Category: Recent Publications

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

In an article I co-authored with Everton de Oliveira Maraldi we reprinted the last chapter of Swiss psychologist Théodore Flournoy’s From India to the Planet Mars (1900) in the journal History of Psychiatry (“Classic Text No. 113: Final chapter, From India to the Planet Mars: A Study of a Case of Somnambulism with Glossolalia, by Théodore Flournoy (1900).” History of Psychiatry, 2018, 29, 110-125). Flournoy’s book is generally recognized as a classic of both psychology and psychical research.

Everton Maraldi

Everton de Oliveira Maraldi


Flournoy From India 2

Here is the abstract.

“Among the many attempts to explain mediumship psychologically at the turn of the century were the efforts of Swiss psychologist Théodore Flournoy (1854–1920). In his well-known book Des Indes à la Planète Mars (1900), translated as From India to the Planet Mars (1900), Flournoy analysed the mediumistic productions of medium Hélène Smith (1861–1929), consisting of accounts of previous lives in France and in India, and material about planet Mars. Flournoy explained the phenomena as a function of cryptomnesia, suggestive influences, and subconscious creativity, analyses that influenced both psychology and psychical research. The purpose of this Classic Text is to reprint the conclusion of Flournoy’s study, whose ideas were developed in the context of psychological attention to mediumship and secondary personalities.”

Theodore Flournoy

Théodore Flournoy


Hélène Smith was the pseudonym of Catherine Élise Müller. “Hélène claimed to be the reincarnation of an Indian princess of the fifteenth century called Simandini, and also of Marie Antoinette, queen of France at the end of the seventeenth century. Furthermore, she claimed to travel spiritually to the planet Mars, from where she presented information, through drawings, descriptions and automatic writings, about the lifestyle of the Martians and the language they allegedly used.”

Flournoy Leopold Writing

Leopold (Spirit Control) Writing Top: Leopold; Below: Medium’s writing

Flournoy Martian Script 2

Martian Script

Flournoy Martian Buildings

Martian Buildings

Flournoy Martian Landscape and Plants

Martian Landscape and Plants

Regarding the medium, we wrote:

“Hélène’s mother as well as her grandmother also reported visions and experiences of presentiment, while one of her brothers ‘it appears, could easily have become a good medium’ . . . Additionally, Flournoy pointed to the fact that Hélène was ‘more or less visionary from her childhood’ . . . and spiritist practices only exploited, moulded and directed her predispositions through specific suggestions and doctrinal beliefs.”

Our introduction to Flournoy’s chapter placed the topic in historical context. We considered such topics as the psychology of mediumship and aspects of Flournoy’s career. We wrote, Flournoy “summarizes the main psychological findings of his study with Hélène Smith, and discusses the limitations and strengths of his investigation. He acknowledges the importance of future studies on the neurophysiological basis of mediumship, and discusses the implications of mediumistic phenomena to nosology and psychopathology, as well as to the study of supernormal faculties or processes.”

Flournoy wrote in the chapter we present in the article:

“From the psychological point of view, the case of Mlle. Smith, although too complex to be reduced to a single formula, is explicable grosso modo by some recognized principle, the successive or concurrent action of which has engendered her multiple phenomena. There is, in the first place, the influence, so often verified, of emotional shocks and of certain psychic traumatisms upon mental dissociation. By means of these the birth of hypnoid states may become the germ either of secondary personalities more or less strongly marked . . . or of somnambulistic romances . . .”

“We must also take into consideration the enormous suggestibility and auto-suggestibility of mediums, which render them so sensitive to all the influences of spiritistic reunions, and are so favorable to the play of those brilliant subliminal creations in which, occasionally, the doctrinal ideas of the surrounding environment are reflected together with the latent emotional tendencies of the medium herself . . .”

“And, finally, we must note the phenomena of cryptomnesia, the awakening and setting to work of forgotten memories, which easily account for the elements of truth contained in the great preceding constructions and in the incarnations or casual visions of Mlle. Smith in the course of her seances. But besides this general explanation how many points of detail there are which remain obscure!”

Flournoy’s book was praised at the time by such figures as F.W.H. Myers and Théodule Ribot, who were students of the capabilities of the human mind and its hidden regions. Others, including several believers in survival of death, were highly critical of Flournoy’s arguments. Today the book is considered a classic example of the studies of the creative functions of the subconscious mind.

Theodule Ribot

Théodule Ribot

We also stated:

“Flournoy’s ideas on the subconscious mind took advantage of the psychiatric and psychological knowledge available at the time, and were applied to the understanding of the so-called mediumistic phenomena that, in turn, expanded and complemented the available theories in the light of mediumistic processes. In this scenario, Hélène Smith played an important role, highlighting the influence that exemplary cases may have on the development of ideas and research programs, especially for the emerging field of multiple personalities, dissociation and hypnosis, deeply interconnected with the spiritualist beliefs of the time . . .”

