21 December 2008

Obstructions and machinations

copy of a letter to an academic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 November 2008

Penalising foresight and determination

The state pension is to rise by the (unrealistically low) official rate of inflation. ‘Pension credit’ is also to increase, and the Chancellor said the increase in it was above inflation. However, not every pensioner is eligible for pension credit, which is means-tested.

So this year the percentage difference due to means-testing would appear to increase as between those judged to be poor enough and those who have built up some capital by saving to reduce their dependence on retirement.

In the Daily Mail of 25 November 2008, a retired car worker, Bill Jupp, is quoted as saying that pensioners had got ‘next to nothing’ in the Pre-Budget Report.

Bill Jupp added: ‘I’m also very suspicious of the £60 Christmas bonus. I’m sure they’ll be a cut in pensioner’s fuel allowance or something else to pay for it.

‘We are on fixed incomes but our council tax is going up, our food bills are going up and our energy bills are going up. It’s one long nightmare.’

Joe Harris, of lobby group National Pensioners’ Convention, says: ‘Pensioner inflation is double the official figures because older people spend a higher proportion of their income on those items with the fastest rising prices.’

We have heard suggestions that fuel allowances should be targeted towards ‘the poorest’ pensioners who are on ‘pension credit’, and this may well be another way of increasing the percentage difference due to means-testing.

‘The Premier [promised] to hit the middle classes and target the rich if he wins another term’ (Daily Mail 25 November 2008, front page)

When I was thrown out at the end of my ruined ‘education’ with no usable qualification, I was unable to draw income support, and realised that I always would be, unless and until I was able to get back into a proper university career. If I could be recognised as eligible for salaried appointments which it would be possible for me to take up, then I would have been able to draw income support during any hiatus in my career.

But the state pension was supposed to depend on making enough annual payments, even if you were unemployed, so I always paid the annual voluntary contributions for myself and anyone else associated with me, however little income we had.

This, I reckoned, would at least be reducing the disadvantage at which I should be on retirement relative to someone who had been having a proper career as a Professor in physics, philosophy or any other subject.

Soon after reaching normal retirement age I started to hear rumours of pensions ‘withering on the vine’ and a substantial proportion of the annual increases became means-tested, that is, it was allocated to the ‘poorest’ who had spent all their incomes throughout their working lives, which might well have included some who had lived as university professors with full salaries.

In an egalitarian society, it certainly would not do if a person who had shown exceptional foresight and determination in making annual payments, however poor they were, should be able to pat themselves on the back when they reached normal retirement age (although without actually having been able to get started on a salaried career) about an annual inflation-adjusted stipend, however inadequate, rolling in as a reward for all their effort and frugality.

14 November 2008

The Oxford media

Copy of a letter sent several weeks ago by my colleague Dr Charles McCreery to a presenter on Radio Oxford, to which he has had no reply.

I understand that you have invited Celia Green and Christine Fulcher to put their names forward for inclusion on the guest list for a launch party for a book you have written.

We invited you to a launching party which we had in Cuddesdon about two years ago for Celia Green’s latest book, Letters From Exile: Observations on a Culture in Decline. To the best of my recollection, we did not receive an acknowledgement of this invitation.

Altogether dozens of invitations were sent out for this function, to which in the end only one guest turned up. A high proportion of all the invitations were to people in the Oxford area, as opposed to London , so that any difficulty in travelling here could not have been an explanation.

Over the last forty years Celia has published nine books, none of which has been reviewed by the Oxford Times.

The last time Celia was invited to be interviewed on Radio Oxford was in connection with a lecture she gave which happened to have the phrase ‘Da Vinci Code’ in the title, so that the station apparently thought it could be assimilated to the then popular interest in a non-scholarly book.

08 November 2008

Children and Mill’s Principle of Liberty

As quite a young child I was under the impression that it was a basic principle of accepted morality and legislation that an individual's freedom of action should not be restricted except in so far as his actions might impinge upon the freedom of others.

A century ago this principle was to a large extent respected. Provided you kept the law you could make your own decisions, subject to the resources and opportunities you had, and could try to enlarge your resources and opportunities. The law, it is true, violated the principle by including some moral elements, such as a prohibition of homosexuality, which could scarcely be justified as restraining the infringement of the liberty of others, as between consenting adults. A law of this kind was evidently based on psychological grounds, that people doing things of this kind might generate disapproval in others, and persons should be protected from having to feel such things.

Although the modern world has repealed the penalties for homosexuality between consenting adults, this is scarcely likely to have been out of concern for individual liberty; more likely the repeal was made because sex is the modern opium of the people, it being supposed that if they are encouraged to fill their lives with such harmless distractions they will not notice more serious oppressions.

Nowadays legislation is frequently justified on statistical grounds: that we must bring about a state of affairs in which society as a whole is the way we (that is, the legislators) would like it to be. I first noticed this when a law was brought in prohibiting the taking of what are now called GCSEs before a person's sixteenth birthday. Even at the time, and before I realised how serious the effects of this would be on my own educational prospects, I thought this surprisingly immoral legislation. Surely a person was not doing anyone else any harm by taking an exam younger than the average? The only harm you could be said to be doing was psychological: it might make other people jealous. But then the acquisition of any benefit in life might make other people jealous. If you started to take psychological considerations such as this into account you could plainly justify practically any restriction of individual freedom of action. What other people would like best would be to see you living a dull, unambitious life, enlivened only by such diversions as they permitted themselves, such as the aforementioned opium of the people.

Another way this sort of legislation is justified is by reference to protecting people from themselves. Thus in this case, it may have been represented that children were being preserved from being made to work hard, or to 'cram', as previous legislation had preserved them from being made to climb up inside sooty chimneys in order to sweep them. This, however, leaves out of account all manner of individual differences, and does not allow the child or its parents the freedom to make a decision on the basis of his own abilities and temperament. The amount of effort that goes into preparing for exams is vastly different depending on aptitude and motivation.

Similarly people are supposed to be preserved from choosing the wrong pharmaceuticals for themselves, by being allowed to have only those which the doctor prescribes for them. They are not protected from the mistakes of the doctor, who cannot be supposed to have nearly the same interest in their wellbeing that they have themselves. Nor is the recipient allowed to use his own judgement to assess the likelihood that the doctor's prescription is more harmful than he would choose under his own steam, in the light of the doctor's stupidity, incompetence, sadism, lack of interest, love of power, etc.

The principle that an individual should be free to make his own decisions, subject only to their infringement in obvious ways of the freedom of others has, clearly, always been most vulnerable to abuse in situations of incapacity. There is an age before which an infant cannot make informed decisions for itself and must inevitably depend on its parents to make decisions on its behalf. In a similar way, a person suffering from physical illness may be really incapable of making decisions for himself; in an extreme case, he may be unconscious. There may be no friends or relatives around. The fact that education and medicine deal, in their most limiting cases, with individuals who are not in any realistic sense able to decide things for themselves has, of course, led to extreme abuse. In both state education and medicine (even, though to a marginally lesser extent, in private medicine) there is supposed to be a complete transfer of concern for the 'interests' of the individual to a social authority.

07 October 2008

Wittgenstein's Papierkorb

The following fragments have been found in Wittgenstein's wastepaper basket (Papierkorb):

* What does a person mean when he says he is motivated to do something? What is a motive? Have you ever seen one?

* What can anyone mean by saying that they have had experiences they cannot exactly describe? What are you unable to describe? Tell me.

* When I see a man walking across the road, and think, ‘Perhaps that man is an automaton.’ – what is the result of that? I get a strange feeling.

* It is important to realise that there is nothing other than the language game. If there were anything else, what could we say about it?

* What people call thinking is an illness; it is what happens when the language game gets disordered. Philosophy should lay down rules for the language game so that it never gets disordered; then philosophy can stop.

(from the forthcoming book The Corpse and the Kingdom)

29 September 2008

Accidental associations

copy of a letter

The last time I met you, you asked why I went to the Society for Psychical Research if I was not interested in what they did. As I have explained, a contributory factor in the ruin of my ‘education’ was that I knew no one accepted that I would find life without a hotel environment intolerable.

When I was thrown out it was no more tolerable than I had expected, and it was therefore absolutely out of the question that I would be able to find anything ‘interesting’ until I had got myself back into decent living circumstances which would permit of being intellectually productive in a way that I got something out of. ‘Interest’ in doing anything, without a hotel environment to work in, was out of the question.

When I was thrown out at the end of my ruined ‘education’ without a usable qualification, I needed to find a job to finance my taking an unofficial DPhil at my own expense in Oxford. I was under pressure from my parents, acting on behalf of society at large, to find a job anyway, so I went to Mary Adams of the BBC, the mother of one of my college friends, to ask her to find me one. She sent me to see Denys Parsons, the Secretary of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, no doubt in the hope that I would end up doing some very boring job taking measurements for white goods makers, or something like that, and never be seen in Oxford again.

