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

Those of you who follow my blog will be aware of my papers about the history of mediumship (click here and here). Some of my recent work on the topic appears in The Survival Hypothesis: Essays on Mediumship (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2013), edited by Adam J. Rock.

Rock Survival Hypothesis

I was the second author, with Kylie Harris, of “A Review of Qualitative Mediumship Research.” This paper, mainly the work of the first author, was a review of modern qualitative mediumship research. Most of my contribution consisted of reminding the reader of the existence of older research from the psychical research literature, which was not the main point of the paper, and adding a few thoughts about the topic. The review has sections about psychological, psychiatric, anthropological, and sociological studies.

At the end of the book the authors were asked to present their thoughts about “The Future of the Field of Mediumship.” In a short article I suggested future lines of research based on the old psychical research literature, a corpus of work that is still ignored, even by current mediumship researchers.

I started suggesting: “Assuming we have mediums willing to go through Courtier Reportsystematic  interviews and  laboratory tests, could we use the tools of such fields as psychology and psychophysiology to learn more about the medium?” Jules Courtier’s (1908) report could inspire us here. “This investigation of Italian medium Eusapia Palladino included tests based on parapsychological, physical, physiological, and psychological perspectives in the same report.”

Photos of Palladino from Courtier's report

Photos of Palladino from Courtier’s report

Another line of research is that of in depth studies of particular mediums. We could find inspiration in the studies of past researchers such as Théodore Flournoy (1900)  and Eleanor M. Sidgwick (1915).

Sidgwick's study of Piper

Sidgwick’s study of Piper

Deonna De la Planete MarsIn addition to the need to have more studies of veridical mental mediumship, some of the features deserving study are those related to mediumistic art, such as Waldemar Deonna’s study of Hélène Smith’s paintings (De la Planète Mars en Terre Sainte: Art et Subconscient.  Paris: E. de Boccard, 1932). An interesting recent study is that of Maraldi and Krippner, “A Biopsychosocial Approach to Creative Dissociation: Remarks on a Case of Mediumistic Painting.”

My comments touch on only a few possible areas for further research. Many others are discussed in Rock’s anthology.