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

Nancy L. Zingrone  and I  will be offering two online courses via the Rhine Education Center. One is an eight week course about mediumship and the other is a shorter four week course about dream ESP.

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

Exploring Mediumship Research

In this course students will be given an in-depth look at mediumship research, from the 19th-century to the present. Among the topics will be: the history of mediumship, physical and mental mediumship, the medium in popular culture, and the impact of mediumship research on theory-building in parapsychology, especially on research into survival beyond bodily death.

Dreams and ESP

This four week adult education course will focus on the fascinating topic of dreams and ESP. Topics will include: dreams and ESP throughout history; the famous Dream Telepathy experiments conducted in the 1960s and 1970s; the very interesting connection between precognition (seeing the future) and dreams; and how modern day researchers investigate seemingly psychic dreams.

For the course syllabus and information about specific dates, price, registration, and other issues click here.

Rhine Research Center, Durham, North Carolina

Rhine Research Center, Durham, North Carolina

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

The Paranormal Review is a magazine published by the Society for Psychical Research . Its new editor, Dr. Leo Ruickbie,  has just made public a call for papers about a particular topic:

“To mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I, the editor of the Paranormal Review would like to receive submissions relating to psychical research and the paranormal during, or in connection with, World War I and its aftermath. Please send ideas or abstracts of 200-300 words to Dr Leo Ruickbie at paranormalreview@spr.ac.uk. Copy deadlines are 14 April for the July issue and 5 July for the October issue.”

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

Revue Philosophique 1876bMy last published article, authored with Renaud Evrard, is about discussions of psychic phenomena in nineteenth-century issues of a French journal. It is entitled “Nineteenth Century Psychical Research in Mainstream Journals: The Revue Philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2013, 27, 655-689; for a PDF reprint write to me at: carlos@theazire.org). Here is the abstract:

Théodule Ribot

Théodule Ribot

“While there were several psychical research journals during the nineteenth century many interesting discussions about psychic phenomena took place as well in a variety of intellectual reviews and scholarly and scientific journals of various disciplines. One such example was the French journal Revue Philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger, founded in 1876 by Théodule Ribot. Reflecting the various interests of psychologists during the nineteenth century, many topics were discussed in the Revue, among them hypnotic phenomena as well as mental suggestion and mediumship. The journal provided an important forum for French discussions in psychology and in the social sciences in general that helped the development of those disciplines. The same may be said about psychic phenomena, which were discussed in the pages of the journal by authors such as Émile Boirac, Victor Egger, Théodore Flournoy, Jules Héricourt, Pierre Janet, Leon Marillier, Julian Ochorowicz, Charles Richet, and Albert Ruault. We present summaries of some of these writings which we hope will bring some of this material to the attention of non-French readers.”

Émile Boirac

Émile Boirac

 

Théodore Flournoy

Théodore Flournoy

Julian Ochorowicz

Julian Ochorowicz

 

Paul Janet

Paul Janet

As we wrote about the Revue: “The first volume . . . included articles by such noted figures as Paul Janet (1823-1899), George H. Lewes (1817-1878), John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893), Eduard Von Hartmann (1842-1906), and Wilhelm Wundt (1832-1920) . . . French historian of psychology Serge Nicolas has argued that . . . the journal was a contributing factor in the development of nineteenth century empirical psychology . . . An important aspect of it was that the Revue was a forum for work on abnormal psychology and hypnotic phenomena that contributed to the development of the concepts of the subconscious mind and of dissociation.”

Herbert Spencer

Herbert Spencer

Charles Richet

Charles Richet

We discussed various topics related to psychic phenomena, among them mental suggestion. This included Charles Richet’s classic 1884 paper “La Suggestion Mentale et le Calcul des Probabilités” [Mental Suggestion and the Calculation of Probabilities], as well as Pierre Janet’s two papers appearing in 1886 about the induction of trance at a distance with the famous Léonie Leboulanger. We wrote: “Janet’s papers were very influential in late nineteenth century psychical research, cited by many inside and outside France . . . This work . . . opened the door to the publication of similar cases in the Revue by other authors . . .”

