29 December 2014

Professor H.H. Price

copy of a letter to an academic

I have been thinking about Professor H.H. Price’s role in my attempts to return to academia. These are preliminary notes.

* * *

Henry Habberley Price
(1899 - 1984)
Professor Price was unusually open to my ideas about the existential uncertainty. Nobody else at the Society for Psychical Research had taken any interest in Alexandra David-Neel, for example. His awareness of my ability did not seem, as it so often did, to arouse hostility, which would sometimes express itself violently.

Professor Price said that I was the ideal DPhil student. He always wrote glowing reports on my work to the electors of the Perrott Studentship at Trinity College, Cambridge, and to others who gave financial support.

He appreciated the way I wrote, and said that I could say in one page what it would take most people three pages to say. He said that I had an alpha mind.

W.H. Salter did not like Price having this attitude towards me. He said that it was all too easy to get Professor Price’s approval, so that he (Salter) would not find this of any use in obtaining financial supporters for me. I needed to get the support of people who were less of a soft touch, said Salter. I needed to get the support of someone such as Professor Dodds.

E.R. Dodds
(1893 - 1979)
I knew that I could not get the support of Professor Dodds, and did not think it was possible for anyone to do so who was not merely wanting to criticise other people’s work. The fact was that by this time Salter was hostile to me himself.

What Professor Price’s support did for me was that I had a clear run through the years for which I held the Perrott Studentship, and the widespread hostility could do nothing to deprive me of it, as it would have wished to do. So, in the hostile circumstances in which I found myself, Professor Price’s appreciation of my ability was a considerable asset.

09 December 2014

Eight high-achieving siblings, from a poor home

Celia Green with
one of her uncles,
Leonard Green
It was not only the case that my father came top of the grammar school scholarship, in spite of living in an impoverished home with very little reading matter. It was also the case that each of his seven siblings similarly got grammar school scholarships, at a time when there were only twenty of them available per year in the borough, and that every one of them became successful and respectable in spite of their ostensibly disadvantaged early life. They all became headmasters, or entered similar professions.

The modern ideology likes to assert that if there is a correlation on a large scale between deprivation in early life and lack of success later, the relatively deprived should, by means of intervention, be enabled to ‘catch up’ during their time at school.

In fact it is unlikely that my father and his siblings seemed to be in any way ‘behind’ when they first went to school. They had, for example, probably learnt to read before they went to school, in spite of the lack of books in the house in which they were living.

On a large scale, there may be a correlation between lack of books in the home and lack of success in exams at a later age. However, there are many factors which affect the situation, and a sub-population, such as my father’s family, may occur in which the correlation does not apply at all.

In the case of my father’s family, which had aristocratic East European antecedents, genetic factors would appear to have prevailed over environmental ones.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

05 December 2014

Self-important academics

Researchers found that many parents ‘overvalue’ their children and believe them to be more special and entitled than others.

These parents are more likely to be conceited and self-important themselves, according to Dutch academics ...
(Daily Mail, 3 December 2014)
The ideology recently explicitly expressed by Dutch academics* (themselves agents of the collective) was present, although much less explicitly and universally, three quarters of a century ago when I was born in London in 1935. In retrospect it is easy to see that my father was habitually accused of believing me to be exceptional, or of ‘wanting to me to be a genius’, and as I was in fact precocious it was scarcely possible for him to say anything about my interests or achievements without arousing attacks on himself. Agents of the collective such as the Dutch academics referred to above, are, by virtue of being agents of the collective, regarded as an infallible source of value judgments.

The theory that some parents have a tendency to ‘overvalue’ their children, and that they should be corrected for doing this, had a deleterious effect on my education, and on the lives of my parents and myself. It was used to justify much of the hostility against me which resulted in my being prevented from doing things I wanted to do, such as take exams young.

* E. Brummelman et al, ‘My Child Is God’s Gift to Humanity: Development and Validation of the Parental Overvaluation Scale (POS)’, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2014.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

28 November 2014

A fellow undergraduate

Maria Casares (1922-1996),
star of Cocteau’s Orphée
When I was an undergraduate at Somerville College, Oxford, in the early 1950s, there was a fellow undergraduate called Jane* Smith. She had a strikingly self-possessed manner which made it difficult for people to become familiar with her, and her strong resemblance to Maria Casares, the film actress whose father Santiago Casares Quiroga had been Prime Minister of Spain, was often remarked upon. We spoke a lot to each other for several terms, and you could say we were friends.

We lost touch completely a few years after I left college, and I have never heard from Jane since. I was thinking of her recently, and looked her up on Google, via which I learnt that she had donated money to Somerville College recently, in 2010-11. (The Somerville College Report for Donors of that financial period does not say how much any of the donors contributed.)

Jane is likely to have known decades ago that I was attempting to set up a research institute in an attempt to remedy my position. If she knew that I was still appealing for funding at the time she made her donation to Somerville, she might have considered making a donation to me instead of, or as well as, making one to Somerville.

My education, paid for by the State, left me with no source of income and no way of working my way back into an academic career. Jane had not been exposed to State education, having attended St Paul’s Girls’ School, a prestigious private school in London, where contacts with wealthy families could be made.

One might have expected that college friends would be sympathetic to the needs of their friends (a friend in need is a friend indeed). However, Jane donated to a socially recognised institution but not to mine. Nor have any other of my college friends helped me in my attempt to remedy my destitute position, which I found shocking.

There were a good many people at Somerville who were aware of my impoverished position relative to theirs, but who gave me no financial or other help in response to my appeals, although they probably did make donations to socially approved organisations such as Somerville College or Oxfam.

People seem to think that if someone cannot get support from a socially recognised source, they should not receive any at all.

* Names have been changed.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

20 November 2014

Cheese-paring the winter fuel allowance

The government is always cheese-paring towards those of pensionable age.

The population of people of pensionable age is likely to have a higher average IQ than the population at large, because people with below-average genetic endowment, or dysfunctional ways of running their lives, are less likely to reach pensionable age.

The winter fuel allowance (now called ‘winter fuel payment’) is a sop that has been brought in to reconcile people to the fact that pensions had ‘withered on the vine’ to a much greater extent than previous governmental statements had led them to expect. Even the maximum winter fuel payment (£300 per annum to a person of 80 or over living on their own) is scarcely commensurate with the difference between state pensions now and what might have been expected. Moreover, the fuel payments are allocated in a way that may make the recipient worse off, rather than better off.

At present, a person who reaches pensionable age receives £200 per annum winter fuel allowance, but he has to be careful about having any other person living in, or even visiting, his house. Another person might realise that he is getting the fuel allowance, and this might make them less careful in their use of his electricity and gas. This may be an unconscious reaction, but some of the time may not be. I have had lodgers who left boilers running in an overheated house while they were out, apparently because they liked the idea of increasing the houseowner’s bills. Since this happened to me, it seems probable that similar situations occur elsewhere.

If another person living in the same house, whether or not related to the first person, also reaches pensionable age, the fuel payment of the first person is reduced by 50% (i.e. if he had been receiving £200 per annum, this is reduced to £100 per annum), and the second person qualifying will receive only half of one person’s full fuel allowance (i.e. he will also receive £100 per annum).

Even in the case of a married couple, living in the same house will be disadvantageous. However careful and cooperative they are, fuel for two elderly people is almost certain to cost more than that for one elderly person, yet the overall allowance will be the same as for one person.

Being married, incidentally, does not guarantee that the two people concerned are on particularly good terms, and either of them might be a particularly careless and wasteful person, even if with no malice towards the other.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

Photo of All Saints’ Church, Cuddesdon by Edward Keene.

05 November 2014

Oxford admission interview: underlying motivation

Will Durant (1885-1981),
author of
Outlines of Philosophy
When I applied to Somerville College, Oxford for my undergraduate degree, I took the entrance examination in maths. I was then called up for an interview although, as I later realised, it was with the candidates who might be accepted as commoners but not as scholars.

