Latest Entries »

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

I am happy to post an interview with Dr. Etzel Cardeña, whose work has been discussed in this blog before (click here, here, and here). I first met Etzel in 1984 when he came to the Institute of Parapsychology at Durham, North Carolina, for their Summer Study Program, where I was teaching.

Dr. Etzel Cardeña

Dr. Etzel Cardeña

Etzel, who has a PhD in psychology (with emphasis on Personality Psychology) from the University of California, Davis, is currently the Poul Thorsen Professor of Psychology at Lund University, in Sweden. In addition to his work in parapsychology, he is internationally known for his work on hypnosis and for various contributions to the literature on dissociation and trauma.

Cardena Varieties 2In addition to this work and supervising graduate students, Etzel has become known for editing comprehensive anthologies that have been very influential, work done together with other colleagues. One of them is Varieties of Anomalous Experience: Examining the Scientific Evidence (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2014, 2nd ed.), edited with Steven J. Lynn and Stanley Krippner. This is a groundbreaking work not only in its conception and structure, but also because it was published by the American Psychological Association. Another fascinating anthology was Altering Consciousness: Multidisciplinary Perspectives (co-edited with Michael Winkelman, Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2011), which I believe is the best source today for information about altered states of consciousness. More recently Etzel edited, with John Palmer and David Marcusson-Clavertz, Parapsychology: A Handbook for the 21st Century (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2015). This is the one of the most important reference works on contemporary parapsychology.

Cardena AlteringCardena et al ParapsychologyEtzel is one of the most eminent psychologists involved with parapsychology in recent times. Evidence for this are the more than 20 awards he has received throughout his career. A few of them are: Charles Honorton Integrative Contributions Award (Parapsychological Association, 2013), Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Hypnosis (Society of Psychological Hypnosis, Division 30 of the American Psychological Association, 2007), Morton Prince Award for cumulative contribution to research on dissociative disorders (International Society for the Study of Dissociation, 1999), Pierre Janet Award for the best clinical, theoretical or research paper, (International Society for the Study of Dissociation, 2012), and College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Award for Excellence in Research (University of Texas, 2004).


How did you get interested in parapsychology?

I still remember vividly listening to my parents discuss J. B. Rhine’s research when I was a child in México. My father was a psychoanalyst with a great interest in parapsychology who held courses on the topic and discussed it with my also very well-read mother and us. He conducted informal exercises with family and friends trying to develop ostensible telepathy and clairvoyance and published with my brother a serial on parapsychology for the layperson. Although he did not use experimental controls I was still very impressed at times, particularly by a friend of the family who had an uncanny ability to diagnose precisely someone whose name had just been given to her. Growing up I took psi phenomena as a given and read some parapsychology research books besides the s/f speculations in books like Childhood’s End and More than Human.

Some years later, while doing a Ph. D. under Charley Tart on hypnosis, he encouraged me to attend an intensive parapsychology summer institute at the FRNM (currently the Rhine Research Center), around 1984. It was an unforgettable experience in so many different ways. The unsystematic knowledge about parapsychology I possessed became more solid and broad as I read a great amount of studies and attended the various lectures at the institute. I also participated in the research being conducted and got a book as a prize for scoring higher than other institute students in a PK experiment with a computer game (Poink) that Richard Broughton was conducting. In a ganzfeld study conducted by Nancy Zingrone  and others, I stumbled onto an indication of the complexities of the phenomena. I recall that I had a very clear and unusual image that I even drew (and I do not like to draw at all) before receiving feedback. When I was shown the target and the three decoys, I said about one of them that that was the exact image I had seen (and had the drawing as corroboration) whether that one was the target or not. As it turned out, the target was the image I ranked second. Other than parapsychology, during the institute I attended some extraordinary modern dance performances at the American Dance Festival at Duke University, and went on a boat trip through the Eno River with the other institute students, full of ominous signs and reminiscent in scary ways of James Dickey’s Deliverance. No one died or got injured but it was an unforgettable and eerie experience.

After my stay at the FRNM, I got a scholarship from the Parapsychology Foundation to conduct field research in Haiti on spirit possession, subscribed to the main parapsychology journals, and kept myself informed of the field through reading them and presenting at and attending the PA and Parapsychology Research Group meetings. Then, about 12 years ago, the Chair I now hold at Lund University in Sweden was advertised and I was offered the position, which has a remit on parapsychology and hypnosis, and which I thought (and continue to think) was a wonderful fit and professional opportunity.

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

I include my interest in psi phenomena within the field of alterations of consciousness and anomalous experiences. Plato/Socrates and a number of earlier and later thinkers have considered our ordinary state of consciousness as limiting and other modes of being as potentially able to reveal aspects of reality veiled to the ordinary state. Whether this is the case or not (and there are good reasons to believe it is), I think that alterations of consciousness need to be accounted for in any theory of consciousness and its relation to reality. From this perspective, I think that my main contributions to the field so far have been:

1) Normalizing anomalous experiences (including psi-related ones) within psychology through the two editions of Varieties of Anomalous Experience, published by a mainstream press (American Psychological Association), and other peer-reviewed books, papers and presentations. I have also tried to give some “cover,” to those who want to work in the field by co-organizing a published “Call for an Open, Informed Study of All Aspects of Consciousness,” signed by 100 current or past academics and published in a mainstream journal, as well as developing a very impressive list of eminent people from the past who were interested in psi, about to make its debut in the SPR psi webpages. My hope is that these publications will make it easier for faculty who are given the spiel that parapsychology is pseudoscience and that no “real” scientists take it seriously to argue that “real” and very eminent current scientists from Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, Cambridge and other universities, besides figures from the past of the stature of Einstein, Planck, and Curie have supported research on the field.

2) The editing (see below) of an updated Handbook of Parapsychology, as well as upgrading the previous PA newsletter into the bulletin Mindfield, which I have now edited for 7 years.

3) Ongoing programmatic research on the relations between hypnosis, dissociation, alterations of consciousness, and performance in controlled psi experiments.

4) Linking psi phenomena to other disciplines (art and literature in a published paper, classical philosophy in a forthcoming paper).

5) Last but definitely not least, supervising doctoral students who will continue to work in the field. My previous doctoral student, Devin Terhune, got the Swedish award for the best young psychologist of that year, and David Marcusson-Clavertz has already published papers on psi and co-edited a book with me. I have another doctoral student doing important work on dissociation and trauma among young immigrants.

Why do you think that parapsychology is important?

This question can be either answered fairly in a book or succinctly in a couple of sentences. First, it strongly suggests (along with other phenomena discussed by Ed Kelly) that the current limitations to consciousness assumed by most materialist-reductionist models are fallacious. Second, and in agreement with a number of interpretations of quantum mechanics by such people as d’Espagnat and Stapp, it agrees with a model of a unified continuous aspect of reality. Finally, the link between alterations of consciousness and psi gives rise to the speculation, already considered by some classical Greek and Indian philosophers, that the filter of the ordinary state of consciousness might be more restrictive of certain aspects of reality than other states of consciousness.

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

Where do I start? I have the advantage of also researching other areas that are more accepted and so I can bring an external perspective as well. One of the largest problems is the wrathful and prejudiced intolerance that characterizes so much of the anti-psi movement. You find the phobia that presumes that accepting parapsychology will bring about the end of science (I have never been able to follow that argument very well), and the petulance that just because some critics have not experienced these phenomena or they do not fit their cognitive schemas then those wanting to research them have to be cretins, spiritual fanatics, or worse. Related to this attitude is a more general arrogance in which some scientists assume that their current account of reality is final or close to final, and that any deviations from it are of course deluded, notwithstanding the history of science showing how “final” accounts of reality have been superseded by considerably different ones, and how much our capacity to know is limited by the nature of our receptors, our evolved limited rationality, and the nature of nature of nature itself. The anti-parapsychology movement has been very effective so far in marginalizing the field and exerted a very high cost on those who want to work in the field, with the main exception of Great Britain. The result is that there are preciously few researchers and theoreticians working in the area. As a comparison, a subfield of a subfield of a subfield, for instance the study of the P300 event related potential (ERP), attracts far more researchers, labs, and financial opportunities than all of parapsychology combined.

But there is also self-inflicted damage, in my view:

1) In agreement with at least one critic, there is a tendency among some (of the very few) researchers to go from one method or question to another, rather than to persevere with a promising question and conduct programmatic research on it to get a better comprehension, as is done by most successful mainstream researchers. For instance, at a recent PA I heard about a study that did not turn out as expected and the presenter explained why that might have occurred, but instead of testing that hypothesis in later studies, s/he declared that s/he would move to another question.

2) Considering parapsychology as an independent “discipline” is unrealistic. It is rather a cross-disciplinary topic of interest to psychologists, physicists, biologists, and so on. This has two consequences. The first is that it implies that psi research should be better integrated into larger disciplines (as researchers like Bem or theoreticians like Carpenter are doing), rather than remaining within a very small community. For instance, studies having both a psi and non-psi component are likely to make greater inroads than those just evaluating possible psi. The second is that, as with other topics, the greater the impact of the researcher in the larger discipline overall, the greater the likelihood that s/he will be heard by people not already commited to psi. For example, statisticians pay attention to Jessica Utts’s pronouncements about psi because of her general reputation as a statistician, not because of psi itself. Similarly, I have been able to publish papers on psi in mainstream journals probably because I am well-known for my work in other areas.

3) Considering the very meager resources in the psi field (and thanks to Bial, there are some rather than almost none), there should be far more inter-laboratory collaborations than is the case. For instance, I think that it is imperative to develop and test with a large number of participants a potential battery of task-related (as Rex Stanford has suggested) tests, psychological measures, and other indicators to determine who is likely to succeed in a psi experiment, and that this should be done as a collaborative enterprise. Even though I do not expect that we will find a strong indicator, even a moderate indicator would be of great help to increase our chances of evaluating phenomena more reliable.

4) Finally, I think that both extremes of granting unjustifiedly too much to critics instead of responding assertively to them, or claiming greater certainties about the nature of psi phenomena than are warranted does disservice to the field. In the first case it allows critics to get away with demonstrable falsehoods, does not require them to produce actual research to support their points, and does not discuss (the very real) limitations of psi research within the greater context of the limitations of empirical research in general. As for claims that we clearly understand psi phenomena, they crash against the reality of the field’s limited success in establishing the conditions under which results can be robustly replicated.

One final point is a problem that I have seen all too often in listservs and other specialized forums in which honest researchers who express doubt as to the evidence of some types of psi and/or point to contradictory evidence are personally attacked or assumed to be cognitively deficient. I know of at least one person who left the field because of this. Despite what I think is an idealization of people working in parapsychology as generally open and selfless, I have found the same dogmatism, egocentricity, and outright nastiness that I have observed in other groups. I am particularly aware of this since some members of the parapsychology community in Sweden started attacking me personally even before I arrived to Sweden, and they have continued their attacks now for more than 10 years, the longest and most malicious temper-tantrum I have ever witnessed.

Can you mention some of your current projects?

We (co-editors Etzel Cardeña, John Palmer and David Marcusson-Clavertz, with contributions from many of the most important workers in the field) just finished a major enterprise, an update of the 1977 Handbook of Parapsychology (Parapsychology: A Handbook for the 21st Century) that provides both a state-of-the-science account of psi research along with information on how to design experiments and analyze them statistically. The book is intended for those interested in the field as well as for beginning and experienced researchers.

