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

A recent issue of the journal Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice has discussions of precognition by various authors. The discussion opens with an editorial by Erik Woody and Steven Jay Lynn (“Perspectives on Precognition.” Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 2018, 5, 1–2). They write:

“The balance of this issue consists of five articles addressing what has variously been termed precognition, precognitive ability, and retrocausal or retroactive influences . . . In the first article, Schooler, Baumgart, and Franklin (2018) address how to strike the most appropriate and productive relation between Sagan’s “seemingly contradictory attitudes,” drawing an important distinction between entertaining versus endorsing anomalous phenomena like precognition. In the second article, Mossbridge and Radin (2018b) present a comprehensive review of existing empirical research on precognition, making the case that this body of work warrants scientists being open to this possibility despite its “bizarre or counterintuitive” qualities. The next two articles, by Schwarzkopf (2018) and by Houran, Lange, and Hooper (2018), are invited critiques of Mossbridge and Radin’s (2018b) review, applying the “most ruthless skeptical scrutiny” in pointing out what these critics believe are crucial conceptual and methodological flaws in the research. A response from Mossbridge and Radin (2018a) follows these critiques.”

The editorial was followed by Jonathan W. Schooler, Stephen Baumgart, and Michael Franklin’s “Entertaining Without Endorsing: The Case for the Scientific Investigation of Anomalous Cognition” (2018, Vol. 5, 63–77. Here is the abstract:

Johnattan Schooler

Johnattan Schooler

“Empirical reports in mainstream journals that human cognition extends in ways that challenge the current boundaries of science (anomalous cognition) has been viewed with dismay by many who see it as evidence that science is broken. Here the authors make the case for the value of conducting and publishing well-designed studies investigating anomalous cognition. They distinguish between the criteria that justify entertaining the possibility of anomalous cognition from those required to endorse it as a bona fide phenomenon. In evaluating these 2 distinct thresholds, the authors draw on Bayes’s theorem to argue that scientists may reasonably differ in their appraisals of the likelihood that anomalous cognition is possible. Although individual scientists may usefully vary in the criteria that they hold both for entertaining and endorsing anomalous cognition, we provide arguments for why researchers should consider adopting a liberal criterion for entertaining anomalous cognition while maintaining a very strict criterion for the outright endorsement of its existence. Grounded in an understanding of the justifiability of disparate views on the topic, the authors encourage humility on both the part of those who present evidence in support of anomalous cognition and those who dispute the merit of its investigation.”

The target article, by Julia Mossbridge and Dean Radin, was “Precognition as a Form of Prospection: A Review of the Evidence” (2018, Vol. 5, No. 1, 78–93). Abstract:

Julia mossbridge 6

Julia Mossbridge

Dean Radin 4

Dean Radin

“Prospection, the act of attempting to foresee one’s future, is generally assumed to be based on conscious and nonconscious inferences from past experiences and anticipation of future possibilities. Most scientists consider the idea that prospection may also involve influences from the future to be flatly impossible due to violation of common sense or constraints based on one or more physical laws. We present several classes of empirical evidence challenging this common assumption. If this line of evidence can be successfully and independently replicated using preregistered designs and analyses, then the consequences for the interpretation of experimental results from any empirical domain would be profound.”

This is followed by two critiques of Mossbridge and Radin’s paper, and by their reply.

D. Samuel Schwarzkopf, “On the Plausibility of Scientific Hypotheses: Commentary on Mossbridge and Radin (2018)” (2018, 5, 94–97).

“Mossbridge and Radin reviewed psychological and physiological experiments that purportedly show time-reversed effects. I discuss why these claims are not plausible. I conclude that scientists should generally consider the plausibility of the hypotheses they test.”

James Houran, Rense Lange, and Dan Hooper “Cross-Examining the Case for Precognition: Comment on Mossbridge and Radin (2018) ‘ (2018, 5, 98–109).

James Houran

James Houran

“Based on a review and meta-analyses of empirical literature in parapsychology, Mossbridge and Radin (2018) argued for anomalous replicable effects that suggest the possibility of precognitive ability or retrocausal phenomena. However, these conclusions are refuted on statistical and theoretical grounds—the touted effects are neither meaningful, interpretable, nor even convincingly replicable. Moreover, contrary to assertions otherwise, the possibility of authentic retrocausation is discredited by modern theories in physics. Accordingly, Mossbridge and Radin’s interpretations are discussed in terms of misattribution biases that serve anxiolytic functions when individuals confront ambiguity, with potential reinforcement from perceptual–personality variables such as paranormal belief. Finally, we argue that research in human consciousness should be multidisciplinary, and notably, leverage informed investigators in the physical sciences to advance truly valid and cumulative theory building.”

Julia A. Mossbridge and Dean Radin, ‘Plausibility, Statistical Interpretations, Physical Mechanisms and a New Outlook: Response to Commentaries on a Precognition Review” (2018, 5, 110–116).

