Gerald Heard's Legacy to Psychical Research

by Rhea A. White, Hon. Ph.D.

Abstract: A biographical sketch of Heard is given, followed by a discussion of the following ideas espoused by Heard: (1) Human consciousness is evolving. (2) Both science and religion have important roles to play in forwarding the evolution of consciousness. (3) Science is as much a creation as is art. (4) Every insight into the outer world must be balanced by a corresponding increase in knowledge of the inner world. (5) Science is not static but is also evolving. (6) What we see, the data confronting us, depends upon our powers of conception and imagination. (7) The universe is set up to favor those who attempt to grow and evolve. (8) To evolve we must consciously cooperate with the process. In order to do so we must alter the aperture of consciousness. Contemplative prayer is the best way to accomplish this. The author emphasizes that only by taking these steps can parapsychology advance significantly.

It can fairly be said that Gerald Heard got me into parapsychology. He wrote that parapsychology was at the “growing edge” of human thought; it was the most advanced outpost in the exploration of human nature and of the universe. Agreeing intuitively with Heard, I joined the staff of the Duke University Parapsychology Laboratory in 1954. Once involved in experimental parapsychology, I found I had to put aside Gerald Heard’s ideas as well as my own preconceptions about psi. With some reservations, I became part of a world in which meaning may be the goal of one’s activity, but it cannot be the instigator of action.

I had to learn a different language and an entirely new approach to the data I had chosen to understand. I was made to see that what Gerald Heard wrote was mainly speculative, as were my own ideas, but in the laboratory we would be struggling with the “real thing.” It was mighty difficult to glimpse, and practically impossible to get hold of! Although I believe that if Gerald were still alive he would find meaning in our reports, basically I do not feel the field has advanced much beyond the level it was at when I entered it in 1954. However, our experiments plus meta-analysis have raised the status of replicability, but they do not take us to a new level of understanding.

In my youth I did not heed the small voice that whispered, “There has to be another way.” Now, nearly 30 years later, I can no longer deny it. It has been my conviction from the very beginning — an idea also espoused by Heard — that in parapsychology we are studying ourselves — what used to be called our souls. What we are studying is also our means of viewing and conceptualizing our subject matter! If we do not advance rapidly or far, it may not be because there is really nothing to this stuff, as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal would have it; it may simply mirror the fact that we have not gone very far. If we want to study consciousness we have to become more conscious.

We have to grow in consciousness. It may well be that we will not be able to make more sense of the data of parapsychology until we become more than we are at present — both individually and collectively. In speaking of physiological psychologists, Heard remarked to an interviewer: “They’ll never get anywhere trying to measure the soul solely with machines, or listening to it solely with microphones. To listen to the soul, they must listen with the soul. No other instrument will avail” (Ashby, 1956, p. 27). I submit that with the rise of parapsychology science will have to incorporate into its paradigm the fact that the seer and the seen, the investigator and the investigated, are one and the same. This insight is at the core of Heard’s thought and of the world’s sacred mystery traditions, indigenous and civilized.

I confess that I am reviewing his legacy as much for myself as for the members of the Academy of Religion and Psychical Research gathered here today. What does he have to say to us that might enable us to significantly advance beyond our present position? My aim is to introduce to you or reacquaint you with Gerald Heard and his ideas and to assess their relevance for parapsychology as it enters its second century, dating from the founding of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882 at Cambridge University — Heard’s alma mater.

First, here is some background about Gerald Heard. Christened Henry Fitz Gerald Heard, he was born on October 6, 1889, in London, although the family home was in Ireland. Heard took honors in history at Cambridge, and after serving as a political assistant to a British attorney general and in Dublin with Sir Horace Plunkett during the Irish Rebellion, he returned to England and began his career as author, editor, and lecturer. His first book, Narcissus, was published in 1924. In it he tried to work out historically the connection between architecture and the clothes people wore. It also, however, foreshadowed his lifetime interest in the evolution of consciousness.

