Archive for September, 2016


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

The Parapsychology Foundation  is sponsoring an online forum  about physical mediumship. Here is the official publicity.

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The Parapsychology Foundation Lyceum presents it’s first forum online this October. Using the WizIQ.com teaching platform, the forum, Physical Mediumship, will cover research both historical and modern. Opening to registration September 29th, 2016, the Forum’s WizIQ site will be available to registrants on Saturday October 8th, and will remain open for new registration until Saturday, November 14th. In the Forum site you will find not only the schedule of live presentations (and recordings later on), but PowerPoints, a reading list, supplemental materials such as articles and videos, as well as two live discussion forums, and a classroom discussion page that’s always available. A certificate of completion will also be sent to all registrants after the 15th of November, 2016.

If you’ve attended any of the Parapsychology Foundation’s online events, such as the yearly course Parapsychology Research and Education (the Para-MOOC Series) or the bi-annual PF Book Expo, you know how the WizIQ site and its virtual classroom will work. For those who are joining the PF’s online events for the first time, your welcome email will contain helpful information. Regular registration is $50 and student registration is $35. To register click here.

Scholarships are also available by messaging us through the Parapsychology Foundation Facebook Group or dropping us a note through the Customer Service page.

The PF Lyceum online forum is structured like the face-to-face forums that took place in the Eileen J. Garrett Library back in the day: four presentations by expert lecturers and lots of time for questions and answers after each talk. But unlike the old face-to-face forums, if you can’t make the live sessions, you can still register. All the live sessions will be recorded and available in the Forum’s Site for later viewing. Here’s the live session schedule:

Welcoming Remarks by Lisette Coly (President, Parapsychology Foundation) and Introduction to the Forum by Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone (Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation) at 1:00pm Eastern, Saturday, October 15th, 2016.

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Lisette Coly

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Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone

“Physical Mediumship: A Brief Historical View” by Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado (Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation) at 2:00pm Eastern, Saturday, October 15th, 2016.

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Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado

“The Bindelof Seances” by Dr. Rosemarie Pilkington (author of The Spirit of Dr. Bindelof: The Enigma of Séance Phenomena, Anomalist Books, 2010) at 3:30pm Eastern, Saturday, October 15th, 2016.

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Dr. Rosemarie Pilkington

Discussion Forum for Live Session Attendees (Lisette Coly and Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone) at 5:00pm Eastern, Saturday, October 15th, 2016.

Opening Session (Lisette Coly, Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone) at 1:00pm Eastern, Saturday, October 22nd, 2016.

“The Researches of Thomas Glen Hamilton” by Walter Meyer zu Erpen (International Affiliate for Canada, Parapsychology Foundation) at 2:00pm Eastern, Saturday, October 22nd, 2016.

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Walter Meyer zu Erpen

“The Felix Group” by Dr. Stephen E. Braude (Emeritus Professor, University of Maryland-Baltimore County) at 3:30pm Eastern, Saturday, October 22nd, 2016.

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Dr. Stephen E. Braude

Discussion Forum for Live Session Attendees and Closing (Lisette Coly, Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone, Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado) at 5:00pm Eastern, Saturday, October 22nd, 2016.

To register go here.

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

In the second blog in this series I reprint some early comments about the medium before she became an international figure (for the first one click here).

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Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918)

In the words of historian of Italian Spiritism and psychical research, physician Massimo Biondi, in her early days the medium lived in Naples but left for Rome following spiritist Achille Tanfani. “Later she met all the major exponents of Italian Spiritism and would spent at least twenty or twenty-five years of her life from one city to another, even abroad, to display her gifts” (M. Biondi, Tavoli e Medium: Storia dello Spiritismo in Italia. Rome: Gremese, 1988, p. 96).

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I am presenting here comments written by Italian spiritist Giovanni Damiani in 1872. Damiani, Biondi wrote to me in a recent email, was “a manager in an English bank (West of England and South Wales District Bank) and in the 1870s, when he openly declared his interest and belief in Spiritism, he was probably still working there. He began to have a strong interest in Spiritism in 1858, when he was 40. His first public action on the topics was – I think – in 1868, with a challenge to some critics of Spiritism.”

One of Damiani’s comments, where he called the medium “Sapia Padalino,” appeared in an article entitled “Spiritualism in Italy.-Mazzini a Spiritualist” (Human Nature,1872, 6, 220-224).

