Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation
I am glad to have an interview with Dr. Fatima Regina Machado, who I have visited in her country, Brazil, as well as her husband and colleague Dr. Wellington Zangari. I first met Fatima in 1993 when she came to Durham, North Carolina, to participate in the now defunct parapsychology Summer Study Program at what was then known as the Institute of Parapsychology. I was lecturing there at the time.
For many years Fatima has been working—sometimes with Wellington—on behalf of parapsychology in an academic setting in Brazil. She is in fact a pioneer in this field in her country, and her accomplishments are clear both in the interview below as well as in the bibliography that follows. Two of her main areas of interest are poltergeist phenomena and surveys of psychic experiences. Fatima, interestingly, is the only person I know who has two doctoral degrees, as you can see in her interview below. She has PhDs in psychology (social psychology, University of São Paulo, 2009), and in Communication and Semiotics (Pontifical University of São Paulo, 2003).
One of her most important contributions was the report of the results of her second PhD dissertation “Experiências Anômalas na Vida Cotidiana: Experiências Extra-Sensório-Motoras e sua Associação com Crenças, Atitudes e Bem-estar Subjetivo” (Anomalous Experiences in Daily Life: Extrasensorimotor Experiences and their Association with Beliefs, Attitudes and Well-being, Institute for Psychology, University of São Paulo, 2009). The article, “Experiências Anômalas (Extra-Sensório-Motoras) na Vida Cotidiana e sua Associação com Crenças, Atitudes e Bem-Estar Subjetivo,” appeared in the Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia (2010, 30, 462-483). This was important for at least two reasons. First, it appeared in a prestigious forum of Brazilian psychology, a journal published by the Academia Paulista de Psicologia (Paulist Academy of Psychology). Second, this work has inspired similar studies which are currently being conducted by doctoral students.
Other contributions include the following: Machado, F.R. (2009). Field Investigations on Hauntings and Poltergeists. Utrecht II: Charting the Future of Parapsychology. New York: Parapsychology Foundation / Het Johan Borgmanfonds Foundation, 115-150; Radin, D.I., Machado, F.R., & Zangari, W. (2002). Effects of Distant Healing Intention Through Time & Space: Two Exploratory Studies. Subtle Energies and Energy Medicine Journal, 11, 34-58; Machado, F.R., & Zangari, W. (2001). Parapsychology in Brazil: A Science Entering Adulthood. Journal of Parapsychology, 65, 351-356; Machado, F.R. (2001). A New Look on Hauntings and Poltergeist Phenomena: Proposal of a Semiotic Perspective of Analysis. In J. Houran & ; R. Lange (Eds.), Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 227-247; Machado, F.R., & Zangari, W. (2000). The Poltergeist in Brazil: A Review of the Literature in Context. International Journal of Parapsychology, 11, 105-132.
How did you get interested in parapsychology?
When I was a little girl I liked hearing ghost stories and folklore tales. My grandfathers were really good story tellers. My father’s father was very credulous about supernatural events. My mother’s father was a scientist and always had a naturalistic explanation for the cases I was told. I grew up hearing those fascinating stories, and I always considered the naturalistic explanations also fascinating, very elucidating. In high school, we had a short course on parapsychology taught by a priest who had a Catholic approach to the supposed paranormal events and not very convincing answers to my many questions on the subject. It was quite disappointing to me at that time. After finishing high school, I attended another parapsychology course where they would supposedly explain how telepathy and clairvoyance work and teach some techniques with which we would be able to control our minds and to have extrasensory experiences. But that course did not convince me either. When I went to college in 1991, I met Wellington Zangari, who was really interested in parapsychology from a scientific point of view. He was studying it for some years already. I have to thank him for introducing me to the field. It was a surprise for me to discover that very serious people were studying systematically psychokinetic and extrasensory phenomena/experiences. The first books I had contact with were, in Portuguese, Canais Ocultos do Espírito (Hidden Channels of the Mind), written by Louisa Rhine, and Magia e Parapsicologia, a book on the history of parapsychology written by Bruno Fantoni; and in English, Foundations of Parapsychology, by Edge, Morris, Palmer and Rush, and the Handbook of Parapsychology, organized by Benjamin B. Wollman. A new world was opened to me and I was getting more and more interested. Zangari (who later became my husband) had already founded an institute for parapsychology in São Paulo. Some courses were offered and there was a study group who had meetings weekly. Soon I got involved with the institute activities and left my job (I was an elementary school teacher) to be devoted to the field.
