|Scientology Rare Book Library||Dr. Christopher Evans - Cults of Unreason|
THE DISCERNING READER will have noted an interesting common link between Scientology and at least one aspect of Ufology - a preoccupation with gadgetry of arguable practical value. The Scientologists have their E-meter which, as we have seen, plays a significant role in the training of auditors and the advancement of preclears up the many-runged ladder to the highest strata of the movement. Flying saucer fans, who are not one homogeneous group but rather a patchwork of humanity representing all shades and the colours of belief from the hard-headed to the simple-minded, favour various technical aids. These may be as straightforward as the camera or telescope, or as boldly off-beat as the spiritual energy radiator employed by members of the Aetherius Society during times of crisis. In most, if not all, cases the gadgetry serves as quasi-scientific equipment whose physical reality is unarguable but whose role is comprehensible and meaningful only to individuals embroiled in the cult itself. The E-meter, for example, is a piece of apparatus which may easily be described in the terminology of mechanics or electronics, but whose value in the role claimed for it might be a matter of scientific dispute. The same presumably is true of the spiritual energy radiator.
The enthusiasm for such devices is not hard to understand. To most people any bit of technical apparatus, provided that it has a wheel turning, a light flashing or a needle wagging, is immediately exciting and somehow convincing on its own. This is particularly true when, as with the average Scientologist or Aetherian, the individual himself has a limited scientific background. Then the mysterious apparatus acquires an aura of profundity which serves as the physical equivalent of the specialized jargon on which so many cults rely. The E-meter and its analogues are actually the cults' implicit obeisance to the machine age, an unconscious recognition that the icons of today must be cast in the image of the jet engine, the television set and the digital computer.
The examples given above are intended as technical aids and are treated as such by their operators. They are not - as the Food and Drug Administration found to its embarrassment in the case of the E-meter - sold or promoted as therapeutic devices. But, granting human beings' fatal fascination for mysterious gadgetry - anyone who doubts this has only to watch people at play with pinball machines - it will be no surprise that complicated and incomprehensible equipment has found its way into quasi-medical areas and has there formed strong platforms for a number of cult-like activities. The best example of these are the various devices which have lately acquired the generic term of `Black Boxes'. They are important to this book because, while few actually have cults built around them, all have acquired cultish significance. They may exist as peripherals or technical aids - as with the E-meter - or they may have a more dominant role to play - as with the various radionic devices which we shall look at shortly. At heart however they are all really doing the same thing - seeking to demonstrate or prove the existence of some independent mental or psychic process, some elan vital or spiritual component in man. When a Scientologist, an Aetherian or a radionics expert twiddles knobs on his particular gadget he is on one plane performing a routine act of diagnosis, psychic defense or what have you, on yet another plane he is reminding himself and his colleagues of the most important single fact motivating all religious thought - man is both flesh and soul, the latter as real and measurable as the former. A close examination of the fascinating data offered up by Black Box protagonists of one kind or another will make the above argument only too clear. Occasionally the veneer of science is superficially convincing, but it is never necessary to scratch deep before the true nature of the material reveals itself.
In the language of electronic theory and related fields, a `black box' is a hypothetical system whose internal logic is unknown and for which one can normally only specify the presence of inputs and outputs. For example, the brain may reasonably, if not very helpfully, be described as a black box, fed by the senses and able to cause events to occur on the outside world by speech, muscle activity, etc. The only thing that one can say about a black box is that it works - its mechanics remain unknown. To most people the average radio set falls into this category. It has switches which serve to determine the kind of noises it produces, and batteries to replenish from time to time. For the rest the owner is happy that it works along the lines of the claims made for it. This gentle naivety, which is not confined to relatively complex devices such as radio sets - the camera and the motor car engine are black boxes to vast slabs of humanity - puts very many people at the mercy of the mountebank, the quack and even the honestly misguided eccentric who claim to have developed revolutionary scientific inventions. The most elderly of these is probably the perpetual motion machine, a contrivance which mad scientists are continually requesting patents for, and more recently, but still quite venerable, the anti-gravity machine.
One of the earliest and most enduring examples of amazing gadgetry working wonders in the medico-psychological field was the wand used by Mesmer to manipulate the so-called animal magnetism. Mesmer and the ultimate muted triumph of hypnosis are great favourites of cultists, for they are the supreme case of an apparently mystical technique universally scorned by contemporary scientists which later was to prove its reality. Even today the theory of hypnosis is almost completely obscure and the steady improvement in anaesthesia has limited its use to peripheral areas. But it is still one of the major weapons in the armoury of the pseudo-scientist when defending his own particular obsession against orthodox hostility.
Mesmer's wand was no machine of course, and merely a hangover from medieval belief in wizardry and such. The first convincing black boxes did not appear, quite predictably, until people had become accustomed to the existence of genuine working mechanical or electronic devices whose overall effect they understood, but whose mode of operation might as well have been magic as anything else. The first man to realize the considerable potential in this field seems to have been a Dr Albert Abrams who manufactured and marketed black boxes of various kinds in California in the early part of this century, and died in 1923 a millionaire.
