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

As I write these lines the Parapsychological Association is holding its annual convention in Athens, Greece. I was not able to attend, but I am glad that I participated as part of the Program Committee. Here I would like to present the titles of the papers, as presented in the convention’s abstracts of papers. The photos i have posted were recently taken  at the convention.


PA 2017 Logo

PA 2017 Group Photo

Conference Attendees


Papers Presented at the Convention

The “Vienna Circle” and Parapsychology

by Peter Mulacz

PA 2017 Peter Mulacz Photo by Renaud Evrard

Peter Mulacz (photo by Renaud Evrard)

Freud as a Psychical Researcher: The Impossible Freudian Legacy

by Evrard Renaud, Claudie Massicotte & Thomas Rabeyron

The Creation and Validation of the Belief in the Supernatural Scale

by Malcolm B. Schofield, Ian S. Baker, Paul Staples & David Sheffield

Anomalistic Psychology, Parapsychology, Psychology of Magic, and Psychology of Religion: An Integration Proposal to Deal with the Complexity of the Paranormal

by Leonardo Martins

Training Anomalous Cognition in a Motor Task with Subliminal Auditory Feedback

by John Palmer

Do Changes of Thermodynamic Entropy at a Remote Site Enhance the Quality of Anomalous Cognition?

by Edwin C. May, Lory Hawley & Sonali Bhatt Marwaha

PA 2017 Ed May Photo by Renaud Evrard

Ed May (photo by Renaud Evrard)

Exploring the Effect of a Contingent Cash Based Reward on the Precall of Arousing Images

by David Vernon

Exceptional Experiences under Placebo God Helmet Conditions

by Christine Simmonds-Moore, Donadrian Rice & Chase O’Gwin

A Test of Morphic Resonance using Urdu Words

by Kate Archer & Rachel Cooper

Scientific Evidence of Telekinetic Effects on a Spinning Mobile: A Scientific Attempt to Detect and Study Telekinetic Effects even in a Non-Confined Environment

by Eric Dullin & David Jamet

Implicit Psi in a Stimulus Detection Task: Can PK and Precognition Affect Perceptual Performance? [Research Brief]

by Jacob Jolij & Dick Bierman

The Selfield: A Precognitive Study using an Immersive Display System

by Mario Varvoglis, Peter Bancel, Djohar si Ahmed, Jocelyne Boban & Jean-Paul Bailly

PA 2017 Mario Varvoglis Photo by Renaud Evrard

Mario Varvoglis (photo by Renaud Evrard)

Descriptive Analyses of Various Anomalous Experiences of Nurses and Carers: Personality, Perceptual and Cognitive Factors Associated with Anomalous/Paranormal Experiences  Reported by Nurses

by Alejandro Parra

The Bélmez Faces: An Investigation of a Supposedly Strong Case [Research Brief]

by Gerhard Mayer

PA 2017 Gerhard Mayer Photo by Rachel Evenden

Gerhard Mayer (photo by Rachel Evenden)

“Logic is Only Half the Equation”: Exploring Psychedelic Drug Usage and Transformations of Identity, Spiritual Awakening, the Transcending of Ordinary States of Consciousness and Enlightenment Experiences Following LSD Consumption

Lesley-Ann Smith, Johnny T. Ryan & Rachel E. Evenden

Content Analysis of Spontaneous Cases of Psi included in the Alister Hardy Religious Experiences Research Centre Database

Chris A. Roe & Rebecca Linnett

PA 2017 Chris Roe 2017 Photo by Rachel Evenden

Chris Roe (photo taken by Rachel Evenden)

