Magazine and Date:

Psychic News, July 2001

Is there a Widening Division Between Parapsychologists and Survivalists in the SPR?

 - John Samson -

As it was a letter of mine a few weeks ago in Psychic News that sparked off the recent correspondence and vigorous debate in several publications about the SPR, perhaps it would be fitting for me to add a personal word as to why I wrote it.

To begin with, it was not intended simply as a disgruntled exercise in ‘SPR-bashing’, as was recently suggested. Like Sir Robert Peel, I am a great believer in conserving where possible, and reforming where necessary; and I sincerely thought – and think that the SPR might give serious consideration to this proposition.

My first inkling that all was not as it should be regarding SPR policy came a few years ago, when an old friend of mine, who owns a venerable hotel in the Lake District, told me of some unusual spontaneous phenomena occurring there that I thought would be of interest to the SPR. Accordingly, I enthusiastically telephoned a senior SPR member on the Spontaneous Phenomena Committee, to whom I briefly related the events as they has been told to me. I was quite unprepared for his response. His entire manner and attitude made it crystal clear that he was not in the least interested. Astonished by this brusque dismissal, I then began to pay closer attention to the views of other senior members of the Society and found myself growing increasingly puzzled and disconcerted.

I am well aware that cultural and educational conditioning makes the truly open mind a difficult thing to achieve in any society, but I discovered the level of equivocation and negativity in the upper echelons of the SPR to be quite remarkable, especially in view of the work done by its pioneers and the volume of psychical evidence they accumulated. This eventually led me to start pondering why some of high-profile members of the Society continue to be members, when they make no secret of their unswerving scorn and scepticism for so much of the subject the Society was founded to examine. I must make it clear that I am no gullible fledgling in these matters, prepared to swallow anything that claims paranormality, and am as eager as anyone to expose the bogus that damages and contaminates the genuine and only serves to discredit the whole issue. I respect the dyed-in-the-wool sceptic and the right to their conviction, but what is he doing in the SPR? Would he not be happier playing golf rather than playing the role of dog-in-a-manger at SPR meetings? To be frank unless such a sceptic has his own hidden agenda and sees himself as a fifth-columnist, committed to subverting the aims and objectives of the Society, I am baffled by his presence at SPR meetings.

Intelligent discussion and debate is one thing, but ceaseless mocking and knocking is a waste of everybody’s time, and certainly should have no place on influential SPR committees.

In conclusion, and in case anyone thinks I am exaggerating the current situation at the SPR, I can do no better than cite the words of Dr. John Beloff in his book ‘Parapsychology – a Concise History’. Dr. Beloff writes:

"Survival can no longer be considered part of the cutting edge of parapsychology…"

Bearing in mind that Dr. Beloff was, for almost twenty years, the Editor of the SPR’s quarterly journal, its most important publication, need one say more? QED I think.

John Samson, West Sussex: member of The Society for Psychical Research (SPR)


Michael Roll comments:

This letter from John Samson was partially published in the Psychic News on Saturday 7th July 2001. Also it was reported on the front page that a British medium had been invited by Professor Gary Schwartz of the University of Arizona to take part in his experiments. This begs the following rhetorical questions:

  • Why is a British medium having to go to America to take part in scientific experiments?

  • Why isn’t the British Society for Psychical Research carrying out experiments with mediums – nature’s interpreters between people on Earth with those who are now living in the invisible part of the universe?

  • Why hasn’t Professor Robert Morris, who holds the Arthur Koestler Chair at Edinburgh University since 1983, been carrying out experiments with mediums?


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