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Mental Radio, by Upton Sinclair, [1930], at

p. v


Mr. Upton Sinclair needs no introduction to the public as a fearless, honest, and critical student of public affairs. But in the present book he has with characteristic courage entered a new field, one in which reputations are more easily lost than made, the field of Psychic Research. When he does me the honor to ask me to write a few words of introduction to this book, a refusal would imply on my part a lack either of courage or of due sense of scientific responsibility, I have long been keenly interested in this field; and it is not necessary to hold that the researches of the past fifty years have brought any solidly established conclusions in order to feel sure that further research is very much worth while. Even if the results of such research should in the end prove wholly negative that would be a result of no small importance; for from many points of view it is urgently to be wished that we may know where we stand in this question of the reality of alleged supernormal phenomena. In discussing this question recently with a small group of scientific men, one of them (who is perhaps

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the most prominent and influential of American psychologists) seemed to feel that the whole problem was settled in the negative when he asserted that at the present time no American psychologist of standing took any interest in this field. I do not know whether he meant to deny my Americanism or my standing, neither of which I can establish. But his remark if it were true, would not in any degree support his conclusion; it would rather be a grave reproach to American psychologists. Happily it is possible to name several younger American psychologists who are keenly interested in the problem of telepathy.

And it is with experiments in telepathy that Mr. Sinclair's book is chiefly concerned. In this part, as in other parts, of the field of Psychic Research, progress must largely depend upon such work by intelligent educated laymen or amateurs as is here reported. For facility in obtaining seemingly supernormal phenomena seems to be of rare and sporadic occurrence; and it is the duty of men of science to give whatever encouragement and sympathetic support may be possible to all amateurs who find themselves in a position to observe and carefully and honestly to study such phenomena.

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Mrs. Sinclair would seem to be one of the rare persons who have telepathic power in a marked degree and perhaps other supernormal powers. The experiments in telepathy, as reported in the pages of this book, were so remarkably successful as to rank among the very best hitherto reported. The degree of success and the conditions of experiment were such that we can reject them as conclusive evidence of some mode of communication not at present explicable in accepted scientific terms only by assuming that Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair either are grossly stupid, incompetent and careless persons or have deliberately entered upon a conspiracy to deceive the public in a most heartless and reprehensible fashion. I have unfortunately no intimate personal knowledge of Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair; but I am acquainted with some of Mr. Sinclair's earlier publications; and that acquaintance suffices to convince me, as it should convince any impartial reader, that he is an able and sincere man with a strong sense of right and wrong and of individual responsibility. His record and his writings should secure a wide and respectful hearing for what he has to tell us in the following pages.

Mrs. Sinclair's account of her condition during

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successful experiments seems to me particularly interesting; for it falls into line with what has been observed by several other workers; namely, they report that a peculiar passive mental state or attitude seems to be a highly favorable, if not an essential, condition of telepathic communication. It would seem that if the faint and unusual telepathic processes are to manifest themselves, the track of the mind must be kept clear of other traffic.

Other experiments reported in the book seem to imply some supernormal power of perception of physical things such as is commonly called clairvoyance. It is natural and logical that alleged instances of clairvoyance should have from most of us a reception even more skeptical than that we accord to telepathic claims. After all, a mind at work is an active agent of whose nature and activity our knowledge is very imperfect; and science furnishes us no good reasons for denying that its activity may affect another mind in some fashion utterly obscure to us. But when an experimenter seems to have large success in reading printed words shut in a thick-walled box, words whose identity is unknown to any human being, we seem to be more nearly in a position to assert positively—That cannot occur!

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[paragraph continues] For we do seem to know with very fair completeness the possibilities of influence extending from the printed word to the experimenter; and under the conditions all such possibilities seem surely excluded. Yet here also we must keep the open mind, gather the facts, however unintelligible they may seem at present, repeating observations under varied conditions.

And Mrs. Sinclair's clairvoyant successes do not stand alone. They are in line with the many successful "book-tests" recorded of recent years by competent workers of the English Society for Psychical Research, as well as with many other less carefully observed and recorded incidents.

Mr. Sinclair's book will amply justify itself if it shall lead a few (let us say two per cent) of his readers to undertake carefully and critically experiments similar to those which he has so vividly described.

William McDougall

Duke University, N. C.
September, 1929.

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