Category: Recent Publications


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

The interface between clinical psychology and parapsychology is a fascinating area and one that has practical applications. This is the topic of Thomas Rabeyron’s new book Clinique des Experiences Exceptionnelles (Exceptional Experiences Clinic; Dunod, 2020).

Dr. Thomas Rabeyron, who teaches at the University of Lorraine in Nancy, is a French clinical psychologist and researcher with much experience in the clinical study of psychic phenomena. According to his entry in the Psi Encyclopedia: “He is director of the INTERPSY laboratory, which encourages collaboration between clinical psychology and medicine, with the aim of improving mental health care delivery. Since 2014 . . . he has been an honorary research fellow at the University of Edinburgh . . . Rabeyron’s research interests span understanding the clinical aspects of anomalous experiences and exploring precognition and presentiment effects. In 2009 he co-created the Centre for Information, Research and Counselling about Exceptional Experiences (CIRCEE), which counseling service he supervises” (click here).

Thomas Rabeyron 4

Thomas Rabeyron

The book has ten chapters about the following topics:

  1. Prolegomena to the clinical study of exceptional experiences
  2. Exceptional experiences across the history of clinical practices
  3. The paranormal solution, between trauma and psychic permeability
  4. Hallucinatory processes and altered states of consciousness
  5. Primary forms of symbolization and psi
  6. Abductions: Clinic of its origins
  7. Telepathy: Clinic of primary intersubjectivity
  8. Out-of-body experiences: Clinic of reflexivity
  9. Near-death experiences: Clinic of transformation
  10. Psychological counselling concerning exceptional experiences

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

In this book I present an in-depth study of exceptional (or anomalous) experiences from a clinical point of view using in particular psychoanalytical notions, but also recent discoveries from the field of neuroscience and cognitive psychology. It is composed of ten chapters describing both the phenomenology and the psychological processes associated with these experiences. More than fifty cases from my clinical practice illustrate this exploration at the frontiers of subjective experience and symbolization processes.

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

I obtained a PhD at the University of Lyon and Edinburgh (under the supervision of Dr. Caroline Watt), where I conducted two retro-priming studies. I also took part in Ganzfeld, remote viewing studies and other psi research concerning retro-causal effects. I am currently Professor of clinical psychology at the University of Lorraine, Director of the InterPsy Lab and Honorary Research Fellow at the Koestler Unit (University of Edinburgh). My aim is to better understand exceptional experiences both from a “psy” and a “psi” point of views. In this regard, my background in clinical psychology, psychoanalysis and cognitive psychology is useful in order to propose complementary models of these experiences. One chapter of the book (Chapter 5) concerns in particular psi and clinical practice. I particularly discuss the Jung-Pauli conjecture as it is currently developed by Wolfgang Fach and Harald Atmanspacher, and the Model of Pragmatic Information (MPI) of Walter von Lucadou which are currently, in my opinion, the most promising theoretical models in psi research.

What motivated you to write this book? 

My motivation was to explore the clinical aspects associated with exceptional experiences, which led me to these general questions: How can we understand the origins and the nature of paranormal experiences? What are their contexts of emergence and the psychological processes that characterize them? How do they relate to psychopathological aspects? Are they a source of psychological transformation and what can they teach us about the profound nature of reality?

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

The Varieties of Anomalous Experiences recommended that clinicians should take into account these experiences in their clinical practices. My book could be considered as a direct response to this proposition. Also, compared to what already exist in the field, especially in English, the book offers an in-depth study of psychodynamic aspects associated with exceptional experiences. Researchers and clinicians like George Devereux, Jule Eisenbud, Jan Ehrenwald – and even Freud himself – have proposed profound and important analyses concerning the way these experiences are associated with unconscious processes. Since the 1970s’ most researchers have nevertheless privileged an empirical approach, which is, of course, also interesting. But you have only a partial understanding of these experiences if you don’t take into account psychodynamic processes. This is what I have tried to show in the book and in several academic papers about telepathy, out-of- body experiences, abductions, and near-death experiences. I have also proposed, in chapter three, the model of the “paranormal solution”, showing that these experiences are often a specific way to deal with negative life events and unconscious motives. Chapter ten describe the “Psychodynamic Psychotherapy for Exceptional Experience” which explain how to help people who are disturbed by these experiences. I rely in particular on my experience in the Counseling Service of the Center of Information, Research and Counselling about Exceptional Experiences (CIRCEE) co-founded with Renaud Evrard, one of my colleagues at the University of Lorraine working in the field of exceptional experiences.

Thomas Rabeyron is currently looking for a translator that would be interested to translate Clinique des Experiences Exceptionelles in English. You can contact him at Thomas.rabeyron@univ-lorraine.fr

Some Publications

Bem, D., Tressoldi, P., Rabeyron, T. & Duggan, M. (2015). Feeling the future: A meta-analysis of 90 experiments on the anomalous anticipation of random future events. F1000Research, 4. https://doi.org/10.12688/f1000research.7177.2

Rabeyron, T. (2009). Les expériences exceptionnelles : Entre neurosciences et psychanalyse. Recherches en Psychanalyse, 8, 282-296.

