It is becoming commonly accepted nowadays that recent discoveries in modern natural science suggest that science is not incompatible with mysticism. In The Quest for the Fourth Monkey, Sylvia Fraser, who always seems to have her finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist, takes this idea and runs with it. Having read several popularizations of modern physics, biology, and so on, and having had psychic experiences herself, Fraser argues that such discoveries-for example, that quanta behave in unpredictable ways that are contrary to the materialistic, causal hypotheses of classical mechanics-suggest that science does not rule out the possibility of, say, telepathy. Indeed, she goes even further than this, arguing that among her sources there are a "visionary few" who see that such discoveries suggest that science in fact describes a universe "in which time and space have no more ultimate reality than a rainbow," that science itself is a form of myth, the "New Mysticism". Fraser concludes that the path is now open to us to quest for "the fourth monkey"-that is, to rediscover the mystical side of us that has, at least since the Enlightenment, been suppressed.
The merit of this book lies not so much in Fraser's argument-it is odd that she uses science as evidence for mysticism but at the same time claims that science itself is myth-as in what it shows us about ourselves. We might wonder, for example, why it is becoming so accepted that because quantum physics shows that classical mechanics cannot explain everything, or that at the very minutest level our explanatory powers fail, we feel compelled to abandon science and turn mystical. The assumption that seems to underlie such behaviour is that a scientific theory has to be absolutely complete-that it has to explain everything-to be believable: it is either total evidence (not just a whole lot) or we start looking again at chicken entrails. In other words, it is science that is always on trial: it must vindicate itself entirely by demonstrating that there is not a smidgen of darkness anywhere, or it is set aside or condemned, even by its own practitioners. Why would we make such an assumption? Are we mystics at heart? Are we not rational beings, but believers? Far from being "a thinker's guide to the psychic and spiritual revolution", Ms. Fraser's book helps us see why, ever since Socrates (if not before), thinkers have had such a tough row to hoe.