He came closer to the vein with his second book, The Ascent of Humanity, published [five] years later, in which he suggested that history is the reflection of changes in human consciousness. It won him the Henrietta Hertz Award from the British Academy. He also edited the short-lived monthly, The Realist. The British Broadcasting Company engaged him as a science commentator and he did a fortnightly broadcast called “This Surprising World” for four years, followed by another entitled “Science in the Making.” Both, or at least selections from them, subsequently were published in book form (Heard, 1932b, 1935). Heard was also a member of the Council of the Society for Psychical Research from 1932 to 1942.

With Aldous Huxley, he came to the United States in 1937, ostensibly for a series of lectures, but there was a deeper reason. He had been unsuccessfully engaged in pacifist activities in England, and he has written that he felt “Britain would refuse to wake up, until too late. There was work to which American friends were calling, and it was all too clear that only in America was there left any freedom for men to choose their course and to avoid blind collisions” (Kunitz & Haycraft, 1942, p. 631). He was offered the chair of historical anthropology at Duke University but instead chose to settle in California, as did Huxley. In Hollywood he met Swami Prabhavananda and studied Vedanta, which was to be a strong influence for the rest of his life. In 1942 he founded a center for spiritual studies and growth called Trabuco College. His hope was that it would serve as an experiment in living the intentional life. There were many difficulties, and it simply did not work out as he had hoped. It was to be the strongest personal test for Heard of one of his favorite sayings: “A disappointment is but the postponement of the appointment.” In 1949 he gave the estate to the Vedanta Society of Southern California, and later it became the Ramakrishna Monastery. From then until his death in 1971 he lectured, wrote, and entertained a steady stream of visitors. As his secretary Michael Barrie put it: “He was constantly besieged by people, most of them young” (Barrie, 1972, p. 17). I was one of them. I know, too, that Michael Murphy was another. He consulted Gerald before he made the final decision to found the Esalen Institute at Big Sur.

Heard’s longtime friend Christopher Isherwood told an interviewer that Heard helped him to,

“…relate to everything on a higher plane. He has been constantly talking for eighteen years, has spoken to psychiatrists, industrialists, the top communicators in every field. Often they appropriate his ideas and pass them on. His talk sets eggs in many nests. They hatch years later. He’s too much for most people to swallow, too original. Yet he has had as much influence on contemporary thought as Frank Lloyd Wright on contemporary architecture.” (Ashby, 1956, p. 23)

Gerald was nothing if not prolific. In preparation for this paper I have read all of his considerable opus that I own, consisting of 43 books [Ed. — some of which were cowritten with others.] and 65 articles, book reviews, and chapters in books. His writings fall into five categories. The first includes writings about science and the findings of science with their implications for our view of ourselves and our world. Second are books that can be characterized as social histories. The third group contains works about the intentional life — why it should be lived and how. Fourth are his fictional works. He wrote mystery and detective stories and novels, almost all containing an element of the supernatural and the spiritual. He told Thaddeus Ashby, “From detective stories, I became interested in supernatural stories, stories in which you confront the terrors at the back of your mind” (Ashby, 1956, p. 25). Some of the books in this group were written under the pen name H. F. Heard, and it was under this name that he received the Ellery Queen Award in 1946 for the best mystery story of the year. Finally, there are his articles, book reviews, prefaces to books of others, and letters published in magazines, as well as individual chapters in anthologies. Almost all of these dealt with aspects of parapsychology or the mystical life.

It is not possible in the time available to discuss all of Heard’s ideas. I will limit myself to his views on the nature of science, the evolution of consciousness, and their relevance to parapsychology. One theme was primary in all of Heard’s writings, although he approached that central message in a variety of ways. He said that human evolution is continuing, but it is not physical evolution that continues, it is the evolution of consciousness. But consciousness cannot evolve unless we cooperate with the process. It won’t happen automatically. It’s up to us whether or not it continues in us. Whether or not we continue depends largely on how we see ourselves and the Universe in which we live. Heard holds that we need both science and religion in order to respond fully to the call for growth.

