Copy of a letter to someone who asked for a signed copy of our “Apparitions” book.
Charles said you wanted to have a signed copy of Apparitions (which we wrote, so long ago, as a sighting shot) and this reminded me of an anecdote about one of the more unusual types of hallucinatory experience. These have of course received little attention because they do not fit in with the preferred spiritualist model.
Sometimes a feature of the environment is consistently seen as being there by a certain person, less often by more than one person.
An academically successful Chinese lady, very socialist and materialist in outlook, told me this story as having happened in a high school or college in Korea (I think). One of the girl students told another that whenever she went to the toilet she looked at herself in a mirror which was on the wall, and always saw herself as more beautiful than she really was. The other girl said, "But there is no mirror in that toilet". The girl who had seen it there was too scared ever to go into that toilet again.
It seemed clear enough from our appeals that there is a wide variety of such experiences with consistent characteristics and it was very shocking to find, not only that we would not be allowed to do any kind of research on a more adequate scale, but that we would prevented even from continuing to do appeals of the same kind on the same fairly constricted basis. There was endless scope for such appeals both in the fields in which we had already made them and in others, and we had surely demonstrated our ability to get information out of them which was in advance of anything previous. We could have gone on getting a lot (on normal terms) out of research of this kind, but we were squeezed into total inactivity, although appeals mimicking ours were made by other people in salaried academic positions, without any constructive results and with very tendentious encouragement of misinterpretation.
Hallucinatory experiences shed doubt on the solidity of the physical environment, a belief in which is considered desirable (in fact, in an unanalytical way, essential) to support the ideology of the oppressive society (the oppression of the individual by society). Books by academic ‘philosophers’ on the philosophy of mind may start by stating baldly in their first few pages, "There is an objective physical world which is common to all observers and observer-independent", or else assume this to be the case throughout without explicit mention of the fact that this assumption has been made.
Even the ‘psychical researchers’ of the heyday of Western civilisation were relatively blind to the hallucinatory experiences which occurred, unless the experiences suggested a model of a ‘spirit’ or conscious being with a quasi-spatial body (sometimes called the ‘astral body’) moving around in ‘normal’ physical space.