Denys Parsons was also an Honorary Secretary of the Society for Psychical Research (as was W.H. Salter at that time). Somehow the subject of research into extrasensory perception came up, and after discussing this for a bit, Denys Parsons mentioned that the secretary at the SPR was in hospital, the post was piling up, and they were desperate. I said that I would take the job of secretary, so Denys Parsons got in touch with Salter immediately, and I went off to Saffron Walden to see Salter. So that is how I got the job as secretary at the SPR.

All I was thinking about at the SPR was how I could find a way of restoring myself to a liveable life, such as might be enjoyed by a Fellow of a residential college with dining facilities. My life was very grim, even with the temporary support of Sir George Joy, which broke down as soon as I got too near to anything that might have provided a realistic alleviation of my position.

I believe that agents of the collective are trained to ignore any statements made by victims which are at variance with the socially approved misinterpretations of the situation, and to reinforce only any statements that might seem to be compatible with the socially approved model.

When I say that I was pleased about the success of my prediction in an ESP experiment, people may hope that I had found it ‘interesting’. Actually my prediction was very much a sighting shot (in a mass experiment that I was doing only because Cecil King wished it done) and I was pleased that it seemed to come off because I was still naive enough to suppose that indications that one might be able to make progress would encourage others, as it encouraged oneself, to envisage developing and elaborating the original ideas on a much larger scale, and that would get me nearer to the hotel environment which I so badly needed.

Soon I learnt that indications that one might be able to make more progress than other people were certain to make people want to keep one even more tightly constricted and inactive.

Mary Adams certainly had no intention of my getting a job at the Society for Psychical Research instead of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. She seemed taken aback and possibly even shocked when told that this had happened. Rationalising as best she could, on normal terms, she said, ‘So you are going to use your typing skills to do a secretarial job.’
I had, of course, told them that I could type quite proficiently. You could see it as ironic that this was the only usable qualification with which an oppressive education had left me, and one for which the system itself could claim no credit. (You could say it was the only advantage of precocity that the system had not been able to prevent from arising.)

When I was about eight my father had bought himself a second-hand typewriter and a typing manual so that he would be able to type letters and notices for his school. When he had finished learning I had taken advantage of the machine and the manual to learn to type as well, and soon I was typing out things for his school. I particularly remember the extracts from educationalists, several copies of which had to be typed to hand round to my father’s teachers. I remember the names of Dewey and Nunn and a few of the dicta, e.g. ‘Children are little workmen waiting for jobs to do,’ and, most ironically, ‘Fit the education to the child, and not the child to the education.’

23 September 2008

The Establishment and I

I recently read a definition of Establishment as ‘a group of people who hold power in a society and dominate its institutions’ (Daily Mail, 10 September 2008, article entitled ‘An Establishment Paedophile’ by Charlotte Metcalf.) That has been my problem all my life, that the Establishment has opposed me, taking it in the extended sense of including ‘those who have power in the local community’.

Sir George Joy was Establishment, and the fact that he had been thrown out at the end to fend for himself with a miserable pittance of a pension and ruined health did not, apparently, weaken his allegiance to the Establishment per se. The Establishment was against me, so he was not for me. He was Establishment, Mary Adams (Head of BBC Talks) was Establishment, and that is strong bonding. ‘Oh, he had a reputation once,’ Mrs Adams said, sounding impressed, the first time I mentioned him to her.

Of course, all the information Sir George had given me about hallucinatory phenomena, ESP and PK, and even letting me interview the subjects in the office, although potentially useful, could be regarded as encouraging me in a compensatory ‘interest’, which was an entirely different matter from helping me get financial support to make use of the extensive information I now had to make progress in actual research, with a view to establishing a claim on re-entry to a university career.

All members of the Establishment stick together. The Principal of Somerville could have given me moral, if not financial, support for my plans to stay on in Oxford after my maths degree while working quickly to get a meaningful qualification. She had even mentioned – tantalised me with – some grant which the College could have given me. But she had chosen not to give me support of any kind, and to try to drive me away from Oxford instead. She was Establishment, so Mary Adams and Sir George wanted her to have her way.

Sir George would not move to Oxford to be our resident senior supporter in 1962, which would have made a lot of difference to our position as an independent academic institution. He had originally agreed to come, and even driven round Oxford with his son looking at places he might live, but then changed his mind. There is no knowing who may have influenced him; at this time all the support that had previously seemed to be available was breaking down.

Indeed, even Sir George’s pension, paltry though it was for an ex-Colonial Governor, would have made quite a difference to my position. As it was, I had only the equivalent of a research grant for one person, covenanted for seven years by Admiral Strutt, and no prospects at all beyond that.

Well, I am back in Oxford now. As near to the centre as I want to be, in view of the pollution, and we are quite near enough for people with university appointments to come and work also for this independent university with much higher standards. I know they won’t, because they are Establishment and we are not, but it is not in reality impossible.

09 September 2008

Stigmata

Recently I watched a film about the Gospel of Thomas called Stigmata (released in 1999). It was apparently quite successful commercially and its appeal seems to depend on sadism (flashbacks to crucifixion) and sex, the latter associated with implicit attacks on the Catholic church for being repressive and promoting celibacy. The Church is supposed to see the Gospel of Thomas as a threat to its authority. In reality I don’t see why it should, as it has very little explicit content; being vague and allusive on normal terms.

The saying from the Gospel of Thomas that was quoted in the film was ‘the Kingdom of God is inside you and it is all around you’, followed by ‘it is not found in structures made of stone and wood’, which is not in my editions at all. And in the text it is ‘the Kingdom’, not ‘the Kingdom of God’.

However, the piece about ‘The Kingdom is within you and without you’ can be taken to refer to ‘what is in your mind now and the everyday life around you’, or it can be taken to refer to the salient features of some kind of mystical experience, with inconceivable information being present in your mind and also being there to be read off from the surface of everything which is existing around you. This would be, however, entirely outside ‘normal’ experience.

Taking it the first way, as the film probably wished to suggest, leads to the modern outlook of preoccupation with ‘real life’ and the physical world, including plenty of sex.

The expression ‘The Kingdom of God’ used in the film is not used anywhere in Thomas, where, if ‘Kingdom’ is qualified at all, it is in the forms ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ and ‘Kingdom of the Father’. The word God is very rarely used in Thomas, perhaps not at all outside the saying ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, to God the things that are God’s, and to me that which is mine.’ In place of God, the expressions used are ‘the Father’ or ‘the Living One.’

Incidentally, the film claims, inaccurately, that the Gospel of Thomas is in Aramaic, this increasing its claim to authenticity, since it is supposed to have been the language spoken by Christ. In fact the Gospel of Thomas is in Coptic, which was a mixture of Greek and ancient Egyptian. However, it is said that there are signs of a Hebrew or Aramaic linguistic origin, which is a problem for modern Christian scholars who would like to ascribe its divergences from the Synoptics to some non-Christian source.

Note about usage of the word ‘rich’ in various gospels

The concept of ‘rich’ has entirely different connotations in the Gnostic gospels from those it has in the Synoptics.

In Thomas, the word ‘rich’ appears to refer to emotional richness, freedom from conflict, hence freedom from belief in society. ‘Let he who is rich become a king.’

In the Synoptics, ‘richness’ is usually associated with something negative. The way this is normally interpreted is that wealth and trading activities are seen as morally suspect. Hence the supposed wrath in the Jerusalem temple. But perhaps it really refers more broadly to being well set up. How about ‘rich in socially conferred approval or status’? People who have socially conferred status do not seem to feel free to use their own judgement in supporting a victim of social oppression, or in any other way of which society would disapprove. They are committed to having no views independently of the social consensus which has rewarded them.

‘It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a person with social position to do anything against the will of society.’

A well-known philosopher, who grudgingly conceded I was a ‘genius’, said he could not write a puff for my book Letters From Exile (or, presumably, use his influence to help me to get any reviews for it) because if he did his colleagues would ‘think he had lost his marbles’. But he was retired and his career could hardly have been damaged, whatever they thought.

We appeal for £1m as initial funding for a social science department in my unrecognised and unsupported independent university. This would enable it to publish preliminary analyses of areas in the history of ideas that are currently being ignored because they do not fit with the prevailing ideology.

28 August 2008

Reflection of the month

Communism and Capitalism

Capitalism depends on certain aspects of the conditions in which we live – on the structure of time and the conservation of matter. The basis of capitalism is that if a tiger rushes towards you, you need a gun. If you acquired a gun at some point in time previous to the tiger's attack, and have it ready to hand, this is useful. If you have not actually got a gun, but know that you could acquire one at some point in the future, this is not so good. The problem is to survive so as to reach that future.

The essence of communism is that nobody may have guns unless everybody has guns, and the only way anybody can get guns is if the Collective-at-Large sees fit to make a universal issue. And you may not have a better gun than the Collective sees fit to issue for everybody. So if the Collective does not actually get round to issuing any guns at all, everybody will be equally liable to be eaten by tigers.