The Relation of Psi and Alterations of Consciousness in Ganzfeld and Hypnosis Contexts

by Etzel Cardeña & David Marcusson-Clavertz

Dreamy States and Cosmic Wanderings: An Autoethnographic Narrative of Spiritual Experiences in Epilepsy

by Louise N. King, Chris A. Roe & Elizabeth C. Roxburgh

Transformative Features of the Psychedelic Drug Experience: An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of Ayahuasca Users in Britain

by Johnny T. Ryan, Lesley-Ann Smith & Rachel E. Evenden

The Star Gate Archives: Reports of the US Government Sponsored Psi Program: 1972-1995. An Overview

by Sonali Bhatt Marwaha & Edwin C. May

Exploring the Model of Pragmatic Information: Implications for the Classification and Explanation of Psi

by Bevis Beauvais

Open Data in Parapsychology: Introducing PSI Open Data

by Adrian Ryan

Panel Discussion

A Tribute to Gerd Hövelmann (1956-2017)

Chair: Renaud Evrard

Gerd Hovelmann 2

Gerd Hövelmann (1956-2017)

Gerd H. Hövelmann or the ‘Amicus Curiae’ of Parapsychology: A personal appreciation

by Eberhard Bauer

Gerd H. Hövelmann: Some Personal Recollections

by Peter Mulacz

From Responsible Scepticism to Reflexive Anomalistics: A Selection of Quotes from Gerd Hövelmann

by Renaud Evrard


An Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of After-Death Communication in the Bereavement Process of Professed Sceptics

by Miruna M. Bara & Callum E. Cooper

Spontaneous Post-Death Phenomena and their Positive Impact on Experients

by Callum E. Cooper, Chris A. Roe & Graham Mitchell

A Pilot Study of Floatation Tanks and Sensory Isolation in Producing Psi Conducive Imagery

by Callum E. Cooper & David T. Saunders

Medical Diagnosis and Death Detection: A Replication of Reading Faces through Photographs

by Marcelo Eremián

How do RNGs Detect Psychokinesis? The Proposed CAW Model (Coupling, Analog Signal Anomaly, and Wave-Like Field Model) as a Mechanism of Detecting PK

by Hideyuki Kokubo

What about Parapsychology and Anomalistics? Results of a WGFP and GfA Member Survey

by Gerhard A. Mayer

Therapeutic Approaches towards Integrating Near-Death Experiences

by Erika A. Pratte

PA 2017 Erka Pratte Photo by Renaud Evrard

Erika Pratte (Photo by Renaud Evrard)

Exploring the Parapsychological and Transpersonal Dimensions of the Psychedelic Drug Experience: A Mixed Methods Analysis

by Johnny T. Ryan, Chris A. Roe & Lesley-Ann Smith

Individual Difference Correlates of Psi Performance in Forced-Choice Precognition Experiments: A Meta-Analysis (1945-2016)

Marco Zdrenka & Marc S. Wilson

Special Presentations

Presidential Address

Withering Skepticism: Inclusive Criticism, or Hackneyed Mantras and Extraordinary Standards?

by Chris A. Roe

J.B. Rhine Banquet Speech

Invisible World and Modern Astrophysics

by Efstratios Theodosiou

Schmeidler Award Address

A Brief History of Psionics

by Michael Tremmel

Exhibitions and Live Performance

Pythia: An ancient musical instrument exhibition and live performance

Nikolaos Koumartzis, Iordanis Koumartzis, Theodore Koumartzis & George Saratsis

The Greek History of Psychical Research: A Photo-Exhibition

Nikolaos Koumartzis

PA 2017 Niko Koumartzis Tanagras Display Photo by Annalisa Ventola

Niko Koumartzis photo exhibit (photo by Annalisa Ventola)


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

In 1908 Italian physician Enrico Imoda published a short report of of Palladino’s attempt to influence an electroscope: “The Action of Eusapia Paladino on the Electroscope” (Annals of Psychical Science, 1908, 7, 410–412). He was later known for his séances with materialization medium Linda Gazzera.

Enrico Imoda

Enrico Imoda

Imoda wrote:

“At the mediumistic séance held with Eusapia Paladino, on the evening of April 10th, 1908, at the house of the engineer, M. F., I experimentally obtained a phenomenon which appears to demonstrate that radiations resembling those of radium and the cathodic rays of Crookes emanated from the medium. The phenomenon consisted in the rapid discharge of an electroscope without contact.”

