Archive for June, 2017

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

I finally published a paper I have been working on for a long time. It is an examination of the presence of psychical research at the international congresses of psychology for the period 1889-1905 (“Telepathy, Mediumship, and Psychology: Psychical Research at the International Congresses of Psychology, 1889–1905.” Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2017, 31, 255–292).

Congres Psychologie 1889
Congress Psychology 1892

Here is the abstract:

“The development of psychology includes the rejection of concepts and movements some groups consider undesirable, such as psychical research. One such example was the way psychologists dealt with phenomena such as telepathy and mediumship in the first five international congresses of psychology held between 1889 and 1905. This included papers about telepathy and mediumship by individuals such as Gabriel Delanne, Léon Denis, Théodore Flournoy, Paul Joire, Léon Marillier, Frederic W. H. Myers, Julian Ochorowicz, Charles Richet, Eleanor M. Sidgwick, and Henry Sidgwick. These topics were eventually rejected from the congresses, and provide us with an example of the boundary-work psychologists were engaging in during that period to build their discipline. The height of such presentations took place at the 1900 congress, after which there was a marked decline in discussion on the topic which mirrored the rejection science at large showed for psychical research during the period in question.”

Congress Psychology 1896

Congres Psychologie 1900

The congresses took place in 1889 (Paris), 1892 (London), Munich (1896), 1900 (Paris), and 1905 (Rome). Some of the papers presented, as published in the conference proceedings, were:

Bager-Sjögren, Dr. (1897). Ist es möglich, durch eine internationale Hallucinations-statistik einen Beweis zu erbringen für die Existenz telepathisher Einwirkungen? In Dritter Internationaler Congress für Psychologie, Munich: J. F. Lehmann, pp. 394–402.

Courtier, J. (1906). Sur quelques effets de passes dites magnétiques. In Atti del V Congresso Internazionale di Psicologia edited by S. De Sanctis, Rome: Forzani, pp. 536–540.

Dariex, Dr. [X] (1901). De divers expériences sur les mouvements d’objets matérieles provoqués sans contact par une force psychique agissant a distance. In IVe Congrès International de  Psychologie edited by P. Janet, Paris: Félix Alcan, pp. 632–638.

Dariex Paper 1900 Psychology Congress 1900

Flournoy, T. (1897). Quelques faits d’imagination subliminale chez les médiums. In Dritter Internationaler Congress für Psychologie, Munich: J. F. Lehmann, pp. 419–420.

Flournoy Paper 1896 Psychology Congress

Marillier, L. (1890). Statistique des hallucinations. In Congrès International de Psychologie Physiologique, Paris: Bureau de Revues, pp. 44–47.

Marzorati, A. (1906). Le origini e lo sviluppo del pensiero religioso in rapporto ai fenomeni psichici ed alla facoltà supernormali. In Atti del V Congresso Internazionale di Psicologia edited by S. De Sanctis, Rome: Forzani, pp. 461–462.

Richet, C. (1892). L’avenir de la psychologie. In International Congress of Experimental Psychology. London: Williams & Norgate, pp. 24-26.

Sidgwick, H. (1892). Statistical inquiry into hallucinations. In International Congress of Experimental Psychology, London: Williams & Norgate, pp. 56–61.

van Eeden, F. (1901). Quelques observations sur les phénomènes dits spiritiques. In IVe Congrès International de Psychologie edited by P. Janet, Paris: Félix Alcan, pp. 122–131.

Statistique des Hallucinations (1890). In Congrès International de Psychologie Physiologique, Paris: Bureau de Revues, pp. 151–157.

Rather than recounting a history of success, this episode in the history of psychical research is one of failure in the sense of rejection from psychology. “The eventual rejection of psychical research from the international congresses of psychology is an example of the field’s rejection and ambivalent position within psychology . . . Psychologists’ attempts at professionalization led them to separate themselves from other knowledge claims and perspectives that they felt threatened their status. They engaged in boundary-work, where there is an active defense of practice, methods, and concepts “for the purpose of drawing a rhetorical boundary between science and some less authoritative residual non-science” (Gieryn 1999 . . .) . . .”