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Eusapia Palladino, circa 1895

“I am happy to tell you that we have here in Naples a medium of most extraordinary and varied powers. Her name is Sapia Padalino, a poor girl of sixteen, without parents or friends. She is a medium for almost every kind of spiritual telegraphy known, one of which however is peculiarly her own, and consists in writing with her finger, and leaving behind marks as of a lead pencil, while no such article is in her possession, or even in the room. She will also take hold of the hand of the sitters, and cause the same phenomenon of leaving traces as of lead pencil under their fingers. In her presence discharges are heard as from pistols; lights are seen across the room like the  tail of a comet. She is a seer, a clairaudient, and an impressional medium. She is, however, far from being developed, and a few investigators sit with her three times a-week for the purpose of development. A peculiar and disagreeable bent of her mediumship, however, is the disappearance of objects from the room where the séances are held, and which causes often great inconvenience to the investigators. For instance, a gentleman is sent home in a cold night without his hat, another without his pocket-book containing money; a lady is robbed of her mantle; another lady has been deprived of her watch; the medium herself has her boots taken and carried away during the séance; and all this is done by one of the spirits, who boldly asserts his being John King . . . We are trying to wean that spirit of his disagreeable propensities, which . . . may cause suspicion of the honesty of the poor, simple medium. I do not doubt we shall soon have in Sapia a test-medium, that will convince thousands of the truth of spiritual intercourse” (pp. 222-223).

Biondi reminds us that the medium was 18 years old, not 16, as stated by Damiani.

Another communication from Damiani appeared in Human Nature for January 1873. I reprint it below taken from Light, where it was reprinted years later in its September 5, 1896 issue (“Pranks of undeveloped spirits.” Light, 1896, 16, 428-429). However, Damiani dated the communication November 24th, 1872.  Sapia was referred to as a poor girl who was obsessed by a group of low spirits “determined . . . to torture and drive her to despair.”

“The unpleasant phenomena began with a request from the circle that the spirits might bring in some material object through closed doors and windows. The request was immedi­ately complied with by our hearing an object fall upon the table. On striking a light we found a neatly made-up parcel, and on carefully unfolding it, we were much disgusted to find it containing—a dead rat! I mildly remonstrated with the spirits for the unpleasant joke, and told them to bring in future more genial objects. They said they would, and, at a subsequent sitting, some tawdry brass gilt trinkets were soon brought in (always with closed doors) as a present to the medium. At the next regular seance, they said they would show their power also by taking things out of the room, and sure enough, at the end of the séance, a new mantle belonging to a lady present had been abstracted, and has never been found since.”

“The next day poor Sapia brought a red mantle to the lady, asking if that was the mantle lost, and saying she had found it spread on her bed as she awoke that morning; but it was a different mantle, and remains still in Sapia’s possession. At another séance a member of the society, Signor Lainarra, had his new hat stolen by the spirits. He had to go home without his hat—not, however, before searching minutely the whole house for it; but it has never been recovered. The spirits next pilfered a watch and chain belonging to an ardent Spirit­ualist, Signora Commetti, who seemed distressed at the loss, as the watch and chain had belonged to her departed husband. This time, in a speech which I made as impressive and instructive for them as I could, I urged the spirits to return the property to the lady, as their mission here was to convince the sceptics, and not to distress the friends, of the spirit world. They promised they would, but not then; and when the lady reached home she found the watch and chain lying on her bed. A few days afterwards, however, both watch and chain were missed from before her eyes, and have never been found to this hour.”

“At the next séance I asked to speak to the spirits, and Sapia said she saw them muster all round our circle in great numbers. I again addressed them in a kind of sermon, explaining to them the law of progression, and how wrong it was thus to squander their time and ours, and give us such serious annoyance by abstracting our property; and that if they wanted to advance in a better sphere and be happier, they should be active in good works and not distress their fellow beings; they should repent their faults, and earnestly pray the Almighty for their deliver­ance from their present unhappy state. At the end of my speech, Sapia informed us that only one of the band seemed moved, and shed tears, while the others were dancing about and making horrible faces at me.”

“One of the most remarkable phenomena occurring through Sapia’s mediumship consists in noises, either as from the explosion of firearms in the room, or as from a large hammer striking the séance table. One evening, Signor Barone, an old Spiritualist and medium, felt alarmed at the concussion on the table so near his hands, and said aloud he had withdrawn them from the table in fear. A Spiritualist present observed that he had not the least apprehension of being hurt by the spirits, but he had no sooner said the words than he was struck with a very severe blow on his hand, the painful effects of which he felt for nearly a week. Sapia said she saw the spirits strike the table with an instrument like polished iron in the shape of a funnel or cone.”