“At the end of the séance, and when I she was completely aroused from her trance condition, I asked Madame Paladino to stand beside a table on which I had placed a charged electroscope, the dielectric portion of which was made of pure sulphur, so that the insulation might be perfect. I got her to stretch her hands forward to a distance of about four inches from the electrode. Her hands were watched by a friend of mine, so that there was no possibility of her touching the electroscope, whilst I attentively observed every movement of the gold leaves, separated by the charging of the electroscope.”

“For perhaps two minutes no visible effect was produced, but after that the leaves began to fall together, very slowly, but perceptibly; at length, after three or four minutes more, the gold leaves of the electroscope suddenly came together, showing that the electroscope was discharged.”

“Since the conditions under which the phenomenon was obtained (the room was lighted by six small oil lamps, with red glasses) precluded the possibility that Eusapia had touched the instrument, it seems to me possible to argue that the discharge was due to the surrounding air having become a conductor of electricity, just as if I had approached to the electroscope a radium salt or a Crookes’ bulb. But there was one difference between the action of the radium and that of the medium—viz., that whilst the discharge of the electroscope by the approach of a radium salt produces an instantaneous effect as soon as the radium is brought close to it, in the case of Eusapia the discharge did not take place until after several minutes, as though the body of the medium, previously passive, suddenly projected a jet of these radiations. That is to say, the emission of the mediumistic rays appeared not to be continuous, but by shocks, as, perhaps, is the case with the electrical discharge of the gymnotus and torpedo.”

Imoda Palladino Electroscope

“If we compare this phenomenon of the mediumistic discharging of an electroscope with the phenomena already certified by myself and others, such as impressions on photographic plates tightly sealed up in paper or wooden boxes, the hypothesis that radium emanations, cathodic rays, and mediumistic rays are one and the same thing appears to gain in probability.”

“One other phenomenon equally well vouched for by myself and others as occurring in mediumistic séances, appears to support this hypothesis; namely, that a small white cloud, floating like a vapour, and resembling a slightly luminous fog, is frequently seen above the surface of the table during séances. In one instance I saw, surrounding the head of Professor Lombroso, a thick cloud of white vapour, the medium having asked us to blow our breath in that direction.” [On this medium and Lombroso click here]

“We know that one of the properties of the cathodic rays is precisely that of causing the formation of a fog when they pass through a layer of air saturated with moisture. It would be interesting to ascertain whether mediumistic radiations, as well as cathodic rays and the emanations of radium, have the property of phenomenon, equally rendering phosphorescent a screen of platino-cyanide of barium placed in their track; up to the present I have not had the opportunity of trying this experiment.”

“The phenomenon of the discharge of the electroscope, taken by itself, would not, for me, be an absolute proof that the surrounding air had become a conductor of electricity, because the phenomenon can be explained in another way.”

“We have only to suppose that a materialised limb had placed the hand of the medium in direct contact with the instrument, and that this small degree of materialisation, sufficient to discharge the electroscope, but not to make an impression on my retina, had remained invisible to me. We know, in fact, positively, that the lower degrees of materialisation are not visible to the physical eye, while they may be sufficiently powerful to impress a photographic plate, even by reflected light.”

“But this hypothesis, reasonable in other respects, is contradicted by the two classes of phenomena mentioned above: The cloud of vapour and the impression on the covered photographic plate. Therefore, the former one seems to me more probable—viz., that the mediumistic radiations are able of themselves to render air a conductor of electricity, and that, in consequence, the radiations of radium, the cathodic radiations of the Crookes” bulb, and mediumistic radiations, are fundamentally the same.”

“I would strongly urge experimenters to undertake researches in pursuance of this idea; for if we can definitely establish the identity of all these radiations, one of the mysteries of an obscure and complex problem—that is, the physical nature of mediumistic force—would begin to be cleared up.”

Eusapia Palladino 16

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

I finally published a paper I have been working on for a long time. It is an examination of the presence of psychical research at the international congresses of psychology for the period 1889-1905 (“Telepathy, Mediumship, and Psychology: Psychical Research at the International Congresses of Psychology, 1889–1905.” Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2017, 31, 255–292).

