Archive for July, 2018


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

Dr. K. Ramakrishna Rao, from India, has been in parapsychology for many decades. I first met him at the Institute for Parapsychology (now Rhine Research Center) in the 1980s. He is well known as a philosopher, psychologist and parapsychologist, and was recently awarded the National Fellowship of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, to work on a project entitled “The Bhagavad Gita: A Psychological Profile.”

K. Ramakrishna Rao 2

K. Ramakrishna Rao

In the past, Dr. Rao has held many high level positions. He is currently Chancellor at the Gandhi Institute of Technology and Management. In addition to being Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University, he was an Advisor on Higher Education to the Government of Andhra Pradesh, and Vice-Chairman of Andhra Pradesh State Planning Board. Furthermore, for several years he was the Executive Director of the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (founded by J.B. Rhine).

In parapsychology Dr. Rao is known for his many ESP experiments, most of which have appeared over the years in the Journal of Parapsychology. But he has also published books, and edited anthologies of papers on the subject: Psi Cognition (Tenali: Tagore Publishing House,  1957); Experimental Parapsychology: A Review and Interpretation (Springfield: Charles C Thomas, 1966); Mystic Awareness: Four Lectures on the Paranormal (Mysore: Mysore University Press, 1972);  Experimental Studies of the Differential Effect in Life Setting (with P. Sailaja; Parapsychological Monograph. No. 13. New York: Parapsychology Foundation. 1973); J.B. Rhine: On the Frontiers of Science. (Editor). Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. 1982); Case Studies in Parapsychology. (Editor). Jefferson, NC.: McFarland, 1986); Charles Honorton and the Impoverished State of Skepticism: Essays on a Parapsychological Pioneer. (Editor). NC: McFarland, 1994); Basic Research in Parapsychology (2nd ed., Jefferson, NC: McFarland,. 2001); and Cognitive Anomalies: Consciousness and Yoga (New Delhi: Center for Studies in Civilizations and Matrix Publishers, 2011).

Rao Experimental Parapsychology

Rao Basic Research in Parapsychology

Books on other psychological topics include Cultivating Consciousness: Enhancing Human Potential, Wellness, and Healing (Editor, Westport, CT: Praeger. 1993); Consciousness Studies: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2002); Towards a Spiritual Psychology (edited with Sonali Bhatt Marwaha; New Delhi: Samvad, 2005); Handbook of Indian Psychology (edited with  A.C. Paranjpe & A.K. Dalal; New Delhi: Cambridge University Press, 2008); Cultivating Consciousness: An East-West Journey (D.K. Printworld, 2013); Psychology in the Indian Tradition (with A.C Paranjpe; New Delhi; Heidelberg: Springer, 2016); Gandhi’s Dharma (Oxford University Press, 2017); Foundations of Yoga Psychology (Singapore: Springer Nature, 2017); Colonial Syndrome, The Videshi Mindset in Modern India (DK Printworld, 2018); and Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra: A Psychological Study (DK Printworld, 2018).

Rao Cultivating Consciousness

Rao Foundations 2

The book commented on in the interview that follows, The Elements of Parapsychology (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2017) is the latest of Dr. Rao’s discussions of parapsychology.

Rao Elements

Table of contents

1—Background and Beginnings
2—Concepts and Methods
3—Accumulating Evidence
4—Problems of Replication and Application
5—­Process-Oriented Research
6—The Problem of ­Psi-Missing
7—The Experimenter Effect
8—Explanatory Quagmire
9—The Unsettled State: Postscript to Sixty
Years in Parapsychology

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

The Elements of Parapsychology is a concise and yet a comprehensive introduction to psychic phenomena. Though coextensive with recorded human history, these phenomena remained for long a mystery and a matter of faith rather than a subject of serious scientific study. However, about a century and half ago, they caught the attention of scientists, who since attempted sporadically to investigate them.