One of my doctoral students and I finished recently the preliminary analyses and report of a study on ganzfeld, hypnosis, and the Model of Pragmatic Information (MPI), which we will submit to a journal within the next few months. Although we did not replicate a previous strong correlation between psi z-scores and experiencing an altered state of consciousness, we did replicate moderate correlations between psi scores and low arousal and more focused attention that Chris Roe and collaborators have found in their research. Our results were also consistent with the MPI. We have transcribed the sessions from this and a previous telepathy experiment and at some point will see if quantitative and qualitative content analyses can evidence a relation between specific mentations and psi scoring or missing.

I finished a paper that presents the case for considering anomalous experiences (and potential anomalous events including psi) as essential for any model of consciousness, to be published in a mainstream encyclopedia on consciousness. We (past or current doctoral students and I) have many papers recently accepted or under revision on such related topics as the influence of hypnotizability and dissociation on the stream of consciousness and mind-wandering, and dissociation, posttraumatic symptomatology, and attachment styles among teenage immigrants to Sweden previously exposed to traumatic events. Collaborators from other universities and I are working on papers on spirit possession in the Dominican Republic and posttraumatic symptoms among breast cancer survivors. And if I am unable to control my masochistic tendencies, I might also accept invitations to write two books on alterations of consciousness, psi phenomena, and their ontological and epistemological implications.

Other than that, I am planning to direct the extraordinary play Krapp’s Last Tape by Samuel Beckett in the fall as Artistic Director of the International Theatre of Malmö, and of course enjoy all of life with the spark of my life Sophie and our little ones.

Selected Publications

Edited Books

Cardeña, E., Palmer, J., & Marcusson-Clavertz, D. (Eds.). (2015). Parapsychology: A handbook for the 21st century. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Cardeña, E., & Facco, E. (Eds.) (2015). Non-Ordinary Mental Expressions. E-book Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Cardeña, E., Lynn, S. J., & Krippner, S. (Eds.) (2014). Varieties of anomalous experience: Examining the scientific evidence (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Cardeña, E., & Winkelman, M. (Eds.). (2011). Altering consciousness: Multidisciplinary perspectives (2 vols.). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Cardeña, E., & Croyle, K. (Eds.) (2005). Acute Reactions to Trauma and Psychotherapy: A Multidisciplinary and International Perspective. New York: Haworth Press. Also as special issue of the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 6(2).

Cardeña, E., & Nijenhuis, E. (2000). Embodied sorrow. Special issue on somatoform dissociation. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 1.

Kirsch, I., Capafons, A., Cardeña, E., & Amigó, S. (Eds.) (1999). Clinical hypnosis and self-regulation therapy: A cognitive-behavioral perspective. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.


Cardeña, E., & Marcusson-Clavertz, D. (2015). The influence of hypnotizability and dissociation on everyday mentation: An experience sampling study. Submitted for publication.

Cardeña, E. (in press). The unbearable fear of psi: On scientific censorship in the 21st century. Journal of Scientific Exploration.

Marcusson-Clavertz, D., Cardeña, E., & Terhune, D. B. (in press). Daydreaming style moderates the relationship between working memory and mind-wandering: Towards an integration of two hypotheses. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition.

Cardeña, E. (in press). Anomalous experience. In M. Velmans (Ed.), The Blackwell companion of consciousness, 2nd ed. London, UK: Blackwell.

Schaffler, Y., Cardeña, E., Reijman, S., & Haluza, D. (in press). Traumatic experiences and somatoform dissociation among spirit possession practitioners in the Dominican Republic. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry.

Cardeña, E. (2015). On negative capability and parapsychology. In E. Cardeña, J. Palmer, & D. Marcusson-Clavertz (Eds.). Parapsychology: A handbook for the 21st century. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Cardeña, E., & Marcusson-Clavertz, D. (2015). States, traits, beliefs, and psi. In E. Cardeña, J. Palmer, & D. Marcusson-Clavertz (Eds.). Parapsychology: A handbook for the 21st century (pp. 110-124). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Cardeña, E., Marcusson-Clavertz, D., & Palmer, J. (2015). Reintroducing parapsychology. In E. Cardeña, J. Palmer, & D. Marcusson-Clavertz (Eds.). Parapsychology: A handbook for the 21st century. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Cardeña, E., Reijman, S., Lawaetz Wimmelmann, C., & Jensen, C. G.. (2015). Psychological health, trauma, dissociation, absorption, and fantasy proneness among Danish spiritual practitioners. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 2, 170-184.

Cardeña, E. & Terhune, D. B. (2014). Hypnotizability, personality traits, and the propensity to experience alterations of consciousness. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 1, 292-307.

Cardeña, E., & Alvarado, C.S. (2014). Anomalous self and identity experiences. In E. Cardeña. S.J. Lynn, & S. Krippner (Eds.), Varieties of Anomalous Experiences (2nd ed., pp. 175-212). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Cardeña, E. (2014). Hypnos and psyche, or how hypnosis has contributed to the study of consciousness. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 1, 123-138.

Cardeña, E. (2014). A call for an open, informed, study of all aspects of consciousness. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2014.00017.

Cardeña, E., Lynn, S. J., & Krippner, S. (2014). Anomalous experiences in perspective. In E. Cardeña, S. J., Lynn, & S. Krippner (Eds.), Varieties of anomalous experience: Examining the scientific evidence. 2nd ed, (pp. 3-20). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Cardeña, E., & Pekala, R. J. (2014). Methodological issues in the study of altering consciousness and anomalous experience. In E. Cardeña, S. J., Lynn, & S. Krippner (Eds.), Varieties of anomalous experience: Examining the scientific evidence. 2nd ed. (pp. 21-56). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Cardeña, E., Jönsson, P., Terhune, D. B., & Marcusson-Clavertz, D. (2013). The neurophenomenology of neutral hypnosis. Cortex, 49, 375-385.

Cardeña, E., Iribas, A., & Reijman, S. (2012). Art and psi. Journal of Parapsychology, 76, 3-25.

Marcusson-Clavertz, D., Terhune, D. B., & Cardeña, E., (2012). Individual differences and state effects on mind wandering: Hypnotizability, dissociation, and sensory homogenization. Consciousness and Cognition, 21, 1097-1108.

Cardeña, E., & Alvarado, C.S. (2011). Altered consciousness from the age of Enlightenment through mid-20th century. In E. Cardeña and M. Winkelman (Eds.), Altering Consciousness: Multidisciplinary Perspectives: Vol. 1: History, Culture and the Humanities (pp. 89-112). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Cardeña, E., & Carlson, E. (2011). Acute Stress Disorder revisited. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 7, 245-267. doi: 10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-032210-104502

Marcusson-Clavertz, D. & Cardeña, E., (2011). Hypnotizability, alterations in consciousness, and other variables as predictors of performance in a ganzfeld psi task. Journal of Parapsychology, 75, 235-259.

Terhune, D. B., Cardeña, E., & Lindgren, M. (2011). Differential frontal-parietal connectivity during hypnosis as a function of hypnotic suggestibility. Psychophysiology, 48, 1444-1447. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-8986.2011.01211.x

Moreira-Almeida, A., & Cardeña, E. (2011). Differential diagnosis between non-pathological psychotic and spiritual experiences and mental disorders: A contribution from Latin American studies to the ICD-11. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, 33 Suppl. 1, S29-S36.

Cardeña, E. (2011). On wolverines and epistemological totalitarianism. (Guest editorial). Journal of Scientific Exploration, 25, 539-551.

Cardeña, E. (2011). Altered consciousness in emotion and psychopathology. In E. Cardeña, & M. Winkelman (Eds.), Altering consciousness. Multidisciplinary perspectives. Volume II. Biological and psychological perspectives (pp. 279-299). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Granqvist, P., Reijman, S. & Cardeña E. (2011). Altered consciousness and human development. In E. Cardeña, & M. Winkelman. Altering consciousness. Multidisciplinary perspectives. Volume II. Biological and psychological perspectives (pp. 211-234). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Terhune, D. B., & Cardeña, E (2010). Differential patterns of spontaneous experiential response to a hypnotic induction: A latent profile analysis. Consciousness and Cognition, 19, 1140-1150.

Zingrone, N.L., Alvarado, C.S., & Cardeña, E. (2010). Out-of-body experiences, physical body activity and posture: Responses from a survey conducted in Scotland. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 198, 163-165.

Cardeña, E., & Krippner, S. (2010). The cultural context of hypnosis. In Lynn, S. J., J. W. Rhue, & Kirsch, I. (Eds.) Handbook of clinical hypnosis 2nd Ed (pp. 743-771). Washington, D. C: American Psychological Association.

Cardeña, E., & Weiner, L. (2009). Trance/possession phenomena. In Dell, P.F., & O’Neil, J. A. (Eds.). Dissociation and the dissociative disorders: DSM-V and beyond.

Cardeña, E., Dennis, J. M., Winkel, M., & Skitka, L. (2005). A snapshot of terror: Acute posttraumatic reactions to the September 11 attack. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 6, 69-84.

Cardeña, E. (2005). The phenomenology of deep hypnosis: Quiescent and physically active. International Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis, 53, 37-59.

Cardeña, E. (2005). Subjectivity and communitas: Further considerations on pain. In Mario Maj, Hagop S. Akiskal, Juan E. Mezzich, & Ahmed Okasha (Eds.) Somatoform disorders. Evidence and experience in psychiatry V. 9 (pp. 121-123). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Cardeña, E. (2004). Introspection is alive and well: Current methodologies to study conscious experience. Proceedings of the 5th Simpósio da Fundaçao Bial. Porto, 43-54. Portugal: Bial.

Cardeña, E., & Gleaves, D. (2003) Dissociative disorders. In S. M. Turner & M. Hersen (Eds.). Adult psychopathology & diagnosis Fourth edition (pp. 476-505). New York: Wiley.

Cardeña, E., Butler, L. D., & Spiegel, D. (2003). Stress disorders. In G. Stricker & T. Widiger, (Eds.) Handbook of Psychology. V 8. (pp. 229-249). New York: John Wiley.

Van Ommeren, M., de Jong, J. T. V. M., Sharma, B., Komproe, I., Thapa, S., & Cardeña, E. (2001). Psychiatric disorders among tortured Bhutanese refugees in Nepal. Archives of General Psychiatry, 5, 475-482.

Cardeña, E., Koopman, C., Classen, C., Waelde, L., & Spiegel, D. (2000). Psychometric properties of the Stanford Acute Stress Reaction Questionnaire (SASRQ): A valid and reliable measure of acute stress reactions. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 13, 719-734.

Cardeña, E., Maldonado, J., Van der Hart, O., & Spiegel, D. (2000). Hypnosis. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 13, 580-584.

Cardeña, E. (2000) Hypnosis in the treatment of trauma: A promising, but not fully supported, efficacious intervention. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 48, 221-234.

Litwin, R., & Cardeña, E. (2000). Demographic and seizure variables, but not hypnotizability or dissociation, differentiated psychogenic from organic seizures. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 1, 99-122.

Lynn, S. J., Kirsch, I., Barabasz, A., Cardeña, E., & Patterson, D. (2000) Hypnosis as an empirically supported clinical intervention: The state of the evidence and a look to the future. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 48, 235-255.

Cardeña, E., Lynn, S. J., & Krippner, S. (2000). Anomalous experiences in perspective In E. Cardeña, S. J. Lynn., & S. Krippner (Eds.), Varieties of anomalous experience (pp. 3-21). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Easterlin, B. & Cardeña, E. (1998-99). Perceived stress, cognitive and emotional differences between short-and long-term Vipassana meditators. Imagination, Cognition and Personality, 18, 69-82.

