Ed and I liked to “bounce ideas” off each other, resulting in late-night sessions, working as a team on a common issue, debating in crafty opposition, or finding some middle ground we both could accept. Homework was saved for pre-dawn hours. We were very young.
A major adventure began when Ed told me a friend had asserted that he could sit in the college library and, using only the force of his mind, cause people to drop their pencils or even books. What did I think about that? Can the human mind move things at a distance?
Among the initiate, that’s known as telekinesis, and is at best highly controversial. I responded immediately: Let’s find out.
The site for our experiment was the large, run-down two-story frame house where we lived, a bachelor pad cheap enough for two college students who rented sleeping rooms from an amiable landlord who lived there alone. The all-male environment, lack of air conditioning and perpetually closed window shades produced a minimalist dress code limited only by the demands of basic modesty. That included the landlord, a large man of well over 200 pounds. Balding and missing one arm from a car wreck, he devoted most of his body to growing hair. It was like sharing living space with a large, humanoid coconut. We rarely saw him; most of the time he was gone on business. We had kitchen privileges and sleeping rooms, while he had the rest of the house to himself.
Our experiment, crude and inaccurate, was still scientific. We were sceptics, an attitude that neither accepts nor rejects any idea. It simply requires evidence. To believe anything without evidence is unscientific. We saw faith as just another word for credulity. That’s why religion and science are such unlikely bedfellows. I’ve mellowed since.
We weren’t sure what would happen. If we were, there would be no point. It would be like classroom “experiments,” where the teacher, knowing exactly what will happen, mixes vinegar with baking soda. FIZZ.
Successful experimentation is rigorous, one reason why drug prices are so high. Thousands of the same experiment over long periods of time, strictly controlled environment, all precisely documented. We were just a couple of guys in blue jeans and tee shirts, staring at small objects set on a kitchen table after moving the salt and pepper shakers. Lab coats and clipboards? Yeah, right.
What made it worthwhile was our use of the White Crow theory. If you are trying to prove that all the crows in the world aren’t black, you only need to find one white one. Our experiment only had to work once.
Several days and all our spare time later, we reached our final attempt. Sitting at the kitchen table, we had stared at pencils, feathers, even a tiny paper airplane. We suspended our subjects inside a big glass jar scrounged from somewhere, and used first thread, and finally a long human hair “borrowed” from Ed’s younger sister. Time was running out. So were our excuses for failure.
Then we found our white crow. The hair dangled the feather motionless inside the jar, while we sat and stared, visualizing the feather turning slowly clockwise, silent, our minds otherwise blank. Almost an hour passed, and then it happened. The feather turned 90 degrees. Counter-clockwise. Pause. Then it returned to its original position. Both of us saw the same thing.
For several days, we tried unsuccessfully to move the feather, then we did the only sensible thing and gave up. I still find myself thinking about it.
Recently, with a few days of solitude on my hands, I prepared to try again, alone. I prepared more carefully. Experience is a wonderful teacher.
I had found John Boyle’s “The Psionic Generator Pattern Book,” complete with instructions and cut-out paper patterns. I had glue and scissors, so the only expense was the isolation chamber, an over-sized brandy snifter. We scientists know how to improvise.
Now, in anticipation, I am playing an old game called “What if?” What if the generator doesn’t move? Do I quit, or keep wasting my time? That would be like trying to stand a feather in a saucer of sand; you don’t even run out of sand so you can quit trying.
And what if it does move? What would I then have to believe?
What do I really want the psionic generator to do? If there is no motion, the universe is exactly as I was taught. But if it moves, it will bring an awareness that the universe still has surprises for us all.
Back in 1928, the evolutionary geneticist J. B. S. Huldane wrote, “My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer that we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose.”
If the generator moves, that’s the universe I will be living in.