29 September 2008

Accidental associations

copy of a letter

The last time I met you, you asked why I went to the Society for Psychical Research if I was not interested in what they did. As I have explained, a contributory factor in the ruin of my ‘education’ was that I knew no one accepted that I would find life without a hotel environment intolerable.

When I was thrown out it was no more tolerable than I had expected, and it was therefore absolutely out of the question that I would be able to find anything ‘interesting’ until I had got myself back into decent living circumstances which would permit of being intellectually productive in a way that I got something out of. ‘Interest’ in doing anything, without a hotel environment to work in, was out of the question.

When I was thrown out at the end of my ruined ‘education’ without a usable qualification, I needed to find a job to finance my taking an unofficial DPhil at my own expense in Oxford. I was under pressure from my parents, acting on behalf of society at large, to find a job anyway, so I went to Mary Adams of the BBC, the mother of one of my college friends, to ask her to find me one. She sent me to see Denys Parsons, the Secretary of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, no doubt in the hope that I would end up doing some very boring job taking measurements for white goods makers, or something like that, and never be seen in Oxford again.

Denys Parsons was also an Honorary Secretary of the Society for Psychical Research (as was W.H. Salter at that time). Somehow the subject of research into extrasensory perception came up, and after discussing this for a bit, Denys Parsons mentioned that the secretary at the SPR was in hospital, the post was piling up, and they were desperate. I said that I would take the job of secretary, so Denys Parsons got in touch with Salter immediately, and I went off to Saffron Walden to see Salter. So that is how I got the job as secretary at the SPR.

All I was thinking about at the SPR was how I could find a way of restoring myself to a liveable life, such as might be enjoyed by a Fellow of a residential college with dining facilities. My life was very grim, even with the temporary support of Sir George Joy, which broke down as soon as I got too near to anything that might have provided a realistic alleviation of my position.

I believe that agents of the collective are trained to ignore any statements made by victims which are at variance with the socially approved misinterpretations of the situation, and to reinforce only any statements that might seem to be compatible with the socially approved model.

When I say that I was pleased about the success of my prediction in an ESP experiment, people may hope that I had found it ‘interesting’. Actually my prediction was very much a sighting shot (in a mass experiment that I was doing only because Cecil King wished it done) and I was pleased that it seemed to come off because I was still naive enough to suppose that indications that one might be able to make progress would encourage others, as it encouraged oneself, to envisage developing and elaborating the original ideas on a much larger scale, and that would get me nearer to the hotel environment which I so badly needed.

Soon I learnt that indications that one might be able to make more progress than other people were certain to make people want to keep one even more tightly constricted and inactive.

Mary Adams certainly had no intention of my getting a job at the Society for Psychical Research instead of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. She seemed taken aback and possibly even shocked when told that this had happened. Rationalising as best she could, on normal terms, she said, ‘So you are going to use your typing skills to do a secretarial job.’
I had, of course, told them that I could type quite proficiently. You could see it as ironic that this was the only usable qualification with which an oppressive education had left me, and one for which the system itself could claim no credit. (You could say it was the only advantage of precocity that the system had not been able to prevent from arising.)

When I was about eight my father had bought himself a second-hand typewriter and a typing manual so that he would be able to type letters and notices for his school. When he had finished learning I had taken advantage of the machine and the manual to learn to type as well, and soon I was typing out things for his school. I particularly remember the extracts from educationalists, several copies of which had to be typed to hand round to my father’s teachers. I remember the names of Dewey and Nunn and a few of the dicta, e.g. ‘Children are little workmen waiting for jobs to do,’ and, most ironically, ‘Fit the education to the child, and not the child to the education.’

23 September 2008

The Establishment and I

I recently read a definition of Establishment as ‘a group of people who hold power in a society and dominate its institutions’ (Daily Mail, 10 September 2008, article entitled ‘An Establishment Paedophile’ by Charlotte Metcalf.) That has been my problem all my life, that the Establishment has opposed me, taking it in the extended sense of including ‘those who have power in the local community’.

Sir George Joy was Establishment, and the fact that he had been thrown out at the end to fend for himself with a miserable pittance of a pension and ruined health did not, apparently, weaken his allegiance to the Establishment per se. The Establishment was against me, so he was not for me. He was Establishment, Mary Adams (Head of BBC Talks) was Establishment, and that is strong bonding. ‘Oh, he had a reputation once,’ Mrs Adams said, sounding impressed, the first time I mentioned him to her.

Of course, all the information Sir George had given me about hallucinatory phenomena, ESP and PK, and even letting me interview the subjects in the office, although potentially useful, could be regarded as encouraging me in a compensatory ‘interest’, which was an entirely different matter from helping me get financial support to make use of the extensive information I now had to make progress in actual research, with a view to establishing a claim on re-entry to a university career.