Cardeña, E., Holen, A., McFarlane, A., Solomon, Z., Wilkinson, C., & Spiegel, D. (1998). A multi-site study of acute-stress reaction to a disaster. In Widiger, T. A. et al. (Eds.)Sourcebook for the DSM-IV. Vol. IV (pp. 377-391). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Press.

Cardeña, E., Alarcón, A., Capafons, A., & Bayot, A. (1998). Effects on suggestibility of a new method of active-alert hypnosis. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 3, 280-294.

Cardeña, E. (1998). Dissociation and PSI: What are the links? In N. L. Zingrone, M. J., Schlitz, C. S. Alvarado, & J. Milton (Eds.). Research in Parapsychology 1993. Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland.

O’Connor, B., Calabrese, C., Cardeña, E., et al. (1997). Defining and describing complementary and alternative medicine. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 3, 49-57..

Cardeña, E. (1997) The etiologies of dissociation. In S. Powers & S. Krippner (Eds.), Broken images, broken selves (pp. 61-87). New York: Brunner.

Cardeña, E., & Beard, J. (1996). Truthful trickery: Shamanism, acting and reality. Performance Research, 1, 31-39.

Cardeña, E. (1996). “Just floating on the sky”. A comparison of shamanic and hypnotic phenomenology. In R. Quekelbherge & D. Eigner (Eds.) 6th Jahrbuch für Transkulturelle Medizin und Psychotherapie (6th Yearbook of cross-cultural medicine and psychotherapy) (pp. 367-380). Berlin: Verlag für Wissenschaft und Bildung.

Cardeña, E., & Spiegel, D. (1996). Diagnostic issues, criteria and comorbidity of dissociative disorders. In L. Michelson & W. J. Ray (Eds.), Handbook of Dissociation (pp. 227-250) New York: Plenum.

Cardeña, E. (1994). The domain of dissociation. In S. J. Lynn and J. W. Rhue (Eds.) Dissociation: Clinical, theoretical, and research perspectives (pp. 15-31). New York: Guilford.

Cardeña, E., & Spiegel D. (1993) Dissociative reactions to the Bay Area Earthquake. American Journal of Psychiatry, 150, 474-478.

Cardeña, E. (1992) Trance and possession as dissociative disorders. Transcultural Psychiatric Research Review, 29 , 283-297.

Spiegel, D., & Cardeña, E. (1991). Disintegrated experience: The dissociative disorders revisited. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 100 , 366-378.

Cardeña, E., & Spiegel, D. (1991). Suggestibility, absorption, and dissociation: An integrative model of hypnosis. In John F. Schumaker (Ed.) Human suggestibility: Advances in theory, research and application. New York: Routledge, 93-107.

Cardeña, E. (1989). The varieties of possession experience. Association for the Anthropological Study of Consciousness Quarterly, 5 (2-3), 1-17.

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

Dr. Alejandro Parra has produced another issue of his online journal E-Boletín Psi, which he has been publishing in Spanish since 2006 from his Instituto de Psicología Paranormal (Institute of Paranormal Psychology), located in Buenos Aires, Argentina (for other issues click here).

Dr. Alejandro Parra

Dr. Alejandro Parra

These are the titles of the papers published in the issue, which is available here.

Variables Perceptuales y de Personalidad Asociadas a la Experiencia Mediúnica:

Examinando Dos Muestras

[Perceptual and Personality Variables Associated to Mediumship Experiences: An Examination of Two Samples]

by Alejandro Parra

Análisis Fenomenológico de las Experiencias Anómalas de la Mediumnidad: Voces y Visiones Aplicando un Modelo Espiritual

[Phenomenological Analysis of Anomalous Experiences in Mediumship: Applying a Spiritual Model to Voices and Visions]

by Elizabeth C. Roxburgh

Dr. Elizabeth Roxburgh

Dr. Elizabeth Roxburgh

Importancia y Metodología Basada en la Investigación en Laboratorio de la Mediumnidad en los Estados Unidos

[The Importance of and the Methodology of Laboratory Studies of Mediumship in the United States]

by Julie Beischel

Dr. Julie Beischel

Dr. Julie Beischel

Mediumnidad en Brasil: Aspectos Históricos e Investigación Científica

[Mediumship in Brazil: Historical Aspects and Scientific Research]

by Everton de Oliveira Maraldi, Wellington Zangari and Fátima R. Machado

Dr. Everton de Oliveira Maraldi

Dr. Everton de Oliveira Maraldi

Dr. Wellington Zangari

Dr. Wellington Zangari

Dr. Fatima R. Machado

Dr. Fatima R. Machado

Here is a translation of selected parts of Parra’s editorial introduction:

“In this special issue we explore the experience of mediumship in three countries: Argentina, Brazil, the United States, and the United Kingdom . . .

Alejandro Parra studies psychological variables in individuals with mediumistic experiences in two samples (believers in the paranormal and university students), who present, in general, three type of experiences associated to mediumship . . . [such as] apparition experiences, sense of presence and possession which are related to personality variables (for example ‘positive’ schizotypy) and other perceptual variables (for example, absorption, dissociation and imagery).

Elizabeth C. Roxburgh analizes phenomenology based on the experience of accounts of hearing voices in spiritualist contexts, particularly in British spiritualist churches. According to the author, the experience of hearing voices is validated and ‘normalized’ in some cultures and social or family contexts to understand and control the experience and to avoid psychopathology . . . Roxburgh concludes defending a relational approach of the phenomenon of hearing voices, through which those persons who participate actively in a dialog with their voices can understand their characteristics and their meaning.

Julie Beischel thinks that the information given by mediums is important not only for scientific and social reasons but also because it presents relevant information for the study of survival . . . [of death] There are also practical social aplications, for example, alleviate suffering due to mourning . . . Her main objective is to examine carefully spiritualist séances using a procedure based on blind judging and specific techniques for the selection of participants used at the Windbridge Institute in the United States to study the reception of anomalous information in mediums.

Finally, Everton Maraldi, Wellington Zangari, and Fatima Machado focus their efforts in the historical evaluation of the practice of mediumship in Brazil. The authors discuss its possible relation to mental disorders from an intrapsychic and psychosocial perspective, going through a series of stages ranging from the process of ‘Asimilation’ or the formation of representations of the beliefs of mediums, ‘Surrender’ (allowing for possession), ‘Training’ to achieve psychological and bodily adaptation, ‘Creation’” (a period of ‘creative incubation), and ‘Manifestation and Verification’ to determine the spiritual nature of the phenomenon. The authors argue that mediumship is a practice that contributes to organize the emotional experiences of the individual . . .”

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

Handbook of ParapsychologyOver the years many of us have found a basic reference work of great help. I am referring to the Handbook of Parapsychology, edited by Benjamin B. Wolman, with the assistance of associate editors Laura A. Dale, Gertrude R. Schmeidler, and Montague Ullman (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1977). While still useful, the book has been in need of an update for a long time, since it was published over 30 years ago. Fortunately we now have such an update: Parapsychology: A Handbook for the 21st Century (Jefferson, NC : McFarland, 2015; Print ISBN: 978-0-7864-7916-0, softcover, Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4766-2105-0, 424 pp.; to order click here), edited by Etzel Cardeña, John Palmer,  and David Marcusson-Clavertz.

Cardena et al Parapsychology

Dr. Etzel Cardeña

Dr. Etzel Cardeña

Dr. John Palmer

Dr. John Palmer

David Marcusson-Clavertz

David Marcusson-Clavertz

The book, which won an award from the Parapsychological Association, is not a mere second edition of the first Handbook. In addition to different editors, it also covers some different areas and topics, while keeping to the subject matter of the original. The table of contents can be found here.

PA Book AwardFollowing a preface by the editors, the book is organized in nine sections: Basic Concepts, Research Methods and Statistical Approaches, Psychology and Psi, Physics and Psi, Psi Phenomena: Anomalous Cognition, Perturbation and Force, Psi Phenomena: Research on Survival, Practical Applications, and To Sum It Up. These sections include 31 chapters.

Dr. Serena Roney-Dougal

Dr. Serena Roney-Dougal

The book is an excellent follow-up to the 1977 Handbook and, overall, an indispensable reference work for the serious student of parapsychology. The emphasis is on experimental work, as seen in chapters such as “Ariadne’s Thread: Meditation and Psi” (by Serena M. ­Roney-Dougal), “Explicit Anomalous Cognition: A Review of the Best Evidence in Ganzfeld, Forced Choice, Remote Viewing and Dream Studies” (Johann Baptista, Max Derakhshani and Patrizio E. Tressoldi), “Implicit Anomalous Cognition” (John Palmer), “Psi and Psychophysiology” (Dean Radin and Alan Pierce), “Experimental Research on Distant Intention Phenomena” (Stefan Schmidt), “Micro-Psychokinesis” (Mario Varvoglis and Peter A. Bancel), “Experimenter Effects in Parapsychology Research” (John Palmer and Brian Millar), and “Implicit Physical Psi: The Global Consciousness Project” (Roger D. Nelson).   

Dr. Dean Radin

Dr. Dean Radin

Dr. Stephan Schmidt

Dr. Stephan Schmidt

Dr. Roger Nelson

Dr. Roger Nelson

Dr. Antonia Mills

Dr. Antonia Mills

But there are also discussions about non-experimental work. This includes “Macro-Psychokinesis” (Stephen E. Braude), “Reincarnation: Field Studies and Theoretical Issues Today” (Antonia Mills and Jim B. Tucker), “Ghosts and Poltergeists: An Eternal Enigma” (Michaeleen Maher), and “Psi in Everyday Life: Nonhuman and Human” (Rupert Sheldrake).

Interestingly, a few chapters combine experimental and non-experimental work. In addition to mine, which I mention below, examples of this are “Physical Correlates of Psi” (Adrian Ryan ), and “Drugs and Psi Phenomena” (David Luke) and, to some extent, “States, Traits, Cognitive Variables and Psi” (Etzel Cardeña and David ­Marcusson-Clavertz).

Adrian Ryan

Adrian Ryan

Dr. David Luke

Dr. David Luke

In addition to the above mentioned papers about reincarnation and hauntings and poltergeists, a section about the topic of survival of death has several of the most interesting articles in the volume. In my view the best of these is “Mental Mediumship” (Julie Beischel and Nancy L. Zingrone). In addition, there was a discussion of ”Electronic Voice Phenomena” (Mark R. Leary and Tom Butler), a topic seldom discussed in books of this sort.

Dr. Mark Leary

Dr. Mark Leary

Dr. Patrizio Tressoldi

Dr. Patrizio Tressoldi

There are also chapters about approaches to the study of psychic phenomena, namely “Experimental Methods in Anomalous Cognition and Anomalous Perturbation Research” (John Palmer) and “Research Methods with Spontaneous Case Studies” (Emily Williams Kelly and Jim B. Tucker), and “Macro-Psychokinesis: Methodological Concerns” (Graham Watkins). Statistical issues are discussed by Patrizio E. Tressoldi and Jessica Utts in “Statistical Guidelines for Empirical Studies.”

Dr. Emily W. Kelly

Dr. Emily W. Kelly

Dr. Jessica Utts

Dr. Jessica Utts

Criticisms of parapsychology also receive attention in the volume’s preface, “Reintroducing Parapsychology.” Cardeña, ­Marcusson-Clavertz, and Palmer, present 12 invalid criticisms of parapsychology. Some of them are that parapsychology does not utilize the scientific method, that only individuals with poor reasoning skills or biases believe in psychic phenomena, that the statistical evidence has been explained away, and that proposing a hypothetical conventional explanation is enough to discount many findings in the field regardless of the unlikeliness of the explanation.

