Science Fiction Project - Free Culture
Analog - All editorials - John Wood Campbell
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WE MUST STUDY PSI
The essential concept of truth-seeking is that a truth must be accepted, whether it is favorable or unfavorable, desired or dreaded, whether it means riches and happiness, or stark madness. There is, in the concept of the Scientific Method, the fundamental proposition that there are Laws in an ordered Universe; that we must learn those laws - whether we like them or not.
During the last four years, I've been investigating psi; I started the investigation largely because it has been a background element in science fiction, almost from the start. Telepathy has been stock business. E. E. Smith's Lensman series was based primarily on psi - for the Lens itself is, essentially, a psi machine.
With the development of science into engineering proceeding at the pace it has, by 1950 the major developments that science fiction had been forecasting were definitely under engineering - not theoretical - study. It was time for us to move on, if we were to fulfill our function as a frontier literature.
To some extent, science fiction moved on into the social sciences - sociology, anthropology and psychology.
Item: Dr. Rhine originally started his investigation of psi because, as a professional psychologist, he had come to the conclusion that psychology-as-such lacked an essential element. You would have an exceedingly hard time working out biochemistry, if your chemistry hadn't discovered nitrogen, for example. Rhine's studies led him to suspect something about as important as nitrogen to biochemistry was missing from psychology.
Item: every anthropologist is aware of the important part magic - the psi phenomena under their older name - plays in human cultures.
Item: every sociologist is aware that you can't make a population behave in a logical manner - cultural superstitions defy logical analysis, logical argument, and logical forces.
I was forced back toward psi, even when science fiction started toward the social sciences.
Since I published the editorial in the February 1956 issue, suggesting running material on psi machines, I have been receiving quantities of information, from hundreds of sources.
I have an advantage that few people have; there are people all over this planet reading Astounding, and for many it evidently has a very personal meaning. I hear from them. I can't answer all; many times no individual letter, or clipping, or reprint sent me has much specific value. But they, taken together, form a sort of Ishihara Color Vision Test phenomenon; no one mass of any one color on the Ishihara Color test disks has any meaning - it's the pattern made of hundreds of individually meaningless dots of pastel color that build the pattern.
I've written a bit about the Hieronymus machine; recently we ran an item about the pipe-locators used by W. F. Marklund of the City of Flint, Michigan. A considerable number of people tried the Hieronymus machine; it proved to be a repeatable experiment in the best scientific sense. Individuals instructed only by the printed word were able to duplicate the phenomena.
But I have not reported even one per cent of the data that has come to my attention. I visited the George de la Warr laboratories when I was in England for the 1957 Science Fiction Convention. I've visited other psi-machine laboratories in Canada, and the United States. I've watched illegal - but beneficial! - medical diagnosis and treatment by psi machine. I've seen records of psi machines used to destroy insect pests in crops.
That, by the way, was a particularly interesting item. The State Department of Agriculture checkers were asked to check the experiment. They did so; standard Department of Agriculture evaluation techniques were used - alternate strips on farms scattered over five counties - some ninety farms in all - were treated, while intervening strips were left untreated as control patches. The checks were made at intervals by Department of Agriculture employees.
At the end of the season, their figures showed that ninety-five per cent of the Japanese Beetles on the test plots had been killed. And at that point, for the first time, the Department of Agriculture learned that their checks had not been made on a new chemical insecticide.
The Department immediately refused to acknowledge the results of their tests. There's no use writing me to ask which state it was, because that state department will deny the check's validity.
The treatment was made by treatment of photographs, at distances ranging from one hundred twenty feet to five hundred miles.
This treatment has, incidentally, shown equally sound evidence of its ability to successfully combat Dutch Elm Disease, and Oak Wilt, which cannot be stopped by any orthodox technique.
