A Personal History of The ASPR 1979 - 1994

EARLY DAYS In the late seventies I went along to hear some talks at a school of alternative philosophies run by the Down To Earth Association. One of the speakers wore a dark suit and spoke in a Cambridge accent about phantoms. It was Professor Frodsham of Murdoch University. I next heard him on ABC Radio in 1980 talking about ESP. Callers jammed the switch board. He spoke of a meeting to be held at Murdoch University. I went along and found the lecture theatre full.

Thus the West Australian Society for Psychical Research, which he founded the year before, was consolidated by numbers. Worldwide psychical research was expecting breakthroughs at this time. On some nights well over a hundred attended lively meetings. Newsletters of several pages were common.

But people were joining for different reasons. Some had an axe to grind. Some had open minds and wanted to learn. Some had entrenched beliefs. Some wanted to explore certain areas only. Volunteers were encouraged to form sub-groups to explore along different lines.

I joined eight strangers and found some were into spiritualism. I may not have joined if I had known. Why? Fear of the unknown, I suppose. No armchair explorer feels safe in the jungle. We tried differing meditation techniques, and often shared cosy gossips, personal problems, and a few surprises. Once during a meditation a lady became a channel for a ‘Chinese personality’, but she was accustomed to it. I noticed that J who ran this group always made an elaborate ‘ring of protection’ ritual around us so ‘nothing nasty ‘ could get in. I gave it my full support despite the odd secret doubt about its efficacy. The group wasn’t quite my cup of tea but I liked the people.

After a few months I sought another sub-group to widen my knowledge of psychic matters. I attended twice but because it some suggested ouija boards and trying to bust the lotto pool by psychic means, I eased out.

THE RIFT About this time it was becoming apparent that a rift was forming between those members who wanted to get a new scientific fix on psychic matters, and those who were already convinced by the ‘unquestionable’ beliefs and traditions of spiritualism, shamanism, and other areas of the occult.

The latter group broke away to form the PDA: The Psychic Development Association. I went to a couple of their meetings but I felt their approach fogged the landscape for me rather than clarified it. I felt wishful thinking could have me floating out of my depth.

Consequently WASPR became much smaller, gradually becoming the ASPR, having many committee changes, and trying three other venues before returning to Murdoch. ASPR held two large successful Seminars at Murdoch University. In July 1983, SURVIVAL: IS DEATH THE END? In November 1984, PSYCHIC AND HOLISTIC HEALING: FAD, FACT OR FALLACY?

THE BATTLE FIELD Many expected breakthroughs did not materialise. Rupert Sheldrake, although a respected scientist, was never able to prove morphic resonance effectively. In 1992 ESP experiments on TV and ABC Radio proved fruitless. Colin Wilson’s diligent inroad into the validity of the subject remained largely ignored. However, there was still ‘unexplained phenomena.’

UFOs remained a growing mystery that sceptics had been unable to smother. When Whitley Strieber’s Communion launched a new abduction angle into UFOs, ASPR decided to form a sub committee UFORUM to look into it. Brian Richards agreed to receive phone-ins under UFO Data Collection Centre, and spoke to alleged abductees. He and Mike Jordan took part in Radio talk-backs which brought the Knowles family to ASPR. UFORUM built up good contacts with overseas researchers and has been active in comparing and building up ‘maps of probabilities’ of how UFOs interact with our physical world.

VISION The question arises, Why do we pursue insights in this area? Firstly, most of us are not content with the world as it is, or the way science or religion says it is. Science for all its brilliance has, as yet, a narrow focus, and religions are often tainted politically. Some of us feel there are spiritual values to be awakened, that there could be planes of existence above ours; or that life does have a meaning and purpose, vital for our survival, and not realised in today’s materialistic cultures.

Understanding the many remaining anomalies could be crucial to seeing what lies behind the physical and surface appearances of our existence. For humanity’s sake, for Earth’s sake, we need to persevere with our research. The nightly news warns that we are running out of time.

So the world needs a Society for Psychical Research that keeps reasonably independent of fashionable paradigms, and keeps the perennial search for new truths balanced and honest. There will no doubt be unpleasant truths to uncover, as well as the pleasant, before we see the worth in the whole picture. Assembling knowledge of a higher priority seems our only hope of making sense of this rapidly changing world, and of making the right decisions to rediscover our rightful place in a healthy earth.

PERSPECTIVE What is this centuries most dramatic achievement? Probably flight. In 1908 the Wright brothers announced to the world that they had invented a craft that would fly across the English Channel. Not one newspaper reporter or photographer turned up to record it. So don’t feel discouraged that what we are looking into, what we feel is of major importance, is being almost totally ignored.

The Society last and final meeting was in April 2004