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

I was recently exploring old issues of the Italian journal Luce e Ombra (LO). Initially edited by Angelo Marzorati, this publication started in 1901 and had a spiritualistic orientation. There are many issues of LO in the International Association for the Preservation of Spiritualist and Occult Periodicals (Search here.)

Luce e Ombra 1902

Luce e Ombra 1907

Luce e Ombra 1922

LO is very important to understand 20th century Italian interest in spiritualism and psychical research. The collection has the following years: 1902-1903, 1907-1913, and 1915-1929. My colleague in Italy, Dr. Massimo Biondi, a fountain of knowledge regarding the Italian history of Spiritism and psychical research, recently told me in an email that there are more issues of this journal available online at the digital library of the Biblioteca Nazionali Centrale di Roma, including those published in later years with a different title, La Ricerca Psichica (1932-1939).

Massimo Biondi

Massimo Biondi

Ricerca Psichica

LO has fascinating articles. A frequent contributor was Ernesto Bozzano, who I have mentioned before in this blog (click here and here). Bozzano published many multi-part articles in LO (as well as books) discussing various psychic phenomena and presenting a great number of cases from the spiritualist and psychical research literatures. Some examples are the following:

Ernesto Bozzano 2

Ernesto Bozzano

(1911). Considerazioni ed ipotesi su fenomeni di bilocazioni [Reflections and hypotheses about the phenomena of bilocation]. 11, 57-70, 173-186, 234-246, 273-294.

(1912-1913).  Dei fenomeni premonitori [Premonitory phenomena]. 12, 454-468, 528-541; 13, 17-29, 82-94, 120-131, 173-190, 263-276, 303-310, 341-353, 391-405, 442-457, 486-501, 554-564.

(1916-1918). Dei fenomeni d’infestazione [The phenomena of infestation (hauntings)]. 16, 417-430, 484-504; 17, 25-58, 92-105, 161-180, 232-244, 290-307, 345-360; 18, 13-30, 86-101, 169-180, 199-210, 265-272, 309-319.

Bozzano Infestazione Luce e Ombra 1916

(1919-1920). Delle apparizioni di defunti al letto di morte [Deathbed apparitions of the dead]. 19, 169-179, 250-257, 192-305; 20, 15-30.

(1921-1922). Dei fenomeni di “telekinesia” in rapporto con eventi di morte [The phenomena of “telekinesis” in relation with death events]. 21, 225-233, 270-276, 304-315, 375-380; 22, 13-25.

Bozzano Telekinesia Morte Luce e Ombra

(1923-1925). Delle communicazioni medianiche tra vivente [On mediumistic communication between the living]. 23, 193-205, 272-286, 362-372; 24, 5-20, 87-97, 139-148, 230-237, 265-272, 333-340; 25, 21-29, 57-63, 104-119.

Readers interested in the medium Eusapia Palladino will find particularly interesting the May-June 1918 issue, which has several articles about the medium, who died that year. The issue also has an editorial note presenting an index of articles about the medium published in LO: “L’Attivita Medianica di E. Palladino Registrata in “Luce e Ombra” (1901-1917)” [The Mediumistic Activity of E. Palladino Recorded in “Luce e Ombra” (1901-1917). 18, 166-168]. This includes over 90 entries consisting of séance reports and aspects about the medium’s life, as well as mentions of Palladino in general articles, critiques of publications, and news about seances in various places.

Luce e Ombra 1918 Palladino Issue

Eusapia Palladino whole body Courtier

Eusapia Palladino

Several authors who are virtually forgotten today wrote repreatedly for LO. Some examples were Antonio Bruers, Enrico Carreras, Vincenzo Cavalli, Angelo Marzorati, and Francesco Zingaropoli. Although Emilio Servadio is remembered today in parapsychology mainly for his writings about ESP and psychoanalysis, he wrote several articles in LO that are rarely cited today. Some of them are:

Emilio Servadio 4

Emilio Servadio

(1930). Surrealismo e medianità [Surrealism and mediumship]. 30, 169-174.

(1930). Che cos’e la metapsichica moderna [What is modern metapsychics]. 30, 274-279, 327-332, 375-381.

(1932) Otto sedute col medium Erto [Eight seances with the medium Erto]. La Ricerca Psichica (Luce e Ombra), 32, 344-355, 381-393, 434-448, 481-495, 535-546.
(1933). L’ultima Hélène Smith [The last of Hélène Smith]. La Ricerca Psichica (Luce e Ombra), 33, 674-685.

The following are a few of the many articles discussing various phenomena and conceptual issues by other authors in LO:

Bianchi, R. (1925). Il calcolo elementare applicato ai sogni premonitorio [Elementary calculus applied to premonitory dreams].25, 386-394, 457-467.

Bruers, A. (1926). Fenomeni telepatico nella vita dell’exploratore Stanley [Telepathic phenomena in the life of the explorer Stanley]. 26, 145-150.

Carreras, E. (1902). Materializzazione in pieno giorno [Materialization in full daylight]. 2, 440-446.

Imoda, E. (1912). La media Linda Gazzera [The medium Linda Gazzera]. 12, 1-5.

Linda Gazzera 7

Linda Gazzera

Lombroso, C. (1909). Case fantomatiche (hantees) [Phantom houses (hauntings)]. 9, 3-21.

Luisiada, E. (1928). Sogni premonitore e teorie metapsichiche [Premonitory dreams and metapsychic theory]. 28, 219-227.

Mackenzie, W. (1923). A proposito di “polipsichismo” [Regarding “polypsychism”]. 23, 129-142.

Porro, F. (1903). Animismo e Spiritismo [Animism and Spiritism]. 3, 44-49.

Francesco Porro

Francesco Porro

Raveggi, P. (1915). Il fenomeni metapsichici e la psicologia introspectiva [Metapsychic phenomena and introspective psychology]. 15, 433-439.

Richet, C. (1927). L’avenire della metapsichica [The future of metapsychics]. 27, 423-424.

Senigaglia, G. (1910). Una seduta a  Roma con Eusapia Paladino [A séance in Rome with Eusapia Paladino]. 10, 32-35.

Venzano, G. (1907-1908). Contributo allo studio delle materializzazioni [Contribution to the study of materializations]. 7, 405-409, 441-453, 521-531, 576-586, 622-631; 8, 27-40, 57-68.

Vesme, C. (1929). Studio sulle possessioni demoniache descrita negli Evangeli [Study of demoniacal possession described in the Gospels]. 29, 507-513, 550-557.

Cesar de Vesme

Cesare Baudi di Vesme

X. (1911). Un caso di rincarnazioni? [A case of reincarnation?] 11, 40-42.

Zingaropoli, F. (1908). Manifestazioni spontanee misterose: Marche e impronte di fuoco [Mysterious spontaneous manifestations: Fire marks and imprints]. 8, 329-345, 539-545.

Luce e Ombra 1910 issues

LO is still around. For a list of articles published in 2019 click here. There is also a list of the articles published between 1947 and 2003.

Luce e Ombra 1948

 

 

 

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

Over the years many philosophers have written about the implications of the data of psychical research to the issue of survival of death. Some modern ones include C.D. Broad, Stephen Braude, and C.J. Ducasse. Philosopher Michael Sudduth continues this tradition with his recent book A Philosophical Critique of Empirical Arguments for Postmortem Survival (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

Sudduth Philosophical Critique Survival

Michael (D. Phil., University of Oxford) describes himself in the Amazon page of his book as “a philosopher of religion with a background in analytic philosophy, Christian theology, and eastern philosophy and religion.” Furthermore, “his spiritual journey has led him from the Christian tradition to the Vaishnava bhakti traditions of India, the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, and Zen Buddhism, each of which informs his approach to the Transcendent.” Michael is currently a Philosophy Lecturer at San Francisco State University (San Francisco, CA). Some of the courses he has taught are: The Buddhist Tradition, Ancient Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy, and Philosophical Analysis.

For more information about Michael’s ideas and work see his Cup of Nirvana page and blogs.

Michael Sudduth

Michael Sudduth

Here is the table of contents of his book:

Introduction: The Classical Empirical Survival Debate

Exploring the Hypothesis of Personal Survival

Out-of-Body and Near-Death Experiences

Mediumistic Communications

Cases of the Reincarnation Type

Classical Explanatory Arguments for Survival

Bayesian Explanatory Arguments

Bayesian Defenses of the Survival Hypothesis

The Problem of Auxiliary Assumptions

Exotic Counter-Explanations

Conclusion: The Classical Arguments Defeated

Interview 

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

The main objective of my book is to offer a critique of arguments for life after death. There are lots of arguments of this sort. I focus specifically on arguments based on data drawn from phenomena associated with near-death and out-of-body experiences, mediumship, and cases of the reincarnation type. I refer to these arguments as classical empirical arguments for survival.

Unlike other skeptical assessments of such arguments, my critique doesn’t challenge the alleged facts on which the arguments are based, nor do I argue that there is no life after death. Instead, I explore the kinds of assumptions the classical arguments require if they are to succeed in doing what their advocates claim on their behalf, namely, provide good evidence for survival. I argue that we have no good reason to accept these assumptions. Consequently, the classical arguments do not provide good evidence for personal survival.

That’s a general way of stating what I argue, but there are two more specific tiers of argument that make up the structure of my book. To understand these arguments, we should first be clear on what survivalists themselves have claimed about the case for survival. First, there’s an evidential probability claim: postmortem survival has a favorable net probability/plausibility based on the salient facts. In other words, survival is at least more probable than not, if not highly probable relative to the total evidence. Second, there’s an explanatory claim: survival provides the best explanation of the relevant facts. The two claims are interrelated because survivalists often assume that explanatory merit has evidential cash-value. They argue that survival is probable or very probable because it provides the best explanation of the data.

I argue that survivalists haven’t provided a good enough reason to believe either of the two main claims (in italics) above. Here it’s important to emphasize that I don’t argue that survival is not the best explanation of the data, nor that survival is improbable. I only argue that survivalists have failed to make good on their claims. Why? Because the arguments necessarily depend on assumptions that (1) we have no good reason to accept and (2) would be self-defeating to the case for survival, even if we accepted them.

What are these assumptions?

First, there are general assumptions about what the evidence for survival should look like. In the absence of such assumptions, there’s no plausible inference from features of the world to the claim that persons survive death. In much the same way, if I don’t know (or reasonably believe) what the evidence that Mr. X committed the crime should look like, I can’t plausibly regard any crime-scene fact as evidence that Mr. X committed the crime.

But second – and most fundamentally – there are fine-grained assumptions about what consciousness would probably be like if it should survive death. Without these assumptions, we could not say with any reasonable degree of assurance what would count as evidence for the survival of consciousness. These include assumptions about the memories, desires, intentions, and continuing perceptual and causal powers of surviving consciousness, as well as the conditions under which such powers can be exercised. I call these auxiliary assumptions since they’re not intrinsic to postulating the mere continuation of individual consciousness after death.

Since this is a crucial part of my argument, let me clarify. In postulating personal survival we’re postulating the persistence of consciousness and everything essential to individual consciousness. This includes whatever mental processes or content underwrites our sense of self. But this is logically consistent with the persistence of very little autobiographical memory or none at all. Nor is this a mere theoretical possibility. It’s precisely what happens in dream states, dissociative fugue, and other forms of amnesia. And what’s true of memory here is also true of our wider psychology – for example, our desires, intentions, personality traits, and skills. The content in consciousness is very fluid even over short periods of time, as are its behavioral manifestations. So, even if we suppose that postmortem consciousness is likely to exhibit the same general features antemortem consciousness exhibits, we really can’t say with any reasonable degree of assurance what we should expect survival evidence to look like in any particular case. We only get there by making further assumptions.

So simple survival does not logically entail (nor make probable) a surviving self that retains all the right stuff: the stock of memories, desires, intentions, and perceptual abilities and causal powers required for ongoing lifelike interactions with our world and that would justify identifying a person as the same as (or the continuation of) some previous personality. We need auxiliary assumptions to bulk up a generic or simple survival hypothesis (or theory) into a more conceptually robust hypothesis (or theory) that can plausibly account for the data.

I argue that simple survival – postulating the mere persistence of individual consciousness after death – explains nothing because there’s no fact about the world it would lead us to expect or not to expect. For example, simple survival doesn’t lead us to expect on-going veridical perceptions of our world, causal interactions with our world, or any of the individual memory and personality features the data allegedly exhibit and that survival is invoked to explain.

What’s needed is a robust survival hypothesis, but that’s problematic. There are lots of assumptions we can make about what surviving consciousness might be like. After all, as explained above, consciousness in our antemortem state is highly variable, even for the same person. But the assumptions we make about what postmortem consciousness will be like affects the extent to which the data are what we would expect if survival is true. That in turn affects the explanatory power of the survival hypothesis. At present there’s no rational basis for privileging survival assumptions that would lead us to expect the data, and no rational basis for favoring such assumptions over alternative assumptions – equally consistent with survival – that would not lead us to expect the data.

But also, there’s no sufficient reason for favoring the kinds of assumptions needed for a successful survival argument over the kinds of assumptions that would empower proposed counter-explanations of the data and thereby undermine survival arguments. For example, the assumptions that would empower living-agent psi explanations are no less reasonable than as those required for survival arguments. Survivalists will deny this parity, of course, but I’ve tried to show that this denial isn’t plausible.

It’s important to remember that the survival hypothesis will be the best explanation of the data only if it better explains the data than do alternative non-survival hypotheses. I argue that survival can’t explain the data without being bulked up, and it can’t be the best explanation of the data if it’s bulked up. Why the latter? Because the kinds of kinds of reasons survivalists adduce to rule out counter explanations also rule out a bulked-up survival hypothesis.

Let me illustrate the point. Take the standard two-tiered strategy to rule out the appeal to living-agent psychic functioning. On the one hand, survivalists like to point out that living-agent psi can’t account for persons possessing linguistic skills characteristic of a previous personality, the motivation for mediums to impersonate the deceased or confabulate communications with them, or – in cases of the reincarnation type – for persons possessing information about a previous personality in the form of memories. On the other hand, when a living-agent psi hypothesis is bulked up with assumptions drawn from psychology regarding motivational dynamics, dissociative phenomena, rare mnemonic gifts, and the sudden manifestation of linguistic skills not previously evidenced, then survivalists complain that these assumptions are ad hoc, introduce unnecessary complexity, or lack adequate independent support.

As I see it, survivalists either exploit the explanatory limitations that trivially apply to a simple version of the living-agent psi hypothesis or they object to the assumptions used to bulk up such a hypothesis so that it can explain the data. I show that these objections are equally applicable (if not more so) to the assumptions required for any robust survival hypothesis to explain the data.

What’s especially important to appreciate here is how the survivalist is often engaged in a (perhaps unconscious) logical sleight of hand that masks the self-defeating nature of his reasoning. Survivalists routinely contrast a simple survival hypothesis and a robust living-agent psi hypothesis to show that living-agent psi – unlike survival – is overly complex and relies on assumptions that are ad hoc or lack independent support. But when survivalists wish to focus on the explanatory advantages of the survival hypothesis, they contrast a simple living-agent psi hypothesis (which explains very little) and a robust interpretation of survival. And they usually don’t acknowledge the conceptual cost of achieving the alleged explanatory advantages. As a result, they miss how the kind of survival hypothesis that adequately accommodates the data requires assumptions that are at least as complex, ad hoc, and lacking in the way of independent support as those adopted by the defender of the living-agent psi hypothesis in the interest of accommodating the data.

So, contrary to how some reviewers of my book have presented my position, I do not claim that living-agent psi is a better an explanation of the data, only that survivalists are in a particularly poor position to argue that it’s not. And the same holds for other counter-explanations of the data.

I apply similar considerations to argue that classical empirical arguments for survival as far back as C.J. Ducasse fail to show that survival is more probable than not, much less highly probable. I develop this line of argument in considerable detail using different models of evidential probability used in confirmation theory (the logic of evidence assessment). All three forms of survival argument I consider converge on the same basic conceptual problem: the unjustified inclusion and exclusion of auxiliary assumptions required to underwrite what survivalists have wanted to say on behalf of the survival hypothesis.

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

I’m a philosopher by profession and academic training, with concentrations in epistemology, logic, metaphysics, and philosophy of religion. But I’ve had something of a life-long interest in anomalous phenomena, especially phenomena suggestive of survival, based on personal experiences and philosophical reflection.

I developed an interest in the work on survival by H.H. Price, C.D. Broad, and C.J. Ducasse after reading John Hick’s book Death and Eternal Life in graduate school at Oxford. When I started teaching philosophy and religion courses, I incorporated the topic of survival in a lot of my classes, eventually using it as a regular narrative in some of my classes for many years. During that time, I did the bulk of the research on the topical territory of my book.

While the book reading was helpful, I also benefited from a decade of conversations with parapsychologists and fellow philosophers who have worked and published on this topic. I’ve also joined parapsychologists on some field investigations over the years (with Loyd Auerbach, for example), and I’ve critically examined mediums firsthand. I’ve also personally experienced a broad range of ostensibly paranormal phenomena.

The first half of my academic career was devoted to applying developments in epistemology, logic, and philosophy of science in the exploration of questions in the justification religious belief and arguments for the existence of God. After my first book on this topic, I shifted my focus to life after death, philosophy of mind, and a broad range of issues in psychology.

I think my academic training in Anglo-American philosophy, together with an extensive educational and teaching background in Eastern and Western religious traditions, has enhanced my approach to the topic of survival. 

What motivated you to write this book? 

Three things.

First, it was the natural result of a decade-long inquiry during which time my views changed. I started as a survivalist who thought the arguments for survival were good. I became a survivalist who thought the arguments were defective upon closer scrutiny. I ended up concluding that the arguments were more defective than I initially thought, unable to accomplish what their proponents claim on their behalf. I’m no longer a survivalist – I neither affirm nor deny survival – though I remain open to future evidence persuading me. I suspect that evidence will come from cognitive neuroscience and technological developments in artificial intelligence, not parapsychology.

Second, following the lead of C.D. Broad and H.H. Price, I wanted to critically explore the conceptual aspects of reasoning about survival. The literature has emphasized the empirical dimensions of research, the so-called facts, but as is often the case it’s not the facts that divide people but the interpretation of the facts. I wanted to go right to that. That’s what philosophers do. We try to unearth the deeper strata of assumptions that drive a line of reasoning. This allows a more effective assessment of the coherence and plausibility of the underlying commitments and argumentation.

Third, and related to the above, I wanted to write a book that treated the topic with more logical rigor than has typically been the case in the literature over the past thirty years. Much of the literature, the bulk of it I’d say, is little more than a heap of facts and a hasty, if not opaque, inference to survival as being “probable” or “the best explanation.” Survivalists place far too much emphasis on how counter-explanations allegedly fail, but they’re deficient in showing how the survival hypothesis succeeds. Even the importance of this distinction is often not on their conceptual radar. As a philosopher, I’m interested in how we make good arguments and justify claims about evidence, probability, and the explanatory merit of hypotheses and theories. I’ve found the bulk of the literature at this juncture underwhelming at best.

It is unclear why survivalists have so frequently lacked logical rigor in their treatment of the topic. My charitable reading is that they’re calibrating their publications for popular consumption. That has its place of course, but it can become a liability, a conceptual bypass that sidesteps the crucial questions rather than advances the discussion with the appropriate critical scrutiny.

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

I think the importance of my book is its approach. It’s a new approach to long-standing, widely discussed arguments. And it provides a new analysis of why the classical empirical arguments for survival are defective. I hope this will encourage survivalists and non-survivalists alike to recalibrate their arguments in the light of my critique. That’s a good way to move the dialogue forward.

Outside academic philosophy, the bulk of the literature on survival since the latter part of the 1960s has been almost exclusively focused on presenting data (allegedly suggestive of survival), but the literature has neglected to adequately engage a variety of conceptual issues involved in evidence assessment and explanatory reasoning. As a result, there’s been a disconnect between the data and the kind of argument that’s required to justifiably maintain that the data are good evidence for survival. My book addresses this head on.

Otherwise put, I’m addressing architectural or structural issues in the reasoning about survival. What’s required for survival to be the best explanation of the data? What’s required to “rule out” out counter-explanations? What does it even mean to rule out counter-explanations? When are we reasonable to conclude that evidence makes a hypothesis probable? When highly probable? What kinds of assumptions are built into such reasoning?

To be sure, other books have provided useful informal explorations of some of these questions, but they’ve neglected to dial-in some of the crucial conceptual issues – for example, the role of auxiliary assumptions in hypothesis/theory testing and how this impacts the argument for survival.

But also, I’ve offered a rigorous formal treatment of the classical arguments for survival, something that Broad and Ducasse hinted at in their day. I’ve addressed the favorable probability claims made on behalf of survival by examining these claims through the lenses of the two most widely adopted models of evidential probability – Likelihoodism and Bayesianism. It’s somewhat surprising that survivalists haven’t already done this. After all, many of them rely on and invoke Bayesian principles – for example, referring to prior probabilities in trying to assess the total probability of survival relative to the evidence. And those who don’t invoke Bayesian principles typically rely on Likelihoodist principles, which provide a metric for determining when evidence favors one hypothesis over another.

Oddly, a few reviewers didn’t care for my deployment of the resources of confirmation theory, but they missed the implications of their own critique. As I show, it’s survivalists who tacitly or overtly rely on the assumptions that confirmation theory explicates and systematizes. The formal techniques of confirmation theory create no problems that aren’t already inherent in the informal assumptions about evidence. So if there’s a problem here, it’s a problem for survivalists who rely on Bayesian or Likelihoodist measures for assessing evidence. Naturally I agree that such assumptions make it difficult, if not impossible, for survivalists to justify their claims about the survival hypothesis. However, in the absence of arguments for survival that rely on different, more plausible assumptions about the nature of evidence and how we assess it, survivalist claims look more like wishes and hopes than the conclusions of serious argumentation.

I would also emphasize how my analysis provides results that are provocative and immune to the typical strategies survivalists deploy in defense of their arguments.

First, on my view, arguments for survival are challenged for reasons that have nothing to do with positions in philosophy of mind. This is important because survivalists routinely devote a lot of space to trying to debunk so-called materialist philosophies of mind. But neither my arguments nor their cogency depends on any particular position in philosophy of mind. For example, I argue that the classical arguments fail to show that survival is more probable than not, but without the assumption that materialism is true. In fact, my arguments work even if we assume that materialism is false.

Second, I show that survival arguments fail even if we don’t treat survival as antecedently improbable. Some prominent survivalists claim that critics of survival stack the deck by assigning a very low initial probability to the survival hypothesis. I don’t do that. For example, I show that the classical arguments will still fail to show that survival is more probable than not, even if we begin with the generous assumption that survival is as probable as not.

Third, survival arguments fail even if rival non-survival explanations are antecedently improbable. This is significant because some survivalists think rival explanations of the data can be reasonably invoked only if we assume that such explanations are initially plausible or even more plausible than survival. Or, at any rate, that such counter-explanations couldn’t pose a serious challenge to survival arguments unless we invested them with initial plausibility. This is not true. For example, I argue that the appeal to living-agent psi can challenge survival arguments even if this exotic counter-explanation strains credulity and is antecedently very improbable.

Finally, I show that classical explanatory survival arguments are self-defeating. They must show that survival explains the data, and that rival explanations do not explain the data as well as the survival hypothesis does. But, as explained above, I show that survivalists typically rule out counter-explanations for reasons that equally apply to any formulation of a survival hypothesis or theory that has a ghost of chance of explaining anything at all.