Pierre Janet

Pierre Janet

 

Léonie Leboulanger

Léonie Leboulanger

Frederic W.H. Myers

Frederic W.H. Myers

We also summarized articles about mediumship, the effects of drugs and medicine from a distance, panoramic memory, and criticism. The Revue also brought information about non-French work in the form of book reviews, articles and notes. “Frederic W. H. Myers authored two notes on veridical hallucinations . . . aspects of the work of the Society for Psychical Research were reviewed in a discussion of Gurney, Myers and Podmore’s Phantasms of the Living (1886). . . and in a note about the Society’s further work on hallucinations. . .There were also short summaries of the content of the Proceedings of the Society.”

Phantasms of the Living vol 2

We concluded: “Depending on the reader’s interest the material reviewed here will have different purposes. Those interested in the reality of psychic phenomena will use these materials to assess the evidential value of the old work. In contrast, those interested in the historical aspects of psychical research will see these papers and book reviews as examples of important primary sources for the study of nineteenth century psychical research. From either perspective—and perhaps from the perspective of those interested in both views—there is no question that the Revue is an important information source for the study of nineteenth century psychical research, particularly in France.”

 

 

 

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

Dr. Masayuki Ohkado, from the Faculty of General Education, Chubu University, Japan, has just published an article entitled “A Case of a Japanese Child with Past-Life Memories” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2013, 27, 625–636; for reprints write to the author: ohkado@isc.chubu.ac.jp).

Dr. Masayuki Ohkado

Dr. Masayuki Ohkado

Here is the abstract:

Abstract

This article presents the case of a Japanese child who claims to remember his past-life memories. The case shows the pattern frequently observed in Cases of the Reincarnation Type (CORTs) extensively investigated by Dr. Ian Stevenson and others: At the age of three, the child started to talk about a life he claimed to have lived before, and showed behavior that is unusual in his family and unexplained by his current life, but that apparently matches the “past life;” he also showed a strong desire to go back to his previous mother. His memories, however, began to fade at about the age of seven and were almost completely gone when the child was interviewed at the age of nine. The unusual character of the present case is that the place the child claimed to have lived in is far away from his current place of residence. Despite the detailed information the child has given, the case is unsolved at present. The main contribution of this paper will be to report virtually the first Japanese CORT since the 19th century case of Katsugoro, one of the 44 cases that inspired Dr. Ian Stevenson to begin researching the topic.

The author concludes: “Despite the subject’s detailed statements concerning his past life, the search for his past-life personality has not been successful and the case is ‘unsolved.’ However, some of the highly specific information the subject gave and the unusual behavior the subject showed are strongly indicative of the paranormal nature of the present case. The overall pattern of the development of the case showsthat CORTs can be observed in modern Japan.”

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

Dr. William G. Roll

Dr. William G. Roll

Our colleague Bill Roll’s contributions to parapsychology were many, as I have commented elsewhere. These included his well-known poltergeist case investigations, as well as experimental studies of ESP, and discussions of conceptual and methodological issues. In my last published article I discuss another aspect of Bill’s work.

The article, “Attending to the Past: William G. Roll and the Old Psychical Research Literature,” just appeared in the Paranormal Review (2013, 68, 3-6), the magazine of the Society for Psychical Research. I discussed Bill’s frequent use of the old psychical research literature, which he used to examine topics and issues of relevance today.

Richard Hodgson

Richard Hodgson

As stated in the article: “In one of his papers, “The Contributions of Studies of ‘Mediumship’ to Research on Survival After Death,” Roll (1960) reviewed his topic reminding his readers of important papers published in the Proceedings of the SPR. Among these were papers by such authors as Balfour (1918), Hodgson (1892), and Johnson (1908). Similarly, in a paper about precognition Roll (1961) cited a case presented by Myers (1895) as well as the ESP experiments of Whately Carington (e.g., 1940). This regard for the old literature was not just the usual literature review because others in the field did not seem to be familiar with it, or at least did not use such citations that frequently. Then, as well as now, most literature reviews tend to ignore the work of the previous generations.”

