In this article Mark Booth (aka Jonathan Black), author of the bestselling The Secret History of the World and The Sacred History, asks Is imagination one of the senses? Through the retelling of the disturbing story of one murder, Mark raises a lot of interesting questions and emphasises the importance of not ignoring the darker aspects of human experience: that instead we should realise they do exist and, in this realisation, confront them and work against them.
There is a big question at the heart of my book The Sacred History
Is imagination one of the senses?
Because we live in an age when the ruling philosophy is materialism, we tend to associate imagination with fantasy and even delusion. According to the materialism taught by today’s intellectual elite, mind and consciousness only emerged very late in the history of the cosmos – 600 million years ago – as the result of a chance fizzing together of certain chemicals.
A much more elevated concept of imagination naturally arises if you believe that mind and consciousness came before matter – essentially the religious or spiritual view.
For example, religious and spiritual people, because they believe in a great cosmic mind and other forms of disembodied intelligence which human beings may interact with, tend to take visions very seriously. They believe that in visions the imagination perceives something real, something sometimes understood as belonging to a higher level of reality than the surrounding material world. Of course they don’t believe that everything the imagination presents to us is real. We may be mistaken – just as we may be mistaken in our perceiving via the other five senses.
The question of how we can know if what our imagination is showing us is real or delusion, and how we can cultivate true or what is sometimes called veridical imagination has always been a focus for esoteric thinkers. In fact esoteric philosophy taken altogether – and including the esoteric dimensions of Hinduism and Buddhism, the Kabbalah, Rosicrucianism and the arcane stream in Freemasonry – represent the most concentrated and systematic body of intelligent thinking on this question in the whole history of human thought. Different cultures naturally have different languages and forge different symbols but they share the same concern.
Esoteric Islam talks about what the French philosopher Henry Corbin called the mundus imaginalis. This is a world – an alternative universe – that people may enter via the portal of the imagination. People may enter at different times and in different places, but they all go to what is recognizably the same place, meet the same beings and maybe each other. As I show in The Sacred History the idea of the mundus imaginalis informs and vivifies not only the tales of the Arabian Nights but also, for example, Coleridge, de Quincy and French Surrealists. Graham Hancock’s fiction is an important contemporary example. In the first two volumes of his very powerful War God trilogy he shows how beings from this other world interact with human beings and change the course of history in quite radical ways.
The Sacred History is, like its predecessor The Secret History of the World, a history of the world, but it is also a history of the mundus imaginalis, and it shows historical figures in different eras and in different parts of the world entering it and playing their part in it.
In all my writing I try not to be tempted to put too much emphasis on the dark side. I understand, indeed I feel its fascination, but I am aware of the danger of dwelling on it too much. If we do that we give encouragement to the forces of evil, we risk letting its legions in, and they may not only overrun the mundus imaginalis but come raging through into our everyday material world too.
So I let myself be persuaded by my editors to omit the following story from the published version of The Sacred History. But I worry I was wrong. I like the story because it is contemporary and hard-edged, and because it shows in a direct way that imagination is one of the senses, that we can perceive true, real things by it that we cannot perceive using the other five senses. It is a real case study of a murder in Santa Cruz County finally solved in 1988. The study was made by an American neuropsychologist, called Rhwan Joseph, who drew from court records, including an interview with a key witness by the District Attorney and interviews he conducted himself. There is something of Twin Peaks about it and something too of True Detective. Discovering this work, I also discovered Rhwan Joseph, an extremely interesting writer who believes, as so many of us do, that we are not being told truth about the reasons why the world is as it is…
Steve, a former soldier, was being questioned about Damon Wells. He’d been stationed with him in Germany when they met.
“My name is Damon Wells …” he’d said, “… son of the devil.”
They had been operating on a heavily forested, remote mountain top, and spent a lot of time together. Damon Wells was brilliant mechanic, fixing vehicles and the electrical generators that powered their site. Steve was a satellite technician.
