“Mythology is not a lie, mythology is poetry, it is metaphorical. It has been well said that mythology is the penultimate truth–penultimate because the ultimate cannot be put into words. It is beyond words. Beyond images, beyond that bounding rim of the Buddhist Wheel of Becoming. Mythology pitches the mind beyond that rim, to what can be known but not told.” ~Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth
In an age in which Science is regarded as the new god and scientists as its appointed priests, artists will turn into heretics spawning new myths by which to speak of greater truths. The myths of the XXIst century are not to be found in temples.
On his book Mutants & Mystics [Amazon US & UK] –a book we’ve promoted at the Grail on numerous occasions, and will continue to do so– Jeffrey Kripal explores how paranormal phenomena have often served as inspiration for artists in the shaping of pop culture content, such a pulp novels or comic books. No greater example could be found than in Daredevil’s #133 (by writer Marv Wolfman and artists Bob Brown and Jim Mooney), in which “the man without fear” teamed up with none other than “the Spoonman” himself: Uri Geller.
Why the Marvel artists decided to promote the young Israeli mentalist is due to direct divine intervention –or in this case, the god of the Marvel universe: Stan Lee. As Wolfman wrote in the letter column after the story was published:
[…]Stan said he’d like to use Uri Geller in one of our comics, and that I should find a place for him. At that time, I had heard of Geller – he was some sort of a metal-bender. That’s all I had heard, and frankly, I wasn’t too keen on the idea, and so I said I’d use him in DAREDEVIL (easier for me to do this than to assign it to another writer, I thought). Cut to a week or so later – I was at a party up at Paty (Cake) Greer’s upstate New York home and I happened to see a copy of “Uri Geller, My Story” in her bookstand. Asking if I could borrow it for background information, I began reading it, and getting more and more involved with the reading. It was a fascinating story – and, yes, I was hooked – though still a total cynic.
It was then that Uri called, asking if he could come up to the offices to speak with me, to discuss the story. I said sure, hoping that this would be a chance to find out some things not in the book. He did come up the next day, and I found him to be a very likeable person, an avid Marvel fan, and not at all what one would expect a person with “special powers and abilities” to be like – in other words, the furthest thing from an egomaniac that you could hope to find. During the course of our talk, he asked for a key, which I gave him, then asked me to hold his fingers to see if he was pressing on the key. They were loosely around the heavy metal key, and slowly, as I held his fingers with mine, I watched the key bend.
Yeah, I may be a cynic, but I don’t ignore facts – the key had bent – I was holding his fingers so I know he couldn’t bend them with his hand, and it was my key. Whatever powers he had – were real. At that point, he asked me to draw a picture and not show it to him. He then began drawing his own picture, and as you can see from our two illustrations reproduced on this page, the sketches are very similar. Considering the rough drawing style from which Uri was trying to receive his psychic impressions, he was able to come very close to my own illustration – even duplicating the bizarre front view of the face on the side view of the body.
Afterwards, Uri bent another key for Sparklin’ SCOTT EDELMAN, with virtually the entire Marvel staff watching. We also took a few publicity pictures; the best printed here.
As for me, I began a cynic, and now I’m a believer – of whatever abilities Uri has, and if there are any super heroes in this world, we should hope they are all as nice as Uri.
The image on the left is the one drawn by Wolfman, and the right one by Uri.
The comic book even deals with Geller’s own ‘origin story’ of how he (allegedly) acquired his psychic abilities during his early childhood, after having a close-encounter experience with a UFO. Perhaps no more fantastic an explanation than say, being exposed to outer space radiation like the Fantastic Four, or Matt Murdock’s (Daredevil) accident with a truck transporting radioactive waste; in which case Geller could probably fit into the ‘radioactive hero’ category employed by Kripal –something I’m sure would greatly please him, seeing how he nowadays boasts of having served for Mossad and the CIA as a ‘psychic spy’…
Kripal does mention Geller on a couple of occasions in Mutants & Mystics though, and not in a particularly flattering way:
From the perspective of the [Stanford Research Institute] scientists, Geller was an artful mixture of stage magician and the real deal –the truck and truth, or tricky truth again. They studied him at SRI for six weeks toward the end of 1972. He never managed to demonstrate his psychokinetic powers under the controlled laboratory conditions of SRI, but he did produce some fantastic effects outside the lab, including one really weird instance of teleportation with Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell.
The’ teleportation’ event was actually closer to an apport, the kind of spiritual manifestation of an object that is often reported among Eastern cult leaders and gurus. Mitchell wanted to test Geller’s supposed abilities, and challenged him to produce the camera he had left on the Moon; since the device had a very specific NASA serial number which would be unknown to Geller, this would be an excelent way to eliminate the possibility of forgery.
Alas, Geller’s powers didn’t raise to the occasion –good thing he wasn’t fighting super-villains instead!– but what happened instead did manage to surprise Mitchell nonetheless: While they were having lunch along with Russell Targ at the SRI cafeteria, Geller almost broke a tooth on something in his ice cream; it was the point of a miniature arrowhead, which Mitchell thought it looked familiar. Back in the lab, everyone suddenly saw something fall on the carpet: “We picked it up, and it was the rest of the arrow. Together, the two pieces made a tie pin.” Mitchell was astonished because he immediately recognized it as a tie pin that belonged to him; one that he had lost years ago. The Trickster strikes again!
But getting back to the Daredevil story, Geller not only helps the Hell’s Kitchen vigilante to ‘sense’ the presence of the baddies using his ‘powers’, but he even has a mano a mano –make that a mente a mente— fight with the (also psychic) villan ‘Mind-wave.’ It’s a shame the story writer didn’t decide to make Geller face his real arch-nemesis *ahem*
Speaking of skeptics, they have also been invited to step inside the ‘super hero’ universe a couple of times. Neil deGrasse Tyson, for instance, was the one who helped Superman locate the position of his long-gone home world in Action Comics #14. I even managed to detect his voice in the recently-released official trailer of Batman vs Superman; like most modern geeks, Neil has no problem in dabbling with Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres –it’s when the Fantasy starts to creep into Reality and viceversa, like Kripal ascertains, that hardcore materialists meet their own personal kryptonite…
What other real life psychics, mystics and magicians –or people who claim to be so– do you think deserve to rub elbows with our spandex-clad gods? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
[H/T Fortean UK]