Mental Radio, by Upton Sinclair, , at sacred-texts.com
October, 1929. At my wife's insistence, I have held up this book for six months, in order to think it over, and have the manuscript read by friends whose opinions we value. A score or more have read it, and made various suggestions, many of which I have accepted. Some of the reactions of these friends may be of interest to the reader.
The news that I was taking up "psychic" matters brought me letters both of curiosity and protest. My friend Isaac Goldberg of Boston reported the matter in the Haldeman-Julius publications under the title: "Sinclair Goes Spooky." I hope that when he has read this book, he will find another adjective. My friends, both radical and respectable, must realize that I have dealt here with facts, in as patient and thorough a manner as I have ever done in my life. It is foolish to be convinced without evidence, but it is equally foolish to refuse to be convinced by real evidence.
There came to me a letter of warning from a good comrade, T. H. Bell of Los Angeles, an
elderly Scotchman who has grown up in the revolutionary movement, and known the old fighters of the days when I was a child. He begged me not to jeopardize my reputation; so I thought he would be a good test for the manuscript, and asked him to read it. Some of his suggestions I accepted, and the work is the better for them. But Comrade Bell was not able to believe that Craig's drawings could have come by telepathy, for the reason that it would mean that he was "abandoning the fundamental notions" on which his "whole life has been based."
Comrade Bell brought many arguments against my thesis, and this was a service, because it enables me to answer my critics in advance. First, what is the value of my memory? Can I be sure that it does not "accommodate itself too easily to the statement Sinclair wishes to believe?" My answer is that few of the important cases in the book rest upon my memory; they rest upon records written down at once. They rest upon drawings which were made according to a plan devised in advance, and then duly filed in envelopes numbered and dated. Also, my memory has been checked by my wife's, who is a fanatic for accuracy, and has caused me torment, through a good part of our married life,
by insisting upon going over my manuscripts and censoring every phrase. Also Bob and Dollie and my secretary have read this narrative, and checked the statements dealing with them.
Next objection, that I am "a man without scientific training." The acceptance of that statement depends upon the definition of the word "scientific." If it includes the social sciences, then I have had twenty-five years of very rigid training. I have made investigations and published statements, literally by thousands, which were criminal libels unless they were true and exact; yet I have never had any kind of libel suit brought against me in my life. As to the scientific value of the particular experiments described in this book, the reader can do his own judging, for they have been described in detail. I don't see how scientific training could have increased our precautions. We have outlined our method to scientists, and none has suggested any change.
Next, the fact that in the past I have shown myself "naïve and credulous at times." No doubt I have; but I have learned by such experiences, and I am not so naïve and credulous as when I was younger. Neither do I see how these qualities can play much part in the present
matter. I surely know the conditions under which I made my drawings, and whether I had them under my eyes while my wife was making her drawings in another room; I know about the ones I sealed in envelopes, and which were never out of my sight. As for my wife, she certainly has nothing of the qualities of naïveté and credulity. She was raised in a family of lawyers, and was given the training and skeptical point of view of a woman of the world. "Trust people, but watch them," was old Judge Kimbrough's maxim; and following it too closely has almost made a pessimist of his daughter.
Next, that Craig is "in poor health." That is true, but I do not see how it matters here. She has often been in pain, but it has never affected her judgment. She chose her own times for experimenting, when she felt in the mood, and her mind was always clear and keen for the job.
Next, "a husband and wife are a bad pair to make telepathic experiments. Living so much together, their common life does tend to make them think of the same thing at the same time." This is true; but how does it account for the half-dozen successes with a brother-in-law, twenty or thirty with a secretary, and many with Jan? How does it account for the covers and
jackets of books in which I had no interest, but which had come to me by chance, and which Craig had never even glanced at, so far as she remembers?
It is true that in the early days most of our drawings were of obvious things which lay about the house, scissors, table-forks, watches, chairs, telephones; so there was a better chance of guess work. How much chance, was determined by my son and his wife, who, hearing that Craig and I were trying telepathy experiments, decided to try a few alsowithout knowing anything about the technique. They also drew scissors, table-forks, watches, chairs, telephones, and such common objects. The only trouble was that when David tried to reproduce Betty's drawings, he drew the chair where she had drawn the scissors, and drew the watch where she had drawn the table-fork, and so on. They did not get a single success.
