Let no one say I don't have an open mind on the possibility of intelligent life existing on other planets.
It's true that, in the sixth form at school, I once took part in a debate in which I opposed the motion, "This house believes
that UFOs are visitors from another planet", but I was careful to point out that I had no proof for my argument; I merely
felt that the balance of probability lay in the opposite direction. One of the reasons I had an opinion at all was that I
had spent a considerable amount of time reading up on the subject, one which often captures the imagination of children and
Dr H, the author of this book, prefers to remain anonymous (though, of course, I know his real name), perhaps
on the grounds that he doesn't want to be mistaken for a loony. Although he has a degree in physics, he is not so much a scientist
as a self-confessed "mystic" who believes in alien life forms as an act of faith rather than requiring scientific evidence
to back up his claim that "UFOs are interstellar travelers". However, he does cite some references, the most important being
The Humanoids, a collection of studies first published in 1969 and now only available by mail order from an address
in the village of Snodland, Kent - for some reason, this amused me. But I repeat that my mind is by no means closed to Dr
Jumping Lightyears, with its classy, gimmickless white cover and lucid, orderly contents, will appeal
to those who seek respectability for their belief in extra-terrestrial beings. That is, as long as they can avoid reading
the back cover blurb with its potted biography of Dr H, telling us, amongst other things, that he has experienced the "Illumination
of Fire", whatever that may be. If I sound sceptical, I don't mean to be dismissive. I would really like to believe that the
power of the mind makes it possible to make the jump over the hundreds of light years to which the book's title refers. The
crux of the argument is that only spiritually-evolved life forms are capable of interstellar travel. However, I remain puzzled
as to how topics such as "phonetic English" (by which Dr H means English as she is spoke by Americans, not by the likes of
me) are meant to contribute to our understanding of the process.
I don't have sufficient knowledge of physics to argue with the
scientific content, of which there is more than enough to satisfy anyone who wants to feel they are reading a "serious" book
about space travel. Interstellar travel, I should say, since the whole point of Dr H's theory is that there is no need to
enter space in order to get from one solar system to another. His thesis is that, since the laws of science demonstrate that
such travel is a physical impossibility, the only way to achieve it is through the kind of activities we would describe as
"supernatural". Fair enough. But in order to accept this idea, you first have to accept that earth has received visitors from
other planets in the past, and this is not proven.
Dr H goes on to explain how the human race can hope to evolve
to the point where it possesses the power to emulate the feat that advanced alien cultures have already achieved. He does
this by delving deep into a variety of subjects including ecology, equality, freedom, terrorism, murder, and so on. One can't
help feeling that he is straying far beyond his original brief. What he is really doing is outlining his personal philosophy
of life, and the title, Jumping Lightyears, would be a reasonable metaphor for the kind of quantum leap in thinking
that he requires of us, if the book were not subtitled "The Evolution of Interstellar Travel". By the final chapters, the
author seems to have forgotten why he started the book, and is talking about his meditation practices.
Suffice it to say that, if you open this book wanting to learn
more about visitors from other planets, you are liable to be disappointed. If, however, you begin reading with a spirit of
inquiry and no particular axe to grind, you will find much that is thought-provoking. It is really a book for those seeking
spiritual enlightenment, if that doesn't sound too pretentious. Dr H may not be a run-of-the-mill individual, but there is
no evidence that he is demented. He has ideas to impart, some of which a reader may find interesting or helpful. I could wish
he had found a better hook to hang them on.
Review by Deborah Fisher