Category: Recent Publications


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

Here is a study to test for the possibility that observations could affect an interference pattern, something consistent with von Neumann’s suggestion that human observation can affect physical systems.

Radin, D., Michel, L., & Delorme, A. (2016). Psychophysical modulation of fringe visibility in a distant double-slit optical system. Physics Essays. 29 (1), 14-22.

Abstract: To investigate von Neumann’s proposal that an “extra-physical process” is involved in the measurement of a quantum system, an online experiment was conducted using a double-slit optical system. In a counterbalanced fashion, participants focused their attention toward or away from a feedback signal linked in real-time to the double-slit component of an interference pattern. A line camera continuously recorded the interference pattern at 4 Hz, and for each camera image fringe visibility was determined for the central 20 fringes. During 2013 and 2014, a total of 1,479 people from 77 countries contributed 2,985 test sessions. Over the same period 5,738 sessions were run as controls by a computer programmed to simulate human participants. The results showed that with human observers the fringe visibility at the center of the interference pattern deviated from a null effect by 5.72 sigma (p = 1.05×10-8), with the direction of the deviation conforming to the observers’ intentions. The same analysis applied to the control data resulted in an overall deviation of -0.17 sigma. After consideration of alternative explanations, these results were found to support von Neumann’s conclusion that the mind of the observer is an inextricable part of the measurement process. This type of experiment offers a means of empirically resolving long-standing questions about the role of consciousness in the physical world.

The authors write:

“The present study . . . is consistent with von Neumann’s speculation that an extra-physical factor plays a role in the QMP. That said, these results do not support a strong role for the mind, as in consciousness literally causing a collapse of the quantum wave function . . . Rather, a more modest function is suggested whereby the mind has the capacity to modulate probabilities associated with the transition from quantum to classical behavior. In terms of absolute magnitude these modulations are subtle. In the present experiment the percentage change in fringe visibility due to observation was on average about 0.001%. Still, it is important to not confuse the size of an effect with its theoretical importance.”

Poltergeist Case

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

Here is a recent report of a poltergeist case.

John Dixon, A case of ostensible poltergeist phenomena resulting in lingering haunt phenomena. Australian Journal of Parapsychology, 2016, 16, 7-39.

Abstract: An ostensible poltergeist case was investigated after a series of unexplained disturbances, including object movements, was witnessed at a small bar. The initial disturbances ceased after a 13-month period, which coincided with the departure of a staff member who displayed traits similar to RSPK agents. The case was investigated by surveying the remaining staff to document the disturbances they had personally experienced. This survey focused upon quantitative data, while follow-up questions looked at qualitative aspects. Five criteria were created to help determine if the disturbances were due to poltergeist or haunt phenomena. The results of the survey and interviews supported the hypothesis that poltergeist phenomena were occurring at the bar. After another 13-month period a second survey was conducted in order to compare disturbances against the results of the initial survey. The results of the second survey showed that poltergeist disturbances had ceased, having been replaced by disturbances seen in haunt cases. After researching possible causes of RSPK, it was concluded that the suspected RSPK agent may have been experiencing Spiritual Emergency which manifested as poltergeist activity. This in turn could have attracted a discarnate entity/entities that remained on the premises after the suspected RSPK agent had ceased employment at the bar.

 

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

I recently published a paper about auras. Its title is “The Variety of Aura Experiences” (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 2016, 80, 223-229). The paper is a call to study the features of auras.

I may summarize the paper as follows: Regardless of the large occult and experiential literature on the topic there are no studies about such basic data as the proportion of reports of specific shapes, colors and other aspects of auras in a given sample of cases, or even in repeated observations by particular individuals. To illustrate how interesting and rich the topic is I used the example of the variety of shapes of auras and presented several descriptions. It is pointed out that there is a need to study other features, as well as to conduct studies that transcend the purely descriptive, such as the study of correlates of features, something that eventually will generate testable hypotheses and explanatory models.

The descriptions include accounts I have collected in previous research, as well as published accounts. I presented examples of halos, surrounds and outlines, glows, flashes or glimmers, beams, clouds, and examples of more than one form. Here are some examples.

“Only once saw ‘aura’—very radiant sapphire blue light, round figure of the healer . . . Dazzling and extending widely around him as he entered a hall, and stood on a platform.”

“When I look at people I clearly see sort of a shine that surrounds them, on their heads, shoulders and arms, with a width reaching 20 or 30 cm., and if I look more into the shine I start to see subtle colors . . .  Also, when I fix my sight on objects . . .  I see a shine around the whole object that varies in width from 1 to 2 cm, but this shine has no color, it is white and colorless.”

“Flames came out of him, as if they were sparkling and glimmering. When his hands came close to my body . . . I noticed an energy, similar to when the hands are put close to the television, accompanied with an agreeable warmth.”

“I saw a young woman whose face transformed and radiated a reddish smoke while she was trembling.”

I wrote at the end of the paper:

“While I have only used a few published sources to present descriptions of auras, I believe these cases are enough to illustrate the variety of accounts, and how interesting the descriptions are. Yet I am not aware of any systematic descriptive study of this, or of any other aura feature. The existing literature on the topic depends on the experiences of a handful of individuals, and at present we do not have clear and systematically-collected information about the shape of the aura (and its various other features) as we have in the case of apparitions, OBEs, NDEs, and other psychic experiences . . .”

“There are of course other things to explore about aura features in addition to their perceived shape. This includes colours, the place in the body around which the aura is seen . . . and how far it extends from the body . . . Second, going beyond a descriptive catalog of aura features it is necessary to explore factors potentially related to those features . . . [such as the circumstances of the observations] . . .”