A systematic study of these phenomena as a scientific pursuit began with the work of J.B. Rhine at Duke University under the tutelage of William McDougall, one of the leading psychologists at the time. The first output of this effort resulted in the publication of a research monograph Extra-Sensory Perception by Rhine in 1934, followed by Extra-Sensory Perception After Sixty Years (ESP-60) in 1940, a review of relevant research and the controversies surrounding it until then. I have about fifty years ago published my Experimental Parapsychology which meant to be a supplement to ESP-60.

Notwithstanding the life long struggle to win scientific credibility for and acceptance of the existence of extrasensory abilities by J.B. Rhine and his wife Louisa E. Rhine and those who followed them, the subject continues to be controversial. The reason is not lack of sufficient empirical and experimental evidence but the fact that the phenomena pose a theoretical challenge to the worldview incorporated in science in general. Therefore, what is needed is not more research and data to prove the existence of psychic phenomena but reasonable understanding of their theoretical base, its methods of study, concepts and controversies.

The Elements of Parapsychology is an updated overview of the subject, its problems and prospects.

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

I have been involved in parapsychology since 1953 when I was a graduate student. I wrote my M.A. (Hons.) dissertation with focus on parapsychology. I published my first book in 1957 under the title Psi Cognition. J.B. Rhine wrote the Foreword. With that small beginning our association continued for decades. I headed Rhine’s Institute for Parapsychology and the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (FRNM) for nearly two decades. I was associated with the Journal of Parapsychology, mostly as its Editor, for an equal number of years. My most recent contribution is the book Cognitive Anomalies, Consciousness and Yoga.

What motivated you to write this book?

To share my current thoughts. I was greatly benefitted by the incisive comments of Robert Franklin which helped to greatly improve the quality of the contents.

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

I hope the book would serve as an useful introduction for anyone interested in parapsychology. It could also serve as a textbook for first level courses in parapsychology.

 

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

Adrian Ryan discusses the issue of open data in parapsychology. His article is entitled “Open Data in Parapsychology: Introducing Psi Open Data” (Journal of Parapsychology, 2018, 82, 65-76: author’s email: adrian.ryan@greyheron1.plus.com).

Here is the abstract of the article:

“Open data in science brings important benefits, most notably the potential to accelerate scientific discovery, and the ability for the community to verify research findings. In addition to exploring these benefits, this paper considers concerns that some researchers may have about the approach. Publishing strategies, copyright and database right considerations, confidentiality, preparation of data for publication, and the citation of datasets are also discussed, as is the importance of journal policy. The second section of the paper presents Psi Open Data (https://open-data.spr.ac.uk), an open repository for parapsychology and psychical research data recently launched by the Society for Psychical Research. The repository is constructed using DKAN, an open source open data platform with a full suite of cataloging, publishing, and visualization features. It allows administrator users to upload research datasets, and any visitor to search for and download datasets. Various aspects of the repository are described: data structures, metadata, data classification, preview, and download facilities. Researchers are encouraged to support the repository by contributing datasets from both current and previous work.”

The author writes:

“Open data can accelerate the rate of discovery in the following ways:

•Enabling researchers to explore questions not envisioned by the original investigators, and to address old questions in new ways, through re-use of data.

•Enabling meta-analyses, and the creation of new datasets by combining multiple data sources.

•Making possible the testing of alternative hypotheses, and the use of different methods of analysis; sharing of data encourages diversity of analysis and opinion.

Another key benefit of open data is transparency. Open data allows the community to identify errors in the research record through the reproduction of research findings, thereby preventing wasteful allocation of resources exploring research avenues founded upon erroneous conclusions.”

It is stated at  the end of the article:

“Researchers who support the aims of the initiative are encouraged to contribute datasets. The best time to prepare data for publication is throughout the process of creating it, and while preparing the associated research report for publication, not at some later time when a request for the data is received. The effort to prepare data for open data practices is relatively small if the data are collected and managed with data sharing in mind. As well as datasets from current projects, old datasets are valuable and researchers are also encouraged to submit these. Datasets placed in the repository will continue to benefit generations of researchers long into the future.”