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Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center

Dr. Walter von Lucadou

Dr. Walter von Lucadou

In this new article Walter von Lucadou and Franziska Wald discuss counseling work with persons that have had a variety of “extraordinary” experiences in Germany: “Extraordinary Experiences in its Cultural and Theoretical Context.” International Review of Psychiatry, 2014, 26, 324-334. For reprints write to the authors:  

Franziska Wald

Franziska Wald

Here is the abstract:

The growing complexity, opaqueness and specialization of many areas of life and – above all – a booming psychological and esoteric market create the necessity for counselling and advice for individuals who encounter so-called ‘paranormal’ experiences. These experiences are often interpreted as ‘transpersonal’ or ‘spiritual’, depending on the cultural background and religious traditions. The term ‘spiritual crisis’ has become a fashionable diagnosis with some transpersonal psychotherapists. Paranormal experiences, regardless of their acceptance of academic psychology and psychiatry, are still a taboo subject in society. The Parapsychological Counselling Office in Freiburg is a professional unit with governmental support, which helps individuals to cope with such experiences adequately. The work and responsibilities of the counselling centre are presented. A large collection of cases in the form of letters, which were sent in by individuals wanting to communicate their unusual or extraordinary experiences have been analysed. Some of the results are reported here. Finally, we discuss a special form of ‘inexplicable experiences’ based on a theoretical model. Its recommendations seem counter-intuitive but are ultimately successful. The model starts from a system-theoretical viewpoint and uses concepts such as complementarity and entanglement of generalized quantum theory (GQT) and the model of pragmatic information (MPI). Since it turned out that individuals who contact the counselling centre also offer their own interpretations and ‘explanation’, the question arises, how these resources can be used to help clients.

 

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center

Here are more references about survey studies published in recent years.

Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson

Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson

Haraldsson, E. (2011). Psychic experiences a third of a century apart: Two representative surveys in Iceland with an international comparison. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 75, 76-90.

In 2006 a large-scale representative survey of psychic beliefs and experiences, and various related local folk beliefs and experiences, was conducted in Iceland. Its purpose was to find out whether substantial changes in personal experiences and beliefs had taken place in the population since the same survey was conducted a third of a century earlier. Since that time there have been great changes in Icelandic society; it has become highly educated (6% of the 1974 sample had attended university compared with 36% of the 2006 sample) and (until the present financial crisis) one of most affluent societies in Europe, and with more contact with other countries than ever before in its history. Somewhat contrary to expectations, there was an increase in reporting almost every kind of psychic experience. Some of these increases may indicate a ‘Harry Potter effect’ among the younger generation, and perhaps there is also some sampling effect, but the findings may indeed show that more people experience real psychic phenomena than earlier, or — formulating this more conservatively — that they interpret their experiences more readily and more often as paranormal in nature. In 1974, 59% of the men reported some psychic experience, and 70% in 2006, while 71% of the women did so in 1974 and 81% in 2006. For some phenomena, such as perceiving a deceased person, there was a significant difference between genders, with more women reporting such experiences than men. But, generally speaking, the correlation between gender and psychic experiences was very low (averaging around 0.12). A similarly low negative relationship was found with level of education. In this paper some comparison is also made with surveys conducted in other countries.

Dr. Harvey J. Irwin

Dr. Harvey J. Irwin

Irwin, H.J., Dagnall, N., & Drinkwater, K. (2013). Parapsychological experiences as anomalous experience plus paranormal attribution: A questionnaire based on a new approach to measurement. Journal of Parapsychology, 77, 39-53.

When persons report a parapsychological experience, they may typically be asserting 2 occurrences: that of an anomalous or seemingly inexplicable event, and their interpretation of this event in paranormal terms. Previous studies identifying correlates of the report of parapsychological experiences may have confounded these 2 factors. The authors describe a new questionnaire which teases apart the 2 factors and report a survey which applied the new measure to the assessment of several potential correlates, namely, schizotypal tendencies, emotion-based reasoning, suspension of reality testing, and executive dysfunction. Data from a convenience sample recruited online supported the potential utility of the questionnaire, although it has yet to be demonstrated that the 2 underlying factors do have different correlates.

Landolt, K., Wittwer,A., Wyss, T., Unterassner, L., Fach, W.,  Krummenacher, P., Brugger, P., Haker, H., Kawohl, W., Schubiger, P.A.,  Folkers, G., & Rössler, W. (2014). Help-seeking in people with exceptional experiences: Results from a general population sample. Frontiers in Public Health, 2, doi: 10.3389/fpubh.2014.00051

Background: Exceptional experiences (EE) are experiences that deviate from ordinary experiences, for example precognition, supernatural appearances, or déjà vues. In spite of the high frequency of EE in the general population, little is known about their effect on mental health and about the way people cope with EE. This study aimed to assess the quality and quantity of EE in persons from the Swiss general population, to identify the predictors of their help-seeking, and to determine how many of them approach the mental health system. Methods: An on-line survey was used to evaluate a quota sample of 1580 persons representing the Swiss general population with respect to gender, age, and level of education. Multinomial logistic regression was applied to integrate help-seeking, self-reported mental disorder, and other variables in a statistical model designed to identify predictors of help-seeking in persons with EE. Results: Almost all participants (91%) experienced at least one EE. Generally, help-seeking was more frequent when the EE were of negative valence. Help-seeking because of EE was less frequent in persons without a self-reported mental disorder (8.6%) than in persons with a disorder (35.1%) (OR=5.7). Even when frequency and attributes of EE were controlled for, people without a disorder sought four times less often help because of EE than expected. Persons with a self-reported diagnosis of mental disorder preferred seeing a mental health professional. Multinomial regression revealed a preference for healers in women with less education, who described themselves as believing and also having had more impressive EE. Conclusion: Persons with EE who do not indicate a mental disorder less often sought help because of EE than persons who indicated a mental disorder. We attribute this imbalance to a high inhibition threshold to seek professional help. Moreover, especially less educated women did not approach the mental health care system as often as other persons with EE, but preferred seeing a healer.

Parra, A. (2013). Cognitive and emotional empathy in relation to five paranormal/anomalous experiences. North American Journal of Psychology, 15, 405-412.

The term empathy has been used to refer to two related human abilities: mental perspective taking (cognitive empathy) and the vicarious sharing of emotion (emotional empathy). Many psychic claimants seem to act more empathic than telepathic. Five specific hypotheses were tested here: People who have telepathic experiences, aura experiences, sense of presence, experience as psychic healers, and apparitional experiences have a higher capacity for (1) Perspective Taking and Emotional Comprehension (Cognitive empathy) and (2) Empathic Concern and Positive Empathy (Emotional empathy) than non-experients. The participants were 634 adults. Results showed that paranormal/anomalous experients scored higher on Perspective Taking, Emotional Comprehension, Empathic Concern, Positive Empathy and Empathy (total score) than nonexperients. Future studies should examine other variables associated with empathy.

Dr. Alejandro Parra

Dr. Alejandro Parra

Parra, A., & Corbetta, J.M. (2013). Experiencias paranormales y su relación con el sentido de la vida [Paranormal experiences and their relationship to the meaning of life]. Liberabit, 19, 251-258.

The effects of paranormal experiences in the life of people were investigated. The results of a sample of 24 people actively interested in new age and esoteric issues that reported having at least one paranormal experience were collected. Such experiences increased their interest in spiritual matters as well as the subjective sense of well-being. They also showed a decrease in fear of death, depression or anxiety, isolation and loneliness; concerns and fears about the future. A large majority of the respondents indicated that these effects were a combination of more than one spiritual, paranormal and transcendental experience. The magnitude of the changes in welfare and spirituality were positively associated with the number of anomalous experiences. Well-being scores and the importance of spirituality were positively associated with changes in welfare and spirituality which resulted from the anomalous experiences. Although 45% of respondents indicated that the paranormal experience had been frightening, this fear seemed to be temporary or mixed with positive feelings.