Unlike so many of the so-called doctors who peddle their wares in this territory, Abrams was the recipient of a genuine scientific and medical education. Somewhere along the line his brilliance began to show signs of diversion from the monotony of orthodox medicine, into methods of diagnosis and treatment which dismayed many of his friends and colleagues. At first these consisted merely of attempting to diagnose the condition of patients by tapping sharply on their abdomens and listening carefully to the resulting sounds. Different diseases and physical malfunctions would, he believed, produce unique and readily distinguishable noises when the abdomen was percussed.
Even today, doctors tend to tap here and there when examining patients, so at first Abrams's percussing attracted little comment. It was when he developed a machine to assist him with the diagnosis that eyebrows began to be raised. The `Dynamizer', as it was called, was a box with a bird's nest of wires inside. One lead was connected to a battery, another was attached, by a metal clamp, to the forehead of a healthy human being. Once this weird circuit was hooked up, Abrams would then take a blood sample from the sick individual, placing it on blotting paper inside the box somewhere amongst the wires. Then, believe it or not, the doctor would start tapping the abdomen of the healthy person, and by duly considering the sounds made by the raps would diagnose the condition of the patient whose blood sample was in the apparatus. Those of a scientific bent will already have deduced that some kind of emission from the blood cells on the blotting paper was being detected and amplified by the black box and that the human was serving as a living loudspeaker. No reader of this book will be surprised to learn that what was emanating from the blood sample was described by Abrams as `vibrations' - a word of great utility to cultists of all persuasions.
With this invention the great doctor was just flapping his wings, but when he discovered that he could pinpoint not only physical, but also psychological conditions by this means he really began to take off the deck. Before long another breakthrough occurred, when it was discovered that the dynamizer could also determine a person's religion - it was particularly hot at winkling out Theosophists and Seventh Day Adventists - to say nothing of their age and sex. For those for whom a blood sample was not readily available, the dynamizer and its various successors could produce accurate diagnoses from handwriting in lieu.
The next step was logical enough. If diseased bodies gave out specific, describable vibrations, should it not be possible, by devising a sufficiently versatile vibrator, to send therapeutic signals back into the unhealthy tissue and so correct matters, Dr Abrams felt that it most certainly should and built a machine known as an `oscilloclast', which transmitted beneficent vibrations of all kinds, and which he kindly rented out in large numbers to the quack doctors with which America has been and, no doubt, always will be richly endowed.
Like many other cult leaders or fathers of eccentric scientific theories, Abrams had enthusiasm and personal magnetism to spare and, one supposes, an honest belief in his own genius. These qualities, which are formidable indeed when encountered, led many men to champion his cause. One of the most articulate of these was the prolific novelist, Upton Sinclair, who declared that Abrams had made `the most revolutionary discovery of this or any other age'. In his long life Sinclair revealed himself as a sincere but gullible man whose tolerant attitude to the world and humanity rendered him almost incapable of believing that members of the species homo sapiens were guilty of telling lies. The outcome was that he successively championed in turn just about every barmy idea, political religious or scientific, that swam into his ken. His enthusiasm for Abrams, his dynamizer, his oscilloclast and a later invention called the `reflexophone' (which allowed one to conduct diagnosis at a distance) was no exception.
A contemporary drawing of the reflexophone in use reveals that it was about the size of a briefcase and, apart from jack points for input and output, was equipped with three or four dials and knobs. Simple-minded people looking at the drawing (which also shows a scientific-looking chap rapping someone's abdomen) might think that these knobs, etc., were connected in some logical way to a meaningful electrical current inside, but if so they would be wrong. In almost all medical black boxes, from Dr Abrams's original to its numerous successors, the wiring of the interior - if there is any at all - follows no kind of pattern to be found in any textbook of electronics. In many cases dials on the outside of the box, which are twiddled and set with great solemnity by the operator, may even be found not to be connected to anything at all inside! But before dismissing as lunacy the task of manipulating knobs and switches unconnected to anything but thin air, it is only fair to look at the theory which underlies this aspect of invention and discovery to see whether it helps explain the addiction of many thousands of apparently sane individuals to black box diagnosis and therapy. The most convenient and instructive case is the remarkable story of the late Mr George de la Warr whose laboratories at Oxford, and their sensational by-products, made newspaper headlines across the world in the 1950s.
George de la Warr was born in 1905 in the North of England and started his unusual career as an engineer, specializing in civil and building problems, and was for many years in the employ of the Oxford County Council as assistant to the county engineer. His resignation in 1953 was to allow him to devote his whole time to the study and development of black boxes, a topic for which he was already acquiring an international reputation.
