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On Carlos S. Alvarado (1955-2021)

From the desk of Nan Zingrone, July 20th, 2021: It is with a broken heart that I am here to let those know who have not yet heard that Carlos passed away at the age of 66 on Friday, July 16th.

A few days after his last post on this blog, we were in the ER at the University of North Carolina hospital. Two tumors were discovered on, around, and below his temporal lobe. On the 15th of January, he had neurosurgery which successfully removed all but 3% of the tumors. He was diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive cancer on the 2nd of February. Throughout the spring, Carlos endured radiation treatments, and three different regimes of chemotherapy, but the residue of the original tumors continued to grow. On the 21st of June he entered an at-home hospice program, and on July 16th, passed away peacefully in our home.

Throughout his battle with cancer we were both inspired and comforted by the kindness and caring of the staff, nurses, and doctors at UNC Hospital, UNC Home Health, and UNC Hospice, as well as the prayers, healing intentions, cards, letters, calls, and visits from friends, family, and colleagues. We were grateful for everyone who sought to help him recover, survive, and then who prayed for and facilitated his peaceful passing. We could not have been more blessed in that regard.

If you are on Facebook, seek out the Parapsychology Foundation Facebook page and elsewhere around the FB universe where there are tributes to his character and work, and comments that have been so comforting to all of us who knew and loved him. The personal emails of condolence I have received and the public comments I have read have helped me so much with the pain of his loss after 38 years of happiness with this extraordinary man.

If you are a reader of the blog but don’t know as much as you would like to about his life and work, there is a biographical entry recently published on Psi Encyclopedia. In the fall of 2020, Carlos worked with Michael Duggan who writes many of the biographies in that encyclopedia. Dr. James G. Matlock helped finalize the biography while Carlos was in hospice and after he passed. The hard work of Michael, Jim and others has resulted in a very informative entry with a selected list of his publications. Click here to read this entry.

The Parapsychology Foundation’s first announcement of Carlos’ death included a link to an interview that PF President, Lisette Coly, published on the PF YouTube channel. Click here to watch that interview. If you put “Carlos S Alvarado” or just “Alvarado” in the search button on the PF YouTube channel, you will find a long list of Carlos’ interviews and lectures. The interview that Lisette linked to was uploaded 4 years ago and is a wonderful look into Carlos’s passion in the various topics of the field.

Over the next few months, I will be asking many of our colleagues to reproduce or discuss their tributes to Carlos here. I will also work to provide information about the various efforts that are made to memorialize his life and work, and to preserve his legacy. I don’t know how soon I will be able to start this series of blogs because, for me, this is an immediate and searing loss, but rest assure, the material will appear.

Your own thoughts and comments on Carlos, his life and work, and the content of this blog is welcome. I end this note with one of my favorite photos of this brilliant and generous man who has left us all too soon.

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, 2019

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

I recently published a summary and overview of the famous work of Nandor Fodor, Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science:

Carlos S. Alvarado, Early Psychical Research Reference Works: Remarks on Nandor Fodor’s Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2020, 34(4), 717–754. []

Abstract—Some early reference works about psychic phenomena have included bibliographies, dictionaries, encyclopedias, and general over­view books. A particularly useful one, and the focus of the present article, is Nandor Fodor’s Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science (Fodor, n.d., circa 1933 or 1934). The encyclopedia has more than 900 alphabetically arranged entries. These cover such phenomena as apparitions, auras, automatic writing, clairvoyance, hauntings, materialization, poltergeists, premoni­tions, psychometry, and telepathy, but also mediums and psychics, re­searchers and writers, magazines and journals, organizations, theoretical ideas, and other topics. In addition to the content of this work, and some information about its author, it is argued that the Encyclopaedia is a good reference work for the study of developments from before 1933, even though it has some omissions and bibliographical problems.

This is a classic work that has been reprinted several times. Before I review Fodor’s work about psychic phenomena, methodology, and various aspects of spiritualism and psychical research,  I have sections about: Reference Works Covering Pre-1930 Developments, Psychical Research During the 1930s, and Nandor Fodor.

I wrote: “Fodor published much about psychic topics over the years, including These Mysterious People (Fodor, 1934b), Haunted People (Carrington & Fodor, 1951), On the Trail of the Poltergeist (Fodor, 1958), The Haunted Mind (Fodor, 1959a) . . . , Mind Over Space (Fodor, 1962), Between Two Worlds (Fodor, 1964), The Unaccountable (Fodor, 1968), and Freud, Jung, and Occultism (Fodor, 1971). He also worked as a psychoanalyst in New York and published on the subject and on various psychological matters . . . Fodor was also interested in theory, as can be seen in his articles about apports and materialization phenomena . . . But most of his writings in this area were about psychoanalytic ideas.”

Most of my comments are about the contents of the Encylopaedia, which had more than 900 entries. “Many of the entries included by Fodor were about phenomena. A few examples were: Apparitions, Apports, Auras, Automatic Writing, Bilocation, Clairvoyance, Direct Voice, Emanations, Fire Immunity, Haunting, Levitation, Luminous Phenomena, Materialisation, Obsession, Premonitions, Psychometry, Raps, Retrocognition, Table Turning, and Telepathy. Some of these entries were quite long, covering many aspects of the phenomena. For example, the Haunting one had sections about specific cases, and other topics, among them the “laying of the haunters” . . . “premonitory haunting” . . . , and “speculations of the early S.P.R. researchers.”

Nandor Fodor - Wikipedia
Nandor Fodor

There were also entries about investigators, mediums and psychics, famous cases, theoretical ideas, journals and magazines, frauds, and organizations. “A few entries were about the movements of Mesmerism, Spiritualism, and Psychical Research. The discussion about Spiritualism had sections about the phenomena of the movement, Spiritualism and religion, and short overviews of its history in various countries.”

There were also devices used in many investigations. “Biometer of Baraduc, Communigraph, Dynamistograph, Ouija Board, Psychic Telephone, and Sthenometer. The latter was an instrument invented by French physician Paul Joire to measure the exteriorization of nervous force from the human body, a topic covered as well in Emanations.”

Paul Joire’s Sthenometer

There were also many discussions of mediumistic communications: “He included topics such as ‘The Play of the Subconscious—Deceiving Spirits’ . . . , and ‘The Personal Character—Difficulties and Complications of Communications’ . . . The latter topic reminds me of James H. Hyslop’s . .  discussion of what he referred to as the pictographic process in mediumistic communications.”

Although there was much useful information, there were also some problems about lack of details about references to some facts, and precise information about individuals information about psychic phenomena.

In my view the Encyclopaedia was useful if used as the first aspect to obtain information about psychic phenomena. “Fodor provided us with a wide canvas that has proved to be very valuable in presenting the claims and ideas that characterized psychical research before the Encyclopaedia was published.” Fodor may be questioned in various ideas, but provided good information about the psychic literature. His Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science can be very useful to understand the ideas about psychic phenomena before Fodor published his work.

The rest of my comments are about the critics and opinions used by Fodor.

Some Online General Books About Psychical Research

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

I hope the readers will find this list of books useful for Christmas.  

These are old books about psychical research published between the early 1900s and the late 1950s. The writings of individuals such as William Barrett, Raynor Johnson, Joseph Maxwell, Ricardo Musso, Charles Richet, and others, are particularly interesting and informative.

The books are online here: GB (Google Books; HT (Hathi Trust; IA (Internet Archive; IAPSOP (International Association for the Preservation of Spiritualist and Occult Periodicals; and SurvivalAfterDeath | CienciasPsíquicas (

William F. Barrett. (1911). Psychical Research. New York: Holt. [HT, IA, IAPSOP]

Camille Flammarion. (1907). Mysterious Psychic Forces: An account of the author’s investigations in psychical research, together with those of other European savants. Boston: Small, Maynard. [GB HT IA IAPSOP]

Anthony Flew’s (1953) A New Approach to Psychical Research. London: Watts. [IAPSOP]

Raynor C. Johnson. (1956) Psychical Research. London: English Universities Press. [IA IAPSOP]

Joseph Maxwell. (1905) Metapsychical Phenomena: Methods and Observations. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons. (Original work published in French 1903) [GB HT IA IAPSOP]

J. Ricardo Musso. (1954). En los Límites de la Psicología: Desde el Espiritismo Hasta la Moderna Parapsicología [On the Limits of Psychology: From Spiritism to the Modern Parapsychology]. Buenos Aires: Periplo. [SurvivalAfterDeath | CienciasPsíquicas]

Paul Joire. (1916). Psychical and Supernormal Phenomena: Their Observation and Experimentation. London: William Rider. (Original work published in French 1909) [HT IA]

T. Konstantin Oesterreich. (n.d., ca 1921). Occultism and Modern Science. London: Methuen. [HT IA IAPSOP]

Charles Richet. (1923). Thirty Years of Psychical Research: Being a Treatise on Metapsychics. New York: Macmillan. [GB HT IA IAPSOP]

Rudolf Tischner. (1921). Einführung in den Okkultismus und Spiritismus. [Introduction to occultism and Spiritism]. Munich: J.F. Bergmann. [HT]

G.N.M. Tyrrell. (1954). The Personality of Man: New Facts and Their Significance. Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books. [HT, IA]

Erlendur Haraldsson (1931-2020)

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

I recently received the sad news that my friend, and well-known parapsychologist Erlendur Haraldsson, passed away. Here is a short biography of his background:

Erlendur Haraldsson

“Erlendur Haraldsson was born in Iceland in 1931. He studied philosophy at the University of Edinburgh (1955-1956) and the University of Freiburg (1956-1958), later studying psychology at Freiburg (1963-1966) and the University of Munich (1966-1969). In 1969-1970 he spent a year with Dr. J. B. Rhine at his Institute of Parapsychology in Durham, North Carolina, and in 1970-1971, he did an internship in clinical psychology at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville where he met Dr. Ian Stevenson, leading to a life-long association and the publication of joint papers. From 1971-1973 he worked with Dr. Karlis Osis at the American Society for Psychical Research in New York. He received a doctorate in psychology from the University of Freiburg in 1972, and became a lecturer and assistant professor at the University of Iceland in psychology in 1973; in 1989 he became a full professor, and in 1999, an emeritus professor. His research and publications have covered a wide range of religious and psychological topics, including mediums, reincarnation, and deathbed phenomena” (online here). More details about his life appear in an autobiography published in Icelandic. The parapsychological content of this book will be published in English around March by White Crow Books.

One thing that I always admired about Erlendur was his interest in many areas of parapsychology. Few people in the field have shown such wide interests, particularly when it comes to research. I always felt that his contributions to the investigation of mediumship and deathbed visions were very important, and reminded us of the issue of spontaneous cases and survival of death.

This is evident in his bibliography, which includes such areas as ESP experiments, deathbed visions and apparitions, recollection of previous lives, mediumship, Sathya Sai Baba, and other topics. A few examples of publications appear below.

* * *

Experimental Work

Erlendur Haraldsson. (1970). Subject selection in a machine precognition test. Journal of Parapsychology, 34, 182-191.

Martin Johnson and Erlendur Haraldsson. (1984). The Defence Mechanism Test as a predictor of ESP scores. Journal of Parapsychology, 48, 185-200.

Joop M. Houtkooper, Loftur R. Gissurarson and Erlendur Haraldsson. (1988-89). Why the ganzfeld is conducive to ESP. A study of observational theory and the percipient-order effect. European Journal of Parapsychology, 7, 169-192

Erlendur Haraldsson and Joop M. Houtkooper. (1992). The effects of perceptual defensiveness, personality and belief on extrasensory perception tasks. Personality and individual differences, 13, 1085-1096.

Erlendur Haraldsson, Joop M. Houtkooper, Rainer Schneider and Martin Bäckström (2002).Perceptual  defensiveness  and ESP performance: Reconstructed  DMT-ratings and psychological correlates in the first German DMT-ESP experiment. Journal of Parapsychology, 66, 249-270.

Deathbed Visions and Apparitions

Karlis Osis and Erlendur Haraldsson. (1977). At the hour of death. Avon Books. (There are later editions)

Karlis Osis and Erlendur Haraldsson. (1977). Deathbed observations by physicians and nurses: A cross-cultural survey. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 71, 237-259.

Erlendur Haraldsson. (1987). The Iyengar-Kirti case: An apparitional case of the by-stander type. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 54, 64-67. (Full text).

Erlendur Haraldsson. (1988-89). Survey of claimed encounters with the dead. Omega: The Journal of Death and Dying, 19, 103-113. (Full text).

Erlendur Haraldsson. (2009). Experiences of encounters with the dead: 337 new cases. Journal of Parapsychology, 73, 91-118. (Full text).

Erlendur Haraldsson. (2012). The Departed Among the Living: An Investigative Study of Afterlife Encounters. White Crow Books.

Recollections of Previous Lives

Erlendur Haraldsson. (1995). Personality and abilities of children claiming previous-life memories. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 183, 445-451.

Erlendur Haraldsson, Patrick Fowler and Vimala Periyannanpillai. (2000). Psychological characteristics of children who speak of a previous life: A further field study in Sri Lanka. Transcultural Psychiatry, 37, 525-544. (Full text).

Erlendur Haraldsson. (2000). Birthmarks and claims of previous life memories II. The case of Chatura Karunaratne. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. 64, 82-92. (Full text).

Erlendur Haraldsson. (2003). Children who speak of past-life experiences: Is there a psychological explanation? Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory Research and Practice, 76, 55-67. (Full text).

Erlendur Haraldsson. (2012). Persistence of ‘‘past-life’’ memories in adults who, in their childhood, claimed memories of a past life. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 200, 985-989. (Full text)

Erlendur Haraldsson and James G. Matlock. (2017). I Saw a Light and Came Here: Children‘s Experiences of Reincarnation. White Crow Books.


Erlendur Haraldsson and Ian Stevenson (1974). An experiment with the Icelandic medium Hafsteinn Björnsson. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 68, 192-202. (Full text).

Erlendur Haraldsson and Ian Stevenson (1975). A communicator of the “drop in” type in Iceland: The case of Gudni Magnusson. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 69, 245-261. (Full text).

Erlendur Haraldsson and Ian Stevenson (1975). A communicator of the “drop in” type in Iceland: The case of Runolfur Runolfsson. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 69, 33-59. (Full text)

Erlendur Haraldsson, J.G. Pratt and Magnus Kristjansson. (1978). Further experiments with the Icelandic medium Hafsteinn Bjornsson. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 72, 339-347. (Full text).

Erlendur Haraldsson and Loftur R. Gissurarson (2015). Indridi Indridason the Icelandic Physical Medium. White Crow Books.

Sathya Sai Baba

Karlis Osis and Erlendur Haraldsson. (1976). Out-of-body experiences in Indian swamis: Sri Sathya Sai Baba and Dadaji. Research in Parapsychology 1975. Scarecrow Press, 147-50.

Sai Baba and Haraldsson (seated)

Erlendur Haraldsson and Karlis Osis. (1977). The appearance and disappearance of objects in the presence of Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 71, 33-43.

Karlis Osis and Erlendur Haraldsson (1979). Parapsychological phenomena associated with Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Christian Parapsychologist, 3, 159-163.

Erlendur Haraldsson. (1987). “Miracles are my visiting cards”: An investigative report on psychic phenomena associated with Sri Sathya Sai Baba. Century-Hutchinson.

Erlendur Haraldsson. (1990). The miraculous and the Sai Baba Movement. Religion Today: A Journal of Contemporary Religions, 6(1), 6-9.

Other Psychic Experiences

Erlendur Haraldsson (1978). Þessa heims og annars. Könnun á dulrænni reynslu Íslendinga, trúarviðhorfum og þjóðtrú. Bókaforlagið Saga.

Erlendur Haraldsson and Orn Olafsson (1980). A survey of psychic healing in Iceland. The Christian Parapsychologist, 3, 276-79.

Erlendur Haraldsson. (1985). Representative national surveys of psychic phenomena: Iceland, Great Britain, Sweden, USA and Gallups multinational survey. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 53, 145-158. (Full text).

Erlendur Haraldsson and Joop M. Houtkooper. (1991). Psychic Experiences in the Multi-National Human Values Survey. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 85, 145-165. (Full text).

Erlendur Haraldsson. (2011). Psychic experiences – third of a century apart: Two representative surveys in Iceland. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 75, 76-90. (Full text)

* * *

Although I first saw Erlendur at the 1979 convention of the Parapsychological Association held at Moraga, California, I met him in the early 1980s when I was working at the University of Virginia as a research assistant for Ian Stevenson. Stevenson assigned me to help Erlendur finish his book about Sathya Sai Baba. Erlendur asked me to find cases in the spiritualistic and psychical research literature of phenomena similar to those produced by this person. In later years he returned and I continued having long talks with him. I learned much from him (I was new in the field) and once he told me he saw me as a colleague, not as an assistant. This is one of the most satisfying moments of my early career in psychical research.

Nagato Azuma. Carlos S. Alvarado, and Erlendur Haraldsson at the Division of Parapsychology, University of Virginia (early 1980s)

In later years, when he visited us again in Charlottesville, I continued having many conversations with him, and he stayed with me and with my wife, Nancy Zingrone, and used one of my cars. He also stayed with us briefly in Virginia Beach.

I greatly enjoyed his book Indridi Indridason the Icelandic Physical Medium (written with Loftur R. Gissurarson, 2015). I felt honored that he asked me to write an introduction to the book, and also felt he acknowledged my interest in the old psychic literature.

Although he conducted much research showing that psychic phenomena were related to psychological variables in the laboratory, I feel that Erlendur contributed greatly to expand the importance of seeing the phenomena outside of the confining experimental walls. Without rejecting laboratory work, he reminded us of personal experiences, the phenomena of mediums, and of the richness and implications of powerful experiences such as deathbed visions and apparitions, and later, recollections of previous lives.