Actually the interviews were very brief and only consisted of meeting the Principal. People went to her office at an appointed time and stood in a short queue outside the door. On entry, one walked across her large room and took one’s place on a sofa facing another sofa on which the Principal was sitting. The interview consisted only of reviewing the most basic facts about one. Somewhat on the lines of: ‘So your name is XYZ, and you are applying in such a subject. You went to such and such a school from a certain date to a more recent date. Your hobbies are so and so. You play such and such games. Well, goodbye. We will be considering your application and will let you know very soon.’

All that such an interview could be said to show was that the candidate did not become completely inarticulate, or fall to the floor in a faint, in intimidating circumstances. I would not myself think that those who passed such a test would necessarily be the most suited to academic studies.

Although Somerville did not seem to be finding out anything much about me, I was, so far as I know, the only person from this first interview who was, a week or so later, invited to go to Somerville again, this time with people who were being considered as potential scholarship candidates. So far as I could find out, none of the people I was now with had attended any previous interview at Oxford.

On the second visit I was not interviewed by anyone specialising in maths, who might have been a future tutor. This may have been because the college’s leading maths tutor had been absent from Oxford for a year or so, supposedly in consequence of her need to recover from the tragic death of her husband. Instead I was interviewed by some sort of senior tutor, as were the other people who were being considered for scholarships.

It is difficult to believe that reports about my educational past contained no hint of my predominant preference for physics, or of the fact that I had taken the entrance exam to Somerville in maths only because I had been forced against my will into spending a year doing first-year maths at Queen Mary College, London.

The senior tutor said in the interview that I had written about philosophy in my entrance exam papers, so would I like to change to philosophy instead of maths? No, I said, because I wanted to do research in physics, for which philosophy would not be regarded as a preparation.

The senior tutor took no interest in what had led up to my taking the entrance exam in maths, rather than in the subject in which I said I wanted to make a career. Apart from whatever may have been said in reports to Somerville from my local education authority, I had made no secret of my position, and had spoken about it freely to fellow candidates.

My wishing to do research in physics was disregarded. Although reference was made to the content of my essay papers in the entrance examination, it seems unlikely that a senior academic would not realise, as I did myself, that being good at old-fashioned philosophy did not make it particularly likely that one could be successful in a modern university philosophy course. So proposing that I should change to such a subject was tantamount to steering me in the direction of a degree course which would leave me with no way ahead into a university career in any subject, let alone in the one which I wanted to have.

There was no sense in which my essays had revealed what interested me, so that I might wish to pursue it further, whether or not it led to a university appointment. I had read Will Durant’s Outlines of Philosophy, and some other books, as a deliberate preparation for the essay papers. University applicants were advised by their schools to prepare for the essay papers by taking an interest in current affairs, reading broadsheets and so on. I found these things uninteresting, so I had concentrated instead on classical philosophy.

* * *

It seems likely, in retrospect, that the senior academics involved in admissions to Oxford were motivated to steer me in a direction which could not lead to the sort of career which I said I wanted to have, but might well leave me exiled for life from the academic world with no usable qualifications.

This, in fact, they succeeded in doing by leaving me working for a degree in maths, which had never been my choice, and at what was for me an unnaturally late age, while refusing to consider anything I could say about the difficulties to which this gave rise, or conceding any of the changes in arrangements which I said would be of help to me.

* * *

When I ask my associates why people seem to be so irritated, and made angry, by my attempting to bring to light the motivation underlying the way I have been treated at crucial stages of my life, they may suggest either that the irritated people were once themselves treated badly but suppressed any analysis or complaint about it, or that the irritated people feel that they themselves would also act in the relevant ways towards anyone who happened to be in their power.

However, it is practically impossible to reach the point of realising that there is anything to complain of in what is happening to one; I certainly did not, at least not at the time. It was only in retrospect, as one noted constantly recurring elements in the ways people reacted, that one started to draw inferences about possible underlying motivation.

It seemed to me that the underlying motivation, although virtually universal, was too subconscious for people to talk to one another about it. I do not suppose that Dame Janet (the Principal) said to the other Somerville dons, ‘as we want to make her uncertain whether her maths is good enough, let us call her up for interview with the common entrants in the first place, and only after that with those who are in the running for scholarship.’

People do not consider the motivation of agents of the collective involved in education, such as teachers or tutors, or if they do, they seldom see it as grounds for complaint or rectification. A case in point is that of Christine Fulcher’s maltreatment by her primary school headmaster. I was present at a conversation with her uncle about this in which he seemed to accept that the headmaster’s treatment of her had been unjustified. ‘But why did he do that?’ he asked, as if her account of what had happened could not be admitted unless accompanied by an acceptable explanation. ‘He did not like girls, and when I was no longer there to come top of the form, his own son did so’, Christine suggested.

Her uncle seemed to find a dislike of girls an acceptable explanation, and to think that it contributed what is nowadays called ‘closure’ to the situation. If you have ‘closure’, you accept that the situation was the way it was, and give up on attempts to rectify it.

It seemed that a dislike of girls was an acceptable motive to ascribe to someone, even if it had resulted in ruining a particular girl’s academic career and prospects. Neither Christine’s uncle, nor anyone else, seems to have considered the possibility that Christine’s headmaster was specifically motivated to ruin her life.

Of my associates, several, as well as myself, entered university at what was, for them, an unnaturally late age. I was feeling very bad when I applied to Somerville College much later than I felt I should have done, on account of the age restrictions against my taking of exams, so I thought that I had no chance of a scholarship and was applying merely to get into Oxford, which it was necessary for me to do. When I was awarded a scholarship, in fact the top scholarship, I felt that I was only getting what I should have got at a much earlier age, which was a relief, but solved no problems.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

23 October 2014

IQ tests and ‘near-genius’

copy of a letter to an academic

People were always implying that I believed things about my IQ, and that this influenced me in wanting to take more subjects than other people and/or to take exams in them at an earlier age.

It should be pointed out that ideas about IQ and genius were not in my mind or my environment at all, until statements about them were explicitly made by the psychologist who volunteered to do an IQ test on me in an apparently casual way when I was ten. This was just after I had taken the grammar school scholarship exam in Essex – and before my parents and I were told by the Reverend Mother, at a preliminary interview, that I had come top of the county with a 100% score on every paper.

A few days after my taking the test, my father transmitted the following information: my IQ was 180 which supposedly meant I was ‘near-genius’. The IQ of a child was said to be loosely equivalent to mental age* divided by chronological age, which implied that a ten-year-old with an IQ of 140 would have a mental age of fourteen, and that at the age of ten my own mental age was eighteen.

‘Genius’ was defined as having an IQ score of 200 or over. My IQ was 180, and that was allegedly ‘near-genius’. In fact, the cut-off value for the test I took was 180, so that it was impossible to get a reported value above this, but I did not realise this until some years later.

Such statements would not be made nowadays, but at that time they were transmitted to me (via my father) by the educational psychologist, employed by the local education authority, who had administered the test.

One wonders what could have been the motivation of the local council in allowing him to make such definite assertions.

In fact, I developed a view of the situation, as perhaps I was supposed to, in which there was a considerable population of people with IQs between 180 and 200, and even a considerable population of people with IQs over 200. So I felt there was nothing remarkable in the IQ that I had.

I did not think that they might have understated my IQ until decades later, when I read in C.W. Valentine’s The Normal Child and some of his Abnormalities – which had not been published at the time I took the test – that a girl who could read a primer fluently at the age of two (as I could myself) was said to have a possible IQ of 300, since reading implied a mental age of at least six or seven.

