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The Column of Lasting Insignificance: December 8, 2007


[Some more very old stuff…]

IN AN ADVENTUROUS MOOD last month, I applied to join Mensa, a society that is so exclusive that potential members pass an intelligence test before being accepted A few days later I received the preliminary test, a Cattell Intelligence Test, and fared as well as I could filling gaps in sentences, matching shapes, eliminating odd words from groups (e.g., page, word, brick, table, musical note), and solving puzzles in reasoning.

(A man bought a horse for $20 and paid for it with a $30 check. The dealer got it changed by a storekeeper and gave the buyer $10 change. The check later bounced, so the dealer refunded the storekeeper’s money. The horse had originally cost the dealer $10. What was his total loss?)

Last week’s mail brought from Mensa an evaluation of my test. “On this evidence,” wrote secretary Victor Serebriakoff, “your intelligence quotient appears to be 148. Put more simply, your score is higher than that of 96 per cent of the population. While these figures are above average, they are unfortunately not up to the very high level we are looking for in our panel.”

With the letter came a printed sheet of information about intelligence tests in general and instructions on converting one’s Cattell I. Q. into the more familiar revised Binet I. Q. (my Binet would be 128.7). There is also a final note from Mensa explaining that the society’s lowest acceptance figure is I. Q. 155 on the Cattell scale (about 136 on the Binet or Wechsler).

This high rating, by the way, represents only about 1 per cent of the population. But if you think you’re in that select group and you want to apply for membership, Mensa’s address is M. S. A., Sandringham, Briscot Road, Rainham, Essex, England.

A COPYWRITER I MET at a party last week makes a tidy, part-time living from running a phony reference service. Say you want to apply for a job, you list one of his phony companies on your resume, and my friend — let’s call him Hal — answers the phone and says:

“Oh, Charley Brown?  Yes, he used to work here. Have you any idea where he is now? He was lured away from us for a better job and we’d like to get him back.”

Any prospective employer, says Hal, is likely to fall heavily for a line like that, but if not, he has various alternative pitches.

“Sometimes I get very aggressive when employers inquire,” he explains. “I say: ‘Sure, I know Charley Brown; he’s working for us right now. What do you want him for? You’re the third one that’s called. He’s quite happy here.’ Then I hang up.”

Hal has various cards and letterheads printed with the names of different phony companies — they cost $3 a thousand to print — but he rarely needs them because most employers settle for a brief phone call. “The higher the salary, the easier they are to impress,” he declares.

Hal’s rates vary from $5 to $15 per reference and he guarantees satisfaction within five calls or money returned. Occasionally some particularly untalented customer seeks more than one reference, and then Hal farms out some of the accounts to friends in Chicago. “One day I envision a nation-wide network of phony-reference providers,” he says. “I already have to lay off some of my bets on the West Coast.”

For obvious reasons Hal doesn’t want to have his own name or those of past customers in print, but he assures me of their satisfaction with his service.

“I can’t claim that any of them became millionaires,” he says, “but plenty went on to comfortable things. One is married to a Hollywood star. He got into the highest circles with our reference, then stopped looking for work altogether when he became a professional husband.”

I HARDLY KNOW HOW to break this news to you. The fact is that I’m no longer the meek, pliable John Wilcock with whom you have become familiar: I am now an apostle of Zohar, a practitioner of Psychic Dominance, and a student of “How to Rule Others With Your Thoughts.” And all for a thin three bucks. What’s more, as soon as I can dominate somebody into loaning me a further $2.75, I’m going to invest in the next step: Psycho-Hypnotic Subjugation; How to Become Popular in 24 Hours.

“Psycho Dominance,” as peddled by some optimistic entrepreneur at 846 Sunnyside Avenue, Chicago, “is a silent power. You don’t have to utter a word to apply it. Your thoughts are the only instruments you need.” Its components are Repressed Exhilaration, Dynamic Telepathy, Your Dominating Aura, and the Cosmic Whirl — in short, the story of my life.

You, too, can step in front of a mirror and practice Repressed Exhilaration. Then, when you’re ready, just pick a victim:

“Inhale slowly and fully… then exhale — actually explode — all the gathered energy in you out to the other person. Feel your gathered energy bursting through your face, chest, neck, arms… Visualize the other person receiving this explosion of your full blast, penetrating him like an x-ray and anesthetizing him from head to foot.”

Once you’ve learned how to blast, or course, the battle is half won:

“With him physically stunned now by your explosion of Repressed Exhilaration, your next move is to pour your command thoughts into his unprotected mind before he can regain his self-possession and resist you. To rule him with your thoughts you have to follow up fast before it wears off… In the Advanced Psychic Power Development Course (a further $9.95, when available) you are taught overwhelming ways of throwing your thoughts through space.”

You think there’s nothing in this course for you? Aha, how uncosmic can you get?

“If you are a woman and want to influence a man, you may think out to him: ‘I am very beautiful and you know it.’

“When stepping out on to the stage or lecture platform think out: ‘I am a great performer. Great, great, great.’

“Or perhaps you want somebody to think you are intelligent. Think out: ‘I am very intelligent, intelligent, intelligent.’”

There’s a great deal more of this fascinating course. “How to Win a Fist Fight With Psychic Dominance” is the title of one chapter, for example. And a brief explanation of How to Launch the Cosmic Whirl also sounds useful:

“After devitalizing your victim with the Dominating Aura, you turn to something earthy to recuperate. The other person, as a result, regains somewhat his self-possession. His mind flashes probing telepathic feelers into yours to find out what you are bent on, but your blanked-out mind supplies no answer. The vain probing exhausts him, confuses him all the more and adds an air of mystery to you.”