Category: Recent Publications


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

In a recently published article Zofia Weaver summarizes the psychical research contributions of Polish philosopher and psychologist Julian Ochorowicz (1850-1917):

Julian Ochorowicz and His Contribution to Psychical Research. Journal of Parapsychology, 2019, 83, 69-78.

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to present the contribution of Julian Ochorowicz to the field of psychical research. From early youth Ochorowicz was interested in psychology, particularly in magnetism, hypnotism and mental suggestion, and his experience in these areas influenced his theoretical approach to the subject. His passionate belief that the essence of true science had to be to establish facts before forming conclusions led him to investigate a number of mediums, including
Eusapia Palladino and Stanisława Tomczyk.

Julian Ochorowicz 2

Julian Ochorowicz

 

Ochorowicz Suggestion mentale

Ochorowicz Mains Tomczyk

Article About Ochorowicz’s Studies of Medium Stanislawa Tomczyck in the Annales des Sciences Psychiques, 1912

The author ends her paper stating:

“Ochorowicz was very much a ‘hands on,’ practical investigator, pursuing every manifestation as far as possible, inventing devices for excluding fraud, and examining every possible and impossible explanation to its logical conclusion in his search for the truth. However, in his pursuit of facts he tended not to allow for the possibility of different interpretations, and in particular was not aware of the ‘experimenter effect’ his powerful personality might produce. In his impatience for answers he would construct theoretical explanations prematurely and without detail, something he acknowledged himself in his later writings . . . Working with the model of the world current at that time, he tried to go beyond it, yet in some respects perhaps he was not so much wrong as ahead of his time, as in his exploration and application of the idea that energy could not be destroyed, only transformed. But perhaps his most important contributions were as an innovative experimenter and a ‘science activist,’ who had the courage to keep pushing at the boundaries of current worldviews, always asking, ‘What is impossible?’ ”

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

I first met the author of this book, James G. Matlock, when I was a Research Assistant for the late Ian Stevenson at the Division of Parapsychology (now Division of Perceptual Studies) of the University of Virginia. One of our first encounters was when he came to visit our offices sometime in 1985 or 1986 to talk to Dr. Stevenson. Since then, he has been a friend with whom I have had countless conversations about parapsychology over the years. From the beginning he had a special interest in reincarnation, but also on other topics I also acknowledge as my own: the history of parapsychology and the study of spontaneous cases in general.

James G. Matlock

James G. Matlock

Jim has been busy over the years. He worked at the American Society for Psychical Research and at the Rhine Research Center, and is a Research Fellow at the Parapsychology Foundation. In addition, he has a PhD in Anthropology from Southern Illinois University (Carbondale). A list of his  published articles about reincarnation, and other topics, appears here.

In addition, he is the co-author, with Erlendur Haraldsson, of I Saw A Light And Came Here: Children’s Experiences of Reincarnation (Hove, UK: White Crow Books, 2016).

Haraldsson Matlock I Saw a Light

The book Jim comments on here has been in his mind for many years, at least since the days I first met him. Signs of Reincarnation: Exploring Beliefs, Cases, and Theory (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019) is a veritable textbook about the concept of reincarnation and research on the subject covering historical, anthropological, psychological, and parapsychological aspects. The book is also an overview of explanatory models. Including the author’s. Furthermore, Signs of Reincarnation is also a defense of the concept of survival of death, of the need to go beyond materialism to account for the best cases.

Matlock Signs of Reincarnation

In my view Signs of Reincarnation is the most comprehensive overview of the subject, and one that considers the topic in relation to other phenomena. It is, in fact, a handbook for the scientific and scholarly study of reincarnation. Furthermore, the book includes a Foreword by Jeffrey Mishlove and an Afterword by Michael Nahm about the implications of reincarnation cases for biology.

Table of Contents

Foreword: A Tale of Two Theories, by Jeffrey Mishlove

Preface

Chapter 1: Introduction to the Study of Reincarnation Signs
What is Reincarnation?
Challenge to Materialism

Chapter 2: The Belief in Reincarnation
Signs, Beliefs, and Customs in Animistic Cultures
A Brief History of the Belief in Rebirth, West and East
Karma, God, and the Individual in Rebirth Theory

Chapter 3: Research Methods and Interpretative Frames
Accounts of Past-Life Memory Recorded Before 1960
Ian Stevenson’s Field Research and Its Critics
Interpretive Frames for Reincarnation Cases