Sar, V., Alioğlu, F., & Akyüz, G. (2014). Experiences of possession and paranormal phenomena among women in the general population: Are they related to traumatic stress and dissociation? Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 15, 303-318

This study sought to determine the prevalence of experiences of possession and paranormal phenomena (PNP) in the general population and their possible relations to each other and to traumatic stress and dissociation. The study was conducted on a representative female sample recruited from a town in central eastern Turkey. The Dissociative Disorders Interview Schedule, the posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder sections of the Structured Clinical Interviews for DSM–IV Axis-I and Personality Disorders, and the Childhood Abuse and Neglect Questionnaire were administered to 628 women. Of these, 127 (20.2%) women reported at least 1 type of PNP and 13 (2.1%) women reported possession. Women with a dissociative disorder reported all types of possession and PNP (except telepathy) more frequently than those without. Whereas women with a trauma history in childhood and adulthood or PTSD reported possession more frequently than those without, PNP were associated with childhood trauma only. Factor analysis yielded 4 dimensions: possession by and/or contact with nonhuman entities, extrasensory communications, possession by a human entity, and precognition. These factors correlated with number of secondary features of dissociative identity disorder and Schneiderian symptoms. Latent class analysis identified 3 groups. The most traumatized group, with predominantly dissociative and trauma-related disorders, had the highest scores on all factors. Notwithstanding their presence in healthy individuals, possession and PNP were associated with trauma and dissociation in a subgroup of affected participants. Both types of experience seem to be normal human capacities of experiencing that may be involved in response to traumatic stress. Given the small numbers, this study should be considered preliminary.

Dr. Ina Schmied-Knittel

Dr. Ina Schmied-Knittel

Schmied-Knittel, I., & Schetsche, M.T. (2005). Everyday miracles: Results of a representative survey in Germany. European Journal of Parapsychology  20,  3-21. (A longer and updated report of this research appears in the journal Mind and Matter, 2012, 10, 169-184.)

This essay introduces the central results – for the first time in the English language – of a representative survey which was carried out at the Institut fur Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene in Freiburg in the year 2000. Over 1500 persons of the Federal Republic of Germany were questioned in a telephone interview about their attitude towards paranormal phenomena and about personal experiences in this field. The results are surprising: Germans are quite open-minded about paranormal phenomena, and more than half of the people even give an account of personal exceptional experiences. Interestingly, it is primarily young people who believe in the existence of psi phenomena and who are increasingly having personal experiences in this field. Presented are qualitative results, as well as descriptive statistics. In a second telephone interview more than 200 persons were questioned once again, this time in detail, about their personal experiences. It was found that dealing with the paranormal is not seen as problematic at all.

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

Zingrone, N.L., Alvarado, C.S., & Agee, N. (2009). Psychological correlates of aura vision: Psychic experiences,dissociation, absorption, and synaesthesia-like experiences. Australian Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 37, 131-168.

Five survey studies, three conducted from 1995 to 1997 and two more in 2007 and 2008, are reported in which we hypothesized that individuals who claimed to be “aura viewers” would report a higher frequency of other seemingly psychic, mystical and lucid dream experiences and a higher number of discrete psychic experiences than “non-aura viewers.” For Studies 2 through 5, it was also hypothesized that aura viewers would obtain a similar relationship with synaesthesia-like experiences and with measures ofdissociation (using the Dissociative Experiences Scale), absorption (using Tellegen’s Absorption Scale), and depersonalisation (using the Cambridge Depersonalisation Scale). The studies also differed in terms of the language of administration (either Spanish or English) and study populations (from special interest groups to college students to members of the general public). In all five studies, the main hypotheses were confirmed with the exception of lucid dreams, a significant difference between the groups being found only in Studies 3 and 5. In Studies 2 through 5, the predicted relationship of aura vision to synaesthesia and personality variables was confirmed. All five studies suggest that aura vision experiences relate to an overall pattern of claims of psychic and mystical experiences. The consistency of the results was surprising, given the differences in sample selection, language of administration, and study location.

 

 

 

 

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center

In my article “On Constancy, Stability and the Antiquity of Psychic Phenomena” (Paranormal Review, 2014, No. 69, 3-7) I wrote as follows:

“Over the years writers discussing psychic phenomena have used a variety of arguments to establish the validity of observations and belief in specific claims. In addition to discussions of evidence, some have used arguments of authority, citing the names of prestigious individuals that have written in support of phenomena. Others, and this is the topic of these comments, have pointed out that the present situation is not so different from previous developments, arguing that psychic phenomena are as old as humankind and that every culture has produced reports of them. In other words, such long and wide range of precedents are presented to back up the existence and importance of the phenomena, or at least to suggest that the topic deserves attention. Such arguments have been common in the past, as seen in the mesmeric and spiritualist literatures I will briefly discuss in this article.”

Writing about animal magnetism in Rapports et Discussions de l’Académie Royale de Médicine sur le Magnétisme Animal (Reports and Discussions of the Royal Academy of Medicine about Animal Magnetism, 1832) Pierre Foissac noted the antiquity of mesmeric phenomena. These old observations “show that the phenomena of magnetism are subject to laws unknown to us, but yet depending on natural faculties inherent to the human organism.”

Foissac RapportsTeste Manuel Magnetisme 1840Many other books, among them Alphonse Teste’s Manuel Pratique du Magnétisme Animal (Practical Manual of Animal Magnetism, 1840), had chapters about phenomena from the ancient world and the Middle Ages. Burdin and Dubois wrote in their Histoire Académique du Magnétisme Animal Accompagnée de Notes et de Remarques Critiques (Academic History of Animal Magnetism Accompanied by Notes and Critical Remarks, 1841) that: “Among the Greeks Pythagoras was the first of the magnetizers, then came Socrates, Apollonius de Thyana, etc., etc.”

Burdin Dubois Histoire Academique

Zoist 4Some relevant articles appeared in journals such as Zoist. The following are examples:

Chandler, T. (1851). A mesmeric scene a thousand years ago. Zoist, 9, 225-226. 

D., L.L. (1845). Allusions to mesmerism in the classics. Zoist, 3, 156-173, 304-316.

Loyd, W.W. (1847). Magnetism and mesmerism in antiquity. Zoist, 5, 273-285.

Loyd Magnetism Antiquity Zoist 1847

John W. Edmonds

John W. Edmonds

Regarding the antiquity of phenomena Judge John W. Worth wrote in his book, with George T. Dexter, Spiritualism (1853), “to me these facts prove . . . . that . . . there must be something in that which has thus challenged belief in all ages, and if so, that there must be in nature some such law as that whose operations we are now witnessing, and which we are told is thus universal through all earthly time and space in its domination.”

Edmonds Dexter Spiritualism 1853Baudi di Vesme StoriaAlso influential were books such as William Howitt’s The History of the Supernatural (1863), Eugene Crowell’s The Identity of Primitive Christianity and Modern Spiritualism (1881), and Cesare Baudi di Vesme’s Storia dello Spiritismo (1896). Some publications—among them Hull’s The Question Settled: A Careful Comparison of Biblical and Modern Spiritualism (1869) and Stecki’s Le Spiritisme dans la Biblie (1869)—focused on the Bible.

Howitt History of the Supernatural 2

Crowell Identity of Primitive Christianity and Modern Spiritualism

Stecki Spiritisme

In addition, there were many articles, among them:

Anonymous. (1893). Orígen é historia del espiritismo: Sus tendencias como ciencia, filosofía y religion [Origin and history of spiritism: Its trends as science, philosophy and religion]. El Sol, 3, 318-323. 

El Sol 1893

Brevior, T. (1864). Glimpses of spiritualism in China, New Zealand, and Russia. Spiritual Magazine, 5, 70-72.

Brittan, S.B. (1874). Spiritualism of the ancients. Brittan’s Journal:  Spiritual Science, Literature, Art and Inspiration, 2, 1-15.

Brittan's Journaj

Edmonds, J.W. (1859). Spiritualism, as demonstrated by ancient and modern history. Banner of Light, February 26, 5, 8.