I think that if you will go back and look over those drawings as a whole, you must admit that the objects were as varied as the imagination could make them. I do not see how any one could choose a set of objects less likely to be guessed than the series which I have numbered from 5 to 12a bird's nest full of eggs and surrounded
by leaves, a spiked helmet, a desert palm-tree, a star with eight double points, a coconut palm, a puppy chasing a string, a flying bat, a Chinese mandarin, and a boy's foot with a roller-skate on it. None of these objects has any relationship whatever to my life, or to Craig's, or to our common life. To say that a wife can guess such a series, because she knows her husband's mind so well, seems to me out of all reason.
Next, the point that some of the cases are not convincing by themselves. I am familiar with this method of argument, having encountered it with others of my books. Let me beg you to note that the cases are not taken by themselves, but are taken as a whole. I can think, for example, of several ways by which Craig might have known that I had put my little paper of written notes into the pocket of my gray coat, or that I had left some medical apparatus under the bathtub at the office. She might have seen these things, and then have forgotten it, and her subconscious mind might have brought back to her the location of the objects, but failed to remind her of the previous seeing. If such cases had stood alone, I would not have thought it worth while to write this book.
The same thing applies to Craig's production of German words. Having spent several weeks with me in Germany, and having known many Germans, she no doubt has German words in her subconscious mind. This also applies to certain dream cases. Any one who wants to can go through the book and pick out a score of cases which can be questioned on various grounds. Perhaps it would be wiser for me to cut out all except the strongest cases. But I rely upon your common sense, to realize that the strongest cases have caused me to write the book; and that the weaker ones are given for whatever additional light they may throw upon the problem.
If you want to deal fairly with the book, here is what you have to explain. How did it happen that at a certain agreed hour when Bob at Pasadena drew a table-fork and dated and signed the drawing, Craig in Long Beach wrote: "See a table-fork, nothing else," and dated and signed her words? If you call this a coincidence, how are you going to account for the chair, and the watch, and the circle with the hole in the middle, and the sense of pain and fear, and the spreading black stain called blood, all reproduced under the same perfect conditions? I say that if you call all this coincidence, you are violating the
laws of probability as we know them. I say that there are only two possible explanations,either telepathy, or that my wife and her brother-in-law were hoaxing me.
But if you want to assume a hoax, you have to face the fact that my wife a few days later was reproducing a series of drawings which I made and kept in front of my eyes in a separate room from her, in such a position that she could not see them if she wanted to. If I thought it worth while, I could draw you a diagram of the place where she sat and the place where I sat, and convince you that neither mirrors, nor a hole in the wall, nor any other device would have enabled my wife to see my drawings, until I took them to her and compared them with her drawings. The only way you can account for that series of successes is to say that I am in on the hoax.
My good friend and comrade, Tom Bell, does not suggest that I am in it; but others may say it, so I will answer. Let me assure you, there is no reason in the world why I should take the field on behalf of the doctrine of telepathyexcept my conviction that it has been proved. I don't belong to any church which teaches telepathy. I don't hold any doctrine which is helped
by it. I don't make any money by advocating or practicing it. There is no more reason why I should be concerned to vindicate telepathy, than there is for my coming out in support of the Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, or the Mormon doctrine of Urim and Thummim, or the Koreshan doctrine that the earth is a hollow sphere and we live on the inside of it.
I assure you I am as cold-blooded about the thing as a man can be. In fact, I don't like to believe in telepathy, because I don't know what to make of it, and I don't know to what view of the universe it will lead me, and I would a whole lot rather give all my time to my muckraking job which I know by heart. I don't expect to sell especially large quantities of this book; I am sure that by giving the same amount of time and energy to other books I have in mind, I could earn several times as much money. In short, there isn't a thing in the world that leads me to this act, except the conviction which has been forced upon me that telepathy is real, and that loyalty to the nature of the universe makes it necessary for me to say so.