As I said above, when I set out to write my book, it was my hope that I would provide an analysis and set of arguments that would advance the survival debate, perhaps only a smidgeon. To that prospect I think I must say at present what C.D. Broad said about survival: “one can only wait and see, or alternatively (which is no less likely) wait and not see.”

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

Animal magnetism continues to be a topic of historical research. Here are some articles on the subject published between 2015 and 2019.

Animal Magnetism

Alvarado, C.S. (2019). Classic text No. 119: Jules Bernard Luys on magnetic pathology. History of Psychiatry, 30, 359–374. (Available from the author: carlos@theazire.org)

In the mesmeric movement, one of the phenomena cited to defend the existence of magnetic and nervous forces was the visual perception of them in the form of luminous emanations from people, or effluvia. This Classic Text is an 1892 article by French neurologist, Jules Bernard Luys (1828–97), about the observation of such effluvia by hypnotized individuals. Interestingly, the luminous phenomena perceived from mentally diseased individuals and from healthy ones had particular properties. Luys’s interest in this and other unorthodox phenomena were consistent with ideas of animal magnetism in the late neo-mesmeric movement, as well as with some physicalistic conceptions of hypnosis and the nervous system held at the time.

Jules Bernard Luys 2

Jules Bernard Luys

Brückner, B. (2016). Animal magnetism, psychiatry and subjective experience in Nineteenth-Century Germany: Friedrich Krauß and his Nothschrei. Medical History, 60, 19–36.

Friedrich Krauß (1791–1868) is the author of Nothschreieines Magnetisch-Vergifteten [Cry of Distress by a Victim of Magnetic Poisoning] (1852), which has been considered one of the most comprehensive self-narratives of madness published in the German language. In this 1018-page work Krauß documents his acute fears of ‘mesmerist’ influence and persecution, his detainment in an Antwerp asylum and his encounter with various illustrious physicians across Europe. Though in many ways comparable to other prominent nineteenth-century first-person accounts (eg. John Thomas Perceval’s 1838 Narrative of the Treatment Experienced by a Gentle manor Daniel Paul Schreber’s 1903 Memoirs of my Nervous Illness), Krauß’s story has received comparatively little scholarly attention. This is especially the case in the English-speaking world. In this article I reconstruct Krauß’s biography by emphasising his relationship with physicians and his under-explored stay at the asylum. I then investigate the ways in which Krauß appropriated nascent theories about ‘animal magnetism’ to cope with his disturbing experiences. Finally, I address Krauß’s recently discovered calligraphic oeuvre, which bears traces of his typical fears all the while showcasing his artistic skills. By moving away from the predominantly clinical perspective that has characterised earlier studies, this article reveals how Friedrich Krauß sought to make sense of his experience by selectively appropriating both orthodox and non-orthodox forms of medical knowledge. In so doing, it highlights the mutual interaction of discourses ‘from above’ and ‘from below’ as well as the influence of broader cultural forces on conceptions of self and illness during that seminal period.

Crabtree, A. (2019). 1784: The Marquis de Puységur and the psychological turn in the west. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 55, 119-215. (Request reprint from author adamcrabtree@rogers.com)

In 1970 Henri Ellenberger called attention to the previously unrecognized importance of Franz Anton Mesmer’s “animal magnetism” in the rise of psychodynamic psychology in the West. This article takes the next step of tracing the course of events that led to Puységur’s discovery of magnetic somnambulism and describing the tumultuous social and political climate into which it was introduced in 1784. Beginning from the secret and private publication of his first Mémoires, only a few copies of which remain today, the original core of his discovery is identified and the subsequent development of its implications are examined. Puysègur was initiated into his investigations by Mesmer’s system of physical healing, which bears some resemblance to the traditional healing approaches of the East. But Puységur took Mesmer’s ideas in an unexpected direction. In doing so, he accomplished a turn toward the psychological that remains one of the distinguishing features of Western culture.

Puysegur Memoires

Donaldson, I.M.L. (2017). Antoine de Lavoisier’s role in designing a single-blind trial to assess whether “animal magnetism” exists. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 110, 163-167.

“In 1784, a Royal Commission was appointed in Paris to examine the claims made by Anton Mesmer and his associates that there existed a fluid – the so-called Animal Magnetism, which permeated all living creatures – manipulation of which could relieve or cure all human maladies . . . In the course of the investigation, which eventually proved to the Commissioners’ complete satisfaction that the effects produced by the manipulations of the magnetisers were not due to any physical force, the Commission devised the first known experiments using blind comparisons to compare the effects of two treatments.” This paper examines the contributions of Antoine Lavoisier to these studies.

Image result for antoine lavoisier

Antoine Lavoisier

Gainot, B. (2018). Des baquets sous les Tropiques: À propos de la diffusion du magnétisme animal à Saint-Domingue en 1784 [The baquets in the Tropics: On the dissemination of animal magnetism in Santo Domingo]. Annales Historiques de la Révolution Française, No. 391, 81-104. (Request reprint from the author bgainot@orange.fr)

The export of mesmerism out of metropolitan territory is very limited, but it had a great success, a few weeks after the arrival of Antoine Hyacinte Chastenet de Puysegur in the great town of the northern part of the colony of Saint-Domingue, Le Cap Français, in June 1784. This episode is especially known after the hostile testimony, of Moreau de Saint-Mery. The lists of the members of Philadelphes, however, are often the same than those of the members of the Society of Universal Harmonie in Le Cap. So, magnetism and learning sociability are the same expression of a creolising white-consciousness, which self-modelled on the fashions of the metropolitan culture, though different. This social phenomenon will be developed mainly in the great northern town, the other sources coming from the same background. Black slaves and free-coloured people are not directly concerned. The usual testimony of Moreau de Saint-Méry, who gives mesmerism equivalent to voodoo must be kept in perspective.

Häfner, S. (2017). Justinus Kerner and mesmerism. European Psychiatry, 41, S685–S686.

The aim of this study is to evaluate the influence of Franz Anton Mesmer (1734–1815) on Kerner’s way of treating patients . . . Kerner was very much influenced by Mesmer and left volumes of psycho-pathological case histories that helped to prepare a way for a medicine more psychotherapeutically founded.

Justinus Kerner

Justinus Kerner

Laerda, D.C.O. (2018). Saberes ocultos no Brasil Império e arte da cura pelo magnetismo animal e a busca pela legitimidade [Hidden knowledge in the Brazil Empire: the art of healing through animal magnetism and the search for legitimacy]. História e Cultura, 7, 91-119. (For a reprint write to the author: daniellelacerda@yahoo.com.br)

The principles and practice of animal magnetism were consolidated in France a few years before the French Revolution took place. Amid controversy and a growing number of adepts, animal magnetism surpasses the barriers of time and space frontiers, arriving in Brazil in the first decades of the nineteenth century through the French immigrant Leopold Gamard. The purpose of this work was to understand Gamard’s attempts to legitimize animal magnetism as a curative practice before medical scientific institutions and public opinion in the imperial court. In order to do so, we examined popular scientific journals and newspapers in an attempt to combine fragments to reconstruct Leopold Gamard’s intriguing trajectory and helped to weave the fabric of social relations in the construction of representations and appropriations of the practice of animal magnetism as an alternative for healing diseases.

Manson, D.K. (2017). Science with a soul: James Freeman Clarke and the promise of mesmerism. Studies in Religion / SciencesReligieuses, 47, 246-262.

From the 1840s through to the end of his life in 1888, James Freeman Clarke’s influence permeated newspapers, churches, and lecture halls in Boston. A graduate of Harvard Divinity School, Clarke was an educated and active participant in his community and a respected voice amongst Boston intellectuals. At a time when sciences of the mind were rapidly expanding, Clarke neither ceded authority nor turned a blind eye. Instead, he studied emerging psychologies himself, approaching them as ways to enhance his understanding of the human being—body, soul, and spirit. In his private writings, including journals and letters, Clarke discusses his applications of experimental science, and he appears especially enthusiastic about mesmerism. However, from the pulpit and the lectern, Clarke was almost silent on the topic. This article examines Clarke’s private letters, journals, and sermon notes, accessed in the archives at the Massachusetts Historical Society, for evidence of the role mesmerism played in Clarke’s religious ideology, specifically his concept of man’s physical and spiritual constitution. For Clarke, mesmerism allowed an intimate incorporation of the body with theology, for through it the body became a conduit to the soul and to individual character. Clarke’s interest in and practice of mesmerism reveals it as an underground force that not only shaped his thoughts and theology, but also influenced a number of fellow theologians and intellectuals during the mid-nineteenth century.

Morabito, C. (2019). Rethinking mesmerism and its dissemination in the 19th century: At the intersection between philosophy, medicine and psychology. Medicina nei Secoli: Arte e Scienza, 1, 71-92. (Reprint available from the author: morabito.carmela@fastwebnet.it)

The thought and work of Anton Mesmer had a great dissemination in the last decades of the XVIII century and all along the XIX, a dissemination that differed in its theoretical and practical valences in line with the peculiar cultural, social and political contexts of the main European countries. On the basis of a new science of the mind social reforms were invoked, ranging from education to ethics and to the treatment of mental disorders, obviously passing through the questioning of the legal and political organization of the various States. A new physiology justified and at the same time required to replace with the scientific knowledge the basic ideological and social assumptions upon which the whole society was based, from schools to prisons and asylums. But does it really was scientific knowledge? And who had the last word on this problem, a problem that was in the first place epistemological but had also enormous social implications?

Vallejo, M.S. (2015). Magnetizadores, ilusionistas y médicos. Una aproximación a la historia del hipnotismo en México (1880-1900). Trashumante: Revista Americana de Historia Social 5, 200-219.

The purpose of this article is to present a historical reconstruction of the use of hypnosis by physicians in Mexico City during 1880-1900. In addition to discussing how hypnotism was studied and used by these professionals, an attempt is made to show that in the publications of physicians there is a dialog between an academic discipline and other users of hypnosis, mainly theatrical illusionists.  Particular attention is paid to the performances of two hypnotists that visited Mexico at the end of the 19th century.

Image result for animal magnetism

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

I have met the editor of the book commented here, Dr. Gerhard Mayer, in conventions and have had email correspondence with him. He obtained a PhD in psychology from the University of Freiburg with a dissertation about how adolescents view movies about occult topics. Currently he works at the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene on cultural aspects of frontier fields, including parapsychology, shamanism, altered states of consciousness and astrology.

Gerhard Mayer 2

Gerhard Mayer

The book he has edited, N Equals 1: Single Case Studies in Anomalistics (Zurich: Lit, 2019, 397 pp.; click here; to order from the publisher click here), is a unique compilation of papers about the use of single case studies of various types of unexplained phenomena. Such as crop circles, hauntings, poltergeists, recurrent apparitions of the living, and UFOs. I am glad to be one of the authors in the book.

Mayer N Equals 1

Here is the table of contents:

Stephen E. Braude: Foreword

Steve Braude 4

Stephen E. Braude

Part I: General Considerations

Gerhard Mayer & Michael Schetsche: Introduction – Research Logic, Models, and Particularities

Carlos S. Alvarado: The Place of Spontaneous Cases in Parapsychology

Part II: Single Case Studies in Anomalistics

Gerhard Mayer & Michael Schetsche: Introduction: Single Case Studies in Anomalistics

Michael Schetsche

Michael Schetsche

Gerhard Mayer & Michael Schetsche: RSPK Investigations

Gerhard Mayer & Michael Schetsche: Cryptozoology & Crop Circle Research: Two Further Fields of Investigation at a Glance

Andreas Anton: UFO Research

Part III: Historical Case Studies

Michael Nahm: Historical Perspective: Justinus Kerner’s Case Study Into the “Prison Spook” in Weinsberg and Spooky Actions at a Distance in 1835–1836

Gerd H. Hövelmann, Carlos S. Alvarado, Massimo Biondi & Friedrike Schriever: The Case History as an Exemplar: The Recurrent Apparitions of Emélie Sagée

Gerd Hovelmann 2

Gerd H. Hövelmann

Gerd H. Hövelmann

Gerhard Mayer: The Bélmez Faces: An Investigation of a Supposedly Strong Case

Gerhard Mayer: The Authority Strikes Back: Considerations About the Allegedly Fraudulent “Chopper” Poltergeist Case

Part IV: Contemporary Case Studies

Gerhard Mayer: Case Report of the Investigation of a Strange Photographic Anomaly

Gerhard Mayer & Jürgen Kornmeier: Mysterious Objects in Pictures Taken by a Wildlife Camera: The Pitfalls of Perception

Jürgen Kornmeier

Gerhard Mayer: The “Castle Hotel” Case – Becoming a Haunting Myth and a “Lost Place”: An Investigation Report

Manuela v. Lucadou & Sarah Pohl: Dead Monks Walking: Methods and Experiences from the Parapsychological Counseling Centre (Freiburg/Germany) for Dealing with Poltergeist Phenomena

Renaud Evrard: The “Amnéville RSPK Case“: An Illustration of Social Elusiveness?

Renaud Evrard4

Renaud Evrard

Acknowledgements

About the Contributors

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

This volume, N equals 1. Single Case Studies in Anomalistics, is intended to give an overview of the methodological peculiarities of anomalistic field research. Single case studies have a long tradition in the field of parapsychology and anomalistics research. Although case studies do not usually provide hard evidence for the existence of paranormal effects, they demonstrate the dynamics of occurrence of such extraordinary phenomena and experiences in the living world. On the basis of historical and current case studies, certain specific psychosocial dynamics and problems in this interesting and challenging field of research are presented and discussed.

N Equals 1 contains 15 chapters written by different authors on the subject of single case studies. Although the focus is on poltergeist cases, other fields of anomalistics are also addressed such as UFOs, cryptozoology, or allegedly photographic anomalies.

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

I have been working at the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene  in Freiburg/Germany since 1996. During my studies in psychology, I was interested in qualitative research approaches because they offer a greater proximity to everyday life and a different view of the phenomena under investigation. This is particularly important for parapsychology and anomalistics because paranormal effects in the laboratory rarely occur spectacularly. Furthermore, they seem to have nothing to do with such phenomena and extraordinary experiences made in, and reported from the living environment. Careful examination of single cases can provide information about contextual conditions of their occurrence and give input for improving experimental research and theory building. I have had the opportunity to be part of the examination of several single case studies in the field. Some reports found their way into the book.

What motivated you to write this book?

The first edition mainly consisted of texts by my colleague Michael Schetsche and me. Since that time, I expanded the research with new as well as old cases to represent specific topics, such as  the role of mass media or the social dynamics. During my translation of the German text, I became interested in going deeper into the reconstruction of some historical cases such as the famous one about the Bélmez faces. This volume, accordingly revised, is a considerably extended version of a German edition published in 2011. I wanted to enrich the book with the work of other authors on this topic. And I wanted to reach a larger readership by publishing it in English.

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

Single case studies in parapsychology and anomalistics have only been seen as illustrative or anecdotal. In recent years, the value of single case studies for gaining knowledge about anomalistic phenomena and the conditions under which they occur has been increasingly recognized with a wider acceptance of qualitative research methods in general. The book is intended to provide a building block for the appreciation of this type of research as an equivalent complement to laboratory research. In addition, the case reports clarify methodological peculiarities that involve field investigations in anomalistics. Furthermore, contemporary and historical case material is presented to English-speaking readers for the first time in this detailed form. Last but not least, the case studies and methodological considerations presented in this volume are intended to correct the publicly dominant picture of what a scientific investigation of paranormal phenomena looks like, which much of the time is characterized by so-called paranormal investigations by amateur ghost hunters.

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

Those of you who follow my work know of my interest in neo-mesmerism, or the late mesmeric movement popular during the last quarter of the Nineteenth-Century, and even later (click here, and here ). In the article discussed here I focus on a fascinating figure from France, neurologist Jules Bernard Luys.

Jules Bernard Luys

Jules Bernard Luys

Alvarado, C.S. (2019). Classic text No. 119: Jules Bernard Luys on magnetic pathology. History of Psychiatry, 30, 359–374. (a PDF version of this article is available on request: Carlos@theazire.org)

Abstract

“In the mesmeric movement, one of the phenomena cited to defend the existence of magnetic and nervous forces was the visual perception of them in the form of luminous emanations from people, or effluvia. This Classic Text is an 1892 article by French neurologist, Jules Bernard Luys (1828–97), about the observation of such effluvia by hypnotized individuals. Interestingly, the luminous phenomena perceived from mentally diseased individuals and from healthy ones had particular properties. Luys’s interest in this and other unorthodox phenomena were consistent with ideas of animal magnetism in the late neo-mesmeric movement, as well as with some physicalistic conceptions of hypnosis and the nervous system held at the time.”

In addition to Luys, some of the figures that participated in the French neo-mesmeric movement were Alexandre Baréty (1844–1918), Émile Boirac (1851–1917), Albert de Rochas (1837–1914), and Hector Durville (1849–1923). “For example, Baréty defended the existence of a neuritic (neurique) force that originated ‘probably from the nervous system, which circulates along the nerves or radiates out of them … and is susceptible of producing certain sensitive, motor and psychic modifications on other human bodies.’ ”

Barety Magnetisme Animal

 

de rochas Forces Non Definies

Durville Traite Experimental Magnetisme Jules Bernard Luys (1828–1897) was a well-known French neurologist who worked at La Charité, an important hospital in Paris. His work was highly regarded. For example, his book Recherches sur le Système Cérébro-Spinal, sa Structure, ses Fonctions et ses Maladies (1865) was awarded a prize by the Académie des Sciences. In a addition to a great number of articles in medical journals he also published other books about neurology: Iconographie Photographique des Centres Nerveux (2 vols, 1873), Études de Physiologie et de Pathologie Cérébrale (1874), and Leçons sur la Structure et les Maladies du Système Nerveux (1875). His work was rewarded with the titles of Knight and Officer in the Légion d’Honneur, and by his election to the Académie de Médicine.

In later years Luys was interested in hypnosis, as seen in his Hypnotisme Expérimental: Les Émotions dans l’État d’Hypnotisme et l’Action à Distance de Substances Médicamenteuses ou Toxiques (Experimental Hypnotism: Emotions During the State of Hypnotism and the Action of Medical and Toxic Substances at a Distance, 1890). In his later research period Luys was interested in the action of medicines and drugs at a distance, as well as in the magnetic force of the mesmerists, claiming that he had patients that could see the magnetic force while hypnotized, and that he had been able to capture the elusive force on photographic plates. Unfortunately, this work was not well received by the medical establishment. As I stated in the paper: “These studies were not received as well as Luys’s previous physiological research had been. In fact, it was even said that because of this work Luys lost some of his scientific reputation.”

Luys Hypnotisme

Luys Esther

Esther, One of Luys’ Hypnotic Subjects

In my paper I reprint an article Luys published in 1892 entitled “De la Visibilité par les Sujets en État Hypnotique des Effluves Dégagés par les Êtres Vivants” (On the Visibility to Subjects in the Hypnotic State of Effluvia Emitted by Human Beings published in Annales de Psychiatrie et d’Hypnologie dans leurs Rapports avec la Psychologie et la Médicine Légale, 1892, 2, 321–323). “The phenomena described by Luys were in the mesmeric tradition. It may be argued that they also belonged to ideas about the aura, or the perception of various luminous shapes around the human body reported by non-hypnotized individuals such as mediums, psychics and others, a topic discussed frequently over the years. The aura, according to some writers, reflected the mental and physiological state of the person around whom it was seen, an idea also espoused by Luys.”

Luys Annales

Part of Luys’ article read as follows:

“Not only do hypnotized subjects have the attribute of seeing the magneto-electric effluvia which emerge from physical devices . . . but they can also . . . recognize the effluvia that are released from the eyes, ears, nostrils and the lips of living beings – [and can] distinguish them, those on the right side and those on the left side, putting the blue colour on the left and red on the right. Thus they distinguish in the human body and in animals a half which corresponds to the north pole, and another half which corresponds to the south pole of a magnetic bar or of a magneto-electric apparatus . . .”

“The hypnotized subject, whose eyes have been prepared and verified by the assistance of . . . ophthalmoscopic examination . . . can thus be employed as a real living reagent to recognize the differences in the coloration of the effluvia on the left side and those on the right side. In healthy, well men, the irradiated effluvia of the eye and the organs of the senses of the left side appear with a very intense blue coloration – those on the right side with a red carmine coloration. The intensity of the emitted effluvia seems to indicate the maximum energy of the nervous forces – indeed:”

“In hemiplegics, the effluvia irradiated from the eye of the paralysed side are very weak.”

“In chronic tabetics, very markedly weakened, the intensity of the effluvium is greatly diminished on both sides.”

“In neuropaths and in hysterics of both sexes, the red coloration of the effluvia of the right eye becomes violet; this is a diagnostic sign which in certain cases has allowed me to detect states of latent hysteria, and the eyes of these subjects appear incapable of moving upwards until they can form a red color. The effluvia of the ears, nostrils and lips maintain their red coloration.”

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

The authors of a recently published article explore cultural aspects of dissociation in mediumship: Everton de Oliveira Maraldi, Ricardo Nogueira Ribeiro, and Stanley Krippner, Cultural and Group Differences in Mediumship and Dissociation: Exploring the Varieties of Mediumistic Experiences. International Journal of Latin American Religions, 2019, 3, 170-192. (for reprints write to the first author: evertonom@usp.br)

Abstract

“The mental state of mediums has often been explained in the anthropological, psychological, and psychiatric literature in terms of dissociative trance. Even though mediumistic experiences involve, by definition, many of the elements of experiences referred to as dissociative, there is some controversy about the role played by dissociation in mediumistic practices and there are few cross-cultural studies on the phenomenology of mediumship. Despite its influential contributions to elucidating the clinical and neurophysiological correlates of dissociative experiences, the biomedical model has been criticized for its emphasis on psychopathological aspects of experience and the superficial consideration of cultural and psychosocial factors at the origin of mediumistic experiences, particularly in non-clinical contexts. In this paper, we review the evidence pertaining to a series of psychiatric and anthropological investigations of mediumship carried out in Brazil and abroad in order to illustrate how group and cultural differences impact the phenomenology, definitions, and meanings attributed to mediumistic experiences. To do so, we explore the differences that exist (1) between mediums from the same religious affiliation, (2) between mediums from different affiliations, and (3) between mediums from different cultural contexts, focusing on a comparison of cases from Brazil and the UK. We argue that mediumistic experiences and beliefs are highly variable across (and even within) cultures to support a single and monolithic classification. Based on multiple evidentiary sources, we challenge the pathologically oriented biomedical model of mediumship by pointing out the complexity and diversity of these experiences and mediumship’s many cultural interpretations and phenomenological variations. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of the studies reviewed for the definition of mediumship in terms of dissociation and trance.”

The authors conclude:

“Our emphasis in this paper was in the phenomenological characteristics of mediumistic experiences and the many relations between mediumship and dissociation. However, several other aspects of mediumship deserve also a detailed psychological and anthropological analysis, such as the relationship of the mediums with the spiritual entities, mediums’ beliefs about the afterlife, the medium’s social role and status within the group, and the impact of institutional dynamics in the practice of mediumship.”

“Many other cultures not mentioned here could be compared in their varieties of mediumship practice, including other countries in Latin America, such as Cuba and Argentina. Future studies could eventually benefit from the same comparative model of analysis to reflect on the diversity of mediumistic practices around the world. We hope that the discussion raised in this work will promote a constructive debate about the viability of concepts such as trance and dissociation in the understanding of experiences deemed mediumistic.”

