Archive for April, 2018


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

My article “Morselli’s ‘Psicologia e Spiritismo’ ” was recently posted in the Psi Encyclopedia. It is about Italian psychiatrist Enrico Morselli’s two volume work Psicologia e “Spiritismo:” Impressioni e Note Critiche sui Fenomeni Medianici di Eusapia Paladino (Psychology and “Spiritism”: Impressions and Critical Notes  about the Mediumistic Phenomena of Eusapia Paladino; 2 vols. Turin: Fratelli Bocca, 1908).

 Morselli Psicologia

 

Enrico Morselli 2

Enrico Morselli

Here is the summary:

“Enrico Morselli (1852-1929), an Italian psychiatrist, contributed to the study of the mediumship of Eusapia Palladino, notably regarding its clinical and psychological aspects. This work is contained in his 1908 two-volume book, little known to English-language writers, Psicologia e ‘Spiritismo’ (Psychology and ‘Spiritism’) on which this article is largely based (the original Italian edition can be read online). Morselli adopts an anti-survival stance, rejecting discarnate agency in favour of fraud, psychological processes, or psychic means involving human agency.”

Eusapia Palladino side dress

Eusapia Palladino

Morselli became convinced of the phenomena of medium Eusapia Palladino. In his view mediumship  was “an abnormal fact of the human physio-psychic personality which, like all other abnormalities and individual abnormalities . . . is directly linked to the normal somatic, physiological and mental conditions of the Homo sapiens animal. . .” Palladino was believed to be a hysteric, but a hysteric that could produce movement of objects, materializations, and other physical manifestations. This view was shared by another Italian psychiatrist, Cesare Lombroso.

Most of the book is about reports of séances with Palladino. “This is not a scientific report, but rather a compilation of summaries and impressions of séances attended by Morselli during the 1900s, by which time she had been studied by several scientists and scholars . . . The séances took place at the Circolo Scientifico Minerva (Scientific Circle Minerva), in Genoa, a private group that included psychical researcher Ernesto Bozzano, astronomer Francesco Porro and journalist Luigi Arnaldo Vassallo.” He reported that in his first séance, held in 1909, the medium was seated at the head of the table and was controlled by two persons. Morselli wrote: “The table was in motion: it was bowing now from one side, it went up on two feet and on one, and in the end I saw it stand up to 10-15 centimeters, remain suspended for a few seconds below the hands that protruded in the chain, and then, as if suddenly the thrust that pushed it or the strength that supported it lessened, it fell noisily on the floor.”

Morselli listed that the following physical phenomena took place in the séances:

Parakinesis (movement of objects with some physical contact)

Telekinesis

Changes of weight in objects or the medium

Thermal-radiant phenomena (such as breezes and cold areas)

Sounds, including voices

Hyloplastic phenomena (production of marks or tracings)

Zollnerian phenomena such as apports and knots on cords

Tangible teleplasty (materializations)

Simple telephany (luminous phenomena)

Visible, active and tangible teleplasmy (materialized forms and limbs)

 

Sketches of Materialized Forms Observed in Seances in which Morselli was Present

Morselli Palladino form 2

Morselli Palladino form 4

Morselli Palladino materialization sketch

There is much in the book about the medium’s psychological and medical aspects. “Morselli noticed that Palladino perspired profusely during trance. She told him her menstrual period was more copious and erratic when she held many séances. Coming out of trance, she sometimes was amyosthenic (muscular weakness), and experienced paralysis in her limbs, mainly on the right side.”

The phenomena were believed by Morselli to be caused by a force exteriorized from the medium’s body. Morselli wrote: “We say that everything happens as if the medium’s body exteriorizes its bio-psychic force . . .  This fact of exopsychicity is not more unintelligible than electricity which propagates at a distance without conductors and produces movement, chemical, luminous, [and] sonic phenomena . . .”

In addition, Morselli presents two useful bibliographies.  One is about Spiritism and psychic phenomena in general, while another is a list of publications about Paladino. Both include materials in French, and Italian that are usually missed by English-speaking students of her mediumship (on these bibliographies see an article here, starting on page 1900.

Morselli Bibliography

Finally, in the encyclopedia entry I also presents examples of the book’s reception, among them a negative one by Eleanor M. Sidgwick (Review of Psicologia e “Spiritismo.” Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1909, 21, 516-525).

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

In a previous blog I interviewed Dr. Dean Radin, Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, about his career and general ideas regarding parapsychology. I interview him here about his new book, Real Magic: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe (New York: Harmony Books, 2018).