Rabeyron, T. (2012). Psychopathological and psychodynamic approaches to anomalous experiences: The concept of a paranormal solution. In C. Murray (Ed.), Mental Health and Anomalous Experience (pp. 125-140) London: Nova.

Rabeyron T. (2014). Retro-priming, priming and double testing: psi and replication in a test-rest design. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2014.00154

Rabeyron T. (2018), Clinique des expériences d’abduction: Trauma, clivage et logiques de l’originaire. L’Evolution Psychiatrique, 83(2), 355-379.

Rabeyron T. (2020). Clinique des expériences de mort imminente. L’Evolution Psychiatrique. In  press.

Rabeyron, T., & Watt, C. (2010). Paranormal experiences, mental health and mental boundaries, and psi. Personality and Individual Differences, 48(4), 487‑492.

Rabeyron T., & Evrard, R. (2012). Historical and contemporary perspectives on occultism in the Freud-Ferenczi correspondence. Recherches en Psychanalyse, 1(13), 98-111.

Rabeyron T., & Loose T. (2015). Anomalous experiences, trauma and symbolization at the frontiers between neurosciences and psychoanalysis. Frontiers in Psychoanalysis and Neuropsychoanalysis, 6. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01926

Rabeyron T., & Caussié, S. (2016). Clinical aspects of out-of-body experiences: Trauma, reflexivity and symbolization. L’Evolution Psychiatrique, 81(4), 755-775.

Rabeyron, T., & Abchiche, A. (2017). Des processus psychiques en consultations de voyance. Le Coq-héron, 231(4), 123–133.

Rabeyron, T., & Minjard, R. (2019) Les expériences de mort imminente en service de réanimation et au-delà, entre logiques de l’opératoire et processus de subjectivation. Etudes sur la mort.

Rabeyron, T., Chouvier, B., & Le Maléfan, P. (2010). Clinique des expériences exceptionnelles: Du trauma à la solution paranormale. L’Evolution psychiatrique, 75(4), 633–653.

Rabeyron, T., Evrard, R., & Massicotte, C. (2019). « Es gibt Gedankenübertragung » : Transfert de pensée et processus télépathiques en analyse. Revue française de psychanalyse, 83(4), 1239–1252.

Rabeyron T., Charlet O., Rowe C. Mousseau-C., & Deledalle A. (2018). Anomalous experiences, mental health and creativity: Is psi the missing link? Journal of Consciousness Studies, 25(3-4), 207-232.

 

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

Vanessa Charland-Verville, Demetrius Ribeiro de Paula, Charlotte Martial, Helena Cassol, Georgios Antonopoulos, Blaine Alexander Chronik, Andrea Soddu, Steven Laureys. Characterization of near death experiences using text mining analyses: A preliminary study. Plos One. 2020, 15(1): e0227402.

Abstract

The notion that death represents a passing to an afterlife, where we are reunited with loved ones and live eternally in a utopian paradise, is common in the reports of people who have encountered a “Near-Death Experience” (NDE). NDEs are thoroughly portrayed by the media but empirical studies are rather recent. The definition of the phenomenon as well as the identification of NDE experiencers is still a matter of debate. To date, NDEs’ identification and description in studies have mostly derived from answered items in questionnaires. However, questionnaires’ content could be restricting and subject to personal interpretation. We believe that in addition to their use, user-independent statistical text examination of freely expressed NDEs narratives is of prior importance to help capture the phenomenology of such a subjective and complex phenomenon. Towards that aim, we included 158 participants with a firsthand retrospective narrative of their self-reported NDE that we analyzed using an automated text-mining method. The output revealed the top words expressed by experiencers. In a second step, a hierarchical clustering analysis was conducted to visualize the relationships between these words. It revealed three main clusters of features: visual perceptions, emotions and spatial components. We believe the user-independent and data-driven text mining approach used in this study is promising by contributing to the building a rigorous description and definition of NDEs.

Nicole M. Lindsay and Natasha Tassell-Matamua. Near-death experiences and afterlife belief: A mixed-method analysis. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. 2020. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000303

Abstract

Following near-death experiences (NDEs) many people report a new or increased belief in life after death, yet this construct has never been specifically examined. In this mixed-method analysis, 105 persons who had experienced a life-threatening event and 69 participants who had never come close to death completed an online survey measuring beliefs about the “self” after death. Those who reported having an NDE during a life-threatening event were significantly more likely to believe in postmortem continuation, particularly the persistence of consciousness and individual identity beyond death. Eighteen people were also independently interviewed to explore the thematic form and psychological antecedents for any revised beliefs. Results were highly convergent with survey data and suggested the phenomenological characteristics of NDEs played an important role. These findings offer more systematic empirical evidence for the idea that NDEs foster certain types of postmortem beliefs.

David Royse and Karen Badger. Burn survivors’ near-death Experiences: A qualitative examination. Omega, 2020, 80(3), 440-457.

Abstract

Persons who come close to death but survive catastrophic accidents sometimes report very vivid experiences during times when their survival was in doubt, when they were believed to be dead, and during resuscitation efforts. This qualitative study builds upon existing research on near-death experiences (NDEs) by focusing on the oral accounts from a sample of individuals with large and life-threatening burns. The NDE accounts were obtained from burn survivors attending the Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress and are similar to reports by notable researchers ( Greyson, 2003 ; Moody, 1975 ; Ring, 1980 ) while reflecting the uniqueness of the individual survivor’s experiences. Six major themes are reported. Counselors and health professionals need to be aware of and educated about NDEs as these experiences can have profound effects upon the individual. Patients who have had NDEs may need to discuss them but fear professionals will reject their stories as being crazy.