Chapter 4: Child Studies: The Principal Signs of Reincarnation
Involuntary Memory of Previous Lives
Behavioral Identification with the Previous Person
Birthmarks and Other Physical Signs

Chapter 5: Child Studies: Secondary Signs of Reincarnation
Signs of Discarnate Agency
Universal, Near-Universal, and Culture-Linked Patterns
The Psychological Impacts of Past-Life Memory

Chapter 6: Past-Life Recall in Adulthood and Third-Party Reports
Developmental Factors in Past-Life Memory Retrieval
Fantasy and Fact in Past Life Regression under Hypnosis
The Contributions of Shamans, Psychics, and Mediums

Chapter 7: The Process of Reincarnation
Beyond Materialism
Personal Identity and Postmortem Survival
Reincarnation and Life

Afterword: Implications of Reincarnation Cases for Biology, by Michael Nahm

Glossary of Specialized and Technical Terms

References

* * * * *

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

Signs of Reincarnation opens with the report of a “solved” (verified) American case of past-life memory involving a person not known to the child subject’s family, a rarity in the literature. I then discuss beliefs in and about reincarnation in different religions and thought traditions before turning to a systematic review of findings from over 2,500 investigated cases. I consider various ways the evidence may be interpreted but find that none are as satisfactory as reincarnation and move on to develop a theory of how it might work.

My processual soul theory rejects Cartesian substance dualism as incompatible with the case data and embraces a process metaphysics position that holds that what survives is simply a stream of consciousness continuous with that of embodied life. Reincarnation is best thought of in terms of possession, I argue. Although it means letting go of the materialist idea that consciousness is generated by the brain, my model does not require the acceptance of any radically new concepts or the abandonment of well-established findings in mainstream psychology or biology.

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

When I was about six years old, I witnessed something that got me thinking about the possibility of postmortem survival. I was standing slightly apart from a group of two boys and a girl. She was in the middle, they on either side of her. She was talking about a ghost she had seen, and they were ridiculing her, telling her that there was no such thing as a ghost. “There is too!” she insisted over and over, the volume of her voice rising each time. My reaction, thinking to myself, was, she is so certain that there are ghosts, perhaps there are ghosts. How can we be sure that there are no ghosts, if some people see them?

From early in my childhood, I wanted to be a creative writer, and in college I majored in English and minored in psychology. This was the early 1970s, but B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning was still being taught in my experimental psychology classes. I wasn’t sure I accepted the Skinnerian perspective, though. I recall asking my mother shortly after my graduation in 1977 if children were born with personalities or acquired them as they grew up. She told me that each child was born with a different personality, and the personalities became stronger as the children aged. I was one of five children, so I figured she knew what she was talking about, and that was all I needed to let go of Skinner.

I started reading the New Age literature that was coming out in the 1970s and around 1980, picked up my first book on reincarnation. I had not previously thought much about it, but I had seen the theme of rebirth coming up repeatedly in short stories and novels, and was intrigued by the concept. It did not take me long to find Stevenson’s books, which led me into parapsychology and changed the direction of my life. I joined organizations and subscribed to journals. I started attending meetings of the Parapsychological Association, my first at Tufts in 1985. My first publication in the field, in 1986, was a review of D. Scott Rogo’s The Search for Yesterday: A Critical Examination of the Evidence for Reincarnation.

During the same period, I was finding it more difficult than I had imagined to make a living writing fiction and enrolled in library school, intending to specialize in archives. I undertook a survey of archival resources in parapsychology, the basis of a paper published in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research in 1987. That survey also led to my first job in parapsychology, as Librarian and Archivist at the ASPR. When I left there I pursued doctoral studies in anthropology, but I returned to parapsychology later, as a staff member of the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina.

Many of my early contributions to parapsychology concerned the history of the field, but I continued to read and write about survival topics, especially reincarnation. Gradually reincarnation took over as my core interest and has remained so. In 2016, field researcher Erlendur Haraldsson invited me to co-author I Saw a Light and Came Here: Children’s Experiences of Reincarnation. I have also written (at present count) eleven articles on reincarnation-related topics for the Psi Encyclopedia. For a list of my publications in parapsychology and anthropology, click here. In the fall of 2017, I sat with Jeffrey Mishlove for a series of twelve conversations about reincarnation research for his New Thinking Allowed video series on YouTube.

What motivated you to write this book?