“We address what we consider to be the main points of disagreement by showing that (a) scientific plausibility (or lack thereof) is a weak argument in the face of empirical data, (b) the statistical methods we used were sound according to at least one of several possible statistical positions, and (c) the potential physical mechanisms underlying precognition could include quantum biological phenomena. We close with a discussion of what we believe is an unfortunate but currently dominant tendency to focus on reducing Type-I statistical errors without balancing that approach by also paying attention to the potential for Type-II errors.”

 

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

Germana Paretti published an interesting article about Hans Driesch entitles “Hans Driesch’s Interest in the Psychical Research: A Historical Study” (Medicina Historica, 2017, 1, 156-162; author’s address germana.pareti@unito.it).

Hans Driesch

Hans Driesch

Here is the abstract:

“In recent times the source of interest in psychical research in Germany has been subject of relevant studies. Not infrequently these works have dealt with this phenomenon through the interpretation of the various steps and transformations present in Hans Driesch’s thought, from biology and medicine to neovitalism, and finally to parapsychology. However these studies identified the causes of this growing involvement in paranormal research either in the historical context of “crisis” of modernity (or “crisis” in psychology), or in an attempt to “normalize” the supernatural as an alternative to the traditional experimental psychology. My paper aims instead at throwing light on the constant effort by Driesch to conceive (and found) psychical research as a science of the super-normal, using the methodology successfully adopted by the scientific community (especially German) in the late nineteenth century.”

Driesch Vitalismus
Driesch Gesgische Vitalismus

According to Pareti:

“Asked to lecture on his conception of vitalism at Cambridge University, [Driesch] . . . met there Henry Sidgwick and he became interested in the research on psychic phenomena. He joined the Society for Psychical Research of London (SPR) in 1913, and he was its president in 1926-27. When he wanted to investigate psychic phenomena further in Oslo in 1935, the Nazis denied his passport, so he did not pursue this work further. Invited to lecture on philosophy by many universities (in Europe, United States, South America and the Far East), Driesch had the opportunity to work with some pioneers in the field of psychic research: Walter Franklin Pierce in Boston, Gustav Geley and Eugène Osty in Paris, Oliver Lodge in Britain and Albert von Schrenck-Notzing in Germany. He sat with mediums such as “Margery,” Mrs. Osborne Leonard and Willi and Rudi Schneider. Although impressed by Mrs. Leonard and the Schneiders, Driesch was not always convinced of the genuineness of mediumistic phenomena.”

Driesch Science Philosophy Organism

His vitalistic writings included the concept of entelechia. “Derived from a biological-metaphysical context, it denoted a vital agent, an internal perfecting non-mechanical principle existing in all living organisms, ‘a unifying, non-material, mind-like something’ . . ., and Driesch sustained that ‘we have an interaction in the purely natural sphere, i.e. between entelechy and the matter of my body.’ Nevertheless, the working of entelechia had to be parallel to that of the soul: ‘the working of my soul … and [its] certain states are ‘parallel’ to ‘my conscious havings’ . . . He admitted that, in fact, in the normal morphogenesis we do not know as entelechy acts, but it could regulate organic development and explain several paraphysical actions. Above all, paraphysical phenomena are cases of a kind of ‘enlarged’ vitalism, a ‘supervitalism’ . . . Although he complained that some critics erroneously mixed his psychology with his vitalism, Driesch was sure that vitalism represented ‘a fundamental breach’ in the normal science, being a bridge connecting normal (scientific) and psychical research. Therefore he refuted any psychophysical (or psychomechanical) parallelism, conceiving mind as an independent entity, ‘enthroned by the side of the physical body.’ Its physiological effects are well known, since a lot of bodily symptoms can be mentally produced (inflammation, pregnancy, stigmata etc.).”

“Neverthless Driesch did not deny matter and its role. ‘Matter is everywhere in the space,’ and the vital agent makes a constructive use of it, or, the mental part of the individual acts purposely on matter. Its influence is visible in the simplest of supernormal phenomenon, in which matter is under the influence of assimilation, an established process highlighted by Justus von Liebig in his organic chemistry. Materialisation and its varieties (telekinesis and levitation) constitute a kind of organized assimilation, a kind of supernormal embriology. So, if regarded as vitalistic actions, or forms of ‘behaviour’ of some unconscious entity, paraphysical phenomena lose their negative character of absurdity, since they respect the principle of economy or of parsimony, according to which no phenomenon may be considered fundamental if it can be reduced to another.”

The article also has interesting sections about other topics. This include Driesch’s ideas regarding methodology in parapsychology, and his mention of other researchers in his work.

Interestingly, the last issue of the Paranormal Review has an article about Driesch by John Poynton: “President’s Letter: The SPR’s Philosopher-Presidents: Hans Driesch.” Paranormal Review, 85, 4-5).

