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

The following article is a report of psychological studies of American children that say they remember previous lives.

“Psychological Evaluation of American Children Who Report Memories of Previous Lives,” by Jim Tucker and F. Don Nidiffer (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2014, 28, 585-596).

For reprints write to the first author: jbt8n@virginia.edu

Dr. Jim Tucker

Dr. Jim Tucker

Abstract

Some young children claim to have memories of a previous life, and they often show behaviors that appear related to the memories. This pilot study examined the psychological functioning of such children in the United States. Fifteen participants, ages 3-6 years, underwent testing with the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale (fourth edition) and the Children’s Apperception Test. Their parents completed the Survey Form of the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, the Child Behavior Checklist, the Child Dissociative Checklist, and the Family Questionnaire. The children’s composite intelligence scores on the Stanford-Binet were greater than one standard deviation above the mean, with relative strengths in verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning. On the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, the children scored significantly above average in daily living skills, motor skills, and on the overall composite score. Thirteen of the 15 children obtained low scores on the Child Dissociative Checklist, indicating no dissociative thought patterns in most participants. The Child Behavior Checklist averages all fell within the normal range, revealing no clinically significant behavior problems. Results on the Children’s Apperception Test revealed no unusual themes, and the families did not show any distinct patterns of functioning on the Family Questionnaire. Young children who claim to remember previous lives show high intelligence, and testing revealed no evidence that their reports arise from psychopathology.

In the conclusion the authors state:

“This sample of young American children claiming past-life memories showed high intelligence levels, with particular strengths in quantitative reasoning and verbal reasoning. One possibility to consider is that advanced verbal skills in very young children make them more likely to verbalize mental images. Their ability to do so may intensify those images so that they become firmly established in their minds as memories.”

“The results on the other measures do not indicate any evidence of psychopathology for the group as a whole. Thirteen of the 15 participants showed few dissociative features. Thus, it appears that most children who report past-life memories do not show dissociative symptoms, but the two exceptions raise the possibility that children who have dissociative tendencies may be more likely than other children to make past-life reports.”

 

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

Traité de Métapsychique by Charles Richet. Paris: Félix Alcan, 1922. Pp. 815. Available online at GallicaGoogle Books, and Hathi Trust.

 Richet Traite

 

Richet Traite table contents 1

Charles Richet

Charles Richet

Although overviews of psychical research such as the one reviewed here are appreciated, they are not generally considered to be particularly important or influential beyond the panoramic views, summaries, and bibliographies they provide. An exception to this is the book reviewed here, authored by French physiologist Charles Richet (1850-1935), which was translated into English from its second edition as Thirty Years of Psychical Research (New York: Macmillan, 1923).

Richet Thirty Years

Richet Clairvoyance PSPR 1889By the time the Traité was published Richet was well known in psychical research. This was evident from the frequent and multiple citations he received in general French books about the topic. During the 1880s he conducted research about what we would refer today as ESP, as seen in his reports “La Suggestion Mentale et le Calcul des Probabilités” (Revue Philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger, 1884, 18, 609–674), and “Further Experiments in Hypnotic Lucidity or Clairvoyance” (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1889, 6, 66–83). Later on he was involved with bringing psychical research into the 1889 Congress of Physiological Psychology, the development and publication of the Annales des Sciences Psychiques, medium Eusapia Palladino, and the presidency of the SPR. He authored many more papers about psychic phenomena and their study, among them a highly controversial report of materialization phenomena with medium Marthe Béraud.

Paper by Richet about medium Marthe Beraud's materialization phenomena (in Annals of Psychical Science, 1905)

Paper by Richet about medium Marthe Beraud’s materialization phenomena (in Annals of Psychical Science, 1905)

Richet opened the book stating in the preface that readers expecting “nebulous” discussions about “man’s destiny, about magic, about theosophy” would be dissappointed. Instead he argued he would write about facts without advancing a theory because in his view theories in metapsychics were “astoundingly frail.”

Franz Anton Mesmer

Franz Anton Mesmer

The Traité was divided in four “books” or sections. The first one was a general perspective on metapsychics, which was defined by Richet as “a science which object is phenomena, mechanical or psychological, due to seemingly intelligent forces ot to unknown latent powers in human intelligence.” He classified the field into subjective and objective metapsychics, terms he used to refer to mental and physical phenomena. The section also included a discussion of history in which the author divided the subject in four periods. These periods were denominated by Richet as mythical (up to Mesmer), magnetic (from Mesmer to the Fox sisters), spiritistic (from the Fox sisters to William Crookes), and scientific (starting with Crookes). Richet hoped that his book will start a fifth period.

William Crookes

William Crookes

Richet saw the scientific period as the high point of the history of interest in metapsychic phenomena and separated it conceptually and methodologically from previous movements. In fact, he pictured mesmerism, as well as spiritism and spiritualism, as stages in the development of metapsychics. Previous movements, Richet believed, had too much theory, something that metapsychics must be careful with. But he believed it would have been an injustice to despise the magnetizers and the spiritists. Their work, Richet stated, “contributed to the founding of metapsychics.” But in his view their time was past. Nowadays a medium should not be wasted in informal spiritistic circles “without the use of methods of research adopted by all the sciences, balances, photography, cinematography, graphic registration. Similarly . . . rigorous, strict investigation, similar to those the S.P.R. [Society for Psychical Research] has conducted, is indispensable.”

First Chapter of Richet's Traite

First Chapter of Richet’s Traite

The second part of the book was about “subjective metapsychics.” Richet started with a section in which he attempted to separate phenomena that could be explained via conventional ideas of the action of the subconscious mind such as automatisms, personation, and pantomnesia (or memories of all the past experiences of the person), from phenomena such as telepathy and the like requiring explanations beyond the conventional (I have presented a reprint of this section elsewhere). He wrote that: “to separate the psychic [psychological] from the metapsychic, we adopt the following criterion: Everything that may be done by human intelligence, even the very profound and skillful, is psychic. Everything a human intelligence cannot do . . . would be metapsychic” (italics in the original).

Chapter of Subjective Metapsychics

Chapter about Subjective Metapsychics

Reprint of telepathy drawings from an experiment published by the Society for Psychical Research

Reprint of telepathy drawings from an experiment published by the Society for Psychical Research

Two other sections were about chance and observation errors. Such discussions were not only proper in a book like this to show how psychical researchers have been aware of conventional explanations and the precautions they have taken to avoid them, but also served a rhetorical function in that it gave credibility to Richet’s defenses of the reality of the metapsychic realm beyond the counterexplanations of science.

Leonora E. Piper

Leonora E. Piper

The rest of this part of the book was devoted to what Richet called cryptesthesia. This meant a “hidden sensibility, a perception of things, unknown regarding its mechanisms, and of which we cannot know but its effects.” Richet discussed spontaneous and experimental examples of this faculty. He included his own observations and studies, such as those with a woman he referred to as Alice, and discussed the topic as manifested in mediums such as Leonora E. Piper, and in various ways, among them psychometry and premonitions. The spontaneous occurrences were classified as monitions involving non-serious and serious events (other than death), death, and those perceived collectivelly. Richet mentioned that cryptesthesia showed no time and space limitations. He wrote that the phenomena “is very strange, and we do not understand it at all,” but such lack of understanding did not mean the acceptance of spiritual entities following “savages who attributed forces of Nature to a Divinity . . . .”

Part 3 was about physical phenomena. In addition to hauntings (and poltergeists), it included chapters about phenomena infrequently discussed in modern parapsychology, namely telekinesis, materializations, levitation, and bilocation. The later was defined by Richet as the simultaneous presence of a person in different locations. He rejected the existence of objective bilocation as the duplication of the human body, but accepted that apparitions representing the individual could be perceived as if the person was alive and that this represented a modality of cryptesthesia.

Chapter about Objective Metapsychics

Chapter about Objective Metapsychics

 

Florence Cook

Florence Cook

Regardless of the fraudulent practices of some physical mediums, Richet was convinced that there were real telekinetic and ectoplasmic manifestations. Among many observations he discussed medium Florence Cook and the famous Katie King materialization, and his own observations with medium Marthe Béraud. Regarding Béraud (later known as Eva C.), Richet presented some notes he compiled in 1906 in which he saw ectoplasmic forms move and take shapes. He also payed attention to many other mediums, among them Linda Gazzera, D.D. Home, Eusapia Palladino, and Stanislawa Tomczyk.