Lilia Samoilo and Diane Corcoran. Closing the medical gap of care for patients who have had a near-death experience. Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics, 2020, 10(1), 37-42.

Abstract

This commentary discusses the twelve stories in which patients tell what happened when they were hospitalized and they had a near-death experience. The stories display a consistent theme of the gap in medical and spiritual care they received, after the patient’s near-death experience. This commentary explores the implications of this gap in care for these patients and the perceived medical professionals’ bias that occurs after these experiences, which can contribute to long-term consequences such as isolation and rejection. Education in medical schools and continuing education can provide medical professionals with insights needed to support individuals with near-death experiences.

 

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

An interesting figure in the history of French psychical research is the astronomer Camille Flammarion. I recently published, with Nancy L. Zingrone, an article about him (available on request: carlos@theazire.org). Here is the reference and the abstract:

Nancy Zingrone 2019b

Nancy L. Zingrone

Alvarado, C.S., & Zingrone, N.L. (2020). Classic Text No. 122: Camille Flammarion on the Powers of the Soul. History of Psychiatry, 31(2), 237–252.

Abstract

There is a long conceptual tradition that interprets phenomena such as clairvoyance and apparitions as evidence for a spiritual component in human beings. Examples of this appear in the literatures of mesmerism, Spiritualism and psychical research. The purpose of this Classic Text is to present excerpts from a book by French astronomer Camille Flammarion touching on this perspective. They are selected from the introduction and conclusion of Flammarion’s L’Inconnu: The Unknown (1900), a translation of L’Inconnu et les problems psychiques (1900), in which he published and commented on cases of apparitions and other phenomena he collected. In his view, these phenomena showed the existence of the soul. Similar beliefs regarding ideas of the nonphysical nature of human beings and psychic phenomena have continued to the present.

Flammarion at different stages in life

Camille Flammarion 20 years old

Camille Flammarion2

Camille Flammarion

Camille Flammarion 5

Regardless of attempts to reduce psychic phenomena to medical, physiological and other conventional explanations, many, such as Flammarion, saw psychic phenomena—apparitions, telepathy, mediumship—as examples of the action of spiritual or nonphysical component of human beings. We mention authors defending such view before the excerpt we reprint by Flammarion, such as Johann Heinrich Jung Stilling, J.P.F. Deleuze, Catherine Crowe, Carl du Prel, and Frederic W.H. Myers.

Johann Heinrich Jung Stilling

Johann Heinrich Jung Stilling

We wrote: “Flammarion was extremely productive as a writer about astronomy and related topics . . . His Astronomie populaire (1880), one of his best-known books, was an introduction to the topic. It had 47 chapters divided in six sections about earth, the moon, the sun, planets, comets and shooting stars, and stars and the universe. While most of Flammarion’s works were designed to popularize the topic and inform the public about the triumphs of astronomy, he also had some technical publications . . . Flammarion was particularly interested in the possibility of life on other planets, as seen in his first book, the famous and influential La pluralité des mondes habités . . . [1862].”

Flammarion Astronomie Populaire 2

Flammarion was interested in Spiritism and psychic phenomena most of his life (1842-1925). Here are the books and some of articles he published on the subject (I have emphasized below some of the books that were translated into English:

(1862). Les habitants de l’autre monde: Révélations d’outre-tombe (2nd ed. (series 2). Paris: Ledoyen.

Flammarion Les Habitants de l’autre monde

[under the pseudonym Hermès]. (1865). Des forces naturelles inconnues: à propos des phénomènes produits par les frères Davenport et par les médiums en general. Paris: Didier.

(1897). A séance with Eusapia Paladino: Psychic forces. Arena, 18, 730–747.

Flammarion Seances with Palladino 1897

Flammarion’s Seances with Eusapia Palladino, 1897

(1899). Les problèmes psychiques et l’inconnu. Annales Politiques et Litteraires, 32, 3–5, 35–36, 67–69, 99–101, 131–133, 163–165, 195–196, 227–230, 259–261, 291–293, 338–341.

(1900b). L’Inconnu: The Unknown. New York: Harper and Brothers.

 (1905). Animals and psychic perception. Annals of Psychical Science, 2, 374–378

 (1907). Mysterious Psychic Forces. Boston, MA: Small, Maynard.

Flammarion Mysterious Psychic Forces 3

 (1920). Métapsychisme: Des faits. Revue Spirite, 63, 106–110.

(1921). Les vision prémonitoires. Revue Spirite, 64, 129–135.

 (1921–1923) Death and Its Mystery (3 vols.). New York: Century (First published in French in 1920–1922).

Flammarion Death and its Mystery

 (1923). Discours présidentiel. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 34, 1–27.

 (1924) Haunted Houses. New York: D. Appleton (First published in French in 1923).

 (2005). Fantômes et sciences d’observation (compiled by P. Fuentès). Agnières, France: JMG.