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Ohkado Masayuki has just published a paper entitled “Same-Family Cases of the Reincarnation Type in Japan” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2017, 31, 551-571). here is the abstract:

Ohkado Masayiki 2

Ohkado Masayuki

“This article reports five same-family cases of the reincarnation type occurring in contemporary Japan. The discussion will be within a set of widely adopted operative assumptions set out by Dr. Ian Stevenson and his colleagues: Streams of consciousness survive death of body and become associated with another body at another time, During the intermission period between lives, the discarnate mind retains the ability for psi perceptions and interactions, and may exercise choice in the selection of parents. The theoretical part of the present paper is with the limitation concerning auxiliary assumptions (Sudduth 2016), and the interpretations of the data adopted here (the survival and reincarnation hypotheses) are open to alternative analyses (notably, the Living Agent Psi hypothesis) as pointed out by Braude (1997, 2003, 2013) and Sudduth (2009, 2013, 2016), but it is beyond the scope of the present paper to deal with these issues. Of the five cases, the first three involve a deceased child appearing to be reborn to the same mother. One of the remaining two is a skipped-generation case, in which a deceased mother appears to have been reborn as a child of her daughter. The other is a case in which a deceased child appears to have been reborn as a daughter of his elder brother. This case also involves an “experimental birthmark.”

It is stated in the conclusion: “The present investigation raises an interesting question, which is to be pursued in future research: How common are same-family cases in Japan in comparison with other cases including stranger cases? Stevenson (1986:209–211) and Haraldsson and Matlock (2016:222–223) demonstrated that the percentages of same-family and other cases differ significantly from country to country (or culture to culture). According to the figures reported in Haraldsson and Matlock (2016:223), the lowest percentage of same-family cases is that of India (16%) and the highest is that of the Gitxsan of British Columbia (100%). As discussed in Yanagita (2013), skipped-generation reincarnation might have been considered “normal” in some areas in prewar Japan. With the assumption stated in the Introduction that culturally prescribed ideas about reincarnation would be carried into death and would influence decisions made in the postmortem state, the incidence of same-family cases is expected to be relatively high in such areas.”

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

In an article I co-authored with Everton de Oliveira Maraldi we reprinted the last chapter of Swiss psychologist Théodore Flournoy’s From India to the Planet Mars (1900) in the journal History of Psychiatry (“Classic Text No. 113: Final chapter, From India to the Planet Mars: A Study of a Case of Somnambulism with Glossolalia, by Théodore Flournoy (1900).” History of Psychiatry, 2018, 29, 110-125). Flournoy’s book is generally recognized as a classic of both psychology and psychical research.

Everton Maraldi

Everton de Oliveira Maraldi

 

Flournoy From India 2

Here is the abstract.

“Among the many attempts to explain mediumship psychologically at the turn of the century were the efforts of Swiss psychologist Théodore Flournoy (1854–1920). In his well-known book Des Indes à la Planète Mars (1900), translated as From India to the Planet Mars (1900), Flournoy analysed the mediumistic productions of medium Hélène Smith (1861–1929), consisting of accounts of previous lives in France and in India, and material about planet Mars. Flournoy explained the phenomena as a function of cryptomnesia, suggestive influences, and subconscious creativity, analyses that influenced both psychology and psychical research. The purpose of this Classic Text is to reprint the conclusion of Flournoy’s study, whose ideas were developed in the context of psychological attention to mediumship and secondary personalities.”

Theodore Flournoy

Théodore Flournoy

 

Hélène Smith was the pseudonym of Catherine Élise Müller. “Hélène claimed to be the reincarnation of an Indian princess of the fifteenth century called Simandini, and also of Marie Antoinette, queen of France at the end of the seventeenth century. Furthermore, she claimed to travel spiritually to the planet Mars, from where she presented information, through drawings, descriptions and automatic writings, about the lifestyle of the Martians and the language they allegedly used.”

Flournoy Leopold Writing

Leopold (Spirit Control) Writing Top: Leopold; Below: Medium’s writing

Flournoy Martian Script 2

Martian Script

Flournoy Martian Buildings

Martian Buildings

Flournoy Martian Landscape and Plants

Martian Landscape and Plants

Regarding the medium, we wrote:

“Hélène’s mother as well as her grandmother also reported visions and experiences of presentiment, while one of her brothers ‘it appears, could easily have become a good medium’ . . . Additionally, Flournoy pointed to the fact that Hélène was ‘more or less visionary from her childhood’ . . . and spiritist practices only exploited, moulded and directed her predispositions through specific suggestions and doctrinal beliefs.”

Our introduction to Flournoy’s chapter placed the topic in historical context. We considered such topics as the psychology of mediumship and aspects of Flournoy’s career. We wrote, Flournoy “summarizes the main psychological findings of his study with Hélène Smith, and discusses the limitations and strengths of his investigation. He acknowledges the importance of future studies on the neurophysiological basis of mediumship, and discusses the implications of mediumistic phenomena to nosology and psychopathology, as well as to the study of supernormal faculties or processes.”

