Upton Sinclair on how (and why) he worked with spiritualists

Some years ago, I contributed to a monthly on-line magazine called The Meta Arts. It occurred to me, it may be worthwhile to share the columns that appear particularly relevant to our time today.

Upton Sinclair on how (and why) he worked with spiritualists

This business of talking to people on the other side has its perplexities, and some of those perplexities go back a long time! Most people today know of Upton Sinclair as the author of the muck-raking book The Jungle, but besides being a prolific author of fiction and non-fiction both, he was a long-time investigator into psychic matters. His Mental Radio, an examination of telepathy, remains a classic in the field. This session started because I was wondering why in the 1920s people seemed to think they needed to have an intermediary spirit to act as “control.”

May 16, 2007

7:40 AM. All right, Mr. Sinclair, shall we talk about Spiritualism and where we (our society, and the human race in fact) go from here?

The prime difficulty today will be your usual nervousness around facts, regardless of whether you really know the fact where are painfully aware that you don’t know, or are firmly convinced of something that didn’t happen, or in some way isn’t true. It is so easy to tie yourself into knots over all this – easy enough at best, without having difficulties. So if you will just let it come, good bad and indifferent and will let each person sort out for himself or herself what is believable, and useful, you will get along easier. This is what they will do anyway, of course!

Well, how about if we do this as a sort of Q. and A.? That might make it easier for me.

Certainly. You will have bite sized information that way, and will retain control, and it will contain your anxiety.

All right. First question. [Blank pause.]

I am smiling over here. You could see that your first question involves an essay on your part – which would require so much work that you wouldn’t be able to do this as well. If I may make a suggestion – do the fast Q. and A. and fill in later, with extensive interpolations if needed. The bracketed material will stitch it all together, but can be done at a less keyed up state.

Now I’m smiling. You’ve done this before. “Once or twice,” as we say.

Many, many times, and without tape recorders, or Hemi-Sync training wheels or social support except the kind that is sometimes as much constriction as support. The scientific environment couldn’t have been less supportive; the social environment alternated ridicule with superstitious fear. Our best friends otherwise regarded us as cracked for taking this seriously.

In other words our situation is a pale shadow of yours. I know that, of course.

Not everyone who reads this will. Imagine experimenting with telepathy in go-ahead America before J.B. Rhine or Carl Jung or quantum physics as a support. Imagine having to do so when the only available lens to look through was half-religious leftover. In any case, proceed.

First question. You worked through “controls” even though you didn’t really believe in them. Why, and was that your only option?

That is two questions. Three, actually, and I’ll try to deal with them separately.

I had come upon undoubted phenomena. It isn’t that something had happened to me; such an event carries great conviction, but there are too many possible individual factors that might make it only a quirk not worth investigating except as a problem in individual psychology. But when it was something that had happened not just in my neighborhood but around the world, and was continuing to happen every day, that made it sound worth investigating. And the fact that it was happening and being widely reported in certain circles and resolutely ignored by society at large – “official” society – why, that made it all the more important. There was the society, there were the mediums, there was the procedure and the printed record and the circle of people open-minded enough to allow you to go on. So that is the answer to your first, implied, question.

Was it my only option? Let’s say it was the only option ready to hand. I was an explorer who had heard of wonders in darkest Africa. I could wander in on my own – perhaps unwittingly prey to lions and snakes and other things totally beyond my experience – or I could travel in an expedition at least until I had enough experience to know the jungle from the savannah. Your expedition was the Monroe Institute and Hemi-Sync tapes. Where was I to find the equivalent, 100 years ago? And if you are with an expedition, you conform to the expedition’s rules and expectations as best you can, for several reasons. For one, there might be a good reason for them! For another, your going your own way on something that seemed trivial might get you lost. For a third, you incur a certain responsibility when you join an expedition not to unnecessarily disrupt it, lest others lose their labors.

Your third question really asks – well, you ask it.

Well, tell me about working through a “control” – in the light of my experience. I guess what I thought of first was having you reevaluate your experience in light of what you know now.

Remember though that contrary to what you thought, we don’t know everything just because we are on the other side, no longer bounded by bodies and held in consciousness of one bit of time-space “at a time.” It is true, we have access to all knowledge, but we don’t necessarily focus on it without a specific stimulus. So your question to me, or to Joseph, or to anyone, will often stimulates sudden awarenesses on our side. The potential knowledge was always there, but we didn’t necessarily actively connect to it before then. If you have a calculator, as long as the battery is in it, you have potential access to every mathematical operation that exists in it. Potentially you know the square root of every number. But until you key in a specific request so that the calculator provides a specific immediate focused access, you may not know 7×15.

Vivid analogy, and I do see it. All right, then, since I am punching the proper keys, what do you see?

You have been recording the various fumbling stages of your own exploration. I don’t mean “fumbling” as in any way a criticism. That is what exploration is! If you already know where to go and how to get there, that isn’t exploration, it’s commuting. Your record of your failures and doubts and discouragements is probably of more value to newcomers than any record of success could be. Success proves it can be done – but fumbling proves that it doesn’t require a superman to do it! I was careful to show Lanny Budd’s discouragements and confusion and inability to settle in his mind just what he was dealing with – and where do you suppose that data came from?

I never doubted it.