Erlendur stated he was affected by figures in the field such as J.B. Rhine, Karlis Osis, and Ian Stevenson. I think many of us, myself included, were also positively affected by Erlendur, both personally and professionally.

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

I am glad to present the following information about an online event sponsored by the Parapsychological Association.


Humanity’s greatest challenge is the current ecological crisis. How may parapsychology contribute to the expected changes of behavior?

PA Members will explore this question on November 21, 2020 in an online symposium chaired by PA President Renaud Evrard. This event is the first of a series of quarterly symposia on various parapsychological topics.

Register here.

Parapsychology is a scientific attempt to explore as-yet-unknown rules of nature. With the current concerns of the ecological crisis, it’s time to assess how this discipline may contribute to expected changes of behavior by changing the way we think about our place in the cosmos. Ecology may become parapsychology’s next challenge.

The most obvious intersection between ecology and parapsychology is a commonly reported aftereffect of several different types of exceptional experiences (psychedelics, near-death or abduction experiences, etc.): the experiencer comes away from their encounter with an enhanced sense of connection to the environment and the world around them.

The “ecological self” is a new sense of self that sees the environment as an extension – or part – of the person. The study of this rising “ecological consciousness” shows another promising aspect of exceptional experiences. In a similar vein, the worldview of animism may offer parapsychology a viable alternative to physicalism, entailing ethical implications for its methods and practices.

Explanatory models for living organisms must take into account the existence of the background reality described by parapsychology, along with the modes of causation it implies. Therefore, a new theory of evolutionism is being developed in parapsychological circles. What is the place of psi in nature? 

Sessions and Speakers

Ecology: Parapsychology’s Next Challenge
Renaud Evrard

The notion of ecosystems is all about relationships, a connection of everything through networks of reciprocal exchange. How does parapsychology intersect with the field of ecology?

Parapsychology and the Ecological Self
Jack Hunter

Deep Ecologists have argued that the ecological crisis is simultaneously a psychological and spiritual crisis, and that we will need to re-conceptualize our relationship to the world in which we live.

The Missing Link: What Psi Tells Us About Biology and Evolution
Michael Nahm

Nahm argues that current mainstream biologists lack an encompassing understanding of organisms, and explains why psi is necessary to expand current biology, including evolutionary biology.

Psi, Psychedelics and Nature
David Luke

The practice of psychedelically inducing psi is embedded within a nature-based eco-spiritual epistemology and is difficult to disentangle as a web of interconnected relations

The Ethical Implications Animism Psi Has for Parapsychology

Jacob Glazer

Building on recent research in science studies, the worldview of animism offers parapsychology a viable alternative to physicalism entailing ethical implications for its methods and practices.

General admission: $40
PA Professional, Associate, and Supporting Members: $25

Start Time: Saturday, November 21, 2020 End Time: Saturday, November 21, 2020 Location: Online at Price: $40 General Admission/$25 PA Members

Register here.

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

Antonio Leon, who I know via email, presents in this book, Sessões de Ectoplasmia: Experimentos com Ectoplasma na França de 1920 no Instituto de Metapsíquica Internacional [Ectoplasm Seances: Experiments with Ectoplasm in France in the 1920s at the International Metapsychic Institute] (Epígrafe, 2019) a study of ectoplasmic experiments conducted in France at the Institut Métapsychique International. He has a masters degree and a doctorate in history from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Antonio Leon

The book focuses on studies by Gustave Geley and others with the famous mediums Eva C., Franek Kluski, and Jean Guzik.

Materialized Head with Eva C. and Moulds of Materialized Hands with Franek Kluski

Table of Contents

  1. Background of the Foundation [of ] IMI]
  2. The Context of Ectoplasm in the Decade of 1920
  3. Eva Carriere
  4. M. Franck Kluski
  5. Jean Guzik
  6. Final Considerations

Appendix A: Letter of Rocco Santoliquido to Charles Richet – October 3, 1918

Appendix B: Letter of Oliver Lodge to Charles Richet – October 16, 1918

Appendix C: Letter of Rocco Santoliquido to Charles Richet – November 6, 1918

Appendix D: Decree of Recognition of the Institut Metapsychique as a Public Utility


Can you give a brief summary of the book?

The book aims to be a reconstruction of the institutional history of the Institut Métapsychique International (IMI), based on ectoplasm experiments conducted by the Institut in the 1920s and by its predecessor Gustav Geley’s laboratory, located at the Suffren Avenue in 1918. This study suggests the existence, in that period, of two schools of metapsychique, the French School and the English School. Its objective is to question the veracity of the experiments and, based on primary sources, identify if there was any evidence of fraud. This paper also aims to understand the reasons for the subsequent decrease in research on ectoplasm. The applied methodology analysed primary sources such as letters, documents, speeches, magazines and books from that time. The results pointed out two metapsychique schools, the French one linked to the phenomena called objective, and the English one linked to the phenomena called subjective or intellectual.

Gustave Geley

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

I am a psychologist by profession. I carried out historical and epistemological research in parapsychology and anomalous phenomena during my master and PhD degrees in the Program of History of Science and Techniques and Epistemology the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

What motivated you to write this book?

My interest in developing this study started with a seed planted in my early childhood observing the work done by both my paternal and maternal grandmothers. Both were highly respected as healing mediums at the time they worked. Sylvia de Oliveira Leon, my paternal grandmother, once had an article written about her deeds as a medium in a widely circulated magazine called “Fatos e Fotos” in the 1970s. About the same time, she wrote a series of books of various themes under the same title: “Nós a Vocês, Obreiros Mediúnicos Grandeza Astral” (1971). Zélia de Carvalho Sucena, my maternal grandmother, recognized as a healing medium, was studied by some American researchers, including Lindsay Hale, a professor at the University of Texas, who mentions Zélia in his book published in 2009. Throughout my childhood and youth talking about paranormality, parapsychism and the use of energies was part of my routine. At the beginning of adulthood I had contact with the books of researchers with a scientific approach such as Charles Tart, Charles Richet, Waldo Vieira, and was determined to go deeper into the study of parapsychology from a scientific perspective. In my book I opted to view the 1920s through a magnifying glass, in Paris, and at the Institut Métapsychique International (IMI). At that place and time the investment in research on ectoplasm was paramount and highly regarded by researchers interested in the subject in question. My desire was to delve deep into the primary sources, not only through research, but also to feel what that period was like and what actually happened back then.

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

I think that historical research is important so that we can understand what truly happened in the past. My main objective was to research the ectoplasmic experiments carried out during the 1920s, in France at the Institut Métapsychique International (IMI). By that I mean, to investigate their experiments, their organization, their care to avoid fraud, their control procedures, their phenomena, their description and also who the mediums and researchers were involved in the whole process. My goal was to verify the various aspects that permeated the experiments in the 1920s, to explore the values and rules in research on ectoplasm as well as the context in which the experiments were inserted. Somewhat quoting Latour (1987), I felt like opening the black box of these experiments.

Jean Guzik

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

Psychologist David Vernon has just published an overview of parapsychology entitled Dark Cognition: Evidence for Psi and Its Implications for Consciousness (Routledge, 2020). David used to be the editor of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, and is the author of Human Potential: Exploring Techniques Used to Enhance Human Performance (Routledge, 2009). He is currently Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Canterbury Christ Church University.

David Vernon

According to the publisher’s website: “David Vernon provides essential coverage of information and evidence for a variety of anomalous psi phenomena, calling for a paradigm shift in how we view consciousness: from seeing it as something solely reliant on the brain to something that is enigmatic, fundamental and all pervasive. The book examines the nature of psi research showing that, despite claims to the contrary, it is clearly a scientific endeavour . . . [that has] significant implications for our understanding of consciousness.”

Here is the table of contents.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Psi as science

3. Telepathy and scopaesthesia

4. Clairvoyance and remote viewing

5. Precognition

6. Psychokinesis

7. Fields of consciousness

8. Energy healing

9. Out of body experiences

10. Near death experiences

11. Post death phenomena

12. Implications for consciousness


Can you give a brief summary of the book? 

In this book I examine the nature of psi research showing that, despite claims to the contrary, it is clearly a scientific endeavour. Following this the book explores evidence from a range of topics, including, telepathy and scopaesthesia, clairvoyance and remote viewing, precognition, psychokinesis, fields of consciousness, energy healing, out of body experiences, near death experiences and post death phenomena. Each of these areas provide some interesting and useful results, clearly showing that something unusual is occurring. Though precisely what this is, or how and why such effects occur, remains at present an intriguing mystery. Importantly, the prevailing view of consciousness, as an emergent phenomenon of brain activity, completely fails to account for such findings. Hence, based on evidence outlined in the book, I argue that to understand consciousness a paradigm shift is needed. One that moves consciousness away from being solely reliant on the brain to a view of consciousness that is something more fundamental and all pervasive.  

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

I’m currently working as a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Canterbury Christ Church University in the UK. I have a background in cognitive neuroscience and have conducted research across a range of areas including memory, peak performance, electroencephalographic biofeedback and creativity. However, I’ve always had an interest in consciousness and psi and a few years ago decided to come out of the closet (scientifically speaking) and focus on these issues more fully and explicitly. I began by exploring the retroactive facilitation effects reported by Daryl Bem and since then have been exploring scopaesthesia, telepathy using virtual reality and morphic resonance effects. Given my interest I was also keen to get involved in the field and learn more which led me to become a Board Member of the Parapsychological Association and a Council Member of the Society for Psychical Research, which also involved me spending two years working as Editor of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.  

What motivated you to write this book? 

Following the principle of Docendo discimus, which generally means ‘by teaching we learn’, I decided to put together a final year option module on the undergraduate programme at my University that explored anomalous cognition. I wasn’t sure how popular this would be but I’m quite chuffed that it is now in its third year and I have about sixty final year undergraduates signed up. The contents of the book came from these lectures and it will now be the core text for the students on this module.   

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

I think the book will be an indispensable source of information and evidence for anyone wishing to obtain a good understanding of anomalous psi phenomena. However, more than this, the three pre-conceived ideas or beliefs that I’m always faced with when lecturing the undergraduates about this are: 

  1. Psi is pseudoscience and not scientific 
  2. There is no evidence for psi  
  3. So what. . . what does it matter?  

Hence, I wanted the book to clearly address these issues by showing that not only is psi research scientific but that it is often more robust and rigorous than other areas of psychology. That, when one takes the time to look, there is in fact a plethora of empirical support for a whole range of anomalous phenomena. And the implications of this are so important that it is likely to lead to a paradigm shift with regards to the way we think about consciousness.   

My hope is that it will stimulate the interest of anyone who reads it and open their minds to new possibilities. 

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

Another one of my articles was just published. This one is about nineteenth century ideas of mediumship, the unconscious mind, and dissociation. Here is the title and abstract:

Dissociation and the Unconscious Mind: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives on Mediumship.

Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 34, No. 3, pp. 537–596, 2020.


“There is a long history of discussions of mediumship as related to dissociation and the unconscious mind during the nineteenth century. After an overview of relevant ideas and observations from the mesmeric, hypnosis, and spiritualistic literatures, I focus on the writings of Jules Baillarger, Alfred Binet, Paul Blocq, Théodore Flournoy, Jules Héricourt, William James, Pierre Janet, Ambroise August Liébeault, Frederic W. H. Myers, Julian Ochorowicz, Charles Richet, Hippolyte Taine, Paul Tascher, and Edouard von Hartmann. While some of their ideas reduced mediumship solely to intra-psychic processes, others considered as well veridical phenomena. The speculations of these individuals, involving personation, and different memory states, were part of a general interest in the unconscious mind, and in automatisms, hysteria, and hypnosis during the period in question. Similar ideas continued into the twentieth century.”

I wrote in the introduction that much of what I discuss is not cited by current students of dissociation and mediumship. Consequently, I hope to make this material “more available, and to provide some historical context to current ideas on the subject with additional references . . . Readers should be aware that most of the discussions about the topic during the nineteenth century were attempts to reduce mediumship to psychological, physiological, and medical ideas. In addition, much of what I discuss as examples of dissociation was not seen as such by believers in the spiritual interpretation of mediumship.”

Before I summarize the ideas of the individuals mentioned in the abstract I present a general introduction  to nineteenth century observations of dissociation. This has sections about trances and secondary personalities, and about mediumship.

Mediumship Morgan

One of the individuals discussed, French historian and critic Hippolyte Taine, wrote that “spiritist manifestations themselves put us on the path of discovery, showing us the coexistence at the same time, in the same individual, of two thoughts, two wills, two different actions, one of which is conscious, the other of which he is unaware of and which he attributes to invisible beings. The human brain is then a theatre in which different plays are performed at the same time . . . [There is a] a doubling of the self, the simultaneous presence of two series of parallel and independent ideas, two centers of action . . . juxtaposed in the same brain, each with its own work and each with different work, one on stage and the other behind the scenes, the second as complete as the first, since, alone and out of sight of each other, they build ideas followed and linked with phrases and related sentences which the other has no part of.” (H. Taine, (1878). De l’intelligence [About intelligence] (Vol. 1, 3rd rev. ed.). Hachette, pp. 16-17).

Hippolyte Taine - Wikipedia
Hippolyte Taine

While some, such as Jules Baillarger, Alfred Binet, and Pierre Janet, did not discuss veridical aspects of mediumship, others did. The latter included Théodore Flournoy, William James, and Frederic W. H. Myers.

Alfred Binet | Biography & Contributions | Britannica
Alfred Binet
File:Pierre Janet Marie Felix.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Pierre Janet
William James | Life, Works, Influence, & Facts | Britannica
William James

I stated in the conclusion: “To a great extent discussions of nineteenth century mediumship in terms of dissociation, and the unconscious regions of the mind, were part of a common trend to reduce unusual phenomena to known concepts of medicine and psychology . . .” But there were different degrees of reductionism. Some, more consistent with the scientific establishment, only included dissociation (with manifestations such as changes of personality and state-specific memory), while others combined both dissociation and the supernormal.”

“Myers was an example of a student of mediumship who not only discussed dissociative aspects of mediums’ performances, but also believed there was evidence to accept that mediums produced veridical phenomena, such as information about sitters that could not be accounted for by conventional mechanisms. But he went beyond this. In his view the subliminal self-manifesting via dissociative means and other ways was the real self, and one that was not material, so it was the part that would survive bodily death . . . His ideas were controversial, not only for their emphasis on veridical cases, but because at the time many speculations about the unconscious emphasized pathological processes.”

Frederic William Henry Myers by William Clarke Wontner.jpg
Frederic W.H. Myers

Myers, however, was not typical, since most students of dissociation ignored the supernormal. “In fact this prejudice, a problem with which psychical researchers still have to contend with today, led to the rejection of work that had the potential of enlarging conceptions of dissociation.”

Although I emphasize the nineteenth century in the paper, in the conclusion I briefly present some example of twentieth century speculations. Among those interested in veridical mediumship I mention the writings of Théodore Flournoy, Traugott Konstantin Oesterreich, and Eleanor Sidgwick.

Traugott Konstantin Oesterreich
Tom Ruffles: Alice Johnson, Eric Dingwall, and their copy of Tertium Quid
Eleanor M. Sidgwick

I concluded: “We need to keep in mind that, in addition to dissociation, and the general workings of the unconscious mind, there are probably several other factors influencing mediumship . . . In the meantime, we would do well to remember that the ideas presented in this article belong to the various attempts—be they from psychical research, psychiatry, psychology, or Spiritualism—to explore the human mind empirically. For psychological science, ideas about mediumship were one more strand supporting the development of concepts about secondary mental states, what William James . . . referred to as the ‘hidden self.’ ”

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

Steve Braude just published a new book, Dangerous Pursuits: Mediumship, Mind, and Music (Anomalist Books, 2020). I have known Steve for many years, I think we met some time in the 1980s in one of the conventions of the Parapsychological Association. Those of you that do not know him, may want to read the statement about him in Amazon: “Stephen E. Braude is Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Philosophy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Scientific Exploration. Prof. Braude is the recipient of numerous grants, fellowships, and awards, including Research Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the BIAL Foundation in Portugal, as well as the Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Society for the Study of Dissociation, and the F.W.H. Myers Memorial Medal from the Society for Psychical Research. He has published six other books and more than 100 book chapters and essays in philosophical and scientific journals.”

Stephen E. Braude

Stephen E. Braude

Braude Dangerous Pursuits

Steve offers readers here a collection of essays on various matters, among them the fear of psi, the mediumship of D.D. Home, Carlos Mirabelli, and Kai Mugge, and critiques of terminology in parapsychology and the concept of super-psi. He writes in the preface: “The title of this collection, Dangerous Pursuits, is a wry allusion to my obstacle-strewn career path over the past several decades—to the vindictive hostility, ridicule, and condescension I’ve encountered (both inside and outside the academy) for my decision to look carefully at the data and theoretical issues of parapsychology. I’ve discussed elsewhere how that career decision affected me professionally, and I needn’t review the details again here. I’ll just note that pursuing the paranormal in an academic environment is not for the timid, no matter how responsibly and carefully it’s conducted. And it certainly won’t put one on a fast track to professional success or prominence—that is, unless one becomes a vocal skeptic (or debunker).”

Here is the table of contents:


1.The Fear of Psi

2. Investigations of the Felix Experimental Group

3. Follow-Up Investigation of the Felix Circle

4. The Mediumship of Carlos Mirabelli

5. A Case Study in Shoddy Skepticism

6. Reflections on Super Psi

7. Making Sense of Mental Mediumship

8. Can the Deceased Have a Perceptual Point of View?

9. A Grumpy Guide to Parapsychology’s Terminological Blunders

10. A Peircing Examination of the Paranormal

11. Multiple Personality and the Structure of the Self

12. The Language of Jazz Improvisation


Can you give a brief summary of the book?