I will start with his views about the nature of science, drawing heavily on his fifth book, This Surprising World (Heard, 1932b), which was one of the first histories of science, and to my mind one of his most important and insightful works. Here he deals not only with what science is but what it is not. This is a matter of central concern to parapsychology. I suggest that our conception of what science is has a bearing on the problem of repeatability in our field. In physics and biology — maybe even in the social sciences — you can get away with a mistaken view of science, or what I will call “false” science (or “scientism”), because your subject matter to some extent is repeatable and publicly verifiable. But in parapsychology if we try to follow false science, we won’t get anywhere because we do not have reliable data to begin with, and false science will not be capable of producing any. Our subject matter thus far has been nothing if not capricious. Later in the paper I will suggest that by improving our instrument we may improve the data we are studying. At this point I would simply like to say that our only chance for real progress may lie in following the method of what I will call “true” science.

First, let us consider what science is not. According to Heard, it is not simply a matter of gathering many facts and submitting them to logical analysis. He says: “The scientist... has his intuitions: his creative hypotheses are formed when the facts to conform them have yet to be found, and with the insight of an artist, he realizes that they are proved when pedestrian minds still think them only hypothetical” (Heard, 1932b, pp. 17-18). If Heard is right, and of course I think he is, then the way we are going about our research in parapsychology is wrong. Establishment parapsychology holds that one must seek facts first, and then more facts, and then maybe — for dessert — you can inject a cautious hypothesis into a paragraph at the end of your report. If, however, this is a participatory universe as some physicists now say it is, then maybe we won’t be able to get many facts until we have a hypothesis around which they can cluster! Perhaps speculation — or the vision out of which it grows — should be the main course, and the dessert would be the data that come at the end to verify it. Even parapsychology itself has evidence that suggests Heard’s hypothesis is correct. It is called the “psi-determined experimenter effect.”

Second, Heard points out that science is not objective. Science has criticized religion, philosophy, and art for their subjectivity so it has a vested interest in appearing objective itself, even though it isn’t. He suggests “that science may have to follow the growth of religion, philosophy, and art. They [too] once thought they had direct apprehension of reality. They had to acknowledge their relativity, their subjectivity” (Heard, 1937b, p. 22).

Third, science is not a field of inquiry that deals with knowledge as if it existed in a limited universe — one that is graspable. Instead, Heard says, “The Modern Age begins when men can open their minds to the idea of infinity” (Heard, 1932b, p. 29).

Science is not the study of what is objectively “out there,” and facts, even if they existed independently, cannot speak for themselves, as false science would have it. Both what we see and what we take as the significance of what we see depends on what we are. According to Heard, what happens when a fact is observed is that there is “a remarkable experience, a flash between a terminal of consciousness and a salient point of circumstance,” and “any change in our perception of the world around us is due to a change in our inner nature” (Heard, 1932b, pp. 37, 41).

What then, in Heard’s view, is science? First, he says science is a means by which the human mind envisages “not a bounded universe but a definite balance, proportion, and relation between itself and the universe, between consciousness and experience, between seen and unseen” (Heard, 1937b, p. 29).

Second, he proposes that when the scientist has achieved the proper balance, when he or she is on the right track, there is a “psychological test of truth,” or of judging that one is on the right course. Inner conflict is allayed; one feels energized; and one experiences a sense of peace, delight, and wonder. As long as we can find meaning in our data, we can be sure we are progressing with a proper and balanced growth “whereby object and understanding reciprocate” (Heard, 1932b, p. 108). The hitch is that the meaning isn’t going to fall into our laps — we are going to have to create it by ourselves, out of ourselves.

