31 Oct

The nimble mind of Andrew Bird was continually creating combinations and connections never made before. His most important such feat occurred in the summer of 1902.

Recently hired as an information analyst in the Bureau of Secret Service, the foreign intelligence branch of what came to be called in time MI5, he allowed complete freedom to his keen and creative imagination. How could he improve British espionage, that was his his ambitious goal. He was driven by a fervent desire to apply to spying and intelligence gathering skills that he had developed in his private hobby, as one of the active members of the Society for Psychical Research. His dream was to help construct a linking bridge between two distant, separated areas of personal interest to himself.

With whom could Andrew discuss this obviously fantastic plan?

He decided to ask for an appointment with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the novelist with deep curiosity about the paranormal. The famous creator of Sherlock Holmes would give him the wise advice he needed.

Andrew wrote, outlining his scheme, and received an invitation to meet with the celebrated writer.

Andrew found that he was both shorter and thinner than the older man. The two shared a table in the luxuriant dining room of the Liberal Club, a center of London literary life. As they shook hands, Andrew noted how paunchy the successful novelist had become.

Only after the pair finished dinner and lit up cigars did the government intelligence analyst get down to the business that concerned him.

“I occupy a position where I believe much can be accomplished in the area of telesthetic progress, sir. Let me explain. The subject that has since early youth enthralled me is psychic communication. What if that capacity could be heightened and extended for the purposes of military intelligence? What if it could be made the means of carrying out an advanced form of espionage? I am dreaming of reception of telepathic reports on an immediate basis from our agents in foreign countries. What an advantage that would provide Great Britain!”

His voice had grown muffled and nearly silent as he finished his proposal to Conan Doyle.

The writer appeared shocked and somewhat shaken upon hearing this. His eyes focused on the small, round face of the younger man.

“The existence of communicative abilities remains in dispute and is still to be firmly proven by science. I myself am very sympathetic to what you foresee as a possibility. Yet it will surely be very difficult to convince the organs of government to experiment with anything that centers around telepathic powers of the human mind. I predict enormous opposition to what you wish to attempt, my good man.

“Why do you believe psychic abilities can find a place in intelligence work?”

Andrew leaned forward and lowered his voice. “Because I have developed my own personal capacity and am ready to apply it in my official work,” he said in nearly a whisper.

The two gazed at each other in wonder for a short while.

“My own personal knowledge is insufficient to render any final judgment on this matter,” said Doyle. “But your idea remains highly intriguing to me. You must present the plan you have to the leading lights of our Society for Psychic Research. It must be done as soon possible. I think that application in your area will arouse both support and opposition. But those who become your supporters will need a mountain of positive evidence.

“I can arrange for you to see the leading pioneers in the  field of interest that you and I share.”

Andrew was delighted that the author arranged for him to meet with Sir Oliver Lodge up at Cambridge. On a day off from work at Westminster, he took a train to the university town, finding his way to the private quarters of the renowned scientist, one of the original founders of the Society for Psychical Research. His field of study was psychology, where he had earned a stellar reputation.

The elderly scholar was warmly welcoming to his young visitor.

“I understand from Conan that you plan the direct application of advanced telesthetic methods,” smiled the white-haired researcher. “Our national security is your professional concern, I have been told. Yes, Britain exists in a very dangerous international game of competition, indeed.”

“Military intelligence is my specialty. I am involved in contact with our foreign operatives who operate in complete secrecy. That is where I foresee great benefits from telepathic communication. If we do not develop useful tools there, our enemies might outdo us with their own psychic agents, sir.”

The blue eyes of the older man became misty as he suddenly began to reminisce.

“It was a very small group of us from the various sciences who organized our Society back in 1882. Our aim was the rigorous study of clairvoyance and apparitions at that time. The course of events compelled us to include psychic communication as well, as time passed. Our range grew along with our membership. Because of my knowledge of electromagnetism, I was able to  make advances in the area of mental phenomena.

“For me and many of my colleagues here at Cambridge, the human mind possesses a wide range that is similar to the electromagnetic spectrum. There is within each of us a subliminal self along with the substantive one. We know that electromagnetic waves can now carry telegraphic messages and signals without the use of wires. That has been the historical achievement of Marconi and others. Is it possible that mental, psychic communicaions can likewise be performed? That is the core of all the research of our Society.

“Telepathy must become in the future the exact parallel to wireless telegraphic communication. That is the target that science must aim for. Sooner or later, there will be a revolutionary breakthrough in that field.”

“That is also my personal dream,” excitedly declared Andrew Bird. “I have for several years tried to develop my own natural gift in that area, and attained remarkable progress. My thought have been focused on the concept the vibrational foundation of all reality, similar to the nature of light and sound. Could all reality be a variety of forms of oscillation and pulsation? Is the world of material substances also based on fluctuation and frequency? I recall that many ancient thinkers believed so. At any rate, that seems to me a good framework for explaining the realm of the telepathic and psychic.