Dangerous Pursuits is a collection of mostly-related essays, similar in some respects to my book that preceded it: Crimes of Reason. What the two books have in common is that (for the most part) they’re updates and revisions (hopefully substantially improved versions!) of material I’ve produced over several decades. So both books provided me with an opportunity to make what I feel are some important theoretical and empirical points in their most compelling and complete forms. This is one of the benefits of being a chronologically-challenged and seasoned (if not overcooked) psi researcher. I’ve had the multiple luxuries of hindsight, additional time to reflect and to refine my views, and (maybe most important) publishers allowing me the opportunity for this kind of do-over. If (as I believe) the material matters, then it also matters to get things right, and especially in the case of Dangerous Pursuits, to strip away some professional jargon and make some of the material more widely accessible than it was originally.    

However Dangerous Pursuits covers different topics from Crimes of Reason. The new book’s focus is on mediumship, both mental and physical, and it concentrates heavily on several issues: (1) The fear of psi, among both researchers and laypersons, along with the all too common dishonest and cowardly responses to it, (2) the difficulty (if not impossibility) of plausibly assigning any limits to the range, sophistication, refinement, or magnitude of psi functioning, and (3) the difficulty (if not impossibility) of ruling out living-agent psi in cases suggesting postmortem survival. Along the way I spend considerable time surveying some very interesting examples of ostensible physical mediumship, including the cases of D.D. Home, Carlos Mirabelli, and my extended hands-on study of Kai Mügge and the Felix Circle. The Mügge case, by the way, afforded me the opportunity to get deeply into the weeds about how to handle and evaluate a case combining apparently genuine and impressive PK with undoubted fraud. And for dessert, I add an essay on jazz improvisation. 

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

I’ve been particularly interested in, and have investigated, mediumship and macro-PK since the late 1970s. But the best way to answer this question is to quote shamelessly from my answer to a similar question the last time you interviewed me.

   What corrupted me initially was a table-tilting session in my home while I was in graduate school during the mid 1960s. It impressed me profoundly, but I was both sensible and cowardly enough to conceal this fact from my mentors, finish my PhD, get a job, establish a decent reputation doing mainstream work in philosophical logic and the philosophy of time, and finally get tenure. I realized then that if I was an honest intellect I needed to confront my table-tilting experience, and learn as much as I could about parapsychology and what other philosophers (including some major figures) have had to say about it. So it wouldn’t be quite right to trace my interest back to those days in grad school, because I really put the whole subject out of mind until years later, when–liberated by tenure–I had the freedom to reflect on that earlier experience and immerse myself in the literature.

   When I started to study the evidence for psi, I dealt first with just the laboratory evidence (since I was still in the grip of the illusion that it was the strongest and most persuasive evidence available). The result of that effort was my book ESP and Psychokinesis. By the time that was done, I’d already starting absorbing the evidence from physical and mental mediumship and realized how much better it was than even many parapsychologists realized. That’s why I dealt with macro-PK and physical mediumship in my next book, The Limits of Influence. From there I moved on to mental mediumship and started to consider what I wanted to say about the topic of survival. But I knew also that people suffering from multiple personality disorder (now called dissociative identity disorder) behaved in ways that in many respects resembled the behavior of mental mediums. So I realized I couldn’t do a responsible job of confronting the evidence for survival without knowing more about the relevant areas of abnormal psychology and psychopathology. So I took a philosophically rewarding detour, studied the history of hypnosis and psychiatry, and became very familiar with MPD research and those conducting the research. This detour also allowed me to grapple further with some important issues in the philosophy of mind which I’d begun addressing in my first book (in particular, the failures of mechanistic analyses of the mental). Eventually, all this work led to my writing my book on multiplicity and dissociation, First Person Plural. By that time, I was sufficiently challenged chronologically for a book on survival to be more than appropriate, and I eventually wrote Immortal Remains.

Then I decided to write a kind of memoir, describing my most interesting–but not necessarily my most successful–PK investigations. That resulted in my book The Gold Leaf Lady. After that, I produced my first collection of essays, with revised and updated versions of several papers I’ve considered to be among my best, and supplemented with a couple of new essays written specifically for that volume. And that opus was Crimes of Reason. Now, as a semi-retired person (I’m still busy as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Scientific Exploration), I still chase macro-PK cases when I can drum up the financial support.

What motivated you to write this book?

After Crimes of Reason was written, I thought I was all booked out–done with big projects. But after a while, I realized that I was unsatisfied with what I’d left in print about a bunch of other topics. Years of thinking about those topics had made me see how I’d missed certain subtleties, or neglected points I now see as important, or how I could have made certain arguments more compelling and clear. That’s what led to Dangerous Pursuits, and so now I feel again that I’m all booked out–unless I write a projected opus on how cats spend their time.

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

For one thing, I hope to expand the audience for the material. The essays originally appeared either in specialist academic venues or journals that only hard-core students of serious psi research are likely to read. And I believe the issues I confront are not only important for our understanding of the world we live in, but inherently fascinating and often mind-boggling. For example, it’s hard not to be captivated by first-hand accounts of Carlos Mirabelli apparently materializing, in bright light, fully-formed human figures, which attending physicians determine to be functioning human organisms, but which then melt into the floor or dissolve in the physicians’ grasp.

Many psi researchers recoil at this kind of material and oppose it with what they know (or should know) to be poorly-reasoned arguments about the alleged unreliability of human testimony or the possibility of mass hallucination or hypnosis. I argue in the book that these lame responses are familiar manifestations of the fear of psi, and specifically, the fear that we might have to accept something close to the “magical” world view embraced by many so-called “primitive” or undeveloped cultures. It’s a view according to which we might have to really deal with things such as hexing or the “evil eye”, and in which our vagrant thoughts might have lethal or malevolent consequences. We might really have to worry about being responsible for a range of calamities for which we’d much rather be mere bystanders. These issues are what’s really at stake when you start thinking clearly and honestly about the implications of the data–all the data, and not just straitjacketed manifestations of psi in formal experiments. Now that I think of it, perhaps that’s the unifying thread in Dangerous Pursuits

I’d just like to add that, thanks to Carlos, I now realize I omitted an important category from the new book’s index: sex & chutney. (See Chapter 9).

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

I recently received from my colleague and friend, Alexander Moreira-Almeida, interviewed a while back in this blog (click here), an announcement about an important online project about the life and work of Allan Kardec (Hyppolite-Léon-Denizard Rivail), founder of Spiritism in France in the nineteenth century. The project, based in Brazil, is a unique use of the Web to disseminate information about the history of Kardec and Spiritism. I present below parts of the announcement of the project that Alexander sent me.

Allan Kardec

Allan Kardec

The Federal University of Juiz de Fora (UFJF) in Brazil launches next Tuesday (September 1st), in a virtual event, at 7 pm, the portal of the Allan Kardec Project, which gathers original manuscripts by Allan Kardec (1804-1869), a French thinker who studied psychic/spiritual phenomena and founded a spiritualist philosophy which he called Spiritism. The launch event can be followed live by TV NUPES on YouTube, at:

Despite Kardec’s influence, academic research on him and his work has a significant limitation: the almost total absence of primary sources of study, apart from the works he published. Now, more than 150 years after his death, many of his original manuscripts will be made public.

“The portal gathers letters written or received by Kardec, as well as working material, such as reflective texts and prayers that he wrote with his own hand,” says Professor Klaus Chaves Alberto Ph.D., one of the coordinators of the Allan Kardec Project, which currently gathers 13 researchers, and more than 20 collaborators.

Klaus Alberto

Klaus Chaves Alberto

The portal will make available 50 manuscripts collected in France, by Brazilian researcher Silvino Canuto Abreu (1892-1980) in the middle of the 20th century. Currently, this material is preserved at the Center for Documentation and Rare Works of the André Luiz Spiritist Foundation – FEAL (São Paulo-SP, Brazil).

For each manuscript, there will be a digitized version of the original, as well as a transcription in French and a translation into Portuguese. The website will be constantly updated. Hundreds of manuscripts will be made available as the university receives new materials from institutions or individuals who hold a relevant document.

According to Alberto: “The function of the portal is to collect, translate and disseminate original manuscripts and documents by Allan Kardec for free. We are already in negotiations with the AKOL Museum – Allan Kardec Online Museum, which also holds a large number of manuscripts. They are already being digitized and will be available soon for consultation. With everyone’s support, we should bring hundreds of new documents to the public soon.”

In addition to the manuscripts, the portal will provide information that will help contextualize the reading of this material. “The creation of mini-biographies of the people mentioned in the letters and whom Kardec maintained contact is in process.”

According to Prof. Alberto, the portal will also list academic papers and books published about Kardec and aims to become a reference for research worldwide on the topic.

Kardec Livre Esprits 1857

Kardec Livre des Mediums

Important Books by Kardec

The launch event of the Allan Kardec Project portal will feature the presentation of academic studies about the French thinker, his work, and its impact. The website and its features will also be presented. At the end of the event, the portal will be available to the public.

Here are the topics to be discussed and the participants of the event to launch the project.

Allan Kardec – Profile and Legacy

Marion Aubrée

Researcher at the Center for Research on Contemporary Brazil at the School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS), Paris, France. Author of more than 100 articles and three books, including La table, le livre et les esprits. Paris: Éditions Jean-Claude Lattès, 1990.

Marion Aubrée

Marion Aubrée

Brief Notes on the Reception and Academic Study of Kardec’s Work in Brazil

Marcelo Camurça

Full Professor at the Department of Science of Religion and its Graduate Program at UFJF. He is a productivity researcher at the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development who has investigated Spiritism in Brazil for about 20 years.

Marcelo Camurça

Marcelo Camurça

From Skeptical Professor to Founder of Spiritism: What Made Professor Rivail into Allan Kardec?

Marcel Souto Maior

Journalist and writer, author of 10 books, including biographies of Chico Xavier and Allan Kardec, adapted for the cinema. Screenwriter and director of Rede Globo TV.

Marcel Souto Maior

Marcel Souto Maior

Kardec’s Proposal for Research on the Spiritual Dimension

Marcelo Gulão Pimentel

Graduated in History from UERJ, M.Sc. in Health from Nupes-UFJF and Ph.D. in History from UERJ – State University of Rio de Janeiro. Professor of History at Colégio Naval.

Marcelo Gulau Pimentel

Marcelo Gulau Pimentel

Link to the launch event of the Allan Kardec Project portal: The portal can be accessed from the end of the launch event at: (this link will work after the launching event on Sept 1st)

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

The interface between clinical psychology and parapsychology is a fascinating area and one that has practical applications. This is the topic of Thomas Rabeyron’s new book Clinique des Experiences Exceptionnelles (Exceptional Experiences Clinic; Dunod, 2020).

Dr. Thomas Rabeyron, who teaches at the University of Lorraine in Nancy, is a French clinical psychologist and researcher with much experience in the clinical study of psychic phenomena. According to his entry in the Psi Encyclopedia: “He is director of the INTERPSY laboratory, which encourages collaboration between clinical psychology and medicine, with the aim of improving mental health care delivery. Since 2014 . . . he has been an honorary research fellow at the University of Edinburgh . . . Rabeyron’s research interests span understanding the clinical aspects of anomalous experiences and exploring precognition and presentiment effects. In 2009 he co-created the Centre for Information, Research and Counselling about Exceptional Experiences (CIRCEE), which counseling service he supervises” (click here).

Thomas Rabeyron 4

Thomas Rabeyron

The book has ten chapters about the following topics:

  1. Prolegomena to the clinical study of exceptional experiences
  2. Exceptional experiences across the history of clinical practices
  3. The paranormal solution, between trauma and psychic permeability
  4. Hallucinatory processes and altered states of consciousness
  5. Primary forms of symbolization and psi
  6. Abductions: Clinic of its origins
  7. Telepathy: Clinic of primary intersubjectivity
  8. Out-of-body experiences: Clinic of reflexivity
  9. Near-death experiences: Clinic of transformation
  10. Psychological counselling concerning exceptional experiences


Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

In this book I present an in-depth study of exceptional (or anomalous) experiences from a clinical point of view using in particular psychoanalytical notions, but also recent discoveries from the field of neuroscience and cognitive psychology. It is composed of ten chapters describing both the phenomenology and the psychological processes associated with these experiences. More than fifty cases from my clinical practice illustrate this exploration at the frontiers of subjective experience and symbolization processes.

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

I obtained a PhD at the University of Lyon and Edinburgh (under the supervision of Dr. Caroline Watt), where I conducted two retro-priming studies. I also took part in Ganzfeld, remote viewing studies and other psi research concerning retro-causal effects. I am currently Professor of clinical psychology at the University of Lorraine, Director of the InterPsy Lab and Honorary Research Fellow at the Koestler Unit (University of Edinburgh). My aim is to better understand exceptional experiences both from a “psy” and a “psi” point of views. In this regard, my background in clinical psychology, psychoanalysis and cognitive psychology is useful in order to propose complementary models of these experiences. One chapter of the book (Chapter 5) concerns in particular psi and clinical practice. I particularly discuss the Jung-Pauli conjecture as it is currently developed by Wolfgang Fach and Harald Atmanspacher, and the Model of Pragmatic Information (MPI) of Walter von Lucadou which are currently, in my opinion, the most promising theoretical models in psi research.

What motivated you to write this book? 

My motivation was to explore the clinical aspects associated with exceptional experiences, which led me to these general questions: How can we understand the origins and the nature of paranormal experiences? What are their contexts of emergence and the psychological processes that characterize them? How do they relate to psychopathological aspects? Are they a source of psychological transformation and what can they teach us about the profound nature of reality?

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

The Varieties of Anomalous Experiences recommended that clinicians should take into account these experiences in their clinical practices. My book could be considered as a direct response to this proposition. Also, compared to what already exist in the field, especially in English, the book offers an in-depth study of psychodynamic aspects associated with exceptional experiences. Researchers and clinicians like George Devereux, Jule Eisenbud, Jan Ehrenwald – and even Freud himself – have proposed profound and important analyses concerning the way these experiences are associated with unconscious processes. Since the 1970s’ most researchers have nevertheless privileged an empirical approach, which is, of course, also interesting. But you have only a partial understanding of these experiences if you don’t take into account psychodynamic processes. This is what I have tried to show in the book and in several academic papers about telepathy, out-of- body experiences, abductions, and near-death experiences. I have also proposed, in chapter three, the model of the “paranormal solution”, showing that these experiences are often a specific way to deal with negative life events and unconscious motives. Chapter ten describe the “Psychodynamic Psychotherapy for Exceptional Experience” which explain how to help people who are disturbed by these experiences. I rely in particular on my experience in the Counseling Service of the Center of Information, Research and Counselling about Exceptional Experiences (CIRCEE) co-founded with Renaud Evrard, one of my colleagues at the University of Lorraine working in the field of exceptional experiences.

Thomas Rabeyron is currently looking for a translator that would be interested to translate Clinique des Experiences Exceptionelles in English. You can contact him at

Some Publications

Bem, D., Tressoldi, P., Rabeyron, T. & Duggan, M. (2015). Feeling the future: A meta-analysis of 90 experiments on the anomalous anticipation of random future events. F1000Research, 4.

Rabeyron, T. (2009). Les expériences exceptionnelles : Entre neurosciences et psychanalyse. Recherches en Psychanalyse, 8, 282-296.

Rabeyron, T. (2012). Psychopathological and psychodynamic approaches to anomalous experiences: The concept of a paranormal solution. In C. Murray (Ed.), Mental Health and Anomalous Experience (pp. 125-140) London: Nova.

Rabeyron T. (2014). Retro-priming, priming and double testing: psi and replication in a test-rest design. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8.

Rabeyron T. (2018), Clinique des expériences d’abduction: Trauma, clivage et logiques de l’originaire. L’Evolution Psychiatrique, 83(2), 355-379.

Rabeyron T. (2020). Clinique des expériences de mort imminente. L’Evolution Psychiatrique. In  press.

Rabeyron, T., & Watt, C. (2010). Paranormal experiences, mental health and mental boundaries, and psi. Personality and Individual Differences, 48(4), 487‑492.

Rabeyron T., & Evrard, R. (2012). Historical and contemporary perspectives on occultism in the Freud-Ferenczi correspondence. Recherches en Psychanalyse, 1(13), 98-111.

Rabeyron T., & Loose T. (2015). Anomalous experiences, trauma and symbolization at the frontiers between neurosciences and psychoanalysis. Frontiers in Psychoanalysis and Neuropsychoanalysis, 6.

Rabeyron T., & Caussié, S. (2016). Clinical aspects of out-of-body experiences: Trauma, reflexivity and symbolization. L’Evolution Psychiatrique, 81(4), 755-775.

Rabeyron, T., & Abchiche, A. (2017). Des processus psychiques en consultations de voyance. Le Coq-héron, 231(4), 123–133.

Rabeyron, T., & Minjard, R. (2019) Les expériences de mort imminente en service de réanimation et au-delà, entre logiques de l’opératoire et processus de subjectivation. Etudes sur la mort.

Rabeyron, T., Chouvier, B., & Le Maléfan, P. (2010). Clinique des expériences exceptionnelles: Du trauma à la solution paranormale. L’Evolution psychiatrique, 75(4), 633–653.

Rabeyron, T., Evrard, R., & Massicotte, C. (2019). « Es gibt Gedankenübertragung » : Transfert de pensée et processus télépathiques en analyse. Revue française de psychanalyse, 83(4), 1239–1252.