22 August 2008

Attitudes to academic appointments

I think that the academics at the Society for Psychical Research were more uninhibited and less rationalised about what went on in connection with academic appointments than they would probably have been even in their own Senior Common Rooms.

For example, it was said that H.H. Price became Wykeham Professor of Logic by being the least brilliant but also the least controversial of three candidates. The other two had definite original opinions which aroused strong opposition from some of the electors. Price had bland and middle-of-the-road views which were offensive to no one; hence he got the Professorship. (*)

They brought in an American ‘professor’ of zoology for the Koestler Chair of Parapsychology at Edinburgh (‘professor’, of course, only means ‘lecturer’ in America ), treating American academic appointments as equivalent to English ones. But when American professors visited the SPR office, it was freely said (although not of course in their hearing) that an American PhD was about the equivalent of a 3rd class Oxbridge degree.

That, of course, was what was being said when I was at the SPR in the late fifties. Since then academic standards have declined apace in this country and, from all I hear, are likely to have declined in America about as fast (on account of their also wishing to apply ‘egalitarian’ principles and to deny the existence of innate ability — as evidenced by their throwing money at Professor Anders Ericsson, the academic whose research purports to show that there is no such thing as innate ability).

So it is possible that the relative rankings have shifted a bit as both American and British degrees are worth a lot less than they used to be.

But of course there is no reason anyway why degree classes should be precisely correlated with ability to fulfil the requirements of an academic position, as was much more realistically recognised, and occasionally acted upon, in the early decades of the last century. (There were anecdotes at Somerville about Professors who had got 4th class degrees but been allowed to proceed with their careers.)


* I have no opinion about the accuracy of this view of Price’s appointment, but I think it illustrates the fact that, before about 1945, there was much more recognition of the disjunction between a person’s merit and ability to fulfil a certain social role, and their possession or otherwise of that socially conferred role. Nowadays there is a stronger and almost dogmatic belief that a person who has been unable to get social status is automatically inferior to those who have it.

18 August 2008

State pensions and Trojan Horses

Hundreds of thousands of pensioners are living in poverty because they are not claiming the benefits due to them, official figures suggest. Ministers admitted that 700,000 pensioners would be lifted over the poverty line at a stroke if they simply got all the help to which they are entitled. Opposition MPs say many are put off claiming by the complexity of Gordon Brown’s benefit system, which involves complicated forms and lengthy telephone applications. (Daily Mail, 12 August 2008)

This is all the result of a means-tested pensions system, which should never have been introduced and which should be abolished. The real deterrent to applying for “benefits” is, or should be, not the complexity of the forms and procedures, but simply the fact that it cannot be done without drawing to oneself and one’s circumstances the attention of agents of the collective, who may easily attract the attention of other agents of the collective, who may decide that one should be deprived of one’s liberty. Those who complain of the present system naturally miss the point, because they are themselves in most cases agents of the collective who have nothing against people being deprived of their liberty.

For example, Liberal Democrat work and pensions spokesman Jenny Willott said: “The system must be simplified to ensure poor pensioners get the cash they so desperately need.”

The charity Age Concern also fails to address the real issue, instead taking seriously the rationalisations given for failing to apply. Research carried out by this charity shows that the reason given by almost 50% of respondents is that they find means-testing too intrusive, and by 40% that they are discouraged by complicated forms.

Opposition MPs do have some objection to means-testing, describing it as “demeaning”, and arguing that means-testing is

expensive to administer and acts as a disincentive to save. Officials trawl through details of people’s pensions, earnings, benefits and savings to work out whether they should receive top-ups. (ibid)

But no one mentions the real and absolute deterrent to applying, which is that in the course of “trawling”, officials may decide that it would be better for a person not to be allowed to go on living where they are living, or in the way they are living, at all.

It is very dangerous to draw the attention of the Oppressive State to your affairs, and probably many who fail to apply realise this, if only vaguely or subconsciously.

Until relatively recent years, pensions were the only “benefit” which was free from this danger. They were paid as a right to those who had made enough contributions, not to those whose “need” would be assessed as greatest by agents of the collective.

Means-testing of pensions should be abolished.

‘The question of ethics with regard to pension policy is one of the issues on which Oxford Forum could be producing fundamental critical analyses if it were provided with adequate funding. We appeal for £2m as initial funding to enable us to write and publish on this and similar issues, which are currently only discussed in the context of pro-collectivist arguments.’ Charles McCreery, DPhil

13 August 2008

Plugged into the belief in society

When I say that people at the SPR were only interested in socially conferred status, I mean that they appeared to be there only to participate in certain kinds of social goings-on. There is a tendency these days to identify a field of work with those socially appointed to work in that nominal field. (Physics is to be defined as ‘what physicists do’, philosophy is ‘what philosophers do’, and psychical research is ‘what parapsychologists do’.)

So experiments supposed to prove some particular thing (ESP, PK) would be done by a person with academic status, such as S.G. Soal (maths lecturer at Queen Mary College), or physicist John Taylor (professor at King's College London) who encouraged schoolchildren to do ostensible PK for him, and then decades of active social interaction on an international basis would take place. In the first place, the experiments had to be taken very seriously and hailed as unquestionable proof because they were done by someone with socially conferred status, and then there was the interest of discovering whether a statusful person could be publicly and professionally disgraced.

In my case, the storms which surrounded me arose from the emotional interest of preventing someone who had already been disgraced and outcast from managing to climb back to social salary and status. Preventing someone who has been deprived of it, and thrown out from getting it back, is as good an outlet for emotional drive as is worshipping the productions of socially appointed academics and having controversies about whether they can be deprived of it.

While spiritualism never caught on in my mind, the idea did appear pragmatically useful that people were all somehow plugged into a network of belief in society. So that they were all really expressing a single set of aims and objects, and the attitudes and interpretations expressed by any one of them could be taken as informational about the attitudes that would be held by any other. (Attitudes about everything, actually, but in particular about whether there is anything "paranormal", or whether people like me should ever be permitted to recover from their ruined education.) It does not appear to me impossible that ESP enters into this, although it makes no difference in practice whether or not this is so.

I have certainly found the unanimity of the responses I receive remarkable, over a wide spread of nationalities, genders, social classes and IQ levels. I felt at the time of my ‘education’ that one could not see how the dance of death was so precisely choreographed. Of course a lot of overt social slander does go into it as well, but one finds the same interpretations being produced by people who are ostensibly not on the obvious slander circuits.

It is all rather like the Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. More and more of the population is replaced by a zombie replica, and anyone who has not yet been taken over must not give overt evidence of this; if they fail to behave exactly like the others the whole population turns and points at them and pursuit begins.

06 August 2008

Iatrogenic drug addiction

A form of torture practised by the medical 'profession', and in many ways the most horrifying, is the infliction of suffering, in the form of 'treatment', against the will of the 'patient' (victim). This includes the compulsory 'medication' of those 'diagnosed' as 'mentally ill', who can in some cases be re-incarcerated for forcible 'treatment' if they fail to present themselves for regular torture when they are 'released into the community'.

Even when 'treatment' is not compulsory, doctors have no scruples about getting 'patients' (victims) hooked without warning on mind-altering drugs which will have severe side-effects if the 'patient' attempts to regain his independence of them. At least, their scruples only appear when it is a question of refusing to let the 'patient' have a form of medication which he wants to have. Doctors then become very sensitive indeed to every possibility, however remote, of any side-effect, and most unwilling to let the 'patient' decide for himself whether the risk of this possibility is one which, in view of his own motivation and knowledge of his own constitution, he wants to take.

Curiously and informatively enough, people appear blind to the horror of people being hooked for life by doctors on drugs which effectively deprive them of the use of their own minds — actually a more horrific deprivation of liberty than the infliction of physical pain against the will of a conscious 'patient' (victim), which would be regarded as torture if the doctor who inflicted it was not a properly trained and qualified person.

The hatred and persecutory fervour of modern society is reserved for those who wish to alter their mental outlook by the use of chemicals of their own choosing, and for those who sell them the chemicals they want to have. Self-inflicted drug dependence is regarded as an 'evil' from which victims (who are not 'patients') should be rescued against their will by the expenditure of massive amounts of taxpayers' money, while the drug dependence so freely created by doctors arouses no such opprobrium, although in many cases its continuity is enforced by compulsory medication. The voluntarily drug-dependent person is still free to decide to break away from the addiction, whereas the involuntary victim of compulsory medication is not. Nevertheless it is the former that is described as 'abuse' of drugs, whereas those who are compulsorily and permanently under prescribed influence, are described as 'users'.

(from the forthcoming book The Corpse and the Kingdom)

25 July 2008

Physiological correlates

copy of a letter to a Professor of Philosophy

When I see you I always worry about things I say which you seem to agree with, because I am afraid you see it as supporting some socially acceptable interpretation which I need to reject.