Flournoy wrote in the chapter we present in the article:

“From the psychological point of view, the case of Mlle. Smith, although too complex to be reduced to a single formula, is explicable grosso modo by some recognized principle, the successive or concurrent action of which has engendered her multiple phenomena. There is, in the first place, the influence, so often verified, of emotional shocks and of certain psychic traumatisms upon mental dissociation. By means of these the birth of hypnoid states may become the germ either of secondary personalities more or less strongly marked . . . or of somnambulistic romances . . .”

“We must also take into consideration the enormous suggestibility and auto-suggestibility of mediums, which render them so sensitive to all the influences of spiritistic reunions, and are so favorable to the play of those brilliant subliminal creations in which, occasionally, the doctrinal ideas of the surrounding environment are reflected together with the latent emotional tendencies of the medium herself . . .”

“And, finally, we must note the phenomena of cryptomnesia, the awakening and setting to work of forgotten memories, which easily account for the elements of truth contained in the great preceding constructions and in the incarnations or casual visions of Mlle. Smith in the course of her seances. But besides this general explanation how many points of detail there are which remain obscure!”

Flournoy’s book was praised at the time by such figures as F.W.H. Myers and Théodule Ribot, who were students of the capabilities of the human mind and its hidden regions. Others, including several believers in survival of death, were highly critical of Flournoy’s arguments. Today the book is considered a classic example of the studies of the creative functions of the subconscious mind.

Theodule Ribot

Théodule Ribot

We also stated:

“Flournoy’s ideas on the subconscious mind took advantage of the psychiatric and psychological knowledge available at the time, and were applied to the understanding of the so-called mediumistic phenomena that, in turn, expanded and complemented the available theories in the light of mediumistic processes. In this scenario, Hélène Smith played an important role, highlighting the influence that exemplary cases may have on the development of ideas and research programs, especially for the emerging field of multiple personalities, dissociation and hypnosis, deeply interconnected with the spiritualist beliefs of the time . . .”

Flournoy From India to the Planet Mars outside cover

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

In my recent recommendations of readings about the history of parapsychology (click here and here) I neglected to mention the biographies of psychical researchers available in the Psi Encyclopedia, a project sponsored by the Society for Psychical Research that I have discussed here before (click here and here).

The Psi Encyclopedia, still under construction, has several useful biographies of past figures involved in various ways with psychical research. An interesting entry, by Etzel Cardeña, is Eminent People Interested in Psi. He presents lists of individuals from various areas interested in psychic phenomena. Some of them are: Hans Berger, Jorge Luis Borges, Andre Breton, Rudolph Carnap, Alexis Carrell, Marie Curie, Jacques Derrida, Mircea Eliade, Aldous Huxley, Margaret Mead, Max Planck, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Alan Turing, Mark Twain, and W.B. Yeats.

Marie Curie

Marie Curie

Jacques Derrida

Jacques Derrida

Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

Long biographies are presented of individuals who have worked in parapsychology, such as the following ones:

John Beloff (by Melvyn Willin)

John Beloff.3

John Beloff

Henri Bergson (Renaud Evrard)

Henri Bergson

Henri Bergson

Ernesto Bozzano (Carlos S. Alvarado)

Ernesto Bozzano 5

Ernesto Bozzano

William Braud (Marilyn Schlitz)

William Braud

William Braud

C.D. Broad (Stephen E. Braude)

C.D. Broad

C.D. Broad

Eric Dingwall (Melvin Willin)

Eric John Dingwall

Eric J. Dingwall

C.J. Ducasse (Stephen E. Braude)

C.J. Ducasse

C.J. Ducasse

Jule Eisenbud (Stephen E. Braude)

Jules Eisenbud

Jule Eisenbud

Théodore Flournoy (Carlos S. Alvarado)

Theodore Flournoy

Théodore Flournoy

David Fontana (Guy Lyon Playfair)

David Fontana

David Fontana

Hamlin Garland (Michael Tymn)

Hamlin Garland

Hamlin Garland

Gustave Geley (Renaud Evrard)

H407/0191

Gustave Geley

Joseph Glanvill (John Newton)

joseph Glanvil

Joseph Glanvil

Edmund Gurney (Andreas Sommer)

edmund-gurney

Edmund Gurney

Richard Hodgson (Michael Tymn)

Richard Hodgson

Richard Hodgson

James Hyslop (Michael Tymn)

James H. Hyslop

James H. Hyslop

William James (Carlos S. Alvarado)

William James 2

William James

Andrew Lang (Melvyn Willin)

Andrew Lang

Andrew Lang

Oliver Lodge (Michael Tymn)

Oliver Lodge younger

Oliver J. Lodge

Frederic W.H. Myers (Trevor Hamilton)

Frederic Myers 4

Frederic W.H. Myers

Frank Podmore (Melvyn Willin)

Frank Podmore

Frank Podmore

JB Rhine (Sally R. Feather & Barbara Ensrud)

J.B. Rhine 1956

J.B. Rhine

Charles Richet (Carlos S. Alvarado)

Charles Richet 10

Charles Richet

Eleanor Sidgwick (Alan Gauld)

by Eveleen Myers (nÈe Tennant), platinum print, 1890s

Eleanor Sidgwick

Samuel Soal  (Donald West)

Samuel G. Soal

Samuel G. Soal

René Sudre (Renaud Evrard)

Rene Sudre

René Sudre

Herbert Thurston (Michael Potts)

Herbert Thurston

Herbert Thurston

René Warcollier (Renaud Evrard)

Rene Warcollier

René Warcollier

Readers are encouraged to keep checking the Encyclopedia. This work, edited by Robert McLuhan, is constantly growing. As time goes on the Psi Encyclopedia will have many other relevant biographies.

