Latest Entries »

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

Many of you interested in the history of mental mediumship are probably familiar with the cross-correspondences, a complex series of automatically-produced scripts generally referred to in discussions of survival of bodily death. The book discussed here, Arthur Balfour’s Ghosts: An Edwardian Elite and the Riddle of the Cross-Correspondence Automatic Writings (Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2017), by Trevor Hamilton, is the best discussion of the subject available today.

Hamilton Arthur Balfour's Ghost

Trevor, who I have never had the pleasure to meet in person, but with whom I have corresponded, has honours degrees in History (Oxford University) and English Literature (University of London), as well as a Master’s degree (University of Sussex). He has published two previous books related to psychical research. These are Immortal Longings: F. W. H. Myers and the Victorian Search for Life after Death (Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2009) and Tell My Mother I’m Not Dead. A Case Study in Mediumship Research (Exeter: Imprint Academic, 2012).

Here is an interview with the author.

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

The book tells the story of the cross-correspondence automatic writings and their assessment over the years from 1901 to the present day. It describes the lives and careers of the main automatic writers, their first investigators, and the conclusions they came. More than 3,500 scripts were produced (mainly in the United Kingdom but sometimes abroad) from 1901-1936 by automatic writers who on some occasions did not know each other and were widely separated geographically. The scripts often contained fragmentary and allusive references to erudite literary and classical topics yet when put together appeared to make coherent sense. Alice Johnson, one of the central team of investigators defined these cross-correspondences as ‘independent references to the same topic found in the scripts of two or more writers’ and argued that this method had been adopted by the discarnate FWH Myers for two main reasons: to prevent the communications being attributed only to the automatic writer’s subconscious or to telepathic and clairvoyant contact with the living. The complex design, she and the other investigators asserted, could not reasonably be attributed to anyone alive and bore all the idiosyncratic characteristics of Myers himself.

Frederic Myers 4

Frederic W.H. Myers

There were two other claims made for the purposes behind the scripts. One was that May Lyttelton who died of typhus in 1875, whom Arthur Balfour (later UK Prime Minister) had loved, wanted to convince him of her post-mortem survival and her continued love for him. The other was that Henry, a child of one of the mediums, Winifred Coombe-Tennant, would grow up to be a Messianic-type figure who would contribute powerfully towards the cause of world civilisation, peace and order. In all, there were seven main post-mortem communicators who were supposed to have worked together to help get these purposes across:  F.W.H. Myers; Edmund Gurney; Henry Sidgwick (all three fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge, and co-founders of the Society for Psychical Research and all dead by 1901; Annie Marshall, Myers’ platonic love who committed suicide in 1876;  two members of the aristocratic Lyttelton family, May and Laura who died in 1886; and Francis Balfour, Arthur Balfour’s brother and an outstanding embryologist, who died in a climbing accident in 1882.

Arthur Balfour

Arthur Balfour

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

I researched and wrote the first biography of FWH Myers which was published in 2009. To follow this up with a study of the cross-correspondences seemed only logical since a familiarity with his life and times was an essential precondition for trying to make sense of them. I am not a parapsychologist but I have an increasingly deep and sustained interest in the history of the Cambridge intellectuals who dominated, mainly for good, but sometimes with less positive outcomes, the early history of the Society for Psychical Research (Hamilton 2011, for example). I also felt that my honours degrees in History (Oxford) and English Literature (London) and my Master’s degree (Sussex) which contained relevant psychological and social science methodology, gave me some preparation for the task. The original investigators had translated all the original Latin (though I had studied Latin) and Greek and I was fairly well read in the poetry and prose of the period, so the material was, though enormous, was marginally less daunting than it might have appeared at first sight.

What motivated you to write this book?

I was particularly motivated, as with my book on Myers, to expose the superficial and uninformed nature of many of the comments that had been made about Myers and his colleagues and later about the cross-correspondence phenomena. A particular example of this is the way both cultural scholars and sceptics have used the SPR involvement with the hypnotist George Albert Smith and the scurrilous journalist Douglas Blackburn to unfairly discredit them (Hamilton 2015).