“My hope is to make our country the leader in that sector, especially in the work that I engage in.”

A short silence followed, broken by Sir Oliver.

“I must have the Prime Minister talk with you,” announced the scientist. “He will be as fascinated as I am by the program that you envision.”

An invitation to Number Ten Downing St. arrived in less than a week.

Sir Arthur J. Balfour, head of the government, had served as president of the Society for Psychical Research in the years from 1892 to 1894. Throughout his political career, he maintained a deep interest in all matters paranormal. He was now eager to hear firsthand the possibilities for national security foreseen by Andrew Bird. The latter went to the meeting with his nerves on edge. But he was instantly put at ease by the modest, congenial national leader.

“I am enthused by what I have been told by my friend, Oliver,” said the Prime Minister once Andrew had finished outlining his plans of intelligence expansion through psychic development.

“Yes, you shall be authorized to recruit a team of gifted operatives to test whether they can apply their methods in your area of operation. Of course, complete secrecy of the project must be kept at all times. We will have to advance beyond what is known at present. The boundaries that now exist will have to come down. Every effort must be made to arm our country with these methods and capabilities.

“I can foresee enormous benefits to our security when you have successfully utilized the special talents of the mind to gather and organize intelligence for the nation.”

Balfour peered into the large, gray eyes of Andrew Bird with unconcealed zeal for the latter’s cause.

“The future survival of Great Britain may hinge on what you can achieve,” said the politician who was an amateur psychic to his secret visitor.

Year by year, progress occurred in the clandestine program buried within the Bureau of Secret Service. Andrew recruited a growing number of skilled, naturally gifted agents for both research and practical applications out in the field. Since Germany was the primary military foe and the greatest danger to security, the agents were trained in that country’s language.

A new, special term was applied to these individuals. By the time that war broke out in August of 1914, the Bureau of Secret Service had a dozen “marconi” within German territory. These telepathic spies possessed the ability to pick up wire and wireless messages through use of mental powers. Army and Navy communications were open to their psychic minds. But Berlin was the hub of their espionage activities. These well-disguised secret agents then were capable of sending what they had gathered to fellow telepaths back in Britain, at the agency center in Whitehall.

Troop movements and strategic changes became known in time to be opposed with success. The military plans of Germany were no longer concealable. Whatever German authorities communicated to each other was soon also shared by the leaders of the British government and the General Staff. Messages captured by telesthenic concentration of the marconis were immediately transmitted to London. No important decision could be hidden. The result was victory on the battlefields of the war. Germany, without knowing the reason why, suffered a series of serious military defeats.

The British generals came to demand ever more data. Their hunger for information grew insatiable. By the beginning of 1916, the number of marconis in Germany had to be doubled to meet the need for intelligence.

As a succession of Allied victories came on all fronts, “more” became the common cry of the military. Andrew carried ever more responsibilities. He had to organize larger teams of receiver psychics for the central headquarters and infiltrate more marconis into German-held land.

The Foreign Secretary was now Sir Arthur Balfour, the former Prime Minister who had supported the first steps of the new program of intelligence. He was especially close to Andrew. The two of them frequently met and conferred outside the presence of William Melville, chief of the Secret Service Bureau. The latter knew of and resented this special relationship that his subordinate enjoyed with the veteran psychic supporter in the Cabinet. The tension in the Bureau grew, finally surfacing when a critical disaster struck the telepathic program in 1916.

During that summer, warning signs of German awareness of what was going on began to appear. An agent inside Germany was caught, then another one in Austro-Hungary. Did one of them reveal to his captors what they were up to? In London, suspicions of torture arose. Melville and his leading associates in the Bureau of Secret Service became increasingly concerned. Had German intelligence uncovered what the British psychics were doing? Even more disturbing was the possibility that the enemy might now duplicate that program and set out a system of its own marconis within Britain itself. Melville attempted to sound an alarm on the danger of enemy imitation of what Andrew Bird had conceived of and created.

One night in July of 1916, a total telepathic blackout from the Continent shut down the system of psychic espionage. No more transmissions arrived from the marconis over the Channel. The cut-off was instantaneous and total. An invisible wall had somehow been raised. Not a single word was received in London any more. The reception operators looked at each other in confusion.

What had happened? No one was able to answer the questions that arose from all directions.

Andrew spent hours questioning the staff psychics. He could conceive of no change that would lead to such a result. No one around him had any solution to this terrible puzzle.

A number of times, Melville summoned Andrew Bird to his office.

“We are working on it, night and day,” pleaded Andrew. “We will soon find the answer, of that I am certain.”

In his private office, Bird even tried his own personal psychic capacity to reach Germany, but without any success.