Flammarion Fantomes

“In much of this work Flammarion defended the existence of a soul separate from the body . . . The excerpts presented here to illustrate Flammarion’s ideas about the spiritual aspects of psychic phenomena come from his book L’Inconnu et les problèmes psychiques . . . , which was translated into English as L’Inconnu: The Unknown . . . The book in question was mainly the result of an appeal for cases that appeared in the Annales Politiques et Littéraires . . . , and later in other publications. Flammarion asked two questions: one about unexplained waking visual, auditory and tactile experiences related to some other person, and the other asked whether that experience was related to a death.”

Flammarion Unknown

Here are some fragments of Flammarion’s conclusions reprinted in the article:

“The object of these researches is to discover if the soul of man exists as an entity, independent of his body, and if it will survive the destruction of the same . . .”

“It is certain that one soul can influence another soul at a distance, and without the aid of the senses.”

“Many dead persons whose examples are herein given have been told by telepathic communications, by apparitions (subjective or objective), called by voices they distinctly heard, by songs, noises, and movements (real or imaginary), and impressions of different kinds. We can have no doubt upon this point. The soul can act at a distance . . .”

“POSITIVE OBSERVATION PROVES THE EXISTENCE OF A PSYCHIC WORLD, as real as the world known to our physical senses.”

“And now, because the soul acts at a distance by some power that belongs to it, are we authorized to conclude that it exists as something real, and that it is not the result of functions of the brain? . . .”

“The observations given in this work, the sensations, the impressions, the visions, things heard, etc., may indicate physical effects produced without the brain . . .”

“All these things present themselves to us as indicating, not physiological operations of one brain acting on another, but psychic actions of spirit upon spirit. We feel that they indicate to us some power unknown.”

“No doubt it is difficult to apportion what belongs to the spirit, the soul, and what belongs to the brain. We can only let ourselves be guided in our judgment and our appreciations by the same feeling that is created in us by the discussion of phenomena. This is how all sciences have been started . . .”

“These phenomena prove, I think, that the soul exists, and that it is endowed with faculties at present unknown. That is the logical way of commencing our study, which in the end may lead us to the problem of the after-life and immortality . . .”

Flammarion was criticized by his lack of investigation of most of the cases he published. He did not seem to doubt any case he received via correspondence.

We also point out that this conceptual tradition of belief in nonphysicality based on psychic phenomena has continued after Flammarion. “Variants of these ideas have continued to more recent times . . . ‘The findings of scientific parapsychology’, wrote psychologist Charles T. Tart in his book The End of Materialism, ‘force us to pragmatically accept that minds can do things . . . that cannot be reduced to physical explanations, given current scientific knowledge or reasonable extensions of it’ ” . . . Many studies by authors who supported survival of death were also published in later years, after the publication in 1900 of Flammarion’s book. Among these were treatments of areas such as physical phenomena related to deaths . . . , apparitions of the dead . . .  and recollections of previous lives . . . Interestingly, in recent decades there has been some interest in death-related phenomena similar to those explored by Flammarion, and with a similar interest in favouring belief in survival of death . . .”

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

For years the ganzfeld ESP experiments have been an important area of research in parapsychology (for information about these studies click here). Thanks to the editorial efforts of Etzel Cardeña, the topic is featured in over half of the current issue of the Journal of Parapsychology (2020, Vol. 84, No. 1).

Ganzfeld 4

Ganzfeld setting

Cardeña has arranged for several reports of ganzfeld research to appear together, showing this approach to ESP testing still has much to offer. In his editorial “Pieces of the Psi Puzzle and a Recipe for Ganzfeld Success” (pp. 5-7) he states: “The bottom line is that not only is ganzfeld research alive and well, but overall the studies in this issue support the conclusions of previous meta-analyses . . . in one case with a prospective, preregistered, and very well-designed study. This is a good answer to those who think that psi results are just the product of ‘questionable research practices.’ ”

Etzel Cardena 5

Etzel Cardeña

The next contribution, by Rex G. Stanford, is an invited editorial entitled “Ganzfeld-ESP: Pondering Three Reports and Looking Ahead.” He discusses various methodological issues such as misconceptions about the effectiveness of counterbalancing, the use of between- or within- subject designs, method-driven artifacts in the study of traits as predictors, and the importance of interviews at the end of the session.

Rex G. Stanford

Rex G. Stanford

Stanford writes: “It can be easy to forget that the use of subjective, self-report measures—whether of traits or states—can necessitate extensive introspection that often may require attribution (i.e., interpreting experiences as meriting a construct label, such as ‘altered state,’ ‘absorption,’ or whatever). Such introspection and its reporting are subject to the vagaries of memory, social desirability/undesirability of particular response(s), and experiment-related demand characteristics (relative to understood or supposed investigator expectations).”

