Happiness Is Printing FUTURA PRESS Phone 512/442-7836 1714 SOUTH CONGRESS P.O. BOX 3485 AUSTIN. TEXAS Newspapers Magazines Political Specialists Signs and Placards Bumperstrips Office Supplies 100% Union Shop 1 T LES MIES 4 4idetealk cale lk tht coatioottat 6 ,teageme keg, wege, peacteed 24d & Sag rititteuted located iaa a de 144e eq tle ?mu Meweet Idemete 472-2746 10 The Texas Observer communicate with West, then gave it up and wrote a letter. The mail gave no better results, so I rooted through my disordered files until I found my original notes and the long feature story I wrote seven years ago. THE NOTES reminded me that West, at that time 53, had bounded up the stairs to his office as agilely as a plains jackrabbit. That same erratic vigor was reflected in his speech. I had asked him for his view of the relation of religion and parapsychology. He hesitated and said, “I’ve never formalized my ideas.” And he promptly made that succinct statement about the futility of prayer if communication in some unexplained form does not exist. He added, “The goals of research in parapsychology are related to the major goals of the Christian religion, I believe.” Then, as if to assure me that not all was unconventional at Wayland, he quickly gave me statistics to show that his department offered a perfectly ordinary major in psychology and that, in fact, the department existed only to train the more than 50% of Wayland’s students who planned to become ministers or teachers. West’s own background had certainly been conventional. He had been a minister, a combat chaplin, and superintendent of religious schools before an interest in counseling sent him to the University of Arkansas for a doctorate in education. There, he found that he liked research. As West completed his doctorate, Wayland was searching for a chairman of the psychology department. Of his employment, West said circumspectly, “They needed someone with a background in psychology who was in agreement with the purposes of a religious educational institution.” His contract stated that he was to spend one-fifth of his time in research on parapsychology, and, with his new interest in research, he found that easy to accept. The parapsychology research program at Wayland was underwritten by Mrs. Ralph D. Perry of Plainview. She had met Dr. J.B. Rhine, the well-known head of the parapsychology research group at Duke University, when he visited the Wayland campus in 1958. Dr. John Freeman, at that time chairman of Wayland’s psychology department, was a friend of Rhine and himself conducted research in parapsychology. Such research has been the subject of extensive criticism by psychologists. Critics explain research that supports the existence of extrasensory perception by minimal and subliminal sensory cues, mental habits and preferences, errors of experimental method and recording errors, and statistical errors. Experiences of parapsychology are generally referred to clinical psychologists if they occur outside the laboratory. Knowing all this, West said, “Of course, there are scientific limitations to our methods of investigation. But there is such evidence of extrasensory perception that I am willing to risk all, my reputation and my future.” West was planning a textbook on parapsychology and a test, the first of its kind, to find if people with faith in parapsychology were more likely to possess extrasensory powers than those who did not believe in such powers. The test was to be given first to Wayland students. I asked if these students, sharing to a large extent the same background, especially a fundamentalist view of religion, represented a fair sample for such tests. West smiled in that one-sided way I used to see in city rooms and replied, “I am personally very conscious of human self-delusion.” Finally, seven years after that first interview with West, I talked to him again, this time by telephone. He is still chairman of the psychology department at Wayland, after a two-year absence to work as a staff psychologist in an Alabama hospital. His research and work on the textbook had been interrupted by his absence and a lack of funds, for Mrs. Perry withdrew her support of the program. Other sources close to the college said she began giving her money to right-wing causes. But he is once more working on the textbook, this time with a collaborator, and he is continuing his research in his role as consultant to the Mind Control Institute of Laredo. Essentially, he said, his attitude toward parapsychology was unchanged. My impression was that he is still immune from those swings between ritual clowning and destruction that afflict so many who try to be serious in these difficult times. Seven years ago I asked him why, in the face of general skepticism about parapsychology and professional criticism of research, did he continue? “Science advances by inches there are only a few great men in the history of science and I’ll be happy if I can contribute one little bit of knowledge.” West grinned like a rogue. “Besides, what more can a man ask in life than a living wage and a job he likes so well that he can’t tell where work ends and play begins.” It was almost dark when I left Plainview. It was past midnight when I gave the story to an editor at the Amarillo Daily News. When he finished reading the story, he said, “They won’t use it. I’ll fight for it, but they won’t use it. It would stir up people.” He wearily carried the story to the managing editor’s darkened office and left a note with it. A reporter tried to smile and gave it up. “Keep your carbon,” he said. “Maybe you’ll find some other way to use it.” We went out and drank beer for a while. fa
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