Flournoy From India to the Planet Mars outside cover


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

Here is a recently published paper about the mind-body problem in psychiatry journals: Moreira-Almeida, A., Araujo, S. de F., & Cloninger, C. R. (2018). The presentation of the mind-brain problem in leading psychiatry journals. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, Epub February 01, 2018. (click here)

Alexander Moreira Almeida

Alexander Moreira-Almeida

Saulo de Freitas Araujo

Saulo de Freitas Araujo

C. Robert Cloninger

C. Robert Cloninger


Objective: The mind-brain problem (MBP) has marked implications for psychiatry, but has been poorly discussed in the psychiatric literature. This paper evaluates the presentation of the MBP in the three leading general psychiatry journals during the last 20 years. Methods: Systematic review of articles on the MBP published in the three general psychiatry journals with the highest impact factor from 1995 to 2015. The content of these articles was analyzed and discussed in the light of contemporary debates on the MBP. Results: Twenty-three papers, usually written by prestigious authors, explicitly discussed the MBP and received many citations (mean = 130). The two main categories were critiques of dualism and defenses of physicalism (mind as a brain product). These papers revealed several misrepresentations of theoretical positions and lacked relevant contemporary literature. Without further discussion or evidence, they presented the MBP as solved, dualism as an old-fashioned or superstitious idea, and physicalism as the only rational and empirically confirmed option. Conclusion: The MBP has not been properly presented and discussed in the three leading psychiatric journals in the last 20 years. The few articles on the topic have been highly cited, but reveal misrepresentations and lack of careful philosophical discussion, as well as a strong bias against dualism and toward a materialist/physicalist approach to psychiatry.

The authors concluded:

“Our findings indicate that the MBP has been neither carefully nor systematically addressed in the three leading general psychiatry journals with the highest impact factors during the last 20 years. We found only 23 papers published in this period which discussed, or made explicit reference to, this challenging problem that affects psychiatric training, research, and practice so greatly. Moreover, these papers were usually authored by prestigious and highly cited psychiatrists and had high citation rates – much higher than the three top cited journals’ average. This suggests that those views on MBP have been influential and may have helped shape the field’s stance on the subject.”

“A careful reading of those articles on the MBP, however, reveals a series of misrepresentations of theoretical positions (often based on secondary literature), lack of relevant contemporary literature on the topic, and a strong bias toward reductive physicalism in psychiatry. In summary, without further discussion or evidence, these authors present the MBP as solved, dualism as an old-fashioned/superstitious idea, and physicalism (mind as a brain product) as the only rational option and the only one that has undoubtedly been empirically confirmed. We are not arguing that physicalism (either in its reductive or nonreductive forms) is false. Given the current state of our knowledge, it should be considered a viable and promising hypothesis for the MBP, a good framework for research. The problem, in our view, is the misrepresentation of alternative hypotheses and the presentation of physicalism as the only game in town or as a proven fact . . .”

“. . . given the status of our current knowledge and the absence of a satisfactory theory of the MBP, the best way to achieve progress in psychiatry is to recognize that the MBP is far from being solved and to be open to competing theoretical models, as is being done in contemporary physics and philosophy of mind. It is crucial that several models of the MBP, including physicalist and nonphysicalist ones, be allowed to develop and show their value (or lack thereof). Rather than misrepresenting potential candidates, it is more productive to consider alternative hypotheses seriously and test them rigorously with respect for what they propose. Psychiatry could benefit from such competition to move beyond its current limitations.”

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

The first of a multi-volume collection of books discussing the Star Gate Project has just been published. The Star Gate Archives: Reports of the United States Government Sponsored Psi Program, 1972–1995. Volume 1: Remote Viewing, 1972–1984 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2018) was compiled and edited by Edwin C. May and Sonali Bhatt Marwaha. Three more volumes are scheduled to be published soon.

Star Gate Archives 1

Ed May 2

Edwin C. May

Sonali Marwaha

Sonali Bhatt Marwaha

According to the publisher:

“During the Cold War, the U.S. government began testing paranormal claims under laboratory conditions in hopes of realizing intelligence applications for psychic phenomena. Thus began the project known as Star Gate. The largest in the history of parapsychological research, it received more than $20 million in funding and continued into the mid–1990s. This project archive includes all available documents generated by research contractor SRI International and those provided by government officials.”

“Remote viewing (RV) is an atypical ability that allows some individuals to gain information blocked from the usual senses by shielding, distance or time. Early work benefited from a few “stars” of RV who were successful at convincing investigators of its existence and its potential as a means of gathering intelligence. Research focused on determining the parameters of RV, who may have the ability, how to collect and analyze data and the best way to use RV in intelligence operations.”

The book, with forewords by William S. Cohen and Richard S. Broughton, is a unique publication that shows well the unique legacy of the Star Gate Program. The Star Gate Archives may be ordered from the publisher or from other places.


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

In the past there have been many discussions about the relationships between psychology and parapsychology. An example is Gertrude R. Schmeidler’s Parapsychology and Psychology: Matches and Mismatches (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 1988). I have discussed aspects of this topic recently in “Psychology and Parapsychology” (In R. McLuhan [Ed.], Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research).

Gertrude Schmeidler 2

Gertrude Schmeidler

The purpose of the article is to discuss the interrelationship of both fields in terms of psychological research findings, psychological theories, and various contributions of parapsychology to psychology. “Psychic phenomena,” I wrote, “manifest dynamic aspects, and personality and cognitive variables, suggesting they are part of normal psychological processes.”

In two sections I covered correlates of ESP experiments. This includes various personality and cognitive variables, as well as attitudes. “Experimental studies suggest that ESP is associated with relaxed states . . . Laboratory dream studies and ganzfeld experiments have also shown evidence for ESP . . . Some believe that the partial sensory deprivation produced by ganzfeld conditions favors ESP. Others are less convinced of this, arguing that factors other than ASCs are involved . . . – something that must be generally considered in research with psychological variables.” 

