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

Dr. Sonali Bhatt Marwaha has been working in parapsychology for several years in India. Her academic degrees include an M.A. in Clinical Psychology, an M.Phil. and a PhD in Psychology. She is the recipient of the J. B. Rhine Biennial Research Award from Andhra University.

Sonali Marwaha

Sonali Bhatt Marwaha

Sonali, who I know only via correspondence, works frequently with Dr. Ed May and is a research associate at his Laboratories for Fundamental Research. With May, she is co-editor, of Extrasensory Perception: Support, Skepticism, and Science (2 vols.). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Publications, 2015, and Anomalous Cognition: Remote Viewing Research and Theory. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2014.

May Extrasensory

May Anomalous Cognition 2

Later in 2017, her important work (with May) presenting reports of the Star Gate Program will appear: The Star Gate Archives: Reports of the US Govt. Sponsored Psi Program. (1972-1995). Volume 1: Remote Viewing (1972-1984), Volume 2: Remote Viewing (1985-1995), Volume 3: Psychokinesis, Volume 4: Government Memorandums and Reports. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. 2017 (for information to obtain these books click here and here).

Interview

How did you get interested in parapsychology?

Reincarnation, post-mortem-survival, astrology, palmistry, sages and seers, are part of the Indian cultural milieu that I have been born and brought up in. For the most part, these are cultural givens and part of conversational language. As an avid reader from my younger days, my reading repertoire has been varied, from fiction to philosophy. I hold a Masters in clinical psychology, with neuropsychology as my thesis option for the MPhil degree (a two year pre-PhD research program) from the S.N.D.T. Women’s University, Mumbai. I enrolled for a PhD in psychology at the Department of Psychology and Parapsychology, Andhra University, and was introduced to parapsychology as an academic discipline. While my thesis addressed belief systems and concept of self and emotions, parapsychology was still not within my sphere of interest.

After my PhD, I began working with Prof. K. Ramakrishna Rao (former Executive Director, Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, Durham; founder of Dept. of Psychology and Parapsychology, Andhra University) at his newly established Institute for Human Science and Service (now closed), here in my hometown Visakhapatnam. Knowing that Prof. Rao held a dualist position, I made it clear to him when we first met that I held a physicalist position. He welcomed me on board his team. Over the eight years that I worked with him, I was introduced to the field of research parapsychology both from the Western and Eastern perspective. Theoretically, the Eastern perspective was at the center-stage, as that is the direction of Prof. Rao’s work. However, this did not appeal to me as it did not address the many unformulated questions in my mind.

In 2006, Prof. Rao organized a three week workshop on parapsychology, for which he invited Drs. Edwin C. May, Roger Nelson, Mario Varvoglis, Suitbert Ertel, and Jerry Solfvin, and a few weeks later, on behalf of Prof. Rao, then President of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, I hosted Dean Radin. This was my formal introduction to the field of research parapsychology. Meeting these stalwarts from the field provided me with a wide angle view on the research and the theoretical viewpoints in the field.

At this workshop, I had the opportunity to learn from Ed May about the Star Gate program and his later work at the Laboratories for Fundamental Research. Introducing himself as a skeptic, he was willing to pay attention to my question “How does psi work?” Later, he sent me the AIR Report on the Star Gate program, which I read in full. Over the years, he sent me more research psi literature, and over time I became more intrigued with the field, especially since there was a proper scientific structure in the investigation of the phenomena. From the literature—particularly the Star Gate literature—I learnt that there was evidence, there were doubts, and there were theoretical perspectives. The question “How Does Psi Work?” became the paramount question in my mind, and has charted my journey into this field.

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

One of the biggest gaps in the psi literature is the 20 year Start Gate data. Thus, Ed May and I embarked on the project of bringing to the research community the entire Star Gate Archives. The four volume Star Gate archives collection published by McFarland include: Volume 1: Remote Viewing, 1972-1984 (2017); Volume 2: Remote Viewing, 1985-1995 (2017); Volume 3: Psychokinesis (2017); and Volume 4: Government Memorandums and Reports (release date to be determined).

I was on a steep learning curve in the course of going through the Star Gate material. I found informational psi (precognition/remote viewing) very fascinating. Aside from the question how does it occur, it leads to several more questions such as free will vs determinism, actual vs probable futures, nature of time, nature of information, why isn’t every one “psychic”, how does information get from there/then to here/now?

I have placed upfront in my mind Joe McMoneagle’s submarine remote viewing (McMoneagle, 2015) as a prime example that has to be accommodated by any theory of psi. Over substantial discussions Ed May and I realized that we were asking/addressing questions and putting road blocks to ideas from the domains of our expertise—physics and psychology respectively. This led us to examining the process of psi from the perspective of each domain: the physics domain, which is the information-centric perspective, without concern for how psi is perceived and experienced; and the neuroscience domain, which is the person-centric perspective addressing how the putative psi-signal is perceived by the sensory mechanism, processed, and manifested. This led to the development of the testable Multiphasic Model of Precognition (Marwaha & May, 2015a,b,c) Presented below is the abstract of the MMPC.

We define precognition as an atypical perceptual ability that allows the acquisition of non-inferential information arising from a future point in spacetime. The Multiphasic Model of Precognition (MMPC) identifies two distinct phases: The first is the physics domain, which addresses the question of retrocausation and how it is possible for information to traverse from one spacetime point to another. We suggest that the solution might be found within entropic considerations. The second is the neuroscience domain, which addresses the acquisition and interpretation of retrocausal signals. We propose that this occurs across three stages: (a) perception of signals from an information carrier, based on psychophysical variability in a putative signal transducer; (b) cortical processing of the signals, mediated by a cortical hyper-associative mechanism; and (c) cognition, mediated by normal cognitive processes, leading to a response based on retrocausal information. The model is comprehensive, brain-based, and provides a new direction for research requiring multidisciplinary expertise.

In the process of developing this model, we were able to explore several fundamental aspects of the problem at hand. In the decision augmentation theory, May, Utts, and Spottiswoode (1995) had established that micro-PK was informational psi rather than causal psi. Like other psychologists, such as Richard Broughton, we arrived at the conclusion that precognition is the only form of psi. This led to the paper: Precognition: The Only Form of Psi? (Marwaha & May, 2016). The abstract of this paper reads:

Based on empirical evidence we discuss the nature of precognition, and address the questions whether retrocausation/precognition violates causality, whether precognition implies determinism, the questions of actual or probable futures, from where does the information arise, and other observed properties of precognition. This is followed by a discussion on the primacy of precognition by examining the various categories of psi. In our analysis, precognition is most likely the only form of psi, subsuming within it clairvoyance, telepathy, micro-PK, and the survival hypothesis. In this paper, we examine the various arguments for this assertion, the primary one being that it is impossible to close the precognition door.

This paper was followed by A Refutation of the Dualist Perspective in Psi Research (Marwaha & May, 2015d), which argues against the dualist and QM based perspectives of psi. While the validity and reliability of first person experience as a basis for understanding any experience is amply discussed in the cognitive sciences literature, in this paper the refutation of the dualist view is primarily from the point of (1) the definition of non-material, providing a possible definition of non-material, and (2) the absence of the role of consciousness in quantum mechanics. We conclude that these criteria are sufficient to reject a dualist perspective in the analysis of psi data, until the validity of all possible physicalist views have been exhausted.

Our physicalist signal-based model is premised on psi being normal and atypical, the dualist/panpsychist models are premised on psi being supernormal and universal.

Thus, my work focuses on theoretical aspects of the problem. This work is complemented by Ed May, one of the best experimenters in the field, and a physicist to boot, supplementing my inexpertise in this domain.

Why do you think parapsychology is important?

Since, in my view, informational psi/precognition is the only form of psi, it is important because it addresses the fundamental nature of time, causality, and information. The varieties of psi experiences are different manifestations of this fundamental form of psi.

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

There are several problems that plague psi research:

  • The term “parapsychology” is an impediment as it conjures up ideas of the supernatural. This leads to the several misperceptions and misconceptions of the problem under study for the lay persons and those uninitiated into the basic problem that psi research addresses. Additionally, it restricts the field to psychology, when the questions raised by psi phenomena need to be addressed by physics, information theories, cognitive psychology, and the cognitive neurosciences.
  • The emphasis on a dualist perspective, and the role of quantum mechanics (in essence, a physicalist theory) to explain psi, i.e., an undefined “consciousness” as an information carrier via QM correlation and entanglement is a problem. Although psi data is provided as evidence for dualism, it fails to provide testable hypotheses to support the view, or a definition for the key term consciousness. This perspective has led to an opposition against the physicalist sciences, without first ruling out a physicalist basis for psi.
  • The lack of a clear statement on the fundamental issues related to psi experiences, is a matter of concern, as all types of experiences/events are clubbed under “parapsychology.”
  • Points 1-3 above, lead to the hesitancy of a new crop of scientists adopting psi as an area deserving scrutiny. This is cause for concern, as much of the advances in psi research need expertise from disciplines such as physics, neuroscience, and cognitive science.

These issues affect the funding available for psi research.

Can you mention some of your current projects?

Currently we are in the process of wrapping up the four-volume Star Gate Archives. In the pipe line are some theoretical papers on the nature of psi and related issues, and putting to test some of the stated hypotheses of the multiphasic model of precognition.

References

McMoneagle, J.W. (2015) Evidence for precognition from applied remote viewing, in E.C. May, & S.B. Marwaha (eds.) Extrasensory Perception: Support, Skepticism, and Science, Volume I — History, Controversy, & Research (pp. 285-316). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Publications.

May, E. C., Utts, J. M., & Spottiswoode, S. J. P. (2014/1995). Decision augmentation theory: Toward a model for anomalous mental phenomena. In E.C. May, & S.B. Marwaha, (Eds.). Anomalous cognition: Remote viewing research and theory (pp. 222-243). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Publications

Anthologies and Books

May, E.C. & Marwaha, S.B. (Eds.) (2017). The Star Gate Archives: Reports of the US Govt. Sponsored Psi Program. (1972-1995). Volume 1: Remote Viewing (1972-1984), Volume 2: Remote Viewing (1985-1995), Volume 3: Psychokinesis, Volume 4: Government Memorandums and Reports. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

May, E.C., & Marwaha, S. B. (Eds.). (2015). Extrasensory Perception: Support, Skepticism, and Science, Volume I — History, Controversy, and Research. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Publications.

May, E.C., & Marwaha, S.B. (Eds.). (2015). Extrasensory Perception: Support, Skepticism, and Science, Volume II — Theories of Psi. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Publications.

May, E.C., & Marwaha, S.B. (Eds.) (2014). Anomalous Cognition: Remote Viewing Research and Theory. Foreword by Richard Broughton. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Marwaha, S.B. (2006). Colors of Truth: Religion, Self, and Emotions. Foreword by Prof. Girishwar Misra. New Delhi: Concept Publishing Co.

Rao, K.R. and Marwaha, S.B. (Eds.) (2005). Towards a Spiritual Psychology: Essays in Indian Psychology. New Delhi: SAMVAD India Foundation.