I had written the book you own and haven’t read – Mental Telegraphy – and mostly people didn’t read it, or if they did they didn’t know what to do with it, so it was clear enough that I could write more books to sit on the shelves of the ASPR or the British Society – or I could insinuate the subject into a huge fictional work (though I thought at first it was going to be only two or three volumes) and see if I could get some people to listen. The thing I tried to get across, besides the fact that these things happen, is that the people exploring them weren’t nuts and frauds, and had their own puzzlements and discouragements. I thought, if I make them human enough, and don’t claim even half of what I know has happened repeatedly all around the globe, maybe I can interest a few and entertain the rest.

You were trying to crack their shells.

Yes.

I’m going to take a break and enter this in the computer. It’s only 15 minutes in, but I don’t seem to have stamina as I did last year.

Not enough protein. Eat some eggs.

After a while, okay.

9:40 a.m. While I was cooking my eggs, a couple of crystallizations. Telepathy! Tecumseh! Mr. Sinclair (interrupting my breakfast) pray proceed.

You thought that I had made up Lanny Budd’s difficult relationship with “Tecumseh,” the “Indian chief” of the same name as the famous warrior – and suddenly (I wonder how it happened! I am smiling of course as I say this) you realized that I had drawn on real life. What else does a novelist do? What else could he do?

Yes, so many perplexities worked out. Would you want to proceed with brackets – filling in later – or have me say it here?

Hard choice. I guess I’ll put in the background here. Go ahead.

Tecumseh was always scoffing at Lanny because Lanny was trying to decide if he was getting a real spirit or if it was “telepathy.” You saw my rather unsatisfactory analogy of the bubble, and may provide it in brackets. It wasn’t satisfactory but was the best I could do at the time.

Your experience should show you that the mistake was in thinking it had to be either/or. Of course it was telepathy! Of course it was a real spirit! The thing that makes it comprehensible to you is the notion that all time exists as all space exists – and therefore the part of us outside time-space – superior to it, as it must be – knows no barriers of time. And thus all people are alive at the same “time” (so to speak) and may communicate as freely as they are able to believe they can.

So the “spirit” doesn’t talk “in character” because it is translated through a mind with its own way of seeing and saying things. It knows what it “shouldn’t” know because it is alive and communicating. It knows what the communicator knows – “that old telepathy”! And if the communicator’s mental prism is so rigid that he or she “knows” that the spirits come through in only one way, or talk in only a certain way (sometimes in the way that the communicator imagines that the spirit would have talked –

Yes, I see that. It leads many people to conclude that it is fraudulent or is self-deception.

How many times have you been on the verge of coming to that same conclusion?

Yes, and me inside the phenomenon! But I never wanted to fool myself, and often suspected that I was.

You weren’t the only one. If you aren’t a true believer, what else can you be but an occasional doubter? Of course I know that you regard belief and doubt as the same thing looked at from opposite angles, but you know what I mean here.

Yes, I do. So other than the fact that the associates you had available to work with believed in controls, and used them, was there any other reason you should have or would have had to?

Certainly. Ease of access. Think of your own experience, these past 18 months!

Would you care to spell it out?

You had an idea of Joseph Smallwood’s existence. You had seen him in a particularly vivid and believable vision. You had seen a hand write his surname on a chalkboard. You have a connection there, even if you often wondered if he had been objectively there or was some kind of construct. He was a point of entry, you see.

Say a little more.

If you have all the information in the world (and out of it) available to you – as you do – it may be difficult for you to think where to begin. Saying “is anyone there” was a starting place, and if the same control came forth more or less reliably, as it did, there was your entry-point. Not very satisfactory, and you from your end can see why – and it seems obvious now but didn’t to me or to us then. We allowed things to drift instead of pointing them.

A little more?

The most we might do is ask for a given individual through the control, and if they came through asks the control to ask for information – or, sometimes, put us into direct communication. But our own background assumptions were getting in our way! How could a spirit follow us if we had moved our bodies halfway around the world? How could a deceased person’s spirit continue to exist, even if it seemed to? Since the past had ceased to exist (we assumed, despite the bewildering new evidence from the advance edge of science) certainly it couldn’t be changed! Certainly alternate pasts and futures couldn’t exist and be equally real! Certainly therefore we faced conundrums like free will versus a future that already existed, which seemed to show us to be puppets.

All these things worked on our unconscious minds – which means that we had no control over them except by an occasional act of focused intention which often seemed to us like playing pretend.

Whereas I got Joseph’s undocumented and perhaps nonexistent life in day after day beginning in December of 2005, and the long effort widened my access.

Precisely. Besides, your mental defenses are miles out from where mine were. You don’t have any problem believing three impossible things before breakfast – so a lot less is impossible for you.

So came Bowers, and Carl Jung and A. Lincoln and one after another and I stopped worrying about it because I could see that I was getting interesting information and couldn’t prove it one way or the other anyway.

And so here you are, confident that you can talk to anyone you have a mind to, whenever you have anything to exchange.

Not autograph-hunting.

No, that’s right. Communication is for a purpose – which can be pleasure, of course. But even autograph hunters really want to touch you, so maybe we should distinguish between those who want something to show others and those who want to contact.

Well I thank you very much. I think some people will benefit from this.

That is always the hope, is it not? Good day.

Good day to you too.

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