Linda Gazzera

Linda Gazzera

Drawings Illustrating Richet's Observations with Marthe Beraud

Drawings Illustrating Richet’s Observations with Marthe Beraud

Richet Traite Stanislawa Tomczyck

Richet Traite Stanislawa Tomczyck

Finally, the fourth part of the book was the conclusion. Richet concluded that the collective weight of all evidence showed the reality of metapsychic phenomena. This, he believed, was the case regardless of criticisms:

“Therefore: 1. there is in us a faculty of knowledge that is absolutely different of our common sensory faculties of knowledge (cryptesthesia); 2. movement of objects without contact are produced, even in plain light (telekinesis); 3. there are hands, bodies, objects, that appear to be formed completely from a cloud and show all the appearances of life (ectoplasmy); 4. there are presentiments that neither perspicacy nor chance can explain, and sometimes they are verified to their smallest details.”

In the conclusion Richet returned to his view that metapsychics should be an empirical specialty which current task should not be the defense of particular models. In fact, if there was a perspective characterizing the Traité it was that of the need to have an ultra-empirical metapsychics with little theoretical content. Consistent with this view Richet stated he was not convinced of any explanation so far offered to account for metapsychic phenomena and that at present (1922) no cohesive theory could be presented. He was particularly critical of explanations based on the concept of discarnate action, something he discussed in other publications. Nonetheless, and regardless of his protestations, Richet was not completely atheoretical. He was positive about the idea that unknown human faculties, and forces, were at work, and, as he discussed in the Traité, he used the concepts of personation and cryptesthesia to explain the manifestation of mental mediumship. Richet also speculated about forces in reference to materializations: “Materialization is a mechanical projection . . . . Is it not a very long way to consider possible, other than projections of heat, light, and electricity, a projection of a mechanical force? The memorable demonstrations of Einstein establish to what extent mechanical energy is similar to luminous energy.” Such idea, while perhaps too vague to be called a theory, was consistent with an old model of biophysical forces present throughout the literatures of mesmerism, spiritualism, and psychical research.

Richet concluded his book with hope for the future, as he did in other publications. Currently, “when everything is still in darkness,” Richet stated that there was a pressing need to move forward with research. “Then Metapsychics will come out of Occultism, as Chemistry was separated from Alchemy.” The situation, Richet continued, may seem to be too dark and difficult to solve. He further wrote: “But this is no reason for not increasing our efforts and labors . . . . The task is so beautiful that, even if we fail, the honor of having undertaken it gives some value to life.”

This book received much publicity when it was first published in 1922. Richet presented it to the prestigious Académie des Sciences, referring to the phenomena in question as “new” and “inhabitual” (Mémoires et communications des membres et des correspondants de l’Académie. Compte Rendu Hebdomadaires des Seances de l’Académie des Sciences, 1922,  174, 429-430). The reception of the Traité was surprising for an introductory book about psychical research. It was repeatedly reviewed as a special book. Examples of this are the long, and not always positive discussions of it in journals dedicated to psychic phenomena, such as the essays of Henry Holt, (A review of Richet. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1922, 16, 655-670.), Ernesto Bozzano (Considerazioni intorno al “Traité de Métapsychique” del Prof. Charles Richet. Luce e Ombra, 1922, 22:103-115), and Oliver Lodge (A textbook of metapsychics: Review and critique. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1923, 34, 70-106).  A prominent example of a review appearing in the journals of other disciplines was that authored by Pierre Janet (À propos de la métapsychique. Revue Philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger, 1923, 96, 5-32).

Henry Holt's Review of Richet

Henry Holt’s Review of Richet

There is no question that the book was comprehensive, and systematic, and this made it valuable as a general introduction to the subject. It is in fact one of the best overviews of psychical research for the period in question. Richet’s insistence in the collection of facts, to the neglect of theories, made the book his personal manifesto of psychical research. He projected an image of metapsychics as a science, arguing for the existence of a field that had a subject matter and a right to exist. But as much as the book was a summary of facts, it was also Richet’s attempt to construct and promote it.

Richet SouvenirsHowever, both in the Traité as well as in latter publications, such as his autobiographical memoir Souvenirs d’un Physiologiste (Paris: J. Peyronnet, 1933) Richet described the discipline as being in a preliminary stage of development. Nonetheless, he stated in this latter book, “I am convinced it is the science of the future” (p. 156).

Unfortunately Richet’s neglect to summarize theoretical models properly and to include systematic discussions or research methodologies weaken the status of the Traité as a rigorous textbook. I believe the empirical approach defended by Richet in the book would have received support from the latter.

For many, particularly in France, the Traité became an exemplar of the “new” science, and this took place in spite of much criticism. Why, one may ask, did Richet’s book attained such a status? After all, the content of the Traité was not innovative or revolutionary so as to command so much attention and respect. In fact, in many ways the Traité was rather dry and uninspired. I believe there are at least two aspects to consider in discussing this issue.

Ceccarelli Shaping Science with RhetoricFirst, Richet’s book cannot be dismissed as just a relatively unimportant exercise in synthesis. In fact, this characteristic of the book is one of the aspects identified by Leah Ceccarelli in his Shaping Science with Rhetoric (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001) as being important to produce influential books that assist in the development of interdisciplinary communities. Synthesis is present in the Traité in the form of a modest non-theorethical integration based on the accumulation of facts presented to show the existence of a subject matter. Ceccarelli believes that such influential books present two other characteristics, the development of an “authorial persona,” and the fact that the text is addressed to more than one audience. The first point perhaps includes Richet’s strong and repeated ultra-empirical and anti-survival stances, while the second may also be present in that several audiences benefitted from the work: scientists, psychical researchers, and the general public. While I do not want to push this view too much, it seems to me that the book could be studied in more detail from this perspective.

Richet Abrege HistoireSecond, the author commanded much attention due to his eminence. Richet–who worked in so various fields as aviation, eugenics, history, literature, pacifism, philosophy, psychical research, psychology, and sociology–was a well-known and highly respected intellectual. He published much research on physiological topics such as animal heat, breathing, stomach acid, serotherapy, and anaphylaxis. He also had several important academic positions and honors before the publication of the Traité. This included being editor of the Revue Wolf Brain Mind Medicine RicherScientifique, Professor of Physiology at the Faculte de Medicine in Paris, member of the Academie de Medicine and of the Academie des Sciences, and Nobel prize winner for his work on anaphylaxis. In addition, Richet had many social advantages. His wealth and high social position, coming both from his father and from his mother’s family, allowed him many personal connections that facilitated publishing and being heard in different forums. On these issues see S. Wolf, Brain, Mind and Medicine: Charles Richet and the Origins of Physiological Psychology (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1993).

Revue Scientifique, edited by Richet, with article by him

Revue Scientifique, edited by Richet, with article by him

All this meant that a treatise about psychic phenomena from such a man would not be ignored and would be seen as a more important event than publications on the topic by less eminent individuals. His persona was a social and intellectual beacon that attracted many, who would either praise or condemn him for his positive belief in the existence of metapsychic phenomena and for his involvement with the topic.

Modern researchers will find the Traité of value for several reasons. The book is a reference work presenting many summaries of studies, bibliographical references, and evidential claims about psychic phenomena for the pre-1922 period. In addition, those current researchers who are not familiar with the old psychical research literature will find in this book a window into the past, a past somewhat different from the present, as seen in the emphasis on gifted subjects, such as psychics and mediums, on the phenomena of physical mediumship, and on the issue of survival of death.

Richet

Richet

These comments first appeared as a book review in the Journal of Scientific Exploration. They are reprinted with permission from the journal’s editor.

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

Nancy L. Zingrone and I are presenting an online four week course about research and other aspects of out-of-body experiences (OBEs). The course, part of the educational events of the AZIRE (The Alvarado Zingrone Institute for Research and Education), starts on March 9, 2015 and ends on April 5.