Though of an orthodox engineering background, de la Warr was not totally without grounding in fields peripheral to science and medicine. His mother had been greatly interested in homoeopathy, a borderline aspect of medicine which holds that disease may be treated by the administration (in minute doses) of drugs which would produce, in a healthy person, symptoms like those of the disease treated. This controversial theory attracted much attention in the nineteenth century, when it was a favourite with lay therapists, as it requires no academic or university training for it to be practised, but it has been fading out of fashion steadily in recent decades. De la Warr, it is claimed, found the theory of homoeopathy, such as it is, to be `so much rubbish', but he was nevertheless impressed by the fact that it seemed to work. Instead of adopting the view that homoeopathic cures probably amounted to temporary symptomatic alleviation only, he came to the conclusion that they implied the existence of some kind of fundamental `energy or life force' in all living things, from human tissue to the smallest virus, and that the presence of this energy ought to be detectable and measurable by scientific means .
This energy, by the way, was no simple variant of the radiational spectrum known to science, but something which had only hitherto made its presence known in peculiar and unpredictable ways. For example, in the practice known as dowsing, a man (with the right kind of sensitivity) may detect the presence of underground water, minerals, etc., by watching the twists and jerks of a bent stick held in his hands. The water, it is believed, emits its own kind of energy radiation which, while not registerable on the most delicate of scientific instruments, can nevertheless be detected by the unique combination of the right kind of wood and the right kind of mind. A variation on this theme is the so-called science of radiesthesia, in which the divining rod or twig is replaced by a pendulum device, the pendulum swinging around in circles or ellipses when the substance to be detected is near. Diviners and radiesthetists are prone to fantastic claims in support of the power of their technique, including such unlikely matters as the sexing of newlaid eggs or the determination of some one's political affiliations with only a hair from his head to go on. Needless to say, few dowsers or radiesthetists care to submit their powers to the essentially simple scientific tests which could easily verify their reality, and those that have been tested have generally been the most ghastly flops. Nevertheless, the topic and its endless permutations exert a deep fascination for a sizeable section of humanity, and de la Warr was by no means the first or the last to paddle in these waters.
In 1943 (according to a lecture he delivered to the Oxford University Scientific Society some twenty years later) de la Warr and his wife made serious attempts at detecting `life radiation' in a number of forms of plant life from seedlings to a fully developed larch tree. Showing his engineering bias, he spurned the unreliable foibles of the dowser's twig and erected a series of metal aerials - using his wife's hairpins in early improvisations. These experiments proved disappointing, for although he used aerials of a variety of lengths (the optimum lengths had been determined by prior experiments of a radiesthetic nature) when these were hooked up to an amplifier and thence to a cathode ray tube, no electrical signals were detected. De la Warr thus concluded either that any electrical signals given off by the plant were too weak to be recorded on his instruments, or that he was not dealing with electro-magnetic energy at all. He settled for the latter, apparently disregarding the third possibility - that the reason no signals were detected was because the plant was emitting none in the first place. These early experiments did yield something of interest, for it was found that when the miniature aerials were wired up to certain plants, there was a tendency for these to grow more rapidly or more sturdily than control plants not given the benefit of the radionic treatment. This unexpected result served to convince de la Warr that they were on the track of something big, and he began to wonder if the `life radiation' he had discovered might not be put to some medical use. Perhaps it was behind the phenomena of Abrams's Box?
It will be remembered that Abrams's diagnosis relied on the skilled interpretation of the sounds made by percussing the chests of a healthy individual. The complete kit of his diagnostic device, therefore, included not only the dynamizer itself, with its wires and controls, but also one healthy adult human prepared to stand for hours on end, stripped to the waist and endure no end of rapping from the practitioner's busy fingers. It is a daunting thought and one which prompted de la Warr to simplify matters.
His first and major decision was to get rid of the human `loudspeaker' and substitute a simple rubber pad which, it had been found, could also give significant information to the trained ear when rapped - always providing of course that a blood sample or some such was placed inside the diagnostic box. A later development did away with the rapping of the pad and substituted rubbing it with the fingertips.
Now when you slide a finger briskly across the surface of a small sheet or diaphragm of rubber it will normally move very easily, but with a hint of the potential friction which could build up if the pressure of the finger is increased. In fact, if one does press rather firmly as one rubs, then there comes a point where the finger is brought sharply to a stop as the frictional forces exceed those being applied by the lateral movement of the finger. The point at which this frictional buffer occurs may also be induced by other variables, such as changes in temperature, the addition or reduction of lubricants such as sweat, grease, etc. In black box theory this `stick', as it is called, is of immense significance, for it denotes not only such mundane factors as the co-efficient of friction between fingertip and rubber pad, but also that the operator has detected a significant signal of some kind from the apparatus and its sample. With this apparatus all one now needed to set up in expert medical practice was the Delawarr apparatus, a few patients (or some part of them) and a muscular, durable finger.