For many years, I wanted to write a book about reincarnation, but the more I studied the topic, the more I came to feel that I was not yet ready to take it on. When I did think seriously about the project, I could not decide on a structure that would allow me to say all I wanted to say. That changed when Nancy Zingrone asked me to develop a semester-long Masters-level course on reincarnation for a new program in parapsychology at Atlantic University. I began working on course lectures with the idea of eventually publishing them as a book. When Atlantic cancelled its parapsychology program, and Nancy left the school, I went with her, but continued to develop my course and then to teach it online through the Alvarado Zingrone Institute for Research and Education (for information about the course click here). I did not teach the course in 2018, so as to have time to finish this book, which will serve as the course textbook going forward. I plan to resume offering the course this August.

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

The semester-long lecture format gave me the structure I needed to explore all aspects of the reincarnation problem, from the many ways humanity has conceived of rebirth, to case studies and other research, to trying to understand the process without rejecting the findings of mainstream psychology and biology. Signs of Reincarnation is the first book to cover the topic systematically from all these angles, in a scholarly way. It lays out where we are now and provides a baseline for future work.

The book touches on and has relation to several fields, ranging from consciousness studies to anthropology to religious studies and philosophy. It is written for a college-level audience in the hopes of introducing students to this research before they are settled into their careers. I would like also to educate the larger academic community about the research, and I would like to see parapsychologists grapple with the ideas I present concerning postmortem survival and psi.

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

An important new study about physiological and medical aspects of mediumship has been published by Julie Beischel, Shawn Tassone  and Mark Boccuzzi. Here is the abstract:

Hematological and Psychophysiological Correlates of Anomalous Information Reception in Mediums: A Preliminary Exploration. Explore: Journal of Science & Healing, 2019; 15, 126-133.

Abstract

“Context: Modern research with mediums—individuals who regularly experience and report communication from the deceased—includes investigations of mediums’ accuracy, psychology, phenomenology, and electrophysiology and the therapeutic potential of mediumship readings for the bereaved. Anecdotal reports imply that chronic medical problems may be a serious concern for mediums.”

“Objective: The aim of this study was two-fold: (I) to systematically investigate the hematological and psychophysiological correlates of anomalous information reception (AIR, the reporting of accurate and specific information about the deceased in the absence of prior knowledge, feedback, or deceptive means) and (II) to compare the reported health issues of mediums and non-mediums.”

“Design: (I) A repeated-measures design in which mediums engaged in blinded mediumship readings and a control condition was used. (II) A parallel-groups design was used to compare mediums’ and non-mediums’ responses to an anonymous online survey regarding their health issues.”

“Participants: (I) Data was collected from five Windbridge Certified Research Mediums. (II) Survey responses from 125 mediums were compared to responses from 222 non-mediums.

Main Outcome Measures: (I) General physiological measures and 28 hematological elements were assessed. (II) Reports regarding autoimmune disease diagnoses and specific ailments by organ system were collected.”

“Results: Novel findings from this study included the following: (I) No significant hematological or physiological changes were seen in the mediums when pre- and post-condition comparisons were made for the counter-balanced sessions. (II) Compared to non-mediums, more mediums reported having at least one autoimmune disease (35.2% vs. 18.9%; p = 0.00076; z = 3.37; h = 0.4). Mediums also reported experiencing more health issues than did non-mediums (8.08 ± 5.38 vs. 5.09 ± 4.17 symptoms; p < 0.000001, g = 0.6). Specifically, more mediums than non-mediums (all p < 0.004) reported water retention (19.2% vs. 5.0%, z = 4.23, h = 0.5), bruising easily (20.0% vs. 9.0%, z = 2.93, h = 0.3), gastrointestinal issues (35.2% vs. 18.5%, z = 3.48, h = 0.4), headaches/migraines (26.4% vs. 11.3%, z = 3.63, h = 0.4), asthma (20.0% vs. 9.0%, z = 2.93, h = 0.3), food intolerances (28.0% vs. 9.9%, z = 4.37, h = 0.5), and sleep disturbances (40.8% vs. 14.9%, z = 5.41 h = 0.6). The proportions of participants reporting exophthalmos, chronic fatigue syndrome, and ankle sprains were not different.”

The authors summarize their results in the conclusion. They state that the mediums obtained “accurate and specific information about the deceased” and that there were no significant relationships with hematological and physiological variables. Furthermore:

“The findings from this study did demonstrate, however, that the mediums surveyed reported a significantly higher disease burden than non-mediums regarding specifically autoimmune disease, water retention, bruising easily, gastrointestinal issues, headaches/migraines, asthma, food intolerances, and sleep disturbances. These reports are in line with those of Assailly . . . who also found high levels of water retention, bruising easily . . . , and gastrointestinal issues in the mediums he examined though he did not compare his sample to a non-medium control group. The mediums in the current study also reported significant sleep disturbances and food intolerances whereas Assailly found that digestion issues and lack of sleep ‘appeared as negligible factors’ . . . In addition, although Assailly noted that the mediums in his study often reported exophthalmos (bulging eyes) and ‘complained of ‘twisting their ankles at every turn,’ these symptoms were not reported by the mediums in the current study.”