“Their next trick was to throw to the ground from a table where they were standing five cages containing my pet canaries, and they did so by drawing a table-cover on which they rested. On hearing the crash we struck a light, and found the poor little things motionless, as if they were dead. They recovered a few minutes afterwards, and I cannot help thinking that they were mesmerised by the spirits, who, perhaps, felt compunction at hurting the poor little things.”

“Again, a séance was held at the house of another member of the society. A pet cat, seeing—or feeling, no doubt—the presence of ungenial beings, began loudly to mew. The sitters expressed their annoyance, and the spirits said they would soon quiet the beast, and the poor thing was found dead the next morning. At the same house the spirits broke a table almost shapelessly, and a large, expensive clock-shade. One day, at the house of Signor Lamarra, some object was missed, and he jocularly said to a friend who lives with him, ‘Ha! it must be Alessi’ (the chief of the band of low spirits who torment Sapia, and who, in life, had been a poisoning doctor) ‘who has stolen it!;’ Sapia knew nothing of this circumstance, but that same evening this spirit appeared to her whilst she was in bed, sur­rounded, as she said, with a sinister light, saying to her, ‘Tell those scurvy friends of yours, Lamarra and Co., that I am not going to stand their insults, ascribing to me that which I have not done. I have never been a thief, and if they say so again I will twist their necks, and yours too, if you do not speak more respectfully of me!’ Sapia says that as the spirit stamped the ground with his foot the whole room trembled, and all the objects standing on a chest of drawers against which the spirit leaned, moved and jingled most violently. She was, indeed, so frightened that she called the landlady where she lodged to her succour, and begged not to be left alone that night.”

“One evening Signor Lamarra, on entering his club, was set upon by two young lawyers of the Positivist school, who publicly ridiculed him for believing in spirits. He asked them if they had investigated Spiritualism. They said, No, but would he take them to the spirits? Lamarra boldly assented, and there and then they started for the medium’s lodgings. A dark séance was immediately held, and the light was scarcely put out when numerous very loud explosions, as from fire-arms, were heard in the room. This rather startled the new visitors; but they were still more surprised when blows were heard falling on the table as from a large hammer. The sceptics, however, charged their friends with producing these noises with some hidden machinery, at which Lamarra placed in the hands of the new visitors his own and those of the medium. The noises then ceased, but instead the affrighted voices of the non-believers were heard piteously asking for a light; for one of them had had his hair and beard pulled, and his face handled by a large, callous, ice-cold, perspiring hand; and the other was touched upon the head and face with an instrument in the shape of a club, cold and hard as iron. A light was struck, but nothing was perceived except the pale faces of the scoffing young lawyers, who do not like the subject being mentioned again. In this case, we must admit, the low intelligences did their business well.”

“Having tried every means to deliver this poor girl from her tormentors, the Naples society thought it better to suspend the séances for a time; and as the girl wanted employment, she was recommended to a nice place as a servant. In the night previous to her going to her new master’s the spirits appeared, and mockingly intimated to her that they would take care that she should not remain there. She expostulated with them, but they laughed and disappeared. She, however, did go, and was immediately set about cleaning a large drawing-room, her master, an old gentleman, being present. All at once a small table, in a part of the room opposite where Sapia was, began to move about. This much astonished her new master; but while he was wondering in bewilderment, an awful crash was heard, and a large shade and some china that were on a chiffonier some distance from the poor girl, had fallen to pieces. Frightened more than vexed at these strange occurrences, and believing them to be the work of Satan—whose escutcheon in Naples preserves still its ancient effulgency—Sapia’s master bid her im­mediately to leave the house, and the poor medium is again dependent on her friends and sympathisers.”

“We have had Sapia mesmerised and thrown into a trance, in which state kinder spirits have spoken through her, who, interrogated, have told us these unpleasant phenomena would give way if we could induce Sapia to cultivate her mind. This we have tried to do with unremitting patience, but without avail, as she shows the greatest reluctance and impatience at being taught the elements of letters. We have done all in our power to remedy this evil, which deprives us of one of the best physical mediums in existence. Can any of your correspondents give any suggestion, that we might, by some new tactics, reclaim this remarkable medium, Sapia Padalino?”

Biondi informs me that the first mention of Palladino in an Italian publication was in Achille Tanfani’s Lo Spiritismo Dimostrato e Difeso (Rome: Tipografia di Ludovico Cecchini, 1872). Tanfani stated he saw in a séance with “Padalino” that a “table suddenly raised, transported by itself without touching the ground to the outer wall of the room” (p. 10).”