Regarding survey studies “ESP experiences, and sometimes other phenomena such as seeing apparitions and auras, have been reported to be related to fantasy proneness . . . The same may be said of other psychological constructs: absorption; . . . boundary thinness; an openness to experiences such as emotions, intimacy and daydreaming; . . . dissociation; . . . emotional empathy; . . . hypnotic susceptibility; . . . transliminality; and a predisposition for experiencing emotions, imagery, thoughts or other psychological material from the unconscious regions of the mind . . .”  Research with other phenomena such as OBEs and mediumship is also briefly discussed.

I also summarize several psychological concepts and theoretical models developed to make sense of psychic experiences. “The idea that ESP is processed unconsciously has a long history . . . Myers . . . thought that telepathy was handled by the subliminal regions of the mind, and this idea can be seen in different ways in the writings of researchers to the present day.” The work of Carpenter, Eysenck, Irwin, and Stanford is mentioned. Summarizing James Carpenter’s ideas, I wrote: “James Carpenter . . . has proposed the most detailed psychological model to date, which he calls First Sight. The model assumes that psi is working continuously, but unconsciously, and that it is the initial contact our minds have with the world: first sight, so to speak. Such psi processes, like sensory and motor ones, are part of our usual cognitive processes, directed by unconscious intentions and mediated by goals, needs and dispositions. They interact with and make use of psychological resources such as memory, creativity, and conscious and unconscious perception. They are expressed primarily by inadvertent but potentially accessible experiences and behaviors. All behavior and experience are thought to begin at the psi level of transaction, even if we are not aware of it. The process is not seen as a special ability, but rather as a basic aspect of human beings, and perhaps of all sentient creatures.”

Jim Carpenter 2

James C. Carpenter


Carpenter First Sight

I argue, as have others before me, that parapsychology has made many contributions to psychology. For one. It has helped to extend the range of human experiences.

There have also been contributions regarding conventional explanations of various phenomena. “Certain influential psychological explanations of OBEs have been developed in the context of parapsychology, notably by Blackmore . . . Irwin . . . and Palmer . . ., contributing to the orthodox view of mind’s potential to generate hallucinatory experiences.”

Another area of contributions has been that of clinical issues. This includes ESP phenomena in the context of psychotherapy, and the difficult issue of differential diagnosis. Some work has been conducted in relation to trauma and schizotypy, but this area is in need of more detailed empirical explorations.

The study of psychic phenomena has also contributed to the concept of personal transformation, as seen in worth conducted with near-death experiences. The same may be said about human potential: “To accept some of the phenomena of parapsychology would have clear implications for human potential, greatly expanding our ideas about our capabilities. ESP implies that we can perceive future events, information hidden at a distance, and the thoughts or intentions of a distant person. Furthermore, to accept that such phenomena have no conventional explanation carries conceptual implications about the nature of consciousness.”

The latter brings us to the issue of nonphysicality. Traditionally ESP and other phenomena have been interpreted by many as evidence of the independence of the mind on the physical body. An acceptance of such conclusion, and this is still debatable, would have great implications about the nature of human beings.

Psychology cliparts

“Work on near-death experiences, reincarnation cases, mediumship and related topics has tended to promote ideas of transcendence . . . It should be pointed out that parapsychology embraces diverse views, and the ideas summarized here are not necessarily all shared by its practitioners . . . But they have in common a tendency towards the view that mind is more than the physical body – a classic problem of psychology.”

For bibliography click here, here, and here.



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

Here is a metanalysis of dream ESP experiments: On the correspondence between dream content and target material under laboratory conditions: A meta-analysis of dream-ESP studies, 1966-2016, by Lance Storm, Simon J. Sherwood, Chris A. Roe, Patrizio E. Tressoldi, Adam J. Rock, and Lorenzo Di Risio (International Journal of Dream Research, 2017, 10, 120-140; for reprints write to the first author:

Lance Storm 2

Lance Storm

Simon Sherwood

Simon Sherwood

Chris Roe 2

Chris Roe

Patrizio Tressoldi 5

Patrizio Tressoldi

Adam Rock

Adam Rock

Lorenzo Di Risio

Lorenzo Di Risio


Here is the abstract:

In order to further our understanding about the limits of human consciousness and the dream state, we report meta-analytic results on experimental dream-ESP studies for the period 1966 to 2016. Dream-ESP can be defined as a form of extra-sensory perception (ESP) in which a dreaming perceiver ostensibly gains information about a randomly selected target without using the normal sensory modalities or logical inference. Studies fell into two categories: the Maimonides Dream Lab (MDL) studies (n = 14), and independent (non-MDL) studies (n = 36). The MDL dataset yielded mean ES = .33 (SD = 0.37); the non-MDL studies yielded mean ES = .14 (SD = 0.27). The difference between the two mean values was not significant. A homogeneous dataset (N = 50) yielded a mean z of 0.75 (ES = .20, SD = 0.31), with corresponding significant Stouffer Z = 5.32, p = 5.19 × 10-8, suggesting that dream content can be used to identify target materials correctly and more often than would be expected by chance. No significant differences were found between: (a) three modes of ESP (telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition), (b) senders, (c) perceivers, or (d) REM/non-REM monitoring. The ES difference between dynamic targets (e.g., movie-film) and static (e.g., photographs) targets was not significant. We also found that significant improvements in the quality of the studies was not related to ES, but ES did decline over the 51-year period. Bayesian analysis of the same homogeneous dataset yielded results supporting the ‘frequentist’ find­ing that the null hypothesis should be rejected. We conclude that the dream-ESP paradigm in parapsychology is worthy of continued investigation, but we recommend design improvements.”