“While I have focused here on features—a particular interest of mine—there is much to do along other lines. In addition to exploring various correlates, among them psychophysiological ones, a research programme about aura vision could approach the topic focusing on the two individuals involved. These are the persons around whom the aura is observed, as well as the observer.”

 

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

In one of my last published articles, “Classic Text No. 107: Joseph Maxwell on Mediumistic Personifications” (History of Psychiatry, 2016, 27, 350-366, I will send a pdf reprint on request, carlos@theazire.org), I discuss changes of personality in mediums as discussed by French jurist and physician Joseph Maxwell. The article is basically a reprint of an excerpt published by Maxwell in his book Metapsychical Phenomena: Methods and Observations (London: Duckworth, 1905; translated from Les Phénomènes Psychiques: Recherches, Observations, Méthodes. Paris: Félix Alcan, 1903).

joseph-maxwell-profile-1895

Joseph Maxwell (on right) and Albert de Rochas in a seance with Eusapia Palladino in 1895

 

Here is the abstract:

“The study of mediumship received much impetus from the work of psychical researchers. This included ideas about the phenomena of personation, or changes in attitudes, dispositions and behaviours shown by some mediums that supposedly indicated discarnate action. The aim of this Classic Text is to reprint passages about this topic from the writings of French psychical researcher Joseph Maxwell (1858–1938), which were part of the contributions of some psychical researchers to reconceptualize the manifestations in psychological terms. Maxwell suggested these changes in mediums were a production of their subconscious mind. His ideas are a reflection of previous theorization about secondary personalities and a particular example of the contributions of psychical researchers to understand the psychology of mediumship.”

maxwell-les-phenomenes-psychiques-1903

maxwell-metapsychical-phenomena

Maxwell saw personification as “the presentation of statements and behaviours apparently representing foreign beings or personalities.” His work is discussed in the context of developments in Spiritualism and the study of changes of personality, such as double and multiple personality cases. “This included the cases of Mary Reynolds . . . , Félida X. . . . and Ansel Bourne . . . , among many others . . . French student of dissociation Pierre Janet . . . became known for his observations of secondary personalities appearing during hypnosis . . . This literature included much about the effects of suggestion on personation, such as Richet’s . . .  induction of dramatizations of various characters using suggestion.”

ansel-bourne

Ansel Bourne

“Articulating previous ideas from writings about hypnosis, secondary personalities and mediumship, Maxwell insists that personifications do not depend on spirit influence, but are a function of the unconscious mind. Furthermore, he argues that such personifications depend on the beliefs of the circle surrounding the medium, and thus are a collective production, as argued by others before him . . . But Maxwell does not limit his discussion to the psychological nature of the personification. He also sees these imaginal characters as a necessary part of mediumship in the sense that researchers needed to work with, and not against them. To some extent, these personages are the assistants of researchers wishing to study mediums, and should not be contradicted while, at the same time, not be granted the status of a real being.”

However, not everyone agreed with Maxwell that mediumistic personalities were psychological creations of the medium. This was particularly the case with those that believed in discarnate agency.

One of the reasons behind my motivation to write this article was that Maxwell is not well known among English speaking researchers, even those interested in mediumship. But his work of Maxwell was an influential contribution to the psychology of mediumship, particularly in France. More broadly, Maxwell’s ideas “show not only that psychical research was concerned with psychological issues as a subject of study, but also that the ideas developed in such context contributed much to the study and theoretical conceptions of the hidden levels of the mind prevalent in the last quarter of the nineteenth-century and beyond, something documented in various ways by writings about the history of psychiatry and psychology appearing in the last decades.”

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

Here are references to some recent articles that represent different approaches to the study of mediumship.

Alvarado, C. S. (2015). Classic text no. 107: “Report of the Committee on Mediumistic Phenomena,” by William James (1886). History of Psychiatry, 27, 85–100.

william-james-4

William James

Mediumship was a topic of great interest to some nineteenth-century students of mental phenomena. Together with the phenomena of hypnosis and other manifestations, mediumship was seen by many as a dissociative phenomenon. The purpose of this Classic Text is to present an excerpt of an article about the topic that William James (1842–1910) published in 1886 in the Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research about American medium Leonora E. Piper (1857–1950). The article, an indication of late nineteenth-century interactions between dissociation studies and psychical research, was the first report of research with Mrs Piper, a widely investigated medium of great importance for the development of mediumship studies. In addition to studying the case as a dissociative experience, James explored the possibility that Piper’s mentation contained verifiable information suggestive of ‘supernormal’ knowledge. Consequently, James provides an example of a topic neglected in historical studies, the ideas of those who combined conventional dissociation studies with psychical research.

Alvarado, C.S. (2016). Classic Text No. 107: Joseph Maxwell on mediumistic personifications. History of Psychiatry, 27, 350-366.

maxwell-metapsychical-phenomena

The study of mediumship received much impetus from the work of psychical researchers. This included ideas about the phenomena of personation, or changes in attitudes, dispositions and behaviours shown by some mediums that supposedly indicated discarnate action. The aim of this Classic Text is to reprint passages about this topic from the writings of French psychical researcher Joseph Maxwell (1858–1938), which were part of the contributions of some psychical researchers to reconceptualize the manifestations in psychological terms. Maxwell suggested these changes in mediums were a production of their subconscious mind. His ideas are a reflection of previous theorization about secondary personalities and a particular example of the contributions of psychical researchers to understand the psychology of mediumship.

Bastos, M. A. V., Jr.; Bastos, P. R. H., Osório, I. H. S., H., Muass, K. A. R., Curvello, Iandoly, D., Jr.; Lucchietti, G. (2016). Frontal electroencephalographic (EEG) activity and mediumship: A comparative study between spiritist mediums and controls. Archives of Clinical Psychiatry, 43, 20–26.

