The Sanitised History

Renee Haynes. The Society for Psychical Research 1882-1982, A History. Macdonald, 1982.
The worst kind of 'official' history is that which tells you nothing and which presents far too many people as plaster saints. Historical controversy after historical controversy is either ignored completely or swept under the carpet in a few lines. The reason is that far too many leaders of the SPR see that organization as a sort of Victoriana appreciation society, and have no wish to critically examine their past, or to promote new research.
After a hundred years the SPR is no further forward in getting general acceptance for its ideas, and still presents the appearance of an ageing defensive in-group. Miss Haynes attacks the SPR dissidents who formed ASSAP for their lack of critical spirit. It is sadly true that many members of ASSAP seem uncritical and naïve but then this book is not noted for its critical spirit. However, Miss Hayes not only dislikes popularizers, she also dislikes academics; in fact she would really like the SPR to remain an upper middle class tearoom set, from which exorbitant subscriptions keep out the lower orders who not sharing their 'sense of honour' might actually cheat!
Is it too unkind to suggest that, had he so wished, [Cambridge spy-ring member] Anthony Blunt would have had no difficulty in entering the SPR's charmed circle? To be fair one must say that the SPR has always had more faces than the one presented by Miss Hayes, and has been ill-served in this 'history' which can only enrich sceptics in their prejudices. -- Peter Rogerson, from Magonia 13, 1983

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