Dean Radin 4

Dean Radin

Radin Real Magic

Here is the table of contents:

  1. Beginnings
  2. Science and Magic?
  3. Magical Potpourri
  4. Origins of Magic
  5. Practice of Magic
  6. Scientific Evidence
  7. Merlin-Class Magicians
  8. Toward a Science of Magic
  9. Concluding Thoughts

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

Real Magic reviews the history and concepts of the Western esoteric tradition to see if that domain might provide clues about how psi works. I found that it does. The book also compares lore about magical practices with what parapsychology has learned about psi. ​After the superstitions and theatrical excesses associated with ceremonial magic ​are stripped away, magic and psi are found to involve the same underlying phenomena, with the same modulating factors. In sum, what did ancient magicians know about psi that we are struggling to understand today?

 

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

​I’ve been involved part or full-time in empirical psi research for 42 years. I’ve been interested in the history and practices of Eastern and Western esoteric traditions for at least that long.​

 

What motivated you to write this book?

Like many who are convinced by experience or experiment that psi is real, I want to know how it works and what it implies about the nature of reality. Theoretical models in our field have not advanced nearly as fast as the empirical work, which suggests that there might be a problem with our starting assumptions. So I decided to seriously consider if the esoteric traditions, which are saturated with magic and psi, might shed some light on this problem. After reviewing the relevant history (which is vast), I’ve come to believe that the metaphysical basis of the esoteric cosmologies (in the philosophical sense of metaphysics) provides a better explanation than the metaphysics underlying today’s scientific worldview. In the book I provide a suggestion that views today’s scientific worldview as a special case of a more comprehensive worldview. The expanded worldview maintains everything known by science today, but it recasts psi, magic, and mystical experience from bizarre, inexplicable anomalies into phenomena that are natural and obvious.

 

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

I ​ hope to show that a calm consideration of​ magic and psi does not represent a regression to a superstitious, pre-scientific past, but rather it is a forecast of the future of science. All of my popular books have been part of a long-term effort to crack the taboo that has prevented serious discussions of psi experiences, what they are, how they work, and what they imply about the nature of consciousness. Real Magic is the latest step along this path, one designed to appeal to a (large) audience interested in both science and esoterica. As evidence that this topic is (or should be) of high interest to science, Real Magic gained endorsements from two Nobel Laureates, a former program director from the National Science Foundation, an astrophysics medal winner from the National Academy of Sciences, and many prominent academics from mainstream disciplines at mainstream universities.

 

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

A recent issue of the journal Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice has discussions of precognition by various authors. The discussion opens with an editorial by Erik Woody and Steven Jay Lynn (“Perspectives on Precognition.” Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 2018, 5, 1–2). They write:

“The balance of this issue consists of five articles addressing what has variously been termed precognition, precognitive ability, and retrocausal or retroactive influences . . . In the first article, Schooler, Baumgart, and Franklin (2018) address how to strike the most appropriate and productive relation between Sagan’s “seemingly contradictory attitudes,” drawing an important distinction between entertaining versus endorsing anomalous phenomena like precognition. In the second article, Mossbridge and Radin (2018b) present a comprehensive review of existing empirical research on precognition, making the case that this body of work warrants scientists being open to this possibility despite its “bizarre or counterintuitive” qualities. The next two articles, by Schwarzkopf (2018) and by Houran, Lange, and Hooper (2018), are invited critiques of Mossbridge and Radin’s (2018b) review, applying the “most ruthless skeptical scrutiny” in pointing out what these critics believe are crucial conceptual and methodological flaws in the research. A response from Mossbridge and Radin (2018a) follows these critiques.”

The editorial was followed by Jonathan W. Schooler, Stephen Baumgart, and Michael Franklin’s “Entertaining Without Endorsing: The Case for the Scientific Investigation of Anomalous Cognition” (2018, Vol. 5, 63–77. Here is the abstract:

Johnattan Schooler

Johnattan Schooler

“Empirical reports in mainstream journals that human cognition extends in ways that challenge the current boundaries of science (anomalous cognition) has been viewed with dismay by many who see it as evidence that science is broken. Here the authors make the case for the value of conducting and publishing well-designed studies investigating anomalous cognition. They distinguish between the criteria that justify entertaining the possibility of anomalous cognition from those required to endorse it as a bona fide phenomenon. In evaluating these 2 distinct thresholds, the authors draw on Bayes’s theorem to argue that scientists may reasonably differ in their appraisals of the likelihood that anomalous cognition is possible. Although individual scientists may usefully vary in the criteria that they hold both for entertaining and endorsing anomalous cognition, we provide arguments for why researchers should consider adopting a liberal criterion for entertaining anomalous cognition while maintaining a very strict criterion for the outright endorsement of its existence. Grounded in an understanding of the justifiability of disparate views on the topic, the authors encourage humility on both the part of those who present evidence in support of anomalous cognition and those who dispute the merit of its investigation.”