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

I was glad to be the second author on a chapter in this new book, the opening article, after the preface, written with Nancy L. Zingrone and Gerd H. Hövelmann. Our paper, “An Overview of Modern Developments in Parapsychology,” was divided in the following sections: Research Topics and Approaches, Scholarly Work: History, Religion and Other Disciplines, Conceptual and Disciplinary Approaches, Influential Conceptual Frameworks, Methodological and Statistical Developments, and Social Aspects: Criticism and Institutional Developments. Because we believe that parapsychology is an international discipline, we made an effort to include references published in languages other than English, something not done by many other authors, even when relevant material exists.

It is interesting to see a chapter presenting a skeptical view of parapsychology,  “The Case Against Psi,” by Douglas Stokes. Cardeña argued in the last chapter, in my opinion correctly, that the critique was anything but convincing. Certainly criticism and skepticism are important in science, and particularly in a field so controversial as parapsychology. Critical views are frequently presented in this work, but they are critiques that are not destructive, that seek to improve the field instead as to close it, or dismiss it, as seen in the works of some critics.

Dr. Douglas Stokes

Dr. Douglas Stokes

Dr. Edward Kelly

Dr. Edward Kelly

Other topics also receive attention. Examples are those about conceptual issues: “Parapsychology in Context: The Big Picture” (Edward F. Kelly), “Psychological Concepts of Psi Function: A Review and Constructive Critique” (Rex G. Stanford), “Psi and Biology: An Evolutionary Perspective” (Richard S. Broughton), and “Quantum Theory and Parapsychology” (Brian Millar). In addition, there are chapters about “Exceptional Experiences (ExE) in Clinical Psychology” (Martina Belz and Wolfgang Fach), and “Applied Psi” (Paul H. Smith and Garret Moddel).

Dr. Rex Stanford

Dr. Rex Stanford

Dr. Martina Belz

Dr. Martina Belz

Gerd H. Hövelmann

Gerd H. Hövelmann

The book ends with two very interesting contributions. In “On the Usefulness of Parapsychology for Science at Large” Hövelmann argued that “The suggestion of a known or presumed lack of usefulness of parapsychology for science in general is … a chimera, an uninformed invention in historical scientific terms of less than conscientious minds that are not aware of the actual facts” (p. 391). The author presents examples of contributions, which include statistical techniques and early research on dissociation. Certainly as Adam Crabtree, Regina Plas and others have shown, the early psychical research movement was an active contributor not only to dissociation studies, but also to the development of the concept of the subconscious mind.

The very final paper, by one of the editors, is “On Negative Capability and Parapsychology: Personal Reflections” (Etzel Cardeña). He writes that even though we have learned some things after the publication of the 1977 Handbook, we have to recognize how little we know about the phenomena in question. “The various analyses . . . documented in this tome show in my mind a too remarkable regularity to be explained away by wholly or partly dishonest researchers, . . . thus I conclude that we do have evidence for something like what we call psi. Nonetheless, the small effect sizes and lack of ability to design an experiment that would almost certainly produce evidence also signifies that we are very far from understanding psi . . .” (p. 400).

There are, of course, omissions that may be due to the length of the book and to other practical problems. A notable one is the lack of a chapter about near-death experiences. This area has become too important not to receive specific attention. I would also have liked to see long discussions of OBEs and healing. While there is a chapter about statistics, the volume would have been improved with one about the various modern ways to conduct qualitative analysis.

But these omissions in no way detract from the immense amount of work in the compilation of this volume, and the high quality of the discussions in the individual chapters. The editors are to be congratulated for producing such an important summary of many of the areas, topics and problems related to modern parapsychology.

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

I am glad to have an interview with Dr. Fatima Regina Machado, who I have visited in her country, Brazil, as well as her husband and colleague Dr. Wellington Zangari. I first met Fatima in 1993 when she came to Durham, North Carolina, to participate in the now defunct parapsychology Summer Study Program at what was then known as the Institute of Parapsychology. I was lecturing there at the time.

Dr. Fatima Regina Machado

Dr. Fatima Regina Machado

For many years Fatima has been working—sometimes with Wellington—on behalf of parapsychology in an academic setting in Brazil. She is in fact a pioneer in this field in her country, and her accomplishments are clear both in the interview below as well as in the bibliography that follows. Two of her main areas of interest are poltergeist phenomena and surveys of psychic experiences. Fatima, interestingly, is the only person I know who has two doctoral degrees, as you can see in her interview below. She has PhDs in psychology (social psychology, University of São Paulo, 2009), and in Communication and Semiotics (Pontifical University of São Paulo, 2003).

One of her most important contributions was the report of the results of her second PhD dissertation “Experiências Anômalas na Vida Cotidiana: Experiências Extra-Sensório-Motoras e sua Associação com Crenças, Atitudes e Bem-estar Subjetivo” (Anomalous Experiences in Daily Life: Extrasensorimotor Experiences and their Association with Beliefs, Attitudes and Well-being, Institute for Psychology, University of São Paulo, 2009). The article, “Experiências Anômalas (Extra-Sensório-Motoras) na Vida Cotidiana e sua Associação com Crenças, Atitudes e Bem-Estar Subjetivo,” appeared in the Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia (2010, 30, 462-483). This was important for at least two reasons. First, it appeared in a prestigious forum of Brazilian psychology, a journal published by the Academia Paulista de Psicologia (Paulist Academy of Psychology). Second, this work has inspired similar studies which are currently being conducted by doctoral students.

Other contributions include the following: Machado, F.R. (2009). Field Investigations on Hauntings and Poltergeists. Utrecht II: Charting the Future of Parapsychology. New York: Parapsychology Foundation / Het Johan Borgmanfonds Foundation, 115-150; Radin, D.I., Machado, F.R., & Zangari, W. (2002). Effects of Distant Healing Intention Through Time & Space: Two Exploratory Studies. Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine Journal, 11, 34-58; Machado, F.R., & Zangari, W. (2001). Parapsychology in Brazil: A Science Entering Adulthood. Journal of Parapsychology, 65, 351-356; Machado, F.R. (2001). A New Look on Hauntings and Poltergeist Phenomena: Proposal of a Semiotic Perspective of Analysis. In J. Houran & ; R. Lange (Eds.), Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 227-247; Machado, F.R., & Zangari, W. (2000). The Poltergeist in Brazil: A Review of the Literature in Context. International Journal of Parapsychology, 11, 105-132.


Rhine Canais OcultosHow did you get interested in parapsychology?
When I was a little girl I liked hearing ghost stories and folklore tales. My grandfathers were really good story tellers. My father’s father was very credulous about supernatural events. My mother’s father was a scientist and always had a naturalistic explanation for the cases I was told. I grew up hearing those fascinating stories, and I always considered the naturalistic explanations also fascinating, very elucidating. In high school, we had a short course on parapsychology taught by a priest who had a Catholic approach to the supposed paranormal events and not very convincing answers to my many questions on the subject. It was quite disappointing to me at that time. After finishing high school, I attended another parapsychology course where they would supposedly explain how telepathy and clairvoyance work and teach some techniques with which we would be able to control our minds and to have extrasensory experiences. But that course did not convince me either. When I went to college in 1991, I met Wellington Zangari, who was really interested in parapsychology from a scientific point of view. He was studying it for some years already. I have to thank him for introducing me to the field. It was a surprise for me to discover that very serious people were studying systematically psychokinetic and extrasensory phenomena/experiences. The first books I had contact with were, in Portuguese, Canais Ocultos do Espírito (Hidden Channels of the Mind), written by Louisa Rhine, and Magia e Parapsicologia, a book on the history of parapsychology written by Bruno Fantoni; and in English, Foundations of Parapsychology, by Edge, Morris, Palmer and Rush, and the Handbook of Parapsychology, organized by Benjamin B. Wollman. A new world was opened to me and I was getting more and more interested. Zangari (who later became my husband) had already founded an institute for parapsychology in São Paulo. Some courses were offered and there was a study group who had meetings weekly. Soon I got involved with the institute activities and left my job (I was an elementary school teacher) to be devoted to the field.

Fantoni Magia y ParapsicologiaWhat are your main interests in the field and how have you contributed to its development?

I am especially interested in the meaning and relevance of psi experiences for the experiencers’ lives. Because I understand that psi experiences are part of daily life and have something to reveal about human nature and the way we interact with our environment – independently of its ontological status, but also because of its possible ontological reality – I invested efforts in developing academic research related to the field in Brazil. In order to do that I helped to introduce the topic into the academy in Brazil primarily through my master’s thesis and Ph.D dissertations. My master’s thesis was A Causa dos Espíritos: Um Estudo sobre a Utilização da Parapsicologia para a Defesa da Fé Católica e Espírita no Brasil (The Cause of the Spirits: A Study on the Use of Parapsychology to the Defense of the Catholic and Spiritist Faiths in Brazil, Sciences of Religion Post-Graduation Program, Pontifical University of São Paulo, 1996). I have two PhD degrees. My first dissertation was A Ação dos Signos nos Poltergeists: Estudo do Processo de Comunicação dos Fenômenos Poltergeist a Partir de seus Relatos (The Action of Signs in Poltergeists: Study of the Communication Process of Poltergeist Phenomena from their Accounts, Communication and Semiotics Post-Graduation Program, Pontifical University of São Paulo, 2003). The second one was Experiências Anômalas na Vida Cotidiana: Experiências Extra-Sensório-Motoras e sua Associação com Crenças, Atitudes e Bem-estar Subjetivo (Anomalous Experiences in Daily Life: Extrasensorimotor Experiences and their Association with Beliefs, Attitudes and Well-being, Institute for Psychology, University of São Paulo, 2009).

Title Page of Machado's Dissertation About Anomalous Experiences

Title Page of Machado’s Dissertation About Anomalous Experiences

As a professional, I consider that exchanging information with the international scientific community is essential for the development of the field because it helps to break barriers and to expand perspectives. In 1993, I attended the Summer Study Program at Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (today the Rhine Research Center) and it was a great opportunity to get in contact with researchers of the international community and to present what was happening in the Brazilian context in terms of interest, studies and efforts. I became the first Brazilian woman to become a Parapsychological Association member (currently I am a member of its Board of Directors), and since 2001 Zangari and I are International Affiliates of the Parapsychology Foundation. I should also say that the PF was really important to us in terms of support, as was the support of some persons such as Nancy L. Zingrone, Carlos S. Alvarado, and Stanley Krippner, who have served as bridges for my international activities.

I have also done some experimental research, but my expertise is case studies (especially poltergeist ones) and surveys. Zangari and I have been working together in order to develop research and spread good quality information in our country, where the term parapsychology is badly used, confusing the field with all sort of practices. We worked to transform the former independent institute/study group into a research group in academia. Attending and participating in conferences and seminars in different fields of studies was a strategy to present information and break barriers and prejudices against the field. All these actions, combined with the maintenance of our research group, have helped to motivate more people to do research and to present good quality information.

Why do you think that parapsychology is important?

For my PhD in Psychology, I did a survey that shows that 82.7% of the participants (N = 306) reported having had at least one psi experience (ESP or PK), and the majority of them considered their psi experience(s) important or relevant to their lives. Brazil seems to be a country where we can find a high prevalence of psi experiences. Also surveys in other countries show considerable prevalences of psi experiences. This cannot be dismissed. It demonstrates that psi experiences are part of daily life and I believe that they are clues to reveal some aspects of human nature and the way we interact with the environment (independently of its ontological status, but also because of its possible ontological reality) which we still do not understand. Parapsychology is important because it is a field devoted to the investigation of psi and to attempts to obtain and assess scientific evidence for its support. And beyond that, due to the intricate nature of the subject to be investigated, it has the double effect of provoking very interesting debates among scientists (at least among those who are not prejudicially opposed to it) and of improving methodological procedures and conceptual advances, independently (or maybe exactly because) of the surrounding controversies.