Mind Without a Body: Exploring Out-of-Body Experiences will offered via the WizIQ teaching platform. This is an overview course that provides an introduction to the study of OBEs. The emphasis is on the scientific study of OBEs and not on other important issues such as techniques to induce the OBE or the spiritual implications of the experience. The general topics discussed will be: Definitions, historical perspective, and approaches; research findings (OBE features and measurements related to psychology, psychophysiology and other areas, discussed over two weeks); and parapsychological aspects and explanations.

This online course consists of four live lectures and other meetings in the Virtual Classroom on WizIQ as well as active discussion on the Course Feed. PDF reprints and links to articles and videos will be provided with the understanding that we are sharing materials with learners and not selling them.

A Certificate of Completion will be issued by The AZIRE. Certificates may be earned by successfully completing the course Quizzes or Assignments, by putting together a presentation for the class, or by some other method the learners and facilitators agree upon. Creativity is welcomed.

The course fee is $40 per learner and may be paid through Paypal by clicking below.

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Within 24 hours of paying you will receive an invitation to enroll in the course. If you do not receive your invitation within a day, please contact Nancy L. Zingrone (nancy@theazire.org) or Carlos S. Alvarado (carlos@theazire.org)

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

Although I have never met Dr. Zofia Weaver I have had correspondence with her while she was editing the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. Zofia, whose background is in linguistics, has a particular interest in Polish psychics and mediums. She is one of the authors and compilers, with Mary Rose Barrington and Ian Stevenson, of A World in a Grain of Sand: The Clairvoyance of Stefan Ossowiecki (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005). In addition, Zofia was the editor of the Journal and Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research between 1999 and 2002. She is the Chair of the E-Communications Committee of the Society for Psychical Research.

Dr. Zofia Weaver

Dr. Zofia Weaver

In her recently published book Other Realities: The Enigma of Franek Kluski’s Mediumship (Hove, UK: White Crow Books, 2015) Zofia presents an overview of the career of Polish physical medium Franek Kluski. Many of us know about Kluski mainly through Gustave Geley’s book Clairvoyance and Materialisation (London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1927). But there is much more information about Kluski, and this is the first time that a book is dedicated to him in English, including much new material.

Weaver Other Realities Kluski 2

Materialization with Kluski

Materialization with Kluski

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

The book describes the life and mediumship of Franek Kluski, who produced a striking range of physical and mental phenomena. He was not a professional medium, his professions included banking, journalism and writing for the stage, and his recorded mediumship lasted for only a short time, 1918 to 1925. Meticulous records of séances held with him exist (involving eminent researchers such as Gustave Geley and Charles Richet, but mainly less well-known yet equally able Polish investigators); however, much, in fact most, of the information about Kluski has until now only been available in Polish. In Other Realities, in addition to providing general background and context to Kluski’s mediumship, I have included a range of summaries and full original reports translated from Polish. I hope they provide a comprehensive picture of the events which surrounded this fascinating and reluctant medium – not only during sèances but in his everyday life.

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

My background is in linguistics, and my interest in psychical research was awakened by accident. I came across Rosalind Heywood’s “The Sixth Sense” and “The Infinite Hive” in the local library, and I was struck by the contrast between the author’s evident rationality and the amazing nature of the phenomena she was describing. I then joined the Society for Psychical Research, where I had the good fortune of being “mentored” by such figures as Alan Gauld and the late Tony Cornell. For a number of years I edited the Society’s Journal and Proceedings, and until recently I have been in charge of the content of the Society’s website. Together with Mary Rose Barrington and Ian Stevenson, I am also a co-author of a comprehensive study of the Polish clairvoyant Stefan Ossowiecki, which was published in 2005.

Barrington Stevenson Weaver World in a Grain of Sand

Since I am Polish by birth and upbringing, and bilingual, from the beginning of my involvement in psychical research I have been dealing with questions relating to famous (and less famous) Polish psychics. One might say that investigating these has become my special area of interest more by default than by choice, but I am glad to have specialised in this area. When you study such figures as Stefan Ossowiecki and Franek Kluski, you realise just what an enormous range of psychic phenomena, reported in impressive detail, they represent, and what profound implications they could have for one’s worldview.

What motivated you to write this book?

Mainly a sense of obligation and guilt, as well as a series of fortuituous happenstances. The main source of the Kluski material came into my possession many years ago, and over time valuable Polish archives on psychical research have been entrusted to me as well. I have therefore known for many years that this material must not be lost and much of it needs to be made public. I hope that a bilingual Polish/English archive will be created to preserve it, but that’s another story. In fact, I had been translating parts of the sources with the bilingual archive in mind for some time, but then suddenly all the ingredients of a book came together, the idea for a framework, the additional sources, and a supportive and encouraging publisher.

Okolowicz Kluski

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

The most important thing to me is that this unique material will now not be lost, and this was the limit of my hopes when I started on the project of translation. As to what the book might accomplish, if it corrects some of the misrepresentations of the Kluski phenomena based on fragmentary and secondary sources found on the internet, I would be very happy. I would also be very happy if it drew attention to at least the possibility of a much “bigger picture” of psi than many researchers are prepared to consider.

 *******

Table of Contents

Introduction

Physical mediumship: The refuge of cheats and scoundrels?

Chapter 1: Setting the scene: special times, special people

Chapter 2: Kluski the person

Chapter 3: Séances and phenomena

Chapter 4: Physical mediumship: The path to other realities?

References and Bibliography

*******

Moulds of Materialized Hands Obtained in a Seance with Kluski

Moulds of Materialized Hands Obtained in a Seance with Kluski

 

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

I am glad to present here an interview with Dr. John Palmer, who I first met in 1978. John was in charge of the Masters in Parapsychology Program at John F. Kennedy University, in Orinda California, where I had been accepted as a student.  When I was writing my thesis about a questionnaire study of out-of-body experiences under his supervision, I made a point to follow in my writing the reporting style of John’s article “A Community Mail Survey of Psychic Experiences” (Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1979, 73, 221-251), a modern classic of surveys of psychic experiences.

Dr. John Palmer

Dr. John Palmer

John, a PhD in psychology from the University of Texas, is a twice PA President of the Parapsychological Association  for 1979 and 1992. He is currently Director of Research at the Rhine Research Center, where he is the editor of the Journal of Parapsychology. In addition to the above mentioned, and widely cited survey, John is known for ESP experimental work, for his work in parapsychological education, and for his discussion of conceptual issues, among them the issue of experimenter psi, and the distinction between psi as a descriptive term and a theoretical term.

As seen in the bibliography after the interview John has many publications. Some that I consider particularly important from the early days, other than the above-mentioned survey report, are his “Three Models of Psi Test Performance” (Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1975, 69, 333-339), and his well-known review of the experimental ESP literature (“Extrasensory Perception: Research Findings” (In S. Krippner (Ed.), Advances in parapsychological research 2: Extrasensory perception (pp. 59-243). New York: Plenum, 1978).

In 2012 the Parapsychological Association granted John their Outstanding Career Award, a well deserved recognition. I had the great pleasure to present the Award during the banquet at that year’s convention, where I summarized some aspects of his career.

Interview

How did you get interested in parapsychology?

I found a book in my high school library by a French parapsychologist named René Sudre entitled Treatise on Parapsychology. It blew me away, partly because of my interest, even at that young age, in the philosophy of mind. I couldn’t understand (and still don’t understand) why other scientists were not paying attention to the subject. My plea in this regard was part of my Valedictorian speech at my high school graduation, which was devoted to parapsychology. The book has two main sections, one devoted mainly to physical mediumship research and the other mainly to the card guessing studies of Rhine and Soal. I was most impressed by the former section, but my professional interests gravitated to research more like that described in the latter section.

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

I am mainly interested in the psychology of psi as it manifests in the laboratory. This seems natural for me, as I was formally trained as an experimental psychologist (which reflects my interest in psychology per se) and the experimental methods in psychology and parapsychology are quite similar. Recently my main interest has been in dissociation, particularly as it manifests in ESP tests with a large motor component, the prototypical example of which would be one analogous to the Ouija Board. My general hypothesis is that a certain kind of dissociative state of consciousness is particularly psi-conducive.

