13 February 2013

Causes of absenteeism in a bootlace factory

text of a letter

You said that you found our questionnaire on out-of-the-body experiences (OBEs) ‘inspirational’. Please do not imagine that I myself found it so, when Charles McCreery and I did the projects on OBEs. The projects were just the best method I had available at the time of working towards a university appointment and a professorship as soon as possible.

You may object that it was a very bad method of trying to work towards it, but my position was determined by the impossibility of getting support from my college (Somerville) for any way of getting back into a career path, for example by taking another degree in any of a wide variety of subjects as quickly as possible.

So I was lucky to find that there was a way of getting a postgraduate grant from Trinity College, Cambridge, which did not depend on support from my college, in an area of research that was new to me.

It is true that I saw the possibility of further research by me on OBEs (unbiased by the prevailing ideology) on a much larger scale as leading eventually to significant theoretical advances on important and totally ignored issues. However, doing work on the restricted scale that was possible in bad circumstances was of no greater interest to me than would have been research, on the same scale and in the same circumstances, on ‘Causes of absenteeism in a bootlace factory’.

Research of extreme theoretical importance remains possible in this area, but this is only going to happen in a future which we need to be given help in working towards. The potential importance of the research is probably the reason for OBEs having been so totally ignored before I started to make my appeals for them. It is probably also the reason why Charles and I have been deprived of any source of finance to carry on further work, while money has been lavished (relatively speaking) on people who already have academic status and salary and who can be relied upon only to do research which will not risk challenging the prevailing ideology.

Although I was, and still am, represented as having some peculiar ‘interest’ in hallucinatory experiences, it was in fact the case that my only motive for doing small-scale work in bad circumstances was to increase my claim on academic career progression with the implied improvement of circumstances.

The theoretical importance of an area of research does not make it any more rewarding (or less damaging) to do boring and tedious work in that area, without even the hotel environment and other circumstances provided by a university career that could make life worth living.

After doing the research for which I got a BLitt, and eventually a DPhil, which I had hoped would give me an entrée to some academic career path, leading as soon as possible to a professorship, I found I was actually as devoid of opportunity as before.

I was not supposed to mind if I was as outcast and destitute as before, after attempting to establish a position for myself by doing research in previously unrecognised fields. Only those who already had academic status and salary would be permitted to do work in the new fields. I and any associates I had would be left without status or income; the years of hard labour having resulted in no reward, being as totally abortive as had been the decades of work in schools and universities which had been supposed to give one access to a university career.

So society threw me out again, as badly off as if I had never been to school or college at all, admittedly now with contacts among the establishment population who could have supported me but who unfortunately had made a universal decision not to do so.

An outlaw is defined as ‘a person who has broken the law, especially who remains at large’. I remained at large, having committed sedition; hence I was an outlaw. I was neither a drugged zombie nor a wage slave, so all the more beyond the pale.

Dr McCreery, in spite of the DPhil gained by his supervised research on OBEs, found himself unable to obtain funding for further research, or an academic appointment well-paid enough to relieve the pressures of survival sufficiently for him even to make progress with writing a book based on his DPhil work. Such a book would include more discussion of individual cases and future possibilities for research than had been possible in the thesis.

We are still appealing for financial support to make possible at least this level of productivity. Dr McCreery could now proceed with the editing and publication of this and other books if he were provided with funding of at least £100,000 per annum.

As the new fields of research developed, in universities in North America and elsewhere, we hoped that Dr McCreery might also become eligible for research grants and appointments. But with no financial support at all, he could only lose ground to academics with status and salary, who were able to publish books and papers at a much greater rate, so that they became the leading ‘experts’ in the field, although their work was far less analytical and free from prejudice than his had been.

People like to talk as though, provided you stay physically alive, you are competing on equal terms with salaried academics enjoying the facilities provided by their universities.

The figure of £100,000 per annum to finance Dr McCreery’s work has to be seen in the context of his having to pay for all the facilities, staff etc. which are provided for those having university appointments. Some years ago we worked out that the average Oxford University research department was spending about £100,000 a year to support each of its research workers. There has been inflation since then, so £100,000 is probably an underestimate and much more could be done with £200,000 per annum.

05 February 2013

Letter about my Professorship applications

text of a letter

Dear ...

I attach herewith a copy of a letter which I have been sending to members of electoral committees when I apply for Oxford and Cambridge Professorships, for which I am not shortlisted.