Lang Cock Lane and Common Sense

The use of the idea of the universal character of psychic phenomena to argue both for their  existence and their importance, as Andrew Lang did in his book Cock-Lane and Common Sense (1894), is not only a thing of the past. In his 2006 book Entangled Minds Dean Radin argued: “There are words for psi experiences in every language . . . The universality of the words reflects the fact that these phenomena are basic to human experience. And indeed psi experiences have been reported by people in all cultures, throughout history . . . .” 

 Radin Entangled Minds

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center 

I first met David Luke in a convention of the Parapsychological Association and have been interested in his work ever since. David, who has a PhD in Psychology, is currently Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Greenwich. He teaches various courses, among them Psychology of Exceptional Human Experience. David was President of the Parapsychological Association between 2009 and 2011. In 2011 the University of Greenwich granted him an Early Career Research Excellence Award.

Dr. David Luke

Dr. David Luke

One of David’s pages states: “Dr Luke’s broad research interests occur at the intersection between altered states of consciousness and anomalous psychological phenomena. Specifically, this includes the individual differences and social psychology of beliefs about luck, magic and the paranormal. Experimental and field parapsychology from a multidisciplinary perspective, particularly where it intersects with psychology, anthropology, archaeology, ethnobotany and psychopharmacology, the psychology and neuroscience of exceptional human experience, altered states of consciousness and transpersonal psychology.”

Perhaps David’s most recent publication is his anthology about mediumship, edited jointly with Jack Hunter, Talking with the Spirits, which I discussed in a previous blog.

Talking to the Spirits

Interview

How did you get interested in parapsychology?

It was a combination of a few factors. As a truanting schoolboy I would loiter in second-hand book shops and give myself a more self-directed education, reading anything left field in science I could get my hands on. A whole stack of copies of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research appeared on the shelf one day for 10 pence each and I bought the lot. Somewhat perplexed by the dense language I was nevertheless utterly fascinated with the subject matter.

Shortly after I joined the Society  before heading off to university. My interest in altered states of consciousness went back even further and grew right from the moment I could spin round until I went dizzy. I experimented widely with all sorts of altered states and gradually realized I had a deep calling for them beyond mere hedonism. I decided to study psychology at university to make sense of my extraordinary experiences in these states, but finished my degree feeling somewhat disappointed with the sheer limitation of the answers that emerged from mainstream science. I travelled across Mexico for 18 months, discovered shamanism, explored plant entheogens, and finally figured that a doctorate in parapsychology was the closest branch of academia to where I would find my answers. I returned to study and this was certainly a very good start.

What are your main interests in the field and how have you contributed to its development?

My main interests are in altered states of consciousness and exceptional experiences such as psi, especially those experiences occurring during meditation, dreams and following the ingestion of psychedelic substances. I’m also interested in cross-cultural approaches to the subject matter and what we can learn from indigenous cultures about altered states and parapsychological phenomena, as shamans and the like have been utilizing techniques for inducing exceptional experiences for millennia, we suppose. My main contributions have been in developing a simple and seemingly robust methodology for testing for unconscious precognition under controlled conditions and in exploring and expanding upon what we know about the possible neurochemistry of parapsychological phenomena, by researching psychedelics. I’ve also conducted some of the largest scale dream ESP studies.

Why do you think that parapsychology is important?

Parapsychology is important because it explores the far ends of the spectrum of human experience in an open minded and scientific manner, expanding our knowledge of the limits of human capability – helping us make sense of what it is to be human and our relationship to our environment. Furthermore, parapsychology makes a crucial contribution to our understanding of consciousness and the nature of the universe, and indeed reality itself, whatever that may be.

In your view, what are the main problems in parapsychology today as a scientific field?

The biggest problems today, as previously, are with the acceptance of the field by mainstream academia as a whole. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with parapsychology as a science but it has been kept somewhat of a taboo subject by a few vociferous self-appointed gatekeepers of science, although such views are based primarily on prejudice and fear not reasoned analysis and inspection of the research being produced by parapsychologists. Nevertheless, especially within UK academia, parapsychology continues to grow as a discipline, albeit slowly.

Can you mention some of your current projects?

I’m currently furthering my research on psychedelics and psi, but combining two taboo research areas makes for difficult, slow and desperately underfunded research. I’m also continuing my research into dream precognition and conducting field research investigations with shamans, as well as supervising four PhD students who are researching twin telepathy, the sense of being stared at, exceptional experiences in psychotherapy and intuition.

Selected Publications

Books

Hunter, J. & Luke, D. (2014) (Eds.). Talking with the spirits: Ethnographies from between the worlds. Brisbane, Australia: Daily Grail Publishing.

Adams, C., Luke, D., Waldstein, A., Sessa, B., & King, D. (Eds.). (2013). Breaking convention: Essays on psychedelic consciousness. London: Strange Attractor Press.

Anomalistic psychology 2Holt, N., Simmonds-Moore, C., Luke, D., & French, C. (2012). Anomalistic psychology. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

Book chapters

Terhune, D. B., Luke, D. P., & Cohen Kadosh, R. (in press). The induction of synaesthesia in non-synaesthetes. In O. Deroy (Ed.), Sensory blending: New essays on synaesthesia. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Krippner, S., & Luke, D. (2014). Psychedelics and species connectedness. In R. Doblin and B. Burge (Eds.), Manifesting minds: A review of psychedelics in science, medicine, sex, and spirituality. Santa Cruz, CA: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.

Luke, D. (2014). Psychedelic possession: The growing incorporation of incorporation in ayahuasca use. In J. Hunter and D. Luke (Eds.) Talking with the spirits: Ethnographies from between the worlds. Brisbane, Australia: Daily Grail Publishing.

Luke, D. (2013). Psychedelics, parapsychology and exceptional human experience. In C. Adams, D. Luke, A. Waldstein, B. Sessa, and D. King, (Eds.), Breaking Convention: Essays on psychedelic consciousness (pp. 220-227). London: Strange Attractor Press.

Luke, D. (2012). Altered states of consciousness, mental imagery and healing. In C. Simmonds-Moore (Ed.), Exceptional human experiences, health and mental health (pp. 64-80). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Luke, D. (2012). Experiential reclamation and first person parapsychology. In J. Hunter (Eds.), Paranthropology: Anthropological approaches to the paranormal (2nd anniversary anthology) (pp. 179-195). Bristol: Paranthropology.

Luke, D. (2012). Psi-verts and psychic piracy: The future of parapsychology? In D. Pinchbeck and K. Jordan (Eds.), Exploring the edge realms of consciousness: Liminal zones, psychic science, and hidden dimensions of the mind (pp. 114-128). New York: North Atlantic Books.

Luke, D. (2012). Notes on getting cactus lodged in your reducing valve: San Pedro and psychic abilities. In R. Heaven (Ed.). Cactus of mystery: The shamanic powers of the Peruvian San Pedro cactus (pp. 167-195). Rochester, VT: Park Street Press.

Luke, D. (2011). Anomalous phenomena, psi and altered consciousness. In E. Cardeña, and M. Winkelman, (Eds.), Altering consciousness: A multidisciplinary perspective, volume 2- Biological and psychological perspectives (pp. 355-374). Westport, CT: Praeger.

Luke, D. (2010). Parapsychology and the new renaissance. In D. Lorimer and O. Robinson (Eds.), A new renaissance: Transforming science, spirit and society (pp. 137-144). Edinburgh: Floris Books.

Luke, D. P., & Friedman, H. (2010). The speculated neurochemistry of psi and associated processes. In S. Krippner, and H. Friedman (Eds.), Mysterious minds: The neurobiology of psychics, mediums and other extraordinary people. (pp. 163-185). Westport, CT: Greenwood / Praeger.

Peer reviewed journal articles

Luke, D. P., & Terhune, D. B. (2013). The induction of synaesthesia with chemical agents: A systematic review. Frontiers in Psychology, 4:753, 1-12.

Luke, D. P. (2012). Psychoactive substances and paranormal phenomena: A comprehensive review. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 31, 97-156.