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

I am presenting here an excerpt from a book by Morgan Knudsen discussing the psychic activities of her great great grandfather Albert Durrant Watson (1859-1926), described in the Dictionary of Canadia  Biography as a “physician, astronomer, author, and psychical researcher.” (Click here)

Albert Durrant Watson

Albert Durrant Watson

According to this biographical entry Dr. Watson “successfully practised medicine for more than four decades, serving on staff at three hospitals, including Toronto Western.”

Here is the excerpt.

**** 

The Beginning of Psychical Research in Canada 

Excerpt from Teaching The Living: From Heartbreak to Healing in a Haunted Home (2018) by Morgan Knudsen

Morgan Knudsen

Morgan Knudsen

The idea that we have a say in what turns up in our reality has been tossed around a lot in the last number of years and in the early 1900’s, Albert Durrant Watson, my great great grandfather, was no exception. The subject matter comes up repeatedly in his book The Twentieth Plane and Birth Through Death, as both books were allegedly transcripts of the channeling sessions with a strange, then unknown fellow, Louis Benjamin.

image of sequence 7

A.D. Watson was born in 1859 in Mississauga, Ontario. He was a member of the Euclid Avenue Church in Toronto, the Toronto Conference, the General Conference, the Board of Missions, and the executive of the Methodist Social Union of Toronto, and he served as treasurer of the church’s department of temperance and moral reform. His involvement in the church was about to change, unbeknownst to him, when he fell down the rabbit hole of the paranormal. Despite his church involvement, Albert was a man of science. He earned an MD from Victoria College, Cobourg, in 1883. In 1890 he would receive another, ad eundem, from the University of Toronto in recognition of his graduation as a licentiate from the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh in 1883 and he practiced medicine for over twenty years. Watson’s life was far from boring.

If that wasn’t enough, Watson was fascinated with Astronomy and dove right in. His papers relating to that field include “The reformation and simplification of the calendar” (1896), “Astronomy in Canada” (1917), and “Astronomy: a cultural avocation” (1918). He joined the Astronomical and Physical Society of Toronto in 1892, which would eventually become the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada and he served as first vice-president between 1910 and 1915 and as president in 1916 and 1917. But his life changed when he founded the Association for Psychical Research of Canada. The world wasn’t ready for what he was about to deliver and the public ridicule became relentless.

If you were born around 1970 or 1980, think about our grandmother’s generation: Growing up in the 1930’s and 40’s, the paranormal was never spoken about. In the Victorian era, it was all the rage! If you weren’t holding seances and spooky occasions then you were just missing the social life! But by the time the early 1900’s hit, the public attitude had changed. A lot. My great great grandfather, Albert Durrant Watson, was an extremely well-respected physician and a strict non-believer. He was a man of art and science, a fluent poet, and a wealthy doctor. He was married and had everything going for him with a rich social life that just happened to have a fair bit of interest in the spiritual. Something he did not subscribe to… at first. His mind started to open up when he began allowing his home to be used for channelling sessions with a man named Louis Benjamin. As he began to overhear these sessions which he labelled as hogwash and entertainment, he began to take some interest in the information that the uneducated and simple Mr. Benjamin should not have had access to, including detailed information about the death of Watson’s very own mother.

These repeated sessions ended up being scribed into two books, The Twentieth Plane and it’s sequel, Birth Through Death.

These books were quite a leap from the science and poetry that his colleagues and friends had come to expect from him, and were met with a negative tongue and controversial uproars. Despite this, Watson held on to his position about what he had experienced and didn’t seek the approval of readers. Instead he offered it as information for a coming age and believed people would either accept it or not, admitting his own heavy skepticism towards mediums. Either way, he put his career on the line to stand for what he believed in and my family never spoke of him. I did not learn that this influential and historical figure was the founder of the very first paranormal research association in Canada until I was well into my career, having founded Entityseeker: Paranormal Research and Teachings in 2002.

My family was steeped in paranormal occurrences and stories: all of them bad. It wasn’t until much later I discovered A.D. Watson had very different experiences, that I reshaped my history with the paranormal. The first words my grandmother spoke to my mother upon one of our visits to her place were very simple: “Don’t let Morgan get involved in the paranormal. It’s dangerous, it’s bad, and it will only cause trouble.”

She held this belief for a reason: Her experiences were no short of awful. She rarely spoke about them but when she did talk to my dad (her son) about them, they were terrifying. She spoke of waking up in the night with a hideous face inches from her own, attacks happening mid day and having absolutely no control over what came into or out of her experience. Being an intuitive woman, things would happen to her regularly and it wasn’t long before her younger son, my dad’s younger brother, began dabbling in the paranormal as well.  When he became a teenager, he was knee deep in it, and having the same horrific experiences.

