Neihardt, John G(neisenau) (1881–1973)
Eminent American poet and author who also founded an organization
for parapsychological research known as SORRAT
(the Society for Research on Rapport and Telekinesis). Neihardt
was born on January 8, 1881, near Sharpsburg, Illinois,
the son of a farmer. He was educated at Nebraska Normal College
(now Nebraska State Teachers College at Wayne), obtaining
a diploma in science 1897.
From a period he lived among Native Americans, first with
the Omaha (1901–07) and later among the Lakota (Sioux). Out
of his relationship with the Lakota would come his single most
famous book, Black Elk Speaks (1932). He then became the literary
editor of the Minneapolis Journal (1911–20). In 1923, he was
appointed professor of poetry at the University of Nebraska,
Lincoln, and later held jobs as literary editor of the St. Louis
Post-Dispatch (1926–38), director and field representative for
the Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Department of the Interior
(1943–48) and lecturer in English and poet-in-residence at the
University of Missouri–Columbia (1949–65).
Through his life Neihardt was repeatedly honored. He received
the Poetry Society of America Prize for best volume of
verse in 1919 and was named poet laureate of Nebraska by an
act of the legislature, 1921. He was awarded the Gold Scroll
Medal of Honor of National Poetry Center (1936) and the Writers
Foundation award for poetry (1964). He was elected to the
Nebraska State Hall of Fame in 1974. A bronze bust of Neihardt
had already been placed in the rotunda of the Nebraska
capital by an act of the state legislature in 1961. The Garden
Club of Bancroft, Nebraska, acquired the cottage in which he
lived and where he did much of his writing as a museum of Neihardt
memorabilia, and there is a special Neihardt Memorial
Collection at the University of Missouri.
Neihardt was friendly with Joseph B. Rhine, famous parapsychologist
and director of the Foundation for Research on
the Nature of Man. Neihardt’s experience with the Omaha and
Lakota probably influenced his philosophical views expressed
in what has been called ‘‘pragmatic mysticism,’’ involving the
heightened awareness of prayer and meditation being applied
to everyday life. In 1908, he married Mona Martensen, who
had earlier spent some time as companion to a Spiritualist and
who was convinced that psychic experience could not be dismissed.
Apparently she had considerable mediumistic talents
herself.
From the 1920s on, Neihardt spent some time investigating
psychic phenomena at first hand, and he was also well aware of
paranormal experiences among the Lakota. In 1926, he met
Caspar Yost, a journalist who had investigated the famous phenomena
of Pearl Curran, through whom the ‘‘Patience
Worth’’ scripts were produced. Neihardt himself made an indepth
study of Curran.
In 1960, with John T. Richards and other associates, Neihardt
formed the Society for Research on Rapport and Telekinesis
in order to develop the investigation of psi faculties under
favorable conditions. Some remarkable effects of psychokinesis
were obtained. The story of the group has been recorded
by Richards in his 1982 book. Neihardt died November 3,
1973.
Sources
Aly, Lucile Folse. John G. Neihardt A Critical Biography. Amsterdam
Radopi, 1977.
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Neihardt, John G. All Is But a Beginning. New York Harcourt,
Brace, Jovanovich, 1972.
———. Patterns and Coincidents A Sequel to All Is but a Beginning.
Columbia University of Missouri Press, 1978.
———. The Sixth Grandfather Black Elk’s Teachings given to
John G. Neihardt. Lincoln University of Nebraska Press, 1984.
———. When the Tree Flowered The Fictional Biography of
Eagle Voice, a Sioux Indian. Lincoln University of Nebraska
Press, 1970.
Richards, John Thomas. SORRAT A History of the Neihardt
Psychokinesis Experiments, 1961–1981. Metuchen, N.J. Scarecrow
Press, 1982.
A Sender of Words Essays in Honor of John G. Neihardt. Salt
Lake City, Utah Howe Brothers, 1984.