Articles

Marwaha, S.B. (2017). Response to: Brief Comments on »Siddhis and Psi Research: An Interdisciplinary Analysis«. Confluence.

Marwaha, S.B. (2016). Siddhis and psi research: An interdisciplinary analysis. Confluence, 4(1), 33-58.

Marwaha, S.B., & May, E.C. (2016). Precognition: The only form of ESP? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 23(3–4), 76–100.

Marwaha, S.B., & May, E.C. (2015). Rethinking extrasensory perception: Towards a multiphasic model of precognition. SAGE Open, January-March 2015, 1–17. DOI: 10.1177/2158244015576056.

Marwaha, S.B., & May, E.C. (2015). Multiphasic model of precognition. pp. 145-170. In E. C. May and S. B. Marwaha (Eds.). Extrasensory Perception: Support, Skepticism, and Science, Volume II — Theories of Psi. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Publications.

Marwaha, S.B., & May, E.C. (2015). The multiphasic model of precognition: The rationale. Journal of Parapsychology, 79(1), 5–19.

Marwaha, S.B., & May, E.C. (2015). A refutation of the dualist perspective in psi research. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 22(5-6), 70-95.

Marwaha, S.B. & May, E.C. (2015). Fundamentals for psi theorists. In E. C. May and S. B. Marwaha (Eds.). Extrasensory Perception: Support, Skepticism, and Science, Volume II — Theories of Psi (pp. 1-17). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Publications.

May, E.C. & Marwaha, S.B. (2015). The fundamentals of psi. In E. C. May, & S. B. Marwaha (Eds.). Extrasensory Perception: Support, Skepticism, and Science, Volume I — History, Controversy, & Research (pp. 1-31). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Publications.

May, E.C. & Marwaha, S.B. (2015). Next Step—Process-oriented research: Guidelines for experimenters. In E. C. May and S. B. Marwaha (Eds.). Extrasensory Perception: Support, Skepticism, and Science, Volume II — Theories of Psi (pp. 329-354). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger Publications.

Marwaha, S.B. (2013). Roots of Indian materialism in Tantra and pre-classical Sāṃkhya. Asian Philosophy, 23(2), 180-198, April 2013, DOI:10.1080/09552367.2013.777582

Marwaha, S.B. (2013). K. Ramakrishna Rao’s Trident (Triśūla) Model (T-M) of Body-Mind-Consciousness. In K. R. Rajani, & K. R. Rao (2013). Mind and consciousness: Some contemporary perspectives. New Delhi: Akansha Pub. House.

May, E.C., Marwaha, S.B., & Chaganti, V. (2011). Anomalous cognition: Two protocols for data collection and analyses. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 75, 191-210.

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

William Henry Harrison was an English journalist and a publisher of works on Spiritualism. He was the editor of The Spiritualist (an influential publication later called The Spiritualist Newspaper) and the author of several works. This included his anthology Psychic Facts (1880) in which he collected accounts of psychic phenomena, particularly mediumship, from various writers.

In the book commented here, Spirits Before Our Eyes, Harrison presented an examination of apparitions, mainly apparitions of the dying. His purpose, he wrote, was “to classify some of the authenticated apparitions of our own and past times, to examine the conditions under which the spirits of human beings are seen, to show that the spirit of man can sometimes temporarily leave the earthly body, and to seek to draw only those conclusions which well-proved facts warrant. Thus may laws and principles be deduced, to guide future explorers of the realm between the known and the unknown, in relation to spirit existence.” (p. 14)

Harrison Spirits before our Eyes

Harrison believed that, unlike mediumship, which critics tried to attribute to non-spiritual processes, apparitions could be explained “only by the presence of the spirit, the whole spirit, and nothing but the spirit” (p. 21). He started discussing what he referred to as deathbed apparitions. Not to be confused with what we refer to today as deathbed visions, or those visions experienced by a dying person, Harrison defined deathbed apparitions as the “occasional appearance of the spirit of a person in one place, at about the time that his body is dying in another place,” cases he believed were “so common as to indicate some connection beyond that of accidental coincidence between the two occurrences” (p. 24).

Such deathbed apparitions, the author believed, were caused by the spirit leaving the body. In his view the dying body provided the spirit “enough materiality to make itself visible” (p. 62). This speculation was similar to those presented by others at the time to account for materialization phenomena observed with mediums, something that was part of a rich history of ideas of vital forces to explain psychic phenomena.

Related to this idea, Harrison stated that some apparitions produced physical effects, being “objectively and palpably temporarily materialised” (p. 55). He further wrote about materialization to illustrate the point: “Spiritualists who have seen much of materialisation seances know that spirits have a remarkable power of duplicating, not only the forms of their mediums, but their clothes. . . . Still there is no creation of new matter. The law of the conservation of energy is not broken. Recent experiments . . . have shown by means of self-recording weighing apparatus that, while the duplicate form of the medium and his clothes is being materialised in one place, the weight of his normal body and clothes is diminishing in another, and vice versa. There is a play of forces between the two, underlying the vulgarly known phenomena of molecular physics. . . .” (pp. 60–61).

But Harrison also entertained some cases being explained differently. He believed some apparitions were perceived through normal vision and others were seen psychically, in response to the thoughts of spirits. As he wrote, “when apparitions are psychically recognised, what the spirit thinks the medium sees, and . . . the unearthly visitor becomes visible in consequence of his mesmeric influence over the spectator” (p. 83).

The thoughts of distant living persons were also believed by Harrison to be a cause for some apparitions of the living, an idea that had been discussed by others before. Harrison also argued that some cases of veridical dreams in which the dreamer visited a distant location were not necessarily the projection of the spirit. They “might be instances of natural clairvoyance, or of a dreamer seeing that which a spirit or mortal in rapport with him thought” (p. 146).

Like other writers before him Harrison cited a variety of cases to illustrate the existence of the spirit and its powers manifesting during life. He discussed apparition cases in which the appearer was not dying, cases in which the content of dreams was affected, and cases of mediumistic communications from living persons. As stated in the first chapter of the book, Harrison’s intent was an attempt to validate the movement of spiritualism by showing how the human spirit could act at a distance producing mental and physical effects, an idea that was in direct contradiction to the materialistic assumptions of the times.

Furthermore, Harrison made the observation that both apparitions of the living and of the dead were similar. He wrote that “there is no break of continuity in the phenomena of apparitions in consequence of the death of the body. So impossible is it to find any indication in the phenomena, of a natural dividing line coinciding with the death moment, that in this volume several cases of after-death apparitions are included, differing in no way from the apparitions of living persons whose mortal bodies are in a sleeping or quiescent state” (p. vii).

This appeared first as a book review in the Journal of Scientific Exploration in 2011.

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

Over the years many episodes of fraud have been reported in connection with materialization mediums. An interesting one was reported by A. Wallace: “Spiritualists Unmask a Pretender: Exposure of Mr. Eldred” (Light, 1906, 26, 111, click here and go to p. 111).

This was the case of Charles Eldred in England, who sat with a special chair he owned. After several suspicious incidents a group of spiritualists discovered a secret compartment in the chair and made a key to unlock it in the medium’s absence. They found in the secret compartment paraphernalia to simulate materialized forms.

Charles Eldred's chair

Charles Eldred’s chair

According to the report these consisted of a “collapsible dummy head, made of pink stockinet, with flesh-coloured mask . . . ; six pieces of fine white China silk containing in all thirteen yards; two pieces of fine black cloth . . . three beards of various shades; two wigs . . .; an extending metal coat-hanger for suspending drapery to represent the second form, with an iron hook on which to hang the form; a small flash electric lamp with four yards of wire with switch . . . ; a bottle of scent, pins, &c.”

The medium was later confronted, and he confessed his guilt.

The photograph above was printed in Light (1906, 26, 129), where it was stated “We give the above photograph as an ‘object-lesson’ that Spiritualists may in future be on their guard against, and ready for, the crafty tricks of pretenders to mediumship, and also in the interest of all honest mediums, that they may realise the necessity for fraud-proof conditions . . . so that they may not be classed with the plausible and conscienceless rogues who seek to exploit our movement in their desire to get rich quickly.”

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

Dr. Everton de Oliveira Maraldi is a Brazilian psychologist who I first met in Brazil, and who I have also seen at conventions of the Parapsychological Association. He has a PhD in social psychology from the University of Sao Paulo (USP) and is currently a post doctoral researcher at the Institute of Psychology of the University of São Paulo. Everton won an award from the São Paulo Academy of Psychology for the best dissertation for 2013-2015 period. In addition, he is a Member of Inter Psi – Laboratory of Anomalistic Psychology and Psychosocial Processes at USP, and the coordinator of the Group of Studies  of Alterations and Anomalies of Identity of Inter Psi.

Everton Maraldi

Everton de Oliveira Maraldi

Everton’s main areas of interest are the social psychology of religion, spirituality, religion and health, dissociation, trance and dissociation in religious context, the psychosocial self and its identity, and anomalous experiences in general. He has published psychological work with Brazilian mediums.

In addition, Everton is very interested in the history of psychical research. I worked with him in three articles about Swiss psychologist Théodore Flournoy. Two of these have been published (Alvarado, C.S., Maraldi E. de O., Machado, F.R., & Zangari, W. Théodore Flournoy’s contributions to psychical research. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 2014, 78, 149-168, click here; Maraldi E. de O., Alvarado, C.S., Zangari, W., & Machado, F. R. Dissociação, crença e criatividade: Uma introdução ao pensamento de Théodore Flournoy [Dissociation, belief and creativity: An introduction to Théodore Flournoy’s thought]. Memorandum: Memória e História em Psicologia, 2016, No. 30, 12-37), and another one has been submitted for publication (Maraldi and Alvarado, Théodore Flournoy and the construction of mediumistic romances).

Interview

How did you get interested in parapsychology?

I was raised in a very religious environment. My mother became a medium when I was only a kid. She was very influenced by spiritist and Umbanda beliefs about mediumship (Umbanda is a Brazilian religion derived from the syncretism of Catholicism, Spiritism, and Indigenous and African traditions). When I was 16-years-old, she founded a spiritist center and asked me to collaborate with her by delivering spiritist lectures. At that time, I became very interested in the philosophical aspects of Spiritism and started to read Allan Kardec’s writings, as well as the work of other spiritist and spiritualist writers, such as Léon Denis and Ernesto Bozzano. Bozzano, in particular, had a huge influence on me, because of his detailed discussion of the scientific evidence for survival after death. It was also at that time that I came to know the work of the Brazilian parapsychologist Hernani Guimarães Andrade, especially for his book Parapsicologia Experimental (Experimental Parapsychology).

When preparing for college, I decided to apply for psychology. I was still very influenced by the naïve and lay conception of psychology as the “science of the soul.” During the college years, I became more skeptical in relation to the Spiritist doctrine, mainly because of the influence of psychoanalytic ideas and interpretations concerning religious experiences. But my interest in parapsychology and the study of paranormal and spiritual experiences never disappeared. In 2007, I was invited by a friend to participate at one of the Inter Psi meetings. I instantly became fascinated with the groups’ ideas and rigorous approach to the study of paranormal phenomena, which contrasted with the ideological and religious perspectives of Oscar Quevedo (a famous Brazilian parapsychologist and Catholic priest) and Andrade (whose work was pretty much influenced by the spiritist doctrine).