However, the over-arching motivation came from the death of my younger son Ralph in a car crash in 2002. I decided to set myself three questions: was there any evidence that well-qualified and educated people had studied and taken seriously the question of life after death and the related phenomena associated with it; if I personally sat with a number of mediums to try to contact Ralph, was there any evidence that I could take seriously; and were there any classic cases of alleged survival that seem to withstand the most robust critical assessment? From the first question came my book on Myers and the Society for Psychical Research. From the second question came my book on my personal investigation of mediumship (Hamilton 2012.) From the third came the current book. I was not able to work properly on these topics till I was fully retired at the end of 2006. Since then I have read as widely as I can in the history of psychical research and in current parapsychological research. My next book is an examination of the mediumship of Gladys Osborne Leonard and Geraldine Cummins (the Myers persona appears strongly in Cummins’ work) particularly in the light of our past and current notions of the nature of personal identity pre and post mortem. I must pay grateful tribute to the Perrott-Warrick Fund (managed by Trinity College Cambridge) which has helped with some of the research costs of several of these projects.

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

Archie Roy’s book (2008) covers some of the same ground as mine. But he concentrated much more on the relationship between Winifred Coombe-Tennant and her son Henry (and on Henry’s remarkable career), and on putting into print large selections from the papers of Jean, Countess of Balfour, to make them widely available. The book is lively, intellectually robust, and of real value. But he did not develop and apply a detailed assessment methodology to the automatic scripts as I have done.

This is crucial since the scripts and the commentaries on them were written by individuals all of whom had been Myers’ personal friends, collaborators, or at least had some acquaintance with his reputation. They, therefore, strongly demanded an up to date and, as far as possible, an independent and impartial appraisal.  There were and still are several reasons for this. First, the astounding claims made for the scripts required that they be scrutinised with great care and balance.  Second, the complete body of material has never been studied in detail by later researchers because of its inaccessibility and convoluted nature. A complete set of scripts consists of thirty plus volumes and there are fewer than twenty sets in existence (Hamilton 2017). Therefore, there is always the suspicion that the original interpreters selected those items from the scripts that confirmed their prior belief in survival and, conversely, that critics of the cross- correspondences may never have engaged in sufficient detail with the material in order to come to an informed opinion.

For many reasons (particularly those of privacy and confidentiality) the names and details of some of the automatic writers were not revealed for many years. This led to an exaggerated emphasis on the independent creation of the material by automatic writers who appeared to have had no contact with each other. Through original research I have conclusively established for the first time the close nexus of formal and informal links that bound almost, though not all, the automatists together, and this has enabled a more rounded assessment of the writing.

Both the writers and the assessors of the scripts (apart from Leonora Piper the trance medium) were people of very high intellectual quality and public achievement but self-deception, confabulation, cognitive dissonance, vanity and wishful thinking are not just the prerogative of the ill-educated and ill-informed. It has been important in my evaluation to see whether such psychological drivers might have affected their assessment judgements.

For years people have delivered verdicts on the cross-correspondences based on extracts from books, and more rarely, on the reports in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. I have done three things which are original and can help to produce a more secure assessment of the phenomena. First, I have gone back to the full body of scripts and converted them into a searchable PDF format. This was a massive and tedious task but was the only way to make the material manageable and to deal with the criticism that the cross-correspondences had been produced by a combination of selective quotation, wishful thinking and literary coincidences. Second, I have provided a background, narrative and context for the production of the scripts, including the nature of the cross-correspondences, their content, and the complex symbolism alleged to be contained within them. Third, I have developed and applied a detailed set of assessment criteria to their assessment. I hope that this work will help anyone who wishes to form a more than superficial verdict for or against them and on their contribution to the survival versus living agent psi debate.

Bibliography and References

Hamilton, T. (2009). FWH Myers and the Victorian Search for Life after Death. Exeter: Imprint Academic.

Hamilton, T. (2011). FWH Myers and the Synthetic Society. Christianity and Psychical Research: a historical case study. Paper presented at the Annual Conference of The Churches’ Fellowship for Psychical and Spiritual Studies, University of Exeter, September 2011.

Hamilton, T. (2012). Tell My Mother I’m Not Dead. A Case Study in Mediumship Research. Exeter: Imprint Academic.

Hamilton, T. (2013). F.W.H. Myers, William James, and Spiritualism. In C. Moreman, (Ed.), The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and around the World (Vol 1, pp. 97-114). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Hamilton, T. (2013). The cross-correspondence automatic writings and the spiritualists. In C. Moreman (Ed.), The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and Around the World (Vol. 2, pp. 265-282). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Hamilton, T. (2015). Frederic WH Myers, Psi Encyclopedia: https://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/frederic-wh-myers

Hamilton, T. (2015). Smith and Blackburn. Psi Encylopedia: https://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/smith-and-blackburn

Hamilton, T. (2017). The Cross-Correspondences. Psi Encyclopedia: https://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/cross-correspondences

Hamilton, T. (2017). Arthur Balfour’s Ghosts: An Edwardian Elite and the Riddle of the Cross-Correspondence Automatic Writings. Exeter: Imprint Academic.