William G. Roll presenting a paper about mediumship

William G. Roll presenting a paper about mediumship

 

Roll The PoltergeistIn his book The Poltergeist (1972) Roll discussed many old cases. This included cases taking place in France (1851), England (1849), the United States (1874), Ireland (1877), and Italy (1900). “Although Roll’s (1977) study of 116 poltergeists reported between 1612 and 1974 also showed the long history of occurrence and investigation of these phenomena, it was much more than a citation of old cases. Roll presented us with frequencies of the features of the cases as well as other statistical analyses of the cases. His work was in this regard a pioneering use of quantification with the old poltergeist literature.” This was his paper “Poltergeists” published in the Handbook of Parapsychology.

Edouard Abramowski

Edouard Abramowski

Bill’s well-known paper “ESP and Memory,” published in 1966, had many references to previous authors generally ignored in modern discussions of the subject. This included Edouard Abramowski, F.W.H. Myers, H.F. Saltmarsh, G.N.M. Tyrrell, and René Warcollier.

 

G.N.M. Tyrrell

G.N.M. Tyrrell

 

René Warcollier

René Warcollier

I concluded the paper with following statement: “Roll’s attention to the old literature while he was helping us craft the modern canon should be remembered with appreciation, particularly in these days of myopic citation practices. Not only did he teach us the value of the past, reminding us of the relevance of the old literature for current concerns and improving our knowledge of the old literature, but he also provided both young and more experienced students of psychic phenomena with a model to follow when developing their ideas for their public presentation. In doing so, he illuminated the complexity of parapsychology and its problems.” William G. Roll 3

 

 

 

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

Dr. Christopher Moreman

Dr. Christopher Moreman

Christopher M. Moreman, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the California State University (East Bay) has compiled a three volume anthology of articles entitled The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and Around the World  (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2013, $163.00).

 

 

Moreman Spiritualist Movement

The book is described in the publisher’s website as follows:

“Based on the belief that the dead can communicate with the living through mediums, Spiritualism touches concepts as timelessly fascinating as human mortality and the continuing existence of the soul beyond bodily death. This comprehensive work will help readers parse the mysteries of this uniquely American religion through three thematically organized volumes . . . Drawing on fields as diverse as psychology, sociology, religious studies, anthropology, history, ethnic and gender studies, literature, and art, this broad-based collection frames Spiritualism through the views of a team of international scholars.

Among the many things that separate Spiritualism from mainstream religions is the involvement of women in central leadership roles. Such cultural and political elements of the movement are one aspect of this study. Of equal interest to believers and skeptics alike will be the work of scholars who have devoted themselves to examining the claim that communication through mediums proves the existence of life after death.”

Edmonds Dexter Spiritualism 1853b

Kardec Livre des Esprits 1860

 

The book includes 43 essays, including one I wrote about the influence of mediumship on the development of psychical research. They appear across the three volumes, which in turn have several sections as follows:

Volume 1: American Origins and Global Proliferation

(Pre-Spiritualist Mediumship, Spiritualism’s Spread in European History, Key Historical Figures, Spiritualism Today: Case Studies)

Volume 2: Belief, Practice and Evidence for Life After Death

(Spiritualist Beliefs, Spiritualist Practice, Spiritualist Phenomena and the Debate Over Evidence for Survival)

Volume 3: Social and Cultural Responses

(Responses from Other Religious Traditions, Gender, Race, and Other Cultural Issues)

Some examples of the essays are:

Spiritualism in Italy: The Opposition of the Catholic Church, by Massimo Biondi (Vol. 1). 

Massimo Biondi

Massimo Biondi

Spiritualism and the Origins of Modern Psychology in Late Nineteenth-Century Germany: The Wundt-Zöllner Debate, by Andreas Sommer (Vol. 1).

Andreas Sommer

Andreas Sommer

Jung and the Spirits, by Francis X. Charet (Vol. 1).

Francis Charet

Francis Charet

Angels Among Us in Four San Diego Spiritualist Churches, by Rebecca Moore (Vol. 1).

Rebecca Moore

Rebecca Moore

Echoes of the Past: The Influence of Spiritualism on Contemporary Belief, by Andrew Singleton (Vol. 2).