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

Despite all efforts to “clean up” the popular image of “parapsychology,” as a misused term, we still find some resistance to it. It can be problematic when you ask for grants in Brazil, for instance – and a research field needs resources to keep growing. However, as I said before, I have not met opposition to the study of psi. On the contrary: the interest in studying psi is growing and growing in Brazil. Recently (2010) our research group adopted the term Anomalistic Psychology to designate our field of study, expanding the spectrum of interests. This has attracted more students and interested people in general, besides contributing to the improvement of the dialogue with other study areas and the insertion of psi research into the scientific mainstream. It does not mean that we have abandoned parapsychology. Now we have more possibilities to encourage people to listen to us and understand the relevance of (scientific and serious) parapsychological studies.

Another problem I see in parapsychology as a scientific field is the still poor replicability of psi experiments – not only because of the nature of psi, but also because I do not see many researchers involved in replications of experiments. I think we could also do more replications in cross-cultural studies (never forgetting spontaneous case studies, of course!). It would, for sure, improve the data base and this could help in the development of experimental procedures.

Can you mention some of your current projects?

In Brazil we are living a very special moment in terms of interest in academic research of parapsychological experiences. From 1999 to 2009 our research group was based at Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, where I was a PhD student and latter, a teacher, and it was very important to develop activities and to mature. In 2009, Zangari and I began a project to establish our research group (now called Inter Psi – Laboratory of Anomalistic Psychology and Psychosocial Processes) at the University of São Paulo (USP), the most important public university in the country. Since 2010, our laboratory has been established at USP. I have co-supervised several activities which have been developed with the help of Zangari’s graduate students who have, in turn, worked on master theses or in PhD dissertations (and now we have two post-doctoral fellows). The topics these students have worked on have included anomalous experiences in general (surveys, experimental, field and case studies), and especially ESP, PK, OBEs, UFO abductions and mediumistic experiences. Besides individual research projects, there are some collective projects being developed by different groups of Inter Psi’s participants. We intend to train graduate students to establish their own groups after they finish their doctorates and start working in other universities. In addition to these activities, we have also worked to establish international agreements to do cross-cultural research and exchange students with other universities. We have already received the visit of outstanding foreign researchers such as Nancy L. Zingrone, Carlos S. Alvarado, Stanley Krippner, Chris Roe, and Elizabeth Roxburgh.

Members of Inter Psi (Dr. Fatima Regina Machado (third from right), Dr. Wellington Zangari (fifth from right). Visitors from England: Dr. Chris Roe (first from left), and Dr. Elizabeth Roxburgh (fifth from left)

Members of Inter Psi (Dr. Fatima Regina Machado (third from right), Dr. Wellington Zangari (fifth from right). Visitors from England: Dr. Chris Roe (first from left), and Dr. Elizabeth Roxburgh (fifth from left)

In addition to Inter Psi, I am also a member of the Laboratory for Social Psychology of Religion and a member of the National Association for Research and Graduate Studies in Psychology, where I participate in the Working Group “Psychology and Religion”. In all these activities I have worked for promoting academic research of parapsychological/anomalistic experiences.

Currently I am a post-doctoral fellow of the Sciences of Religion Post-Graduation Program at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo. Among different activities, I have contributed to the dissemination of information on psi research/anomalistic psychology to graduate students, promoting the exchange of information between graduate students from Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo and the University of São Paulo, and by teaching some classes and participating in research meetings.

Now I am preparing an article on the history of parapsychology in Brazil which will be published soon, and a book chapter, co-authored with some colleagues, on Brazilian parapsychological spontaneous cases.

Selected Publications

ALVARADO, C.; MARALDI, E. O. ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. . Théodore Flournoy’s contributions to Psychical Research. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, v. 78, p. 149-168, 2014.

MARALDI, E. O. ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. ; KRIPPNER, S. . Anomalous Mental and Physical Phenomena of Brazilian Mediums: a review of the scientific literature.. In: Jack Hunter; David Luke. (Org.). (Org.). Talking with the Spirits: Ethnographies From Between the Worlds.. 1ed.Brisbane: Daily Grail Publishing, 2014, v. 1, p. 259-301.

MARTINS, L. B. ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. . Possibilidades Darwinistas para o Estudo das Experiências Anômalas. In: Clarissa de Franco; Rodrigo Petronio. (Org.). Crença e Evidência: Aproximações e controvérias entre religião e teoria evolucionária no pensamento contemporâneo. 1ed.São Leopoldo: UNISINOS, 2014, v. 1, p. 127-153.

ZANGARI, W. ; MARALDI, E. O. ; MARTINS, L. B. ; MACHADO, F. R. . Estados Alterados de Consciência e Religião. In: João Décio Passos; Frank Usarski. (Org.). Compêndio de Ciência da Religião. 1ed.São Paulo: Paulinas; Paulus, 2013, v. 1, p. 423-435.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. . The Paradoxal Disappearance of Parapsychology in Brazil. Journal of Parapsychology, v. 76, p. 65-67, 2012.

MARALDI, E. O. ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. A Psicologia das Crenças Paranormais: Uma Revisão Crítica. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 31, p. 394-421, 2011.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. . Por Uma Psicologia Anomalística Inclusiva. In: VII Encontro Psi: Pesquisa Psi e Psicologia Anomalística, 2011, Curitiba. Livro de Registro dos Trabalhos Apresentados no VII Encontro Psi: Pesquisa Psi e Psicologia Anomalística. Curitiba: UNIBEM, 2011. v. 1. p. 162-166.

MARALDI, E. O. ; MACHADO, F. R. ; ZANGARI, W. . Importance of a Psychosocial Approach for a Comprehensive Understanding of Mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, v. 24, p. 181-186, 2010.

MACHADO, F. R. . Experiências anômalas (extra-sensório-motoras) na vida cotidiana e sua associação com crenças, atitudes e bem-estar subjetivo. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 30, p. 462-483, 2010.

MACHADO, F. R. Field Investigations on Hauntings and Poltergeists. Utrecht II: Charting The Future of Parapsychology Proceedings of an International Conference. New York: Parapsychology Foundation; Het Johan Borgmanfonds Foundation: The Netherlands. p. 115 – 150, 2009.

MACHADO, F. R. Algumas reflexões sobre as implicações dos estudos da psicocinesia na compreensão da consciência e da espiritualidade. In: V Encontro Psi: A Variedade das Experiências Humanas, 2009, Recife. Livro de Registro dos Trabalhos Apresentados – V Encontro Psi. Curitiba: FBM, 2009. v. 1. p. 15-24.

MACHADO, F. R. . Parapsicologia no Brasil: Entre a Cruz e a mesa Branca. Ceticismo Aberto,, 2009 (publicado originalmente em 2005).

MACHADO, F. R. . Consciência, Espiritualidade e Psicocinesia: Limites e Possibilidades de Estudo. In: III Simpósio Nacional sobre Consciência, 2008, Salvador. Artigos apresentados no III Simpósio Nacional Sobre Consciência. Salvador: Fundação Ocidemnte, 2008. v. 3. p. 1-16.

ALVARADO, C. S. ; MACHADO, F. R. ; ZANGARI, W. ; ZINGRONE, N. L. . Perspectivas históricas da influência da mediunidade na construção de idéias psicológicas e psiquiátricas. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica, v. 34, p. 42-53, 2007.

MACHADO, F. R. . Da Composição dos Casos Poltergeist. In: II Encontro Psi: Refletindo sobre o Futuro da Parapsicologia, 2004, Curitiba. Livro de Registro de Trabalhos Apresentados. Curitiba: Campus Universitário Bezerra de Menezes, 2004. v. 1. p. 51-62.

MACHADO, F. R. . Função e Significado dos Poltergeist: Uma abordagem semiótica.. In: 6ª Jornada do Centro de Estudos Peirceanos, 2003, São Paulo. Caderno da 6ª Jornada do Centro de Estudos Peirceanos. São Paulo: CEPE, 2003. v. 1. p. 30-43.

MACHADO, F. R. . Poltergeist: Un juego semiótico. Revista Argentina de Psicología Paranormal, Buenos Aires, v. 13, n.3, p. 181-195, 2002.

RADIN, D. I. ; MACHADO, F. R. ; ZANGARI, W. . Effects of Distant Healing Intention Through Time & Space: Two Exploratory Studies. Subtle Energies And Energy Medicine Journal, v. XI, n.3, p. 34-58, 2002.

MACHADO, F. R.; ZANGARI, W.. Parapsychology in Brazil: A Science entering adulthood. The Journal Of Parapsychology, Durham, NC – USA, v. 65, n.4, p. 351-356, 2001.

MACHADO, F. R. . A new look on hauntings and poltergeist phenomena: Proposal of a semiotic perspective of analysis. In: James Houran; Rense Lange. (Org.). Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. 1ed.Jefferson, NC, USA: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2001, v. 1, p. 227-247.

MACHADO, F. R.; ZANGARI, W. The Poltergeist in Brazil: A Review of the Literature in Context. International Journal Of Parapsychology, Nova Iorque, v. 11, n.1, p. 105-132, 2000.

MACHADO, F. R. ; ZANGARI, W. Estudo de três casos poltergeist em São Paulo. In: Tercer Encuentro Psi 1998: Consciencia y Psi como Fronteras de Exploración Cientifica, 1998, Buenos Aires. Actas del Tercer Encuentro Psi 1998. Buenos Aires: IPP, 1998. v. 1. p. 75-81.

ALVARADO, C. S. ; MACHADO, F. R. ; ZINGRONE, N. . Métodos de Investigación en Parapsicología (Parte II). Boletim Aipa, Buenos Aires, v. 2, n.1(3), p. 9-12, 1998.

ZANGARI, W.;  MACHADO, F. R. . The Adolescent Science: Parapsychology in Brazil. The Journal Of The American Society For Psychical Research, Nova Iorque, v. 91, p. 110-121, 1997.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. A Psicologia do Ganzfeld (Parte I). Jornal de Parapsicologia, Braga, v. 38, p. 2-3, 1997.

ZANGARI, W.; MACHADO, F. R. . A Psicologia do Ganzfeld (Parte II). Jornal de Parapsicologia, Braga, v. 39, p. 2-3, 1997.

MACHADO, F. R. . A Questão da Nomenclatura em Parapsicologia. Anuário Brasileiro de Parapsicologia, Recife, v. 2, p. 31-45, 1997.

ALVARADO, C. S. ; MACHADO, F. R. ; ZINGRONE, N. . Métodos de Investigación en Parapsicología (ParteI). Boletim Aipa, Buenos Aires, v. 1, p. 13-16, 1997.

MACHADO, F. R. ; ALVARADO, C. S. . Sobre o provincianismo em Parapsicologia. In: I Congresso Internacional e Brasileiro de Parapsicologia, 1997, Recife. Anais do I Congresso Internacional e Brasileiro de Parapsicologia. Recife: IPPP, 1997. v. 1. p. 75-88.

Zangari, W.; MACHADO, F. R. . Survey: Incidence and Social Relevance of Brazilian University Students’Psychic Experiences. European Journal Of Parapsychology, Edimburgo, v. 12, p. 75-87, 1996.

MACHADO, F. R. ; ZANGARI, W. A Psicologia do Poltergeist. Jornal de Parapsicologia, Braga, v. 36, p. 11-16, 1996.