I said that getting a grant from Trinity College, Cambridge to do a postgraduate degree (meant to be a DPhil) at Oxford was not a solution to my problems (my appalling situation) and you appeared to agree. But I cannot think what you could have been agreeing with, as it seems unlikely that you accept, any more than anyone else did, or does, that I was in absolute and urgent need of (i) an institutional (hotel) environment and (ii) a Professorship, and was suffering severely without either.

Until I had the first of these, and probably also the second, there could be no question of my getting anything out of life or getting any positive feedback (‘interest’) out of anything I did, whatever it was. It was (and still is) just a question of endurance in crossing a desert, and trying not to let my energy level decline too fast. Over the decades things have improved slightly, at least to the extent that I can now beat my head against the wall of hostility by expressing my complaints openly.

I was not in a hotel environment while doing the D.Phil which turned into a B.Litt, and travelling a lot, and in such circumstances it was easier to do something rather dull. Of course people like to imagine that I found anything connected with psychical research ‘interesting’, but although the thesis topic had to be associated with that area, I saw it only as a way of working back towards a university career.

Even if I had succeeded in getting into one, I would still have gone ahead with the plan to set up a research institute, financed by the Coombe-Tennants and other SPR* connections, as a way of amplifying my activities. Organising experimental research on a large scale is something that would make me feel more functional and alive, because it uses more of my channel capacity, as is the giving of seminars and broadcasting.

* * * * *

The academic subjects most closely associated with ‘parapsychology’ seemed to be physiology and psychology. People at the SPR wanted me to do the thesis on ‘spontaneous cases’, discussing them on the same terms as they all did (evidential value, alternative explanations, etc.), but I did not see how that could lead back into an academic career; so I had to aim at psychology and physiology, bitterly regretting that I did not have degrees in either, since my time at school and at Queen Mary College had been, although through no wish of mine, so uselessly misspent.

Neither physiology nor psychology appealed to me as subjects in which to take degrees as they had relatively little informational content, and I would only have taken degrees in them after acquiring degrees in physics and chemistry. However, now I had to scrape the barrel of possibilities and the barrel was bare, although if I had taken degrees in physics and chemistry first, it would probably not have mattered whether or not I had followed that by taking degrees in physiology and psychology as well. But I might have done, as I had basically intended to acquire as many qualifications as possible and then see what were the best career opportunities arising.

Philosophy, of course, would also have been a possibility, but especially by the end of the three years, Professor Price was as much against the idea of my returning to an academic career as everyone else.

So in fact I wrote the thesis on physiological and psychological conditions of states in which ESP was reported to occur, although at the interview at Trinity I had to pretend that I was also going to be analysing spontaneous case material, and only as a side issue considering physiological correlates. There was clearly a great resistance to the idea of anything being done in that area, and the interviewers boggled in the usual way. ‘What could you possibly do about that? What physiological correlates could there be? What do you mean by that?’

* Society for Psychical Research

22 July 2008

Medicine and 'fairness'

Now that it is considered acceptable for the state to transfer power from individual citizens to agents of the collective so that 'services' (for which a better term might be 'oppressions') may be provided, it comes to pass that persons in socially authorised academic establishments (i.e. universities) make studies of how the systems of oppression 'ought' to work.

A friend of mine once found himself at a college dinner sitting next to an economics student whose subject was the different ways in which 'health care' (physiological oppression) was being or should be provided by various governments. "Well, at least," he (my friend) said, "I hope you won't recommend that anyone should give any further power to doctors to make subjective decisions about how medical resources should be allocated. They have far too much power already."

"But it's not acceptable to have decisions made about who gets the resources on the basis of ability to pay for them," she (the other person) said.

"Countries that didn't find that acceptable, and I don't see why they shouldn't, could at least have the resources allocated among the individuals who apply for them on a random basis. Nothing could be so unacceptable as arbitrary power in the hands of doctors or any other agents of the collective" my friend replied.

"But that wouldn't necessarily produce the fairest outcome either," she demurred.

This brings us to the extraordinary notion of 'fairness'. We see that the transfer of power to agents of the collective makes it far more dangerous that people should indulge in such ideas. So long as they were notions that were entertained by individuals, and which individuals could, if they wished, use any resources at their own disposal to bring about, they were relatively harmless. Nowadays, however, academics can write papers on what 'ought' to be the case and advise governments accordingly, the governments then feeling free to instruct agents of the collective to implement the ideas in practice.

The idea of 'fairness' and 'rights' arise from a modern set of ideas, which has practically the status of a religion, and for which as little justification in reality can be found. It is not so long ago that governments considered that women should not be able to obtain anaesthetics for childbirth, because God clearly preferred them to suffer. Even at that date, before its powers were so monstrously increased, we see the medical 'profession' in the role of social oppressor.

Nowadays it can withhold diagnosis and treatment from anyone whose life, in its opinion, is not worth prolonging. But having decided, in effect, to kill them, it is under no obligation to provide them with a reasonably easy death, which would require the admission of the objective and the overt administration of pharmaceuticals.

07 July 2008

Preliminary scenario 2

Supposing that the physical world may be taken at face value and that the inferences drawn from it about the past of the planet are correct, we have the following picture of the past of the human race. Through geological ages the world cooled and life began to swarm upon it. Life forms struggled for survival and more complex forms emerged and developed. Very, very recently in geological time tribes of ape-men began to appear approximating to present-day humans in intelligence. Tribal groups wandered and fought for territory. Gradually they began to settle in favourable places and to develop some of the techniques that were possible to settled dwellers, always subject to attack by other marauding tribes who envied their advantages. But settlement became gradually the predominant style of life, and settled tribes began to manage their affairs so that they remained in one place for long periods of time.

There was little freedom for individuals within these tribes, which began to be what we call civilisations, and increased control of the environment was gained slowly. It could have been gained much faster if the human race had had a tendency to value the sort of ability among its members that might lead to advances in knowledge, but it did not. Similarly, species might have evolved much more rapidly if they had had a tendency to recognise and protect those individuals among their number who differed most extremely from the norm in a way that would tend towards the next evolutionary development; but why should they do that? Why should it seem of any importance to a lungfish, even supposing it to have a high level of intelligence, that they should evolve sooner rather than later into amphibians that could live on the land? If it had seemed of importance to them, they could have protected and aided the fish with the largest lungs and the strongest fore-fins.

The advantages that might have accrued to the human race from a tendency to value and protect intellectually gifted individuals were less remote, but still unquantifiable, and it would have been necessary to appreciate intellectual ability for its own sake, not for the benefits it might produce, which would have been difficult to foresee. Nevertheless, it is possible to imagine that it might have happened. A tribe which happened to have it inbuilt into its genetic constitution that it admired and protected exceptional individuals among its members might have been at a sufficient advantage in the struggle for survival for this genetic constitution to have become predominant. There is little sign that this happened; perhaps the time-scale within which the human race was struggling towards settled civilisation was simply too short for such a factor to take precedence over the survival value which attached to other factors, such as the value for the tribe of compliant members, and the value for individual survival of destructive jealousy towards individual rivals.

However, even so, the advances in control of the environment built up exponentially, slow as they were. The human race farmed better, made better tools, built better shelters to live in. But the great leap in control came suddenly and accidentally, as a result of a short period of increased freedom for individuals. This came about as a result of the development of the idea of individual property and commerce. This made it possible for some individuals to gain a good deal of freedom for themselves within the tribal framework, and the ability to make use of the commercial possibilities was correlated with intellectual power. The concept of individual property was associated with a right of the individual to bequeath property (i.e. freedom) on his death; he tended to leave it to his descendants and they tended to inherit the abilities which had made it possible for him to gain his property in the first place. Only "tended" of course, but that is all one can hope for in an evolutionary situation. This made possible an enormous expansion in scientific knowledge and a development of idealistic principles, which included, at least for a time, an ideal of appreciation of exceptional individuals and of progress as an abstract concept.

But the tribal forces in human psychology reasserted themselves. So much had been gained in the way of knowledge, now they could see their way (or thought they could) towards living perfectly adequate tribal lives without allowing individuals any further freedom from tribal control. People could live blandly and uneventfully, they could enjoy the pleasures of feeding and breeding, they could be free from disease and discomfort until they blandly and uneventfully died. There was no longer any need for intellectuals. The tribe would have a few in the tribal universities but no one would have to be allowed to become rich any more. The tribe would take possession of all the advantages created by individual freedom and use them to keep individuals in a state of contented unfreedom.

This is the point of history at which we live.

(from the forthcoming book The Corpse and the Kingdom)

25 June 2008

Ideology in a horoscope

Cancer
What do you give the person who has everything? If you really care you will try to arrange for them to experience what it is like to have nothing. But what if you are a benign universe trying to help a Cancerian who feels overwhelmed by options? How about a challenge to which they cannot rise: or the experience of being powerless in a crucial situation. What you are being obliged to learn is precious beyond measure.
(from Jonathan Cainer’s horoscopes,
Daily Mail 21 June 2008.)

This extract from a horoscope expresses a prevalent tendency in the official and widely understood psychological system of the Oppressive Society.