Andrew Singleton

Andrew Singleton

Exploring the Meaning of Mental Mediumship from the Medium’s Perspective, by Elizabeth C. Roxburgh and Chris A. Roe (Vol. 2).

Elizabeth Roxburgh

Elizabeth Roxburgh

Chris Roe

Chris Roe

Spiritual Channeling: An Ethnographic Account, by Heather Kavan (Vol. 2).

Heather Kavan

Heather Kavan

Canadian Psychical Research Experiments with Table Tilting and Ectoplasm Phenomena in the Séance Room, by Walter Meyer zu Erpen (Vol. 2).

Walter Meyer Zu Erpen

Walter Meyer Zu Erpen

Mediumship and Psychical Research, by Carlos S. Alvarado (Vol. 2)

Carlos S. Alvarado

Carlos S. Alvarado

Combating Nefarious Necromancy: Christian Theological Critiques of Nineteenth-Century American Spiritualism, by Roddy Knowles (Vol. 3).

Roddy Knowles

Roddy Knowles

The Influence of Emmanuel Swedenborg and the New Church on the Spiritualist Movement, by Jane Williams-Hogan (Vol. 3).

Jane Williams-Hogan

Jane Williams-Hogan

From Catspaw to Kindred Spirit? Changing Perceptions of the Medium in British Occultism, by Alison Butler (Vol. 3).

Alison Butler

Alison Butler

Mediums and Stars: Mediumship, Show Business, and Celebrity in Nineteenth-Century Spiritualism, by Simone Natale (Vol. 3).

Simone Natale

Simone Natale

The authors of the essays do much to illustrate the multiple dimensions of spiritualism and the ways in which the topic may be approached. This, in fact is in my view the main advantage of the volumes. While most of the authors present discussions focusing on issues such as gender, social, and cultural aspects, a few discuss the reality of the phenomena. Actually, The Spiritualist Movement is unique in combining these issues. Usually publications that approach spiritualism from historical and sociological perspectives do not include discussions of the reality of the phenomena, things such as the manifestations of mental and physical mediums.

Levitation of D.D. Home

Levitation of D.D. Home

Another advantage of these volumes is that different time periods are represented. While many essays are about past eras, some cover more recent developments. The topics represented in The Spiritualist Movement are still with us, as seen in the practice of mediumship today across the world and in the various spiritualist and spiritist organizations active in different countries. Some of them with a Web presence include the National Spiritualist Association of Churches,  the Lily Dale Assembly, the French Spiritist Council,  and the Brazilian Spiritist Federation.

Lily Dale

Emma Hardinge Britten

Emma Hardinge Britten

Three volumes are not enough to cover the complexity of the topic. Certainly there are other topics that could be explored, as the editor of the volumes clearly acknowledges. I would have liked to see more about spiritualism in relation to psychology and psychiatry. Another topic deserving more attention is studies of particular mediums, many of whom were important ambassadors for the development of spiritualism in more ways than one. Emma Hardinge Britten and D.D. Home, to name two figures from the past, come to mind. In the United States figures such as Andrew Jackson Davis, John W. Edmonds, and Hudson Tuttle, were also very important in investigating and producing phenomena, not to mention in assisting greatly in the conceptual development of spiritualism. But there are also influential modern figures deserving study, among them the Brazilian Chico Xavier, a medium that was as well or better known and influential in his country as many politicians and movie stars.

John W. Edmonds

John W. Edmonds

Hudson Tuttle

Hudson Tuttle

 

Chico Xavier

Chico Xavier

To some extent I am indulging here on some of my favorite topics, several of which, I want to remind my readers, were not completely neglected. To be fair, I suspect it was difficult to find authors for many topics. Furthermore, we need to be aware that limits have to be set in practice to address the economic demands of modern publishers. As it is, the publication of a three-volume work on the subject is unprecedented.

Rather than emphasize omissions, the value of an anthology lies in its content, and this one is rich indeed, offering much about phenomena, specific figures, influences, and social dimensions. It is to be hoped that the publication of The Spiritualist Movement will stimulate more work in this area.