Rabeyron T., Charlet O., Rowe C. Mousseau-C., & Deledalle A. (2018). Anomalous experiences, mental health and creativity: Is psi the missing link? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 25(3-4), 207-232.


Recent Articles About Near-Death Experiences: IV

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

Vanessa Charland-Verville, Demetrius Ribeiro de Paula, Charlotte Martial, Helena Cassol, Georgios Antonopoulos, Blaine Alexander Chronik, Andrea Soddu, Steven Laureys. Characterization of near death experiences using text mining analyses: A preliminary study. Plos One. 2020, 15(1): e0227402.


The notion that death represents a passing to an afterlife, where we are reunited with loved ones and live eternally in a utopian paradise, is common in the reports of people who have encountered a “Near-Death Experience” (NDE). NDEs are thoroughly portrayed by the media but empirical studies are rather recent. The definition of the phenomenon as well as the identification of NDE experiencers is still a matter of debate. To date, NDEs’ identification and description in studies have mostly derived from answered items in questionnaires. However, questionnaires’ content could be restricting and subject to personal interpretation. We believe that in addition to their use, user-independent statistical text examination of freely expressed NDEs narratives is of prior importance to help capture the phenomenology of such a subjective and complex phenomenon. Towards that aim, we included 158 participants with a firsthand retrospective narrative of their self-reported NDE that we analyzed using an automated text-mining method. The output revealed the top words expressed by experiencers. In a second step, a hierarchical clustering analysis was conducted to visualize the relationships between these words. It revealed three main clusters of features: visual perceptions, emotions and spatial components. We believe the user-independent and data-driven text mining approach used in this study is promising by contributing to the building a rigorous description and definition of NDEs.

Nicole M. Lindsay and Natasha Tassell-Matamua. Near-death experiences and afterlife belief: A mixed-method analysis. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. 2020. Advance online publication.


Following near-death experiences (NDEs) many people report a new or increased belief in life after death, yet this construct has never been specifically examined. In this mixed-method analysis, 105 persons who had experienced a life-threatening event and 69 participants who had never come close to death completed an online survey measuring beliefs about the “self” after death. Those who reported having an NDE during a life-threatening event were significantly more likely to believe in postmortem continuation, particularly the persistence of consciousness and individual identity beyond death. Eighteen people were also independently interviewed to explore the thematic form and psychological antecedents for any revised beliefs. Results were highly convergent with survey data and suggested the phenomenological characteristics of NDEs played an important role. These findings offer more systematic empirical evidence for the idea that NDEs foster certain types of postmortem beliefs.

David Royse and Karen Badger. Burn survivors’ near-death Experiences: A qualitative examination. Omega, 2020, 80(3), 440-457.


Persons who come close to death but survive catastrophic accidents sometimes report very vivid experiences during times when their survival was in doubt, when they were believed to be dead, and during resuscitation efforts. This qualitative study builds upon existing research on near-death experiences (NDEs) by focusing on the oral accounts from a sample of individuals with large and life-threatening burns. The NDE accounts were obtained from burn survivors attending the Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress and are similar to reports by notable researchers ( Greyson, 2003 ; Moody, 1975 ; Ring, 1980 ) while reflecting the uniqueness of the individual survivor’s experiences. Six major themes are reported. Counselors and health professionals need to be aware of and educated about NDEs as these experiences can have profound effects upon the individual. Patients who have had NDEs may need to discuss them but fear professionals will reject their stories as being crazy.

Lilia Samoilo and Diane Corcoran. Closing the medical gap of care for patients who have had a near-death experience. Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics, 2020, 10(1), 37-42.


This commentary discusses the twelve stories in which patients tell what happened when they were hospitalized and they had a near-death experience. The stories display a consistent theme of the gap in medical and spiritual care they received, after the patient’s near-death experience. This commentary explores the implications of this gap in care for these patients and the perceived medical professionals’ bias that occurs after these experiences, which can contribute to long-term consequences such as isolation and rejection. Education in medical schools and continuing education can provide medical professionals with insights needed to support individuals with near-death experiences.


Camille Flammarion on the Powers of the Soul

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

An interesting figure in the history of French psychical research is the astronomer Camille Flammarion. I recently published, with Nancy L. Zingrone, an article about him (available on request: Here is the reference and the abstract:

Nancy Zingrone 2019b

Nancy L. Zingrone

Alvarado, C.S., & Zingrone, N.L. (2020). Classic Text No. 122: Camille Flammarion on the Powers of the Soul. History of Psychiatry, 31(2), 237–252.


There is a long conceptual tradition that interprets phenomena such as clairvoyance and apparitions as evidence for a spiritual component in human beings. Examples of this appear in the literatures of mesmerism, Spiritualism and psychical research. The purpose of this Classic Text is to present excerpts from a book by French astronomer Camille Flammarion touching on this perspective. They are selected from the introduction and conclusion of Flammarion’s L’Inconnu: The Unknown (1900), a translation of L’Inconnu et les problems psychiques (1900), in which he published and commented on cases of apparitions and other phenomena he collected. In his view, these phenomena showed the existence of the soul. Similar beliefs regarding ideas of the nonphysical nature of human beings and psychic phenomena have continued to the present.

Flammarion at different stages in life

Camille Flammarion 20 years old

Camille Flammarion2

Camille Flammarion

Camille Flammarion 5

Regardless of attempts to reduce psychic phenomena to medical, physiological and other conventional explanations, many, such as Flammarion, saw psychic phenomena—apparitions, telepathy, mediumship—as examples of the action of spiritual or nonphysical component of human beings. We mention authors defending such view before the excerpt we reprint by Flammarion, such as Johann Heinrich Jung Stilling, J.P.F. Deleuze, Catherine Crowe, Carl du Prel, and Frederic W.H. Myers.

Johann Heinrich Jung Stilling

Johann Heinrich Jung Stilling

We wrote: “Flammarion was extremely productive as a writer about astronomy and related topics . . . His Astronomie populaire (1880), one of his best-known books, was an introduction to the topic. It had 47 chapters divided in six sections about earth, the moon, the sun, planets, comets and shooting stars, and stars and the universe. While most of Flammarion’s works were designed to popularize the topic and inform the public about the triumphs of astronomy, he also had some technical publications . . . Flammarion was particularly interested in the possibility of life on other planets, as seen in his first book, the famous and influential La pluralité des mondes habités . . . [1862].”

Flammarion Astronomie Populaire 2

Flammarion was interested in Spiritism and psychic phenomena most of his life (1842-1925). Here are the books and some of articles he published on the subject (I have emphasized below some of the books that were translated into English:

(1862). Les habitants de l’autre monde: Révélations d’outre-tombe (2nd ed. (series 2). Paris: Ledoyen.

Flammarion Les Habitants de l’autre monde

[under the pseudonym Hermès]. (1865). Des forces naturelles inconnues: à propos des phénomènes produits par les frères Davenport et par les médiums en general. Paris: Didier.

(1897). A séance with Eusapia Paladino: Psychic forces. Arena, 18, 730–747.

Flammarion Seances with Palladino 1897

Flammarion’s Seances with Eusapia Palladino, 1897

(1899). Les problèmes psychiques et l’inconnu. Annales Politiques et Litteraires, 32, 3–5, 35–36, 67–69, 99–101, 131–133, 163–165, 195–196, 227–230, 259–261, 291–293, 338–341.

(1900b). L’Inconnu: The Unknown. New York: Harper and Brothers.

 (1905). Animals and psychic perception. Annals of Psychical Science, 2, 374–378

 (1907). Mysterious Psychic Forces. Boston, MA: Small, Maynard.

Flammarion Mysterious Psychic Forces 3

 (1920). Métapsychisme: Des faits. Revue Spirite, 63, 106–110.

(1921). Les vision prémonitoires. Revue Spirite, 64, 129–135.

 (1921–1923) Death and Its Mystery (3 vols.). New York: Century (First published in French in 1920–1922).

Flammarion Death and its Mystery

 (1923). Discours présidentiel. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 34, 1–27.

 (1924) Haunted Houses. New York: D. Appleton (First published in French in 1923).

 (2005). Fantômes et sciences d’observation (compiled by P. Fuentès). Agnières, France: JMG.

Flammarion Fantomes

“In much of this work Flammarion defended the existence of a soul separate from the body . . . The excerpts presented here to illustrate Flammarion’s ideas about the spiritual aspects of psychic phenomena come from his book L’Inconnu et les problèmes psychiques . . . , which was translated into English as L’Inconnu: The Unknown . . . The book in question was mainly the result of an appeal for cases that appeared in the Annales Politiques et Littéraires . . . , and later in other publications. Flammarion asked two questions: one about unexplained waking visual, auditory and tactile experiences related to some other person, and the other asked whether that experience was related to a death.”

Flammarion Unknown

Here are some fragments of Flammarion’s conclusions reprinted in the article:

“The object of these researches is to discover if the soul of man exists as an entity, independent of his body, and if it will survive the destruction of the same . . .”

“It is certain that one soul can influence another soul at a distance, and without the aid of the senses.”

“Many dead persons whose examples are herein given have been told by telepathic communications, by apparitions (subjective or objective), called by voices they distinctly heard, by songs, noises, and movements (real or imaginary), and impressions of different kinds. We can have no doubt upon this point. The soul can act at a distance . . .”

“POSITIVE OBSERVATION PROVES THE EXISTENCE OF A PSYCHIC WORLD, as real as the world known to our physical senses.”

“And now, because the soul acts at a distance by some power that belongs to it, are we authorized to conclude that it exists as something real, and that it is not the result of functions of the brain? . . .”

“The observations given in this work, the sensations, the impressions, the visions, things heard, etc., may indicate physical effects produced without the brain . . .”

“All these things present themselves to us as indicating, not physiological operations of one brain acting on another, but psychic actions of spirit upon spirit. We feel that they indicate to us some power unknown.”

“No doubt it is difficult to apportion what belongs to the spirit, the soul, and what belongs to the brain. We can only let ourselves be guided in our judgment and our appreciations by the same feeling that is created in us by the discussion of phenomena. This is how all sciences have been started . . .”

“These phenomena prove, I think, that the soul exists, and that it is endowed with faculties at present unknown. That is the logical way of commencing our study, which in the end may lead us to the problem of the after-life and immortality . . .”

Flammarion was criticized by his lack of investigation of most of the cases he published. He did not seem to doubt any case he received via correspondence.

We also point out that this conceptual tradition of belief in nonphysicality based on psychic phenomena has continued after Flammarion. “Variants of these ideas have continued to more recent times . . . ‘The findings of scientific parapsychology’, wrote psychologist Charles T. Tart in his book The End of Materialism, ‘force us to pragmatically accept that minds can do things . . . that cannot be reduced to physical explanations, given current scientific knowledge or reasonable extensions of it’ ” . . . Many studies by authors who supported survival of death were also published in later years, after the publication in 1900 of Flammarion’s book. Among these were treatments of areas such as physical phenomena related to deaths . . . , apparitions of the dead . . .  and recollections of previous lives . . . Interestingly, in recent decades there has been some interest in death-related phenomena similar to those explored by Flammarion, and with a similar interest in favouring belief in survival of death . . .”

Recent Reports of ESP in the Ganzfeld

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

For years the ganzfeld ESP experiments have been an important area of research in parapsychology (for information about these studies click here). Thanks to the editorial efforts of Etzel Cardeña, the topic is featured in over half of the current issue of the Journal of Parapsychology (2020, Vol. 84, No. 1).

Ganzfeld 4

Ganzfeld setting

Cardeña has arranged for several reports of ganzfeld research to appear together, showing this approach to ESP testing still has much to offer. In his editorial “Pieces of the Psi Puzzle and a Recipe for Ganzfeld Success” (pp. 5-7) he states: “The bottom line is that not only is ganzfeld research alive and well, but overall the studies in this issue support the conclusions of previous meta-analyses . . . in one case with a prospective, preregistered, and very well-designed study. This is a good answer to those who think that psi results are just the product of ‘questionable research practices.’ ”

Etzel Cardena 5

Etzel Cardeña

The next contribution, by Rex G. Stanford, is an invited editorial entitled “Ganzfeld-ESP: Pondering Three Reports and Looking Ahead.” He discusses various methodological issues such as misconceptions about the effectiveness of counterbalancing, the use of between- or within- subject designs, method-driven artifacts in the study of traits as predictors, and the importance of interviews at the end of the session.

Rex G. Stanford

Rex G. Stanford

Stanford writes: “It can be easy to forget that the use of subjective, self-report measures—whether of traits or states—can necessitate extensive introspection that often may require attribution (i.e., interpreting experiences as meriting a construct label, such as ‘altered state,’ ‘absorption,’ or whatever). Such introspection and its reporting are subject to the vagaries of memory, social desirability/undesirability of particular response(s), and experiment-related demand characteristics (relative to understood or supposed investigator expectations).”

This is followed by three experimental reports by various authors:

Testing Precognition and Alterations of Consciousness with Selected Participants in the Ganzfeld

Caroline Watt, Emily Dawson, Alisdair Tullo, Abby Pooley, and Holly Rice

University of Edinburgh

Caroline Watt 2

Caroline Watt

Abstract: This study is the first to contribute to a registration-based prospective meta-analysis of ganzfeld Extrasensory Perception (ESP) studies. We sought to maximize the anticipated psi effect size by selecting participants for self-reported creativity, prior psi experience or belief, or practice of a mental discipline. We also employed an automated precognition design for simplicity and security, and to add to the small database of precognitive ganzfeld studies. Targets and decoys were short video clips randomly selected with replacement from a pool of 200. As well as predicting overall significant scoring on the ganzfeld precognition task, the study tested the assumption that the ganzfeld method elicits a psi-conducive altered state of consciousness, by correlating two measures of an Altered State of Consciousness (ASC) with precognition task performance. We predicted higher target similarity ratings would be associated with greater evidence of ASC during the session. Three experimenters each conducted 20 trials. Twenty-two direct hits were obtained (37% hit-rate), thus significantly supporting the planned test of the ganzfeld precognition task (exact binomial p = .03, 1-tailed). No relation was found between ASC and psi task performance, contrary to prediction. We conclude by discussing the reasons why further ganzfeld ESP research is justified.

Performance at a Precognitive Remote Viewing Task, with and without Ganzfeld Stimulation: Three Experiments

Chris A. Roe, Callum E. Cooper, Laura Hickinbotham, Andrew Hodrien, Laurrie Kirkwood, and Hannah Martin

University of Northampton

Chris Roe 2

Chris Roe

Abstract: Recent research by the lead author has sought to incorporate ganzfeld stimulation as part of a remote viewing protocol. An initial exploratory experiment (Roe & Flint, 2007) suggested that novice participants can successfully describe a randomly selected target location while in the ganzfeld context but did not make a direct comparison with performance in a waking state. This paper describes a series of three subsequent experiments that compared performance at a remote viewing task in a waking condition with a ganzfeld stimulation condition using a counterbalanced repeated measures design. There were only minor variations in design across the three experiments to enable combination of data in a summary analysis. In total, 110 participants produced 43 hits in the ganzfeld stimulation condition (39%), giving a highly significant positive deviation from chance expectation (sum of ranks = 225, p = .000012), whereas in the waking RV condition they achieved 30 hits (27.5%), which is marginally better than chance expectation (sum of ranks = 253, p = .034). The difference in z scores for target ratings in the two conditions approached significance (t[39] = 1.86, p = .065). In experiment 1, individual difference measures identified as predictors of psi performance were unrelated to target ratings. Participants completed Pekala’s (1991) Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory (PCI) in order to gauge their responsiveness to the ganzfeld protocol and of the 12 sub-dimensions tested, ganzfeld performance correlated significantly with greater absorption in their subjective experience, lower arousal, and less internal dialogue. In experiments 2 and 3 individual differences measure were replaced by measures of transliminality, openness to experience, and dissociative experiences, but these were unrelated to task success. Data from experiment 2 did not confirm the findings using the PCI from experiment 1, though a significant association was found with the time sense dimension. In experiment 3 no PCI dimensions correlated with task performance, a pattern that was confirmed when data were combined across all three experiments.

Changes in State of Consciousness and Psi in Ganzfeld and Hypnosis Conditions 

Etzel Cardeña and David Marcusson-Clavertz

Lund University

David Marcusson-Clavertz 2

David Marcusson-Clavertz

Abstract: In a previous experiment with participants high (Highs) and low (Lows) in hypnotizability, psi z scores had moderate to strong correlations with percipients’ belief of their success and their previous ostensible psi experiences, experiencing an Altered State of Consciousness and other alterations of consciousness during a non-psi ganzfeld session, but only among the Highs. The current pre-registered study had a larger N of only Highs, evaluated in hypnosis and hypnosis + ganzfeld procedures. Participants (N = 35) served as “receivers” in two 20 min sessions of ganzfeld or hypnosis in counterbalanced order. Both sessions used hypnosis verbalizations, but only one of them had sensory homogenization. The authors served as “sender” and “experimenter” in different buildings. As an index of experienced alterations of consciousness, participants filled out the Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory (PCI) at the beginning and end of the sessions, and gave a rating of 0-100 to 4 film clips (one of them the target), from which psi z scores were derived. Overall, participants did not score better than chance and there was no difference between the conditions. However, for the ganzfeld sessions psi scores correlated moderately (r = .40, p = .02) with the PCI Altered State shift scores (ganzfeld – baseline scores). Although the overall psi rate was not significant, we found a relation between psi scoring and experiencing an Altered State in ganzfeld psi sessions.


