Book Review – The Third Man Factor

Post by blogger | December 8, 2009      

Do you believe in angels? If you Google your way to some angel research, you’ll find that polls show around 1/2 or more of Americans believing in some sort of heavenly beings — many believing in the classic sense that these beings sometimes involve themselves in our affairs.

We have so much snow here at WildSnow HQ that Im glad I dug out Geiger's book and started looking for some help from my Third Man, as my shovel arm is about to give out.

We've got so much snow here at WildSnow HQ that I'm glad I dug out Geiger's book and started looking for some help from my Third Man.

Of course, science is always here to break up the party and prove angels to be figments of the mind, most often experienced during times of extreme duress due to some sort of poorly understood brain chemistry. But over the years I’ve heard of quite a few angelic encounters, convincing me that that the existence of angels as a species (I use that as a term of art) is something to ponder — or perhaps even believe.

In his book “The Third Man Factor,” John Geiger explores both the above possibilities, along with other explanations for supernatural entities manifesting in our lives. But this book isn’t so much about science, or theories — or religious doctrine. Instead, Geiger has produced an amazing compendium of personal stories about what’s known as the “Third Man,” an entity encountered by humans at the end of their rope (sometimes even literally). Some of these experiences are of an actual additional team member. In others, the Third Man is a sensed presence. Either way, in most of Geiger’s stories the Third Man leads people out of trouble or at least helps them maintain their sanity through an ordeal.

What a fascinating subject. While an astounding quantity of stories about the Third Man weigh Geiger’s book down a bit, you’ll leave this read knowing that in the scheme of human experience (perhaps since the dawn of humanity), many of us have experienced some sort of entity or helper when things get tough.

Though brief, one of the best stories in the book is about Herman Buhl’s experience of a “second” (this time) man during his 1953 solo first ascent and subsequent death march back down Nanga Parbat. Buhl’s epic included a night spent standing by a boulder at about 26,600 feet, near the summit. Few open bivouacs have been survived on top of 8,000 meter peaks. But, then he had to descend — without his ice ax which he’d left to flag the summit. That’s when his mystical companion joined him, providing words of caution as well as a sense of companionship that got him down the mountain. That Buhl made it home is amazing, and his survival is still one of the all-time great stories in mountaineering. Fascinating that he had the help of a mysterious companion.

Skeptics will of course say the Third Man is a creation of the subconscious mind. People of faith will claim angels. Either way, once you read the variety of experience that Geiger has compiled, you realize the experience can be as real as having a flesh and blood person appear out of thin air and say “this is the way home.”


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13 Responses to “Book Review – The Third Man Factor”

  1. Lou December 8th, 2009 9:45 am

    And, if I can ever get my angle/angel typos straight…

  2. scottyb December 8th, 2009 11:01 am

    One of angels primary functions is to help mankind, the key is you have to ask for their help. They are not allowed to intercede with out this due to “free will”, on the other hand a spirit guide can do quite abit for one so long as you are listening. :angel:

  3. OLDDUDE December 8th, 2009 12:03 pm

    The brain and it’s workings are “magic” enough to explain all these phenomenums without resorting to angels and other assorted ghosts and goblins. On the other hand I suppose it doesnt hurt anyone to hold these beliefs?If you are a believer I would like to know why the angels never lead the hard pitches or break trail. I’m sure we all appreciate the moral support but some real sweat occassionally would be nice.

  4. Nick December 8th, 2009 12:55 pm

    Thanks for the review Lou, I’ve been thinking of reading it.

    And summer isn’t warmer in the southern hemisphere :biggrin:

  5. david December 8th, 2009 6:53 pm

    Another book, “Explorers of the Infinite”, discusses this topic along with other spiritual connections between “extreme” athletes and their environments. Pretty fascinating accounts, several including a “third man”.

  6. ScottN December 8th, 2009 7:40 pm

    Thanks for the post Lou. Always a good reminder that there is more to this life than what we see day in and day out. Therein lies the ultimate questions about life. Hope you’re doing well, especially now that we got all those snow finally!

  7. Steven December 8th, 2009 7:40 pm

    Always great to see a book pick. I will add it to the list. Have you ever read the book “in the path of an avalanche” by Vivien Bowers Lou? It is probably my favorite backcountry skiing related book out there.