Congres Psychologie 1889
Congress Psychology 1892

Here is the 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.”

Congress Psychology 1896

Congres Psychologie 1900

The congresses took place in 1889 (Paris), 1892 (London), Munich (1896), 1900 (Paris), and 1905 (Rome). Some of the papers presented, as published in the conference proceedings, were:

Bager-Sjögren, Dr. (1897). Ist es möglich, durch eine internationale Hallucinations-statistik einen Beweis zu erbringen für die Existenz telepathisher Einwirkungen? In Dritter Internationaler Congress für Psychologie, Munich: J. F. Lehmann, pp. 394–402.

Courtier, J. (1906). Sur quelques effets de passes dites magnétiques. In Atti del V Congresso Internazionale di Psicologia edited by S. De Sanctis, Rome: Forzani, pp. 536–540.

Dariex, Dr. [X] (1901). De divers expériences sur les mouvements d’objets matérieles provoqués sans contact par une force psychique agissant a distance. In IVe Congrès International de  Psychologie edited by P. Janet, Paris: Félix Alcan, pp. 632–638.

Dariex Paper 1900 Psychology Congress 1900

Flournoy, T. (1897). Quelques faits d’imagination subliminale chez les médiums. In Dritter Internationaler Congress für Psychologie, Munich: J. F. Lehmann, pp. 419–420.

Flournoy Paper 1896 Psychology Congress

Marillier, L. (1890). Statistique des hallucinations. In Congrès International de Psychologie Physiologique, Paris: Bureau de Revues, pp. 44–47.

Marzorati, A. (1906). Le origini e lo sviluppo del pensiero religioso in rapporto ai fenomeni psichici ed alla facoltà supernormali. In Atti del V Congresso Internazionale di Psicologia edited by S. De Sanctis, Rome: Forzani, pp. 461–462.

Richet, C. (1892). L’avenir de la psychologie. In International Congress of Experimental Psychology. London: Williams & Norgate, pp. 24-26.

Sidgwick, H. (1892). Statistical inquiry into hallucinations. In International Congress of Experimental Psychology, London: Williams & Norgate, pp. 56–61.

van Eeden, F. (1901). Quelques observations sur les phénomènes dits spiritiques. In IVe Congrès International de Psychologie edited by P. Janet, Paris: Félix Alcan, pp. 122–131.

Statistique des Hallucinations (1890). In Congrès International de Psychologie Physiologique, Paris: Bureau de Revues, pp. 151–157.

Rather than recounting a history of success, this episode in the history of psychical research is one of failure in the sense of rejection from psychology. “The eventual rejection of psychical research from the international congresses of psychology is an example of the field’s rejection and ambivalent position within psychology . . . Psychologists’ attempts at professionalization led them to separate themselves from other knowledge claims and perspectives that they felt threatened their status. They engaged in boundary-work, where there is an active defense of practice, methods, and concepts “for the purpose of drawing a rhetorical boundary between science and some less authoritative residual non-science” (Gieryn 1999 . . .) . . .”

Congress Psychology 1905

“The fact that some papers on topics such as veridical hallucinations and mediumship were admitted to the congresses, and that the 1892 congress had Sidgwick and Myers as its President and Secretary, shows some level of acceptance, or tolerance, by the establishment. But it is clear that acceptance of papers in the congress did not mean acceptance of the reality of phenomena beyond conventional principles. The objections presented at the third and fourth congress are an example of this. These discussions show that psychical research was far from being accepted as a part of psychology during the nineteenth century and later . . .”

Henry Sidgwick 3

Henry Sidgwick


by Eveleen Myers (nÈe Tennant), albumen print, late 1890s

Frederic W.H. Myers

In addition to the professionalization of psychology, it is possible that the rejection of psychic phenomena from the congresses may have been related to the threat these phenomena may have had for some against the current materialistic paradigm.