It is concluded:

“Our review has shown that dream ESP remains a promis­ing, if somewhat neglected, area for parapsychological research. Combined effect sizes for both Maimonides and post-Maimonides studies suggest that judges may be able to use dream mentations to identify target materials cor­rectly more often than would be expected by chance.”

“Sherwood and Roe (2013) concluded that the Maimonides studies were more successful than the post-Maimonides studies, and attributed that difference to “procedural differ­ences rather than improvements in security” (p. 72). This may not be entirely true. Our results do not support claims of MDL success over non-MDL studies, though we do con­cede that other test findings suggest the MDL series may have been superior.”

“Our meta-analysis has identified key issues and key con­cerns to do mainly with methodological quality and process-oriented factors that covary with study outcomes. However, the database may prove to be too heterogeneous, some­times with too few studies in subsets, for such analyses to provide reliable insights.”

Finally, in the author’s view “dream ESP is (i) a demonstrable effect; (ii) not governed by experimenter, or laboratory, or historical context; (iii) inde­pendent of (a) psi modality; (b) REM monitoring; (c) target type; and (d) agent and perceiver arrangements; and (iv) perhaps independent of the number of choices in a target set. Some of these findings conflict with what we find to be evident of the free-response paradigm (including Ganzfeld) and the forced-choice paradigm, and it remains to be seen if our conclusions are premature, or dream ESP is, in a num­ber of ways, an ESP sub-type different in degree or kind.”


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

In a recent article in History of Psychiatry that I wrote with Massimo Biondi we presented an excerpt of Cesare Lombroso’s writings about pathology in the medium Eusapia Palladino (Alvarado, C.S., & Biondi, M. Classic Text No. 110: Cesare Lombroso on Mediumship and Pathology. History of Psychiatry, 2017, 28, 225–241).

Massimo Biondi 3

Massimo Biondi

Here is the abstract: “During the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth, students of pathology such as Cesare Lombroso (1835–1909), the author of the excerpt presented here, became involved in observing, investigating and theorizing about the phenomena of Spiritualism, and mediumship in particular. The Classic Text presented here consists of an excerpt from Lombroso’s writings which focus on the Italian medium Eusapia Palladino (1854–1918), who greatly influenced Lombroso’s beliefs. Lombroso illustrates neglected theoretical ideas combining the interaction of pathology and what seem to be real psychic phenomena that have not received much attention in historical studies.”

Cesare Lombroso circa 1890

Cesare Lombroso

Eusapia Palladino 16

During the Nineteenth-Century, as well as later, several physicians and others postulated that mediumship was a pathological condition and that mediumistic phenomena were explained solely by dissociation, automatisms, fraud, and other conventional means (click here). Lombroso represents a different group within those that pathologized mediumship. He believed in real mediumistic phenomena, in the sense of veridical communications and the occurrence of physical phenomena such as movement of objects and materializations. In other words, Lombroso admitted what we refer to as “the coexistence of both pathology and the supernormal.”

As Biondi and I discussed in our introduction to the excerpt such an idea was defended by others during the period in question. We also argued that Lombroso was no stranger to the process of pathologizing various non-mediumistic behaviors: “Lombroso proposed that there were born criminals and that they presented particular inherited physical and mental signs of degeneration and atavism, some of which included common facial bone structure, as well as abnormal tactile sensibility and arterial pressure. Furthermore, they showed abnormalities in their bones, especially the skull, and left-handedness, all of which he considered to be clear marks of atavism and degeneration . . . Women and geniuses did not escape Lombroso’s schema. In fact, he associated genius with pathology, pointing out that there had been frequent examples of geniuses going insane.”

Lombroso L'Uomo Delinquente

Lombroso Ferraro Donna

In 1891 Lombroso had sittings with Palladino, which convinced him that her telekinetic and materialization phenomena were genuine . . . Because of Lombroso’s international fame, his conversion received a great deal of publicity, thereby attracting the interest of others to this medium. Soon afterwards, she was studied by a group of scholars and scientists in Milan, the first important investigation of her phenomena involving various conditions and scientific instruments . . .  This was followed by several other investigations published in the 1890s . . . and the following decade . . .” (for examples click here and here).

Eusapia Palladino 9

Eusapia Palladino

Lomboso’s most important and best known publication on psychic phenomena was Ricerche sui Fenomeni Ipnotici e Spiritici (1909), a book that was translated into English as After Death – What? Spiritistic Phenomena and their Interpretation (1909). The translation, from which we took the excerpt about Palladino, is somewhat different from the original Italian edition. After Death – What? Has 14 chapters some of which are entitled: Hypnotic Phenomena, Experiments with Eusapia, The Power and Action of Mediums, Limitations of the Power of the Medium, Phantasms and Apparitions of the Dead, and Haunted Houses. In this book Lombroso stated that he felt some phenomena were the product of discarnate agency.