When I was 13 you could say that I had ‘everything’. I was fully functional and on a high energy level. An equally perfect life lay ahead of me, indefinitely into the future, so long as I got on with taking degrees and other qualifications as fast as I could. My past life lay behind me, dull and regrettable.

But, I thought, I should not blame myself for not having realised how to live. It was just an existential fact that I had not known enough about the world and about the exam system in particular. Don’t look back, I said to myself, just get on with it now.

I had not reckoned on the obstructions. As my aunt put it, decades later, I was ‘too happy’. There were too many people who wanted me to ‘experience what it was like to have nothing’, to be placed in positions in which I could not be motivated, faced with ‘challenges to which I could not rise’, and ‘powerless in a crucial situation’. And so in the end I would be thrown out destitute, to experience permanently ‘what it is like to have nothing’.

Nowadays it is argued that children being educated at home may miss out on the "failures that might be thought essential rites of passage" which a ‘school’ is supposed to provide. (Financial Times Magazine 21/22 June 2008, article ‘A class apart’ by Rob Blackhurst.)

According to Margaret Sutherland of Glasgow University, gifted pupils are not being allowed to fail, and this has emotional consequences. “To be constantly told that you have done well means these children are not being challenged.” (BBC News, 9 August 2005.)

On a website called Gifted Exchange, there is another example of this way of thinking.

Charles Murray [in an article called 'Aztecs vs. Greeks'] calls for the gifted to be given a challenging, classical education. He further states that we need to encourage gifted kids not to become just smart but wise. 'The encouragement of wisdom requires a special kind of education. It requires first of all recognition of one’s own intellectual limits and fallibilities – in a word, humility. This is perhaps the most conspicuously missing part of today’s education of the gifted. Many high-IQ students, especially those who avoid serious science and math, go from kindergarten through an advanced degree without ever having a teacher who is dissatisfied with their best work and without ever taking a course that forces them to say to themselves, “I can’t do this.” Humility requires that the gifted learn what it feels like to hit an intellectual wall just as all of their less talented peers do, and that can come only from a curriculum and pedagogy designed especially for them.'

Observe that both Margaret Sutherland and Charles Murray are relying on a teacher-pupil relationship to place the victim in the position of being unable to satisfy a mentor, when this may be unnecessary or actually damaging to working directly for the exam. I was perfectly well able to take exams without teachers and needed only sample papers and textbooks. But I was constantly forced into positions of supervised ‘preparation’ in which I was doing work which I could not be motivated to do in order (as I knew) that the teacher/tutor could have the opportunity to make me feel inadequate.

The editor of the Gifted Exchange site, Laura Vanderkam, agrees with Charles Murray and says:

If anyone reads Aztecs vs. Greeks and decides to push for education that holds gifted kids’ feet to the fire, intellectually, then I’ll be happy.

This is just an incitement to those who are running the lives of gifted children to humiliate and frustrate them. Educators and other people in a position of power over children do not need any incitement.

Once the link of direct payment by an individual has been broken, there is nothing to prevent something being provided which is quite different from what he might have paid for. Probably most parents would be unlikely to pay for an ‘education’ which was explicitly aimed at making their child fail. Nor can the situation be remedied by verbal rationalisations. Whatever statements of intention are made for PR purposes, the motivation of those in power will determine what happens, and what reason is there to think that the motivation of educators is benevolent? No solution is possible that involves telling people with the power to run other people’s lives what their attitudes should be. The only possible remedy is to abolish state-financed schools and universities.

’We appeal for £2m as initial funding for a social science department in our unrecognised and unsupported independent university. This would enable it to publish analyses of the unexamined assumptions underlying current discussion of the philosophy of education.’ Charles McCreery, DPhil

24 June 2008

Institutionalised opposition

copy of a letter

Further to my previous comments, even if I had not taken up the grammar school scholarship at 10 and had simply worked straight away for degrees, there would still have been the incalculable and ever-present risk of notice being taken of me by the local ‘education’ authority. So far as I can gather, in the 1945 Education Act, local authorities were given powers of inspection and interference over the ‘education’ of everyone, whether at private or state schools, or at home. This would have been a time-bomb for me which might have blown up at any time.

What I found so disgusting at the time (when I was 16) was that I was not only no longer in receipt of a grammar school scholarship but was past school-leaving age, so I do not see that they had any right at all to enquire into my affairs or to discuss them with my father.

Now, not only is the school-leaving age higher than it was then, but it is being proposed that until the age of 18 the local authority should have the power to make everyone do something approved of by them, some kind of officially recognised ‘training’, etc.

This is an absolutely terrible idea, and only compete abolition of the concept of compulsory education, including the concept of the powers (explicit and implicit) of local education authorities could restore an acceptable situation.

As could be seen in my case, they had, even at so early a stage in the development of the Oppressive State, no scruples about uninvited invasion into the life of someone over whom they had no official jurisdiction.

In fact it may very well have been the unprincipled Mother Mary Angela, the nun who taught maths, who set them onto me when I was on the verge of making a bid for freedom. I remember how she reacted when I told her of my plans to get on with taking degrees as fast as possible. Very similar, really, to Sir George Joy’s reaction when I said that if he prevaricated any longer about the Coombe-Tennants buying a house for me I would buy one myself, although a smaller one than they had been planning to buy for me. ‘You can’t do that,’ he said, with something like fear or apprehension, and Mother Mary Angela said something similar on being told that I could get on with taking degrees straight away.

‘Oh but I can,’ I said joyfully to Mother Mary Angela. ‘I have gone into all the regulations and I am perfectly well qualified.’ I knew she wanted to oppose me in everything I wanted but I still had not realised how dangerous it might be to let her have any information about my intentions. In fact, of course, tremendous and widespread opposition arose which obliterated my joyful hopes and condemned me to yet another year of supervised ‘preparation’ for a distant qualification.

Similarly, I suppose that Sir George feared my setting up in Oxford because, on however small a scale I was able to operate, the Oxford location would be sufficient to attract some publicity and hence the possibility of financial support. So the campaign to starve me out began, and when the King money provided partial alleviation for me, Professor Sir Alister Hardy had to be mobilised to stand in my light. Which, of course, he did very effectively, although he had no idea what to do and his ‘projects’ were only superficial and mechanical imitations of mine. I had used punched cards so he would use punched cards – or rather his employees would, when he had some. (Computers were still cumbrous and not easily available.)

It does appear (from my experience of life) that when ability is combined with drive and a strong sense of direction, it arouses opposition. So, paradoxically, although the attacks on my father which obstructed my plans always took the form of allegations that he was pushing me, they were very likely instigated by those who had the clearest perceptions of the fact that he was not doing so, such as my aunt and Mother Mary Angela. Mother Mary Angela clearly disliked the fact that I had found a way to start taking degrees, and probably all the more because it was so clearly my own autonomous idea, into researching which I had put a lot of initiative.

It is possible to imagine a hypothetical society in which my drive and independence would have aroused admiration and support, but clearly this is not a society in which I have ever lived.

Seminar

I am giving a seminar in Oxford on the 26th, entitled
"Should pensioners revolt against means-testing?".

Details here.

23 June 2008

Seeking supporters

Copy of a letter to someone I managed to speak to (rare event)

Further to our conversation of yesterday, I thought I would like to send you a complimentary copy of my most recent book, which I hope you will accept as a gift.

If you were able to make our presence known about it would be very helpful. We are looking for supporters of every kind. We cannot really be functional in any way as an academic institution without substantial capital endowment, and it is no use our approaching billionaires etc without independent people to represent our case to them. (I have plenty of negative experience of doing so.) The only time I ever got any money I had an ex-Colonial Governor to put my case to Cecil Harmsworth King, chairman of the IPC group.

We would also like people to move nearby to give us, and one another, moral support in protesting against the infringements of liberty which have already been going on for a long time on an exponential basis.

With best wishes, etc.

21 June 2008

Preliminary scenario 1

Each individual finds himself involved in a strange and complicated story. He cannot remember exactly how it began. If he believes what the other people in the story tell him, he is going to die, which means perhaps that he will cease being conscious of anything again. The environment in which he finds himself is one of staggering complexity. The universe of astronomy surrounds his planet, leading to no edge, but to abysses of unimaginable mathematical paradox. The earth under his feet is supposedly made of particles, the studies of which lead to no final definition of their ultimate types and characteristics, but to abysses of unimaginable mathematical paradox.

Probably there is in his home a box with a flat front which shows moving coloured pictures of his world, impressing upon him the intolerable multifariousness of all the forms of life that have ever crawled or swum or flown in the darkest and deepest, hottest and coldest, wettest and driest crevices of his planet. Again, no precise limit can be set upon their numbers, though vague estimates can be made of the number of unclassified insects of a certain type that probably remain to be found and labelled in the basin of the Amazon.