For, as his third point, Heard says it is essential to realize that “science is a creation — as great as the creative power we call great art” (Heard, 1932b, p. 32). He adds,

“The supreme value of science, the immense future that is opening is not anything so partial as a subconscious selection of external facts, however reasonable the pattern they yield may prove, but the light this growing method as it grows in consciousness throws on the relation of mind and sensation, of ourselves and the world in which we find ourselves.” (Heard, 1932b, p. 33)

In a sense, a scientist is a craftsperson — even an artist. The subject matter of his or her specialty (which consists of both data and conceptions of the data) is the vehicle. But it is not true to say that the ideas are in his or her head and that the data are separate from the scientist and his or her ideas. This is false science. In the same way, the potter’s clay is not separate from the potter. Carla Needleman, in The Work of Craft, describes the following moment of self-discovery while working with clay:

“The object looks like me, not physically but actually. I have no need to try to express what I am, I can’t help expressing it. The object is a mirror, an accurate reflection. That I took so long to recognize it is a telling commentary on the fact that I don’t know myself. The way I walk, the way I play cards, the way I weave or carve or throw, express me. But only in crafts is the result of that expression frozen in time and space like a still photograph, distinct and separate from myself, calling to be seen….in crafts only those can hear the object calling to them who have tried to work honestly for a higher quality of craftsmanship, and who have an emotional stake in the results produced” (Needleman, 1979, pp. 50-51).

I disagree with her when she says this mirror effect can occur only in connection with a craft. The psi experiment has long struck me as just such a still photograph, catching us where we are and throwing back to us the image of our limits. It is mirrored to us not only in our subjective sense of bafflement and dismay but in the hard data, so-called, or lack of it, with which we are confronted. As for having an emotional stake in the results, surely this is true of the psi experimenter. Think of the time that goes into planning an experiment: reviewing the relevant literature, discussing protocol and design with colleagues and consultants, enlisting collaborators, finding funding, recruiting subjects, collecting data, applying statistics, analyzing the results, and, hopefully — having significant results to report! To invest this much time and effort and self puts us right on the edge. Yes, there is an emotional investment. But if our results turn out to be insignificant, or contrary to our experimental hypothesis, or tantalizingly equivocal — that’s us! That’s what we must deal with. And it is not imposed from without. It is a mirror of what is within. If we want to change the picture that is projected before us, we must change the film.

How does one change the film? First, one starts with the assumption that it can be done. Human nature is not static. It is not finished. Minds grow. Minds increase their capacity to take in, to assimilate. And as the mind grows, it is able to see further, cast a wider net, project from a deeper level. This act does two things: it enables humans to see things in a different light and it creates new data with which to work! As in the Bible, to him that has, more is given.

Gerald says psychology has “permitted us to see that the true history of man is not in his acts but the growth of his mind” (Heard, 1932b, p. 69). He holds that science can be viewed as the product of “the gradual widening of consciousness whereby it takes in an ever larger range of experience and reciprocally becomes capable of giving it an ever larger meaning” (Heard, 1932b, p. 40).

If the results of our experiments make no discernible sense, then that throws us back on ourselves. That is good. It brings us up short by depicting our limitations. It would be tragic if that were all. But it need not be the end. Heard proposes that “if we change ourselves, changing our power of apprehension, we change the universe confronting us” (Heard, 1937b, p. 240).

A central theme running through Heard’s work is that every advance in knowledge of the outer world must be balanced by a corresponding advance in the data presented by our senses. Heard holds that the import of science is this: it brings human consciousness to a point where it can perceive that our “essential nature is a mind and the body is only its projection and also that the universe’s essential nature is... a mind, and matter is only its projection” (Heard, 1932b, p. 138).

How, in our science, are we to advance to the internalization of this realization? In The Eternal Gospel, a book in which Heard presents the essentials of what his friend Aldous Huxley called the “perennial philosophy,” he declares that “this world is a place for the development of the soul, for the emergence of a complete consciousness,” and, “every insight into the outer world must be balanced by an equally enlarged knowledge of [our] true and full nature” (Heard, 1946, p. 221). Here in the West our knowledge of the outer world has far outstripped what we know about the world within. Our first step, then, is to redress this imbalance. This is needed simply to get us to the starting gate!

In Heard’s view, parapsychologists are in the best position to do this. Our data indicate the existence of a psychological counterpart to the cosmology revealed by the new physics. He proposes that the origin of our economic, political, and social unrest — even as, I might add, the parapsychological problems of null results, psi-missing, and the reversal effect — lies in ourselves. Our troubles arise from a fault in our own consciousness. Heard proposes that if reconciliation could take place within, then “the outer conflicts will resolve themselves and… by advancing psychological knowledge and experience to the degree which physical knowledge and power have been — disproportionately — advanced, and Life will go forward to its destiny and goal” (Heard, 1937a, p. 401).