Albert spoke of a very different relationship: A relationship with nonphysical that was helpful, peaceful, enduring, loving, and beautiful. His books reflected kind conversations and simple, easy access to the loved ones we believe we have lost to the death process. The idea of the spirit ‘getting stuck’ disappeared, and words of empowerment directed towards the living came bubbling forth. These weren’t grave warnings, these were uplifting, fun, and artistic messages from a group of entities that called themselves “The Humble Ones”. This was a game changer and this message were the basis for my program, Teaching The Living, although when I designed it in 2002, I had no idea these conversations had ever happened.

I have never been a big believer in coincidences. In the same breath, I am not sure I have an explanation for why or how I ended up on the niche path of paranormal research and parapsychology as a man who I was unaware of for decades. Regardless, Albert Durrant Watson is not only an important part of parapsychological history in my life, but throughout Canada as well.

It was said of A.D. Watson by Lorne Pierce: “He recognized no national, ecclesiastical or any other frontier, but searched the world through for truth… He sifted the philosophies, the religions and the humanities of the world… No man during this generation in Toronto ever entertained so many strange faces, tongues, sects, systems, enthusiasms, artists, poets, fanatics, sages as he did; no home was more the ante-chamber to the universe.”

If we all could embrace this attitude as we head in to this research, it is my belief that the advancement of this field would accelerate in ways, dare I say, that we could only dream about.

****

For more information about Dr. Watson see Chapter 6 of Anatomy of a Seance: A History of Spirit Communication in Central Canada (Montreal: McGill’s University Press, 2004), by Stan McMullin.

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

Here is a recently published paper about the mind-body problem in psychiatry journals: Moreira-Almeida, A., Araujo, S. de F., & Cloninger, C. R. (2018). The presentation of the mind-brain problem in leading psychiatry journals. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, Epub February 01, 2018. https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/1516-4446-2017-2342 (click here)

Alexander Moreira Almeida

Alexander Moreira-Almeida

Saulo de Freitas Araujo

Saulo de Freitas Araujo

C. Robert Cloninger

C. Robert Cloninger

Abstract

Objective: The mind-brain problem (MBP) has marked implications for psychiatry, but has been poorly discussed in the psychiatric literature. This paper evaluates the presentation of the MBP in the three leading general psychiatry journals during the last 20 years. Methods: Systematic review of articles on the MBP published in the three general psychiatry journals with the highest impact factor from 1995 to 2015. The content of these articles was analyzed and discussed in the light of contemporary debates on the MBP. Results: Twenty-three papers, usually written by prestigious authors, explicitly discussed the MBP and received many citations (mean = 130). The two main categories were critiques of dualism and defenses of physicalism (mind as a brain product). These papers revealed several misrepresentations of theoretical positions and lacked relevant contemporary literature. Without further discussion or evidence, they presented the MBP as solved, dualism as an old-fashioned or superstitious idea, and physicalism as the only rational and empirically confirmed option. Conclusion: The MBP has not been properly presented and discussed in the three leading psychiatric journals in the last 20 years. The few articles on the topic have been highly cited, but reveal misrepresentations and lack of careful philosophical discussion, as well as a strong bias against dualism and toward a materialist/physicalist approach to psychiatry.

The authors concluded:

“Our findings indicate that the MBP has been neither carefully nor systematically addressed in the three leading general psychiatry journals with the highest impact factors during the last 20 years. We found only 23 papers published in this period which discussed, or made explicit reference to, this challenging problem that affects psychiatric training, research, and practice so greatly. Moreover, these papers were usually authored by prestigious and highly cited psychiatrists and had high citation rates – much higher than the three top cited journals’ average. This suggests that those views on MBP have been influential and may have helped shape the field’s stance on the subject.”

“A careful reading of those articles on the MBP, however, reveals a series of misrepresentations of theoretical positions (often based on secondary literature), lack of relevant contemporary literature on the topic, and a strong bias toward reductive physicalism in psychiatry. In summary, without further discussion or evidence, these authors present the MBP as solved, dualism as an old-fashioned/superstitious idea, and physicalism (mind as a brain product) as the only rational option and the only one that has undoubtedly been empirically confirmed. We are not arguing that physicalism (either in its reductive or nonreductive forms) is false. Given the current state of our knowledge, it should be considered a viable and promising hypothesis for the MBP, a good framework for research. The problem, in our view, is the misrepresentation of alternative hypotheses and the presentation of physicalism as the only game in town or as a proven fact . . .”

“. . . given the status of our current knowledge and the absence of a satisfactory theory of the MBP, the best way to achieve progress in psychiatry is to recognize that the MBP is far from being solved and to be open to competing theoretical models, as is being done in contemporary physics and philosophy of mind. It is crucial that several models of the MBP, including physicalist and nonphysicalist ones, be allowed to develop and show their value (or lack thereof). Rather than misrepresenting potential candidates, it is more productive to consider alternative hypotheses seriously and test them rigorously with respect for what they propose. Psychiatry could benefit from such competition to move beyond its current limitations.”