There seem to be other people in this story with him, but there is a great difference between himself and them. He is conscious of his own feelings, but only by implication and inference of theirs. Are they conscious of themselves as he is conscious of himself? If he talks to them about this they usually discourage him from thinking of such an absurd idea (but he may have read about dreams in which figures in the dream argue vigorously and mockingly with the dreamer about whether they are real). Is his the only consciousness? What is the point of all this, and does the point of it have anything at all to do with him? Is the whole universe a casual uncaused appearance, a sudden shocking bauble emerging from unbeing?

Why should it? Why should it not? What could cause such a thing? Of course his ideas of caused and uncaused break down; as usual at the edge of things his thought is mocked by the unimaginable.

Perhaps the universe is just a material thing and his consciousness only an accidental byproduct. That is to say the universe is nothing but this turbulence of forces, ultimately based upon unimaginable mathematical relationships. The turbulence has happened to produce living forms — that is, patterns of matter that are able to generate further similar patterns — and those which are of some complexity seem to themselves to be conscious. But the semblance of consciousness has no more reality than the electromagnetic field of a machine; it will stop being there when the machine stops, and the mechanical mathematical universe will go on indifferently.

Is all this his dream and will he ever awaken? Are all the people and perhaps the animals dreaming too, and is this a communal hallucination in which they are all caught? Or is he the dream, as some have suggested, of a magician or a god? If so, what are the intentions of the dreamer?

(from the forthcoming book The Corpse and the Kingdom)

15 June 2008

Confiscating the freedom of some, in order to appropriate the freedom of others

The driving force of socialism is not to provide benefits for anyone, but to destroy individual freedom. By taxation, the state deprives individuals of freedom of action, reducing the territory within which they are able to decide for themselves how to run their affairs, and using the money from taxpayers to buy areas of freedom from other individuals.

This was very clearly shown by the way in which, at 16, I was forced to spend a very damaging year at London University instead of being left alone to take an external London degree (or degrees) with correspondence courses before going to Oxford or Cambridge.

My plans were all made — so far as they could be without some assistance in arranging the practical work that formed part of the courses in physics and chemistry — and my father had expressed willingness to pay for the correspondence courses in question.

I was offered a tutor, apparently spontaneously, by the local authority. I had made no application to them, although it is possible that a treacherous teacher at my Ursuline convent school had done so, which was beyond her rights, since I had left school and was no longer in receipt of a scholarship which might be regarded (and had been regarded) as making it other people’s business to make (and prohibit) decisions and arrangements about my affairs.

This led to an interview which left me with a clear perception that this was nothing I wanted anything to do with. But, as I now realise, the whole thing was motivated by a ravening desire to regain oppressive control of my life, from which I considered myself lucky to have escaped. My plans were aimed at helping myself, so far as was now possible, to recover from the seriously bad effects of the last three years (since being prevented from taking the School Certificate exam — usually for 16-year-olds — at 13).

The local ‘educational’ community stormed, and my father withdrew his support for my plans, making instead, and without consulting me, appalling arrangements for me to go to a college of London University. I had both a state scholarship and a County Major scholarship. The state scholarship was to be kept until I went to Oxford. So now my father, being unwilling to support me against determined opposition by people in positions of ostensible authority, applied for me to be allowed to use the County Major Scholarship to go to London University. If only they had refused! Then I could not have gone, and would have been able to revert to my former plan.

But in fact the education committee was willing to pay (with taxpayers’ money) for me to be forced to do what I did not want to do, losing my self-determination by having inflicted upon me a most horrific year, all the more damaging because it came after three previous years in which I had had no control over my life.

A member of the committee was quoted to me as saying (ironically and hypocritically), as they agreed to buy my life for a year, ‘We wouldn’t stand in her way’.

In fact it would have been better for me if I had never taken up the grammar school scholarship in the first place (aged 10) but had worked on my own to take degrees as soon as possible.

In saying that my father was not willing to support me I do not mean to be critical of him. Who would have been willing directly to oppose socially appointed authorities? It is by no means commonly done and would be extremely difficult to do. My father, for all his aristocratic genes, had been brought up as a poor boy in East Ham, suffering from every sort of neglect and insecurity. I do blame those who used their socially conferred positions of influence to pressurise him into withdrawing his support for my plans, inflicting irreparable damage on my prospects in life, reparation for which should still be regarded as due to me.

05 June 2008

How to provoke hostility

At the last seminar I got six people, but I am afraid this may be only because the title ‘Gnosticism and Existential psychology’ contained no hint that I might be critical of modern Existentialists, such as Sartre, who are identified with the rejection of capitalism and bourgeois morality, i.e. they are identified with the destruction of civilisation by socialism.

However, I have improved my technique by making an initial exposition of my real reason for giving the seminar, to make people aware of the position of my independent university in a hostile society, and its needs for workers and supporters of all kinds. This arouses overt hostility, and some go away very quickly, but the eventual outcome from my point of view is certainly no worse than hoping I may get to talk to someone realistically at the end.

In our position, provoking the hostility to express itself openly has to be regarded as a positive achievement.

One man came early and heard the whole of this preliminary exposition. He was very hostile to the possibility that having a high IQ might mean that a person needed particular opportunities and circumstances to use it, and also that they might contribute anything useful to society which other, less intelligent people could not. He quoted the example of his great uncle (probably now dead) saying that although this uncle had a high IQ, he had not used it for anything better than creating crossword puzzles for some broadsheet newspaper, and that he hadn’t been capable of anything more even if he had had better circumstances. So this meant that having a high IQ could not ever mean that you might need better circumstances to enable you to do all the things that you were capable of, and that it could not mean that I actually needed anything more (such as a hotel environment) than I already had. He then claimed that people in general are not hostile to those with high IQs; they are just indifferent.

This man was about to waste his time (and taxpayers’ money) in Oxford starting a Masters degree in 'psychodynamics and neurolinguistics'.

He stayed a fairly long time, and when he left, he said, ‘I am off to find somebody I can do good to,’ in a rather reactive way. I replied, ‘I need someone to do good for me’. Of course he didn’t respond.

I contrasted the Gnostics with modern Existentialist philosophers, making the point that Gnosticism had been a form of Existentialism that did not lead to materialistic socialism. As I was doing so, it occurred to me that this illustrates the extreme hostility to any form of potentially centralised existential psychology that is aroused in ‘normal’ psychology. The Gnostics and the Cathars were always subject to persecution, torture and death by other Christians, and their documents suppressed, to such an extent that information about the content of the Gnostic gospels can only be gathered from what is quoted in the polemical writings of other Christians (the Gospel of Thomas being the sole exception), and information about the beliefs of the Cathars only from the records of the various inquisitions of their replies, or supposed replies, under torture.

31 May 2008

Crowding out the opposition

Letter sent to the Chancellor of the University of Oxford

Dear Lord Patten,

I note and deplore your comments on the fund-raising campaign launched by Oxford University, allegedly to ‘give it the freedom to choose whichever students it likes’, and deplore the fund-raising campaign itself, which is only making matters even worse for my genuinely independent, even if socially unrecognised, incipient university which is realistically trying to maintain intellectual standards, or would be doing so if not kept unproductive by a rigorous lack of support.

Removing an overt and explicit pressure from the Government will do nothing to restore Oxford University to freedom from the prevailing anti-individualistic ideology which it has been instrumental in promoting. Nearly all individual academics have been discriminating for decades against genuine ability and in favour of low IQs and politically correct attitudes. I am sure that their doing so will continue, as will the decline in standards, whatever official pronouncements may be made.

Appealing for funding from sources other than the Government will only make the situation even worse for a genuinely independent university, such as ours. There are several areas of potential research in which we have been prevented from operating for several decades, those to whom we applied for funding often saying that they preferred to support work (in that nominal area or otherwise) in a university.

The implication seems to be that you cannot go wrong in supporting a socially recognised institution and, as an implicit corollary, that you should positively avoid permitting work that should be the domain of a ‘proper’ university to be done outside of one.

Why is it regarded as reprehensible to permit such work to be done outside of a ‘proper’ university ? Perhaps there is a fear that if anyone not socially recognised as the right sort of person were allowed to do anything, this might have the effect of making them appear superior to the socially accredited academics (which should not be allowed to become apparent, whether or not it is actually the case).

It is also possible that findings might be made in research which did not appear to be immediately supportive of the prevailing ideology, and work seriously critical of the productions of socially accredited academics might be published.

If more financial contributions than at present were made to Oxford University, those who might give to us to enable us to become productive would have their available resources still further reduced, in the same way that progressive impoverishment of individuals by taxation makes it less possible for them to give any support to us, even if any of them could transcend the modern ideology sufficiently to consider doing so.

Perhaps one should see in this appeal for funding by Oxford University (and perhaps by other universities) another ‘stealth tax’. One knows that the Government is struggling with its ‘need’ to increase public spending by raising taxation, when it is already at a crippling level. Encouraging universities to apply for private funding so that there is less need for Government subsidy may enable the Government, certainly not to reduce taxation, but to spend more of its resources elsewhere.