None of my experiments have replicated well enough to lead me to believe that by themselves they have led to concrete advances in our knowledge about the psychology of psi. However, when combined with the research of others I think we can at least say that there is a high probability that the conglomerate is telling us something real about the psychology of psi. I think this comes across in Jim Carpenter’s writings about his First Sight model . I also have written several review articles and book chapters on various areas of psi research that have something to say about how such research should be interpreted. One that comes to mind outside my main area of interest is a critical review of research on out-of-body and near-death experiences.

Why do you think that parapsychology is important?

I think it is important because of what it tells us about what J. B. Rhine called the “nature of man” although I would rather say the “nature of mind”. Also, if psi ability could ever be made strong and reliable, its practical implications are mind boggling, in the sense that it would enormously increase our ability to acquire information (ESP) and make changes in the physical world (PK). This goes far beyond the limited number of applications we tend to focus on (e.g., healing, spying.) Of course, if we ever got close to achieving this level of psi, we would have to confront some very thorny ethical issues: Do we really want to go there?

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

I think we need to find a way to make psi effects stronger and more reliable, not only for application, but also because we need reliable data to test theoretical hypotheses, particularly nuanced ones. Even for non-nuanced ones, we needed, for example, a meta-analysis of a large number of studies to demonstrate the reality of the simple relationship between extraversion and ESP. This inefficiency is directly a result of the poor reliability of psi. Second, we need to fully confront our “elephant in the room,” namely experimenter psi. I am afraid this is going to require that the psi-conducive experimenters in the field (unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I’m not one of them) to test themselves to find out “what makes them tick” psychically. Unfortunately, the psi-conducive experimenters are generally the most reluctant to address or in some cases accept the reality of experimenter psi, in many cases because they believe they are successful because of how they interact with their research subjects.

Can you mention some of your current projects?

I have no current projects but will soon begin a study in which I will use subliminal auditory feedback of hits to attempt to improve performance of 5 promising participants from a previous study on an ESP task modeled after the Ouija board (although the theme this time will be map dowsing).

 

Selected Publications

Books and Monographs

Palmer, J. A., Honorton, C., & Utts, J. (1989). Reply to the National Research Council study on parapsychology. Research Triangle Park, NC: The Parapsychological Association.

Edge, H. L., Morris, R. L., Palmer, J., & Rush, J. H. (1986). Foundations of parapsychology: Exploring the boundaries of human capability. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.

Palmer, J. A. (1985). An evaluative report on the current status of parapsychology.  Contract DAJA 45-84-M-0405. U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, Alexandria, VA.

Book Chapters

Palmer, J. (2009). Out-of-body and near-death experiences as evidence for externalization or survival. In C. D. Murray (Ed.), Scientific psychological perspectives on out-of-body and near-death experiences (pp. xx-xx). New York: Nova Science Publishers.

Neppe, V. M., & Palmer, J. (2004).   Subjective anomalous events:  Perspectives for the future, voices from the past.  In M. A. Thalbourne & L. Storm (Eds.), Parapsychology in the twenty-first century:  Essays on the future of psychical research (pp. 242-271).  Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Palmer, J. (1995). Toward a general theory of survival. In L. Coly & J. D. S. McMahon (Eds.), Parapsychology and thanatology: Proceedings of an international conference held in Boston, Massachusetts, November 6-7, 1993 (pp. 1-32). New York: Parapsychology Foundation.

Palmer, J. (1993). The psi controversy. In K. R. Rao (Ed.), Charles Honorton and the impoverished state of skepticism: Essays on a parapsychological pioneer (pp. 177-189). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Palmer, J. (1993). Confronting the experimenter effect. In L. Coly & J. D. S. McMahon (Eds.), Psi research methodology: A re-examination: Proceedings of an international conference held in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, October 29-30, 1988 (pp. 44-64). New York: Parapsychology Foundation.

Palmer, J. (1986). Criticisms of parapsychology: Some common elements. In B. Shapin & L. Coly (Eds.), Current trends in psi research: Proceedings of an international conference held in New Orleans, Louisiana, August 13-14, 1984 (pp. 255-276). New York: Parapsychology Foundation.

Palmer, J. (1982). ESP research findings: 1976-1978. In S. Krippner (Ed.), Advances in parapsychological research 3 (pp. 41-82). New York: Plenum.

Palmer, J. (1982). Review of J. B. Rhine’s ESP research. In K. R. Rao (Ed.), J. B.. Rhine: On the frontiers of science (pp. 37-52). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Palmer, J. (1978). Extrasensory perception: Research findings. In S. Krippner (Ed.), Advances in parapsychological research 2: Extrasensory perception (pp. 59-243). New York: Plenum.

Palmer, J. (1978). ESP and out-of-body experience: An experimental approach. In D. S. Rogo (Ed.), Mind beyond the body: The mystery of ESP projection (pp. 193-217). New York: Penguin Books.

Palmer, J. (1977). Attitudes and personality traits in experimental ESP research. In B. B. Wolman (Ed.), Handbook of parapsychology (pp. 175-201). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Journal Articles

Palmer, J. (2011).  Motor automatisms as a vehicle of ESP expression. Journal of Parapsychology, 75, 45-60.

Palmer, J. (2009).  Decision augmentation in a computer guessing task. Journal of Parapsychology, 73, 119-135.

Palmer, J., Simmonds-Moore, C. A., & Baumann, S.  (2006). Geomagnetic fields and the relationship between human intentionality and the hemolysis of red blood cells. Journal of Parapsychology, 70, 275-301.

Palmer, J., & Neppe, V. M. (2004). Exploratory analyses of refined predictors of subjective ESP experiences and temporal lobe dysfunction in a neuropsychiatric population. European Journal of Parapsychology, 19, 44-65.

Palmer, J. (2003). ESP in the ganzfeld: Analysis of a debate.  Journal of Consciousness Studies, 10 (6-7), 51-68.

Palmer, J., & Neppe, V. M. (2003). A controlled analysis of subjective paranormal experiences in temporal lobe dysfunction in a neuropsychiatric population. Journal of Parapsychology,  67, 75-97.

Palmer, J. (2001). A mail survey of Ouija board users in North America. International Journal of Parapsychology, 12, 67-93.

Bem, D. J., Palmer, J., & Broughton, R. S. (2001). Updating the ganzfeld database: A victim of its own success? Journal of Parapsychology, 65, 207-218.

Palmer, J. (2000). Covert psi in computer solitaire. Journal of Parapsychology, 64, 195-211.

Palmer, J. (1997). Hit-contingent response biases in Helmut Schmidt’s automated precognition experiments. Journal of Parapsychology, 61, 135-141.

Palmer, J. (1997). The challenge of experimenter psi. European Journal of Parapsychology, 13, 110-122.

Palmer, J. (1996). External psi influence on ESP task performance. Journal of Parapsychology,  60, 193-210.

Palmer, J. (1996). Evaluation of a conventional interpretation of Helmut Schmidt’s automated precognition experiments. Journal of Parapsychology, 60, 149-170.

Palmer, J. (1994). Explorations with the Perceptual ESP Test. Journal of Parapsychology, 58, 115-147.

Kanthamani, H., & Palmer, J. (1993). A ganzfeld experiment with “subliminal sending”. Journal of Parapsychology, 57, 241-257.

Palmer, J. (1992). From survival to transcendence: Reflections on psi as anomalous. Journal of Parapsychology, 56, 229-254.

Palmer, J. (1992). Effect of a threatening stimulus on the Perceptual ESP Test: A partial replication. Journal of Parapsychology, 56, 189-204.

Palmer, J., & Johnson, M. (1991). Defensiveness and brain-hemisphere stimulation in a perceptually mediated ESP task. Journal of Parapsychology, 55, 329-348.

Palmer, J. (1988). Conceptualizing the psi controversy. Parapsychology Rreview, 19(l), 1-5.

Palmer, J. (1987). Dulling Occam’s Razor: The role of coherence in assessing scientific knowledge claims. European Journal of Parapsychology, 7, 73-82.

