We’d like to spotlight Bob Gebelein in this issue of the Rhine Research Center’s Psi News Magazine. Bob is one of two central volunteers who moved here from the Northeast in order to be more involved with the Rhine Research Center. As Sally Rhine Feather, Ph.D., our Executive Director, says, he began by helping out with organizing books in the library, but he has very quickly earned a significant role in our day-to-day operations by becoming the Journal of Parapsychology Business Manager. We are so lucky to have Bob Gebelein as a member of our team not only to keep the Rhine functioning at an optimum level but also because of his friendly demeanor, open-mindedness, collegiality, and impressive intellectual contribution. His presence makes a big difference here, and we are grateful for his decision to move closer and be a part of this community.
With this interview, we hope that you have the chance to get to know Bob Gebelein a little better, yourself.
Q: When did you first become interested in psi experiences and why?
In 1958, I dreamed of my grandmother’s death an hour before the telegram arrived. This was my first piece of evidence of psi and the only piece of evidence logically necessary to defeat the whole system of thought that says “These things don’t exist.”
Later that year, when I was planning to go to New York and find a good psychiatrist, I dreamed of meeting the psychiatrist at Grand Central Station. When I did meet the psychiatrist, he looked like the psychiatrist in the dream. When I told him about it, he said, “You were probably dreaming about your father.” I didn’t argue about it, because it didn’t have anything to do with the treatment. NOW I am arguing about it. He was reflecting a 20th-century form of superstition that asserted that such things as precognitive dreams couldn’t possibly exist.
Q: How did you hear of the Rhine Research Center, and how did you become involved from a distance?
I wrote my 45th-Reunion Report to Harvard on the subject of “Why I don’t give money to Harvard.” Harvard supports scientism, the belief that there is no reality beyond the physical, with its $30 billion, and I know that scientism is a failed experiment in philosophy. And then I sent the money that I might have otherwise given to Harvard to The Rhine Research Center, along with a copy of my 45th-Reunion Report. Immediately upon receipt, Sally Rhine Feather called me and thanked me for my donation, and said she had enjoyed my Report. We became friends from that point on.
At one point in an email, she said, “I have to get back to my bookkeeping. I’m not very good at bookkeeping.”
And I answered, “I’m good at bookkeeping.”
And she said, effectively, “Come on down.”
I was in the middle of writing a book at the time, so I couldn’t, but I kept the thought seriously in mind.
Q: What drew you to make the decision to move closer?
Provincetown, which had been my home for 50 summers and 20 winters, had been bought by rich people, driving up the price of real estate and driving away the young creative penniless people who used to make Provincetown interesting. All I had were memories of good times in the past. My book was a failure, so I had to decide what to do with my life. I was obsolete (for about the 6th time, but the final time, I decided) as a computer programmer, but I felt sure I could do clerical work for another 20 years, so I approached the idea of doing bookkeeping for the Rhine.
I bought a house in Durham for $105,000. The same property in Provincetown would sell for $1,000,000 (because the big back yard could be a second building lot). There are first-rate medical facilities, important in my old age, within 4 miles of where I live. In Provincetown, you have to go 46 miles to Cape Cod Hospital to see any kind of a specialist, and they are not first-rate. I liked the people I met on my first trip down here, and that was it.
Q: What do you do as a volunteer for the Rhine?
I helped with the cataloging of the books in the library into the computer. I am now the Journal Business Manager, which involves maintaining the subscription list of the Journal of Parapsychology and dealing with subscribers and various other tasks.
Q: What are your current interests in psi?
First of all, I admire how J.B. Rhine and his associates were able to demonstrate the existence of psi abilities, using the strictest methods of physical science. Yes, I have proved the existence of psi abilities to myself, through my own internal perceptions (what the early psychologists called “introspection”), but to prove these things to somebody else, using the methods of physical science, is a whole other problem, and a challenge that was met successfully by J.B. Rhine and his associates.
And these findings, the existence of psi abilities, have been replicated by not less than 7 independent laboratories in 5 different countries (it isn’t like there is some little cult of belief here in Durham). But established “science” goes “pooh-pooh.” But “pooh-pooh” isn’t a scientific argument. So who is really doing science, and who is the “cult?” My supreme interest is in the unscientific methods that somehow dominate our society. You can read about it in my failed book, The Mental Environment: (Mostly about Mind Pollution), and you can read my argument anti-anti-psi in the chapter, “Freshman Orientation,” which concludes by saying that the Dartmouth College Library has every issue of the Journal of Parapsychology, going back to 1937, but every freshman knows, once the social signals have been sent, that they aren’t supposed to read it.
So I am here to support the scientific investigation of psi phenomena in the face of the unscientific methods, the prejudice and propaganda and politics on the part of persons in power, that determine who gets published, who is allowed to belong to professional societies, and who gets a job.
Q: What are your favorite things about volunteering at the Rhine?
Belonging and being useful.
Q: Do you have a favorite story or experience from any of the Rhine events?
I was most impressed by the mass-audience-participation experiment conducted by Daryl Bem. He flashed 24 words on the screen and asked us to write down all that we remembered. Then, after we had done that, he had us “practice” with 12 of them. Then he asked us to count how many we had remembered of those we had “practiced” in the future and those we hadn’t. First of all, I felt that I hadn’t done very well because I remembered only 9 of the 24, but I was amazed that I remembered 7 of the ones we “practiced” and only 2 of the others.
Q: If you have any other comments or interesting stories, please share them!
One thing I like about living in the South is that I was able to plant my tomato plants in mid-April as opposed to late May in New England.
The Rhine Research Center is run almost entirely by volunteers, and our community is a strong one, valued by all who choose to be a part of it. We have excellent speakers and workshops, potluck dinners, psi games nights, innovative research, a thriving psychic experiences group and remote viewing group, and a general happy atmosphere. In the midst of all of this camaraderie, we are also getting a lot of work done and doing our best to bring attention, interest, and funding for the scientists who are devoting their lives to studying parapsychology.