Mediumship and spirit possession are cultural phenomena found worldwide. The Spiritism, popular in Brazil, is a religious tradition that emphasizes mediumship. The “absorption hypothesis” (the association of marked increases in focused attention with concomitant decreases in self-awareness) is one of the neuropsychological explanatory theories for these experiences. We measured electroencephalographic (EEG) spectral power in frontal electrodes within theta, alpha and beta bandwidths, as well as cross-regional cortical coherences, in female Spiritist experienced mediums (n = 10) and in female non-medium control subjects from the same religious context (n = 10). Scalp EEG signals were captured simultaneously from participants in each of the two groups in three different moments: before, during and immediately after mediumistically speaking. Compared to non-medium controls, the mediums had greater beta power on some electrodes in all phases of the experiment, greater theta power on one electrode at the communication phase and greater alpha power on one electrode at the post-communication phase. No condition effects (within-group comparisons) were detected in any group. No group effects were noted for cross regional cortical coherences. No ictal EEG pattern was observed, except for one participant in the mediums group. These findings support the hypothesis that absorption could have a mechanistic role in anomalous sensorial experiences such as mediumship. The coherence pattern in mediums during the anomalous experience differed from prior studies on pathological dissociation and on hypnotic states. Cognitive control processes seem to be engaged during the anomalous sensorial experiences.

Beischel, J., Mosher, C., & Boccuzzi, M. (2014-2015). The possible effects on bereavement of assisted after-death communication during readings with psychic mediums: A continuing bonds perspective. Omega, 70, 169-194.

Unresolved, complicated, prolonged, or traumatic grief can have detrimental effects on mental and/or physical health. The effects of traditional grief counseling, with its focus on the client’s acceptance of separation and integration of loss, are unclear. Within the model of continuing bonds, however, grief resolution includes an ongoing relationship between the living and the deceased. Spontaneous and induced experiences of after-death communication (ADC) have been shown to be beneficial in the resolution of grief by demonstrating these continued bonds. Presently, many bereaved individuals are experiencing assisted ADCs by receiving readings from psychic mediums and though little is known about the effects of this self prescribed treatment option, anecdotal reports and exploratory data posit a positive outcome. This article aims to inform those who work with the bereaved about the relationships between grief, spontaneous, induced, and assisted ADC experiences, and the continuing bonds paradigm. Suggestions for future research are also included.

Crabtree, A. (2015). Mesmerism and the psychological dimension of mediumship. In C. Gutierrez (Ed.), Handbook of Spiritualism and Channeling (pp. 7-31). Leiden: Brill.

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Dr. Adam Crabtree

Espirito Santo, D. (2016). Recursivity and the self-reflexive cosmos: Tricksters in Cuban and Brazilian spirit mediumship practices. Social Analysis, 60, 37–55.

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Dr. Diana Espirito Santo

In this article, I explore how the cosmologies of two popular spirit possession cults—Espiritismo in Cuba and Umbanda in Brazil—exhibit forms of recursivity and self-reflexivity. Taking my cue from Don Handelman’s notion that the cosmos often contains its own logic of self-becoming, I argue that in these ethnographic cases, recursivity results from the interplay between, on the one hand, the spirits’ expression of their autonomy from living beings and, on the other, the spirits’ contingency for their effectiveness on human belief, representation, perception, and action. In Espiritismo and Umbanda, spirits intervene in human affairs unpredictably, throwing new light on anthropological and native conceptualizations of reflexivity.

Gauld, A. (2014). Two cases from the lost years of Mrs. Piper. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 78, 65-84.

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Leonora E. Piper

This paper presents two hitherto unpublished cases from what may be called the ‘lost years’ of Mrs. Piper, the period between 1897 and 1905 from which only a very limited amount has been published. The cases illustrate different aspects of the Piper phenomenon, and while not among the strongest are not without evidential interest. They are used as the basis for a discussion of various standard tactics for denying that there is any paranormal element in such cases.

Leonard, T.J. (2015). A qualitative analysis of mediumship development among ordained Spiritualist ministers: A research study. Bulletin of Fukuoka University of Education, 64, 33-42.

From the conclusion: “The mediums who participated in this survey are clearly dedicated and believe sincerely in what they do. This study was undertaken, in part, to determine how and when the mediums discovered their gifts of mediumship initially, and when they made the decision to become certified mediums. Also, this study endeavored to find out what personal mediumistic experiences the Spiritualist mediums had as they were developing their mediumship formally . . .  As evidenced in this paper, for Spiritualist mediums, mediumship is not a game or form of entertainment, but instead a very serious calling that allows them to use their gifts to help others. For many, it is a way of life and they dedicate themselves to offering evidentiary messages to those seeking comfort and consolation to know that their loved ones are around and are indeed able to communicate with their loved ones on this side of the veil.”

Medeiros, A.D.D. (2016). Occultism and mediums in Fernando Pessoa. Holos, 32, 81-90.

fernando-pessoa

Fernando Pessoa

This work is the result of a research on the influence that occultism had on the work of the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. To delimitate the study, we selected papers of Fernando Pessoa, which suggested that the poet considered himself medium, and hence influenced his work, building his depersonalization. This work presents, thus, as main objective to analyze personal papers of Fernando Pessoa, whose outstanding characteristic is the presence of occultism and the supposed mediumship defended by him in response to non-literary and heteronymic manifestations. To this end, I focused on specific objectives, which are: a) to study the speech of Fernando Pessoa on his supposed mediumship / occultism b) to analyze specific texts that are, for the poet, mediumistic manifestations c) to study excerpts from a set of personal letters in which Fernando Pessoa suggested being a medium. It is true that this dissertation will address many discussions already made by scholars and specialists in Fernando Pessoa, but we consider the possibility to deepen issues and contribute to the critical fortune of the poet.

