Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation
I just published an article about aspects of the work of French psychical researcher Albert de Rochas. Its title is “On Psychic Forces and Doubles: The Case of Albert de Rochas” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2016, 30, 63–84; available on request email@example.com).
De Rochas, a neo-mesmerist, is known for various publications, among them the books: Les Forces Non Définies: Recherches Historiques et Expérimentales (1887), Les États Profonds de l’Hypnose (1892), L’Extériorisation de la Sensibilité: Étude Expérimentale et Historique (1895), and L’Extériorisation de la Motricité: Recueil d’Expériences et d’Observations (1896).
Here is the abstract:
“In Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries’ psychical research literature, there were many speculations to explain physical mediumship consisting of the projection of nervous and vital forces from the body. The purpose of this paper is to present an example of these ideas and a translation of part of an article published by Albert de Rochas in 1897 in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques. The article was devoted to seances with Eusapia Palladino, and de Rochas suggested the projection of forces to explain telekinesis and materializations, a concept also involving the idea of a fluidic double. The ideas are presented in the context of previous speculations, and of the life and work of its author. The point of this article is not to defend or criticize the validity of the concept, but to contribute to the history of these ideas by rescuing de Rochas from oblivion, which in turn also shows French contributions to Nineteenth-Century psychical research.”
I wrote in the paper: “The purpose of this paper is to present a translation of an account of one of these ideas, postulated by Albert de Rochas in the late Nineteenth Century, which was actually a late formulation of concepts of emanations from the body to account for physical phenomena, and part of the neo-mesmeric movement that continued the old mesmeric tradition . . . De Rochas was one of several French neo-mesmerists who continued writing about magnetism during the late Nineteenth Century and later, among them Émile Boirac . . . , Hippolyte Baraduc . . . , Alexandre Baréty . . . , and Hector Durville . . .”
“The translation and presentation of an Excerpt from one of de Rochas’ articles is of interest today for various reasons. First, it is a reminder of a conceptual tradition of vital, psychic, and nervous forces . . . that, while still present today, are not considered by many current workers in parapsychology who emphasize ideas of nonphysicality . . . Second, it is an opportunity to present to modern readers, many of whom presumably are unacquainted with the topic, a fragment of French psychical research theorization from the Nineteenth Century. Third, I briefly present an overview of the work of de Rochas, a figure who is not frequently discussed today.”
I concluded: “De Rochas’ ideas . . . have been forgotten by many, but they received some attention in his day. They were an extension of earlier concepts derived from the writings of the mesmerists, Reichenbach, and many others interested in various forms of psychic phenomena, such as mediumship. This was the case for both ideas of an exteriorized force and a fluidic double, which for de Rochas, and others, were not different concepts.”
“These ideas influenced later writers about subtle bodies, among them Delanne . . . , Durville . . ., and Lefranc . . . Ideas of forces (without emphasis on a double) to explain physical mediumship also continued after de Rochas’ 1897 paper. In Germany, Schrenck-Notzing . . . wrote under the assumption of such concepts, as did Sudre . . . in France, and Carrington . . . in the United States. Several others continued this tradition, and some of them, like de Rochas, presented their ideas as explanations of Palladino’s mediumship . . .”
The ideas of de Rochas may seem to some parapsychologists of little relevance today. “My interest, however, has not been in the validity of de Rochas’ ideas, be they magnetic effluvia or fluidic doubles. My purpose has been that of rescuing from oblivion ideas that are sometimes forgotten by parapsychologists today because they have fallen out of fashion (even if still believed in by some groups), or because they are considered today to be wrong. A history of attempts to understand physical phenomena, however, should not consist only of the things believed to be “correct’ today. Such a perspective reflects current conceptions but do not do justice to the actual developments of the past. De Rochas’ theoretical model, bringing together ideas of biophysical emanations and fields, and of subtle bodies, are a reminder of a different era and of different conceptions that provide us with a more complete view of past attempts to understand physical mediumship.”