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Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

One of my most recent publications is an article about Sylvan J. Muldoon and Hereward’s Carrington’s The Phenomena of Astral Projection that appeared in the online encyclopedia of the Society for Psychical Research (The Phenomena of Astral Projection (1951). In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research, 2016. The book, a modern classic about what today is generally referred to as out-of-body experiences, was published in 1951 and  consisted of discussions of the “doctrine of astral projection,” and of presentations of cases.

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Today there are many books about out-of-body experiences, but this was not the case when The Phenomena of Astral Projection appeared. Muldoon and Carrington’s work became an important reference work that presented many cases.

As I wrote: “Muldoon and Carrington believe ‘astral projection’ implies that the mind is independent of the physical body, something that supports the idea of an etheric brain. This, they write, ‘certainly seems but a short step to the acceptance of an etheric body, separate and apart from the physical, which body we may inhabit at death, and which constitutes the vehicle of the mind in astral projections.’ ”

SYLVAN MULDOON

Sylvan J. Muldoon

HEREWARD CARRINGTON

Hereward Carrington

Muldoon and Carrington discussed evidence for the existence of a subtle body:

“First, there is the massive weight of human belief and testimony, from the earliest times to our own day, in all parts of the world, and among civilized and uncivilized peoples. Second, we have those cases of apparitions in which the phantom-form seems to exhibit a mind of its own—often imparting information unknown to the seer at the time, but afterwards verified. Third, we have those cases in which material effects are apparently produced by the phantom, or its image appears upon photographic plates. Fourth, we have instances of materialization, at séances… Fifth, we have cases of astral projection, in which the subject sees his own phantom body, and is occasionally seen by others. In these last instances especially, we have evidence that the phantom form possesses a mind of its own, separate and distinct from the physical brain and body, which latter may be seen resting upon the bed. The cumulative mass of such testimony is, we submit, most impressive, and gives us the right to believe that such a ‘spiritual body’ exists—as St. Paul long ago stated.”

The authors present many cases classified as those of deliberate  projections, and those that took place while using drugs, in emotional conditions, as well as during accidents, various illnesses, sleep, and during physical activity, a topic I have discussed before.

One of the physical activity cases they presented was the following:

“I was conscious of rising higher and higher, with each gliding step, until I ‘levitated’ about the height of a one-storey building…I was dumbstruck to see ‘myself’ left behind some distance… Looking down at my physical body… I had a great pity for it… I was…fully conscious in my astral body…and saw the eyes in my physical body moving and scrutinizing ‘me’ with a look of wonderment… A moment later my consciousness suddenly shifted to my physical body and, looking through its eyes, endeavouring to figure out the situation, I saw my astral body in space… This occurred several times…”

They also had a chapter entitled “Projections at the Time of Death” in which they presented the testimony of people around deathbeds that saw lights, mista and subtle bodies come out of the body of the dying persons. There is also a chapter with cases in which spirits were seen.

Muldoon and Carrington felt that the cases they presented supported the idea of survival of death:

“The universe seems to be, at basis, rational and spiritual in nature, and there is assuredly a narrow gulf between these phenomena and death itself. As Myers expressed it years ago, ‘death is but the irrevocable projection of the spirit.’ In the one case it is temporary; in the other permanent. But death is no more ‘terrible’ and no more ‘miraculous’ than these projection phenomena, and we have seen that, in many of these cases, the experience proved so delightful that the subject did not want to return to earth life at all! The transition into the spiritual world proved both easy and pleasant, while the experience in that world was little less than ‘blissful.’ ”

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Here are references to some recent articles that represent different approaches to the study of mediumship.

Alvarado, C. S. (2015). Classic text no. 107: “Report of the Committee on Mediumistic Phenomena,” by William James (1886). History of Psychiatry, 27, 85–100.

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William James

Mediumship was a topic of great interest to some nineteenth-century students of mental phenomena. Together with the phenomena of hypnosis and other manifestations, mediumship was seen by many as a dissociative phenomenon. The purpose of this Classic Text is to present an excerpt of an article about the topic that William James (1842–1910) published in 1886 in the Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research about American medium Leonora E. Piper (1857–1950). The article, an indication of late nineteenth-century interactions between dissociation studies and psychical research, was the first report of research with Mrs Piper, a widely investigated medium of great importance for the development of mediumship studies. In addition to studying the case as a dissociative experience, James explored the possibility that Piper’s mentation contained verifiable information suggestive of ‘supernormal’ knowledge. Consequently, James provides an example of a topic neglected in historical studies, the ideas of those who combined conventional dissociation studies with psychical research.

Alvarado, C.S. (2016). Classic Text No. 107: Joseph Maxwell on mediumistic personifications. History of Psychiatry, 27, 350-366.

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The study of mediumship received much impetus from the work of psychical researchers. This included ideas about the phenomena of personation, or changes in attitudes, dispositions and behaviours shown by some mediums that supposedly indicated discarnate action. The aim of this Classic Text is to reprint passages about this topic from the writings of French psychical researcher Joseph Maxwell (1858–1938), which were part of the contributions of some psychical researchers to reconceptualize the manifestations in psychological terms. Maxwell suggested these changes in mediums were a production of their subconscious mind. His ideas are a reflection of previous theorization about secondary personalities and a particular example of the contributions of psychical researchers to understand the psychology of mediumship.

Bastos, M. A. V., Jr.; Bastos, P. R. H., Osório, I. H. S., H., Muass, K. A. R., Curvello, Iandoly, D., Jr.; Lucchietti, G. (2016). Frontal electroencephalographic (EEG) activity and mediumship: A comparative study between spiritist mediums and controls. Archives of Clinical Psychiatry, 43, 20–26.

Mediumship and spirit possession are cultural phenomena found worldwide. The Spiritism, popular in Brazil, is a religious tradition that emphasizes mediumship. The “absorption hypothesis” (the association of marked increases in focused attention with concomitant decreases in self-awareness) is one of the neuropsychological explanatory theories for these experiences. We measured electroencephalographic (EEG) spectral power in frontal electrodes within theta, alpha and beta bandwidths, as well as cross-regional cortical coherences, in female Spiritist experienced mediums (n = 10) and in female non-medium control subjects from the same religious context (n = 10). Scalp EEG signals were captured simultaneously from participants in each of the two groups in three different moments: before, during and immediately after mediumistically speaking. Compared to non-medium controls, the mediums had greater beta power on some electrodes in all phases of the experiment, greater theta power on one electrode at the communication phase and greater alpha power on one electrode at the post-communication phase. No condition effects (within-group comparisons) were detected in any group. No group effects were noted for cross regional cortical coherences. No ictal EEG pattern was observed, except for one participant in the mediums group. These findings support the hypothesis that absorption could have a mechanistic role in anomalous sensorial experiences such as mediumship. The coherence pattern in mediums during the anomalous experience differed from prior studies on pathological dissociation and on hypnotic states. Cognitive control processes seem to be engaged during the anomalous sensorial experiences.

Beischel, J., Mosher, C., & Boccuzzi, M. (2014-2015). The possible effects on bereavement of assisted after-death communication during readings with psychic mediums: A continuing bonds perspective. Omega, 70, 169-194.

Unresolved, complicated, prolonged, or traumatic grief can have detrimental effects on mental and/or physical health. The effects of traditional grief counseling, with its focus on the client’s acceptance of separation and integration of loss, are unclear. Within the model of continuing bonds, however, grief resolution includes an ongoing relationship between the living and the deceased. Spontaneous and induced experiences of after-death communication (ADC) have been shown to be beneficial in the resolution of grief by demonstrating these continued bonds. Presently, many bereaved individuals are experiencing assisted ADCs by receiving readings from psychic mediums and though little is known about the effects of this self prescribed treatment option, anecdotal reports and exploratory data posit a positive outcome. This article aims to inform those who work with the bereaved about the relationships between grief, spontaneous, induced, and assisted ADC experiences, and the continuing bonds paradigm. Suggestions for future research are also included.

Crabtree, A. (2015). Mesmerism and the psychological dimension of mediumship. In C. Gutierrez (Ed.), Handbook of Spiritualism and Channeling (pp. 7-31). Leiden: Brill.

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Dr. Adam Crabtree

Espirito Santo, D. (2016). Recursivity and the self-reflexive cosmos: Tricksters in Cuban and Brazilian spirit mediumship practices. Social Analysis, 60, 37–55.