Rao, K. R., & Palmer, J. (1987). The anomaly called psi: Recent research and criticism. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 10, 539-555.

Palmer, J. (1987). Have we established psi? Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 81, 111-123.

Palmer, J. (1986). Progressive skepticism: A critical approach to the psi controversy. Journal of Parapsychology, 50, 29-42.

Palmer, J. (1983). Sensory contamination of free-response ESP targets: The greasy fingers hypothesis. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 77, 101-113.

Palmer, J., & van der Velden, l. (1983). ESP and hypnotic imagination: A group free-response study. European Journal of Parapsychology, 4, 413-434.

Palmer, J., Tart, C. T., & Redington, D. (1979). Delayed PK with Matthew Manning: Preliminary indications and failure to confirm. European Journal of Parapsychology, 4, 413-434.

Palmer, J., Khamashta, K., & Israelson, K. (1979). An ESP ganzfeld experiment with Transcendental Meditators. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 73, 333-348.

Tart, C. T., Palmer, J., & Redington, D. (1979). Effects of immediate feedback on ESP performance over short time periods. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 73, 291-301.

Palmer, J. (1979). A community mail survey of psychic experiences. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 73, 221-251.

Palmer, J. (1978). The out-of-body experience: A psychological theory. Parapsychology Review, 9(5), 19-22.

Palmer, J., Bogart, D. N., Jones, S. M., & Tart, C. T. (1977). Scoring patterns in an ESP ganzfeld experiment. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 71, 122-145.

Stevenson, I., Palmer, J., & Stanford, R. G. (1977). An authenticity rating scale for reports of spontaneous cases. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 71,  273-288.

Palmer, J., Tart, C. T., & Redington, D. (1976). A large-sample classroom ESP card-guessing experiment. European Journal of Parapsychology, 1(3), 40-56.

Palmer, J. (1975). Three models of psi test performance. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 69, 333-339.

Stanford, R.G., & Palmer, J. (1975). Free-response ESP performance and occipital alpha rhythms. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 69, 235-243.

Palmer, J., & Lieberman, R. (1975). The influence of psychological set on ESP and out-of-body experiences. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 69, 235-243.

Palmer, J., & Vassar, C. (1974). ESP and out-of-body experiences: An exploratory study. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 68, 257-280.

Palmer, J. (1974): A case of RSPK involving a ten-year-old boy: The Powhatan poltergeist. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 68, 1-33.

Palmer, J. (1972). Scoring in ESP tests as a function of belief in ESP. Part II. Beyond the sheep-goat effect. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 66, 1-26.

Palmer, J. (1971). Scoring in ESP tests as a function of belief in ESP. Part I. The sheep-goat effect. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 65, 373-408.

Live Parapsychology MOOC is Over

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

The live part of the Parapsychology MOOC I mentioned before (click here) ended on February 14. This consisted of over 25 presentations by different lecturers, something that had not been done before at this scale. The MOOC went from January 5 to February 14, and was organized mainly by Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone, with some assistance by myself.

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

It was a success. Not only did we have many registrants (almost 850, with people still registering everyday), but we obtained the cooperation of many individuals engaged in parapsychological research. A few of the over 25 presentations were:

Clinical and Counseling Aspects of Psychic Phenomena, Dr. Alejandro Parra

The Multiphasic Model of Precognition, Dr. Edwin C. May

Dr. Ed C. May

Dr. Ed C. May

The Role of Creativity in Psi Research, Dr. Kathy Dalton

Presentiment: An Anomalous Anticipation of Random Future Events, Dr. Thomas Rabeyron

Dr. Thomas Rabeyron

Dr. Thomas Rabeyron

Supernormal: Science, Yoga and Psi, Dr. Dean Radin

Will an Evolutionary Perspective Help Us Understand How Extrasensory Perception Works?, Dr. Richard S. Broughton

Dr. Richard Broughton

Dr. Richard Broughton

Implications of Mediumship for the Mind-Brain Relationship, Dr. Alexander Moreira-Almeida

Beyond the Brain? Exploring the Neuropsychological Correlates of ESP, Bryan Williams

Bryan Williams

Bryan Williams

Authors of the Impossible: What the Humanities Can Offer Parapsychology, Dr. Jeffrey Kripal

Psi-Related Experiences in Daily Life and Their Relationship to Beliefs, Attitudes and Subjective Well-Being: A Brazilian Survey, Dr. Fátima Regina Machado

Dr. Fatima Regina Machado

Dr. Fatima Regina Machado

The Challenge of Macro-PK, Dr. Stephen E. Braude

Anomalous Experience and Psychopathology, Dr. Etzel Cardeña

Dr. Etzel Cardeña

Dr. Etzel Cardeña

Different from most materials and courses about parapsychology available in the Web, our lectures were intended to represent high level discussions of the topic. To guarantee this we selected most of our lecturers following two criteria: they must have conducted research on the area they spoke about, and have completed their educations to the level of doctoral degrees. Only two of our speakers, both exceptional people, had less formal education than that.

While many lectures were quite technical they were all well received, showing that at least part the general public is eager and interested in obtaining high quality and technical information about parapsychology. In fact one of the most common compliments we got during the course was the happy surprise at the number of working scientists and university professors doing research on the phenomena in the field.

However, there was also less technical material. In addition to a general introduction to parapsychology that I presented, including a little about terminology, phenomena, history, and methodology, we had several posters consisting of slides about several topics. With one exception they were about non-technical topics, and one of them presented a general bibliography of books and articles. The titles are listed below:

Parapsychology: A Selected Bibliography in English

Animal Magnetism and Psychic Phenomena: The Neo-Mesmeric Movement, by Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado

Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado

Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado

Robert Van de Castle: Dream Researcher and Parapsychologist, by Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado

Pulse Rates as a Physiological Index of ESP: The Nineteenth-Century Explorations of John E. Purdon, by Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado

Charles Honorton and Parapsychology, by Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

The Parapsychology Foundation: Yesterday and Today, by Lisette Coly

The Mediumship of Leonora E. Piper, by Dr. Phil Morse

Current Trends in Parapsychology in Italy, by Dr. Massimo Biondi

Dr. Massimo Biondi

Dr. Massimo Biondi

Psi and Death of the Person-Target: An Experiment with Highly Emotional Iconic Representations, by Dr. Alejandro Parra and Dr. Juan Carlos Argibay

Exceptional Human Experiences (ExE) as a Counseling and Research Topic, by Eberhard Bauer and Dr. Wolfgang Fach

Evidence-Based Dualism and Transpersonal Psychology, by Charles T. Tart

Dr. Charles T. Tart

Dr. Charles T. Tart

Understanding Ghost Hunting, by Dr. Leo Ruickbie

The Academic Consolidation of Anomalistic Psychology in Brazil, by Vanessa Corredato and Dr. Wellington Zangari

In addition to the variety of topics discussed, I also enjoyed the international aspect of the course. This not only was the case with those who registered, but also from the lecturers. Our presenters who gave their presentations live via the social media teaching platform on WizIQ.com were from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, India, Sweden, the UK, and the United States. In the posters there were two additional countries, Italy and Germany.

We hope to continue to organize similar courses in the near future, as well as shorter ones about specific topics. One we are putting together now is about out-of-body experiences. The same goes for online conferences about specific topics, such as the one about parapsychology and psychology.

When we undertook the project we weren’t sure how we were going to manage as neither of us have full-time jobs, but donations from colleagues and contributors, Natasha and Jonathan Chisdes of www.chizfilm.net and Dr. Phil Morse of www.compellingevidencefortheafterlife.com helped immensely. Even more so was the contribution of our partner in the course, Lisette Coly, President of the Parapsychology Foundation. She attended almost every live class, and is issuing the certificates of completion for the learners who earned them, and who let us put the course before projects she was paying us to do for the Foundation.

We were also helped in the day-to-day tasks of the course by Natasha Chisdes, and Nancy’s colleagues from her teaching online network, Tom Hodgers, Nives Torresi, and Halina Ostancowiz-Bazan, two of our speakers, Cherylee Black and Bryan Williams, and many learners who stepped up to the plate with links, articles, ideas, and general helpfulness, not to mention their grass roots marketing among friends and colleagues.