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

The first of a multi-volume collection of books discussing the Star Gate Project has just been published. The Star Gate Archives: Reports of the United States Government Sponsored Psi Program, 1972–1995. Volume 1: Remote Viewing, 1972–1984 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2018) was compiled and edited by Edwin C. May and Sonali Bhatt Marwaha. Three more volumes are scheduled to be published soon.

Star Gate Archives 1

Ed May 2

Edwin C. May

Sonali Marwaha

Sonali Bhatt Marwaha

According to the publisher:

“During the Cold War, the U.S. government began testing paranormal claims under laboratory conditions in hopes of realizing intelligence applications for psychic phenomena. Thus began the project known as Star Gate. The largest in the history of parapsychological research, it received more than $20 million in funding and continued into the mid–1990s. This project archive includes all available documents generated by research contractor SRI International and those provided by government officials.”

“Remote viewing (RV) is an atypical ability that allows some individuals to gain information blocked from the usual senses by shielding, distance or time. Early work benefited from a few “stars” of RV who were successful at convincing investigators of its existence and its potential as a means of gathering intelligence. Research focused on determining the parameters of RV, who may have the ability, how to collect and analyze data and the best way to use RV in intelligence operations.”

The book, with forewords by William S. Cohen and Richard S. Broughton, is a unique publication that shows well the unique legacy of the Star Gate Program. The Star Gate Archives may be ordered from the publisher or from other places.

ParaMOOC 2018

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

ParaMOOC 2018, a series of online high-level lectures about parapsychological topics, will start on January 22 in the WizIQ platform. The lectures (listed below), sponsored by the Parapsychology Foundation, end on February 24.

ParaMOOC2018

Enrollment is free. To enroll, and to get more information, click here).

As seen in the official description:

“The ParaMOOC series is a completely unique introduction to international scientists and academic researchers who work on a variety of phenomena including extrasensory perception, telepathy, near-death experiences, distant mental influence on living systems (the part of the field that addresses psychic healing), clairvoyance, mediumship, survival research and more.”

“The only other way to have access to this kind of expertise and to these knowledgeable individuals outside of this course is to pay to attend the annual conferences of the Parapsychological Association, the Society for Psychical Research, the Society for Scientific Exploration, and the International Association for Near Death Studies, among other such organizations. The expense of such conferences and the necessity to travel make these options for further education difficult to attain. For the ParaMOOC series however, the course access is free. Students only need an internet connection with audio available on their devices from PCs to mobile phones.”

“Thus, in this free WizIQ-based MOOC, not only will students have an opportunity to hear accomplished researchers talk about their own work for live attendees and those who listen to the recordings. With only one presentation scheduled on the day, there also will be plenty of time for questions and discussions after every talk. Those who can’t join us in the live sessions will have access to the recordings of the presentations within hours of the live talk, as well as the PowerPoint presentations and additional materials. The course discussion page will be available to all attendees on a 24/7 basis.”

Here is a tentative schedule of speakers and presentations:

Tuesday, January 23, 2018: The Psi Encyclopedia: A Window on Psychical Research: Robert McLuhan

Robert McLuhan 2

Robert McLuhan

Thursday, January 25, 2018: Dark Cognition: Evidence of Psi and Implications for Consciousness: David Vernon

David Vernon

David Vernon

Friday, January 26, 2018:  Dualism and Psi: An Invalid Hypothesis: Sonali Marwaha and Ed May

Sonali Marwaha

Sonali Mawaha

Ed May 2

Ed May

Tuesday, January 30, 2018: Parapsychology and the Study of the Mind: Changing the Historical Record: Carlos S. Alvarado

Carlos S. Alvarado 9jpg

Carlos S. Alvarado

Thursday, February 1, 2018:  The Significance of Statistics in Mind-Matter Research, Jessica Utts

Jessica Utts 4

Jessica Utts

Friday, February 2, 2018: Are Different Standards Warranted to Evaluate Psi? George Williams

George Williams

George Williams

Monday, February 5, 2018: The Transformative Power of Near-Death Experiences: Penny Sartori

Penny Sartori

Penny Sartori

 Tuesday, February 6, 2018: Anomalous Experiences and Bereavement: Cal Cooper

Callum Cooper - BSc Psychology

Callum Cooper

Thursday, February 8, 2018: Surveys of Anomalous Experiences, Creativity, and Mental Health: Thomas Rabeyron

Thomas Rabeyron 2

Thomas Rabeyron

Friday, February 9, 2018:  Anomalistic psychology, parapsychology, psychology of magic and psychology of religion: An integration proposal to deal with the complexity of the paranormal: Leonardo Martins 