Roy, A. (2008). The Eager Dead. A Study in Haunting. Brighton: The Book Guild.

****

 

 

 

Advertisements

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

Here are some important books about experimental ESP studies published between 1930 and 1958 that are freely available online.

Carington, W. (1945). Telepathy: An Outline of its Facts, Theory, and Implications (2nd Ed.). London: Methuen.

Whately Carington

Whateley Carington

Humphrey, B.M. (1948). Handbook of Tests in Parapsychology. Durham, NC: Parapsychology Laboratory.

image of sequence 7

image of sequence 9

Pratt, J.G., et al. (1940). Extra-Sensory Perception After Sixty Years. New York: Henry Holt.

Pratt Rhine ESP 60 title page

Rhine, J.B. (1935). Extra-Sensory Perception. Boston Bruce Humphries.  (First published in 1934)

image of page i

image of page iii

Rhine, J.B., & Pratt, J.G. (1957). Parapsychology: Frontier Science of the Mind. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas.

image of page iii

J.B. Rhine 1956

J.B. Rhine

J.G. Pratt

J.G. Pratt

Schmeidler, G.R., & McConnell, R.A. (1958). ESP and Personality Patterns. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Gertrude Schmeidler

Gertrude Schmeidler

Robert McConnell

Robert McConnell

Sinclair, U. (1930). Mental Radio. Pasadena, CA: Author.

image of page iii

Upton Sinclair

Upton Sinclair

Mary Craig Sinclair

Mary Craig Sinclair Upton’s wife, tested for telepathy

Sinclai Results of telepathy drawing test

Results of telepathy drawing test

Soal, S.G., & Bateman, F. (1954). Modern Experiments in Telepathy. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Soal Bateman Modern Experiments Telepathy

Warcollier, R. (1938). Experimental Telepathy. Boston: Boston Society for Psychic Research.

Rene Warcollier

René Warcollier

Telepathic Drawing Experiments (Target Above, Response Below)

 

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

A recent issue of the psychoanalysis journal IMÁGÓ Budapest (2017, No. 4), edited by Júlia Gyimesi, is entitled “Psychoanalysis and the Occult: Transference, Thought-Transference, Psychical Research.” Here is the table of contents:

Júlia Gyimesi: Introduction

Júlia Gyimesi

Júlia Gyimesi

Renaud Evrard, Claudie Massicotte, Thomas Rabeyron: Freud as a Psychical Researcher: The Impossible Freudian Legacy

Sigmund Freud constantly attempted to distinguish psychoanalysis from occultism by explaining allegedly paranormal phenomena (such as so-called prophetic dreams) as the results of unconscious processes. His attitude towards the paranormal, however, evolved according to his increasing interest in the possibility of thought transference. In 1925, he reproduced Gilbert Murray’s experiments associating telepathy and free associations. Then, he became convinced of the reality of thought transference and shared his conviction in “The Occult Significance of Dreams.” Yet, Ernest Jones, his biographer and then president of the International Psychoanalytic Association, was reluctant to associate psychoanalysis with psychical research and therefore worked to marginalize Freud’s interest. This article aims to retrace the context of this rarely discussed text and the experiments that preceded it in order to reexamine their role in ulterior definitions of the Freudian legacy and the association of psychoanalysis with experimental research on telepathic dreams.

Sigmund Freud 3

Sigmund Freud

Gilbert Murray

Gilbert Murray

Júlia Gyimesi: The Unorthodox Silberer

Herbert Silberer

Herbert Silberer

The aim of the article is to explore the reasons why the theory of symbol-formation turned out to be an important scene of the process of demarcation in psychoanalysis. The debate on the theory of symbol-formation is illuminated by the examination of the work of the Viennese psychoanalyst, Herbert Silberer. Silberer’s life-work is an outstanding example of the encounter of psychoanalysis and the so-called occult. He made a most honest and unique attempt to integrate the “mystical” into the psychoanalytic edifice in a nonreductive but still psychoanalytic way. The conflicts that emerged due to the integration of the occult by Silberer did not lie between materialistic and spiritualistic worldviews. Rather, they originated in theoretical oppositions. Today, functional symbolism is what experts refer to most often when discussing the investigations of Silberer. In fact, his theory on functional symbolism was developed in connection with his experiences in the field of occultism, mysticism, alchemy, etc., and inevitably led to tension between his viewpoint and the basic principles of psychoanalysis. Silberer’s oeuvre shows that considering occultism and mysticism a valid psychological language could lead to a radically new form of psychology.