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. . Incidencia y Importancia Social de las Experiencias Psiquicas en los Estudiantes Universitarios Brasileros. Revista Argentina de Psicologia Paranormal, Buenos Aires, v. 7, n.1(25), p. 19-35, 1996.

MACHADO, F. R. . Considerações sobre ética e educação em Parapsicologia no Brasil. In: XIII Simpósio Pernambucano de Parapsicologia, 1995, Recife. Anais do XIII Simpósio Pernambucano de Parapsicologia. Recife: IPPP, 1995. v. 1. p. 76-82.

MACHADO, F. R. Um Fantasma em Minha Casa? Uma Introdução ao fenômeno de poltergeist ou RSPK. Revista Brasileira de Parapsicologia, São Paulo, v. 4, p. 8-15, 1994.

MACHADO, F. R. A Importância da Educação em Parapsicologia. Revista Brasileira de Parapsicologia, São Paulo, v. 3, p. 27-29, 1993.

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

Mediumship MorganHistorically few topics have been so important for the study of psychic phenomena as mediumship (both mental and physical). Spiritualism was spread mainly through the performances of early mediums who fostered both belief and skepticism in such phenomena as spirit communications and materializations. In addition, the communications produced by mediums presented teachings about life after death and other topics that provided the philosophical background for the movement. An example of this is the importance of such teachings in French Spiritism.

Edmonds Dexter Spiritualism 1853b

Kardec Livre des Esprits 1857

Charles Richet

Charles Richet

Similarly, mediumship contributed to psychical research in various ways. The most obvious contribution is that the phenomenon provided a topic of study. Many of the efforts of early psychical researchers were focused on mental and physical mediums to the point that Charles Richet wrote, exaggerating the issue, “there is no metapsychics without a medium” (Traité de Métapsychique, Paris: Félix Alcan, 1922, p. 38).

Richet Traite de metapsychique 4

D.D. Home

D.D. Home

More than any other phenomena the performances of mediums provided an opportunity to study a recurrent form of psychic phenomena that allowed for repeated observations and, consequently, the imposition of controls such as in the case of the investigations of medium D.D. Home by William Crookes. These, and many later research efforts—the work of members of the Society for Psychical with medium Leonora E. Piper being another example—contributed to the development of psychical research as an organized field.

Leonora E. Piper

Leonora E. Piper

Hyslop, J.H. (1901). A further record of observations of certain phenomena of trance. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 16, 1-649.

Hyslop, J.H. (1901). A further record of observations of certain phenomena of trance. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 16, 1-649.

Repeated studies with mediums allowed psychical researchers to develop a variety of methods. In addition to controls put in place to guard against such problems as fraud and sensory cues, mediumship provided the opportunity for the use of verbatim recording of mediumistic mentation, and for the development of statistical techniques to assess for chance, such as those used by H.F. Saltmarsh with Mrs. Warren Elliot (see “Report on the Investigation of Some Sittings with Mrs. Warren Elliott.” Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1929, 39, 47-184). In addition, investigations with physical mediums such as D.D. Home and Eusapia Palladino stimulated the development of instrumental studies in psychical research.

Instruments Used by William Crookes to Test D.D. Home (Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism. London: J. Burns, 1874).

Instruments Used by William Crookes to Test D.D. Home (Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism. London: J. Burns, 1874).

Instruments used by Bottazzi with Palladino ( Bottazzi, P. (The unexplored regions of human biology: Observations and experiments. Annals of Psychical Science, with Eusapia Paladino. Annals of Psychical Science, 6, 1907, 149–156, 260–290, 377–422.

Instruments used by Bottazzi with Palladino ( Bottazzi, P. The unexplored regions of human biology: Observations and experiments. Annals of Psychical Science, with Eusapia Paladino. Annals of Psychical Science, 6, 1907, 149–156, 260–290, 377–422).

Pierre Janet

Pierre Janet

But mediumship was also important for the development of conceptual issues, among them the question of survival of bodily death, and of ideas about the subconscious mind and dissociation, as can be seen in Pierre Janet’s L’Automatisme Psychologique (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1889). He believed that mediumship was similar to hypnotic states and hysteria in that it illustrated the “disaggregation of personal perception and . . . the formation of several personalities that are both successive and simultaneously developed” (p. 413).

Janet  L'Automatisme Psychologique 1889Like hysteria, hypnosis, and other phenomena influential in nineteenth-century psychology and psychiatry, mediumship was more than a mere curiosity. By focusing research and theoretical interests mediumship was instrumental in advancing psychical research—and to some extent dynamic psychology and psychiatry—both conceptually and methodologically.

For further reading and bibliography see my articles:

(2003). The concept of survival of bodily death and the development of parapsychology. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 67, 65-95.

(2013). Mediumship and psychical research. In C. Moreman (Ed.), The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and Around the World (Vol. 2, pp. 127-144). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

*This appeared before as: The importance of mediumship research. Paranthropology: Journal of Anthropological Approaches to the Paranormal, 2(1), 22-23.

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

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

In a recent publication I reported, with Nancy L. Zingrone, a study of out-of-body experiences: “Features of out-of-body experiences: Relationships to frequency, wilfulness and previous knowledge about the experience” (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 2015, 79, 98-111). Here is the abstract:

“This study examined the relationship to other variables of a count of features of out-of-body experiences (OBEs), compiled as an OBE Feature Index. Following Blackmore’s (1984b) psychological model of OBEs it was predicted that there would be positive correlations between the Index and measures of OBE frequency and of deliberate OBEs. We also predicted a positive relationship between the Index and previous knowledge about the experience. Eighty-eight OBE cases were obtained through appeals in newspapers, magazines, and on-line bulletin boards in Great Britain. OBE features were comparable to previous study findings. Some of the most common features of the OBE were floating sensations (71%), staying in usual surroundings (69%), seeing the physical body (65%), and seeing the surroundings from above (63%). Among the less common were the feeling that consciousness oscillated in and out of the body (1%), seeing a ray of light or cord connecting the physical body with the OB location (2%), manipulating the environment via thought (3%), and hearing music (4%). The hypotheses related to the Index were confirmed only with deliberate OBEs (rs=.35). The Index was not significantly related to demographic variables.”

Dr. Susan J. Blackmore

Dr. Susan J. Blackmore

We wrote in the discussion:

“The significant positive relationship of the frequency of deliberate OBEs and the Feature Index is consistent with Blackmore’s (1984b, 1986) OBE model, in which control in inducing the experience is thought to be related to the content of the experience in the sense that the higher the level of control, the higher the number of features in the OBE. Because control may be assumed to be related to cognitive abilities, it makes sense that these same cognitive abilities are put into use in the content of the experience, providing a more complex and varied experience. In a previous study, we found a similar result but with a different OBE Feature Index . . .”

But we also discussed alternative interpretations for this finding, as well as the hypothetical nature of Blackmore’s model. As we stated:

“However, one must be careful with ideas such as Blackmore’s that are vague about the actual process involved in the production of OBEs. At this point it is not clear what these hypothetical cognitive maps consist of, nor how they can create the variety of OBE features documented in the present study and in the studies of other researchers . . . OBE features are not easily explained by these ideas, nor by other single processes currently discussed in the literature such as vestibular pathology and visual body-part illusions . . . absorption and somatic dissociation . . ., or body image . . . Although these variables have been related to OBE occurrence, the effect sizes of these studies suggest that other factors are also involved.”

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

I recently received from its author a reprint of the following article about the Society for the Study of Consciousness: Imants Barušs, “A Vision for the Society for Consciousness Studies” (Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research, 2014, 5, 551-555).

Dr. Imants Barušs

Dr. Imants Barušs

Here is the abstract:

“This editorial is based on a presentation given by the author at the inaugural meeting of the Society for Consciousness Studies at The California Institute of Integral Studies on May 31, 2014. The author discusses the hegemony of materialism and some of the deleterious consequences of its entrenchment in the academy. In particular, research into the nature of consciousness is curtailed, those with demonstrated psychic abilities are oppressed, and little gets done to find effective interventions for resolving existential anxiety. The author’s vision for the Society for Consciousness Studies is that: (1) it is a society that values open inquiry into the nature of consciousness; (2) its members can regard themselves as leaders who are guiding the direction of consciousness studies; (3) practical projects can be undertaken to advance the open study of consciousness; (4) the society can cultivate support for the discussion of existential issues, self-transformation, and transcendent states of consciousness; and (5) the founding of the Society for Consciousness Studies can be a turning point in the history of the study of consciousness.”

One of the points the author makes is the prevalence of a materialistic outlook and the negative consequences in academia to challenge this overarching view of the world. The latter includes various forms of persecution that prevents, or at least, inhibits, open discussion and empirical studies.

Barušs continues saying that another “problem is that those who have demonstrated psychic abilities need to conceal those abilities, particularly from mental health professionals . . . There is still a widespread tendency to regard anyone who manifests or claims to have such abilities as lying, cheating, and as being mentally ill . . . A third problem brings us back to . . . the occurrence of existential angst among teenagers . . .” He also addresses the need to deal with existencial issues, a need that is generally not addressed or fulfilled by formal academic studies. In his words “rather than being marginalized in the academy, my vision is that we should see ourselves as leaders who are guiding the direction of consciousness studies. And rather than retreating from repressive institutions we should seek to transform them from within by asserting, as much as possible, our right to be part of them.”

The author would like to see the Society helping seekers and students in a practical way. “By our numbers we can seek to protect those whose academic freedom is violated because they have chosen to challenge conventional ways of thinking about consciousness. We can provide resources for those who wish to teach courses about consciousness. We can create an endowment fund to financially support research into consciousness. We can create annual awards that recognize outstanding contributions to the study of consciousness. We can create a publications office to publish academic books and journals. We can create a communications office to disseminate information about consciousness to the public as well as to solicit financial resources for an endowment fund. We can actively network with other organizations that support our goals. And we can assist other academics and professionals who become interested in consciousness.”

A few organizations have attempted to do some of this over the years, as seen in the work of the Parapsychological Association and the Society for Scientific Exploration, and the efforts of the Society for Consciousness Studies would indeed be welcome.

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

L’Ame Humaine: Ses Mouvements, ses Lumières, et l’Iconographie de l’Invisible Fluidique [The Human Soul: Its Movements, Its Lights, and the Iconography of the Fluidic Invisible] by Hippolyte Baraduc. Paris: Georges Carré, 1896. 299 pp. Available free here and here. For an English edition click here.

Dr. Hippolyte Baraduc

Dr. Hippolyte Baraduc

French physician Hippolyte Baraduc (1850–1902) was known for his writings about vital forces. In L’Ame Humaine he reported work to detect instrumentally what he believed were manifestations of the soul. While the material, he wrote, manifests “thanks to a solar or artificial exterior solar light, the fluidic invisible manifests by its own intimate and intrinsic luminous force” (p. 4, French edition). Baraduc described in the book what he believed were ways to show the reality of the “fluidic invisible.”

Baraduc Ame Humaine in Color

Baraduc La Force VitaleThe author started with what he called “biometry,” a topic he explored in a previous book (La Force Vitale: Notre Corps Vital Fluidique, sa Formule Biométrique. Paris: Georges Carré, 1893). This referred to the movements of a needle suspended from a thread believed to define certain patterns reflecting the action of the soul on the physical world. He claimed to have found that the “movements of life” showed seventeen different “formulas.” The latter refers to numerical readings of the instrument corresponding to the right and left hands, which showed attraction and repulsion of the force, respectively. Baraduc claimed he had more than one thousand observations showing that while the right side of the body attracted “cosmic life,” the left one did the opposite, pushed it back. Normal states reflected balance between right attraction and left repulsion. But some “formulas” could indicate particular health problems, including mental conditions.