The target article, by Julia Mossbridge and Dean Radin, was “Precognition as a Form of Prospection: A Review of the Evidence” (2018, Vol. 5, No. 1, 78–93). Abstract:

Julia mossbridge 6

Julia Mossbridge

Dean Radin 4

Dean Radin

“Prospection, the act of attempting to foresee one’s future, is generally assumed to be based on conscious and nonconscious inferences from past experiences and anticipation of future possibilities. Most scientists consider the idea that prospection may also involve influences from the future to be flatly impossible due to violation of common sense or constraints based on one or more physical laws. We present several classes of empirical evidence challenging this common assumption. If this line of evidence can be successfully and independently replicated using preregistered designs and analyses, then the consequences for the interpretation of experimental results from any empirical domain would be profound.”

This is followed by two critiques of Mossbridge and Radin’s paper, and by their reply.

D. Samuel Schwarzkopf, “On the Plausibility of Scientific Hypotheses: Commentary on Mossbridge and Radin (2018)” (2018, 5, 94–97).

“Mossbridge and Radin reviewed psychological and physiological experiments that purportedly show time-reversed effects. I discuss why these claims are not plausible. I conclude that scientists should generally consider the plausibility of the hypotheses they test.”

James Houran, Rense Lange, and Dan Hooper “Cross-Examining the Case for Precognition: Comment on Mossbridge and Radin (2018) ‘ (2018, 5, 98–109).

James Houran

James Houran

“Based on a review and meta-analyses of empirical literature in parapsychology, Mossbridge and Radin (2018) argued for anomalous replicable effects that suggest the possibility of precognitive ability or retrocausal phenomena. However, these conclusions are refuted on statistical and theoretical grounds—the touted effects are neither meaningful, interpretable, nor even convincingly replicable. Moreover, contrary to assertions otherwise, the possibility of authentic retrocausation is discredited by modern theories in physics. Accordingly, Mossbridge and Radin’s interpretations are discussed in terms of misattribution biases that serve anxiolytic functions when individuals confront ambiguity, with potential reinforcement from perceptual–personality variables such as paranormal belief. Finally, we argue that research in human consciousness should be multidisciplinary, and notably, leverage informed investigators in the physical sciences to advance truly valid and cumulative theory building.”

Julia A. Mossbridge and Dean Radin, ‘Plausibility, Statistical Interpretations, Physical Mechanisms and a New Outlook: Response to Commentaries on a Precognition Review” (2018, 5, 110–116).

“We address what we consider to be the main points of disagreement by showing that (a) scientific plausibility (or lack thereof) is a weak argument in the face of empirical data, (b) the statistical methods we used were sound according to at least one of several possible statistical positions, and (c) the potential physical mechanisms underlying precognition could include quantum biological phenomena. We close with a discussion of what we believe is an unfortunate but currently dominant tendency to focus on reducing Type-I statistical errors without balancing that approach by also paying attention to the potential for Type-II errors.”

 

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

Germana Paretti published an interesting article about Hans Driesch entitles “Hans Driesch’s Interest in the Psychical Research: A Historical Study” (Medicina Historica, 2017, 1, 156-162; author’s address germana.pareti@unito.it).

Hans Driesch

Hans Driesch

Here is the abstract:

“In recent times the source of interest in psychical research in Germany has been subject of relevant studies. Not infrequently these works have dealt with this phenomenon through the interpretation of the various steps and transformations present in Hans Driesch’s thought, from biology and medicine to neovitalism, and finally to parapsychology. However these studies identified the causes of this growing involvement in paranormal research either in the historical context of “crisis” of modernity (or “crisis” in psychology), or in an attempt to “normalize” the supernatural as an alternative to the traditional experimental psychology. My paper aims instead at throwing light on the constant effort by Driesch to conceive (and found) psychical research as a science of the super-normal, using the methodology successfully adopted by the scientific community (especially German) in the late nineteenth century.”

Driesch Vitalismus
Driesch Gesgische Vitalismus

According to Pareti:

“Asked to lecture on his conception of vitalism at Cambridge University, [Driesch] . . . met there Henry Sidgwick and he became interested in the research on psychic phenomena. He joined the Society for Psychical Research of London (SPR) in 1913, and he was its president in 1926-27. When he wanted to investigate psychic phenomena further in Oslo in 1935, the Nazis denied his passport, so he did not pursue this work further. Invited to lecture on philosophy by many universities (in Europe, United States, South America and the Far East), Driesch had the opportunity to work with some pioneers in the field of psychic research: Walter Franklin Pierce in Boston, Gustav Geley and Eugène Osty in Paris, Oliver Lodge in Britain and Albert von Schrenck-Notzing in Germany. He sat with mediums such as “Margery,” Mrs. Osborne Leonard and Willi and Rudi Schneider. Although impressed by Mrs. Leonard and the Schneiders, Driesch was not always convinced of the genuineness of mediumistic phenomena.”

