13 August 2008

Plugged into the belief in society

When I say that people at the SPR were only interested in socially conferred status, I mean that they appeared to be there only to participate in certain kinds of social goings-on. There is a tendency these days to identify a field of work with those socially appointed to work in that nominal field. (Physics is to be defined as ‘what physicists do’, philosophy is ‘what philosophers do’, and psychical research is ‘what parapsychologists do’.)

So experiments supposed to prove some particular thing (ESP, PK) would be done by a person with academic status, such as S.G. Soal (maths lecturer at Queen Mary College), or physicist John Taylor (professor at King's College London) who encouraged schoolchildren to do ostensible PK for him, and then decades of active social interaction on an international basis would take place. In the first place, the experiments had to be taken very seriously and hailed as unquestionable proof because they were done by someone with socially conferred status, and then there was the interest of discovering whether a statusful person could be publicly and professionally disgraced.

In my case, the storms which surrounded me arose from the emotional interest of preventing someone who had already been disgraced and outcast from managing to climb back to social salary and status. Preventing someone who has been deprived of it, and thrown out from getting it back, is as good an outlet for emotional drive as is worshipping the productions of socially appointed academics and having controversies about whether they can be deprived of it.

While spiritualism never caught on in my mind, the idea did appear pragmatically useful that people were all somehow plugged into a network of belief in society. So that they were all really expressing a single set of aims and objects, and the attitudes and interpretations expressed by any one of them could be taken as informational about the attitudes that would be held by any other. (Attitudes about everything, actually, but in particular about whether there is anything "paranormal", or whether people like me should ever be permitted to recover from their ruined education.) It does not appear to me impossible that ESP enters into this, although it makes no difference in practice whether or not this is so.

I have certainly found the unanimity of the responses I receive remarkable, over a wide spread of nationalities, genders, social classes and IQ levels. I felt at the time of my ‘education’ that one could not see how the dance of death was so precisely choreographed. Of course a lot of overt social slander does go into it as well, but one finds the same interpretations being produced by people who are ostensibly not on the obvious slander circuits.

It is all rather like the Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. More and more of the population is replaced by a zombie replica, and anyone who has not yet been taken over must not give overt evidence of this; if they fail to behave exactly like the others the whole population turns and points at them and pursuit begins.