30 September 2013

Dr Charles McCreery meets HM The Queen

Below are some notes by my colleague Charles McCreery on the official photograph of the Reunion for Pages and Gold Staff Officers at which he met the Queen.

On 14th June I had the privilege of meeting Her Majesty the Queen at the Reunion Luncheon for Pages and former Gold Staff Officers who had taken part in the Coronation Ceremony in 1953.
Photograph © Tim Hodges Photography
e-mail: thp@timhodges.co.uk

This was strictly speaking the first time I had met the Queen. In 1953 I had been a few paces in front of the Queen in the procession out of Westminster Abbey at the end of the Coronation Service, but I cannot be said to have met the Queen on that occasion in the sense of having spoken to her and been spoken to.

The recent Luncheon, organized by Lord Remnant and sponsored by Lord Eccles, took place in the Attlee Room in the House of Lords. The accompanying photograph was taken before the Luncheon by the official photographer for the occasion, Mr Tim Hodges.

A key to the photograph is given below. Three of those present were known to me from my time at Eton: the actor Jeremy Clyde (fifth on the left, back row), Ben Harford (fourth from the right, back row) and Nicholas Ullswater (seated, one from the right). Next but one on my right in the back row is Brian Alexander, whose father, Field Marshal Earl Alexander of Tunis, was one of my godparents.

Sir Henry Keswick, who was a page to Field Marshal Viscount Alanbrooke along with myself, and who is the subject of a separate post, is immediately to Jeremy Clyde’s right in the back row.

Key to the photograph:
Back row, left to right: Hon. Dominic Elliott, Michael Anson, Thomas Lindsay, Sir Henry Keswick, Jeremy Clyde, Hon. Richard Stanley, Julian James, Col. Charles Dawnay, W.R.A. Birch Reynardson CBE, Robin Herbert CBE DL, James Dawnay, Hon. Brian Alexander, Hon. Bruce Hacking, Dr Charles McCreery, Brigadier Andrew Parker-Bowles OBE, Sir Adrian Swire DL, Ben Harford, Edward Elwes, Sir John Aird, Hon. James Drummond.
Centre row, left to right: Rt. Hon. Robert Boscawen MC, Earl of Erne, Earl of Waldegrave, Earl of Home CVO CBE, Lord Gladwyn, Lord Remnant CVO, Earl of Eglinton and Winton, Lord Cranworth, Lord Wardington, Lord Blakenham.
Front row, left to right: Hon. Gerard Noel, Earl of Dudley, Earl of Portarlington, Viscount Eccles CBE, HM The Queen, Duke of Devonshire KCVO CBE DL, Sir Evelyn de Rothschild, Viscount Ullswater, John Stourton.

We appeal for funding of £1m to staff and equip a laboratory to enable Dr McCreery to continue and extend his Oxford doctoral research into hallucinatory experiences in normal people, which would have practical and theoretical implications for both the fields of psychopathology and for the philosophy of perception.

23 September 2013

No need to be ‘committed’

Below is an extract from a letter to someone who said, in connection with our need to obtain a senior supporter, that it would have to be someone
‘who was committed to your political libertarianism, or who was similarly committed to supporting your work on the psychological questions you have written about’
In fact, neither qualification is necessary. It is not necessarily true of those who provide financial support to other academic institutions that they are ‘committed’ to the subject matters or possible viewpoints of the researchers in those institutions. Nor is it necessary in our case. What we do need is a supporter who recognises our ability and thinks it should not be deprived of opportunity necessary to enable it to contribute to culture and scientific understanding.

If you do not subscribe to the modern ideology, people seem to ascribe to you a definite belief system asserting something radical, when in fact one is only critical of some unexamined assumptions underlying their belief system.

So when I picked out OBEs, from the wide field of experiences allegedly associated with psychical research, as what could most easily lead to advances in understanding of neurophysiology etc. I was branded with being a spiritualist because (in the popular view) only spiritualists would believe that people had such experiences.

I have to say that nobody here regards themselves as a ‘political libertarian’. None of us would want to do research on libertarianism even if financed to do so.

People who become aware of our need for support of all kinds, instead of providing some themselves, often suggest we apply to some organisation specialised in some area.

Also people often appear to regard things on my blog as indicative of what my ‘interests’ are, and what I would be writing about if financed to do philosophy or psychology in an academic career.

Actually the blog is very censored and most of the areas which I would research on if I could are too loaded to refer to briefly.

If there are any pieces about bad side-effects of intervention in the modern world, it is only because the interventionist developments in modern society have had very bad effects on people in our position as outcasts.