Perhaps the most important group of volunteers for the course though were our lecturers. Our thanks to all the lecturers for their cooperation. With the exception of one person who refused the invitation because we could not pay for participation given that the course was and still is free, everyone else was delighted to make a contribution to field on a voluntary basis. This shows the commitment and generosity of most people in parapsychology. Far from being stuffy scientists and scholars they are well aware of the importance of spreading knowledge about the field. Without the speakers the course would not have been possible.

All the presentations will be available for free for the next year. Just go to http://www.wiziq.com, create a free account, click on the link below, look to the left and click on course schedule, then browse for the lectures you want to see.

Writing About Mediumship

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

Those of you who follow my blog will be aware of my papers about the history of mediumship (click here and here). Some of my recent work on the topic appears in The Survival Hypothesis: Essays on Mediumship (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013), edited by Adam J. Rock.

Rock Survival Hypothesis

I was the second author, with Kylie Harris, of “A Review of Qualitative Mediumship Research.” This paper, mainly the work of the first author, was a review of modern qualitative mediumship research. Most of my contribution consisted of reminding the reader of the existence of older research from the psychical research literature, which was not the main point of the paper, and adding a few thoughts about the topic. The review has sections about psychological, psychiatric, anthropological, and sociological studies.

At the end of the book the authors were asked to present their thoughts about “The Future of the Field of Mediumship.” In a short article I suggested future lines of research based on the old psychical research literature, a corpus of work that is still ignored, even by current mediumship researchers.

I started suggesting: “Assuming we have mediums willing to go through Courtier Reportsystematic  interviews and  laboratory tests, could we use the tools of such fields as psychology and psychophysiology to learn more about the medium?” Jules Courtier’s (1908) report could inspire us here. “This investigation of Italian medium Eusapia Palladino included tests based on parapsychological, physical, physiological, and psychological perspectives in the same report.”

Photos of Palladino from Courtier's report

Photos of Palladino from Courtier’s report

Another line of research is that of in depth studies of particular mediums. We could find inspiration in the studies of past researchers such as Théodore Flournoy (1900)  and Eleanor M. Sidgwick (1915).

Sidgwick's study of Piper

Sidgwick’s study of Piper

Deonna De la Planete MarsIn addition to the need to have more studies of veridical mental mediumship, some of the features deserving study are those related to mediumistic art, such as Waldemar Deonna’s study of Hélène Smith’s paintings (De la Planète Mars en Terre Sainte: Art et Subconscient.  Paris: E. de Boccard, 1932). An interesting recent study is that of Maraldi and Krippner, “A Biopsychosocial Approach to Creative Dissociation: Remarks on a Case of Mediumistic Painting.”

My comments touch on only a few possible areas for further research. Many others are discussed in Rock’s anthology.

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

Dr. Harvey J. Irwin

Dr. Harvey J. Irwin

In a recent article psychologist Harvey J. Irwin reported the results of a survey of parapsychologists’ opinions:  “The Views of Parapsychologists: A Survey of Members of the Parapsychological Association” (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 2014, 78, 85-101).

Here is the abstract:

“The popular stereotype of a parapsychologist may well be a negative one, based in large part as it is on the characterization of parapsychologists’ views by skeptical commentators and in the popular media. On the other hand there is little empirical information from which to infer the real views of contemporary parapsychologists. An online survey of members of the Parapsychological Association was therefore undertaken to ascertain some of their background characteristics and their views on diverse topical issues in parapsychology. A sample of 114 people participated in the survey. Some issues, such as the reality of psi and the importance of specialist training in parapsychology, attracted substantial consensus, but a disparity of views was evident on other issues (e.g., the unity of ESP and PK); somewhat surprisingly, developments in anomalistic psychology and mainstream concerns over probabilistic evaluation of hypotheses appear to be of limited interest to parapsychologists. The findings of the project are presented primarily as a matter of information, but they also raise a few policy implications.”

Respondents were asked about their estimate of the reality of psi using a scale ranging from 0 to 100%. The question yielded a mean of 78.91.

When asked about the possibility that their interests were motivated by spiritual concerns, replies were “strongly” 21%, “moderately” 29%, “slightly” 24%, and “not at all” 26%.” No agreement here.

Regarding belief in survival of death, Irwin wrote: “The distribution of responses was as follows: “strongly disagree” 3%, “disagree” 10%, “somewhat disagree” 1%, “neither agree nor disagree” 36%, “somewhat agree” 16%, “agree” 18%, and “strongly agree” 17%. Thus, while about half of the membership have some belief in post-mortem survival, many are agnostic and a minority reject the belief.”

 Agreement with the following topics (combining the percentages of somewhat agree, agree, and strongly agree, were: Ganzfeld now less effective (18%), survival research essential (45%), significance testing unsatisfactory (48%).

“Three survey items related to the use of constructs from the philosophy of science to discount some findings of parapsychological research . . . Although there was some variation in responses, approximately half of the sample deemed commentators’ use of the concepts of the need for replication and the principle of parsimony to be purely rhetorical devices in the criticism of parapsychological research. On the other hand, over 40% of respondents evidently saw more than rhetoric in the critics’ demand for replicability. Views were rather more cohesive on the third issue: only 13% of the sample believed parapsychologists were using the concept of psi-missing primarily to explain away inconvenient experimental findings.”

An open-ended question about current problems of parapsychology elicited mention of low financial support, resistance from institutions to research, the views of critics, and other issues.

Irwin detects a problem in that many respondents did not have opinions about some issues, showing perhaps lack of knowledge of some topics. He mentions anomalistic psychology and current discussions about probabilistic evaluations, and suggests the need for some “remedial” education, perhaps via the Parapsychological Association’s online bulletin. These issues, I believe, are present in other topics and areas. For example I think that many experimental parapsychologists and spontaneous case researchers sometimes lack knowledge of the other area. I also wonder if lack of knowledge is related to particular opinions. To give an example, how much do those who are negative about survival research really know about that literature? For this reason it is useful to measure as well familiarity with the literature (if only via self-reports) to evaluate opinions about specific topics.

In my view Irwin has made a good contribution to our knowledge of the ideas of parapsychologists, at least in terms of members of the Parapsychological Association.

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

Easton, S., Blanke, O., & Mohr, C. (2009). A putative implication for fronto-parietal connectivity in out-of-body experiences. Cortex, 45, 216-227.

Self-processing has been related to the prefrontal cortex (PFC) and the temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) as well as to their connectivity. So far, out-of-body experiences (OBEs), impressive transient deviations of intact bodily self-integration, could be associated with the TPJ, but the mediation by the frontal lobe, and thus fronto-parietal connectivity, is yet unknown. Thus, we assessed switching performance to assess fronto-parietal connectivity when healthy participants [11 reported previous OBEs (OBE-individuals); 36 reported no previous OBEs (nOBE-individuals)] performed two different mental own body imagery tasks. By using the same stimuli of a front-facing and back-facing human figure, a cue simultaneously presented with the target indicated to participants whether they had to take the position of the depicted human figure (disembodied self-location mimicking an OBE) or had to imagine that the figure was their own reflection in a mirror (embodied Self location). By repeating trials of the same task instruction for a differing number of trials (2–6 trials), we could assess switch costs when alternating between these two task instructions with switch costs being considered to be a behavioural indicator of frontoparietal connectivity. Results showed that OBE-individuals performed worse than non OBE individuals in switch trials, but not in trials in which the same task instruction was repeated. Moreover, this reduced performance was specific to body positions that are normally considered easier (front-facing in the mirror condition; back-facing in the OBE mimicking condition). These findings suggest that a fronto-parietal network might be implicated in OBEs, and that the flexible and spontaneous egocentric perspective taking of self-congruent body representations is hampered in individuals with previous OBEs.