Seance circle 2

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

Dr. Harvey J. Irwin is a well-known cognitive psychologist from Australia who has made many contributions to parapsychology. I first had contact with him via correspondence during the 1980s and met him in person in Edinburgh, when he paid a short visit to the University of Edinburgh in 1995.

Dr. Harvey J. Irwin

Dr. Harvey J. Irwin

Irwin Psi and the MindHarvey started in parapsychology publishing about ideas from cognitive psychology in relation to ESP, and to a lesser extent, psychokinesis. This is evident in his book Psi and the Mind (1979). He was a pioneer in the psychological study of out-of-body experiences, work that influenced me in many ways, and an important contributor to the study of belief in the paranormal. In addition he has authored a widely used textbook of parapsychology, Introduction to Parapsychology, which, now in its fifth edition, is co-authored by Caroline Watt .

Irwin Introduction to Parapsychology

In recognition of his work the Parapsychological Association granted Harvey an Outstanding Contribution Award in 2002.

Interview

How did you get interested in parapsychology?

Many people have asked me this question lately; well, one or two anyway. Perhaps the recent advent of my seventieth birthday makes this question seem more pressing to other folk. Nevertheless, I have no wish to become a serial autobiographer, and given that it is difficult to remain creative in writing successive versions of an autobiography, this article necessarily will crib from previously published versions. In particular, some sections of this account are drawn from the interview published in Mindfield (Irwin, 2012) and have been adapted with permission.

Many parapsychologists owe their initial interest in the field to some personal spontaneous parapsychological experiences that they have found particularly thought provoking. This was not the principal impetus for my professional involvement in parapsychology. Certainly I have had the occasional anomalous experience to tweak my curiosity, but in retrospect my impression is that most of these evoked close scrutiny only after I became a parapsychologist.  In any event the major stimulus for my initial parapsychological interests was of a purely intellectual nature. This came about through the conjunction of two circumstances in the mid-1970s.

At this time the cultural zeitgeist was marked by a heightened popular interest in states of consciousness, transpersonal philosophies and mystical phenomena. Some of these popularist trends began to intrude even into the staid realms of Australian academia. I was then a doctoral student in the Psychology Department of the University of New England in Australia and was constructing an information-processing model of basic mental processes in general and selective attention more specifically.  Having formed an elementary understanding of “how the mind worked” it occurred to me that I could explore the extent to which paranormal phenomena might be accommodated by such a model. This initially casual curiosity sparked my first book, Psi and the Mind, and was the basis of an achievement award from the American Society for Psychical Research which certainly encouraged my continued involvement in the field.

The other factor of relevance at the time was that in the same department in which I was working one of my colleagues, Dr Maurice Marsh, was teaching clinical psychology but had conducted an experimental investigation of ESP as part of his own doctoral program at Rhodes University in South Africa. Although Maurice’s parapsychological interests were strongly embedded in a Jungian outlook his presence on staff probably fostered at least my tacit presumption that a reasonably circumspect professional involvement in parapsychology might not be utterly ruinous to my future career.

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

My subsequent parapsychological contributions might seem to the outsider as alarmingly capricious in the sense that I regularly sprang from one topic to another.  Thus my attention was devoted intermittently to out-of-body experiences (OBEs), near-death experiences (NDEs), lucid dreams, the phenomenology of psi experiences, the history of Australian parapsychology, education in parapsychology, and the psychology of paranormal belief, although at least the last of these became a relatively enduring concern.  Arising from my research on these topics were two further books, Flight of Mind: A Psychological Study of the Out-of-Body Experience, and The Psychology of Paranormal Belief: A Researcher’s Handbook, both of which were well received.

Irwin Flight of Mind

Irwin Psychology Paranormal Belief

In part the progression of parapsychological research topics reflected my evolving interests in mainstream psychology, particularly the psychology of dying and bereavement, psychopathology and the nature of dissociative phenomena, and the influence of childhood trauma on psychological development.  This point raises a key feature of my professional career, namely, that while engaged in my parapsychological work I maintained an output of publications on mainstream psychological issues. I am not necessarily commending this approach to others as the only viable career option, but certainly during the thirty years for which I worked at the University of New England this proved to be a judicious tactic in regard to professional advancement. It was only in the last few years before my formal retirement that I abandoned the pursuit of further advancement and indulged myself more exclusively in parapsychological research.