This is followed by three experimental reports by various authors:

Testing Precognition and Alterations of Consciousness with Selected Participants in the Ganzfeld

Caroline Watt, Emily Dawson, Alisdair Tullo, Abby Pooley, and Holly Rice

University of Edinburgh

Caroline Watt 2

Caroline Watt

Abstract: This study is the first to contribute to a registration-based prospective meta-analysis of ganzfeld Extrasensory Perception (ESP) studies. We sought to maximize the anticipated psi effect size by selecting participants for self-reported creativity, prior psi experience or belief, or practice of a mental discipline. We also employed an automated precognition design for simplicity and security, and to add to the small database of precognitive ganzfeld studies. Targets and decoys were short video clips randomly selected with replacement from a pool of 200. As well as predicting overall significant scoring on the ganzfeld precognition task, the study tested the assumption that the ganzfeld method elicits a psi-conducive altered state of consciousness, by correlating two measures of an Altered State of Consciousness (ASC) with precognition task performance. We predicted higher target similarity ratings would be associated with greater evidence of ASC during the session. Three experimenters each conducted 20 trials. Twenty-two direct hits were obtained (37% hit-rate), thus significantly supporting the planned test of the ganzfeld precognition task (exact binomial p = .03, 1-tailed). No relation was found between ASC and psi task performance, contrary to prediction. We conclude by discussing the reasons why further ganzfeld ESP research is justified.

Performance at a Precognitive Remote Viewing Task, with and without Ganzfeld Stimulation: Three Experiments

Chris A. Roe, Callum E. Cooper, Laura Hickinbotham, Andrew Hodrien, Laurrie Kirkwood, and Hannah Martin

University of Northampton

Chris Roe 2

Chris Roe

Abstract: Recent research by the lead author has sought to incorporate ganzfeld stimulation as part of a remote viewing protocol. An initial exploratory experiment (Roe & Flint, 2007) suggested that novice participants can successfully describe a randomly selected target location while in the ganzfeld context but did not make a direct comparison with performance in a waking state. This paper describes a series of three subsequent experiments that compared performance at a remote viewing task in a waking condition with a ganzfeld stimulation condition using a counterbalanced repeated measures design. There were only minor variations in design across the three experiments to enable combination of data in a summary analysis. In total, 110 participants produced 43 hits in the ganzfeld stimulation condition (39%), giving a highly significant positive deviation from chance expectation (sum of ranks = 225, p = .000012), whereas in the waking RV condition they achieved 30 hits (27.5%), which is marginally better than chance expectation (sum of ranks = 253, p = .034). The difference in z scores for target ratings in the two conditions approached significance (t[39] = 1.86, p = .065). In experiment 1, individual difference measures identified as predictors of psi performance were unrelated to target ratings. Participants completed Pekala’s (1991) Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory (PCI) in order to gauge their responsiveness to the ganzfeld protocol and of the 12 sub-dimensions tested, ganzfeld performance correlated significantly with greater absorption in their subjective experience, lower arousal, and less internal dialogue. In experiments 2 and 3 individual differences measure were replaced by measures of transliminality, openness to experience, and dissociative experiences, but these were unrelated to task success. Data from experiment 2 did not confirm the findings using the PCI from experiment 1, though a significant association was found with the time sense dimension. In experiment 3 no PCI dimensions correlated with task performance, a pattern that was confirmed when data were combined across all three experiments.

Changes in State of Consciousness and Psi in Ganzfeld and Hypnosis Conditions 

Etzel Cardeña and David Marcusson-Clavertz

Lund University

David Marcusson-Clavertz 2

David Marcusson-Clavertz

Abstract: In a previous experiment with participants high (Highs) and low (Lows) in hypnotizability, psi z scores had moderate to strong correlations with percipients’ belief of their success and their previous ostensible psi experiences, experiencing an Altered State of Consciousness and other alterations of consciousness during a non-psi ganzfeld session, but only among the Highs. The current pre-registered study had a larger N of only Highs, evaluated in hypnosis and hypnosis + ganzfeld procedures. Participants (N = 35) served as “receivers” in two 20 min sessions of ganzfeld or hypnosis in counterbalanced order. Both sessions used hypnosis verbalizations, but only one of them had sensory homogenization. The authors served as “sender” and “experimenter” in different buildings. As an index of experienced alterations of consciousness, participants filled out the Phenomenology of Consciousness Inventory (PCI) at the beginning and end of the sessions, and gave a rating of 0-100 to 4 film clips (one of them the target), from which psi z scores were derived. Overall, participants did not score better than chance and there was no difference between the conditions. However, for the ganzfeld sessions psi scores correlated moderately (r = .40, p = .02) with the PCI Altered State shift scores (ganzfeld – baseline scores). Although the overall psi rate was not significant, we found a relation between psi scoring and experiencing an Altered State in ganzfeld psi sessions.

******

In addition to providing information about ganzfeld ESP testing, and evidence for ESP, this issue of the journal shows what a good editor can do to assist the development of parapsychology by taking an active approach in bringing together high-quality material about specific topics. I hope that editors of other journals will follow Cardeña’s lead and take more active roles in crafting thematic journal issues. Doing so will not only improve our journals but will also help the development of the field by focusing ideas useful for further research and theoretical developments. Unfortunately, the publisher of the journal, the Rhine Research Center, has decided to terminate Cardeña’s contract as editor.

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

 The book commented on here is one of the most interesting historical studies of psychic phenomena I have read in recent years: Physics and Psychics: The Occult and the Sciences in Modern Britain  (Cambridge University Press, 2019. Pp. xvi + 403. $120.00). It is authored by Richard Noakes, PhD, Associate Professor of the History of Science and Technology at the University of Exeter. I have been following Richard’s interesting articles about Spiritualism and psychical research for the last few years, work published in journals such as History of Science, and Studies in the History and Philosophy of Science.