Furthermore, he says that “proportionate advance can only be through a method of changing the aperture of consciousness, enlarging and shifting the field of awareness above and beyond that restricted field, which has given us the present world of means and facts… a field so long brooded upon exclusively, that we cannot imagine any other” (Heard, 1937a, p. 404).

An important insight of Heard’s is that just as the world with which we are confronted is not static, neither is true science: “Science is not simply observation, the setting down with exactitude any happening. Consciously or unconsciously science is highly selective. No advance in objective observation could be made until man was equipped with an instrument to cut into the continuum” (Heard, 1931, p. 254).

Reality, however, has no divisions. We artificially limit it by choice, and it is usually to our advantage to do so, but it is an error to take the map for the territory. When we understand that any limitations that confront us are of our own making, then we are no longer bound so tightly. Gerald insisted that concepts — our power to conceive, to imagine — must always precede percepts, or what we perceive as being “out there”:

“Every new advance of knowledge of the outer world must wait upon a new faculty and technique of comprehension. …First there must be what, when it is unconscious is called faith, and when conscious an hypothesis. The coming of this faith or hypothesis is perhaps always sudden, unforeseen, revolutionary. It springs from the depth of the mind of which consciousness can have no direct cognizance.” (Heard, 1931, pp. 254-255)

I submit that there is an outward counterpart to this inner experience. It is also “sudden, unforeseen, revolutionary,” and “springs from the depth of the mind of which consciousness can have no direct cognizance,” and we have called it psi. Perhaps the revolutionary, groundbreaking, evolving edge of any science involves psi, which may well come to be defined as the study of the evolutionary edge. We are certainly in need of a new advance in understanding, for thus far we have had to deal with facts that are well nigh incomprehensible. In our need to comprehend we keep seeking more and more facts, but as Heard points out, what is needed may not so much be more facts, but something that we are not now aware of, something we can grasp only by faith, but which eventually will become conscious in the form of an hypothesis.

In another book, Man the Master, Heard points out:

“Research, however detailed, may be held up, not through lack of facts, but through lack of significant ideas, an hypothesis of meaning on which the facts may be ordered.... Science can be held up until there appear[s] the really original mind, which can create a new frame, which can throw still wider the net of meaning over the shoals of darting facts.” (Heard, 1941a, p. 127)

He calls this person the “hypothecator,” the “one who, by constantly feeling his [or her] way along the outer frontiers of thought, can make the new frame of reference, the new world picture” (Heard, 1941a, p. 126). Elsewhere he carried this to its ultimate conclusion, stating: “The science of the possible [which I take to refer to events in the macroscopic world of time and space] is the science of as much faith as you have” (Heard, 1953, p. 159).

The fact that the perception of new data is preceded by an act of faith brings us to another of Heard’s major leadings, and that is the central connection between science and religion. For example, the mathematician Laplace said he had no need for God in his hypothesis. But it appears that science can go only just so far without faith; or is it that nothing can move without faith, and that after a certain stage this fact must be consciously recognized and dealt with? In A Dialogue in the Desert, an imaginative account of Jesus’ temptations in the wi1derness, Heard has him realize that God,

“…guides — as His immense preknowledge can alone guide, so perfectly, so unobtrusively, with such consummate skill, that man’s cooperation is always being tested up to its limit and just not to the breaking point.... But only those who walk with God can be fully aware that they are being guided—the rest feel it is chance — a few others, that somehow things fall out so that they learn and grow.” (Heard, 1942a, pp. 16-17)

Or it may be that in parapsychology, as a result of one of those cataclysmic leaps by which life advances, we are called upon to achieve a higher station, so that what worked for physics, and even perhaps for biology and psychology, will not work for us. Parapsychology may have had its origin in the need of human beings at this stage of their evolution to become co-creators of reality, whether or not they have done so at any other stage of their history. Any lesser hypothesis, for us, would be in terms of “false” science and would not work, that is, would not produce significant data.