* The term ‘intelligence quotient’ was originally coined by German psychologist William Stern to express this relationship between mental age and chronological age.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

21 October 2014

Crisis at the convent

The motto of the
Ursuline convent schools
I want to write about my interview with my father, after he had been summoned to see the Reverend Mother in connection with her concerns about me. First I have to explain what happened.

I have always found it difficult to write about the constant disagreements throughout my education, because they were always rationalised and contradictory. But I think that the underlying forces which affected my position are clear, in retrospect, from the situation which arose when I was fourteen (after I had been prevented from taking the School Certificate exam at thirteen, and thus locked into years of delay before I could take any exams at all).

The ostensible cause of this particular crisis was that I was supposed to have said that I did not believe in God.

Actually Mother Mary Angela (the maths nun), finding it impossible to change my views on what I wanted to do in life, had brought matters to a head by peering at me and saying, ‘Do you believe in God?’ Even then I had not said that I did not, but had said, ‘Oh yes.’

I had always assumed that I would never be asked such a thing, because in the convent environment, saying that one did not believe in God would be too shocking. However, I knew that the tone of my voice was not likely to carry conviction. In fact, Mother Mary Angela reacted as if I had said the opposite.

I do not think her doing so was justified, as people (so far as I could see) often said things they did not mean very much, or meant very vaguely, this being accepted socially at face value. In most cases of people who said they believed in God, or were assumed to do so, I had little idea what they might mean by this. Retrospectively, or perhaps even at the time, I had more of an idea what Mother Veronica (the nun who habitually wore a beatific expression) might mean by professing belief in God. Mother Veronica always seemed to be maintaining a continuous awareness of some kind of presence external to her own mind.

Of course I had not said anything about such things to the other girls, although they knew that I was not actually a Catholic. I remember at least one occasion on which one of them, a grammar school scholarship girl a few years older than me, became very angry that she was unable to convert me to Catholicism on the spot.

One of the things that makes it difficult to write about the conflicts in my education, and made it difficult to understand them at the time, was that they had little or no relationship to reality, but were about fictitious states of affairs. In fact these fictitious problems were a cover for people’s real anxieties about me, which seemed to have more to do with a fear that I might do something radical, or unpredictable, on an intellectual level.

Of course, by the time this conversation with Mother Mary Angela took place, I had already been in the same form as two girls, Jane* and Sarah, who were notorious for their rejection of Catholicism, and presumably any form of Christianity. But I do not remember any expression of disbelief in God as such, and even if there had been, I would not have joined forces with it.

I thought of my own position as agnostic, on account of my awareness of the uncertainty inherent in the existential situation, and this ruled out disbelief in God (or in anything else), as well as belief.

Even if it was known that I talked a lot to Jane, I certainly did not talk about my rejection of Catholicism, whereas I think she did like to assert it frequently. It was known that I did not believe in Catholicism, since my parents always passed me off as ‘Church of England’, but I had no interest in expressing this disbelief.

With hindsight, the crisis regarding my alleged lack of belief in God seems to me to have been a cover for a crisis regarding some other aspect or aspects of my personality. The maths nun, Mother Mary Angela, was already aware that I had drives and ambitions of which she disapproved. What she and others may have been really afraid of was my analyticalness, my ability to see through society. They were afraid of my having any social success, and thus of having a chance to use these capacities to get on in life, and also to influence other people.

* Names have been changed.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

14 October 2014

Wasted talent

Writing about Christine Fulcher has reminded me of how difficult it is, and always has been, to say anything about our position.

In Christine’s case, she was clearly IQ-ful enough to have become an academic, even a professor.

It was a reflection on the educational system that, as her school life ended, she was not attracted by the possibility of making a university career in any subject, and not even interested in the idea of going to university at all, as she did not see how it could lead to a life that she could get anything out of. She went to university because her father put her under pressure, regarding it as disgraceful not to do so.

What would she tell her children (he argued) if she turned down the opportunity to go to university? She was told she should follow the example of her mother, who had been to college.

When Christine came to work with me in my independent and unrecognised academic establishment, a sympathetic family might have thought that it was a shame she had no easier way of making a suitable career, and they might naturally have thought that she needed support more than her brothers, or anyone else who was able to have a career that was salaried in the normal way.

But instead of this, they took care to discriminate against her, so that all financial support which might have come her way was cut off, and subsidies to her siblings were correspondingly increased.

Also they discouraged rich relatives and friends from subsidising her, whereas her brothers did receive subsidies (such as wedding presents etc.) from such people. Her family’s treatment of Christine discouraged her from socialising with them. This then gave them a (spurious) excuse to be even meaner to her.

Christine’s suitability for academic pursuits was shown by the fact that she naturally gravitated to subjects which only people with a ‘superior’ IQ are said to be able to do well. That is, sciences and languages – to which I myself was attracted.

Christine had wanted a career in science, but she did not pass her Chemistry O-level, having had mumps shortly before the exam. She wanted to retake it, but was discouraged from doing so by her school, and by her parents making unnecessary difficulties about it.

Christine could read French and German well by the time she left school, although merely attending the lessons provided in those subjects would certainly have been insufficient to produce this result. By the time I met her, she was widely read in the classics of French and German literature.

Many of those with the greatest aptitude for academic pursuits are thrown out by the system – whether at university or earlier – and the waste of their abilities is ignored. They are supposed not to mind, and indeed supposed not to exist except as rejects.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position and that of Christine Fulcher. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

08 October 2014

Books are better than blogs

text of a letter to an academic

I do not think that my blog is a good way of attracting potential associates. We need to publish and distribute hardback books.

I do not know how we would attract anyone like Christine Fulcher into reading my blog.

Christine Fulcher
of Oxford Forum
When Christine was in her late teens, she was interested in helping a genius. But if someone searched the web using the word ‘genius’, they would get thousands of hits, many of them about Einstein, some about Leonardo da Vinci and other geniuses, but they probably would not find my blog. Christine was not interested in parapsychology, nor particularly in mysticism or gnosticism, and would not have thought of looking for blogs about the problems of high-IQ people, although she is one herself.

So I do not know what keywords I would have to use to attract people like her who might be interested in helping a genius, and who are not necessarily aware that they have the problems that high-IQ people tend to have foisted on them.

In fact, the best way of attracting someone like Christine to come and become an associate would be by having plenty of our books on the shelves of university libraries, and on the shelves of bookshops in general.

There is a phenomenon in economics known as ‘framing’, in which the same cultural product can receive quite different reactions depending on the context. A famous violinist can give a performance at Carnegie Hall in which seats sell for $100, but if the same violinist gives his performance for free on a subway, few people take any interest. A famous professor like Richard Dawkins can write books which are published by a respected publisher and sell in the tens of thousands. If he was unknown, the text of those books, if available for free on the web, might only attract a few hundred readers.

Christine found my book The Human Evasion in the philosophy section of Heffers Bookshop at the University of East Anglia. The title attracted her, and my ideas rang a bell with her. By the time she had read something in the book to the effect that a genius might need help, she was determined to come and see me. After about six weeks, she had already corresponded with me, and she was ringing at the door of 118 Banbury Road. At that time, our books were published by Hamish Hamilton, and their reps were taking them round to bookshops automatically, along with all other current Hamish Hamilton publications.

For any chance of attracting people who are as interested and potentially long-term as Christine, we need to be publishing new books, reissuing all our old books in large quantities, sending thousands of free copies to university libraries in this country and worldwide, and promoting the books to bookshops so that they stock them, probably especially in university towns. For this we need hundreds of thousands of pounds, but any smaller contribution would certainly be welcome.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

06 October 2014

Modern students

Recently we have been making contact with various undergraduates. The impression most of them give is that they are determined to make things as easy as possible for themselves at university, without trying to make their work interesting, or to do as well as possible at it. Certainly of recent decades I have heard and read statements that might have been thought shocking before the onset of the Welfare State.

