Dr. J. B. Rhine, the best-known figure in the field on research into clairvoyance, telepathy, and other still-exotic mysteries of the mind, came to town to lecture last night at the relatively non-psychic Smithsonian Institution.
He looked out his window at the Hay-Adams Hotel yesterday, admiring the pattern of snow and clean pavement (the White House looked uncommonly pristine) and wished he could get out for a stroll, for ever since his birth (in 1895) he has "wanted to see what's on the other side."
But two weeks ago he had a stroke --it was remarkable to see no outward signs of it -- and a lot of people were lined up to visit with him.
Respectable people. Not counting the amazing number of Rhine groupies in town, such as the following:
"Oh, that Dr. Rhine," gasped a matron when she heard he was here. "I have adored him since 1937 (when he was young in the psychology department of Duke University and wrote his first popular book about new frontiers of the mind). Our daughter is phychic beyond belief, and I'm going to his lecture. Do you think he could use her in his work?"
Another middle-aged matron announced she also has kept up with him, at a safe distance, for decades. Her husband, she said, had the most remarkable habit of rousing her in the middle of the night to tell her something that would happen the next day, and it always came about as he said. "Often he would forget he had wakened me to tell me about it."
It is sometimes said a great many nuts go in for this sort of mind reading and non-sensory perception, and Dr. Rhine himself, who does not like to call nuts nuts, said one must always consider the possibility of temporary emotional states. Anyone, in other words, might have what seems to be a psychic experience when really he was having a very brief spell of imbalance.
Science, he said during a chat in his room, is rightly skeptical of claims that cannot be verified, or duplicated under controlled laboratory conditions.
French scientist and writer Jean Rostand once said he would give all he had to believe these miracles that others seem to have constantly and to toss off so readily.
So there has always been terrific resistance to the idea of perception beyond the physical senses. Rhine noticed early that if some amazing psychic report is inexplicable and unverifiable, people commonly say the claimant is lying.
And yet experiments in this field have been done methodically for more than a century, and people of unquestioned credentials for honesty and sanity have been convinced "there is something there."
A former secretary of the Smithsonian itself, the late Dr. Charles Greeley Abbot, approached Rhine after a lecture in the Cosmos Club here in 1937 to express interest in Rhine's work.
Rhine gave him a dock of cards to try for himself, pulling a card and identifying it (four of diamonds, etc.) before looking at it, and then recording the number of correct calls. Dr. Abbot later wrote Rhine a report of his experiments with himself and Rhine was thrilled:
"Here was an eminent scientist who had no ax to grind, who had done the experiment scrupulously and who was quite convinced of the truth of extra-sensory perception. He wrote a most interesting paper and sent it to me.
After all these decades Rhine says "simply that a beginning has been made, on the recognition and understanding of another side of man's nature."
But only a beginning. As Rhine points out, researchers as early as 1876 were dismayed they could not reproduce remarkable psychic events at will. A psychic person may perform remarkably at one time and place, but be totally unable to show any signs of it in another setting.
The psychic ability is called psi, and Rhine said, "We do not know why it comes and goes or even predict when."
He cited Dr. Abbot as the first experimenter to not that his power of calling the carls correctly declined when he was tired or ill. tr add five add five
As for mediums, "we still have no test results that would bear out" the claim that some people can communicate with the dead. In the present state of parapsychology, he said, the problem of mediums simply is not solvable one way or another.
As long ago as 1937 he said the hardest question was the independent repetition of experiments, getting the same results. He has always hoped, and trusted, that testers will become more expert, perhaps discovering new techniques, and that success will breed success.
The parapsychology laboratory at Duke University continues, with Rhine as director emeritus. He retired in 1965 and founded the Institute for Parapsychology with support from the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man. He retired from that institute as director in 1970 but continues as consultant.
Early on, Rhine said, researchers tried to make certain there was no way for the results of experiments to be influenced by sensory clues, such as slight tensions of eyelid, ect., and experiments often involved having the cards turned in one building and the subject in another.
But attempts to duplicate extraordinary instances in which a subject says that on Thursday he became aware of something that would (and did) happen two days later, have not met with success.
Rhine said those who study the history of parapsychology should heed the warning of the past "against expecting replication in this area, as if they were dealing with the investigation of a sensory field."
Rhine grew up in various places, though his home town was in Juniata county, Pa., and he still loves the outdoors and is a forester of sort. He got his doctorate from the University of Chicago in the department of botany.
At first he had the idea of becoming a clergyman, but gave it up when he found himself reacting poorly to concepts of the supernatural. He joined the Marines -- "and they wanted me to stay, but I got out after a time (he joined in 1917) because I always liked to go on and see what was on the other side.
"There's always been this aspect of life -- there was always something to interest me, and I always wanted to see what I could do with it."
He understood, he said, the considerations (other than truth) that can lead a man to caution and discretion --who must think of how the general public may interpret things.
Rhine still seemed to smart, a trifle, that there should be such considerations, apart from truth, however much he sympathized with those caught in a bind:
"If we are going to live by science," he said with a trifle more sternness than usual, "we had better learn to free it."
He looked toward the White House in the snow, and said some beautiful things about his wife and looked as if he had said about all he wished to:
"That anthropologist who stayed young by wandering around the world like a child, that is very nice. Wandering around the world to see what's worth climbing, I like that. To see what it looks like on the other side."