The Magazine of the Society for Psychical Research, 6 (2022)
One of the best things about editing this magazine is getting to shoot the cover image and the abstract simplicity of this issue’s cover is one of my favourite images. Typically, though, a picture is not worth a thousand words. Pictures and words do quite different things. Imagine the Bible as a set of postcards from the Patriarchs, with some photographs of graffiti by a Banksy-esque Jesus. Not the sort of thing to sustain two world religions. But then the image of Jesus on the Cross is arguably one of the strongest representations and encapsulations of a religion/ideology ever created. So what does this issue's cover say? It does not tell you that I shot it out of my hotel room window in the Golden Nugget, Downtown Las Vegas, at five in the morning. It does not tell you what camera and lens I used, or that I cropped it heavily. It does not even tell you that I took the shot. But it does seem oddly appropriate to the several themes represented in this issue.
And that brings me to another of the ‘best things’ about editing this magazine, working with leaders in this field and encouraging them to write, not just about their work, but about their thoughts and feelings and life experiences. Being a ‘magazine’ there is much more room for the human side of our subject. And it is vital. When researching the history of psychical research, I am often stuck by how little our predecessors left of themselves. This was a particular challenge whilst I was writing Angels in the Trenches about psychical research during the First World War – so many of the SPR’s Council stubbornly remained just names in the Journal. They were interesting people who led full lives, with surely something to teach us, and yet they have been buried forever under the sands of time. Today the problem continues, whereas too much is known about so-called celebrities – a singularly one-dimensional species – we continue to know too little about our intellectuals – the people who stop and think about the world and actually have something interesting to say about it. And we particularly know too little about ourselves as this ‘society’ for ‘psychical research’. I have said it before and I will say it again, document or disappear. It falls to us to do this because no one will do it for us.
To this end: our President, Prof. Adrian Parker, gives us his thoughts on the war in Ukraine; Vice-President Prof. Bernard Carr reflects on his interest in psychical research and fifty years as a member of our Society; long-serving Council members Dr David Rousseau and Julie Billingham present an analysis of our Society’s leadership as we mark its 140th anniversary; and your Editor adds a piece on the 2021 Bigelow Institute for Consciousness Studies essay contest which saw five Council members being awarded prizes for their entries. Taken together, I hope to show, not only the historical value of the Society, but also its continuing relevance in this field. This relevance is also reflected in publishing contibutions by Michael Jawer and our long-running regular Brandon Hodge.
Dr Leo Ruickbie