Attacks by me or anyone else here on what is being done and on the assumptions implicitly made may appear strong, but that is largely a reflection of the monolithic consensus that exists. You say there are already academics arguing for positions such as mine (and hence no need for me to do so) but I have not come across more than one or two who are at best lukewarm in their rejection of the prevailing ideology.

The fact that my suggestion that the ‘child protection’ industry should be dismantled (for example) is seen as radically libertarian shows how far the consensus has moved and how inflexible it has become. Before the war, the idea of imposing the level of interference we now have would have been regarded as extreme and unacceptable.

What we can put on the blogs is minimal. If financed to do so, any of us would make far more extensive analyses than any that we (or any salaried philosopher) have so far made.

13 September 2013

Families against their best

Socialism has always regarded the support which might be given by a family to an exceptional individual as a potential threat. This has been expressed in the ideas of ‘pushy’ parents and ‘privileged’ schools. These ideas are still commonplace, but what is not advertised is the risk of support that might be given by families to individuals whose education, whether privately paid for or other, had left them in a position in society in which no career to which they were suited was available to them. Then they would have to try to create a career for themselves, perhaps by setting up an independent organisation. In such circumstances, it would seem that the support of friends and, most probably, relatives would be of crucial importance to them.

In fact it is the case that parents have a strong tendency to wish to ally themselves with social influences where these are perceived to be at odds with the interests of their offspring. Therefore it may well be the case that they make no attempt to prevent the damage that is being done to an exceptional offspring by the social hostility of its schools and universities.

When the worst comes to the worst, and the offspring has to attempt to make its own way in an ‘egalitarian’ society, the parents may well wish to assert their belief that the outcome of the ‘educational’ process was meaningful, since properly appointed agents of the collective can never be in the wrong, or even inefficient or mistaken.

Therefore the family withholds support from the potential high achiever of the family, who now needs it most, and gives it only to those members of the family who are doing normal, fairly pointless jobs, and contributing to the growth of the population, by following the lives of least resistance under social influence.

It has been surprising to observe the universality with which people who became associated with us have been treated as criminals and outcasts, when they had actually done nothing to justify such treatment.

The family of such an individual can rely on an interpretation biased in their favour, and against the individual, being placed upon the situation. Having driven someone into a reprobate position by unfounded accusations, they are then liable to proceed as if they were wishing that the outcast should engage in social interactions with them, complaining that the outcast appears to be strangely cut off from the ‘friendly’ family.

Some reference to the activities of Dr Charles McCreery’s family is already on my blog. The following incident is an illustration of the same phenomenon in connection with another of my associates.

Some years ago a party took place in the garden of my associate’s parents. During the party, two male relatives of my associate confronted one of my colleagues in an aggressive manner and more or less accused us of having, decades ago, kidnapped her (my associate) and having forced her to write letters to her grandmother asking for money. This had, according to them, been a causal factor in the death of her grandmother about four years later.

The whole thing was, of course, pure fabrication except for the fact that my associate had indeed written to her grandmother asking, in the mildest terms, if she would consider contributing something to our efforts. This she (the grandmother) would not do.

The invented story about kidnapping was no doubt passed on to the grandmother, and in due course she excluded my associate from the financial distributions which she made to all her other grandchildren.

The kidnapping story was obviously useful to those responsible for spreading it, since it resulted in their receiving a larger share of the subsequent inheritances.

The family of my associate should make reparation for the harm they caused by spreading slanderous stories about us, including the damage done to her financial position. The asymmetry in the capital distributions made by her parents and grandparents, between her and her siblings, should be reversed.

06 September 2013

Secret courts

A father has been jailed at a secret court hearing for sending a Facebook message to his grown-up son on his 21st birthday.

Garry Johnson, 46, breached a draconian gagging order which stops him publicly naming his son, Sam, whom he has brought up and who still lives with him. […]

Normally, a gagging order imposed by a family court judge on a parent expires at the same time as a care order on the child. This one did not.

Mr Johnson was imprisoned at the height of the Mail’s campaign against jailings by this country’s network of secret courts. […]

However, it is estimated by campaigners and MPs that up to 200 parents a year are imprisoned for contempt by the family courts. Because of the controversial secrecy rules, some have been sent to jail for discussing their case with MPs or charity workers advising them. (Daily Mail 1 June 2013)
From time to time the Daily Mail publishes items which focus attention on the harm done by secret courts, apparently suggesting that if they were not secret, this would be a safeguard against harm being done. In fact this would only make the process of taking someone to such courts even more consuming of time and money, without improving the outcome for the parties involved.

