person I expected to see – on his return to Wales. I’d also had a bad experience involving an Australian during this brief interlude (see ‘From a Land Down Under‘). Mere coincidence, of course!
Before he went away, I’d told Carl to check out Ian Watson’s books – notably Alien Embassy and Miracle Visitors. To me, anyway, it was obvious on rereading them that Watson was au fait with the writings of Timothy Leary and Robert Anton Wilson. Knowing that Carl was a fan of the aforementioned counterculture heroes, I reckoned they’d be right up his street.I wrote the details down for him, and he laughed.
‘I had a phone call last night,’ he said. ‘The caller said, “Hello, is that Ian?”‘
Carl swore that he didn’t know any Ians at the time. Was it the Phenomenon at work, somehow trying to point him in the direction of Ian Watson?
The Phenomenon has struck twice this week. I was flicking through the local rag on the train to work when I read a letter from a reader. He’d been surfing the Interweb and found an account of an eighteenth-century anomaly in Mountain Ash. Fish fell from the sky onto a house in the town. The event was recorded by the local vicar, and was amongst the thousands of unusual events catalogued by Charles Fort. Of course, I’m vaguely familiar with Fort’s work, and have been for a number of years. I’d read about the Mountain Ash event when I was a teenager. It wasn’t exactly news to me – but it obviously was newsworthy enough for the Cynon Valley Leader.
I put the paper away and turned back to Miracle Visitors. I’d only been reading it for a few minutes when I came across Charles Fort’s name in the book.
The second, spookier coincidence, happened last night. I got off the bus near my house and was heading for home when Mike from the local bakery called me over. He, his girlfriend, and Rhian were under the awning outside the pub. Rhian had finished work and called in for a drink with Mike. I wasn’t aiming for the pub – my plan was to go home and have an early night. Instead I joined Rhian and the others for a pint.
On the train home, I’d read a part of Miracle Visitors where a girl has an encounter with a green luminous creature described as ‘a goblin.’ I bought my beer and sat down. On the table was a beermat, advertising a bottled brew called Green Goblin.
Rationalists, I defy you to explain this!
Shanara almost accused me of being a Satanist this week, when we were talking about Darwinism and ‘Intelligent Design’. I believe in the Darwinian process of evolution by natural selection, because it makes more sense than any other theory. However, I also believe, with Hamlet, that ‘there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy’.
Is ‘God’ simply the Great Oz, a ‘man behind the curtain’, playing games with the universe? Einstein said ‘God does not play dice with the universe’, to which Nils Bohr replied, ‘He not only plays dice, he throws them where they cannot be seen.’
The older I get, and the more bizarre these events become, the less certain I am …