I am especially interested in the meaning and relevance of psi experiences for the experiencers’ lives. Because I understand that psi experiences are part of daily life and have something to reveal about human nature and the way we interact with our environment – independently of its ontological status, but also because of its possible ontological reality – I invested efforts in developing academic research related to the field in Brazil. In order to do that I helped to introduce the topic into the academy in Brazil primarily through my master’s thesis and Ph.D dissertations. My master’s thesis was A Causa dos Espíritos: Um Estudo sobre a Utilização da Parapsicologia para a Defesa da Fé Católica e Espírita no Brasil (The Cause of the Spirits: A Study on the Use of Parapsychology to the Defense of the Catholic and Spiritist Faiths in Brazil, Sciences of Religion Post-Graduation Program, Pontifical University of São Paulo, 1996). I have two PhD degrees. My first dissertation was A Ação dos Signos nos Poltergeists: Estudo do Processo de Comunicação dos Fenômenos Poltergeist a Partir de seus Relatos (The Action of Signs in Poltergeists: Study of the Communication Process of Poltergeist Phenomena from their Accounts, Communication and Semiotics Post-Graduation Program, Pontifical University of São Paulo, 2003). The second one was Experiências Anômalas na Vida Cotidiana: Experiências Extra-Sensório-Motoras e sua Associação com Crenças, Atitudes e Bem-estar Subjetivo (Anomalous Experiences in Daily Life: Extrasensorimotor Experiences and their Association with Beliefs, Attitudes and Well-being, Institute for Psychology, University of São Paulo, 2009).
As a professional, I consider that exchanging information with the international scientific community is essential for the development of the field because it helps to break barriers and to expand perspectives. In 1993, I attended the Summer Study Program at Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (today the Rhine Research Center) and it was a great opportunity to get in contact with researchers of the international community and to present what was happening in the Brazilian context in terms of interest, studies and efforts. I became the first Brazilian woman to become a Parapsychological Association member (currently I am a member of its Board of Directors), and since 2001 Zangari and I are International Affiliates of the Parapsychology Foundation. I should also say that the PF was really important to us in terms of support, as was the support of some persons such as Nancy L. Zingrone, Carlos S. Alvarado, and Stanley Krippner, who have served as bridges for my international activities.
I have also done some experimental research, but my expertise is case studies (especially poltergeist ones) and surveys. Zangari and I have been working together in order to develop research and spread good quality information in our country, where the term parapsychology is badly used, confusing the field with all sort of practices. We worked to transform the former independent institute/study group into a research group in academia. Attending and participating in conferences and seminars in different fields of studies was a strategy to present information and break barriers and prejudices against the field. All these actions, combined with the maintenance of our research group, have helped to motivate more people to do research and to present good quality information.
Why do you think that parapsychology is important?
For my PhD in Psychology, I did a survey that shows that 82.7% of the participants (N = 306) reported having had at least one psi experience (ESP or PK), and the majority of them considered their psi experience(s) important or relevant to their lives. Brazil seems to be a country where we can find a high prevalence of psi experiences. Also surveys in other countries show considerable prevalences of psi experiences. This cannot be dismissed. It demonstrates that psi experiences are part of daily life and I believe that they are clues to reveal some aspects of human nature and the way we interact with the environment (independently of its ontological status, but also because of its possible ontological reality) which we still do not understand. Parapsychology is important because it is a field devoted to the investigation of psi and to attempts to obtain and assess scientific evidence for its support. And beyond that, due to the intricate nature of the subject to be investigated, it has the double effect of provoking very interesting debates among scientists (at least among those who are not prejudicially opposed to it) and of improving methodological procedures and conceptual advances, independently (or maybe exactly because) of the surrounding controversies.