Driesch Science Philosophy Organism

His vitalistic writings included the concept of entelechia. “Derived from a biological-metaphysical context, it denoted a vital agent, an internal perfecting non-mechanical principle existing in all living organisms, ‘a unifying, non-material, mind-like something’ . . ., and Driesch sustained that ‘we have an interaction in the purely natural sphere, i.e. between entelechy and the matter of my body.’ Nevertheless, the working of entelechia had to be parallel to that of the soul: ‘the working of my soul … and [its] certain states are ‘parallel’ to ‘my conscious havings’ . . . He admitted that, in fact, in the normal morphogenesis we do not know as entelechy acts, but it could regulate organic development and explain several paraphysical actions. Above all, paraphysical phenomena are cases of a kind of ‘enlarged’ vitalism, a ‘supervitalism’ . . . Although he complained that some critics erroneously mixed his psychology with his vitalism, Driesch was sure that vitalism represented ‘a fundamental breach’ in the normal science, being a bridge connecting normal (scientific) and psychical research. Therefore he refuted any psychophysical (or psychomechanical) parallelism, conceiving mind as an independent entity, ‘enthroned by the side of the physical body.’ Its physiological effects are well known, since a lot of bodily symptoms can be mentally produced (inflammation, pregnancy, stigmata etc.).”

“Neverthless Driesch did not deny matter and its role. ‘Matter is everywhere in the space,’ and the vital agent makes a constructive use of it, or, the mental part of the individual acts purposely on matter. Its influence is visible in the simplest of supernormal phenomenon, in which matter is under the influence of assimilation, an established process highlighted by Justus von Liebig in his organic chemistry. Materialisation and its varieties (telekinesis and levitation) constitute a kind of organized assimilation, a kind of supernormal embriology. So, if regarded as vitalistic actions, or forms of ‘behaviour’ of some unconscious entity, paraphysical phenomena lose their negative character of absurdity, since they respect the principle of economy or of parsimony, according to which no phenomenon may be considered fundamental if it can be reduced to another.”

The article also has interesting sections about other topics. This include Driesch’s ideas regarding methodology in parapsychology, and his mention of other researchers in his work.

Interestingly, the last issue of the Paranormal Review has an article about Driesch by John Poynton: “President’s Letter: The SPR’s Philosopher-Presidents: Hans Driesch.” Paranormal Review, 85, 4-5).

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Ohkado Masayuki has just published a paper entitled “Same-Family Cases of the Reincarnation Type in Japan” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2017, 31, 551-571). here is the abstract:

Ohkado Masayiki 2

Ohkado Masayuki

“This article reports five same-family cases of the reincarnation type occurring in contemporary Japan. The discussion will be within a set of widely adopted operative assumptions set out by Dr. Ian Stevenson and his colleagues: Streams of consciousness survive death of body and become associated with another body at another time, During the intermission period between lives, the discarnate mind retains the ability for psi perceptions and interactions, and may exercise choice in the selection of parents. The theoretical part of the present paper is with the limitation concerning auxiliary assumptions (Sudduth 2016), and the interpretations of the data adopted here (the survival and reincarnation hypotheses) are open to alternative analyses (notably, the Living Agent Psi hypothesis) as pointed out by Braude (1997, 2003, 2013) and Sudduth (2009, 2013, 2016), but it is beyond the scope of the present paper to deal with these issues. Of the five cases, the first three involve a deceased child appearing to be reborn to the same mother. One of the remaining two is a skipped-generation case, in which a deceased mother appears to have been reborn as a child of her daughter. The other is a case in which a deceased child appears to have been reborn as a daughter of his elder brother. This case also involves an “experimental birthmark.”

It is stated in the conclusion: “The present investigation raises an interesting question, which is to be pursued in future research: How common are same-family cases in Japan in comparison with other cases including stranger cases? Stevenson (1986:209–211) and Haraldsson and Matlock (2016:222–223) demonstrated that the percentages of same-family and other cases differ significantly from country to country (or culture to culture). According to the figures reported in Haraldsson and Matlock (2016:223), the lowest percentage of same-family cases is that of India (16%) and the highest is that of the Gitxsan of British Columbia (100%). As discussed in Yanagita (2013), skipped-generation reincarnation might have been considered “normal” in some areas in prewar Japan. With the assumption stated in the Introduction that culturally prescribed ideas about reincarnation would be carried into death and would influence decisions made in the postmortem state, the incidence of same-family cases is expected to be relatively high in such areas.”