Archive for April, 2017


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

Over the years many episodes of fraud have been reported in connection with materialization mediums. An interesting one was reported by A. Wallace: “Spiritualists Unmask a Pretender: Exposure of Mr. Eldred” (Light, 1906, 26, 111, click here and go to p. 111).

This was the case of Charles Eldred in England, who sat with a special chair he owned. After several suspicious incidents a group of spiritualists discovered a secret compartment in the chair and made a key to unlock it in the medium’s absence. They found in the secret compartment paraphernalia to simulate materialized forms.

Charles Eldred's chair

Charles Eldred’s chair

According to the report these consisted of a “collapsible dummy head, made of pink stockinet, with flesh-coloured mask . . . ; six pieces of fine white China silk containing in all thirteen yards; two pieces of fine black cloth . . . three beards of various shades; two wigs . . .; an extending metal coat-hanger for suspending drapery to represent the second form, with an iron hook on which to hang the form; a small flash electric lamp with four yards of wire with switch . . . ; a bottle of scent, pins, &c.”

The medium was later confronted, and he confessed his guilt.

The photograph above was printed in Light (1906, 26, 129), where it was stated “We give the above photograph as an ‘object-lesson’ that Spiritualists may in future be on their guard against, and ready for, the crafty tricks of pretenders to mediumship, and also in the interest of all honest mediums, that they may realise the necessity for fraud-proof conditions . . . so that they may not be classed with the plausible and conscienceless rogues who seek to exploit our movement in their desire to get rich quickly.”

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

Dr. Everton de Oliveira Maraldi is a Brazilian psychologist who I first met in Brazil, and who I have also seen at conventions of the Parapsychological Association. He has a PhD in social psychology from the University of Sao Paulo (USP) and is currently a post doctoral researcher at the Institute of Psychology of the University of São Paulo. Everton won an award from the São Paulo Academy of Psychology for the best dissertation for 2013-2015 period. In addition, he is a Member of Inter Psi – Laboratory of Anomalistic Psychology and Psychosocial Processes at USP, and the coordinator of the Group of Studies  of Alterations and Anomalies of Identity of Inter Psi.

Everton Maraldi

Everton de Oliveira Maraldi

Everton’s main areas of interest are the social psychology of religion, spirituality, religion and health, dissociation, trance and dissociation in religious context, the psychosocial self and its identity, and anomalous experiences in general. He has published psychological work with Brazilian mediums.

In addition, Everton is very interested in the history of psychical research. I worked with him in three articles about Swiss psychologist Théodore Flournoy. Two of these have been published (Alvarado, C.S., Maraldi E. de O., Machado, F.R., & Zangari, W. Théodore Flournoy’s contributions to psychical research. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 2014, 78, 149-168, click here; Maraldi E. de O., Alvarado, C.S., Zangari, W., & Machado, F. R. 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, 2016, No. 30, 12-37), and another one has been submitted for publication (Maraldi and Alvarado, Théodore Flournoy and the construction of mediumistic romances).

Interview

How did you get interested in parapsychology?

I was raised in a very religious environment. My mother became a medium when I was only a kid. She was very influenced by spiritist and Umbanda beliefs about mediumship (Umbanda is a Brazilian religion derived from the syncretism of Catholicism, Spiritism, and Indigenous and African traditions). When I was 16-years-old, she founded a spiritist center and asked me to collaborate with her by delivering spiritist lectures. At that time, I became very interested in the philosophical aspects of Spiritism and started to read Allan Kardec’s writings, as well as the work of other spiritist and spiritualist writers, such as Léon Denis and Ernesto Bozzano. Bozzano, in particular, had a huge influence on me, because of his detailed discussion of the scientific evidence for survival after death. It was also at that time that I came to know the work of the Brazilian parapsychologist Hernani Guimarães Andrade, especially for his book Parapsicologia Experimental (Experimental Parapsychology).

When preparing for college, I decided to apply for psychology. I was still very influenced by the naïve and lay conception of psychology as the “science of the soul.” During the college years, I became more skeptical in relation to the Spiritist doctrine, mainly because of the influence of psychoanalytic ideas and interpretations concerning religious experiences. But my interest in parapsychology and the study of paranormal and spiritual experiences never disappeared. In 2007, I was invited by a friend to participate at one of the Inter Psi meetings. I instantly became fascinated with the groups’ ideas and rigorous approach to the study of paranormal phenomena, which contrasted with the ideological and religious perspectives of Oscar Quevedo (a famous Brazilian parapsychologist and Catholic priest) and Andrade (whose work was pretty much influenced by the spiritist doctrine).

