On Being Stoned
Charles T. Tart, Ph. D.
ONCE UPON A TIME, not so very long ago, there was a rich and powerful
Kingdom called Middle America. It was progressive and beautiful,
and its people were a contented lot.
The Kingdom was surrounded on three sides by (almost) impassable
mountains, and on the fourth by a broad river perpetually shrouded
with dense fog. There were legends that some citizens, called
Travelers, had gone to places "outside" the Kingdom,
but the solid citizens considered these as tall tales or crazy
things; all that one needed was in the Kingdom, so why would anyone
want to go "outside," even if such a thing were possible
The King and his Government took a more serious view, and long
ago made Traveling unlawful because it was Dangerous. Special
Constables policed the boundaries of the Kingdom.
For many years some of the impoverished citizens and outcasts
had talked of Traveling to a land called Muggles, which they claimed
was on the other side of the Foggy River; but these poor citizens
were simply thrown in prison by the Constables, and nobody cared
very much about them.
Then as time went on, more and more citizens talked about the
joys of Traveling to the land of Muggles, and these citizens were
Merchants, Princes, Solicitors, Tradesmen, and, especially, the
Young. More Constables were hired, and the Ministers of the government
warned the populace of the menace of Traveling; but still more
and more citizens traveled.
Great outcries arose from the good citizens for something to be
done. Some cried out that Traveling to Muggles was a menace that
was sapping the strength of the Kingdom. Others cried out that
those who traveled were sick in their minds and should be helped,
whether they wanted help or not. Some, who claimed to be Travelers,
raised their voices and said it was a good thing to travel to
the land of Muggles. Some said it was not the King's business
whether a citizen traveled to Muggles or not.
In the midst of the Confusion and Outcry, some thoughtful citizens
asked, "What say our Scholars? What can we make of this Traveling?
How can we understand those who say it is Good and those who say
it is Bad? How can we wisely spend the Kingdom's gold to Do Something
when we are confused as to what is happening?"
The Scholars looked at their books and their papers, and quarreled
among themselves. Some books said that Traveling to Muggles was
Bad, and the Doctors wrote of sick people they had treated who
had been to Muggles at one time or another. Some books said that
it was Good, Ineffable, Beautiful, and the Ultimate Truth. Some
books about Traveling to Muggles, written by citizens who had
been there once or twice, were clearly Confused. Other books were
clearly written by crazy people. Artists wrote of the paintings
of Muggles. Philosophers wrote of the sublime philosophy of Muggles,
but did not mention the paintings. Religious people wrote of the
teachings of Muggles, but did not mention the paintings. What
could one make of this? Perhaps the Crazies were mainly writing
about craziness, the Philosophers mainly about philosophy, the
Religious about teachings, and no one was saying much about Muggles
As the outcry of the citizens rose higher, the King's Ministers
dispensed gold to the Scholars, and commanded them to find out
the Real Truth about Traveling to Muggles.
Now as any man knows, there are Scholars and Scholars. Some did
one thing with their gold, others did other things.
The school of Scholars most in power at that time was known as
the Externalist School. They knew that men may lie, and so reasoned
that what a man says is of little importance, but what he does
is Hard Data The means of Traveling to Muggles was to immerse
oneself in the Foggy River. As "swimming" was unknown
in the Kingdom, this seemed an insane act that might lead to drowning;
but the Scholars of the Externalist School set out to study it
in their Laboratories. Skilled Craftsmen constructed large tanks,
which were filled with water from the Foggy River. Ordinary citizens
(those who claimed to have traveled to Muggles were considered
too biased to use) were held under the water for various times
and their behavior observed. Short immersions had little effect,
but longer immersions caused Wild Movements, Increased Respiration,
and Strange Sounds. Thus the Externalist Scholars produced the
Hard Data on what Traveling to Muggles did to people.
Some said, "This is certainly true, but why do citizens risk
the wrath of the constables for this? Perhaps there is more Truth
to be found elsewhere?"
A few Scholars of other schools used experienced Travelers in
their tanks of water and found very different results, but theirs
is a minor tale, as there were so few of them.
This book is the work of a Scholar of Another School who believed
that while men could lie, many men would also try to tell the
Truth as best they could. He read the books of the Scholars and
talked with many experienced Travelers, and asked himself "
What could we find out if many experienced Travelers to the land
of Muggles were all asked the same questions, instead of letting
each talk only of the things he loves?" So he tested many
experienced Travelers, and, after eliminating those few who readily
told bizarre stories, he found there was Meaningfulness in what
they said Now this Scholar has made a Map of the whole land of
Muggles, so perhaps new Royal Expeditions and Studies can find
their way to the Important Places in Muggles and bring back Knowledge
and, perhaps, Riches.