17 June 2010

Tale told by an idiot (Pt. 3)

It should go without saying, but perhaps it is as well to repeat, that there had been no sign of any intention to set up a research project in Oxford or elsewhere, in the area which I was proposing, until it became necessary to block mine. None of the retired professors nominated by Rosalind Heywood had shown any inclination to exert themselves in such a way, and if it had been necessary to go ahead with Rosalind’s plan (i.e. if I had not withdrawn from it), I think she might have found some or all of those named very reluctant to play any part in it. When, later, she wanted to find rivals to lay claim to Cecil King’s money, so that I would not get any more of it, she found this very difficult and it took her some time to persuade John Beloff to do a small piece of research on a hypnotic subject, to support her contention that Cecil King should not continue to give money to my organisation, but should scatter his money widely among people with academic status, although they were actually well enough set up already to have been doing some research if they had wished to do so.

What she could, and did, easily succeed in doing was to generate indignant opposition to the idea of my being so presumptuous as to do anything at all, so that the population of those who had any association with the SPR became energetic in blocking my applications for funding from any source, both by encouraging Professor Hardy to stand firmly in my light, and by running me down to any potential source of funding.

I was amazed and also, in the circumstances of my life, horrified that motivation to obstruct me could be so easily and universally aroused. Lady Faith Culme-Seymour, for example, came to Oxford to visit Hardy and express enthusiasm for his lethargic intentions, and also to attempt to persuade me to do his work for him, for no money. This showed an energy and willingness to exert herself which was rare among SPR members, except when they were opposing me. I wondered why she should feel so strongly that someone who had once been thrown out by the university should never be allowed to do any work which might establish their claim to re-entry to an academic career. It was easier to understand the antagonism to me which was shown by Professor Hardy himself. He had academic status and I did not and, under the influence of Rosalind Heywood, he seemed to regard it as an insult to academic status in general, and hence to his own, that I should attempt to do anything on my own initiative, without having received instructions to do so from on high.

Lady Faith, on the other hand, was an aristocrat with no academic pretensions. Until recently, people of her class had done whatever they could afford to do in the way of research, whenever they felt like it. She might even have regarded me as one of the disadvantaged poor, whose failure to get a research scholarship and an academic career could be ascribed to my having attended low-grade schools. In fact, however, she and everyone else in a similar position hastened to join Rosalind in her energetic campaign to ensure that it was impossible for me to obtain money from any source.

As has already been mentioned, it was not only the case that I had no salary from an academic career, which was the only sort of career I could have, but also I could not even draw income support as my ruined education had left me without a usable qualification, i.e. one that would be regarded as justifying me in applying for any university appointment that I might be able to accept.

I was, and continue to be, very shocked that people who were well set up in life and had no apparent reason for doing me down should evince such obviously destructive motivation towards someone in as bad a position as I was.