At that time, the Inter Psi Laboratory of Anomalistic Psychology was based in the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (now it is based in the Institute of Psychology, at the University of São Paulo). Founded by Wellington Zangari and Fatima Regina Machado, the group aims to study anomalous experiences from a scientific (psychological and social) perspective. Wellington and Fatima have always been open to the possibility of anomalous processes or phenomena; nevertheless, they argue for the importance of considering the available (psychological, biological, social) explanations first, before any speculation regarding the existence of paranormal processes. Their work has always been based on dialogue with the mainstream areas of science, such as social psychology and cognitive sciences, what was crucial to the establishment and “normalization” of this field of study in Brazil. I was then encouraged by prof. Wellington (now my post-doc supervisor) to follow a career in this area of research.

Today, I have a masters and a doctorate in Social Psychology, with a series of publications on dissociation, mediumship, and paranormal beliefs, all topics related to anomalistic psychology. More recently, I have been collaborating with other research centers as well, such as the ProSER (Program of Spirituality, Religion, and Health at the Institute of Psychiatry of the University of São Paulo) and the Brain, Belief, and Behavior research group at Coventry University, UK.

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

My main areas of interest include the role of dissociative experiences in religious rituals and practices; cross-cultural and historical perspectives on dissociation and related phenomena (such as mediumship and possession); anomalous creative experiences (such as mediumistic painting and writing); implications of anomalous experiences to our understanding of self and identity; the psychological correlates of paranormal and religious beliefs and experiences; anomalous experiences and mental health. I am also interested in the psychological study of atheism and paranormal disbelief.

I do not think I have given a significant scientific contribution to the development of anomalistic psychology or parapsychology (at least not yet!). But I am proud to have participated (along with Wellington, Fatima, and other Inter Psi members) in the establishment and expansion of this field of study in Brazil, as well as in the development of a psychosocial perspective towards anomalous experiences. I have dedicated many of my publications to a discussion of the life histories, meanings and belief systems of the experiencers (such as mediums), as well as the sociocultural and religious context in which they are immersed. These aspects are not only “alternative explanations” for anomalous experiences (such conception would constitute a reduction of these experiences to psychological and social processes). Even if we consider that anomalous phenomena (such as telepathy) are ontologically valid, the variables mentioned above would still be necessary to understand the way these experiences occur in (and affect) people’s lives. It is essential to consider not only the phenomenon per se but also the individual and his / her biographical and social contexts. And this is something I frequently emphasize in my work.

Why do you think that parapsychology is important?

I consider parapsychology as the study of phenomena that, if demonstrated as valid, apparently lie on the frontiers of scientific knowledge. Without parapsychology, one could never seriously explore the possibility of other forms of human perception or unusual and far-reaching potentials such as psychokinesis and precognition. But this is a secondary function. Actually, parapsychology is important for investigating curious (and sometimes dramatic) experiences that people report very often, but for which they do not always have a satisfactory and rational explanation.

Parapsychology did not begin with the collection of certain statistical anomalies; It started, in fact, from people’s accounts of their paranormal experiences. The first reason why we study parapsychological phenomena is that people sometimes transform their lives based on them, for better or worse. These events do not seem to be random natural processes. They convey meanings, symbols, and are differently molded by individuals and cultures. They may occur as part of common situations, but usually, they are deeply rooted in our fears, our dreams, our needs and the emotional and affective bonds we establish with other people. These experiences may also have implications for psychotherapy and psychiatric and diagnostic criteria.

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

I think one of the great problems of parapsychology is the difficulty in finding a consistent theory about parapsychological phenomena. There are many hypotheses and theoretical models available, but there is also much diversity regarding results, and the data do not always support a given theoretical model. In what concerns the field of mediumship studies, I would say that the greatest challenge is to find a way to differentiate the survival hypothesis from the super-psi hypothesis (if there is any convincing way to do so). Both perspectives are precarious, in my opinion. The super-psi hypothesis assumes almost unlimited powers that go far beyond what experimental research has sometimes held about psi phenomena. The biggest problem with the survival hypothesis resides in its religious and cultural implications. Survival researchers do not always consider that their views of life after death are biased toward the concept of personal survival. The spirits of the deceased are not the only metaphysical explanation of mediumistic phenomena. In Brazilian culture, for example, some mediumistic groups believe in Orixás or other entities that are not dead people. There are a plethora of beliefs about metaphysical entities or spiritual forces, and many different doctrines in various places around the world describe a spiritual world.

These religious and esoteric groups would probably think that their interpretation of such spiritual dimension is better (or more accurate) than other available explanations. Who decides which belief system is to be preferred? How to handle all the multiple and contrasting possibilities experimentally? How can be we sure, scientifically, that it is the spirit of a deceased person, instead of other invisible or incorporeal beings? Does the veridical and accurate information provided by mediums suffice for these specific purposes?

Can you mention some of your current projects?

I recently had a paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease reviewing Brazilian studies on dissociation and dissociative disorders and analyzing them from a cross-cultural perspective. The aim of the article is to discuss Brazilian research on the topic of dissociation, highlighting its contributions to the understanding of dissociative experiences in nonclinical populations (including mediums and other religious participants), as well as for the validity and relevance of dissociative disorders in the contexts of psychiatry, psychology, and psychotherapy.

I am currently working on a series of studies (including longitudinal data) evaluating the correlations between dissociative experiences, childhood trauma, explicit and implicit paranormal beliefs, reports of spiritual/paranormal experiences and social desirability (acknowledgments to São Paulo Research Foundation, FAPESP grant number 2015/05255-2).

I am also collaborating in many other studies with other colleagues, such as a systematic review of the adverse effects of meditation, and a paper on the contributions of Théodore Flournoy, a pioneer of scientific psychology, to the study of mediumship and dissociative experiences.

Publications

Articles

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. Evidências de validade da Escala de Experiências Dissociativas (DES) em uma amostra não clínica. Avaliação Psicológica, v. 15, p. 93-104, 2016.

MARALDI, E. O.; ALVARADO, C. ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fátima Regina. Dissociação, crença e criatividade: uma introdução ao pensamento de Théodore Flournoy. Memorandum: Memória e História em Psicologia, No. 30: v. 30, p. 12, 2016.

MACHADO, Fátima Regina ; ZANGARI, W. ; MARALDI, E. O. ; MARTINS, L. B. ; SHIMABUCURO, A. H. . Contribuições da psicologia para a compreensão das relações entre a espiritualidade, a religiosidade e as experiências anômalas. Clareira – Revista de Filosofia da Região Amazônica, v. 3, p. 2, 2016.

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. . ‘Em transe’: um estudo quali-quantitativo sobre o papel das experiências dissociativas e somatoformes nas crenças e rituais religiosos. Boletim Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 35, p. 382-408, 2015.

MARALDI, E. O.. Medium or author? A preliminary model relating dissociation, paranormal belief systems and self-esteem. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, v. 78.1, p. 1-24, 2014.

ALVARADO, C. ; MARALDI, E. O. ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fátima Regina . Théodore Flournoy’s contributions to Psychical Research. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, v. 78, p. 916, 2014.

MARALDI, E. O.. Resenha do livro ‘Hallucinations’ (A mente assombrada) de Oliver Sacks. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 33, p. 497-501, 2013.

MARALDI, E. O.; KRIPPNER, S. ; EVRARD, R. . Une approche biopsychosociale de la dissociation créative: remarques sur un cas de peinture médiumnique. Bulletin Métapsychique, v. 15, p. 7-8, 2013.

MARALDI, E. O.; KRIPPNER, S. . A Biopsychosocial Approach to Creative Dissociation: remarks on a case of mediumiistic painting. NeuroQuantology, v. 11, p. 544-572, 2013.

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. . Individual and group dialectics in the study of mediumship: a psychosocial perspective. The Paranormal Review, v. 66, p. 14-18, 2013.

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. . Funções projetivas e terapêuticas das práticas dissociativas em contexto religioso. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 32, p. 424-452, 2012.

MARALDI, E. O.. Resenha do livro ‘Religion for Atheists’ de Alain de Botton. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 32, p. 497-501, 2012.

MARALDI, E. O.. Jung e as experiências mediúnicas. Junguiana (Sao Paulo), v. 29, p. 39-49, 2011.

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

MARALDI, E. O.; MACHADO, Fátima Regina ; ZANGARI, W. . Importance of Psychosocial Approach for a Comprehensive Understanding of Mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, v. 24, p. 181-196, 2010.

ZANGARI, W. ; MARALDI, E. O. . Psicologia da Mediunidade: do intrapsíquico ao psicossocial. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 77, p. 233-252, 2009.

Book Chapters

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fátima Regina ; MARALDI, E. O. ; MARTINS, L. B. . Extraordinary religious / anomalous cases from Brazil and the Fortean approach. In: Jack Hunter. (Org.). Damned facts: Fortean essays on religion, folklore and the paranormal. 1ed.Konia, Cyprus (Grécia): Aporetic Press, 2016, v. 1, p. 41-53.

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fátima Regina . Estudio de la sobrevivencia: consideraciones metodologicas y epistemologicas. In: Alejandro Parra. (Org.). Ojos invisibles – La cruzada por la conquista del espíritu: Una neurociencia de las experiencias paranormales. 1ed.Buenos Aires: Antigua, 2015, v. 1, p. 115-142.

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fátima Regina ; KRIPPNER, S. . Anomalous mental and physical phenomena of Brazilian mediums: a review of the scientific literature. In: Jack Hunter; David Luke. (Org.). Talking with the spirits: Ethnographies from between the worlds. 1ed.Brisbane (Australia): Daily Grail Publishing, 2014, v. 1, p. 259-301.

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

Online publications

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fátima Regina . Mediumnidad en Brasil: aspectos históricos e investigación científica. E-Boletín Psi: Boletín Electrônico del Instituto de Psicologia Paranormal, Argentina, 10 set. 2015.

MARALDI, E. O.. El caso del medium Chico Xavier: una interpretación psicológica. E-Boletín Psi – Boletín Electrônico del Instituto de Psicologia Paranormal, 15 jan. 2013.

MARALDI, E. O.. Un estudio exploratorio sobre la mediumnidad y la identidad psicosocial. E-Boletín Psi – Boletín Electrônico del Instituto de Psicologia Paranormal, , v. 4.

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

A Special issue of the journal Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, Practice, edited by Steven Jay Lynn, is entitled “Anomalous, Exceptional, and Non-Ordinary Experiences: Expanding the Boundaries of Psychological Science” (2017, vol. 4, No. 1).

In the abstract of his editorial Steven Jay Lynn states “that readers of the current issue will find articles that fulfill an important mission of the journal: to devote coverage to the study of intriguing phenomena and experiences long considered to lie outside the boundaries of mainstream scientific research. Specifically, the articles span research and theory relevant to anomalous, exceptional, and nonordinary experiences (e.g., mystical experiences, near-death experiences, extreme sports experiences), which can exert a transformative and longstanding salutary impact on the individual.”

For a list of the articles in the issue, and their abstracts, click here.

