Archive for January, 2020


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

In the comments below Nancy L. Zingrone summarizes our ParaMOOC 2020, an online course based on a series of lectures by different speakers on the topic of psychology and parapsychology. For information about the last ParaMOOC click here.

Parapsychology Research and Education: Psychology and Parapsychology

Nancy L. Zingrone

Free, online, starts January 18th with live sessions through February 29th. Enrollment open in the AZIRE Academy on WizIQ until March 31st, 2019.

All of the following presentations have been confirmed. We have one more session at the end of February that we’re still working on. We hope to make an announcement about this session soon.

The ParaMOOC course opened on January 15th, 2020 and will continue through February 29th, 2020. To register you can go the Parapsychology Research and Education: Psychology and Parapsychology course on The AZIRE Academy on WizIQxt.com by clicking here. You can also enroll by clicking on the webinar session you would like to join on the list below.

What you do with the course materials and the opportunities for discussion and interaction in the live sessions, with the recordings, in the course discussion and so on is entirely up to you. Our goal is to provide you with access to active researchers in the field and to like-minded individuals from all over the world who share your interest in this interesting area of research.

Below is a list of of sections arranged by date. You can scroll down to read the titles, abstracts and biographies of the speakers. A PDF of the current schedule can be downloaded by clicking here. Recordings of the presentations will be available on the links below through April 20th, 2020, but edited versions will be uploaded to the Parapsychology Foundation’s ParaMOOC Playlist within days of the presentations. Past presentations from preceedings years are also available on that playlist.

ParaMOOC 2020 Schedule

Saturday, January 18th, Noon Eastern: “Welcome to the 2020 Parapsychology Research and Education course” (Nancy L. Zingrone, PhD and Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD)

Nancy Zingrone 2019b

Nancy L. Zingrone

Link: https://theazire.wiziqxt.com/online-class/1697590

The Parapsychology Research and Education: Psychology and Parapsychology course is a free, online course which starts January 15th and will be open through March 31st, 2020. Live sessions will be held every Saturday and Sunday at Noon Eastern. We will have an Opening Session, a Closing Session and eleven speakers in between. In the opening session we’ll set up a mid-course discussion forum as well. This year we will be looking at Freud and telepathy, William James, Wilhelm Wundt and psychical research, clinical approaches to exceptional experiences, alterations of consciousness, personality and ESP, the after-effects of spontaneous after-death communications and the psychological dimensions of previous lives, poltergeist experiences and mediumship and more. This session will introduce attendees to the topics, speakers, classroom locations, and activities in the course.

ParaMOOC course organizers Dr. Nancy L. Zingrone and her husband, teaching, writing and research partner, Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado both have PhDs in psychology from the University of Edinburgh where they were active in the Koestler Parapsychology Unit under the first Koestler Professor, Dr. Robert L. Morris. They are currently Research Fellows of the Parapsychology Foundation and co-directors of The Alvarado Zingrone Institute for Research and Education which is an online teaching project of their consulting firm Alvarado, Zingrone & Associates that includes The AZIRE Online Academy on WizIQ, the new AZIRE Academic on the WizIQ next platform, the Parapsychology Online blog, the Parapsychology: History, News and Research blog, and the Parapsychology Online YouTube Channel. Zingrone and Alvarado are also co-designers of The AZIRE Library and Learning Center in the virtual world, Second Life, currently under re-construction. ParaMOOC lectures that have been converted to YouTube appear both on the Parapsychology Online YouTube Channel mentioned above and on the Parapsychology Foundation YouTube Channel.

Sunday, January 19th, Noon Eastern:Parapsychology and Psychology: An Introduction” (Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD)

Carlos S. Alvarado 10

Carlos S. Alvarado

Link: https://theazire.wiziqxt.com/online-class/1697594

This presentation summarizes aspects of the relationship between parapsychology and psychology. In addition to a common history with psychology, it is argued that parapsychological phenomena are psychological phenomena and part of the realm of psychology. This is supported by the results of experimental and survey research relating ESP and other phenomena to personality and cognitive variables. In addition, parapsychology has implications for various psychological topics. Examples include the study of the variety of human experience; concerns arising from clinical practice; attitude and belief change; individual differences; and the expansion of human potential.

