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Heywood, Rosalind

Category: Scientist

 

Rosalind Hedley Heywood (1895-1980) was a British writer, scientist and psychical researcher. 

Rosalind was for many years on the council of the Society for Psychical Research, with Professors C.D. Broad and H.H. Price, Sir Alister Hardy, Dr R.H. Thouless and others, and she became one of its Vice-Presidents.

She wrote a number of books based on the findings of the SPR and her own independent research; her books were published in the U.S.A., Sweden, Brazil, Japan and other countries.  But she also had her own experiences, both she and her husband seemed to have a gift for a number of different sorts of spiritual experience.  At times one wonders whether her husband was not more gifted than she was. 

for credits for this and all other paintings on this page see below

She wrote and spoke for the S.P.R. and the English Speaking Union, of which she was a governor, “having much at heart the promotion of friendly contacts between the peoples of the Commonwealth and the U.S.A”.

She also contributed to a number of symposiums, for example, Science and E.S.P., edited by Dr J.R. Smythies, to the symposium Man's Concern with Death, masterminded by Arnold Toynbee, and to the symposium Life After Death.

She also did a good deal of broadcasting and television work.

Rosalind brought a sensitivity and understanding to this area of research which was somewhat lacking after the war and it is partly through her efforts that the torch for research into this area continued to be carried and burned bright in the UK.  Her books are eminently readable and entertaining, even funny at times.

Renée Haynes. (1982) - The Society for Psychical Research, 1882-1982: A History

…her books have illuminated the subject matter of parapsychology for thousands of readers inside the Society and beyond.

 

Life

Rosalind Heywood was the daughter of Colonel Sir Coote Hedley, the surveying expert.  She had a privileged upbringing with a Nanny in comfortable surroundings.  Her mother was very nervous, and somewhat over protective, it was a time when little girls were expected to be seen and not heard, and a time when ‘education’ for girls was somewhat difficult to come by.  Girls were expected to marry and serve their husbands – not think for themselves.  And Rosalind thought for herself – all the time.  The one saving grace appears to have been her father….

 

The Infinite Hive – Rosalind Heywood

The first voice to be heard from the distant Edwardian world of my childhood is our aged Nanny's, 'Naughty girl! What you want is a good licking!' The first picture is of my own legs and arms flailing in protest against the vast silk handkerchief which would be tied over my shrieking mouth to protect the tender ears of grown-ups. But perhaps the fault was not all mine. She had been my father's Nanny too, and, so my mother told me in after years, could never quite forgive me for being a girl.
Also she may have needed to lick something since in her youth, her young man had vanished to America and had never been heard of again. I do not think she was unkind to me, but she did not encourage what she called Namby-Pambyness. Nor, in his very different way, did our devoted father. He was our God as well as our father, tall, handsome, impersonally just and a famous cricketer.
When he smiled his delightful smile and said 'Not bad' (it was not necessary to add, 'for a girl'), our young hearts swelled like Christmas balloons. He took for granted that Fusses are Never Made, and this, together with Nanny's disapproval of Namby-Pambyness, made us take stoicism as a Law of Nature, so much so that my young sister once walked for miles uncomplaining while an upthrust shoe-nail bored a hole in her foot, and I said nothing when a table crashed on mine with such force that on going to bed I found a toe-nail adrift in my sock.
Our mother would have died for us, but to confide in her was out of the question. We sensed that she was frightened of Nanny, if we ailed she got really anxious, and there was also a second Law that she must never be worried. We were told that in her youth some doctor had diagnosed - I suspect erroneously - that she 'had a heart'.


Much of Rosalind’s education was the equivalent of ‘home schooling’, and she read a great number of books from various libraries.  When Rosalind was eleven her father was sent to India to reorganise its geographical survey and he decided to take his entire family with him.  The family were based in Calcutta, but during the hot weather they migrated to Darjeeling in the Himalayas:

The Infinite Hive – Rosalind Heywood

'Look, children, there are the Snows' said our father, pointing we thought towards the nothingness. For a long time we could not see them. We had not looked high enough. Then at last, towering against the cobalt sky, we saw Kanchenjunga, white, shining, inviolate, all but the highest mountain in the world. I could not - and cannot - formulate what moved me almost beyond bearing in the Hills. It was as if some wind of the spirit blew down on the childish creature and touched something in it awake, so that it could never be quite so childish again.


After they returned from India, Rosalind became aware that she could sense ‘presences’.  She was not able to ‘see’ them, and in fact she says that if she had been able to see them, it might have been less unnerving, but she knew they were there.

The Infinite Hive – Rosalind Heywood

It is hard to get the emphasis right when writing of childhood experiences, and if I have painted myself as a quiet, dreamy little girl I have got it wrong. Anything to do with Insides and Presences I kept carefully to myself, or rather, it did not occur to me to mention them, and on the surface I delighted in games and adventures just as much as in drawing, music and books. I suspect that I was also tiresomely observant, to judge by the caricatures of wives of Empire Builders in India which I found in an old drawing book the other day.