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Dr. Diana Espirito Santo

In this article, I explore how the cosmologies of two popular spirit possession cults—Espiritismo in Cuba and Umbanda in Brazil—exhibit forms of recursivity and self-reflexivity. Taking my cue from Don Handelman’s notion that the cosmos often contains its own logic of self-becoming, I argue that in these ethnographic cases, recursivity results from the interplay between, on the one hand, the spirits’ expression of their autonomy from living beings and, on the other, the spirits’ contingency for their effectiveness on human belief, representation, perception, and action. In Espiritismo and Umbanda, spirits intervene in human affairs unpredictably, throwing new light on anthropological and native conceptualizations of reflexivity.

Gauld, A. (2014). Two cases from the lost years of Mrs. Piper. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 78, 65-84.

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Leonora E. Piper

This paper presents two hitherto unpublished cases from what may be called the ‘lost years’ of Mrs. Piper, the period between 1897 and 1905 from which only a very limited amount has been published. The cases illustrate different aspects of the Piper phenomenon, and while not among the strongest are not without evidential interest. They are used as the basis for a discussion of various standard tactics for denying that there is any paranormal element in such cases.

Leonard, T.J. (2015). A qualitative analysis of mediumship development among ordained Spiritualist ministers: A research study. Bulletin of Fukuoka University of Education, 64, 33-42.

From the conclusion: “The mediums who participated in this survey are clearly dedicated and believe sincerely in what they do. This study was undertaken, in part, to determine how and when the mediums discovered their gifts of mediumship initially, and when they made the decision to become certified mediums. Also, this study endeavored to find out what personal mediumistic experiences the Spiritualist mediums had as they were developing their mediumship formally . . .  As evidenced in this paper, for Spiritualist mediums, mediumship is not a game or form of entertainment, but instead a very serious calling that allows them to use their gifts to help others. For many, it is a way of life and they dedicate themselves to offering evidentiary messages to those seeking comfort and consolation to know that their loved ones are around and are indeed able to communicate with their loved ones on this side of the veil.”

Medeiros, A.D.D. (2016). Occultism and mediums in Fernando Pessoa. Holos, 32, 81-90.

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Fernando Pessoa

This work is the result of a research on the influence that occultism had on the work of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. To delimitate the study, we selected papers of Fernando Pessoa, which suggested that the poet considered himself medium, and hence influenced his work, building his depersonalization. This work presents, thus, as main objective to analyze personal papers of Fernando Pessoa, whose outstanding characteristic is the presence of occultism and the supposed mediumship defended by him in response to non-literary and heteronymic manifestations. To this end, I focused on specific objectives, which are: a) to study the speech of Fernando Pessoa on his supposed mediumship / occultism b) to analyze specific texts that are, for the poet, mediumistic manifestations c) to study excerpts from a set of personal letters in which Fernando Pessoa suggested being a medium. It is true that this dissertation will address many discussions already made by scholars and specialists in Fernando Pessoa, but we consider the possibility to deepen issues and contribute to the critical fortune of the poet.

Parker, A., & Warwood, E. (2016). Revealing the real Madame d’Esperance: An historical and psychological investigation. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 30, 233-266.

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Elizabeth d’Espérance

Madame d’Esperance was a physical medium, well-known for her materialized forms which bereaved sitters often recognized as their dead relatives. A critical evaluation is made of her acclaimed autobiographical account, Shadow Land, with a particular focus on her activities, first in Newcastle, England, and then in Gothenburg, Sweden. In this process, we had access to recently discovered archives and rare publications. A presentation is made of some of the fraudulent methods used by physical mediums and the possible psychological processes behind the remarkable experiences of the sitters attending séances.

Pierini, E. (2016). Becoming a spirit medium: Initiatory learning and the self in the Vale do Amanhecer. Ethnos, 81, 290-314.

Drawing on ethnographic data from the Brazilian mediumistic religion known as Vale do Amanhecer (Valley of the Dawn) this article addresses the learning process at the core of mediumistic development. The process of learning is here approached as a multi-layered experience, which is embodied, intuitive, performative, conceptual, and inter-subjective. I will illustrate how the relationship between mediums and spirits is established in trance states through what Thomas Csordas calls a ‘multisensory imagery’. The discussion examines the concurrence of emotions, feelings, somatosensory experience, and doctrinal discourses in developing mediumistic skills, which simultaneously engenders the attributes of extendability and multidimensionality that ground the notion of the self informing the conceptualisation of trance.

Schmidt, B.E. (2015). Spirit mediumship in Brazil: The controversy about semi-conscious mediums. Diskus,17.2, 38-53.

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Dr. Bettina Schmidt

This article focuses on spirit mediumship in Brazil. The term mediumship refers to the communication between humans the spirit world which is the core of Spiritism. In anthropological literature it is often categorised as altered states of consciousness, however, people experiencing it reject these categorizations. This article presents excerpts from interviews with Brazilian spiritists in order to illustrate the different ways people explain mediumship to an outsider, an anthropologist from Europe. The article then discusses their interpretation within the wider academic discourse surrounding this kind of experience. The intention is that Brazilian Spiritism and the wider discourse surrounding mediumship will serve as a case study to present the complexity of this form of religious experience.

Shamdasani, S. (2015). ‘S.W.’ and C.G. Jung: mediumship, psychiatry and serial exemplarity. History of Psychiatry, 26, 288-302.

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Helene Preiswerk

On the basis of unpublished materials, this essay reconstructs Jung’s seances with his cousin, Helene Preiswerk, which formed the basis of his 1902 medical dissertation, The Psychology and Pathology of so-called Occult Phenomena. It separates out Jung’s contemporaneous approach to the mediumistic phenomena she exhibited from his subsequent sceptical psychological reworking of the case. It traces the reception of the work and its significance for his own self-experimentation from 1913 onwards. Finally, it reconstructs the manner in which Jung continually returned to his first model and reframed it as an exemplar of his developing theories.

Storm, L.C.,& Rock, A.J. (2015). Testing telepathy in the medium/proxy-sitter dyad: A protocol focusing on the source-of-psi problem Journal of Scientific Exploration, 29, 565-584.

Numerous mediumship studies (e.g., Beischel & Schwartz 2007, Kelly & Arcangel 2011, Rock, Beischel, Boccuzzi, & Biuso 2014) have reported statistically significant results, thus suggesting that various contemporary mediums are able to demonstrate anomalous information reception (AIR) under laboratory conditions. Importantly, however, such studies are unable to address the source of mediums’ AIR. Indeed, the source-of-psi problem (survival-psi and living agent psi [LAP] being the most likely contenders) cannot be resolved using current methodologies (Beischel 2012). However, innovative mediumship-testing techniques may produce results that indicate a convergence whereby sets of outcomes may evidentially favor one hypothesis over another (e.g., see Jamieson & Rock 2014 for a neurophenomenological approach). We present an innovative methodology focused on investigating whether mediums and well-rehearsed proxy-sitters, working under well-beyond double-blind conditions, create telepathic links that we refer to as dyad-telepathy, thereby producing response sets that indicate the psi source is more likely to be dyad-telepathy than a discarnate entity.

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation
I recently participated, via Skype, in Alexandre Sech Junior’s doctoral defence of a thesis about William James and psychic phenomena. I was delighted by the quality of the thesis and the responses Alexandre gave to my questions. The degree was granted by the Health Program of the School of Medicine of the Federal University of Juiz de For a (Minas Gerais, Brazil).

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Dr. Alexandre Sech Junior

Alexandre, who I met in Brazil some years back, and with whom I have corresponded, has a masters degree in philosophy from the Pontifical Catholic University of Parana. He is a member of the Nucleo de Pesquisa em Espiritualidade e Saude (Group of Research in Spirituality and Health), which is part of the Federal University of Juiz de For a. Alexandre is the main author of an article about James that I mentioned before in this blog (click here), and has been active in other ways.

Here is the summary of his thesis, which is in Portuguese.

The Occult in the Works of William James and its Influence in the Conception and Development of the Concept of Stream of Consciousness

“This study deals with the occult expressed through exceptional mental phenomena – mediumistic trances, mystical experiences, automatisms and anomalous experiences of healing – and their relations to the works of psychologist and philosopher William James (1842-1910). Therefore, it is limited to the English and American context of science in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. In its first phase, the research gave priority to the exegesis of primary sources, such as: The Principles of Psychology, Psychology: Briefer Course, The Varieties of Religious Experience and A Pluralistic Universe. I also analyzed articles from works of the collection The Works of William James such as Essays in Psychology, Essays in Psychical Research, Essays in Radical Empiricism and Essays, Comments, Reviews.”