Leonardo Martins

Leonardo Martins

Monday, February 12, 2018: A Survey of Secular American Mediums: Julie Beischel

Julie Beischel

Julie Beischel

Friday, February 16, 2018: Magnetic Activity and Healing: Margaret M. Moga

Margaret Moga

Margaret Moga

Monday, February 19, 2018: Scientific investigation of Chico Xavier’s mediumship: Alexander Moreira-Almeida

Alexander Moreira Almeida

Alexander Moreira Almeida

 Tuesday, February 20, 2018: Mind-Matter Interaction and the Frontal Lobes of the Brain: Morris Freedman

Morris Freedman

Morris Freedman

Friday, February 23, 2018:  A Disturbance in the Force: Exploring Collective Consciousness at Burning Man: Dean Radin

Dean Radin 4

Dean Radin

In addition, there will be various posters presentations in the form of slides (click here for a list of topics). Some examples include:

Parapsychology and Psychology Bibliography

Nancy L. Zingrone: Charles Honorton and His Importance to Parapsychology

Nancy L. Zingrone 4

Nancy L. Zingrone

Charles T. Tart: Evidence-Based Dualism and Transpersonal Psychology

Charles Tart

Charles T. Tart

Vanessa Corredato & Wellington Zangari: The Academic Consolidation of Anomalistic Psychology in Brazil

Vanessa Corredato

Vanessa Corredato

Wellington Zangari 5.pg

Wellington Zangari

Massimo Biondi: Modern Parapsychology in Italy

Massimo Biondi 3

Massimo Biondi

Carlos S. Alvarado: Historical Views of Parapsychology and Psychic Phenomena:
A Selected Bibliography of Journal Articles:
2010-2017

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

The French neo-mesmeric movement, which flourished roughly between the late Nineteenth Century and the first two decades of the twentieth, was well represented by individuals who believed that there was a real physical agent called animal magnetism, defined also by some as a nervous force related to the workings of the physical body. This included individuals such as Émile Boirac, Hector Durville, Henri Durville, Paul Joire, Jules Bernard Luys, and Albert de Rochas, among others.

Durville Traite Experimental Magnetisme

De Rochas Exteriorisation Sensibilite

One of the largest and more ambitious works of the period, and the one commented on here, was authored by physician Alexandre Baréty. This was a book over 600 pages entitled Le Magnétisme Animal: Étudié sous le Nom de Force Neurique Rayonnante et Circulante dans ses Propriétés Physiques, Physiologiques, et Thérapeutiques [Animal Magnetism: Studied Under the Name of Radiant and Circulating Neuric Force in Its Physical, Physiological, and Therapeutic Properties] (Paris: Octave Doin, 1887, available online here).

Barety Magnetisme Animal

Alexandre Barety

Alexandre Baréty

Baréty defined “neuric force” as a dynamic agent “probably from the nervous system, which circulates along the nerves or radiates out of them . . . and is susceptible to producing certain sensitive, motor, and psychic modifications on other human bodies” (p. xii).

This author reported tests conducted with a lady he referred to as Mlle C., as well as with other individuals. In Baréty’s view the neuric force was projected from the body through passes, as well as through rays coming from the fingers, from eyesight, and from breath. Inside the body the force had properties such as heat and electricity, and once projected from the body and directed toward another person the force produced effects such as trance, anesthesia, hyperesthesia, and the induction or dissipation of contractions.

Baréty believed the neuric force propagated through space through the ether and that the force could be transmitted through other objects and could be stored in water and in other things. Observations about animal magnetism been stored in objects and substances, such as water, are frequent in the mesmeric literature.

Barety Rays from Hand

Neuric Rays from Hands

Neurisation also took place through induction. As Baréty explained: “The sole presence of a person close to another may affect the specific nervous state of one of them . . .” (p. 234).

Baréty gave many examples of the physiological effects of the force. For example, he treated Mlle C.’s stomach pains by pointing her fingers at her, which he said caused her pain to disappear in seconds. Baréty also claimed to be successful with Mlle C. in other ways. He was able to “anesthetise and hyperesthesise the integuments of different regions . . . abolish or exalt one or another sense” (Baréty, p. 326).

While Mlle C. was in another room separated from him by a brick wall, Baréty said he was able to induce muscular contractions in one of his subject’s wrists and hands by pointing his fingers to the wall.

Barety Passes Anesthesia and Trance

Magnetic Passes Causing Anesthesia and Trance Over Ascending and Descending Nerves

In Baréty’s view the existence and therapeutic value of the neuric force was beyond doubt. Furthermore, he believed that hysteria was related to the force. In his view it was due to a “modification in the direction, the force, and the distribution of nervous or neuric currents” (p. 627).

Furthermore, it was reported that the effects of passes and magnets were similar. In addition, Baréty noticed that those sensitive to the action of neuricity were also sensitive to atmospheric electricity.

Unfortunately this work has not been translated. Consequently many who do not read French are not aware of the magnitude of Baréty’s work. For another discussion of his work in the context of the neo-mesmeric movement see one of my articles.

*Parts of these comments appeared before in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2011, 25,123-124.