In your view, what are the main problems in parapsychology today as a scientific field?
Despite all efforts to “clean up” the popular image of “parapsychology,” as a misused term, we still find some resistance to it. It can be problematic when you ask for grants in Brazil, for instance – and a research field needs resources to keep growing. However, as I said before, I have not met opposition to the study of psi. On the contrary: the interest in studying psi is growing and growing in Brazil. Recently (2010) our research group adopted the term Anomalistic Psychology to designate our field of study, expanding the spectrum of interests. This has attracted more students and interested people in general, besides contributing to the improvement of the dialogue with other study areas and the insertion of psi research into the scientific mainstream. It does not mean that we have abandoned parapsychology. Now we have more possibilities to encourage people to listen to us and understand the relevance of (scientific and serious) parapsychological studies.
Another problem I see in parapsychology as a scientific field is the still poor replicability of psi experiments – not only because of the nature of psi, but also because I do not see many researchers involved in replications of experiments. I think we could also do more replications in cross-cultural studies (never forgetting spontaneous case studies, of course!). It would, for sure, improve the data base and this could help in the development of experimental procedures.
Can you mention some of your current projects?
In Brazil we are living a very special moment in terms of interest in academic research of parapsychological experiences. From 1999 to 2009 our research group was based at Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, where I was a PhD student and latter, a teacher, and it was very important to develop activities and to mature. In 2009, Zangari and I began a project to establish our research group (now called Inter Psi – Laboratory of Anomalistic Psychology and Psychosocial Processes) at the University of São Paulo (USP), the most important public university in the country. Since 2010, our laboratory has been established at USP. I have co-supervised several activities which have been developed with the help of Zangari’s graduate students who have, in turn, worked on master theses or in PhD dissertations (and now we have two post-doctoral fellows). The topics these students have worked on have included anomalous experiences in general (surveys, experimental, field and case studies), and especially ESP, PK, OBEs, UFO abductions and mediumistic experiences. Besides individual research projects, there are some collective projects being developed by different groups of Inter Psi’s participants. We intend to train graduate students to establish their own groups after they finish their doctorates and start working in other universities. In addition to these activities, we have also worked to establish international agreements to do cross-cultural research and exchange students with other universities. We have already received the visit of outstanding foreign researchers such as Nancy L. Zingrone, Carlos S. Alvarado, Stanley Krippner, Chris Roe, and Elizabeth Roxburgh.
In addition to Inter Psi, I am also a member of the Laboratory for Social Psychology of Religion and a member of the National Association for Research and Graduate Studies in Psychology, where I participate in the Working Group “Psychology and Religion”. In all these activities I have worked for promoting academic research of parapsychological/anomalistic experiences.
Currently I am a post-doctoral fellow of the Sciences of Religion Post-Graduation Program at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo. Among different activities, I have contributed to the dissemination of information on psi research/anomalistic psychology to graduate students, promoting the exchange of information between graduate students from Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo and the University of São Paulo, and by teaching some classes and participating in research meetings.
Now I am preparing an article on the history of parapsychology in Brazil which will be published soon, and a book chapter, co-authored with some colleagues, on Brazilian parapsychological spontaneous cases.
ALVARADO, C.; MARALDI, E. O. ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. . Théodore Flournoy’s contributions to Psychical Research. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, v. 78, p. 149-168, 2014.
MARALDI, E. O. ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. ; KRIPPNER, S. . Anomalous Mental and Physical Phenomena of Brazilian Mediums: a review of the scientific literature.. In: Jack Hunter; David Luke. (Org.). (Org.). Talking with the Spirits: Ethnographies From Between the Worlds.. 1ed.Brisbane: Daily Grail Publishing, 2014, v. 1, p. 259-301.
MARTINS, L. B. ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. . Possibilidades Darwinistas para o Estudo das Experiências Anômalas. In: Clarissa de Franco; Rodrigo Petronio. (Org.). Crença e Evidência: Aproximações e controvérias entre religião e teoria evolucionária no pensamento contemporâneo. 1ed.São Leopoldo: UNISINOS, 2014, v. 1, p. 127-153.
