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An Accidental Encounter
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"Researchers Shoot Dice for Science"
and Some Short Report on the Visit to Duke of Arthur Koestler

            This "shooting" (in the Rhine Lab) was central to a PK basketball game, an idea very much aligned with the high-scoring sports tradition at Duke and among its rivals. That laid the groundwork for competitive energy, in the tests, or (as a researcher put it): "The thing that inspired the whole program is our realization that in the game environment that is found in Las Vegas or perhaps in your own home, we could arouse motivation and enthusiasm to release the players from the feeling of taking a test." Such enthusiasm (which was a part of tests at the time in the Duke Lab, as described to me for the 1960 interview) was sometimes a part of tests in other labs, and sometimes omitted in the structure of psi testing. However, Eastern wisdom identifies enthusiasm as a quality that can generate deep levels of energy, under the right circumstances.[1] As mentioned by EHE-definer and founder, Rhea A. White, if a gifted psi testee wanted "green tea," then Rhine willingly provided the green tea, for the experiment.

            A striking experience related to the visit of the British writer Arthur Koestler to Duke is referred to in the Rhine letter, linked to the main webpage just before, and will be documented further in the coming months. Koester's letter (referred to in the Rhine Acrobat-format letter) is reproduced on this site in the webpage Book Matters / Eclectic. Rhine was also very conversant with the writer Upton Sinclair, and mentioned (to me) in the 1970s that Sinclair confided in him that he closed the door on his writing characters at night, setting them apart from any people who might otherwise happen by. This secrecy or inner protection of a creative energy, while in process, was understood by Rhine, as we talked over together how it in fact was part of my practice at the time. It is noteworthy because the introverted aspect of psi ability, or creativity in general, was more difficult to relate to in a laboratory, unless one understood how creativity functioned, according to such first-hand revelations as this, which Rhine seemed to, in our conversation. When I mentioned that I, at the time, threw a black coat over my writing papers if anyone knocked on the door, Rhine immediately jumped in with this similar practice told him by Upton Sinclair, concurring as to his understanding of it. Rhine, in fact, used the term "elusive" about psi, in his ground-breaking The Reach of the Mind (p. 187)[2] .

            Experiments successful in Maimonides (demonstrating, for instance, telepathy) were not repeated in some other locations, and one of the hypothesized differences in conditions (speculated upon in later literature in the field) was the shift in atmosphere—the one at Maimonides being supportive of the gifted telepathy demonstrators. As time passed, and the barrier between experiencer and tester widened, this contribution of "energy" from the testers/surrounding environment could be reduced, at least overtly, as tests tried to become more "rigorous," barring all input as if energy could be cordoned off, in a single individual. In fact, as sound was blocked out and then there was some attempt to block out other frequencies, would "enthusiasm" also be able to be kept out of the test conditions?? Not that this was even an overt question, but I think it valid to ask. Tight control was a valid issue, but the more recent paradigm of interconnecting worldwide networks of energy, to which the whole planet belongs, could move us backward to noticing that these early psi tests (which, in the experiments described in the news article above, were "significantly above chance") seemed aware of the importance of the quality of the testing conditions—not just in rigor but also in influence of the energy of the tester or Lab conditions as well. I.e., a richness of the Lab, as Rhine's certainly had, could necessarily spill over into the results. Or negatively, in absence, also affect the overall level of result, because energy was not confined to any demarcation line. And so this was one of the things one had to examine, in setting up a test which drew forth the elusive psi inside a strict experiment. I found the humane enthusiasm automatically included in these 60s tests, which I wrote some stories on, to "spread the word," merely informatively in the beginning, as a reporter on the Duke campus, where there was at the time a hiatus about what went on in the Lab.

            In closing this note, to go back to the photo, and put that beside much later computer configurations in printouts that vastly differed from the screen text (see PK Gallery for examples or all of the Love in Transition / Space Encounters series), let us take a comment from Dr. J. B. Rhine's own words: "The most incredible feature about psychic experiences is the fact that they shows no more respect for time than they do for space. It seems completely incredible, I know, to think that the mind can go ahead in time, and, as it were, take a picture of something that has not yet happened, but these experiences indicate that that is what sometimes takes place. . . .

  " . . . When the testing of precognition began at Duke University back in 1933, it seemingly followed as a natural sequence to the experiments of E.S.P. and distance. If space does not limit E.S.P., we argued, time should not. But there were the spontaneous cases to support the argument, and they had much to do with the initiation of the precognition experiments. In these tests we asked the subject to try to picture in advance of the shuffling what the order of the pack of cards would be when it was done. This was an attempt at prediction of a future arrangement, and in spite of the fact that the shuffling was mechanical, and that later on still more guarded methods were added, the subjects were correct often enough to supply evidence of something beyond chance. Confirmatory work on precognition has been done in a number of researches in America and in England. They have led to the conclusion that there is a capacity for precognition as suggested by the case studies, although we do not know much about it as yet. Indeed it may swell prove to the greatest riddle of science"
(pp. 2-3, Rhine pamphlet citation below).

            Without drawing any conclusions, it is an interesting juxtaposition to the photo, requested by Rhine, out of the blue, and to the "computer-PK that began 30 years afterwards, almost to the day.

            As to the Koestler visit, there is much more to be reported on that. Also, including the fact that Koestler, energetic brilliant person that he was, not only fired off a lengthy condemnatory essay to the London newspaper, roundly chastising the negligence and lack of psi familiarity among the students at Duke, but with "the other hand," as it were, promptly inserted my highly favorable comments to him, about Rhine, into a letter which he mailed straight back to Rhine, who then called me into his office to share the knowledge. Fortunately the letter had been restrained enough to not be too embarrassing a thing to mail back and forth between these eminent highly conscious pioneers, as were Koestler and Rhine, who had such energy that it spilled over into incidents such as recounted here. I might add that the letter then provided the most effective ice breaker that I can think of, though the ice was already firmly broken by the Chronicle interviews. For I was soundly converted to the importance and preeminence of the pioneering, globally outstanding work going on at the Lab. And, like Koestler, struck by the irony of his having traveled across the ocean, one primary reason being to visit Rhine, while the students, with easy access, at the time, were virtually uninformed about this very mind-boggling research being conducted right in their backyard on East Campus, at Duke.

            The pamphlet quoted just above and another pamphlet were personally put into the hands of a soon-to-be student of Duke, as she visited the campus to be interviewed for admission—one of the pamphlets signed "To my friend Virginia" (now Virginia Parrott Williams, President and CEO of Williams LifeSkills). Virginia, in turn, only placed the pamphlets, which she had stored for almost 40 years, in my hands after I returned to her home following the 1995 Centennial commemoration of his birth, by the Parapsychological Association. So these pieces of the whole, or these dice faces, all then landed in the one place, reported tentatively above.

Rhine, J. B. (1947/1975). The Reach of the Mind. New York: William Morrow & Co.
Rhine, J. B. (1951). "What can science do about psychic experiences?" Pamphlet reprinted from March 1951 issue of Tomorrow Magazine. New York: Garrett Publications Inc.


[1] This is not yet here to bring up the role of heightened emotion in shamanic and ecstatic states. Nor to mention the role of emotion in archetypes themselves. Or the unconscious.

[2]"Psi is an incredibly elusive function! This is not merely to say that ESP and psi have been hard phenomena to demonstrate, the hardest perhaps that science has ever encountered. It is not that there is little psi capacity in the universe, or that the efforts made to capture it have been awkward, or that there has been little work done to find it.

           "It is obviously the other way around" (p. 187, Rhine, 1947).

Last Modified on September 26, 2002
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