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

The Journal of Parapsychology, founded in 1937, had its 80th anniversary in 2017, a date commemorated with the publication of a special issue of the journal (2018, Vol. 82, Supplement). The issue starts with Etzel Cardeña’s editorial, “Four Score (Plus) Years Ago,” where he states:

Etzel Cardena 5

Etzel Cardeña

“Among their many achievements, Joseph Banks Rhine and collaborators launched The Journal of Parapsychology (JP) in 1937, the foremost venue for experimental research on parapsychology and sur­passed in longevity only by the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. There had been important experiments in parapsychology preceding the Rhine era, but during the latter experimental parapsy­chology was established more solidly. The eighty-plus years of JP issues would constitute an extraordi­nary achievement in any field, but is even more remarkable in such a contentious area as parapsycholo­gy. To avoid repeating mistakes one should be cognizant of the field’s previous history . . . and even a cursory look at the JP indexes shows how the field has developed throughout the years. My intention for this Supplementary E-issue was to give a bird’s eye view of the coverage in the JP.”

JP 1937 First Issue

First Issue of the Journal of Parapsychology

 

This is followed by two overview articles:

John Palmer

80 Years of the Journal of Parapsychology: An Historical Overview

John Palmer 3

John Palmer

Abstract: In this invited article, the author reviews the history of the Journal of Parapsychology from its inception in 1937 to 2017. The focus is on published controversies and debates with critics outside the field of parapsychology, JP publication policy, and the changes in editorship.

Journal of Parapsychology 5

Carlos S. Alvarado

Eight Decades of Psi Research: Highlights in the Journal of Parapsychology

Abstract: This is a short review of the 80 years of existence of the Journal of Parapsychology. Found­ed in 1937, the journal articulated the experimental research program of J. B. Rhine and his asso­ciates at Duke University. Highlights of the journal are discussed, starting with examples of articles reporting experiments of extrasensory perception and psychokinesis. Also discussed are articles about spontaneous cases, the presentation of novel and creative approaches, critiques and discus­sions, overviews of the field, J. B. Rhine’s use of the Journal of Parapsychology to prescribe for the field, and concepts and theories. The Journal of Parapsychology is seen as an important influence in the development of parapsychology.

In my paper, I concluded:

“The appearance of the JP represents a change from the psychical research tradition that existed in the United States and elsewhere before the late 1930s, which was dominated by the study of cases and of mediumship . . . Although the research program of J.B. Rhine and his associates was to some extent a reinstatement of earlier interest in experimentation, the JP greatly assisted the devel­opment of parapsychology. This was accomplished by providing a forum that assisted processes such as the standardization of techniques to assess chance, controls for contaminating factors such as sensory cues, and terminology in parapsychology . . . Like every good scientific journal, the JP also facilitated communication between researchers and others in the field helping to disseminate ideas and encourage professional attitudes. The presentation of informa­tion, in the form of reviews of the literature, and book reviews (not discussed in this paper) has made the journal an essential reference source over the years for researchers, students, and others. One hopes that this tradition of excellence and dedication continues beyond this anniversary as parapsychology moves to new horizons.”

The Journal of Parapsychology V36 No 1 March 1972 ESP Precognition Research NC

The editor also reprinted various articles originally published in the JP. These were:

Some Basic Experiments in Extra-sensory Perception: A Background (1937)

By Joseph Banks Rhine

J.B. Rhine 2

J.B. Rhine

Spontaneous Telepathy and the Problem of Survival (1943)

By Gardner Murphy

Gardner Murphy 3

Gardner Murphy

Subjective Forms of Spontaneous Psi Experiences (1953)

By Louisa E. Rhine

Louisa Rhine

Louisa E. Rhine

Precognition of a Quantum Process (1969)

By Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt

Studying Individual Psi Experiences (1970)

Gertrude R. Schmeidler

Gertrude Schmeidler

Gertrude R. Schmeidler

A Joint Communiqué: The Psi Ganzfeld Controversy (1986)

By Ray Hyman and Charles Honorton

Ray Hyman

Ray Hyman

Charles Honorton

Charles Honorton

An Assessment of the Evidence for Psychic Functioning (1995)

By Jessica Utts

Jessica Utts 4

Jessica Utts

Mind Matters: A New Scientific Era (2008)

By Roger D. Nelson

Roger Nelson 3

Roger D. Nelson

Those of you interested in the history of the JP may want to consult the following sources:

journal of Parapsychology 7

Alvarado, C.S. (2011). Prescribing for parapsychology: Note on J.B. Rhine’s writings in the Journal of Parapsychology. Australian Journal of Parapsychology, 11, 89–99.