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William James

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james-varieties

“Furthermore, this study deals with secondary sources related to the life and thought of William James and of medium Leonora Piper (1857-1950), as well as other scholars that somehow were associated to his work. The second phase consisted of searching for new archival evidence from the William James Papers kept at Houghton Library at Harvard University in Cambridge, USA, and also from the Society for Psychical Research Papers preserved at Wren Library and at Cambridge University Library in Cambridge, England. Letters, journals, notebooks, private notes, lecture notes, marginalia, manuscripts and rough drafts of scientific observations and reports of William James and research associates who might have been present at the séances arranged by him have been photographed, categorized and analyzed, totaling almost 2,000 documents. I present this thesis in a threefold manner and although it is not a biographical study, this research adopted a chronological approach to present William James’s writings. The first part presents various concepts of the occult through history up to their relation to the exceptional mental phenomena within the context of this inquiry. The second part establishes the importance of the occult in the life and works of William James arguing the relevance of their phenomena for the definition and scope of a radical science of mind envisioned by him. The third and last part presents indications and evidence, which indicates that James might have put his project into practice. New and not yet published documents indicate the possibility of a direct influence of the occult in the conception and development of James’s important concept called Stream of Consciousness, leading this thesis to the conclusion that Jamesian tradition in psychology owes more to the occult than history currently admits. My main conclusions are that James’s interest in the occult was more than mere eccentricity; his many years of interest and dedication to occult phenomena had an important role in the development of his project of psychology. This means that in order to understand the works of William James in a thorough manner, one must consider the interface between his psychology and the occult; and finally, that phenomena deemed as paranormal which involve exceptional aspects of mental life may represent a legitimate way to understand human nature to its fullest extension.”

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Leonora E. Piper

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Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1909, 23, 2–121.

I hope we will see soon publications based on this fascinating study.

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

The Parapsychology Foundation is announcing their third Book Expo (on the second click here). This consists of three free online presentations of recently published book presented by their authors plus an opening and closing sessions with PF staff. The event will take place on Saturday, November 12, 2016.

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The books featured are Transcendent Mind, by Dr. Imants Barušs and Dr. Julia Mossbridge (presented by Mossbridge), The Self Does Not Die, by Titus Rivas, Anny Dirven, and Rudolf H. Smit (presented by Rivas and Smit), and Enquête sur 150 Ans de Parapsychologie, by Dr. Renaud Evrard.

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Here is the schedule:

Saturday November 12th, 2016

  • Noon Eastern: Opening Session, Lisette Coly, Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado, & Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone.
  • 12:30pm Eastern: Transcendent Mind: Rethinking the Science of Consciousness by Dr. Imants Baruss and Dr. Julia Mossbridge, presenter: Dr. Julia Mossbridge.
  • 2:00pm Eastern: The Self Does Not Die: Verified Paranormal Phenomena from Near-Death Experiences by Titus Rivas, Anny Dirven, and Rudolf Smit, translated by Dr. Jan Holden with a foreword by Robert and Suzanne Mays. Presenters: Titus Rivas and Rudolf Smit.
  • 3:30pm Eastern: Enquete sur 150 ans de parapsychologie: La legende de l’espirt [A Survey of 150 Years of Parapsychology: The Legend of the Spirit] by Dr. Renaud Evrard, presenter: Dr. Renaud Evrard.
  • 5:00pm Eastern: Closing Session, Lisette Coly, Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado, & Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone.

To register for free click here.

To purchase the books follow the links below:

Transcendent Mind

The Self Does Not Die

Enquête sur 150 ans de Parapsychologie

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

In this interesting book Titus Rivas, Anny Dirven, and Rudolf H. Smit address one of the most important aspects of near-death experiences (NDEs), veridical manifestations such as obtaining verifiable information during the experience.

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This interview is with the first author, Titus Rivas. He has masters degrees in psychology and in philosophy and is a freelance author who has published over 20 books, among them, Reincarnation: The Evidence is Building (with Dr. K.S. Rawat). Furthermore he has published many articles about psychical research, and other topics, such as animal rights and veganism.

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Titus Rivas

The Self Does not Die: Verified Paranormal Phenomena from Near-Death Experiences is available here.

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

The book consists of a compilation of over 100 cases of near-death experiences with externally confirmed paranormal aspects. These concern ESP (clairvoyance and telepathy), encounters with known and unknown historical deceased persons, lucid consciousness that is not supported by sufficient cortical activity (according to the dominant materialist or physicalist paradigm), “miraculous” healings, perception by others of the NDEr while the latter is out of his or her body, and paranormal abilities (including psychokinesis) after the NDE. It also contains empirical, theoretical and philosophical analyses and a thorough evaluation of various arguments defended by “naturalistic” skeptics.  

It is a book in the tradition of early psychical reseachers such as Camille Flammarion, F.W.H. Myers, and Ernesto Bozzano, and we are also indebted to contemporary investigators such as the late Ian Stevenson, Mary Rose Barrington, and Erlendur Haraldsson.

What is your background in parapsychology, and with the topic of the book specifically?

My background is that of an experienced, independent psychical researcher and theorist with an ‘old-fashioned’ personalist/substance dualist ontology. I’m affiliated to several associations, including Athanasia Foundation, Network NDEs, and the Dutch SPR.

As far as I can remember, I have always been interested in parapsychology in its broadest sense, actually, from my childhood. I started writing my own articles about many paranormal phenomena in the 1980s. I’ve written several books about my work in the field, both alone and co-authored by Anny Dirven (1935-2016) and co-authored a book with Tilly Gerritsma, It’s Really Rather Normal. Another English treatise I wrote with my Indian friend Dr. Kirti Swaroop Rawat is Reincarnation: The Evidence is Building.

Two of my central parapsychological interests are survival research and personal evolution as outlined by Ian Stevenson, which encompasses topics like reincarnation, pre-existence, and longitudinal personal development over more than one lifetime. Obviously, the area of survival research prominently includes near-death experiences and this is the third book of mine that is largely devoted to this subject. The book was originally published in Dutch under the title Wat een stervend brein niet kan (What a Dying Brain Can’t Do), and its extended translated version was published by IANDS as The Self Does Not Die. The excellent translation project was undertaken by Wanda Boeke and there were three editors, Robert and Suzanne Mays and Jan Holden. Robert and Suzanne also played a very active role in the collection and investigation of new cases that were added to the original compilation. Jan Holden was also a great source of inspiration and information, because she is one of the leading experts on Apparently non-physical Veridical Perceptions (AVPs).

What motivated you to write this book?

Together with my co-authors Anny Dirven and Rudolf H. Smit, I wanted to present a collection of all strong cases of NDEs with paranormal aspects that are directly confirmed by a third party. I regard such cases as scientific or scholarly evidence rather than just so-called anecdotal material without any solid implications. By collecting all strong cases, including a few new ones that we directly investigated ourselves, we’ve tried to demonstrate that the evidence for paranormal phenomena linked to NDEs is very strong, and certainly cannot be explained away anymore.

Rudolf Smit has even written a whole chapter about the desperate attempts of pseudo-skeptics (or “debunkers”) to immunize their world view against this kind of evidence. They have done everything they could, but they’ve simply failed miserably. This means that materialism is not a serious theoretical option anymore for NDEs as a whole, and even deserves to be abandoned in all respects, something that had been concluded before by colleagues such as Charles Tart, and Chris Carter, and by the authors of Irreducible Mind.

We also tried to show that the evidence we collected, particularly concerning consciousness and veridical perception in NDEs during cardiac arrest, really leads the conclusion that there is an non-physical self that survives clinical death. It must be a personal self, which retains its consciousness, episodic and semantic memory, cognitive faculties, and psi abilities.

We indicate why extrapolation of this conclusion to the self’s condition after irreversible physical death is purely rational and parsimonious, and why alternative theories such as super-psi or living agent-psi are really less plausible in this particular case. We base this analysis both on cases of consciousness during cardiac arrest and on NDEs that involve paranormal encounters with deceased persons.

Why do you think your book is important and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

I think our book is important because –  in all modesty –  we have managed to reach our goals. The book is really compelling for anyone with an open mind. I hope that the The Self Does Not Die will reach many educated readers and that it will play an important part in serious future debates about features of NDEs that cannot be explained materialistically. I also hope it will give NDE research a sounder foundation, and help people to build a kinder, more hopeful, and liberal spiritual world view in an open, rational and tolerant spirit.

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

I first met Alexander Moreira-Almeida, M.D., PhD, in Charlottesville, Virginia, when he came to attend a conference about mediumship sponsored by the Parapsychology Foundation. Alexander is a psychiatrist from Brazil that works at the University of Juiz de Fora. I visited him in Brazil with my wife an colleague Nancy L. Zingrone, and met several of his graduate students, many of whom were working on projects related to mediumship and other topics.

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Dr. Alexander Moreira-Almeida

Alexander currently holds various positions, among them: Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Federal University of Juiz de Fora [UFJF], School of Medicine, Director of the Research Center in Spirituality and Health (NUPES) at UFJF, Chair of the World Psychiatric Association Section on Religion, Spirituality and Psychiatry, and Chair of the Section on Spirituality of the Brazilian Psychiatric Association.

