The Strange Science and True Stories of the Unseen Other
by Ben Alderson-Day
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Pub Date 28 Mar 2023 | Archive Date 11 Apr 2023
A psychologist's journey to understand one of the most unusual experiences known to humankind: the universal, disturbing feeling that someone or something is there when we are alone.
These experiences of sensing a Presence when no one else is there have been given many names—the Third Man, guardian angels, shadow figures, “social” hallucinations—and they have inspired, unsettled, and confounded in equal measure.
While the contexts in which they occur are diverse, they are united by a distinct and uncanny feeling of visitation by another. But what does this feeling mean, and where does it come from? When and why do presences emerge? And how can we even begin to understand a phenomenon that can be transformative for those who experience it, and yet so hard to put into words?
The answers to these questions lie in this tour-de-force through contemporary psychology, psychiatry, neuroscience, and philosophy. Presence follows Ben Alderson-Day's attempts—as a psychologist and a researcher—to understand how this experience is possible. What is a voice when it isn’t heard, and how otherwise do we know or feel that someone is in our presence? Is it a hallucination connected to psychosis, a change in the working of the brain, or something else?
The journey to understand takes us to meet explorers, mediums, and robots, and step through real, imagined, and virtual worlds. Presence is the story of who we carry with us, at all times, as parts of ourselves.
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Average rating from 8 members
This book was truly remarkable. I loved the incorporation of first person accounts and case studies as well as the diverse opinions of other scholars. It's a fascinating read and one I can't recommend highly enough. If you're intersted in the paranormal and aberrant psychology, this is the book for you!
Scholars want answers and Dr. Ben Alderson-Day has spent years researching what he calls a “presence” which encompasses the unknown. He digs deep into what causes people to have visions when something is not there or when people hear voices that are silent to everyone else. The title made me curious what this is about.
This book takes us on a journey of shared experiences that cannot be explained in a scientific way. He tells stories of those that have talked about “silent companions” while they’re in the midst of extreme conditions. He reviews reports of what happens when patients hallucinate with Parkinson’s disease, dementia, psychosis and schizophrenia. He examines various sleep patterns, sleepwalking episodes and nightmares. And, of course psychics are included in the book with words of wisdom from spirits.
The author brings up the concept of someone with two minds: what’s real and what’s imagined. A participant from a survey said, “If the ‘voice’ of a good book gets into my head, it can seep into my own experience of the world, and I find myself thinking in that voice, as that character, while carrying out normal activities.” This happens to many of us. One scientist said, “There are probably daemon voices whispering to all of us all the time, and we have forgotten how to hear them.”
The book includes several quotes from doctors, professors, and scientists – some which were more interesting to me. I imagine the author’s desk is packed with a pile of notes everywhere or maybe they’re all stacked up in his mind. He did a remarkable job sharing this information. It’s a good book for discussions.
My thanks to Ben Alderson-Day, St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for allowing me to read this advanced copy with an expected release date of March 28, 2023.
Instagram and YouTube Short both scheduled to go live Feb 21st
Presence by Ben Alderson-Day is one of the sort of niche topic non-fiction books I love. This book looks specifically at the idea of unseen presences. Not always unheard, as a good portion of the book covers those that hear voices, but the presence of someone or something unseen. This could be the sleep paralysis demon you wake up too on your chest or just the feeling of someone looking over your shoulder.
Mr. Alderson-Day takes the time to speak both with first person accounts of all these types of iterations of presences (when possible) and to speak with specialists. Some of these are doctors and patients who hear or see things. Others are long distance travelers (like the man who rowed across the ocean). The stories are fascinating and really tie together things you wouldn’t immediately think of when you think ‘presence’. He even briefly touches on mythology and delves into some spiritualism and faith based presences.
It could be possible with that many perspectives and mini-topics under this book to loose track or get bogged down but this clearly pulls through, keeping a strong line through each chapter and section to a solid conclusion (as solid as one can get on this). That ultimately made this book incredibly readable and kept me hooked in through to the end.
This was possibly one of the better non-fiction books I’ve read this year and I’ll certainly be referring to it in the future. Not only did I learn from this but my partner got to be the recipient of the classic ‘Listen to this!’, always the mark of a good nonfiction book. Presence is a solid, approachable read on a sometimes spooky and always intriguing topic. I highly recommend it for anyone interested!
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