But all this psychic work amounted to more than rejection from the congresses. This work presented contributions to the development of the concept of dissociation. Furthermore: “The SPR [Society for Psychical Research] study of hallucinations . . .  was a significant contribution to the furthering of empirical knowledge on the prevalence and phenomenology of hallucinations, regardless of the rejection of the telepathic component . . .  Other contributions to psychology and psychiatry came from the study of mediumship, as seen in Flournoy’s studies of subliminal imagination, and from other observations leading to specific diagnoses and the concept of automatisms . . . This is instructive in that it illustrates how marginal movements, the periphery, or what has been rejected, can have an impact on the mainstream, or the core of a field such as psychology.”

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

Several meta-analyses have beeen published about parapsychological experiments in recent years (click here and here). If you want to get a short overview of this see Lance Storm’s recent introductory online article on the topic (Meta-analysis in parapsychology. In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research). The article opens explaining the topic:

“Meta-analysis is a statistical procedure that combines the results of a number of studies in a particular area of research in order to provide a more robust finding. The method has been embraced by parapsychologists since the 1980s, since the results of meta-analyses tend overwhelmingly to confirm the statistically significant findings of individual psi studies, underscoring the existence of psi as a genuine phenomenon. However, this apparent success has contributed to doubts about the value of meta-analysis among those who question the reality of psi, fueling controversy about its true worth.”

Lance Storm 2

Lance Storm

Summaries of several meta-analyses about ESP and psychokinesis experiments are presented. This includes ganzfeld, dream, presentiment, and dice throwing studies. Storm presents the results of meta-analyses that both support and do not support the existence of psi effects. He cautions readers that not all areas of research have been meta-analyzed, “these domains (perhaps up-and-coming in some cases) may as yet be represented by too few studies to warrant meta-analysis, or they have been subsumed by other domains (for instance, RV [remote viewing] in free-response), or they do not lend themselves to meta-analytic treatment . . . For most domains, experimentation continues, with experimental designs becoming increasingly sophisticated and innovative.”

Some studies cited by Storm:

Bem, D. J., Palmer, J., & Broughton, R. S. (2001). Updating the ganzfeld database: A victim of its own success? Journal of Parapsychology, 65, 207-218.

Bösch, H., Steinkamp, F., & Boller, E. (2006). Examining psychokinesis: The interaction of human intention with random number generators. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 497-523. Abstract

Honorton, C., & Ferrari, D. C. (1989). “Future telling”: A meta-analysis of forced-choice precognition experiments, 1935-1987. Journal of Parapsychology. 53, 281-308.

Milton, J. (1997). Meta-analysis of free-response ESP studies without altered states of consciousness. Journal of Parapsychology, 61, 279-319.

Milton, J., & Wiseman, R. (1999). Does psi exist? Lack of replication of an anomalous process of information transfer. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 387-391.

Mossbridge, J., Tressoldi, P. & Utts, J. (2012). Predictive physiological anticipation preceding seemingly unpredictable stimuli: a meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 1-18. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00390

Radin, D. I., & Nelson, R. D. (1989). Evidence for consciousness-related anomalies in random physical systems. Foundations of Physics, 19, 1499-1514.

Radin, D. I., & Ferrari, D. C. (1991). Effects of consciousness on the fall of dice: A meta-analysis. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 5, 61-83.

Schmidt, S., Schneider, R., Utts, J., & Wallach, H. (2004). Distant intentionality and the feeling of being stared at: The meta-analyses. British Journal of Psychology, 95, 235-247. Abstract

Sherwood, S. J., & Roe, C. A. (2003). A review of dream ESP studies conducted since the Maimonides dream ESP studies. In J. Alcock, J. Burns, & A. Freeman (Eds.), Psi wars: Getting to grips with the paranormal (pp. 85-109). Thorverton, UK: Imprint Academic.

Sherwood, S. J., & Roe, C. A. (2013). An updated review of dream ESP studies conducted since the Maimonides dream ESP program. In S. Krippner, A. J. Rock, J. Beischel, & H. Friedman (Eds.), Advances in parapsychological research 9 (pp. 38-81). Jefferson, NC: McFarland. Abstract

Stanford, R. G., & Stein, A. G. (1994). A meta-analysis of ESP studies contrasting hypnosis and a comparison condition. Journal of Parapsychology, 58, 235-269. Abstract

Steinkamp, F., Milton, J., & Morris, R. L. (1998). A meta-analysis of forced-choice experiments comparing clairvoyance and precognition. Journal of Parapsychology, 62, 193-218.