Alexander’s dissertation was about the relationship between mental mediumship and psychopathology. Over the years he has published on the subject and his general results do not support the idea that mediums suffer from mental problems.

Interview

How did you get interested in parapsychology?

I grew up in a family, like many others in Brazil, with strong and mixed religious/spiritual interests. I was exposed mainly to Catholicism, Umbanda (an African-Brazilian religion), Spiritism, and to a variety of esoteric/spiritualist movements. At the same time, since an early age, I had a strong interest in natural sciences and philosophy. I was also influenced by Spiritism and its proposal of using a rational and scientific approach to spiritual issues, of reconciling religion and science.

So I became interested in exploring and understanding anomalous experiences from a rational/scientific perspective. In 1995 I was a medical student at the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF), Brazil. In the same week, two articles were published in national press media covering psychic surgery. It was the first time I heard about John of God.  What intrigued me the most was the fact that the two articles had totally opposing views of psychic surgery. One presented it as quackery and the other as a real and effective treatment. At that time it became clear to me that both articles had preconceptions about the subject, since none presented clear evidence to support their claims.  Then, I asked myself why someone did not simply start by checking if the “surgeries” were real or fake. So, with another colleague, and under supervision of a Pathology Professor of my medical school, we developed a study on the spiritual healing and surgeries performed by John of God, my first study on issues related to spirituality or parapsychology (click here).

During my residence in psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry of the University of São Paulo, Brazil, I started more in depth studies of spiritual experiences. I was especially interested in studies on the origins, the sources, of spiritual experiences and how to differentiate them from mental disorders. With another resident and two psychiatry professors, we founded the NEPER (Center for the Study of Religious and Spiritual Problems) of the Institute of Psychiatry – USP, a multidisciplinary research group in religion/spirituality and health that includes psychiatrists, neurologists, pharmacist, psychologists, a historian, an anthropologist and a philosopher. This was first research group in spirituality and health in a medical school in Brazil. During that time I got to know the studies on anomalous/spiritual experiences performed by Ian Stevenson, Bruce Greyson, Stanley Krippner and Etzel Cardeña.  At the same institution, I obtained a PhD in Health Sciences (2004) with the doctoral dissertation: “Phenomenology of Mediumistic Experiences, Profile and Psychopathology of Spiritist Mediums.”

After my PhD, I was a posdoctoral fellow (2005-6) at Duke University (USA) under supervision of Prof. Harold Koenig. During that time, in addition to perform studies in epidemiology of religion, I also became familiar with the Parapsychological Association, the Parapsychology Foundation and the Rhine Research Center, what allowed to met many good researchers in parapsychology that were very supportive of my work.

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

My main research interests involve the exploration of the association between religiosity and health, empirical studies of spiritual experiences as well as the methodology, history and epistemology of this research. My main focus now is on spiritual experiences, especially on their differentiation from mental disorders and their implications to mind-brain relationship.

We have performed several epidemiological studies with clinical (bipolar, dialysis patients, rehabilitation) and general population (elderly, college students,  pregnant women on the impact of religion and spirituality (R/S) on health outcomes (depression, anxiety, quality of life, pain, substance use/abuse etc). In order to foster new studies about R/S in Brazil, we have translated and validated, or developed in Portuguese three different scales (click herehere, and here).

Interdisciplinary studies of spiritual experiences are essential to advance the scientific understanding of them. Most of my studies on spiritual experiences have been focused on mediumship. I started with my PhD investigating the phenomenology and the mental health of 115 spiritist mediums in São Paulo, Brazil. Our findings have shown that mediums, despite having many anomalous experiences that have been called “psychotic” and/or “dissociative,” have good mental health. Actually, there were  correlations of the frequency of full trance and hearing spirits with better social adjustment and lower psychiatric symptoms. I have been involved with studies and discussions in the international psychiatric community (through conferences and papers) about the distinction between spiritual experiences and mental disorders (click here; see video).

I have become more focused on the investigation of the sources of spiritual experiences and their implications for mind-brain relationship, especially regarding the evidence if mind is or not reducible to brain activity (click here). In collaboration with Andrew Newberg MD and Julio Peres, PhD, we have been involved in neurofunctional imaging studies of mediumistic experiences. We performed a study at the University of Pennsylvania, USA that was published in PlosONE in 2012, and two at Aachen University, Germany (with Julio Peres, PhD, Ute Habel, PhD and Alessandra Mainieri, PhD). We have just ended a study on the evidence of survival provided by the Brazilian medium Chico Xavier.

We have promoted international conferences in Brazil and symposia in international congresses such as (American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association and World Psychiatric Association) to discuss mind-brain relationship and also the clinical, research and theoretical implications of studies with anomalous experiences.

Why do you think that parapsychology is important?

It is important because it fosters research in several sorts of human experiences that are often neglected in other fields of science. If we wish to have a comprehensive picture of the universe and of the human nature we cannot afford  neglecting and ignoring any aspect of human experience.

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

I believe that naïve acceptance of materialist scientism and myths about the history and epistemology of the relationship between science and religion/spirituality are two major blocks. The materialist perspective of human being and the universe is a worldview, a metaphysical assumption and not a scientific fact. It is important to show that most founding fathers of modern science and psychology were not adept of materialism. Currently I am involved in historical studies on the studies of mediumship performed by William James.

I discussed some of these problems in the paper “Reflections on the Future of Scientific Investigations of Psi Phenomena”, published at the Special Issue Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Journal of Parapsychology (2012, 76, 33-35, supplement). I will answer with some ideas I developed there. Parapsychology has also suffered from past sterile controversies inside the field of parapsychology (e.g. between laboratory and natural observations, and between ESP and survival research), and between this field and mainstream science.

Parapsychology often assumed positivist and naïve inductivist views of science. This illusory ideal included overvaluation of measurements and laboratory experiments, even in intrinsically qualitative issues, as well as the quest for the unreachable scientific goal of finding the perfect evidence or developing a crucial experiment.  This epistemological stance also favored an “anti-theoretical” approach, in the belief that mere collection of more and more refined experimental data would lead to complete scientific knowledge. This is a major factor which has been impairing theoretical development. In contrast, I believe that research should be conducted within the framework of what philosophers of science have called “scientific research programms” or “paradigms.”

Finally, another current development that may have impact in the future of the field is the recent economic and scientific flourishing in many countries not belonging to the axis Europe-North America. This widening of the range of participants in the scientific game is expected to enhance international collaboration, to foster creativity, and to generate new insights, hypothesis and research strategies. Diversity and creativity, allied with intellectual rigor and impartiality, are, I believe, essential ingredients in the scientific exploration of psi phenomena.

Can you mention some of your current projects?

Our research group (NUPES – Research Center in Spirituality and Health, School of Medicine, Federal University of Juiz de Fora – UFJF, Brazil) is currently composed by researchers from several areas (Psychiatry, Geriatrics, Nursing, Physical Therapy, Philosophy, History, Psychology, and Statistics). We are currently involved in several exciting projects. There is multidisciplinary research (neuroimaging, psychiatry, neuropsychology) comparing hallucinatory experiences between mediums and patients with schizophrenia. Another study, using a controlled and blind protocol, investigates the obtention of anomalous information by mediums.  Another project is the “Mind-brain debate in contemporary psychiatry” (click here , funded by Oxford University and Templeton Foundation. This project engages a wide range of disciplines (psychiatry, psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, and history of science) in order to: 1) increase interest and awareness by general and academic audiences on the state of art of academic discussions on MBP; 2) stimulate new and well informed studies; 3) encourage networking  and the establishment of new research groups of MBP. As part of the project we promoted the “1st Mind-Brain International Symposium” in São Paulo, Brazil. We had more than 500 attendees and speakers from several disciplines. In March/2017 we will promote the 2nd Mind-Brain Symposium. Several videos on the subject have been produced and at available at TV NUPES, a bilingual – English-Portuguese – YouTube Channel. The project also involves research, a Facebook Page, and an award for an essay competition “The mind-brain debate and its controversies”.

Currently I am also chairing the Sections on Religion, Spirituality and Psychiatry of the World Psychiatric Association (WPA) and of the Brazilian Psychiatric Association. In order to promote research and education on the interface between spirituality and psychiatry, the WPA released recently a Position Statement.

Selected Publications

EDITED BOOK:

2012 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, Santos, Franklin S. (Eds.) Exploring Frontiers of the Mind-Brain Relationship. New York, EUA: Springer.

PAPERS IN REFEREED JOURNALS:

2015 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, Araujo, S. F. Does brain produce mind? A survey of psychiatrists’ opinions. Archives of Clinical Psychiatry v.42, p.74 – 75.