Carlos S. Alvarado has a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Edinburgh, and holds master’s degrees in parapsychology (MS, John F. Kennedy University), and in history (MA, Duke University). His work has centered on studies about the history of psychical research, and on survey research (on out-of-body experiences and other psychic experiences). Alvarado is a Research Fellow at the Parapsychology Foundation, an Adjunct Research Faculty at Sofia University (formerly Institute of Transpersonal Psychology) and is the recipient of the 2017 Parapsychological Association’s Outstanding Career Award. He is one of the editors of Research in Parapsychology 1993 (Scarecrow Press, 1998), the author of Charles Richet:A Nobel Prize Winning Scientist’s Explorations of Psychic Phenomena (White Crow Books, 2019), and has published over 340 articles in psychology, psychiatry, and parapsychology journals.

Saturday, January 25th, Noon Eastern: “Psychoanalysis and the Occult: A Forgotten History.” (Claudie Massicotte, PhD)

Claudie Massicotte

Claudie Massicotte

Link: https://theazire.wiziqxt.com/online-class/1697594

Freud’s relationship to occult beliefs of his era remains an unacknowledged aspect of his psychoanalytic theory. While it is well known that the author of The Future of an Illusion was skeptical towards religious ideas and beliefs, it is less often acknowledged that he was nonetheless puzzled by some of the occult beliefs of his century, even visiting psychics on several occasions to investigate their powers. Freud’s fascination with the possibility of telepathic communications profoundly affected his relationship with disciples such as Sándor Ferenczi and Carl Gustav Jung.

This lecture explores Freud’s reflection on psychics, mediums, and soothsayers, a reflection often dismissed as a marginal or embarrassing aspect of his writings. Ernst Jones’ influential Life and Work of Sigmund Freud best exemplifies this marginalization as it rigorously examines Freud’s consideration of telepathy but frames it as a paradoxical feature of the latter’s character or as proof of the difficulty, even for men of genius, to overcome superstitions. I argue that such a treatment not only fails to recognize the caution Freud undertook within his inquiry into the occult, but also omits the important questions that motivated his investigations.

Dr. Claudie Massicotte is Assistant Professor of Literary Criticism and Theory at Young Harris College and author of Trance Speakers: Femininity and Authorship in Spiritual Seances, 1850-1930 (McGill Queen’s UP, 2017). She has published on Freud in Psychoanalytic Dialogues and on the creative unconscious in the Canadian Journal of Film Studies, the Canadian Art Review, and Surrealism, Occultism and Politics (Routledge, 2017). With Dr. Thomas Rabeyron and Dr. Renaud Evrard, she has also published on psychoanalysis and telepathy in Imágó Budapest and Revue Française de Psychanalyse.

Sunday, January 26th, Noon Eastern: “William James, Psychical Research, and the American Psychological Profession: The Case of Leonora Piper” (Andreas Sommer, PhD).     **This has changed, new date to be announced.**

Andreas Sommer 9

Andreas Sommer

Link: https://theazire.wiziqxt.com/online-class/1697633

This presentation draws on newly discovered archival material and other important primary sources to reconstruct investigations of the Boston trance medium Leonora Piper by William James, William R. Newbold and James Hyslop in the US, and leading figures in the Society for Psychical Research in England. Surveying the reception of these and related studies by fellow psychologists in the US, I address the supposed demolition of the Piper case by psychologists Amy Tanner and G. Stanley Hall, which modern ‘skeptics’ still widely cite as a conclusive refutation of the case. Paying close attention to the methods employed by James and other elite psychical researchers in the investigation of mediumship, as well as competing theoretical interpretations, he will question the simplistic standard narrative about this episode as an example of the victory of scientific psychology over pseudo-science. He argues that case studies of major boundary disputes concerning psychical research during the professionalization of modern psychology offer rich opportunities to revisit ingrained habits of writing histories of science and the occult. After all, what’s typically missing in popular portrayals of these historical controversies are efforts to gain a qualified and nuanced understanding of actual epistemological and metaphysical positions of psychical researchers and their critics, as well as sentiments and worries that have determined the official limits of permissible scientific enquiry up to the present day.