Storm, L., Tressoldi, P. E., & Di Risio, L. (2010b). Meta-analyses of free-response studies 1992-2008: Assessing the noise reduction model in parapsychology. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 471-485. doi:10.1037/a0019457.

Storm, L., Tressoldi, P. E., & Di Risio, L. (2012). Meta-analyses of ESP studies 1987-2008: Assessing the success of the forced-choice design in parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 76, 243-273.



Carlos S. Alvarado, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Several papers on the topic of quantum retrocausation appear in the current issue of the AIP Conference Proceedings, published by the American Institute of Physics (to see the papers click here). These papers were presented at the third meeting held at the University of San Diego on June 2016, sponsored by the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to discuss ideas about retrocausation. This is defined in the preface of the proceedings as “the proposition that the future can affect the present in a manner analogous to how the past affects the present via causation.”

Here is a list of the papers:

Preface and Acknowledgements: Quantum Retrocausation III

How retrocausality helps

Roderick I. Sutherland

Is there really “retrocausation” in time-symmetric approaches to quantum mechanics?

Ruth E. Kastner

Janus sequences of quantum measurements and the arrow of time

Andrew N. Jordan, Areeya Chantasri, Kater Murch, Justin Dressel, and Alexander N. Korotkov

Completing the physical representation of quantum algorithms provides a retrocausal explanation of the speedup

Giuseppe Castagnoli

The retrocausal tip of the quantum iceberg

Avshalom C. Elitzur, and Eliahu Cohen

Guiding quantum histories with intermediate decomposition of the identity

Sky Nelson-Isaacs

Quantum entanglement in time

Marcin Nowakowski

Perceiving the future news: Evidence for retrocausation

Dale E. Graff, and Patricia S. Cyrus

Prediction of truly random future events using analysis of prestimulus electroencephalographic data

Stephen L. Baumgart, Michael S. Franklin, Hiroumi K. Jimbo, Sharon J. Su,

and Jonathan Schooler

Testing the potential paradoxes in “retrocausal” phenomena

Jacob Jolij, and Dick J. Bierman

Examining the nature of retrocausal effects in biology and psychology

Julia Mossbridge

Empirical retrocausality: Testing physics hypotheses with parapsychological experiments

York Dobyns

Retrocausation in quantum mechanics and the effects of minds on the creation of physical reality

Henry P. Stapp

Physics and the role of mind

Stanley A. Klein, and Christopher Cochran

Progress in post-quantum mechanics

Jack Sarfatti

Wave particle duality, the observer and retrocausality

Ashok Narasimhan, and Menas C. Kafatos





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

“Over the years a number of ideas have been put forward based on the concept of radiations, or emanations, of biophysical forces from human beings. This concept, although generally disregarded by parapsychologists today, was once widely used to explain phenomena such as auras, ESP, healing, luminous effects, materializations, movement of objects, and many other events.” This is the beginning of an article I wrote about this topic that was published in the Psi Encyclopedia, an online project sponsored by the Society for Psychical Research (Human Radiations. In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research, 2016).

Psi Encyclopedia

My emphasis in the article was on discussions about the topic published before the 1930s. This includes the literatures of mesmerism, Spiritism and Spiritualism, and psychical research.

I started with a section about mesmerism:

“In his book Mémoire sur la Découverte du Magnétisme Animal, the physician Franz Anton Mesmer . . . put forward several propositions about a universal fluid he called animal magnetism, which he believed could bring about actions in both organic and non-organic matter . . . This putative force was the central concept of mesmerism, a movement which flourished between the 18th and 19th centuries, and even later. It was said to be not only in the human body but all around in nature, and was thought to have healing properties. It was polarized like magnets, could be reflected by mirrors, and communicated to animate and inanimate matter, sometimes via sound.”