At that time, the Inter Psi Laboratory of Anomalistic Psychology was based in the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (now it is based in the Institute of Psychology, at the University of São Paulo). Founded by Wellington Zangari and Fatima Regina Machado, the group aims to study anomalous experiences from a scientific (psychological and social) perspective. Wellington and Fatima have always been open to the possibility of anomalous processes or phenomena; nevertheless, they argue for the importance of considering the available (psychological, biological, social) explanations first, before any speculation regarding the existence of paranormal processes. Their work has always been based on dialogue with the mainstream areas of science, such as social psychology and cognitive sciences, what was crucial to the establishment and “normalization” of this field of study in Brazil. I was then encouraged by prof. Wellington (now my post-doc supervisor) to follow a career in this area of research.

Today, I have a masters and a doctorate in Social Psychology, with a series of publications on dissociation, mediumship, and paranormal beliefs, all topics related to anomalistic psychology. More recently, I have been collaborating with other research centers as well, such as the ProSER (Program of Spirituality, Religion, and Health at the Institute of Psychiatry of the University of São Paulo) and the Brain, Belief, and Behavior research group at Coventry University, UK.

What are your main interests in the field and how have you contributed to its development?

My main areas of interest include the role of dissociative experiences in religious rituals and practices; cross-cultural and historical perspectives on dissociation and related phenomena (such as mediumship and possession); anomalous creative experiences (such as mediumistic painting and writing); implications of anomalous experiences to our understanding of self and identity; the psychological correlates of paranormal and religious beliefs and experiences; anomalous experiences and mental health. I am also interested in the psychological study of atheism and paranormal disbelief.

I do not think I have given a significant scientific contribution to the development of anomalistic psychology or parapsychology (at least not yet!). But I am proud to have participated (along with Wellington, Fatima, and other Inter Psi members) in the establishment and expansion of this field of study in Brazil, as well as in the development of a psychosocial perspective towards anomalous experiences. I have dedicated many of my publications to a discussion of the life histories, meanings and belief systems of the experiencers (such as mediums), as well as the sociocultural and religious context in which they are immersed. These aspects are not only “alternative explanations” for anomalous experiences (such conception would constitute a reduction of these experiences to psychological and social processes). Even if we consider that anomalous phenomena (such as telepathy) are ontologically valid, the variables mentioned above would still be necessary to understand the way these experiences occur in (and affect) people’s lives. It is essential to consider not only the phenomenon per se but also the individual and his / her biographical and social contexts. And this is something I frequently emphasize in my work.

Why do you think that parapsychology is important?

I consider parapsychology as the study of phenomena that, if demonstrated as valid, apparently lie on the frontiers of scientific knowledge. Without parapsychology, one could never seriously explore the possibility of other forms of human perception or unusual and far-reaching potentials such as psychokinesis and precognition. But this is a secondary function. Actually, parapsychology is important for investigating curious (and sometimes dramatic) experiences that people report very often, but for which they do not always have a satisfactory and rational explanation.

Parapsychology did not begin with the collection of certain statistical anomalies; It started, in fact, from people’s accounts of their paranormal experiences. The first reason why we study parapsychological phenomena is that people sometimes transform their lives based on them, for better or worse. These events do not seem to be random natural processes. They convey meanings, symbols, and are differently molded by individuals and cultures. They may occur as part of common situations, but usually, they are deeply rooted in our fears, our dreams, our needs and the emotional and affective bonds we establish with other people. These experiences may also have implications for psychotherapy and psychiatric and diagnostic criteria.

In your view, what are the main problems in parapsychology today as a scientific field?

I think one of the great problems of parapsychology is the difficulty in finding a consistent theory about parapsychological phenomena. There are many hypotheses and theoretical models available, but there is also much diversity regarding results, and the data do not always support a given theoretical model. In what concerns the field of mediumship studies, I would say that the greatest challenge is to find a way to differentiate the survival hypothesis from the super-psi hypothesis (if there is any convincing way to do so). Both perspectives are precarious, in my opinion. The super-psi hypothesis assumes almost unlimited powers that go far beyond what experimental research has sometimes held about psi phenomena. The biggest problem with the survival hypothesis resides in its religious and cultural implications. Survival researchers do not always consider that their views of life after death are biased toward the concept of personal survival. The spirits of the deceased are not the only metaphysical explanation of mediumistic phenomena. In Brazilian culture, for example, some mediumistic groups believe in Orixás or other entities that are not dead people. There are a plethora of beliefs about metaphysical entities or spiritual forces, and many different doctrines in various places around the world describe a spiritual world.

