Upton Sinclair on psychic exploration

May 16, 2007

7:40 AM. Somebody described yesterday’s exchange as “author to author” which is a different way to think of it! Not one that had occurred to me, or would have occurred to me. I suppose it is true enough from one point of view.

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 or 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 adding 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 stimulate 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 x 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.


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.

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