My friend and publisher Charles Boni thinks that I should write this book without protestations; taking a dignified position, sure that my
readers will trust me. But as it happens, I have read, not merely the literature of psychic research, but also the literature in opposition to it, and I know the arguments advanced by persons who are unwilling to change their "fundamental notions." It seems common sense to answer here the objections which are certain to be made.
I submitted this manuscript to the two leading psychologists of America, Morton Prince and William McDougall. Dr. Prince was taken by death before he found time to read it, but Professor McDougall read it, and has stated his reactions in the preface. In writing to me, he expressed the hope that my wife would be able to make some of these telepathy tests under the observation of well-known scientists. In replying, I assured him that my wife and I shared this hope; but whether it can ever be realized is a problem for the future. All Craig's work so far has depended upon a state of complete peace and relaxation. As she has pointed out, it is a matter of "undivided concentration," and even such disturbing things as light and noise are an interference. One friend who has tried to experiment lately at our instigation gave it up because of automobile horns in the street outside. She
declared that these had never disturbed her before, but that the effort not to hear them when concentrating only caused her to concentrate on the horns, and so threatened to give her a case of "nerves."
Whether Craig would be able to get the necessary state of mind in the presence of strangers, skeptical or possibly hostile, is a problem yet to be solved. Unless we are going to beg the question, we have to assume that telepathy may be a reality; and if it be a reality, then certainly what is in the other person's mind makes a difference, and certainly it is a serious matter to ask a woman in delicate health to open her mind to the moods of strangers. Some day in the future Craig is going to make the test, but whether it succeeds or fails will not alter, so far as I am concerned, what has already happened in my presence.
Another of my friends who read the manuscript was Floyd Dell, and he thinks that readers of my books will wish to know to what extent, if any, my interest in the subject of telepathy is going to change my attitude to the struggle for social justice. To that I reply that I have been interested in psychic research for the past thirty-five years, ever since, as a youth, I met Minot J.
[paragraph continues] Savage; but this has not kept me from believing ardently in the abolition of parasitism, exploitation, and war. While the telepathy experiments were going on I wrote "Boston," a novel of some 325,000 words, in less than a year. While I am consulting with my friends about this manuscript, I am writing a novel, "Mountain City," which I hope my Socialist friends will find of interest. The only discovery that can weaken my interest in the economic problem will be one which enables human beings to live without food, clothing, and shelter. But in the meantime, I see no reason why Socialists are required to be ignorant of psychology.
James Fuchs, another patient critic of my writings, thinks I appear naïve in this book, and should reveal some knowledge of the vast literature on the subject. My reason for not doing so is that very vastness; one would need several volumes to handle it. In the Proceedings of the American and British Societies for Psychical Research lies buried endless evidence on the subject; but scientific authority remains for the most part uninterested in that evidence, and would not be interested in my rehash of it. I have written this book to tell my readers and friends what I myself have seen with my own
eyes. That is my job, and I leave the rest to others who are better qualified.
Fuchs reminds me that "umbilical sensory perception" is a well-known psychic phenomenon, and that Craig, in holding the drawings over her solar plexus, is repeating the method of Justinus Kerner (1786-1862), about whom you will find an article in the "Encyclopedia Britannica." Craig knew about that from various sources, and some of her experiments were designed to test the explanation. I made eight drawings and laid them face down on the table by her couch, perhaps three feet from her head. I put them there while she was out of the room, and I sat and watched, to be sure she did not ever touch them. She lay on the couch and made some notes and drawings which reproduced the essential features of half a dozen of my drawingsall at once! So, if Craig has an umbilical eye, she must also have one in the side of her head which can see through several thicknesses of paper.
My daughter-in-law, Bettina Sinclair, also made suggestions which I accepted. She speaks for the new generation of radicals, saying: "The book aroused a storm of metaphysical speculation
in my mind, and I could wax eloquent with slight provocation." This is different from refusing to "abandon the fundamental notions on which my whole life has been based."