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Reality, wrote Philip K. Dick, is what’s still there even after you stop believing in it. Thus an enlightened man in our age of science may well speculate on the notion that our bodies, like the walls of the room we are in, are all made up of atoms. And atoms, for their part, contain a lot of empty space. So shouldn’t it be possible to somehow flexibly merge the atoms of one’s body with those of the wall and pass right on through? Of course, the wall may have something to say about it.

The wall, however, never stopped Gen. Stubblebine, the United States Army’s chief of intelligence in the early 1980s, from believing in mind over matter, despite the damage to his nose. (So much for the school of hard knocks.) Stubblebine, who was also fascinated with supposed mystical superpowers such as levitation, psychic healing and time travel, was convinced that one day he’d walk right through that wall.

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