The box de la Warr constructed consisted of a cabinet - black of course, and finished handsomely in leatherette, chrome and bakelite - a number of control knobs set out in rows, the rubber detector pad and a couple of containers for the blood sample or hair of the diseased person or animal. Inside the box there was nothing. No valves, condensers, diodes, relays - just ordinary air. How could such a simple contraption be used to diagnose illnesses which it might take the resources of a major medical establishment to pin down accurately? To understand this we will need to go into some technical details and anyone who finds himself baffled will have to go back a few pages and start again. I am happy to assure readers, however, that no profound knowledge of electronics is required to master the principles of the devices - in fact the more electronics one knows, the less comprehensible the whole affair will seem.
To begin with we must imagine the `circuit diagram' of the system, which is given quite openly in a number of de la Warr's publications. From the rubber detector pad (it was set in a metal frame) a wire leads to the first of the knobs or dials and thence to all the others in series and finally to the specimen wells. Thus a connection capable of conducting electricity is made from the containers in which the diseased samples are kept, through the eight knobs, to the rubber stick pad and thence, one supposes, to the operator himself. Now the purpose of the knobs, which could be set in any one of ten discrete positions marked out something like a clock face, was to alter the effective length of the circuit from blood sample to detector pad.
The function of the dials was not to raise or lower volume, or to change frequency in any meaningful way, but merely to alter the length of the circuit, which in some uncertain way was supposed to make it capable of detecting the characteristic radiation which all living things emit and by which they can be identified. Of course the first step for the pioneer working in this field would be to compile a comprehensive list of the wavelengths of the most important and commonly occurring diseases. The principle adopted was a simple one, requiring only a blood sample from an infected human or animal whose disease had already been accurately diagnosed by orthodox methods. These would then be placed in the sample wells of the Delaware apparatus (one being the positive pole and the other the negative) and all dials would be set to zero. The operator would then start rubbing away with his fingers at the detector pad. If he failed to get a `stick' with the dials at zero he would then alter the first dial to one, rub away for a bit, turning up another and yet another notch if necessary, until he felt the characteristic stick, as his finger stopped on the rubber pad. He would then start all over again, but with dial number two, until he got a stick and so on until one had been achieved for each of the knobs that were to be used. For reasons which we won't bother to go into here, it would rarely be necessary to use all eight dials in tracking down the average complaint, but in sum it was generally found that a short number tended to denote a rather general type of complaint and a longer number a more specific aspect of one. For example, the Guide to Clinical Condition, which went along with every diagnostic black box sold, reveals that a `rate' of 97964 denoted the presence of a `virus', a rate of 07752 a `bacterial condition' and one of 80810 a `parasite'.
Reading the Guide is a peculiar business. The number 30528, for example, denotes a condition called `mineral' (deficiencies of, one assumes) while 60404 implies the ominous-sounding `secretion imbalance'. There are also some interesting discriminations which can only be counted as major contributions to medical diagnosis; `toxins' rate a lowly 901, while `poison' scores an impressive 700457. To confound the issue even further, we find that lower down the list, a `toxic state' registers 90222. It is all very strange, and one turns with relief to such simple homely conditions as 907 (fracture), 1014 (contraction or spasms), and 80799 (bruise), all mere trifles to the skilled practitioner no doubt, unlike the dreaded 60682587 (pericardial effusion).
The Delaware box, like many of its predecessors, was not limited to the diagnosis of physical malaise and, using a different combination of dials, the enthusiast could soon determine, with only a blood or hair sample, whether a man was in the grip of any one of a number of psychological conditions ranging from `malice' (30341) and `vanity' (50413) to `thoughtfulness' (40421) and `self-indulgence' (70442). It is only when we read that 40107 on the box denotes `unrequited love' that we begin to wonder (as we did with some of the odder stuff from the pen of Hubbard) whether someone, somewhere isn't just conceivably pulling someone's leg.
De la Warr's next step was to move into the field of treatment, and special boxes were manufactured for this purpose. These were smaller than the diagnostic devices but equipped with a rather similar array of dials, none connected to any orthodox power source or transmitter. Treatment was simplicity itself. Having arrived at a diagnosis one then looked up the illness's `Broadcast treatment rate' in a catalogue, set the dials on the treatment box and away one went. Away one went quite literally, for the box would go on merrily broadcasting twenty-four hours a day, whether anyone was near it or not. It was apparently even unnecessary to tell the person receiving the benefits of its healing rays that he was being so favoured. This fact is never better attested than in the case of the scores of animals which made wonderful recoveries from all manner of complaints as the result of long-distance radionic therapy. Most of these fortunate creatures were pet cats and dogs, but some larger specimens, such as cows, are stated to have shown improvements in health which proved a puzzle to veterinary science. All these developments paled into insignificance, however, at the next breakthrough in the Delaware laboratories - the construction of a camera capable of photographing human `thought forms'.