Parker, A., & Warwood, E. (2016). Revealing the real Madame d’Esperance: An historical and psychological investigation. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 30, 233-266.

elizabeth-desperance

Elizabeth d’Espérance

Madame d’Esperance was a physical medium, well-known for her materialized forms which bereaved sitters often recognized as their dead relatives. A critical evaluation is made of her acclaimed autobiographical account, Shadow Land, with a particular focus on her activities, first in Newcastle, England, and then in Gothenburg, Sweden. In this process, we had access to recently discovered archives and rare publications. A presentation is made of some of the fraudulent methods used by physical mediums and the possible psychological processes behind the remarkable experiences of the sitters attending séances.

Pierini, E. (2016). Becoming a spirit medium: Initiatory learning and the self in the Vale do Amanhecer. Ethnos, 81, 290-314.

Drawing on ethnographic data from the Brazilian mediumistic religion known as Vale do Amanhecer (Valley of the Dawn) this article addresses the learning process at the core of mediumistic development. The process of learning is here approached as a multi-layered experience, which is embodied, intuitive, performative, conceptual, and inter-subjective. I will illustrate how the relationship between mediums and spirits is established in trance states through what Thomas Csordas calls a ‘multisensory imagery’. The discussion examines the concurrence of emotions, feelings, somatosensory experience, and doctrinal discourses in developing mediumistic skills, which simultaneously engenders the attributes of extendability and multidimensionality that ground the notion of the self informing the conceptualisation of trance.

Schmidt, B.E. (2015). Spirit mediumship in Brazil: The controversy about semi-conscious mediums. Diskus,17.2, 38-53.

bettina-schmidt-2

Dr. Bettina Schmidt

This article focuses on spirit mediumship in Brazil. The term mediumship refers to the communication between humans the spirit world which is the core of Spiritism. In anthropological literature it is often categorised as altered states of consciousness, however, people experiencing it reject these categorizations. This article presents excerpts from interviews with Brazilian spiritists in order to illustrate the different ways people explain mediumship to an outsider, an anthropologist from Europe. The article then discusses their interpretation within the wider academic discourse surrounding this kind of experience. The intention is that Brazilian Spiritism and the wider discourse surrounding mediumship will serve as a case study to present the complexity of this form of religious experience.

Shamdasani, S. (2015). ‘S.W.’ and C.G. Jung: mediumship, psychiatry and serial exemplarity. History of Psychiatry, 26, 288-302.

helene-preiswerk

Helene Preiswerk

On the basis of unpublished materials, this essay reconstructs Jung’s seances with his cousin, Helene Preiswerk, which formed the basis of his 1902 medical dissertation, The Psychology and Pathology of so-called Occult Phenomena. It separates out Jung’s contemporaneous approach to the mediumistic phenomena she exhibited from his subsequent sceptical psychological reworking of the case. It traces the reception of the work and its significance for his own self-experimentation from 1913 onwards. Finally, it reconstructs the manner in which Jung continually returned to his first model and reframed it as an exemplar of his developing theories.

Storm, L.C.,& Rock, A.J. (2015). Testing telepathy in the medium/proxy-sitter dyad: A protocol focusing on the source-of-psi problem Journal of Scientific Exploration, 29, 565-584.

Numerous mediumship studies (e.g., Beischel & Schwartz 2007, Kelly & Arcangel 2011, Rock, Beischel, Boccuzzi, & Biuso 2014) have reported statistically significant results, thus suggesting that various contemporary mediums are able to demonstrate anomalous information reception (AIR) under laboratory conditions. Importantly, however, such studies are unable to address the source of mediums’ AIR. Indeed, the source-of-psi problem (survival-psi and living agent psi [LAP] being the most likely contenders) cannot be resolved using current methodologies (Beischel 2012). However, innovative mediumship-testing techniques may produce results that indicate a convergence whereby sets of outcomes may evidentially favor one hypothesis over another (e.g., see Jamieson & Rock 2014 for a neurophenomenological approach). We present an innovative methodology focused on investigating whether mediums and well-rehearsed proxy-sitters, working under well-beyond double-blind conditions, create telepathic links that we refer to as dyad-telepathy, thereby producing response sets that indicate the psi source is more likely to be dyad-telepathy than a discarnate entity.

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

In this interesting book Titus Rivas, Anny Dirven, and Rudolf H. Smit address one of the most important aspects of near-death experiences (NDEs), veridical manifestations such as obtaining verifiable information during the experience.

rivas-the-self-2

 

This interview is with the first author, Titus Rivas. He has masters degrees in psychology and in philosophy and is a freelance author who has published over 20 books, among them, Reincarnation: The Evidence is Building (with Dr. K.S. Rawat). Furthermore he has published many articles about psychical research, and other topics, such as animal rights and veganism.

titus-rivas

Titus Rivas

The Self Does not Die: Verified Paranormal Phenomena from Near-Death Experiences is available here.

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

The book consists of a compilation of over 100 cases of near-death experiences with externally confirmed paranormal aspects. These concern ESP (clairvoyance and telepathy), encounters with known and unknown historical deceased persons, lucid consciousness that is not supported by sufficient cortical activity (according to the dominant materialist or physicalist paradigm), “miraculous” healings, perception by others of the NDEr while the latter is out of his or her body, and paranormal abilities (including psychokinesis) after the NDE. It also contains empirical, theoretical and philosophical analyses and a thorough evaluation of various arguments defended by “naturalistic” skeptics.  