ZANGARI, W. ; MARALDI, E. O. ; MARTINS, L. B. ; MACHADO, F. R. . Estados Alterados de Consciência e Religião. In: João Décio Passos; Frank Usarski. (Org.). Compêndio de Ciência da Religião. 1ed.São Paulo: Paulinas; Paulus, 2013, v. 1, p. 423-435.
ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. . The Paradoxal Disappearance of Parapsychology in Brazil. Journal of Parapsychology, v. 76, p. 65-67, 2012.
MARALDI, E. O. ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. A Psicologia das Crenças Paranormais: Uma Revisão Crítica. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 31, p. 394-421, 2011.
ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. . Por Uma Psicologia Anomalística Inclusiva. In: VII Encontro Psi: Pesquisa Psi e Psicologia Anomalística, 2011, Curitiba. Livro de Registro dos Trabalhos Apresentados no VII Encontro Psi: Pesquisa Psi e Psicologia Anomalística. Curitiba: UNIBEM, 2011. v. 1. p. 162-166.
MARALDI, E. O. ; MACHADO, F. R. ; ZANGARI, W. . Importance of a Psychosocial Approach for a Comprehensive Understanding of Mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, v. 24, p. 181-186, 2010.
MACHADO, F. R. . Experiências anômalas (extra-sensório-motoras) na vida cotidiana e sua associação com crenças, atitudes e bem-estar subjetivo. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 30, p. 462-483, 2010.
MACHADO, F. R. Field Investigations on Hauntings and Poltergeists. Utrecht II: Charting The Future of Parapsychology Proceedings of an International Conference. New York: Parapsychology Foundation; Het Johan Borgmanfonds Foundation: The Netherlands. p. 115 – 150, 2009.
MACHADO, F. R. Algumas reflexões sobre as implicações dos estudos da psicocinesia na compreensão da consciência e da espiritualidade. In: V Encontro Psi: A Variedade das Experiências Humanas, 2009, Recife. Livro de Registro dos Trabalhos Apresentados – V Encontro Psi. Curitiba: FBM, 2009. v. 1. p. 15-24.
MACHADO, F. R. . Parapsicologia no Brasil: Entre a Cruz e a mesa Branca. Ceticismo Aberto, http://www.ceticismoaberto.com/paranormal/2091/parapsicologia-no-brasil-entre-a-cruz-e-a-mesa-branca, 2009 (publicado originalmente em 2005).
MACHADO, F. R. . Consciência, Espiritualidade e Psicocinesia: Limites e Possibilidades de Estudo. In: III Simpósio Nacional sobre Consciência, 2008, Salvador. Artigos apresentados no III Simpósio Nacional Sobre Consciência. Salvador: Fundação Ocidemnte, 2008. v. 3. p. 1-16.
ALVARADO, C. S. ; MACHADO, F. R. ; ZANGARI, W. ; ZINGRONE, N. L. . Perspectivas históricas da influência da mediunidade na construção de idéias psicológicas e psiquiátricas. Revista de Psiquiatria Clínica, v. 34, p. 42-53, 2007.
MACHADO, F. R. . Da Composição dos Casos Poltergeist. In: II Encontro Psi: Refletindo sobre o Futuro da Parapsicologia, 2004, Curitiba. Livro de Registro de Trabalhos Apresentados. Curitiba: Campus Universitário Bezerra de Menezes, 2004. v. 1. p. 51-62.
MACHADO, F. R. . Função e Significado dos Poltergeist: Uma abordagem semiótica.. In: 6ª Jornada do Centro de Estudos Peirceanos, 2003, São Paulo. Caderno da 6ª Jornada do Centro de Estudos Peirceanos. São Paulo: CEPE, 2003. v. 1. p. 30-43.
MACHADO, F. R. . Poltergeist: Un juego semiótico. Revista Argentina de Psicología Paranormal, Buenos Aires, v. 13, n.3, p. 181-195, 2002.
RADIN, D. I. ; MACHADO, F. R. ; ZANGARI, W. . Effects of Distant Healing Intention Through Time & Space: Two Exploratory Studies. Subtle Energies And Energy Medicine Journal, v. XI, n.3, p. 34-58, 2002.