I hope the letter will go some way to explaining how I got into a social position so bad that it not only arouses hostility against myself, but is liable also to arouse hostility against anyone, such as Dr Charles McCreery, who attempts to give me any support.

Modern education is geared against exceptional ability, which is how I came to be thrown out without a research scholarship at the end of my ruined ‘education’.

I went on, nevertheless, trying to return to an academic career by proceeding to do research independently, and this was seen as seditious, in the sense of implicitly questioning the meaningfulness of my rejection by society, and hence suggesting to the world at large that such acceptance or rejection was not the sole criterion of merit or ability.
copy of letter to members of Electoral Boards

Dear Professor [...],

I am writing to you as you are a member of the Electoral Board for the Professorship of [...].

I applied for the post in [...] and was informed later that I had not been shortlisted.

It is likely that my application was put in the ‘reject’ pile (on account of my age and other factors) before you read it. In which case I need to fully explain my situation to you.

I was a precocious child. I was reading books at the age of two; and given my extreme precocity, it was both cruel and unreasonable to expect my education to consist of taking about the normal number of exams at about the usual age. The post-war legislation which prohibited the taking of any exams at all until after the 16th birthday had a particularly terrible effect on my life. I therefore took many fewer exams and at much later ages than I could and should have done.

My life was one of agonised frustration and deprivation. I did not get to university until far too late an age, by which time I was too old and had been suffering for too long to take any interest in the process of taking a first degree. My college continued to apply the policy of refusing to accept that any problems which arose from a retarded education needed to be taken into account.

Recently people have been suing the educational system for providing them with inadequate skills and qualifications. I should have been able to sue for being left with no paper qualification with which to enter the academic career which, in view of my ability and aptitudes, I needed to have.

I did not accept that I could have any other sort of career or that life would be tolerable without a career.

In spite of my lack of paper qualifications I was perfectly well able to teach or do research in several subjects, so that the lack of a paper qualification and of support from my college was the only reason for my not applying for appointments teaching e.g. maths or physics.

My only motive in everything I did was to effect return to a full-time academic career as quickly as possible. The research I did was not determined by considerations of interest to myself but by what I could get funding for.

It may be considered that I was ill-advised to attempt to do research in what would be, even if accepted, a new area of academic work, as a means of returning to an academic career. In fact I was not advised at all, as my college refused to give any consideration to my need to work my way back to a university career. Whatever advice I had been given I would, in my desperate situation, have been forced to work on anything for which I could get funding.

There appears to be a social convention that a person is not subjected to suffering and hardship by being deprived of a career, however high their IQ and however great their temperamental need to put their drive and effort into a progressive situation. Anything they do in exile is supposed to have been done because of a particular interest in it. Neither of these things has been true in my case. My life without a career has been one of severe hardship and deprivation and the increasing desperation of my urgent need to return to a university career has caused me agonising frustration for many years past.

It is these difficulties that have prevented me from applying to return to an academic career at an earlier age (any applications I did make being turned down) so I must ask that my age be not held against me since I have made the best progress I could. So far as I am concerned I am just in the position of someone in their early twenties attempting to start on a full-time, full-length academic career.

It is an indication of the oppressiveness of modern society that nobody considers it their business to enquire into the predicament of the victims of social outrage perpetrated by the educational and academic systems, and to support them in recovering from it.

A form of help which you could certainly give me would be money. Without a salary, and having to provide myself with an institutional environment as best I can, it is almost impossible for me to write books expressing my views, to publish those which have already been written and stockpiled, or to carry out any of the research which I have now been prevented from doing for several decades, and which I need to do to enhance my claim on restoration to the sort of career I which I should have been having all along.

This is a standing invitation to you or any senior academic to come to visit me at my impoverished independent university, to discuss ways of supporting me, morally or financially, so that I do not continue to be prevented from contributing to the intellectual life of my time, as a headmistress (who perhaps lost her job for the crime of allowing me to be too happy at her school) once said that I was certain to do.

However, I am not inviting you or anyone else to come without warning, and an appointment would have to be made well in advance, and accompanied by a donation of at least £5000 towards the support of my institution, or to me personally. In fact, it would be better if made to me personally, as our affairs are too constricted and under-staffed to accept any additional burden in the way of processing and accounting for donations.

Yours sincerely,