Any anthropologist can tell you that the "superstitions" or magical concepts of North American Indians, Australian aborigines, African Negroes, Chilean Indians, the ancient Chinese, the early Norse, the Polynesians, and the Mediterranean peoples contain many identical concepts. These peoples have not had communication for many thousands of years - particularly the Australian aborigines.
Now while I do hold that democracy can go too far, I also hold that democracy has a great, deep value - and the essential of that value might be phrased "You can't fool all the people very long". A completely functionless belief won't fool all the people for tens of thousands of years.
There must be a factor in the Universe itself which those immensely widely scattered peoples have, independently, experienced, and experienced with sufficient regularity to make those concepts remain part of human cultures.
Ours is the only culture that officially denies Magic. And... ours does not, by several millennia, qualify as a "very long" culture. The denial of magic is only about three centuries old. You can fool a large percentage of a people for that short a period of time.
The psi machines I've encountered work - and they work on precisely the same ancient laws of Magic that those wide-scattered peoples have, independently, accepted.
I've had that point countered by "Yes, but the common factor is the nature of Man - he wants it to work that way! Therefore peoples everywhere have accepted it. It's human nature, not reality, at work!".
Oh? Then how come human nature evolved that tendency? How come no mutations came along to produce a human variant without that time-effort-energy wasting tendency, huh? Why is it, then, that no human culture, anywhere, has survived even three generations after giving up the interrelated concepts of magic and religion?
If that is, as stated, a fundamental of human nature... why? We can understand why resistance to disease is a fundamental of human nature - and why a breed that loses that resistance dies out suddenly.
All right - I'll accept that the explanation for the similarity of beliefs among Australian aborigines, Tierra del Fuegians, Africans, Eskimos and Polynesians is due solely to the fundamental similarity of human nature the whole world over.
Why is human nature that way?
And so long as psychologists, anthropologists and sociologists insist "We know it shouldn't be that way" without bothering to study why all human peoples are that way... why, so long they are apt to miss the fundamentals of the fields they are interested in.
You cannot escape studying Magic, denying that there is any common phenomenon in the Universe, by saying "It's just human nature". Because if you say that, then you are duty-bound to explain why human nature continues to be that way, millennium after millennium. If it is in truth wasted effort, then any people who abandoned magic would have conserved that effort for other things, and would have been able to displace the competing tribes.
Why is Magic fundamental in all human peoples?
I suggest that the answer is "Because there is a set of phenomena in the Universe that requires intelligent entities to have that characteristic".
Like it or not, Marklund in Flint, power company engineers in England, steel plant maintenance engineers in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and in a hundred other places, use dowsing rods to locate underground lines that they are interested in. An engineer with a job to do doesn't give a damn whether the tool he uses is scientifically sound; he does care that it works for him.
And they're very strange tools indeed; for Marklund, the rods locate water pipes, and don't react to buried power cables. For power company engineers, they react faithfully to buried cables, and are not thrown off by buried water, gas, or sewer pipes. For the steel company engineers, they locate buried pipes of any kind; the engineers want to know where the pipes are so that, in driving piling, they won't hit them.
PSIONIC BURIED PIPE LOCATORS
The Pipe Locator drawing above shows the type used by many practicing utilities engineers, the not-inhibited-by-theory types, for locating buried pipes and/or cables. In use, they are held like a two-gun Westerner's two guns, pointing straight ahead, and at about chest height. Walk back and forth across the area under investigation, trying to intersect the line of the hunted pipe. The rods will swing to parallel the line of the pipe as you cross it - either swinging away from each other, or crossing each other. Which reaction turns up seems to depend on the individual, not on the rods.
About eighty per cent of the adults seem to get results; if you don't, let your friends and associates try.
Using them seems to be somewhat like "learning to hear"; anyone with functional ears can hear - but it takes some training to interpret what you hear; e. g., distinguishing the sounds produced by a thrush from those of a robin or blue jay. At first use of the rods, you'll tend to react to all buried conduits; with practice, you'll become more sophisticated in interpretation, and distinguish between, say, water, gas, and sewer pipes.
