22 May 2007

Functionality, confidence and research

I think that functionality, and what appears as confidence, arise paradoxically from giving up any attempt to have an opinion about it, or to relate to one’s social image. Although, as usual, I have to emphasise that I do not accept, and am in no way reconciled to, the unrealistic and degraded image which society has forced upon me.

To be functional in a given situation depends on what occurs to one; confronted by any field of research I would, as I did when I made contact with psychical research (immediately after being thrown out of Oxford University with a second-class degree) be as openminded as possible in looking at all the data that presented themselves, and allow relationships between them to occur to one’s mind. Gradually, in fact probably quite soon, I would expect to see what appeared to be the best lines to pursue in advancing understanding of the phenomena and relating them to other fields of science.

This happened when I considered the phenomena of psychical research, and I am sure that it would happen again if I had any opportunity to develop any of the areas of research which I began to delineate, or if I were able to work in any other field of research.

An extensive knowledge of what had been done beforehand in the field of psychical research was irrelevant because everyone else’s mind had evidently worked so differently. (This applies also in other fields which present any threat to the modern ideology, such as theoretical physics, philosophy and psychology.)

I had not been at the SPR many months before I had concluded that out-of-the-body experiences would provide an area of research which could lead to revolutionary insights, and would be the best way of starting to develop the field of psychical research, if one were able to work on it on an adequate scale. There were written accounts of people having such experiences, and there were people coming to the office, both as occasional visitors and as permanent personnel, who described having similar experiences, some of them habitually. The experiences often had characteristics in common.

And yet out-of-the-body experiences (OBEs) were regarded as the dubious imaginings of people who had spiritualistic belief systems. Any number of academic and supposedly scientifically-minded people would have been able to make the same observations as I did of the occurrence and potential availability for study of such phenomena in the population, but (to the extent that they were ostensibly interested in advancing knowledge of reality at all) their attention had always been elsewhere.

There was much resistance to my appealing to the public at large for actual cases of OBEs, even among our “supporters”. To do this was, apparently, to expose the subject of parapsychology (and, of course, oneself) to charges of unscientific credulity and spiritualistic belief. There is a strange kind of logic here, which I have found even among the most intelligent intellectuals (e.g. philosophy professors). The logic goes something like this, I believe — although it is never actually stated. "It is okay to obtain information about hallucinatory experiences such as OBEs provided the only purpose is to demonstrate that they are not, in fact, supportive of any spiritual or other non-reductionist beliefs. It is not okay to obtain information about them in their own right, however, since that is providing implicit support for spiritualist beliefs." Yes, there is a fundamental inconsistency here, but even philosophy professors seem not to notice it.

Actually, there are plenty of inconsistencies that are not noticed by philosophy professors, and to which the philosophy department of my independent university could be drawing attention, if not kept harmless and inactive by financial deprivation.