Psychology of Consciousness

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

Polish psychologist and philosopher Julian Ochorowicz (1850-1917) presented a few observations about Palladino in an article about Polish medium Stanislawa Tomczyck. The article in question, a section of a multi-part paper, is “A New Mediumistic Phenomena” (Annals of Psychical Science, 1909, 8, 333-399).

Julian Ochorowicz 3

Julian Ochorowicz

Eusapia Palladino 8

Ochorowicz (left) in séance with Palladino (Carqueiranne, 1894)

The observations took place in 1893 and 1894 in Warsaw. Here is the relevant excerpt:

“In my report of her sojourn at my home at Warsaw in 1893 and 1894, a report which has not yet been published, but which was drawn up immediately, I find amongst others the following details:-“

“December 31st, 1893.– After having explained the duplication of the medium’s hands in the fluidic attouchements, John, that is to say, Eusapia, in complete trance, gave me still further explanations as to the transport of slates. With the view of obtaining some sign by writing, we had prepared two slates tied together and placed in the centre of the table.”

“When John was explaining to me that it was easier for him to materialise the tips of the fingers and the nails than any other part of the arm, I felt something hard tapping lightly on my head.”

“Those are the slates, said John.”

“In answer to my question as to how he was able to hold them in the air, he gave me all his theory, which I will try to reproduce as faithfully as possible:-”

“The hands of all present, and principaly the medium’s, release an emanation which John simply called fluid. This fluid forms bundles of straight rays, which are like stretched threads and support the slates. When these threads or rays are sufficiently strong, the object may perhaps be raised above the heads, because then the rays converge on to a surface or a point of the object, becoming, so to speak, rigid, and the object rests on them as on shafts. But their power depends upon certain conditions, and, above all, on the harmony established between, the various fluids. By suddenly changing the conditions, for example, by breaking the chain of hands, you cut the current and the power from the fluidic rays is dispersed.”

“In order to verify this assertion of John’s, I suddenly withdrew my hand from my neighbour on my left, and immediately the slates fell on to the table.”

” ‘That is true,’ I said to John; ‘but do you know that I had an impression as if the slates had fallen from the medium’s head?’ ”

“ ‘I shall prove to you by-and-by that you made a mistake.’ ”

“We re-formed the chain, as he directed, and a few minutes afterwards the slates were again in the air, above our heads. ‘And now lift up your hand,’ said John. We raised our hands, Eusapia and I, as high as it was possible without letting go of each other’s hands, and the slates manifested their presence at that height several times by touching our hands.”

“It was evident:-”

“1. That the slates were much higher than the medium’s head;”

“2. That the raising of both our hands, without breaking the chain, did not in any way interfere with the mechanical action of John’s rays.”

“When, several seconds afterwards, I unexpectedly left go my left hand neighbour’s hand, the slates fell with a crash.”

“John’s assertions were thus confirmed by experiment. The same thing occurred on the occasion of a complete levitation of the medium, whom John wished to raise in her chair and put on the table.”

“At my request, this levitation which, like all the previous experiments with Eusapia, took place in total darkness, had to be accomplished slowly, in order to facilitate observation.”

“When he medium sitting on her chair was levitated to the height of the table, one of the controllers, M. Prus, loosed his hold of Eusapia’s hand; her chair fell to the floor immediately, and she herself fell on to the edge of the table uttering a cry of pain.”

“On another similar occasion, when the medium (without a chair) was already on the table, she gave suddenly a cry of distress, asking that we place our hands, without breaking the chain, underneath her.”

“It therefore seems that even in a levitation of the medium, executed by the hands of her double, the rays from John . . . come in play . . .”

“I also find in my notes for 1894, the enumeration of the sensations experienced by Eusapia Paladino . . . :”

“1. From the first she felt a shiver passing down her back by the arms, up to the fingers, which became numbed;”

“2. Then came disagreeable pricking in the fingers;”

“3. A cold breeze was felt between her hands or about them;”

“4. The skin of her hands became very dry;”

“5. Finally, synchronising with the phenomenon, she felt a sharp pain in her arms . . .”

Eusapia Palladino table movement IGP

Ochorowicz (far right) in Séance with Palladino at the Institut Générale Psychologique (Paris), Around 1905-1908

 

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

I am glad to present an interview with Dr. Michael Nahm, who obtained his PhD with work about physiological responses of beech trees to droughts. In recent times he has worked on forestry science and on various parapsychology-related topics, among them terminal lucidity.

Michael Nahm 3

Michael Nahm

Michael is the author of two books: Wenn die Dunkelheit ein Ende findet. Terminale Geistesklarheit und andere Phänomene in Todesnähe [When Darkness Comes to an End: Terminal Lucidity and other Phenomena in Near-Death States] (Amerang: Crotona, 2012), and Evolution und Parapsychologie [Evolution and Parapsychology] (Norderstedt: Books on Demand, 2007).

Nahm Terminal Lucidity Book

 

Nahm Evolutiom Parapsychologie

Although I have never met Michael personally, I have had email contact with him and we have published papers together: Alvarado, C.S., Nahm, M., & Sommer, A. (2012). Notes on early interpretations of mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 26, 855-865; and Alvarado, C.S., & Nahm, M. (2011). Psychic phenomena and the vital force: Hereward Carrington on “Vital Energy and Psychical Phenomena.” Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 75, 91-103.

For more about his work check Michael’s website Exploring Frontiers of Biology.

Interview

How did you get interested in parapsychology?

When I was a teenager, I was already interested in philosophical issues. This interest was fostered by a fantastic biology teacher at high school. Apart from teaching us the basics of biology according to the course of instruction, he also introduced us to various philosophers, and to biological problems such as the origin of life, and concerns regarding random mutations in the genome. Of the philosophers he introduced to us, I was especially impressed by Arthur Schopenhauer. In the 1990s, I came across the books of Rupert Sheldrake. I was enthralled by the way he aimed at pushing the limits of established science. I contacted him and tried to jump on the experimental train, searching for dogs that know when their owners are coming home, experimenting with ants and crystal growth, and with being woken up in the night telepathically by somebody else. In the end, however, all my attempts to contribute to research into morphic fields remained inconclusive or failed. I also met Rupert in 1997 at a seminar he gave at Schumacher College in Totnes, where we had many stimulating talks. Summing up, I owe Rupert the confidence that one can contribute to researching so-called anomalies also privately without belonging to the in-group of responsible experts, and without affiliation to a relevant academic institution.

My interest in parapsychology increased considerably during the writing of my first book on unsolved riddles of evolution (Nahm 2007), because I recognized that psychical phenomena are one of the most important stumbling blocks for the materialistic and neo-darwinistic interpretation of biological processes including evolution. Ever since then, my fascination for parapsychology remained on a high level and I delved into several different lines of psi research. Yet, professionally, I stayed in a different academic setting (chiefly, forestry research), and I pursue my psi-related occupations in my private time, which, much to my regret, is always too limited.

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

My main interests in the field are varied, and they also vary with time. This is what I love about parapsychology: There is an enormous amount of highly interesting literature which is often hardly known, and it can be very exciting to dive into a given field of research, unearthing strange and rare literature, or into the biography of a largely forgotten pioneer of parapsychology and its bordering areas. In the recent years, I contributed to topics such as the implications of psi-phenomena for biology and unsolved riddles of evolution, the history of parapsychology, cases of the reincarnation type, out-of-body experiences (OBEs), near-death experiences (NDEs) and other end-of-life experiences.

I suppose most people will have read my name in connection with “Terminal Lucidity”, which can be defined as the unexpected return of mental clarity and memory shortly before death. Cases of particular interest involve patients whose brains were destroyed by diseases such as tumors, strokes, or Alzheimer’s disease, but who seemed to recover shortly before death with their memory being intact. Such experiences were reported since antiquity and especially throughout the 19th century, but they continue to surface until present. Yet, especially the older accounts of terminal lucidity are widely scattered and often difficult to obtain. Hence, I attempted to collect and systemize them, and to publicize the results of this literature survey together with colleagues active in the field of near-death studies (for a short overview, click here to see my article in the Psi Encylopedia.

Moreover, I am fascinated by mediumship, both mental and physical, and published several articles about it. Some might have followed the controversy about the alleged physical medium Kai Mügge, who attracted quite some interest in the parapsychological community. After I was eagerly following and documenting the development of his supposed mediumship for several years in person, I finally discovered that Mügge used fraudulent practices during his séances (see also this article).

Why do you think that parapsychology is important?

When we look at nature, and try to understand it better by applying means of natural sciences, we always need to take the context and the level of organization of the phenomena we intend to study into account. First, for studying classical physics, more or less linear biochemical reactions and chain reactions, the framework of reductionist materialism is the appropriate context. Second, for studying more complex systems like protozoons, interacting cells, tissues, or organs, perhaps also ecosystems, a systemic approach sometimes called “organicism” is the appropriate framework. Yet, third, when it comes to studying even more complex living systems, including human beings, the unfolding of consciousness, psi, postmortem survival, or possibly evolution as a whole, I think that ultimately, only a kind of neo-vitalistic and dualistic approach is appropriate. Finally, when we look at the fundamental levels of reality with a metaphysical slant, we might apply a holistic and monistic approach in which the dualistic properties present on lower levels of biological organization are regarded as complementary and as originating in an initially unified source at the heart of being. Of course, there is no clear-cut border between all these levels of existential organization, they intersect. But when we intend to study the last two levels of organization mentioned, parapsychology is the silver bullet.

Along with Arthur Schopenhauer, biologist and philosopher Hans Driesch (1867-1941), and several other pioneers in our field, I consider parapsychology the most appropriate and most important empirical research discipline for studying these levels of existence – simply because parapsychology takes also so-called “anomalies” and strange properties of the human psyche into account, and thus, offers pathways for the most realistic descriptions and interpretations of existence available.

On a personal level, the occupation with parapsychology and its research results leads to intensification of my self-awareness, and to lots of amazement about the world I live in – what more could you ask for?

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

I think that some of the problems that parapsychology faces have not much to do with parapsychology itself. First, the presently prevailing “Zeitgeist” in the mainstream sciences is very conservative and “anti-paranormal”, so that even strongly positive results in parapsychology would most likely not lead to an acceptance of psi-phenomena in the academic setting and among funding agencies. I don’t think this is the fault of parapsychology or parapsychologists, it is a consequence of other socio-political, historical and scientific developments.

Second, I suppose that the decreasing funds and possibilities to work parapsychologically in an academic setting are partially due to natural cycles that many scientific disciplines undergo. In the beginning, they flourish and attract (relatively) many interested researchers, then follows a fruitful period of research, and then, when much of the scientific approaches that can possibly be performed have already been performed, the interest declines again, or the discipline splits up in increasing numbers of subdisciplines. I think that this is where we are now, and in case of parapsychology, we have to face a decline of interest rather than creating subdisciplines. However, I can well imagine that parapsychology will face a renewed cycle of interest after several decades, which will then perhaps take place in a more psi-friendly and supportive scientific environment. Perhaps, this might be triggered by research into near-death experiences and other death-related phenomena in medical settings – an approach that I consider very promising. Anyway: Psi will never go away, and there will always be people who will study it in one way or another.