Lombroso Ricerche

 Lombroso After death WhatHowever, as we wrote, Lombroso also discussed Palladino’s phenomena assuming “an exteriorization of nervous force . . . caused by her unusual pathological state, similar to that of hysterics and the hypnotized. To some extent, but in a highly unorthodox way, the ideas of pathology presented in the excerpt were an extension of Lombroso’s ideas about criminals, the mentally ill and women.”

In the excerpt we present in this article Lombroso lists many phenomena he believed were hysterical symptoms presented by Palladino.  For example, he wrote: “She has the hyperaesthesic zone, especially in the ovary. She has the bole in the oesophagus that women with hysteria have, and general weakness, or paresis, in the limbs of the left side . . . She passes rapidly from joy to grief . . . has strange phobias (for example, the fear of staining her hands), is extremely impressionable and subject to dreams in spite of her mature age. Not rarely she has hallucinations, frequently sees her own ghost. As a child she believed two eyes glared at her from behind trees and hedges. When she is in anger, especially when her reputation as a medium is insulted, she is so violent and impulsive as actually to fly at her adversaries and beat them.”

In our conclusion we stated: “Our introduction, and Lombroso’s excerpt, is but a reminder of the complexity of ideas about pathology and psychic phenomena. While most of those who pathologized mediumship in the past reduced mediumistic phenomena to abnormal functioning as well as to conventional explanations of different sorts, Lombroso exhibited a variant position defending the existence of the supernormal nature of the phenomena (the actual occurrence of telekinesis and materializations) while accepting that the medium presented psychopathological symptoms. To make the topic even more complex, Lombroso eventually accepted the action of discarnate spirits as an explanation of mediumship. This reminds us that in the historical study of ideas about mediumship we need to consider such complex interactions between pathology, and human and spirit agency.”

“Lombroso’s speculations included ideas, based on his own and others’ concepts, about the nature of women . . . In summary, Lombroso’s discussion of Palladino contains much from his previous ideas. In his writings, the medium took the role of the criminal, the mentally ill and women in general. That is, the medium provided him with a further opportunity to defend some of his ideas, while at the same time he was extending the materialistic paradigm that inspired them. Lombroso’s work represents a particularly rich example of the blending of ideas from psychiatry, criminal anthropology and psychical research, and about the materialistic and the spiritual.” 

Photos of Palladino in After Death—What?

Eusapia Palladino in Trance from Lombroso 1909

Palladino in Trance

Eusapia Palladino older


Table Levitation, 1892


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

An interesting article has been published in a psychiatry journal about topics related to this blog. Its title is: “Research on Experiences Related to the Possibility of Consciousness Beyond the Brain: A Bibliometric Analysis of Global Scientific Output,” by Jorge Cecílio Daher, Rodolfo Furlan Damiano, Alessandra Lamas Granero Lucchetti, Alexander Moreira-Almeida, and Giancarlo Lucchetti (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 2017, 205, 37-47).

Jorge Daher

Jorge Cecílio Daher


“This study aims to conduct a search of publications investigating experiences commonly associated with the possibility of the existence of a consciousness independent of the brain held on the main scientific databases (Pubmed, Web of Knowledge, PsycINFO, Science Direct, and Scopus). Of the 9065 articles retrieved, 1954 were included (598 near-death experiences, 223 out-of-body experiences, 56 end-of-life experiences, 224 possession, 244 memories suggestive of past lives, 565 mediumship, 44 others). Over the decades, there was an evident increase in the number of articles on all the areas of the field, with the exception of studies on mediumship that showed a decline during the late 20th century and subsequent rise in the early 21st century. Regarding the types of articles found, with the exception of past-life memories and end-of-life experiences (mostly original studies), publications were predominantly review articles. The articles were published in journals with an impact factor similar to other areas of science.”

In the discussion the authors state:

“Each area was discussed separately to promote a better understanding of each area of the field and its respective gaps. The NDE area yielded the most specific articles and, in absolute terms, had the largest number of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. This area of the field, although recent, had greater scientific consolidation an more prospective studies, largely promoted by studies related to cardiology and intensive medicine and strong media interest . . .”

“The OBE area had articles in common with the NDE area, being a potential component of NDE, but was also studied as a spontaneous occurrence . . . Given the numerous studies in different areas, it can be concluded that this area of the field has a reasonable number of studies whose objective was not the assessment of the possibility of autonomy of consciousness in relation to the brain.”

“The possession area includes a large number of investigative articles of mental disorders and many eminently descriptive anthropological investigations. These studies, although investigating associated experiences, often do not investigate the issue of survival of the consciousness per se . . .”

“Regarding the mediumship area, we found a large number of case reports with mediums, analyzing a range of different manifestations such as the truthfulness of information or neurophysiological aspects . . . After the 2000s, investigations into mediums adopted more rigorous methodological criteria, with results that have yet to be fully accepted.”

“The reincarnation (past-life memories) area was associated with a substantial number of cross-sectional studies. This area is characterized predominantly by results obtained from reports by study participants and analysis of their truthfulness . . . There is also an extensive debate on whether these cases can be explained by fantasy, false memories, and hypnosis . . .”

“The ELEs [end-of-life experiences] area, although a relatively recent with fewer articles, showed greater growth in the past decade. This rise was likely attributed to the increase in studies on palliative care and spirituality . . . “




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

Dr. David Luke, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Greenwich has just published a book about psychedelics and exceptional experiences: Otherworlds: Psychedelics and Exceptional Human Experience (London: Muswell Hill Press, 2017).