In addition to providing information about ganzfeld ESP testing, and evidence for ESP, this issue of the journal shows what a good editor can do to assist the development of parapsychology by taking an active approach in bringing together high-quality material about specific topics. I hope that editors of other journals will follow Cardeña’s lead and take more active roles in crafting thematic journal issues. Doing so will not only improve our journals but will also help the development of the field by focusing ideas useful for further research and theoretical developments. Unfortunately, the publisher of the journal, the Rhine Research Center, has decided to terminate Cardeña’s contract as editor.

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

I recently presented a webinar in Spanish about “Psychical Research and Psychology: The Importance of Historical Perspective.” (To watch the video click here). This was organized by Drs. Wellington Zangari and Fatima R. Machado in celebration of the tenth anniversary of Inter Psi, a research and teaching unit at the University of Sao Paulo.

Here is the summary of the presentation:

This presentation is about the importance of the history of psychical research to understand the development of some aspects of psychology. The first part of the presentation is about modern historical studies that show the influence of psychical research on the development of ideas in psychology such as dissociation and the unconscious mind. This includes the publications of Henri Ellenberger, Régina Plas, Andreas Sommer, Eugene Taylor, and my articles on the subject. The second part is about the usefulness of the old psychical research literature, which is important today to understand phenomena such as mediumship and ESP. This includes the work of individuals such as Edmund Gurney, Frederic W.H. Myers, Eugène Osty, Charles Richet, Eleanor Sidgwick, and others.

Edmund Gurney

Edmund Gurney

Frederic Myers 4

Frederic W.H. Myers

Charles Richet 10

Charles Richet

Eleanor Sidgwick 2

Eleanor M. Sidgwick

 Some Relevant Publications

Alvarado, C.S. (2002). Dissociation in Britain during the late Nineteenth Century: The Society for  Psychical Research, 1882-1900. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 3, 9-33.

Crabtree, A. (1993). From Mesmer to Freud: Magnetic sleep and the roots of psychological healing. New Haven: Yale University Press.

 Crabtree From Mesmer to Freud 2

Evrard, R., Pratte, E.A., & Cardeña, E. (2018). Pierre Janet and the enchanted boundary of psychical research. History of Psychology, 21, 100-125.

Graus, A. (2019).  Ciencia y espiritismo en España, 1880-1930. Granada: Comares.

Le Maléfan, P. (1999). Folie et Spiritisme: Histoire du discourse psychopathologique sur la pratique du Spiritisme, ses abords et ses avatars (1850-1950). Paris: L’Harmattan.

Plas, R. (2000). Naissance d’une science humaine: La psychologie: Les psychologues et le “merveilleaux psychique.” Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes.

Plas Naissance

Sommer, A. (2012). Psychical research and the origins of American psychology: Hugo Münsterberg, William James and Eusapia Palladino. History of the Human Sciences, 25, 23–44.

Sommer, A. (2013). Normalizing the Supernormal: The Formation of the ‘Gesellschaft Für Psychologische Forschung’ (‘Society for Psychological Research’), c. 1886–1890. Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 49, 18-44.



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

 The book commented on here is one of the most interesting historical studies of psychic phenomena I have read in recent years: Physics and Psychics: The Occult and the Sciences in Modern Britain  (Cambridge University Press, 2019. Pp. xvi + 403. $120.00). It is authored by Richard Noakes, PhD, Associate Professor of the History of Science and Technology at the University of Exeter. I have been following Richard’s interesting articles about Spiritualism and psychical research for the last few years, work published in journals such as History of Science, and Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science.

Richard Noakes

Richard Noakes

Noakes Physics abd Psychics

The book is described by the publisher as “the first systematic exploration of the intriguing connections between Victorian physical sciences and the study of the controversial phenomena broadly classified as psychic, occult and paranormal.” Different from other studies that emphasize psychological and philosophical dimensions of the topic (something that is not neglected in this book), in Physics and Psychics Richard explores connections with physics, including ideas such as brain waves and the ether.

Here is the table of contents.

Animal Magnetism as Physics
The Oddity of Od
Outdoing the Electric Telegraph
“Scientific Men” and Spiritualism
Extending the Boundaries of Physics
Inventing Psychical Research
Identifying Physical-Psychical Scientists
Connecting Physical-Psychical Scientists
Gold Mines of Science, Handmaids to Faith
Changing Attitudes to Psychical Investigation
Removing Scientific “Stumbling Blocks”
Challenging Materiality
3.3 Dim Analogies
Maxwellian Psychics
Doubts and Criticisms
From Psychic Force to the Radiometer
Tying Mediums with Electricity
Magnetic Sense or Nonsense?
Physical as Psychical Laboratories
Wanting Opportunities?
Scourging Spiritualists and Scientists
Tricky Instruments of Psychics
Tricky Instruments of Physics
Psychical Researchers and Conjurors
N-rays and Psychical Expertise
Busy Men
“Applied” Psychical Research
Lodge’s Etherial Body
Interpreting Lodge’s Physics and Psychics
Interwar Transitions


Can you give a brief summary of the book?

Physics and Psychics is a revisionist study of the physicists, chemists, astronomers, electrical engineers and other “physical” scientists that involved themselves with psychical research and related enquiries in the period approximately 1850-1930. A significant proportion of them are British (e.g., William Crookes and Oliver Lodge) but I do discuss the handful of non-British practitioners who were involved (e.g., Baron von Reichenbach and Karl Friedrich Zöllner). I use this material to show that the interests of physical scientists in psychical research and related enquiries was both more widespread and more complex than we have assumed. We might find this surprising given the strongly psychological nature of psychical phenomena – a quality that placed them outside the formal boundaries of the physical sciences. A significant number of physical scientists showed some kind of interest in psychical phenomena and this interest varied in strength and nature. They included Lodge who investigated a wide range of psychical phenomena for nearly sixty years and his teacher John Tyndall who, while deeply sceptical of spiritualist mediumship, still turned up to seances. My book explores the plethora of reasons why physical scientists got involved – intellectual, religious and moral – and argues that only a combination of reasons can explain the patterns of interest that we find. Another major preoccupation of my book is with the role of psychical research in extending (as opposed to impeding) the theoretical and experimental aspects of the physical sciences. Many of the characters that I study saw the study of telekinesis, telepathy, Reichenbach’s “odic” force and other phenomena as exciting but problematic ways of applying, extending and enriching their “physical” research.

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

I’m sorry to say that I don’t have any background in parapsychology, psychical research or related endeavour. I have approached the history of these endeavours as somebody trained in the sciences and the history and philosophy of science.

What motivated you to write this book?

The book’s origins are in the doctoral research that I did in the 1990s so I’ve lived with this project for over two decades! That research started life as an attempt to deepen our understanding of what led to the discovery of the subatomic particle, the electron, in 1897. This led me towards mainly British scientific investigations of some of the strangest and most spectacular phenomena of electricity (e.g., cathode rays) but also to scientific practitioners who shared interests in electrical physics and the strange phenomena of spiritualism and psychical research. My doctoral dissertation looked at only a fraction of these practitioners and what I did next was to extend this much further in terms of people, practices, theories and analytical approaches.

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

My book is important because it highlights the fruitful encounters between more strongly established and less well established forms of scientific enquiry. It reveals a period when these encounters could be fruitful and creative – when psychical enquiries benefited from theories and practices of physics, and when psychical phenomena posed some interesting puzzles for physics to solve. My book also gives us hope that future encounters may not be as antagonistic as we might expect. It’s a hope that is confirmed by what I’ve read in the parapsychological literature over the past few decades and what I’ve learned from talking to physicists such as Bernard Carr. I also hope that like all works of history mine challenges many assumptions about the past and the present, and in particular encourages a more open-minded view of scientific enquiry. We often hear that associations between physics and anything psychical, occult, etc., threaten physics, but not all physicists in the past have accepted this and maybe my book will encourage more of the current and future generations to follow suit.

*  *  * *  *

Here is a video of an interview about Physics and Psychics.

Synesthesia and Parapsychology

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

Christine Simmonds-Moore has published an interesting article entittled “Synesthesia and the Perception of Unseen Realities” (Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 2020, DOI: 10.1177/0022167820918691; available here).

In Interview with Christine Simmonds-Moore, Ph.D. - YouTube

Christine Simmonds-Moore

Here is the abstract:

“Exceptional experiences (ExE) incorporate a range of phenomena including subjective paranormal and transpersonal experiences. Synesthesia and synesthetic experiences are discussed as important variables in understanding the etiologies of ExE. The neural and psychological correlates of synesthetic experiences (associated with hyperconnectivity) are discussed in relation to ExE. It is argued that synesthetic processes enable both the detection and conscious perception of information from a range of sources that are usually unseen or inaccessible, including abstract, unlanguaged, preconscious, and potentially other nonlocal sources.”

She concludes:

“In summary, ExE might be understood as complicated synesthesias, which are composed of a unified inducer and a concurrent experience, lending qualia to experiences that are usually not experiencable. This may occur among those who experience synesthesia consistently and among those who are anomaly prone and experience synesthesia due to changes in the system (e.g., neural unmasking and neural plasticity via inhibitory processes that result from alterations in consciousness). Synesthetic processes may provide a concrete label for preconscious processing of internal and external sources of information that emerge via stronger interactions with qualia-rich areas of the brain (e.g., colors or forms). In turn, there is a more tangible or concrete code or usually unseen information, which may be misinterpreted as paranormal and have a mundane origin, or reflect genuine access to nonlocal or spiritual information. More research is needed to further explore how and when the synesthesias are implicated in different types of ExE.”

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

This is the third part of a series of blogs designed to provide online reading materials about the old psychical research literature. I hope readers find it interesting, particularly in these days of social isolation due to the virus going around the world.

Here I would like to focus on reading material about the celebrated mental medium Leonora E. Piper (1857-1950). Although there are discussions about her mediumship in recent publications, an example being Michael Tymn’s Resurrecting Leonora Piper (Guildford: White Crow Books, 2013; see also my blog), here I focus on online freely available publications coming from the late nineteenth century to 1929.

Mrs. Piper in Different Stages of Her Life

Leonora Piper 2

Leonora Piper 4

Leonora E. Piper

Leonora Piper 3

Michel Sage’s Mrs. Piper & the Society for Psychical Research (New York: Scott-Thaw, 1904) is a good general introduction to Mrs. Piper. The author wrote in the first chapter: “Mrs Piper’s mediumship is one of the most perfect which has ever been discovered. In any case, it is the one which has been the most perseveringly, lengthily and carefully studied by highly competent men. Members of the Society for Psychical Research have studied the phenomena presented by Mrs Piper during fifteen consecutive years. They have taken all the precautions necessitated by the strangeness of the case, the circumstances, and the surrounding scepticism; they have faced and minutely weighed all hypotheses. In future the most orthodox psychologists will be unable to ignore these phenomena when constructing their systems; they will be compelled to examine them and find an explanation for them, which their preconceived ideas will sometimes render it difficult to do” (pp. 1-2).

An interesting biography by the medium’s daughter is Alta L. Piper’s The Life and Work of Mrs. Piper (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1929). Summaries of research with the medium can be found in: Henry Holt’s On the Cosmic Relations (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1919, Vol 1, Vol. 2); James H. Hyslop, Science and a Future Life (Boston: Herbert B. Turner, 1905); and Oliver J. Lodge’s The Survival of Man (New York: George H. Dorran, 1920, 2nd ed.).

Piper Life and Work of Mrs. Piper

The first research report with Mrs. Piper was William James’ “Report of the Committee on Mediumistic Phenomena” (Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1886, 1, 102–106). This was followed by James’ “A Record of Observations of Certain Phenomena of Trance (5). Part III (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 6, 651–659), and “Report on Mrs. Piper’s Hodgson-Control” (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 23, 2–121). In his 1890 paper James stated “taking everything that I know of Mrs. P. into account, the result is to make me feel as absolutely certain as I am of any personal fact in the world that she knows things in her trances which she cannot possibly have heard in her waking state, and that the definitive philosophy of her trances is yet to be found” (pp. 658–659).

William James

William James

Other important research reports included:

Hodgson, R. (1892). A record of observations of certain phenomena of trance. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 8, 1-167.

Hodgson, R. (1898). A further record of observations of certain phenomena of trance. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 13, 284-582.

Richard Hodgson

Richard Hodgson

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

Leaf, W. (1890). A record of observations of certain phenomena of trance (3). Part II. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 6, 558-646.

Lodge, O. (1890). A record of observations of certain phenomena of trance (2). Part I. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 6, 443-557.

Oliver Lodge younger

Oliver J. Lodge

Tanner, A.E. (1910). Studies in Spiritism. New York: D. Appleton.

The last study, by Amy Tanner, was a skeptical one in which she argued that the communicators were purely psychologically created secondary personalities and that the rest was explained as being due “to a heightened suggestibility to involuntary betrayals of the sitter, with a modicum of guessing, fishing, and inference” (p. 310).

Another study, a massive review of the literature about Mrs. Piper authored by Eleanor M. Sidgwick, also took a psychological view of Piper’s mediumistic communicators (“A Contribution to the Study of the Psychology of Mrs. Piper’s Trance Phenomena.” Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1915, 28, 1–657). However, she believed the medium produced veridical communications. Sidgwick wrote: “I think it is probably a state of self-induced hypnosis in which her hypnotic self personates different characters either consciously and deliberately, or unconsciously and believing herself to be the person she represents, and sometimes probably in a state of consciousness intermediate between the two. In the trance state her normal powers transcend in some directions those of her ordinary waking self . . . . And further what makes her case of great importance she can obtain, imperfectly and for the most part fragmentarily, telepathic impressions” (p. 330).

Eleanor Sidgwick 2

Eleanor M. Sidgwick

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This is by no means a complete bibliography about Mrs. Piper. But I hope it will facilitate the study of this important and fascinating medium.

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

Because we are still practicing social isolation due to the virus problem, I am presenting more links to books from the old psychical research literature in case you need reading material.

I hope you find them interesting.

Hereward Carrington (1919). Modern Psychical Phenomena. New York: Dodd, Mead.


Hereward Carrington

Théodore Flournoy (1911). Spiritism and Psychology. New York: Harper & Brothers.

Theodore Flournoy

Théodore Flournoy

James H. Hyslop (1919). Contact with the Other World. New York: Century.

James H. Hyslop

James H. Hyslop

Cesare Lombroso (1909). After Death–What? Boston: Small, Maynard.

Cesare Lombroso 3

Cesare Lombroso

Joseph Maxwell (1905). Metapsychical Phenomena. London: Duckworth.

Joseph Maxwell profile 1895

Joseph Maxwell in profile (with Albert de Rochas, in seance with medium Eusapia Palladino)

Frank Podmore (1894). Apparitions and Thought-Transference. London: Walter Scott.

Frank Podmore

Frank Podmore

A. von Schrenck-Notzing (1920). Phenomena of Materialisation. London: Kegan, Paul, Trench, Trubner.

Albert von Schrenck Notzing

Albert F. von Schrenck-Notzing

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

Many of us are not going out much due to the virus crisis. Recently someone told me in an email that they are bored at home. With that in mind, now is a good time to catch up with the old psychic literature.

Because my main interest is the history of parapsychology, I would like to present some reading suggestions about important books published before 1923 freely available online that I hope you will enjoy.

I will start with some general overview books published in English, and will cover other titles in future blogs.

Barrett, W. F. (1911). Psychical research. New York: Holt.


William F. Barrett

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Barrett, W.F. (1917). On the threshold of the unseen (2nd rev. ed.). London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.

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Joire, P. (1916). Psychical and supernormal phenomena. London: Rider.

Paul Joire

Paul Joire

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Kingsford, S.M. (1920). Psychical research for the plain man. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner.

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Lambert, H.C. (1928). General survey of psychic phenomena. New York: The Knickerbocker Press.

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Podmore, F. (1897). Studies in psychical research. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Frank Podmore

Frank Podmore

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Podmore, F. (1908). The naturalisation of the supernatural. New York: G.P. Putnam‘s Sons.

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Richet, C. (1923). Thirty years of psychical research. New York: Macmillan.

Charles Richet 10

Charles Richet

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 Wright, G.E. (1920). Practical views on psychic phenomena. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Howe.

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An Investigation of Pagan Spell Casting

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

Here is a pioneering investigation of pagan spell casting:

Sonnex, C., Roe, C. A. and Roxburgh, E.C. (2020). Testing the Pagan Prescription: Using a Randomised Controlled Trial to Investigate Pagan Spell Casting as a Form of Noncontact Healing. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 26, 219-225. doi:10.1089/acm.2019.0279


Objectives: This research investigates the healing practices of modern Paganism using a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT). Paganism is a burgeoning belief system in the UK within which healing is a key aspect. However, Pagan spellcasting practices have received little attention from distance healing researchers. This study aims to address this gap in the literature.

Design: This study utilised a randomised, double blind, delayed intervention design.

Settings/location: Research took place at the University of Northampton.

Subjects: 44 Participants (30 female, 14 male) were recruited using snowball sampling (mean age = 24.30; range = 18-55).

Procedure: Participants were randomly allocated to either Group A or B. Participants made written requests to the practitioner about changes they would like to see in their lives and provided a photograph and personal item to be used during the intervention. Participants attended meetings once a week during which they would take part in a guided body scan meditation before completing a quality of life measure. Healing practices were conducted for Group A between weeks one and two and for Group B between weeks two and three.

Outcome measure: Wellbeing was measured using the 26-item WHOQOL-BREF.

Results: MANOVA analysis showed a significant, positive change in general health from week one to week four (F = 4.02, p = .025, eta2 = .149). Separate ANOVAs of the four WHOQOL domains showed significant improvements across the study in the Physical and Psychological domains only, there was no significant group difference on any of the outcomes.

Conclusion: All participants showed an increase in health and wellbeing domains directly related to their spell requests. However, there are no group differences to suggest that the spell casting intervention was responsible.