Bartholomeu Vieira: Deleuze’s Animal Magnetism as a Theoretical Parallel for the Theory of Psychoanalytic Technique

Joseph P.P. Deleuze

Joseph P.F. Deleuze

Ferenczi’s studies on the occult both inspired, and made important contributions to, the theory of psychoanalytic technique. The theory and practice of animal magnetism raises several questions and inspire new approaches that might help psychoanalysts understand how empathy works in the contemporary clinic. The field of animal magnetism has been seminal in the theoretical development of theories of the unconscious. It is the purpose of this article to examine the elements within the doctrine of animal magnetism that shed light on the Freudian-Ferenczian affirmation of supposed unconscious communication. The article will first of all look at the debate between Freud and Ferenczi on the reality of telepathy. It will then make some brief observations on the subject of magnetism. Because of the broad scope of this subject, I will narrow the focus of this study to Joseph P. Deleuze’s statements about his methodology.

Csilla Hunya, Péter Aszalós: Telemarketing

The aim of living is to be born again and again and to make one’s essence realized. According to Moreno and some object-relation and relational psychoanalysis theorists, the self develops itself in relationships, more closely in encounters where two beings meet. As Moreno pointed out, an integral part of these encounters is tele, a prerequisite of a common creative act. In this paper we aim to heighten the awareness of the reader of the value of encounters in life, and understand tele by anchoring it with well-known psychoanalytic terms. In the first part we review some of the relevant literature of psychodramatists and others and connect it conceptually to psychoanalytic terms. In the second part we look closer to the tele as a process embedded into encounters. Our emphasis is on how tele contributes to the rebirth of the soul during the encounter and after it.

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

My article “Morselli’s ‘Psicologia e Spiritismo’ ” was recently posted in the Psi Encyclopedia. It is about Italian psychiatrist Enrico Morselli’s two volume work Psicologia e “Spiritismo:” Impressioni e Note Critiche sui Fenomeni Medianici di Eusapia Paladino (Psychology and “Spiritism”: Impressions and Critical Notes  about the Mediumistic Phenomena of Eusapia Paladino; 2 vols. Turin: Fratelli Bocca, 1908).

 Morselli Psicologia

 

Enrico Morselli 2

Enrico Morselli

Here is the summary:

“Enrico Morselli (1852-1929), an Italian psychiatrist, contributed to the study of the mediumship of Eusapia Palladino, notably regarding its clinical and psychological aspects. This work is contained in his 1908 two-volume book, little known to English-language writers, Psicologia e ‘Spiritismo’ (Psychology and ‘Spiritism’) on which this article is largely based (the original Italian edition can be read online). Morselli adopts an anti-survival stance, rejecting discarnate agency in favour of fraud, psychological processes, or psychic means involving human agency.”

Eusapia Palladino side dress

Eusapia Palladino

Morselli became convinced of the phenomena of medium Eusapia Palladino. In his view mediumship  was “an abnormal fact of the human physio-psychic personality which, like all other abnormalities and individual abnormalities . . . is directly linked to the normal somatic, physiological and mental conditions of the Homo sapiens animal. . .” Palladino was believed to be a hysteric, but a hysteric that could produce movement of objects, materializations, and other physical manifestations. This view was shared by another Italian psychiatrist, Cesare Lombroso.

Most of the book is about reports of séances with Palladino. “This is not a scientific report, but rather a compilation of summaries and impressions of séances attended by Morselli during the 1900s, by which time she had been studied by several scientists and scholars . . . The séances took place at the Circolo Scientifico Minerva (Scientific Circle Minerva), in Genoa, a private group that included psychical researcher Ernesto Bozzano, astronomer Francesco Porro and journalist Luigi Arnaldo Vassallo.” He reported that in his first séance, held in 1909, the medium was seated at the head of the table and was controlled by two persons. Morselli wrote: “The table was in motion: it was bowing now from one side, it went up on two feet and on one, and in the end I saw it stand up to 10-15 centimeters, remain suspended for a few seconds below the hands that protruded in the chain, and then, as if suddenly the thrust that pushed it or the strength that supported it lessened, it fell noisily on the floor.”