These religious and esoteric groups would probably think that their interpretation of such spiritual dimension is better (or more accurate) than other available explanations. Who decides which belief system is to be preferred? How to handle all the multiple and contrasting possibilities experimentally? How can be we sure, scientifically, that it is the spirit of a deceased person, instead of other invisible or incorporeal beings? Does the veridical and accurate information provided by mediums suffice for these specific purposes?

Can you mention some of your current projects?

I recently had a paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease reviewing Brazilian studies on dissociation and dissociative disorders and analyzing them from a cross-cultural perspective. The aim of the article is to discuss Brazilian research on the topic of dissociation, highlighting its contributions to the understanding of dissociative experiences in nonclinical populations (including mediums and other religious participants), as well as for the validity and relevance of dissociative disorders in the contexts of psychiatry, psychology, and psychotherapy.

I am currently working on a series of studies (including longitudinal data) evaluating the correlations between dissociative experiences, childhood trauma, explicit and implicit paranormal beliefs, reports of spiritual/paranormal experiences and social desirability (acknowledgments to São Paulo Research Foundation, FAPESP grant number 2015/05255-2).

I am also collaborating in many other studies with other colleagues, such as a systematic review of the adverse effects of meditation, and a paper on the contributions of Théodore Flournoy, a pioneer of scientific psychology, to the study of mediumship and dissociative experiences.

Publications

Articles

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. Evidências de validade da Escala de Experiências Dissociativas (DES) em uma amostra não clínica. Avaliação Psicológica, v. 15, p. 93-104, 2016.

MARALDI, E. O.; ALVARADO, C. ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fátima Regina. Dissociação, crença e criatividade: uma introdução ao pensamento de Théodore Flournoy. Memorandum: Memória e História em Psicologia, No. 30: v. 30, p. 12, 2016.

MACHADO, Fátima Regina ; ZANGARI, W. ; MARALDI, E. O. ; MARTINS, L. B. ; SHIMABUCURO, A. H. . Contribuições da psicologia para a compreensão das relações entre a espiritualidade, a religiosidade e as experiências anômalas. Clareira – Revista de Filosofia da Região Amazônica, v. 3, p. 2, 2016.

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. . ‘Em transe’: um estudo quali-quantitativo sobre o papel das experiências dissociativas e somatoformes nas crenças e rituais religiosos. Boletim Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 35, p. 382-408, 2015.

MARALDI, E. O.. Medium or author? A preliminary model relating dissociation, paranormal belief systems and self-esteem. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, v. 78.1, p. 1-24, 2014.

ALVARADO, C. ; MARALDI, E. O. ; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fátima Regina . Théodore Flournoy’s contributions to Psychical Research. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, v. 78, p. 916, 2014.

MARALDI, E. O.. Resenha do livro ‘Hallucinations’ (A mente assombrada) de Oliver Sacks. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 33, p. 497-501, 2013.

MARALDI, E. O.; KRIPPNER, S. ; EVRARD, R. . Une approche biopsychosociale de la dissociation créative: remarques sur un cas de peinture médiumnique. Bulletin Métapsychique, v. 15, p. 7-8, 2013.

MARALDI, E. O.; KRIPPNER, S. . A Biopsychosocial Approach to Creative Dissociation: remarks on a case of mediumiistic painting. NeuroQuantology, v. 11, p. 544-572, 2013.

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. . Individual and group dialectics in the study of mediumship: a psychosocial perspective. The Paranormal Review, v. 66, p. 14-18, 2013.

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. . Funções projetivas e terapêuticas das práticas dissociativas em contexto religioso. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 32, p. 424-452, 2012.

MARALDI, E. O.. Resenha do livro ‘Religion for Atheists’ de Alain de Botton. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 32, p. 497-501, 2012.

MARALDI, E. O.. Jung e as experiências mediúnicas. Junguiana (Sao Paulo), v. 29, p. 39-49, 2011.

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fátima Regina . A Psicologia das Crenças Paranormais: Uma Revisão Crítica. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 31, p. 394-421, 2011.

MARALDI, E. O.; MACHADO, Fátima Regina ; ZANGARI, W. . Importance of Psychosocial Approach for a Comprehensive Understanding of Mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, v. 24, p. 181-196, 2010.