Carruthers, G. (2013) Who am I in out of body experiences? Implications from OBEs for the explanandum of a theory of self-consciousness. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences, DOI 10.1007/s11097-013-9332-0

Contemporary theories of self-consciousness typically begin by dividing experiences of the self into types, each requiring separate explanation. The stereotypical case of an out of body experience (OBE) may be seen to suggest a distinction between the sense of oneself as an experiencing subject, a mental entity, and a sense of oneself as an embodied person, a bodily entity. Point of view, in the sense of the place from which the subject seems to experience the world, in this case is tied to the sense of oneself as a mental entity and seems to be the ‘real’ self. Closer reading of reports, however, suggests a substantially more complicated picture. For example, the ‘real’ self that is experienced as separate from the body in an OBE is not necessarily experienced as disembodied. Subjects may experience themselves as having two bodies. In cases classed as heautoscopy there is considerable confusion regarding the apparent location of the experiencing subject; is it the ‘real mind’ in the body I seem to be looking out from, or is it in the body that I see? This suggests that visual point of view can dissociate from the experience of one’s own “real mind” or experience of self-identification. I provide a tripartite distinction between the sense of ownership, the sense of embodiment and the sense of subjectivity to better describe these experiences. The phenomenology of OBEs suggests that there are three distinct forms of self-consciousness which need to be explained.

De Foe, A., van Doorn, G., & Symmons, M. (2012). Auditory hallucinations predict likelihood of out-of- body experience. Australian Journal of Parapsychology, 12, 59-68.

An out of body experience (OBE) occurs when the centre of a person’s awareness appears to temporarily occupy a position which is spatially remote from their body. Prior research suggests that fantasy proneness factors are predictors of OBE likelihood, specifically prior auditory, visual, and kinaesthetic hallucinations. Three hundred and seventy participants completed an online questionnaire investigating variables that, potentially, contributed to their OBEs. Binary Logistic Regression identified one item that predicted whether or not a person had experienced an OBE: whether a participant had, or had not, previously experienced an auditory hallucination.

De Foe, A., van Doorn, G. and Symmons, M. (2012). Research note: Induced out-of-body experiences are associated with a sensation of leaving the body. Australian Journal of Parapsychology 12, 177-185.

Individuals who have had an out-of-body experience (OBE) report that the centre of their awareness appears to, temporarily, shift to a location that is spatially distinct from the location of their physical body. Research suggests that some OBErs report a sensation of leaving their physical body prior to their OBEs, while others instead report spontaneously finding themselves outside of their body. The present study evaluated data collected from 194 participants who claimed to have had an OBE. Instances of spontaneous and autonomously induced OBEs were considered. Binary Logistic Regression identified one item that predicted whether a participant was more likely to have had an induced, rather than a spontaneous, OBE: whether a participant had experienced a sensation of leaving their physical body prior to the OBE.

Gow, K., Lang, T., & Chant, D. (2004). Fantasy proneness, paranormal beliefs and personality features in out-of-body experiences. Contemporary Hypnosis, 21, 107-125.

This study investigated the relationship between reported out-of-body experiences, certain psychological variables and personality characteristics. One hundred and sixty-seven participants completed a series of questionnaires to investigate differences amongst those participants reporting out-of-body experiences and those who were classified as believers or non-believers on: fantasy proneness, paranormal beliefs, psychological absorption, psychological association, somatoform dissociation, certain personality characteristics and OBE experience sensations. The findings revealed that experients were more fantasy prone, higher in their belief in the paranormal and displayed greater somatoform dissociation. Psychological absorption and dissociation were higher for believers than for either experients or non-believers and in relation to experients, fantasy proneness, paranormal beliefs and the personality dimensions of institution and feeling were significantly related, as were psychological absorption, psychological dissociation and somatoform dissociation.

Carlos S. Alvarado, Ph.D., Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

The early literature of American spiritualism is so vast that it is not possible to summarize it here properly. Nonetheless I will present a few comments about selected publications, all of which are freely available in various virtual libraries  (click herehere, and here).

A particularly good book giving a general account of the events and phenomena of early American spiritualism is Eliab W. Capron’s Modern Spiritualism (Boston: Bela Marsh, 1855). The opening words of the preface are: “We find ‘the world turned upside-down’ by a new and strange class of manifestations called spiritual. Like most new thoughts of modern times, America gave it birth; but it has since spread all over the globe, and awakened new and novel inquiries wherever man understands the means of communicating to his fellows the discoveries he has made” (p. v). Capron chronicles developments coming from the Fox sisters but the most interesting part of his book are the descriptions of the spread of mediumship in the United States.

Capron Modern Spiritualism

 In another book, entitled Explanation and History of the Mysterious Capron and Barron ExplanationCommunion with Spirits Capron and Henry D. Barron (2nd ed., Auburn, NY: Capron and Barron,1850) presented an account of the mysterious knockings that gave a big impetus to the development of spiritualism, and centered on the Fox sisters. The knockings were first heard by the Fox family. According to the description of an early incident:

“The girls . . . heard the sounds and endeavored to imitate them by snapping their fingers. The attempt was first made by the youngest girl, then about twelve years old. When she made the noise with her fingers, the sounds were repeated just as many times as she made them. The sound was not like that which she made, only the number of raps. When she stopped snapping her fingers, the sounds stopped for a short time. One of the other girls then said in sport, ‘Now do what I do; count one, two, three, four, five, six,’ &c., at the same time striking one hand in the other. The same number of blows or sounds, were repeated as in the other case. As this slight manifestation of intelligence was displayed, she began to be alarmed, and desisted from trying any more experiments. Mrs. Fox then said, ‘count ten,’ and there were ten distinct strokes or sounds. She then said, will you tell the age of Cathy, (one of the children,) and it was answered by the same number of raps that she was years of age. In like manner, the age of her different children was told correctly by this unseen visitor” (pp. 13-14).

Fox Sisters 6

Clark Plain Guide to SpiritualismA general discussion of the phenomenal, theoretical, and social aspects of spiritualism was Uriah Clark’s Plain Guide to Spiritualism (Boston: William White, 1863). Regarding the variety of mediums Clark cautioned readers that there were so many types of mediums, and so many combinations, that a reliable classification was not possible. Nonetheless he presented the following long list:

“1. The rapping medium was the first developed in this age of spiritual manifestations. We name other phases without regard to order or gradation. 2. The tipping medium. 3. The medium for raising ponderable bodies, sometimes with and sometimes without hands in contact. 4. The musical medium, with instruments and without. 5. The medium for spirit voices, without using the vocal organs, and sometimes with. 6. Writing medium, sometimes by impression and sometimes mechanically. 7. The trance medium, sometimes conscious and sometimes otherwise. 8. Vibrating medium, sometimes shaken and convulsed, and sometimes lifted or impelled without any seeming volition. 9. The transfigured medium, thrilled, exalted and enchanted under celestial influences. 10. Personification medium, imitating words, looks, tones and actions of spirits. 11. Sensation medium, made to feel signals and touches by spirits. 12. Clairvoyant medium, describing persons, spirits, diseases, etc. 13. Healing medium, for the laying on of hands. 14 Painting medium, producing pictures and portraits. 15. Hieroglyphic medium, executing strange scrolls. 16. The medium for unknown tongues, sometimes writing and sometimes speaking. 17. Impressional medium, liable to take on impressions from mortals and from spirits. 18. The clairaudant medium, for hearing spirit sounds and voices. 19. The vision medium, dealing in tropes, symbols, etc., like the Apocalypse. 20. Seeing medium, describing spirit-scenes and forms. 21. The telegraphic medium, sending messages to absent persons, without writing or speaking. 22. Developing medium, imparting influences to develop other mediums. 23. Prophetic medium, giving warnings and predictions. 24. Illuminatti medium, presenting spirit lights. 25. Itinerant medium, sent out after the sick, suffering, tempted, fallen, dying, etc. 26. The psychological medium, liable to be influenced by persons in the form, and subjected to impositions, counterfeits, etc. 27. The psychographic medium, reading persons at a distance, with letters, locks of hair, etc. 28. The speaking medium, speaking under influence, some conscious and some unconscious. 29. The inspirational medium, thinking, feeling, acting, writing, and speaking under a vivid consciousness of the reality of things spiritual, divine and eternal, yet in full possession of all the senses. 30. The improvisation medium, giving music or poetry without premeditation, under spirit influence. 31. The normal medium, without any external signs, realizing the all-pervading atmosphere of the spirit-world with a calm, deep consciousness of angel guardianship” (pp. 169-171).