Later Steve would be asked by the DA if he’d ever noticed anything odd about Damon? He remembered that Damon would sit meditating for hours, and would sometimes go into trances muttering about demons and angels from Hell. He’d sit there cross-legged and in his shirt sleeves, oblivious to freezing rain or snow.
Had Damon ever shown him a cave?
Yes, a cave hidden deep in the woods. They’d had to climb down a rope into it. Steve saw a stone slab, with candles, a knife and some books. Damon told him that when he went there the Devil himself would talk to him.
Did Damon ever talk about sacrifices?
Yes, Damon pointed out what looked like some animal bones – and were those blood stains on the slab or rock?
Damon also showed him a picture in one of the books in the cave, a book of black magic. It showed a naked woman lying spread-eagled over a rock and a masked man was standing over her holding a knife. Damon told Steve that was how the Devil would sacrifice his victims.
When Steve suggested to Damon that he had serious problems and really should see a psychiatrist or a priest, Damon laughed and boasted about how he could project his thoughts to harm his enemies, and that the demons obeyed him.
Steve also said that Damon told him that he had sacrificed someone to the devil. He’d picked up a hitchhiker, driven her to the woods and then, when the Devil told him to, he had killed her and had sex with her.
Had Steve believed him?
No, he’d thought that Damon had just been ‘flipping out’.
But on the 27th August 1983 the Devil had told Damon to sacrifice an attractive twenty-one-year-old called Tanya. The last time before she disappeared she’d chatted with a friend at a Santa Cruz bank where she worked, showing her the birthday card she’d got for her boyfriend and saying she was going to go shopping for a present. Beforehand, though, she was going to drive over the mountains to stop by her house.
Meanwhile Damon’s neighbor heard him mumbling in the yard, and thought he might have been talking to him. “What did you say?”
“Don’t you hear them?”
“The voices are here. Can’t you hear them?”
“The Devil.” With that he climbed into his car and drove into the mountains. The Devil had been giving Damon instructions.
Tanya’s car stalled. She pulled over to the side and tried several times to restart it. Just then Damon drove up. He offered a lift to the nearest telephone, and she got into his car. He drove her down a side road, deep into the mountains, then hit her until she nearly passed out. Then he dragged her down a steep incline to a hidden trail leading to a giant, flat rock. There he laid her out like the woman in the picture Steve had seen, killed her, had sex with the body, which he then left splayed on the rock.
In the evening Tanya’s father and boyfriend went out looking for her and found the car. They told the police, but there was no sign of any struggle, of any crime. Nothing they could do.
That night Damon had a nightmare that kept repeating. In the dream he committed the murder but Tanya would not stay dead. She angrily accused him. The dreams were all the more vivid and intense because Damon had been taking LSD, and they repeated until dawn.
That night someone else also had vivid dreams. Sunshine lived in the mountains in a nudist colony called Lupin Lodge. In her dream she saw a woman being savagely killed. Then in the morning she read about Tanya’s disappearance in the local newspaper, and wondered. The next night she had a similar dream, but this time Tanya showed her the road off the main road where Damon had taken her, then where he’d attacked her, the route down the steep incline, the trail, then she showed Sunshine her naked body stretched out over the rock.
Damon continued to have the same nightmares of the murder and Tanya’s accusations.
On the morning of the 9th September Sunshine contacted Tanya’s family and told them of her dream. Later she led them and the police to the locations that she had been shown in the dream. She found the road, the incline, the trail and the rock – but there was no trace of a body.
That night Sunshine had a different dream. Tanya showed her a smaller, hidden trail that forked off to the right of the trail she had been taking.
On the 16th Sunshine and family found this smaller trail and there they discovered Tanya’s body.
The police could not find the murderer. But Damon continued to be persecuted in his dreams until the 7th February 1988, when he was driven to turn to a psychiatrist for help, and confessed.
For a much fuller and more detailed account, and for more on Rhwan Jospeh’s fascinating work, I recommend his website: BrainMind.com
See also The Secret History of the World, by Jonathan Black
The Real Mystery Surrounding Dante and the Inferno