Congress Psychology 1905

“The fact that some papers on topics such as veridical hallucinations and mediumship were admitted to the congresses, and that the 1892 congress had Sidgwick and Myers as its President and Secretary, shows some level of acceptance, or tolerance, by the establishment. But it is clear that acceptance of papers in the congress did not mean acceptance of the reality of phenomena beyond conventional principles. The objections presented at the third and fourth congress are an example of this. These discussions show that psychical research was far from being accepted as a part of psychology during the nineteenth century and later . . .”

Henry Sidgwick 3

Henry Sidgwick


by Eveleen Myers (nÈe Tennant), albumen print, late 1890s

Frederic W.H. Myers

In addition to the professionalization of psychology, it is possible that the rejection of psychic phenomena from the congresses may have been related to the threat these phenomena may have had for some against the current materialistic paradigm.

But all this psychic work amounted to more than rejection from the congresses. This work presented contributions to the development of the concept of dissociation. Furthermore: “The SPR [Society for Psychical Research] study of hallucinations . . .  was a significant contribution to the furthering of empirical knowledge on the prevalence and phenomenology of hallucinations, regardless of the rejection of the telepathic component . . .  Other contributions to psychology and psychiatry came from the study of mediumship, as seen in Flournoy’s studies of subliminal imagination, and from other observations leading to specific diagnoses and the concept of automatisms . . . This is instructive in that it illustrates how marginal movements, the periphery, or what has been rejected, can have an impact on the mainstream, or the core of a field such as psychology.”

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

Several meta-analyses have beeen published about parapsychological experiments in recent years (click here and here). If you want to get a short overview of this see Lance Storm’s recent introductory online article on the topic (Meta-analysis in parapsychology. In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research). The article opens explaining the topic:

“Meta-analysis is a statistical procedure that combines the results of a number of studies in a particular area of research in order to provide a more robust finding. The method has been embraced by parapsychologists since the 1980s, since the results of meta-analyses tend overwhelmingly to confirm the statistically significant findings of individual psi studies, underscoring the existence of psi as a genuine phenomenon. However, this apparent success has contributed to doubts about the value of meta-analysis among those who question the reality of psi, fueling controversy about its true worth.”

Lance Storm 2

Lance Storm

Summaries of several meta-analyses about ESP and psychokinesis experiments are presented. This includes ganzfeld, dream, presentiment, and dice throwing studies. Storm presents the results of meta-analyses that both support and do not support the existence of psi effects. He cautions readers that not all areas of research have been meta-analyzed, “these domains (perhaps up-and-coming in some cases) may as yet be represented by too few studies to warrant meta-analysis, or they have been subsumed by other domains (for instance, RV [remote viewing] in free-response), or they do not lend themselves to meta-analytic treatment . . . For most domains, experimentation continues, with experimental designs becoming increasingly sophisticated and innovative.”

Some studies cited by Storm:

Bem, D. J., Palmer, J., & Broughton, R. S. (2001). Updating the ganzfeld database: A victim of its own success? Journal of Parapsychology, 65, 207-218.

Bösch, H., Steinkamp, F., & Boller, E. (2006). Examining psychokinesis: The interaction of human intention with random number generators. Psychological Bulletin, 132, 497-523. Abstract

Honorton, C., & Ferrari, D. C. (1989). “Future telling”: A meta-analysis of forced-choice precognition experiments, 1935-1987. Journal of Parapsychology. 53, 281-308.

Milton, J. (1997). Meta-analysis of free-response ESP studies without altered states of consciousness. Journal of Parapsychology, 61, 279-319.

Milton, J., & Wiseman, R. (1999). Does psi exist? Lack of replication of an anomalous process of information transfer. Psychological Bulletin, 125, 387-391.

Mossbridge, J., Tressoldi, P. & Utts, J. (2012). Predictive physiological anticipation preceding seemingly unpredictable stimuli: a meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 1-18. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00390

Radin, D. I., & Nelson, R. D. (1989). Evidence for consciousness-related anomalies in random physical systems. Foundations of Physics, 19, 1499-1514.

Radin, D. I., & Ferrari, D. C. (1991). Effects of consciousness on the fall of dice: A meta-analysis. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 5, 61-83.

Schmidt, S., Schneider, R., Utts, J., & Wallach, H. (2004). Distant intentionality and the feeling of being stared at: The meta-analyses. British Journal of Psychology, 95, 235-247. Abstract

Sherwood, S. J., & Roe, C. A. (2003). A review of dream ESP studies conducted since the Maimonides dream ESP studies. In J. Alcock, J. Burns, & A. Freeman (Eds.), Psi wars: Getting to grips with the paranormal (pp. 85-109). Thorverton, UK: Imprint Academic.