  8. John Dillman December 8th, 2009 9:50 pm

    Lou, I really enjoyed the Third Man Factor. I went back and read some of the personal accounts, including Rob Talyor’s in The Breach. Do you think Geiger was aware that Taylor used an pseudonym for Henry Barber as the partner that left him injuried on Kilo after their attempt on the Breach? I thought it was well known after what, 30 years?.

  9. Ken December 9th, 2009 6:23 pm

    Yep, got killed once. Rose above my body, watched my buddies freak out. Tried to tell them how cool it was, but they couldn’t hear. I wanted them to be happy for me, but they were having no part of it.
    Being formally trained as a redneck, this stuff sounds like a bunch of whacko hooey, so I don’t often share it. Sorry Lou if this is too much, I won’t be offended if you don’t approve this one.
    Here is where it gets weird… I saw many and met a few wispy luminous greenish gold fog entities! They ranged in height from about 3 to 4 feet, had a gold glow in their core, were lucent around the edges and tapered at the bottom like a tail. Though they to be made of fog, they moved as if they had mass and momentum and were not effected by the wind which was strong at the time.
    I was shocked when the first ones to see me, four young girls, laughed ’cause I was a “new guy.” Shortly, more senior beings appeared and the others hid their laughter out of respect. With the exception of lacking physical bodies, they all seemed perfectly human… things to do, humor, age and gender specific body language, etc. There were lots of them, all going about what appeared to be a routine. I could easily hear what they had to say to me, but they could also communicate without my hearing. They all straightened up as some dark things (like in the movie Ghost when the bad guy is dragged down presumably to hell) came up from the ground to check me out, but left as if frustrated to be empty handed.
    Thought, knowledge and memory were not linear, one thing after the other, but all at once. Vision was vivid, in all directions and solid objects could be looked through. The senior beings seemed to know everything about me. They conferred and informed me that it was not my time, that I had to go back and I would not remember. BUT I did!
    I awoke in intense pain!
    Later I recounted details that I could not possibly have seen during my event.
    Since then I have had many unusual remote viewings of bad thing happening to others. Among them, the avalanche death of Chip Johnson in Aspen. In several of these cases (Chip included) I promptly informed trusted (and rational) friends who soon found out that the viewings were scary accurate and in some cases directly related to them.
    On a few occasions I have narrowly dodged certain death after having been visited by (and fortunately listened to) some watchful presence.
    Once I was returning a climb when, for no reason I jammed the brakes from 75mph to about 20. As we were late, my partner complained “what the heck are you doing?” Not know why I said uncharacteristicaly “Dear?” to her. Just around the corner were about ten large mule deer (not dear) which would have been totally unavoidable.
    Another time I was guiding on Mt. Shasta when my whole group was saved under what were, in their minds, extremely uncanny circumstances. Before the event unfolded, I felt embarassed and unprofessional for behaving irrationally and thought “there went my tip.” I got a huge tip.
    I dearly wish I could actually do something useful and helpful with this unusual ability, but I have yet to discover what that might be.
    Not sure, but being human might not be the most significant part of our existence. Dying might suck, but if everyone knew how cool being “dead” is, there would be a lot more people in a hurry to get there. One comforting thing I can share is that I saw that you absolutely do not stop being you once you are done with your body.
    Ken Ward ;^)
    Aspen ’82 – ’90, Ashland OR

  10. scottyb December 10th, 2009 4:24 pm

    Ken, you have things to do. Have you ever heard of “light work”. 😉

  11. Ken December 10th, 2009 4:32 pm

    Hi ScottyB, No, what is “Light Work?” I googled it… tons of stuff. Is my post is too much? Ken ;^)

  12. tob December 10th, 2009 7:33 pm

    i’m not religious or really spiritual at all, but six years ago, soloing in the north cascades, i fell and badly gored, actually, completely impaled myself on my iceaxe. in the few agonizing and terrible hours it took me to get back to my car and drive to the nearest phone, i ‘sensed’ a little girl with me. she was probably about 2 or 3. i’m not sure if she told me or what, but i knew for some reason that she was going to be my child and that i had to survive so she could come into being. my daughter, maeva, is 13 months old now. i’m not sure she is the same one that i thought was with me then, but i’m overjoyed to have been able to meet her.

  13. Lou December 10th, 2009 9:42 pm

    What a cool story Tob! Thanks for making our evening. And thanks Ken as well. Amazing where the land of wild snow takes us, is it not?

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