MACHADO, F. R.; ZANGARI, W.. Parapsychology in Brazil: A Science entering adulthood. The Journal Of Parapsychology, Durham, NC – USA, v. 65, n.4, p. 351-356, 2001.
MACHADO, F. R. . A new look on hauntings and poltergeist phenomena: Proposal of a semiotic perspective of analysis. In: James Houran; Rense Lange. (Org.). Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives. 1ed.Jefferson, NC, USA: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2001, v. 1, p. 227-247.
MACHADO, F. R.; ZANGARI, W. The Poltergeist in Brazil: A Review of the Literature in Context. International Journal Of Parapsychology, Nova Iorque, v. 11, n.1, p. 105-132, 2000.
MACHADO, F. R. ; ZANGARI, W. Estudo de três casos poltergeist em São Paulo. In: Tercer Encuentro Psi 1998: Consciencia y Psi como Fronteras de Exploración Cientifica, 1998, Buenos Aires. Actas del Tercer Encuentro Psi 1998. Buenos Aires: IPP, 1998. v. 1. p. 75-81.
ALVARADO, C. S. ; MACHADO, F. R. ; ZINGRONE, N. . Métodos de Investigación en Parapsicología (Parte II). Boletim Aipa, Buenos Aires, v. 2, n.1(3), p. 9-12, 1998.
ZANGARI, W.; MACHADO, F. R. . The Adolescent Science: Parapsychology in Brazil. The Journal Of The American Society For Psychical Research, Nova Iorque, v. 91, p. 110-121, 1997.
ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. A Psicologia do Ganzfeld (Parte I). Jornal de Parapsicologia, Braga, v. 38, p. 2-3, 1997.
ZANGARI, W.; MACHADO, F. R. . A Psicologia do Ganzfeld (Parte II). Jornal de Parapsicologia, Braga, v. 39, p. 2-3, 1997.
MACHADO, F. R. . A Questão da Nomenclatura em Parapsicologia. Anuário Brasileiro de Parapsicologia, Recife, v. 2, p. 31-45, 1997.
ALVARADO, C. S. ; MACHADO, F. R. ; ZINGRONE, N. . Métodos de Investigación en Parapsicología (ParteI). Boletim Aipa, Buenos Aires, v. 1, p. 13-16, 1997.
MACHADO, F. R. ; ALVARADO, C. S. . Sobre o provincianismo em Parapsicologia. In: I Congresso Internacional e Brasileiro de Parapsicologia, 1997, Recife. Anais do I Congresso Internacional e Brasileiro de Parapsicologia. Recife: IPPP, 1997. v. 1. p. 75-88.
Zangari, W.; MACHADO, F. R. . Survey: Incidence and Social Relevance of Brazilian University Students’Psychic Experiences. European Journal Of Parapsychology, Edimburgo, v. 12, p. 75-87, 1996.
MACHADO, F. R. ; ZANGARI, W. A Psicologia do Poltergeist. Jornal de Parapsicologia, Braga, v. 36, p. 11-16, 1996.
ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, F. R. . Incidencia y Importancia Social de las Experiencias Psiquicas en los Estudiantes Universitarios Brasileros. Revista Argentina de Psicologia Paranormal, Buenos Aires, v. 7, n.1(25), p. 19-35, 1996.
MACHADO, F. R. . Considerações sobre ética e educação em Parapsicologia no Brasil. In: XIII Simpósio Pernambucano de Parapsicologia, 1995, Recife. Anais do XIII Simpósio Pernambucano de Parapsicologia. Recife: IPPP, 1995. v. 1. p. 76-82.
MACHADO, F. R. Um Fantasma em Minha Casa? Uma Introdução ao fenômeno de poltergeist ou RSPK. Revista Brasileira de Parapsicologia, São Paulo, v. 4, p. 8-15, 1994.
MACHADO, F. R. A Importância da Educação em Parapsicologia. Revista Brasileira de Parapsicologia, São Paulo, v. 3, p. 27-29, 1993.