Teaching was the other major facet of my involvement in parapsychology. During my career I had the rewarding experience of supervising several graduate research degrees on parapsychological topics.  In addition, for some years in the 1980s I had the opportunity to teach an undergraduate course in parapsychology.  In mounting this program it soon became apparent that there were few basic introductory books that could effectively serve as a textbook.  My text, An Introduction to Parapsychology, was written as a direct response to this identified need.  Designed particularly with the training of future academic parapsychologists in mind, the book is now in its fifth edition and at last count has sold over 13,000 copies.  The extensive international adoption of this text has been very gratifying. In addition, my educational experiences in the field have been the inspiration for my most recent monograph, Education in Parapsychology: Student and Instructor Perspectives.

 Irwin Education in Parapsychology

As far as my “achievements” in parapsychology are concerned, these are best left to my colleagues to nominate. Two testimonials that I found particularly edifying were the following. First, in 2002 the Parapsychological Association awarded me its Outstanding Research Contribution Award in recognition of my empirical and theoretical work in parapsychology.  More recently, the opening dedication in Advances in Parapsychological Research, Volume 9 (Krippner, Rock, Beischel, Friedman, & Fracasso, 2013) reads as follows: “To Harvey J. Irwin, intrepid explorer of anomalous phenomena and author of many of the classical works in parapsychology”. Not that I have ever felt much like an “intrepid explorer”; perhaps I should purchase a pith helmet in an effort to look the part.

Why do you think that parapsychology is important?

Given that I have been active in this field for over three decades it need hardly be said that parapsychology is personally important. Although progress in the field as a whole has in some respects been disappointing I have thoroughly enjoyed the adventure and have met many interesting people along the way. Speaking more generally, it seems to me that the importance of parapsychology has changed over the years.

When parapsychology was first established as a scientific enterprise most of its adherents were mindful of the relevance of parapsychological phenomena to the survival hypothesis, and much of the associated research effort directly or indirectly addressed the possibility that some element of human existence might survive bodily death. This emphasis continued for several decades until the Rhinean revolution, when the American Society for Psychical Research suffered a critical schism between members who saw survivalist issues and spiritualist mediumship as pivotal to the field and others who stressed the importance of experimental investigation of purported parapsychological abilities such as extrasensory perception.  The latter approach of course is the core of contemporary parapsychology’s claim to be a legitimate scientific discipline.

On the other hand a rather more subtle conceptual revolution also has occurred, stemming largely from the work of Louisa Rhine which promoted the merits of studying parapsychological experiences from a phenomenological perspective, and today such experiences as out-of-body experience, near-death experiences, and apparitional experiences are of interest more in their own right than for their possible implications for the survival hypothesis. Although proof-oriented research in the parapsychological laboratory continues to yield interesting data I believe the primary importance of contemporary parapsychology lies in the elucidation of the psychological characteristics and bases of anomalous human experiences. Indeed, it is likely that this perspective will become increasingly dominant as more social scientists abandon their obsession with null hypothesis testing as the statistical path to “scientific truth”. I therefore see parapsychology as an intrinsic facet of a truly comprehensive discipline of psychology.

In identifying the importance of parapsychology in terms of its focus on anomalous experiences I am nevertheless aware that this interpretation could well signal the death knell for parapsychology.  I will address this proposition in responding to your next question.

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

In recent years the discipline of anomalistic psychology has advocated the advantages of studying the psychological characteristics of anomalous experiences in their own right, that is, free from the parapsychologist’s tacit agenda of proving the existence of “miracles” or processes that contravene conventional scientific principles. Indeed, some former parapsychologists are now portraying themselves as anomalistic psychologists.

