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

Pascal Le Maléfan and Andreas Sommer recently published an article about veridical hallucinations in France: “Léon Marillier and the Veridical Hallucination in Late-Nineteenth- and Early-Twentieth-Century French Psychology and Psychopathology” (History of Psychiatry, 2015, 26, 418-432).

Pas cal Le Malefan

Pascal Le Maléfan

Andreas Sommer 7

Andreas Sommer

Here is the 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, Léon 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.”

The authors concluded:

“Marillier’s attitude to the subject of telepathic hallucinations seems to us a faithful reflection of the ambivalence – the scepticism and yet at the same time the interest – aroused by this ‘bizarre’ object at the heart of the nascent psychology during the fin-de-siècle. It constituted an area of exchange between psychology and the ‘psychic’ sciences, and also with mental medicine and psychopathology. For specialists in mental illness and the psychopathologists who debated these matters, the main question was whether the telepathic hallucination was actually a hallucination, since it could manifest in normal subjects. The answers to this question were varied, and in France they can be connected to changes concerning the very definition of ‘hallucination’ and its place in mental pathology . . . .”

“Thus, telepathic hallucinations constituted a frontier-object within the human sciences and medicine. Their rejection, marginalization, and finally their relegation to the field of psychiatry through the pathologization of belief in the ‘marvellous’ at large, were the signs of a segregation between that which became legitimate and that which was illegitimate in these sciences – not without leaving a residue, which in France continued to be explored under the name of ‘métapsychique’ . . .”