22 July 2010

Letter to a potential supporter

extract from a letter I sent some time ago

When you were considering the possibility of supporting our work some years ago, and your representative Lord X met our trustee the Hon. Charles Strutt, I was told by Charles Strutt that he was talking a bit about his family's involvement in psychical research and was asked by Lord X whether all academics without exception were in favour of research in this field. I suppose Charles Strutt replied, 'No, not all. But there were some who were.'

In an area so emotionally loaded as this, I am afraid that the exchange of socially acceptable rationalisations is not a way to arrive at what is really the case. All academics without exception, and the psychological forces of modern society as a whole, are against us. The psychological forces against us are those that are destroying Western civilisation, and it is difficult to talk about this because a highly fictitious view of what is going on is universally accepted.The Strutts were among the aristocratic families which, since the foundation of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882, had devoted considerable time and analytical effort, not to mention the expense of employing mediums and private detectives, to what was ostensibly research aimed at proving survival.

This was, and remains, something of a red herring. Because my colleagues and I are prepared to work on, for example, out-of-the-body experiences, we are widely supposed to have spiritualistic beliefs.

In reality, however, tribal/communistic psychology has little against people communing with their deceased ancestors. The work of the SPR was getting close to far more dangerous issues which opened up (or might open up) possibilities for the extension of individual control over the environment. The work of the SPR on Cross-Correspondences from 1900 to 1930 provided persuasive evidence for extra-sensory perception, or the acquisition of information by means independent of sensory channels.

Even more dangerously, two Lords Rayleigh (family name Strutt, as I expect you know), also physicists at Cambridge, were interested in psychokinesis (movement of physical objects at variance with the known laws of physics) and the case for continuing research on this phenomenon would, in normal circumstances, be regarded as more than adequate.

However, anything that increases individual independence is seen as dangerous, and there therefore set in the tremendous communistic/materialistic social and cultural revolution, replacing the aristocracy and middle-class intellectuals, who had enough freedom to work on such things, with ersatz universities within which no research which presents any threat to the ideology can be done.

The leading academics involved in the field of ‘psychical research’ before 1945 (mostly at Cambridge) had been working to establish its acceptance. The tide turned against them, but one or two loopholes remained. That is why I was able to do a B.Litt on a somewhat risky area (nothing to do with mediumship or spiritualism) at Oxford financed by a Research Studentship from Trinity College, Cambridge. But after that my way was blocked.

There is much more which could be said, but I will leave it at this for the time being, if I may.

17 July 2010

The human psychosis

Extract from Advice to Clever Children

The human psychosis is extremely simple. Hatred of reality (originally caused, it is to be supposed, by a traumatic experience or experiences of objective impotence) has become displaced onto other human beings. This state of affairs is expressed by attitudes of indifference to reality and of interest in human society. The latter interest is usually rationalised as altruism.

The other day I was talking to a human being. I said: 'No one is interested in reality.' He said, 'Well, reality, what's that? Nothing exciting. That chair, this carpet.' 'There is the uni­verse out there,' I said. 'Well, what's the universe?' he said. 'Some stars. Some of them we know about, some of them we don't. Well, what about it?'

It is instructive to observe that this particularly overt case of the human psychosis was in full agreement with John Robinson* that God was something you found deep down in human relationships.

He (the human being) could also be made to assert that any reality human beings did not know about was unimportant, in fact unreal, because human beings did not know about it.

To complete this cameo of the human psychosis it is only necessary to observe that a study of this person's human relationships would undoubtedly have revealed a continuous indulgence in concealed sadism.

(I use the word 'sadism' for convenience, because there is no other – unless perhaps Schadenfreude – to express a psychological tendency to derive pleasure or gratification from damage done to other people, or suffering experienced by them. I do not, however, mean to imply that I suppose the pleasure or gratification involved to be sexual in origin.)

* author of Honest to God

06 July 2010

My aphorisms and the semi-permeable membrane

The following is part of a recent email sent by my colleague Dr Charles McCreery to Nigel Rees, presenter of the Radio 4 programme Quote ... Unquote.

Dear Nigel Rees,

I heard your appeal for listeners to write in with suggestions at the end of yesterday evening's Quote ... Unquote, and would like to suggest some of the aphorisms of the contemporary British philosopher and scientist Celia Green.

Ten of these are included in the Penguin Dictionary of Epigrams (ed. M.J. Cohen). The subject headings below are those under which Cohen lists them.

Boredom: There are two ways of living, one of which leads to astonishment and the other to boredom.

Differences: In the country of the blind the one-eyed man is lucky to escape with his life.

Governments: In an autocracy, one person has his way; in an aristocracy, a few people have their way; in a democracy, no one has his way

Marriage: People have been marrying and bringing up children for centuries now. Nothing has ever come of it.

Mind: The remarkable thing about the human mind is its range of limitations.

Morals: The human race has always been unable to distinguish clearly between metaphysics and morality.

Prejudice: When someone says his conclusions are objective, he means that that they are based on prejudices which many other people share.

Right: There are some things that are sure to go wrong as soon as they stop going right.

Science: The way to do research is to attack the facts at the point of greatest astonishment.

Superstition: One of the greatest superstitions of our time is the belief that it has none.

Some others I particularly like myself are:
The psychology of committees is a special case of the psychology of mobs.
Only the impossible is worth attempting. In everything else one is sure to fail.
There is nothing so relaxing as responsibility; nor any relief from strain so great as that of recognising one's own importance.
What everyone has against Ludwig of Bavaria is not that he ruined Bavaria but that he supported a genius in the process.
It is superfluous to be humble on one's own behalf; so many people are willing to do it for one.

If you are interested I could suggest more.

The situation about my epigrams (or aphorisms) illustrates the consistency of the semi-permeable membrane, which does not permit me to derive any positive feedback in society from any effort I am able to make.

Ten of the aphorisms are in the Penguin Dictionary of Epigrams, so one might imagine that I was a well-established author. But in fact I am still as unable as ever to publish anything except at my own expense and with great effort – i.e. no publisher would actually accept a book of mine for publication. And even if published, my books are not allowed to be known about in any way that would make them saleable.

All the more ironic when one considers that I started to write books in the hope of generating an income which would at least partially compensate me for not having the income normally derived from the salary of a high-flying academic career.

If I had been having such a career, I had thought I would be able to make a supplementary income by publishing my views as, say, Richard Dawkins does. Why can’t I do that just as well as if I were having the academic career which I should be having? But no, as it turns out, that is not at all the way it is and if I want to publish at all, to draw attention to my presence and need for support, it can only be as an extra drain on my own resources of money and energy.