Time will tell if parapsychology as an academic discipline will fade into obscurity as a result of inroads being made by anomalistic psychology. In my recent survey of members of the Parapsychological Association (PA) I found that few parapsychologists give any credence to this possibility, but I see such a prospect as not only feasible but in some respects perhaps desirable. Thus, many of the problems perceived to face contemporary parapsychology (as also revealed by my PA survey) might well be mitigated through the absorption of the discipline into anomalistic psychology. These problems include the implacable attitudes of our opponents, lack of adequate funding, the poor public image of parapsychologists, and the dearth of academic career opportunities. So, too, the problems of poor replicability of psi experiments and the lack of an accepted theoretical framework might be minimized if we focused on phenomenological issues and gave less emphasis to the pursuit of proof of paranormal processes. This is not to portray psi experiments as invalid but rather to argue that this line of research may have yielded most of what it can and may no longer justify our exposure to the professional damage that flows from critics’ attacks on this work.

Can you mention some of your current projects?

One of the delightful advantages of an academic career is that one’s research interests can be pursued even after formal retirement from a university post. Despite the economic constraints of being a superannuant I feel freer than ever before to pursue the research issues that particularly fascinate me.

Most of my current work concerns the manner in which people come to embrace beliefs in paranormal phenomena. On the one hand there are some people such as many professional parapsychologists and even a few skeptics who undertake a critical reading of the relevant experimental literature and purportedly reach a considered position on paranormal phenomena essentially on these rational grounds. Be this as it may, the typical member of the general public, on the other hand, is much more likely to be attracted to paranormal beliefs because of the emotional appeal of these beliefs. In this sense paranormal beliefs in the general population may have the same psychological bases as delusions. This is not to imply that paranormal beliefs are intrinsically false; apart from anything else, the definition of delusions as “false beliefs” is no longer viable and has been abandoned in the latest version of the DSM (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Parallels between the formation of paranormal beliefs and that of (nonpsychotic) delusions nevertheless are serving to clarify the psychological origins and functions of paranormal beliefs among the general public, and much of my current research program is engaged with these issues (see also Irwin, Dagnall, & Drinkwater, 2012).

References 

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.).  Washington: Author.

Irwin, H. J. (1979).  Psi and the mind:  An information processing approach.  Metuchen, N.J.:  Scarecrow Press.

Irwin, H. J. (1985).  Flight of mind:  A psychological study of the out-of-body experience.  Metuchen, N.J.:  Scarecrow Press.

Irwin, H. J. (1989).  An introduction to parapsychology.  Jefferson, N.C.:  McFarland.

Irwin, H. J. (2009).  The psychology of paranormal belief: A researcher’s handbook. Hatfield, UK: University of Hertfordshire Press.

Irwin, H. J. (2012). Reflections: Harvey J. Irwin, University of New England. Mindfield, 4(2), 46-48.

Irwin, H. J. (2013).  Education in parapsychology: Student and instructor perspectives (AIPR Monograph No. 2). Sydney: Australian Institute of Parapsychological Research.

Irwin, H. J., Dagnall, N., & Drinkwater, K. (2012).  Paranormal beliefs and cognitive processes underlying the formation of delusions.  Australian Journal of Parapsychology, 12, 107-126.

Krippner, S., Rock, A. J., Beischel, J., Friedman, H. L., & Fracasso, C. L. (Eds.) (2013). Advances in Parapsychological Research, Volume 9. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Additional Publications

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

Irwin, H. J. & Watt C. (2007). An Introduction to Parapsychology (5th ed.). Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland.

Irwin, H.J. (2002). Proneness to self-deception and the two-factor model of paranormal belief. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 66, 80-87.

Irwin, H.J., & Young, J.M. (2002). Intuitive versus reflective processes in the formation of paranormal beliefs. European Journal of Parapsychology, 17, 45-54.

Irwin, H.J. (2000). The disembodied self: An empirical study of dissociation and the out-of-body experience. Journal of Parapsychology, 64, 261-277.

Irwin, H.J. (1997). An empirically-derived typology of paranormal believers. European Journal of Parapsychology, 13, 1-14.

Irwin, H.J. (1996). Childhood antecedents of out-of-body and déjà vu experiences. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 90, 157-173.

Irwin, H.J. (1994). Childhood trauma and the origins of paranormal belief: A constructive replication. Psychological Reports, 74, 107-111.