ZANGARI, W. ; MARALDI, E. O. . Psicologia da Mediunidade: do intrapsíquico ao psicossocial. Boletim – Academia Paulista de Psicologia, v. 77, p. 233-252, 2009.

Book Chapters

ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fátima Regina ; MARALDI, E. O. ; MARTINS, L. B. . Extraordinary religious / anomalous cases from Brazil and the Fortean approach. In: Jack Hunter. (Org.). Damned facts: Fortean essays on religion, folklore and the paranormal. 1ed.Konia, Cyprus (Grécia): Aporetic Press, 2016, v. 1, p. 41-53.

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fátima Regina . Estudio de la sobrevivencia: consideraciones metodologicas y epistemologicas. In: Alejandro Parra. (Org.). Ojos invisibles – La cruzada por la conquista del espíritu: Una neurociencia de las experiencias paranormales. 1ed.Buenos Aires: Antigua, 2015, v. 1, p. 115-142.

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fátima Regina ; KRIPPNER, S. . Anomalous mental and physical phenomena of Brazilian mediums: a review of the scientific literature. In: Jack Hunter; David Luke. (Org.). Talking with the spirits: Ethnographies from between the worlds. 1ed.Brisbane (Australia): Daily Grail Publishing, 2014, v. 1, p. 259-301.

ZANGARI, W. ; MARALDI, E. O. ; MARTINS, L. B. ; MACHADO, Fátima Regina . Estados Alterados de Consciência e Religião. In: João Décio Passos e Frank Usarski. (Org.). Compêndio de Ciência da Religião. 1ed.São Paulo: Paulinas / Paulus, 2013, v. , p. 423-435.

Online publications

MARALDI, E. O.; ZANGARI, W. ; MACHADO, Fátima Regina . Mediumnidad en Brasil: aspectos históricos e investigación científica. E-Boletín Psi: Boletín Electrônico del Instituto de Psicologia Paranormal, Argentina, 10 set. 2015.

MARALDI, E. O.. El caso del medium Chico Xavier: una interpretación psicológica. E-Boletín Psi – Boletín Electrônico del Instituto de Psicologia Paranormal, 15 jan. 2013.

MARALDI, E. O.. Un estudio exploratorio sobre la mediumnidad y la identidad psicosocial. E-Boletín Psi – Boletín Electrônico del Instituto de Psicologia Paranormal, , v. 4.

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

A Special issue of the journal Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, Practice, edited by Steven Jay Lynn, is entitled “Anomalous, Exceptional, and Non-Ordinary Experiences: Expanding the Boundaries of Psychological Science” (2017, vol. 4, No. 1).

In the abstract of his editorial Steven Jay Lynn states “that readers of the current issue will find articles that fulfill an important mission of the journal: to devote coverage to the study of intriguing phenomena and experiences long considered to lie outside the boundaries of mainstream scientific research. Specifically, the articles span research and theory relevant to anomalous, exceptional, and nonordinary experiences (e.g., mystical experiences, near-death experiences, extreme sports experiences), which can exert a transformative and longstanding salutary impact on the individual.”

For a list of the articles in the issue, and their abstracts, click here.

Psychology of Consciousness

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

Polish psychologist and philosopher Julian Ochorowicz (1850-1917) presented a few observations about Palladino in an article about Polish medium Stanislawa Tomczyck. The article in question, a section of a multi-part paper, is “A New Mediumistic Phenomena” (Annals of Psychical Science, 1909, 8, 333-399).

Julian Ochorowicz 3

Julian Ochorowicz

Eusapia Palladino 8

Ochorowicz (left) in séance with Palladino (Carqueiranne, 1894)

The observations took place in 1893 and 1894 in Warsaw. Here is the relevant excerpt:

“In my report of her sojourn at my home at Warsaw in 1893 and 1894, a report which has not yet been published, but which was drawn up immediately, I find amongst others the following details:-“

“December 31st, 1893.– After having explained the duplication of the medium’s hands in the fluidic attouchements, John, that is to say, Eusapia, in complete trance, gave me still further explanations as to the transport of slates. With the view of obtaining some sign by writing, we had prepared two slates tied together and placed in the centre of the table.”

“When John was explaining to me that it was easier for him to materialise the tips of the fingers and the nails than any other part of the arm, I felt something hard tapping lightly on my head.”

“Those are the slates, said John.”