Yours sincerely, etc.

19 May 2008

Means-testing pensioners

Pensioners, like the middle class in general, are victimised by modern legislation. The modern ideology does not accept innate differences but it does, in practice, discriminate against those with above-average IQs, and against personality characteristics associated with above-average IQs, such as conscientiousness and forethought.

The population of pensioners, whether or not classifiable as ‘middle class’, are likely to have above-average IQs, if only because they have managed to reach pensionable age. They fail to protest at the burdens imposed upon them, perhaps to some extent because, like my own parents, they are inclined to accept legal impositions without complaint.

People over 50 now constitute 43% of the voting population (this proportion is expected to rise to over 50% by 2031) and are in a position to exercise significant pressure on the political parties which wish for their electoral support.

Pensioners and prospective pensioners should never have accepted the means-testing of pensions. The effect of this policy is that those who have been so thrifty and frugal as to acquire savings, as well as making sure that they always paid the requisite annual contributions, whatever their circumstances, are being penalised so that more ‘support’ can be diverted to those who ‘need it most’, i.e. those who have made no attempt to build up independence of the state throughout their working lives.

Many of those who qualify for the supplementary ‘income support’, which would put their pension back up to the level it might be at if not means-tested, fail to claim it. They are exhorted to apply for what they are ‘entitled to’, the only reason usually suggested for their reluctance to do so being ‘pride’. But in fact they can only apply by submitting to ‘assessment’ of their circumstances by agents of the collective, who may quite well decide that it is not ‘in their interests’ to be allowed to live in their own home any longer, and they may be popped into the killing fields of the old people’s ‘homes’ whether they like it or not.

Ultimately, the state has the right to force an elderly person to live in a care home, or even to have them sectioned as a psychiatric patient. They will not be allowed the option of quietly starving or otherwise coming to grief in their own homes, which might very well be a less painful and distressing way of ending their lives than what awaits them in ‘care’.

Pensioners and their associations, such as Age Concern, Help the Aged and the National Pensioners Convention, should not tolerate means-testing. It was not regarded as acceptable in the original Pensions Act of 1911, which proposed that the pensions being set up should be paid for by contributions and would be payable to rich and poor alike.

Now Gordon Brown proposes an extra levy on salaries to ‘pay for care in old age’, in addition to compulsory pension contributions. Again, there is no way of opting out of this by saying that one will never be a drain on the state’s provision of ‘care facilities’ for the elderly, but would rather die in one’s own way in one’s own home.

‘The question of ethics with regard to pension policy is one of the issues on which Oxford Forum could be producing fundamental critical analyses if it were provided with adequate funding. We appeal for £2m as initial funding to enable us to write and publish on this and similar issues, which are currently only discussed in the context of pro-collectivist arguments.’ Charles McCreery, DPhil

16 May 2008

Leaders are socially constructed

Copy of a letter to someone I got to talk to for a couple of hours (rare occurrence!)

I have not previously encountered this alleged experimental finding which you quoted from anthropology textbooks, that if you put 20 people in a room, one ‘leader’ will always emerge with a couple of sub-leaders. If it is in anthropology textbooks I am sure that tendentious conclusions are expected to be drawn from it.

As, for example, that leadership does not depend on any individual attributes or qualities, genetic or otherwise, but may be imposed or constructed upon any individual by environmental circumstances. It is social constructionism again, depending on a profound underlying belief (or wish to believe) that there are no innate characteristics and that society can turn any sheep into a shepherd if it chooses and, even more delightfully, force any former shepherd into the position of a sheep.

So — the family court business arises, with low-IQ doctors and social workers ruling the lives of high-IQ professional people, and prescribing for how many hours per week they may see their children under supervision, etc.

It is now openly admitted that medical schools exercise positive discrimination in favour of the ‘underprivileged’, which means of course discriminating against people from successful middle-class backgrounds, and that really means discriminating against those with higher IQs and/or aristocratic ancestry.

06 May 2008

What I would do with £10 billion

As I said in a previous piece of writing, 10 billion pounds has been spent, effectively to lower the average IQ of the undergraduate population. I would accept £10 billion without any qualms and would be sure of being able to make good use of it in applying my abilities and those of my associates to contributing to the advancement of science and contributing to the intellectual debates of the present time.

People have often asked me ‘What would I do?’ in a certain field of work and ‘How much would I need for it?’ Well, actually, I would do the best and most progressive things within the resources available, which is what I did when I went to the Society for Psychical Research, within the very restricted resources available and living in appalling circumstances (without a hotel environment). What I did was the best I could do to open up large-scale fields of research. Working on them on an adequate scale would, incidentally, have provided a hotel environment to make my life tolerable rather than intolerable, and permitted me not only to be intellectually productive but to get some sense of wellbeing out of being so.

Working within resources of £10 billion would enable adequate institutional (including hotel) facilities to be set up.

If £10 billion were given to me it would be increasing access to university life for some of those who have been deprived of it by their underprivileged early lives (exposed to the hostility of state education) and subsequent inactivity caused by poverty.

Would it not be making a better use of £10 billion to provide access to opportunity and status for people with high IQs who have been artificially deprived of them, rather than on reducing the proportion of higher IQs in the undergraduate population — and hence subsequently in the academically statusful graduate population? What is the point of spending money on that — one might ask, if one did not already know that the point of the state-financed school and university system is to disadvantage higher IQs, and to disadvantage those with the highest IQs the most.

28 April 2008

One secret of successful parenting

A book on “parenting” has been written, telling people how to help their child continue to tolerate his or her life in the children’s prison (known as a “school”) and to minimise some of the most obvious damage, physical and psychological, being caused by it. But the assumption seems to be that they should help the child to go on going through this instead of taking him away.

Whether it’s a minor incident or a more serious problem that is upsetting your child, start by tuning into his feelings so you can find out what’s happening ... He may be unusually quiet, aggressive or you might notice bruises ...

If your child hates school: School-related problems often come down to confidence ... Praise your child for packing his school bag, remembering to feed his pet or doing a school project – this will help him build up a repertoire of things he knows he’s good at. (review of
Seven Secrets of Successful Parenting by Karen Doherty and Georgia Coleridge, Daily Mail 24 April 2008)

What parents should do is consider leaving the country, as well as taking the child away from school. Even being educated at home he would, in this country, be potentially liable to assessment and supervision by the local “education” authority.

Unfortunately for me, my parents also felt it was their responsibility to try to kid me along that I should find a way of reconciling myself to the arrangements being imposed on me despite my protests and against my will. I do not blame them for this, but I do blame those who encouraged them to side with the oppressive forces of society against their own offspring.

My parents had themselves grown up in the pre-Welfare-State world of the early decades of the twentieth century. They thought of teachers and people running the educational system as responsible, highly-principled middle-class people with at least moderately high IQs, with whom it was right for parents to cooperate.

They did not realise the world had suffered a sea change in 1945 when the Welfare State came in, and that nothing was as it had been before.

22 April 2008

The corpse and the kingdom

First introductory scenario

You are perceiving things, but the status of your perceptions is entirely indeterminate. You do not know the significance of this situation, or whether it has any. Among the things that you seem to perceive are other people, but you are unable to determine whether they have consciousness, as you seem to yourself to have. Perhaps they are automata. Or perhaps they are just hallucinatory figures in your hallucinatory dream.


Second introductory scenario

What you are perceiving seems to be a physical universe and it seems to be possible to infer certain things about the past history of this universe. It is possible to suppose that your consciousness is a by-product of physical and chemical events in your organism, and that other people are conscious in a similar way to yourself as a result of similar events in their organisms.

The human race, of which you are a part, seems to have been on the planet on which you are living for a very small part of the inferable history of the physical universe. The lifetime of the human race, and the space it occupies, is infinitesimal even in relation to the time and space that the human race is able to infer in the physical universe that surrounds it. It is inferred that there may be millions of other stars as well able to possess life-bearing planets as our sun. It is inferred that previous life-forms on this planet, such as the dinosaurs, occupied it for hundreds of millions of years.

The human race has a strong tendency to believe that what the human race regards as good and valuable is of great importance. What is important to a human being (and in what other sense could the word important have meaning) is to be determined by reference to the local consensus of belief about what is important in the social environment which surrounds that human being.

(from the forthcoming book The Corpse and the Kingdom)

17 April 2008

A world class warfare system

Some comments from a member of the education establishment:

I want to narrow the disparities between people’s attainment, between the highly motivated and the less well motivated, because I want everyone to have a bite at the cherry and a chance to do well ... What I want to ensure is that all universities are really part of a world class system. That means they all have to have resources concentrated on them, right across the board. (Tessa Blackstone, on BBC Radio 4, 26 March 2008, my emphasis)

Here again we find, sixty years after 1945, an overt expression of the motivation that ruined my education, my subsequent life and the lives of my parents (who also had high IQs and a lot of drive and conscientiousness). Also the prevalent social motivation, gaining strength with the passing years and decades, has continued to oppose my attempts to restore myself to a realistic relationship with the society in which I have the misfortune to find myself.