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

Here is a new article discussing phenomena believed to present evidence against materialism: Toward a Postmaterialist Psychology: Theory, Research, and Applications,” by Mario Beauregard, Natalie L. Trent, and Gary E. Schwartz (New Ideas in Psychology, 2018, 50, 21–33; for a PDF of the article click here).

Mario Beauregard

Mario Beauregard

Natalie L. Trent

Natalie L. Trent

Natalie L. TrentNatalie L. Trent 2

Gary Schwartz

Abstract

“The majority of mainstream psychologists still adopt a materialist stance toward nature. They believe that science is synonymous with materialism; further, they are convinced that the view that mind and consciousness are simply by-products of brain activity is an incontrovertible fact that has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt. This is an incomplete view of what humans are. In this article, we review two categories of empirical evidence that support a shift toward a postmaterialist psychology. The first category of evidence includes mental events that seem to occur outside the spatial confines of the brain, whereas the second category includes mental events that seem to occur when the brain has ceased to function. Taken together, the two bodies of empirical evidence examined here indicate that the idea that the brain creates mind and consciousness is both incomplete and flawed. In the Discussion section, we argue that the transmission hypothesis of the mind-brain relationship can account for all the evidence presented in this article. We also discuss the emerging postmaterialist paradigm and its potential implications for the evolution of psychology.”

The authors argue that “the scientific materialist framework is completely at loss to explain a wide array of empirical phenomena that are thoroughly examined in this article.” They discuss ESP and near-death experiences, and other phenomena such as distant mental influence and reincarnation cases.

It is stated that psychology will be affected in different ways if a materialistic paradigm is rejected:

“Allowing for research from a postmaterialist perspective would impact many subfields within psychology. Not only would a postmaterialist paradigm allow for research to extend further into the potential of the mind, it would do so with an understanding of our interconnection, thereby moving forward in an ethical, holistic way . . . With respect to abnormal psychology, the belief in psi phenomena is currently classified as a symptom of a mental disorder, such as schizotypal personality disorder. A postmaterialist paradigm would recognize that many people do experience psi phenomena, and that these phenomena are not necessarily the products of delusions or pathological belief systems. Furthermore, a postmaterialist paradigm would take into account the enormous power of spirituality and mystical experiences to fundamentally transform one’s life in a positive way . . . As regards social psychology, adopting a postmaterialist paradigm would allow for deeper research into our interconnection and social bonds that may transcend the physical boundaries assumed by scientific materialism . . . The implications of postmaterialist paradigm also extend to crosscultural psychology, whereby other cultural belief systems often correspond to a non-materialist perspective . . . A postmaterialist paradigm can also create a bridge between modern medicine and traditional forms of medicine . . .”

It concluded that:

“Scientific materialism still continues to exert substantial influence in the academic world. QM and the numerous lines of converging empirical evidence discussed here, however, strongly suggest that this ideology is incomplete, erroneous and obsolete: the time is indeed ripe to embrace a broader and more inclusive postmaterialist conception of the world.”

“The history of science has been marked by a few special moments that were characterized by major conceptual breakthroughs that have been called paradigm shifts or changes . . . It appears that we are now approaching another crucial paradigm shift, namely the transition from materialist science to postmaterialist science. We may be witnessing the end of materialism . . . , at least as originally conceived. Holding great promise for science, this transition may be of vital importance to the evolution of the human civilization. Toward this end, a group of postmaterialist scientists . . . have founded a global Academy for the Advancement of Postmaterialist Sciences to foster theory, research, and applications in all branches of science.”

 

 

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

In a recently published article Zofia Weaver summarizes the psychical research contributions of Polish philosopher and psychologist Julian Ochorowicz (1850-1917):

Julian Ochorowicz and His Contribution to Psychical Research. Journal of Parapsychology, 2019, 83, 69-78.

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to present the contribution of Julian Ochorowicz to the field of psychical research. From early youth Ochorowicz was interested in psychology, particularly in magnetism, hypnotism and mental suggestion, and his experience in these areas influenced his theoretical approach to the subject. His passionate belief that the essence of true science had to be to establish facts before forming conclusions led him to investigate a number of mediums, including
Eusapia Palladino and Stanisława Tomczyk.

Julian Ochorowicz 2

Julian Ochorowicz

 

Ochorowicz Suggestion mentale

Ochorowicz Mains Tomczyk

Article About Ochorowicz’s Studies of Medium Stanislawa Tomczyck in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques, 1912

The author ends her paper stating:

“Ochorowicz was very much a ‘hands on,’ practical investigator, pursuing every manifestation as far as possible, inventing devices for excluding fraud, and examining every possible and impossible explanation to its logical conclusion in his search for the truth. However, in his pursuit of facts he tended not to allow for the possibility of different interpretations, and in particular was not aware of the ‘experimenter effect’ his powerful personality might produce. In his impatience for answers he would construct theoretical explanations prematurely and without detail, something he acknowledged himself in his later writings . . . Working with the model of the world current at that time, he tried to go beyond it, yet in some respects perhaps he was not so much wrong as ahead of his time, as in his exploration and application of the idea that energy could not be destroyed, only transformed. But perhaps his most important contributions were as an innovative experimenter and a ‘science activist,’ who had the courage to keep pushing at the boundaries of current worldviews, always asking, ‘What is impossible?’ ”

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

I first met the author of this book, James G. Matlock, when I was a Research Assistant for the late Ian Stevenson at the Division of Parapsychology (now Division of Perceptual Studies) of the University of Virginia. One of our first encounters was when he came to visit our offices sometime in 1985 or 1986 to talk to Dr. Stevenson. Since then, he has been a friend with whom I have had countless conversations about parapsychology over the years. From the beginning he had a special interest in reincarnation, but also on other topics I also acknowledge as my own: the history of parapsychology and the study of spontaneous cases in general.

James G. Matlock

James G. Matlock

Jim has been busy over the years. He worked at the American Society for Psychical Research and at the Rhine Research Center, and is a Research Fellow at the Parapsychology Foundation. In addition, he has a PhD in Anthropology from Southern Illinois University (Carbondale). A list of his  published articles about reincarnation, and other topics, appears here.

In addition, he is the co-author, with Erlendur Haraldsson, of I Saw A Light And Came Here: Children’s Experiences of Reincarnation (Hove, UK: White Crow Books, 2016).

Haraldsson Matlock I Saw a Light

The book Jim comments on here has been in his mind for many years, at least since the days I first met him. Signs of Reincarnation: Exploring Beliefs, Cases, and Theory (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019) is a veritable textbook about the concept of reincarnation and research on the subject covering historical, anthropological, psychological, and parapsychological aspects. The book is also an overview of explanatory models. Including the author’s. Furthermore, Signs of Reincarnation is also a defense of the concept of survival of death, of the need to go beyond materialism to account for the best cases.

Matlock Signs of Reincarnation

In my view Signs of Reincarnation is the most comprehensive overview of the subject, and one that considers the topic in relation to other phenomena. It is, in fact, a handbook for the scientific and scholarly study of reincarnation. Furthermore, the book includes a Foreword by Jeffrey Mishlove and an Afterword by Michael Nahm about the implications of reincarnation cases for biology.

Table of Contents

Foreword: A Tale of Two Theories, by Jeffrey Mishlove

Preface

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study of Reincarnation Signs
What is Reincarnation?
Challenge to Materialism

Chapter 2: The Belief in Reincarnation
Signs, Beliefs, and Customs in Animistic Cultures
A Brief History of the Belief in Rebirth, West and East
Karma, God, and the Individual in Rebirth Theory

Chapter 3: Research Methods and Interpretative Frames
Accounts of Past-Life Memory Recorded Before 1960
Ian Stevenson’s Field Research and Its Critics
Interpretive Frames for Reincarnation Cases

Chapter 4: Child Studies: The Principal Signs of Reincarnation
Involuntary Memory of Previous Lives
Behavioral Identification with the Previous Person
Birthmarks and Other Physical Signs

Chapter 5: Child Studies: Secondary Signs of Reincarnation
Signs of Discarnate Agency
Universal, Near-Universal, and Culture-Linked Patterns
The Psychological Impacts of Past-Life Memory

Chapter 6: Past-Life Recall in Adulthood and Third-Party Reports
Developmental Factors in Past-Life Memory Retrieval
Fantasy and Fact in Past Life Regression under Hypnosis
The Contributions of Shamans, Psychics, and Mediums

Chapter 7: The Process of Reincarnation
Beyond Materialism
Personal Identity and Postmortem Survival
Reincarnation and Life

Afterword: Implications of Reincarnation Cases for Biology, by Michael Nahm

Glossary of Specialized and Technical Terms

References

* * * * *

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

Signs of Reincarnation opens with the report of a “solved” (verified) American case of past-life memory involving a person not known to the child subject’s family, a rarity in the literature. I then discuss beliefs in and about reincarnation in different religions and thought traditions before turning to a systematic review of findings from over 2,500 investigated cases. I consider various ways the evidence may be interpreted but find that none are as satisfactory as reincarnation and move on to develop a theory of how it might work.

My processual soul theory rejects Cartesian substance dualism as incompatible with the case data and embraces a process metaphysics position that holds that what survives is simply a stream of consciousness continuous with that of embodied life. Reincarnation is best thought of in terms of possession, I argue. Although it means letting go of the materialist idea that consciousness is generated by the brain, my model does not require the acceptance of any radically new concepts or the abandonment of well-established findings in mainstream psychology or biology.

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

When I was about six years old, I witnessed something that got me thinking about the possibility of postmortem survival. I was standing slightly apart from a group of two boys and a girl. She was in the middle, they on either side of her. She was talking about a ghost she had seen, and they were ridiculing her, telling her that there was no such thing as a ghost. “There is too!” she insisted over and over, the volume of her voice rising each time. My reaction, thinking to myself, was, she is so certain that there are ghosts, perhaps there are ghosts. How can we be sure that there are no ghosts, if some people see them?

From early in my childhood, I wanted to be a creative writer, and in college I majored in English and minored in psychology. This was the early 1970s, but B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning was still being taught in my experimental psychology classes. I wasn’t sure I accepted the Skinnerian perspective, though. I recall asking my mother shortly after my graduation in 1977 if children were born with personalities or acquired them as they grew up. She told me that each child was born with a different personality, and the personalities became stronger as the children aged. I was one of five children, so I figured she knew what she was talking about, and that was all I needed to let go of Skinner.

I started reading the New Age literature that was coming out in the 1970s and around 1980, picked up my first book on reincarnation. I had not previously thought much about it, but I had seen the theme of rebirth coming up repeatedly in short stories and novels, and was intrigued by the concept. It did not take me long to find Stevenson’s books, which led me into parapsychology and changed the direction of my life. I joined organizations and subscribed to journals. I started attending meetings of the Parapsychological Association, my first at Tufts in 1985. My first publication in the field, in 1986, was a review of D. Scott Rogo’s The Search for Yesterday: A Critical Examination of the Evidence for Reincarnation.

During the same period, I was finding it more difficult than I had imagined to make a living writing fiction and enrolled in library school, intending to specialize in archives. I undertook a survey of archival resources in parapsychology, the basis of a paper published in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research in 1987. That survey also led to my first job in parapsychology, as Librarian and Archivist at the ASPR. When I left there I pursued doctoral studies in anthropology, but I returned to parapsychology later, as a staff member of the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Many of my early contributions to parapsychology concerned the history of the field, but I continued to read and write about survival topics, especially reincarnation. Gradually reincarnation took over as my core interest and has remained so. In 2016, field researcher Erlendur Haraldsson invited me to co-author I Saw a Light and Came Here: Children’s Experiences of Reincarnation. I have also written (at present count) eleven articles on reincarnation-related topics for the Psi Encyclopedia. For a list of my publications in parapsychology and anthropology, click here. In the fall of 2017, I sat with Jeffrey Mishlove for a series of twelve conversations about reincarnation research for his New Thinking Allowed video series on YouTube.

What motivated you to write this book?

For many years, I wanted to write a book about reincarnation, but the more I studied the topic, the more I came to feel that I was not yet ready to take it on. When I did think seriously about the project, I could not decide on a structure that would allow me to say all I wanted to say. That changed when Nancy Zingrone asked me to develop a semester-long Masters-level course on reincarnation for a new program in parapsychology at Atlantic University. I began working on course lectures with the idea of eventually publishing them as a book. When Atlantic cancelled its parapsychology program, and Nancy left the school, I went with her, but continued to develop my course and then to teach it online through the Alvarado Zingrone Institute for Research and Education (for information about the course click here). I did not teach the course in 2018, so as to have time to finish this book, which will serve as the course textbook going forward. I plan to resume offering the course this August.

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

The semester-long lecture format gave me the structure I needed to explore all aspects of the reincarnation problem, from the many ways humanity has conceived of rebirth, to case studies and other research, to trying to understand the process without rejecting the findings of mainstream psychology and biology. Signs of Reincarnation is the first book to cover the topic systematically from all these angles, in a scholarly way. It lays out where we are now and provides a baseline for future work.

The book touches on and has relation to several fields, ranging from consciousness studies to anthropology to religious studies and philosophy. It is written for a college-level audience in the hopes of introducing students to this research before they are settled into their careers. I would like also to educate the larger academic community about the research, and I would like to see parapsychologists grapple with the ideas I present concerning postmortem survival and psi.

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

An important new study about physiological and medical aspects of mediumship has been published by Julie Beischel, Shawn Tassone  and Mark Boccuzzi. Here is the abstract:

Hematological and Psychophysiological Correlates of Anomalous Information Reception in Mediums: A Preliminary Exploration. Explore: Journal of Science & Healing, 2019; 15, 126-133.

Abstract

“Context: Modern research with mediums—individuals who regularly experience and report communication from the deceased—includes investigations of mediums’ accuracy, psychology, phenomenology, and electrophysiology and the therapeutic potential of mediumship readings for the bereaved. Anecdotal reports imply that chronic medical problems may be a serious concern for mediums.”

“Objective: The aim of this study was two-fold: (I) to systematically investigate the hematological and psychophysiological correlates of anomalous information reception (AIR, the reporting of accurate and specific information about the deceased in the absence of prior knowledge, feedback, or deceptive means) and (II) to compare the reported health issues of mediums and non-mediums.”

“Design: (I) A repeated-measures design in which mediums engaged in blinded mediumship readings and a control condition was used. (II) A parallel-groups design was used to compare mediums’ and non-mediums’ responses to an anonymous online survey regarding their health issues.”

“Participants: (I) Data was collected from five Windbridge Certified Research Mediums. (II) Survey responses from 125 mediums were compared to responses from 222 non-mediums.

Main Outcome Measures: (I) General physiological measures and 28 hematological elements were assessed. (II) Reports regarding autoimmune disease diagnoses and specific ailments by organ system were collected.”

“Results: Novel findings from this study included the following: (I) No significant hematological or physiological changes were seen in the mediums when pre- and post-condition comparisons were made for the counter-balanced sessions. (II) Compared to non-mediums, more mediums reported having at least one autoimmune disease (35.2% vs. 18.9%; p = 0.00076; z = 3.37; h = 0.4). Mediums also reported experiencing more health issues than did non-mediums (8.08 ± 5.38 vs. 5.09 ± 4.17 symptoms; p < 0.000001, g = 0.6). Specifically, more mediums than non-mediums (all p < 0.004) reported water retention (19.2% vs. 5.0%, z = 4.23, h = 0.5), bruising easily (20.0% vs. 9.0%, z = 2.93, h = 0.3), gastrointestinal issues (35.2% vs. 18.5%, z = 3.48, h = 0.4), headaches/migraines (26.4% vs. 11.3%, z = 3.63, h = 0.4), asthma (20.0% vs. 9.0%, z = 2.93, h = 0.3), food intolerances (28.0% vs. 9.9%, z = 4.37, h = 0.5), and sleep disturbances (40.8% vs. 14.9%, z = 5.41 h = 0.6). The proportions of participants reporting exophthalmos, chronic fatigue syndrome, and ankle sprains were not different.”

The authors summarize their results in the conclusion. They state that the mediums obtained “accurate and specific information about the deceased” and that there were no significant relationships with hematological and physiological variables. Furthermore:

“The findings from this study did demonstrate, however, that the mediums surveyed reported a significantly higher disease burden than non-mediums regarding specifically autoimmune disease, water retention, bruising easily, gastrointestinal issues, headaches/migraines, asthma, food intolerances, and sleep disturbances. These reports are in line with those of Assailly . . . who also found high levels of water retention, bruising easily . . . , and gastrointestinal issues in the mediums he examined though he did not compare his sample to a non-medium control group. The mediums in the current study also reported significant sleep disturbances and food intolerances whereas Assailly found that digestion issues and lack of sleep ‘appeared as negligible factors’ . . . In addition, although Assailly noted that the mediums in his study often reported exophthalmos (bulging eyes) and ‘complained of ‘twisting their ankles at every turn,’ these symptoms were not reported by the mediums in the current study.”

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

The Parapsychological Association has posted the announcement of their 2019 convention. It reads as follows:

“This July 4-6, the PA is bringing its annual convention to Paris, France in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Institut Métapsychique International. Join us for three days of paper presentations, workshops, and panel discussions on the latest research into psi and related phenomena, such as extra-sensory perception, psychokinesis, psychic healing, altered states of consciousness, mediumship and possible survival of bodily death.”

“The year’s J.B. Rhine Address will be delivered by quantum physicist and philosopher Antoine Suarez, founding director of the Center for Quantum Philosophy. In his address titled What Is and Is Not Possible for Human Experimenters Suarez will discuss the conditions for the possibility and reproducibility of psychophysical phenomena. The PA convention will offer an opportunity for attendees interested in a wide range of human functioning popularly known as the ‘psychic’ or ‘paranormal’ to share and evaluate some of the most exciting and promising original research happening today.”

“At the close of the convention, the Institut Métapsychique International has planned a visit exclusively for PA convention attendees to an exhibit titled The Embodied After-life: Mediumship, Art and Métapsychique. The exhibit will present 100 years of psychical research through mediumnistic drawings and paintings, psi measurement devices, “spirit” photography, original plates of Warcollier’s telepathy experiments, and the famous ectoplasmic hand moulds of Franek Kluski. Thought-provoking and visually striking, the exhibit will present a unique opportunity to discover the rich scientific and artistic heritage of one of the oldest centers of psychical research. The evening ends with a reception, also hosted by the IMI, at a nearby Asian restaurant.”

Here is information about registration (click here and here), and a tentative program of papers to be presented at the convention (click here).

 

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

The Journal of Parapsychology, founded in 1937, had its 80th anniversary in 2017, a date commemorated with the publication of a special issue of the journal (2018, Vol. 82, Supplement). The issue starts with Etzel Cardeña’s editorial, “Four Score (Plus) Years Ago,” where he states:

Etzel Cardena 5

Etzel Cardeña

“Among their many achievements, Joseph Banks Rhine and collaborators launched The Journal of Parapsychology (JP) in 1937, the foremost venue for experimental research on parapsychology and sur­passed in longevity only by the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. There had been important experiments in parapsychology preceding the Rhine era, but during the latter experimental parapsy­chology was established more solidly. The eighty-plus years of JP issues would constitute an extraordi­nary achievement in any field, but is even more remarkable in such a contentious area as parapsycholo­gy. To avoid repeating mistakes one should be cognizant of the field’s previous history . . . and even a cursory look at the JP indexes shows how the field has developed throughout the years. My intention for this Supplementary E-issue was to give a bird’s eye view of the coverage in the JP.”

JP 1937 First Issue

First Issue of the Journal of Parapsychology

 

This is followed by two overview articles:

John Palmer

80 Years of the Journal of Parapsychology: An Historical Overview

John Palmer 3

John Palmer

Abstract: In this invited article, the author reviews the history of the Journal of Parapsychology from its inception in 1937 to 2017. The focus is on published controversies and debates with critics outside the field of parapsychology, JP publication policy, and the changes in editorship.

Journal of Parapsychology 5

Carlos S. Alvarado

Eight Decades of Psi Research: Highlights in the Journal of Parapsychology

Abstract: This is a short review of the 80 years of existence of the Journal of Parapsychology. Found­ed in 1937, the journal articulated the experimental research program of J. B. Rhine and his asso­ciates at Duke University. Highlights of the journal are discussed, starting with examples of articles reporting experiments of extrasensory perception and psychokinesis. Also discussed are articles about spontaneous cases, the presentation of novel and creative approaches, critiques and discus­sions, overviews of the field, J. B. Rhine’s use of the Journal of Parapsychology to prescribe for the field, and concepts and theories. The Journal of Parapsychology is seen as an important influence in the development of parapsychology.

In my paper, I concluded:

“The appearance of the JP represents a change from the psychical research tradition that existed in the United States and elsewhere before the late 1930s, which was dominated by the study of cases and of mediumship . . . Although the research program of J.B. Rhine and his associates was to some extent a reinstatement of earlier interest in experimentation, the JP greatly assisted the devel­opment of parapsychology. This was accomplished by providing a forum that assisted processes such as the standardization of techniques to assess chance, controls for contaminating factors such as sensory cues, and terminology in parapsychology . . . Like every good scientific journal, the JP also facilitated communication between researchers and others in the field helping to disseminate ideas and encourage professional attitudes. The presentation of informa­tion, in the form of reviews of the literature, and book reviews (not discussed in this paper) has made the journal an essential reference source over the years for researchers, students, and others. One hopes that this tradition of excellence and dedication continues beyond this anniversary as parapsychology moves to new horizons.”

The Journal of Parapsychology V36 No 1 March 1972 ESP Precognition Research NC

The editor also reprinted various articles originally published in the JP. These were:

Some Basic Experiments in Extra-sensory Perception: A Background (1937)

By Joseph Banks Rhine

J.B. Rhine 2

J.B. Rhine

Spontaneous Telepathy and the Problem of Survival (1943)

By Gardner Murphy

Gardner Murphy 3

Gardner Murphy

Subjective Forms of Spontaneous Psi Experiences (1953)

By Louisa E. Rhine

Louisa Rhine

Louisa E. Rhine

Precognition of a Quantum Process (1969)

By Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt

Studying Individual Psi Experiences (1970)

Gertrude R. Schmeidler

Gertrude Schmeidler

Gertrude R. Schmeidler

A Joint Communiqué: The Psi Ganzfeld Controversy (1986)

By Ray Hyman and Charles Honorton

Ray Hyman

Ray Hyman

Charles Honorton

Charles Honorton

An Assessment of the Evidence for Psychic Functioning (1995)

By Jessica Utts

Jessica Utts 4

Jessica Utts

Mind Matters: A New Scientific Era (2008)

By Roger D. Nelson

Roger Nelson 3

Roger D. Nelson

Those of you interested in the history of the JP may want to consult the following sources:

journal of Parapsychology 7

Alvarado, C.S. (2011). Prescribing for parapsychology: Note on J.B. Rhine’s writings in the Journal of Parapsychology. Australian Journal of Parapsychology, 11, 89–99.

Alvarado, C.S. (in press). Journal of Parapsychology. In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research.

Alvarado, C. S., Biondi, M., & Kramer, W. (2006). Historical notes on psychic phenomena in specialised journals. European Journal of Parapsychology, 21, 58-87.

Broughton, R. S. (1987). Publication policy and the Journal of Parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 51, 21-32.

Mauskopf, S.H. (1987). The origin of the Journal of Parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 51, 9-19.

Mauskopf, S.H., & McVaugh, M.R. (1980). The Elusive Science: Origins of Experimental Psychical Research. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Palmer, J. (1987). Controversy and the JP. Journal of Parapsychology, 51, 33-48.

