09 April 2007

Further light on ancient history

My supervised period of ‘education’ or of acquisition of qualifications had been ruined, and left me with no usable qualifications at all, which I could easily have acquired for myself at an early age without interference.

So I had been cheated out of everything that could make my life worth living and thrown out without a Professorship or an institutional (hotel) environment, with no tolerable way of earning money, nor with any claim on ‘social security’ when I had no money.

I know you have heard it all before, but I have to keep repeating it because no one ever registers it.

So my four years at the SPR were pretty terrible even though I divided my time between London and Oxford and wrote a postgraduate thesis which I hoped would get me back into an academic career, or at least on a track that could lead to a Professorship and a residential college (hotel) environment. I had not counted on that, in view of the great hostility to me which there evidently was, and in view of the uncertainty inherent in all affairs.

So I had been making plans for the setting up of a research institute in Oxford to work on some of the areas which I had come to know about and perceived as areas of potential research. I appeared to have support from Sir George Joy and W.H. Salter in these plans. What was of the greatest importance to me was that it should be set up on a large enough scale to provide the hotel environment from the lack of which I was, after four barren years, suffering severely.

Then, I thought, I would be able to return to life and be able to experience some sense of wellbeing again, even if I did not have a Professorship – yet. I was going to need a Domestic Bursar and a porter-handyman to keep the hotel environment running, as a residential college has. I had discussed this with Sir George and Salter, ostensibly without arousing opposition. After all, they had both spent their lives in adequate hotel environments which ran autonomously, Sir George as a colonial Governor and Salter as an independent gentleman.

This, however, was the crucial goal, not to do nominal ‘research’ while continuing to live in circumstances of painful constriction which would make it impossible for anything to be done except as a chore which drained my energy still further.

The opposition aroused by Rosalind Heywood was, however, aimed at depriving me of precisely what I needed to have. I had made use of the fact that the fields of research were so uncharted that experimental work needed to be done on a certain scale, to show that an institution with considerable laboratory facilities was needed to tackle the problem, not mentioning to anyone but Sir George and Salter my desperate need for a hotel (college) environment.

Rosalind Heywood, however, having aroused universal opposition to me and my plans, forced me into the most painful position possible. I was to have no hotel environment but to be expected to ‘do research’ while struggling to support myself and associates without a salary and without eligibility for income support.

Experimental work is nominally ‘research’ and I was to be forced, not only to live without a salary or any means of career progression, but to do the very smallest and crudest type of experimental work. Even a single multi-channel EEG would be too expensive, a stroboscope provided a crude correlation with one factor that could have been measured with an EEG, so to get a tiny income supplement out of the SPR research committee I would be forced to test one single hypothesis about success at ESP and examine whether, at this level of crude approximation, this hypothesis (of little interest in itself except as justifying work on a much larger scale with as many channels of information as possible) could or could not be confirmed.

Such a type of ‘research’ could only be of interest if done for career progression, and none of our academic consultants attempted to get it accepted as a way of working towards re-entry to an academic career, either for myself or for the one of my associates who actually did the work of taking the readings.

I could not, in such circumstances, and probably not in any circumstances, do that sort of thing myself. (Nor could Professor Eysenck who, however, was in a position to rationalise his aversion to touching experimental equipment, but willingness to supervise the work of several people who were using it to extract information, by saying, ‘I don’t use the equipment myself. I think one should leave that to the experts, and stick to doing what one is good at.’ — I.e. writing the papers drawing conclusions from the experimental information.)

Anyway, I am sure Rosalind Heywood knew very well how cruel she was being. She did not make any attempt to get even the one of my associates who did the work back onto a career track as a psychologist. So in effect this associate was doing pointless and tedious work for a very bad rate of pay from the SPR Research Committee for the sake of being slandered as a person who had deliberately chosen a life of poverty and degradation for the sake of an enthusiastic ‘interest’ in some particular field of research. This also prevented her (the associate) from having any time available to help me with doing anything that might have been a bit less excoriating and futile, such as writing books, or even fragments of writing that could one day be incorporated into a book.

So we were not only deprived of the institutional environment which my research institute had been set up to provide, but forced to spend time doing work of the most futile and wearing kind as if we were ‘free to follow our interests.’

It was in these circumstances that I put as much pressure as possible on Sir George and Salter by spending money on fundraising, and contre toute attente, as the French might say, I did manage to land a small amount of funding from Cecil Harmsworth King.

This was a case of snatching a partial and temporary alleviation of my position from the jaws of defeat.

The prospects had seemed really bad but I had known that I had no option but to go on with this line of approach, even if for the rest of my life. When the King money was signed, sealed and delivered, a post-graduate ‘friend’ said, sado-sympathetically (I mean with a kind of retrospective relish), ‘You were looking really bad, you know, before this turned up.’

The money was not enough to provide for much of a hotel environment, but I spent as much of it as I could on part-time cooks, cleaners, etc., and began to gain experience of the difficulties of getting anyone to do anything useful in the modern world.

Meanwhile the wolves prowled and howled outside my incipient Research Institute cum Residential College, waiting for the money to run out.