Thought photography, or `thoughtography' as some addict with a tendency to whimsy once christened it, is not a completely new development in this field. The so-called science of spirit photography, by means of which the features of the departed, ringed with cotton wool, are caused to appear miraculously on film, dates back to the turn of the century. Spirit photography, an important branch of fraudulent mediumship at one time, relied heavily on the average person's more or less total ignorance of how a camera works. Even today when, thanks to the march of science, it is possible to bore fiends silly with technically excellent colour slides of one's holiday in Cornwall or the Canary Islands, few amateur cameramen are aware how easy it is to contrive images on film without light passing through the lens in the traditional way. Apart from such obvious tricks as tampering with the negative in the development stage or allowing the light to enter the camera through one or other of its sides, it is not at all difficult to mark photographic film with radioactive energy. In this latter case the trickster would merely have to arrange for a small piece of radioactive material to be near the camera - he could, for example, conceal it in a finger ring - and real, if rather diffuse, images would appear on film which had never been exposed to ordinary light. These and many other tricks have been used and, no doubt, will be used again in the production of thoughtographs of one kind or another. And when deliberate trickery is not resorted to, carelessness, ignorance or simple human naivety will frequently produce peculiar effects which serve to bolster belief in the phenomena.
A recent and most interesting development in this area features the phenomena surrounding a hard-drinking, chain-smoking Chicago hotel porter named Ted Serios. Mr Serios, whose work has been pioneered and publicized by the American psychiatrist and parapsychologist, Dr Jules Eisenbud, claimed to be able to project images of his own thoughts on to photographic film. In a fantastic book, The World of Ted Serios, which has sold thousands of copies in all parts of the Western world, Eisenbud compares this talent to a thought-directed paint brush, a phrase whose meaning evaporates on closer inspection.
Serios's technique involves a polaroid camera (for rapid inspection of results), a few quarts of his favourite beer, Budweiser, and a tiny cardboard tube which he calls a `gizmo'. When sufficiently lubricated by the Budweiser, Serios strides up and down in front of the camera and at some psychologically critical moment rams the gizmo up against the camera lens, at the same time crying `Now' as a signal for someone to open the camera shutter. The polaroid print is then inspected and frequently reveals, to murmurs of amazement from the credulous bunch who tag around with Serios, a tiny image of some kind. This may vary considerably in quality and information content, being sometimes an amorphous, cloudy mass, sometimes clear miniature images of such exotic structures as the Taj Mahal or Westminster Abbey.
The natural reaction of critics is to suggest that the gizmo conceals a tiny focusing lens and photographic negative which induces an image by perfectly traditional means through the lens of the polaroid camera. Despite the fact that Serios has never successfully induced a thoughtograph under scientifically controlled conditions without placing the gizmo up against the polaroid lens, this latest example of thoughtography is still treated by an amazing number of people as one of the unexplained wonders of our time.
To return to the de la Warrs, they moved into radionic photography as the result of dramatic experiments conducted at their laboratories in 1950. The first public announcement of these was made at a conference on `Radionics and Radiesthesia' held in London between 16th and 19th May 1950, the report of which was published in a two-hundred page proceedings later that year. This rare document merits the closest study as being a splendid example of the kind of eccentric pseudoscience which cultists thrive on. It also shows clear traces of the deep roots of mysticism and occultism which permeate so much of cultish thought. The titles of the addresses range from the borderline prosaic (`The Gravitational Wave') to the more explicitly cranky (`Research Work on the Human Electromagnetic Field'). Few of the papers bear anything other than a passing resemblance to scientific documents in the established sense, though it is evident that all the participants took everything with complete seriousness.
In the first paper, `Vis Medicatrix Naturae', given by a medical man, Dr Aubrey Westlake, there is much talk of `odic forces' which permeate the universe. These turn out to be just another name for the impulses detected by dowsers and, presumably, by Abrams and his successors, including the de la Warrs. Dr Westlake felt that they were the manifestation of something called `odyle'. Odyle has remarkable properties for `running water develops it while static water does not'. It also `quickly penetrates and courses through everything' and flows in concentrated form from special sources such as friction, sound, electricity, light, and the moon. Substances can be charged with odyle, which itself may be negative, giving a sensation of coolness, and positive, which gives a sensation of warmth and discomfort. It is also luminous and since human beings are odyle containers they are luminous over their whole surface. Hence the so-called aura surrounding the physical body.
Some substances are better conductors of odyle than others, and since one of the best passports to health and happiness is the filling of the body with the right kind of odyle, some attention should of course be paid to the type of clothing one wears, lest odyle-insulating materials are unwittingly used. Asked during question time about the wearing of silk underwear (within the above context of course) Dr Westlake replied that it was `good, as silk was a perfect conductor of odyle'.
All papers at the conference are united in showing a preoccupation with the notion of fundamental forces, undiscovered or ignored by science, and closely tied to the psychic powers of human beings. For example, Professor H. Larvaron of the University of Rennes, in his paper `The Earth and its Effects on Life', spoke of the grave consequences of `imbalance in cellular oscillation' caused by excessive cosmic and nuclear radiation and drew the conference's attention to his discovery of `telluric radiation.' (i.e. emanating from the earth rather than from outer space). This was essential to the smooth operation of the vital field. Whereas excessive doses of cosmic radiation lead to the death of the irradiated life-form, controlled over-exposure to telluric radiation has just the opposite effect, and Professor Larvaron, an agriculturist at heart, showed his audience photographs of large beets, potatoes and quite enormous melons fostered by this method.