Pope, D.H., & Pratt, J.G. (1942). Five Years of the Journal of Parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 6,  5-19.

Rao, K.R. (1987). Editorial: The Journal of Parapsychology: The first and the next fifty years. Journal of Parapsychology, 51, 1-8.

Rhine, J.B. (1946). Editorial: The first ten years of the journal. Journal of Parapsychology, 10, 221-223.

Rhine, J.B. (1956). Editorial: The Journal’s first twenty years. Journal of Parapsychology, 20, 263-266.

Rhine, J.B. (1961). A quarter century of the Journal of Parapsychology: A brief review. Journal of Parapsychology, 25, 237-246.

Rhine, J.B. (1977). A backward look on leaving the JP. Journal of Parapsychology, 41, 89-102.

Zingrone, N.L. (1988). Authorship and gender in American parapsychology journals. Journal of Parapsychology, 52, 321-343.

Journal of Parapsychology 9

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

In my last published article I focus of various aspects of materialization phenomena with mediums: Alvarado, C.S. Musings on Materializations: Eric J. Dingwall on “The Plasma Theory” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2019, 33, 73–113; available here or from the author: carlos@theazire.org). Here is the abstract:

“The psychical research literature has many examples of séance room materialization phenomena. This article consists of a reprint of, and a commentary about, Eric J. Dingwall’s paper “The Plasma Theory,” published in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research in 1921. Dingwall discussed some of the previously published ideas on the topic, and emphasized those related to mediums Eva C. and Kathleen Goligher. The purpose of the current article is not to provide evidence for the phenomena, but to present relevant contextual information about the article, additional bibliography, and theoretical concepts, some of which are forgotten today.”

Eva C 8

Eva C.

Kathleen Goligher 2

Kathleen Goligher

I start saying: “One of the phenomena of physical mediumship is materializations, or appearances of ephemeral bodies (or parts of), and other forms, or things, in the séance room. This includes the production of ectoplasm, a subtle matter assuming various shapes and appearances—such as mists, plaster, and textile-like products—that may change into things such as hands, faces, and whole bodies. The topic flourished in previous eras and is largely ignored today by parapsychologists, particularly in terms of research. This is in part due to its association with fraud . . . and the lack of mediums who produce the phenomenon, or who are willing to be investigated under controlled conditions. Nonetheless, some current students of materialization believe there is evidence for the occurrence of the phenomenon . . .” 

Before I present a reprint of the text of Eric J. Dingwall’s article, I introduce the topic in a section discussing 19th and early 20th century materialization literature. The first subsection is about the variety of materializations. “Many accounts were about mediums such as Catherine E. Woods . . . , Florence Cook . . . , William Eglinton . . . , Francis Ward Monck . . . , the Eddy Brothers . . . , and Kate Fox . . . , among many others . . . .”

WILLIAM EGLINTON

William Eglinton

Florence Cook 2

Florence Cook

Francis Ward Monck 2

Francis Ward Monck

“A classic case of full-body materialization was Katie King, which appeared in the presence of medium Florence Cook . . . Many were the reports of appearances of limbs and faces. Hands were common, as seen with Eusapia Palladino . . . In addition to full-body appearances, and the appearance of faces and limbs, there were reports of less precise forms as well that may be considered manifestations of what was latter called ectoplasm, which is the topic of Dingwall’s article. Perhaps the most common form of Nineteenth-Century ectoplasm was that of clouds or nebulous formations, such as those observed with Monck . . .  In D. D. Home’s séances there were reports of a ‘small white cloud without any well-defined shape’ and of a ‘luminous cloud-like body’ . . . On one occasion, according to Crookes, a hand was seen ‘ending at the wrist in a cloud.’ ”

Katie King 2

Katie King

Katie King 5

William Crookes and Katie King

“There were also many discussions of materializations during the first decades of the Twentieth Century, as seen in the writings of Gambier Bolton . . . , Paul Gibier . . . , Enrico Imoda . . . , Enrico Morselli . . . , and Charles Richet . . . Of particular importance was the work of French sculptress Juliette Alexandre-Bisson . . . , German physician Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing . . . , French physician Gustave Geley . . . , and New Zealand–born mechanical engineer William J. Crawford . . . . Their descriptions of ectoplasm provided much information about this mysterious substance.”

Juliette Alexandre Bisson

Juliette Alexandre Bisson

William J. Crawford

William J. Crawford

In this section I cited many fascinating publications such as:

Adare, Viscount (1869). Experiences in Spiritualism with Mr. D. D. Home. London: Thomas Scott.

Adshead, W. P. (1879). Miss Wood in Derbyshire: A Series of Experimental Séances Demonstrating the Fact That Spirits Can Appear in the Physical Form. London: J. Burns.

Alexandre-Bisson, J. (1921). Les Phénomènes dits de Materialisation: Étude Experimentale (2nd ed.). Paris: Félix Alcan.

Crookes, W. (1874). Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism. London: J. Burns.

Oxley, W. (1876). A spirit materialising under the eyes of the observers in Manchester. Spiritualist Newspaper, (May 12):222–223.

Schrenck-Notzing, [A.] Baron (1920). Phenomena of Materialisation: A Contribution to the Investigation of Mediumistic Teleplastics (revised edition). London: Paul Trench, Trübner.

Another section is about theoretical ideas: “Vital Forces, Ideoplasty, and Materializations.” “The idea that materialization depends on the vital force of the medium, what one writer called the “stuff for form-building”. . . , was frequently discussed during the Nineteenth Century by students of the subject . . . , and in messages presumed by some to come from spirits of the dead . . .” These speculations include those that advocated for discarnate agency and for the idea that the materializations were produced and guided by the minds of mediums, and sometimes, sitters.

Eglinton materialization

Artistic representation of connection between materialized form and medium William Eglinton

This includes the ideas of French researcher Gustave Geley. “Based on the idea of a basic universal substance as the substrate of living things, Geley . . . considered ectoplasm and organic formations ideoplastic creations. Seeing materialization as a biological process, Geley compared the incomplete and grotesque character of ectoplasmic formations to those found in animal and human forms. ‘Like normal physiology, the so-called supernormal has its complete and aborted forms, its monstrosities, and its dermoid cysts. The parallelism is complete’ . . . He also compared ectoplasmic development to the histolysis of insects: ‘The same phenomenon takes place, as has already been said, in the closed chrysalis of the insect as in the dark cabinet at the séance.’ ”

H407/0191

Gustave Geley

Some references used in this section about theory were:

Aksakof, A. (1898). A Case of Partial Dematerialization of the Body of a Medium: Investigation and Discussion. Boston: Banner of Light.

Carrington, H. (1921). Vital energy and psychical phenomena. Psychic Research Quarterly, 1, 271–277.

Geley, G. (1920). From the Unconscious to the Conscious. Glasgow: William Collins. [First published in French in 1919]

Harrison, W. H. (1876). Speculations tending to explain certain spiritual manifestations. Spiritualist Newspaper, (May 5):205–206.

Morselli, E. A. (1908). Psicologia e “Spiritismo:” Impressioni e Note Critiche sui Fenomeni Medianici di Eusapia Paladino (2 vols.). Turin: Fratelli Bocca.

Richmond, C. L. V. (1877). Is materialization true? If so, it’s philosophy. Banner of Light, (June 9):2.

Then I present some biographical details about Dingwall, and the text of his article. The reprint of the article is annotated to provide further information and bibliographical sources, many of which were not mentioned by the author. Dingwall pays particular attention to the ectoplasm reported to take place around mediums Eva C. and Kathleen Goligher.

Eric John Dingwall

Eric J. Dingwall

Dingwall Plasma Theory

Eva C 5

Ectoplasm with Eva C.

Kathleen Goligher 5

Ectoplasm with Kathleen Goligher

 After Dingwall’s paper, I summarized developments after 1921 in sections about observations and studies, critiques, and theoretical ideas. Among other references, I cited: Bozzano, E. (1926). À Propos de l’Introduction à la Métapsychique Humaine. Paris: Jean Meyer; Dingwall, E. J. (1926). A report on a series of sittings with the medium Margery. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 36, 79-158; Fodor, N. (1934). Simplifying “miracles”: Theory of materialization process. Light, 54, 10; Gulat-Wellenburg, W. von, Klinckowstroem, C. von, & Rosenbusch, H. (1925). Der physikalische Mediumismus. Berlin: Ullstein; Hamilton, T. G. (1931). Some new facts regarding teleplasms. Psychic Science, 9(4), 262-270; and Lapicque, L., Dumas, G., Piéron, H., & Laugier, H. (1922). Rapport sur des experiences de contrôle relatives aux phénomenes dits ectoplasmiques. L’Année Psychologique, 23, 604-611; Schrenck-Notzing, [A.] F. von (1921). Das Materialisationsproblem nach den Untersuchungen W. Crawfords. Psychische Studien, 48, 337-366.

Bozzano A Propos

Schrenck Notzing Crawford 1921

I also cited Charles Richet’s theoretical comments published in his celebrated Traité de Métapsychique in 1922:

“When I put a hand in front of a mirror, the image of my hand is reflected: reflection of light. In front of a thermometer, reflection of heat. In front of a galvanometer, reflection of electricity. It is true that in front of one balance there is nothing there. But is it unreasonable to suppose that this projection of light, heat, and electricity could be accompanied by a projection of mechanical force? . . .”

“Materialization is a mechanical projection. We already have projection of light, heat, and electricity. It is not going very far to see as possible, besides these projections of heat, light, and electricity, a projection of mechanical force. The memorable demonstrations of Einstein establish at which point mechanical energy approaches luminous energy.”

Charles Richet 10

Charles Richet

Richet Traite

I concluded that Dingwall’s article is a good reminder of parts of the old materialization literature. “Although my interest is mainly historical, I realize that many study the topic to determine if the phenomena are real or not. As pointed out by various modern authors . . . , there are good observations that cannot be ignored. But the topic is still generally dismissed. In general this material tends to be seen today with suspicion due, at least in part, to recorded instances of fraud . . .”

I end saying: “. . . hopefully future work on the topic will be inspired by essays such as Dingwall’s, so as to benefit from awareness of previous findings, as well as of methodological issues, and the problem of fraud. But more important, to be significant, this work needs to go beyond the observational stage so typical of much of this literature. By this I mean that, if it is possible to make a good case for the reality of the phenomenon, and that it appears consistently enough to be studied carefully, research needs to be conducted to learn something about its nature.”

 

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

Here is an English-language bibliography about mental mediumship published between 2000 and 2019. I am not including here publications about sociological and anthropological aspects of mediumship, not of the effects of mediumship on bereavement.

Overviews

Bastos Jr., M.A.V., et al. (2015). Mediumship: Review of quantitative studies published in the 21st century. Archives of Clinical Psychiatry, 42, 129-138.

Beischel, J. (2018). Mental mediumship research. In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research.

Beischel, J., & Zingrone, N.L. (2015). Mental mediumship. In E. Cardeña, J. Palmer, & D. Marcusson- Clavertz (Eds.), Parapsychology: A Handbook for the 21st Century (pp. 301-313). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Braude, S.E. (2003). Immortal Remains: The Evidence for Life After Death. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Chapters 2 and 3.

Rock, A.J. (Ed.). (2013). The Survival Hypothesis: Essays on Mediumship. Jefferson, CA: McFarland.

History

Alvarado, C.S. (2014). Mediumship, psychical research, dissociation, and the powers of the subconscious mind. Journal of Parapsychology, 78, 98-114.

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

Alvarado, C. S. (2016). Classic Text No. 105: “Report of the Committee on Mediumistic Phenomena,” by William James (1886). History of Psychiatry, 27, 85–100. Abstract

Alvarado, C.S., & Biondi, M. (2017). Classic Text No. 110: Cesare Lombroso on Mediumship and Pathology. History of Psychiatry, 28, 225–241. Abstract

Alvarado, C.S., Nahm, M., & Sommer, A. (2012). Notes on early interpretations of mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 26, 855-865.

Anderson, R.I. (2006). Psychics, Sensitives and Somnambules: A Biographical Dictionary with Bibliographies. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Blum, D. (2006). Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death. New York: Penguin Press.

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

Fryer, C. (2012). Geraldine Cummins: An Appreciation. White Crow Books.

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

Hazelgrove, J. (2000) Spiritualism and British Society Between the Wars. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

Le Maléfan, P., Evrard, R., & Alvarado, C.S. (2013). Spiritist delusions and spiritism in the nosography of French psychiatry (1850-1950). History of Psychiatry, 24, 477-491.

Leonard, T.J. (2005). Talking to the Other Side: A History of Modern Spiritualism and Mediumship: A Study of the Religion, Science, Philosophy and Mediums that Encompass this American-Made Religion. New York: iUniverse.

Maraldi, E. de O., & Alvarado, C.S. (2018). Classic Text No. 113: Final chapter, From India to the Planet Mars: A Study of a Case of Somnambulism with Glossolalia, by Théodore  Flournoy (1900). History of Psychiatry, 29, 110-125. Abstract

Massicotte, C. (2017). Trance Speakers: Femininity and Authorship in Spiritual Séances, 1850–1930. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Moreira-Almeida A., Almeida, A. A. S., & Lotufo Neto, F. (2005). History of spiritist madness in Brazil. History of Psychiatry, 16, 5-25.

Robertson, B.A. (2017). Science of the Seance: Transnational Networks and Gendered Bodies in the Study of Psychic Phenomena, 1918-40. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

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

Tymn, M. (2013). Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife. Guildford, UK: White Crow Books.

Research

Veridical tests

Beischel, J., Boccuzzi, M., Biuso, M., & Rock, A. J. (2015). Anomalous information reception by research mediums under blinded conditions II: Replication and extension. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science & Healing, 11, 136-142.

Beischel, J., & Schwartz, G.E. (2007). Anomalous information reception by research mediums demonstrated using a novel triple-blind protocol. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science & Healing, 3, 23-27.

Jensen, C.G., & Cardeña, E. (2009). A controlled long-distance test of a professional medium. European Journal of Parapsychology, 24, 53-67.

Kelly, E.W., Arcangel, D. (2011). An investigation of mediums who claim to give information about deceased persons. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 199, 11-17.

O’Keeffe, C., & Wiseman R. (2005). Testing alleged mediumship: Methods and results. British Journal of Psychology, 96(Pt 2), 165-179. Abstract

Rocha,. AC., Paraná, D., Freire, E.S., Lotufo Neto, F., Moreira-Almeida A. (2014). Investigating the fit and accuracy of alleged mediumistic writing: A case study of Chico Xavier’s letters. Explore: The Journal of Science & Healing, 10, 300-308. Abstract

Rock, A. J., & Beischel, J. (2008). Quantitative analysis of mediums’ conscious experiences during a discarnate reading versus a control task: A pilot study. Australian Journal of Parapsychology, 8, 157-179.

Rock, A. J., Beischel, J., Boccuzzi, M., & Biuso, M. (2014). Discarnate readings by claimant mediums: Assessing phenomenology and accuracy under beyond double-blind conditions. Journal of Parapsychology, 78(2), 183-194.

Roy, A. E., & Robertson, T. J. (2001). A double- blind procedure for assessing the relevance of a medium’s statements to a recipient. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 65, 161–174. Abstract

Roy, A.E., Robertson, T.J. (2004). Results of the application of the Robertson-Roy protocol to a series of experiments with mediums and participants. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 68, 161-174.

Schwartz, G.E., Geoffrion. S., Jain, S., Lewis, S., Russek, L.G. (2003).  Evidence of anomalous information retrieval between two mediums: Replication in a double-blind design. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 67, 115-130.

Schwartz, G.E., & Russek, L. (2001). Evidence of anomalous information retrieval between two mediums: Telepathy, network memory resonance, and continuance of consciousness. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 65, 257-275.

Schwartz, G. E. R., Russek, L. G. S., Nelson, L. A., & Barentsen, C. (2001). Accuracy and replicability of anomalous after-death communication across highly skilled mediums. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 65, 1–25.

Schwartz, G.E., with Simon, W.L. (2002). The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death. New York: Pocket Books.

Schwartz, G.E., & Simon, W.L. (2005). The Truth About Medium: Extraordinary Experiments with the Real Allison DuBois of NBC’s Medium and other Remarkable Psychics. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads.

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

Physiological tests

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

Beischel, J., Tassone, S., & Boccuzzi, M. (2019). Hematological and psychophysiological correlates of anomalous information reception in mediums: A preliminary exploration. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science & Healing, 15, 126–133. Abstract

Delorme, A., Beischel. J., Michel, L., Boccuzzi, M., Radin, D., & Mills, P. J. (2013). Electrocortical activity associated with subjective communication with the deceased. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 834. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00834

Hageman, J. H., Peres, J. F. P., Moreira-Almeida, A., Caixeta, L., Wickramasekera, I. II, & Krippner, S. (2010). The neurobiology of trance and mediumship in Brazil. In S. Krippner & H. L. Friedman (Eds.), Mysterious minds: The neurobiology of psychics, mediums, and other extraordinary people (pp. 85-111). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. Abstract

Peres, J.F, Moreira-Almeida, A., Caixeta, L., Leao, F., & Newberg, A. (2012). Neuro-imaging during trance state: A contribution to the study of dissociation. PLoS One;7(11)

Psychological tests

Moreira-Almeida, A., Neto, F.L., & Cardeña, E. (2008). Comparison of Brazilian spiritist mediumship and dissociative identity disorder. Journal of Nervous and Mental, 196, 420-424.

Moreira-Almeida A., Lotufo Neto, F., & Greyson, B. (2007). Dissociative and psychotic experiences in Brazilian spiritist mediums. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 76, 57-58.

Negro, P. J., Palladino-Negro, P., & Rodrigues Louza, M. (2002). Do religious mediumship dissociative experiences conform to the sociocognitive theory of dissociation? Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 3, 51–73. Abstract

Roxburgh, E.C., & Roe, C.A. (2011). A survey of dissociation, boundary-thinness and psychological wellbeing in spiritualist mental mediumship. Journal of Parapsychology, 75, 279-299. Abstract

Wahbeh, H., & Radin, D. (2018). People reporting experiences of mediumship have higher dissociation symptom scores than non-mediums, but below thresholds for pathological dissociation. F1000 Research 6: 1416.

Other (see also Leonard, 2005 from History section)

Beischel, J., Mosher, C., & Boccuzzi, M. (2017). Quantitative and qualitative analyses of mediumistic and psychic experiences. Threshold: Journal of Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies, 1(2): 51-91.

Emmons, C. F., & Emmons, P. (2003). Guided by Spirit: A Journey into the Mind of the Medium. New York: Writers Club Press.

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

Maraldi, E. de O., & Krippner, S. (2013). A biopsychosocial approach to creative dissociation: Remarks on a case of mediumistic painting. NeuroQuantology, 11, 544-572.

Rock, A. J., Beischel, J., & Cott, C. C. (2009). Psi vs. survival: A qualitative investigation of mediums’ phenomenology comparing psychic readings and ostensible communication with the deceased. Transpersonal Psychology Review, 13, 76-89.

Rock, A. J., Beischel, J., & Schwartz, G. E. (2008). Thematic analysis of research mediums’ experiences of discarnate communication. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 22, 179-192.

Roxburgh, E. C., & Roe, C. A. (2013). Exploring the meaning of mental mediumship from the mediums’ perspective. In C. M. Moreman (Ed.), The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and Around the World (pp. 53-67). California: Praeger Publishers.

Roxburgh, E. C., & Roe, C. A. (2013). “Say from whence you owe this strange intelligence”: Investigating explanatory systems of spiritualist mental mediumship using interpretative phenomenological analysis. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 32(1), 27-42.

Roxburgh, E. C., & Roe, C. A. (2014).  Reframing voices and visions using a spiritual model:  An interpretative phenomenological analysis of anomalous experiences in mediumship. Mental Health, Religion, & Culture, 17, 6, 641-653. Abstract

Wabeh, H., Carpenter, L., & Radin, D. (2018). A mixed methods phenomenological and exploratory study of channeling. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 82, 129-147. Abstract

Other Topics (Mainly Conceptual)

Alvarado, C.S. (2012). Mediumship and dreams. Paranormal Review, No. 64, 8-12.

Alvarado, C.S. (2010). Investigating mental mediumship: Research suggestions from the historical literature. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 24, 197-224.

Beischel, J. (2007). Contemporary methods used in laboratory-based mediumship research. Journal of Parapsychology, 71, 37-68.

Beischel, J., & Rock, A. J. (2009). Addressing the survival vs. psi debate through process-focused mediumship research. Journal of Parapsychology, 73, 71-90.

Braude, S. E. (2000). Dissociation and latent abilities: The strange case of Patience Worth. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 1, 13–48.

Braude, S.B. (2017). Mediumship and multiple personality. In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research.

Cunningham, P.F. (2012). The content–source problem in modern mediumship research. Journal of Parapsychology, 76, 295-319.

Hunter, J. (2017). Mediumship and spirit possession in a cross-cultural context. In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research.

Maraldi, E. de O. (2014). Medium or author? A preliminary model relating dissociation, paranormal belief systems and self-esteem. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 78, 1-24.

Moreira-Almeida, A. (2012). Research on mediumship and the mind-brain relationship In A. Moreira-Almeida, & F.S. Santos (Eds.), Exploring Frontiers of the Mind-Brain Relationship (pp. 191-213). New York: Springer.

Sudduth, M. (2009). Super-psi and the survivalist interpretation of mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 23, 167–193.

Forgetting the Past

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

Nancy L. Zingrone and I commented in a short communication about a recent editorial by Etzel Cardeña in the Journal of Parapsychology: Alvarado, C.S., & Zingrone, N.L. (2018). Forgetting the Past. Journal of Parapsychology, 82, 213-215.

Nancy Zingrone 2019

Nancy L. Zingrone

Cardeña wrote about the “ignorance or disregard [some show] . . . of earlier and very pertinent research and literature, as if somehow the topic had not been studied until the authors decided to focus their attention on it” (Cardeña, E. (2017). Editorial: On scientific amnesia. Journal of Parapsychology, 81, 104-105). We argued that the topic was important because such disregard “may produce incomplete views based on lack of historical continuity that, in turn, cause misconceptions, as well as rediscoveries or reformulations of previous findings and ideas.”

We argued that this problem suggests that some persons may have forgotten that literature reviews in science are helpful in “the exploration of relevant theoretical ideas . . . in the development of hypotheses and [in] the selection of research methodology.” But the situation may also indicate that “some persons in the field, particularly those coming from other areas, have a low level of basic literacy in the parapsychological literature.”

Some examples of this problem were briefly presented citing three examples from the literature. Furthermore, it was stated that instead of dismissing the issue by labelling it as trivial, or by stating that this is a common problem in science, we should instead accept we need to solve the problem.

One way to address the problem is the compilation of bibliographies (click here), the presentation of comprehensive literature reviews (click here and here), and the organization of educational lectures presented by workers in the field (click here). We end our brief comment saying:

“In addition to the constant growth of literature in all topics—a somewhat less daunting prospect in parapsychological literature than in mainstream science—a key problem here is the belief that trying to know as much as we can about the past literature relevant to our topics of concern is not important to our future success. Authors are the first ones who need to be concerned about this, but they can and need to be assisted by the critical eye of editors and referees . . . We are not arguing that every paper needs a long review going back to antiquity, drawing in historical sources for every aspect of the topic. In fact, some reviews are too general or unfocused, full of references not of direct relevance to the topic at hand. But a good review is important, as we have argued, because it provides context, builds consensus, and deepens the meaningfulness of our research.”

