Many people will not be pleased with this book. It is not a sensational account of psychic wonders. It is not a revelation of the latest horrors of psychological warfare. It is not a comprehensive cataloguing of the latest developments in Soviet social science. Then what does Human Possibilities attempt to do? It is an account of my trips to the USSR and Eastern Europe and the people I have met who are engaged in what Americans would call “mind research” or “consciousness studies” – and what many foreign scientists would refer to as “hidden reserves” or “latent human possibilities.” This movement is a vital and growing one, but it is also controversial and fragile. Its growth could accelerate – or it could be stifled, depending on the social and political conditions that determine the milieu in which the mind researchers operate. I only hope that my account is accurate enough and honest enough to bring a description of the efforts of these pioneers to a wider audience.
In reading about these efforts, one may find it useful to set aside prejudices and preconceived ideas, and attempt to deal with Soviet and Eastern European concepts within their own framework. I recall the statement of one Soviet researcher who told me, “Your government claims to be interested in human rights. We, too, are interested in human rights – the right to hold a job, the right to have enough to eat and to have a place to live, the right to a sound mind and a healthy body, the right to a supermemory, the right to learn other languages. Any idiot can stand on a street comer and mouth unpopular ideas. But what kind of right is that compared to these others?” This manifesto was repeated, with variations, many times during my trips to Communist nations and eloquently presents an important perspective from which the potentials of humanity can be understood and developed.
In the preparation of this manuscript, I have been assisted in various ways by Ivan Barzakov, Christopher Bird, Fred Blau, Mary Lou Carlson, Jonathan Cohen, Henry S. Dakin, John Gryl, Lelie Krippner, Nancy Rollins, Christopher C. Scott, Saul-Paul Sirag, Hadley Smith, Mark Smith, William Strachan, Charles T. Turley, and Rhea A. White. A. J. Lewis and Scott Hill provided the translations of some materials that are referred to in Chapters 10 and 11.
To document my information, I have supplemented each chapter with a reading list. Furthermore, I have noted the year of publication in the text to assist readers in their search for corroboration and additional detail. For example, the reference to Uznadze (1967) in Chapter 4 simply refers the reader to the list of references where he or she will find the listing: Uznadze, D. N. The Psychology of Set. New York: Consultants Bureau, 1967. In some instances, I have referred to books and articles written in Russian or another foreign language. In this case, I inform the reader of the situation by the use of brackets-for example, Krokhalev, G. P. [Objectifying optical hallucinations.] Psychotronik, 1979, 1, 8-18. This citation also demonstrates the standard form of describing scientific articles – the author’s and article’s names followed by that of the journal, the year of publication, the volume number (in italics), and the page numbers. Many readers will care very little about such details, but in a field so controversial it is wise to document as many of one’s reports as possible. In addition, page numbers are given for direct quotations from English-language books and other selected publications.
For those interested in overviews of Soviet psychology and psychiatry, I would suggest the following books:
Cole, M. (ed.). Soviet Developmental Psychology. White Plains, N.Y.: Sharpe, 1977.
Cole, M., and Maltzman, I. (eds.). A Handbook of Contemporary Soviet Psychology. New York: Basic Books, 1969.
Corson, S. E. (ed.). Psychiatry and Psychology in the USSR. New York: Plenum Press, 1976.
Peat, R. Mind and Tissue: Russian Research Perspectives on the Human Brain. Claremont, Calif.: Khalsa Publications, 1976.
Razran, G. Mind in Evolution: An East-West Synthesis of Learned Behavior and Cognition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1971.
Rollins, N. Child Psychiatry in the Soviet Union: Preliminary Observations. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1972.
The research discussed in Human Possibilities finds a very small place in the above volumes but they do give the context in which new developments can be more fully appreciated.
And what about future developments? No single source is adequate, but occasional translations appear in the International Journal of Paraphysics (Downton, Wilshire, England). The Brain/Mind Bulletin (P.O. Box 42211, Los Angeles, Calif. 90042) summarizes current research in consciousness, including some data from the USSR and the other Warsaw Pact nations.
My greatest debt is to the mind pioneers themselves. Communication by mail is often difficult. For example, Victor Inyushin had twice sent me official invitations to visit Kazakh State University. These letters were never received, nor was the travel schedule I sent Inyushin prior to my 1979 arrival; he was in another part of Kazakhstan when I came to Alma-Ata. Nor was A. S. Romen in Alma-Ata when I arrived. He had sent me letters at three different addresses; all were returned from the USA as “undeliverable.” However, upon hearing of my arrival, Inyushin and Romen immediately returned to Alma-Ata and extended their warmest hospitality to me and my colleagues.
Once contact was made, the mind researchers and I discovered more connecting us than dividing us. We spoke a common language – that of human beings, their nature, their needs, and their potentials. Time and time again the desire was expressed to work together on common problems. However, the fear was expressed that these discoveries could be perverted for destructive purposes in a world where the chances for peace are questionable. Science does not work in a vacuum; the future of international relations will, for better or for worse, determine the future of the scientific cooperation so earnestly desired by those of us exploring the human possibilities discussed in this book.
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