People often had mixed feelings about J. B. Rhine, but as far as I could tell everyone loved Louisa, or Louie, as she was called. I think I failed Louie in my book. She doesn’t loom large enough. She was a key figure in the struggle for parapsychology and frequently ahead of her time. I point out several times in the book where some ideas generally accepted today actually originated with her (and I’m not just talking about ideas in the field of parapsychology).
This one always intrigued me: “I thought that mind should be supreme in the universe and matter somehow an attribute or expression of it.” She wrote that in the early 1980’s about her thinking before 1920. I don’t know when this idea was first proposed, but I hear people say this more and more now, and always with the sense that they are saying something radical.
It seemed everything about her was brave and intellectually independent. She got her Ph.D in 1923, which was extremely unusual for a woman at the time, and I gotta believe especially unusual for someone from her relatively rural background.
I always loved what Louie wrote her mother when her parents expressed their displeasure about her investigations into parapsychology.
“You or Dad didn’t mind if I found sufficient proof to allow me to believe the electron theory of matter … if the same cold judgment of fact leads me to believe there is a possibility of definitely proving there is life beyond, instead of piously believing it all my life, or infidel-like disbelieving it, I should think you’d grant that it is at least a worthy task …”
Look at what she said. She’s pointing out that both sides were operating more on faith than fact. But Louie always remained objective. About seances, she wrote that “in them we found no evidence on which to feed our interest and only what seemed to us to be gullibility, suggestion, wishful thinking. We soon gave up the effort as unprofitable and a waste of time.”
Louie was a product of her time in that she always stood a little behind J. B. Perhaps her accomplishments wouldn’t be all that different, I really don’t see much evidence that she was intellectually repressed either by J.B. or her time, but still I wonder how much further she might have gone if she had lived, well, now.