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

Here is a blog by Nancy L. Zingrone about free online lectures about various aspects of survival of death sponsored by the Parapsychology Foundation.

Nancy Zingrone 2019

Nancy L. Zingrone

Enrollment Open Now: ParaMOOC1029

Nancy L. Zingrone, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

The Parapsychology Research and Education free online course is now open for enrollment. The schedule has been restructured and the course now has a specific topic, “Survival of Death and Parapsychology.” Enrollment for the course opened on March 21st and will close on May 31st. To enroll click here and to see a quick tutorial about enrolling click here (the academy on the social media teaching platform, WizIQ, has changed somewhat this year). The first live session will be held on Saturday April 6th and the last live session will be held on Sunday May 19th. All live sessions will take place on Saturdays and Sundays, including the discussion forums, with most of them scheduled for noon Eastern.

As usual, folks who enroll in the course will have access to the course materials and the recordings of the live sessions at least until April of 2020. All of the substantive lectures will be published to the Parapsychology Foundation’s YouTube channel (barring technical difficulties that preclude that), and will roll out over the next couple of years, along with the remnant of lectures from the previous years.

Begun in 2015 by Carlos and I, the ParaMOOC enrolled over 1000 people in its first year, and the effort was supported by a number of donors including the Parapsychology Foundation, Natasha and Jonathan Chisdes of Chizfilm.com as well as Dr. Phil Morse who is one of this year’s speakers. From 2016 through this year, with over 300 individuals enrolling each year (well so far I think we have around 48, so plenty of room in the course, folks!), the Parapsychology Foundation took over all of the funding, enabling Carlos and I to continue to manage a large course with many speakers per week, and a great deal of work both during the course and after with the most active participants. As we and the Parapsychology Foundation faced a downturn in the economic feasibility of such a big endeavor this year, Carlos and I began to think about not only the content, but the scope. After four years of casting a wide net over the areas of study the field encompasses, we began to think that a thematic MOOC was in order, hence the focus on survival.

In ParaMOOC 2017, we opened a few of the live sessions to anybody who wanted to attend, and because that was appreciated by the attendees, the speakers and their network of colleagues and friends, we decided to open all of the live sessions to the public in 2018. We’ll be continuing that policy this year. Only enrollees are eligible for certificates, however.

As for the faculty members, from the beginning of the ParaMOOC series, Carlos, who has always taken the lead on faculty recruitment, wanted to make sure that speakers were almost always active researchers or theorists or others engaged in some important activity for the promotion of serious parapsychological research. The vast majority of past and present speakers hold doctoral degrees in their areas, or on occasion, have been physicians who also conducted research, or post-graduate students. And we have also included a couple of extraordinary individuals without advanced degrees who have a clear reputation for engaging in high level research. Our hope was to provide attendees with the opportunity to interact with the faculty, raising questions and making comments, and to provide the faculty with the opportunity to craft a lecture or lectures of a length that was unavailable to them at the conferences and other academic and scientific events. To be honest, we’ve been very lucky to have had so many excellent speakers agree to speak and some, more than once!

The following are the ParaMOOC2019 faculty and their specific topics:

Dr Carlos S Alvarado, the co-director of The AZIRE, an online project of Alvarado, Zingrone & Associates, and a Research Fellow at the Parapsychology Foundation (USA). Dr Alvarado will present “Survival of Death and the Development of Parapsychology” on Sunday, April the 7th, and “European Interest in Survival of Death: The Case of Ernesto Bozzano” on Saturday, April 13th.

Carlos S. Alvarado 9jpg

Carlos S. Alvarado

Dr Janice Miner Holden, editor of the Journal of Near Death Studies, and Professor of Counseling Education at the University of North Texas (USA), will present “Near-Death Experiences and the Survival of Physical Death” on Sunday, April 14th.

Jan Holden

Janice M. Holden

Dr Phil Morse, retired Professor Emeritus of Education at the State University of New York at Fredonia (USA), will present “The Amazing, Unimpeachable Mediumship of Leonora Piper,” on Saturday, April 20th.

Phil Morse

Phil Morse

Dr Masayuki Ohkado, Professor in the Graduate School of Global Humanics and Faculty of General Education of Chubu University (Japan), will present “How Real are Past Life Experiences under Hypnosis?”, on Saturday, April 27th.

Ohkado Masayiki 2

Masayuki Ohkado

Dr Alejandro Parra, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Psychology of the Universidad Abierta Interamericana (Argentina), will present “Unusual perceptual experiences in hospital settings and anomalous experiences in nurses” on Sunday, April 28th.

Alejandro Parra 6

Alejandro Parra

Dr Julie Beischel, co-founder and director of Windbridge Research Center (USA), will present “The Four Types of After-Death Communication Experiences (ADCs),” on Saturday, May 4th  

SONY DSC

Julie Beischel

Dr Callum E. Cooper, Instructor in Psychology at the University of Northhampton (UK) will present “Apparitions and Other Experiences of the Bereaved,” on Sunday, May 5th.

Callum Cooper - BSc Psychology

Callum Cooper

Dr Alexander Moreira-Almeida, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Federal University of Juiz de Fora (Brazil), will present “Mind-Body Independence and Survival of Death,” on Saturday, May 11th.

Alexander Moreira Almeida 2

Alexander Moreira-Almeida

Dr Michael Nahm, researcher at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health (Germany), will present “The Unexpected Return of Mental Clarity before Death: Examples, Implications, and Future Research Perspectives of Terminal Lucidity Terminal Lucidity,” on Sunday, May 12th.

Michael Nahm

Michael Nahm

Steve Braude, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, will present “Post-mortem Survival: The Central Issues” on Saturday, May 18th.

Steve Braude 4

Stephen E. Braude

And as always, additional materials, links to previously recorded lectures and YouTube videos, and tutorials will be included in the course. To embed the Google calendar for the course into your own calendar, click here.

We hope you’ll join us again this year. And keep an eye on the ParaMOOC playlist on the Parapsychology Foundation’s YouTube Channel as we’re going to continue to upload past presentations as we can.

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

Over the years I have seen Dr. Roger Nelson at various conventions of the Parapsychological Association and of the Society for Scientific Exploration, and had the pleasure of publishing an interview with him in this blog in 2014. During that period he worked at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research  laboratory and presented many papers reporting experiments about psychokinesis.

Roger Nelson 3

Roger Nelson

Roger held the position of Coordinator of Research at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory located at Princeton University (1980-2002). Since 1997 he has been the director of one of the most exciting research programs in parapsychology, the Global Consciousness Project, which is the topic of the book discussed here.

The book, Connected: The Emergence of Global Consciousness (Princeton, NJ: ICRL Press, 2019; available via Amazon), is about the development and results of  The Global Consciousness Project (see also a shorter article, a slide presentation, and a video), which postulates the possibility that human consciousness can interact with physical systems at a global level, when we respond synchronously to specific events, negative and positive.

Nelson Connected

As Roger has stated elsewhere: “The Global Consciousness Project . . . is an international collaboration of scientists and engineers that tests the claim, insisted on by sages throughout history, that there exists a unified field of human consciousness. The project looks for evidence that thoughts, emotions and perceptions may potentially cohere in response to major world events, producing detectable effects. Data collected from a worldwide network of random output devices has been found to show small but statistically significant deviations that suggest this is indeed the case.”

The book has 28 chapters that appear in four parts: Part 1 The Egg Story (chapters such as: Starting Points, Interconnections, Development, Encouraging Results); Part 2 The Instrument (Chapters such as: Intention Affect RNGs [Randon number generators], The FiedREG Experiment, The Egg Network, Suitable Measures); Part 3 The Results (Chapters such as: Terror Attacks and Wars, Natural Disasters, Compassion and Empathy, Modelling and Theory); and Part 4 Interpretation and Meaning (Chapters such as: Extracting Meaning, Implications of the Evidence, What We Can Do, Love to Earth).

Interview

Can you give a brief summary of the book?

Connected documents the Global Consciousness Project (GCP) in depth, including its history and sources, descriptions of technology and examples of results. More than enough technical and analytical detail, some discussion of notional explanations, and finally some chapters on interpretation and implications. It builds on research showing that human intention can change random number generator (RNG) behavior, and that group consciousness, when it is coherent and resonant, can change random sequences. A network of RNGs around the world was designed to ask whether we can see effects of a global consciousness responding to great events in the world. The answer suggests that when large numbers of people share emotions stimulated by major tragedies or great celebrations there is a small but meaningful effect on the GCP network. The implication that we are interconnected at an unconscious level poses the next question — what might happen if we work consciously to understand and strengthen these connections?

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

I’m a cognitive psychologist with long interest in “alternative” psychologies. I came to Princeton in 1980 to join the PEAR research group, to develop experiments in remote perception (RV) and mind-matter interaction (MMI). My interest in broader applications of the MMI technology led to “fieldREG” experiments studying group consciousness, and to the next level of integrated or shared consciousness effects in the Global Consciousness Project, which I created in 1997.

What motivated you to write this book?

The GCP is a major research project that I wanted to document in an accessible, relatively linear fashion. Its findings and implications offer insight into the extraordinary reach of human consciousness, and suggest that we are not only capable of but responsible for conscious evolution.

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

We are at a time in history when collaboration and cooperation are essential to address global issues. Millions of us understand that we must come together as one, and this book speaks of a potential to become a noosphere — a sheath of intelligence for the earth. Consciousness, as I wrote in the book. “is not just a secondary emanation from the brain, but instead is both part of and independent of the physical substrate of neurons and synapses protected by the skull. Mind has a real and participatory role in the world” (p. 12).

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

Modern discussions about the mediumship of D.D. Home typically focus on his physical phenomena (e.g., S. Braude, Daniel Dunglas Home. Psi Encyclopedia, 2016). These include raps, movement of objects, luminous effects, touches, materializations, and elongation and levitation of the mediums’s body. However, the authors of accounts of Home seances also describe phenomena that are seldom mentioned. These include accounts of trances and spirit communications, some of which were reported to take place via raps. Here are some examples.

HOME HOLDING BOOK

D.D. Home

HOME TESTED BY CROOKES 2

Home in Test Conducted by William Crookes

There are several interesting accounts of trances. In one of them it was stated: “Mr Home now passed into the trance state, and, rising from his seat, his eyes closed, his arms rigid and drawn across his chest, he walked to and fro; opening the door, he beckoned for the unseen friends to enter” (H.D. Jencken, Elongation of Mr. Home, with Measurements. Human Nature, 1869, 3, 138-141, p. 139).

In addition to Jencken, other writers described how Home used to walk around during trances, usually talking. Here is one account in which he did not talk: “Home now went into one of those strange trances in which he is unable to speak; he bandaged his eyes with a handkerchief, walked about the room a little, then brought the candle, two sheets of paper and a pencil, and placing them on our table, sat down; then spreading open one of the sheets he commenced writing the alphabet on it in large capital letters. He proceeded with a firm bold touch as far as the letter F, when his hand became violently tremulous, he went on to the letter L, the shaking of his fingers gradually increasing, when he made a gesture as if he could not proceed, and handed the paper and pencil to me. I finished the alphabet. He then, following the lines that I had made, traced over the letters R, S, T, U, V, W, with the same tremulous motion of his hand, and proceeded to decorate with leaves and flowers the letters A, G, S, T, U. He drew a cross in the letter U, a heart pendant on T, a star or double cross in S, an anchor in G, something resembling a bird in A, and marked the letters A and U with the figure 2” (Viscount Adare, Experiences in Spiritualism with Mr. D.D. Home. London: Thomas Scott, n.d. [1869], p. 129).

Adare also recorded an instance in which Home talked much, and physical phenomena also took place: “I was seated at the table in Home’s room at Ashley House writing; he was seated at the opposite side, reading; we heard raps upon the door; Home said ” Your grandfather has come in, do you not see him sitting in that chair yonder?” “I see no one,” I answered; “Which grandfather do you mean?” “Your father’s father; you will at any rate hear him.” I heard a sound as if some one sitting on the chair he had mentioned had put his foot on the ground. Home, while speaking, went into a trance. The chair moved very slowly up to the table (no one touching it) a distance of eight feet eleven inches. ‘He is moving the chair,’ Home said, ‘He is pleased to be able to do that, he says you never saw a much prettier manifestation than that; Ah! he has gone over there now.’ Another chair moved close up to me, a distance of about a foot. Home said ‘He is sitting in that chair near you; he has come because he wishes to speak to you; you are rather in difficulties he thinks.’ He then spoke to me about certain private matters. Presently Home said ‘Your mother does not wish you to think that she forgot you because she said so little about your marriage; she could not say more then, and after all what could she do more than pray God’s blessing upon you in this as she would in everything that you undertake, honestly, and with a desire to do that which was right. She has much more to say on the subject, but not now” (Adare, pp. 148-149).

Image result for adare experiences in spiritualism with mr. d.d. home

 

Like other mediums of his era, sometimes Home delivered long speeches about a variety of general subjects while he was in trance. Once he stated: “There are laws which govern the approach of spiritual beings to earth, and their organic life, and there are epochs of darkness when the spiritual spheres are far removed from the earth; when the approach of spirits. is all but impossible. These epochs have been called by those on earth the dark ages; they mark the absence of spiritual intercourse. There are also times of near approach, not unlike your winter and summer seasons . . . You are now entering upon a period of very near approach. It is coming like the tide in a river—irresistible, overriding the current, overcoming all; it is coming grandly and Godly” (Adare, p. 18).

On another occasion the trance was accompanied by possession:

“In the midst of our conversation Mr. Home fell into a trance; this was, perhaps, the most salient feature of the séance, for while in this state, which must have lasted about an hour, he appeared to be influenced or possessed by the spirit friends who surrounded us, personating in manner those whom he had never seen, but who had been known by the several members of our circle. This was most remarkable in the case of one whom we will call by the name designated to her by Mr. Home, namely, that of Margaret, although she had only been known by that of Christy, as a servant in the family of one of the gentlemen present, and had been drowned forty years ago. Mr. Home went through the action of drowning, and gave such proofs of the identity of ‘Christy,’ that the son of her former master, who was the gentleman present, was fain to accept them as unmistakable” (L.M. Gregory, A Seance with Mr. Home. Spiritual Magazine, 1866, 1(n.s.), 226-227, p. 227).

Another example of veridical information: “Mr. Home had by this time gone off into a trance state. Whilst in this trance he said he saw a spirit-form standing next to my guest. The form, character, and past history were so accurately detailed that the identity of the spirit-friend was unmistakably established, much to the surprise of the gentleman, whose departed friend had been quite unknown to Mr. Home” (H.D. Jencken, New Spirit Manifestations. Spiritual Magazine, 1868, 3(n.s.), 30-39, p. 36).

image of page 30

In the same article Jencken also reported what follows: “On one occasion the friends present had only casually met; and were seated round the drawing table. Suddenly Mr. Home, who had all the while been engaged conversing with the ladies, changed the expression of his countenance, rose, and, having played a few chords on the piano, returned to resume his seat, but now in a state of trance; his face rigid, hands cold, and the fingers extended. He steadfastly gazed across to where Mrs. — was seated, and said, ‘L— S— is standing between you and Mr.—. I see her as she was in life— mark, not as she is, but as she was when on earth.’ Mr. Home then accurately described the personal appearance of the spirit when on earth. So marked and clear were the traits he delineated that no doubt as to identity remained in the minds of those present. He said a child which had passed away in early infancy was standing next to L — S— , and that the spirit of L — S— was much pleased, and anxious to communicate with Mrs.—, whom she had loved on earth; and to prove her identity recalled a conversation that had taken place years ago between the two friends. He then said that L — S— wished to say that since passing away her views had much changed— that she had first to unlearn in order to learn. The spirit then impressed Mr. Home to remind Mrs.— of a conversation Mrs.— had recently held with her husband, and repeated part of the conversation that had taken place. I must mention that Mr. Home was a perfect stranger to the deceased person, whose name he had never even heard of. We have here what borders very narrowly upon a proof of the actual presence of the spirit of a departed friend, tor we have name, description of person, marked incidents in past life, all given, sufficient to establish an identity in any court of law; but possibly not proof enough to dispel the doubt of a sceptic” (pp. 37-38).

DD HOME AND CHAIR

In the words of someone who had several seances with Home: “All who have seen Mr. Home in this state of trance, are aware how clearly he sees and communicates with spirits that have passed from the body. And marvellous and marvellously beautiful have been the communications made by them, through him, which it has been my fortune to hear. The gestures, the most trivial actions of bodily life, the mode of walking and speaking, the voice, the infirmities of persons who have passed away long before he was born, and concerning whose peculiarities in all these particulars Mr. Home had not the least possible means of obtaining any knowledge, are all repeated by him when in this state with an accuracy of detail which leaves no doubt, either that he is at the moment possessed by the spirit whose earthly characteristics he is delineating, or that he is receiving from them or from other spirits impressive communications which enable him to reproduce them” (M. D., Guardians of Strength. Spiritual Magazine, 1867, 2(n.s.), 112-118, p. 112).

Interestingly another author stated: “The communications we received were always strikingly characteristic of those by whom they were made, and in strict accordance with the opinions they had always in life expressed; the rapidity and clearness of their replies to mental interrogation was also remarkable in the extreme. I have also seen communications made by means of the alphabet in several languages, Polish amongst the number, with which neither Mr. Home nor any one present (except the individual communicated with) was acquainted” (Mrs. Eric Baker, Fraud, Fancy, Fact: Which Is It? An Enquiry into the Mystery of Spiritualism. London: J.S. Hodson & Son, 1862, p. 19).
Here are two other accounts about deceased persons.

“He then said, ‘There are other spirits behind your chair, Elizabeth, Mary, Harriet.’ The two first puzzled me, but Harriet I knew well; she was my old school-fellow and earliest friend. I begged Mr. H. to describe her. He directly began scribbling, (she was a great writer) and looked very merry. Soon after, my chair was playfully pushed twice-—just what Harriet would have done, had she been present in the body; for she was full of fun” (A. Branker, Correspondence. Spiritual Magazine, 1861, 2, 431-432, p. 431).

“Mr. Home then suddenly went into the trance and saw ‘Charles,’ and gave such a description of his appearance and manner, that Mrs. W. recognised her late grandson, whose name at birth she had wished to be called Charles, but the wish had been over-ruled! and another name was given. Shortly, a sprig from a verbena plant in the room was broken off by invisible agency, and placed on the table by her right hand, and the sounds spelt out ‘Grandma, this is from little Charles.’ The lady was much affected, even to tears” (J. Jones, Correspondence. Spiritual Magazine, 1861, 2, 479-480, p. 479).

The latter part of the previous quote is an example of physical manifestations apparently guided by spirits related to the sitters, as is the following account of raps: “Q. (by Mr. Home) Is there a spirit present ? A. Yes.— Q. (by one of us whom I forget) What do you want to say ? A. My dear Ned, watch over you; be patient, you will be cared for.—Henry, your father! This message was written down, letter by letter, without word division, and we had to spell it over afterwards before we could understand it” (E.H. Chawner, Letter. Spiritual Magazine, 1865, 6, 45-57, p. 45).

Other physical phenomena showed relationship to actions in the séance room. “During this séance, Mr. Home recited a poem . . . As he repeated it the table rose with two feet into the air, and with the other two beat time to the rhythm of the poem on the floor. At a particular passage, with words to this effect, ‘And when I opened my eyes, a thrill went through me,’ the table gave such a thrill and shake, that even Home started back” (W. Howitt, Some Séances with Mr. Home Some Years Ago. Spiritual Magazine, 1872, 7(n.s.), 424-428, pp. 425-426).

Raps were reported to follow verbal statements: “Five raps is the understood signal whereby a Spirit (supposed) signifies its presence and desire to communicate . . . The communication itself is thus obtained:—The alphabet is in some leisurely manner repeated: A—B—C, etc. When a particular letter is arrived at, three raps on the table—or risings of it, indifferently—as the understood sign of assent (yes), indicate it as that wanted: it is accordingly taken down; and the alphabet being begun anew, a series of other letters is in the same way obtained, and noted. Two raps indicate the close of the communication ; and the word, or sentence, as it may be, is then readily deciphered and read out” (P.P. Alexander, Spiritualism: A Narrative with a Discussion. Edinburgh: William P. Nimmo, 1871, p. 21).

Alexander Spiritualism

Another example involved a communication via raps: “A spirit announced its presence, and rapped out, ‘It is Pophy Sophy? ‘Pophy Sophy!’ said Mr. Home; that is very odd. It does not seem like a name, either in English or any other language known to me. Can any one at the table explain?’ Whereupon a lady present gave signs of great agitation, and presently she burst out, ‘Pophy Sophy’ Oh! that is our poor dear little Sophia, whom we lost two years ago. Pophy Sophy!—that was the dear little pet name she always went by in the family, as she had given it to herself when an infant.’ On this, another lady present (the aunt of little Pophy, as it appeared) began to cry bitterly. Five raps were then again heard, and the following was rapped out—’Do not cry, Auntie dear! You were not to blame, and I am happy, happy now.’ And immediately after came this: ‘I did not die. Am I not alive? And could I forget you all?’ The story, as after inquired into by my friend, was thus :—The little child, left under charge of her aunt, during absence of the parents in England, had died of scarlet fever, and the poor lady had been eaten up with morbid remorse, as supposing that, through some blind carelessness on her part, the infection might have been caught” (Alexander, pp. 35-36).

A consideration of these phenomena will provide us not only with more information about D.D. Home, but with a wider and more complete view of his mediumship.

Image result for d.d. home

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

Parapsychologist John Palmer published an interesting study in his paper “Training Anomalous Cognition in a Motor Task with Subliminal Auditory Feedback” (Journal of Parapsychology, 2018, 82, 132-147; for reprints write to the author: john@rhine.org). Here is the abstract:

“On each of 60 trials, 5 participants (Ps), selected based on high state and trait dissociation scores in a previous motor automatism experiment, explored with a computer pen a 16 x 16 inch grid affixed to a computer writing tablet, stopping to register a response to a randomly selected target square. The grid is conceptually divided into 16 squares (4 in each of 4 quadrants). The dependent variable was the average of 2 z-scores representing square and quadrant hits. Ps attended 2 1-run baseline sessions and 2 1-run test sessions. In between, they completed 15–20 1-run training sessions with subliminal auditory feedback. The feedback stimulus was the spoken word(s) “good” (quadrant hit) or “good good” (square hit) superimposed on brownian (similar to pink) noise. 1 of the 5 Ps significantly confirmed the hypothesis of higher scoring on test than baseline runs. There was significant or suggestive evidence of anomalous cognition in the baseline and/or test results of 4 Ps and the 5 difference scores showed significant between-subjects variability. There was no evidence of learning in the training sessions. According to the underlying theory, conditions for learning were not met because Ps did not successfully blank the mind and were overly attentive to the feedback sounds.”

For me the interesting aspect of the study was that related to dissociation. As Palmer wrote: “The general hypothesis tested in the overall research program is that psi is facilitated by dissociated states of consciousness and that the most dissociated form of psi expression is motor automatism, such as automatic writing and dowsing, where conscious cognitive processing is minimized.”