Some additional measure of the intellectual and scientific level of the conference can be gauged when we read that in the discussion following the French sage's paper, the conversation rapidly swung round to radiesthesia in ancient Egypt. The ability to manipulate odic, radionic or telluric forces, it emerged, was very probably one of the secrets of Ancient Egypt, being of course essential to the construction of the pyramids. Nor did the discussion ignore the fascinating questions raised by the shape of the pyramids, one participant pointing out that the pyramid form brings about desiccation and mummification. Anyone sceptical of this could easily test it for himself, he added, for when an egg out of its shell on a saucer is left beneath a cardboard model of the Great Pyramid, the albumen hardens in less than a week, while another similar egg left in the air elsewhere remained liquid. As a tour-de-force this same participant later exhibited at the conference, eggs which had actually been mummified under a cardboard model of the Great Pyramid.
As we have said, it was to this unusual gathering that George de la Warr presented his paper, `Aspects of radionic research; the manifestation of fundamental energy', in which the first details of his experiments in thought photography were leaked to the world. This paper, which declares that a New Era was about to dawn, is illustrated with a number of photographs of a splodgy kind, allegedly of blood spots and the force fields which surround them. These, it must be understood, were not taken by so simple an exercise as pointing a camera at the spots and opening and closing the shutter in the normal way. They were taken by enclosing both blood spot and photographic plate inside a black box, tuning its dials to match the disease from which the afflicted donor was suffering, and subsequently removing the plates for developing. The images, which de la Warr had little hesitation in identifying as the blood spots with their accompanying force fields, were then revealed, though the plates had never wittingly been exposed to light. Simple experimentation along these lines led him and his technical assistant, Corte, to the belief that just as particular illnesses, whether physical or psychological, had their own fundamental `waveform', so they also had a characteristic visual pattern when photographed in this unusual fashion. In 1950 these experiments were in their early days and participants at the Radionics Conference had to rest content with Mr de la Warr's assurance that one could diagnose a person's physical or psychological condition from his blood spot photographically. Within months far greater marvels were revealed, including the perhaps predictable finding that to the de la Warr camera, the boundaries of space and time presented no obstacles. For example, on one occasion the former civil engineer sat down by the camera and `thought' about his wedding day, an event which had occurred twenty-one years previously. Plates taken from the camera (which had also been provided with samples of his own and his wife's blood) revealed when developed a wedding group, thus implying that the camera was either taking a look back into the past or, more prosaically, was taking a picture of de la Warr's contemporary mental imagery. Either explanation might just as well be adopted. The range of images which subsequently began to turn up via the camera, if not planted there deliberately by normal methods, suggested that the traditional laws of physics and even of cosmology were being violated. Merely by thinking of, for example, a penknife, a succession of images showing objects very like a penknife could be produced. A thoughtograph taken of the blood spot of a cow, sick with some unspecified complaint, revealed something claimed to be the `reticulum of its stomach with foreign bodies present'. Veterinary surgery of the cow, which had been twenty miles away from the camera when the picture was taken, disclosed a large stone and piece of wire in the stomach, the removal of which led to the animal's immediate recovery.
Even more sensational were thoughtographs of Oxford tap water (a few streaks of light coming from a single central nucleus) and spa water (which looks quite different). When the water was blessed by the broad-minded rector of St Mary Magdalen Church, Oxford, the Reverend J. C. Stephenson, the resulting thoughtograph was miraculously changed, the tiny central nucleus now being overlaid by a large, amorphous splodge. On the other hand, water blessed by the Reverend P. W. Eardley of London, but following a `fifteen minute service according to the Sarum rite', revealed the central nucleus again overlaid, but this time by a large, very well-formed white cross. Whether the sensational difference between the results of the blessing was a function of the power of the Sarum rite or of the relative holiness of the two clergymen is nor recounted, but those of a popish disposition will be interested to know that Lourdes's water contains radiation `much attenuated with several images superimposed'.
Despite all these sensations de la Warr's work was relatively unknown outside the fairly limited world of the cultists and the so-called `borderland sciences' for it had failed to attract the attention of the press on any great scale. All this was to change with the publication in September 1956 of Langston Day's New Worlds Beyond the Atom. This book was written in collaboration with George de la Warr and set out to give a kind of potted history of the latter's researches between 1942 and 1956 - the years of struggle so to speak. The blurb makes it clear where Mr Day stands on the matter. `The discoveries [of de la Warr] are a step away from the gross materialism which still fetters thought towards a new standpoint bridging the world of matter and new worlds of subtle influences', and the story inside the covers is that of a man who has stumbled on one of the most important discoveries ever made, and who is meeting only deep-rooted prejudice and arrogance from scientists for his pains. The book includes a section on de la Warr's proposals for a more or less completely new science of physics, incorporating a Fundamental Ray, and outdating with one fell swoop the laboured theories of physicists from Newton to Einstein.