2015 Silva, Cristiane Schumann; Lucchetti, Giancarlo; Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Validation of the Portuguese version of the Brief Multidimensional Measure of Religiousness/Spirituality (BMMRS-P) in clinical and non-clinical samples. Journal of Religion and Health, v.54, p.435-48.

2014 Sleuitjes, A., Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, Greyson, B. Almost 40 years investigating near-death experiences: an overview of mainstream scientific journals. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease v.202, p.833 – 836.

2014 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, Koenig, Harold G., Lucchetti, Giancarlo Clinical implications of spirituality to mental health: review of evidence and practical guidelines. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria v.36, p.176 – 182.

2014 Beauregard, Mario, Schwartz, Gary E., Miller, Lisa, Dossey, Larry, Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, Schlitz, Marilyn, Sheldrake, Rupert, Tart, Charles. Manifesto  for a Post-Materialist Science. Explore v.10, p.272 – 274.

2014 Alminhana, L, Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Anomalous experiences and schizotypy: a necessary distinction between pathological and non-pathological psychotic experiences. Psyche & Geloof. , v.25, p.217 – 134.

2014 Rocha, A. C., Parana, D., Freire, E. S., Lotufo Neto, Francisco, Moreira-Almeida,

Alexander. Investigating the accuracy of alleged mediumistic writing: a case study of Chico Xavier’s letters. Explore. v.10, p.300-8.

2013 Stroppa, André; Moreira-Almeida, Alexander . Religiosity, mood symptoms, and quality of life in bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disorders, v. 15, p.385-93.

2013 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Religion and health: the more we know the more we need to know. World Psychiatry. v.12, 37-38.

2013 Gomes, F. C. ; Andrade, A. G. ; Izbicki, R. ; Moreira-Almeida, Alexander ; Oliveira, L. G. . Religion as a Protective Factor against Drug Use among Brazilian University Students: A National Survey. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria v. 35,29-37.

2013 Tostes, J.S.R.M.; Pinto, A.R.; Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Religiosity/spirituality in clinical practice: what does the psychiatrist need to do? Revista Debates em Psiquiatria, v. 3, p. 20-26.

2013 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Explorando a relação mente-cérebro: reflexões e diretrizes. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica, v. 40, p. 105-109.

2013 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Scientific research on mediumship and mind-brain relationship: reviewing the evidence. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica, v. 40, p. 233-240.

2013 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Implications of spiritual experiences to the understanding of mind-brain relationship. Asian Journal of Psychiatry, v. 6, p. 585-589.

2013 Alminhana, L, Menezes JR, A., Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Personalidade, religiosidade e qualidade de vida em indivíduos que apresentam experiências anômalas em grupos religiosos. Jornal Brasileiro de Psiquiatria.v.62, p.268-274.

2013 Sech Junior, A., Araújo, S. F., Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. William James and Psychical Research: Toward a radical science of mind. History of Psychiatry. v.24, 62-78.

2012 Peres JFP, Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, Caixeta, L., Leao, F. C., Newberg, A. Neuroimaging during Trance State: A Contribution to the Study of Dissociation. Plos One, v.7, e49360.

2012 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Assessing clinical implications of spiritual experiences. Asian Journal of Psychiatry. v.5, p. 344-346.

2012 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Implicações dos estudos brasileiros em psiquiatria e espiritualidade. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica. v.39, 181.

2012 Lucchetti, G ; Granero, A. L. ; Peres MF ; Leao, F. C. ; Moreira-Almeida, Alexander ; Koenig, Harold G . Validation of the Duke Religion Index DUREL (Portuguese Version). Journal of Religion and Health, v. 51, p. 579-586.

2012 Taunay T.C. ; Cristino, E. D. ; Machado, M. O. ; Rola, F. H. ; Lima, J. W. O. ; Macedo, D. S. ; Gondim, F. A. A. ; Moreira-Almeida, Alexander ; Carvalho, A. F. Development and validation of the Intrinsic Religiousness Inventory (IRI). Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, v. 34, p. 76-81.

2012 Lucchetti, Giancarlo ; Aguiar, Paulo Rogério D. C. ; Braghetta, Camilla Casaletti ; Vallada, Candido P. ; Moreira-Almeida, Alexander ; Vallada, Homero . Spiritist Psychiatric Hospitals in Brazil: Integration of Conventional Psychiatric Treatment and Spiritual Complementary Therapy. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, v. 36,124-135.

2012 Taunay, Tauily Claussen D'Escragnolle, Gondim, Francisco de Assis Aquino, Macêdo, Daniele Silveira, Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, Gurgel, Luciana de Araújo, Andrade, Loraine Maria Silva, Carvalho, André Ferrer. Validação da versão brasileira da escala de religiosidade de Duke (DUREL). Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica, v.39, 130-135.

2012 Lucchetti, Giancarlo ; Lucchetti, Alessandra L. G. ; Peres, Mario F. P. ; Moreira-Almeida, Alexander ; Koenig, Harold G. . Religiousness, Health, and Depression in Older Adults from a Brazilian Military Setting. ISRN Psychiatry, v. 2012, p. 1-7.

2011 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander ; Cardeña, Etzel . Differential diagnosis between nonpathological psychotic and spiritual experiences and mental disorders: A contribution from Latin American Studies to the ICD-11. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, v. 33, p. S29-S34.

2011 Silva, Cristiane Schumann ; Stroppa A ; Moreira-Almeida, Alexander . The Contribution of Faith Based Health Organisations to Public Health. International Psychiatry, v. 8, p. 62-64.

2010 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, Pinsky, Ilana, Zaleski, Marcos, Laranjeira, Ronaldo. Religious involvement and sociodemographic factors: a Brazilian national survey. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica , v.37, 12-15.

2010 Menezes, A., Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Mental Health of Mediums and Differential Diagnosis Between Mediumship and Mental Disorders. Journal of Scientific Exploration. , v.24, 595-608.

2010 Moreira-Almeida, A. O crescente impacto das publicações em espiritualidade e saúde e o papel da Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica v.37, 41-42.

2010 Menezes, Adair, Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Religion, Spirituality, and Psychosis. Current Psychiatry Reports.v.12, 174-179.

2009 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Differentiating spiritual from psychotic experiences. British Journal of Psychiatry, v.195, 370-371.

2009 Almeida, Angélica Aparecida Silva de, Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Inácio Ferreira: institutionalizing the integration of medicine and paranormal phenomena. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. v.73, 223-230.

2009 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Mitos históricos sobre a relação entre ciência e religião. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica, v.36, 252-253.

2009 Menezes, A., Moreira-Almeida, A. Differential diagnosis between spiritual experiences and mental disorders of religious content. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica. v.36, 69-76.

2009 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, Koss-Chioino J. Recognition and Treatment of Psychotic Symptoms: Spiritists compared to Mental Health Professionals in Puerto Rico and Brazil. Psychiatry, v.72, 268-283.

2008 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, Neto, Francisco Lotufo, Cardeña, Etzel. Comparison of Brazilian Spiritist Mediumship and Dissociative Identity Disorder. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, v.196, 420-424.

2007 Moreira-Almeida, A, Lotufo Neto, Francisco, Greyson, B. Dissociative and Psychotic Experiences in Brazilian Spiritist Mediums. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, v.76, 57-58.

2007 Chibeni, S. S., Moreira-Almeida, A. Remarks on the scientific exploration of “anomalous” psychiatric phenomena. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica, v.34, 8-16.

2007 Moreira-Almeida, A ; Lotufo Neto, Francisco ; Greyson, B. . Dissociative and Psychotic Experiences in Brazilian Spiritist Mediums. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, v. 76, p. 57-58.

2005 The Spiritist View of Mental Disorders. Transcultural Psychiatry 42(4): 570-91.

2005 History of Spiritist Madness in Brazil. History of Psychiatry 16(1):5-25.

2004 Mediumship Seem by Some Pioneers of mental Health. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica v.31, no 3, p. 132-41.

2004 “Profile and Psychopathology of Spiritist Mediums”. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, v26 (Supl II), p. 109.

2004 “Phenomenology and History of Spiritist mediums: a qualitative approach”. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, v26 (Supl II), p. 108.

2003 Methodological guidelines to explore altered states of consciousness and anomalous experiences. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica, v. 30 no 1, p. 21-8.

2000 Psychic Surgery: an investigation. Revista da Associação Médica Brasileira, v.43, No 3, p.194-200.

2000 Núcleo de Estudos de Problemas Espirituais e Religiosos. (Center for the Study of Religious and Spiritual Problems). Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica, v.27, no 2, p.113-5.