Sherwood, S. J., & Roe, C. A. (2013). An updated review of dream ESP studies conducted since the Maimonides dream ESP program. In S. Krippner, A. J. Rock, J. Beischel, & H. Friedman (Eds.), Advances in parapsychological research 9 (pp. 38-81). Jefferson, NC: McFarland. Abstract

Stanford, R. G., & Stein, A. G. (1994). A meta-analysis of ESP studies contrasting hypnosis and a comparison condition. Journal of Parapsychology, 58, 235-269. Abstract

Steinkamp, F., Milton, J., & Morris, R. L. (1998). A meta-analysis of forced-choice experiments comparing clairvoyance and precognition. Journal of Parapsychology, 62, 193-218.

Storm, L., Tressoldi, P. E., & Di Risio, L. (2010b). Meta-analyses of free-response studies 1992-2008: Assessing the noise reduction model in parapsychology. Psychological Bulletin, 136, 471-485. doi:10.1037/a0019457.

Storm, L., Tressoldi, P. E., & Di Risio, L. (2012). Meta-analyses of ESP studies 1987-2008: Assessing the success of the forced-choice design in parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 76, 243-273.



Carlos S. Alvarado, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Several papers on the topic of quantum retrocausation appear in the current issue of the AIP Conference Proceedings, published by the American Institute of Physics (to see the papers click here). These papers were presented at the third meeting held at the University of San Diego on June 2016, sponsored by the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to discuss ideas about retrocausation. This is defined in the preface of the proceedings as “the proposition that the future can affect the present in a manner analogous to how the past affects the present via causation.”

Here is a list of the papers:

Preface and Acknowledgements: Quantum Retrocausation III

How retrocausality helps

Roderick I. Sutherland

Is there really “retrocausation” in time-symmetric approaches to quantum mechanics?

Ruth E. Kastner

Janus sequences of quantum measurements and the arrow of time

Andrew N. Jordan, Areeya Chantasri, Kater Murch, Justin Dressel, and Alexander N. Korotkov

Completing the physical representation of quantum algorithms provides a retrocausal explanation of the speedup

Giuseppe Castagnoli

The retrocausal tip of the quantum iceberg

Avshalom C. Elitzur, and Eliahu Cohen

Guiding quantum histories with intermediate decomposition of the identity

Sky Nelson-Isaacs

Quantum entanglement in time

Marcin Nowakowski

Perceiving the future news: Evidence for retrocausation

Dale E. Graff, and Patricia S. Cyrus

Prediction of truly random future events using analysis of prestimulus electroencephalographic data

Stephen L. Baumgart, Michael S. Franklin, Hiroumi K. Jimbo, Sharon J. Su,

and Jonathan Schooler

Testing the potential paradoxes in “retrocausal” phenomena

Jacob Jolij, and Dick J. Bierman

Examining the nature of retrocausal effects in biology and psychology

Julia Mossbridge

Empirical retrocausality: Testing physics hypotheses with parapsychological experiments

York Dobyns

Retrocausation in quantum mechanics and the effects of minds on the creation of physical reality

Henry P. Stapp

Physics and the role of mind

Stanley A. Klein, and Christopher Cochran

Progress in post-quantum mechanics

Jack Sarfatti

Wave particle duality, the observer and retrocausality

Ashok Narasimhan, and Menas C. Kafatos





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

“Over the years a number of ideas have been put forward based on the concept of radiations, or emanations, of biophysical forces from human beings. This concept, although generally disregarded by parapsychologists today, was once widely used to explain phenomena such as auras, ESP, healing, luminous effects, materializations, movement of objects, and many other events.” This is the beginning of an article I wrote about this topic that was published in the Psi Encyclopedia, an online project sponsored by the Society for Psychical Research (Human Radiations. In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research, 2016).

Psi Encyclopedia

My emphasis in the article was on discussions about the topic published before the 1930s. This includes the literatures of mesmerism, Spiritism and Spiritualism, and psychical research.

