Upton Sinclair cultivated an intense belief in telepathy when his wife proved she could see, or receive, images that were drawn in remote locations. After The Jungle, Sinclair spent several years watching his wife lie down on the couch in the dark to meditate, drawing crude pictures of dinner forks and squiggles that had been transmitted to her by family members in her period of rest. He wrote Mental Radio as a testament to her clairvoyant abilities. When people talk about Mental Radio, they remark that Albert Einstein wrote the preface, though it’s clear from his hedge words he wasn’t completely sure of the validity of Sinclair’s experiments. I think Mental Radio was meant to be a definitive account of E.S.P., though to this day, people praise the work more for a husband’s devotion to a wife than for its groundbreaking investigation into remote viewing.
Today, I coerced 50 people into participating in a psychic transmission experiment, some strangers, some friends, some family as well. A couple of weeks ago, I’d done the same experiment with my older and younger sisters. For the experiment with my sisters, I had plotted out a Sunday course of sitting down at a table in our respective homes across the country, meditating for a few minutes, then alternating in psychically receiving or transmitting pictures, by trying to visually see what the person thousands of miles away was seeing. My younger sister and I both drew cacti and boats, and even though I strongly saw both an arrow and snake during two of the sessions, I ignored them, only to find later on they’d been drawn by my sisters. I’ve been known to initially reject correct choices. My older sister drew a picture of the Sagittarius mug I had on the table during one of my transmissions, said, “I swear you drew a mug. Maybe a purple one with a centaur or an arrow shooting out?” Had I not been a participant in this experiment, I may not have believed it had happened at all.
Sinclair believed his wife from the beginning. It was his second reluctant marriage, and they’d fallen into sobered love while writing a book together. It’s important to note that Mary Craig Sinclair displayed moments of remarkable clairvoyance, or remote viewing, but she did not develop much akin to precognition that would surpass seeing through the next few days, meaning she was keenly aware of the here and now and soon to come, but completely in the dark about the distant future.
I sat in the dark in the closet for five minutes today. I’d hurt my back yesterday. Before the transmission time, I couldn’t find a pen, so I asked my boyfriend for one. I was frustrated, kept wondering if it would ever be possible for me to think purely in images, or if I’d always have to hear my thought-voice saying everything aloud in words. I often can’t stop words. I’ve been known to do “air stenography” while people are talking to me, especially my boyfriend, because his words look large in my head, and if people aren’t talking to me, I’m sitting on the couch, tapping out my stream of consciousness on my leg, even backspacing and deleting when I feel I’ve gotten it wrong. When I locked myself in the closet to meditate, my boyfriend gave me an encouraging smile, like, “I guess this is our Sunday,” then excused himself out onto the patio to read. I chose to draw a television, but one with bug legs, and a wave in the center. I couldn’t stop thinking about bugs and trees and water, but I’d already chosen to draw the television and was sticking with that image.
One of the problems researchers have documented in remote viewing experiments is the right-angle dilemma. While receivers can often make out right angles, the image of the angle is often too strong or dominant for the receiver to fill in the blanks in between. It’s like the adage of not being able to see the forest for the trees. That’s one of the reasons why squares are often drawn incompletely or as repetitively incomplete, like many half-squares in succession. I chose a difficult image.
In Mental Radio, a series of drawings the loving couple had produced appears at the beginning, along with Mary Craig’s notes and Upton Sinclair’s observations. A six-pointed star from Mary is placed next to a six-pointed star from Upton, then a succession of matching spirals, dogs on leashes, and haloed letters, all paired as column A for Upton, column B for Mary. At one point, he mentions their process, him in the study, her in the upstairs bedroom of their Pasadena home, the two of them calling, “Ready,” simultaneously, signaling that Mary should descend the stairs to assess their results. When the two first met, it’s rumored that Upton read Mary’s novel-in-progress and told her it was trash, that she should never write again. Then they married, wrote several books together. One can never know how things will turn out.
While I was drawing the television, the word “spider” kept popping into my frontal lobes. Spider, spider, spider. The other night, a large black spider had descended behind me while I brushed my teeth before bed. I jumped away from the sink, calling to my boyfriend through dental foam and saliva that there was a spider, that he needed to come quick, that he had to rid of it for me, he just had to. He couldn’t understand me, I was drooling onto the floor, afraid to go near the sink to spit, he was tired, couldn’t find it, eventually lost interest in finding it, but I was terrified. I don’t expect anyone to understand my fear of spiders. I know it’s irrational. They’re small creatures with several legs, and they are integral to the ecosystem. I know this, can see it, yet cannot rationalize away my fear or abate it, no matter how hard I’ve tried. I was almost in tears, because if he couldn’t find the spider, that would mean I couldn’t use the toilet that night, or the next morning for that matter, so there may have been an argument, a misunderstanding, or one or both feeling less important, less appreciated, and I begged him, probably to the point of large annoyance, to try one more time. And he did. And I drew a television. With bug legs.
Upton affectionately called his wife Craig. When Craig took ill with headaches and heart palpitations, Upton prepared something like 3,000 buckets of rice for her, because a doctor had suggested the special diet for recovery. Close to her death, Upton wrote in letters to friends that Craig was terrified. Visitors remarked she looked like a “heroine of Poe.” She suffered from chronic insomnia and begged for recommendations to hypnotists, but the constant fibrillation of her heart kept her awake at night, and she would call out in terror, her whole being taken by an endless fear. Upton begged doctors to put her out of her misery, but they refused, and he was forced to watch as she succumbed to terrible visions that he could not imagine or see. All those years of intertwined minds, and he was reduced to this.
In scientific clairvoyance experiments, results are classified by successes, partial successes, and failures, a system made popular by Sinclair’s own records of Craig’s work. Successes for the truly clairvoyant hover around the 25% mark, while partial successes comprise a little over 50%, and failures are the remainder. It’s important to remember that science tends to have a positive outlook for any experiments that yield these results, yet it’s clear that science also has a bias against abstracts that are not quantifiable. Dr. Diane Hennacy Powell explains it as the “blackbird” phenomena. With most scientific experiments, one only need to prove that one blackbird is white to prove that all of them could be. When it comes to an abstract like clairvoyance, suddenly one must prove that all blackbirds are white. Either way, it’s important to pay attention to the minor successes. It’s important to remember that even if the transmitter and receiver do not share the vision of the television, they may share a few right angles, and this is often enough to make up for the blind spots, even if the squares they draw are incomplete successions, the repetitive quality suggests they are truly attempting to see what the other has seen.