BOOK CHAPTERS:

2014 Moreira-Almeida, A, Menezes, A., Zangari, Wellington. Dissociative and conversive disorders In: Tratado de Neuropsiquiatria – Neurologia Cognitiva e do Comportamento e Neuropsicologia.1 ed.São Paulo : Atheneu, p. 681-694.

2013 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander ; Araújo, S. F. . ICD-10: World Health Organization Classification of Mental and Behavioral Disorders, 10th Revision. In: Kenneth D. Keith. (Org.). The Encyclopedia of Cross-Cultural Psychology. 1 ed. New York: Wiley-Blackwell, p. 673-677.

2013 Peres JFP, Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, Caixeta, L. Neuroscience of trance and mediumship In: The Survival Hypothesis. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company,254-274.

2012 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander. Research on mediumship and the Mind-brain relationship. In: Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, Santos, Franklin S. Exploring Frontiers of the Mind-Brain Relationship. New York, EUA: Springer. p.191-231.

2012 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, Cardeña, Etzel. Diagnóstico diferencial entre las experiencias espirituales y psicóticas no-patológicas y los trastornos mentales: Una contribución al ICD-11 desde los Estudios Latinoamericanos In Ciencia y religión: horizontes de relación desde el contexto latinoamericano, edited by Jaime Laurence Bonilla. e ed 1, 261-290. Bogotá – Colombia: Universidad de San Buenaventura.

2011 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander ; Alberto, Klaus Chaves . Allan Kardec and the development of a research program in psychical experiences. In: Jader dos Reis Sampaio. (Org.). A Temática espirita na pesquisa contemporânea. São Paulo: Centro de Cultura, Documentação e Pesquisa do Espiritismo, v. , p. 132-158.

2011 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander . A brief overview of the philosophy and development of Spiritism’s methodologies. In: Emma Bragdon. (Org.). Spiritism and Mental Health: Practices from Spiritist Centers and Spiritist Psychiatric Hospitals in Brazil. 1 ed. London: Singing Dragon an imprint of Jessica Kingsley Publishers, v. 1, p. 29-36.

2011 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander . The spiritist view of mental disorders. In: Emma Bragdon. (Org.). Spiritism and Mental Health: Practices from Spiritist Centers and Spiritist Psychiatric Hospitals in Brazil. 1 ed. London: Singing Dragon an imprint of Jessica Kingsley Publishers, v. 1, p. 37-46.

2010 Moreira-Almeida, Alexander, Stroppa A. Importance and impact of spirituality in mental health: the challenge of recognize and integrate spirituality at patients’s care. In A Arte de Cuidar – Saúde, Espiritualidade e Educação, edited by Franklin Santana Santos, 197-213. Bragança Paulista – SP: Comenius.

2010 Mendonça Netto, S., Moreira-Almeida, A. Methodology for research in spirituality and health. In A Arte de Cuidar – Saúde, Espiritualidade e Educação, edited by Franklin Santana Santos, 182-196. Bragança Paulista – SP: Comenius.

2010 Hageman, J. H., Peres JFP, Moreira-Almeida, A, Caixeta, L., Wickramasekera II, I., Krippner, S. The Neurobiology of Trance and Mediumship in Brazil In Mysterious Minds: The Neurobiology of Psychics, Mediums and other Extraordinary People, edited by Krippner, S.; Friedman, H., 85-111. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger/ABC Clio.

2009 Moreira-Almeida, A. Algumas reflexões sobre as implicações das experiências espirituais para a relação mente-corpo. In Cuidados Paliativos – Discutindo a vida, a morte o morrer, edited by Franklin Santana Santos, 283-300. São Paulo: Atheneu.

2007 Moreira-Almeida, A. É possível Investigar Cientificamente a Sobrevivência após a Morte? In A Arte de Morrer – visões plurais, edited by Dora Incontri; Franklin Santana, 36-44. Bragança Paulista – SP: Comenius.

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD., Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

The Parapsychology Foundation  is sponsoring an online forum  about physical mediumship. Here is the official publicity.

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The Parapsychology Foundation Lyceum presents it’s first forum online this October. Using the WizIQ.com teaching platform, the forum, Physical Mediumship, will cover research both historical and modern. Opening to registration September 29th, 2016, the Forum’s WizIQ site will be available to registrants on Saturday October 8th, and will remain open for new registration until Saturday, November 14th. In the Forum site you will find not only the schedule of live presentations (and recordings later on), but PowerPoints, a reading list, supplemental materials such as articles and videos, as well as two live discussion forums, and a classroom discussion page that’s always available. A certificate of completion will also be sent to all registrants after the 15th of November, 2016.

If you’ve attended any of the Parapsychology Foundation’s online events, such as the yearly course Parapsychology Research and Education (the Para-MOOC Series) or the bi-annual PF Book Expo, you know how the WizIQ site and its virtual classroom will work. For those who are joining the PF’s online events for the first time, your welcome email will contain helpful information. Regular registration is $50 and student registration is $35. To register click here.

Scholarships are also available by messaging us through the Parapsychology Foundation Facebook Group or dropping us a note through the Customer Service page.

The PF Lyceum online forum is structured like the face-to-face forums that took place in the Eileen J. Garrett Library back in the day: four presentations by expert lecturers and lots of time for questions and answers after each talk. But unlike the old face-to-face forums, if you can’t make the live sessions, you can still register. All the live sessions will be recorded and available in the Forum’s Site for later viewing. Here’s the live session schedule:

Welcoming Remarks by Lisette Coly (President, Parapsychology Foundation) and Introduction to the Forum by Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone (Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation) at 1:00pm Eastern, Saturday, October 15th, 2016.

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Lisette Coly

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Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

“Physical Mediumship: A Brief Historical View” by Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado (Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation) at 2:00pm Eastern, Saturday, October 15th, 2016.

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Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado

“The Bindelof Seances” by Dr. Rosemarie Pilkington (author of The Spirit of Dr. Bindelof: The Enigma of Séance Phenomena, Anomalist Books, 2010) at 3:30pm Eastern, Saturday, October 15th, 2016.

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Dr. Rosemarie Pilkington

Discussion Forum for Live Session Attendees (Lisette Coly and Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone) at 5:00pm Eastern, Saturday, October 15th, 2016.

Opening Session (Lisette Coly, Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone) at 1:00pm Eastern, Saturday, October 22nd, 2016.

“The Researches of Thomas Glen Hamilton” by Walter Meyer zu Erpen (International Affiliate for Canada, Parapsychology Foundation) at 2:00pm Eastern, Saturday, October 22nd, 2016.

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Walter Meyer zu Erpen

“The Felix Group” by Dr. Stephen E. Braude (Emeritus Professor, University of Maryland-Baltimore County) at 3:30pm Eastern, Saturday, October 22nd, 2016.

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Dr. Stephen E. Braude

Discussion Forum for Live Session Attendees and Closing (Lisette Coly, Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone, Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado) at 5:00pm Eastern, Saturday, October 22nd, 2016.

To register go here.

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Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

In the second blog in this series I reprint some early comments about the medium before she became an international figure (for the first one click here).

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Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918)

In the words of historian of Italian Spiritism and psychical research, physician Massimo Biondi, in her early days the medium lived in Naples but left for Rome following spiritist Achille Tanfani. “Later she met all the major exponents of Italian Spiritism and would spent at least twenty or twenty-five years of her life from one city to another, even abroad, to display her gifts” (M. Biondi, Tavoli e Medium: Storia dello Spiritismo in Italia. Rome: Gremese, 1988, p. 96).

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I am presenting here comments written by Italian spiritist Giovanni Damiani in 1872. Damiani, Biondi wrote to me in a recent email, was “a manager in an English bank (West of England and South Wales District Bank) and in the 1870s, when he openly declared his interest and belief in Spiritism, he was probably still working there. He began to have a strong interest in Spiritism in 1858, when he was 40. His first public action on the topics was – I think – in 1868, with a challenge to some critics of Spiritism.”

One of Damiani’s comments, where he called the medium “Sapia Padalino,” appeared in an article entitled “Spiritualism in Italy.-Mazzini a Spiritualist” (Human Nature,1872, 6, 220-224).