Either way, I think that to become full parapsychologists we will have to do whatever is necessary to become conscious that we are being guided, and be willing and able to follow the least lead. Only by being inwardly aware of the next step will we be able to progress outwardly. If this is the case, what is the best way to do it? If Heard were still with us, what would he suggest we do in parapsychology?

For the record, I will mention here some of his writings on parapsychology. In several books and articles he dealt with the reasons why scientists, in particular, find it difficult to accept the data of parapsychology (Heard: 1934, 1937b, 1942b, 1947, 1952). He was much concerned with the implications of the findings of parapsychology (Heard: 1936, 1937b, 1948). His most intensive studies were involved with mediumship, and with Theodore Besterman (1933) he published a brief account of an attempt to measure the direct-voice phenomena of the medium Mrs. Gladys Osborne Leonard. Elsewhere he wrote about the history and development of mediumship (Heard: 1929, 1932a, 1937b, 1944a, 1944b, 1950, 1954, 1955). The question of survival was also of interest to him, particularly as he saw that how our view of what might survive vitally affects the quality of our living here (Heard: 1929, 1948, 1954). He also wrote about the potential trainability of ESP (Heard: 1935, 1939, 1944b, 1954) and was one of the first to point out the importance of experimenter attitudes (Heard: 1947, 1954) and the role of the observer in parapsychology (Heard: 1944a, 1954).

Nevertheless, however insightful his parapsychological observations are, I do not feel that they represent his major contribution to our subject, nor will they get us out of our present impasse. His thoughts on the connection between science and the evolution of consciousness, however, do contain ideas that would help us both conceptually and practically, as I hope to show next.

Part of Heard’s message is that human nature can change. Not only can it change, but it is meant to change, and in fact if it does not change — if we do not cooperate with the forces moving us to change — we will probably become extinct at our own hands. A favorite quotation of Heard’s is Cromwell’s, “He who is not getting better is getting worse.” The only way to save ourselves — and the world in the process — is to be reborn with a transmuted consciousness. His life aim was to show why this had to be done and how it could be accomplished.

He also posits two forces working in our favor. One is that within us there already exists the urge — the necessity even — to grow. Second, the universe is friendly. It is biased in our favor if we will choose to cooperate with the call to transmute ourselves. Our individualism, which was once the apex of our development in that it enabled us to reflect upon ourselves, at this stage is a hindrance to further advance. We need not give it up, but neither can we rest in it. Heard says, “individualism is only partial self-consciousness... [It] that stage of psychological evolution when the foreconscious has become critical and aware, but at the cost of leaving a large area, the subconscious, behind” (Heard, 1941a, p. 30).

Heard uses the image of a spiral to describe the evolution of consciousness. Our present extreme degree of self-consciousness is not the end of the psyche’s evolution: it is the beginning of another phase. What until now has been the primary tool of science, analysis, will no longer spearhead any progress. Certainly this is so if we want to develop a science of consciousness, and it seems we have no choice but to do so. At this point many people may sit up and say it is impossible to apply the methods of science to the higher reaches of consciousness. It is true that old science, or what now must be considered false science, cannot be so applied. But new wine calls for new bottles. Science should grow even as we grow. Surely we can develop new techniques that are just as scientific as the old ones, but more appropriate than they were, both to our subject matter and to what we are beginning to grasp as our true nature.

If we grant that new bottles are needed, how are they to be fashioned? Heard, echoing T. S. Eliot, holds that “the way forward is the way back” (1952, p. 134). According to Heard,

“If we are to advance we must cast back… Human thought, when it faces failure in its leading stem, may “sprout below the graft” …We are called on not to return to the past, but, with the sharp-angled spiral of ascent, to recover and translate in scientific terms (as our intenser consciousness demands) the intuitive knowledge which the past knew only as an art, and which our immediate predecessors dismissed therefore as untrue.” (Heard, 1939, p. 60, p. 62)

We must search for “techniques humanity has employed in the past to dilate the aperture of consciousness” (Heard, 1939, p. 73). To do so we may have to let go of our analytic faculties entirely, at least for awhile, in order to grasp and take hold of an entirely different method. But the ultimate goal is to have both the old and the new, or in Heard’s words, “with widened range we must preserve the highest clarity of focus” (Heard, 1939, p. 93).