“In answer to my question as to how he was able to hold them in the air, he gave me all his theory, which I will try to reproduce as faithfully as possible:-”

“The hands of all present, and principaly the medium’s, release an emanation which John simply called fluid. This fluid forms bundles of straight rays, which are like stretched threads and support the slates. When these threads or rays are sufficiently strong, the object may perhaps be raised above the heads, because then the rays converge on to a surface or a point of the object, becoming, so to speak, rigid, and the object rests on them as on shafts. But their power depends upon certain conditions, and, above all, on the harmony established between, the various fluids. By suddenly changing the conditions, for example, by breaking the chain of hands, you cut the current and the power from the fluidic rays is dispersed.”

“In order to verify this assertion of John’s, I suddenly withdrew my hand from my neighbour on my left, and immediately the slates fell on to the table.”

” ‘That is true,’ I said to John; ‘but do you know that I had an impression as if the slates had fallen from the medium’s head?’ ”

“ ‘I shall prove to you by-and-by that you made a mistake.’ ”

“We re-formed the chain, as he directed, and a few minutes afterwards the slates were again in the air, above our heads. ‘And now lift up your hand,’ said John. We raised our hands, Eusapia and I, as high as it was possible without letting go of each other’s hands, and the slates manifested their presence at that height several times by touching our hands.”

“It was evident:-”

“1. That the slates were much higher than the medium’s head;”

“2. That the raising of both our hands, without breaking the chain, did not in any way interfere with the mechanical action of John’s rays.”

“When, several seconds afterwards, I unexpectedly left go my left hand neighbour’s hand, the slates fell with a crash.”

“John’s assertions were thus confirmed by experiment. The same thing occurred on the occasion of a complete levitation of the medium, whom John wished to raise in her chair and put on the table.”

“At my request, this levitation which, like all the previous experiments with Eusapia, took place in total darkness, had to be accomplished slowly, in order to facilitate observation.”

“When he medium sitting on her chair was levitated to the height of the table, one of the controllers, M. Prus, loosed his hold of Eusapia’s hand; her chair fell to the floor immediately, and she herself fell on to the edge of the table uttering a cry of pain.”

“On another similar occasion, when the medium (without a chair) was already on the table, she gave suddenly a cry of distress, asking that we place our hands, without breaking the chain, underneath her.”

“It therefore seems that even in a levitation of the medium, executed by the hands of her double, the rays from John . . . come in play . . .”

“I also find in my notes for 1894, the enumeration of the sensations experienced by Eusapia Paladino . . . :”

“1. From the first she felt a shiver passing down her back by the arms, up to the fingers, which became numbed;”

“2. Then came disagreeable pricking in the fingers;”

“3. A cold breeze was felt between her hands or about them;”

“4. The skin of her hands became very dry;”

“5. Finally, synchronising with the phenomenon, she felt a sharp pain in her arms . . .”

Eusapia Palladino table movement IGP

Ochorowicz (far right) in Séance with Palladino at the Institut Générale Psychologique (Paris), Around 1905-1908

 

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

I am glad to present an interview with Dr. Michael Nahm, who obtained his PhD with work about physiological responses of beech trees to droughts. In recent times he has worked on forestry science and on various parapsychology-related topics, among them terminal lucidity.

Michael Nahm 3

Michael Nahm

Michael is the author of two books: Wenn die Dunkelheit ein Ende findet. Terminale Geistesklarheit und andere Phänomene in Todesnähe [When Darkness Comes to an End: Terminal Lucidity and other Phenomena in Near-Death States] (Amerang: Crotona, 2012), and Evolution und Parapsychologie [Evolution and Parapsychology] (Norderstedt: Books on Demand, 2007).

Nahm Terminal Lucidity Book

 

Nahm Evolutiom Parapsychologie

Although I have never met Michael personally, I have had email contact with him and we have published papers together: Alvarado, C.S., Nahm, M., & Sommer, A. (2012). Notes on early interpretations of mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 26, 855-865; and Alvarado, C.S., & Nahm, M. (2011). Psychic phenomena and the vital force: Hereward Carrington on “Vital Energy and Psychical Phenomena.” Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 75, 91-103.

For more about his work check Michael’s website Exploring Frontiers of Biology.

Interview

How did you get interested in parapsychology?

