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In any case, even if there were, he would find it difficult to pin anything on anybody, unless his application drew on unpublished material known only to himself and this clearly appeared in the design of the other person’s project.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.

11 June 2014

Part-time ex-Oxford lecturers

text of a letter to an academic

I wonder if you know anyone who knows the Principal of Ripon Theological College, which is in Cuddesdon and fairly near to where we live?

The inflation continues to make it more difficult than it has always been to be even minimally productive in this incipient academic institution. Whatever the official figures may suggest, many of the types of expenditure which we face seem to have risen significantly in price over the last couple of years.

It would be helpful if we could alleviate the constrictive pressures by supplementing our incomes as part-time or temporary lecturers or tutors at university level. Three of the people here now have Oxford doctorates – two of them former Oxford college lecturers – and between us we cover a wide range of topics, including statistics, mathematics, accounting, psychology, philosophy and history of religion.

I do not know what areas are included in the courses provided by Ripon College, but it is likely that they include several in which somebody here could function as a tutor or lecturer. If the Principal of Ripon College knew about us, he might realise that we could provide a fill-in if there was a temporary absence or breakdown of some present lecturing arrangement. We could also act as temporary lecturers for Oxford University or for Oxford Brookes University, but these could only be very temporary on account of the travelling.

However, if a student in the Oxford area were having difficulties with his work and could drive himself into Cuddesdon for tutorials, it might be very significantly to his benefit to do so.

We should like our availability in these capacities to be known about on the academic network.

09 June 2014

Opportunity in Cuddesdon, Oxford

text of a letter to the author of an investment newsletter

Dear ...

I am a long-term subscriber to your newsletter. I am an outcast academic, publishing, when able to, under the imprint ‘Oxford Forum’.

It is easiest to account for my position in life by going right back to the beginning. The rejection of hereditary ability is a salient, if somewhat concealed, feature of modern anti-capitalist ideology.

I showed remarkable precocity from an early age. This is something of which the modern world does not approve – although pre-1945, the concept of IQ was still accepted. As a result, I was thrown out at the end of my ruined education with no usable qualification with which to make an acceptable career. Therefore I founded my own independent academic organisation with the intention of working my way back into a normal university career at a higher level.

I hoped that others would join me in this endeavour, but in practice found that my position aroused little sympathy, but did arouse intense opposition. Over the decades I acquired some associates. Those who are here now are people who had themselves aroused unjustifiable opposition, which had made it impossible for them to make suitable careers. Other associates I had fell away, apparently for no better reason than that somebody like me, who had been thrown out by people with status, should receive no help in attempting to remedy his position.

I am seeking people to come and live nearby, because cooperation between individuals who are prepared to criticise the ideology could lead to significant, and possibly dramatic, increases in the resources and opportunities of those concerned.

You are the sort of person we have in mind, since you are clearly prepared to envisage increasing your own capital and helping other people to increase theirs as well. We would like people like you to come and live in Cuddesdon, a village on the edge of Oxford, which is easily accessible to both London and Oxford. Cuddesdon is on a hill, with clean air, and views of the Chilterns.

Kind regards,
Celia Green

‘We appeal for £5m as initial funding for our unrecognised and unsupported independent university.’
Charles McCreery, DPhil