It is a book in the tradition of early psychical reseachers such as Camille Flammarion, F.W.H. Myers, and Ernesto Bozzano, and we are also indebted to contemporary investigators such as the late Ian Stevenson, Mary Rose Barrington, and Erlendur Haraldsson.

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

My background is that of an experienced, independent psychical researcher and theorist with an ‘old-fashioned’ personalist/substance dualist ontology. I’m affiliated to several associations, including Athanasia Foundation, Network NDEs, and the Dutch SPR.

As far as I can remember, I have always been interested in parapsychology in its broadest sense, actually, from my childhood. I started writing my own articles about many paranormal phenomena in the 1980s. I’ve written several books about my work in the field, both alone and co-authored by Anny Dirven (1935-2016) and co-authored a book with Tilly Gerritsma, It’s Really Rather Normal. Another English treatise I wrote with my Indian friend Dr. Kirti Swaroop Rawat is Reincarnation: The Evidence is Building.

Two of my central parapsychological interests are survival research and personal evolution as outlined by Ian Stevenson, which encompasses topics like reincarnation, pre-existence, and longitudinal personal development over more than one lifetime. Obviously, the area of survival research prominently includes near-death experiences and this is the third book of mine that is largely devoted to this subject. The book was originally published in Dutch under the title Wat een stervend brein niet kan (What a Dying Brain Can’t Do), and its extended translated version was published by IANDS as The Self Does Not Die. The excellent translation project was undertaken by Wanda Boeke and there were three editors, Robert and Suzanne Mays and Jan Holden. Robert and Suzanne also played a very active role in the collection and investigation of new cases that were added to the original compilation. Jan Holden was also a great source of inspiration and information, because she is one of the leading experts on Apparently non-physical Veridical Perceptions (AVPs).

What motivated you to write this book?

Together with my co-authors Anny Dirven and Rudolf H. Smit, I wanted to present a collection of all strong cases of NDEs with paranormal aspects that are directly confirmed by a third party. I regard such cases as scientific or scholarly evidence rather than just so-called anecdotal material without any solid implications. By collecting all strong cases, including a few new ones that we directly investigated ourselves, we’ve tried to demonstrate that the evidence for paranormal phenomena linked to NDEs is very strong, and certainly cannot be explained away anymore.

Rudolf Smit has even written a whole chapter about the desperate attempts of pseudo-skeptics (or “debunkers”) to immunize their world view against this kind of evidence. They have done everything they could, but they’ve simply failed miserably. This means that materialism is not a serious theoretical option anymore for NDEs as a whole, and even deserves to be abandoned in all respects, something that had been concluded before by colleagues such as Charles Tart, and Chris Carter, and by the authors of Irreducible Mind.

We also tried to show that the evidence we collected, particularly concerning consciousness and veridical perception in NDEs during cardiac arrest, really leads the conclusion that there is an non-physical self that survives clinical death. It must be a personal self, which retains its consciousness, episodic and semantic memory, cognitive faculties, and psi abilities.

We indicate why extrapolation of this conclusion to the self’s condition after irreversible physical death is purely rational and parsimonious, and why alternative theories such as super-psi or living agent-psi are really less plausible in this particular case. We base this analysis both on cases of consciousness during cardiac arrest and on NDEs that involve paranormal encounters with deceased persons.

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

I think our book is important because –  in all modesty –  we have managed to reach our goals. The book is really compelling for anyone with an open mind. I hope that the The Self Does Not Die will reach many educated readers and that it will play an important part in serious future debates about features of NDEs that cannot be explained materialistically. I also hope it will give NDE research a sounder foundation, and help people to build a kinder, more hopeful, and liberal spiritual world view in an open, rational and tolerant spirit.

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

The first version of the long awaited project of the Society for Psychical Research, their Psi Encyclopedia, has recently been released. The project is edited by Robert McLuhan, with whom I have been in contact during my writing of several entries for this exciting project.

robert-mcluhan

Robert McLuhan

The following statement appears in the Encyclopedia’s “About” webpage:

“There is now a vast research literature that validates the existence of psi as an anomalous, fleeting and little understood aspect of human experience. Psi researchers believe that it has been demonstrated many times over, and in a variety of contexts. But this remains controversial . . . a vocal minority of sceptics – often active in sceptic organisations – campaign in books, articles and in the media against psi research, disparaging it as ‘pseudoscience’ and disputing its conclusions.”

“In recent years this conflict has spread to the Internet, notably the free encyclopedia Wikipedia, where editors hostile to ‘fringe science’ routinely edit articles on psi research to make them conform to their view. As a result, articles that were originally written by knowledgeable experts have become adulterated with misleading claims and assertions.”

“The Psi Encyclopedia is being created by the Society for Psychical Research, funded by a bequest, to provide a more informative view of psi research (also referred to as ‘psychical research’ and ‘parapsychology’), one that reflects the findings of experimenters and investigators. The project began in 2014 and at its launch in September 2016 offered some 110 entries written by around thirty authors and experts. Readers are asked to bear in mind that this is a work in progress, a multi-year project that will see numerous additions, changes and improvements . . .”

“Types of entry include: overview articles about generic topics (e.g., experimental parapsychology, mediumship research, near-death experiences); articles that explore aspects of those topics, key researchers, etc.; case studies of key experiments and investigations (children who remembered a past life, poltergeist disturbances, mediumship episodes, etc); lists (people, events, experiments).”

“Some case studies include pdf versions of the original research report from which they are drawn, giving readers the opportunity to understand the researchers’ methods and reasoning in greater detail.”

