23 March 2007

Basic morality and people at the SPR

(copy of a letter)

The years after being thrown out at the end of my ruined ‘education’ were shockingly disillusioning. I did not have much in the way of illusions and I did not expect much of people, but I thought it was not absolutely out of the question that the odd person, here or there, might act in what seemed to me a natural way. However, I did need help very badly, having no means of support and no way of working my way back into an academic career which could lead to a Professorship. I could not, as I have already pointed out, draw Social Security without falsifying my position. I certainly experienced my situation as unbelievably horrifying, so that the universal meanness and opposition was something I could not fail to experience very painfully.

All I hoped of Sir George was that he would not oppose me, even if he would do nothing to help me, which was based on nothing but his mystical flash up a hill in Arabia because, I thought, the basic moral principle is so obvious that quite a short exposure to the higher level situation would give someone a great aversion to frustrating anyone in getting what they wanted in any way, even if they had no resources, financial or motivational, for trying to help them.

I remember saying to Sally, ‘He may not do anything to help me, but at least he won’t actively oppose me’, and she said nothing, perhaps thinking that she understood psychology better than I did. If so, she was right, as before long he was machinating against me and trying to manipulate me as much as anybody.

Rosalind Heywood considered herself a very spiritual person, who could tell whether or not there was a host in situ in a Catholic church in its box on the altar (whatever you call it) by whether or not she could hear a kind of holy singing noise. She got the holy noise in proximity with sacred objects of other religions as well.

She played infallibly on a certain dimension of human psychology and I never knew anyone resist her for long. Sir George did resist her attempts to get him and Salter to oppose my plans on one occasion, but it did not last. This was an unusual experience for her and she looked shaken as she left the office after a confrontational interview, but she was not one to accept defeat. A few weeks later Sir George’s support for me had vanished (how much communication had taken place between them, by telephone or otherwise, I do not know).

Conversion to her point of view was irreversible. I have no doubt that she did sell to all concerned that every particle of support to me should be choked off because it would be kinder to force me to give up on setting up an independent academic establishment. It could not succeed and the sooner I was made to give it up the better. Any support, however tiny, would only be prolonging the agony. This, of course, is head-on violation of the basic moral principle that you do not impose your interpretations and evaluations on somebody else, but give them what they say they want if you can (or if you are able to muster the energy in view of your own problems).

But the idea of frustrating someone, and pretending that you are doing it out of benevolence, is attractive to human psychology, which has a desire to frustrate and to express its power by causing suffering, as fundamental as the higher level drive to do the opposite.

So everybody associated in any way with the SPR and Oxford University joined in trying to squeeze me to death in my own best interests, just as, when I was at school, people had been able to oppose me in everything I wanted on the pretence that they were liberating me from the pressures placed on me by an ambitious father, in both cases no doubt enjoying the opportunity to combine active malevolence with a smug sense of their own compassion and sympathy.