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.’