Morselli listed that the following physical phenomena took place in the séances:

Parakinesis (movement of objects with some physical contact)

Telekinesis

Changes of weight in objects or the medium

Thermal-radiant phenomena (such as breezes and cold areas)

Sounds, including voices

Hyloplastic phenomena (production of marks or tracings)

Zollnerian phenomena such as apports and knots on cords

Tangible teleplasty (materializations)

Simple telephany (luminous phenomena)

Visible, active and tangible teleplasmy (materialized forms and limbs)

 

Sketches of Materialized Forms Observed in Seances in which Morselli was Present

Morselli Palladino form 2

Morselli Palladino form 4

Morselli Palladino materialization sketch

There is much in the book about the medium’s psychological and medical aspects. “Morselli noticed that Palladino perspired profusely during trance. She told him her menstrual period was more copious and erratic when she held many séances. Coming out of trance, she sometimes was amyosthenic (muscular weakness), and experienced paralysis in her limbs, mainly on the right side.”

The phenomena were believed by Morselli to be caused by a force exteriorized from the medium’s body. Morselli wrote: “We say that everything happens as if the medium’s body exteriorizes its bio-psychic force . . .  This fact of exopsychicity is not more unintelligible than electricity which propagates at a distance without conductors and produces movement, chemical, luminous, [and] sonic phenomena . . .”

In addition, Morselli presents two useful bibliographies.  One is about Spiritism and psychic phenomena in general, while another is a list of publications about Paladino. Both include materials in French, and Italian that are usually missed by English-speaking students of her mediumship (on these bibliographies see an article here, starting on page 1900.

Morselli Bibliography

Finally, in the encyclopedia entry I also presents examples of the book’s reception, among them a negative one by Eleanor M. Sidgwick (Review of Psicologia e “Spiritismo.” Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1909, 21, 516-525).

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

In a previous blog I interviewed Dr. Dean Radin, Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, about his career and general ideas regarding parapsychology. I interview him here about his new book, Real Magic: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe (New York: Harmony Books, 2018).

Dean Radin 4

Dean Radin

Radin Real Magic

Here is the table of contents:

  1. Beginnings
  2. Science and Magic?
  3. Magical Potpourri
  4. Origins of Magic
  5. Practice of Magic
  6. Scientific Evidence
  7. Merlin-Class Magicians
  8. Toward a Science of Magic
  9. Concluding Thoughts

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

Real Magic reviews the history and concepts of the Western esoteric tradition to see if that domain might provide clues about how psi works. I found that it does. The book also compares lore about magical practices with what parapsychology has learned about psi. ​After the superstitions and theatrical excesses associated with ceremonial magic ​are stripped away, magic and psi are found to involve the same underlying phenomena, with the same modulating factors. In sum, what did ancient magicians know about psi that we are struggling to understand today?

 

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

​I’ve been involved part or full-time in empirical psi research for 42 years. I’ve been interested in the history and practices of Eastern and Western esoteric traditions for at least that long.​

 

What motivated you to write this book?

Like many who are convinced by experience or experiment that psi is real, I want to know how it works and what it implies about the nature of reality. Theoretical models in our field have not advanced nearly as fast as the empirical work, which suggests that there might be a problem with our starting assumptions. So I decided to seriously consider if the esoteric traditions, which are saturated with magic and psi, might shed some light on this problem. After reviewing the relevant history (which is vast), I’ve come to believe that the metaphysical basis of the esoteric cosmologies (in the philosophical sense of metaphysics) provides a better explanation than the metaphysics underlying today’s scientific worldview. In the book I provide a suggestion that views today’s scientific worldview as a special case of a more comprehensive worldview. The expanded worldview maintains everything known by science today, but it recasts psi, magic, and mystical experience from bizarre, inexplicable anomalies into phenomena that are natural and obvious.

 

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

I ​ hope to show that a calm consideration of​ magic and psi does not represent a regression to a superstitious, pre-scientific past, but rather it is a forecast of the future of science. All of my popular books have been part of a long-term effort to crack the taboo that has prevented serious discussions of psi experiences, what they are, how they work, and what they imply about the nature of consciousness. Real Magic is the latest step along this path, one designed to appeal to a (large) audience interested in both science and esoterica. As evidence that this topic is (or should be) of high interest to science, Real Magic gained endorsements from two Nobel Laureates, a former program director from the National Science Foundation, an astrophysics medal winner from the National Academy of Sciences, and many prominent academics from mainstream disciplines at mainstream universities.

 

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.”

 

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.