30th September 1971 the Death of T.C. Lethbridge

T.C. Lethbridge portrait by Black Sheep artist Hebbs

Today we honour the great British adventurer, author and hero, T.C. Lethbridge, the Cambridge University academic whose Timothy Leary-style volte-face midway through his illustrious archaeology career saw him newly transformed into a visionary of Blakean proportions. Out went the excellent but orthodox archaeology books about prehistoric boats and the lifestyles of the Picts, in came volume upon volume of highly conjectural though archaeologically-informed brainstorms, and each with a highly controversial title – The Legend of the Sons of God, Witches, Gogmagog: The Buried Gods, Ghost and Ghoul and The Power of the Pendulum. While Lethbridge’s erstwhile cronies soon kicked him out of their club, the great man found an almost Catherine Blake-like consort in his second wife, Mina, and the final twelve years of his ambitious life saw the evermore portly Lethbridge pursuing his adventures within more psychic dimensions. It could be argued that Lethbridge would have slipped into total obscurity had it not been for Colin Wilson’s masterful biography in his 1979 epic tome, Mysteries. Most of my own generation of Lethbridge fans seem to cite Wilson’s work as their first introduction to Lethbridge. Thereafter, however, the books once searched out spoke for themselves; every one was a slim gem – often of no more than 75–100 pages in length. Far from being fanciful, they were clearly the work of a man’s life experience (and a rich and cultured experience at that). Even better, when he took risks he admitted that they were risks but at all times offered to his reader a complete and highly thought-out worldview. That his legacy appears to have only been taken up by artists, rock and rollers and freaks says much about the manner in which Lethbridge portrayed himself. He was a swashbuckler. He was an Indiana Jones. He was adversarial in all things.

[Written by Julian Cope]

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4 Responses to 30th September 1971 – the Death of T.C. Lethbridge

  1. Anonymous says:

    Sounds like T.C. Lethbridge started finding the Scientific method and it’s demand for Utter Certainty to be restrictive and so threw it out in favour of Personal Experience, rather than relying on the Authority of Scientific Establishmentarianism.

    “Try to see the truth in what I am saying rather than to test it for falsifi-ability — that is the correct approach to a Magical theory. While Scientists compete to disprove or reject ideas, Magicians compete to accept them. This approach worries rationalists who fear that such a gullible attitude must lead down a slippery slope into delusion. The Magical method is to act ‘as if ’ a theory is correct until it has done its job, and only then to replace it with another theory. A theory only fails if it cannot take hold in the mind and allow one to act ‘as if ’. As long as this approach is carried out properly — with a Magician’s understanding that the theory is being accepted only because it is ‘working’, not because it is ‘true’ — then there is little danger of
    delusion.” SSOTBME

  2. Matthew says:

    If ever there was a man that the title forward thinking should be applied to then Tom Lethbridge would be the one.
    Totally inspiring and as relevant today as the days he wrote those books. A truly great man!

  3. Jeanne Lipinska says:

    Lethbridges book have interested and inspired me for the last 40 years.He was ahead of his time and portrayed his findings with inspiration, a real gem of a man!

  4. Tim McCafffrey says:

    There is no doubt that Lethbridge was a man far ahead of his time in both in his ideas and his willingness to explore the dark corners of scientific research and look beyond the obvious. However it would have been impossible for him to fully escape the conventions of both his education and his class and indeed the era that informed his general philosophy of life. There was a certain innocence about Lethbridge and it might well be that this a useful charactor trait when one is dealing with the paranormal as the most unlikely avenues are explored. One episode from Lethbridges life involved the death of an aquantence. Though it was tragic Lethbridges description of what happened demonstrates both the innocence of the times and Lethbridges inate decency. Lethbridge relates the story of how this mans body was discovered in a locked room having tied himself up with a rope no doubt experimenting with Houdini type tricks! Now of course such deaths are relativily commonplace and the reports far more graphic. Much has been said about how Lethbridges health failed during the last decade or so of his life and also his alarming weight gain. There is no doubt that Lethbridge had substantial psychic abilities and curiously many psychics of both sexes appear to suffer from excess weight and general ill health in their later years. It is significent also that his wife Mina thought that his dowsing activities depleted his energy. I sometimes wonder if Lethbridge had not been a Camebridge man would he have achieved the same recognition by the open minded and the equel amount of condemnation from the educational establishment. It also shows how far into oblivion he had sunk when Colin Wilson never realised they were living reasonably close to each other until it was too late and Lethbridge was dead by the time Wilson tried to contact him. Was this a self imposed isolation on the part of Lethdbridge hoping to reduce the risk of being even unconsciously influenced by the ideas of people working along similar lines or was he as they say a little ‘contrary’. Whatever the reason it does not seem to have worked to his advantage either financially or any other way and might well have prevented him from achieving far more success during his lifetime that he actually did. Interest in the paranormal as we well know by now comes and goes in unpredictable cycles. Cilin Wilsons best seller ‘The Occult’ was written when there had been a huge revival of interest in the paranormal which stemmed partly from a fairly disjointed but fascinating French best seller called ‘The Morning Of The Magicians’ and also from the co-called counter culture revolution of the late 1960s. Surely the possibility exsists that had Lethbridge aquired an agent and had his books and radical ideas been properly managed he might well have up there with Colin Wison as an alternative philsopher during the 1960s and early 1970s. But thats all by the by at this stage. Lethbridge seems destined to remain a niche writer, fascinating to those of us whe regard him as a gifted and open minded investigator of the possibilities of the human mind, and a man who came closer than most to getting a grip on the tail of that smokey dragon called the paranormal. Colin Wilsons books were huge and frequent while Lethbridges were tiny and few but what they contained was pure gold.

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