THE FIRST INTIMATIONS OF PSYCHOENERGETICS
Friday, 9 June 1972, was to be my last day at Stanford Research Institute.
And in my mind, it was also to be my last day of being mixed into psychic and parapsychology stuff -- 80 per cent of which was cow pucky -- pure and simple.
Puthoff, however, wondered if I’d consider making
another trip to SRI if he could arrange matters. And this we discussed at
Pete’s coffee spa.
As I explained to him, my excursion into parapsychology as a test subject had begun in mid-July 1971, eleven months ago. Prior to that I certainly had seen the field as important and Psi stuff had been of deep interest to me many years before that.
But in this, the term "enchantment" could best be used to describe my interest -- for, like most people outside the field, my vision of it had probably been enchanted by visionary books and science fiction ideas of what was involved.
But the eleven-month direct experience had shown
me a few candid realities -- among which was the principal fact that the
field was a hellhole, and in more ways than one.
The inside of parapsychology was wacko. Outside of it, the social, academic and scientific stance was wacko.
Puthoff assured me that he was on the case now,
and that things could be made to go differently.
Yes, I said, that might be. But for HIM, not for me.
After all, he was a Ph.D. scientist. I did not have a Ph.D., and if I continued I would always be considered only a subject sitting around waiting for some Ph.D. researcher to test something or other.
I pointed out to Puthoff that the life-expectancy
of a test subject was about three months at best. Even Hubert Pearce, J.
B. Rhine’s most successful subject during 1932 and who helped put ESP on
the map, was cast into oblivion after three months had passed.
I also pointed out that if a scientist failed, he or she could count on going on to other work. But when a test-subject failed, the failure was final and terminal.
Besides, there was no money anywhere. During the
eleven months I’d spent in lab work, I could have written one novel and
painted six paintings. And those kinds of MY products at least had some
small career-making chance.
For me, then, what were the career opportunities in a hellhole where test subjects were nothing more than expendable guinea pigs?
And, Oh, Yes, I asked, when would my airfare to
SRI be reimbursed? I needed to repay Zelda. Soon, Puthoff replied.
Additionally, in general Psi stuff was far and
wide so encumbered with superficial garbage and sociological competitiveness
that no one could put their finger on anything fundamental.
Finally, no one was interested in what a mere subject
had to say about things. As I had found out, they were supposed to produce
results, but otherwise keep their mouths shut, keep their knowledge and
observations to themselves.
I had no intention of being such a creature.
Puthoff listened thoughtfully, and then said something
like: "But I am interested."
So I said something along the lines that follow.
Rather than looking at the phenomena in the first
instance of all things, one should first look at the scenarios in which
the phenomena are to be studied, and in which the drama of the "work"
is to be played.
In this case, parapsychology was probably already moribund, largely from internal conflicts. But in any case, social forces external to it were poised to attack any positive developments -- if only to keep parapsychologists on the defensive, keep them ghettoized.
I didn’t see why one should adapt to all of this,
and especially not Puthoff who came with credentials and vision that were,
in my estimation, unique to the parapsychology scenario.
Why not attempt to create a whole new approach -- a different kind of scenario?
Why not cast the phenomena into a scenario of physics, rather than into the familiar psychological one?
To be sure, Puthoff was already thinking along
these lines, and had been for some time - evidence of which was in existence
in his earlier proposals that Cleve Backster had given me to read.
For starters, why continue to utilize the nomenclature of moribund parapsychology -- for doing to would directly reconnect to that field. Surely, there ought to be some kind of comparable nomenclature in physics that would serve three positive purposes:
First, to confuse the social forces poised to discredit, for example, clairvoyance, telepathy, and etc.
Second, to make the phenomena more recognizable to physicists, or at least more amenable to them.
Third, to link the new field into a multidisciplinary approach -- and which was sadly lacking in the existing approaches to it.
Indeed, the idea that the phenomena were exclusively
of psychological origin was just a theory that had taken hold somewhere
back in time. It was an assumption, nothing more.
There really ought to be a physics connection to them, a biological connection, a neurological one. Perhaps there were connections no one had yet discovered.
Puthoff had been thinking of the term PSYCHOENERGETICS,
so I suggested that we spend a few hours erecting a new box-and-flow organizational
chart based in that concept -- and relate that concept to the multidisciplinary
Puthoff made his daily telephone session short
when we got to SRI. We then got some paper, pens, 3 x 5 index cards, retired
into an unused conference room and spent several hours envisioning a completely
new field replete with novel nomenclature.
Finally, we were able to put all the cards together
into a box-and-flow chart made up of six standard paper pages scotched-taped
The whole of this was thrilling.
My archive copy of this first restructuring was
later stolen in 1973 from my office at SRI. But I have a copy of the second
one -- and which I’ll present in due course.
While driving me to the San Francisco airport,
Puthoff returned to the topic of a second visit.
"No way, Jose," I replied.
"Well," he smiled with usual optimism, "maybe I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse."
On the plane I enjoyed three Vodka and Sodas on
the rocks and mulled over the SRI experience.
It had been wonderful. Puthoff was great. SRI was great. The unexpected results of the magnetometer experiment would circulate through the field and knock everyone off their pins.
Willis Harmon and company, the Tillers, Shafica -- well, all these represented a world I wished I was qualified to enter and be an intimate part of.
But I was not qualified, academically at any rate, and such qualifications were a full part of the SRI scene and the whole of Silicon Valley as well. The most I could be was the "psychic guinea pig," and which in the end was nothing or no one.
Anyhow, I was used to Manhattan and its rapid transit
systems, taxis, the opera, the museums, the multi-tiered social life. Silicon
Valley stressed me, for when one was not sitting some place, one was sitting
in a car going somewhere. Everything was at least 20 miles distant.
On just about every street intersection was a Mobil gas station, a Taco Tico, a McDonald’s, and a bank. Therefore, all corners in Silicon Valley looked alike to me. And the California sun was too bright.
Back within the familiar confines of Manhattan’s
towering canyons, I unplugged my phone and slept an entire day.
Then I called Zelda to say I hadn’t yet been reimbursed my airfare. My total capital at that moment was $10.28. I then telephoned Gertrude Schmeidler -- and then Janet Mitchell. Janet said something like: "What the fuck have you been up to? What’s this magnetometer stuff everyone’s talking about?" I made a date to have dinner with her and explain everything.
My total, in-hand capital was $10 and some change.
But I was FREE of that whole hellhole experience. I could rest on my laurels. I felt great.