Luke, D., Zychowicz, K., Richterova, O., Tjurina, I., & Polonnikova, J. (2012). A sideways look at the neurobiology of psi: Precognition and circadian rhythms. NeuroQuantology: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Neuroscience and Quantum Physics, 10 (3), 580-590.

Luke, D., Terhune, D., & Friday, R. (2012). Psychedelic synaesthesia: Evidence for a serotonergic role in synaesthesia. Seeing and Perceiving, 25, 74.

Luke, D. (2012). Parapsychology 2037: Advancing under the aegis of aligned approaches? Journal of Parapsychology, 76 (supplement), 31-32.

Luke, D. (2011). Experiential reclamation and first person parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 75, 185-199.

Luke, D. (2010). Connecting, diverging and reconnecting. Putting the psi back into psychedelic research. Journal of Parapsychology, 74, 219-234.

Luke, D. (2010). Anthropology and parapsychology: Still hostile sisters in science? Time and Mind: The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness & Culture, 3 (3), 245-266.

Luke, D. P., Roe, C., & Davison, J. (2008). Testing for forced-choice precognition using a hidden task: Two replications. Journal of Parapsychology, 72, 133-154.

Luke, D. P. (2008). Psychedelic substances and paranormal phenomena: A review of the research. Journal of Parapsychology, 72, 77-107.

Luke, D. P., Delanoy, D., & Sherwood. S. J. (2008). Psi may look like luck: Perceived luckiness and beliefs about luck in relation to precognition. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 72, 193-207.

 

 

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center

In recent years many surveys of psychic experiences have been published. Here I present the first part of a list of references and abstracts that will give you a good idea of the types of studies that have been published.

Fach, W., Atmanspacher, H., Landolt, K., Wyss, T., & Rossler, W. (2013). A comparative study of exceptional experiences of clients seeking advice and of subjects in an ordinary population. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 65.  doi:  10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00065

Exceptional experiences (EE) occur frequently within the populations of many countries and across various socio-cultural contexts. Although some EE show similarities with mental disorders, it would be a mistake to identify them in general as disorders. In fact, the vast number of individuals reporting EE includes subclinical and completely healthy subjects. We conducted a comparative empirical study of several characteristics of EE for two samples – one from ordinary population and the other from clients seeking advice. We found surprisingly similar phenomenological patterns of EE in both samples, but the frequency and intensity of EE for clients seeking advice significantly exceeded those for the ordinary population. Our results support the hypothesis of a continuous spectrum between mental health and mental disorder for the types of experiences analyzed.

McClennon, J. (2013). A community survey of anomalous experiences: Correlational analysis of evolutionary hypotheses. Journal of Parapsychology, 77, 55-78.

A questionnaire, administered to a predominantly African-American sample in Northeastern North Carolina (N = 965), surveyed incidence of anomalous experience, psychological symptoms, psychological variables related to shamanism, scales pertaining to psychological well-being, and demographic variables. Multidimensional scaling analysis allowed evaluation of hypotheses drawn from sheep, goat, and “black-sheep” theories. Sheep theories predict that paranormal experiences provide direct survival advantages, derived from psi. Goat theories argue that psi does not exist; anomalous experiences are associated with psychopathology and provide no direct evolutionary benefit. A “black sheep” theory has sheep and goat elements; it portrays a psychosis-spirituality continuum, with benefits derived from spirituality, psi may exist but does not provide direct evolutionary benefits sufficient to overcome psychopathological costs. Within the black sheep paradigm, the ritual healing theory argues that shamanic variables and associated genotypes facilitated coping skills and hypnotic/placebo effects. Study findings provide mixed support for sheep and goat hypotheses but fully support black sheep hypotheses.

Dr. Fatima Regina Machado

Dr. Fatima Regina Machado

Machado, F.R. (2010). Experiências anômalas (extra-sensório-motoras) na vida cotidiana e sua associação com crenças, atitudes e bem-estar subjetivo [Anomalous (extrasensory-motor experiences in daily life and their association with beliefs, attitudes and subjective well-being]. Boletim Academia Paulista de Psicologia, 30, 462-483.

The aims of this research were to verify the prevalence and psychosocial relevance of anomalous extrasensory-motor experiences (or psi experiences); to compare psi experiencers (EXPs) and non experiencers (NEXPs) on demographic variables, practices, beliefs, religiosity and levels of subjective well-being; and to examine attributions of causality that EXPs give to their experiences and the implications of these attributions. Method: Cross-sectional survey. Instruments: Questionnaire of Psi Prevalence and Relevance (QPRP) developed for and semantically validated in this research; Albuquerque and Tróccoli’s Scale of Subjective Well-Being (EBES). Participants: 306 university students and/or workers/businessmen (ages ranging from 18 to 66) who study and/or work in Greater São Paulo (convenience sample). Results: 82.7% of participants claimed at least one psi experience and the great majority indicated that their experiences influenced their attitudes, beliefs and decision making processes. This influence is related to causal attributions that participants related to their psi experiences and are consistent to EXPs’s beliefs, religious identity and religiosity. No significant differences were found between EXPs and NEXPs in terms of sex, income, marital status, religion, religiosity and whether they had gone in search for mental health professionals. Specific significant differences between NEXPs and EXPs in terms of beliefs and practices indicate that EXPs are more open to psi experiences than NEXPs. EXPs tended to score significantly higher on “negative affect” than NEXPs, suggesting that EXPs have a lower level of subjective well-being than NEXPs. Results are not conclusive but indicate tendencies that should be taken into account in their clinical practice by psychologists as well as investigated in future studies.

Dr. Alejandro Parra

Dr. Alejandro Parra

Parra, A. (2011). Examen correlacional entre experiencias anómalo/paranormales, disociación, absorción y propensidad a la fantasía: Exploracion sobre una muestra de estudiantes [Correlationsl study of anomalous/paranormal experiences, dissociation, absorption and fantasy proneness: Explorations with a student sample]. Revista Iberoamericana de Diagnóstico y Evaluación, 1, 77-95.

Three hypotheses are tested. People who have a number of paranormal/anomalous experiences have a higher capacity for dissociation, absorption, and fantasy proneness than non-experients. These hypothesis were supported, the mean for experients was significantly higher than for non experients. Five hundred sixty undergraduate students, 76% females and 24% males (age range 17-57), completed four scales: the Dissociative Experiences Scale, Tellegen Absorption Scale, Creative Experiences Questionnaire, and Paranormal Experiences Questionnaire. Experients scored higher on dissociation, absorption and fantasy proneness than non experients. Probably the present findings are reasonably representative of people who are not actively interested in paranormal phenomena, but many of these kind of experience reach predictable emotional reactions such as amazement, surprise, curiosity and puzzlement, and fear. On the other hand, some people are disturbed by psychic experiences and may need counseling, such as precognitive dreams, telepathy, poltergeist, perception of lights, out-of-the-body experiences, past lives memories, spiritual contacts, and mediumship. This study demonstrated the viability of adopting a psychological approach to better understand the anomalous/paranormal experiences.

Dr. Thomas Rabeyron

Dr. Thomas Rabeyron

Rabeyron, T., & Watt, C. (2010). Paranormal experiences, mental health and mental boundaries, and psi. Personality and Individual Differences, 48, 487–492.

Previous research has suggested that paranormal beliefs and experiences are associated with thinner mental boundaries and traumas during childhood. This paper examines more thoroughly the relationship between paranormal experiences, mental health and boundaries, and psi abilities. One hundred and sixty two participants completed questionnaires about paranormal experiences (AEI), mental health (MHI-17), mental boundaries (BQ-Sh), traumas during childhood (CATS) and life-changing events (LES). A controlled psi experiment was also conducted. Significant correlations were found between paranormal experiences and mental boundaries, traumas and negative life events. The overall results were non-significant for the psi task and no significant correlation was found between psychological variables and psi results. These findings suggest that mainly mental boundaries concerning unusual experiences and childlikeness are associated with paranormal experiences. They also highlight the importance of association between emotional abuse and paranormal experiences, and that paranormal experiences occur especially frequently after negative life events.