For example, one fairly well-off, upper-middle-class pre-undergraduate, who had expressed an interest in becoming associated with us, refused to consider working for us before college or during the vacs, although we said how badly we were in need of extra manpower. He said he could not take on either employment or voluntary work until he had got the full benefit of three full-time years at university. The attraction of which, according to him, was that he would not have to do much work while there. Presumably it was to be taken as understood that he would be able to spend most of his time having ‘fun’, as he and his contemporaries would call it. From what one hears, this would seem to include plenty of social life and getting drunk.

Nor, apparently, do students mind much about having to leave college with large loans, built up by not paying the fees themselves. Another pre-undergraduate was quoted in an article as saying that he did not mind about the debt which he would incur by going to university, because he would not have to start repaying it until he was earning above a certain level. This suggested the possibility that repayment could be avoided indefinitely by taking care to earn little or nothing.

I hear or read of many modern graduates and university dropouts who are disaffected by the difficulty of getting started on a career in the modern world. They are, however, not attracted by the possibility of becoming associated with us, where they could share in our sense of purpose and direction. In a way this is not surprising, as they have become identified with the avoidance of effort, intensity, and purpose.

Throughout my life there has been an almost universal rejection of my need to live with the maximum of intensity and purposiveness, and an unwillingness to accept that my life could be damaged by being deprived of the possibility of such things.

The modern educational system opposes purposiveness and favours its opposite. It has succeeded in creating, on a wide scale, what might previously have been described as ‘demoralised laziness’.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

28 September 2014

The fear of breakthroughs

text of a letter to an academic

I remember that you once asked me why schools, even the Ursuline convent school, wanted me to do maths in preference to physics, which is what I wanted to do. I said, “I don’t know. It was crazy.”

But actually, although none of the rationalisations which were expressed or hinted at held water, it seems clear that everyone was afraid of my doing research in an area where I might easily find out something fundamentally groundbreaking.

Albert Einstein
in 1921
Theoretical physics bought you up against the inadequacy of the current set of concepts about the physical world, and that was why I wanted to do it. I felt a little like Einstein when he said:
We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which the books are written. *
When I was attending the Ursuline school, aged about eleven, my father thought it was now appropriate to ask me what I wanted to do in life. I replied without hesitation, “I am going to be a physicist and do research.” My father looked a bit shocked but also, as his initial reaction, impressed. But later I found that both he and everyone else opposed my doing physics. In fact, there was opposition to everything that I did want to do, including getting more degrees than other people, and doing so at an earlier age. So there was not only opposition to my doing research in physics, but to all my ideas for working towards that end result.

However, it is now seems likely that what underlay all the rationalisations, which were supposed to justify making me do something I did not want to do, was an absolute fear of the breakthroughs which I might make, in view of my lack of inhibitions. The same thing has also been true of my attempts to start doing research in the areas associated with perception and hallucination, in which I opened up what could have been new areas of research, operating with extremely limited resources.

In fact, everyone all along has been afraid of my doing any research at all, and actually quite rightly so. As I am uninhibited in considering possibilities, I certainly would have made at least a few breakthroughs, if I had not been prevented from doing anything at all.

It is still true that I would make progress very rapidly in either physics or the psychology of perception, if not kept rigorously starved of financial support.

* quoted in Denis Brian, Einstein: A Life, John Wiley, 1996.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

25 September 2014

Innate ability, and its enemies

The belief system associated with the egalitarian ideology has been increasing in influence for a long time, and is now overwhelmingly dominant.
Splitting pupils as young as six into classes based on ability – known as streaming – makes the brightest children brighter but does little to help the rest to catch up, according to new research into schools in England.

The analysis of the progress made by 2500 six and seven-year-olds in state primary schools in England, conducted by academics at the Institute of Education in London, found that the use of streaming appears to entrench educational disadvantage compared with the results of pupils who were taught in all-ability classes.

“Children in the top stream achieved more and made significantly more academic progress than children attending schools that did not stream, while children in the middle or bottom streams achieved less and made significantly less academic progress,” wrote the authors, Susan Hallam and Samantha Parsons.

The research ... [is] to be presented on Thursday at the British Educational Research Association annual conference ...

The authors [of the research report] conclude that the widespread use of streaming will do little or nothing to arrest the difficulties faced by children from disadvantaged backgrounds and those whose parents have low levels of education ...

“The data suggest that streaming undermines the attempts of governments to raise attainment for all children whatever their socio-economic status,” the paper concludes. “Overall, the evidence indicates that streaming, particularly where it begins at a very early age, is likely to be counterproductive in reducing the attainment gap.” (The Guardian, 25 September 2014)
Celia Green with mother,
Dorothy Green (née Cleare)
My own case might seem to provide a counterexample to the idea that there are no innate individual differences influencing ability and development. Early in my life, when the modern ideology was less dominant, my exceptionality was often commented upon. An early example of this was told to me by my mother several decades after it happened. A few weeks after I was born, some sort of health visitor or nursing aid for new mothers was helping my mother to bathe me. Presumably this person had a wide experience of babies, but she expressed surprise about me, soon after seeing me for the first time. She said something on the lines of:

“Gosh, isn’t she intelligent!”

“How do you know?” my mother said.

“It’s the way she looks at things,” the nurse said.

It did not appear to be the case, as people would like to think, that recognition of my exceptionality at an early age had no predictive value for my later development.

When I was two, I was found to be able to read. When I was ten, I came top of the Essex County grammar school scholarship exam. When I was seventeen, I was awarded the top scholarship to Somerville College, Oxford.

However, as time passed, and the modern ideology gained ground, people told me more often that I was not special, I was just an ordinary person, and that no conclusion could be drawn from early precocity.

At the same time, I was increasingly frustrated and deprived of opportunity, since what might have been regarded as indications of my exceptionality aroused hostility and obstructiveness.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

22 September 2014

Professor Otto Frisch and psychokinesis

Of course I knew when I was thrown out, to try to do research in the wilderness, that there was no sympathy with my position or predicament. I did not suppose that there was any great motivation in the world for the advancement of science per se, but the absolute negativity of the response to anything I could produce as evidence of my ability to make progress was a constant surprise, even to me, and one concludes that only the most absolute restriction and obstruction is to be expected. That is a simple law of human psychology, although not totally easy to understand.

Professor Otto Frisch FRS
(1904 -1979)
To give one example, the late Professor Otto Frisch of Cambridge University, who had been involved in the development of the atom bomb, once said to me that if there was such a thing as PK (psychokinesis), every physicist in the world should drop whatever they were doing and work on nothing else. This showed a theoretical recognition of its importance, although it would have been a stupid way of tackling the problem.

At that time, Professor Frisch asked me whether, among all the cases of possible PK that I had ever read or heard about, there was one that provided conclusive proof of the existence of PK. Of course I said that there was not, because proof of anything is, strictly speaking, impossible. However cast-iron a case might seem to be, the possibility would always remain that one’s informant was lying or misremembering. Professor Frisch seemed relieved at this, and said he was glad to hear me say that, so that he did not have to feel under pressure to organise any research into PK at all.

Now if somebody with my IQ, who has done enough relevant research of a respectable kind, has a lot of information and ideas about the possible psychology of PK, this would appear to be an opportunity for a scientific breakthrough potentially of such magnitude as to constitute a fairly irrefutable claim on funding. Especially considering the billions that are annually poured into totally futile ‘research’ guaranteed to lead to no outcome of any importance whatever.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

21 September 2014

A friend in need

Text of a recent letter to a potential associate, whom I had known as a child, and with whom I had corresponded some months ago.

Dear ...

I was disappointed that you did not come to visit me here after you had apparently said that you would. You seemed to want to reminisce about an earlier stage of my life, and I could hardly think of doing that without correcting the misinterpretations that have always been placed upon me (and, of course, on my father as well). And when I talk about my past, I really want to get more of my past history into writing, which means dictating and editing.