Among the entries included in the Psi Encyclopedia the reader will find those about:

Altered States of Consciousness and Psi

Dr. David Luke

david-luke

Dr. David Luke

John Beloff

Dr. Melvyn Willin

 Marthe Béraud (Eva C.)

Benjamin Seigmann

Creative Subjects in Ganzfeld

Dr. Hannah Jenkins

hannah-jenkins

Dr. Hannah Jenkins

Distressing Near-Death Experience

Nancy Evans Bush

Dreams and ESP

David Saunders

Experimental Parapsychology (Overview)

Dr. Richard Broughton

Eyewitness Testimony (Analysis)

Dr. Stephen Braude

steve-braude-4

Dr. Stephen E. Braude

Forteana

Dr. Matthew Colborn

Frederic W.H. Myers

Trevor Hamilton

Uri Geller

Guy Lyon Playfair

guy-lyon-playfair

Guy Lyon Playfair

Ghost Hunting

John Fraser

Edmund Gurney

Dr. Andreas Sommer

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Dr. Andreas Sommer

Koestler Parapsychology Unit

Dr. Caroline Watt

Meditation and Psi

Dr. Serena Roney-Dougal

Near-Death Experience

Dr. Penny Sartori

Past Lives Memories Research (Overview)

Dr. Jim Tucker

jim-tucker

Dr. Jim Tucker

Psi Healing Research

Charmaine Sonnex

 Religious Levitation

Dr. Michael Potts

 Society for Psychical Research

Dr. Donald West

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Dr. Donald J. West

There is a list of contributors. In addition to those mentioned above, additional authors are:  Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado, Mary Rose Barrington, Dr. Etzel Cardeña, Dr. Barrie Colvin, Callum Cooper, Dr. Guy Hayward, Jack Hunter, Patricia Pearson, Dr. Dean Radin, and Michael Tymn.

etzel-cardena-4

Dr. Etzel Cardeña

callum-cooper

Callum Cooper

patricia-pearson-3

Patricia Pearson

I have written a few entries for the encyclopaedia. Here are those that have been posted:

Charles Richet

Ernesto Bozzano

Eusapia Palladino

Out-of-body experience (OBE)

Richet’s Traité de Métapsychique (Thirty Years of Psychical Research)

Théodore Flournoy

William James

Not all relevant topics are covered in the current version of the work. In fact there are no entries for important topics as ESP, mediumship (mental and physical), and psychokinesis, nor about methodology. Similarly, there is a need for more entries about developments on non-English speaking countries and about modern developments. This includes topics such as the use of physiological processes to express ESP, investigations involving measures of geomagnetism and siderial time, and the use of meta-analysis. The same may be said about entries about modern researchers known for the development of important lines of research, among them Daryl Bem, Charles Honorton, William G. Roll, Helmut Schmidt, and Ian Stevenson. But bear in mind that the editor is well aware of this and that, as stated above, this is work in progress. Eventually such topics, and many others, will be covered.

Perhaps future editions of this work will include more illustrations. Two excellent examples to follow are the use of photographs in the entries “Anthropology and Psi Research,” by Jack Hunter, and “Eminent People Interested in Psi,” by Etzel Cardeña. However, not all the entries lend themselves to be easily illustrated.

This is a good beginning for this important project. Robert McLuhan has done good work, and an immense amount of it at that. I have found him to be very helpful and easy to work with regarding the entries I have prepared. His efforts would be facilitated if the Psi Encyclopedia counted with an editorial board that would assist him to select future writers, topics, and would also be involved in evaluating the content of the entries.

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

The American Psychological Association has just published a textbook entitled Transcendent Mind: Rethinking the Science of Consciousness, by Imants Barušs  and Julia Mossbridge. Barušs is professor of psychology at King’s University College (Western University Canada), and Mossbridge is a cognitive neuroscientist and an experimental psychologist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences and a Visiting Scholar in Psychology at Northwestern University.

baruss-mossbridge-transcendent-mind

imants-baruss

Dr. Imants Barušs

julia-mossbridge-4

Dr. Julia Mossbridge

The authors defend the idea that consciousness is independent of the brain. According to the publisher’s description: “Imants Barušs and Julia Mossbridge utilize findings from special relativity and quantum mechanics, modern and ancient philosophers, and paranormal psychology to build a rigorous, detailed investigation into the origins and nature of human consciousness. Along the way, they examine the scientific literature on concepts including mediumship, out-of-body and near-death experiences, telekinesis, ‘apparent’ versus ‘deep time,’ and mind-to-mind communication, and introduce eye-opening ideas about our shared reality. The result is a revelatory tour of the ‘post-materialist’ world — and a roadmap for consciousness research in the twenty-first century.”

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

Julia Mossbridge: This is a field guide for psychologists, neuroscientists, therapists and psychoanalysts who want to understand and examine the phenomena of consciousness without assuming a materialist viewpoint. We cover the basic arguments against the materialist assumption, then delve into evidence that has previously been ignored under this assumption. Based largely on that evidence, we propose a tentative model of consciousness and help lay groundwork for future work in the field.

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

JM: I am mostly focused on trying to understand presentiment and precognition in general. My background in time perception research, perceptual neuroscience, cognitive psychology, and psychophysics allows me to think about phenomena that are considered anomalous according to the materialist assumption, while at the same time allowing me to build a bridge for readers who may be just starting to become post-materialists.