According to Heard, the best — in fact he thought the only — way in which that aperture can be widened and thereby the evolution of consciousness continued is through prayer, which he defines as “a method of empirical discovery, a technique for contacting and learning to know Reality” (Heard, 1944b, p. 51). He considers prayer, in this sense of the word, to be “essential…for the intellectual progress of mankind” (Heard, 1944b, p. 51).

I feel that in order for any real breakthrough in parapsychology to occur we will have to confront our problems from a different level of ourselves, a level with which we are not now in touch and cannot even imagine. It is the level Heard called “the deep consciousness,” or the “deep mind.” According to Heard, prayer could serve as the bridge between the ego consciousness epitomized by old science and the deep mind that, it appears, is both the end and the means of what I have called true science.

Heard’s description of the human soul embarking on the raft of prayer speaks perfectly to our own condition as parapsychologists seeking a new foothold on mainland science. He says that the way to new life,

“…is always through the effort toward higher consciousness and that this goal must be found by leaving the familiar, the comfortable, the easily comprehended and going out into the unknown, along an unfamiliar path and to an unspecified goal. Defenses and assurances must be abandoned for mobility and uncertainty. The rigid narrow answer of instinct must be given up for the tentative questioning of faith, that migratory urge that knows only that it must leave its home and follow the trackless trace, the soundless call.” (Heard, 1944b, p. 53)

Time does not permit describing his approach to prayer in detail. Heard (1944b) devoted an entire book to it, in which he describes three levels of prayer. The highest, or the contemplative, is the one I am most concerned with here, although I would note that Heard sees all three levels as involving elements of psi. Contemplative prayer is defined by Heard as,

“…a constant, unwavering awareness of... the extrasensory reality, of a state of reality where consciousness is fundamental and events and things are symptoms and obvious resultants from that all-pervading consciousness. It is a method whereby the mind may rise, until attaining total power of pure intention the consciousness at last knows itself as united with the single and universal consciousness. Then turning again outward it can see the so-called objective universe as a manifestation of that single Consciousness.” (Heard, 1944b, p. 32, pp. 35-36)

Thus will we come to what, adopting the term used by Radhakrishnan, Heard calls integral thought, and as he put it, the discovery of the “SELF, standing behind the self, the universal consciousness embracing the individualized consciousness as the brain embraces the eye” (1944b, p. 109).

And that, I submit, is the only place from which parapsychology can significantly advance. From that vantage we will at last be inside the projector, and so in a position to change the film, or even to create our own. Then, as Heard says, we “will produce an art as beyond the art of all other ages as is the full scientific cosmology beyond that of any other time, and [our] conduct and the frame of [our] mind, our sense of others and of [ourselves] will be, must be, as harmonious and as great” (Heard, 1944b, p. 229).

Note: This paper was given at the 1982 annual conference of the Academy of Religion and Psychical Research. It was published in their Proceedings for that year, in 1984, on pp. 56-69. The present version was revised in 2002 and 2004.

- Rhea A. White

"[Heard] wrote that parapsychology was at the 'growing edge of human thought... the most advanced outpost in the exploration of human nature and of the universe."


Rhea A. White (1931-2007) was Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research and Exceptional Human Experience. She wrote Parapsychology: New Sources of Information (Scarecrow Press, 1992) and was coauthor with Michael Murphy of In the Zone: Transcendent Experience in Sports (Penguin/Arkana, 1995). Ms. White was Founder/Director of The Exceptional Human Experience Network and Past President of the Parapsychological Association (1984).

The Barrie Family Trust is most grateful to Dr. (Hon.) Rhea A. White for her kind permission, given in 2002, to republish her article "Gerald Heard’s Legacy to Psychical Research." Text is Copyright © 1982 by Rhea A. White, All Rights Reserved.


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