Maybe you, or any other visitor, would be willing and/or able to help with the secretarial work that will go with doing this, when I am able to do it, but in any case it would be a break for me to have a visitor. Until people have made some contact with me here, there is certainly no possibility of their passing on any information about me, my need for new people, and my need for money, to other people, and this information is what I need to get spread around.

Anyway, could you not come and visit as a favour to me. Any new people might make a tremendous difference to me, and even a very temporary visitor who might pass something on would give me a boost.

Follow-up letter by me, in response to his reply.

Dear ...

It is interesting that you make it explicit that you will not visit me if I make the condition that I talk to you about my situation.

It has often seemed to me that this must be the reason for visitors rushing away soon after turning up, but you are the first person to make it explicit that you do not want to hear anything about my situation.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

14 September 2014

Serviam (‘I will serve’)

Further to the previous post, the following is another extract from The Lost Prince by Frances Hodgson Burnett.

This episode occurs soon after The Rat starts to live with Stefan Loristan (the exiled king), his son Marco and his servant Lazarus. The Rat goes to Lazarus’s room to talk to him, and to ask what he can do to serve Loristan.
“I want to find out everything he [Loristan] likes and everything he doesn’t like,” The Rat said. “I want—isn’t there anything—anything you’d let me do for him? It wouldn’t matter what it was. And he needn’t know you are not doing it. I know you wouldn’t be willing to give up anything particular. But you wait on him night and day. Couldn’t you give up something to me?”
Lazarus pierced him with keen eyes. He did not answer for several seconds.
“Now and then,” he said gruffly at last, “I'll let you brush his boots. But not every day—perhaps once a week.”
“When will you let me have my first turn?” The Rat asked.
Lazarus reflected. His shaggy eyebrows drew themselves down over his eyes as if this were a question of state.
“Next Saturday,” he conceded. “Not before. I’ll tell him when you brush them.”
“You needn’t,” said The Rat. “It’s not that I want him to know. I want to know myself that I’m doing something for him. I’ll find out things that I can do without interfering with you. I’ll think them out.”
“Anything any one else did for him would be interfering with me,” said Lazarus.
The attitude of wanting to serve an admired person by doing useful things for them is very much at variance with the attitude of employees nowadays. The richest and most famous are left to eat cold food alone on Christmas Day, or after a late-night performance, so that their assistants, however highly paid, can give priority to their own interests.

Frances Hodgson Burnett
Frances Hodgson Burnett had spent decades of her life in social environments where attitudes like that of The Rat and Lazarus were much easier to observe and imagine. The attitudes ascribed to Loristan’s associates seem to go beyond what might arise from wishing to curry favour with someone who could confer advantages upon you.

The average modern employee seems to reject considerations, such as currying favour with his employer, or doing something for idealistic reasons, as being beneath him or her.

* Serviam is the motto of the Ursuline convent schools, one of which I attended for four years after coming top of the Essex Grammar School Scholarship exam.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

12 September 2014

The Lost Prince

The following are extracts from The Lost Prince* written by Frances Hodgson Burnett, published in 1915. This is the story of Stefan Loristan, the exiled King of Samavia (a fictional European country), and his son Marco, a boy of about 12. The story is apparently set in the late eighteen hundreds or very early nineteen hundreds.

When the story starts, they are living in poverty in dingy lodgings in London with their loyal servant, an ex-soldier called Lazarus. Marco has made friends with a street boy nicknamed ‘The Rat’. The Rat is the leader of a group of street boys who wear ragged clothes, go barefoot, and do not go to school. One evening, The Rat comes to the lodgings and says that his father has died in a drunken fit. Marco and his father welcome him, and The Rat clearly wants to stay with them.
... Loristan did not turn and walk away. He looked deep into the lad’s eyes as if he were searching to find some certainty. Then he said in a low voice, ‘You know how poor I am’ ... ‘I am so poor that I am not sure that I can give you enough dry bread to eat – always. Marco and Lazarus and I are often hungry. Sometimes you might have nothing to sleep on but the floor. But I can find a place for you if I take you with me,’ said Loristan. ‘Do you know what I mean by a place?’
‘Yes, I do,’ answered The Rat. ‘It’s what I’ve never had before – sir.’
Later in the story, Marco’s father has left the lodgings and the landlady, Mrs Beedle, is worried about whether they can pay the rent.
‘That’s just what I want to find out about,’ put in [Mrs Beedle]. ‘When is he [Marco’s father] coming back?’
‘I do not know,’ answered Marco.
‘That’s it,’ said Mrs Beedle. ‘You’re old enough to know that two big lads and a fellow like that can’t have food and lodgin’s for nothing ... Your father’s out of sight. He,’ jerking her head towards Lazarus, ‘paid me for last week. How do I know he will pay me for this week!’
‘The money is ready,’ roared Lazarus.
‘Is there so little money left?’ said Marco. ‘We have always had very little. When we had less than usual, we lived in poorer places and were hungry if it was necessary. We know how to go hungry. One does not die of it.’
The big eyes under Lazarus’s beetling brows filled with tears.
‘No, sir,’ he said, ‘one does not die of hunger. But the insult – the insult! That is unendurable.’
After finding out that they have enough money to cover the rent for one, possibly two more weeks if they are very frugal:
‘Never mind,’ said Marco. ‘Never mind. We will go away the day we can pay no more.’
‘I can go out and sell newspapers,’ said The Rat’s sharp voice. ‘I’ve done it before. Crutches help you to sell them. The platform would sell ’em faster still. I’ll go out on the platform.’
‘I can sell newspapers, too,’ said Marco.
Lazarus uttered an exclamation like a groan.
‘Sir,’ he cried, ‘no, no! Am I not here to go out and look for work? I can carry loads. I can run errands.’
‘We will all three begin to see what we can do,’ Marco said.
In the pre-Welfare State world, people’s minds were constantly preoccupied with the urgent need for money to buy food, pay the rent, and support their families; and for work as a way of obtaining money. Therefore people wanted to do what other people wanted, in order to be paid for it. As a result, the motivation to ‘get at’ other people, by making them do things for themselves, was suppressed.

People had been selected, for centuries if not millennia, by being able to do better than other people in these circumstances.

Once there is a Welfare State, which removes the threat of starvation, people start to interact with one another on quite different terms, and this affects everything that goes on, not only the attitude to working – such as people’s levels of politeness and honesty.

* Illustration taken from the US 1915 edition, published by The Century Company, New York.

I appeal for financial and moral support in improving my position. I need people to provide moral support both for fundraising, and as temporary or possibly long-term workers. Those interested should read my post on interns.

08 September 2014


I have always had a strong principle against getting into debt, as had my parents.

The accepted attitude towards being in debt changed abruptly in 1945 after the Second World War, and this was obviously an important element in the oncoming ideology.

In the modern world, nominal loans are often made, with little or no expectation that they will ever be repaid. Perhaps this is considered to be less insulting to the recipient. When I was a poor student, with no grant and not even a small salary (and not in receipt of any state benefit), people sometimes offered me loans of this kind, seeing that I was short of money and with no real expectation of repayment. These I never accepted, although I would have accepted an outright gift. And now I certainly would not accept any gift of money if I had any reason to think that the donor regarded it as a loan.

In general, my associates and I are too aware of the existential uncertainty to place themselves at anyone’s mercy by getting into debt.

Not only do people offer gifts as if they were loans; they also ask for gifts as if they were loans. When one of my colleagues was at school, a rather demoralised working-class friend quite often asked her to lend her something, which she did, but without expecting to get it back – and she did not ever get it back. She never asked for it back, and regarded these ‘loans’ as outright gifts as soon as her friend asked for them.