Richard Noakes

Richard Noakes

Noakes Physics abd Psychics

The book is described by the publisher as “the first systematic exploration of the intriguing connections between Victorian physical sciences and the study of the controversial phenomena broadly classified as psychic, occult and paranormal.” Different from other studies that emphasize psychological and philosophical dimensions of the topic (something that is not neglected in this book), in Physics and Psychics Richard explores connections with physics, including ideas such as brain waves and the ether.

Here is the table of contents.

Introduction
1. NEW IMPONDERABLES, NEW SCIENCES
Animal Magnetism as Physics
The Oddity of Od
Outdoing the Electric Telegraph
“Scientific Men” and Spiritualism
Extending the Boundaries of Physics
2. A SURVEY OF PHYSICAL-PSYCHICAL SCIENTISTS
Inventing Psychical Research
Identifying Physical-Psychical Scientists
Connecting Physical-Psychical Scientists
Gold Mines of Science, Handmaids to Faith
Changing Attitudes to Psychical Investigation
3. PSYCHICAL EFFECTS AND PHYSICAL THEORIES
Removing Scientific “Stumbling Blocks”
Challenging Materiality
3.3 Dim Analogies
Maxwellian Psychics
Doubts and Criticisms
4. PSYCHICAL INVESTIGATION AS EXPERIMENTAL PHYSICS
From Psychic Force to the Radiometer
Tying Mediums with Electricity
Magnetic Sense or Nonsense?
Physical as Psychical Laboratories
Wanting Opportunities?
5. EXPERTISE IN PHYSICS AND PSYCHICS
Scourging Spiritualists and Scientists
Tricky Instruments of Psychics
Tricky Instruments of Physics
Psychical Researchers and Conjurors
N-rays and Psychical Expertise
6. MODERNISING PHYSICS AND PSYCHICS
Busy Men
“Applied” Psychical Research
Lodge’s Etherial Body
Interpreting Lodge’s Physics and Psychics
Interwar Transitions
Conclusion
Bibliography
Index

Interview 

Can you give a brief summary of the book?

Physics and Psychics is a revisionist study of the physicists, chemists, astronomers, electrical engineers and other “physical” scientists that involved themselves with psychical research and related enquiries in the period approximately 1850-1930. A significant proportion of them are British (e.g., William Crookes and Oliver Lodge) but I do discuss the handful of non-British practitioners who were involved (e.g., Baron von Reichenbach and Karl Friedrich Zöllner). I use this material to show that the interests of physical scientists in psychical research and related enquiries was both more widespread and more complex than we have assumed. We might find this surprising given the strongly psychological nature of psychical phenomena – a quality that placed them outside the formal boundaries of the physical sciences. A significant number of physical scientists showed some kind of interest in psychical phenomena and this interest varied in strength and nature. They included Lodge who investigated a wide range of psychical phenomena for nearly sixty years and his teacher John Tyndall who, while deeply sceptical of spiritualist mediumship, still turned up to seances. My book explores the plethora of reasons why physical scientists got involved – intellectual, religious and moral – and argues that only a combination of reasons can explain the patterns of interest that we find. Another major preoccupation of my book is with the role of psychical research in extending (as opposed to impeding) the theoretical and experimental aspects of the physical sciences. Many of the characters that I study saw the study of telekinesis, telepathy, Reichenbach’s “odic” force and other phenomena as exciting but problematic ways of applying, extending and enriching their “physical” research.

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

I’m sorry to say that I don’t have any background in parapsychology, psychical research or related endeavour. I have approached the history of these endeavours as somebody trained in the sciences and the history and philosophy of science.

What motivated you to write this book?

The book’s origins are in the doctoral research that I did in the 1990s so I’ve lived with this project for over two decades! That research started life as an attempt to deepen our understanding of what led to the discovery of the subatomic particle, the electron, in 1897. This led me towards mainly British scientific investigations of some of the strangest and most spectacular phenomena of electricity (e.g., cathode rays) but also to scientific practitioners who shared interests in electrical physics and the strange phenomena of spiritualism and psychical research. My doctoral dissertation looked at only a fraction of these practitioners and what I did next was to extend this much further in terms of people, practices, theories and analytical approaches.

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

My book is important because it highlights the fruitful encounters between more strongly established and less well established forms of scientific enquiry. It reveals a period when these encounters could be fruitful and creative – when psychical enquiries benefited from theories and practices of physics, and when psychical phenomena posed some interesting puzzles for physics to solve. My book also gives us hope that future encounters may not be as antagonistic as we might expect. It’s a hope that is confirmed by what I’ve read in the parapsychological literature over the past few decades and what I’ve learned from talking to physicists such as Bernard Carr. I also hope that like all works of history mine challenges many assumptions about the past and the present, and in particular encourages a more open-minded view of scientific enquiry. We often hear that associations between physics and anything psychical, occult, etc., threaten physics, but not all physicists in the past have accepted this and maybe my book will encourage more of the current and future generations to follow suit.