The operation of these rods is scientifically impossible and is, logically, nonsense. This is extremely interesting, because they work - which, under the rules of the Scientific Method, means that the theory that Science embraces all real phenomena has encountered the fact that it doesn't, and must, therefore, be abandoned. Suggested modification; Science and only Science explains many real phenomena.
Science has ducked the issue of studying psi very simply; it has denied that there is any phenomenon to study.
In doing so, it is denying a truth - an unpleasant, perhaps disastrous, truth.
The Department of Agriculture I mentioned didn't continue their investigations - they denied them.
The engineering use of dowsing rods is widespread today, in the United States, in every state of the Union. There are companies manufacturing dowsing rods such as Marklund uses, and they can be bought from suppliers anywhere in the country.
One company manufacturing them is the Jayco Company, of Birmingham, Michigan; they sell them as the Ayco Pipe Locators.
They are used, strictly at the engineering rule-of-thumb level, by men who find they do a job no other known device will do. They are, simply, pragmatically economical of time and effort. Such men will not waste their time and effort convincing you they work; they have a job to do, and if you don't like their tools, that is, of course, your business, so far as they're concerned.
Science, I can say flatly, with plenty of solid evidence to back it up, is wrong. Dowsing rods, used to locate pipes underground, do work. Science is simply, explicitly, wrong in denying the phenomenon.
And this, I propose, is the place that we must start studying. We must, whether we like it or not - and believe me, from what little studying I've done, we won't like it.
Psi phenomena exist at the same level that emotion, desire, and want do, as far as I can make out. If that's the case, then in studying the psi phenomena, you're studying the level which men, today, hold to be the ultimate level of privacy - Subjective Reality. An understanding of the laws of this level would make it possible to manipulate desire, change attitudes, control emotions.
And that, of course, no man wants possible.
Of all the things Logic and Philosophy and Science have investigated, Emotion, certainly one of the most tremendously important in all human affairs, has been least investigated. Essentially, Science and Logic and Philosophy have agreed on only one thing for sure; "It shouldn't exist! Get rid of it! It just fouls everything beyond hope of straightening out! Stop it - destroy it - stamp it out!".
Psychology, of course, has had to deal with the anathematized stuff. But even psychology seeks to eliminate it from patients; it's an unfortunate, intractable human weakness that must be dealt with.
A logician's attitude toward emotion is startlingly similar to that of a Victorian maiden lady toward Sex. The nasty stuff shouldn't exist, and certainly decent people won't talk about it or investigate it.
Emotion is, essentially, beyond any possibility of logical analysis; it's an individual's reaction to his perception of subjective reality. And so long as "subjective" has the semantic connotation of "not real" logic certainly isn't going to be able to get a real solution to the problem.
I suggest that Subjective Reality bears the same relationship to Objective reality that field-forces do to matter. Field forces are not material; they obey wildly different laws - but they do obey laws.
I suggest that Subjective Reality is a true, inherent level of reality in the Universe. It's no more something exclusively generated by human minds than "organic" chemical compounds were exclusively generated by living organisms. For all men knew, as little as one hundred fifty years ago, the ability to perceive light was a subjective mystery; no known inorganic system had the ability.
It took the development of quantum physics to explain the interaction of electromagnetic radiation and matter sufficiently to make photoelectric cells possible. Eyes, however, had been around for some megayears before that.
To date, no interaction between psi forces and either material or fieldforce phenomena has ever been discovered. Considering the extreme resistance to serious study of psi phenomena, however, that's not exactly surprising. Isaac Newton tried, Oliver Lodge tried - and their efforts in that direction have been hushed up as the indiscretions of two otherwise great men. Probably they didn't have enough data on either psi phenomena or physics when they worked; maybe something more useful could be achieved now.
And we must achieve it.