Imants Barušs: I do not distinguish what I do that would fall under “parapsychology” from “psychology” in general. Nor do I use the term “parapsychology” to describe what I do. I think that making that distinction plays into a forced segregation of the subject matter of parapsychology from that of psychology. I do like to use the expression “anomaly” sometimes to refer to anything that does not fit conventional ways of thinking in any discipline, so I suppose this question would be a question about my background in anomalies research. The answer is that, since I was a child, I have been attracted to the unusual, to that which does not fit, because it makes me wonder and makes me want to try to understand it. More formally, I have studied beliefs about reality, EVP, ITC, past-life regression, the survival hypothesis, non-contact healing, and quantum theories of anomalous phenomena. I have a particular interest in transcendent states of consciousness and, most recently, the “cutting through” techniques of Dzogchen.

What motivated you to write this book?

JM: Imants asked me to write it with him, and I jumped at the chance! I had been wanting to get over the defensiveness with which I used to approach my parapsychological work, and this was the perfect opportunity — to write a textbook to be published by APA Books, the biggest publisher in Psychology in the US.

IB: The study of consciousness has been stuck due to the inertial weight of the materialist paradigm. Julia and I thought that an introductory textbook about consciousness from a post-materialist perspective could help to move things along. I thought that was worth a try, so we wrote the book.

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

 

JM: As far as we know, it is the first APA psychology textbook written with a methodological focus that is not coming from the materialist assumption. I hope that a new generation of practitioners and researchers realize that a post-materialist viewpoint allows them to understand and embrace more of the phenomena that are being reported to them, and that they themselves are experiencing. Further, I hope that some researchers use the tools we describe in the book to launch whole new fields within consciousness research.

 

 

 

 

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

Over the years there have been some experiments in which ESP is presumed to be detected via a change in electroencephalographic activity. Here is a recently published study on the topic authored by William Giroldini, Luciano Pederzoli, Marco Bilucaglia, Patrizio Caini, Alessandro Ferrini, Simone Melloni, Elena Prati, and Patrizio Tressoldi, EEG correlates of social interaction at distance (version 5, F1000Research, 2016, 4:457, doi: 10.12688/f1000research.6755.5) (click here).

Abstract

“This study investigated EEG correlates of social interaction at distance between twenty-five pairs of participants who were not connected by any traditional channels of communication. Each session involved the application of 128 stimulations separated by intervals of random duration ranging from 4 to 6 seconds. One of the pair received a one-second stimulation from a light signal produced by an arrangement of red LEDs, and a simultaneous 500 Hz sinusoidal audio signal of the same length. The other member of the pair sat in an isolated sound-proof room, such that any sensory interaction between the pair was impossible. An analysis of the Event-Related Potentials associated with sensory stimulation using traditional averaging methods showed a distinct peak at approximately 300 ms, but only in the EEG activity of subjects who were directly stimulated. However, when a new algorithm was applied to the EEG activity based on the correlation between signals from all active electrodes, a weak but robust response was also detected in the EEG activity of the passive member of the pair, particularly within 9 – 10 Hz in the Alpha range. Using the Bootstrap method and the Monte Carlo emulation, this signal was found to be statistically significant.”

In the discussion the authors state that their results “lead us to believe that Receivers exhibit a weak response to the remote stimulus in the form of a small change in cerebral synchronization coinciding with the stimulus . . . This study is clearly explorative but it is in agreement with the results observed in three different experiments by Hinterberger (2008) who observed an increase in the ERPs in the Alpha (8–12 Hz) band only in the related pairs of participants. If further confirmed, these findings would be of huge scientific importance because they provide neurophysiological evidence of a connection – or social interaction – at distance.”

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

Here are some papers published in 2015 and 2016.

Alvarado, C.S. (2016). Classic Text No. 107: ‘Report of the Committee on Mediumistic Phenomena,’ by William James (1886). History of Psychiatry, 27, 85-100.

William James

William James

Alvarado, C.S. (2016). On psychic forces and doubles: The case of Albert de Rochas. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 30, 63-84.

Albert de Rochas

Albert de Rochas

Alvarado, C.S.  (2015). Telepathic emissions: Edwin J. Houston on “Cerebral Radiation.” Journal of Scientific Exploration, 29, 467-490.

Edwin J. Houston 2

Edwin J. Houston

Alvarado, C.S., & Zingrone, N.L. (2015). Note on the reception of Théodore Flournoy’s Des Indes à le Planète Mars. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 79, 156-164.

Flournoy Des Indes a la Planete Mars

Flournoy From India to the Planet Mars Title Page

Gauld, A. (2014). Two cases from the lost years of Mrs. Piper. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 78, 65-84.

This paper presents two hitherto unpublished cases from what may be called the ‘lost years’ of Mrs. Piper, the period between 1897 and 1905 from which only a very limited amount has been published.  The cases illustrate different aspects of the Piper phenomenon, and while not among the strongest are not without evidential interest. They are used as the basis for a discussion of various standard tactics for denying that there is any paranormal element in such cases.

Leonora Piper 4

Leonora E. Piper

King, C.S. (2015).  Given a bad rap: The women of Nineteenth-Century Spiritualism. Women’s History in the Digital World. Paper 5.

Le Maléfan, P., & Sommer, A. (2015).  Léon Marillier and the veridical hallucination in late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century French psychology and psychopathology. History of Psychiatry, 26, 418-432.

Phantasms of the Living vol 2

The main work about veridical hallucinations in the 19th century

Maraldi, E. O., Alvarado, C.S., Zangari, W., & Machado, F. R. (2016). Dissociação, crença e criatividade: Uma introdução ao pensamento de Théodore Flournoy [Dissociation, belief and creativity: An introduction to Théodore Flournoy’s thought]. Memorandum: Memória e História em Psicologia, No. 30, 12-37. Online journal.