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Eusapia Palladino, circa 1895

“I am happy to tell you that we have here in Naples a medium of most extraordinary and varied powers. Her name is Sapia Padalino, a poor girl of sixteen, without parents or friends. She is a medium for almost every kind of spiritual telegraphy known, one of which however is peculiarly her own, and consists in writing with her finger, and leaving behind marks as of a lead pencil, while no such article is in her possession, or even in the room. She will also take hold of the hand of the sitters, and cause the same phenomenon of leaving traces as of lead pencil under their fingers. In her presence discharges are heard as from pistols; lights are seen across the room like the  tail of a comet. She is a seer, a clairaudient, and an impressional medium. She is, however, far from being developed, and a few investigators sit with her three times a-week for the purpose of development. A peculiar and disagreeable bent of her mediumship, however, is the disappearance of objects from the room where the séances are held, and which causes often great inconvenience to the investigators. For instance, a gentleman is sent home in a cold night without his hat, another without his pocket-book containing money; a lady is robbed of her mantle; another lady has been deprived of her watch; the medium herself has her boots taken and carried away during the séance; and all this is done by one of the spirits, who boldly asserts his being John King . . . We are trying to wean that spirit of his disagreeable propensities, which . . . may cause suspicion of the honesty of the poor, simple medium. I do not doubt we shall soon have in Sapia a test-medium, that will convince thousands of the truth of spiritual intercourse” (pp. 222-223).

Biondi reminds us that the medium was 18 years old, not 16, as stated by Damiani.

Another communication from Damiani appeared in Human Nature for January 1873. I reprint it below taken from Light, where it was reprinted years later in its September 5, 1896 issue (“Pranks of undeveloped spirits.” Light, 1896, 16, 428-429). However, Damiani dated the communication November 24th, 1872.  Sapia was referred to as a poor girl who was obsessed by a group of low spirits “determined . . . to torture and drive her to despair.”

“The unpleasant phenomena began with a request from the circle that the spirits might bring in some material object through closed doors and windows. The request was immedi­ately complied with by our hearing an object fall upon the table. On striking a light we found a neatly made-up parcel, and on carefully unfolding it, we were much disgusted to find it containing—a dead rat! I mildly remonstrated with the spirits for the unpleasant joke, and told them to bring in future more genial objects. They said they would, and, at a subsequent sitting, some tawdry brass gilt trinkets were soon brought in (always with closed doors) as a present to the medium. At the next regular seance, they said they would show their power also by taking things out of the room, and sure enough, at the end of the séance, a new mantle belonging to a lady present had been abstracted, and has never been found since.”

“The next day poor Sapia brought a red mantle to the lady, asking if that was the mantle lost, and saying she had found it spread on her bed as she awoke that morning; but it was a different mantle, and remains still in Sapia’s possession. At another séance a member of the society, Signor Lainarra, had his new hat stolen by the spirits. He had to go home without his hat—not, however, before searching minutely the whole house for it; but it has never been recovered. The spirits next pilfered a watch and chain belonging to an ardent Spirit­ualist, Signora Commetti, who seemed distressed at the loss, as the watch and chain had belonged to her departed husband. This time, in a speech which I made as impressive and instructive for them as I could, I urged the spirits to return the property to the lady, as their mission here was to convince the sceptics, and not to distress the friends, of the spirit world. They promised they would, but not then; and when the lady reached home she found the watch and chain lying on her bed. A few days afterwards, however, both watch and chain were missed from before her eyes, and have never been found to this hour.”

“At the next séance I asked to speak to the spirits, and Sapia said she saw them muster all round our circle in great numbers. I again addressed them in a kind of sermon, explaining to them the law of progression, and how wrong it was thus to squander their time and ours, and give us such serious annoyance by abstracting our property; and that if they wanted to advance in a better sphere and be happier, they should be active in good works and not distress their fellow beings; they should repent their faults, and earnestly pray the Almighty for their deliver­ance from their present unhappy state. At the end of my speech, Sapia informed us that only one of the band seemed moved, and shed tears, while the others were dancing about and making horrible faces at me.”

“One of the most remarkable phenomena occurring through Sapia’s mediumship consists in noises, either as from the explosion of firearms in the room, or as from a large hammer striking the séance table. One evening, Signor Barone, an old Spiritualist and medium, felt alarmed at the concussion on the table so near his hands, and said aloud he had withdrawn them from the table in fear. A Spiritualist present observed that he had not the least apprehension of being hurt by the spirits, but he had no sooner said the words than he was struck with a very severe blow on his hand, the painful effects of which he felt for nearly a week. Sapia said she saw the spirits strike the table with an instrument like polished iron in the shape of a funnel or cone.”

“Their next trick was to throw to the ground from a table where they were standing five cages containing my pet canaries, and they did so by drawing a table-cover on which they rested. On hearing the crash we struck a light, and found the poor little things motionless, as if they were dead. They recovered a few minutes afterwards, and I cannot help thinking that they were mesmerised by the spirits, who, perhaps, felt compunction at hurting the poor little things.”

“Again, a séance was held at the house of another member of the society. A pet cat, seeing—or feeling, no doubt—the presence of ungenial beings, began loudly to mew. The sitters expressed their annoyance, and the spirits said they would soon quiet the beast, and the poor thing was found dead the next morning. At the same house the spirits broke a table almost shapelessly, and a large, expensive clock-shade. One day, at the house of Signor Lamarra, some object was missed, and he jocularly said to a friend who lives with him, ‘Ha! it must be Alessi’ (the chief of the band of low spirits who torment Sapia, and who, in life, had been a poisoning doctor) ‘who has stolen it!;’ Sapia knew nothing of this circumstance, but that same evening this spirit appeared to her whilst she was in bed, sur­rounded, as she said, with a sinister light, saying to her, ‘Tell those scurvy friends of yours, Lamarra and Co., that I am not going to stand their insults, ascribing to me that which I have not done. I have never been a thief, and if they say so again I will twist their necks, and yours too, if you do not speak more respectfully of me!’ Sapia says that as the spirit stamped the ground with his foot the whole room trembled, and all the objects standing on a chest of drawers against which the spirit leaned, moved and jingled most violently. She was, indeed, so frightened that she called the landlady where she lodged to her succour, and begged not to be left alone that night.”

“One evening Signor Lamarra, on entering his club, was set upon by two young lawyers of the Positivist school, who publicly ridiculed him for believing in spirits. He asked them if they had investigated Spiritualism. They said, No, but would he take them to the spirits? Lamarra boldly assented, and there and then they started for the medium’s lodgings. A dark séance was immediately held, and the light was scarcely put out when numerous very loud explosions, as from fire-arms, were heard in the room. This rather startled the new visitors; but they were still more surprised when blows were heard falling on the table as from a large hammer. The sceptics, however, charged their friends with producing these noises with some hidden machinery, at which Lamarra placed in the hands of the new visitors his own and those of the medium. The noises then ceased, but instead the affrighted voices of the non-believers were heard piteously asking for a light; for one of them had had his hair and beard pulled, and his face handled by a large, callous, ice-cold, perspiring hand; and the other was touched upon the head and face with an instrument in the shape of a club, cold and hard as iron. A light was struck, but nothing was perceived except the pale faces of the scoffing young lawyers, who do not like the subject being mentioned again. In this case, we must admit, the low intelligences did their business well.”

“Having tried every means to deliver this poor girl from her tormentors, the Naples society thought it better to suspend the séances for a time; and as the girl wanted employment, she was recommended to a nice place as a servant. In the night previous to her going to her new master’s the spirits appeared, and mockingly intimated to her that they would take care that she should not remain there. She expostulated with them, but they laughed and disappeared. She, however, did go, and was immediately set about cleaning a large drawing-room, her master, an old gentleman, being present. All at once a small table, in a part of the room opposite where Sapia was, began to move about. This much astonished her new master; but while he was wondering in bewilderment, an awful crash was heard, and a large shade and some china that were on a chiffonier some distance from the poor girl, had fallen to pieces. Frightened more than vexed at these strange occurrences, and believing them to be the work of Satan—whose escutcheon in Naples preserves still its ancient effulgency—Sapia’s master bid her im­mediately to leave the house, and the poor medium is again dependent on her friends and sympathisers.”

“We have had Sapia mesmerised and thrown into a trance, in which state kinder spirits have spoken through her, who, interrogated, have told us these unpleasant phenomena would give way if we could induce Sapia to cultivate her mind. This we have tried to do with unremitting patience, but without avail, as she shows the greatest reluctance and impatience at being taught the elements of letters. We have done all in our power to remedy this evil, which deprives us of one of the best physical mediums in existence. Can any of your correspondents give any suggestion, that we might, by some new tactics, reclaim this remarkable medium, Sapia Padalino?”

Biondi informs me that the first mention of Palladino in an Italian publication was in Achille Tanfani’s Lo Spiritismo Dimostrato e Difeso (Rome: Tipografia di Ludovico Cecchini, 1872). Tanfani stated he saw in a séance with “Padalino” that a “table suddenly raised, transported by itself without touching the ground to the outer wall of the room” (p. 10).”

Other comments by Damiani appeared in The Spiritualist in 1873. See also one of my articles in which I discuss an autobiographical essay supposedly written by Palladino and information about the medium’s early development and personal life.