Nowadays being in debt, rather than having savings, increases eligibility for benefits. This is rewarding irresponsibility, and hence penalising responsibility. As Polonius in Hamlet (c.1601) says:
Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

27 August 2014

Educational ideology and the loss of clarity

One of my colleagues has a book that was given as a school prize in a State primary school 50 years ago, and which shows how the dominant ideology has developed since then. The book is entitled The Living World of History, the author Gareth H. Browning, and it was published by Collins in 1963. Evidently the book was regarded as respectable at the time, but it expresses an unfashionable world view by today’s standards. It is implied that the value of compulsory education is not unquestionable.
The Factory Act of 1833 (one of a long series to come) prohibited the employment of children under nine and limited the hours of those under thirteen to forty-eight per week. Then, as a doubtful treat, the latter group were given schooling for two hours a day. The government also made a money grant for educational purposes. These were the first effective steps made by the State towards the free, compulsory, universal education that children “enjoy” to-day. (p. 112)
Then again, the goodness and rightness of socialism, as opposed to capitalism, is also questionable.
In Britain, in the general election of 1945, the Socialists swept the country. There was an urgent feeling that society must be created anew on truly democratic lines. The State must ensure a higher standard of living for ordinary people. All the political parties were pledged to social reform. But, while the Socialists sought it through State ownership and control in industry and the public services, the Conservatives believed in private ownership, free competition and individual enterprise. (pp. 155-6)
Another sign of the changing times is the clarity with which the book expresses what it says. The attitudes described may or may not seem convincing to the reader, but it is clear what they are.

As the modern ideology became more dominant, although presented as unquestionable it was expressed with a certain vagueness or blurriness, which had the effect of making it difficult to criticise. This kind of blurriness, after a certain date, became fairly universal in academic productions. It became a feature, not just of subjects such as history or sociology, but also of ostensibly objective subjects such as physics.

14 August 2014


People who are thinking of coming to form an association with us should be aware of the concept of ‘interns’.

People starting their careers are often glad to be allowed to work for a statusful organisation without being paid, as the work experience is supposed to enhance their chances of paid work later on. There are even people who are willing to pay a firm or university for allowing them to work as an intern. People have expressed objections to this, and say that employers should not be allowed to accept paying interns, because this is giving an advantage to those who can afford to pay for an internship, while the poor, who cannot afford to pay for one, are at a disadvantage.

As we are not a statusful organisation, or a socially recognised university department, people think that we should pay for any scrap of work they do for us, although the useful information and practical experience acquired by working here could be extremely valuable to them, even more so than that gained from working for an organisation with an accepted social position. It would actually be very reasonable, for someone who wanted to develop an association with us, to offer to pay us so much per annum for working here.

10 July 2014

Appeal for funding to lucid dream researchers

The following is an edited version of something I published on the web some years ago. Since that time, no financial contributions have been made by any of the individuals mentioned.
I continue to appeal to anyone who has derived advantage from the topic of lucid dreaming, either as a field for research, or as a topic of personal interest, to contribute not less than £2000 per annum towards funding for my research and my personal income.

When I was interviewed by the head of the Oxford University philosophy appointments board, a senior professor, to discuss how I might get onto a salaried university career track as an academic philosopher, I did not attempt to conceal my bitterness at the fact that my book on lucid dreaming, which I had written under duress because I had no other way of advertising my need for funding to do laboratory research to force my way back into a university career, had provided academics around the world, already safely on career tracks, with advantageous areas of research.

The professor hastened to defend the academics for doing nothing to improve my position, by saying that once a piece of work had been published it was free to anyone to work on it. And of course there is no law asserting that anyone should recognise the socially disadvantaged position of someone else, or do anything more than is strictly prescribed by law to help them. But spontaneous decency is not illegal, even where not socially prescribed. It is not explicitly recognised that it is socially proscribed. There was no law against the professor himself, having recognised that he had become aware of someone so seriously disadvantaged in life in comparison with himself, donating to me half of his own salary, or any other fraction of it, from that time forwards. Or he might have wished to make a mailing to all academics around the world known to have worked on lucid dreams, in which he could have expressed to them his own recognition of my disadvantaged position, and his own hope that each of them would make a significant annual donation out of their own salaries towards compensating me for my continuing lack of a university career, despite the fact that there was no legal obligation on them to do so.

Many years ago an international conference on lucid dreaming was held at London University and I was invited to contribute by giving a paper, although no one had shown any sign of wanting to provide me with funding to contribute by way of research.

At the conference someone informed me that he was sure I should be really pleased that some more of my ideas for research were going to be tried out at Stanford University. I felt about as overjoyed as if I had been slapped in the face, and it just illustrates how insensitive to my predicament those who themselves benefited from my work on lucid dreams have always been.

I was (and still am), in my grievous and destitute position, very embittered that it did not occur to any of those who worked on lucid dreams, salaried as nearly all of them were, to send me money to relieve my unsalaried position. If each of those concerned had sent a contribution of £2000 per annum (even if only while they were actually working on lucid dreams) my position would have been significantly improved and by now I would probably have been able to publish enough research to force my way back into a university position. It is not too late for my position to be relieved in this way. In fact the urgency that it should be has only increased with the decades of delay, since I am still physically alive, and needing to get started on my forty-year academic career.

So I am appealing to anyone who has derived advantage from lucid dreaming, either as a field for academic research or as a topic of personal interest, to contribute either a lump sum towards the £2 million which I need to set up a residential college, or to contribute not less than £2000 per annum towards my research and my personal income.

Legacies of any size are also requested. There is no upper limit, as the endowment required for residential colleges and research departments is considerable. Please note that any donations or legacies should be made direct to me, and not to any organisation with which I may seem to be associated. The latter leads to so much complication that the benefit is severely reduced, and probably completely aborted.

I address this appeal particularly to the following, who are known to have made use of the concept of lucid dreaming in their careers.

List of lucid dream researchers

A. Baker
A. Brylowski
A.A. Sheikh
Alan Moffitt
Alan Worsley
B. Kediskerski
B. McLeod
B. McWilliams
B. Rodenelli
B. Shillig
B.G. Marcot
C. Sachau
C. Sawicki
C.N. Alexander
Charles Tart
D. Armstrong-Hickey
D. Davidson
D. Foulkes
D. Orme-Johnson
D.B. Jenkins
D.E. Hewitt
D.S. Rogo
David B. Cohen
Elendur Haraldsson
F.A. Wolf
Fariba Bogzaran
G.S. Sparrow
Gayle Delaney
George Gillespie
Gordon Halliday
H. Reed
Harry Hunt
Harvey J. Irwin
J. Adams
J. Dane
J. Walling
J. Wren-Lewis
Jane Bosveld
Janet Mullington
Jayne Gackenbach
Judith R. Malamud
K. Kelzer
K. McGowan
K. McKelvey

K.P. Vieira
Keith Hearne
L. L. Magallon
L. Levitan
L. Nagel
L. Rokes
L.L. Magallon
M. Walters
M.L. Lucescu
Mary Godwyn
Morton Schatzman
N. Heilman
O. Clerc
P. Maxwell
P.D. Tyson
Patricia Garfield
Paul Tholey
Peter Fellows
Peter Fenwick
R. Boyer
R. Cranson
R. Curren
R. George
R.J. Small
Robert D. Ogilvie
Robert F. Price
Robert Hoffmann
Robert K. Dentan
Robert Van de Castle
Roger Wells
Ross Pigneau
S. Boyt
S. Hammons
S. Stone
Sheila Purcell
Stephen LaBerge
Susan Blackmore
T. Neilsen
Thomas Snyder
V. Zarcone
W. Dement
W. Greenleaf
Wynn Schwartz

07 July 2014

Dream research

We recently received an enquiry from the magazine of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, requesting an interview. This is the text of my colleague Dr Charles McCreery’s reply.

