Printer Friendly

The last days in Edinburgh.

To understand Chuck Honorton's circumstances at Edinburgh, we should go back a few years. Chuck and I first met in 1964 at the Summer Study Program of the Parapsychology Laboratory, located then in the West Duke Building of the east Duke campus. Those were exciting days, when Rex Stanford, John Palmer, Jim Carpenter, Dave Rogers, and others would come to Durham during the summer months to train in parapsychology and conduct various research projects. At the time we met, Chuck had just finished high school, yet already had a refereed publication in the Journal of Parapsychology. We all became friends, and the time together in those humid Carolina summers was very important to us.

To hold us together during the rest of the year, we arranged to put out The Psi Worker's Newsletter, a little publication which I edited, since I was the only one who remained in Durham (I was a Duke graduate student then). We all contributed to the Newsletter, and it provided a way for us to keep in touch with what we were all doing and with the main activities of the Parapsychology Laboratory as it worked through its transition to becoming the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man. For better or for worse, the contrast between the research activities in North Carolina and the slow grind of an undergraduate education at the University of Minnesota proved too much for Chuck. Half way through his sophomore year he moved south with his wife, Lori, and baby, Joey (named after Joseph Rhine), to become a full-time researcher at the FRNM. Chuck and my wife, Joanna, were already good friends, and our two families spent much happy time together. Chuck and I shared an office, which gave us many opportunities for the sort of intense discussion in which he specialized.

Some of his most productive work was done in those days, and life was good. joanna had joined the FRNM staff as an assistant editor, and Rex Stanford came to work with us full time. Unfortunately, as often happens when things go very well, interpersonal tensions arose, and life in Durham turned sour. Chuck, Joanna, and I left the FRNM, and Rex followed shortly after. I stayed in the area finishing my doctorate at Duke and started to work with William Roll at the Psychical Research Foundation. Thanks in part to Bill's efforts, Chuck was hired by Montague Ullman at the Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn. Monte, like Rhine, valued research expertise more than formal degree qualifications and recognized a gem when he saw it.

We kept in contact with Chuck in the following years, and the three of us remained strong friends. We were most saddened by the Honortons' divorce but very pleased when his son returned as a young teenager to live with him. When we were together, Joanna and I would encourage Chuck to go back to school to finish his education. It was obvious that he was occasionally the victim of a kind of artificial snobbery because of his lack of formal academic qualifications. He was proud of what he had accomplished on his own merits, however, and each little snub made him more resolved not to play the academic game. Eventually, he was funded by James McDonnell, of the McDonnell-Douglas Corporation, who also valued competence over credentials, and was invited to head his own laboratory, the Psychophysical Research Laboratories. It was clear by then that Chuck had made his point, and we did not again bring up the issue of his education.

Chuck's Days at Edinburgh

As has been chronicled elsewhere, funding for the PRL did dry up as an eventual consequence of the unexpected death of Mr. McDonnell. This left Chuck without a full-time job, although he was able to piece together support from various sources to continue his involvement with the field. In the summer of 1990 we invited Chuck to spend a month with us in Edinburgh, to stay in the "granny flat" that adjoined our house. He was happy to accept, much to the delight of all concerned, and he fit right in with our own small research group, some of whom he already knew. Carl Sargent even made a special trip up to see him, and they had a great time comparing notes on their various earlier studies, many of which had overlapped considerably in them and method. Ed May, another old friend, also visited at that time with his family.

When I said goodbye to Chuck at the airport, I commented that both Joanna and I had been impressed that he had blended in so well, both with our group and with us as a family. Shortly afterward, we began exploring the possibility of his joining us full time, to do research and acquire his PhD degree. The University of Edinburgh had no insistence upon undergraduate credentials as a prerequisite for the doctorate and, although he had to be considered as a special case, our Faculty Postgraduate Committee agreed that his research credentials were impressive and he was offered a place without difficulty. Chuck was able to acquire funding from the Parapsychology Foundation and the American Society for Psychical Research; our unit paid for his tuition, and we found additional funds to help us redo our research space so that automated ganzfeld research could be done. He joined us in mid-1991 to begin a new phase in his life, living with us and working in the Psychology Department full time on parapsychology, without the intrusion of administrative obligations and hassles.