*  *  * *  *

Here is a video of an interview about Physics and Psychics.

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

Christine Simmonds-Moore has published an interesting article entittled “Synesthesia and the Perception of Unseen Realities” (Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 2020, DOI: 10.1177/0022167820918691; available here).

In Interview with Christine Simmonds-Moore, Ph.D. - YouTube

Christine Simmonds-Moore

Here is the abstract:

“Exceptional experiences (ExE) incorporate a range of phenomena including subjective paranormal and transpersonal experiences. Synesthesia and synesthetic experiences are discussed as important variables in understanding the etiologies of ExE. The neural and psychological correlates of synesthetic experiences (associated with hyperconnectivity) are discussed in relation to ExE. It is argued that synesthetic processes enable both the detection and conscious perception of information from a range of sources that are usually unseen or inaccessible, including abstract, unlanguaged, preconscious, and potentially other nonlocal sources.”

She concludes:

“In summary, ExE might be understood as complicated synesthesias, which are composed of a unified inducer and a concurrent experience, lending qualia to experiences that are usually not experiencable. This may occur among those who experience synesthesia consistently and among those who are anomaly prone and experience synesthesia due to changes in the system (e.g., neural unmasking and neural plasticity via inhibitory processes that result from alterations in consciousness). Synesthetic processes may provide a concrete label for preconscious processing of internal and external sources of information that emerge via stronger interactions with qualia-rich areas of the brain (e.g., colors or forms). In turn, there is a more tangible or concrete code or usually unseen information, which may be misinterpreted as paranormal and have a mundane origin, or reflect genuine access to nonlocal or spiritual information. More research is needed to further explore how and when the synesthesias are implicated in different types of ExE.”

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

Here is a pioneering investigation of pagan spell casting:

Sonnex, C., Roe, C. A. and Roxburgh, E.C. (2020). Testing the Pagan Prescription: Using a Randomised Controlled Trial to Investigate Pagan Spell Casting as a Form of Noncontact Healing. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 26, 219-225. doi:10.1089/acm.2019.0279

Abstract

Objectives: This research investigates the healing practices of modern Paganism using a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT). Paganism is a burgeoning belief system in the UK within which healing is a key aspect. However, Pagan spellcasting practices have received little attention from distance healing researchers. This study aims to address this gap in the literature.

Design: This study utilised a randomised, double blind, delayed intervention design.

Settings/location: Research took place at the University of Northampton.

Subjects: 44 Participants (30 female, 14 male) were recruited using snowball sampling (mean age = 24.30; range = 18-55).

Procedure: Participants were randomly allocated to either Group A or B. Participants made written requests to the practitioner about changes they would like to see in their lives and provided a photograph and personal item to be used during the intervention. Participants attended meetings once a week during which they would take part in a guided body scan meditation before completing a quality of life measure. Healing practices were conducted for Group A between weeks one and two and for Group B between weeks two and three.

Outcome measure: Wellbeing was measured using the 26-item WHOQOL-BREF.

Results: MANOVA analysis showed a significant, positive change in general health from week one to week four (F = 4.02, p = .025, eta2 = .149). Separate ANOVAs of the four WHOQOL domains showed significant improvements across the study in the Physical and Psychological domains only, there was no significant group difference on any of the outcomes.

Conclusion: All participants showed an increase in health and wellbeing domains directly related to their spell requests. However, there are no group differences to suggest that the spell casting intervention was responsible.

 

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

Here are two recent dissertations about historical topics. Copies are freely available via Ethos (registration required).

Elsa Richardson. Extraordinary Powers of Perception: Second Sight in Victorian Culture, 1830-1910. [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Queen Mary, University of London, 2019

Abstract

In the mid-1890s the London based Society for Psychical Research dispatched researchers to the Scottish Highlands and Islands to investigate an extraordinary power of prophecy said to be peculiar to the residents of these remote regions. Described in Gaelic as the An-da-shealladh or ‘the two sights’, and given in English as ‘second sight’, the phenomenon was most commonly associated with the vision of future events: the death of neighbour, the arrival of strangers into the community, the success or failure of a fishing trip and so forth. The SPR were not the first to take an interest in this pre-visionary faculty, rather they joined a legion of scientists, travel writers, antiquarians, poets and artists who had made enquires into the topic from the end of the seventeenth century. This thesis examines the remarkably prominent position enjoyed by Scottish second sight in the Victorian popular imagination. In seeking to appreciate why a strange visionary ability was able to make claims upon the attention of the whole nation where other folk motifs were consigned to the realms of specialist interest only, this project charts its migration through a series of nineteenth-century cultural sites: mesmerism and phrenology, modern spiritualism and anthropology, romance literature and folklorism, and finally psychical research and Celtic mysticism. Binding these individual case studies together is a cast of shared actors – Walter Scott, Catherine Crowe, William Howitt, Marie Corelli, Andrew Lang and Ada Goodrich Freer – and a focus on their common investigative and creative cultures. My interest is with how the power of second sight, once defined as a supernatural occurrence tied to the geographically distant and mysterious Scottish Highlands, comes to be transformed by the close of the nineteenth century, into a supra-normal facet of the psyche, potentially accessible and exploitable by all.