Other comments by Damiani appeared in The Spiritualist in 1873. See also one of my articles in which I discuss an autobiographical essay supposedly written by Palladino and information about the medium’s early development and personal life.

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

The first version of the long awaited project of the Society for Psychical Research, their Psi Encyclopedia, has recently been released. The project is edited by Robert McLuhan, with whom I have been in contact during my writing of several entries for this exciting project.

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Robert McLuhan

The following statement appears in the Encyclopedia’s “About” webpage:

“There is now a vast research literature that validates the existence of psi as an anomalous, fleeting and little understood aspect of human experience. Psi researchers believe that it has been demonstrated many times over, and in a variety of contexts. But this remains controversial . . . a vocal minority of sceptics – often active in sceptic organisations – campaign in books, articles and in the media against psi research, disparaging it as ‘pseudoscience’ and disputing its conclusions.”

“In recent years this conflict has spread to the Internet, notably the free encyclopedia Wikipedia, where editors hostile to ‘fringe science’ routinely edit articles on psi research to make them conform to their view. As a result, articles that were originally written by knowledgeable experts have become adulterated with misleading claims and assertions.”

“The Psi Encyclopedia is being created by the Society for Psychical Research, funded by a bequest, to provide a more informative view of psi research (also referred to as ‘psychical research’ and ‘parapsychology’), one that reflects the findings of experimenters and investigators. The project began in 2014 and at its launch in September 2016 offered some 110 entries written by around thirty authors and experts. Readers are asked to bear in mind that this is a work in progress, a multi-year project that will see numerous additions, changes and improvements . . .”

“Types of entry include: overview articles about generic topics (e.g., experimental parapsychology, mediumship research, near-death experiences); articles that explore aspects of those topics, key researchers, etc.; case studies of key experiments and investigations (children who remembered a past life, poltergeist disturbances, mediumship episodes, etc); lists (people, events, experiments).”

“Some case studies include pdf versions of the original research report from which they are drawn, giving readers the opportunity to understand the researchers’ methods and reasoning in greater detail.”

Among the entries included in the Psi Encyclopedia the reader will find those about:

Altered States of Consciousness and Psi

Dr. David Luke

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Dr. David Luke

John Beloff

Dr. Melvyn Willin

 Marthe Béraud (Eva C.)

Benjamin Seigmann

Creative Subjects in Ganzfeld

Dr. Hannah Jenkins

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Dr. Hannah Jenkins

Distressing Near-Death Experience

Nancy Evans Bush

Dreams and ESP

David Saunders

Experimental Parapsychology (Overview)

Dr. Richard Broughton

Eyewitness Testimony (Analysis)

Dr. Stephen Braude

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Dr. Stephen E. Braude

Forteana

Dr. Matthew Colborn

Frederic W.H. Myers

Trevor Hamilton

Uri Geller

Guy Lyon Playfair

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Guy Lyon Playfair

Ghost Hunting

John Fraser

Edmund Gurney

Dr. Andreas Sommer

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Dr. Andreas Sommer

Koestler Parapsychology Unit

Dr. Caroline Watt

Meditation and Psi

Dr. Serena Roney-Dougal

Near-Death Experience

Dr. Penny Sartori

Past Lives Memories Research (Overview)

Dr. Jim Tucker

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Dr. Jim Tucker

Psi Healing Research

Charmaine Sonnex

 Religious Levitation

Dr. Michael Potts

 Society for Psychical Research

Dr. Donald West

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Dr. Donald J. West

There is a list of contributors. In addition to those mentioned above, additional authors are:  Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado, Mary Rose Barrington, Dr. Etzel Cardeña, Dr. Barrie Colvin, Callum Cooper, Dr. Guy Hayward, Jack Hunter, Patricia Pearson, Dr. Dean Radin, and Michael Tymn.

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Dr. Etzel Cardeña

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Callum Cooper

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Patricia Pearson

I have written a few entries for the encyclopaedia. Here are those that have been posted:

Charles Richet

Ernesto Bozzano

Eusapia Palladino

Out-of-body experience (OBE)

Richet’s Traité de Métapsychique (Thirty Years of Psychical Research)

Théodore Flournoy

William James

Not all relevant topics are covered in the current version of the work. In fact there are no entries for important topics as ESP, mediumship (mental and physical), and psychokinesis, nor about methodology. Similarly, there is a need for more entries about developments on non-English speaking countries and about modern developments. This includes topics such as the use of physiological processes to express ESP, investigations involving measures of geomagnetism and siderial time, and the use of meta-analysis. The same may be said about entries about modern researchers known for the development of important lines of research, among them Daryl Bem, Charles Honorton, William G. Roll, Helmut Schmidt, and Ian Stevenson. But bear in mind that the editor is well aware of this and that, as stated above, this is work in progress. Eventually such topics, and many others, will be covered.