When I was a teenager, I was already interested in philosophical issues. This interest was fostered by a fantastic biology teacher at high school. Apart from teaching us the basics of biology according to the course of instruction, he also introduced us to various philosophers, and to biological problems such as the origin of life, and concerns regarding random mutations in the genome. Of the philosophers he introduced to us, I was especially impressed by Arthur Schopenhauer. In the 1990s, I came across the books of Rupert Sheldrake. I was enthralled by the way he aimed at pushing the limits of established science. I contacted him and tried to jump on the experimental train, searching for dogs that know when their owners are coming home, experimenting with ants and crystal growth, and with being woken up in the night telepathically by somebody else. In the end, however, all my attempts to contribute to research into morphic fields remained inconclusive or failed. I also met Rupert in 1997 at a seminar he gave at Schumacher College in Totnes, where we had many stimulating talks. Summing up, I owe Rupert the confidence that one can contribute to researching so-called anomalies also privately without belonging to the in-group of responsible experts, and without affiliation to a relevant academic institution.

My interest in parapsychology increased considerably during the writing of my first book on unsolved riddles of evolution (Nahm 2007), because I recognized that psychical phenomena are one of the most important stumbling blocks for the materialistic and neo-darwinistic interpretation of biological processes including evolution. Ever since then, my fascination for parapsychology remained on a high level and I delved into several different lines of psi research. Yet, professionally, I stayed in a different academic setting (chiefly, forestry research), and I pursue my psi-related occupations in my private time, which, much to my regret, is always too limited.

What are your main interests in the field and how have you contributed to its development?

My main interests in the field are varied, and they also vary with time. This is what I love about parapsychology: There is an enormous amount of highly interesting literature which is often hardly known, and it can be very exciting to dive into a given field of research, unearthing strange and rare literature, or into the biography of a largely forgotten pioneer of parapsychology and its bordering areas. In the recent years, I contributed to topics such as the implications of psi-phenomena for biology and unsolved riddles of evolution, the history of parapsychology, cases of the reincarnation type, out-of-body experiences (OBEs), near-death experiences (NDEs) and other end-of-life experiences.

I suppose most people will have read my name in connection with “Terminal Lucidity”, which can be defined as the unexpected return of mental clarity and memory shortly before death. Cases of particular interest involve patients whose brains were destroyed by diseases such as tumors, strokes, or Alzheimer’s disease, but who seemed to recover shortly before death with their memory being intact. Such experiences were reported since antiquity and especially throughout the 19th century, but they continue to surface until present. Yet, especially the older accounts of terminal lucidity are widely scattered and often difficult to obtain. Hence, I attempted to collect and systemize them, and to publicize the results of this literature survey together with colleagues active in the field of near-death studies (for a short overview, click here to see my article in the Psi Encylopedia.

Moreover, I am fascinated by mediumship, both mental and physical, and published several articles about it. Some might have followed the controversy about the alleged physical medium Kai Mügge, who attracted quite some interest in the parapsychological community. After I was eagerly following and documenting the development of his supposed mediumship for several years in person, I finally discovered that Mügge used fraudulent practices during his séances (see also this article).

Why do you think that parapsychology is important?

When we look at nature, and try to understand it better by applying means of natural sciences, we always need to take the context and the level of organization of the phenomena we intend to study into account. First, for studying classical physics, more or less linear biochemical reactions and chain reactions, the framework of reductionist materialism is the appropriate context. Second, for studying more complex systems like protozoons, interacting cells, tissues, or organs, perhaps also ecosystems, a systemic approach sometimes called “organicism” is the appropriate framework. Yet, third, when it comes to studying even more complex living systems, including human beings, the unfolding of consciousness, psi, postmortem survival, or possibly evolution as a whole, I think that ultimately, only a kind of neo-vitalistic and dualistic approach is appropriate. Finally, when we look at the fundamental levels of reality with a metaphysical slant, we might apply a holistic and monistic approach in which the dualistic properties present on lower levels of biological organization are regarded as complementary and as originating in an initially unified source at the heart of being. Of course, there is no clear-cut border between all these levels of existential organization, they intersect. But when we intend to study the last two levels of organization mentioned, parapsychology is the silver bullet.

Along with Arthur Schopenhauer, biologist and philosopher Hans Driesch (1867-1941), and several other pioneers in our field, I consider parapsychology the most appropriate and most important empirical research discipline for studying these levels of existence – simply because parapsychology takes also so-called “anomalies” and strange properties of the human psyche into account, and thus, offers pathways for the most realistic descriptions and interpretations of existence available.

On a personal level, the occupation with parapsychology and its research results leads to intensification of my self-awareness, and to lots of amazement about the world I live in – what more could you ask for?

