21 December 2008

Obstructions and machinations

copy of a letter to an academic

You asked why the entire academic population, under the direction of Rosalind Heywood, wanted to ensure that I got no financial support when I set up what was supposed to be my independent academic organisation in Oxford.

Consider the immediately preceding history. When I went to the Society for Psychical Research I at first considered trying to turn it into a productive research organisation, but soon saw that its legal structure and personnel would not permit such a thing to happen, so I started to think in terms of setting up my own academic institution in Oxford, in parallel with making such attempts as I could to get back into a university career in some subject, aimed at a hotel environment and Professorship as soon as possible.

My would-be DPhil, financed by the Perrott Studentship from Trinity College, Cambridge, came to nothing. Or rather, it came to a B.Litt. and no way of re-entering a university career in any subject.

So I turned my attention to the plans for setting up an institutional environment for myself in Oxford, for which the Coombe-Tennants (potential supporters) had allegedly promised a house, bearing in mind the advantages and disadvantages of a constitution similar to that of the SPR. But the more serious my intentions became, the greater the opposition, especially once Rosalind Heywood had found out about the plan and turned Eileen Garrett of the Parapsychology Foundation of New York against it.

W.H. Salter suggested, and tried to get me to agree, that it would be better if the Coombe-Tennants did not buy me a fairly large house in Oxford, but bought it for themselves and allowed me to live and work in it rent-free (until such time as Rosalind Heywood told them not to). I said this was no good and if they would not buy me a house outright, as had been originally proposed, I wanted nothing to do with it.

I had selected suitable Trustees and senior academic Consultants for my proposed Institute, sufficiently non-interfering for whatever reasons to leave me to get on with it. Rosalind proposed that a much larger number of people, including the most pro-active and obstructive members of the SPR Council, should be co-opted, and my status should be that of secretary to these people. They would receive large salaries to encourage them to think about the subject. Clearly, according to Rosalind, what would lead to progress in parapsychology and all related areas, was a number of retired Professors being paid to have ideas about it.

Sir George Joy accepted the role of a father-figure to me, who should have enough influence with me to induce me to accept these arrangements, and became very angry when he found out that he did not actually have such influence.

I said that if they wished to set up an organisation of the kind they proposed, of course they were free to do so, but I would have nothing to do with it.

Naturally nothing more was heard of it, as no one had had any interest in having anything to do with a research institution in Oxford except for the purpose of blocking my way.

So I was left with an acceptable legal constitution for the Institute, and the Trustees I had selected made me Director, an unsalaried Director of an institution with no financial support at all.