Judge John W. Edmonds

Judge John W. Edmonds

Many other books presented examples of the fascinating phenomena of spiritualism. Judge John W. Edmonds and physician George T. Dexter, were both investigators and mediums, as seen in the first volume of their Spiritualism (New York: Partridge & Brittan, 1853). The first received visions and the second produced automatic writing. Edmonds wrote about Dexter’s written communications coming from Swedenborg and Bacon:

“All that purports to come from Bacon is always in the same

George T. Dexter, M.D.

George T. Dexter, M.D.

handwriting; so it is with Sweedenborg (sic). The handwriting of each is unlike the other, and though both are written by Dr. Dexter’s hand, they are both unlike his; so that with ease, when he is under the influence, he writes several different kinds of handwriting, and some of them more rapidly than he can write his own. This he can not do when he is not under the influence; and I have never seen any person that could, in his normal condition, write with such rapidity, at one sitting, four or five different kinds of handwriting, each distinctly marked, and having and always retaining its peculiar characteristic” (p. 50).

Edmonds Dexter Spiritualism 1853 2

Later in the book there are facsimile reproductions of Dexter’s handwriting, and of his writing as Swedenborg, Bacon and other purported spirits (pp. 387-392).

Edmonds Dexter Dexter writing

Dexter's writing (top), Swedenborg through Dexter, bottom.

Dexter’s writing (top), Swedenborg through Dexter, bottom.

In Spiritualism in America (London: F. Pitman, 1861), published in England, Benjamin Coleman presented the experiences he had with mediums during his visit to the States. A case in point were his experiences with Miss Lord, a physical medium in Portland, Maine. They formed a chain around a large table and musical instruments were placed on a nearby table. According to Coleman the following took place in complete darkness:

“The first manifestation arose from the unseen agents handling the guitar, Coleman Spiritualism in Americawhich was whisked about with great celerity over and around our heads, whilst a quick negro air was capitally played upon it the whole time the instrument was floating about us. I was touched by it on the head playfully several times, and once it rested on my shoulder, the air still continuing, with the strings so close to my ear that they struck me in their vibration” (p. 11).

Dr. Robert Hare

Dr. Robert Hare

Many communications were about philosophical and moral topics of various sorts, as seen in the works received by mediums. This literature includes Charles Linton’s The Healing of the Nations (New York: Society for the Diffusion of Spiritual Knowledge, 1855) and Charles Hammond’s  Light from the Spirit World (Rochester, NY: W. Heughes, 1852). The latter has chapters about miracles, prophecy, deceiving spirits, wisdom, repentance, and forgiveness. Some interesting mediumistic communications about “spiritual birth,” or the transition between death and life in the spirit world, were presented by Robert Hare in his Experimental Investigation of the Spirit Manifestations (New York: Partridge & Brittan, 1855).

Hare Experimental Investigations cover

Hatch Discourses on ReligionSome of the communications were about philosophical, moral and scientific topics delivered at the request of the public. This was the case of trance speaker Cora L.V. Hatch, as seen in her Discourses on Religion, Morals, Philosophy, and Metaphysics (New York: B.F. Hatch, 1858). Some of the topics of the “discourses” were: Why is man ashamed to acknowledge his alliance to the angel-world, the sources of human knowledge, the beauty of life and the life of beauty, Jesus of Nazareth, the moral and religious nature of man, spiritual communications, and the spheres. Hatch stated in one of her speeches:

“The question is asked: Why are the communications of the spirits so vague, and conveyed in so mysterious a manner as to leave doubts, on the mind, of their being genuine?’ First, if modern spiritualism be true, and if there is a principle by which those in the spirit-world can communicate with persons on the earth, it is controlled by a fixed and positive law; that law as certain when applied correctly, and as uncertain when applied incorrectly, as is telegraphic communication between New York and Washington. If a man along any portion of the route cut the wire, your telegraphic message will stop at that point; or, if there is any fault in the operator, your message will be sent incorrectly. It is the same in communications between this and the spirit world. There are lines of thought and feeling; minds, and tables, and chairs, are but the wires which they use to convey their thoughts. You are at one end of that telegraphic chain, your spirit-friend at, the other. If there is no intervening influence, the message will be conveyed; if, in any way, the line of communication is disturbed, the message will be incorrectly given . . . .” (pp. 264-265).

Cora Hatch

Cora Hatch

Also interesting were the various descriptions of the spirit world obtained via

Hudson Tuttle

Hudson Tuttle

psychic means. This included, but was not limited to, Hudson Tuttle’s Scenes in the Spirit World (New York: Partridge and Brittan, 1855)  and Andrew Jackson Davis A Stellar Key to the Summer Land (5th ed., Boston: Colby & Rich, 1867). The latter wrote in his book: “The Spiritual Spheres have been recently termed Summer Lands, and there are, counting man’s earthly existence the first sphere of spirit life, in all six spheres in the ascending flight toward Deity, who fills the Seventh Sphere . . .” (p. 66).

Davis Stellar Key cover

Davis' Spiritual Spheres

Davis’ Spiritual Spheres

Robert Dale Owen

Robert Dale Owen

Another influential and widely discussed book was social reformer and politician Robert Dale Owen’s Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1860). Instead of mediumship, Owen discussed phenomena such as veridical dreams, apparitions, and hauntings. He referred to the agency of invisible beings affecting our world:

“As to the proofs of the agency upon earth of these Invisibles, I rest them not on any one class of observations set forth in this volume, not specially on the phenomena of dreaming, or of unexplained disturbances, or of apparitions whether of the living or the dead, or of what seem examples of ultramundane retribution or indications of spiritual guardianship, but upon the aggregate and concurrent evidence of all these. It is strong confirmation of any theory that proofs converging from many and varying classes of phenomena unite in establishing it” (pp. 508-509).

Owen Footfalls

Brittan Richmond DiscussionSeveral books were about explanations of the phenomena of spiritualism. A fascinating one was Samuel B. Brittan’s and B.W. Richmond’s A Discussion of the Facts and Philosophy of Ancient and Modern Spiritualism (New York: Partridge & Brittan, 1853). This consisted in a debate around the physical and mental phenomena of spiritualism in which Brittan represented discarnate agency and Richmond the argument that the Od force could explain the occurrences without recourse to spirits of the dead. The latter point was also developed, with some variants, in other influential books such as E.C. Rogers’ Philosophy of Mysterious Agents (Boston: J.P. Jewett, 1853) John Bovee Dods’ Spirit Manifestations Examined and Explained (New York: De Witt and Davenport, 1854), and A. Mahan’s Modern Mysteries Explained and Exposed (Boston: John P. Jewett, 1855).

Rogers Philosophy 1853

Mahan Modern Mysteries

Several other authors saw spiritualism as the work of the devil. An example wasRamsey Spiritualism Satanic William Ramsey’s Spiritualism: A Satanic Delusion, and a Sign of the Times (Rochester, NY: H.L. Hastings, 1857). William R. Gordon stated in his A Three-Fold Test of Modern Spiritualism (New York: Charles Scribner, 1856):

“We have proved it a revival of heathenism . . . it is to be accredited to the devil and his angels. Its demonology and its necromancy furnish all the data we need for the estimate of its true origin, nature, and tendency . . . . To consider this phenomenon any other than the work of the devil, is as good as denying the agency, nay, the existence of the devil altogether; for if he has not done this, we should be glad to know what kind of agency he exerts, and what is the peculiarity of the evidence by which his existence is established” (pp. 400-401).

Gordon Three-Fold Test

Andrew Jackson Davis

Andrew Jackson Davis

Many other books could be mentioned, among them those authored by Andrew Jackson Davis. Some of them are The Principles of Nature (35th ed., Boston: Colby & Rich, 1847), The Philosophy of Spiritual Intercourse (New York: Fowlers and Wells, 1851), and Memoranda of Persons, Places, and Events (Boston: William White, 1868).

Davis Philosophy Spiritual Intercourse

*This is based on my article Early American spiritualism literature online. Journal of Spirituality and Paranormal Studies, 2010, 33, 94-100.

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