All members of the Establishment stick together. The Principal of Somerville could have given me moral, if not financial, support for my plans to stay on in Oxford after my maths degree while working quickly to get a meaningful qualification. She had even mentioned – tantalised me with – some grant which the College could have given me. But she had chosen not to give me support of any kind, and to try to drive me away from Oxford instead. She was Establishment, so Mary Adams and Sir George wanted her to have her way.

Sir George would not move to Oxford to be our resident senior supporter in 1962, which would have made a lot of difference to our position as an independent academic institution. He had originally agreed to come, and even driven round Oxford with his son looking at places he might live, but then changed his mind. There is no knowing who may have influenced him; at this time all the support that had previously seemed to be available was breaking down.

Indeed, even Sir George’s pension, paltry though it was for an ex-Colonial Governor, would have made quite a difference to my position. As it was, I had only the equivalent of a research grant for one person, covenanted for seven years by Admiral Strutt, and no prospects at all beyond that.

Well, I am back in Oxford now. As near to the centre as I want to be, in view of the pollution, and we are quite near enough for people with university appointments to come and work also for this independent university with much higher standards. I know they won’t, because they are Establishment and we are not, but it is not in reality impossible.

09 September 2008


Recently I watched a film about the Gospel of Thomas called Stigmata (released in 1999). It was apparently quite successful commercially and its appeal seems to depend on sadism (flashbacks to crucifixion) and sex, the latter associated with implicit attacks on the Catholic church for being repressive and promoting celibacy. The Church is supposed to see the Gospel of Thomas as a threat to its authority. In reality I don’t see why it should, as it has very little explicit content; being vague and allusive on normal terms.

The saying from the Gospel of Thomas that was quoted in the film was ‘the Kingdom of God is inside you and it is all around you’, followed by ‘it is not found in structures made of stone and wood’, which is not in my editions at all. And in the text it is ‘the Kingdom’, not ‘the Kingdom of God’.

However, the piece about ‘The Kingdom is within you and without you’ can be taken to refer to ‘what is in your mind now and the everyday life around you’, or it can be taken to refer to the salient features of some kind of mystical experience, with inconceivable information being present in your mind and also being there to be read off from the surface of everything which is existing around you. This would be, however, entirely outside ‘normal’ experience.

Taking it the first way, as the film probably wished to suggest, leads to the modern outlook of preoccupation with ‘real life’ and the physical world, including plenty of sex.

The expression ‘The Kingdom of God’ used in the film is not used anywhere in Thomas, where, if ‘Kingdom’ is qualified at all, it is in the forms ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and ‘Kingdom of the Father’. The word God is very rarely used in Thomas, perhaps not at all outside the saying ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, to God the things that are God’s, and to me that which is mine.’ In place of God, the expressions used are ‘the Father’ or ‘the Living One.’

Incidentally, the film claims, inaccurately, that the Gospel of Thomas is in Aramaic, this increasing its claim to authenticity, since it is supposed to have been the language spoken by Christ. In fact the Gospel of Thomas is in Coptic, which was a mixture of Greek and ancient Egyptian. However, it is said that there are signs of a Hebrew or Aramaic linguistic origin, which is a problem for modern Christian scholars who would like to ascribe its divergences from the Synoptics to some non-Christian source.

Note about usage of the word ‘rich’ in various gospels

The concept of ‘rich’ has entirely different connotations in the Gnostic gospels from those it has in the Synoptics.

In Thomas, the word ‘rich’ appears to refer to emotional richness, freedom from conflict, hence freedom from belief in society. ‘Let he who is rich become a king.’

In the Synoptics, ‘richness’ is usually associated with something negative. The way this is normally interpreted is that wealth and trading activities are seen as morally suspect. Hence the supposed wrath in the Jerusalem temple. But perhaps it really refers more broadly to being well set up. How about ‘rich in socially conferred approval or status’? People who have socially conferred status do not seem to feel free to use their own judgement in supporting a victim of social oppression, or in any other way of which society would disapprove. They are committed to having no views independently of the social consensus which has rewarded them.

‘It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a person with social position to do anything against the will of society.’

A well-known philosopher, who grudgingly conceded I was a ‘genius’, said he could not write a puff for my book Letters From Exile (or, presumably, use his influence to help me to get any reviews for it) because if he did his colleagues would ‘think he had lost his marbles’. But he was retired and his career could hardly have been damaged, whatever they thought.

We appeal for £1m as initial funding for a social science department in my unrecognised and unsupported independent university. This would enable it to publish preliminary analyses of areas in the history of ideas that are currently being ignored because they do not fit with the prevailing ideology.