Can you mention some of your current projects?

At present, Bruce Greyson, David Rousseau, and I try to publish the results of a literature survey concerning unusual brain lesions or disorders that don’t seem to be reflected in the mental state of the affected persons, and on certain aspects of the savant syndrome. These topics pose largely neglected, but very interesting questions for standard models of memory processing and neural plasticity. We try to publish this paper in a mainstream medical journal, and are curious whether we will succeed. Apart from that, I am currently occupied with three projects related to parapsychology.

First, other colleagues and I evaluate data that we obtained from three online-surveys about NDEs, Exceptional Experiences following NDEs, and OBEs. One aim of these surveys among German-speaking NDErs was to find specifically gifted persons who are able and willing to induce OBEs at will, and to experiment with them regarding veridical perceptions from the OBE-state. However, although four persons stated that they can induce OBEs at will frequently, or even always, none of them was willing to participate in such tests.

Second, together with two like-minded sympathizers of Hans Driesch, who was also an influential theoretical parapsychologist, I began writing a German book about this remarkable man. Presently, his neo-vitalistic philosophy is regarded as outdated. Yet, we think this appraisal is premature. Rather, similarly to the writings of Frederic Myers, William James, Henri Bergson, and other pioneers who built bridges from parapsychology to natural sciences, psychology and philosophy, I consider his philosophical concepts still important and topical.

Third, I translated the most important parts of an elaborate and very interesting Hungarian book about studies into apport phenomena (Elemèr Pap of Chengery: Új Látóhatárok Felé [Toward New Horizons], 1938), and started to write an English summary and commentary about it. Every now and then, when time permits it, I write a few lines.

However, time is always running and passing much too quick, and there are many, many more exciting topics that I’d like to trail! You can follow my psi-related activities on my website.

Giraffe Nahm

Photo taken by Michael Nahm

 

Selected bibliography

Books

Nahm M (2012). Wenn die Dunkelheit ein Ende findet. Terminale Geistesklarheit und andere Phänomene in Todesnähe [When Darkness Comes to an End: Terminal Lucidity and other Phenomena in Near-Death States]. Amerang: Crotona. 286 pp.

Nahm M (2007). Evolution und Parapsychologie [Evolution and Parapsychology]. Norderstedt: Books on Demand. 400 pp.

Articles and Book Reviews in Journals

Nahm M (2016). Book review: Sabine Mehne: Der Große Abflug [The Great Takeoff]. Zeitschrift für Anomalistik, 16, 484-488.

Ludwiger I von, Nahm M (2016). Apport phenomena of medium Herbert Baumann (1911-1998): Report on personal experiences. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 30, 337-358.

Nahm M (2016). Albert Heim (1849-1937): The multifaceted geologist who influenced research into near-death experiences and suggestion therapy. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 12, 256-258.

Nahm M (2016). Letter to the editor: The role of animals as co-percipients of apparitions in the work of Emil Mattiesen (1875-1939). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 80, 119-121.

Nahm M (2016). Further Comments about Kai Mügge’s Alleged Mediumship and Recent Developments. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 30, 56-62.

Nahm M (2015). Mysterious ways: The riddle of the homing ability in dogs and other vertebrates. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 79, 140-155.

Nahm M (2014). Book review: Timon Kuff: Okkulte Ästhetik – Wunschfiguren des Unbewussten im Werk von Albert von Schrenck-Notzing [Occult Aesthetics. Wish-Figures of the Unconscious in the Work of Albert von Schrenck-Notzing]. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 78, 172-173.

Nahm M (2014). Commentary on the Essay Review „William Jackson Crawford on the Goligher Circle“ by Michael Tymn. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 28, 345-349.

Nahm M (2014). The development and the phenomena of a circle for physical mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 28, 229-283.

Nahm M, Greyson B (2013-2014). The death of Anna Katharina Ehmer. A case study in terminal lucidity. Omega, 68, 77-87.

Nahm M, Navarini AA, Kelly EW (2013). Canities subita: A Reappraisal of Evidence Based on 196 Case Reports Published in the Medical Literature. International Journal of Trichology, 5, 63-68.

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

Nahm M (2012). The sorcerer of Cobenzl and his legacy: The life of Baron Karl Ludwig von Reichenbach, his work and its aftermath. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 26, 381-407.

Nahm M, Greyson B, Kelly EW, Haraldsson E (2012). Terminal lucidity: A review and a case collection. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 55, 138-142.

Alvarado CS, Nahm M (2011). Psychic phenomena and the vital force: Hereward Carrington on “Vital energy and psychical phenomena”. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 75, 91-103.

Nahm M (2011a). Reflections on the context of near-death experiences. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 25. 453-478.

Nahm M (2011b). The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Its history and controversial aspects of its contents. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 29, 373-398.

Nahm M (2011c). Book review: Göran Brusewitz: Conscious connections. About Parapsychology and Holistic Biology. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 25, 407-411.

Nahm M, Hassler D (2011). Thoughts about thought bundles: A commentary on Jürgen Keil’s paper “Questions of the reincarnation type”. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 25, 305–318.

Nahm M (2010a). Book review: Janice M. Holden, Bruce Greyson und Debbie James: The handbook of near-death experiences. 30 years of investigation. Journal of Parapsychology, 74, 182-189.

Nahm M (2010b). Book review: Anabela Cardoso: Electronic voices: Contact with another dimension? Zeitschrift für Anomalistik, 10, 176-181.

Nahm M (2010c). Book review: Gerda Lier: Das Unsterblichkeitsproblem. Grundannahmen und Voraussetzungen [The Problem of Immortality. Basic Assumptions and Preconditions]. Zeitschrift für Anomalistik, 10, 136-144.

Nahm M (2010d). Letter to the editor [On mediumistic communications by living agents], Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 74, 53-56.

Nahm M, Nicolay J (2010). Essential features of eight published Muslim near-death experiences: An addendum to Joel Ibrahim Kreps’s “The search for Muslim near-death experiences”. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 29, 255-263.

Nahm M (2009a). Terminal lucidity in people with mental illness and other mental disability: An overview and implications for possible explanatory models. Journal of Near-Death Studies 28, 87-106.

Nahm M (2009b). Four ostensible near-death experiences of Roman times with peculiar features: Mistake cases, correction cases, xenoglossy, and a prediction. Journal of Near-Death Studies 27, 211-222.

Nahm M (2009c). Book review: Forward ever, backward never? Betrachtungen zum Tagungsband „Charting the future of parapsychology“. Zeitschrift für Anomalistik, 9, 216-237.

Nahm M, Greyson B (2009). Terminal lucidity in patients with chronic schizophrenia and dementia: A Survey of the Literature. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 197, 942-944.

Book chapters

Nahm M (2015). Außerkörperliche Erfahrungen [Out-of-Body Experiences]. In: G Mayer, M Schetsche, I Schmied-Knittel, D Vaitl (eds). An den Grenzen der Erkenntnis. Handbuch der wissenschaftlichen Anomalistik. Stuttgart: Schattauer. (pp. 151-163).

Nahm M (2013). Terminale Geistesklarheit und andere Rätsel des menschlichen Bewusstseins [Terminal Lucidity and other Enigmas of Human Consciousness]. In: A Serwaty, J Nicolay (eds). Nahtoderfahrung und Bewusstseinsforschung. Goc

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

On September 17, 2016, I posted about the Psi Encyclopedia, a project organized by Robert McLuhan on behalf of the Society for Psychical Research (for my blog click here). Since then, several other entries have been added, as you can see below.

Psi Encyclopedia

Robert Mcluhan 4

Robert McLuhan

The following are some of the new additions. I have arranged them by title (in alphabetical order).

Karen Wehrstein:  Adult Past-Life Memories Research

Stephen E. Braude: Antonia (Case Study Analysis)

Steve Braude 4

Stephen E. Braude

Peter Hallson: Ghosts and Apparitions in Psi Research (Overview)

Leslie Price: The Hodgson Report (Theosophy)

Carlos S. Alvarado: Human Radiations

Caroline Watt: Koestler Parapsychology Unit

Caroline Watt 2

Caroline Watt

Karen Wehrstein: James Leininger

Annekatrin Puhle: Extraordinary Light Phenomena

Annekatrin Puhle: Lucid Dreaming

Karen Wehrstein: Ma Tin Aung Myo

Lance Storm: Meta-Analysis in Parapsychology

Lance Storm

Lance Storm

Karen Wehrstein: Nazih Al-Danaf

Bernard Carr and Caroline Watt: Parapsychology PhDs in the UK (list)

Carlos S. Alvarado: The Phenomena of Astral Projection (1951)

James G. Matlock: Patterns in Reincarnation Cases

james-g-matlock

James G. Matlock

Renaud Evrard: Psi Research in France

Stephan Schwarz: Remote Viewing

James G. Matlock: Replacement Reincarnation

Carlos S. Alvarado: Richet’s ‘La Suggestion Mentale’

Carlos S. Alvarado 10

Carlos S. Alvarado

Rupert Sheldrake (compiled by Guy Hayward): The Sense of Being Stared At – Experimental Evidence

Rupert Sheldrake (compiled by Guy Hayward): The Sense of Being Stared At – Implications for Theories of Vision

Rupert Sheldrake

Rupert Sheldrake

Lance Storm: The Sheep-Goat Effect

Stephen E. Braude: The Super-Psi Hypothesis

Michael Nahm: Terminal Lucidity

Michael Nahm 2

Michael Nahm

Karen Wehrstein: Sharada

Stephen E. Braude: Transplant Cases Considered as Evidence for Postmortem Survival

As you can see the Encyclopedia keeps growing. I am glad to see more entries about important concepts such as the super-psi hypothesis and basic phenomena (ghosts and apparitions), not to mention topics from experimental parapsychology (sheep-goat effect, meta-analysis).

As I said before, there is a need for coverage of more experimental topics and modern researchers. But bear in mind this is work in progress. I am aware that the Encyclopedia editor, Robert McLuhan, is trying to get writers for many other topics, something that is not easy because, for various reasons, not everyone can write for the project.

I would like to end citing some comments Robert McLuhan sent to me in a recent email:

“The reincarnation section is developing strongly, which I’m pleased about, as I think this constitutes some exceptional evidence. We also have good recent pieces from Stephan Schwarz on Remote Viewing and from Adrian Parker on the Ganzfeld, and there will be more on the experimental side during the course of the year (DMILS, Experimenter Effects, Stargate, Replication Issues, etc). One project which I’ve been giving some thought to is to include profiles of contemporary researchers, which I hope will start to happen later in the year. “

“On the development side, there’ll be a few minor additions, for instance a function that lists articles written by particular contributors, and another that gives a handy citation for articles that authors can cut and paste into their writings. Now that we’ve built up a fairly substantial library of images, I’ve been giving thought to redeveloping the home page, making it more reflective of recent additions.”

“We’re not as busy on the publicity side as I’d like, simply for lack of time. So please do spread the word in any way you can, linking to articles on your posts, tweeting, etc. And I’m always happy to hear from people in the psi research community with comments and ideas.”