Luke Otherworlds

More information about David can be found in an interview that appeared in this blog.

David Luke

David Luke


Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

The book is a collection of papers researching the use of psychedelics and exceptional human experiences, with a particular focus on parapsychological experiences but including syanaesthesia, extra-dimensional percepts, inter-species communication, eco-consciousness, mediumship, sleep paralysis, possession, entity encounters, near-death and out-of-body experiences, psi, alien abduction experiences and, well, even a little bit of lycanthropy.

The chapters range from comprehensive literature and research reviews of specific topics, such as psi research with psychedelics, through essays exploring topics like possession and psychedelics, to more speculative and personal explorations, such as entity encounter experiences with the naturally occurring endogenous dimethyltryptamine (DMT).

Given the nascent nature of this field of enquiry this book takes a multidisciplinary approach to build a coherent picture and spans several disciplines, sourcing material from psychology, psychiatry, parapsychology, anthropology, paranthropology, neuroscience, ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, biochemistry, religious studies and cultural history. A good amount of my own data can also be found within.

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

My career has been strongly rooted in parapsychology but has broadened over the years into a multidisciplinary exploration of exceptional human experiences and altered states of consciousness, with a particular focus on psychedelics, although I have also researched dreams, meditation, mediumistic states, darkness, yoga, shamanic practices, floatation tanks and other altered states.

I did my PhD on luck and psi among other parapsychology researchers at the University of Northampton when it was probably the leading academic institution in the world for such research, and have continued doing parapsychology research for the last 17 years. My main experimental subject throughout has been precognition, and I have conducted numerous studies testing this under different controlled conditions, but I have also conducted numerous surveys, case studies, dabbled in anthropology and ethnography and even ran a clinical drug trial with LSD partially exploring experimental psi. My work has also been greatly informed by field research and travels around the world exploring mediumship, shamanism and mystical practices from India to Ecuador.

What motivated you to write this book?

My main motivation to write this book was to bring together the various strands of my research into exceptional experiences with psychedelics, given that there is currently no coherent thrust within the academy, either from within parapsychology or elsewhere, to explore this rich subject. There are currently something like 32 million people in the US alone that have used psychedelics, and probably half of those or more have had at least one exceptional experience under the influence, so the topic of this book covers a genuine lacuna in the academic literature that deserves serious attention.

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

Given the lack of coordinated research programmes on this broad subject this book is probably the first of its kind to specifically explore psychedelically-induced exceptional experiences, including those of a parapsychological nature. I optimistically hope that having a text dedicated to this subject matter will give other researchers a useful resource and a clear platform from which to systematically explore these colourful experiences. Ultimately, I hope that this book will provide the starting point to examine the exotic and yet relatively common experiences that occur with these substances now that the revival of serious psychedelic research has finally begun after a 50-year hiatus. I also think that even non-researchers, such as the interested psychonaut or the parapsychology enthusiast will find much of interest in this book too.


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

Lance Storm and Patrizio E. Tressoldi have just published a meta-analysis of experimental ESP studies that have examined the sheep-goat effect. The article’s title is “Gathering in More Sheep and Goats: A Meta-Analysis of Forced-Choice Sheep-Goat ESP Studies, 1994–2015” (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 2017, 81, 79-107).

Lance Storm 2

Lance Storm

Patrizio Tressoldi 5

Patrizio Tressoldi

Here is the abstract:

The terms ‘sheep’ and ‘goat’ were introduced by Gertrude Schmeidler — sheep are those who accept the possibility of ESP occurring under given experimental conditions, while goats are those participants who reject the possibility. In statistical tests of psychic ability, Schmeidler found that sheep tended to score above chance, while goats (rather than scoring at chance) tended to score below chance. This scoring differential is known as the sheep-goat effect (SGE). This study is a meta-analysis of the SGE in forced-choice literature, being a continuation from where Lawrence (1993) left off. The period of analysis was 1994 to 2015. The authors retrieved 49 studies reported by 43 investigators. The mean ES for ESP = .045, mean z = 0.75, Stouffer Z = 5.23 (p = 8.47 × 10-8), and the mean trial-based SGE = 0.034, mean z = 0.24, Stouffer Z = 1.67 (p = .047). Thus, our SGE is on par with Lawrence’s reported “r = 0.029”. There was no relationship between study quality and ESP effect or SGE, but there was a significant incline in the SGE over a period of 22 years. The SGE did not vary significantly with belief measure used. Bayesian analysis of the same dataset yielded results supporting the ‘frequentist’ finding that the null hypothesis should be rejected. These and other findings are generally comparable to Lawrence’s, altogether indicating a “belief-moderated communications anomaly” in the forced-choice ESP domain that has been effectively uninterrupted and consistent for almost 70 years.





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

Blanco, S., Sambin, M., & Palmieri, A. (2017). Meaning making after a near-death experience: The relevance of intrapsychic and interpersonal dynamics. Death Studies, 27, 1-12.

This study aims to investigate the processes used by individuals to integrate a near-death experience (NDE) and to discuss the use of a meaning-making component to help people who have had such experiences. A psychotherapist interviewed six individuals who reported having had a NDE. Transcripts of the interviews were coded using an interpretative phenomenological analysis. The authors identified intrapsychic and interpersonal dynamics implicated in the individuals’ meaning-making processes, and the problems encountered during their integration of the experience. Meaning-based approaches are a feasible theoretical framework for shedding light on the NDE and providing support for people who have lived through them.