The entire process of redoing our facility to meet the requirements of good auto-ganzfeld work proceeded slowly, unbearably so at times. Chuck busied himself doing meta-analyses (e.g., the role of the sender in ganzfeld studies), writing other papers such as one for the Italian CICAP Journal, and giving public talks on his research. He presented his work to our Psychology Department, and it was very well received. Colleagues were impressed with the rigor of his research and the care with which he treated his data. He made many friends among students, the teaching and research staff, technicians, and secretarial and administrative staff at all levels throughout the Department. They treated him naturally, without implying that his work or his presence in the Department was in any way strange or inappropriate.

In the months spent with us, Chuck's health and appearance steadily improved. He lost weight and became more active, reaching the point where his cane was needed only for long walks or special circumstances.

Perhaps his crowning moments came when he gave a set of talks, one for the Society for Psychical Research in London and another for the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge, the latter at the invitation of Nobel Laureate Brian Josephson. At these talks his work was placed under close scrutiny and survived intact, with only minor issues remaining to be resolved.

And then, one terrible morning in November of 1992, his heart gave out and he died.

Chuck's Hopes for the Future

In the few days before his death, the future was already well upon Chuck. So much of his effort was oriented toward gaining acceptance of the ganzfeld research in particular and parapsychology in general; and he could see that happening, tangibly, in Edinburgh and elsewhere, in no small part thanks to his own efforts.

Chuck always disliked the sort of unfair and sloppy criticism to which the field is so often subjected. He was delighted, therefore, when he, along with Sue Blackmore, was asked by the Italian skeptical society, CICAP, to prepare an article offering critical commentary on papers submitted to their journal for an issue devoted to parapsychology and its prospects for the future. It gave him the opportunity to point out how criticism of serious parapsychology was starting to flounder, unable or at least unwilling to deal effectively with his own work or with the recent meta-analyses. One of his strongest hopes for the future was gradually being realized--that we be able to distinguish both for ourselves and for the public as a whole the difference between legitimate criticism of specific methodologies and the superficial, rhetoric-ridden pronouncements that so often prevailed. He valued the former and despised the latter, as befits a former champion debater.

A companion hope, also increasingly being realized, was that parapsychological researchers would focus their efforts on procedures that are both psi-conducive and theoretically relevant. Only then can we do the business of science, of replicating and extending each others' work, and developing a rich understanding of the nature of psi.

I think Chuck could see the future becoming the present, in the professional and public responses to his work and those of other major researchers. He knew that several research centers were taking up the ganzfeld work, that meta-analyses were becoming a routine aspect of parapsychological evaluation, and that the self-declared "skeptical" community was gradually being compelled to clean up its own act when referring to serious parapsychology.

This is not to say, of course, that he or anyone else regarded his work as perfect. The auto-ganzfeld procedure still needs to be sharpened--for instance by the use of duplicate tapes for sending and judging and by isolation of the VCR units from the experimenter, as we are doing now in Edinburgh. Meta-analysis is still a relatively new technique, and many questions remain regarding its usage and interpretation. Work in both areas will continue to evolve conceptually and methodologically. Both represent extremely valuable tools, helping us pass on to more systematic investigation of the real issues of the processes of psi, of the nature of experience, and the sense of self that drove the original psychical researchers, drove Charles Honorton, and will continue to fuel our efforts in the future.

Chuck knew he was living on borrowed time. He lived longer than he expected to. It is up to us now to ensure that he lived long enough to pass on a true legacy.

Psychology Department University of Edinburgh Edinburgh EH8 9JZ Scotland, U.K.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Parapsychology Press
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Morris, Robert L.
Publication:The Journal of Parapsychology
Article Type:Biography
Date:Mar 1, 1993
Previous Article:Psychological Research Laboratories.
Next Article:Honorton the meta-analyst.

Terms of use | Copyright © 2016 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters