Carlos S. Alvarado, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center
In recent years there have been many interesting articles published about the histories of spiritualism and psychical research. The following are some examples.
Alvarado, C.S., & Evrard, R. (2012). “The Psychic Sciences in France: Historial Notes on the Annales des Sciences Psychiques. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 26, 117–140. Available here.
This paper is an overview of aspects of the French journal Annales des Sciences Psychiques (ASP, 1891–1919). The ASP was founded by Charles Richet and Xavier Dariex. The development of the journal was assisted both by the prestige and influence of Richet as a scientist and of Félix Alcan as a publisher. For the nineteenth-century period the journal emphasized cases and experiments over theories. Much of this was about spontaneous telepathy and physical mediumship. Some of the authors included in the pages of the ASP were Émile Boirac, Ernesto Bozzano, Albert de Rochas, Giovanni Battista Ermacora, Paul Joire, and Julian Ochorowicz. The journal provided a forum in France to argue about standards in psychical research, controversies, and to bring in information on the topic from foreign countries. This included translations of the work of members of the Society for Psychical Research, such as Frederic W. H. Myers. In 1908 the ASP was affiliated with the Sociétè Universelle d’Études Psychiques, becoming its official publication. The ASP was important in establishing standards and in providing a forum for the development of psychical research in France.
Bacopoulos-Viau, A. (2012). Automatism, Surrealism and the making of French psychopathology: The case of Pierre Janet. History of Psychiatry, 23, 259-276. For reprints write to the author: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article deals with the clinical use of ‘automatic writing’ by the French psychologist Pierre Janet at the fin de siècle and its later appropriation by Surrealist poets during the inter-war period. Of special interest are the acknowledged influences of Surrealism’s leading representative. Why did André Breton, in his mythical love affair with Freudianism, systematically silence his indebtedness to the Janetian model of the mind? In order to examine this question we turn to a little-studied theme: Janet’s increasing distance from Spiritism and psychical research. In seeking to establish his new discipline within a medical framework, Janet erected barriers between the psychological sciences and such seemingly ‘extra-scientific’ fields. In so doing, he placed himself at odds with other members of the intellectual community who saw in the automatic manifestations of the mind a source of exalted creativity.
Gonçalves, V.P., & Ortega, F. (2013). “Una Nosologia para os Fenômenos Sobrenaturais a Construção do Cérebro ‘Possuído’ no Século XIX” [A Nosology about Supernatural Phenomena and the Construction of the ‘Possessed’ Brain in the Nineteenth Century]. História, Ciências, Saúde-Manguinhos, 20, Epub May 20, 2013; available here.
At the end of the twentieth century, supernatural phenomena such as so called trances and possession by spirits received a scientific classification, which includes the numerous diagnoses of the dominant psychiatry. At the end of the nineteenth century we can observe a process of scientific categorization of phenomena considered to have originated in superstition or popular imagination. In this work we show how trances and spiritual possession were studied by Franz Anton Mesmer and his followers when developing the concept of magnetism; by James Braid during the creation of his theory of hypnosis; and by Jean Martin Charcot, which marked the entry of hysteria into nosological classification. Despite the differences between these schools, we identify the use of the brain and cerebral metaphors as the foundation of theories of the mind.
Sommer, A. (2012). “Policing Epistemic Deviance: Albert von Schrenck-Notzing and Albert Moll.” Medical History, 56, 255–276. Available here.
Shortly after the death of Albert von Schrenck-Notzing (1862–1929), the doyen of early twentieth century German para psychology, his former colleague in hypnotism and sexology Albert Moll (1862–1939) published a treatise on the psychology and pathology of parapsychologists, with Schrenck-Notzing serving as a prototype of a scientist suffering from an ‘occult complex’. Moll’s analysis concluded that parapsychologists vouching for the reality of supernormal phenomena, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis and materialisations, suffered from a morbid will to believe, which paralysed their critical faculties and made them cover obvious mediumistic fraud. Using Moll’s treatment of Schrenck-Notzing as an historical case study of boundary disputes in science and medicine, this essay traces the career of Schrenck-Notzing as a researcher in hypnotism, sexology and parapsychology; discusses the relationship between Moll and Schrenck-Notzing; and problematises the pathologisation and defamation strategies of deviant epistemologies by authors such as Moll.