31 October 2010

Simon Cowell's £165m: is it enough?

Discussing the rivalry of two people called Simon Cowell and Simon Fuller, today's Mail on Sunday Review quotes someone as saying: ‘This is not about money – both men have more money than they could spend in their lifetimes.’ They are said to have £165m and £350m respectively. Well, that is taking a distinctly limited view of what they might want to do in their lifetimes.

Suppose, like me, they need to set up an independent university to be productive in many areas of research, starting with just one residential college, at least one scientific research department with laboratories, a few departments for purely intellectual research in philosophy, history, education, etc, and a university printing press to publish books. I do not think £350m would go all the way to setting up such an establishment and running it for long, as deriving an income from capital becomes ever more hazardous.

But do not get me wrong. I would be very pleased to be given any lesser amount and would make the most productive use of it that I could.

In the same issue of the Review, there is a two-page article by a salaried academic called Ian Morris about his own tendentious and fashionable views, reminding one of the burning need for a historical department to be set up under my auspices to publish criticisms of such views, along with a more realistic account of the rise and ongoing fall of Western civilisation. The article in the Review is introduced by this paragraph:

Last week, historian Ian Morris revealed how, at the end of the last Ice Age, a simple accident of geography gave the West the advantages that led to it dominating the world for the last two centuries. His argument forces us to accept that our success was nothing to do with superior brains, leaders or culture – and that the East is on the brink of taking over. That idea may be hard to get used to . . .

No, it isn’t hard to get used to. It has been prevalent for a long time. What would be hard to get used to would be the accounts of the situation that my history department would publish if it were able to. And it should be able to; only financial support is needed to make it so.

Professor Ian Morris is at Stanford University, where research on lucid dreams was carried out for decades by salaried academics, and may still be being carried out – without any funding being offered to me to enable me to continue contributing to the development of this field of research, which had been initiated by me.

27 October 2010

Lucid dreams: watching others get the benefit

copy of a letter to a journalist

When you came you asked me whether I regretted having written the first book on lucid dreams, and I should like to answer that in writing. It may be too late for your article, but I am often asked similar questions by journalists, and maybe when I have written it down it can go in my forthcoming book.

In my previous letter to you I referred to academics who make applications for funding for a project, don’t get any, and then find someone else is doing a similar project. Do you suppose they regret making the application? Of course with hindsight they may think that if they had known the outcome they would not have bothered. However, they could only have found out what the outcome would be by making the application, so in a sense I suppose they do not regret having made the attempt.

My position about lucid dreams is similar. I had no wish to write a book about lucid dreams, and would not have done so if I had had any way of proceeding with actual laboratory research on lucid dreams or on anything else, but all the possible sources of funding with which I had contact were impervious. So I made what was in effect an application for funding. I had no way of doing that except by publicising to the world my acquaintance with this potential field of research.

Of course, the academic who finds his ideas being copied has no cause for complaint. His ideas are not protected by patent or copyright, and if he makes them known to the personnel of a grant-giving body they may leak. There is no law against insider dealing in this area. In any case, even if there were, he would find it difficult to pin anything on anybody, unless his application drew on unpublished material known only to himself and this clearly appeared in the design of the other person’s project. This is very unlikely to be the case, and if specialised information is not involved, the other academic can always claim that he thought up the project independently. Great minds are said to think alike, and mediocre ones certainly do.

And, of course, it does the rejected academic no real harm (unless you count emotional bitterness as harmful) to see someone else implementing his ideas. In this respect, however, the emotional pain has been decidedly more severe in my case in relation to lucid dreams than that of the average rejected academic is likely to be. The academic has his status and salary; a certain modicum of lifestyle and intellectual activity is assured. I was attempting to compensate for my lack of these things by getting funding to enable me to live a decent academic life, and this was a desperate long shot at best.

It therefore caused me some intensity of despair to observe that one of my long shots had in fact succeeded to the extent of providing other people, already safely on academic career tracks, with a field of research. As the minimal funding which had made possible the writing of the book had run out, there was no way in which I could hope to improve on the application for funding which I had just made. A person on a desert island cannot exactly say that he regrets having fired a distress rocket without success; he understands what led him to do it, and in the same circumstances he would do the same again. But if I had known what the consequences of initiating this field of research would be I might have refrained. The expansion of work and interest in this field can only appear to someone in my position as a cruel mockery of it, a refinement of torture which I could have done without.


I am applying, and shall continue to apply, for Professorships and Research Lectureships in psychology and other subjects – without as yet having ever been shortlisted – in order to develop the possibilities opened up by my pioneering work in lucid dreaming and other areas.

I continue also to apply for funding for a residential college cum research department within which to carry out research work, to increase the claim of myself and others here to fully salaried senior academic appointments in Oxford, Cambridge or overseas universities of approximately equivalent status.

22 October 2010

An appeal to Harvard

I try to know as little as possible about what research or pseudo-research is being done in subjects in which I am being prevented from doing research myself, including (and especially) those which were initiated by our pioneering work in those fields. The work we did when we had the Cecil King money was intended to obtain funding for further work in those fields in circumstances equivalent to those enjoyed by salaried academics, either immediately associated with an adequate appointment in a university, or leading to one as rapidly as possible.

Actually the work on out-of-the-body experiences and lucid dreams, although as groundbreaking as it could possibly be in such bad and constricted circumstances, led to no positive result for me at all.

Instead, research started to be done in these areas by academics who already had salary, status and access to facilities etc.

Now I see, blood-boilingly as usual, an item in the Daily Mail about ‘research’ on lucid dreams at Harvard, etc. What their psychological advantages are supposed to be, and what sort of people are supposed to have them.

I have already put on our website a request for all those who have ‘worked’ on lucid dreams, as part of a normal salaried career, to make a contribution of at least £1000 per annum towards supporting me and enabling me eventually to do something, bearing in mind that I have to provide myself with an institutional environment and ancillary staff.

I hereby make a further appeal to those researchers at Harvard who are able to make comfortable careers in an area that probably would not exist at all without my efforts, to make a similar contribution, in recognition of the injustice which keeps me in a position of constriction and inability to develop the area which I pioneered.

I also appeal to anyone interested in the advancement of scientific knowledge to contribute as substantially as possible to the costs of setting up a research department within my organisation.

06 October 2010

A cottage with a view

copy of a letter to a salaried academic

Things go on here without getting any better, and without anyone ever responding to our appeals for help of all kinds.

At the moment, for example, there is a way in which someone could give us some help, although we know that in general people do not want to give us any help, and want us not to get any.

A cottage very near to us is up for rent. We are very constricted for space and if someone were to rent this cottage and let us have the use of the whole of it, or some rooms, it would be a great help and a great relief. This is a pleasant village with good views and near to Oxford, so someone could use it as a second home for holidays, or come to live in it sometimes when they were visiting us, say as a senior supporter or a voluntary worker.

We might have a bit more success in getting temporary workers if we were able to offer them free accommodation in a nearby house.

Anyway, it would be a great help. We are too short-staffed at present to consider renting it ourselves; also, the rooms are a bit too small for one of us to want to live there on a permanent basis. It has no garden to speak of, but a patio-style area where one can have pot plants, with views over a valley. The village pub is a few minutes away and its food is not too unhealthy.

I know it is probably hopeless to tell people about this. However, I may be able to put this letter on my blog, although so far that has always been fruitless too.