Chandradasa, M., Wijesinghe, C., Kuruppuarachchi, K. A. L. A., & Perera, M. (2017). Near-death experiences in a multi-religious hospital population in Sri Lanka. Journal of Religion and Health, 1-17.

Near-death experiences (NDEs) are a wide range of experiences that occur in association with impending death. There are no published studies on NDEs in general hospital populations, and studies have been mainly conducted on critically ill patients. We assessed the prevalence of NDEs and its associations in a multi-religious population in a general hospital in Sri Lanka. A randomised sample of patients admitted to the Colombo North Teaching Hospital was assessed using the Greyson NDE scale and clinical assessment. Out of total 826 participants, NDEs were described by 3%. Compared to the NDE-negative participants, the NDE-positive group had a significantly higher mean for age and a ratio of men. Women reported deeper NDEs. Patients of theistic religions (Christianity, Islam and Hinduism) reported significantly more NDEs compared to patients from the non-theistic religious group (Buddhism). NDE-positive patient group had significantly higher reporting of a feeling ‘that they are about to die’, the presence of loss of consciousness and a higher percentage of internal medical patients. This is the first time that NDEs are assessed in a general hospital population and NDEs being reported from Sri Lanka. We also note for the first time that persons with theistic religious beliefs reported more NDEs than those with non-theistic religious beliefs. Medical professionals need to be aware of these phenomena to be able to give an empathic hearing to patients who have NDE.

Kinsella, M. (2017). Near-death experiences and networked spirituality: The emergence of an afterlife movement. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 85, 168–198.

Near-death experiences (NDEs) were first introduced to the public in 1975. Shortly thereafter, an entire field of near-death studies emerged that began outlining an NDE-based spirituality. This spirituality draws heavily upon an aspect of NDEs known as the “life review,” which involves the reliving or witnessing of significant autobiographical events, either from one’s own perspective or that of others. Near-death studies have contributed to the rise of what I have termed an “afterlife movement”: a loosely organized collective utilizing NDE narratives and practices modeled after the life review to transform behaviors and attitudes toward death, dying, and end-of-life care. By presenting findings from the first ethnography ever to be conducted on the sharing and study of NDE reports in group settings, this article describes this growing movement at the local level.

Lake, J. (2017). The evolution of a predisposition for the near-death experience: implications for non-local consciousness. Journal of Nonlocality, 5.

Near-death experiences (NDE) raise important questions about the nature of human consciousness, the relationship between brain function and consciousness, the perceptual information that is available to consciousness in moments before death, the role of physical and biological mechanisms associated with altered states of consciousness, and relationships between consciousness, space-time and phenomenal reality. Challenges posed by efforts to define the NDE, claims of anomalous experiences associated with NDEs, the problem of “timing” of NDEs with respect to brain function, recent findings from neuroscience are reviewed, along with emerging evidence for quantum models of consciousness that may help elucidate the nature of NDEs.

Lawrence, M. (2017). Near-death and other transpersonal experiences occurring during catastrophic events. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care, 34, 486-492.

The purpose of this article is to describe examples of near-death and other transpersonal experiences occurring during catastrophic events like floods, wars, bombings, and death camps. To date, researchers have limited their investigations of these transpersonal events to those occurring to seriously ill patients in hospitals, those dying from terminal illnesses, or to individuals experiencing a period of grief after the death of a loved one. Missing is awareness by first responders and emergency healthcare professionals about these transpersonal experiences and what to say to the individuals who have them. Some responders experience not only deaths of the victims they assist, but also deaths of their colleagues. Information about these transpersonal experiences can also be of comfort to them. The examples in this article include a near-death experience during the Vietnam War, an out-of-body experience after a bomb explosion during the Iraq War, a near-death visit to a woman imprisoned at Auschwitz, and two after-death communications, one from a person killed in Auschwitz and another from a soldier during World War I. Also included are interviews with two New York City policemen who were September 11, 2001 responders. It is hoped the information will provide knowledge of these experiences to those who care for those near death, or dying, or grieving because of catastrophic events, and encourage researchers to further investigate these experiences during disasters.

Martial, C., Charland-Verville, V., Cassol, H., Didone, V., Van der Linden, M., & Laureys, S. (2017). Intensity and memory characteristics of near-death experiences. Consciousness and Cognition, S1053-8100(16)30380-4. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2017.06.018.

Memories of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) seem to be very detailed and stable over time. At present, there is still no satisfactory explanation for the NDEs’ rich phenomenology. Here we compared phenomenological characteristics of NDE memories with the reported experience’s intensity. We included 152 individuals with a self-reported “classical” NDE (i.e. occurring in life-threatening conditions). All participants completed a mailed questionnaire that included a measure of phenomenological characteristics of memories (the Memory Characteristics Questionnaire; MCQ) and a measure of NDE’s intensity (the Greyson NDE scale). Greyson NDE scale total score was positively correlated with MCQ total score, suggesting that participants who described more intense NDEs also reported more phenomenological memory characteristics of NDE. Using MCQ items, our study also showed that NDE’s intensity is associated in particular with sensory details, personal importance and reactivation frequency variables.