Baraduc believed that his measures were not due to artifacts coming from environmental or body influences. Instead, he wrote, they were due to “our own animic movements, those of the Soul in its physical and psychical manifestations” (p. 26).

Other parts of the book were about the photography of invisible forces. With the exception of some electrophotography, this was mainly achieved using conventional photographic equipment taking photos in darkness, hoping that the plaque was affected “by the effluvia, the emanations, the intimate vibrations” (p. 34) of the target object. The soul, usually invisible to the human eye, was believed by Baraduc to be able to impress a photographic plate. He postulated the existence of seven different emanations.

Somod: Od with White and Black Points) (Without electricity or hands in contact with plate)

Somod: Od with White and Black Points)
(Without electricity or hands in contact with plate)

Psychicone Broken Down by Electricity (No camera, with contact of hand)

Psychicon Broken Down by Electricity
(No camera, with contact of hand)

The first photo presented was that of a boy feeling sorry for a dead pheasant. Baraduc claimed that some patterns seen in the photo, similar to marks made by a brush, were a photographic record of the vital force of the child reflecting his animic state. These and many other anomalous photos were seen by the author as proof of the existence of these forces. In addition to Od, which he described as the threads of the cosmic life, he referred to other forces or subtle bodies, among them the ones he called Somod, Psychicon, and Ob.

Boy Feeling Sorry for the Pheasant

Boy Feeling Sorry for the Pheasant

In the Conclusion Baraduc hoped that his readers believed that there was a soul. Unfortunately, his language and assumptions were unclear at best. No empirical evidence was presented for countless affirmations about the nature of these forces and their interactions and functions. An example was the assertion that: “The physical soul is the product of the vital instinct of the inferior cosmos” (p. 288). It is actually very difficult to follow the author’s way of thinking, and his theoretical assumptions seem to take on a life of their own. To complicate matters, in the last pages of the book Baraduc related some of his ideas to religious teachings and to concepts of universal life and its essence. Nonetheless the book is an excellent example of late nineteenth-century Western ideas of psychic forces and their medical and spiritual implications.


These comments appeared in my essay review: Unorthodox concepts of force and psychic phenomena. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2011, 25, 121-130.

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

Dr. Hoyt Edge is a philosopher with a long track record of work in parapsychology (for an interview click here). He is well known for two types of contributions. As a philosopher he has written about philosophical issues in parapsychology. But he has also conducted many experiments, perhaps the most interesting being his studies in Bali. Examples of these contributions include:

(2009). There is No Mind-Body Problem in Parapsychology. In C. Roe, W. Kramer, & L. Coly, (Eds). Utrecht II: Charting the future of Parapsychology. New York: Parapsychology Foundation, 421-462; (2002). Two Cognitive DMILS Studies in Bali (with Luh Ketut Suryani, Niko Tiliopoulos, and Robert Morris), Journal of Parapsychology, 68, 289-321; (2002). Philosophy of Mind and Parapsychology. In Frontiers of Human Science, V. Gowari Rammohan, (Ed.). Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 30-45; and (1982). The Use of the Pendulum as an Automatism. In Research in Parapsychology 1981. Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 193-95.

Dr. Hoyt Edge

Dr. Hoyt Edge

Hoyt, who I see here and there in conventions, is retired from Rollins College, where he was the Hugh F. and Jeannette G. McKean Professor of Philosophy and an Associate Dean. In 1989 he was elected President of the Parapsychological Association.


How did you get interested in parapsychology?

Cassadaga, the winter retreat for spiritualists, was only several miles away from Stetson University, where I went to college. I took a date there one time on a lark, and picked out a medium randomly by his sign on the street. We had readings, but the empty six pack of beer on the floor beside him did not seem to have helped him much. However, I kept hearing about a special medium, and during graduate school when my wife and I would come to Florida, we were finally able to set up an appointment with Anne Gehman after several attempts. I don’t need to go into detail, but the reading, which was more directed to my wife since I was trying to write down everything she said, was impressive in several details. One thing she said to me, however, was that she saw me doing experiments; given that I was studying philosophy, I just laughed at that assertion.

I got a job at Rollins College, again not far from Cassadaga, and after my first class in the evening school, a student came up to me to talk. That student was Jo Marie Haight, who later studied parapsychology and made good contributions while she worked at FRNM (now the Rhine Research Center). At that time she was secretary to Anne Gehman, who had recently founded a spiritualist church in Orlando. My wife started taking a development class, and came home with some impressive stories.

Meanwhile, I was preparing for our Winter Term, in which we were supposed to offer something unusual and especially attractive to students. Because of my love for William James, and knowing his interest in psychical research, I decided to offer a course on William James and Parapsychology, during which time I immersed myself in the experimental literature, and even did an experiment with several students on dream telepathy which had an unusual but impressive result. After that, several synchronous events occurred that drew me more deeply into parapsychology, which resulted in my collaboration with James Wheatley on an edited book in the philosophical implications of parapsychology, an invitation from the Parapsychology Foundation to a conference, and while directing a group of students attending college in Freiburg, Germany, being asked by Eberhard Bauer to contribute my first parapsychology article in the Zeitschrift für Parapsychologie und Grenzgebiete der Psychologie (Journal of Parapsychology and Border Areas of Psychology).

So, my interest in parapsychology did not develop because of any psychic event that I had personally had (although the reading was impressive in some respects), but more because it spoke to the question I was interested in philosophically, the nature of the person.

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

I’ve had a rather Janus–like existence in parapsychology. On the one hand, I have had a philosophical interest stemming from my life-long interest in investigating the nature of the person, and examining how parapsychological phenomena impact our understanding of the person–in terms of human nature, cognition, and knowledge. But because I was focusing on the experimental literature, I tried my hand on a number of experimental projects, sometimes with students who were taking courses in parapsychology that I occasionally taught. Because I turned my attention over the last decades to cross-cultural studies, as another perspective from which to study human nature, it came natural that I combined these two interests, and with the kind support of the Bial Foundation, I was able to carry out a set of significant cognitive DMILS experiments in Bali, Indonesia. I and my colleagues have published the results of the first two of these, and Stefan Schmidt has included all of them in a review article. So the first half of my career was dedicated more to elucidating the philosophical implications of parapsychology, while the second half was directed more experimentally.

Why do you think that parapsychology is important?

I’ve already indicated that I believe that parapsychology is terribly important for understanding the nature of the person. Further, I think that parapsychology offers an opportunity to ask almost any question that is philosophically interesting, whether it be the mind-body problem, the nature of causation, the nature of time, whether we have free will, what counts as knowledge, and even the metaphysical question of the nature of the physical world.

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

The first problem, certainly, would be the prejudice against parapsychology, ruling it as so out of hand scientifically that one does not have to seriously examine the evidence. While this reason is inexcusable, I think that there is a more delicate and difficult reason. Because of the lack of a unifying theory (a paradigm, if you will), parapsychology might be viewed as more of a proto-science, in spite of employing excellent scientific methods. There are several reasons for this, including a paucity of research funding, and in turn a paucity of researchers. And because there are so many interesting questions in parapsychology, these few researchers tend to ask a variety of questions and often don’t develop a research program that might lead to firmer answers over time. That’s a criticism that certainly could be directed at me.

I still hope, however, and fully expect that parapsychology will continue to make progress, and might accelerate the rate. Bob Morris’ contribution in putting the number of new parapsychologists into university systems in Great Britain and the US certainly bodes well for the future.

Can you mention some of your current projects?

I retired a year ago, and while I continued to serve as treasurer of the Parapsychological Association, I have turned my attention to more retirement kinds of things: traveling, reading novels, and gardening. I’m leaving it to the younger generation to continue the work; parapsychology is in good hands.

Selected Publications


A Constructive Postmodern Perspective on Self and Community: From Atomism to Holism,    (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1994).

Foundations of Parapsychology, with Robert Morris, Joseph Rush and John Palmer (New        York and London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986).

Philosophical Dimensions of Parapsychology, co-edited with James M. O. Wheatley    (Springfield, Ill.: Charles Thomas, 1976).

Articles and Book Chapters

“Gibt Es Vorbegriffliche Beobachtungen? Kommentare zu Stefan Schmidt: Die Fliege des Aristoteles. Bemerkungen zur Anomalistik und eine Forschungsübersicht zum Zusammenhang zwischen Meditation und Psi, In Zeitschrift fuer Anomalistik, (Band 12, Nr. 2+3, 2012) 179-184.

“There is No Mind-Body Problem in Parapsychology,” in Roe, C.A., Kramer, W. & Coly, L. (Eds) (2009). Utrecht II: Charting the future of Parapsychology. New York: Parapsychology Foundation, 421-462.

“Two Cognitive DMILS Studies in Bali,” with Luh Ketut Suryani, Niko Tiliopoulos, and Robert Morris, in Journal of Parapsychology (Vol 68, No. 2, Fall, 2002), 289-321.

“Philosophy of Mind and Parapsychology” in Frontiers of Human Science, V. Gowari Rammohan, ed. Jefferson, NC:McFarland & Company, 2002, 30-45.

“Dualism and the Self: A Cross-cultural Perspective,” in Parapsychology, Philosophy, and the Mind, Fiona Steinkamp (ed), Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Publishers, 2002, 33-56.

“Extraordinary Claims in a Cross-Cultural Context,” in Proceedings of Aquem e Alem do Cerebro (Behind and Beyond the Brain). Porto, Portugal: Bial Foundation), 2000, 159-180.

“Should Ganzfeld Research Continue to be Crucial in the Search for a Replicable Psi Effect? Part II. Edited Ganzfeld Debate,” with Gertrude Schmeidler, in The Journal of Parapsychology (Vol. 63, December 1999), 335-388.

“Spirituality in the Natural and Social Worlds” in ReVision, (Vol. 18, No. 1, Summer 1995), 44-48; republished in Body, Mind and Spirit, Charles Tart, ed., (Char­lottes­ville, VA: Hampton Roads), 1997, 153-162.

“Possession in Two Balinese Trance Ceremonies,” in Anthropology of Conscious­ness (Vol. 7, No. 4, December 1996), 1-8.

“Koori Personhood: A Report on Work in Progress” in Australian Parapsy­chological Review (No. 18, 2/1991 & 3/1991).

“The Medium as Healer and Clown: An Interpretation of Mediumship in Bali,” in The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (Vol 87, April 1993), 171-83.

“The Relentless Dualist: John Beloff’s Contribution to Parapsychology,” in The Journal of Parapsychology (Vol. 55, June 1991), 209-19.

Presidential Address to the Parapsychological Association: “Psi, Self and the New Mentalism,” in Research in Parapsychology 1989 (Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press. 1990), 125-59.

“Concluding Remarks at the 1988 PF Conference: Psi Research Methodolo­gy,” Parapsychology Review (Vol 20, No 1, Jan.-Feb. 1989), 1-4.

“Mind-Body Dualism in Parapsychology,” in Philosophers at Work: An Introduction to Issues and Practical Uses of Philosophy, Elliot Cohen, ed. (New York: Holt Rinehart, 1988), 372-84.

“The Use of Physics in Answering Metaphysical Questions,” in Journal of Near-Death Studies (Vol. 6, No. 2, Winter 1987).

“Parapsychology in the Land of the Canals,” in Parapsychology Review (Vol. 17, No. 3, May-June, 1986), 11-14.

“The Dualist Tradition in Parapsychology” in European Journal of Parapsycholo­gy (Vol. 6, No. 1, November 1985), 81-93.

“Parapsychology and Atomism” in Journal of the Society for Psychical Research(Vol. 53, December 1985), 78-86.