Dr. Andreas Sommer is a historian working on the interrelations of the sciences and magic. His doctoral thesis (University College London, 2013), which reconstructed the links between psychical research and experimental psychology in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, won an award from the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. He has held research posts at Churchill College and the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, and is working on a book which updates and revises his doctoral work. He also runs www.forbiddenhistories.com, a website distilling professional scholarship in the history of science and the occult to a broad, educated audience.

Saturday, February 1st, Noon Eastern:How to Stay Neutral? Clinical Approaches of Distressing Exceptional Experiences(Renaud Evrard, PhD)

Renaud Evrard4

Renaud Evrard

Link: https://theazire.wiziqxt.com/online-class/1697652

Clinical parapsychology is the subfield of parapsychology which develop an experience-centered approach with people distressed by their paranormal/anomalous/exceptional experiences. Its shape differs considering how paranormal experiences are defined, which counseling is provided, and how this clinical practice is differentiated from others. In Western culture, psychopathology is one explanation for experiences interpreted as anomalous. Anomalous experiences and beliefs still are items in some questionnaires detecting psychotic-like experiences and the psychotic continuum. Clinical parapsychology is based on the subversive affirmation that current clinical practices do not properly handle these unusual experiences. Based on psychological research, several researchers advocated that exceptional experiences are neutral in terms of mental health (Simmonds-Moore, 2003) and that we should develop both “ideological invariance” and an “undecidability stance” (Devereux, 1953). In his lecture, he will try to identify basic features of this neutral clinical approach of distressing exceptional experiences.

Renaud Evrard is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Lorraine, in Nancy, France. He directed a research team in Psychopathology and projective clinical practice at the Laboratory INTERPSY. In 2012, he obtained a PhD in psychology at the University of Rouen, France, with a thesis on “clinical differential practice with exceptional experiences” (published in French under the title : “Folie et Paranormal : vers une clinique des expériences exceptionnelles“, PUR, 2014). He’s a Professional member of the Parapsychological Association (Student co-representative in 2010), Board Member (since 2014), and President (2019-2021) and was or is a member of the Society for Psychical Research, the Society for Scientific Exploration, and of the Gesellschaft für Anomalistik. He is also secretary of the Société Lorraine de Psychologie, and an active member of the Syndicat national des psychologues. His main interests are on clinical, historical and theoretical aspects of parapsychology. In 2016, he published a book about the history of parapsychology in France (La légende de l’esprit : enquête sur 150 ans de parapsychologie), in 2018 about the anthropological aspects (Sur le divan des guérisseurs… et des autres. A quels soins se vouer ?, co-directed by D. Kessler-Bilthauer), and in 2019 about the sociological aspects (Vers une sociologie anomalistique : le paranormal au regard des sciences sociales, co-directed by Eric Ouellet). He received several grants and prizes for his work, among them the 2008 Eileen Garrett scholarship (Parapsychology Foundation), the 2009 Schmeidler Outstanding Student Award (Parapsychological Association), the 2011 Bourse Etudiants de l’Institut Métapsychique International, the 2017 PA Book Award for La légende de l’esprit, the 2018 best article in the journal History of psychology (about Pierre Janet and psychical research). With Thomas Rabeyron, he co-founded in 2009 the Center for Information, Research and Counseling on Exceptional Experiences. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Exceptional Experiences and Psychologythe Journal of Parapsychology, l‘Evolution psychiatrique and HEGEL. With Annalisa Ventola and Nikolaos Koumartzis, he co-directed Mindfield, the Bulletin of the PA, since 2018.