Commenting on the history of the dissociation-ESP relationship, the author wrote in his introduction: “The first experiment to test for anomalous cognition (AC) using motor automatisms was by Brugmans (1922), who had a special participant (P) point to a square with a letter-number on a grid while blindfolded, with the hope that he would point to the randomly selected target for the trial. Highly significant results were obtained, but the randomization method was poor. One of the card-guessing methods used in J. B. Rhine’s famous card-guessing experiments was ‘screen-touch matching,’ in which P pointed to one of five ‘key cards’ representing the five Zener cards symbols. This technique was used in the prominent and controversial Pratt-Woodruff experiment (Pratt & Woodruff, 1939).” However, this history is incomplete.

Not only there is no mention about the earlier attempts to use motor automatisms to test for ESP (as seen in: F.W.H. Myers, Automatic Writing.-II. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1885, 3, 1-63; and C. Richet, La Suggestion Mentale et le Calcul des Probabilités. Revue Philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger, 1884, 18, 609-674), but there is no acknowledgement of the general interest in dissociation showed by early psychical researchers, as seen in the publications of the Society for Psychical Research during the Nineteenth-Century (see C.S. Alvarado, Dissociation in Britain During the Late Nineteenth Century: The Society for Psychical Research, 1882-1900. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 2002, 3, 9-33).

Palmer was also interested in training ESP performance. “The motivation to follow up [a previous study] with a training study had to do with my belief that in order to demonstrate the reality of psi to the mainstream scientific community, it is necessary to increase the strength, and especially, the reliability of psi in the laboratory. It seems to me that the best way to do this is through training of psi ability, and such attempts should be made, even if they are ‘long-shots,’ as this experiment arguably was.”

“There were a considerable number of statistically significant or suggestive results in the study . . . These outcomes with Ps selected on the basis of dissociative tendencies encourage further research on the dissociation-ESP relationship . . . However, no such success appeared during the training sessions. This lack of improvement in the training sessions indicates that whatever genuine AC [anomalous cognition] occurred was not due to learning, and there was no evidence of learning in any of the Ps’ data.”

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

Some of you probably have heard about the Nineteenth-Century table turning studies of Agénor de Gasparin. This is the topic of one of my recent papers:

Table turning in the early 1850s: The séance reports of Agénor de Gasparin. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2018, 32, 702-741.

Abstract

“The phenomena of table turning flourished during the 1850s, providing for many people a context for belief in spirit action, and for the development of explanations such as unconscious muscular movements and the exteriorization of nervous forces from the sitters. This paper consists of the presentation of excerpts from the classic study of these phenomena by Agénor de Gasparin, who reported his work on the subject in his book Des Tables Tournantes (1854, 2 volumes, translated into English in 1857). De Gasparin believed that unconscious muscular action could not explain the movements of tables, and postulated the emission of a force from the sitters around the table to account for the movements. I present a long excerpt from de Gasparin’s book in which he described the phenomena he obtained, preceded by a short review of interest in table phenomena in the 1850s, and followed by critiques showing the general skepticism about these phenomena during and after de Gasparin’s lifetime.”

Agenor de Gasparin 2

Agénor de Gasparin

 

De Gasparin Tables Tournantes

de Gasparin Science

 The purpose of my article is to remind current readers of de Gasparin’s influential work on table-turning, a phenomenon, and a social practice popular in some places during the 1850s. “While these séances have been discussed in various historical overview works . . . de Gasparin’s work does not seem to be well-known today . . . Furthermore, these studies deserve to be better-known because they were very influential at the time they appeared. Although there are many reports and discussions of table phenomena throughout the late Nineteenth Century and later . . . . , I focus my comments in most of this paper to material published in the 1850s. I extend the later discussion at the end of this paper to the reception of the work in later periods.”

MEDIUMSHIP/TABLE TURNING

Table tipping

 The paper is divided in four main sections. These are an overview of table-turning writings during the 1850s, a discussion of de Gasparin’s life and work, an excerpt from de Gasparin’s book reporting his seances, and a general discussion of critiques of his work and of his influence.

Roubaud Danse Tables

 

Table Turning and Table Talking: Containing Detailed Reports of an Infinite Variety of Experiments Performed in England, France, and Germany, with most marvellous results; also, minute directions to enable every one to practise them and the various explanations given of the phenomena, by the most distinguished Scientific Men of Europe ... Second Edition With Professor Faraday's Experiments and Explanation.

“Count Agénor Etiénne de Gasparin (18101871), was born in Orange, France, and later lived in Switzerland . . .  An obituarist referred to him as a noble and chivalrous man who showed “grace that charmed his adversaries as well as his friends” . . . He held various political appointments, such as a member of the Chamber of Deputies from Bastia (Corsica) in 1842. Furthermore, de Gasparin was interested and active in issues related to economics, history, politics, and religion. A biographer presented de Gasparin as a man always willing to fight for causes, such as the abolition of slavery.”

Borel Compte Agenor de Gasparin

de Gasparin L'Egalite

de Gasparin Uprising

On one occasion, de Gasparin and the sitters explored “divination” by the table. “On the 20th of September, then, we desired to put to the proof the pretended faculty of divination ascribed to the tables. For this purpose, we submitted to the one around which we were sitting, and which operated to admiration, the most elementary question assuredly, that can be proposed to a spirit. We placed three nuts in the pocket of one of the experimenters; the table, interrogated as to their number, promptly struck nine blows!”

Some attempts at table moving were made without the contact of the hands of the sitters. De Gasparin wrote: “Choosing a moment when the table was impelled by an energetic and truly spirited rotation, we all raised our hands at a given signal; then, maintaining them united by means of the little finger, and continuing to form the chain at about an inch above the table, we pursued our course, and, to our great surprise, the table also pursued its course, making thus three or four turns!”

On another occasion, the record reads: “Let us return to the demonstration par excellence—the elevation without contact. We began by accomplishing it three times. Then, as it was suggested that the presence of witnesses exercised a more certain influence over a small table than a large one, over five operators than ten, we caused a round table, made of spruce, to be brought in, and which the chain reduced by onehalf, sufficed to put in rotation. Whereupon, the hands being raised, and all contact having ceased, the table elevated itself perpendicularly seven times at our command.”

In the conclusion I stated:

“De Gasparin’s work was ignored by many, particularly by strong defenders of the unconscious movement explanation. While the reports could have been more detailed, something not common at the time, the critics ignored aspects of de Gasparin’s results inconsistent with unconscious movements and simple fraud explanations.”

“Several commentators on de Gasparin’s work—Delondre, Figuier, and Podmore—raised the issue of fraud. While this has to be considered, it is important to recognize that there was no actual evidence for such an explanation. But as a consequence of this situation, the work was not generally accepted, something quite common in the history of physical mediumship and other areas of psychical research.” 

“Regardless of evidential considerations, de Gasparin’s work was certainly important in many ways. He contributed to rescuing table turning from the casual discussions in the press and popular books, and from the “learned” attempts to reduce all phenomena related to tables to delusion and unconscious muscular movements. It is less clear, however, how influential he was on later studies of table movements . . .” Nonetheless, he clearly influenced Marc Thury, and William Crookes cited him later.

“This work presented important instances of tests attempting to counter objections empirically, and emphasizing phenomena inconsistent with the unconscious movement explanations of others. While a few conducted tests to see if they could support this hypothesis (e.g., Faraday 1853), many others just accepted the argument without empirical examination (e.g., Chevreul 1854).”

Image result for table turning

 

 

 

 

 

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

The authors of this article present the results of an online survey.

Future Directions in Meditation Research: Recommendations for Expanding the Field of Contemplative Science.

PLoS ONE 13(11): e0205740. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0205740

by

Cassandra Vieten, Helane Wahbeh, B. Rael Cahn, Katherine MacLean, Mica Estrada, Paul Mills, Michael Murphy , Shauna Shapiro, Dean Radin, Zoran Josipovic, David E. Presti, Michael Sapiro, Jan Chozen Bays, Peter Russell, David Vago, Fred Travis, Roger Walsh, & Arnaud Delorme

Cassandra Vieten 2

Cassandra Vieten

Helané Wahbeh

Helané Wahbeh

Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy

david presti

David Presti

Arnaud Delorme

Arnaud Delorme

Abstract

“The science of meditation has grown tremendously in the last two decades. Most studies have focused on evaluating the clinical effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions, neural and other physiological correlates of meditation, and individual cognitive and emotional aspects of meditation. Far less research has been conducted on more challenging domains to measure, such as group and relational, transpersonal and mystical, and difficult aspects of meditation; anomalous or extraordinary phenomena related to meditation; and post-conventional stages of development associated with meditation. However, these components of meditation may be crucial to people’s psychological and spiritual development, could represent important mediators and/or mechanisms by which meditation confers benefits, and could themselves be important outcomes of meditation practices. In addition, since large numbers of novices are being introduced to meditation, it is helpful to investigate experiences they may encounter that are not well understood. Over the last four years, a task force of meditation researchers and teachers met regularly to develop recommendations for expanding the current meditation research field to include these important yet often neglected topics. These meetings led to a cross-sectional online survey to investigate the prevalence of a wide range of experiences in 1120 meditators. Results show that the majority of respondents report having had many of these anomalous and extraordinary experiences. While some of the topics are potentially controversial, they can be subjected to rigorous scientific investigation. These arenas represent largely uncharted scientific terrain and provide excellent opportunities for both new and experienced researchers. We provide suggestions for future directions, with accompanying online materials to encourage such research.”

They concluded that “mystical and extraordinary experiences  are prevalent enough among meditators, and salient enough to those who have them, to warrant further scientific inquiry.” Some of the mystical experiences were feelings of peace and tranquility, feelings of joy, loss of usual sense of time, fusion of self with a larger whole, and feeling that “all is one.” Regarding these, and other experiences, it is said in the report that “the vast majority reporting having them “2–5 times” or “many times” for almost all items.”

Other experiences included alterations in vision and hearing, perception of nonphysical beings, a sense of collective energy, and ESP-type experiences. “Over half of the meditators in our sample reported experiencing clairvoyance or telepathy (perceiving information that could not have been known to them by any known physical means, but later turned out to be true) at least once. Not only that, but the majority also found the experience “somewhat pleasant” and “quite meaningful or important.”

“Discussions of the relationship between meditation practice and advanced capacities of meditators can be traced in written form back to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, published roughly two thousand years ago . . . Claims such as precognition, clairvoyance, telepathy, and mind-matter interactions are still controversial, although a growing body of literature suggests that some such claims could be supported by data . . . External physical phenomena, or objects moving by a non-physical force, physical objects appearing when they had not been there before, objects falling over, a light going out, psychokinesis (the supposed ability to move objects by mental attention or intention alone), or other physical manifestations that seemed to have no physical cause are also discussed in historical literature. Approximately one-third of the meditators in our sample endorsed having experienced something like this at least once.”

“Physical and perceptual sensations not apparently caused by the physical environment were experienced by the vast majority of our survey respondents, including: heat, cold, pressure, or tingling; seeing lights, visions, or images; lightness or heaviness, floating, out of body experiences, body parts disappearing, or feeling like the body changed in shape or size; hearing buzzing sounds, humming, or voices or music that were not in the physical environment. These are experiences that have rarely been examined in a scientific context, but were endorsed by 60–90% of our respondents.”

The authors also state: “It is important to note here again that there did not appear to be a substantially higher rate of psychological disorders in this sample than in the general population. While these experiences could be completely illusory, they also could point to aspects of human potential and reality that challenge prevailing paradigms. Western scientists may hesitate to entertain the possibility that one possible explanation for these perceptions of non-local aspects of consciousness are that they are ontologically real. In many meditative traditions, whether they are considered real or not, these experiences are discounted as potentially derailing. Patanjali and others have cautioned that focusing on such experiencing can be seductive, cause egocentricity, or become distractions . . . At the same time, there are views within some contemplative traditions that such experiences can be utilized with wisdom and compassion by experienced masters, and some highly respected practitioners of contemplative traditions have encouraged more research on such domains.”

Overall, the authors of this paper argue that, more than side effects, all these experiences “may be crucial to people’s psychological and spiritual development.” One hopes that their call for further scientific research in these areas is heard.

 

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

Blanco, S., Sambin, M., & Palmieri, A. (2017). Meaning making after a near-death experience: The relevance of intrapsychic and interpersonal dynamics. Death Studies, 27, 1-12.

This study aims to investigate the processes used by individuals to integrate a near-death experience (NDE) and to discuss the use of a meaning-making component to help people who have had such experiences. A psychotherapist interviewed six individuals who reported having had a NDE. Transcripts of the interviews were coded using an interpretative phenomenological analysis. The authors identified intrapsychic and interpersonal dynamics implicated in the individuals’ meaning-making processes, and the problems encountered during their integration of the experience. Meaning-based approaches are a feasible theoretical framework for shedding light on the NDE and providing support for people who have lived through them.

Chandradasa, M., Wijesinghe, C., Kuruppuarachchi, K. A. L. A., & Perera, M. (2017). Near-death experiences in a multi-religious hospital population in Sri Lanka. Journal of Religion and Health, 57, 1599-1605.

Near-death experiences (NDEs) are a wide range of experiences that occur in association with impending death. There are no published studies on NDEs in general hospital populations, and studies have been mainly conducted on critically ill patients. We assessed the prevalence of NDEs and its associations in a multi-religious population in a general hospital in Sri Lanka. A randomised sample of patients admitted to the Colombo North Teaching Hospital was assessed using the Greyson NDE scale and clinical assessment. Out of total 826 participants, NDEs were described by 3%. Compared to the NDE-negative participants, the NDE-positive group had a significantly higher mean for age and a ratio of men. Women reported deeper NDEs. Patients of theistic religions (Christianity, Islam and Hinduism) reported significantly more NDEs compared to patients from the non-theistic religious group (Buddhism). NDE-positive patient group had significantly higher reporting of a feeling ‘that they are about to die’, the presence of loss of consciousness and a higher percentage of internal medical patients. This is the first time that NDEs are assessed in a general hospital population and NDEs being reported from Sri Lanka. We also note for the first time that persons with theistic religious beliefs reported more NDEs than those with non-theistic religious beliefs. Medical professionals need to be aware of these phenomena to be able to give an empathic hearing to patients who have NDE.

Kinsella, M. (2017). Near-death experiences and networked spirituality: The emergence of an afterlife movement. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 85, 168–198.

Near-death experiences (NDEs) were first introduced to the public in 1975. Shortly thereafter, an entire field of near-death studies emerged that began outlining an NDE-based spirituality. This spirituality draws heavily upon an aspect of NDEs known as the “life review,” which involves the reliving or witnessing of significant autobiographical events, either from one’s own perspective or that of others. Near-death studies have contributed to the rise of what I have termed an “afterlife movement”: a loosely organized collective utilizing NDE narratives and practices modeled after the life review to transform behaviors and attitudes toward death, dying, and end-of-life care. By presenting findings from the first ethnography ever to be conducted on the sharing and study of NDE reports in group settings, this article describes this growing movement at the local level.

Lake, J. (2017). The evolution of a predisposition for the near-death experience: implications for non-local consciousness. Journal of Nonlocality, 5.

Near-death experiences (NDE) raise important questions about the nature of human consciousness, the relationship between brain function and consciousness, the perceptual information that is available to consciousness in moments before death, the role of physical and biological mechanisms associated with altered states of consciousness, and relationships between consciousness, space-time and phenomenal reality. Challenges posed by efforts to define the NDE, claims of anomalous experiences associated with NDEs, the problem of “timing” of NDEs with respect to brain function, recent findings from neuroscience are reviewed, along with emerging evidence for quantum models of consciousness that may help elucidate the nature of NDEs.

Lawrence, M. (2017). Near-death and other transpersonal experiences occurring during catastrophic events. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care, 34, 486-492.

The purpose of this article is to describe examples of near-death and other transpersonal experiences occurring during catastrophic events like floods, wars, bombings, and death camps. To date, researchers have limited their investigations of these transpersonal events to those occurring to seriously ill patients in hospitals, those dying from terminal illnesses, or to individuals experiencing a period of grief after the death of a loved one. Missing is awareness by first responders and emergency healthcare professionals about these transpersonal experiences and what to say to the individuals who have them. Some responders experience not only deaths of the victims they assist, but also deaths of their colleagues. Information about these transpersonal experiences can also be of comfort to them. The examples in this article include a near-death experience during the Vietnam War, an out-of-body experience after a bomb explosion during the Iraq War, a near-death visit to a woman imprisoned at Auschwitz, and two after-death communications, one from a person killed in Auschwitz and another from a soldier during World War I. Also included are interviews with two New York City policemen who were September 11, 2001 responders. It is hoped the information will provide knowledge of these experiences to those who care for those near death, or dying, or grieving because of catastrophic events, and encourage researchers to further investigate these experiences during disasters.

Martial, C., Charland-Verville, V., Cassol, H., Didone, V., Van der Linden, M., & Laureys, S. (2017). Intensity and memory characteristics of near-death experiences. Consciousness and Cognition, S1053-8100(16)30380-4. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2017.06.018.

Memories of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) seem to be very detailed and stable over time. At present, there is still no satisfactory explanation for the NDEs’ rich phenomenology. Here we compared phenomenological characteristics of NDE memories with the reported experience’s intensity. We included 152 individuals with a self-reported “classical” NDE (i.e. occurring in life-threatening conditions). All participants completed a mailed questionnaire that included a measure of phenomenological characteristics of memories (the Memory Characteristics Questionnaire; MCQ) and a measure of NDE’s intensity (the Greyson NDE scale). Greyson NDE scale total score was positively correlated with MCQ total score, suggesting that participants who described more intense NDEs also reported more phenomenological memory characteristics of NDE. Using MCQ items, our study also showed that NDE’s intensity is associated in particular with sensory details, personal importance and reactivation frequency variables.

Martial C, Cassol H, Antonopoulos G, Charlier T, Heros J, Donneau A-F, Charland-Verville V and Laureys S (2017) Temporality of features in near-death experience narratives. Frontiers of Human Neuroscences, 11:311. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00311

Background: After an occurrence of a Near-Death Experience (NDE), Near-Death Experiencers (NDErs) usually report extremely rich and detailed narratives. Phenomenologically, a NDE can be described as a set of distinguishable features. Some authors have proposed regular patterns of NDEs, however, the actual temporality sequence of NDE core features remains a little explored area. Objectives: The aim of the present study was to investigate the frequency distribution of these features (globally and according to the position of features in narratives) as well as the most frequently reported temporality sequences of features. Methods: We collected 154 French freely expressed written NDE narratives (i.e., Greyson NDE scale total score ≥ 7/32). A text analysis was conducted on all narratives in order to infer temporal ordering and frequency distribution of NDE features. Results: Our analyses highlighted the following most frequently reported sequence of consecutive NDE features: Out-of-Body Experience, Experiencing a tunnel, Seeing a bright light, Feeling of peace. Yet, this sequence was encountered in a very limited number of NDErs. Conclusion: These findings may suggest that NDEs temporality sequences can vary across NDErs. Exploring associations and relationships among features encountered during NDEs may complete the rigorous definition and scientific comprehension of the phenomenon.

Martial, C., Charland-Verville, V., Dehon, H., & Laureys, S. (2017). False memory susceptibility in coma survivors with and without a near-death experience. Psychological Research, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00426-017-0855-9

It has been postulated that memories of near-death experiences (NDEs) could be (at least in part) reconstructions based on experiencers’ (NDErs) previous knowledge and could be built as a result of the individual’s attempt to interpret the confusing experience. From the point of view of the experiencer, NDE memories are perceived as being unrivalled memories due to its associated rich phenomenology. However, the scientific literature devoted to the cognitive functioning of NDErs in general, and their memory performance in particular, is rather limited. This study examined NDErs’ susceptibility to false memories using the Deese–Roediger–McDermott (DRM) paradigm. We included 20 NDErs who reported having had their experience in the context of a life-threatening event (Greyson NDE scale total score ≥7/32) and 20 volunteers (matched for age, gender, education level, and time since brain insult) who reported a life-threatening event but without a NDE. Both groups were presented with DRM lists for a recall task during which they were asked to assign “Remember/Know/Guess” judgements to any recalled response. In addition, they were later asked to complete a post-recall test designed to obtain estimates of activation and monitoring of critical lures. Results demonstrated that NDErs and volunteers were equally likely to produce false memories, but that NDErs recalled them more frequently associated with compelling illusory recollection. Of particular interest, analyses of activation and monitoring estimates suggest that NDErs and volunteers groups were equally likely to think of critical lures, but source monitoring was less successful in NDErs compared to volunteers.

Moore, L., & Greyson, B. (2017). Characteristics of memories for near-death experiences. Consciousness and Cognition, 51, 116–124.

Near-death experiences are vivid, life-changing experiences occurring to people who come close to death. Because some of their features, such as enhanced cognition despite compromised brain function, challenge our understanding of the mind-brain relationship, the question arises whether near-death experiences are imagined rather than real events. We administered the Memory Characteristics Questionnaire to 122 survivors of a close brush with death who reported near-death experiences. Participants completed Memory Characteristics Questionnaires for three different memories: that of their near-death experience, that of a real event around the same time, and that of an event they had imagined around the same time. The Memory Characteristics Questionnaire score was higher for the memory of the near-death experience than for that of the real event, which in turn was higher than that of the imagined event. These data suggest that memories of near-death experiences are recalled as ‘‘realer” than real events or imagined events.

Royse, D., & Badger, K. (2017). Near-death experiences, posttraumatic growth, and life satisfaction among burn survivors. Social Work in Health Care, 56, 155-168.

Survivors of large burns may face positive and negative psychological after-effects from close-to-death injuries. This study is the first to examine their near-death experiences (NDEs) and posttraumatic growth (PTG) and life satisfaction afterwards. With an available sample of 92 burn survivors, half met the criteria for an NDE using an objective scale. Those who indicated religion was a source of strength and comfort had high scores on life satisfaction, PTG, and the NDE Scale. Individuals with larger burns reported greater PTG than those with smaller total body surface area burned (TBSA). There were no significant differences on life satisfaction, PTG, or NDEs when examined by gender or years since the burn injury. Elements of the NDE most frequently reported were: An altered sense of time, a sense of being out of the physical body, a feeling of peace, vivid sensations, and sense of being in an “other worldly” environment. Social workers and other health providers need to be comfortable helping burn survivors discuss any NDEs and process these through survivors’ spirituality and religious belief systems as they recover.

Tassell-Matamua, N., & Lindsay, N., Bennett, S., Valentine, H., & Pahina, J. (2017). Does learning about near-death experiences promote psycho-spiritual benefits in those who have not had a near-death experience? Journal of Spirituality and mental Health, 19, 95-115.

Research has revealed a consistent pattern of positive aftereffects in those who report a near-death experience [NDE]. Beneficial outcomes are also possible for those who have not had a NDE, but instead learn about them, although much of this research has been conducted on therapeutic populations. Using a sample of 143 participants randomly assigned to either an intervention or non-intervention group, we investigated whether learning about NDEs generated the same psycho-spiritual benefits having a NDE does. Results revealed significant changes in appreciation for life, spirituality, and appreciation for death, in the intervention group after learning about NDEs.