This article is about the history and the main contributions of the Swiss psychologist Théodore Flournoy (1854-1920), notably his work on dissociation, religious belief, fantasy and creativity. Flournoy is a neglected author in the history of psychology and is little known in Brazil. He devoted himself to the study of issues considered controversial, such as mediumship and other alleged paranormal experiences. His approach, however, was strictly psychological and his contributions about the function of dreams and imagination were an alternative to the theory of Freud in the early twentieth century, which emphasized the more creative and constructive aspects of the unconscious, having preceded hypotheses developed later by Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961). The article discusses some of the possible historical factors involved in the omission of the work of Flournoy, as well as its role in the controversies surrounding the consideration of parapsychological phenomena as objects of scientific psychology from the late nineteenth century to the twentieth century.

Theodore Flournoy 3

Théodore Flournoy

Miranda, P. (2016) Taking possession of a heritage: Psychologies of the subliminal and their pioneers. International Journal of Jungian Studies, 8, 28-45.

This essay explores some of the theoretical repercussions of the debate concerning the growth-oriented dimension of the personality that took place in the late nineteenth-century psychologies of transcendence.1 The French–Swiss–English–American psychotherapeutic axis, a ‘loose-knit alliance’ of cutting-edge scientists, investigated occult and paranormal phenomena ranging from somnambulism, hypnotic trance states, double consciousness, and multiple personalities to mediumship and pathological schizophrenic fantasies. Their insights into the complex phenomena of psychic dissociation posited a subliminal region that was not only a reservoir of trauma, but also source of a potentiality beyond normal consciousness, a notion which was continued and developed in Jung’s psychology.

Carl G. Jung

Carl G. Jung

 Natale, S. (2015) “Spreading the Spirit Word: Print Media, Storytelling, and Popular Culture in Nineteenth-Century Spiritualism. communication +1: Vol. 4, Article 12.

Spiritualists in the nineteenth century gave much emphasis to the collection of evidences of scientific meaning. During séances, they used instruments similar to those employed in scientific practice to substantiate their claims. However, these were not the only source of legitimization offered in support of the spiritualist claims. In fact, writers who aimed to provide beliefs in spiritualism with a reliable support relied very often on the testimonies of eyewitness that were reported in a narrative fashion. This article interrogates the role of such anecdotal testimonies in nineteenth-century spiritualism. It argues that they played a twofold role: on one side, they offered a form of evidentiary proof that was complementary to the collection of mechanical-based evidences; on the other side, they circulated in spiritualist publications, creating opportunities to reach a wide public of readers that was made available by the emergence of a mass market for print media. Able to convince, but also to entertain the reader, anecdotal testimonies were perfectly suited for publications in spiritualist books and periodicals. The proliferation of anecdotal testimonies in spiritualist texts, in this regard, hints at the relevance of storytelling in the diffusion of beliefs about religious matters as well as scientific issues within the public sphere. By reporting and disseminating narrative testimonies, print media acted as a channel through which spiritualism’s religious and scientific endeavors entered the field of a burgeoning popular culture.

Simone Natale

Simon Natale

Schuettpelz, E., & Voss, E. (2015) Fragile balance: Human mediums and technical media in Oliver Lodge’s Presidential Address of 1891. communication +1: Vol. 4, Article 4.

In this paper we discuss the work of the Victorian physicist and radio pioneer Oliver Lodge (1851–1940) in the context of what we call the mediumistic trial of the long 19th century. We are focusing on a short moment in the early 1890s when Lodge’s radio experiments were part of a common expansion into physical and psychical research. By rigorously applying David Bloor’s heuristic “principle of symmetry”, we demonstrate how Oliver Lodge lived in a world of systems-building and Empire-building that enabled him to categorize human mediums, electromagnetic entities and technical media as parts of an indeterminate but unified field of experimental settings. Though this historical moment was to become a unique tipping point in the initial convergence and later divergence of physical and psychical research, it reveals some general aspects of the mediumistic trial in the long 19th century, namely the existence of a common interface between religious and secularist positions and aspirations.

Oliver Lodge younger

Oliver J. Lodge

Shamdasani, S. (2015). ‘S.W.’ and C.G. Jung: mediumship, psychiatry and serial exemplarity. History of Psychiatry, 26, 288-302.

On the basis of unpublished materials, this essay reconstructs Jung’s seances with his cousin, Helene Preiswerk, which formed the basis of his 1902 medical dissertation, The Psychology and Pathology of so-called Occult Phenomena. It separates out Jung’s contemporaneous approach to the mediumistic phenomena she exhibited from his subsequent sceptical psychological reworking of the case. It traces the reception of the work and its significance for his own self-experimentation from 1913 onwards. Finally, it reconstructs the manner in which Jung continually returned to his first model and reframed it as an exemplar of his developing theories.

Helene Preiswerk

Helene Preiswerk

 

Sommer, A. (2016). Are you afraid of the dark? Notes on the psychology of belief in histories of science and the occult. European Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling, 18, 105-122.

The popular view of the inherent conflict between science and the occult has been rendered obsolete by recent advances in the history of science. Yet, these historiographical revisions have gone unnoticed in the public understanding of science and public education at large. Particularly, reconstructions of the formation of modern psychology and its links to psychical research can show that the standard view of the latter as motivated by metaphysical bias fails to stand up to scrutiny. After highlighting certain basic methodological maxims shared by psychotherapists and historians, I will try to counterbalance simplistic claims of a ‘need to believe’ as a precondition of scientific open-mindedness regarding the occurrence of parapsychological phenomena by discussing instances revealing a presumably widespread ‘will to disbelieve’ in the occult. I shall argue that generalized psychological explanations are only helpful in our understanding of history if we apply them in a symmetrical manner.

Andreas Sommer 8

Andreas Sommer