Sunday, February 2nd, Noon Eastern:What is the Evidence that Alterations of Consciousness Enhance ESP? “ (Etzel Cardeña, PhD)

Etzel Cardena 5

Etzel Cardeña

Link: https://theazire.wiziqxt.com/online-class/1697657

At least since Plato (remember his prophetic mania), alterations of consciousness have been linked to psi phenomena. In surveys of ostensible psi, dreaming and internal focus states have also been mentioned as common precursors. The evidence from controlled studies using techniques to alter consciousness such as ganzfeld or hypnosis is also supportive although not unambiguous. This presentation will review that evidence and suggest ways to advance that investigation.

Etzel Cardeña, PhD, is a Fellow of APS and APA, and holds the endowed Thorsen Chair in psychology at Lund University in Sweden, where he directs the Center for Research on Consciousness and Anomalous Psychology (CERCAP). His hundreds of publications center on alterations of consciousness and anomalous experiences (including psi), dissociative processes and acute posttraumatic reactions, the neurophenomenology of hypnosis and meditation, and the stream of consciousness during waking and altered states.

Saturday, February 8th, Noon Eastern: “Anomaly Proneness: Unpacking the Psychic Personality (Christine Simmonds-Moore, PhD)

Christine Simmonds-Moore 2

Christine Simmonds-Moore

Link: https://theazire.wiziqxt.com/online-class/1697671

In this presentation, Christine Simmonds-Moore will explore the psychology and parapsychology of anomaly-proneness; individuals who are more prone to experiencing psychic phenomena and performing well at laboratory psi tasks. Anomaly-prone variables include extraversion, creativity, dissociation, synesthesia and those with “thinner” psychological boundaries, including positive schizotypy (reflecting minds and bodies that are more interconnected). This discussion will explore the evidence for enhanced psychic experiencing and functioning among these groups. We will discuss the idea that information from distant sources in space and time may register within the system among most people but are more likely to be integrated and available for certain types of anomaly prone individuals.

Christine Simmonds-Moore is a UK native who has a PhD from the University of Northampton on “Schizotypy as an anomaly-prone personality”. She is currently working as an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of West Georgia. She has research interests in parapsychology, the psychology of exceptional experiences (including transpersonal and subjective paranormal experiences), paranormal beliefs and disbeliefs, personality and mental health correlates of exceptional experiences, synesthesia, altered states of consciousness, mind body relationships and healing and placebo effects. She is the recipient of several Bial grants to study exceptional experiences and has recently completed a research study on ghost experiences.  She is the co-author of a textbook on anomalistic psychology and edited a collection of chapters about Exceptional Experiences and Health and has a chapter in the recently published volume Greening the Paranormal edited by Jack Hunter.

Saturday, February 9th, Noon Eastern: Aftereffects of Spontaneous After-Death Communications (Callum Cooper, PhD)

Callum Cooper - BSc Psychology

Callum Cooper

LINK: https://theazire.wiziqxt.com/online-class/1697677

Contrary to some popularly held beliefs, After Death Communications (ADCs) have been found to be highly beneficial to the bereavement process and are almost exclusively experienced by the bereaved. However, those who have not suffered personal loss also report spontaneous experiences of the dead, and some people even seek out these experiences via sittings with spiritualist mediums, for example. But for what reasons? This presentation shall discuss the history, phenomenology, and impact of these experiences and where we find ourselves in the current research.

Dr Callum E. Cooper is a lecturer and researcher of psychology at the University of Northampton. He is the third-year module co-ordinator for ‘Parapsychology & Anomalous Experiences’ and lectures on such topics as: parapsychology, positive psychology, sexual behaviour, and death and loss. He holds PhDs in thanatology and parapsychology from the University of Northampton and Manchester Metropolitan University. Recipient of numerous awards, he holds the 2009 Eileen J. Garrett Scholarship Award (Parapsychology Foundation), the 2014 Dr Gertrude Schmeidler Award (Parapsychological Association), and was a nominee for the 2018 Ockham’s Razor Award for Excellence in Skeptical Activism (The Skeptic Magazine / QEDcon).

