Archive for December, 2019


At the End of 2019

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

Another year has gone by.

First of all, my best wishes for the Christmas season and the new year.

Christmas wreath

This has been a relatively good year. Among other things, I have enjoyed hearing from some of you who have posted comments to the blog or have written to me personally. Keep writing!

As before, I have posted about recently published articles and books, such as the following:

The Mediumship of Jane Roberts. November 25.

Author Interview XX: N Equals 1: Single Case Studies in Anomalistics, edited by Gerhard Mayer. September 11.

Mayer N Equals 1

Mediumship and Dissociation Revisited. August 14.

Article About a Non-Materialistic Psychology. July 21.

Author Interview XIX: Signs of Reincarnation: Exploring Beliefs, Cases, and Theory, by James G. Matlock. June 21.

Matlock Signs of Reincarnation

Hematological and Psychophysiological Aspects of Mediumship. June 16.

80 Years of the Journal of Parapsychology. May 8.

Author Interview XVIII: Connected: The Emergence of Global Consciousness, by Roger Nelson. April 1.

Nelson Connected

Motor Automatism and ESP: An Experimental Study. March 6.

Article about Future Directions in Meditation Research. February 15.

Author Interview XVII: Mind Beyond the Brain: Buddhism, Science, and the Paranormal, by David Presti and Others. January 20.

Presti Mind Beyond Brain

As in previous years, I have written about my own publications. The last one is about Charles Richet: A Nobel Prize Winning Scientist’s Exploration of Psychic Phenomena, a collection of my previously published essays about Charles Richet’s interest in psychic phenomena (My Book about Charles Richet and Psychic Phenomena. December 8 ).

Image result for alvarado charles richet

Other blogs about my own work include:

The Late Mesmeric Work of Jules Bernard Luys. August 27.

Jules Bernard Luys

Jules Bernard Luys

Article About Historical Aspects of Materialization Phenomena. May 2.

Kathleen Goligher 5

Materializations with medium Kathleen Goligher

Agénor de Gasparin and Table Turning. February 22.

Agenor de Gasparin 2

Agénor de Gasparin

New Article About Eleanor M. Sidgwick. January 4.

Eleanore Sidgwick 3

Eleanor M. Sidgwick

Blogs about other topics include:

The Psi Encyclopedia Keeps Growing. December 19.

Our Psychic Past in Digital Libraries: VIII: Luce e Ombra. October 28.

Luce e Ombra 1918 Palladino Issue

Animal Magnetism: A Selected Bibliography of Articles, 2015-2019. September 29.

2019 Convention of the Parapsychological Association. May 25.

Bibliography of Modern Publications About Mental Mediumship. April 24.

ParaMOOC2019: Survival of Death and Parapsychology. April 5.

D.D. Home’s Mental Mediumship. March 15.

D.D. Home 7

D.D. Home

Recent Articles About Near-Death Experiences: II. February 12.

As always, I must thank my unpaid and unacknowledged (but greatly appreciated) Blog Staff:

Nancy L. Zingrone

(Advisor, Problem Solver, Morale Officer, and several other things)

Nancy Zingrone 2019b

Pinky and Spotty

(Master proof readers and technical consultants)

Pinky and Spotty 15

Pinky (left) and Spotty

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

Since my last comment about the Psi Encyclopedia, an online project managed by Robert McLuhan and sponsored by the Society for Psychical Research, several more additions have been posted to this reference work.

Some of them are about specific phenomena and concepts:

Does Something Leave the Body? (OBE Historical Perspective) (by Carlos S. Alvarado)

Dreams and Past-Life Memory (by James G. Matlock)

Jim Matlock 2

James G. Matlock

Observational Theories of Psi (by Brian Millar)

Psychological Aspects of Poltergeist Cases (by Bryan Williams)

Sinclair Telepathy Experiments (by Karen Wehrstein)

Sinclair Mental Radio

There are also many entries about individuals who have worked in parapsychology, both in the past and in recent years. These include:

Tony Cornell (by John Fraser)

Arthur Conan Doyle (by Karen Wehrstein)

Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle

Hoyt Edge (by Michael Duggan)

Camille Flammarion (by Carlos S. Alvarado)

Camille Flammarion Posing

Camille Flammarion

Carl Jung (by Everton de Oliveira Maraldi and Maria de Fátima Fernandes)

William McDougall (by Karen Wehrstein)

William McDougall 2

William McDougall

John Palmer (by Michael Duggan)

Chris Roe (by Michael Duggan)

D. Scott Rogo (Callum E. Cooper)

D. Scott Rogo

D. Scott Rogo

 William Roll (by Karen Wehrstein)

Jessica Utts (by Michael Duggan)

Jessica Utts 4

Jessica Utts

Mario Varvoglis (by Michael Duggan)

In addition, there are entries about such varied topics as American Society for Psychical Research (James G. Matlock), Edgar Cayce (Karen Wehrstein), and Journal of Parapsychology (Carlos S. Alvarado).