There was only one possible conclusion, he finally reasoned. The Germans had caught on to what they were doing and set up some kind of total telepathic shield. Nothing could penetrate through this obstructing entity. It sealed off the territory held by the other side.

What would the new situation mean for the outcome of the war? That was the question that led to sleepless nights for those in the program in London.

If German psychics had constructed a barrier, there had to be some way of overcoming and destroying it, Andrew told himself. Since he was the creator of the British system of psychotelegraphy, he bore a special responsibility for the discovery of a means of overcomiing the obstacle built by the enemy.

We do not have a solution yet, he told himself, but there has to be some way of outsmarting the German counterintelligence agents who are thwarting our espionage operations in Europe.

In an unending quandary as to what action his side could take, Andrew decided it would be helpful if he met and conversed on the problem with the Foreign Minister, from the start a strong supporter of the program that formed the marconis.

He called the central Whitehall office of Alfred Balfour and left a message that he wished to have an appointment as soon as possible. The matter was most urgent and of great importance, concerning the enemy response to the British advanced initiative.

Andrew was surprised when the chief of the Bureau of Secret Service appeared at his office with a special message for him.

“Balfour wishes to see both of us at once over the problem that has befallen your team of marconis. He wants a direct report from you on the situation our people now face within Germany and the occupied countries.” He paused, staring into the eyes of Bird with an unfriendly expression on his face. “Why didn’t you inform me that you requesed to meet with the Foreign Secretary in private? You could have gone through me from the very begining rather than acting directly on your own.”

No reply to this came, so that Melville made no further statement on the breech of procedure.

“Let us leave at once,” said the chief of the bureau. “A simple walk would be the swiftest way of getting to the Foreign Office.”

He seems to be emphasizing the point that we are not directly under the authority of that department of government, that Balfour is not himself in charge of our clandestine activities in the field of intelligence.

Their trek through the streets of Westminster proved to be silent for the two men. In all directions, clerks and bureaucrats hurried in all directions, at forced speeds.

A male aide ushered them into the private chamber of the Secretary upon their arrival.

An older Alfred Balfour, weighed down by official duties and burdens, greeted them and asked that they take chairs facing his broad, heavy desk.

“I know, in general, of the serious problem you face from the Germans,” he began. “Can you devise any measures by which the flow of intelligence information to us from over there may be restored? The future of our success on the military fronts depends, to the greatest degree, on what can soon be accomplished in rebuilding the advantage we enjoyed only a short time ago.”

Unable to make any detailed proposal, Andrew had to allow Melville to be the one replying to the question from the Foreign Minister.

“We are still searching for a specific means of correcting conditions, sir,” said the head of the Secret Service. “So far, there are no hopeful alternatives available to us. The difficulties that British intelligence faces are, for now at least, insurmountable. We can do nothing, I fear.”

Balfour, with a frowning forehead, turned to Andrew Bird and addressed him as if the two of them were alone somewhere else. He seemed to be years in the past, when the telepathic realm was still mostly unexplored.

“I did not sleep a wink last night, worrying about the difficulty our country now faces on a front that did not exist a short time ago. We have made spectacular progress, but the Germans appear to have quickly leaped ahead of us. How was that possible? What have we overlooked? Why have we been defeated in the sphere of the mind and its hidden powers? We must resolve that Britain will again become the victor on the psychic battlefield.” He stared intently at Andrew Bird, pausing for only a few moments before  going on.

“Years of reading the journals and books in the field offer me at least on possibility, though it may seem far-fetched and visionary at first.”

“What are you thinking of, sir?” asked Melville with anxiety in his voice.

“There has to be a  means of piercing the psychic shield over Germany from our side. What if we moved our entire corps of psychic agents into a single, unified effort from here on our island? Could a strong enough mental force break through for permanent victory? No one can say for certain until an attempt is actually made.”

No one said anything as the concept proposed by Balfour was thought through.

At last, Andrew decided to give his evaluation of what the cabinet member had just presented.

“Like so much in our field of work, any countermeasure must start as an experiment, an exploration of what the human mind is capable of. The answer will probably turn out to be something never attempted or done before. That is inevitable, for we are in uncharted regions. It may be the case that minds are in conflict with other minds, on a national basis. Emissions of thought out of the Continent are clashing with mind waves generated by German psychics.

“You have just recommended that we assemble a united telepathic force as a massed, mobilized  single unit for one, unified effort. No one can now foresee what the actual outcome will turn out to be. No question, it will be an experiment unlike any other ever carried out before in history. But whatever the final result, we shall at least know more than we do at the present moment.

“Yes, we have to try something new and different. There is no alternative for us.”

Balfour moved out of his chair. “You should begin the reorganization of forces at once.”

