My first stay as a test subject at The American Society for Psychical
Research was to last about seven months.
The stay was to be a bittersweet experience, laced with triumph and failure -- and backstabbing farcical soap opera.
The venerable Society was to manufacture yet another one of its embarrassing and toxic scandals -- to the utter horror of all, even to those particular individuals who brought it down on the Society.
Like all scandals everywhere, though, it was soon swept from view into ASPR closets where it has remained among other moldering skeletons. And so few remember it today.
In retrospective analyses of that scandal, it is clear that its fulminators did not at all anticipate the magnitude of its explosiveness. Nor did they have any clues, psychic or otherwise, that the repercussions would result in circumstances which would compel little me into full-blown media limelight as nothing else might have.
In this context it's worth mentioning that most, but not all, parapsychologists seldom demonstrate any of the psi faculties they research -- in this case precognition, premonition and foresight.
In this regard, I must make haste to point up that since then the trustees and working personnel of the ASPR have changed many times. And so this particular scandal must not in any way be laid at their feet. Indeed, I have since been treated with a fair amount of kindly consideration by most of them.
It is now important for the reader to understand that when I stepped into the ASPR as a test subject, I did not merely step into an experimental lab merely to attempt ESP experiments.
Rather, I stepped into a small SOCIETY populated by a number of fitted and misfitted people whose realities were seriously inbred -- not only with visions of the importance of the ASPR, but as also regards a limited number of concepts.
Although I did not realize it at the time, this was ultimately to mean that new and innovative ideas were not welcome.
I also did not realize that the position of Dr. Karlis Osis as Director of Research was a thorn in the side of certain other parapsychologists who may have wanted themselves to obtain it. Had it been possible to remove him without undergoing several legal disruptions, it's quite likely he would have been long gone.
To help make all this more clear, the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) had been founded in 1885, in emulation of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in London.
Since its founding the ASPR was composed of the traditional pyramidal power hierarchy typical of most human institutions. There was a very narrow top to this pyramid, and a very broad bottom.
At the top was the board of trustees and officers who made all the decisions, or at least tried to do so, and just beneath those was a curious mix of officers and committees sometimes composed of trustees themselves. Those officers, also as trustees, of course voted for themselves and their projects.
Throughout its long history, the ASPR had produced a lot of good work -- and a chain of scandals and palace revolutions inside its hidden machinery.
The whole of this involved intense politicking. And so to render the whole system more equable, a strata of "voting members" had been set up and who were to consider issues more objectively.
But this had long resulted in convincing the voting members to vote this way or that, with the result that the ASPR was often characterized by what equated to internecine warfare.
And it was this particular fearsome activity which the members of Buell Central referred to as the "cesspool."
Beneath all this were the hired managerial people, and beneath those were the "members of the ASPR" consisting of the public who paid a yearly subscription fee to be a member. In 1971, the membership was alleged to consist of some 8,000 strong.
Beneath the members was the raw public, from which the ASPR hoped to solicit contributions, funds and bequests. To acquire its non-profit status, the ASPR proposed to educate the public regarding its own work and as regards psi in general.
This noble goal was the sole purpose of the ASPR NEWSLETTER, which in 1971 was managed and produced by Mrs. Marion Nester.
Along more scientific lines, the ASPR also published a JOURNAL to which parapsychologists as a whole could submit papers. These were then given over to peer review and if found suitable were then published.
The JOURNAL, produced quarterly, was overseen by a publishing committee. By far and large it was a very good publication -- but the scientific papers published in the JOURNAL were somewhat inaccessible to the raw public which found it a boring read.
Beneath the public were the psychics, none of whom interested the higher ASPR hierarchy, and were therefore deemed undesirable. This avoidance was not true of the ASPR's past, but was true in 1971. There was no open and published information regarding this, but it was subtly enforced within the system.
This embargo against psychics was somewhat at silly odds with the title of the ASPR as a PSYCHICAL research organization. But the embargo was very strict and enforced, as we will see somewhat farther ahead regarding the scandalous treatment of Mrs. Laura F. Knipe, the long-term Executive Secretary of the ASPR.
The only way I achieved an invitation to the ASPR was by claiming I was not a psychic, a claim I made from the start of July 1971 and have maintained until today. I was an ordinary person who volunteered to serve as an experimental subject regarding powers of mind.
In any event, the ASPR was a smallish microcosm of larger and equally inbred social macrocosms -- one of which, as I was to discover, was the whole of the American intelligence community.
The whole of the above can be easily synopsized. The venerable ASPR was almost exclusively run not on behalf of its research directions, but on behalf of its internal politicking -- otherwise known as power games.
Other than that, the chief product of the ASPR was the publication of its JOURNAL in which parapsychologists could publish their papers -- IF they were on the right side of the officers who comprised the publishing committee.
It is now completely necessary for the reader (and the historian) to understand that Dr. Osis's out-of-body (OOB) experiments had been fully approved by the board, including the experimental protocols, methods, and arrangements. It is equally important to point out that Dr. Osis was a paid employee of the ASPR, never an officer on the board.
In the light of the pre-approvals for the OOB experiments, it was fully understood and expected that Dr. Osis would conduct the experiments and thereafter provide a concluding report which would be published in the ASPR's scientific JOURNAL.
His OOB experiment had been up and running BEFORE I came to the ASPR, and so it was not especially designed for me -- as many later experiments were to be in other places.
Even at this early date, the last thing I wanted to do was to take part in experiments which were not foolproof since this was a complete waste of everyone's time even if I was going to get paid for it.
I examined the experiment, discussed it with my mentors, and concluded, as had the ASPR's board, that Dr. Osis indeed had designed a very elegant and efficient experiment.
In any event, the targets were on the tray far above the subjects' heads, while the subjects themselves were strapped to the chair by the brainwave electrodes.
I hope you now have the overall picture here. For now begin the triumphs and the soap-opera spectacle of the ASPR completely abandoning its logic, legitimacy, honesty and honor.