In your view, what are the main problems in parapsychology today as a scientific field?

I think that some of the problems that parapsychology faces have not much to do with parapsychology itself. First, the presently prevailing “Zeitgeist” in the mainstream sciences is very conservative and “anti-paranormal”, so that even strongly positive results in parapsychology would most likely not lead to an acceptance of psi-phenomena in the academic setting and among funding agencies. I don’t think this is the fault of parapsychology or parapsychologists, it is a consequence of other socio-political, historical and scientific developments.

Second, I suppose that the decreasing funds and possibilities to work parapsychologically in an academic setting are partially due to natural cycles that many scientific disciplines undergo. In the beginning, they flourish and attract (relatively) many interested researchers, then follows a fruitful period of research, and then, when much of the scientific approaches that can possibly be performed have already been performed, the interest declines again, or the discipline splits up in increasing numbers of subdisciplines. I think that this is where we are now, and in case of parapsychology, we have to face a decline of interest rather than creating subdisciplines. However, I can well imagine that parapsychology will face a renewed cycle of interest after several decades, which will then perhaps take place in a more psi-friendly and supportive scientific environment. Perhaps, this might be triggered by research into near-death experiences and other death-related phenomena in medical settings – an approach that I consider very promising. Anyway: Psi will never go away, and there will always be people who will study it in one way or another.

Can you mention some of your current projects?

At present, Bruce Greyson, David Rousseau, and I try to publish the results of a literature survey concerning unusual brain lesions or disorders that don’t seem to be reflected in the mental state of the affected persons, and on certain aspects of the savant syndrome. These topics pose largely neglected, but very interesting questions for standard models of memory processing and neural plasticity. We try to publish this paper in a mainstream medical journal, and are curious whether we will succeed. Apart from that, I am currently occupied with three projects related to parapsychology.

First, other colleagues and I evaluate data that we obtained from three online-surveys about NDEs, Exceptional Experiences following NDEs, and OBEs. One aim of these surveys among German-speaking NDErs was to find specifically gifted persons who are able and willing to induce OBEs at will, and to experiment with them regarding veridical perceptions from the OBE-state. However, although four persons stated that they can induce OBEs at will frequently, or even always, none of them was willing to participate in such tests.

Second, together with two like-minded sympathizers of Hans Driesch, who was also an influential theoretical parapsychologist, I began writing a German book about this remarkable man. Presently, his neo-vitalistic philosophy is regarded as outdated. Yet, we think this appraisal is premature. Rather, similarly to the writings of Frederic Myers, William James, Henri Bergson, and other pioneers who built bridges from parapsychology to natural sciences, psychology and philosophy, I consider his philosophical concepts still important and topical.

Third, I translated the most important parts of an elaborate and very interesting Hungarian book about studies into apport phenomena (Elemèr Pap of Chengery: Új Látóhatárok Felé [Toward New Horizons], 1938), and started to write an English summary and commentary about it. Every now and then, when time permits it, I write a few lines.

However, time is always running and passing much too quick, and there are many, many more exciting topics that I’d like to trail! You can follow my psi-related activities on my website.

Giraffe Nahm

Photo taken by Michael Nahm

 

Selected bibliography

Books

Nahm M (2012). Wenn die Dunkelheit ein Ende findet. Terminale Geistesklarheit und andere Phänomene in Todesnähe [When Darkness Comes to an End: Terminal Lucidity and other Phenomena in Near-Death States]. Amerang: Crotona. 286 pp.

Nahm M (2007). Evolution und Parapsychologie [Evolution and Parapsychology]. Norderstedt: Books on Demand. 400 pp.

Articles and Book Reviews in Journals

Nahm M (2016). Book review: Sabine Mehne: Der Große Abflug [The Great Takeoff]. Zeitschrift für Anomalistik, 16, 484-488.

Ludwiger I von, Nahm M (2016). Apport phenomena of medium Herbert Baumann (1911-1998): Report on personal experiences. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 30, 337-358.

Nahm M (2016). Albert Heim (1849-1937): The multifaceted geologist who influenced research into near-death experiences and suggestion therapy. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 12, 256-258.

Nahm M (2016). Letter to the editor: The role of animals as co-percipients of apparitions in the work of Emil Mattiesen (1875-1939). Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 80, 119-121.

Nahm M (2016). Further Comments about Kai Mügge’s Alleged Mediumship and Recent Developments. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 30, 56-62.