Recent Doctoral Work About Psychic Topics

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

Here are two recent dissertations about historical topics. Copies are freely available via Ethos (registration required).

Elsa Richardson. Extraordinary Powers of Perception: Second Sight in Victorian Culture, 1830-1910. [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Queen Mary, University of London, 2019


In the mid-1890s the London based Society for Psychical Research dispatched researchers to the Scottish Highlands and Islands to investigate an extraordinary power of prophecy said to be peculiar to the residents of these remote regions. Described in Gaelic as the An-da-shealladh or ‘the two sights’, and given in English as ‘second sight’, the phenomenon was most commonly associated with the vision of future events: the death of neighbour, the arrival of strangers into the community, the success or failure of a fishing trip and so forth. The SPR were not the first to take an interest in this pre-visionary faculty, rather they joined a legion of scientists, travel writers, antiquarians, poets and artists who had made enquires into the topic from the end of the seventeenth century. This thesis examines the remarkably prominent position enjoyed by Scottish second sight in the Victorian popular imagination. In seeking to appreciate why a strange visionary ability was able to make claims upon the attention of the whole nation where other folk motifs were consigned to the realms of specialist interest only, this project charts its migration through a series of nineteenth-century cultural sites: mesmerism and phrenology, modern spiritualism and anthropology, romance literature and folklorism, and finally psychical research and Celtic mysticism. Binding these individual case studies together is a cast of shared actors – Walter Scott, Catherine Crowe, William Howitt, Marie Corelli, Andrew Lang and Ada Goodrich Freer – and a focus on their common investigative and creative cultures. My interest is with how the power of second sight, once defined as a supernatural occurrence tied to the geographically distant and mysterious Scottish Highlands, comes to be transformed by the close of the nineteenth century, into a supra-normal facet of the psyche, potentially accessible and exploitable by all.


Ada Goodrich-Freer

Andrew Lang 2

Andrew Lang

Robert Radaković, Beyond Faith and Reason: The Genesis of Psychical Research and the Search for the Paranormal Domain (1850-1914). [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Lancaster University, 2019.


The late-Victorian period was characterised by rapid social, cultural, and intellectual changes, with all domains open to challenge from numerous and diverse directions. This thesis focusses on a short period in ‘the Age of Enlightenment’, from the mid-nineteenth century to 1914, during which many groups and individuals wanted to try to answer the ultimate questions about the nature of the universe and humanity’s place within it. For them, the well-established fields of science, religion, and philosophy each proved to be inadequate individual tools with which to attempt to answer these questions. Consequently, many members of the cultural and intellectual elite turned to the paranormal domain, within which they saw the potential to answer some of their fundamental questions. Psychical research was a nascent intellectual field that investigated strange phenomena which existed at the borders of orthodox thinking, sitting precariously between the acceptable and the unacceptable.

PSPR 1882-83 Vol 1

PSPR 1882 Officers Council

This thesis investigates the cultural, evidential, and sometimes personal motivations of the early paranormal researchers, all of which were members of the Society for Psychical Research, and some of the first theories developed by them. The thesis thus establishes the significance of paranormal research during this period. It discusses, in an intentionally eclectic way not done before, several of the key thinkers of the time. It posits a typology to help understanding of the period. This ‘paranormal domain’ represents a combination of an intellectual mindset, an investigative methodology, and a spiritual perspective, particular to the early psychical researchers of the SPR.

Online Parapsychology Lectures (ParaMOOC 2020)

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

In the comments below Nancy L. Zingrone summarizes our ParaMOOC 2020, an online course based on a series of lectures by different speakers on the topic of psychology and parapsychology. For information about the last ParaMOOC click here.

Parapsychology Research and Education: Psychology and Parapsychology

Nancy L. Zingrone

Free, online, starts January 18th with live sessions through February 29th. Enrollment open in the AZIRE Academy on WizIQ until March 31st, 2019.

All of the following presentations have been confirmed. We have one more session at the end of February that we’re still working on. We hope to make an announcement about this session soon.

The ParaMOOC course opened on January 15th, 2020 and will continue through February 29th, 2020. To register you can go the Parapsychology Research and Education: Psychology and Parapsychology course on The AZIRE Academy on by clicking here. You can also enroll by clicking on the webinar session you would like to join on the list below.

What you do with the course materials and the opportunities for discussion and interaction in the live sessions, with the recordings, in the course discussion and so on is entirely up to you. Our goal is to provide you with access to active researchers in the field and to like-minded individuals from all over the world who share your interest in this interesting area of research.

Below is a list of of sections arranged by date. You can scroll down to read the titles, abstracts and biographies of the speakers. A PDF of the current schedule can be downloaded by clicking here. Recordings of the presentations will be available on the links below through April 20th, 2020, but edited versions will be uploaded to the Parapsychology Foundation’s ParaMOOC Playlist within days of the presentations. Past presentations from preceedings years are also available on that playlist.

ParaMOOC 2020 Schedule

Saturday, January 18th, Noon Eastern: “Welcome to the 2020 Parapsychology Research and Education course” (Nancy L. Zingrone, PhD and Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD)

Nancy Zingrone 2019b

Nancy L. Zingrone


The Parapsychology Research and Education: Psychology and Parapsychology course is a free, online course which starts January 15th and will be open through March 31st, 2020. Live sessions will be held every Saturday and Sunday at Noon Eastern. We will have an Opening Session, a Closing Session and eleven speakers in between. In the opening session we’ll set up a mid-course discussion forum as well. This year we will be looking at Freud and telepathy, William James, Wilhelm Wundt and psychical research, clinical approaches to exceptional experiences, alterations of consciousness, personality and ESP, the after-effects of spontaneous after-death communications and the psychological dimensions of previous lives, poltergeist experiences and mediumship and more. This session will introduce attendees to the topics, speakers, classroom locations, and activities in the course.

ParaMOOC course organizers Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone and her husband, teaching, writing and research partner, Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado both have PhDs in psychology from the University of Edinburgh where they were active in the Koestler Parapsychology Unit under the first Koestler Professor, Dr. Robert L. Morris. They are currently Research Fellows of the Parapsychology Foundation and co-directors of The Alvarado Zingrone Institute for Research and Education which is an online teaching project of their consulting firm Alvarado, Zingrone & Associates that includes The AZIRE Online Academy on WizIQ, the new AZIRE Academic on the WizIQ next platform, the Parapsychology Online blog, the Parapsychology: History, News and Research blog, and the Parapsychology Online YouTube Channel. Zingrone and Alvarado are also co-designers of The AZIRE Library and Learning Center in the virtual world, Second Life, currently under re-construction. ParaMOOC lectures that have been converted to YouTube appear both on the Parapsychology Online YouTube Channel mentioned above and on the Parapsychology Foundation YouTube Channel.

Sunday, January 19th, Noon Eastern:Parapsychology and Psychology: An Introduction” (Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD)

Carlos S. Alvarado 10

Carlos S. Alvarado


This presentation summarizes aspects of the relationship between parapsychology and psychology. In addition to a common history with psychology, it is argued that parapsychological phenomena are psychological phenomena and part of the realm of psychology. This is supported by the results of experimental and survey research relating ESP and other phenomena to personality and cognitive variables. In addition, parapsychology has implications for various psychological topics. Examples include the study of the variety of human experience; concerns arising from clinical practice; attitude and belief change; individual differences; and the expansion of human potential.

Carlos S. Alvarado has a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Edinburgh, and holds master’s degrees in parapsychology (MS, John F. Kennedy University), and in history (MA, Duke University). His work has centered on studies about the history of psychical research, and on survey research (on out-of-body experiences and other psychic experiences). Alvarado is a Research Fellow at the Parapsychology Foundation, an Adjunct Research Faculty at Sofia University (formerly Institute of Transpersonal Psychology) and is the recipient of the 2017 Parapsychological Association’s Outstanding Career Award. He is one of the editors of Research in Parapsychology 1993 (Scarecrow Press, 1998), the author of Charles Richet:A Nobel Prize Winning Scientist’s Explorations of Psychic Phenomena (White Crow Books, 2019), and has published over 340 articles in psychology, psychiatry, and parapsychology journals.

Saturday, January 25th, Noon Eastern: “Psychoanalysis and the Occult: A Forgotten History.” (Claudie Massicotte, PhD)

Claudie Massicotte

Claudie Massicotte


Freud’s relationship to occult beliefs of his era remains an unacknowledged aspect of his psychoanalytic theory. While it is well known that the author of The Future of an Illusion was skeptical towards religious ideas and beliefs, it is less often acknowledged that he was nonetheless puzzled by some of the occult beliefs of his century, even visiting psychics on several occasions to investigate their powers. Freud’s fascination with the possibility of telepathic communications profoundly affected his relationship with disciples such as Sándor Ferenczi and Carl Gustav Jung.

This lecture explores Freud’s reflection on psychics, mediums, and soothsayers, a reflection often dismissed as a marginal or embarrassing aspect of his writings. Ernst Jones’ influential Life and Work of Sigmund Freud best exemplifies this marginalization as it rigorously examines Freud’s consideration of telepathy but frames it as a paradoxical feature of the latter’s character or as proof of the difficulty, even for men of genius, to overcome superstitions. I argue that such a treatment not only fails to recognize the caution Freud undertook within his inquiry into the occult, but also omits the important questions that motivated his investigations.

Dr. Claudie Massicotte is Assistant Professor of Literary Criticism and Theory at Young Harris College and author of Trance Speakers: Femininity and Authorship in Spiritual Seances, 1850-1930 (McGill Queen’s UP, 2017). She has published on Freud in Psychoanalytic Dialogues and on the creative unconscious in the Canadian Journal of Film Studies, the Canadian Art Review, and Surrealism, Occultism and Politics (Routledge, 2017). With Dr. Thomas Rabeyron and Dr. Renaud Evrard, she has also published on psychoanalysis and telepathy in Imágó Budapest and Revue Française de Psychanalyse.

Sunday, January 26th, Noon Eastern: “William James, Psychical Research, and the American Psychological Profession: The Case of Leonora Piper” (Andreas Sommer, PhD).     **This has changed, new date to be announced.**

Andreas Sommer 9

Andreas Sommer


This presentation draws on newly discovered archival material and other important primary sources to reconstruct investigations of the Boston trance medium Leonora Piper by William James, William R. Newbold and James Hyslop in the US, and leading figures in the Society for Psychical Research in England. Surveying the reception of these and related studies by fellow psychologists in the US, I address the supposed demolition of the Piper case by psychologists Amy Tanner and G. Stanley Hall, which modern ‘skeptics’ still widely cite as a conclusive refutation of the case. Paying close attention to the methods employed by James and other elite psychical researchers in the investigation of mediumship, as well as competing theoretical interpretations, he will question the simplistic standard narrative about this episode as an example of the victory of scientific psychology over pseudo-science. He argues that case studies of major boundary disputes concerning psychical research during the professionalization of modern psychology offer rich opportunities to revisit ingrained habits of writing histories of science and the occult. After all, what’s typically missing in popular portrayals of these historical controversies are efforts to gain a qualified and nuanced understanding of actual epistemological and metaphysical positions of psychical researchers and their critics, as well as sentiments and worries that have determined the official limits of permissible scientific enquiry up to the present day.

Dr. Andreas Sommer is a historian working on the interrelations of the sciences and magic. His doctoral thesis (University College London, 2013), which reconstructed the links between psychical research and experimental psychology in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, won an award from the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. He has held research posts at Churchill College and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, and is working on a book which updates and revises his doctoral work. He also runs, a website distilling professional scholarship in the history of science and the occult to a broad, educated audience.

Saturday, February 1st, Noon Eastern:How to Stay Neutral? Clinical Approaches of Distressing Exceptional Experiences(Renaud Evrard, PhD)

Renaud Evrard4

Renaud Evrard


Clinical parapsychology is the subfield of parapsychology which develop an experience-centered approach with people distressed by their paranormal/anomalous/exceptional experiences. Its shape differs considering how paranormal experiences are defined, which counseling is provided, and how this clinical practice is differentiated from others. In Western culture, psychopathology is one explanation for experiences interpreted as anomalous. Anomalous experiences and beliefs still are items in some questionnaires detecting psychotic-like experiences and the psychotic continuum. Clinical parapsychology is based on the subversive affirmation that current clinical practices do not properly handle these unusual experiences. Based on psychological research, several researchers advocated that exceptional experiences are neutral in terms of mental health (Simmonds-Moore, 2003) and that we should develop both “ideological invariance” and an “undecidability stance” (Devereux, 1953). In his lecture, he will try to identify basic features of this neutral clinical approach of distressing exceptional experiences.

Renaud Evrard is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Lorraine, in Nancy, France. He directed a research team in Psychopathology and projective clinical practice at the Laboratory INTERPSY. In 2012, he obtained a PhD in psychology at the University of Rouen, France, with a thesis on “clinical differential practice with exceptional experiences” (published in French under the title : “Folie et Paranormal : vers une clinique des expériences exceptionnelles“, PUR, 2014). He’s a Professional member of the Parapsychological Association (Student co-representative in 2010), Board Member (since 2014), and President (2019-2021) and was or is a member of the Society for Psychical Research, the Society for Scientific Exploration, and of the Gesellschaft für Anomalistik. He is also secretary of the Société Lorraine de Psychologie, and an active member of the Syndicat national des psychologues. His main interests are on clinical, historical and theoretical aspects of parapsychology. In 2016, he published a book about the history of parapsychology in France (La légende de l’esprit : enquête sur 150 ans de parapsychologie), in 2018 about the anthropological aspects (Sur le divan des guérisseurs… et des autres. A quels soins se vouer ?, co-directed by D. Kessler-Bilthauer), and in 2019 about the sociological aspects (Vers une sociologie anomalistique : le paranormal au regard des sciences sociales, co-directed by Eric Ouellet). He received several grants and prizes for his work, among them the 2008 Eileen Garrett scholarship (Parapsychology Foundation), the 2009 Schmeidler Outstanding Student Award (Parapsychological Association), the 2011 Bourse Etudiants de l’Institut Métapsychique International, the 2017 PA Book Award for La légende de l’esprit, the 2018 best article in the journal History of psychology (about Pierre Janet and psychical research). With Thomas Rabeyron, he co-founded in 2009 the Center for Information, Research and Counseling on Exceptional Experiences. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Exceptional Experiences and Psychologythe Journal of Parapsychology, l‘Evolution psychiatrique and HEGEL. With Annalisa Ventola and Nikolaos Koumartzis, he co-directed Mindfield, the Bulletin of the PA, since 2018.

Sunday, February 2nd, Noon Eastern:What is the Evidence that Alterations of Consciousness Enhance ESP? “ (Etzel Cardeña, PhD)

Etzel Cardena 5

Etzel Cardeña


At least since Plato (remember his prophetic mania), alterations of consciousness have been linked to psi phenomena. In surveys of ostensible psi, dreaming and internal focus states have also been mentioned as common precursors. The evidence from controlled studies using techniques to alter consciousness such as ganzfeld or hypnosis is also supportive although not unambiguous. This presentation will review that evidence and suggest ways to advance that investigation.

Etzel Cardeña, PhD, is a Fellow of APS and APA, and holds the endowed Thorsen Chair in psychology at Lund University in Sweden, where he directs the Center for Research on Consciousness and Anomalous Psychology (CERCAP). His hundreds of publications center on alterations of consciousness and anomalous experiences (including psi), dissociative processes and acute posttraumatic reactions, the neurophenomenology of hypnosis and meditation, and the stream of consciousness during waking and altered states.

Saturday, February 8th, Noon Eastern: “Anomaly Proneness: Unpacking the Psychic Personality (Christine Simmonds-Moore, PhD)

Christine Simmonds-Moore 2

Christine Simmonds-Moore


In this presentation, Christine Simmonds-Moore will explore the psychology and parapsychology of anomaly-proneness; individuals who are more prone to experiencing psychic phenomena and performing well at laboratory psi tasks. Anomaly-prone variables include extraversion, creativity, dissociation, synesthesia and those with “thinner” psychological boundaries, including positive schizotypy (reflecting minds and bodies that are more interconnected). This discussion will explore the evidence for enhanced psychic experiencing and functioning among these groups. We will discuss the idea that information from distant sources in space and time may register within the system among most people but are more likely to be integrated and available for certain types of anomaly prone individuals.

Christine Simmonds-Moore is a UK native who has a PhD from the University of Northampton on “Schizotypy as an anomaly-prone personality”. She is currently working as an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of West Georgia. She has research interests in parapsychology, the psychology of exceptional experiences (including transpersonal and subjective paranormal experiences), paranormal beliefs and disbeliefs, personality and mental health correlates of exceptional experiences, synesthesia, altered states of consciousness, mind body relationships and healing and placebo effects. She is the recipient of several Bial grants to study exceptional experiences and has recently completed a research study on ghost experiences.  She is the co-author of a textbook on anomalistic psychology and edited a collection of chapters about Exceptional Experiences and Health and has a chapter in the recently published volume Greening the Paranormal edited by Jack Hunter.

Saturday, February 9th, Noon Eastern: Aftereffects of Spontaneous After-Death Communications (Callum Cooper, PhD)

Callum Cooper - BSc Psychology

Callum Cooper


Contrary to some popularly held beliefs, After Death Communications (ADCs) have been found to be highly beneficial to the bereavement process and are almost exclusively experienced by the bereaved. However, those who have not suffered personal loss also report spontaneous experiences of the dead, and some people even seek out these experiences via sittings with spiritualist mediums, for example. But for what reasons? This presentation shall discuss the history, phenomenology, and impact of these experiences and where we find ourselves in the current research.