While most previous publications on this general topic had been purchased and read only by ardent fans of black boxes and were, as far as the general or scientists public was concerned, merely extras on the huge pile of the world's barmy literature, New Worlds Beyond the Atom received an unusually favourable reception. Hard-nosed scientific journals like Nature, for example, to say nothing of the Bulletin of Atomic Physics, passed it over with the bleakest of stares, but it nevertheless received enthusiastic reviews in the most unexpected quarters.
The most influential of all these was easily that written by the well-known medical popularizer, Dr Kenneth Walker, author of a number of paperbacks with such titles as The Physiology of Sex, The Psychology of Sex, etc., and a key figure in the intellectual occult underground. Kenneth Walker, a florid-looking individual with an impressive flock of white hair, was involved in just about every aspect of fringe psychic activity in the 1950s, and thanks to his book Venture with Ideas, published in 1951, was partly responsible for reviving public interest in the curious Russian mystic, Gurdjieff, about whom we shall hear more later. In the early fifties he had even shown a fleeting interest in L. Ron Hubbard and had gone so far as to recommend, in the high circulation weekly Picture Post, a brief course of Scientology for those unable to get joy out of standard psychoanalytic treatment. At this time the combination of Walker's lucid prose, his more than tolerant attitude to borderline medical and psychological theories, and his undoubtedly impressive medical and scientific background, made him a highly significant figure whose pronouncements were treated with considerable respect.
On de la Warr and his boxes, the famous surgeon waxed most eloquent. Reviewing New Worlds Beyond the Atom he went so far as to say: `Either de la Warr should be put in the scientific stocks and have things thrown at him or else he should be awarded a Fellowship of the Royal Society and a knighthood without delay.'
Following this and similar reviews by one or two lesser figures, the Oxford laboratories were besieged with inquiries for information and with orders for one or other of the marvellous boxes. All over the country, in London flats, in country cottages and even, very occasionally, in doctors' surgeries, radionic practitioners set up their equipment, enthusiastically diagnosing, treating and thoughtographing.
In Oxford all systems were at go. Diagnostic instruments were of course the most popular and literally hundreds were sold at £100 a head. Most practitioners would also decide to invest in a treatment box which at £50 each ought to be counted as cheap if the claims that were made for it were even fractionally correct. For the really ambitious the kit could be completed, at a cost of a further £1,400, by the purchase of the famous camera to produce distant photographic confirmation of the original diagnosis and even the success of the treatment. A handy vest-pocket version of the basic diagnosing instrument, only inches across and with tiny dials and a miniature rubber stick pad, even appeared. Some models went overseas to help boost Britain's export drive, but any contribution they might have made to the balance of payments was severely limited by the unreasonable attitude of foreign customs authorities. In 1952, for example, the Brisbane customs prohibited import of a diagnostic instrument and `Colourscope Major' (a diversion of the Delawarr laboratories into `colour therapy') together valued at £280, on the grounds that the `claims made on behalf of the instruments were fantastic and untenable'. There was even a year's delay in shipping a Colourscope to a doctor in Ghana when the apparatus was impounded by mystified customs officials at Takoradi. It was later let in thanks to the good offices of a friendly Assistant Commissioner.
Apart from the sale of instruments, the de la Warrs were also in lucrative private practice, treating everything from broken legs to worms and with an estimated income in 1956 in excess of £5,000 per annum for treatment alone. Nor were the frontiers of research neglected. Experiments were carried out in such outre fields as the blessing of plants (blessed plants grew up to 50 per cent more rapidly than those unblessed), the preservation of milk and attempts to detect underground water in the desert near Kuwait. In 1957 a quarterly journal Mind and Matter made its appearance, the list of patrons on its title page including such notables as Dr Leslie Weatherhead, leader of the Methodist Church's brief revival in the fifties, the agriculturalist Lord Noel-Buxton, the novelist Barbara Cartland and, of course, the ubiquitous Kenneth Walker.
Mind and Matter, which came out spasmodically until the early sixties, is an incredible publication, its contents seesawing from topic to topic as the fickle winds of radionic fashion changed. Printed on high quality gloss paper and with an expensive multi-coloured cover the journal lived up to the promise expressed in its opening issue to `bring something of interest to everybody'. The same issue included an article on Mind and Matter by de la Warr himself, illustrated by the now famous photograph of the blessed Oxford tap water, plus photographs of monster cabbages, lettuces and broad beans which had been subjected to radionic treatment. There was even an article on `The Mother Instinct in Plants' by Mr J. I. Rodale from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and a couple of quotations from Sir James Jeans and Albert Einstein thrown in for good measure. Subsequent issues included features on `Do plants like music?', `Miniaturized radionic instruments' and on attempts to control the movements of paramecia aurelia at a distance. Some conception of the amazing scope of radionics can be grasped when one finds in the issue dated December 1959 an article from South Africa claiming that by suitable use of a black box the runt can be eliminated from a litter of piglets, and a few pages later a letter from one of the cast of the Windsor Repertory Theatre thanking the de Ia Warrs for clearing up his wife's sinus trouble in time for a critical performance. `She sailed through last night's performance without any strain on her throat at all', the grateful husband writes, adding that `As this is the most exacting part she has had to play in twenty-five years on the stage, it was a remarkable tribute to the swift effectiveness of your treatment.'