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

I have commented about the Psi Encyclopedia in previous essays (click here, here, and here), a project sponsored by the Society for Psychical Research . The project, managed by Robert McLuhan, has continued to grow. Here is a list of some new entries posted in 2018 and 2019.

psi encyclopedia 2019

Animals in Psi Research, by Michael Duggan

Announcing Dreams and Related Experiences, by James G. Matlock

Arigo, by Karen Wehrstein

karen wehrstein

Karen Wehrstein

Behavioural Memories in Reincarnation Cases, by James G Matlock

Creery Telepathy Experiments, by Karen Wehrstein

Decline Effect in Parapsychology, by Matthew Colborn

matt colborn

Mathew Colborn

Experimental Psi Research in Asia and Australia, by Michael Duggan

Fraud in Science and Parapsychology, Chris Roe

chris roe 2

Chris Roe

Gladys Osborne Leonard, Trevor Hamilton

Global Consciousness Project, Roger D Nelson

Hubert Larcher, by Renaud Evrard

renaud evrard 2

Renaud Evrard

Indridi Indridason, by Erlendur Haraldsson

Mediumship and Pathology, by Carlos S Alvarado

Mental Mediumship Research, by Julie Beischel

SONY DSC

Julie Beischel

Parapsychology in Psychology Textbooks, by Chris Roe

Perspectival Postmortem Awareness, by Stephen E Braude

Psi Research in the Netherlands, by Dick Bierman, Hans Gerding, and Hein van Dongen

dick bierman 2

Dick Bierman

Unusual Ways of Testing for Psi, Michael Duggan

 

 

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

I had the pleasure of meeting David Presti in 2009 when I was affiliated to the Division of Perceptual Studies of the University of Virginia and he came to visit the group there. He organized the book discussed here, Mind Beyond Brain: Buddhism, Science, and the Paranormal (Columbia University Press, 2018).

david presti

David Presti

David sent me the following brief biography for this blog. He is teaching professor of neurobiology, psychology, and cognitive science at the University of California, Berkeley. David has a master’s degree in physics and a PhD in molecular biology, both from the California Institute of Technology, and a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Oregon. For ten years he worked in the clinical treatment of substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder with military veterans at the VA Medical Center in San Francisco. And for the last 15 years he has been teaching neuroscience and dialoguing about science with Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns in India, Nepal, and Bhutan.  In addition to the book discussed here, he is the author of Foundational Concepts in Neuroscience: A Brain-Mind Odyssey (W.W. Norton, 2016).

presti mind beyond brain

Mind Beyond Brain: Buddhism, Science, and the Paranormal has essays by David, and other authors who are researchers at the above-mentioned Division of Perceptual Studies. In the book all of them challenge reductionistic concepts of the mind relating the topic of consciousness to Buddhism (mainly David), and via essays about parapsychological topics.

Here is the table of contents.

Table of Contents

Foreword (Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche)

Prologue: Deepening the dialogue (David Presti & Edward Kelly)

Chapter 1: Scientific revolution and the mind-matter relation (David Presti)

Chapter 2: Near-death experiences (Bruce Greyson)

Chapter 3: Reports of part-life memories (Jim Tucker)

Chapter 4: Mediums, apparitions, and deathbed experiences (Emily Williams Kelly)

Chapter 5: Paranormal phenomena, the siddhis, and an emerging path toward

reconciliation of science and spirituality (Edward Kelly)

Chapter 6: An expanded conception of mind (David Presti)

     Notes: (David Presti)

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?  

The book is about expanding an empirical science of mind and consciousness. It approaches this issue by looking at the historical trajectory of how we understand the relationship of mind and brain in modern science – and considers the successes and the limitations of the current approach. One way forward in expanding a science of mind is to take seriously empirical data for phenomena that are not accounted for within the current explanatory framework of biophysical science – that is, empirical data documenting certain paranormal or psi phenomena. This, of course, is no surprise to the folks who already consider the study of the paranormal to be a serious scientific endeavor. In this book we specifically consider aspects of near-death experiences, small children who spontaneously talk about having lived another life (cases of the reincarnation type), apparitions associated with death or other crises, studies of mediums, and laboratory investigations of certain psi phenomena. These empirical data are addressed in four chapters authored by investigators at the University of Virginia who are respected long-time researchers on these topics.

The discussion in this book is framed in the context of the contemporary dialogue between Buddhism and science – specifically neuroscience, psychology, and physics – initiated and nurtured over the last 35 years by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Appreciating that the nature of reality and the nature of mind are among the deepest mysteries in modern science, and are also essential topics of Buddhist philosophical investigation, the Dalai Lama conjectured that a conversation between the complementary perspectives on mind and world represented by these two traditions might generate new ideas – insights that would hopefully benefit all parties in the dialogue, and perhaps, by extension, the larger community of humanity.

dalai lama

Dalai Lama

The conversation has evolved now for several decades and has contributed to interest among scientists – especially psychologists, cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, and other biomedical researchers and clinicians – in the study of how meditation practices impact physical and mental health, and on neural and physiological correlates of various aspects of meditation and mindfulness practices. However, a broader aspect of this conversation is the engagement of complementary worldviews. One, modern science, views the physical world as external to the human psyche and introduces mind/consciousness as a sort of afterthought, appearing only after conditions for its emergence have been created following billions of years of physical and biological evolution. The other, Buddhist philosophy and tradition, essentially begins with the premise that all we know is via our experience, and mind and world are likely to have a far more interdependent relation.

Topics such as those discussed in the present book, while of great interest to the community of Buddhist scholars, and of central importance to deepening our investigation and understanding of how mind and world relate, have been off-limits for discussion in any of the formal Buddhism-science dialogues to date. A variety of reasons are no doubt at play, including the belief held by many scientists that investigation of the paranormal is not a legitimate program of scientific endeavor, as well as a general lack of awareness in the scientific community of the scope of investigations that have been and are being conducted. The present book was inspired by a one-day conference hosted by an esteemed Tibetan teacher, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, in which scientific and Buddhist perspectives on these topics were discussed.

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

I am a neuroscientist and university educator, working at the interface of biology, psychology, chemistry, and physics. I’ve been distantly following research in parapsychology for more than 40 years, and strengthened my connection with the field substantially 13 years ago, when I became part of a consciousness research group at the Esalen Institute that included a number of distinguished investigators in the field, and notably the researchers from the University of Virginia who would eventually contribute to the present book. This led to my spending part of a sabbatical semester in Virginia in 2009, further deepening my knowledge and connection with the field, and specifically with the topics that are major foci of discussion in the present book.

With respect to Buddhism, I have been following the contemporary engagement of Tibetan Buddhism with science for several decades. I met with the Dalai Lama in 2003 to discuss some of the questions that are addressed in this book. And I have been teaching neuroscience and dialoguing about science with Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns at monastic institutions in India, Bhutan, and Nepal for 15 years – part of a program to develop science education and collaborations with Tibetan Buddhist monastics. This educational program (Science for Monks & Nuns) was inspired by the Dalai Lama, in part to enlarge the community of scientifically knowledgeable discussants among those already highly proficient in Buddhist philosophy and practice.

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

As a scientist and educator, my intention is to expand the perspective we currently have on the evolving science of mind and consciousness, and I believe it is important to pursue many paths forward in this endeavor. Fostering a discussion of the empirical investigation of paranormal phenomena in the context of the ongoing dialogue between Buddhism and science is one such way. This may facilitate a deeper appreciation of how to engage the worldviews of not only Asian spiritual traditions such as Buddhism, but other spiritual and religious traditions as well, in productive conversation with the complementary worldview of modern science.

In this book, we have strived to present the material in a clear, concise, and scientifically rigorous manner – and also to ground the discussion within established frameworks of history and philosophy of science. The hope is to reach scientists and other interested individuals who are open-minded enough to read and think about this material with earnest curiosity.

My hope is that this will offer a contribution to expanding the way we think about the relationship of mind and reality in contemporary science. And this is not simply an interesting intellectual exercise – for how we define or conceptualize the nature of mind, and the nature of who we are with respect to the rest of what we consider to be reality, greatly impacts everything about how we behave in the world.

 

 

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

I just published a short article entitled “Eleanor M. Sidgwick (1845-1936)” (Journal of Parapsychology, 2018, 82, 127-131; available on request carlos@theazire.org). This is the first of several short articles about historical figures and topics that the editor of the journal, Etzel Cardeña, plans to include in future issues.

eleanor sidgwick 3

Eleanor M. Sidgwick

Here is the abstract:

Abstract

Eleanor M. Sidgwick was an important figure in the early history of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). In later years she became known for her critiques of the evidence for physical mediumship, and for her systematic studies of apparitions of the dead and hauntings, premonitions, clairvoyance, and the mediumship of Leonora E. Piper. Sidgwick also made significant contributions to the study of spontaneous and experimental telepathy, the cross-correspondences, and book tests, or attempts to get spirit communicators to obtain veridical information from the content of a book.

I wrote at the beginning of the article: “Mrs. Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick was one of the most productive psychical researchers of the early Society for Psychical Research (SPR) . . . She was Treasurer, Vice-Principal, and Principal at Newnham College. Sidgwick married Henry Sidgwick in 1876, and shared with him deep interests in women’s education and in psychical research . . . Sidgwick was involved in psychical investigations before the SPR was founded. Together with some close associates, among them Edmund Gurney, Walter Leaf, Frederic W. H. Myers, and Henry Sidgwick, she had séances with several physical mediums during the 1870s . . . They included Annie Fairlamb, Anna Eva Fay, Kate Fox (then Mrs. Jencken), Mary Rosina Showers, and Catherine Wood. But the results of the séances were not in favor of the genuineness of the phenomena and led the group to a general feeling of skepticism.”

Mrs. Sidgwick contributed to many areas of psychical research, as seen in the following papers published in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research:

 (1885). Notes on the evidence collected by the Society, for phantasms of the dead. 3, 69–150.

sidgwick phantasms of the dead (1886). Results of a personal investigation into the physical phenomena of Spiritualism: With some critical remarks on the evidence for the genuineness of such phenomena.4, 45–74.

(1888). On the evidence for premonitions. 5, 288–354.

 (1891). On the evidence for clairvoyance. 7, 30–99.

image of page 30

 (1891). On spirit photographs: A reply to Mr. A. R. Wallace. 7, 268–289.

 (1910). Cross-correspondences between Mrs. Piper and other automatists. 24, 170–200.

 (1915). A contribution to the study of the psychology of Mrs. Piper’s trance phenomena. 28, 1–657.

 (1921). An examination of book-tests obtained in sittings with Mrs Leonard. 31, 241–400. 

 (1923). Phantasms of the living: An examination and analysis of cases of telepathy between living persons printed in the “Journal” of the Society for Psychical Research since the publication of the book “Phantasms of the Living,” by Gurney, Myers, and Podmore, in 1886. 33, 23–429.

sidgwick phantasms of the living 

 (1924). On hindrances and complications in telepathic communication. 34, 28–69.

Sidgwick, H., Johnson, A., Myers, F. W. H., Podmore, F., & Sidgwick, E. M. (1894). Report on the Census of Hallucinations. 10, 25-422.

Sidgwick, Professor [H.], Sidgwick, Mrs. H., & Smith, G. A. (1889). Experiments in thought-transference. 6, 128–170.

Sidgwick was well-known as a critic, as seen in her writings about physical mediumship. But she also showed throughout her life a capacity to evaluate immense amounts of data looking for patterns in the data and to assess their evidential quality. Examples of these were her Nineteenth-Century papers about apparitions of the dead (1886), premonitions (1888), and clairvoyance (1891).

Her 1915 study of records regarding the mediumship of Leonora E. Piper is a classic of the early literature of psychological studies of mediumship. I wrote: “Some of the chapters of this study were about spirit controls and their relation to the medium; language, memories, and association of ideas by the spirit controls; aspects of various spirit communicators (such as difficulties in communicating and symbolic statements), and relations between Piper’s different states of consciousness. She concluded about the medium’s trance that it was ‘probably a state of self-induced hypnosis in which her hypnotic self personates different characters either consciously and deliberately, or unconsciously’ . . . but with telepathically acquired information.”

sidgwick piper trance phenomena 2

Regarding telepathic experiences: “Sidgwick herself contributed to knowledge about the process in an analyses of its “hindrances and complications” as shown in percipient’s impressions (Sidgwick, 1924). She wrote: ‘I have now, I think, sufficiently shown that there are obstacles or at any rate difficulties in the way of telepathic transmission which easily may, and in fact often do, interfere with the process, and prevent a “message” being received as the sender intended. Apart from difficulties on the agent’s own side, and even when a message has apparently safely reached some part of the percipient’s mind, it may fail to pass successfully from that to the normal waking consciousness. And this not only because the impression is sometimes too feeble to prevail, but because as transmitted to the normal consciousness the latter may fail to interpret it. And the difficulties may be aggravated by differences in the results, according as different modes of externalisation—different methods of transferring the subliminal impression to the normal consciousness—are used, and even by deliberate invention in the subliminal mind.’ ”

If this was not enough, Sidgwick was also active behind the scenes of the SPR as an organizer and as an editor of publications. Her life and contributions, both to psychical research and the education of women, deserve a full-length biography. At present, we can get much information about her in Alice Johnson’s “Mrs Henry Sidgwick’s Work in Psychical Research (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1936, 44, 53–93), and in Ethel Sidgwick’s, Mrs. Henry Sidgwick: A Memoir (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1938).

eleanor sidgwick 4

 

At the End of 2018

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

Another year has gone by. This one has been mainly good, not counting the recent loss of a  friend. May I wish all of you a Merry Christmas (or, if you do not celebrate Christmas, a good end of 2017)?

christmas mistletoe

Like in previous years, I have summarized for my readers various important publications related to parapsychology. These include:

Star Gate Project Publication (February 1)

New Paper About Mind-Body Issues in Psychiatry (February 12)

Biographies of Psychical Researchers in the Psi Encyclopedia (February 26)

Study of Japanese Reincarnation Cases (April 5)

Precognition Discussed in a Psychology Journal (April 19)

Open Source Data in Parapsychology (July 4)

Synesthesia and Other Experiences (November 22)

Exceptional Experiences of Scientists and Engineers (December 11)

As always, I take great pleasure in informing my readers about articles relevant to the study of the history of parapsychology, among them:

Hans Driesch and Psychical Research (April 10)

Hans Driesch

Hans Driesch

Psychoanalysis and the Occult—Revisited (May 13)

Uri Geller and Parapsychology in the 1970s (September 14)

Article about Julian Ochorowicz (December 1)

Julian Ochorowicz 3

Julian Ochorowicz

Similarly, I spread news about new books via author interviews: Real Magic, by Dean Radin (April 25); Arthur Balfour’s Ghosts: An Edwardian Elite and the Riddle of the Cross-Correspondence Automatic Writings, by Trevor Hamilton (June 6); The Elements of Parapsychology, by K. Ramakrishna Rao (July 8); and Psience Fiction: The Paranormal in Science Fiction Literature, by Damien Broderick (July 24).

Broderick Psience Fiction

Other blogs are about list of publications, mainly from the old days: Important Books About Experimental ESP, 1930-1958 (May 23); Our Psychic Past in Digital Libraries: VII. SurvivalAfterDeath | CienciasPsíquicas (September 21).

And of course, I have also posted comments about the articles I have published. What is the point of having a blog if you are not going to publicize your own work?: Flournoy’s From India to the Planet Mars Revisited (March 11); Psicologia e “Spiritismo:” An Italian Psychical Research Classic (April 10); Charles Richet’s Psychic Autobiography (July 29); Historical Views of Mediumship and Pathology (October 20); On William Stainton Moses (December 20).

My thanks to all of you who have followed my blog during 2018. Stay tuned for further news and discussion in 2019. My best wishes for the coming year.

Happy New Year

Unpaid and unacknowledged (but greatly appreciated) Blog Staff

Nancy L. Zingrone

(Advisor, Problem Solver, and Morale Officer)

Nancy L. Zingrone 4

 

Spotty and Pinky

(Master proof readers)

Pinky and Spotty 22

On William Stainton Moses

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

One of my last published papers is “Note on the Intellectual Work of William Stainton Moses” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2018, 32, 596–603; available here). Here is the abstract:

STAINTON MOSES

William Stainton Moses

Abstract

Most discussions about William Stainton Moses have focused on his mediumship. This note is a reminder that, in addition to mediumship, such as the spirit communication recorded in Spirit Teachings (1883), he contributed in other ways to the study of psychic phenomena, including studies of direct writing, materializations, and spirit photography. Furthermore, Moses wrote about apparitions of the living and out-of-body experiences, and veridical mediumistic communications, and criticized the writings of others, among them physiologist William B. Carpenter. A consideration of this and other neglected aspects of Moses’ work, enlarges our view of his contributions to Nineteenth-Century British Spiritualism and psychical research.

William Carpenter

William B. Carpente

I wrote: “In [a] . . .  long paper, Moses (1876–1877) presented discussions and classifications of cases of what he referred to as the “Trans-Corporeal Action of Spirit.” This included various cases of out-of-body experiences and of apparitions of the living. Moses wrote that the cases he presented here were scattered and in need of “classification and arrangement” . . . In Psychography: A Treatise on One of the Objective Forms of Psychic or Spiritual Phenomena, Moses (1878) reviewed the evidence for the phenomenon of direct writing obtained via mediums. He presented examples of cases attested by the senses (vision, hearing), cases presenting writing in languages unknown by the medium, and cases obtained in conditions preventing the previous preparation of writing to fake the phenomenon. In Moses’ view, psychography was only one of many phenomena ‘which testify to the existence of a soul in man, and to its independent action beyond his physical body; an earnest of its survival and independent life when released by death from its earthly prison-house’ ” . . . Another book was Spirit Identity, in which Moses (1879) studied veridical mediumistic communications. This included personal experiences, and communications recorded by others. The author concluded: ‘Intelligence is perpetuated after the body is dead’. . . , and that the “human spirit after its separation from the body loses none of its individuality.”

Moses Psychography

Moses Spirit Identity

Moses also published in the spiritualist magazine Light a long article unique in the 19th Century literature of materialization phenomena. The article appeared in 56 installments and covered many mediums and topics, an excellent source to conduct research on the subject.

Moses Materialization Light 1885

Page from materialization multipart article published in Light

In addition to his contributions as a medium, Moses also left us a rich bibliographical legacy that will be of help to those interested in the aspects of the spiritualistic literature he surveyed.

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

Here is a new survey of exceptional experiences.

Helané Wahbeh, Dean Radin, Julia Mossbridge, Cassandra Vieten, and Arnaud Delorme, Exceptional Experiences Reported by Scientists and Engineers. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 2018, 14(5), 329-341. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2018.05.002. Epub 2018 Aug 2. (First author’s email wahbehh@ohsu.edu)

Helané Wahbeh

Helané Wahbeh

Dean Radin 4

Dean Radin

Julia Mossbridge 7

Julia Mossbridge

Cassandra Vieten

Cassandra Vieten

Arnaud Delorme

Arnaud Delorme

Abstract

CONTEXT: Throughout history people have reported exceptional experiences that appear to transcend the everyday boundaries of space and time, such as perceiving someone’s thoughts from a distance. Because such experiences are associated with superstition, and some violate currently accepted materialist conventions, one might assume that scientists and engineers would be much less likely to report instances of these experiences than the general population. OBJECTIVES: To evaluate 1) the prevalence of exceptional human experiences (EHEs), 2) the level of paranormal belief, 3) the relationship between them, and 4) potential predictors of EHEs in three groups. PARTICIPANTS: Potential volunteers were randomly selected to receive invitations for an anonymous survey. MAIN MEASURES: Data were collected on 25 different types of EHEs, demographics, religious or spiritual affiliations, paranormal beliefs, mental health, and personality traits. Group differences were analyzed with chi-square tests and analysis of variance, and predictors were evaluated with a general linear model. RESULTS: 94.0% of the general population (n = 283), 93.2% of scientists and engineers (n = 175), and 99.3% of enthusiasts (n = 441) endorsed at least one EHE (X2(2) = 21.1, p < 0.0005). Paranormal belief was highest in EHE enthusiasts, followed by scientists and the general population F(2,769) = 116.2, p < 0.0005). Belief was positively correlated with experience (r = 0.61, p < 0.0005). An exploratory general linear model showed that variables such as mental health, personality, impact and family history predict the endorsement and frequency of EHEs. This study indicates that EHEs occur frequently in both the general population and in scientists and engineers.

 

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

Polish psychologist and philosopher Julian Ochorowicz (1850-1917), who also contributed to psychical research, is the topic of this recently published article: Karolina Maria Hess, The Idea of Ideoplasty and Occult Phenomena in the Theoretical and Empirical Research of Julian Ochorowicz (Preternature, 2018, 7, 239-274; for reprints write to the author: karolinamariahess@gmail.com).

Julian Ochorowicz 3

Julian Ochorowicz

Here is the abstract:

Julian Leopold Ochorowicz (1850–1917) was a psychologist, philosopher, and inventor, as well as a photographer, journalist, and poet. As a positivist, he postulated strict research methods in science and treated psychology as a field of study to which the tools of natural sciences can be applied. Ochorowicz’s interest in occult phenomena, which for him were not supernatural but just unexplained and misinterpreted qualities of the human body and mind, in time grew to be the most intriguing topic of his work. Ochorowicz wanted to experimentally examine medium-related and other occult phenomena, which he associated with hypnotic states. He used the term “ideoplasty” for a class of phenomena that he deemed theoretically possible, whereby psychic energy is transformed into material excretions. Ideoplasty was a part of his wider conception of transformations of energy (e.g., of power into motion), which combined his theoretical attitude in psychology and his technical inventions.

Ochorowicz Suggestion mentale

Ochorowicz Mains Tomczyk

Work with Medium Stanislawa Tomczyk

The author concluded: “Ochorowicz knew that by choosing to devote himself to the study of a topic such as mediumic phenomena, he was risking criticisms both from other scientists and from the public opinion. Indeed, his interests and research, which was conducted already after he obtained his habilitation, did not advance Ochorowicz’s academic career . . . Nonetheless, Ochorowicz, convinced that the phenomena he observed actually existed, decided to describe everything in the greatest detail, even if the observations could seem implausible . . . The example of Julian Ochorowicz shows how nuanced and complex the relations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were between scientific knowledge and the field of phenomena characterized as occult or paranormal. Ochorowicz’s hypothesis went against the tendency that would later prove to provide a better experimental and theoretic model of reality; he endeavored to describe psychological phenomena directly with physical concepts, but it cannot be denied that his motivation was purely and properly scientific.”

Ochorowicz with Stanislawa Tomczyk Levitating Scissors

Ochorowicz with Stanislawa Tomczyk Levitating Scissors

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

Here is the abstract of an interesting thesis in history about Uri Geller and parapsychology in the 1970s.

Uri Geller and the Reception of Parapsychology in the 1970s, by Jacob Older Green. Masters’ Thesis, University of British Columbia, 2018.

Abstract

“This paper investigates the controversy following the publication of work by scientists working at the Stanford Research Institute that claimed to show that the extraordinary mental powers of 1970s super psychic Uri Geller were real. The thesis argues that the controversy around Geller represented a shift in how skeptical scientists treated parapsychology. Instead of engaging with parapsychology and treating it as an incipient, if unpromising scientific discipline, which had been the norm since the pioneering work of J.B. Rhine in the 1930s, parapsychology’s critics portrayed the discipline as a pseudoscience, little more than an attempt by credulous scientists to confirm their superstitious belief in occult psychic powers. The controversy around Geller also led to the creation of The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), one of the first skeptical organizations specializing in investigating supposed instances of paranormal phenomena. I argue that the shift in critics’ attitudes and the creation of CSICOP were partially due to a fear among some scientists and their supporters that the scientific work on Geller would lend legitimacy to the “Occult Revival”—a term used to describe rising popular interest in the occult, astrology and psychic abilities in the late 1960s and early 1970s.”