Dr Callum E. Cooper is a lecturer and researcher of psychology at the University of Northampton. He is the third-year module co-ordinator for ‘Parapsychology & Anomalous Experiences’ and lectures on such topics as: parapsychology, positive psychology, sexual behaviour, and death and loss. He holds PhDs in thanatology and parapsychology from the University of Northampton and Manchester Metropolitan University. Recipient of numerous awards, he holds the 2009 Eileen J. Garrett Scholarship Award (Parapsychology Foundation), the 2014 Dr Gertrude Schmeidler Award (Parapsychological Association), and was a nominee for the 2018 Ockham’s Razor Award for Excellence in Skeptical Activism (The Skeptic Magazine / QEDcon).

Saturday, February 15th, Noon Eastern: “The Psychological Aspects of Children’s Past-Life Memories (Jim Tucker, MD)

Jim Tucker 3

Jim Tucker


Children’s reports of memories from a past life have been the focus of study at the University of Virginia for nearly 60 years. Often, the details the children give are found to match the life of one specific deceased individual. In addition, many of the children show psychological features that appear associated with the memories they report, such as phobias and posttraumatic symptoms, as well as gender nonconformity in cases involving a past life as a member of the opposite sex. Several groups of these children have undergone psychological evaluations, and the results of these studies will be reviewed. In addition, follow-up of these individuals into adulthood will also be discussed.

Jim B. Tucker, M.D. is a child psychiatrist and the Bonner-Lowry Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia. He is Director of the UVA Division of Perceptual Studies, where he is continuing the work of Ian Stevenson on children who report memories of previous lives.  He is the author of two books that together have been translated into twenty languages, Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children’s Memories of Previous Lives (2005) and Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives (2013), a New York Times bestseller. He has published numerous papers in scientific journals and given talks to both scientific and general audiences.  He has also discussed his work on such programs as Good Morning America, CBS Sunday Morning, and NPR Weekend Edition.

Sunday, February 16th, Noon Eastern: “Unsettled Objects, Unsettled Minds? Exploring the Possible Psychological Aspects of Reported Poltergeist Cases (Bryan J. Williams)

Bryan Williams

Bryan Williams


Traditional interpretations of the anomalous physical disturbances generally referred to under the term “poltergeist” have tended to invoke some form of discarnate spirit agency as a means of possibly accounting for them. However, many parapsychological findings gathered from case surveys and field investigations conducted over the past century seem to point toward an alternate interpretation — namely, that such disturbances may represent brief and sporadic displays of macroscopic psychokinesis occurring on the part of a living human agent. This presentation will generally examine the underlying basis for this latter interpretation, offering a concise overview of the various psychological and neuropsychological aspects that have been found to be associated with the living agents suspected of being at the center of reported poltergeist outbreaks. Some possible implications for certain cases in which poltergeist and haunt phenomena seem to dually occur in tandem will also be discussed.

Bryan J. Williams is the Research Director of the Psychical Research Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to research and education in parapsychology that is currently based in Carrollton, Texas. He previously studied psychology at the University of New Mexico and was a research student of the late parapsychologist William G. Roll. In 2008, he was selected to be a co-recipient of the Eileen J. Garrett Scholarship Award offered by the Parapsychology Foundation in New York. In addition to various journal articles and online materials, he is the author of the monograph Psychic Phenomena and the Brain: Exploring the Neuropsychology of Psi, published by the Australian Institute of Parapsychological Research in 2015.

Saturday, February 22nd, Noon Eastern:The Psychology of Mediumship: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives(Everton de Oliveira Maraldi)

Everton Maraldi

Everton de Oliveira Maraldi


The psychological study of mediumship is as old as Psychology itself. Some of the pioneers of modern Psychology (such as William James, Theodore Flournoy, and Carl Gustav Jung) regarded mediumship as a via regia to unconscious processes and other psychological phenomena (such as dissociation and suggestion). These thinkers also maintained a serious Scientific interest in the investigation of psychic phenomena claimed by spiritualist mediums.  But there were others authors at the time who emphasized an eminently psychopathological view of mediumship (e.g., Frederic Marvin) and a combative approach to Spiritualism (e.g., Stanley Hall). Although mediumship was highly valued as a research topic by the first psychical researchers, subsequent research in parapsychology did not devote much attention to it. In its turn, the emergence of psychoanalysis and behaviorism in Psychology – approaches that either pathologized mediumship or rejected it as a non-serious Research topic -, as well as the efforts of early Psychologists to differentiate psychology from metaphysics, were factors that contributed to a precarious development of the Psychology of mediumship during the twentieth century. More recently, a resurgence of interest can be observed, from both ontological and psychological perspectives. More than a century after the work of James, Jung and other pioneers, the psychological study of mediumship is still in its infancy, despite some important developments. In this presentation, I focus on three of them: 1) the relationship of mediumship with well-being and mental health indicators, 2) cognitive, neurological, and personality variables associated with mediumship, and 3) cultural and Cross-cultural perspectives on mediumship. I review the main findings in each of these research branches and highlight some of the methodological limitations and challenges in the psychological study of mediumship. Although some parapsychologists might see the Psychology of mediumship as a reductionistic endeavour, I show how it can actually contribute to our knowledge about the parapsychological implications of such experiences.

Everton de Oliveira Maraldi, PhD is a professor at the Post-Graduate Program on Religious Studies of the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, Brazil. He was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Oxford (SCIO – Scholarship and Christianity in Oxford) and Coventry University (Brain, Belief, and Behaviour Lab). He received his master and doctoral degrees in Social Psychology from the Institute of Psychology of the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Everton is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Parapsychological Association (USA). He is also a psychologist working in private practice in São Paulo, Brazil.

Sunday, February 23rd, Noon Eastern: To Be Announced


Saturday, February 29th, Noon Eastern: Closing Session: Looking forward to ParaMOOC2021 (Nancy L. Zingrone, PhD & Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD)


At the closing session we’ll close up the course, open up a discussion of the presentations and invite the attendees to help decide on the ParaMOOC2021 theme.

If you have any questions, email us at


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

From the beginning of his career in Spiritism Allan Kardec argued for the reality of reincarnation. This spiritual process, important for expiation and improvement, could take place on Earth and in other planets, and did not involve spiritual retrogression (A. Kardec, Les Livre des Esprits. Paris: E. Dentu, 1857, Chapter 7). As I pointed out some years back (click here), while reincarnation was accepted in Kardecian Spiritism, it was rejected by many in the context of Anglo-American Spiritualism, a topic I revisit here. My interest is historical. I do not pretend to discredit the concept of reincarnation, nor to praise its detractors.


Allan Kardec

Kardec Livre Esprits 1857

In 1865 an author in the Spiritual Magazine, published in England, referred to reincarnation as an “absurd doctrine,” an “excrescence on Spiritualism” with nothing to support it, and dispensing with the comfort of finding our loved ones in the beyond (Anonymous, Spiritualism in France. Spiritual Magazine, 1865, 6, 318–322).

There were some interesting mentions of reincarnation in the English publication Spiritualist Newspaper for 1875. Alexandre Aksakof was of the opinion: “That the propagation of this doctrine by Kardec was a matter of strong predilection is clear; from the beginning Reincarnation has not been presented as an object of study, but as a dogma. To sustain it he has always had recourse to writing mediums, who it is well known pass so easily under the psychological influence of preconceived ideas . . .” (A. Aksakof, Researches on the Historical Origin of the Reincarnation Speculations of French Spiritualists. Spiritualist Newspaper, 1875, August 13, 74–75, p. 75).

Alexandre Aksakof

Alexandre Aksakof

Another commentator remarked on the difficulties to verify reincarnation: “Indeed, the theory seems utterly at variance with the known facts of Spiritualism as they stand accepted before us” (Anonymous, An Inductive Philosopher, Correspondence: Metempsychosis. Spiritualist Newspaper, 1875, September 17, 142).

Another writer in the Spiritualist Newspaper held ideas similar to Aksakof’s. He stated that mediumistic communications in England in support of reincarnation were rare. “The prevalence of the teaching of this doctrine by mediums in France, may be attributed to the circumstance that the sitters at the circles expect such teachings, and the minds of the mediums are full of them . . . The foregoing arguments have little or nothing to do with the truth or error of the doctrine of reincarna­tion, they merely attempt to show that not one tittle of evidence of its truth is contained in Allan Kardec’s book, that the book is of a theological and not of a scientific order, and that it requires to be accepted, if accepted at all, upon authority” (Anonymous [maybe W.H. Harrison], Allan Kardec’s “Spirits Book.” Spiritualist Newspaper, 1875, October 8, 169–170, p. 170).

In the same publication, medium D. D. Home wrote skeptically that he had met many Marie Antoinettes, Mary Queen of Scots, kings and Alexander the Greats, “but it remains for me yet to meet a plain ‘John Smith’ ” (D.D. Home, Correspondence: Mr. D.D. Home on Reincarnation. Spiritualist Newspaper, 1875, October 1, 165).


D.D. Home

The famous trance speaker and writer Emma Hardinge Britten entered the debate arguing that the concept of reincarnation was both irrelevant and bane. (The Doctrine of Reincarnation. Spiritual Scientist, May 20, 1875, 128–129; May 27, 1875, 140–141). She wrote:

“The hapless believer in Re-incarnation can be as little sure of himself or his own identity, as his most intimate acquain­tances are for him. He has not a chance to know who he is himself; who he was yesterday or who he will be to-morrow: and as to the precious ties of parentage, or the divine impulses of family love, kindred and friendship, they are all floating emotions to be blotted out in the grave, and lost in new successions of new lives, new relationships, new deaths, and succeeding oblivions. The most remarkable and certainly not the least indefensible part of the Re-incarnationist’s theory is, however, not only that they have no facts on which to ground their assertions, like the majority of their fellow believers in Spiritualism, but that they infer there must be countless millions of spirits communicating through other channels who have no knowledge of Re-incarnation, and even emphatically deny its truth.”

“Can the controlling spirits of the Re-incarnationists be the only ones enlightened on such a stupendous item of the soul’s destiny?— an item, which if not common to all, must be known So all— and that in realms where such changes must be perpet­ually going on as would render ignorance of the subject impossible?” (p. 129)

Emma Hardinge Britten 2

Emma Hardinge Britten

Britten later referred to “the groundless character of the testimony which the apostles of the Re-incarnation theory rely upon, not one item of which affords the profound analyst a shadow of evidence that their theories are correct” (p. 140). She argued that we should follow the majority of mediumistic communications who do not mention reincarnation, instead of the few that do.

William Howitt, a well-known English writer and spiritualist, joined critics of the “gross and pagan delusion of Re-incarnation” with his article “Re-Incarnation, Its Champions and Delusions” (Spiritual Magazine, 1876, 2(s.3), 49–60). After rejecting the importance of a long conceptual history to defend reincarnation, our author wrote: “Lord deliver Spiritualism from the slime and venom of this devil’s creed” (p. 59).

William Howitt

William Howitt

A little-known figure today, the polemic American spiritualist William Emmette Coleman, addressed the topic in a five-part article (Re-Incarnation—Its Fancies and Follies. Religious-Philosophical Journal, 1878, Part 1: Genes and Growth, November 23, 1, 8; Part 2: Inconsistensy and Contrediction, November 30,1; Part 3: Credulity and Fanatism, December 7, 1; Part 4: Absurdity and Fatuity, December 14, 8; Part 5: Immortality and Demoralization, December 21, 8). Coleman, considered reincarnation a demoralizing dogma, and a “fungus growth” (Part 1, p. 1). Similar to Aksakof, Coleman stated: “Two frivolous French mesmeric sensitives, under the over powering psychological influence of the mind of Kardec … give him a series of responses to questions respecting re-incarnation  and the soul’s destiny, in exact accordance with his own pre conceived opinions; in fact, questions and answers alike, are virtually Kardec’s, the girls only simply giving back his own ideas and principles as reflected and impressed upon their susceptible mentalities” (Part 1, p. 1).

William Emmette Coleman

William Emmette Coleman

Coleman argued that there were many contradictions in the ideas about reincarnation from different authors. Furthermore, in his view: “If the theory of re-incarnation were true, one of the most disastrous of the results there from occurring, would be the utter destruction or all family relationship; the fact that this ensues, as a necessary sequence of its fundamental principles is sufficient in itself to everlastingly damn the vile enormity in its entirety” (Part 4, p. 8).

In addition, Coleman believed that there were contradictions with beliefs in American Spiritualism. “The universal teaching of Spiritualism is, we all know, that the spirit-world is a progressive state of existence. By growth and effort the spirit passes from circle to circle, and from sphere to sphere; but re-incarnation negatives this beautiful philosophy. There is no progress in spirit-life, we are told; the spirit’s progress can only be made on earth during successive bodily incarnations” (Part 4, p. 8).

Finally, Coleman argued that acceptance of reincarnation “leads to the grossest immoralities, and to general demoralization and laxity of conduct” (Part 5, p. 8).

The last person I will consider here is American physician and student of psychometry Joseph Rodes Buchanan (“The Doctrine of Reincarnation, and its Amusing Absurdities.” Buchanan’s Journal of Man, 1889, 3(n.s.), 176–185). He wrote: “The insurmountable objection to my mind, is the absence of corroborating facts. It is maintained that certain spirits, and according to some theorists an immense number, feel a desire to renew their experience of earth-life, and to do that, they abandon their supernal life and enter the womb of some woman in conception, to develop as a foetus and be born as an infant.”

“Have we the slightest evidence that such an event ever occurred? If it did, the reincarnating spirit would be absent from its supernal home during its whole earth-life. But in the millions of interviews or intercourse between spirits and mortals, who has ever heard of any spirit being absent or lost from its spirit-home? Had reincarnationists looked at this subject logically, they would have felt the necessity of proving that the reincarnated spirit was not in spirit-life, but on the earth. In the entire absence of such evidence, I assume that such an event never occurred …” (p. 177).

Joseph Rodes Buchanan 2

Joseph Rodes Buchanan

Buchanan stated that explorations of the opinion of spirits via mediumship or psychometry do not provide evidence for reincarnation. He wrote: “I do not perceive that reincarnationists have ever demanded a rational proof before accepting their theory. They should demand positive evidence that some intelligent spirit has abandoned the spirit-world, and cannot be heard of in spirit-life; that some mortal can give a full account of the details of his former existence, and manifest the possession of his old spiritual identity and capacities; that children should develop regardless of the laws of heredity, and become able to reveal their former life on earth as in heaven, and. that intelligent spirits should give a rational narrative of the lives through which they have passed, capable of being verified. If none of these things are possible, the reincarnation theory as commonly presented must be classed among delusions” (p. 182).

Of course, there were exceptions to these negative beliefs, as seen in Kardec’s translator, journalist, and poet Anna Blackwell (see her book The Philosophy of Existence. London: J. Burns, 1871; and “The Law of Re-Incarnation.” In H. Tuttle and J.M. Peebles (Eds.), The Year-Book of Spiritualism for 1871 (pp. 69–79). Boston: William White, 1871).

Anna Blackwell

Anna Blackwell

Certainly, some of the critiques may be questioned. For one, the assurance that the minds of the French mediums presenting positive communications about reincarnation was affected by the influence of suggestion over the medium’s minds, while a theoretical possibility, has no clear evidence it its support.

The topic deserves further study considering the intellectual context in which each author was writing from. The problem of lack of evidence changed in later years with the rise of research on the subject, a topic discussed in a recent author interview in this blog.



At the End of 2019

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

Another year has gone by.

First of all, my best wishes for the Christmas season and the new year.

Christmas wreath

This has been a relatively good year. Among other things, I have enjoyed hearing from some of you who have posted comments to the blog or have written to me personally. Keep writing!

As before, I have posted about recently published articles and books, such as the following:

The Mediumship of Jane Roberts. November 25.

Author Interview XX: N Equals 1: Single Case Studies in Anomalistics, edited by Gerhard Mayer. September 11.

Mayer N Equals 1

Mediumship and Dissociation Revisited. August 14.

Article About a Non-Materialistic Psychology. July 21.

Author Interview XIX: Signs of Reincarnation: Exploring Beliefs, Cases, and Theory, by James G. Matlock. June 21.

Matlock Signs of Reincarnation

Hematological and Psychophysiological Aspects of Mediumship. June 16.

80 Years of the Journal of Parapsychology. May 8.

Author Interview XVIII: Connected: The Emergence of Global Consciousness, by Roger Nelson. April 1.

Nelson Connected

Motor Automatism and ESP: An Experimental Study. March 6.

Article about Future Directions in Meditation Research. February 15.

Author Interview XVII: Mind Beyond the Brain: Buddhism, Science, and the Paranormal, by David Presti and Others. January 20.

Presti Mind Beyond Brain

As in previous years, I have written about my own publications. The last one is about Charles Richet: A Nobel Prize Winning Scientist’s Exploration of Psychic Phenomena, a collection of my previously published essays about Charles Richet’s interest in psychic phenomena (My Book about Charles Richet and Psychic Phenomena. December 8 ).

Image result for alvarado charles richet

Other blogs about my own work include:

The Late Mesmeric Work of Jules Bernard Luys. August 27.

Jules Bernard Luys

Jules Bernard Luys

Article About Historical Aspects of Materialization Phenomena. May 2.

Kathleen Goligher 5

Materializations with medium Kathleen Goligher

Agénor de Gasparin and Table Turning. February 22.

Agenor de Gasparin 2

Agénor de Gasparin

New Article About Eleanor M. Sidgwick. January 4.

Eleanore Sidgwick 3

Eleanor M. Sidgwick

Blogs about other topics include:

The Psi Encyclopedia Keeps Growing. December 19.

Our Psychic Past in Digital Libraries: VIII: Luce e Ombra. October 28.

Luce e Ombra 1918 Palladino Issue

Animal Magnetism: A Selected Bibliography of Articles, 2015-2019. September 29.

