Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation
Here are some papers published in 2015 and 2016.
Gauld, A. (2014). Two cases from the lost years of Mrs. Piper. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 78, 65-84.
This paper presents two hitherto unpublished cases from what may be called the ‘lost years’ of Mrs. Piper, the period between 1897 and 1905 from which only a very limited amount has been published. The cases illustrate different aspects of the Piper phenomenon, and while not among the strongest are not without evidential interest. They are used as the basis for a discussion of various standard tactics for denying that there is any paranormal element in such cases.
Le Maléfan, P., & Sommer, A. (2015). Léon Marillier and the veridical hallucination in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century French psychology and psychopathology. History of Psychiatry, 26, 418-432.
Maraldi, E. O., Alvarado, C.S., Zangari, W., & Machado, F. R. (2016). 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, No. 30, 12-37. Online journal.
This article is about the history and the main contributions of the Swiss psychologist Théodore Flournoy (1854-1920), notably his work on dissociation, religious belief, fantasy and creativity. Flournoy is a neglected author in the history of psychology and is little known in Brazil. He devoted himself to the study of issues considered controversial, such as mediumship and other alleged paranormal experiences. His approach, however, was strictly psychological and his contributions about the function of dreams and imagination were an alternative to the theory of Freud in the early twentieth century, which emphasized the more creative and constructive aspects of the unconscious, having preceded hypotheses developed later by Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961). The article discusses some of the possible historical factors involved in the omission of the work of Flournoy, as well as its role in the controversies surrounding the consideration of parapsychological phenomena as objects of scientific psychology from the late nineteenth century to the twentieth century.
This essay explores some of the theoretical repercussions of the debate concerning the growth-oriented dimension of the personality that took place in the late nineteenth-century psychologies of transcendence.1 The French–Swiss–English–American psychotherapeutic axis, a ‘loose-knit alliance’ of cutting-edge scientists, investigated occult and paranormal phenomena ranging from somnambulism, hypnotic trance states, double consciousness, and multiple personalities to mediumship and pathological schizophrenic fantasies. Their insights into the complex phenomena of psychic dissociation posited a subliminal region that was not only a reservoir of trauma, but also source of a potentiality beyond normal consciousness, a notion which was continued and developed in Jung’s psychology.
Spiritualists in the nineteenth century gave much emphasis to the collection of evidences of scientific meaning. During séances, they used instruments similar to those employed in scientific practice to substantiate their claims. However, these were not the only source of legitimization offered in support of the spiritualist claims. In fact, writers who aimed to provide beliefs in spiritualism with a reliable support relied very often on the testimonies of eyewitness that were reported in a narrative fashion. This article interrogates the role of such anecdotal testimonies in nineteenth-century spiritualism. It argues that they played a twofold role: on one side, they offered a form of evidentiary proof that was complementary to the collection of mechanical-based evidences; on the other side, they circulated in spiritualist publications, creating opportunities to reach a wide public of readers that was made available by the emergence of a mass market for print media. Able to convince, but also to entertain the reader, anecdotal testimonies were perfectly suited for publications in spiritualist books and periodicals. The proliferation of anecdotal testimonies in spiritualist texts, in this regard, hints at the relevance of storytelling in the diffusion of beliefs about religious matters as well as scientific issues within the public sphere. By reporting and disseminating narrative testimonies, print media acted as a channel through which spiritualism’s religious and scientific endeavors entered the field of a burgeoning popular culture.
In this paper we discuss the work of the Victorian physicist and radio pioneer Oliver Lodge (1851–1940) in the context of what we call the mediumistic trial of the long 19th century. We are focusing on a short moment in the early 1890s when Lodge’s radio experiments were part of a common expansion into physical and psychical research. By rigorously applying David Bloor’s heuristic “principle of symmetry”, we demonstrate how Oliver Lodge lived in a world of systems-building and Empire-building that enabled him to categorize human mediums, electromagnetic entities and technical media as parts of an indeterminate but unified field of experimental settings. Though this historical moment was to become a unique tipping point in the initial convergence and later divergence of physical and psychical research, it reveals some general aspects of the mediumistic trial in the long 19th century, namely the existence of a common interface between religious and secularist positions and aspirations.
Shamdasani, S. (2015). ‘S.W.’ and C.G. Jung: mediumship, psychiatry and serial exemplarity. History of Psychiatry, 26, 288-302.
On the basis of unpublished materials, this essay reconstructs Jung’s seances with his cousin, Helene Preiswerk, which formed the basis of his 1902 medical dissertation, The Psychology and Pathology of so-called Occult Phenomena. It separates out Jung’s contemporaneous approach to the mediumistic phenomena she exhibited from his subsequent sceptical psychological reworking of the case. It traces the reception of the work and its significance for his own self-experimentation from 1913 onwards. Finally, it reconstructs the manner in which Jung continually returned to his first model and reframed it as an exemplar of his developing theories.
The popular view of the inherent conflict between science and the occult has been rendered obsolete by recent advances in the history of science. Yet, these historiographical revisions have gone unnoticed in the public understanding of science and public education at large. Particularly, reconstructions of the formation of modern psychology and its links to psychical research can show that the standard view of the latter as motivated by metaphysical bias fails to stand up to scrutiny. After highlighting certain basic methodological maxims shared by psychotherapists and historians, I will try to counterbalance simplistic claims of a ‘need to believe’ as a precondition of scientific open-mindedness regarding the occurrence of parapsychological phenomena by discussing instances revealing a presumably widespread ‘will to disbelieve’ in the occult. I shall argue that generalized psychological explanations are only helpful in our understanding of history if we apply them in a symmetrical manner.