Saturday, February 15th, Noon Eastern: “The Psychological Aspects of Children’s Past-Life Memories (Jim Tucker, MD)

Jim Tucker 3

Jim Tucker

Link: https://theazire.wiziqxt.com/online-class/1697696

Children’s reports of memories from a past life have been the focus of study at the University of Virginia for nearly 60 years. Often, the details the children give are found to match the life of one specific deceased individual. In addition, many of the children show psychological features that appear associated with the memories they report, such as phobias and posttraumatic symptoms, as well as gender nonconformity in cases involving a past life as a member of the opposite sex. Several groups of these children have undergone psychological evaluations, and the results of these studies will be reviewed. In addition, follow-up of these individuals into adulthood will also be discussed.

Jim B. Tucker, M.D. is a child psychiatrist and the Bonner-Lowry Professor of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences at the University of Virginia. He is Director of the UVA Division of Perceptual Studies, where he is continuing the work of Ian Stevenson on children who report memories of previous lives.  He is the author of two books that together have been translated into twenty languages, Life Before Life: A Scientific Investigation of Children’s Memories of Previous Lives (2005) and Return to Life: Extraordinary Cases of Children Who Remember Past Lives (2013), a New York Times bestseller. He has published numerous papers in scientific journals and given talks to both scientific and general audiences.  He has also discussed his work on such programs as Good Morning America, CBS Sunday Morning, and NPR Weekend Edition.

Sunday, February 16th, Noon Eastern: “Unsettled Objects, Unsettled Minds? Exploring the Possible Psychological Aspects of Reported Poltergeist Cases (Bryan J. Williams)

Bryan Williams

Bryan Williams

Link: https://theazire.wiziqxt.com/online-class/1697700

Traditional interpretations of the anomalous physical disturbances generally referred to under the term “poltergeist” have tended to invoke some form of discarnate spirit agency as a means of possibly accounting for them. However, many parapsychological findings gathered from case surveys and field investigations conducted over the past century seem to point toward an alternate interpretation — namely, that such disturbances may represent brief and sporadic displays of macroscopic psychokinesis occurring on the part of a living human agent. This presentation will generally examine the underlying basis for this latter interpretation, offering a concise overview of the various psychological and neuropsychological aspects that have been found to be associated with the living agents suspected of being at the center of reported poltergeist outbreaks. Some possible implications for certain cases in which poltergeist and haunt phenomena seem to dually occur in tandem will also be discussed.

Bryan J. Williams is the Research Director of the Psychical Research Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to research and education in parapsychology that is currently based in Carrollton, Texas. He previously studied psychology at the University of New Mexico and was a research student of the late parapsychologist William G. Roll. In 2008, he was selected to be a co-recipient of the Eileen J. Garrett Scholarship Award offered by the Parapsychology Foundation in New York. In addition to various journal articles and online materials, he is the author of the monograph Psychic Phenomena and the Brain: Exploring the Neuropsychology of Psi, published by the Australian Institute of Parapsychological Research in 2015.

Saturday, February 22nd, Noon Eastern:The Psychology of Mediumship: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives(Everton de Oliveira Maraldi)