2019 Convention of the Parapsychological Association. May 25.

Bibliography of Modern Publications About Mental Mediumship. April 24.

ParaMOOC2019: Survival of Death and Parapsychology. April 5.

D.D. Home’s Mental Mediumship. March 15.

D.D. Home 7

D.D. Home

Recent Articles About Near-Death Experiences: II. February 12.

As always, I must thank my unpaid and unacknowledged (but greatly appreciated) Blog Staff:

Nancy L. Zingrone

(Advisor, Problem Solver, Morale Officer, and several other things)

Nancy Zingrone 2019b

Pinky and Spotty

(Master proof readers and technical consultants)

Pinky and Spotty 15

Pinky (left) and Spotty

The Psi Encyclopedia Keeps Growing

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

Since my last comment about the Psi Encyclopedia, an online project managed by Robert McLuhan and sponsored by the Society for Psychical Research, several more additions have been posted to this reference work.

Some of them are about specific phenomena and concepts:

Does Something Leave the Body? (OBE Historical Perspective) (by Carlos S. Alvarado)

Dreams and Past-Life Memory (by James G. Matlock)

Jim Matlock 2

James G. Matlock

Observational Theories of Psi (by Brian Millar)

Psychological Aspects of Poltergeist Cases (by Bryan Williams)

Sinclair Telepathy Experiments (by Karen Wehrstein)

Sinclair Mental Radio

There are also many entries about individuals who have worked in parapsychology, both in the past and in recent years. These include:

Tony Cornell (by John Fraser)

Arthur Conan Doyle (by Karen Wehrstein)

Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle

Hoyt Edge (by Michael Duggan)

Camille Flammarion (by Carlos S. Alvarado)

Camille Flammarion Posing

Camille Flammarion

Carl Jung (by Everton de Oliveira Maraldi and Maria de Fátima Fernandes)

William McDougall (by Karen Wehrstein)

William McDougall 2

William McDougall

John Palmer (by Michael Duggan)

Chris Roe (by Michael Duggan)

D. Scott Rogo (Callum E. Cooper)

D. Scott Rogo

D. Scott Rogo

 William Roll (by Karen Wehrstein)

Jessica Utts (by Michael Duggan)

Jessica Utts 4

Jessica Utts

Mario Varvoglis (by Michael Duggan)

In addition, there are entries about such varied topics as American Society for Psychical Research (James G. Matlock), Edgar Cayce (Karen Wehrstein), and Journal of Parapsychology (Carlos S. Alvarado).

Edgar Cayce

Edgar Cayce

At this point the Psi Encyclopedia has been in existence for a few years, having accomplished so much. Robert McLuhan’s efforts in putting hundreds of entries together has contributed greatly to the dissemination of information about parapsychology. But, the Psi Encyclopedia has matured as a online reference source for people already in the field and new to the field. It is now at a point in its development, it seems to me, that its potential for future usefulness to all its constituencies could be maximized by taking a more formal turn. Considering this, I would like to offer some suggestions for the future of the encyclopedia.

Similar to other reference works on other topics, Psi Encyclopedia could use an editorial board to help the editor balance the mix of entries towards making sure that important lines of research or areas of interest are represented in biographical entries, and in more general entries. Another important project would be to encourage a general review of already-published articles written by non-specialists in the field. By bringing in specialists possible mistakes and important omissions in some entries could be detected. One example of an entry that could benefit from this type of review is “Psi Research in North America”. The entry contends that experimental work began in the United States with J. B. Rhine’s work. The story of experimental psi research in North America is not complete without the work of the early ASPR members (e.g., Bowditch et al., [1886]. Report of the committee on thought-transference. Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1, 106–112) and the work of such researchers as John E. Coover (Coover, J. E. [1918]. Experiments in psychical research at Leland Stanford Junior University. Stanford, CA: Stanford University) who published their research in this area long before J. B. Rhine ever thought of moving away from botany towards psychical research. Other examples could also be mentioned. 

Coover Experiments 2

Regarding omissions, some entries do not include important references, something that may well have been noticed by knowledgeable reviewers and well-read newcomers. Among the key references that are missing are: D.J. West’s Eleven Lourdes Miracles (New York: Helix Press, 1957) that should be in the entry Lourdes Cures); Olivier Leroy’s Levitation (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, 1928) that should be in the entry Religious Levitation), and Juliette-Alexandre Bisson’s Les phénomènes dits de materialisation (2nd ed., Paris: Félix Alcan, 1921) that should be in the entry Marthe Béraud (Eva C.).

Eleven Lourdes Miracles Cover

An editorial board that represents different areas and topics of parapsychology could also assist the editor to find additional authors to write more entries. McLuhan has worked consistently to increase the author pool, approaching some people in parapsychology for suggestions and following up, and of course, such projects are entirely dependent on the willingness to participate among the potential authors, no matter how dedicated the chief editor might be. But I believe that an editorial board could greatly expand McLuhan’s reach and make the job of finding and soliciting willing authors much easier.

An understandable bias prevalent in the Encyclopedia is its current reliance on English-language developments. As a mature reference, Psi Encyclopedia, needs to live up to its goals of representing the field as a whole. I have noticed that several articles about phenomena lack proper references to non-English-language sources. I have also noticed that 80% of the entries covering psychic researchers and authors of books and articles psychic phenomena are from English-speaking countries (80%). (An article in the encyclopedia about psychical research in Europe, and others about Brazil, France, and the Netherlands help to correct this situation.) Although biases are inevitable when few of those working on the encyclopedia are English-speakers with working knowledge of other languages, having an editorial board chosen for their content and language expertise can greatly enhance the completeness of the encyclopedia’s coverage of the field. 

Another suggestion: to improve the information value of the articles it is a good idea to craft the entries to follow a similar outline. Such instructions for the authors would need to include the flexibility to modify entries to accommodate differing needs. For example, all entries about specific researchers could have a basic biographical section about their lives and work unrelated to their psychic studies. Such a section would be useful even if it is brief. In addition, as is common in many encyclopedias, there could be a section at the end of all entries that presents relevant bibliography for the reader’s follow-up. Such a section should include basic sources of information about the topic in question, including general overviews of research and theory, or, in the case of individuals, deeper biographical and even autobiographical books and articles. Taken together with links to other related entries in the Psi Encyclopedia, such a section could extend the usefulness of the resource to students and teachers alike.

There are certainly many topics that have not yet been covered at all. Among these are those related to experimental work and to mediumship. While the coverage of past lives is broad and interesting, I wonder why there are 55 entries about various aspects of the topic when so many other important topics have no representation in the encyclopedia at all as of yet. I suppose this reflects the interests of some industrious frequent contributors who enthusiastically propose and complete entries of interest to themselves. I have been one of those who has proposed and completed entries on topics that are of interest to me. But, even though this imbalance is well-motivated and understandable, achieving a managed balance of topics and authors would be desirable, if only to inform the public that there are other important phenomena with multiple aspects, among them ESP and near-death experiences.

While there is room for improvement, it is important to recognize the extraordinary accomplishment Robert McLuhan has crafted for the field in such a short period of time. Without McLuhan’s energy and dedication to this project, the Psi Encyclopedia would not have taken such a central place on the map of reference sources in the field. As a work in progress, I believe that the encyclopedia will continue to evolve into a more complete and more useful reference work.

My Book About Charles Richet and Psychic Phenomena

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

My book about physiologist Charles Richet was just published. Entitled Charles Richet: A Nobel Prize Winning Scientist’s Exploration of Psychic Phenomena (White Crow Books, 2019), it is a collection of my previously published essays about Richet’s interest in psychic phenomena (click here and here).

Richet portada

List of Chapters


Chapter 1: Interest in Psychic Phenomena

Chapter 2: Richet’s Metapsychic Autobiography

Chapter 3: Early Ideas and Tests of Mental Suggestion

Chapter 4: Presenting Psychical Research to Psychology (1905)

Chapter 5: The Traité de Métapsychique (1922)

Chapter 6: Richet on “The Limits of Psychic and Metapsychic Science”

Appendix A: Richet on Leonora E. Piper

Appendix B: Observations of Moving Ectoplasm with Medium Marthe Béraud

Appendix C: On the Term Ectoplasm

Appendix D: Is there a Science of Metapsychics?

Appendix E: Bibliography About and by Charles Richet with Emphasis on Psychic Phenomena, compiled by Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, and Renaud Evrard, PhD

Appendix F: Bibliography About the History of Psychical Research





Following on my interest in rescuing historical aspects of psychical research from oblivion, I present a six-chapter discussion of Richet’s work with mediums and psychics, and his conception of metapsychics, the name he used to refer to psychical research. The book is presented as a first step to obtain information about the subject, and one I acknowledge needs further and more detailed study.

Charles Richet 9

Charles Richet

The book opens with a chapter presenting an overview of Richet’s work that includes his conceptions about metapsychics, as well as his work on ESP (a term Richet did not use), mental and physical mediums, and his theoretical ideas, including his views about survival of death. Regarding theory, I wrote:

“Throughout his writings, Richet expressed dissatisfaction with the various explanations of psychic phenomena that were being put forward, including the hypothesis of discarnate agency . . .  Nonetheless, Richet presented several speculations over the years. One was the existence of a faculty of cognition that was purely human. In an early paper, he postulated that ESP messages impinged on the ‘unconscious faculties of intelligence’ . . . Other speculations were connected to the old idea, developed before Richet, that various concepts of biophysical forces explained psychic phenomena . . . Throughout his career Richet speculated on the possibility of unspecified vibrations as a way to explain the mental phenomena of psychical research. In an early statement he speculated about the existence of a force emanating from one person to another ‘such that the vibration of the thought of an individual influences the vibration of the thought of a nearby individual’ . . . He wrote in later years: ‘The sixth sense is that one which gives us knowledge of a vibration of reality, a vibration which our normal senses are unable to perceive’ . . .”

Richet Clairvoyance PSPR 1889

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1889

Richet Annals Beraud 1905

Annals of Psychical Science, 1905

I present more information about Richet’s interests in a chapter in which I reprint an autobiographical essay about Richet’s interests in hypnosis and psychical research. The excerpt, translated from Richet’s Souvenirs d’un Physiologiste (Paris: J. Peyronnet, 1933), not only contributes information about Richet’s intellectual development, but also serves as an example of the limitations of autobiography to provide information about scientists.

Richet Souvenirs

Another chapter is devoted to summarize one of Richet’s most celebrated publications, his article “La Suggestion Mentale et le Calcul des Probabilités” [Mental Suggestion and the Calculation of Probability], which appeared in the Revue Philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger (1884, 18, 609–674), an important academic French journal covering philosophy, social sciences and other topics that published articles pro and con psychic phenomena (click here). The article is generally remembered today for Richet’s use of probability calculations to assess the results of experimental tests of mental suggestion, a term he defined as 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.” Although I summarize this aspect of Richet’s work, I also took the opportunity to remind readers of forgotten aspects of the article. This included reanalyses of thought-transference studies conducted by members of the Society for Psychical Research, the use of motor automatism as an ESP response, some of the features of mental suggestion, and theoretical ideas.

I also wrote: “From the beginning of the paper Richet let his readers know of the controversial and improbable nature of mental suggestion. He said that the topic at hand was different from the ‘facts commonly admitted by science’ . . . The results of mental suggestion tests are ‘improbable facts; but their improbability is entirely relative; in the sense that none of them contradicts the known facts, acquired by science’ . . . In addition to warning his readers about the incredible nature of the phenomena, he cautioned them to keep in mind the ‘insufficience and impotence of current science’ . . . both to explain many facts of nature as well as mental suggestion.”

Richet and Linda Gazzera

Richet (left) and Italian medium Linda Gazzera

In two other chapters I reprinted excerpts of articles written by Richet that present much information about his attitudes towards metapsychics. One of them was a 1905 paper written as a presentation to a psychology congress, and the other was about what Richet referred to as “The Limits of Psychic and Metapsychic Science.” This consisted of attempts to explain mediumistic phenomena via the faculties of the unconscious mind using ideas such as the creation of mediumistic personalities and stories to accompany them. Of course, this does not mean that Richet did not believe in what others referred to as the supernormal.

This except about “limits” was taken from Richet’s best known metapsychic publication, his famous Traité de Métapsychique (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1922), or rather, from the English language translation of the second French edition, Thirty Years of Psychical Research (New York, Macmillan, 1923). One of my chapters is an overview of the first edition of the Traité.

Richet Traite de metapsychique 4

Today we remember this book as an overview of the early literature, as well as a statement of Richet’s beliefs regarding phenomena and explanations, the latter which Richet left for future developments. Then there were sections about phenomena, with many examples of cases and descriptions, and a general conclusion in which Richet strongly argued for the reality of most psychic phenomena and for the lack of explanations that satisfied him.

Furthermore, I wrote: “Richet’s insistence on the collection of facts, to the neglect of theories, made the book his personal manifesto of psychical research. He projected an image of metapsychics as a science, arguing for the existence of a field that had a subject matter and a right to exist. But as much as the book was a summary of facts, it was also Richet’s attempt to construct and promote the subject of metapsychics.”

Richet Notre sixieme sens

More than previous publications on the subject, in France the Traité became an exemplar for the discipline, and one that commanded an incredible amount of attention in the French popular and academic literature at the time, something that has not being realized in general by non-French students of the subject. In the chapter I explore some possible reasons for such prominence, which unfortunately was not enough to gain general acceptance for metapsychics.

In addition, I included various appendices in the book. One, designed for both general readers and those particularly interested in Richet is a bibliography of writings by and about Richet’s metapsychic interests, and one that is not exhaustive. I was assisted in compiling the sources presented by Dr. Renaud Evrard, who has specialized in the history of psychical research in France (click here). Another appendix, mainly to provide contextual information for general readers, is a bibliography of books and articles about the general history of psychical research with emphasis on pre-1940 developments.

Richet L'Avenir de la Premonition

Other appendices have information about Richet’s sittings with medium Leonora E. Piper and Marthe Béraud, and other topics of interest.

Like any writing project, this one could be expanded including other aspects of Richet’s metapsychic career. But it is my hope that these essays, brought to the attention of the general public in this book, will at least remind us of the work of an important pioneer whose search for truth, regardless of limitations, commands respect and admiration. As Richet wrote in his autobiography, cited in my second chapter: “I may be wrong, but the honor of being able to conduct such research gives some value to life”

Image result for charles richet


The Mediumship of Jane Roberts

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

Here is a new article about mediumship.

Contribution to the Study of the Possession Trance Mediumship of Jane Roberts, by Paul F. Cunningham. Journal of Parapsychology, 2019, 83, 248-267.


This article presents a new examination of the possession trance mediumship of Jane Roberts, the woman who channeled the purported discarnate entity called Seth between 1963 and Roberts’s mediumship has generally been overlooked by the parapsychological research community. The purpose of the present article is to fill this gap in the literature. This article presents a preliminary description of Jane Roberts’s mediumship for parapsychologists who may be unfamiliar with the case, including an account of Roberts’s personal life and mediumistic career. The relevance of Roberts’s mediumship for parapsychology is examined. A comparison with the Patience Worth case is presented and the paranormal character of the Roberts mediumship is evaluated.

Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts

According to the author:

“The challenge for psychology is to explain how Jane Roberts . . . could suddenly possess, in full-blown fashion with no apparent previous study or instruction and no gradual development, an ability to compose internally coherent philosophical, psychological, spiritual, and ethical material of a very high order of originality, conceptual sophistication, and intellectual rigor in long complex narratives, laying the material aside sometimes for weeks or months and then resuming without difficulty or review, with no period of fumbling and no declension in average quality, but with the same facility and power from start to finish, while in a possession trance (i.e., a “temporary alteration of consciousness, identity, and/or behavior” with “replacement by an alternate identity” attributed to a spiritual force or another person . . . A review of Jane Roberts’s background indicates that the causative factors of past experience and environment that psychologists are accustomed to look for to explain how she acquired such abilities and knowledge are not to be found.”

Furthermore: “Given the corroborating testimony of many witnesses, the high reliability of concurrent reporting methods, and the large number of Seth sessions conducted over the 21-year history of the phenomenon, the mediumship of Jane Roberts can be deemed to have authenticity (i.e., it actually happened as reported). The published record, however, does not directly indicate that anything concerning a paranormal interpretation of the Seth sessions is justified at this time. This conclusion is in agreement with what the Seth-Jane trance personality and Jane Roberts herself have repeatedly asserted.”

Cunningham concludes: “The challenge for parapsychology is to determine who Seth was, what his relationship to Jane Roberts was, and where the Seth Material came from. The source-of-psi problem in this context takes the form of how to establish proof of identity of an allegedly discarnate source when the medium is deceased and no longer available for study under controlled conditions in a laboratory or field setting . . .”

Our Psychic Past in Digital Libraries: VIII: Luce e Ombra

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


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:

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

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

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:

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:

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


About the Contributors


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.

The Late Mesmeric Work of Jules Bernard Luys

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:


“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.”

Mediumship and Dissociation Revisited

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:


“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.”

Article About a Non-Materialistic Psychology

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


“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.”



Polish Psychical Researcher Julian Ochorowicz

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


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


* * * * *


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.


“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).


80 Years of the Journal of Parapsychology

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: 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

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.’ ”


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.


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.


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.


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 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  


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).


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).

D.D. Home’s Mental Mediumship

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.


D.D. Home


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).


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.

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Motor Automatism and ESP: An Experimental Study

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: 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.”

Agénor de Gasparin and Table Turning

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.


“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.”


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).”

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Article about Future Directions in Meditation Research

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.


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


“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.


Recent Articles About Near-Death Experiences: II.

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:

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.