Ideas and suggestions may be sent to Mr. McLuhan here.

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

The last issue of the Journal of Scientific Exploration has a report authored by Alejandro Parra and Paola Giménez Amarilla entitled “Anomalous/Paranormal Experiences Reported by Nurses in Relation to Their Patients in Hospitals” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2017, 31, 1–28).

Alejandro Parra

Alejandro Parra

Paola Gimenez Amarilla

Paola Giménez Amarilla

Here is the abstract:

“Using existing reports of Anomalous/Paranormal Experiences (APE) by nurses in hospital and health center settings, the aim was to determine the extent of occurrence of certain types of anomalous perceptual experiences and their relationship to the nurses’ job stress, proneness to hallucination, and psychological absorption. From the total number of 130 participants recruited from nursing departments, we received 100 usable questionnaires from eight hospitals and health centers in Argentina. Using the Anomalous/Paranormal Experiences in Nurse & Health Workers Survey (which measures frequency of paranormal/anomalous experiences) (see Appendix), 54 experiencer nurses (APE) and 46 control (non-experiencer nurses) were reclustered. All of them also filled out the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the Hallucinations Experiences Questionnaire, and the Tellegen Absorption Scale. While nurses reporting such experiences did not tend to experience greater job stress, those who reported a combination of hallucination perceptual experiences and a high level of psychological absorption tended to score higher for anomalous/paranormal experiences compared with those who did not report such experiences.”

The authors write in their conclusion:

“The aim of this study was to determine the degree of occurrence of certain unusual perceptual experiences in hospital settings and their relationship to job stress and psychological absorption. The study was based on a comparison of the degree of job stress and absorption in nurses having these experiences with nurses not having these experiences. Results showed that of the 100 nurses surveyed, 55 of them reported having had at least one anomalous experience in the hospital setting, the most common being the feeling of ‘presences,’ hearing strange noises, voices, or dialogues, noticing the tears or groans of patients, and intuitively ‘knowing’ what disease patients have.”

“In this study, nurses who reported these experiences tended to score higher on psychological absorption . . . Absorption may also indicate a more habitual use of or recurrent desire to engage in absorbed mental activity, such that habitually poor reality monitoring becomes an enduring aspect of one’s cognitive style. Although the nurses who had APEs tended to show a higher proneness to hallucinate and scored higher in the six subscales on hallucination, this need not mean that all APEs are pure hallucinatory fantasies produced by job stress, since some could still be potentially veridical . . .”

“Hence, in the context of this study, the distinction between purely subjective experiences and those considered paranormal (veridical APE) is irrelevant. Even veridical experiences may depend on the same psychological predispositional factors as do non-veridical experiences . . .”

“Approximately 24% of the 100 respondents knew of such experiences by others, but had not had any themselves. The most common experiences reported by patients were near-death experiences (NDE, 19%). About 18% also mentioned an anomalous recovery through a religious intervention (18%) . . . In relation to anomalous experiences with children (15%), these experiences in general play an adaptive and protective function, which can decrease the level of anxiety around death and loss, and can relieve tension related to a memory . . .”

“Generally speaking, the information that most people have about these experiences and their association with psychiatric disorders leads to prejudice and resistance to providing data. Thus there are a number of drawbacks connected with this research in hospital settings as they are conservative institutions, unlikely to be open about their population and even more so with respect to providing information relating to the subject of this investigation. The nurses did reveal their personal and professional experiences and those of their patients, noting that they considered experiences of paranormal phenomena within a hospital setting not to be infrequent or unexpected. They were not frightened by their patients’ experiences, or their own, and exhibited a quiet confidence in the reality of the experiences for themselves and the dying person. Acceptance of these experiences, without interpretation or explanation, characterized their responses. By reassuring them that the occurrence of paranormal phenomena was not uncommon and was often comforting to the dying person, we may assist nurses to be instrumental in normalizing a potentially misunderstood and frightening experience.”

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

Many articles, and a few books, have appeared about various aspects of the historical relationship between psychology and parapsychology. This includes many of my papers.

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.

Abstract

This paper reviews the Society for Psychical Research’s (SPR) work on dissociation carried out between 1882-1900. The work of such SPR researchers and theorists as Edmund Gurney and Frederic W.H. Myers on hypnosis and mediums was part of nineteenth-century efforts to understand dissociation and the workings of the subconscious mind. It is also argued that the SPR’s openness to these phenomena represented the first institutionalized attempt in Britain to study dissociation in a systematic manner. An analysis of the dissociation papers published in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research shows that hypnosis was the most frequently discussed phenomena. Attention to the contribution of psychical researchers will expand our understanding of the factors that have affected the development of the concept of dissociation and of the subconscious mind.

PSPR 1882 Table of Contents

Table of Contents Proceedings of the SPR, 1882-1883

 

Alvarado, C.S. (2009). Psychical research in the Psychological Review, 1894-1900: A bibliographical note. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 23, 211-220.

Abstract

While there was much conflict during the 19th century between psychology and psychical research, the latter was occasionally discussed in psychology journals. The purpose of this paper is to provide a guide to existing discussions of psychical research and related topics in the American journal Psychological Review. Many of the discussions were authored by individuals favorably disposed to psychical research, such as William James and James H. Hyslop, but also by such skeptics as James McKeen Cattell and Joseph Jastrow. With a few exceptions, the majority of the authors were critical of psychical research. This reflected the hostility on the topic shown by many psychologists at the time.

Alvarado, C.S. (2010). Classic text No. 84: ‘Divisions of personality and spiritism’ by Alfred Binet (1896). History of Psychiatry, 21, 487-500.

Abstract

During the nineteenth century such individuals as Alfred Binet (1857–1911), who is the author of this Classic Text, conducted clinical and research work that led to the development and refinement of ideas about the subconscious mind and dissociation. The work concentrated on hysterical blindness, hypnosis, spontaneous somnambulism, and double and multiple personality. Another phenomenon that focused thinking on the topic was mediumship. The Classic Text is an excerpt from Binet’s writings that illustrates how a representative of French abnormal psychology used mediumship to defend his particular ideas about the mind. The excerpt is taken from the English language translation, published in 1896, of Binet’s Les Altérations de la personnalité (1892).

Alfred Binet 2

Alfred Binet

Alvarado, C.S. (2012). Psychic phenomena and the mind-body problem: Historical notes on a neglected conceptual tradition. In A. Moreira-Almeida and F.S. Santos (Eds.), Exploring Frontiers of the Mind-Brain Relationship (pp. 35-51). New York: Springer Science+Business Media.

Abstract

Although there is a long tradition of philosophical and historical discussions of the mind–body problem, most of them make no mention of psychic phenomena as having implications for such an issue. This chapter is an overview of selected writings published in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries literatures of mesmerism, spiritualism, and psychical research whose authors have discussed apparitions, telepathy, clairvoyance, out-of-body experiences, and other parapsychological phenomena as evidence for the existence of a principle separate from the body and responsible for consciousness. Some writers discussed here include individuals from different time periods. Among them are John Beloff, J.C. Colquhoun, Carl du Prel, Camille Flammarion, J.H. Jung-Stilling, Frederic W.H. Myers, and J.B. Rhine. Rather than defend the validity of their position, my purpose is to document the existence of an intellectual and conceptual tradition that has been neglected by philosophers and others in their discussions of the mind–body problem and aspects of its history.

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

Abstract

Since the 19th century many psychiatrists and psychologists have considered mediumship to be related to the subconscious mind and to dissociative processes produced mainly by internal conventional processes of the medium’s mind. However, some psychologists and psychical researchers active between the last decades of the 19th century and the 1920s expressed a different view. Individuals such as Théodore Flournoy, Cesare Lombroso, Enrico Morselli, Frederic W. H. Myers, Julian Ochorowicz, Charles Richet, Eleanor Sidgwick, and Eduard von Hartmann, argued that some mediums combined dissociation with supernormal phenomena such as knowledge acquired without the use of the senses, and the production of physical effects seemingly beyond the normal bodily capabilities. Depending on the theorist, other issues such as pathology and discarnate agency were also part of the discussions. The supernormal was never accepted by science at large and today is rarely mentioned in the dissociation literature. But ideas related to the supernormal were part of this literature. A complete history of dissociation, and of the subconscious mind, should include consideration of this body of work.

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

Abstract

The study of mediumship received much impetus from the work of psychical researchers. This included ideas about the phenomena of personation, or changes in attitudes, dispositions and behaviours shown by some mediums that supposedly indicated discarnate action. The aim of this Classic Text is to reprint passages about this topic from the writings of French psychical researcher Joseph Maxwell (1858–1938), which were part of the contributions of some psychical researchers to reconceptualize the manifestations in psychological terms. Maxwell suggested these changes in mediums were a production of their subconscious mind. His ideas are a reflection of previous theorization about secondary personalities and a particular example of the contributions of psychical researchers to understand the psychology of mediumship.

Maxwell Metapsychical Phenomena

Alvarado, C.S. (2017). Telepathy, mediumship, and psychology: Psychical research at the International Congresses of Psychology, 1889–1905. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 31, 54-101.

Abstract

The development of psychology includes the rejection of concepts and movements some groups consider undesirable, such as psychical research. One such example was the way psychologists dealt with phenomena such as telepathy and mediumship in the first five international congresses of psychology held between 1889 and 1905. This included papers about telepathy and mediumship by individuals such as Gabriel Delanne, Léon Denis, Théodore Flournoy, Paul Joire, Léon Marillier, Frederic W. H. Myers, Julian Ochorowicz, Charles Richet, Eleanor M. Sidgwick, and Henry Sidgwick. These topics were eventually rejected from the congresses, and provide us with an example of the boundary-work psychologists were engaging in during that period to build their discipline. The height of such presentations took place at the 1900 congress, after which there was a marked decline in discussion on the topic which mirrored the rejection science at large showed for psychical research during the period in question.

Congres international psychologie 1889

Alvarado, C.S., & Krippner, C.S. (2010). Nineteenth century pioneers in the study of dissociation: William James and psychical research. Journal of Consciousness Studies, 17, 19-43.

Abstract

Following recent trends in the historiography of psychology and psychiatry we argue that psychical research was an important influence in the development of concepts about dissociation. To illustrate this point, we discuss American psychologist and philosopher William James’s (1842-1910) writings about mediumship, secondary personalities, and hypnosis. Some of James’s work on the topic took place in the context of research conducted by the American Society for Psychical Research, such as his early work with the medium Leonora E. Piper (1857-1950). James Following recent trends in the historiography of psychology and psychiatry we argue that psychical research was an important influence in the development of concepts about dissociation. To illustrate this point, we discuss American psychologist and philosopher William James’s (1842-1910) writings about mediumship, secondary personalities, and hypnosis. Some of James’s work on the topic took place in the context of research conducted by the American Society for Psychical Research, such as his early work with the medium Leonora E. Piper (1857-1950). James’s work is an example of the influence of psychical research on several aspects of psychology such as early models of the unconscious and of dissociation’s work is an example of the influence of psychical research on several aspects of psychology such as early models of the unconscious and of dissociation.