Everton Maraldi

Everton de Oliveira Maraldi

Link: https://theazire.wiziqxt.com/online-class/1697700

The psychological study of mediumship is as old as Psychology itself. Some of the pioneers of modern Psychology (such as William James, Theodore Flournoy, and Carl Gustav Jung) regarded mediumship as a via regia to unconscious processes and other psychological phenomena (such as dissociation and suggestion). These thinkers also maintained a serious Scientific interest in the investigation of psychic phenomena claimed by spiritualist mediums.  But there were others authors at the time who emphasized an eminently psychopathological view of mediumship (e.g., Frederic Marvin) and a combative approach to Spiritualism (e.g., Stanley Hall). Although mediumship was highly valued as a research topic by the first psychical researchers, subsequent research in parapsychology did not devote much attention to it. In its turn, the emergence of psychoanalysis and behaviorism in Psychology – approaches that either pathologized mediumship or rejected it as a non-serious Research topic -, as well as the efforts of early Psychologists to differentiate psychology from metaphysics, were factors that contributed to a precarious development of the Psychology of mediumship during the twentieth century. More recently, a resurgence of interest can be observed, from both ontological and psychological perspectives. More than a century after the work of James, Jung and other pioneers, the psychological study of mediumship is still in its infancy, despite some important developments. In this presentation, I focus on three of them: 1) the relationship of mediumship with well-being and mental health indicators, 2) cognitive, neurological, and personality variables associated with mediumship, and 3) cultural and Cross-cultural perspectives on mediumship. I review the main findings in each of these research branches and highlight some of the methodological limitations and challenges in the psychological study of mediumship. Although some parapsychologists might see the Psychology of mediumship as a reductionistic endeavour, I show how it can actually contribute to our knowledge about the parapsychological implications of such experiences.

Everton de Oliveira Maraldi, PhD is a professor at the Post-Graduate Program on Religious Studies of the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, Brazil. He was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Oxford (SCIO – Scholarship and Christianity in Oxford) and Coventry University (Brain, Belief, and Behaviour Lab). He received his master and doctoral degrees in Social Psychology from the Institute of Psychology of the University of São Paulo, Brazil. Everton is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Parapsychological Association (USA). He is also a psychologist working in private practice in São Paulo, Brazil.

Sunday, February 23rd, Noon Eastern: To Be Announced

Link: https://theazire.wiziqxt.com/online-class/1697712

Saturday, February 29th, Noon Eastern: Closing Session: Looking forward to ParaMOOC2021 (Nancy L. Zingrone, PhD & Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD)

Link: https://theazire.wiziqxt.com/online-class/1697719

At the closing session we’ll close up the course, open up a discussion of the presentations and invite the attendees to help decide on the ParaMOOC2021 theme.

If you have any questions, email us at parapsychologyonline@gmail.com.

 

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

From the beginning of his career in Spiritism Allan Kardec argued for the reality of reincarnation. This spiritual process, important for expiation and improvement, could take place on Earth and in other planets, and did not involve spiritual retrogression (A. Kardec, Les Livre des Esprits. Paris: E. Dentu, 1857, Chapter 7). As I pointed out some years back (click here), while reincarnation was accepted in Kardecian Spiritism, it was rejected by many in the context of Anglo-American Spiritualism, a topic I revisit here. My interest is historical. I do not pretend to discredit the concept of reincarnation, nor to praise its detractors.

Kardec

Allan Kardec

Kardec Livre Esprits 1857

In 1865 an author in the Spiritual Magazine, published in England, referred to reincarnation as an “absurd doctrine,” an “excrescence on Spiritualism” with nothing to support it, and dispensing with the comfort of finding our loved ones in the beyond (Anonymous, Spiritualism in France. Spiritual Magazine, 1865, 6, 318–322).

There were some interesting mentions of reincarnation in the English publication Spiritualist Newspaper for 1875. Alexandre Aksakof was of the opinion: “That the propagation of this doctrine by Kardec was a matter of strong predilection is clear; from the beginning Reincarnation has not been presented as an object of study, but as a dogma. To sustain it he has always had recourse to writing mediums, who it is well known pass so easily under the psychological influence of preconceived ideas . . .” (A. Aksakof, Researches on the Historical Origin of the Reincarnation Speculations of French Spiritualists. Spiritualist Newspaper, 1875, August 13, 74–75, p. 75).

Alexandre Aksakof

Alexandre Aksakof

Another commentator remarked on the difficulties to verify reincarnation: “Indeed, the theory seems utterly at variance with the known facts of Spiritualism as they stand accepted before us” (Anonymous, An Inductive Philosopher, Correspondence: Metempsychosis. Spiritualist Newspaper, 1875, September 17, 142).