“Thank you for your email addressed to Celia Green, to which she has asked me to reply. I am the co-author with her of Lucid Dreaming: the Paradox of Consciousness During Sleep, which was published by Routledge in 1994.

We were invited by Routledge to write this book. We would not otherwise have considered writing a follow-up to Dr Green’s first book on the subject, Lucid Dreams, published by Hamish Hamilton in 1968, since the latter had not resulted, as we had hoped, in any financial support being forthcoming to enable us to carry out any of the experimental work which Dr Green had in mind.

Instead, several years after the publication of Lucid Dreams, we found other people entering the field, who were funded by university appointments in most cases. They began to carry out work which acknowledged Dr Green’s priority and the influence it had had on their own decision to enter the field of research, but which did not represent the sort of research which she had had in mind to do herself. Nor did it have any effect in making it any more possible for us to raise funds for our own work.

We are still appealing for funding to continue our work in this and other fields. We are also appealing for funding to keep Dr Green’s first book on lucid dreams in print, as well as books on other topics which we have written and published, and further books which we could write, or edit and publish, if we had funding to do so.

We are short-staffed on account of our lack of funding. Dr Green does not give interviews as we have found it impossible to avoid misinterpretations.

I add below three links to pieces which Dr Green has published on the topic of lucid dreaming in recent years on her blog, and which describe our attempts to get funding for continuing her research in this area.”

Lucid dreams: watching others get the benefit

An appeal to Harvard

More on lucid dreams and the BBC

04 July 2014

An evil headmaster

I reproduce below an account by one of my associates of an experience they had with the headmaster of their primary school. The account illustrates what is seldom acknowledged: that teachers, especially those employed in the state sector, may have destructive motivation towards some (or all) of their pupils, particularly those of high ability.

“Mr ‘X’ was the headmaster of the primary school I attended. When I was nine, he was in charge of the relatively small class of pupils deemed as possibles for passing the 11-plus exam. There was a parallel, and larger, lower-ability class. Although I was not aware of any formal policy on this, there were clear signs that this second class were regarded as no-hopers for the 11-plus exam. For example, the first class were occasionally given hints about how to do well in the exam, which was not done for the second class.

At that time, pupils of age 9 at the school entered either the 11-plus class or the parallel class, and left the school at 11 to go to secondary school – normally a grammar school if they had passed the 11-plus, or a secondary modern school if they had not.

At nine, I was among those selected to enter the ‘top’ class (as I, not the school, called it). I was at that time a bouncy, sociable and self-confident person. I was also conscientious, and felt identified with working hard and doing my best.

However, after entering the top class it soon emerged that I had not completely learnt my multiplication tables by heart, as I was apparently supposed to have done. This gave Mr X an excuse to punish me. As a result of my relative weakness in multiplication, I scored badly in the mental arithmetic tests Mr X gave regularly, and he began threatening me with the idea that I might be relegated to the ‘lower’ class. I was too full of shame and panic to tell my parents about these threats.

In due course I was relegated to the lower class, which happened towards the end of the first term. I did not tell my parents immediately that it had happened, because I felt ashamed. Mr X made no attempt to teach me the tables himself, nor did he contact my parents to encourage them to do so.

Mr X generally treated me as if I were a criminal or similar moral reprobate. He appeared to attribute my not having learnt the multiplication tables to laziness and frivolity, and hinted that my defect might consist in something even worse. When I thought about it later, I realised that (at the time) I felt that I had not known how wicked I was until Mr X had told me.

Eventually I had to tell my parents about the situation, and they reacted as I feared they would. They assured me that they ‘loved’ me but took it for granted that my being relegated to the lower class by Mr X meant that I was deficient in arithmetic, and that I would not pass the 11-plus. They started to console themselves with the idea that even if I went to a secondary modern school, I might still have a chance to take O-levels, like the children who got into grammar school.

Being in the ‘lower’ class damaged my self-confidence and did not improve my prowess at mental arithmetic. In neither the ‘top’ class nor the ‘lower’ class were the multiplication tables actually taught. I felt cowed.

One thing I remember vividly is that I had been in the school choir, which Mr X was in charge of, and that I had greatly enjoyed it. However, it appears I was penalised for my ‘sins’ by being excluded from choir events as well. That school year, the school choir performed with a number of other choirs at a concert in a nearby town, and one of my brothers was on stage as a member of the choir, but I was not. Instead, I was in the audience with my parents and younger siblings (they were too young to be in the choir).

At the end of that school year, I only managed to come third in the ‘lower’ class, even though I had previously come top of my year. I am sure this was because I felt demoralised and unable to identify with myself.

At the start of the next school year, Mr X graciously allowed me back into the ‘top’ class. I was relieved that I was back in the ‘land of the living’, i.e. in the same class as other obviously intelligent children, but my confidence had been damaged and I continued to think of myself as naturally lazy and frivolous.

All the pupils who turned 11 in that school year, including me, took the 11-plus. I made my best attempt at it. By that time I had learnt the multiplication tables by myself, at home. I didn’t feel I was doing particularly well at school (we didn’t get much feedback about how we were doing, until the end of a year) and so I fully expected not to pass the 11-plus. Nevertheless I did pass it, along with a few others in the top class. Also, at the end of the year it was announced, to my surprise, that I had come first in class, in terms of marks for schoolwork during the year.

I expect Mr X was fuming as he signed my book prize for coming first, as he evidently hated me. During the ‘demotion’ episode he had treated me as if I had somehow injured him, and as if he had to try to take revenge.

Although I could be said to have left that school on a relatively high note, my self-confidence did not return until many years later. I remained disconnected from my schoolwork throughout most of my time at the secondary school, and only achieved mediocre results in my O- and A-levels.

Thirty years later, I was only reminded that I had in fact come first at the end of the last year of primary school when I visited my parents, noticed the prize book there, and opened it to see the inscription signed by Mr X.

In retrospect, I expect Mr X had first noticed me when I went with my mother, at the age of four and half, to meet him for an interview about my attending the school in due course. At that time I could already read. While my mother was talking to Mr X, I took a great interest in the school noticeboards which I found in the corridors. Mr X asked me about what I could see, so I told him what I had read. I came to his attention again when I came top of my school year at the age of eight, and he was no doubt reminded to keep an eye on me.

By the time I was nine I was on the board of distinguished readers, an elite group of about ten pupils. One bad thing Mr X did not do when I was put down a year, though he had the capacity to, was to wipe my name off that list. But it was not my ability that he had called into question; it was my character. This may have done me more harm than if he had merely implied I was stupid.

My tentative interpretation of what happened is that Mr X was hostile to me because I was clever. Hence his desire to punish me by making me appear stupid. I think this reaction to ability, and desire to do someone down, is more common among teachers than is generally realised. The concept of the sadistic teacher is relatively commonplace, but the idea that hostility is particularly aroused by the able is less so. Of course this characteristic can be found among private school teachers as well as those working in the state sector. However, in the private sector there is at least a modicum of competitive pressure to keep anti-ability motivation suppressed.

Parents may not always care about the effects of a school as much as one might hope. However, they care more if they are paying, and are liable to transfer their children to another school if they think their money would be better spent elsewhere. By contrast, there is little pressure on state school teachers not to behave destructively. The parents aren’t paying and they typically have little power to change schools. Even if they do change, the school being rejected doesn’t suffer financially, so it has little reason to avoid teachers who behave like this, or to give them an incentive not to do so.”

27 June 2014

Lucid dreams: watching others get the benefit

text of a letter to a journalist sent a few years ago

When you came you asked me whether I regretted having written the first book on lucid dreams, and I should like to answer that in writing. It may be too late for your article, but I am often asked similar questions by journalists and maybe when I have written it down it can go in my forthcoming book.