Martial C, Cassol H, Antonopoulos G, Charlier T, Heros J, Donneau A-F, Charland-Verville V and Laureys S (2017) Temporality of features in near-death experience narratives. Frontiers of Human Neuroscences, 11:311. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00311

Background: After an occurrence of a Near-Death Experience (NDE), Near-Death Experiencers (NDErs) usually report extremely rich and detailed narratives. Phenomenologically, a NDE can be described as a set of distinguishable features. Some authors have proposed regular patterns of NDEs, however, the actual temporality sequence of NDE core features remains a little explored area. Objectives: The aim of the present study was to investigate the frequency distribution of these features (globally and according to the position of features in narratives) as well as the most frequently reported temporality sequences of features. Methods: We collected 154 French freely expressed written NDE narratives (i.e., Greyson NDE scale total score ≥ 7/32). A text analysis was conducted on all narratives in order to infer temporal ordering and frequency distribution of NDE features. Results: Our analyses highlighted the following most frequently reported sequence of consecutive NDE features: Out-of-Body Experience, Experiencing a tunnel, Seeing a bright light, Feeling of peace. Yet, this sequence was encountered in a very limited number of NDErs. Conclusion: These findings may suggest that NDEs temporality sequences can vary across NDErs. Exploring associations and relationships among features encountered during NDEs may complete the rigorous definition and scientific comprehension of the phenomenon.

Martial, C., Charland-Verville, V., Dehon, H., & Laureys, S. (2017). False memory susceptibility in coma survivors with and without a near-death experience. Psychological Research, DOI:

It has been postulated that memories of near-death experiences (NDEs) could be (at least in part) reconstructions based on experiencers’ (NDErs) previous knowledge and could be built as a result of the individual’s attempt to interpret the confusing experience. From the point of view of the experiencer, NDE memories are perceived as being unrivalled memories due to its associated rich phenomenology. However, the scientific literature devoted to the cognitive functioning of NDErs in general, and their memory performance in particular, is rather limited. This study examined NDErs’ susceptibility to false memories using the Deese–Roediger–McDermott (DRM) paradigm. We included 20 NDErs who reported having had their experience in the context of a life-threatening event (Greyson NDE scale total score ≥7/32) and 20 volunteers (matched for age, gender, education level, and time since brain insult) who reported a life-threatening event but without a NDE. Both groups were presented with DRM lists for a recall task during which they were asked to assign “Remember/Know/Guess” judgements to any recalled response. In addition, they were later asked to complete a post-recall test designed to obtain estimates of activation and monitoring of critical lures. Results demonstrated that NDErs and volunteers were equally likely to produce false memories, but that NDErs recalled them more frequently associated with compelling illusory recollection. Of particular interest, analyses of activation and monitoring estimates suggest that NDErs and volunteers groups were equally likely to think of critical lures, but source monitoring was less successful in NDErs compared to volunteers.

Moore, L., & Greyson, B. (2017). Characteristics of memories for near-death experiences. Consciousness and Cognition, 51, 116–124.

Near-death experiences are vivid, life-changing experiences occurring to people who come close to death. Because some of their features, such as enhanced cognition despite compromised brain function, challenge our understanding of the mind-brain relationship, the question arises whether near-death experiences are imagined rather than real events. We administered the Memory Characteristics Questionnaire to 122 survivors of a close brush with death who reported near-death experiences. Participants completed Memory Characteristics Questionnaires for three different memories: that of their near-death experience, that of a real event around the same time, and that of an event they had imagined around the same time. The Memory Characteristics Questionnaire score was higher for the memory of the near-death experience than for that of the real event, which in turn was higher than that of the imagined event. These data suggest that memories of near-death experiences are recalled as ‘‘realer” than real events or imagined events.

Royse, D., & Badger, K. (2017). Near-death experiences, posttraumatic growth, and life satisfaction among burn survivors. Social Work in Health Care, 56, 155-168.

Survivors of large burns may face positive and negative psychological after-effects from close-to-death injuries. This study is the first to examine their near-death experiences (NDEs) and posttraumatic growth (PTG) and life satisfaction afterwards. With an available sample of 92 burn survivors, half met the criteria for an NDE using an objective scale. Those who indicated religion was a source of strength and comfort had high scores on life satisfaction, PTG, and the NDE Scale. Individuals with larger burns reported greater PTG than those with smaller total body surface area burned (TBSA). There were no significant differences on life satisfaction, PTG, or NDEs when examined by gender or years since the burn injury. Elements of the NDE most frequently reported were: An altered sense of time, a sense of being out of the physical body, a feeling of peace, vivid sensations, and sense of being in an “other worldly” environment. Social workers and other health providers need to be comfortable helping burn survivors discuss any NDEs and process these through survivors’ spirituality and religious belief systems as they recover.

Tassell-Matamua, N., & Lindsay, N., Bennett, S., Valentine, H., & Pahina, J. (2017). Does learning about near-death experiences promote psycho-spiritual benefits in those who have not had a near-death experience? Journal of Spirituality and mental Health, 19, 95-115.

Research has revealed a consistent pattern of positive aftereffects in those who report a near-death experience [NDE]. Beneficial outcomes are also possible for those who have not had a NDE, but instead learn about them, although much of this research has been conducted on therapeutic populations. Using a sample of 143 participants randomly assigned to either an intervention or non-intervention group, we investigated whether learning about NDEs generated the same psycho-spiritual benefits having a NDE does. Results revealed significant changes in appreciation for life, spirituality, and appreciation for death, in the intervention group after learning about NDEs.