Perhaps future editions of this work will include more illustrations. Two excellent examples to follow are the use of photographs in the entries “Anthropology and Psi Research,” by Jack Hunter, and “Eminent People Interested in Psi,” by Etzel Cardeña. However, not all the entries lend themselves to be easily illustrated.

This is a good beginning for this important project. Robert McLuhan has done good work, and an immense amount of it at that. I have found him to be very helpful and easy to work with regarding the entries I have prepared. His efforts would be facilitated if the Psi Encyclopedia counted with an editorial board that would assist him to select future writers, topics, and would also be involved in evaluating the content of the entries.

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

The American Psychological Association has just published a textbook entitled Transcendent Mind: Rethinking the Science of Consciousness, by Imants Barušs  and Julia Mossbridge. Barušs is professor of psychology at King’s University College (Western University Canada), and Mossbridge is a cognitive neuroscientist and an experimental psychologist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and a Visiting Scholar in Psychology at Northwestern University.

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Dr. Imants Barušs

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Dr. Julia Mossbridge

The authors defend the idea that consciousness is independent of the brain. According to the publisher’s description: “Imants Barušs and Julia Mossbridge utilize findings from special relativity and quantum mechanics, modern and ancient philosophers, and paranormal psychology to build a rigorous, detailed investigation into the origins and nature of human consciousness. Along the way, they examine the scientific literature on concepts including mediumship, out-of-body and near-death experiences, telekinesis, ‘apparent’ versus ‘deep time,’ and mind-to-mind communication, and introduce eye-opening ideas about our shared reality. The result is a revelatory tour of the ‘post-materialist’ world — and a roadmap for consciousness research in the twenty-first century.”

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

Julia Mossbridge: This is a field guide for psychologists, neuroscientists, therapists and psychoanalysts who want to understand and examine the phenomena of consciousness without assuming a materialist viewpoint. We cover the basic arguments against the materialist assumption, then delve into evidence that has previously been ignored under this assumption. Based largely on that evidence, we propose a tentative model of consciousness and help lay groundwork for future work in the field.

What is your background in parapsychology, and with the topic of the book specifically?

JM: I am mostly focused on trying to understand presentiment and precognition in general. My background in time perception research, perceptual neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and psychophysics allows me to think about phenomena that are considered anomalous according to the materialist assumption, while at the same time allowing me to build a bridge for readers who may be just starting to become post-materialists.

Imants Barušs: I do not distinguish what I do that would fall under “parapsychology” from “psychology” in general. Nor do I use the term “parapsychology” to describe what I do. I think that making that distinction plays into a forced segregation of the subject matter of parapsychology from that of psychology. I do like to use the expression “anomaly” sometimes to refer to anything that does not fit conventional ways of thinking in any discipline, so I suppose this question would be a question about my background in anomalies research. The answer is that, since I was a child, I have been attracted to the unusual, to that which does not fit, because it makes me wonder and makes me want to try to understand it. More formally, I have studied beliefs about reality, EVP, ITC, past-life regression, the survival hypothesis, non-contact healing, and quantum theories of anomalous phenomena. I have a particular interest in transcendent states of consciousness and, most recently, the “cutting through” techniques of Dzogchen.

What motivated you to write this book?

JM: Imants asked me to write it with him, and I jumped at the chance! I had been wanting to get over the defensiveness with which I used to approach my parapsychological work, and this was the perfect opportunity — to write a textbook to be published by APA Books, the biggest publisher in Psychology in the US.

IB: The study of consciousness has been stuck due to the inertial weight of the materialist paradigm. Julia and I thought that an introductory textbook about consciousness from a post-materialist perspective could help to move things along. I thought that was worth a try, so we wrote the book.

Why do you think your book is important and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

 

JM: As far as we know, it is the first APA psychology textbook written with a methodological focus that is not coming from the materialist assumption. I hope that a new generation of practitioners and researchers realize that a post-materialist viewpoint allows them to understand and embrace more of the phenomena that are being reported to them, and that they themselves are experiencing. Further, I hope that some researchers use the tools we describe in the book to launch whole new fields within consciousness research.