Alvarado, C.S., Maraldi, E. de O., Machado, F.R., & Zangari, W. (2014). Théodore Flournoy’s contributions to psychical research. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 78, 149-168.

In this paper we review the main contributions of Swiss psychologist Théodore Flournoy (1854–1920) to psychical research. Flournoy always advocated the scientific study of psychic phenomena as an important area that should not be ignored. After a short discussion of Flournoy’s attitudes to psychic phenomena we focus on his main work, his study of Hélène Smith (1861–1929) published in  Des Indes à la Planète Mars (1900), in which he summarized communications about previous lives in France and India, as well as those coming from the planet Mars, which Flournoy attributed to subconscious abilities involving imagination and cryptomnesia. In addition, we review his other investigations of mental mediums, observations of physical mediums, and writings about telepathy and precognition. We argue that Flournoy’s work with mental mediums made him a significant contributor to the study of the capabilities of the subconscious mind, work that was important to the theoretical concerns of both dynamic psychology and psychical research.

Theodore Flournoy 3

Théodore Flournoy

Brancaccio, M.T. (2014). Enrico Morselli’s Psychology and “Spiritism”: Psychiatry, psychology and psychical research in Italy in the decades around 1900. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 48 (Part A), 75-84.

Abstract

This paper traces Enrico Morselli’s intellectual trajectory from the 1870s to the early 1900s. His interest in phenomena of physical mediumship is considered against the backdrop of the theoretical developments in Italian psychiatry and psychology. A leading positivist psychiatrist and a prolific academic, Morselli was actively involved in the making of Italian experimental psychology. Initially sceptical of psychical research and opposed to its association with the ‘new psychology’, Morselli subsequently conducted a study of the physical phenomena produced by the medium Eusapia Palladino. He concluded that her phenomena were genuine and represented them as the effects of an unknown bio-psychic force present in all human beings. By contextualizing Morselli’s study of physical mediumship within contemporary theoretical and disciplinary discourse, this study elaborates shifts in the interpretations of ‘supernormal’ phenomena put forward by leading Italian psychiatrists and physiologists. It demonstrates that Morselli’s interest in psychical research stems from his efforts to comprehend the determinants of complex psychological phenomena at a time when the dynamic theory of matter in physics, and the emergence of neo-vitalist theories influenced the theoretical debates in psychiatry, psychology and physiology.

Morselli Psicologia

Charet, F. X. (1993). Spiritualism and the Foundations of C.G. Jung’s Psychology. Albany: State University of New York Press.

“Charet uncovers some of the reasons why Jung’s psychology finds itself living between science and religion. He demonstrates that Jung’s early life was influenced by the experiences,beliefs, and ideas that characterized Spiritualism and that arose out of the entangled relationship that existed between science and religion in the late nineteenth century. Spiritualism, following it inception in 1848, became a movement that claimed to be a scientific religion and whose controlling belief was that the human personality survived death and could be reached through a medium in trance. The author shows that Jung’s early experiences and preoccupation with Spiritualism influenced his later ideas of the autonomy, personification, and quasi-metaphysical nature of the archetype, the central concept and one of the foundations upon which he built his psychology.” (from http://www.sunypress.edu/p-1417-spiritualism-and-the-foundation.aspx)

Carl G. Jung

Carl G. Jung

 

Coon, D. J. (1992). Testing the limits of sense and science: American experimental psychologists combat spiritualism, 1880–1920. American Psychologist, 47, 143–151.

Abstract

American psychologists faced great difficulty at the turn of the century as they tried to erect and maintain boundaries between their science and its “pseudoscientific” counterparts—spiritualism and psychic research. The public solicited their opinions regarding spiritualism, and a few psychologists wanted to conduct serious investigations of spiritualistic and psychic phenomena. However, many psychologists believed that such investigation risked the scientific reputation of their infant discipline. Because they could not readily avoid the topic, some psychologists studied spiritualistic and psychic phenomena in order to prove them fraudulent or explain them via naturalistic causes, and others developed a new subdiscipline, the psychology of deception and belief. This article argues that psychologists used their battles with spiritualists to legitimize psychology as a science and create a new role for themselves as guardians of the scientific worldview.

Crabtree, A. (1993). From Mesmer to Freud: Magnetic Sleep and the Roots of Psychological Healing. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Abstract

“The discovery of magnetic sleep—an artificially induced trance-like state—in 1784 marked the beginning of the modern era of psychological healing. Magnetic sleep revealed a realm of mental activity that was not available to the conscious mind but could affect conscious thought and action. This book tells the story of the discovery of magnetic sleep and its relationship to psychotherapy. Adam Crabtree describes how in the 1770s Franz Anton Mesmer developed a technique based on “animal magnetism,” which he felt could cure a wide variety of ailments when the healer directed “magnetic fluid” through the body of the sufferer. In 1784 Mesmer’s pupil the marquis de Puysegur attempted to heal a patient with this method and discovered that animal magnetism could also be used to induce a trance in the subject that revealed a second consciousness quite distinct from the normal waking state. Puysegur’s discovery of an alternate consciousness was taken up and elaborated by practitioners and thinkers for the next hundred years. Crabtree traces the history of the discovery of animal magnetism, shows how it was brought to bear on physical healing, and explains its relationship to paranormal phenomena, hypnotism, psychological healing, and the diagnosis and investigation of dissociative phenomena such as multiple personality. He documents how the systematic investigation of alternate consciousness reached its height in the 1880s and 1890s, fell into neglect with the appearance of psychoanalysis, and is now experiencing renewed attention as a treatment for multiple personality disorders that may arise from childhood sexual abuse.” (from: http://yalebooks.com/book/9780300055887/mesmer-freud)

Crabtree From Mesmer to Freud

Fodor, N. (1971). Freud, Jung and Occultism. New Hyde Park, NY: University Books.

An overview of Freud and Jung’s ideas of and involvement with psychic phenomena.

Junior, A. S., Araujo, S. de F., & Moreira-Almeida, A. (2013). William James and psychical research: Towards a radical science of mind. History of Psychiatry, 24, 62–78.

Abstract

Traditional textbooks on the history of psychiatry and psychology fail to recognize William James’s investigations on psychic phenomena as a legitimate effort to understand the human mind. The purpose of this paper is to offer evidence of his views regarding the exploration of those phenomena as well as the radical, yet alternative, solutions that James advanced to overcome theoretical and methodological hindrances. Through an analysis of his writings, it is argued that his psychological and philosophical works converge in psychical research revealing the outline of a science of mind capable of encompassing psychic phenomena as part of human experience and, therefore, subject to scientific scrutiny.

William James 4

William James

Le Malefan, P. (1999). Folie et Spiritisme: Histoire du Discourse Psychopathologique sur la Pratique du Spiritisme, ses Abords et ses Avatars (1850–1950). Paris: L’Hartmattan.

The author documents the appearance of syndromes of spiritist delusions in French psychiatry, thus showing how Spiritism affected the study of mental health during the 19th century, and part of the 20th.

Le Malefan Folie

Le Maléfan, P., & Sommer, A. (2015). Léon Marillier and the veridical hallucination in late nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century French psychology and psychopathology. History of Psychiatry, 26, 418-432.

Abstract

Recent research on the professionalization of psychology at the end of the nineteenth century shows how objects of knowledge which appear illegitimate to us today shaped the institutionalization of disciplines. The veridical or telepathic hallucination was one of these objects, constituting a field both of division and exchange between nascent psychology and disciplines known as ‘psychic sciences’ in France, and ‘psychical research’ in the Anglo-American context. In France, Leon Marillier (1862-1901) was the main protagonist in discussions concerning the concept of the veridical hallucination, which gave rise to criticisms by mental specialists and psychopathologists. After all, not only were these hallucinations supposed to occur in healthy subjects, but they also failed to correspond to the Esquirolian definition of hallucinations through being corroborated by their representation of external, objective events.

Le Malefan Sommer Leon Marillier

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

Abstract

A study of the development of J.B. Rhine’s research in the United States. There is much information about his interaction with psychologists.

Miranda, P. (2016). Taking possession of a heritage: Psychologies of the subliminal and their pioneers. International Journal of Jungian Studies, 8, 28-45.

Abstract

This essay explores some of the theoretical repercussions of the debate concerning the growth-oriented dimension of the personality that took place in the late nineteenth-century psychologies of transcendence. This terminology refers to the various practitioners of depth psychology who emphasised multiple realities, psychic phenomena, supernormal powers, the mythopoetic function of the unconscious, and transformative mystical experiences. The French–Swiss–English–American psychotherapeutic axis, A name given by the scholar Eugene Taylor to an earlier tradition characterised by the Paris, Cambridge, Geneva/Zürich, and Boston connection, which flourished from about the 1880s to the 1920s. a ‘loose-knit alliance’ of cutting-edge scientists, investigated occult and paranormal phenomena ranging from somnambulism, hypnotic trance states, double consciousness, and multiple personalities to mediumship and pathological schizophrenic fantasies. Their insights into the complex phenomena of psychic dissociation posited a subliminal region that was not only a reservoir of trauma, but also source of a potentiality beyond normal consciousness, a notion which was continued and developed in Jung’s psychology.

Pimentel, M.G., Klaus Chaves Alberto, K.C.,  & Alexander Moreira-Almeida, A. (2016). As investigações dos fenômenos psíquicos/espirituais no século XIX: Sonambulismo e espiritualismo, 1811-1860. História, Sciência, Saúde-Manguinhos, 16, 1113-1131. http://www.scielo.br/pdf/hcsm/v23n4/0104-5970-hcsm-S0104-59702016005000010.pdf

Abstract

In the early nineteenth century, investigations into the nature of psychic/spiritual phenomena, like trances and the supposed acquisition of information unattainable using normal sensory channels, prompted much debate in the scientific arena. This article discusses the main explanations offered by the researchers of psychic phenomena reported between 1811 and 1860, concentrating on the two main movements in the period: magnetic somnambulism and modern spiritualism. While the investigations of these phenomena gave rise to multiple theories, they did not yield any consensus. However, they did have implications for the understanding of the mind and its disorders, especially in the areas of the unconscious and dissociation, constituting an important part of the history of psychology and psychiatry.

Plas, R. (2000). Naissance d’une Science Humaine: La Psychologie: Les Psychologues et le “Merveilleux Psychique.” Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes.

Abstract

“At the end of the 19th century in France . . . psychology became autonomous, declared it was a science and obtained the creation of chairs. Laboratories, and journals. However, official history is very discrete about the active participation of is better known psychologists, such as Alfred Binet or Pierre Janet, in research that, in our days, is excluded from academic psychology and belongs to parapsychology” (loose translation from http://www.pur-editions.fr/detail.php?idOuv=598)

Plas Naissance

Plas, R. (2012). Psychology and psychical research in France around the end of the 19th century. History of the Human Sciences, 25, 91-107.