In my previous letter to you I referred to academics who make applications for funding for a project, don’t get any, and then find someone else is doing a similar project. Do you suppose they regret making the application? Of course with hindsight they may think that if they had known the outcome they would not have bothered, but they could only have found out what the outcome would be by making the application, so in a sense I suppose they do not regret having made the attempt.

My position about lucid dreams is similar. I had no wish to write a book about lucid dreams, and would not have done so if I had had any way of proceeding with actual laboratory research on lucid dreams or on anything else, but all the possible sources of funding with which I had contact were impervious, and so I made what was in effect an application for funding. But I had no way of doing that except by publicising to the world my acquaintance with this potential field of research.

Of course, the academic who finds his ideas being copied has no cause for complaint. His ideas are not protected by patent or copyright, and if he makes them known to the personnel of a grant-giving body they may leak. There is no law against insider dealing in this area. In any case, even if there were, he would find it difficult to pin anything on anybody, unless his application drew on unpublished material known only to himself and this clearly appeared in the design of the other person’s project. This is very unlikely to be the case, and if specialised information is not involved, the other academic can always claim that he thought up the project independently. Great minds are said to think alike, and mediocre ones certainly do.

And, of course, it does the rejected academic no real harm, unless you count emotional bitterness as harmful, to see someone else implementing his ideas. In this respect, however, the emotional pain has been decidedly more severe in my case, in relation to lucid dreams, than that of the average rejected academic is likely to be. The academic has his status and salary; a certain lifestyle including ancillary staff and dining halls etc, facilitating intellectual activity, is assured. I was attempting to compensate for my lack of these things by getting funding to enable me to live a decent academic life, and this was a desperate long shot at best.

It therefore caused me some intensity of despair to observe that one of my long shots had in fact succeeded to the extent of providing other people, already safely on academic career tracks, with a field of research. As the minimal funding which had made possible the writing of the book had run out, there was no way in which I could hope to improve on the application for funding which I had just made.

A person on a desert island cannot exactly say that he regrets having fired a distress rocket without success. He understands what led him to do it, and in the same circumstances he would do the same again. But if I had known what the consequences of initiating this field of research might be, I might have refrained. The expansion of work and interest in this field can only appear to someone in my position as a cruel mockery of it, a refinement of torture which I could have done without.

25 June 2014

Article on lucid dreaming in BBC Focus Magazine

text of an email from the picture editor at BBC Focus Magazine:

Dear Ms. Green,

I am mailing from BBC Focus Magazine, a popular science and technology publication. In our August issue we are running a feature about dreams, and how you may be able to take control of them. We mention your early research into lucid dreaming in our piece, and I wondered if you might be able to provide us with an image of yourself that we can put alongside the copy.

I would be happy to credit the image and send you a copy of the magazine in return.

Best wishes,
James Cutmore

text of my colleague Dr Charles McCreery’s reply:

Dear Mr Cutmore,

Thank you for your message to Celia Green, to which Dr Green has asked me to reply. I am the co-author with her of her follow-up book Lucid Dreaming, the Paradox of Consciousness During Sleep, published by Routledge.

The position is not merely that Dr Green carried out ‘early research’ into lucid dreaming, but that she was the first to develop the subject as a field of scientific study, a programme for which she laid out in her book Lucid Dreams, first published in 1968 by Hamish Hamilton.

This priority was fully recognised by her successors in the field some years later, notably Professor Stephen LaBerge and Dr Keith Hearne.

I add below three links to pieces which Dr Green has published on the topic of lucid dreaming in recent years on her blog, which describe our attempts to get funding for continuing her research in this area.

I will send you a scan of a photograph attached to a separate email.

Yours sincerely,
Charles McCreery

text of James Cutmore’s reply:

Dear Charles,

Many thanks for sending the image through to me. We do, in fact, state that Dr Green was the first person to experiment extensively with lucid dreaming, and develop an understanding of it. My first email was written in haste, so many apologies for that.

Please enjoy the rest of your day, and thank you again for your help.

Best wishes,
James Cutmore

24 June 2014

More about the threat of intelligence

text of a letter to an academic

I have written to you about the IQ test that I did when I was ten, and in retrospect I realise that probably my father’s initiative had little to do with it; more likely the educational psychologist was set on by the local authority to spy on me and work out how best to damage my education.

I was very much in the dark at the time, and it was only in 1956 that a book* was published which discussed reading at two as indicating a mental age of six to seven, and thus an IQ of over 300. It was only then that I realised that the test score obtained by the educational psychologist could not very well have been less than 200, although I was told, via my father, that my IQ was 180.

In fact, it appears possible that all the new legislation concerning the ages at which external school exams could be taken, which was created at the time of my education, was made with me in mind, and affected me very badly.

When I told you how early I learnt to read, you quoted an official opinion to the effect that there are so many variations in early development that (by implication) anything of this kind is not meaningful.

No doubt this is what everyone wanted to think, even at that time (i.e. in the 40s). When the post-war Labour landslide occurred in 1945, the minimum age for taking the grammar school scholarship was raised; and if I had not taken the scholarship in the last year before it became the 11-plus, I would not have been able to take it for another two years.

However, I slipped through the net, although not without attracting attention. When, still aged ten, I was interviewed for entry to the Ursuline High School, the Reverend Mother told my parents that I had been one of the youngest candidates, and had got 100% on every paper of the grammar school scholarship (English, arithmetic and intelligence). She had clearly got this information from the local authority, and it was obviously accessible to the government as well.

So the local authority probably set their educational psychologist to spy on me and find out whether they had any grounds for attacking my father. Allegations about his pushing me were already circulating, and did not stop doing so when the educational psychologist could find no grounds for them.

I had been relatively inconspicuous between the ages of two and nine in a private preparatory school, from which I frequently stayed away, my parents paying the fees for the term and squaring it with the headmistress. This inconspicuousness did not last once I became exposed to the state educational system.

* C.W. Valentine, The Normal Child and some of his Abnormalities, Penguin, 1956.

Intelligence: a threat to the welfare state?

text of a letter to an academic

My life continues to be constricted by the anti-exceptionality syndrome of modern society.

When I was about ten and had come top of the grammar school scholarship, my father, wishing to show his dependence on expert opinion, had my IQ tested by an educational psychologist who lived nearby – possibly because he (my father) was sceptical about the result of the scholarship exam.

The psychologist’s verdict, as I was told, was that he had never tested a child like it before, and never expected to again. Testing school children for local authorities was, more or less, his occupation in life. He added that I had a phenomenal memory. Of course he was only able to test my short-term memory, which he had done by reading me lists of numbers and asking me to repeat them backwards. Eventually he had asked me how I did it, and I said that I fastened the numbers on my fingers and read them off again. (This may sound like a way of memorising things with eidetic imagery that some people use, so I think I should explain that no imagery was involved, it was just a case of connecting the associations of a number with an ordered sequence.)

I was told that my IQ was 180, which they described as ‘near genius’. Genius was defined as over 200, and there was apparently supposed to be a population of people with IQs between 180 and 200. Probably my father would not have told me my IQ was 180 if he had not realised it was an understatement.

The educational psychologist appeared to pride himself on his own IQ of 140, which he described as ‘a professor’s IQ’.

This was in about 1945.

This account of what happened to me may provide some indication of the accepted attitudes to intelligence at that time. But things were changing fast.

Nowadays the concept of IQ is considered of doubtful significance by most psychologists, and IQ tests have been progressively changed, supposedly to allow for cultural differences between different cultural and ethnic groups.

The concept of IQ was originally developed as a predictor of academic success within the academic system of that time. The academic system has changed, and IQ tests have changed with it.

As the system has changed, academic standards, both in universities and in professional environments, have also changed, so that in both environments it is common to find people writing English that routinely needs to be edited and proofread by somebody else.