Dr. Christine Simmonds-Moore

Dr. Christine Simmonds-Moore

Simmonds-Moore, C. (2009-10). Sleep patterns, personality, and subjective anomalous experiences. Imagination, Cognition, and Personality, 29, 71-86.

An opportunity sample comprising 281 participants completed a battery of questionnaires, which included questions on sleep, the Anomalous Experience Inventory [1], the STA scale (for measurement of positive schizotypy) [2], the Complex Partial Epileptic-like signs scale of the Personal Philosophy Inventory [3], Hartmann’s Short Boundary Questionnaire (BQ) [4], and the revised Transliminality scale [5]. There was no difference between long and short sleepers on anomalous experiences. All personality variables correlated positively with anomalous experiences. A significant difference was found between short and average and average and long sleepers on positive schizotypy. No other personality variables related to sleep variables. A regression path analysis indicated that the strongest predictors of anomalous experiences were personality factors (in particular, Transliminality and Temporal lobe lability). Reduced sleep quality was also a direct predictor. Reduced sleep need was found to be an indirect predictor of anomalous experiences. Findings support the idea that anomalous experiences could be associated with reduced sleep quality, but not sleep length. The relationship between personality and anomalous experiences may be partially modulated by sleep variables. Further research is needed in this area.

Woodward, F.J. (2012). A phenomenological study of spontaneous spiritual and paranormal experiences in a 21st-century sample or normal people. Psychological Reports, 110(1), 173-132. 

This paper presents a phenomenological study using the methodology of Woodard’s phenomenological and perceptual research. This method examines individuals’ internal meanings during spontaneous spiritual and paranormal experiences, as described from their point of view. A group of 40 adults was phenomenologically interviewed after they responded to a newspaper announcement in New Hampshire asking for volunteers who had had spiritual and paranormal experiences. Using the method, Six Individual Situated Structures and a General Structure were identified and examined. Nine major themes were explicated during the participants’ spontaneous experiencing: unexpectedness, contrariness to belief, certainty, contradictory experiencing, language as a barrier to expression, external influences, internal dialogue, evil as separateness, and some social psychological influences. Several themes observed in hypnotic experiencing, such as the characteristics of the Adequate Personality in Perceptual Psychology, are interpreted and discussed. This research illustrates how subjective experience can be adequately researched in a qualitative manner outside the confines of the laboratory setting. Limitations of the study and suggestions for further research are given.

 

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center

My last paper just came out: “Mediumship, Psychical Research, Dissociation, and the Powers of the Subconscious Mind” (Journal of Parapsychology, 2014, 78, 98–114). It is an overview of ideas about the aforementioned topics from the old days of psychical research. Here is the abstract:

“Since the 19th century many psychiatrists and psychologists have considered mediumship to be related to the subconscious mind and to dissociative processes produced mainly by internal conventional processes of the medium’s mind. However, some psychologists and psychical researchers active between the last decades of the 19th century and the 1920s expressed a different view. Individuals such as Théodore Flournoy, Cesare Lombroso, Enrico Morselli, Frederic W. H. Myers, Julian Ochorowicz, Charles Richet, Eleanor Sidgwick, and Eduard von Hartmann, argued that some mediums combined dissociation with supernormal phenomena such as knowledge acquired without the use of the senses, and the production of physical effects seemingly beyond the normal bodily capabilities. Depending on the theorist, other issues such as pathology and discarnate agency were also part of the discussions. The supernormal was never accepted by science at large and today is rarely mentioned in the dissociation literature. But ideas related to the supernormal were part of this literature. A complete history of dissociation, and of the subconscious mind, should include consideration of this body of work.”

William Mackenzie

William Mackenzie

The article  has sections entitled: Mediumship in Context: Spiritualism, Psychical Research, and Psychiatry; The Influential Writings of Frederic W. H. Myers and Eduard Von Hartmann; Speculations on the Mediumship of Leonora E. Piper; Speculations on the Mediumship of Eusapia Palladino; and Further Speculations on Mediumship. I discuss in the article several theoreticians generally neglected in the English-language literature of mediumship such as Joseph Maxwell, Enrico Morselli, William Mackenzie, Julian Ochorowicz, René Sudre, and Eduard von Hartmann.

Julian Ochorowicz

Julian Ochorowicz

René Sudre

René Sudre

Leonora Piper

Leonora Piper

Many discussions centered on medium Leonora E. Piper. While some were survival-oriented, others were not. These included the speculations of English classical scholar and banker Walter Leaf, English educator Eleanor Sidgwick, and German philosopher Traugott Konstantin Oesterreich.

Leaf “argued that in the medium’s ‘abnormal state there is a quite exceptional power of reading the contents of the minds of sitters; but that this power is far from complete’ . . . The thought transference process suggested by Leaf was one related to sitters’ subconscious minds, that is, content not consciously recollected at the time of the séance.This gave the impression that a spirit was communicating. Sidgwick argued that telepathy could provide the ‘material necessary to successful personation’ . . . This assumed that a dissociative process (the trance and the personation accompanying it) could incorporate telepathic information.” “Oesterreich suggested that Mrs. Piper’s veridical communications involved ‘an elaboration by the creative imagination of Mrs. Piper’s telepathically-acquired knowledge and by her telepathic faculty working in conjunction with the minds of others’ . . . ”

Eleanor Sidgwick

Eleanor Sidgwick

Traugott Konstantin Oesterreich

Traugott Konstantin Oesterreich

Eusapia Palladino

Eusapia Palladino

Regarding Palladino I summarized the ideas of Italian psychiatrist Enrico Morselli, presented in his 1908 book Psicologia e “Spiritismo”: “According to Morselli . . . the low intellectual content of these effects [physical phenomena] was indicative of psychological disaggregation (or separation of mental processes) because the medium’s ‘inferior personality’ . . . manifested at a low intellectual level.” Morselli believed “that she could project a biopsychic force from her body, a force that could join with other forces coming from the other persons in the mediumistic circle . . . This force could be imprinted with the ‘oniric or subconscious thought of the medium’ . . . , which constituted the principle guiding telekinesis and shaping materializations. Morselli . . . believed that the subconscious thought and will of the medium directed the phenomena . . . However, their uniformity and repetitive nature suggested to him that Palladino had ‘fixed ideas,’ or delusional dominant ideas affecting both actions and thought. These ideas probably helped the production of the phenomena by her subconscious mind and also suggested hysteria . . .”

Morselli Psicologia

In conclusion, I wrote that “ideas of the supernormal as regards dissociation and the subconscious were not integrated into the psychology and psychiatry of the times discussed in this paper. Although most medical men held a closed model of the mind (and of dissociation) in which the phenomena were explained mostly by internal resources and a few external influences such as suggestion, few accepted a more open model of mind, such as the one some psychical researchers upheld based on powers that extend sensory and motor capacities beyond the confines of the body . . .” Furthermore, I argued that discussions of the functions of the subconscious mind “are incomplete without consideration of the psychical research perspective.”

“In the period discussed here, psychical researchers considered that the functions of the subconscious went beyond memory, pathology, creativity, and imagination. In the case of mediumship, psychical researchers extended current ideas about dissociation (in this case trance and personation) by adding the supernormal to the equation.”

“It is my hope that the material discussed in this paper will remind current students of mediumship of aspects of a past forgotten by many. Furthermore, I hope that my writings and those of others will influence the general historiography of psychiatry and psychology . . . Currently most of this work refers to the ‘closed’ model of the mind and of dissociation . . . But to limit historical analysis in this way produces an incomplete picture of the past, the details of which are ignored or dismissed by many historians as well as by psychiatrists and psychologists.”

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center

Kai Muegge

Kai Muegge

Much has been said about the physical phenomena of the Felix Circle, also known as Felix Experimental Group, which centers on medium Kai Muegge. Up to now the published material about this circle has consisted of informal Web articles, many of which have appeared in the Circle’s page. However, the first detailed reports of investigations of the materialization and other physical phenomena of the Circle have just appeared in the Journal of Scientific Exploration ,  reports that mention what the authors believe is evidence for fraud in the case. The reports are authored by Dr. Michael Nahm and Dr. Stephen Braude, who is also the editor of the journal.