Abstract

During the last third of the 19th century, the ‘new’ French psychology developed within ‘the hypnotic context’ opened up by Charcot. In spite of their claims to the scientific nature of their hypnotic experiments, Charcot and his followers were unable to avoid the miracles that had accompanied mesmerism, the forerunner of hypnosis. The hysterics hypnotized in the Salpeˆtrie`re Hospital were expected to have supernormal faculties and these experiments opened the door to psychical research. In 1885 the first French psychology society was founded. The research carried out by this society may seem surprising: its members – Charles Richet in particular – were interested in strange phenomena, like magnetic lucidity, ‘mental suggestion’, thought-reading, etc. Very quickly, psychologists applied themselves to finding rational explanations for these supposedly miraculous gifts. Generally, they ascribed them to unconscious or subconscious perceptual mechanisms. Finally, after a few years, studies of psychical phenomena were excluded from the field of psychology. However, during the 4th International Congress of Psychology, which took place in Paris in 1900, the foundation of an institute devoted to the study of psychical phenomena was announced, but Pierre Janet and Georges Dumas founded within it the Société Française de Psychologie, from which psychical research was excluded. As for Charles Richet, disappointed by the psychologists, he devoted himself to the development of a new ‘science’ which he called ‘Métapsychique’. Several hypotheses have been put forward to account for this early research undertaken by the French psychologists, pertaining as much to parapsychology as to scientific psychology.

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.

Abstract

Largely unacknowledged by historians of the human sciences, late-19th-century psychical researchers were actively involved in the making of fledgling academic psychology. Moreover, with few exceptions historians have failed to discuss the wider implications of the fact that the founder of academic psychology in America, William James, considered himself a psychical researcher and sought to integrate the scientific study of mediumship, telepathy and other controversial topics into the nascent discipline. Analysing the celebrated exposure of the medium Eusapia Palladino by German-born Harvard psychologist Hugo Münsterberg as a representative example, this article discusses strategies employed by psychologists in the United States to expel psychical research from the agenda of scientific psychology. It is argued that the traditional historiography of psychical research, dominated by accounts deeply averse to its very subject matter, has been part of an ongoing form of ‘boundary-work’ to bolster the scientific status of psychology.

Hugo Munsterberg

Hugo Münsterberg

Sommer, A. (2013). Formalizing 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.

Abstract

This paper traces the formation of the German “Gesellschaft für psychologische Forschung” (“Society for Psychological Research”), whose constitutive branches in Munich and Berlin were originally founded as inlets for alternatives to Wundtian experimental psychology from France and England, that is, experimental researches into hypnotism and alleged supernormal phenomena. By utilizing the career trajectories of Max Dessoir and Albert von Schrenck-Notzing as founding members of the “Gesellschaft,” this paper aims to open up novel perspectives regarding extra-scientific factors involved in historically determining the epistemological and methodological boundaries of nascent psychology in Germany.

Sommer, A. (2013). Spiritualism and the origins of modern psychology in late nineteenth-century Germany: The Wundt-Zöllner debate. In C.M. Moreman (Ed.),  The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and Around the World (Vol. 1, pp. 55-72). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

Wilhelm Wundt 4

Wilhelm Wundt

 

Sommer, A. (2013). Crossing the Boundaries of Mind and Body: Psychical Research and the Origins of Modern Psychology. PhD thesis, University College of London.

Abstract

This dissertation examines the co-emergence of psychical research and modern professionalized psychology in the late nineteenth century. Questioning conservative historical accounts assuming an inherent incompatibility of these disciplines, this thesis argues that from the early 1880s to ca. 1910, it was often difficult if not impossible to draw a clear distinction between psychology and psychical research. Chapter 1 forms the integrative framework of the thesis through a historiographical review of changing attitudes to ‘occult’ properties of the mind in natural philosophy from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Chapter 2 provides a study and comparison of concerns and epistemological presuppositions of the instigators and leading representatives of psychical research in England, France, Germany and the USA. Chapter 3 outlines competing methodological maxims in early experimental psychology, explores the work of the Society for Psychical Research in England and psychological societies conducting psychical research in Germany, and discusses the active involvement of the ‘father’ of modern American psychology, William James, in psychical research. Formulations of transcendental-individualistic models of unconscious or subliminal cognition by Carl du Prel in Germany and Frederic W. H. Myers in England, which informed the mature psychological thought of James in America and Théodore Flournoy in Switzerland, are discussed as landmarks in the history of concepts of the unconscious. Chapter 4 presents case studies of early professional psychologists repudiating psychical research from the territories of fledgling psychology, identifies recurring rhetorical patterns in these controversies, and connects them to wider cultural and historiographical developments studied in Chapter 1.

Takasuna, M. (2012). The Fukurai affair: Parapsychology and the history of psychology in Japan. History of the Human Sciences, 25, 14-164.

Abstract

The history of psychology in Japan from the late 19th century until the first half of the 20th century did not follow a smooth course. After the first psychological laboratory was established at Tokyo Imperial University in 1903, psychology in Japan developed as individual specialties until the Japanese Psychological Association was established in 1927. During that time, Tomokichi Fukurai, an associate professor at Tokyo Imperial University, became involved with psychical research until he was forced out in 1913. The Fukurai affair, as it is sometimes called, was not documented in textbooks on the history of Japanese psychology prior to the late 1990s. Among earlier generations of Japanese psychologists, it has even been taboo for discussion. Today, the affair and its after-effects are considered to have been a major deterrent in the advancement of clinical psychology in Japan during the first half of the 20th century.

Tomokichi Fukurai

Tomokichi Fukurai

Taves, A. (2014). A tale of two congresses: The psychological study of psychical, occult, and religious phenomena, 1900–1909.  Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 50, 376-399.

Abstract

In so far as researchers viewed psychical, occult, and religious phenomena as both objectively verifiable and resistant to extant scientific explanations, their study posed thorny issues for experimental psychologists. Controversies over the study of psychical and occult phenomena at the Fourth Congress of International Psychology (Paris, 1900) and religious phenomena at the Sixth (Geneva, 1909) raise the question of why the latter was accepted as a legitimate object of study, whereas the former was not. Comparison of the Congresses suggests that those interested in the study of religion were willing to forego the quest for objective evidence and focus on experience, whereas those most invested in psychical research were not. The shift in focus did not overcome many of the methodological difficulties. Sub-specialization formalized distinctions between psychical, religious, and pathological phenomena; obscured similarities; and undercut the nascent comparative study of unusual experiences that had emerged at the early Congresses.

Timms, J. (2012). Phantasms of Freud: Nandor Fodor and the psychoanalytic approach to the supernatural in interwar Britain. Psychoanalysis and History, 14, 5-27.

Abstract

The paper examines the appearance of “psychoanalytic psychical research” in interwar Britain, notably in the work of Nandor Fodor, Harry Price and others, including R. W. Pickford and Sylvia Payne. The varying responses of Sigmund Freud and Ernest Jones to the area of research are discussed. These researches are placed in the context of the increasingly widespread use of psychoanalytic and psychological interpretations of psychical events in the period, which in turn reflects the penetration of psychoanalysis into popular culture. The saturation of psychical research activity with gender and sexuality and the general fascination with, and embarrassment about, psychical activity is explored.

Nandor Fodor 3

Nandor Fodor

Valentine, E.R. (2012). Spooks and spoofs: Relations between psychical research and academic psychology in Britain in the inter-war period. History of the Human Sciences, 25, 67-90.

Abstract

This article describes the relations between academic psychology and psychical research in Britain during the inter-war period, in the context of the fluid boundaries between mainstream psychology and both psychical research and popular psychology. Specifically, the involvement with Harry Price of six senior academic psychologists: William McDougall, William Brown, J. C. Flugel, Cyril Burt, C. Alec Mace and Francis Aveling, is described. Personal, metaphysical and socio-historical factors in their collaboration are discussed. It is suggested that the main reason for their mutual attraction was their common engagement in a delicate balancing act between courting popular appeal on the one hand and the assertion of scientific expertise and authority on the other. Their interaction is typical of the boundary work performed at this transitional stage in the development of psychology as a discipline.

Zingrone, N. L. (2010). From Text to Self: The Interplay of Criticism and Response in the History of Parapsychology. Saarbrücken, Germany: Lambert Academic Publishing.

The thesis examines the history of criticism and response in scientific parapsychology by bringing together the tools of history, rhetoric of science, and discursive psychology to examine texts generated in the heat of controversy. Previous analyses of the controversy at hand have been conducted by historians and sociologists of science, focusing on the professionalisation of the discipline, its philosophical and religious underpinnings, efforts of individual actors in the history of the community, and on the social forces which constrict and restrict both the internal substantive progress of the field and its external relations with the wider scientific community. The present study narrows the problem domain from the English-language literature —- an extensive database of over 1500 books and articles —- to the following: (1) a brief history of the development of the field in the U. K. and the U. S. that includes a survey of previous reviews of the controversy; (2) a specific controversy that extended over a 10-year period in the mid-twentieth century; and (3) a solicited debate on parapsychology with two target articles, 48 commentaries, and 3 responses published in Behavioral and Brain Sciences. The thesis is comprised of eight chapters. In Chapter 1, the goals and methods of the thesis are described, previous considerations of controversy and closure in science studies are reviewed, the notion of closure is discussed, and the thesis content is described. In Chapter 2, a brief history of the field is provided which emphasises the broad structure and content of the field rather than specific methodology, results, or theory. In Chapter 3, previous reviews of the controversy are examined to provide a sense of the controversy terrain and to examine the extent to which what Gilbert and Mulkay (1984) have called ‘‘contingent’’ and ‘‘empiricist’’ repertoires have been used in criticisms and response. In Chapter 4, case studies on parapsychology that appeared in the science studies literature are reviewed. Rhetoric of science is introduced as a domain from which analytic tools for the present research are drawn. In Chapter 5, a case study tests the hypothesis that differences in style and structure in the two volumes that bracket the most important controversy in the history of American experimental parapsychology may have contributed to the scope and persistence of the controversy. The controversy extended from 1934 to 1944, beginning with the publication of the monograph Extra-sensory Perception (Rhine, 1934) and ending with the publication of Extrasensory Perception After Sixty Years (Pratt, Rhine, Smith, Stuart & Greenwood, 1940). In Chapter 6, I justify a turn towards the methodology of discourse analysis by reviewing both the antecedents of modern discursive psychology, and methods that are currently in use. I also review Mulkay’s (1985) The Word and The World as a prelude to the case study in the next chapter. In Chapter 7, a subset of the methods available in discourse analysis, particularly the concepts of formulation, category entitlement and footing are used to analyse a target article, 48 commentaries and two responses to the commentaries that center on James Alcock’s contentions that parapsychology is the search for the soul and that dualism as a philosophical position is incommensurate with science. I show how Alcock’s use of the contingent repertoire in characterising science practise in parapsychology undermines his authority as a scientific interlocutor, and obscures, to some extent, the substantive message he intended his target article to carry. Chapter 8 concludes the thesis by restating the findings of the three methods used, examining the limited use of the methods in this thesis and outlining what a more extended study with the same and/or related materials would look like, while describing other potentially fruitful research that might be done. How these methods should and may contribute to science practise in parapsychology is also discussed with a particular emphasis on the multidisciplinary nature of the discipline and the need for a more complete reflexivity.

Zingrone From Text to Self

*I dedicate this series of blogs to the memory of Gerd H. Hövelmann, whose bibliographies of current publications have inspired many of us.