Edgar Cayce

Edgar Cayce

At this point the Psi Encyclopedia has been in existence for a few years, having accomplished so much. Robert McLuhan’s efforts in putting hundreds of entries together has contributed greatly to the dissemination of information about parapsychology. But, the Psi Encyclopedia has matured as a online reference source for people already in the field and new to the field. It is now at a point in its development, it seems to me, that its potential for future usefulness to all its constituencies could be maximized by taking a more formal turn. Considering this, I would like to offer some suggestions for the future of the encyclopedia.

Similar to other reference works on other topics, Psi Encyclopedia could use an editorial board to help the editor balance the mix of entries towards making sure that important lines of research or areas of interest are represented in biographical entries, and in more general entries. Another important project would be to encourage a general review of already-published articles written by non-specialists in the field. By bringing in specialists possible mistakes and important omissions in some entries could be detected. One example of an entry that could benefit from this type of review is “Psi Research in North America”. The entry contends that experimental work began in the United States with J. B. Rhine’s work. The story of experimental psi research in North America is not complete without the work of the early ASPR members (e.g., Bowditch et al., [1886]. Report of the committee on thought-transference. Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, 1, 106–112) and the work of such researchers as John E. Coover (Coover, J. E. [1918]. Experiments in psychical research at Leland Stanford Junior University. Stanford, CA: Stanford University) who published their research in this area long before J. B. Rhine ever thought of moving away from botany towards psychical research. Other examples could also be mentioned. 

Coover Experiments 2

Regarding omissions, some entries do not include important references, something that may well have been noticed by knowledgeable reviewers and well-read newcomers. Among the key references that are missing are: D.J. West’s Eleven Lourdes Miracles (New York: Helix Press, 1957) that should be in the entry Lourdes Cures); Olivier Leroy’s Levitation (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne, 1928) that should be in the entry Religious Levitation), and Juliette-Alexandre Bisson’s Les phénomènes dits de materialisation (2nd ed., Paris: Félix Alcan, 1921) that should be in the entry Marthe Béraud (Eva C.).

Eleven Lourdes Miracles Cover

An editorial board that represents different areas and topics of parapsychology could also assist the editor to find additional authors to write more entries. McLuhan has worked consistently to increase the author pool, approaching some people in parapsychology for suggestions and following up, and of course, such projects are entirely dependent on the willingness to participate among the potential authors, no matter how dedicated the chief editor might be. But I believe that an editorial board could greatly expand McLuhan’s reach and make the job of finding and soliciting willing authors much easier.

An understandable bias prevalent in the Encyclopedia is its current reliance on English-language developments. As a mature reference, Psi Encyclopedia, needs to live up to its goals of representing the field as a whole. I have noticed that several articles about phenomena lack proper references to non-English-language sources. I have also noticed that 80% of the entries covering psychic researchers and authors of books and articles psychic phenomena are from English-speaking countries (80%). (An article in the encyclopedia about psychical research in Europe, and others about Brazil, France, and the Netherlands help to correct this situation.) Although biases are inevitable when few of those working on the encyclopedia are English-speakers with working knowledge of other languages, having an editorial board chosen for their content and language expertise can greatly enhance the completeness of the encyclopedia’s coverage of the field. 

Another suggestion: to improve the information value of the articles it is a good idea to craft the entries to follow a similar outline. Such instructions for the authors would need to include the flexibility to modify entries to accommodate differing needs. For example, all entries about specific researchers could have a basic biographical section about their lives and work unrelated to their psychic studies. Such a section would be useful even if it is brief. In addition, as is common in many encyclopedias, there could be a section at the end of all entries that presents relevant bibliography for the reader’s follow-up. Such a section should include basic sources of information about the topic in question, including general overviews of research and theory, or, in the case of individuals, deeper biographical and even autobiographical books and articles. Taken together with links to other related entries in the Psi Encyclopedia, such a section could extend the usefulness of the resource to students and teachers alike.