I started with a section about mesmerism:

“In his book Mémoire sur la Découverte du Magnétisme Animal, the physician Franz Anton Mesmer . . . put forward several propositions about a universal fluid he called animal magnetism, which he believed could bring about actions in both organic and non-organic matter . . . This putative force was the central concept of mesmerism, a movement which flourished between the 18th and 19th centuries, and even later. It was said to be not only in the human body but all around in nature, and was thought to have healing properties. It was polarized like magnets, could be reflected by mirrors, and communicated to animate and inanimate matter, sometimes via sound.”


Franz Anton Mesmer

Mesmer Memoire 1779


In the words of one of Mesmer’s followers: “The magnetic fluid continuously escapes us: it forms an atmosphere around our body… which… does not act noticeably on individuals around us; but when our will pushes and directs it moves with all the strength that we impart: it moves like light rays sent out by bodies ablaze” (Deleuze, J.P.F. (1813). Histoire critique du magnétisme animal (Vol. 1). Paris: Mame.)


J.P.F. Deleuze

Deleuze Histoire Critique

There were many speculations about animal magnetism: “Some believed that animal magnetism was a nervous fluid intimately related to heat electricity and light . . . In fact, such ideas reinforced the notion of a universal force that could manifest in different forms. Petetin . . . called the force ‘animal electricity’ and stated that it could bring in information into the nervous system without the use of the eyes and other sensory organs.”

Petetin Electricite Animale 2 

Many books about mesmerism presented cures effected by this magnetic agent, a concept represented in the sketch below. “English physician James Esdaile . . . reported on amputations performed under the mesmeric state and listed many medical conditions successfully treated with magnetism in his medical practice in India.”


Esdaile Mesmerism in India

Another influential concept was an universal force proposed by Baron Karl von Reichenbach which he referred to as Od.

Reichenbach Physikalisch

“Od, Reichenbach thought, was produced by the human body, also by crystals, heat and other natural processes. He wrote: ‘I placed a specimen card of many metals before many high sensitives, who saw them all in the dark, some brighter, others darker. A glass case full of silver plate gradually grew to be full of fine fire. Coal, selenium, iodine and sulphur were all found to be luminous. The light was a phosphorescent glow, as though they were translucent . . . Besides the glow, the sensitives saw above these substances, flame-like emanations, losing themselves in smoke . . . , and in the former as well as in the latter cases, these flames could be made to nicker and be blown away by the breath, and they in many cases, throw light on the fingers, in which the objects were held. The colors of different substances varied greatly, and this variation gave a good test of the correctness of the statements of the sensitives.’ ”

Many ideas of forces were presented to explain the physical phenomena of mediums, “these were thought to emanate mainly from the body of the medium, although some theories also implicated the sitters in the séance, and more rarely, the surrounding environment.” Some of these ideas assumed spirit action while others did not.

One example of the later was Edward C. Rogers, whose book Philosophy of Mysterious Agents was widely cited during the 1850s and later. “Rogers postulated the exteriorization from the body of a nerve force which he believed accounted for physical phenomena in séances and for poltergeist disturbances. This could take place through unconscious guidance by a living agent or with no specific direction – basically an automatic process. He believed this force was the same as Reichenbach’s Od . . .”

Rogers Philosophy 1853

Variants of these ideas were published during the Nineteenth-Century by Edward W. Cox, Asa Mahan, Edouard von Hartmann, and many others.

Mahan Modern Mysteries

Cox Spiritualism Answered by Science

Von Hartmann Spiritism

English chemist and physicist William Crookes adopted Cox’s “psychic force” concept to make sense of the phenomena he observed with medium DD Home . . . He noticed that Home’s power to affect instruments was variable and speculated that they were related to the medium’s vitality. He wrote, ‘after witnessing the painful state of nervous and bodily prostration in which some of these experiments have left Mr. Home — after seeing him lying in an almost fainting condition on the floor, pale and speechless — I could scarcely doubt that the evolution of psychic force is accompanied by a corresponding drain on vital force.’ ” Crookes writings appear in his Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism, published in 1874.

Crookes Researches cover



D.D. Home

Other topics discussed include ideas of this sort to explain ESP, instrumental and photographic detectors of psychic forces. There is also a short section at the end of the article about critiques, and about recommended readings. I have discussed this topic before in several of my articles and blogs (click here, here, here and here.

Various Later Discussions of this Concept

Barety Magnetisme Animal

Baraduc Ame Humaine in Color

Joire Storage Annals of Psychical Science 1906