Another writer in the Spiritualist Newspaper held ideas similar to Aksakof’s. He stated that mediumistic communications in England in support of reincarnation were rare. “The prevalence of the teaching of this doctrine by mediums in France, may be attributed to the circumstance that the sitters at the circles expect such teachings, and the minds of the mediums are full of them . . . The foregoing arguments have little or nothing to do with the truth or error of the doctrine of reincarna­tion, they merely attempt to show that not one tittle of evidence of its truth is contained in Allan Kardec’s book, that the book is of a theological and not of a scientific order, and that it requires to be accepted, if accepted at all, upon authority” (Anonymous [maybe W.H. Harrison], Allan Kardec’s “Spirits Book.” Spiritualist Newspaper, 1875, October 8, 169–170, p. 170).

In the same publication, medium D. D. Home wrote skeptically that he had met many Marie Antoinettes, Mary Queen of Scots, kings and Alexander the Greats, “but it remains for me yet to meet a plain ‘John Smith’ ” (D.D. Home, Correspondence: Mr. D.D. Home on Reincarnation. Spiritualist Newspaper, 1875, October 1, 165).

D D HOME

D.D. Home

The famous trance speaker and writer Emma Hardinge Britten entered the debate arguing that the concept of reincarnation was both irrelevant and bane. (The Doctrine of Reincarnation. Spiritual Scientist, May 20, 1875, 128–129; May 27, 1875, 140–141). She wrote:

“The hapless believer in Re-incarnation can be as little sure of himself or his own identity, as his most intimate acquain­tances are for him. He has not a chance to know who he is himself; who he was yesterday or who he will be to-morrow: and as to the precious ties of parentage, or the divine impulses of family love, kindred and friendship, they are all floating emotions to be blotted out in the grave, and lost in new successions of new lives, new relationships, new deaths, and succeeding oblivions. The most remarkable and certainly not the least indefensible part of the Re-incarnationist’s theory is, however, not only that they have no facts on which to ground their assertions, like the majority of their fellow believers in Spiritualism, but that they infer there must be countless millions of spirits communicating through other channels who have no knowledge of Re-incarnation, and even emphatically deny its truth.”

“Can the controlling spirits of the Re-incarnationists be the only ones enlightened on such a stupendous item of the soul’s destiny?— an item, which if not common to all, must be known So all— and that in realms where such changes must be perpet­ually going on as would render ignorance of the subject impossible?” (p. 129)

Emma Hardinge Britten 2

Emma Hardinge Britten

Britten later referred to “the groundless character of the testimony which the apostles of the Re-incarnation theory rely upon, not one item of which affords the profound analyst a shadow of evidence that their theories are correct” (p. 140). She argued that we should follow the majority of mediumistic communications who do not mention reincarnation, instead of the few that do.

William Howitt, a well-known English writer and spiritualist, joined critics of the “gross and pagan delusion of Re-incarnation” with his article “Re-Incarnation, Its Champions and Delusions” (Spiritual Magazine, 1876, 2(s.3), 49–60). After rejecting the importance of a long conceptual history to defend reincarnation, our author wrote: “Lord deliver Spiritualism from the slime and venom of this devil’s creed” (p. 59).

William Howitt

William Howitt

A little-known figure today, the polemic American spiritualist William Emmette Coleman, addressed the topic in a five-part article (Re-Incarnation—Its Fancies and Follies. Religious-Philosophical Journal, 1878, Part 1: Genes and Growth, November 23, 1, 8; Part 2: Inconsistensy and Contrediction, November 30,1; Part 3: Credulity and Fanatism, December 7, 1; Part 4: Absurdity and Fatuity, December 14, 8; Part 5: Immortality and Demoralization, December 21, 8). Coleman, considered reincarnation a demoralizing dogma, and a “fungus growth” (Part 1, p. 1). Similar to Aksakof, Coleman stated: “Two frivolous French mesmeric sensitives, under the over powering psychological influence of the mind of Kardec … give him a series of responses to questions respecting re-incarnation  and the soul’s destiny, in exact accordance with his own pre conceived opinions; in fact, questions and answers alike, are virtually Kardec’s, the girls only simply giving back his own ideas and principles as reflected and impressed upon their susceptible mentalities” (Part 1, p. 1).