There are certainly many topics that have not yet been covered at all. Among these are those related to experimental work and to mediumship. While the coverage of past lives is broad and interesting, I wonder why there are 55 entries about various aspects of the topic when so many other important topics have no representation in the encyclopedia at all as of yet. I suppose this reflects the interests of some industrious frequent contributors who enthusiastically propose and complete entries of interest to themselves. I have been one of those who has proposed and completed entries on topics that are of interest to me. But, even though this imbalance is well-motivated and understandable, achieving a managed balance of topics and authors would be desirable, if only to inform the public that there are other important phenomena with multiple aspects, among them ESP and near-death experiences.

While there is room for improvement, it is important to recognize the extraordinary accomplishment Robert McLuhan has crafted for the field in such a short period of time. Without McLuhan’s energy and dedication to this project, the Psi Encyclopedia would not have taken such a central place on the map of reference sources in the field. As a work in progress, I believe that the encyclopedia will continue to evolve into a more complete and more useful reference work.

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

My book about physiologist Charles Richet was just published. Entitled Charles Richet: A Nobel Prize Winning Scientist’s Exploration of Psychic Phenomena (White Crow Books, 2019), it is a collection of my previously published essays about Richet’s interest in psychic phenomena (click here and here).

Richet portada

List of Chapters

Introduction

Chapter 1: Interest in Psychic Phenomena

Chapter 2: Richet’s Metapsychic Autobiography

Chapter 3: Early Ideas and Tests of Mental Suggestion

Chapter 4: Presenting Psychical Research to Psychology (1905)

Chapter 5: The Traité de Métapsychique (1922)

Chapter 6: Richet on “The Limits of Psychic and Metapsychic Science”

Appendix A: Richet on Leonora E. Piper

Appendix B: Observations of Moving Ectoplasm with Medium Marthe Béraud

Appendix C: On the Term Ectoplasm

Appendix D: Is there a Science of Metapsychics?

Appendix E: Bibliography About and by Charles Richet with Emphasis on Psychic Phenomena, compiled by Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, and Renaud Evrard, PhD

Appendix F: Bibliography About the History of Psychical Research

Acknowledgements

References

Notes

Index

Following on my interest in rescuing historical aspects of psychical research from oblivion, I present a six-chapter discussion of Richet’s work with mediums and psychics, and his conception of metapsychics, the name he used to refer to psychical research. The book is presented as a first step to obtain information about the subject, and one I acknowledge needs further and more detailed study.

Charles Richet 9

Charles Richet

The book opens with a chapter presenting an overview of Richet’s work that includes his conceptions about metapsychics, as well as his work on ESP (a term Richet did not use), mental and physical mediums, and his theoretical ideas, including his views about survival of death. Regarding theory, I wrote:

“Throughout his writings, Richet expressed dissatisfaction with the various explanations of psychic phenomena that were being put forward, including the hypothesis of discarnate agency . . .  Nonetheless, Richet presented several speculations over the years. One was the existence of a faculty of cognition that was purely human. In an early paper, he postulated that ESP messages impinged on the ‘unconscious faculties of intelligence’ . . . Other speculations were connected to the old idea, developed before Richet, that various concepts of biophysical forces explained psychic phenomena . . . Throughout his career Richet speculated on the possibility of unspecified vibrations as a way to explain the mental phenomena of psychical research. In an early statement he speculated about the existence of a force emanating from one person to another ‘such that the vibration of the thought of an individual influences the vibration of the thought of a nearby individual’ . . . He wrote in later years: ‘The sixth sense is that one which gives us knowledge of a vibration of reality, a vibration which our normal senses are unable to perceive’ . . .”

Richet Clairvoyance PSPR 1889

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1889

Richet Annals Beraud 1905

Annals of Psychical Science, 1905

I present more information about Richet’s interests in a chapter in which I reprint an autobiographical essay about Richet’s interests in hypnosis and psychical research. The excerpt, translated from Richet’s Souvenirs d’un Physiologiste (Paris: J. Peyronnet, 1933), not only contributes information about Richet’s intellectual development, but also serves as an example of the limitations of autobiography to provide information about scientists.

