THE DARKEST DAY OF MY LIFE -- (ONE OF THEM, ANYWAY)
My debt to Dr. Jan Ehrenwald for introducing me to the topic of fear is so profound that I will never be able to articulate it.
But the day after our conversation was certainly a dark day of my life. I was plunged into a deep gloom. I had feared many things so far in my life. But not Psi, or anything that might be incorporated into that concept.
To me, and since my childhood experiences, Psi
represented expanded potentials, expanded perceptions, MORE of something
that is great about our species capacities. I had always relegated the existence
of fear to those who were lesser perceptive, and because they were lesser
perceptive had something of a right to fear whatever they couldnít perceive
But Iíd never conceived that Psi could be feared by, say, SCIENCE, certainly not by parapsychologists. But I now knew that fear could exist among them -- even if not in a conscious way.
Getting a little ahead of the unfoldment here,
I can say that one of the fall-outs of all this can be a new sense of compassion
-- and which Iíd never felt very much of before. And it a type of compassion
that can transcend self -- for all of us are among those who fear something
But I was a wreck at the time. I laid in bed all
morning smoking cigars and drinking Italian coffee. I knew I had to give
up on the ASPR -- this a sad business, because it meant betraying Janet
Mitchell and Gertrude Schmeidler.
And for the first time I realized that I really didnít want to give up. The contours of this realization were foggy -- but among them appeared the understanding that I "got off," so to speak, on the parapsychology challenge.
More clearly put, once I realized that Iíd have
to give up, then I realized that I was hooked, even addicted -- not to the
glamour, etc., of the field, not to the woo-woo psychic persona, but to
the thrill of succeeding in experiments -- addicted to the thrill of surmounting
This kind of "think" is akin to why mountaineers climb mountains -- because "they are THERE." Or akin to explorers who trek into the unknown -- because it is THERE.
Dr. Ehrenwaldís fear thing struck a deep resonance
in me, a quirk, I suppose, but which now needs to be explained. You see,
since childhood I already knew that I was afraid of fear. My entire being
could become contorted about things I was afraid of.
But the fear was also a fascination, I suppose.
I remember an early fear as a child -- that of hiking alone in the woods. One day I determined to do just that, and did so. A simple thing, to be sure. But in the end that fear vanished. Thereafter, when I found myself afraid of something I simply worked up my courage and went and did it -- alone, all by myself.
Back in 1953, the idea of having to go into the Army put me in bed a full week with a pillow over my head, a kind of blinding psychotic episode. Then one day I got out of bed and marched to the military recruiting office in Salt Lake City and said "here I am."
This solution to fear had led me to do many stupid things -- such as walk fifty-seven blocks through a New York subway tunnel when I realized I was afraid to do so.
One reason I tried parapsychology experiments was
that I was afraid I would fail at them -- and did so many times.
One reason I had refused Puthoffís invitation to
SRI for a second time was that I was afraid I would fail.
Another reason was that if I didnít fail, then if Puthoffís project really got going, it would be somehow connected to the larger military-intelligence establishment -- for that was where SRI got most of its money from. I also could not possibly miss the accumulating clues indicating probable Washington interest in his project.
I WAS afraid of falling flat on my face in full view of SRI and THAT establishment.
It was in this slightly psychotic frame of mind
that I got out of bed about 3:00 p.m. I made yet another Italian espresso
pot, sat it by the phone, and with sweating, shaking hands dialed Puthoffís
"OK, here I am."
"Gosh! Really? I was about to call you. Is it true youíre taking over the ASPR?"
I lost it. I bitched about everything -- about
the suppression of the Wilkins-Sherman experiments, about the ASPR board,
about Xerox machines, about how difficult it was to play hardball inside
a pillow stuffed with fraidy-cat egos and bullshit, and etc.
I then felt better.
I suddenly felt like playing hardball again.
"If I come out there," I began, "I
want some things."
"OK, you gotíem."
"Whereís the reimbursement for the FIRST trip?"
"What! You havenít got it yet?"
"Would I ask for it if I HAD gotten it?"
"SRI is slow when it comes to paying consultants. Iíll look into it again."
I continued my hardball approach.
"It is to be understood that I will be fully informed about the type and nature of any experiment. I donít want any more surprises. I also will do only those experiments I feel I can succeed at. If I donít have this feeling, then nothing will be held against me. After all, if I feel I wonít succeed, then my psychological balance will be negative."
"OK, I swear."
"I want an office with a telephone to sit
in when weíre not working."
"Gee, that might be difficult. SRI doesnít assign offices to consultants."
"Work it out, or I no show. I also want a work agenda cast in cement. I want the work to be as full-time as possible, even though that might wreck your telephoning."
"OK, how soon can you come?"
"In a week or so. Howís that? I need time to TELL EVERYONE where Iím going this time."
"OK. Done deal. Iíll work on the office. Would you mind having some observers present?"
"No, providing they are qualified and not just some dipshits wanting a thrill."
Then I showered -- and went over to Zeldaís. I
needed to be in the company of someone who was fearless. Zelda feared nothing.
After all, back when she owned two nudist camps, and PLAYBOY magazine wanted to do an article on them, she was the first full frontal nude to appear with the magazine (the picture was in black-and-white, though, and that WAS the time when decency squads still ruled.)
Zelda again loaned me the money for this second trip.
Later that night, I called up Martin Ebon. "Iím
going to SRI again." He was thrilled. "I want to know if you can
tell me why SRI is sponsoring this kind of thing?"
"The Soviets, of course."
"But surely not because of all that superficial public stuff in PSYCHIC SECRETS BEHIND THE IRON CURTAIN."
"No," Martin replied.
"OK, how big is the secret work?"
"OK, can we meet for lunch tomorrow or so?"
"Tomorrow. Come to my office and weíll go to lunch."
I then called Shafia Karagulla in Los Angeles.
"Iím going to SRI again, and I need to talk to you."
"Enough said over the telephone," she whispered. "Can you come down to me?"
"Yes, Iíll arrange it somehow."
"Donít tell anyone."
I then went to bed -- and put a pillow over my head. But the weather was too hot. So I threw it on the floor -- and, believe it or not, prayed for guidance.