“I never said it was possible, I only said it was true.”
– British chemist and physicist Sir William Crookes, 1874
“Look, Bill, I’m not telling you it doesn’t sound whacky. What I’m telling you is, it’s real.”
– Former Pentagon official Luis Elizondo to Bill Whitaker on 60 Minutes on the UFO or UAP, 2021
In 2010, I published an intellectual history of the paranormal entitled Authors of the Impossible. The conceptual matrix of the paranormal, it turns out, was not born in the tabloids or in a science fiction novel, but in some of the most accomplished scientific personalities and elite academic institutions of the European and American academies—in figures like Alfred Russel Wallace, the co-discoverer of evolution with Darwin (who used the earlier terms “Spiritual” and “Superhuman”) and around institutions like Cambridge University, Harvard University (particularly around the psychologist and philosopher William James), and, a bit later, Duke University (around the botanist J. B. Rhine).
By an “author of the impossible,” I meant something specific and radical. I meant an author who writes about well-documented historical events and common human experiences that are not supposed to happen but clearly do, and who, by writing about these “impossible” things in an especially powerful way, renders them newly plausible, imaginable, thinkable . . . in a word—real. I meant an author who makes the impossible possible. Continue >