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  On Being Stoned

    Charles T. Tart, Ph. D.

        A Fable

    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 and safe?
    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 at all?
    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.


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