Nahm M (2015). Mysterious ways: The riddle of the homing ability in dogs and other vertebrates. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 79, 140-155.

Nahm M (2014). Book review: Timon Kuff: Okkulte Ästhetik – Wunschfiguren des Unbewussten im Werk von Albert von Schrenck-Notzing [Occult Aesthetics. Wish-Figures of the Unconscious in the Work of Albert von Schrenck-Notzing]. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 78, 172-173.

Nahm M (2014). Commentary on the Essay Review „William Jackson Crawford on the Goligher Circle“ by Michael Tymn. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 28, 345-349.

Nahm M (2014). The development and the phenomena of a circle for physical mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 28, 229-283.

Nahm M, Greyson B (2013-2014). The death of Anna Katharina Ehmer. A case study in terminal lucidity. Omega, 68, 77-87.

Nahm M, Navarini AA, Kelly EW (2013). Canities subita: A Reappraisal of Evidence Based on 196 Case Reports Published in the Medical Literature. International Journal of Trichology, 5, 63-68.

Alvarado CS, Nahm M, Sommer A (2012). Notes on early interpretations of mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 26, 855-865.  

Nahm M (2012). The sorcerer of Cobenzl and his legacy: The life of Baron Karl Ludwig von Reichenbach, his work and its aftermath. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 26, 381-407.

Nahm M, Greyson B, Kelly EW, Haraldsson E (2012). Terminal lucidity: A review and a case collection. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 55, 138-142.

Alvarado CS, Nahm M (2011). Psychic phenomena and the vital force: Hereward Carrington on “Vital energy and psychical phenomena”. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 75, 91-103.

Nahm M (2011a). Reflections on the context of near-death experiences. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 25. 453-478.

Nahm M (2011b). The Tibetan Book of the Dead: Its history and controversial aspects of its contents. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 29, 373-398.

Nahm M (2011c). Book review: Göran Brusewitz: Conscious connections. About Parapsychology and Holistic Biology. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 25, 407-411.

Nahm M, Hassler D (2011). Thoughts about thought bundles: A commentary on Jürgen Keil’s paper “Questions of the reincarnation type”. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 25, 305–318.

Nahm M (2010a). Book review: Janice M. Holden, Bruce Greyson und Debbie James: The handbook of near-death experiences. 30 years of investigation. Journal of Parapsychology, 74, 182-189.

Nahm M (2010b). Book review: Anabela Cardoso: Electronic voices: Contact with another dimension? Zeitschrift für Anomalistik, 10, 176-181.

Nahm M (2010c). Book review: Gerda Lier: Das Unsterblichkeitsproblem. Grundannahmen und Voraussetzungen [The Problem of Immortality. Basic Assumptions and Preconditions]. Zeitschrift für Anomalistik, 10, 136-144.

Nahm M (2010d). Letter to the editor [On mediumistic communications by living agents], Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 74, 53-56.

Nahm M, Nicolay J (2010). Essential features of eight published Muslim near-death experiences: An addendum to Joel Ibrahim Kreps’s “The search for Muslim near-death experiences”. Journal of Near-Death Studies, 29, 255-263.

Nahm M (2009a). Terminal lucidity in people with mental illness and other mental disability: An overview and implications for possible explanatory models. Journal of Near-Death Studies 28, 87-106.

Nahm M (2009b). Four ostensible near-death experiences of Roman times with peculiar features: Mistake cases, correction cases, xenoglossy, and a prediction. Journal of Near-Death Studies 27, 211-222.

Nahm M (2009c). Book review: Forward ever, backward never? Betrachtungen zum Tagungsband „Charting the future of parapsychology“. Zeitschrift für Anomalistik, 9, 216-237.

Nahm M, Greyson B (2009). Terminal lucidity in patients with chronic schizophrenia and dementia: A Survey of the Literature. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 197, 942-944.

Book chapters

Nahm M (2015). Außerkörperliche Erfahrungen [Out-of-Body Experiences]. In: G Mayer, M Schetsche, I Schmied-Knittel, D Vaitl (eds). An den Grenzen der Erkenntnis. Handbuch der wissenschaftlichen Anomalistik. Stuttgart: Schattauer. (pp. 151-163).

Nahm M (2013). Terminale Geistesklarheit und andere Rätsel des menschlichen Bewusstseins [Terminal Lucidity and other Enigmas of Human Consciousness]. In: A Serwaty, J Nicolay (eds). Nahtoderfahrung und Bewusstseinsforschung. Goc