She had a Parisian governess from whom she learnt French and studied music, playing the piano.  Her mother remained bewildered by the fact she did not want to be an ‘ordinary girl’.

The Infinite Hive – Rosalind Heywood

I don’t order my thoughts they come [I said].  And I still want to know why mending petticoats is more worthwhile than practising Bach?
‘Well, music is only entertainment, isn’t it’ she said, more puzzled than ever.
I froze.  We were a million miles apart.


When the 1914 war broke out, it came as something of a thunderbolt.  Her upbringing had led to her believing in a world of security guaranteed by the all powerful British Empire, which would of course ‘last for ever’.  Her father was in the War Office and on seeing an appeal in the Times for volunteer nurses she applied.  She helped at Barts hospital, then Millbank Military hospital.  She coped remarkably well and there met people who were more down to earth, that she took to immediately.  She volunteered to go to Macedonia and served in the QMG hospital.

The Infinite Hive – Rosalind Heywood

Three weeks before he died one man, a Scot, left us mentally, crying out that he had to look for a ‘saxpence in the left hand corner of the worrrld’.  But just before he died, he came back and looked at me with affectionate, rational eyes ‘Ye’re a good gurrrl Nurse’ he said.


She had her first real love affair with a French Officer of Scottish descent called Alex, who was already married.  The affair was doomed, and they parted in deep sorrow.  He was subsequently killed in the Second World War.  She arrived back in London in 1919.  She then enrolled on a course in social sciences at London University and helped with charity work.

Rosalind first met her future husband in Macedonia.  After her marriage to Frank Heywood, she spent many years moving from country to country in the wake of her husband during his career as soldier, diplomat, businessman and inventor.

The Infinite Hive – Rosalind Heywood

1921 Marriage. Husband at Staff College.
1923-4 Husband at War Office. Quiet Life.
1925 Birth of first child. I suffer from 'theories' about the need for mothers to look after their own children and carry them out.
1927  Move to the country when husband returns to his regiment.
1928 Birth of second son. Stay with Gilbert Murrays, when husband sent to Turkey as Military Attache. Worldly life begins when I join him there.
1929 Husband transferred to Brussels and The Hague.
1931 As Army promotion blocked, husband transfers to Foreign Service. Posted to Berne.
1933 Posted to Budapest.
1934 Posted to Washington.
1938 On being asked to run the exports of a friend's firm, husband leaves the Foreign Service and returns to England. I join the Society for Psychical Research.
1939 Tour Africa. War. Husband returns to the Army. I am involved in WVS work, etc mainly at home in the country, to a small extent in London.
1943 Take a house in London.
1948 Difficult period. Private income fades away. Country home sold. In London husband and sons start to build up a business based on machines designed by themselves. In time left over from domestic chores I also start to build up a life along the lines of my own interests.
1913 Onwards. Seeds sown begin to sprout.


Thus it is only from about 1938, that she was able to pursue her interest in psychical research.  But she never looked back.  The Society's study, from the strictly scientific standpoint, “of the lesser-known faculties of the human being” was one which appealed to her particularly, and part of the fascination arose from the fact she was a sensitive herself, not just an investigator.  As she put it “I can be my own guinea-pig”.

One of the advantages of Heywood’s books is that she writes them as one who has experienced the things she was studying.  And she was a good observer, documenting the circumstances extremely well.  In fact, she was a very good scientist.  Instead of endlessly trying to prove to cynics that these experiences are real, she was more interested in finding out why they happened, as such she moved us all one step beyond the ‘what’ and started to lead us into the ‘why’ and ‘how’.

 

References

 

Wikipedia is predictably dismissive of Heywood and her books, it is clear that the person writing the entry did not even do Rosalind the courtesy of reading her books, as such the entry is factually inaccurate.  How easy it is to be cynical when one knows nothing. Rosalind's two main books are:

  • The Sixth Sense (1959)
  • The Infinite Hive (1964) - her autobiography

New York Times Book Review
The freshness and vitality of this book puts it very high in the special category of autobiographical records of out of the ordinary experience.

The Times said The Infinite Hive 'provokes thought', which can only be a good thing.

The Observations

Rosalind’s experiences are described below under the name ‘Heywood, Rosalind’, but we have also included a number of experiences she documented in her books, which were those of other people.  For convenience, we have grouped them round her name, but kept them separate from hers by using the name ‘Rosalind Heywood’ . 

The Paintings

The paintings on this page are all by Melissa Scott Miller. 

Melissa (born 1959, in London) is an award winning English artist, specialising in scenes of London urban life.  She attended the Slade School of Fine Art and has exhibited at the Mark Jason Gallery and the New English Art Club, Hunting/Observer Art Prizes, The Mall Galleries; A T Kearney; BP Portrait Award; The London Group, in the National Collection and on 17 occasions at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.  In 1999, Melissa was elected a member of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters.  Melissa is a teacher at Heatherley’s School of Fine Art, London.

Observations

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