Dr. Michael Nahm

Dr. Michael Nahm

 

Dr. Stephen E. Braude

Dr. Stephen E. Braude

Braude wrote in his editorial:

“As I mention in my paper in this issue, I don’t yet consider the FEG phenomena, and in particular the conditions of observation, to meet the standard set by the best cases from the heyday of Spiritualism. And of course the recent evidence of at least occasional fraud has tarnished the case as a whole. Nevertheless, on some of the occasions described in this issue’s reports, the controls were far from negligible . . . Moreover (thanks in part to those controls), some FEG phenomena have not yet been discredited and remain very difficult to discount . . . And I believe it’s fair to say that Nahm agrees with me on this point. Where we disagree is on the issue of whether at least the strongest FEG phenomena are perhaps worth pursuing further. Nahm seems inclined to disagree. I’m not so sure . . . And as I hope will become clear both from the foregoing considerations and the reports in this issue, the evidence gathered so far can’t be dismissed simply by the all too familiar and unacceptably glib and sweeping rejection of eyewitness testimony.”

Here are the abstracts of the papers.

The Development and Phenomena of a Circle for Physical Mediumship 

Michael Nahm

Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2014, 28, 229-283.

“The present paper describes the development and the phenomena of a circle for physical mediumship, based predominantly on my own observations. Over the course of four and a half years, I have participated in 21 sittings. Typical phenomena include unusual movements of a table, raps on the room walls and the ceiling, various luminous and psychokinetic phenomena, the generation of supposed ectoplasm, and apports. I will describe the controls applied during the sittings and my personal involvement in accompanying the development of the phenomena, and explain why I finally arrived at the conclusion that considerable parts of the phenomena were produced by fraudulent means.”

Investigations of the Felix Experimental Group: 2010–2013

Stephen E. Braude

Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2014, 28, 285–343.

“This paper chronicles my introduction to and subsequent investigation of the Felix Experimental Group (FEG) and its exhibitions of classical physical mediumship. It’s been nearly a century since investigators have had the opportunity to carefully study standard spiritistic phenomena, including the extruding of ectoplasm, and the FEG is the only current physical mediumistic circle permitting any serious controls. The paper details a progressively stringent, personally supervised series of séances, culminating in some well-controlled experiments with video documentation in a secure and private location belonging to one of the investigators. Regrettably, recent indications of fraud (explored also by Michael Nahm in this issue) have tarnished the case as a whole. However, it remains unclear how extensive the fraud has been. Accordingly, this paper evaluates the arguments both for and against the paranormality of the phenomena displayed under the author’s supervision.”

The discussions of the suspicious incidents are too detailed to be presented here. The reader is encouraged to study the reports, which may be obtained from the authors.

Nahm believes there was fraud in some phenomena, but that it is a matter of speculation how much of the whole performances are fraudulent. Consequently, he presents several methodological suggestions for further research in his report.

Braude believes that at the moment not everything can be explained via fraud. But he writes in his paper: “It seems clear that if Kai wants to salvage or rehabilitate his reputation, he must now voluntarily submit to—and succeed under—many test conditions he’s so far resisted. In fact, he at least has to try. So long as Kai continues to resist better conditions of illumination and observation, especially those in which other carefully investigated mediums have succeeded, his mediumship will be tainted and remain an easy object of skeptical suspicion, even if some of his phenomena remain hard to doubt.”

It is difficult to disagree with Nahm and Braude’s recommendation for further research. The question is, would they be allowed to study this medium further after what they have written? Hopefully their skepticism will not be considered an inhibiting influence on the circle and used as an excuse to keep them out the séance room. Regardless of the possible negative effects of skepticism, we need to remember that many mediums in the past were able to perform even under extreme disbelief. As the matter stands, we may not be able to explain everything normally, but there is enough circumstantial evidence to have serious doubts. If future phenomena are not forthcoming under much better conditions of control the case is certainly destined, as that of so many other mediums of the past, to be dubious.

Those wishing to get the issue of the journal can write to Elissa Hoeger at ssemembership@gmail.com. The issue, Vol. 28, No. 2, costs $20 for members and $24.95 for non-members.

Journal of Scientific Exploration

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center (http://Rhine.org)

There is a resurgence of studies of mediumship from different perspectives. Some examples are the following papers published during the last five years (2010-2014). I have limited the coverage to empirical studies (quantitative or qualitative) published in peer-reviewed journals, and to perspectives from psychology, psychophysiology and parapsychology.

Dr. Arnaud Delorme

Dr. Arnaud Delorme

Delorme, A., Beischel, J., Michel, L., Boccuzzi, M., Radin, D., & Mills, P.J. (2013). Electrocortical activity associated with subjective communication with the deceased. Frontiers of Psychology, 4, fpsyg.2013.00834

During advanced meditative practices, unusual perceptions can arise including the sense of receiving information about unknown people who are deceased. As with meditation, this mental state of communication with the deceased involves calming mental chatter and becoming receptive to subtle feelings and sensations. Psychometric and brain electrophysiology data were collected from six individuals who had previously reported accurate information about deceased individuals under double-blind conditions. Each experimental participant performed two tasks with eyes closed. In the first task, the participant was given only the first name of a deceased person and asked 25 questions. After each question, the participant was asked to silently perceive information relevant to the question for 20 s and then respond verbally. Responses were transcribed and then scored for accuracy by individuals who knew the deceased persons. Of the four mediums whose accuracy could be evaluated, three scored significantly above chance (p < 0.03). The correlation between accuracy and brain activity during the 20 s of silent mediumship communication was significant in frontal theta for one participant (p < 0.01). In the second task, participants were asked to experience four mental states for 1 min each: (1) thinking about a known living person, (2) listening to a biography, (3) thinking about an imaginary person, and (4) interacting mentally with a known deceased person. Each mental state was repeated three times. Statistically significant differences at p < 0.01 after correction for multiple comparisons in electrocortical activity among the four conditions were obtained in all six participants, primarily in the gamma band (which might be due to muscular activity). These differences suggest that the impression of communicating with the deceased may be a distinct mental state distinct from ordinary thinking or imagination.

Evenden, R.E., Cooper, C.E., & Mitchell,G.  (2013). A counseling approach to mediumship: Adaptive outcomes of grief following an exceptional experience. Journal of Exceptional Experiences and Psychology, 1(2).

In the last few decades there has been much corroborative research suggesting that exceptional experiences (EEs) during bereavement lead to improved coping and a healthy recovery from a negative emotional state . . . Aside from ‘spontaneous’ exceptional experiences and their impact on the bereaved . . . , ‘sought’ experiences such as mediumship can be an equally rewarding and positive experience for the bereaved. Few links have been explored regarding the counseling nature of mediumship with regards to bereaved individuals, and therefore this paper addresses such issues using a counseling approach and qualitative design. Results suggest that those who experience mediumistic counseling produced a high sense of agency, resulting in adaptive coping. Additionally, the findings suggest that areas of counseling, clinical studies and positive psychology would benefit from forming links with the findings of parapsychological research, with regards to the bereaved and their experiences.

 

Dr. Emily Kelly

Dr. Emily Kelly

Kelly, E. W., & Arcangel, D. (2011). An investigation of mediums who claim to give information about deceased persons. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 199, 11–17.

Growing public interest in the phenomenon of mediumship, particularly among bereaved persons, suggests the need for renewed controlled studies of mediums, both to provide potential clients with criteria for judging mediums and to help researchers learn whether they can produce specific and accurate information to which they have had no normal access and, if so, under what conditions. Two research studies were conducted in which mediums provided readings about particular deceased persons to a proxy sitter. The real sitters then blindly rated the reading that was intended for them along with several control readings. In the first study, the results were not significant. In the second, much larger study the results were highly significant (z = 3.89, p < 0.0001, 2-tailed). The authors discuss 2 possible weaknesses of the successful study and indicate some directions for further research.

Maraldi, E. de O. (2014). Medium or author? A preliminary model relating dissociation, paranormal belief systems and self-esteem. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 78, 1-24.

