Monday, April 22, 2013

A Review of The Gold Leaf Lady

Stephen E. Braude's memoirs of his field work in parapsychology begins with a veritable laundry list of criticism equally divided between the gullible and the skeptics alike which to my reading experience is something of a rarity and a breath of fresh air regardless of the fact that it seemingly represents a substantial chip carried on his shoulder. Who is Mr Braude?

Stephen E. Braude is an American philosopher and parapsychologist. He is a past president of the Parapsychological Association, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Scientific Exploration, and a professor of philosophy at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is also an accomplished jazz pianist and composer. Braude received his Phd. in philosophy from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1971. After working as a lecturer in the philosophy department at UMass Amherst, he found a permanent home at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, working successively as an assistant, associate, and full professor. He served as the Chair of the Philosophy department between 1998 and 2005. He has received numerous fellowships, awards, and grants including but not limited to the National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellowship, numerous grants from the Parapsychology Foundation, and the Distinguished Achievement Award of the International Society for the Study of Dissociation. He has also received several Faculty Research Grants from UMBC. Hopefully this provides some context.

One of several themes in this book is the enormous amount of difficulty he experienced with misrepresentations, over active imaginations and the skewing of results due to the fragile nature of the subjects in relation to their sensitivity toward the environment. Another is a very interesting observation on his part that often various phenomena occur to individuals who are experiencing stress, depression or simply have the misfortune to have a life immersed in bad luck. Yet, some surprising results are not diluted or affected by these these states of mind as in fact, according to Braude,  these biochemical changes, or susceptibility seem to be a marker for the probability of anomalous phenomenon occurring, which in of itself, is a somewhat provocative observation.
From Ted Serios to lesser known avatars Stephen runs the gauntlet despite continuing frustrations from both his subjects and his compatriots who are prone to exaggerations, making his quest all the more difficult and yet, he sticks to his journey like glue armed with what he terms, a crap detector. An unusual term coming from a University Professor of Philosophy such that it is, this is a frank and revealing book that to this author, that is  in stark contrast to most popular media infotainments and that is a compliment from yours truly.
If I (even once) read the so called terms, vortex or demon in this tome, I would have consigned it to the trash can... but fortunately, if anything, Mr Braude possess an open mind balanced with common sense, which is a quality you cannot learn in school or on television, for that matter.
Everything we learn in this field is from individuals like Braude who put up with formidable barriers and stereotypes as well as the sleazy and simplistic counter arguments of intellectually lazy skeptics.
It's a good read.


  1. Braude is masterful, as you say a rare breath of fresh air. I have been plugging Braude for years to anybody who will listen (and to many who will not). In a sane intellectual culture, Braude would be well-known. Instead of course our culture is anything but sane, thoughtful and genuinely scientific. Everybody knows who Richard Dawkins is - a second-rate mediocre scientist with his village atheism; yet who knows of, who reads Braude, and other heretics (in the best sense of the word) such as Vallee, Hillary Evans and yes John Keel (for all his faults)?

    The Gold Leaf Lady was recently made available for free from the University of Chicago Press (a pleasant surprise), if you are a subscriber to their monthly free e-books that is.

  2. Lawrence
    As Braude detailed, it is difficult enough to capture lightning in a jar while fighting a two front war with armchair skeptics. I don't know if you are aware of this but Keel's field notes have \ are being published online.I don't have the URL handy but I think it's easily found
    Best wishes
    Bruce D