What is being aimed at is not universities being part of a 'world class system', but being part of a ‘class system’, that is, an instrument of class warfare. In effect, Tessa Blackstone is arguing that the greatest possible resources should be devoted to preventing those with higher IQs and strong motivation from achieving more than those with lower IQs and no noticeable motivation at all.

Those who represent the greatest obstruction to the egalitarian outcome are the exceptional; it follows that by far the easiest way to achieve greater equality of outcome is to eliminate the highly able and highly motivated from the picture. Thus, according to exponents of this point of view, those with the highest IQs and the strongest motivation should be thrown right out on the dungheap, and it should be made plain to them they have no place at all in modern society.

12 April 2008

Seminar

I am giving a seminar in Oxford on the 29th, entitled
"Existential psychology and early Christianity".

Details here.

07 April 2008

Reading is "not natural"

It seems that 2008 is National Reading Year: I wonder whether this is because the disfavouring of the ‘middle class’ that has proceeded apace since the inception of the Welfare State in 1945 has by now had a noticeable effect on the literacy of the population as a whole.

From a review of Proust and the Squid: the Story and Science of the Reading Brain by Maryanne Wolf (Financial Times Magazine 5 April 2008):

“Reading is not natural,” writes Wolf, a professor of child development: only a few thousand years old, reading is too new to be encoded into our genes. Which means we have to learn it the hard way.

I do not see that you can assume that. The human mind seems to have abilities for dealing with things that cannot in any obvious way have developed by evolution, that is, by natural selection in favour of aptitude for dealing with specific things of that kind.

It is acceptable for writers on child development to write about factors which may have an influence without mentioning innate intellectual ability, correlated with measurable IQ. But this is associated with the fact that it is acceptable, in a particular case, for people to interpret the situation in terms of the only factors which are explicitly taken into account.

As they did in my case. Whether or not reading was ‘encoded in my genes’, whatever was necessary for learning to read, very rapidly and without apparent effort, evidently was. As it was acceptable to interpret this as my parents ‘pushing’ me, it was interpreted in that way and this was considered justification for frustrating and opposing me and for persecuting my parents. This was several decades ago and I am sure that the tendency to adopt such interpretations, and to act on them in interfering in people’s lives, is no less, but almost certainly greater, than it was then.

To quote further from this review,

For some, their problems are a product of their word-poor upbringing: middle-class children have on average heard 32 million more words by the age of five than their less advantaged peers. This makes a difference: the best predictor of how easily a child will learn to read is how often they are read to as a toddler.

Perhaps for some, but for how many? I have known people who, living in the most middle-class and highly educated households, with a constant coming and going of influential and articulate people, remained unable to read until a relatively advanced age and would have been very unlikely to get grammar school scholarships. On the other hand, I have also known people who were deprived of attention as young children in unfavourable circumstances, but learnt to read at an early age and were, or would have been, highly placed in grammar school scholarship exams.

“The best predictor of how easily a child will learn to read is how often they are read to as a toddler.” But the majority of people with high IQs have attentive middle-class mothers, themselves with high IQs, who are likely to read to young children. It is not necessarily true that high IQ children who are read to frequently will learn to read much more easily, or earlier, than children with equally high IQs who are not read to at all.

31 March 2008

Engineering students

According to the Daily Mail (28 March), over the last 8 years 10 billion pounds of taxpayers’ money has been spent on a campaign of working towards the Government’s target of having 50% of the population between the ages of 18 and 30 in universities, which includes of course ex-polytechnics.

The recruitment campaign is regarded as having failed because the population of university entrants is only 0.6 of a percentage point higher than in 1999.

Ministers had set a 2010 target of 50 per cent of young people entering higher education by the time they are 30. Official figures yesterday revealed that the proportion in 2006/7 was 39.8 per cent – down from 42 per cent in the previous year and only 0.6 percentage points higher than in 1999. …

Conservative universities spokesman David Willetts said: ‘At this pathetic rate of progress it will take a further 118 years to hit the Government’s target. We need to do far better to spread the opportunities for young people. Under this Government we are completely flat-lining.’

Of course, at the same time as encouraging the sections of the population with the lowest IQs and least academic aptitude to go to university, those with above average IQs (referred to as the ‘middle class’) have been increasingly discouraged, and are becoming disillusioned with the prospect of burdening themselves with debt for the sake of worthless ‘degrees’ which employers, including me, do not regard as any guarantee of competence in anything.

So, while the overall number of university entrants has scarcely risen, the proportion of lower IQs to higher IQs almost certainly has, and further attempts to promote ideas such as those expressed by David Willetts may well result in a complete exclusion of those with IQs above 140, or even 130, from university life.

Meanwhile, people with exceptionally high IQs, such as Charles McCreery, Fabian Tassano or I, cannot get even minimal salaries to enable us to contribute to the philosophical ‘discussions’ which go on, let alone pay for the institutional environment that we need to work in.

Even if we had a one-person salary apiece for working in our (socially unrecognised) independent university, it would not pay for the institutional environment that we need to work in, as well as the extra people (the equivalent of research students) to write papers on issues related to our own which we could also make very good use of.

An academic gets a lot out of his residential college with dining hall facilities etc which we have to pay for and work on maintaining for ourselves, so even with salaries we would not be as free to be productive as if we had a socially recognised residential college to live in.

24 March 2008

Hooked on excellence

Joan Bakewell on her grammar school (Stockport High School for Girls):

The school was relentlessly competitive and selective. ... The six houses [named after "significant women of achievement”] competed for a silver cup awarded to "the most deserving house", the winner arrived at by compiling exam results with netball and tennis tournaments, house drama competitions and musical achievements. There were even awards for deportment — for virtually anything that could be marked. We got hooked: it became a way of life. ...

The rules were remorseless, dragooning us in every particular of behaviour. Uniform even meant the same indoor shoes for every pupil; hair-ribbons had to be navy blue. The school hat had to be worn at all times to and from school; girls caught without were in trouble. The heaviest burden was the no-talking rule: no talking on the stairs, in the classroom, in the corridors, in assembly anywhere, in fact, except the playground. We were a silent school, shuffling noiselessly from class to class, to our lunch, to the cloakroom. ...

Among this welter of disapproval conduct marks, detentions and, finally, a severe talking-to by Miss Lambrick [the headmistress] physical chastisement was unnecessary. We were cowed long before things became that bad. The cane in the headmistress’s room was redundant. When a girl got pregnant the worst conceivable crime she was expelled without fuss before she could contaminate the rest of us. (quoted in David Kynaston, Austerity Britain, Bloomsbury 2007, pp. 566-567)

But, as Joan Bakewell says, ‘We got hooked: it became a way of life.’ And, as I observed it at my convent school, it did not seem too bad a way of life. I did not get the impression that most of the girls were suffering very much; children and young people do, I think, quite easily get ‘hooked’ on sets of rules and standards of excellence to apply to every aspect of their lives. Trying to keep all the rules as well as possible even produces a sort of centralisation (to use my own psychological term).

At least so far as my convent was concerned I do not think that ‘disapproval’ was the predominant attitude conveyed, or that the girls were ‘cowed’ in trying to avoid it. I got the impression that they got hooked on ‘being good’ and they felt ashamed and disgraced if they slipped up, but not in such a way that they became identified with being disgraced and gave up on trying to be an admirable rule-keeper.

Joan Bakewell is implicitly critical of her competitive and highly-organised school life, implying that there is some obvious ideal of which it falls short, or which it actively violates. This, I suppose, is an acceptable attitude, probably the only acceptable attitude at present towards any school that makes possible any kind of centralisation.

It may well be that fear of disapproval and punishment was a stronger feature of Joan Bakewell’s situation than it was at my convent, which was originally a fee-paying school, and had become a direct grant school which accepted a certain proportion of pupils with grammar school scholarships. Parents are more likely to pay for their children to attend schools that allow them to feel good about themselves than are agents of the collective acting through ‘education’ authorities.

Centralised psychology depends on distinguishing between what is under your own control and what is not. The reactions and evaluations of other people are not under your control, and it may be helpful in later life to be aware that people can be hostile and will make nasty things happen to you if they can catch you out in breaking one of their rules, which they will be motivated to do. So you need to concentrate on what you can do to help yourself by taking whatever opportunities you can to improve your position.

Schools which convey that anything goes, and that the worst that can be done to you is to be sent home and provided with a tutor at the expense of the taxpayers, may be a bad preparation for adult life.

One frequently hears of people who ruin their lives by incurring terrible penalties, such as imprisonment and the breakdown of their livelihood, as a result of attempting to break the law in flagrant ways with little apparent sense of danger; for example, the hapless couple John and Anne Darwin, who recently attempted to start a new and prosperous life in Panama on the proceeds of the life insurance payments resulting from the husband having pretended to be dead, while really living in a house adjoining his own, in which his wife was still living openly.