Andrew Bird directed the  co-ordinated focusing of the enlarged, centralized telepathic unit. Hour after hour, these combined mental forces concentrated on penetrating the invisible etheric barrier that impeded the marconis in Germany and occupied areas. The requirements were incredibly great and hard. No one had secure knowledge of where the program was going. Something unprecedented was under way, with scores of psychics together in a single location of Whitehall.

The stress and tension at the Bureau of Secret Service was something that none of the participants had ever experienced before. The brows of the telepaths were covered with continuous sweat. The reports that came to the desk of Andrew were negative and discouraging. Depression and despair rose on all sides as hopes started to fade.

Early one morning, William Melville entered the office of Bird. The chief carried a folder of recent reports. He stepped close to the desk and placed all he held in his hand in front of Andrew.

“Here is one report you have to read. It is either significant or meaningless. I myself am unable to decide one way or the other.”

Andrew took the folder, opened it, and perused what it contained.

He felt a humming vibration in his brain and nerves the more he read.

Melville watched him without making a single sound.

At last, Bird closed the file and looked up at his superior, still standing as if in military formation.

“What can it mean?” asked Andrew. “I cannot understand these reports about French amateur psychics receiving transmissions containing information in German sent over telegraph wires and on electromagnetic waves. Are their receptions resulting because of continued emissions by our marconis in Germany? If so, why do we still fail to receive them here in England?

“I don’t see the meaning of these fantastic reports at all. They come to us because they are being gathered by British Army Intelligence on the Western Front. What is blocking their further movement to London?”

Melville moved closer, picking up the folder off the desk top.

“If our marconis can be picked up in France, that means that they continue to transmit. But why, then, do our people here fail to receive any signals whatsoever?”

He gave the other a questioning, glaring look.

“The shielding wall is not over there on the Continent,” reasoned Andrew aloud,”therefore, it can only be further to the west, somewhere here in England. A wall in our own country is isolating the receptor psychics from the transmissions being sent to them.”

“How can that be done?” questioned Melville.

“That is the next riddle that must be solved by us,” replied Bird.

Andrew telephoned the Foreign Office and requested a meeting with the Minister as soon as it could be arranged. He was told to come at once, that he would have an opportunity to see Balfour within the hour. Alone, without the Bureau chief who had not been informed of the call, the psychic went to this private session with the cabinet official.

When he arrived, an aide told Bird that his boss had not yet returned from a meeting with the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, but was expected back shortly.

The visitor took a seat and waited with impatience, rehearsing in his mind what he was going to say. It appeared to be nearly an impossible situation to cope with. Who were the German agents with the ability to erect a solid wall of mental power that placed an psychic embargo around Britain? How had the enemy developed such counterintelligence potential?

Counterintelligence! he told himself.

We have to build up a better counterintelligence than what the Germans have. Our country needs a kind of counter-counterintelligence.

He suddenly knew what he had to recommend to Balfour.

The face of the Foreign Secretary turned ghostly pale as Andrew described the thought that had occurred to him while waiting in the anteroom.

“The secret psychic weapon of the enemy is a network of underground telepathic German spies in our own land. They are the ones who maintain a wall towards the east from here. They have to be located and disabled all the way from the south of London to the far north. A great counterintelligence campaign will be necessary, but it can bring us the ability to once more receive messages. I would first of all attempt a clean sweep of the ports and coastal zones facing the Continent. Step by step, we can bring our focus to the capital. The best way to capture tha German psychics in our midst is through the use of our own telepaths. They can travel about all over the southern and eastern counties, searching for psychic signals from enemy operatives. I fear that many of their agents may turn out to be Englishmen with disloyal hearts.”

“It could be a laborious process,” said Balfour. “Time and manpower will have to be spent. But there is no reasonable alternative, is there?”

“I’m afraid not,” muttered Andrew. “We will have to start this complicated hunt at once. The spies may be acting in relays, relieving each other so as to keep up their wall day and night. We shall have to unearth them one by one.”

“I believe that you should be the one in charge of the cleansing sweep,” opined the Minister.

In a long series of separate incidents, the component parts of German psychic intelligence within England were located, identified, and killed. As long as even one survived, full marconi transmission from the Continent remained in danger. Not until October of 1918 was the task of extirpation concluded. The last, final German telepath in Britain was captured and disposed of.

The morning that the telepathic wall disappeared, there was happy rejoicing in the offices of the Bureau of Secret Service.

When the first reports from marconis in Germany arrived, several of the receptor psychic rushed into the private office of Andrew Bird to inform their leader of the event. He had declined in health from the heavy load of work and worry. The man had aged and was totally exhausted.

The shock of victory was so severe that he suffered a terrible cerebral stroke. Andrew expired in an instant. He was to be honored as a casualty of the telepathic sector of the war. His contribution to both national security and to science remained unforgetable.


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