“The Adequacy of Idealism for Model Building” in Psychoenergetic Systems (Vol. 6, December 1984).

“Some Suggestions for Methodology Derived from an Activity Metaphysics” in Parapsychology and the Experimental Method (New York: Parapsychology Founda­tion, 1982). 43-64.

“The Use of the Pendulum As an Automatism” in Research in Parapsychology 1981 (Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press 1982), 193-95.

“Plant PK: A Failure to Replicate” in Research in Parapsychology 1981 Metuch­en, NJ: The Scarecrow Press 1982), 143-44.

“Further Support for the Psi-Distributed Hypothesis” with Martin Farkash, in Research in Parapsychology 1981 (Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press 1981), 171-172.

“Die Mangel der Kritik der ‘Rationalisten’ an der Parapsychologie,” in Der Wissenschaftler und das Irrational: (Zweiter Band), H. P. Duerr, ed. (Frankfurt am Main: Syndicat 1981), 307-333.

“A Test of Runner’s Euphoria as a Psi-Conducive State,” with Wendell Wright, in Research in Parapsychology 1979 (Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press 1981), 157-158.

“The Effect of Feedback and Awareness on a PK Task,” with Kevin Burke, in Research in Parapsychology 1979 (Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1981), 158-159.

“The Effect of the Laying On of Hands on an Enzyme: An Attempted Replica­tion,” in Research in Parapsychology 1979 (Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1981), 137-139.

“Correlations of ESP Success and Biorhythms,” in the Research Let­ter, Parapsychology Lab, University of Utrecht (No. 10, August 1980), 29-41.

“Activity Metaphysics and the Survival Problem,” in Theta (Vol. 8, No. 3, Summer 1980), 5-8.

“Survival and the Meaning of Life,” American Society for Psychical Research Newsletter, (Vol. IV, July 1978), 1-2. Reprinted in Exploring Parapsycholo­gy, by The Education Department, American Society for Psychical Research.

“A Possible Case of the Displacement Effect in a Token Object Test,” with Alan Wright in The New England Journal of Parapsychology (Vol 1, March 1978), 28-34.

“A Philosophical Justification for the Conformance Behavior Model” in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (Vol. 72, July 1978), 215-231.

“Plant PK and the Experimenter Effect,” in Research in Parapsychol­ogy,1977, Morris and Roll, eds. (Metuchen, NJ: The Scarecrow Press, 1978), 169-174.

“Psi and Materialism in Santayana” read at the Bicentennial Symposium of Philosophy in October 1976 and published in the Proceedings as Philosophy in the Life of a Nation.

“The Place of Paradigms in Parapsychology” read at the 28th Annual Interna­tional Conference of the Parapsychology Foundation, August 1976, in Parapsychology Review (Vol. 8, September-October 1977), 1-8, and in The Philosophy of Parapsychology, Shapin and Coly, eds. (New York: Parapsychology Founda­tion, 1977).

“Rejoinder to Dr. Wheatley’s Note on ‘Do Spirits Matter'”: in The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (Vol. 70,October 1976), 293-301.

“Do Spirits Matter: Survival and Disembodied Spirits” in The Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research (Vol. 70, July 1976), 293-301.

“Paradigmata und Parapsychologie” in Zeitschrift fur Parapsychologie (16, 1974). Reprinted in Unter dem Pflaster Liegt der Strand (5), 93-110.

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

I recently published a review of the first volumes of three journals that were historically important in the study of psychic phenomena. The review article is entitled “On First Volumes and Beginnings in the Study of Psychic Phenomena: Varieties of Investigative Approaches” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2015, 29, 131-153; if you want a copy write to me at: The journals in question were: Revue Spirite: Journal d’Études Psychologiques, 1858, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1882–1883, and the Journal of Parapsychology, 1937.

In my introduction I mentioned different research styles in the history of psychology, including, for example case studies and experiments. “A similar situation and the topic of this Essay Review is the different approaches in the study of psychic phenomena over time. The purpose of this Essay Review is to introduce to modern readers some of these approaches in the forms of summaries of the contents of three different journals from the past. These are comments about the first volumes of influential publications concerned with the study of psychic phenomena that are probably not familiar to current students of psychic phenomena.”

Allan ardec

Allan Kardec

The Revue Spirite, produced by Allan Kardec, was an important resource in the spreading of Spiritism in France, and elsewhere. Most of the content of the Revue was devoted to mediumistic communications that were seen as authoritative as regards moral, philosophical and scientific issues. There was no attempt at external verification and many of the communications were not verifiable in principle. “In a two-page paper entitled ‘Utilité de Certaines Évocations Particulières’ (Utility of Some Particular Evocations . . .), it was stated that these messages were valuable because the spirits in question ‘have acquired a high degree of perfection’ . . . that allowed them to ‘penetrate the mysteries that exceed the vulgar reach of humanity. . .’ ”

Revue Spirite 1858 2The cases described in this volume were not original investigations, but accounts reprinted from popular sources. “Examples include ‘Visions’ . . . , ‘Le Revenant de Mademoiselle Clairon’ (The Ghost of Miss Clairon . . .), ‘L’Esprit Frappeur de Dibbelsdorf—Basse-Saxe’ (The Rapping Spirit of Dibbelsdorf—Lower Saxony), . . .), and ‘Phénomène d’Apparition’ (Apparition Phenomena, . . .).”

I argued, “to consider the content of the Revue, and Kardec’s work, as a scientific research program . . . begs the question of what science is. It is one thing to observe nature and develop hypotheses based on observed patterns, or to be tested by further observations or actual experimentation, and another thing to use communications through seances, which source is uncertain, as shown in this volume of the Revue, to get teachings and answers to questions about the nature of topics such as the workings of psychic phenomena and a variety of moral and philosophical issues. Similarly, it is one thing to report on non-evidential spirit communications and on cases of apparitions and other phenomena discussed in the press and other sources, and it is another to study these phenomena with attention to evidence.”

A very different approach was that found in the first volume of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. “The PSPR was the main organ of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), which was of basic importance for the development of parapsychology. Its work . . . systematized research into psychic phenomena in England, but it was also influential in other countries.”

PSPR 1882-83 Vol 1

PSPR 1882-1883, Vol. 1,  Table of Contents

PSPR 1882-1883, Vol. 1, Table of Contents

William F. Barrett

William F. Barrett

Some of the authors in the first volume of the PSPR were William F. Barrett, Edmund Gurney, Frederic W. H. Myers, and Henry Sidgwick. “The first volume, containing four issues appearing in 1882 and 1883, was formed of papers reporting on the collection and analysis of evidence for psychic phenomena coming from accounts and from experiments. Some of these were . . . Barrett, Gurney, and Myers’ ‘First Report of the Committee on Thought-Reading’ (1882 . . .) . . .Barrett, Keep, Massey, Wedgwood, Podmore, and Pease’s ‘First Report of the Committee on ‘Haunted Houses’ ‘ (1882 . . .), and Barrett, Massey, Moses, Podmore, Gurney, and Myers’ ‘Report of the Literary Committee’ (1882 . . .). These, and other reports such as Barrett’s ‘On Some Phenomena Associated with Abnormal Conditions of Mind’ (1883 . . .) and Malcolm Guthrie and James Birchall’s ‘Record of Experiments in Thought-Transference, at Liverpool’ (1883 . . .), point to the empirical approach prevalent in the SPR even if such attempts seem methodologically crude by modern standards.”

Barrett Phenomena Abnormal Conditions PSPR 1883Different from the Revue, the SPR had high evidential standards with cases. As stated in the “First Report of the Committee on ‘Haunted Houses’ ”, published in 1882: “In the first place, we . . . begin by tracing every story to the fountain-head. But we do not consider that every first-hand narration of the appearance of a ghost, even from a thoroughly trustworthy narrator, gives us adequate reason for attempting further investigation. On the contrary, our general principle is that the unsupported evidence of a single witness does not constitute sufficient ground for accepting an apparition as having a prima facie claim to objective reality. To distinguish any apparition from an ordinary hallucination . . . it must receive some independent evidence to corroborate it. And this corroboration may be of two kinds; we may have the consentient testimony of several witnesses; or there may be some point of external agreement and coincidence—unknown, as such, to the seer at the time—(e.g., the periodic appearance on a particular anniversary, or the recognition of a peculiar dress), to give to the vision an objective foundation.”

The volume also had the beginnings of an experimental tradition in the study of ESP, something that would be developed in later volumes. An example was “Records of Experiments on Thought-Transference, at Liverpool,” by Malcolm Guthrie and James Birchall (1883). Furthermore there were instructions about precautions to follow in conducting such experiments.

Guthrie Birchall Thought Transference PSPR“While the PSPR included some reports of experiments (and this became more frequent in later volumes), this approach was not the main one taken by SPR researchers. But it was the research style predominant in the Journal of Parapsychology.” This is clear in the first volume of this publication, appearing in 1937.

Journal of Parapsychology

J.B. Rhine

J.B. Rhine

The Journal of Parapsychology (JP) came from Joseph Banks Rhine research group at Duke University and represented an experimental and quantitative research tradition. “According to my count of types of paper in the first volume, excluding correspondence and notes, there were 16 experimental reports, 4 editorials, 3 reviews of specific topics, 3 summaries and reviews of specific experiments, and 3 discussions of statistical issues.”

“Examples of experiments include ESP studies such as J. G. Pratt’s . . . ‘Clairvoyant Blind Matching’ . . . , J. L. Woodruff and R. W. George’s ‘Experiments in Extra-Sensory Perception’ . . . , Lucien Warner’s ‘The Role of Luck in ESP Data’ . . . , and Vernon Sharp and C. C. Clark’s ‘Group Tests for Extra-Sensory Perception’ . . . The experimental approach was not limited to proving the existence of ESP. The JP carried interesting experiments to study ESP in relation to other variables, such as J. B. Rhine’s ‘The Effect of Distance in ESP Tests’ . . . , Margaret H. Pegram’s ‘Some Psychological Relations of Extra-Sensory Perception’ . . . , and Edmond P. Gibson’s ‘A Study of Comparative Performance in Several ESP Procedures’ . . . In addition, several studies were reported about ESP tests with special participants.”

J.G. Pratt

J.G. Pratt

In conclusion: “The journals discussed here . . . had to carve out their own territory, so to speak, when they started. The Revue appeared in a context in which mesmerism was better known, a movement that was not always open to spiritism . . . Similarly, to some extent the PSPR and the JP represented ‘new’ beginnings in terms of spiritualism and psychical research, respectively. However, it would be wrong to reduce everything to breaks and discontinuities. In fairness, the issue was more one of general trends, and it is important to recognize that there were clear conceptual and methodological connections between the movements.”

“While different, the three journals presented in their pages material showing empirical attempts to study psychic phenomena, even though they represent different research styles. Of the three approaches—the teaching of the spirits, the analyses of testimony, and the conducting of experiments—only the last two are still pursued in parapsychology. In fact, I doubt that today many parapsychologists . . . will consider the use of mediumistically obtained teachings as a reliable approach to study psychic phenomena, although one may argue that it may be useful to generate hypotheses that may be put to test by other means. But leaving aside modern standards and practices, we must admit that Kardec saw his work as empirical, different from faith, an attempt to collect information from the natural world, albeit from an unusual source.”

“Different from the above, the PSPR and the JP, not to mention other journals . . . , emphasized cases and experiments as the means to generate knowledge for psychical research. Later developments within the SPR and the Duke group, as articulated in the PSPR and the JP, significantly affected the study of psychic phenomena, transforming it into a more systematic endeavor . . .”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 235 other followers