ADA GOODRICH-FREER

Ada Goodrich-Freer

Andrew Lang 2

Andrew Lang

Robert Radaković, Beyond Faith and Reason: The Genesis of Psychical Research and the Search for the Paranormal Domain (1850-1914). [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Lancaster University, 2019.

Abstract

The late-Victorian period was characterised by rapid social, cultural, and intellectual changes, with all domains open to challenge from numerous and diverse directions. This thesis focusses on a short period in ‘the Age of Enlightenment’, from the mid-nineteenth century to 1914, during which many groups and individuals wanted to try to answer the ultimate questions about the nature of the universe and humanity’s place within it. For them, the well-established fields of science, religion, and philosophy each proved to be inadequate individual tools with which to attempt to answer these questions. Consequently, many members of the cultural and intellectual elite turned to the paranormal domain, within which they saw the potential to answer some of their fundamental questions. Psychical research was a nascent intellectual field that investigated strange phenomena which existed at the borders of orthodox thinking, sitting precariously between the acceptable and the unacceptable.

PSPR 1882-83 Vol 1

PSPR 1882 Officers Council

This thesis investigates the cultural, evidential, and sometimes personal motivations of the early paranormal researchers, all of which were members of the Society for Psychical Research, and some of the first theories developed by them. The thesis thus establishes the significance of paranormal research during this period. It discusses, in an intentionally eclectic way not done before, several of the key thinkers of the time. It posits a typology to help understanding of the period. This ‘paranormal domain’ represents a combination of an intellectual mindset, an investigative methodology, and a spiritual perspective, particular to the early psychical researchers of the SPR.

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

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

Richet portada

List of Chapters

Introduction

Chapter 1: Interest in Psychic Phenomena

Chapter 2: Richet’s Metapsychic Autobiography

Chapter 3: Early Ideas and Tests of Mental Suggestion

Chapter 4: Presenting Psychical Research to Psychology (1905)

Chapter 5: The Traité de Métapsychique (1922)

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

Appendix A: Richet on Leonora E. Piper

Appendix B: Observations of Moving Ectoplasm with Medium Marthe Béraud

Appendix C: On the Term Ectoplasm

Appendix D: Is there a Science of Metapsychics?

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

Appendix F: Bibliography About the History of Psychical Research

Acknowledgements

References

Notes

Index

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

Charles Richet 9

Charles Richet

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

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

Richet Clairvoyance PSPR 1889

Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1889

Richet Annals Beraud 1905

Annals of Psychical Science, 1905

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

Richet Souvenirs

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

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

Richet and Linda Gazzera

Richet (left) and Italian medium Linda Gazzera

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

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

Richet Traite de metapsychique 4

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

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

Richet Notre sixieme sens

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

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

Richet L'Avenir de la Premonition

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

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

Image result for charles richet

 

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

Here is a new article about mediumship.

Contribution to the Study of the Possession Trance Mediumship of Jane Roberts, by Paul F. Cunningham. Journal of Parapsychology, 2019, 83, 248-267.

Abstract

This article presents a new examination of the possession trance mediumship of Jane Roberts, the woman who channeled the purported discarnate entity called Seth between 1963 and Roberts’s mediumship has generally been overlooked by the parapsychological research community. The purpose of the present article is to fill this gap in the literature. This article presents a preliminary description of Jane Roberts’s mediumship for parapsychologists who may be unfamiliar with the case, including an account of Roberts’s personal life and mediumistic career. The relevance of Roberts’s mediumship for parapsychology is examined. A comparison with the Patience Worth case is presented and the paranormal character of the Roberts mediumship is evaluated.

Jane Roberts

Jane Roberts

According to the author:

“The challenge for psychology is to explain how Jane Roberts . . . could suddenly possess, in full-blown fashion with no apparent previous study or instruction and no gradual development, an ability to compose internally coherent philosophical, psychological, spiritual, and ethical material of a very high order of originality, conceptual sophistication, and intellectual rigor in long complex narratives, laying the material aside sometimes for weeks or months and then resuming without difficulty or review, with no period of fumbling and no declension in average quality, but with the same facility and power from start to finish, while in a possession trance (i.e., a “temporary alteration of consciousness, identity, and/or behavior” with “replacement by an alternate identity” attributed to a spiritual force or another person . . . A review of Jane Roberts’s background indicates that the causative factors of past experience and environment that psychologists are accustomed to look for to explain how she acquired such abilities and knowledge are not to be found.”

Furthermore: “Given the corroborating testimony of many witnesses, the high reliability of concurrent reporting methods, and the large number of Seth sessions conducted over the 21-year history of the phenomenon, the mediumship of Jane Roberts can be deemed to have authenticity (i.e., it actually happened as reported). The published record, however, does not directly indicate that anything concerning a paranormal interpretation of the Seth sessions is justified at this time. This conclusion is in agreement with what the Seth-Jane trance personality and Jane Roberts herself have repeatedly asserted.”

Cunningham concludes: “The challenge for parapsychology is to determine who Seth was, what his relationship to Jane Roberts was, and where the Seth Material came from. The source-of-psi problem in this context takes the form of how to establish proof of identity of an allegedly discarnate source when the medium is deceased and no longer available for study under controlled conditions in a laboratory or field setting . . .”