Not everyone was so delighted with the efficacy of the various black boxes made and marketed by the Oxford pioneers. In due course the Delawarr laboratories found themselves sued in the High Court for `misrepresentation by Miss Catherine Phillips of Dorset Square, Regents Park, London. This sensational case, which finally got under way on 20th June 1960 in the Queen's Bench Division before Mr Justice Arthurian Davies, lasted a full thirteen working days and is of considerable historical interest. It also represents a turning point in the history of radionics.
The main complaint made by Miss Phillips was that George de la Warr was `an exponent of and practitioner in the pseudoscience of radionics and that in 1956 he fraudulently represented that there were associated substances, distinctive waves, vibrations or radiations capable of affecting a device of the defendant called a Delawarr diagnostic instrument'. The crux of all this of course lies in the word `fraudulently'.
In view of the inherently implausible nature of the various and partially-baked theories behind the Delawarr apparatus, the plaintiff's case must have seemed stronger than it actually turned out to be. Unfortunately Miss Phillips's counsel relied on a string of eminent, establishment-type witnesses - surgeons, pathologists, physicists, photographers, etc. - to declare the equipment ridiculous and, in principle, unworkable. For his defense counsel de la Warr had perspicaciously chosen the brilliant and slightly eccentric Mr Christmas Humphreys, a man who had adopted the Buddhist religion and who was known to be tolerant and open-minded to what are generally called psychic matters. He merely decided to go one better. He called even more `expert' witnesses on the defendant's side, including Air Marshal Sir Victor Goddard, former head of technical services of the RAF, the Reverend Dr Leslie Weatherhead, Minister of the City Temple, and our old friend Dr Kenneth Walker. All stated, in effect, that the de la Warrs' work involved bona fide scientific investigation, and it was ridiculous to call it fraudulent.
In a tolerant summing up, Mr justice Davies suggested that the effectively nonsensical interior of the box was irrelevant to the case in question as no one had claimed that they knew how it worked, but merely that it did, on occasions, work. In an important caveat, however, he stated that he was certainly not emphasizing that the box did work, as this was still a `very open question'. The camera and its peculiar photographs were even more open, and the judge went so far as to state that it seemed completely bogus. However, he was satisfied, and so found, that Mr de la Warr honestly believed in the camera no less than he did in the box. For these reasons there would be judgement for the defendant
As George de la Warr and his family left the court, friends clapped and embraced them. It was in its way a triumph for the radionics case, a pronouncement from that most crucial seat of the establishment, the Law, that this kind of work and these kind of beliefs were `all right'. To many it must have seemed as though radionics had moved from pseudo to genuine science, the culmination of all de la Warr and his associates had worked for in life past three decades. Alas, all was not so simple. Looked at in the coldest of lights, it was clear that while the judge had little doubt as to de la Warr's honesty, he had the gravest reservations as to the operation of the various boxes and even as to whether they worked at all - a judgement hardly likely to encourage financial or technical development in the Oxford laboratories.
Worse for the de la Warrs was the grim fact that although they had won their case they were unable, owing to a technical anomaly, to get judgement for costs which, in their case, amounted to the awesome figure of £10,000. Announcing this news in the final issue of its glossy journal Mind and Matter, the editor stated that the next few years would be a period of retrenchment, and though the omens read well for the future, they might take some time to mature. On the back cover is reproduced a cartoon from the Daily Express, showing a doctor with his stethoscope up against a rather obvious Delawarr box - a tribute to the considerable public interest the case had engendered. It was the one note of levity in a justifiably heavyhearted number.
On 2nd April 1969 de la Warr died at work in his bedroom. He had been suffering from asthma and angina for some time. Only at his death, it seems, did his closest associates learn how little money of the considerable sums the laboratory had earned in its golden days was left. The practice, invariably, had suffered and the spacious premises of Ranelagh Park had been first heavily mortgaged and subsequently sold to meet the remorseless flow of debts since the ironically successful case. In its heyday the laboratory had employed literally dozens of helpers; in 1969 they were reduced to a handful, including Mr Corte who, at the last count, was engaged in the construction of an `eight channel multioscillator' for sonic therapy. Mrs de la Warr, who continues her radionics practice, does not disguise her belief that her husband was a misunderstood genius, born years before his time. She is equally confident that in due course his pioneering work will receive the recognition it deserves. On the desk in her study is a large framed photograph of de la Warr, revealing him to have been a handsome and intelligent-looking man. It is the same photograph used by The Times in the half-column obituary they devoted to him - an amount of space some deceased cabinet ministers might have envied.
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