Irwin, H.J. (1993). The near-death experience as a dissociative phenomenon: An empirical assessment. Journal of Near-Death Experiences, 12, 95-103.

Irwin, H.J. (1993). Belief in the paranormal: A review of the empirical literature. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 87, 1-39.

Irwin, H.J. (1992). Origins and functions of paranormal belief: The role of childhood trauma and interpersonal control. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 86, 199-208.

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

Here is a new publication about mediumship:

Rachel E. Evenden, Callum E. Cooper, Graham Mitchell, “A Counseling Approach to Mediumship: Adaptive outcomes of Grief following an Exceptional Experience” (Journal of Exceptional Experiences and Psychology, 2013, 1(2), http://jeep.eu5.org/index.php/jeep/article/view/29).

Journal Exceptional Experiences

Abstract

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.

The authors concluded:

“Mediumship has been demonstrated as a positive tool for some in facilitating a continued bond with the deceased in order to meet previously unmet needs. Once those needs have been met, confusion is reduced which enables the bereaved individual to experience a reflective period which facilitates personal growth, transformation and wisdom.”

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

Phantasms of the Living vol 2Traditionally there has been much interest in psychic phenomena reported around the moment of someone’s death, as seen in old classics such as Gurney, Myers and Podmore’s Phantasms of the Living (1886), and in the later works of Ernesto Bozzano, Camille Flammarion, Erlendur Haraldsson, and Sylvia Hart Wright, among many other examples.  I will present an overview of some of this work in a lecture sponsored by the Rhine Research Center, which will be broadcasted online.

Wright When Spirits Come Calling 2

Flammarion Death and its Mystery

Here is a summary of the talk, entitled “Psychic Phenomena and Death:”

Psychic phenomena of different sorts have traditionally been associated to death and closeness to death. Alvarado will focus on phenomena such as apparitions of the living, deathbed visions, physical phenomena, and shared death experiences. The presentation will include examples of these phenomena, as well as a discussion of less usual topics, such as communications received through mediums about the process of death and experiments conducted at the moment of death. There will also be examples of attempts found in parapsychological literature to explain the above mentioned phenomena and of the ancient idea that death is but a change into a different state. The topics will be illustrated with slides and the discussion will cover both historical and more recent material.

The talk will take place at the  Stedman Auditorium on the Duke Center for Living Campus (Durham, North Carolina) on February 21, 2014, between 7:00-9:00 PM.

For details about registration go here.  Click here for online registration. Members of the Rhine Research Center will eventually be able to watch the recording of the lecture in the Center’s media library.

Rhine Research Center, Durham, North Carolina

Rhine Research Center, Durham, North Carolina

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

Dr. Alejandro Parra is a well known parapsychological researcher from Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has just published the results of a study about premonitions: “A Phenomenological Examination of Premonition in Dreams and Waking State: A Survey Study” (Australian Journal of Parapsychology, 2013, 13, 187-212; for reprints write to the rapp@fibertel.com.ar).

Dr. Alejandro Parra

Dr. Alejandro Parra

Here is the abstract of the article:

“The main aim of the present study was to determine the proportion of people in Argentina who claim to have had various kinds of premonition experiences, and to discover correlations between these experiences and other variables, such as content, topics, symbols, clearness, vividness, emotional variables, and sensory modalities, and whether people could discern normal from paranormal explanations for their premonitions. The sample comprised 218 (50.8%) females and 211 (49.2%) males (Mean Age = 34 years; SD = 13 years), most of whom were students. The Premonition Experiences Questionnaire was used to collect information on spontaneous premonition experiences. The first part of the questionnaire covered ‘Premonition in dreams’, and the second part covered ‘Premonition not related to dreams’ (i.e., premonitions in waking states). The majority of premonitory dreamers reported that their premonitions were vivid, clear, and emotionally intense. Premonitory dreams were reported to be clearer than usual dreams. More than half the participants who reported premonitions during waking states, reported feeling anxious, but many expressed feelings of happiness and relief. The information obtained in the survey is of value to parapsychology both as a source of sociological information, and possible hypotheses about the nature of the experiences considered.”

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