Comments about H J Eysenck
Professor Hans Eysenck used to be Head of the Institute of Psychiatry in London, and was the most famous psychologist in the country, but his former students and other psychologists at the Department of Experimental Psychology in Oxford referred to him contemptuously. He, on the other hand, was polite and complimentary about his former students, such as Dr Gordon Claridge, who was supervisor to Dr Charles McCreery for his DPhil.
I do not think that the rather derisive attitude towards him of other academic psychologists had anything to do with any real deficiencies in Professor Eysenck’s work. It is more likely that it arose from jealousy, as he was known to have a very high IQ and had been remarkably successful before the modern Welfare State ideology gained too much ground, and he became politically incorrect on account of his belief in inherited intelligence and other inherited characteristics.
At the Department of Experimental Psychology it was said that Professor Eysencks’s signature on a reference was the kiss of death. Nevertheless, we used him as a reference when we applied for appointments or funding, having no other alternative, as most of our work has been done outside of university departments, so we had no official academic supervisors to whom we could apply for references. Of course, our applications continued to be universally unsuccessful, whether or not accompanied by a reference from Professor Eysenck.
In spite of the fact that lucid dreams and out-of-the-body experiences are now accepted as acceptable academic topics in both philosophy and psychology we continue to be referred to with contempt and derision as non-academic and credulous. Work on both lucid dreams and out-of-the-body experiences started to be done at the Institute of Psychiatry under Professor Eysenck’s auspices, and still continues.
However, so far as I am concerned, this is purely nominal and does not attempt to tackle any of the issues which I would wish to do myself, if able to do research at all. Professor Eysenck invited us to give lectures and contribute to his academic journal, in which he also reviewed our books when we had managed to publish one, but he could not get us paid appointments or any funding.
No doubt the work, however unprogressive, which was done at the Institute of Psychiatry contributed to the acceptance of the phenomena by Oxford University.
For a time Professor Eysenck was nominally Director of this Institute, in the hope that this might assist us in fund-raising, so that people could not complain that no-one here had any academic status, and any work that was done here would not be done within a university department and be unsupervised by anyone of adequate academic status. This, however, was ineffective in breaking the complete embargo on letting us have any money.
Professor Eysenck wrote a supportive testimonial for me, which has been as useless as all the other similar testimonials which I have received from American academics. It would have been a lot more useful if each of them had sent me a tenth of their own salary instead of sending me pieces of paper exhorting other people to provide me with academic status and money.
When someone associated with us was at the Department of Experimental Psychology he heard the way the dons and graduate students talked about Eysenck’s interest in our work. They referred to him as a disappointed man (gleefully) because, in spite of his eminence, he had never had a Nobel prize. They suggested that he saw getting mixed up with something way-out and off the beaten track as his last chance to make a sensational breakthrough in research.
In fact, I think that Professor Eysenck’s willingness to accept new phenomena as a field of research arose from his interest in objective scientific reality, and perception of what might be of scientific importance. Similarly, his interest in inherited individual characteristics arose from a concern for objective reality, rather than political correctness. The psychologists at the Department of Experimental Psychology put political correctness first, and confined their attention to areas in which the results of research could not fail to reinforce
fashionable associations of ideas.