There is no reason to think that the public at large is less imbued with the modern ideology than those who contribute to the decisions made in these courts. My own observation of people’s reactions to what I would regard as oppressive decisions suggests only that people are strongly motivated to justify decisions made by socially authorised agents of the collective.

Once you have social interference in people’s lives, the situation cannot be remedied by tweaking some particular element of the interference. Improvement can only be effected by abolishing the interference altogether. Prior to 1945, family courts, secret or otherwise, were unheard of. Respect for individual autonomy, supported by capitalism, was swept aside by the Labour landslide of 1945, which brought in the Welfare State, or the Oppressive State, as it might more accurately be called.

Very early on in the days of the Oppressive State, my life and the lives of my parents were irrevocably ruined by slanders against me and against my father for allegedly pushing me. Whenever I have given any account of this situation over the subsequent decades, this arouses no indignation against the system which did the damage.
William Alfred Green,
father of Celia Green, aged 22

In fact the local population acted as a form of secret court, making decisions about my life behind my back, which affected me and my parents to our detriment. This secret court operated via the local schools, the local educational authorities, my relatives, and later (during and after my attending Somerville College) via the academic world.

The secret court is still operating in my life and those of my colleagues, spreading slanders and making our lives much more frustrating and restricted than necessary.

If anyone expresses surprise at my lack of social position and lack of financial or moral support, and my continued inability to get into a suitable academic position, people are likely to say: ‘There must be something wrong with her’, not even considering the possibility that the academic world may be biased against me on irrational grounds.

If I say that my life, and those of my parents, were badly affected by assumptions that my father was pushing me, there is usually no response, and later the person continues to blithely talk as if my father must have been pushing me.

My unfunded independent university, which could be publishing analyses of the complex issues involved in the area of legal policy, has been effectively censored and suppressed for decades. Meanwhile, misleading and tendentious material on the topic continues to pour out from socially recognised sources.

Originally posted on June 7th 2013. Reposted in the light of yesterday’s ruling on family court secrecy by the president of the Family Division of the High Court, Sir James Munby.

02 September 2013

Out-of-the-body experiences: distorting and misleading ‘research’

edited text of a letter to an academic

There has recently been some more interest in near-death experiences, including a large number of hits on the posts about them on my blog. This is always very irritating, as there is no sign of response to our appeals for funding.

A number of areas of research, on which quite a lot of money is being spent throughout the world, were initiated by us. In some of the cases it could be claimed that the research now being done might have developed independently of our drawing attention to it, as the information was there, although ignored (e.g. the development of distorted interpretations of early forms of Gnostic Christianity).

However, there was no concept of near-death experiences until it arose out of nominal research on out-of-the-body experiences (OBEs). This in turn had developed (with some delay) following the publication of our first book [1] on OBEs, which made these appear as a type of experience that had sufficiently consistent characteristics to justify academic recognition. Our work provided much less justification for relating OBEs to the question of ‘proving’ survival than did the previous associations with spiritualistic beliefs.

The new and spurious category of near-death experiences arose from there being some cases reported of OBEs in hospitals. Eventually the concept of near-death experiences replaced that of OBEs in popular attention, so that the question of ‘proving’ survival or otherwise once again became the issue predominantly associated with such experiences.

However, the resulting association of OBE-type experiences with the idea of extreme states is likely to be highly misleading. In one study conducted by Professor Ian Stevenson [2] of the University of Virginia, for example, it appeared that only about half of the subjects of supposed near-death experiences were in any sense near to death.

My colleague Charles McCreery carried out an experiment, as part of his doctoral research at the Department of Experimental Psychology in Oxford, in which subjects attempted to induce OBEs in the laboratory. He found that two of his subjects reported subjective phenomena similar to those of so-called near-death experiences. Both subjects referred to ‘tunnels’, and one of them also described having the impression of ‘being on elastic going towards a tiny white light in [the] distance’. Neither of these subjects showed any sign of being near death. The one who reported the white light in the distance was a young female graduate student aged twenty-six. [3]

1. Green, C. (1968). Out-of-the-body Experiences. Institute of Psychophysical Research.
2. Stevenson, I. (1987). Personal communication to Charles McCreery.
3. McCreery, C. and Claridge, G. (1996). ‘A study of hallucination in normal subjects – I. Self-report data’. Personality and Individual Differences, Vol 21, no. 5, pp. 739-747.

Whenever we initiate a new field of research, not only are we prevented from continuing to develop it, but others proceed to do nominal research in it in distorting and misleading ways. We are not even able to publish criticism of the misleading work being done.
Our position could be transformed, and we could be being far more productive, if we were provided with even one tenth of the money spent in connection with the nominal research done by other people in the relevant areas. We ought to be given such funding.

more about modern ‘research’