One of the main characteristics of the automatic writing and automatic drawing observed at Brazilian spiritist centros is the attribution of authorship to external sources, usually of an allegedly spiritual kind. For many spiritist mediums, as for the ones the author has studied for two years, the final result of their productions is conceived as a (sometimes confused) mixture of personal and spiritual elements. Nonetheless, their graphic and pictorial material seems to be very interesting in psychological terms. In this paper, I propose a psychosocial model relating dissociation, paranormal beliefs and self-esteem that would better account for the qualitative data gathered at two spiritist institutions from 2009 to 2011. Participants were 11 mediums (9 women and 2 men, M = 47 years old, range = 29–65). It seems that some dissociative practices at the centros functioned, in many ways, as psychological elaboration of diffuse or impulsive emotions experienced in early childhood, in contexts of lack of affection, reppresive education and low socio-economic status, factors that could have helped undermine the medium’s self-esteem. Due to a lack of stimulation and encouragement to develop individual capacities, these individuals felt disconnected from their own potentials and creativity, which could have fostered the eruption of latent potentials in the form of automatisms and dissociative phenomena attributed to spiritual entities. Other factors like religious affiliation and level of paranormal belief could be involved in the process of causal attribution.

Maraldi, E.O., & Krippner, S. (2013). A biopsychosocial approach to creative dissociation: Remarks on a case of mediumistic painting. NeuroQuantology, 11, 544-572.

A category of religious experience that still preserves much of the original blurring and fusion between art and religion is mediumistic or spirit painting. Performed by spiritualist mediums in different locations around the world, this form of religious experience is characterized by the supposed ability of an individual to serve as an instrument for deceased artists to continue to perform their works. Little scientific research has been conducted concerning this topic. We present a brief analysis of painting activity performed by Jacques Andrade, a Brazilian medium. Born in 1945, Andrade, who has been active in the Brazilian Kardecist movement for many years, has dedicated most of his religious life to mediumistic painting at his center (The Leonardo da Vinci Salon of Mediumistic Art). Data about the medium were collected on several different occasions, from 1998 to 2013, and include psychophysiological measures (hand temperature, heart rate, bilateral skin conductance, muscle tension, and electrical brain activity), psychological measures (Dissociative Experiences Scale, Tellegen Absorption Scale, Revised Transliminality Scale, and Childhood Trauma Questionnaire), artistic material, observational data (photographs of paintings, observations of the medium in action), and some basic socio-demographic and biographical information. Basically we sought to evaluate: a) general aspects of the painting technique and style employed by the medium, b) the main features of his pictorial production, and c) the general behavior shown by the medium during the mediumistic activity. In an effort to combine and integrate our findings about this case, we propose a biopsychosocial approach to the study of what might be called creative dissociation.

Everton de Oliveira Maraldi

Everton de Oliveira Maraldi

 

Dr. Stanley Krippner

Dr. Stanley Krippner

Maraldi, E.O., Machado, F.R., & Zangari, W. (2010). Importance of a psychosocial approach for a comprehensive understanding of mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 24, 181–196.

[From the text] An exploratory study conducted by the Brazilian psychologist Everton de Oliveira Maraldi is offered here as the first step in a larger research project focused on psychosocial aspects of mediumship in Brazil. His study aimed to understand the use and meaning of mediumship and the paranormal beliefs connected to it in the formation of the psychosocial identity of Kardecist Spiritists. The research program draws on the theory of identity proposed by Ciampa . . . According to Ciampa, identity is in a constant state of transformation and metamorphosis, passing through different moral or cognitive stages of development. He also recognizes identity as a predominantly social phenomenon, that is all individuals contribute to the actualization of a group’s identity even if it is only in a potential way. Individual particularities reproduce universal particularities. Thus, group identity and individual identity are not disconnected.[The cases of two Brazilian mediums were analyzed by the first author considering mediumship as a life project (search for meaning), as a way to veil or unveil identity (how mediumship was masked or manifested), and as an ideology (manifesting Spiritist ideology)].

Dr. Julio Peres

Dr. Julio Peres

Peres, J. F., Moreira-Almeida, A., Caixeta, L., Leao, F., and Newberg, A. (2012). Neuroimaging during trance state: A contribution to the study of dissociation. PLoS ONE 7:e49360. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0049360

Despite increasing interest in pathological and non-pathological dissociation, few researchers have focused on the spiritual experiences involving dissociative states such as mediumship, in which an individual (the medium) claims to be in communication with, or under the control of, the mind of a deceased person. Our preliminary study investigated psychography – in which allegedly “the spirit writes through the medium’s hand” – for potential associations with specific alterations in cerebral activity. We examined ten healthy psychographers – five less expert mediums and five with substantial experience, ranging from 15 to 47 years of automatic writing and 2 to 18 psychographies per month – using single photon emission computed tomography to scan activity as subjects were writing, in both dissociative trance and non-trance states. The complexity of the original written content they produced was analyzed for each individual and for the sample as a whole. The experienced psychographers showed lower levels of activity in the left culmen, left hippocampus, left inferior occipital gyrus, left anterior cingulate, right superior temporal gyrus and right precentral gyrus during psychography compared to their normal (non-trance) writing. The average complexity scores for psychographed content were higher than those for control writing, for both the whole sample and for experienced mediums. The fact that subjects produced complex content in a trance dissociative state suggests they were not merely relaxed, and relaxation seems an unlikely explanation for the underactivation of brain areas specifically related to the cognitive processing being carried out. This finding deserves further investigation both in terms of replication and explanatory hypotheses.

Rocha, A.C., Paraná, D., Freire, E.S., Neto, F.L., & Moreira-Almeida, A. (2014). Investigating the fit and accuracy of alleged mediumistic writing: A case study of Chico Xavier’s letters. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, published online, June 14.

Context: The study of mediumship is important because if mediumistic abilities are real, they would provide empirical support for non-reductionist theories of the mind, thus having major implications to our understanding of the mind-brain relationship. This study investigated the alleged mediumship of Chico Xavier, a very prolific and influential ‘medium’ in Brazil. Objective: To investigate the accuracy of the information conveyed in Xavier’s ‘psychographed’ letters (i.e., letters allegedly authored by a deceased personality) and to explore the possible explanations for it. Method: After a systematic search for Xavier’s psychographed letters we selected one set of 13 letters allegedly written by a same spiritual author (JP). The letters were initially screened for the identification of items of information that were objectively verifiable. The accuracy of the information conveyed by these items and the estimated likelihood of the Xavier’s access to the information via normal means were rated using Fit and Leak scales based on documents and interviews carried out with the sister and friends of JP. Results: We identified 99 items of verifiable information conveyed on these 13 letters; 98% of these items were rated as ‘Clear and Precise Fit,’ and no item was rated as ‘no Fit.’ We concluded that normal explanations for accuracy of the information (i.e., fraud, chance, information leakage, and cold reading) were only remotely plausible. These results seem to provide empirical support for non-reductionist theories of consciousness.

Roxburgh, E. C., & Roe, C. A. (2011). A survey of dissociation, boundary-thinness, and psychological well-being in Spiritualist mental mediumship. Journal of Parapsychology, 75, 279–299.

The purpose of this study was to explore the personality and psychological wellbeing of Spiritualist mental mediums compared to nonmedium Spiritualists. A total of 159 Spiritualists (mediums = 80, nonmediums = 79) parlicipated in a nationwide cross-sectional survey and completed measures of dissociation, boundary-thinness, psychological wellbeing, fantasy-proneness, and personality. Mediums scored significantly higher than nonmediums on psychological wellbeing, t = 3.80, p <.001, and reported lower psychological distress, t = 3.25, p = .00 1, but no significant differences were found between the groups on dissociation or boundary-thinness. Secondary analyses revealed significant differences for extraversion, t = 2.01, p = .046, neuroticism, t = 3.59, p = .001, and openness to experience, t = 3.21, p = .002, but not for fantasy-proneness, agreeableness, or conscientiousness. Findings suggest that mediumship is not associated with a reported incidence of dissociative experiences or pathology. Results are discussed in relation to previous research that has proposed the mediumship role may serve a therapeutic function.