Franz Anton Mesmer

Mesmer Memoire 1779


In the words of one of Mesmer’s followers: “The magnetic fluid continuously escapes us: it forms an atmosphere around our body… which… does not act noticeably on individuals around us; but when our will pushes and directs it moves with all the strength that we impart: it moves like light rays sent out by bodies ablaze” (Deleuze, J.P.F. (1813). Histoire critique du magnétisme animal (Vol. 1). Paris: Mame.)


J.P.F. Deleuze

Deleuze Histoire Critique

There were many speculations about animal magnetism: “Some believed that animal magnetism was a nervous fluid intimately related to heat electricity and light . . . In fact, such ideas reinforced the notion of a universal force that could manifest in different forms. Petetin . . . called the force ‘animal electricity’ and stated that it could bring in information into the nervous system without the use of the eyes and other sensory organs.”

Petetin Electricite Animale 2 

Many books about mesmerism presented cures effected by this magnetic agent, a concept represented in the sketch below. “English physician James Esdaile . . . reported on amputations performed under the mesmeric state and listed many medical conditions successfully treated with magnetism in his medical practice in India.”


Esdaile Mesmerism in India

Another influential concept was an universal force proposed by Baron Karl von Reichenbach which he referred to as Od.

Reichenbach Physikalisch

“Od, Reichenbach thought, was produced by the human body, also by crystals, heat and other natural processes. He wrote: ‘I placed a specimen card of many metals before many high sensitives, who saw them all in the dark, some brighter, others darker. A glass case full of silver plate gradually grew to be full of fine fire. Coal, selenium, iodine and sulphur were all found to be luminous. The light was a phosphorescent glow, as though they were translucent . . . Besides the glow, the sensitives saw above these substances, flame-like emanations, losing themselves in smoke . . . , and in the former as well as in the latter cases, these flames could be made to nicker and be blown away by the breath, and they in many cases, throw light on the fingers, in which the objects were held. The colors of different substances varied greatly, and this variation gave a good test of the correctness of the statements of the sensitives.’ ”

Many ideas of forces were presented to explain the physical phenomena of mediums, “these were thought to emanate mainly from the body of the medium, although some theories also implicated the sitters in the séance, and more rarely, the surrounding environment.” Some of these ideas assumed spirit action while others did not.

One example of the later was Edward C. Rogers, whose book Philosophy of Mysterious Agents was widely cited during the 1850s and later. “Rogers postulated the exteriorization from the body of a nerve force which he believed accounted for physical phenomena in séances and for poltergeist disturbances. This could take place through unconscious guidance by a living agent or with no specific direction – basically an automatic process. He believed this force was the same as Reichenbach’s Od . . .”

Rogers Philosophy 1853

Variants of these ideas were published during the Nineteenth-Century by Edward W. Cox, Asa Mahan, Edouard von Hartmann, and many others.

Mahan Modern Mysteries

Cox Spiritualism Answered by Science

Von Hartmann Spiritism

English chemist and physicist William Crookes adopted Cox’s “psychic force” concept to make sense of the phenomena he observed with medium DD Home . . . He noticed that Home’s power to affect instruments was variable and speculated that they were related to the medium’s vitality. He wrote, ‘after witnessing the painful state of nervous and bodily prostration in which some of these experiments have left Mr. Home — after seeing him lying in an almost fainting condition on the floor, pale and speechless — I could scarcely doubt that the evolution of psychic force is accompanied by a corresponding drain on vital force.’ ” Crookes writings appear in his Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism, published in 1874.

Crookes Researches cover



D.D. Home

Other topics discussed include ideas of this sort to explain ESP, instrumental and photographic detectors of psychic forces. There is also a short section at the end of the article about critiques, and about recommended readings. I have discussed this topic before in several of my articles and blogs (click here, here, here and here.

Various Later Discussions of this Concept

Barety Magnetisme Animal

Baraduc Ame Humaine in Color

Joire Storage Annals of Psychical Science 1906

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).


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.



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.