Richet Souvenirs

Another chapter is devoted to summarize one of Richet’s most celebrated publications, his article “La Suggestion Mentale et le Calcul des Probabilités” [Mental Suggestion and the Calculation of Probability], which appeared in the Revue Philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger (1884, 18, 609–674), an important academic French journal covering philosophy, social sciences and other topics that published articles pro and con psychic phenomena (click here). The article is generally remembered today for Richet’s use of probability calculations to assess the results of experimental tests of mental suggestion, a term he defined as the “influence that an individual’s thought exerts over a specific sense, without an appreciable exterior phenomenon on our senses, over the thought of a nearby individual.” Although I summarize this aspect of Richet’s work, I also took the opportunity to remind readers of forgotten aspects of the article. This included reanalyses of thought-transference studies conducted by members of the Society for Psychical Research, the use of motor automatism as an ESP response, some of the features of mental suggestion, and theoretical ideas.

I also wrote: “From the beginning of the paper Richet let his readers know of the controversial and improbable nature of mental suggestion. He said that the topic at hand was different from the ‘facts commonly admitted by science’ . . . The results of mental suggestion tests are ‘improbable facts; but their improbability is entirely relative; in the sense that none of them contradicts the known facts, acquired by science’ . . . In addition to warning his readers about the incredible nature of the phenomena, he cautioned them to keep in mind the ‘insufficience and impotence of current science’ . . . both to explain many facts of nature as well as mental suggestion.”

Richet and Linda Gazzera

Richet (left) and Italian medium Linda Gazzera

In two other chapters I reprinted excerpts of articles written by Richet that present much information about his attitudes towards metapsychics. One of them was a 1905 paper written as a presentation to a psychology congress, and the other was about what Richet referred to as “The Limits of Psychic and Metapsychic Science.” This consisted of attempts to explain mediumistic phenomena via the faculties of the unconscious mind using ideas such as the creation of mediumistic personalities and stories to accompany them. Of course, this does not mean that Richet did not believe in what others referred to as the supernormal.

This except about “limits” was taken from Richet’s best known metapsychic publication, his famous Traité de Métapsychique (Paris: Félix Alcan, 1922), or rather, from the English language translation of the second French edition, Thirty Years of Psychical Research (New York, Macmillan, 1923). One of my chapters is an overview of the first edition of the Traité.

Richet Traite de metapsychique 4

Today we remember this book as an overview of the early literature, as well as a statement of Richet’s beliefs regarding phenomena and explanations, the latter which Richet left for future developments. Then there were sections about phenomena, with many examples of cases and descriptions, and a general conclusion in which Richet strongly argued for the reality of most psychic phenomena and for the lack of explanations that satisfied him.

Furthermore, I wrote: “Richet’s insistence on the collection of facts, to the neglect of theories, made the book his personal manifesto of psychical research. He projected an image of metapsychics as a science, arguing for the existence of a field that had a subject matter and a right to exist. But as much as the book was a summary of facts, it was also Richet’s attempt to construct and promote the subject of metapsychics.”

Richet Notre sixieme sens

More than previous publications on the subject, in France the Traité became an exemplar for the discipline, and one that commanded an incredible amount of attention in the French popular and academic literature at the time, something that has not being realized in general by non-French students of the subject. In the chapter I explore some possible reasons for such prominence, which unfortunately was not enough to gain general acceptance for metapsychics.

In addition, I included various appendices in the book. One, designed for both general readers and those particularly interested in Richet is a bibliography of writings by and about Richet’s metapsychic interests, and one that is not exhaustive. I was assisted in compiling the sources presented by Dr. Renaud Evrard, who has specialized in the history of psychical research in France (click here). Another appendix, mainly to provide contextual information for general readers, is a bibliography of books and articles about the general history of psychical research with emphasis on pre-1940 developments.

Richet L'Avenir de la Premonition

Other appendices have information about Richet’s sittings with medium Leonora E. Piper and Marthe Béraud, and other topics of interest.

Like any writing project, this one could be expanded including other aspects of Richet’s metapsychic career. But it is my hope that these essays, brought to the attention of the general public in this book, will at least remind us of the work of an important pioneer whose search for truth, regardless of limitations, commands respect and admiration. As Richet wrote in his autobiography, cited in my second chapter: “I may be wrong, but the honor of being able to conduct such research gives some value to life”

Image result for charles richet