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

Over the years I have written several articles about Charles Richet’s psychical research, among them a general overview of his work on the subject, and an analysis of his Traité de Métapsychique (1922). My last published discussion of Richet is an article in which I translated and reprinted a chapter from one of his books in which he presented an autobiographical essay of his involvement with the subject. Here is the reference and the abstract:

Charles Richet 10

Charles Richet

“Fragments of a Life in Psychical Research: The Case of Charles Richet” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2018, 32, 55–78; PDF available on request: carlos@theazire.org).

Abstract

“In this paper I present a translation of an autobiographical essay French physiologist Charles Richet wrote about his involvement in psychical research in his Souvenirs d’un Physiologiste (1933). In the essay Richet presented an outline of aspects of his psychic career, including: Early interest in hypnosis and hypnotic lucidity, encounters with gifted individuals such as Eusapia Palladino and Stephan Ossowiecki, contact with the Society for Psychical Research, his Traité de Métapsychique (1922) and his lack of belief in survival of death. Richet’s account will be of particular interest for those who are not acquainted with his career. However, the essay is succinct and lacks important events that need to be supplemented with other sources of information. An examination of this autobiographical essay illustrates the limitations of autobiographies to reconstruct the past, but also provides an opportunity to discuss aspects of Richet’s psychical research.”

Richet Souvenirs

I wrote: “One of the purposes of the present article is to present information about Richet’s interest in psychic phenomena via his own, admittedly brief, account. It is my impression that most contemporary workers in parapsychology, although aware of Richet’s existence, know little about his actual work. Being short, and personal, the excerpt presented below may be of more relevance to workers in parapsychology than the more academic writings cited above. The reprint of the excerpt is also an opportunity to give Richet a voice never heard before in English, since the excerpt in question originally was published in French.”

Richet and Linda Gazzera

Richet (on the left) in séance with Italian Materialization Medium Linda Gazzera

I wrote:

“Richet was part of this movement, particularly strong in France, that explored the existence and range of non-conscious human functioning and that included both conventional and unconventional phenomena . . . This is seen in his writings about personality changes in hypnosis, unconscious movements, and the induction of trance at a distance . . .”

“An important early contribution, and a classic of Nineteenth-Century ESP literature, was Richet’s [1884] article about mental suggestion, or the “influence that an individual’s thought exerts over a specific sense, without an appreciable exterior phenomenon on our senses, over the thought of a nearby individual”. . . This included transmission of thoughts and images, as well as other effects such as the induction of trance at a distance. In the paper, Richet described his use of statistical analyses in several guessing tasks with various targets, as well as discussions of conceptual ideas such as the unconscious nature of the process . . . In later papers Richet continued testing various gifted individuals . . . and included observations of Polish psychic Stephan Ossowiecki (1877-1944) . . .”

Stefan Ossowiecki 2

Stefan Ossowiecki

“There were also many experiences with various mediums and psychics. Examples were séances with Eusapia Palladino (1854–1918 . . .) and Leonora E. Piper (1857–1950 . . .). Richet’s . . . materialization séances with medium Marthe Béraud are well-known, an episode that generated many controversies . . . Here both full and partial materializations were observed . . .”

Eva C 8

Marthe Béraud

The best known of his works was the highly influential Traité de Métapsychique [1922] . . . where instead of psychical research he used the term “métapsychique” (metapsychics), a word he had suggested before . . . In the Traité, and elsewhere, Richet frequently expressed hope that future developments in science would allow us to understand psychic phenomena. His popularization and discussion of psychical research not only continued in other books . . . but also in articles in non-psychic journals . . . and in newspapers . . . In addition to the  above mentioned examples, Richet’s articles in psychic journals included topics such as statistical analyses of ESP tests . . . , recurrent doubts in the study of psychic phenomena . . . , the decimal indexing of psychic literature . . . , xenoglossy . . . , an ancient case of near-death experience . . . , premonitions . . . , and survival of death . . .”

Richet Traite de metapsychique 4

Richet Notre sixieme sens

Richet L'Avenir de la Premonition

“Richet did much to support psychical research in various forums of conventional science. He opened the door to, and defended the importance of, psychical research in the international congresses of psychology . . . He was also one of the founders of a very important French journal, the Annales des Sciences Psychiques, first published in 1891, where not only French but also authors from other countries discussed psychic phenomena . . . Furthermore, Richet was a supporter of the Institut Métapsychique International since its beginnings.”

Annales des Sciences Psychiques 1891

Annales 1905

The article also illustrates the limitations of autobiographies as historical documents. An analysis of the essay considering Richet’s publications about psychic topics shows occasional omissions of important information and incorrect recollection of facts. “Autobiographies, like history in general, are reconstructions of the past, but reconstructions based on one person’s perspective and motivations, on their priorities at the moment of ordering the recollections of a lifetime. The latter is particularly an issue.” Nonetheless, “when used together with other sources of information . . . [autobiographies] are not only informative, but illuminating of a time period.”

Richet 2

Older Charles Richet

 

 

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

Although I have not personally met Dr. Damien Broderick, I have corresponded with him and I have followed his previous writings in parapsychology, mainly his high quality books Outside the Gates of Science: Why It’s Time for the Paranormal to Come In From The Cold (Thunder’s Mouth, 2007), and  Evidence for Psi: Thirteen Empirical Research Reports (edited with Ben Goertzel; McFarland, 2015). I commented on this last book in a previous blog.

Damien Broderick 2

Damien Broderick

Broderick Outside Gates of Science

Broderick Evidence for Psi

Damien is a well-known and critically acclaimed Australian writer about science fiction and other topics who has published numerous books. The one featured here, Psience Fiction: The Paranormal in Science Fiction Literature (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2018) is the best book about psychic phenomena in the science fiction literature.

Broderick Psience Fiction

Here is the table of contents:

Preface

Introduction

  1. 1935 Donald Macpherson (George Humphrey), Go Home, Unicorn
  1. 1935 Olaf Stapledon, Odd John
  1. 1939/51 E. E. Smith, History of Civilization [runner-up special Hugo 1941/2016]
  1. 1940/46 A E van Vogt, Slan [special Hugo 1941/2016]
  1. 1949/52 James Blish, Jack of Eagles
  1. 1949/66 James H Schmitz, The Witches of Karres
  1. 1952 Alfred Bester, The Demolished Man [1st Hugo]
  1. 1952 Zenna Henderson, The People stories
  1. 1952 J. T. McIntosh, The ESP Worlds
  1. 1953 Theodore Sturgeon, More than Human,
  1. 1953-54/56 Mark Clifton and Frank Riley, They’d Rather Be Right, [2nd Hugo]
  1. 1953/58 Mark Clifton, “What Thin Partitions” to “Remembrance and Reflection”
  1. 1954 Wilson Tucker, Wild Talent
  1. 1955 James H Schmitz, The Ties of Earth
  1. 1955 John Wyndham, The Chrysalids/Re-Birth
  1. 1956 R A Heinlein, Time for the Stars
  1. 1956 Frank M Robinson, The Power & Waiting
  1. 1956 George O. Smith, Highways in Hiding
  1. 1956-57 Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination
  1. 1958 Lan Wright, A Man Called Destiny
  1. 1958— Marion Zimmer Bradley, Darkover series
  1. 1958 Jack Vance, “Parapsyche” & “The Miracle Workers” & “Telek”
  1. 1959/61 “Mark Phillips” [Randall Garrett and Laurence M. Janifer],

Brain Twister [“That Sweet Little Old Lady”]

Impossibles [“Out Like a Light”]

Supermind [“Occasion for Disaster”]

  1. Stories I:

1949 Katherine MacLean, “Defense Mechanism”

1950: C.M. Kornbluth, “The Mindworm”;

1952 Walter Miller, Jr., “Command Performance”

1953 Isaac Asimov, “Belief”

1953 Algis Budrys, “Riya’s Foundling”

1955 Cordwainer Smith, “The Game of Rat and Dragon”

1956 Brian W. Aldiss, “Psyclops”

1956 J. T. McIntosh, “Empath”

1957 Poul Anderson, “Journeys End”

  1. 1962 Arthur Sellings, Telepath
  1. 1962/63 Keith Woodcott aka John Brunner, “Crack of Doom”/The Psionic Menace
  1. 1964 John Brunner, Telepathist / The Whole Man
  1. 1967-75 Dan Morgan, The Sixth Perception series:

The New Minds (1967);

The Several Minds (1969);

Mind Trap (1970);

The Country of the Mind (1975)

  1. 1967 Richard Cowper, Breakthrough
  1. 1968— Anne McCaffrey, Talents Universe
  1. 1969 Philip K. Dick, Ubik (etc)
  1. 1969 Colin Wilson, The Philosopher’s Stone
  1. 1970 Joanna Russ, And Chaos Died
  1. 1971 Lester del Rey, Pstalemate
  1. 1972 Robert Silverberg, Dying Inside
  1. 1975 Katherine MacLean, Missing Man
  1. 1975 Robert Silverberg, The Stochastic Man
  1. 1976 Octavia Butler, Mind of My Mind
  1. 1982 Joan D. Vinge, Psion
  1. 1987 Lucius Shepard, Life During Wartime
  1. 2011 Carrie Vaughn, After the Golden Age
  1. 2016 Connie Willis, Crosstalk
  1. Two Novels by Psychics (1978, 1999)
  1. Stories II:

1961 Poul Anderson, “Night Piece”

1971 Robert Silverberg, “Something Wild is Loose”

1978 C. J. Cherryh, “Cassandra” [Hugo for best short story]

1991 Brian M. Stableford, “The Oedipus Effect”

Conclusion

Appendix 1–  A Brief Guide to Paranormal Research

Appendix 2 – Psi and Afterlife in Psience Fiction

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?  

Here is a summary from the publisher: 

“Science fiction has often been considered the literature of futuristic technology: fantastic warfare among the stars or ruinous apocalypses on Earth. The last century, however, saw through John W. Campbell the introduction of “psience fiction,” which explores themes of mind powers—telepathy, precognition of the future, teleportation, etc.—and symbolic machines that react to such forces. The author surveys this long-ignored literary shift through a series of influential novels and short stories published between the 1930s and the present. This discussion is framed by the sudden surge of interest in parapsychology and its absorption not only into the SF genre, but also into the real world through military experiments such as the Star Gate Program.”

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

I grew up as a pious Catholic working class kid in Australia during the 1950s, and to the horror of my parents became infatuated with gaudy science fiction comics and magazines. The more sophisticated magazines (but often still quite garish) were not easily found in Australia back then, but a factory worker living across the street allowed me to borrow his copies of the British New Worlds and Science Fantasy, and the premier US zines Astounding and Galaxy. What most captivated me was the range of psi-inflected tales in the early to mid-1950s: stories closer to magic, really, than to science, like Star Wars decades later.

Several elements attracted me, especially a frequent emphasis on quirky intelligent characters, often despised but gifted with unusual abilities such as telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance and teleportation. I knew this was all wild fiction, but it let my imagination soar freely. Imagine my astonishment when my mother one day brought home from the library (I was a sickly kid) a copy of J.B. Rhine’s The Reach of the Mind. What! This man was a scientist and yet he claimed that psi abilities were real! I started testing it alone or with my younger siblings, and had some hair-raising successes.

Then conventional attitudes kicked in, and I decided psi was just a story-telling device after all. I went to university to study literature and philosophy, and was introduced to Len Kane, the former teacher of a uni friend, a clinical psychologist a few years older than us with an interest in psi. In 1970, after I’d started work in journalism, I read an article in Analog (the spruced-up version of what had once been called, with vulgar brashness, Astounding) describing a repeated-guessing, majority-vote approach to telepathy that had worked in the lab, although only just.

I was struck by the realization that this approach might be used to create a real-world psi application based on getting messages from the future—controlled precognition! I rushed to where Len had a post at an interstate university, and we built a monstrous noisy machine in the lab that recorded our guesses at a future string—a target which, naturally, was generated by a horse race some days hence. The first time we tried it, we got the right horse. This was probably the most electrifying and delightful experience of my life. We planned repetitions, anticipating our Nobel Prize. But it didn’t work the second time, or the third time… Just a coincidence on the initial test? Or had some psychological barrier or unconscious angst blocked our psi after that first shock?

I went back to old publications where somewhat similar approaches to psi application had been reported. Some were successful in just the way I expected; others were apparently failures. I taught myself enough statistics to reanalyze these early results and in quite a number of cases found that the experimenters had simply failed to compensate for guessing biases. Using internal controls (essentially, tabulating how frequently a certain symbol was chosen when it was randomly chosen as the target, compared with its score when it was not target), I was able to recover correct results from famous, allegedly debunked experiments with huge numbers of participants (such as the Zenith radio tests in the 1930s). I ran a rather over-ambitious newspaper precognition test, and obtained some provocative results.

Meanwhile, I had started writing science fiction and selling it both in Australia and the US. In 1980, I published a novel titled The Dreaming Dragons that was selected as one of the 100 best since Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. The following year I flew for the first time to the US, and spent several days with the Rhine researchers in Durham. Eventually I wrote a popular science study of psi in general and my results after obtaining three quarters of a billion guesses at a major Australian lottery. Many years later I revised and expanded my treatment of such data in Knowing the Unknowable, which is full of charts and numbers. It failed to sell a million copies, alas.

What motivated you to write this book? 

All of the above is the background to my continuing interest in psi phenomena, enhanced when I had the good fortune to be invited to join a closed online list of psi experts. Few of them agree with each other over the metaphysics of psi—how it works, what it is for (in evolutionary terms, for example), what its relationship is to consciousness and philosopher David Chalmers’ “Hard Problem.” I summarized a lot of this in Outside the Gates of Science, which was quite well received by the psi community and even persuaded Dr. Ben Goertzel, a brilliant polymathic AI researcher, that there actually is something in these preposterous claims. That led to Ben’s and my co-editing a hefty book from McFarland, Evidence for Psi. Somewhere during all this I’d done a PhD in critical literary theory (and published 70 books), and I realized that it might be worth going back to those stories about psi that had so enthralled me when I was 12 or 14, and look at the impact of psi research on science fiction and of science fiction on parapsychology. That became Psience Fiction, a term I borrowed from an English reviewer of Alfred Bester’s spectacular psi-futurist novel The Stars My Destination  from the late 1950s.

But why did I do it? Because I still love science fiction and remain endlessly curious about psi, and I wanted to put them together across the last century or so and see what the result looked like. It was a lot of fun.

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

Well, psi is obviously important yet still often ignored or disparaged by scientists who have never bothered to investigate its evidence tracks. Meanwhile, science fiction in the previous century engaged with serious work on atomic power (and weapons), space flight, telecommunications, genomics, etc. Its most influential editor, John W. Campbell, of Astounding/Analog fame, was obsessed with psi in the mid-century. What could have happened that apparently caused its core audience to lose interest, especially at the very moment that real-world psi research was being funded by the US government, other nations, and some major corporations? I think my book is the first to approach this topic seriously and not with its tongue snidely in its cheek.

But I don’t wish to be solemn—I hope your blog readers will find it intriguing and amusing, as I did writing it.

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

Dr. K. Ramakrishna Rao, from India, has been in parapsychology for many decades. I first met him at the Institute for Parapsychology (now Rhine Research Center) in the 1980s. He is well known as a philosopher, psychologist and parapsychologist, and was recently awarded the National Fellowship of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, to work on a project entitled “The Bhagavad Gita: A Psychological Profile.”

K. Ramakrishna Rao 2

K. Ramakrishna Rao

In the past, Dr. Rao has held many high level positions. He is currently Chancellor at the Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management. In addition to being Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University, he was an Advisor on Higher Education to the Government of Andhra Pradesh, and Vice-Chairman of Andhra Pradesh State Planning Board. Furthermore, for several years he was the Executive Director of the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (founded by J.B. Rhine).

In parapsychology Dr. Rao is known for his many ESP experiments, most of which have appeared over the years in the Journal of Parapsychology. But he has also published books, and edited anthologies of papers on the subject: Psi Cognition (Tenali: Tagore Publishing House,  1957); Experimental Parapsychology: A Review and Interpretation (Springfield: Charles C Thomas, 1966); Mystic Awareness: Four Lectures on the Paranormal (Mysore: Mysore University Press, 1972);  Experimental Studies of the Differential Effect in Life Setting (with P. Sailaja; Parapsychological Monograph. No. 13. New York: Parapsychology Foundation. 1973); J.B. Rhine: On the Frontiers of Science. (Editor). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. 1982); Case Studies in Parapsychology. (Editor). Jefferson, NC.: McFarland, 1986); Charles Honorton and the Impoverished State of Skepticism: Essays on a Parapsychological Pioneer. (Editor). NC: McFarland, 1994); Basic Research in Parapsychology (2nd ed., Jefferson, NC: McFarland,. 2001); and Cognitive Anomalies: Consciousness and Yoga (New Delhi: Center for Studies in Civilizations and Matrix Publishers, 2011).

Rao Experimental Parapsychology

Rao Basic Research in Parapsychology

Books on other psychological topics include Cultivating Consciousness: Enhancing Human Potential, Wellness, and Healing (Editor, Westport, CT: Praeger. 1993); Consciousness Studies: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2002); Towards a Spiritual Psychology (edited with Sonali Bhatt Marwaha; New Delhi: Samvad, 2005); Handbook of Indian Psychology (edited with  A.C. Paranjpe & A.K. Dalal; New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2008); Cultivating Consciousness: An East-West Journey (D.K. Printworld, 2013); Psychology in the Indian Tradition (with A.C Paranjpe; New Delhi; Heidelberg: Springer, 2016); Gandhi’s Dharma (Oxford University Press, 2017); Foundations of Yoga Psychology (Singapore: Springer Nature, 2017); Colonial Syndrome, The Videshi Mindset in Modern India (DK Printworld, 2018); and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra: A Psychological Study (DK Printworld, 2018).

Rao Cultivating Consciousness

Rao Foundations 2

The book commented on in the interview that follows, The Elements of Parapsychology (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2017) is the latest of Dr. Rao’s discussions of parapsychology.

Rao Elements

Table of contents

1—Background and Beginnings
2—Concepts and Methods
3—Accumulating Evidence
4—Problems of Replication and Application
5—­Process-Oriented Research
6—The Problem of ­Psi-Missing
7—The Experimenter Effect
8—Explanatory Quagmire
9—The Unsettled State: Postscript to Sixty
Years in Parapsychology

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

The Elements of Parapsychology is a concise and yet a comprehensive introduction to psychic phenomena. Though coextensive with recorded human history, these phenomena remained for long a mystery and a matter of faith rather than a subject of serious scientific study. However, about a century and half ago, they caught the attention of scientists, who since attempted sporadically to investigate them.

A systematic study of these phenomena as a scientific pursuit began with the work of J.B. Rhine at Duke University under the tutelage of William McDougall, one of the leading psychologists at the time. The first output of this effort resulted in the publication of a research monograph Extra-Sensory Perception by Rhine in 1934, followed by Extra-Sensory Perception After Sixty Years (ESP-60) in 1940, a review of relevant research and the controversies surrounding it until then. I have about fifty years ago published my Experimental Parapsychology which meant to be a supplement to ESP-60.

Notwithstanding the life long struggle to win scientific credibility for and acceptance of the existence of extrasensory abilities by J.B. Rhine and his wife Louisa E. Rhine and those who followed them, the subject continues to be controversial. The reason is not lack of sufficient empirical and experimental evidence but the fact that the phenomena pose a theoretical challenge to the worldview incorporated in science in general. Therefore, what is needed is not more research and data to prove the existence of psychic phenomena but reasonable understanding of their theoretical base, its methods of study, concepts and controversies.

The Elements of Parapsychology is an updated overview of the subject, its problems and prospects.

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

I have been involved in parapsychology since 1953 when I was a graduate student. I wrote my M.A. (Hons.) dissertation with focus on parapsychology. I published my first book in 1957 under the title Psi Cognition. J.B. Rhine wrote the Foreword. With that small beginning our association continued for decades. I headed Rhine’s Institute for Parapsychology and the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (FRNM) for nearly two decades. I was associated with the Journal of Parapsychology, mostly as its Editor, for an equal number of years. My most recent contribution is the book Cognitive Anomalies, Consciousness and Yoga.

What motivated you to write this book?

To share my current thoughts. I was greatly benefitted by the incisive comments of Robert Franklin which helped to greatly improve the quality of the contents.

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

I hope the book would serve as an useful introduction for anyone interested in parapsychology. It could also serve as a textbook for first level courses in parapsychology.

 

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

Adrian Ryan discusses the issue of open data in parapsychology. His article is entitled “Open Data in Parapsychology: Introducing Psi Open Data” (Journal of Parapsychology, 2018, 82, 65-76: author’s email: adrian.ryan@greyheron1.plus.com).

Here is the abstract of the article:

“Open data in science brings important benefits, most notably the potential to accelerate scientific discovery, and the ability for the community to verify research findings. In addition to exploring these benefits, this paper considers concerns that some researchers may have about the approach. Publishing strategies, copyright and database right considerations, confidentiality, preparation of data for publication, and the citation of datasets are also discussed, as is the importance of journal policy. The second section of the paper presents Psi Open Data (https://open-data.spr.ac.uk), an open repository for parapsychology and psychical research data recently launched by the Society for Psychical Research. The repository is constructed using DKAN, an open source open data platform with a full suite of cataloging, publishing, and visualization features. It allows administrator users to upload research datasets, and any visitor to search for and download datasets. Various aspects of the repository are described: data structures, metadata, data classification, preview, and download facilities. Researchers are encouraged to support the repository by contributing datasets from both current and previous work.”

The author writes:

“Open data can accelerate the rate of discovery in the following ways:

•Enabling researchers to explore questions not envisioned by the original investigators, and to address old questions in new ways, through re-use of data.

•Enabling meta-analyses, and the creation of new datasets by combining multiple data sources.

•Making possible the testing of alternative hypotheses, and the use of different methods of analysis; sharing of data encourages diversity of analysis and opinion.

Another key benefit of open data is transparency. Open data allows the community to identify errors in the research record through the reproduction of research findings, thereby preventing wasteful allocation of resources exploring research avenues founded upon erroneous conclusions.”

It is stated at  the end of the article:

“Researchers who support the aims of the initiative are encouraged to contribute datasets. The best time to prepare data for publication is throughout the process of creating it, and while preparing the associated research report for publication, not at some later time when a request for the data is received. The effort to prepare data for open data practices is relatively small if the data are collected and managed with data sharing in mind. As well as datasets from current projects, old datasets are valuable and researchers are also encouraged to submit these. Datasets placed in the repository will continue to benefit generations of researchers long into the future.”

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

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

Hamilton Arthur Balfour's Ghost

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

Here is an interview with the author.

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

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

Frederic Myers 4

Frederic W.H. Myers

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

Arthur Balfour

Arthur Balfour

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

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

What motivated you to write this book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bibliography and References

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whately Carington

Whateley Carington

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

image of sequence 7

image of sequence 9

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

Pratt Rhine ESP 60 title page

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

image of page i

image of page iii

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

image of page iii

J.B. Rhine 1956

J.B. Rhine

J.G. Pratt

J.G. Pratt

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

Gertrude Schmeidler

Gertrude Schmeidler

Robert McConnell

Robert McConnell

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

image of page iii

Upton Sinclair

Upton Sinclair

Mary Craig Sinclair

Mary Craig Sinclair Upton’s wife, tested for telepathy

Sinclai Results of telepathy drawing test

Results of telepathy drawing test

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

Soal Bateman Modern Experiments Telepathy

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

Rene Warcollier

René Warcollier

Telepathic Drawing Experiments (Target Above, Response Below)