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

The first version of the long awaited project of the Society for Psychical Research, their Psi Encyclopedia, has recently been released. The project is edited by Robert McLuhan, with whom I have been in contact during my writing of several entries for this exciting project.

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Robert McLuhan

The following statement appears in the Encyclopedia’s “About” webpage:

“There is now a vast research literature that validates the existence of psi as an anomalous, fleeting and little understood aspect of human experience. Psi researchers believe that it has been demonstrated many times over, and in a variety of contexts. But this remains controversial . . . a vocal minority of sceptics – often active in sceptic organisations – campaign in books, articles and in the media against psi research, disparaging it as ‘pseudoscience’ and disputing its conclusions.”

“In recent years this conflict has spread to the Internet, notably the free encyclopedia Wikipedia, where editors hostile to ‘fringe science’ routinely edit articles on psi research to make them conform to their view. As a result, articles that were originally written by knowledgeable experts have become adulterated with misleading claims and assertions.”

“The Psi Encyclopedia is being created by the Society for Psychical Research, funded by a bequest, to provide a more informative view of psi research (also referred to as ‘psychical research’ and ‘parapsychology’), one that reflects the findings of experimenters and investigators. The project began in 2014 and at its launch in September 2016 offered some 110 entries written by around thirty authors and experts. Readers are asked to bear in mind that this is a work in progress, a multi-year project that will see numerous additions, changes and improvements . . .”

“Types of entry include: overview articles about generic topics (e.g., experimental parapsychology, mediumship research, near-death experiences); articles that explore aspects of those topics, key researchers, etc.; case studies of key experiments and investigations (children who remembered a past life, poltergeist disturbances, mediumship episodes, etc); lists (people, events, experiments).”

“Some case studies include pdf versions of the original research report from which they are drawn, giving readers the opportunity to understand the researchers’ methods and reasoning in greater detail.”

Among the entries included in the Psi Encyclopedia the reader will find those about:

Altered States of Consciousness and Psi

Dr. David Luke

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Dr. David Luke

John Beloff

Dr. Melvyn Willin

 Marthe Béraud (Eva C.)

Benjamin Seigmann

Creative Subjects in Ganzfeld

Dr. Hannah Jenkins

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Dr. Hannah Jenkins

Distressing Near-Death Experience

Nancy Evans Bush

Dreams and ESP

David Saunders

Experimental Parapsychology (Overview)

Dr. Richard Broughton

Eyewitness Testimony (Analysis)

Dr. Stephen Braude

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Dr. Stephen E. Braude

Forteana

Dr. Matthew Colborn

Frederic W.H. Myers

Trevor Hamilton

Uri Geller

Guy Lyon Playfair

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Guy Lyon Playfair

Ghost Hunting

John Fraser

Edmund Gurney

Dr. Andreas Sommer

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Dr. Andreas Sommer

Koestler Parapsychology Unit

Dr. Caroline Watt

Meditation and Psi

Dr. Serena Roney-Dougal

Near-Death Experience

Dr. Penny Sartori

Past Lives Memories Research (Overview)

Dr. Jim Tucker

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Dr. Jim Tucker

Psi Healing Research

Charmaine Sonnex

 Religious Levitation

Dr. Michael Potts

 Society for Psychical Research

Dr. Donald West

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Dr. Donald J. West

There is a list of contributors. In addition to those mentioned above, additional authors are:  Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado, Mary Rose Barrington, Dr. Etzel Cardeña, Dr. Barrie Colvin, Callum Cooper, Dr. Guy Hayward, Jack Hunter, Patricia Pearson, Dr. Dean Radin, and Michael Tymn.

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Dr. Etzel Cardeña

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Callum Cooper

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Patricia Pearson

I have written a few entries for the encyclopaedia. Here are those that have been posted:

Charles Richet

Ernesto Bozzano

Eusapia Palladino

Out-of-body experience (OBE)

Richet’s Traité de Métapsychique (Thirty Years of Psychical Research)

Théodore Flournoy

William James

Not all relevant topics are covered in the current version of the work. In fact there are no entries for important topics as ESP, mediumship (mental and physical), and psychokinesis, nor about methodology. Similarly, there is a need for more entries about developments on non-English speaking countries and about modern developments. This includes topics such as the use of physiological processes to express ESP, investigations involving measures of geomagnetism and siderial time, and the use of meta-analysis. The same may be said about entries about modern researchers known for the development of important lines of research, among them Daryl Bem, Charles Honorton, William G. Roll, Helmut Schmidt, and Ian Stevenson. But bear in mind that the editor is well aware of this and that, as stated above, this is work in progress. Eventually such topics, and many others, will be covered.

Perhaps future editions of this work will include more illustrations. Two excellent examples to follow are the use of photographs in the entries “Anthropology and Psi Research,” by Jack Hunter, and “Eminent People Interested in Psi,” by Etzel Cardeña. However, not all the entries lend themselves to be easily illustrated.

This is a good beginning for this important project. Robert McLuhan has done good work, and an immense amount of it at that. I have found him to be very helpful and easy to work with regarding the entries I have prepared. His efforts would be facilitated if the Psi Encyclopedia counted with an editorial board that would assist him to select future writers, topics, and would also be involved in evaluating the content of the entries.

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

The American Psychological Association has just published a textbook entitled Transcendent Mind: Rethinking the Science of Consciousness, by Imants Barušs  and Julia Mossbridge. Barušs is professor of psychology at King’s University College (Western University Canada), and Mossbridge is a cognitive neuroscientist and an experimental psychologist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and a Visiting Scholar in Psychology at Northwestern University.

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Dr. Imants Barušs

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Dr. Julia Mossbridge

The authors defend the idea that consciousness is independent of the brain. According to the publisher’s description: “Imants Barušs and Julia Mossbridge utilize findings from special relativity and quantum mechanics, modern and ancient philosophers, and paranormal psychology to build a rigorous, detailed investigation into the origins and nature of human consciousness. Along the way, they examine the scientific literature on concepts including mediumship, out-of-body and near-death experiences, telekinesis, ‘apparent’ versus ‘deep time,’ and mind-to-mind communication, and introduce eye-opening ideas about our shared reality. The result is a revelatory tour of the ‘post-materialist’ world — and a roadmap for consciousness research in the twenty-first century.”

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

Julia Mossbridge: This is a field guide for psychologists, neuroscientists, therapists and psychoanalysts who want to understand and examine the phenomena of consciousness without assuming a materialist viewpoint. We cover the basic arguments against the materialist assumption, then delve into evidence that has previously been ignored under this assumption. Based largely on that evidence, we propose a tentative model of consciousness and help lay groundwork for future work in the field.

What is your background in parapsychology, and with the topic of the book specifically?

JM: I am mostly focused on trying to understand presentiment and precognition in general. My background in time perception research, perceptual neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and psychophysics allows me to think about phenomena that are considered anomalous according to the materialist assumption, while at the same time allowing me to build a bridge for readers who may be just starting to become post-materialists.

Imants Barušs: I do not distinguish what I do that would fall under “parapsychology” from “psychology” in general. Nor do I use the term “parapsychology” to describe what I do. I think that making that distinction plays into a forced segregation of the subject matter of parapsychology from that of psychology. I do like to use the expression “anomaly” sometimes to refer to anything that does not fit conventional ways of thinking in any discipline, so I suppose this question would be a question about my background in anomalies research. The answer is that, since I was a child, I have been attracted to the unusual, to that which does not fit, because it makes me wonder and makes me want to try to understand it. More formally, I have studied beliefs about reality, EVP, ITC, past-life regression, the survival hypothesis, non-contact healing, and quantum theories of anomalous phenomena. I have a particular interest in transcendent states of consciousness and, most recently, the “cutting through” techniques of Dzogchen.

What motivated you to write this book?

JM: Imants asked me to write it with him, and I jumped at the chance! I had been wanting to get over the defensiveness with which I used to approach my parapsychological work, and this was the perfect opportunity — to write a textbook to be published by APA Books, the biggest publisher in Psychology in the US.

IB: The study of consciousness has been stuck due to the inertial weight of the materialist paradigm. Julia and I thought that an introductory textbook about consciousness from a post-materialist perspective could help to move things along. I thought that was worth a try, so we wrote the book.

Why do you think your book is important and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

 

JM: As far as we know, it is the first APA psychology textbook written with a methodological focus that is not coming from the materialist assumption. I hope that a new generation of practitioners and researchers realize that a post-materialist viewpoint allows them to understand and embrace more of the phenomena that are being reported to them, and that they themselves are experiencing. Further, I hope that some researchers use the tools we describe in the book to launch whole new fields within consciousness research.