Roxburgh, E.C. & Roe, C.R.(2014). Reframing voices and visions using a spiritual model: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of anomalous experiences in mediumship. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 17, DOI:10.1080/13674676.2014.894007

Throughout different civilisations and historical epochs, anthropological and religious texts have been replete with accounts of persons who have reported anomalous experiences in the form of visions or voices. In these contexts, such experiences are considered to be a “gift” that can be spiritually enriching or life enhancing. One such group of individuals are mediums who claim to receive information from spirits of the deceased in the form of auditory or visual perceptions. This study explores how mediums come to interpret their experiences as mediumistic and how they describe their relationship with spirit voices. In-depth interviews were conducted with 10 Spiritualist mediums using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Three themes were identified: “Childhood anomalous experiences”, “A search for meaning: Normalisation of mediumship”, and “relationship with spirit”. These themes illuminated aspects of the mediumistic experience that have therapeutic implications for individuals who have similar experiences but become distressed by them.

Dr. Elizabeth Roxburgh

Dr. Elizabeth Roxburgh

 

Dr. Chris Roe

Dr. Chris Roe

Roxburg, E.C., & Roe, C.A. (2014). “Say from whence you owe this strange intelligence”: Investigating explanatory systems of Spiritualist mental mediumship using interpretative phenomenological analysis. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 32, 27-42.

Walsh and Vaughan (1993) defined transpersonal experiences as those “in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond (trans) the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche or cosmos” (p. 203). One population who regularly report such experiences are mediums. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with ten spiritualist mediums to explore their lived experience, such as how they communicate with the deceased, the meaning of spirit guide phenomena, and the role of mediumship, regardless of the actual ontology of mediumship. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) identified three themes: explanatory systems of mediumship, spirit guides as transcendental beings versus aspects of self, and the purpose of mediumship. These themes illuminated aspects of the mediumistic experience that have implications for an understanding of states of consciousness, transcendence, and the Higher Self.

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center

It is well known that many of the early psychologists were negative about the existence of psychic phenomena, preferring to explain them via conventional principles such as fraud, suggestion, hallucination, and other ideas. Individuals such as Alfred Binet, Joseph Jastrow, and Hugo Münsterberg are examples of this tradition. In a paper I recently published I discuss a prominent example of this, namely the work of American psychologist G. Stanley Hall .

G. Stanley Hall

G. Stanley Hall

The paper, “G. Stanley Hall on ‘Mystic or Borderline Phenomena’ “(Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2014, 28, 75–93; available from the author: carlos@theazire.org) was not meant to be a detailed overview of Hall’s critical work, but an introduction to a little known paper of his about psychic phenomena. Here is the abstract:

“G. Stanley Hall (1844–1924) was one the most prominent of the early American psychologists and an outspoken skeptic about the existence of psychic phenomena. This article presents a reprint of one of his critiques on the topic, a little-known paper entitled ‘Mystic or Borderline Phenomena’ published in 1909 in the Proceedings of the Southern California Teacher’s Association. Hall commented on some phenomena of physical mediumship, as well as on apparitions, telepathy, and mental healing. In his view all could be explained via conventional ways such as trickery and the workings of the unconscious mind. The paper is reprinted with an introduction and annotations providing biographical information about Hall and additional information and clarification of the points he made in the paper. It is argued that Hall’s paper represents an instance of boundary-work common at the beginning of organized psychology, representing an attempt to give authority to the discipline over fields such as psychical research.”

American Journal of Psychology

Hall's Review of Psychical Research Publications in the First Volume of the American Journal of Psychology (1887)

Hall’s Review of Psychical Research Publications in the First Volume of the American Journal of Psychology (1887)

 

Hall's Article in Appleton's Magazine, 1908

Hall’s Article in Appleton’s Magazine, 1908

I argue in the paper: “In addition to Hall’s unquestionable importance for the development and history of American psychology, I had several . . . reasons to choose this article. The paper is a good summary of Hall’s negative views about psychic phenomena and psychical research and represents the opinion of other psychologists at the time . . . Hall’s paper is an example of the attempts of many early psychologists to separate their emerging field from psychical research . . . I am also presenting Hall’s paper as a reminder of the importance of remembering critics and criticism in our discussions and understanding of the past developments of psychical research. This is because many historical articles published by workers in the field tend to focus on proponents of, or on defenses of, the ‘reality’ of psychic phenomena.”

Phantasms of the Living vol 2Unfortunately Hall misrepresented psychical researchers several times in his paper. For example, he assumed they needed to know something about topics such as hallucinations and hypnotism. But Hall knew better than this, as he had read Gurney, Myers and Podmore’s Phantasms of the Living (1886) and he knew about Myers writings which covered much of abnormal psychology. In fact, I believe that Hall could have learned much about these topics from the psychical researchers.

Hall’s paper was also not fair to psychical researchers when he wrote: “There is almost nothing tricks cannot do, aided by skill and practice. There are many codes: for instance, reading cards can be done by two confederates, one of whom catches the heart rhythm as the toe or a crossed leg moves, and counts off the suit and the card, marking the beginning of the count by any rustle or noise of the foot, hem, sniffle, or any other sign, which the observers never detect. Probably hundreds of these tricks are well known and are found in the copious literature on this subject . . . My contention is that every investigator should know what are the resources of sleight of hand.”

But as I comment in my article: “Here, as in other writings, and in other parts of the article, Hall presents his comments without acknowledging that psychical researchers were aware of the issue of fraud and of techniques of fraud from the beginning of the movement . . . Hall had a tendency to offer advice and issue recommendations under the apparent assumption that his points had not been considered before. While this may have been true among some, such as members of the general public . . . , it did not apply to most psychical researchers.”

Consequently Hall’s writings need to be critically assessed. 

On Hall’s contributions to psychology see:

Arnett, J. J. (2006). G. Stanley Hall’s Adolescence: Brilliance and nonsense. History of Psychology, 9, 186–197.

Bringmann, W. G. (1992). G. Stanley Hall and the history of psychology. American Psychologist, 47, 281–290.

Hogan, J. D. (2003). G. Stanley Hall: Educator, organizer, and pioneer. In In G. A. Kimble & M. Wertheimer (Eds.), Portraits of Pioneers in Psychology (Volume 5, pp. 19–36), Mahwa, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum; Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Hulse, S. H., & Green, B. F. (Eds.) (1986). One Hundred Years of Psychological Research in America: G. Stanley Hall and the Johns Hopkins Tradition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.

Rosenzwig, S. (1992). Freud, Jung, and Hall the King-Maker: The Historic Expedition to America (1909), with G. Stanley Hall as Host and William James as Guest. St. Louis, MO: Rana House Press.

Ross, D. (1972). G . Stanley Hall: The Psychologist as Prophet. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Sokal, M. M. (1990). G. Stanley Hall and the institutional character of psychology at Clark 1889–1920. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 26, 114–124.

 

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center

There has been some speculation about the use of ESP for stock market predictions. Here is a recently published study about this topic. It is a paper authored by Christopher Carson Smith, Darrell Laham, and Garret Moddel entitled “Stock Market Prediction Using Associative Remote Viewing by Inexperienced Remote Viewers” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2014, 28, 7-16; for a reprint click here).

Here is the abstract:

Ten inexperienced remote viwers attempted to predict the outcome of the Dow Jones Industrial Average using associative remote viewing. For each trial in the experiment, each participant remotely viewed an image from a target set of two images, one of which he or she would be shown approximately 48 hours from that time. Of the two images in the target set, one corresponded to whether the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) would close up, while the other corresponded to whether it wouldclose down at the end of the intervening trading day. For feedback, the viewers were shown only the picture actually associated with the actual market outcome. In aggregate, the participants described the correct images, successfully predicting the outcome of the DJIA in seven out of seven attempts (binomial probability test, p < .01). Investments in stock options were made based on these predictions, resulting in a significant financial gain.

 

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