Every human effort to build a dynamically stable civilization - every effort, without exception - has foundered on the problem of emotions, desires, and the demogoguery that those uncontrolled wild variables introduce.
And the very best advice Logicians, Philosophers and Scientists have had has been... "There shouldn't be any such things! Suppress them! Deny them! Do away with them!".
And, every time without exception, they have, instead, done away with the philosophers, logicians, scientists and egg-heads.
You can't control a phenomenon by denying its existence. You can't control it by suppressing it either; suppression simply causes an energy-storage effect that leads to eventual explosive release. If there's a river flowing through a valley where you want to build a city, it's rather futile to simply build a dam to block the river; eventually the dam will be burst by the building pressure, and the city wiped out in the resultant flood.
A phenomenon can be controlled only by acknowledging it, studying it, understanding it, and directing it usefully. Properly handled, that river should be dammed, channeled through turbines, and made to supply the city with light and power.
But emotion is the despair of logicians; it is inherently non-logical. It's the effort to force it into logic-only channels that causes the explosions that wreck every culture Man has ever built. Uniformly, repeatedly, one hundred per cent of the cases on record.
Evidently what we need is a non-logical technique of analytical thinking - a method of thinking that is more-than-logical. A not-logical-but-rational technique.
Trouble is, every individual is internally convinced that he's already solved the problem, and is using it right now. And is emotionally willing to work, fight, and, in fact, die for its conclusions. His method of fighting may, for emotional reasons, be limited to a simple absolute refusal, even if he is killed for it - but Ghandi demonstrated that that, too, is a means of destructive fighting.
We must study psi, because it is the only objectively observable set of phenomena stemming from subjective forces. Logic was developed and corrected and forged into a reliable tool because objectively observable phenomena could be used as a check on the validity of logical methods. Logic that didn't correlate with objective phenomena could be eliminated, and logical methods that did work could be proved - in the more ancient meaning of "tested" - by objective experience.
The psi phenomena represent subjective phenomena that can be observed objectively.
When a man uses dowsing rods, the rods don't do anything but act as indicators - the man does it. He uses some subjective-level-of-the-universe phenomena; he does it, not the rods.
But he does something that isn't scientific, in the truest sense of that statement; the phenomena involved are hyper-scientific. If "natural" and "scientific" are correlated on a one-to-one basis, then what he does is truly supernatural.
Fine; now we know that, and acknowledge that, let's start looking into the nature of the supernatural. It, too, must have laws!
In order to understand psi, we are going to have to develop a totally new kind of analytical thinking; known psi phenomena violate the inverse square law, the distance-law, and every other basic law of Science and Logic. They violate the basic law of Semantics; the map is the territory! What is done to the map, is in fact done to the territory - and treating a photograph kills Japanese beetles on a farm five hundred miles away.
That is absolute scientific nonsense - logically impossible!
Good; now inasmuch as it does happen... what are the laws of thought, of analytical thinking, that do explain such things? Let us fully understand and agree that it is scientifically impossible, and logically nonsense.
But let us be honest; we do not annihilate the phenomenon by denying the fact that it happens.
As of now, Russia's got us licked at the level of science and logic. We're ahead by reason of progress we made earlier, but our rate of acceleration has dropped way down, while theirs is rising.
In Russia, people truly desire science.
In the United States, they do not desire science, and do desire stability and traditions.
We mast study psi - even though it will mean development of techniques that will force you, against your will and wish, to desire things that, today, you loathe.
And such psi phenomena as dowsing rods that work for eighty per cent of the people, when used to locate buried pipes, are key facts - objectively observable phenomena - that can lead to breaking the problem of subjective-level reality.
If it was important for the United States to develop the thermonuclear bomb... then...
We must study psi!
Oxygen An intensely habit-forming accumulative toxic substance. As little as one breath is known to produce a life-long addiction to the gas, which addiction invariably ends in death. In high concentration, it causes death quickly, but even in 20 per cent dilution few survive more than 0.8 century.