William Emmette Coleman

William Emmette Coleman

Coleman argued that there were many contradictions in the ideas about reincarnation from different authors. Furthermore, in his view: “If the theory of re-incarnation were true, one of the most disastrous of the results there from occurring, would be the utter destruction or all family relationship; the fact that this ensues, as a necessary sequence of its fundamental principles is sufficient in itself to everlastingly damn the vile enormity in its entirety” (Part 4, p. 8).

In addition, Coleman believed that there were contradictions with beliefs in American Spiritualism. “The universal teaching of Spiritualism is, we all know, that the spirit-world is a progressive state of existence. By growth and effort the spirit passes from circle to circle, and from sphere to sphere; but re-incarnation negatives this beautiful philosophy. There is no progress in spirit-life, we are told; the spirit’s progress can only be made on earth during successive bodily incarnations” (Part 4, p. 8).

Finally, Coleman argued that acceptance of reincarnation “leads to the grossest immoralities, and to general demoralization and laxity of conduct” (Part 5, p. 8).

The last person I will consider here is American physician and student of psychometry Joseph Rodes Buchanan (“The Doctrine of Reincarnation, and its Amusing Absurdities.” Buchanan’s Journal of Man, 1889, 3(n.s.), 176–185). He wrote: “The insurmountable objection to my mind, is the absence of corroborating facts. It is maintained that certain spirits, and according to some theorists an immense number, feel a desire to renew their experience of earth-life, and to do that, they abandon their supernal life and enter the womb of some woman in conception, to develop as a foetus and be born as an infant.”

“Have we the slightest evidence that such an event ever occurred? If it did, the reincarnating spirit would be absent from its supernal home during its whole earth-life. But in the millions of interviews or intercourse between spirits and mortals, who has ever heard of any spirit being absent or lost from its spirit-home? Had reincarnationists looked at this subject logically, they would have felt the necessity of proving that the reincarnated spirit was not in spirit-life, but on the earth. In the entire absence of such evidence, I assume that such an event never occurred …” (p. 177).

Joseph Rodes Buchanan 2

Joseph Rodes Buchanan

Buchanan stated that explorations of the opinion of spirits via mediumship or psychometry do not provide evidence for reincarnation. He wrote: “I do not perceive that reincarnationists have ever demanded a rational proof before accepting their theory. They should demand positive evidence that some intelligent spirit has abandoned the spirit-world, and cannot be heard of in spirit-life; that some mortal can give a full account of the details of his former existence, and manifest the possession of his old spiritual identity and capacities; that children should develop regardless of the laws of heredity, and become able to reveal their former life on earth as in heaven, and. that intelligent spirits should give a rational narrative of the lives through which they have passed, capable of being verified. If none of these things are possible, the reincarnation theory as commonly presented must be classed among delusions” (p. 182).

Of course, there were exceptions to these negative beliefs, as seen in Kardec’s translator, journalist, and poet Anna Blackwell (see her book The Philosophy of Existence. London: J. Burns, 1871; and “The Law of Re-Incarnation.” In H. Tuttle and J.M. Peebles (Eds.), The Year-Book of Spiritualism for 1871 (pp. 69–79). Boston: William White, 1871).

Anna Blackwell

Anna Blackwell

Certainly, some of the critiques may be questioned. For one, the assurance that the minds of the French mediums presenting positive communications about reincarnation was affected by the influence of suggestion over the medium’s minds, while a theoretical possibility, has no clear evidence it its support.

The topic deserves further study considering the intellectual context in which each author was writing from. The problem of lack of evidence changed in later years with the rise of research on the subject, a topic discussed in a recent author interview in this blog.