Janet Mitchell was one of the most unusual and wonderful people I've had the good fortune to meet, much less to work with for so many months.
She was direct, honest, forthright and felt that people ought to be able to deal with facts instead of beating around the bush or otherwise mess them up. And by this she meant ALL facts. So she sometimes didn't fit into the world we all live in.
But among other things, this meant that she noticed cases of stupidity more than the average person does, and one of my favorite images of her is discovering herself to be face-to-face with some kind of stupidity.
Her mouth would open a little and her head would nod up and down as if TRYING to comprehend. And if she chanced to look my way her eyes would be big and bright with eyebrows sort of arched.
She was quite expert at diagnosing cases of stupidity. But when a new fresh one came up she was always surprised anew -- almost as if she found it unbelievable that there were more than ten cases of stupidity in our wonderful world.
One of her biggest assets, in my opinion anyway, is that she had a good sense regarding what she DID and DID NOT know -- this in a world were many pretend they know a lot, sometimes everything. So far as I know, Janet never pretended anything.
When I first went to the venerable Society, I wasn't quite sure for some time whether she liked me. She was, I guess, reserved -- perhaps withholding opinion, for I later realized that she didn't jump to conclusions too fast -- that she thought things through, mulling them over slowly.
At the time she was research assistant at the ASPR, beginning in 1967. She didn't talk a whole lot about her background, but she had been born in Charleston, Virginia in April, 1936, and carried a slight southern drawl. I think the circumstances of her younger years had been difficult, and at one point she had been in the Army.
When I met her, she was busy providing herself with a college education, and in 1972 graduated from Hunter College in New York with a BA degree in psychology.
She later obtained her PhD in experimental cognition at City College in New York, under the guidance of Dr. Gertrude Schmeidler.
She was to receive an ASPR graduate scholarship in 1974-75; was awarded a grant to study psychokinesis (PK) in England during 1975; was awarded another ASPR grant to study PK in 1975; and was research fellow at City College during 1974-75.
Parapsychology was one of the greatest loves of her life, to which she was devoted and worked exceedingly hard. Her other great devotion was to the rights of women.
In later years, she was to publish OUT-OF-BODY EXPERIENCES: A HANDBOOK (McFarland, Jefferson, NC, and London, 1981). This book dealt with what was really known about OOB, as contrasted to its confusion of myths. This was a seminal and straightforward book, and even today is well worth the effort of tracking it down.
A few years later, Janet went beyond the limits of the known, although keeping firm footholds in them, and published CONSCIOUS EVOLUTION: UNDERSTANDING EXTRASENSORY ABILITIES IN EVERYDAY LIFE (Ballantine, New York, 1989).
"A profound shift," the book said, "from self-consciousness to cosmic consciousness is underway; humankind is on the brink of an evolutionary leap in consciousness that will change the way we think, the way we act toward each other.
"Yet before this transformation can fully take place, it will be necessary to shed our cultural psychophobia and to overcome the major conceptual blocks now constraining humanity from further progress."
And she managed to write about the complex topics involved in a simple, straightforward way.
Although she didn't at all think of herself as such, Janet was a "seer" and a "foreseer," and after mulling things over in her own special way could usually get to the nub and heart of them, and could utilize her extraordinary sense of logic to do so.
Back in 1971-72, though, I found her to be a hard worker, immaculate in research, record-keeping and the smallest details, and enthusiastic about new ideas and possibilities.
In the years to come, I was to work with many other researchers. But of all these (all fine people or I wouldn't have worked with them) only three managed to do immaculate research right down to and including the last small detail.
Janet was one of the three.
She left nothing to chance, often demanding pure performance and "suggesting" that the bullshit be left outside of the lab.
She didn't hesitate to softly and gently put me in my place when I needed to be, and I was grateful for this. And she was as hard and pointed as nails -- for she was a born Aries female, these being among the toughest of the zodiac.
Along these lines, and to clarify Janet's temperament, the military has made a terrible strategic error by not forming squads and battalions composed solely of Aries females. Such could put things in order in no time at all even on the battlefront -- and kick ass for enjoyment while doing so.
While working at the ASPR, and the increasingly complicated situations to develop there, she and I never had even one conflict or fight. We merely sat down and talked things out in an orderly fashion.
I had to work very hard and behave myself as well as I could in order to earn her friendship -- which I did, and I shall die very much honored in this.