Alvarado, C.S. (in press). Journal of Parapsychology. In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research.

Alvarado, C. S., Biondi, M., & Kramer, W. (2006). Historical notes on psychic phenomena in specialised journals. European Journal of Parapsychology, 21, 58-87.

Broughton, R. S. (1987). Publication policy and the Journal of Parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 51, 21-32.

Mauskopf, S.H. (1987). The origin of the Journal of Parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 51, 9-19.

Mauskopf, S.H., & McVaugh, M.R. (1980). The Elusive Science: Origins of Experimental Psychical Research. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Palmer, J. (1987). Controversy and the JP. Journal of Parapsychology, 51, 33-48.

Pope, D.H., & Pratt, J.G. (1942). Five Years of the Journal of Parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 6,  5-19.

Rao, K.R. (1987). Editorial: The Journal of Parapsychology: The first and the next fifty years. Journal of Parapsychology, 51, 1-8.

Rhine, J.B. (1946). Editorial: The first ten years of the journal. Journal of Parapsychology, 10, 221-223.

Rhine, J.B. (1956). Editorial: The Journal’s first twenty years. Journal of Parapsychology, 20, 263-266.

Rhine, J.B. (1961). A quarter century of the Journal of Parapsychology: A brief review. Journal of Parapsychology, 25, 237-246.

Rhine, J.B. (1977). A backward look on leaving the JP. Journal of Parapsychology, 41, 89-102.

Zingrone, N.L. (1988). Authorship and gender in American parapsychology journals. Journal of Parapsychology, 52, 321-343.

Journal of Parapsychology 9

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

In my last published article I focus of various aspects of materialization phenomena with mediums: Alvarado, C.S. Musings on Materializations: Eric J. Dingwall on “The Plasma Theory” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2019, 33, 73–113; available here or from the author: carlos@theazire.org). Here is the abstract:

“The psychical research literature has many examples of séance room materialization phenomena. This article consists of a reprint of, and a commentary about, Eric J. Dingwall’s paper “The Plasma Theory,” published in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research in 1921. Dingwall discussed some of the previously published ideas on the topic, and emphasized those related to mediums Eva C. and Kathleen Goligher. The purpose of the current article is not to provide evidence for the phenomena, but to present relevant contextual information about the article, additional bibliography, and theoretical concepts, some of which are forgotten today.”

Eva C 8

Eva C.

Kathleen Goligher 2

Kathleen Goligher

I start saying: “One of the phenomena of physical mediumship is materializations, or appearances of ephemeral bodies (or parts of), and other forms, or things, in the séance room. This includes the production of ectoplasm, a subtle matter assuming various shapes and appearances—such as mists, plaster, and textile-like products—that may change into things such as hands, faces, and whole bodies. The topic flourished in previous eras and is largely ignored today by parapsychologists, particularly in terms of research. This is in part due to its association with fraud . . . and the lack of mediums who produce the phenomenon, or who are willing to be investigated under controlled conditions. Nonetheless, some current students of materialization believe there is evidence for the occurrence of the phenomenon . . .” 

Before I present a reprint of the text of Eric J. Dingwall’s article, I introduce the topic in a section discussing 19th and early 20th century materialization literature. The first subsection is about the variety of materializations. “Many accounts were about mediums such as Catherine E. Woods . . . , Florence Cook . . . , William Eglinton . . . , Francis Ward Monck . . . , the Eddy Brothers . . . , and Kate Fox . . . , among many others . . . .”

WILLIAM EGLINTON

William Eglinton

Florence Cook 2

Florence Cook

Francis Ward Monck 2

Francis Ward Monck

“A classic case of full-body materialization was Katie King, which appeared in the presence of medium Florence Cook . . . Many were the reports of appearances of limbs and faces. Hands were common, as seen with Eusapia Palladino . . . In addition to full-body appearances, and the appearance of faces and limbs, there were reports of less precise forms as well that may be considered manifestations of what was latter called ectoplasm, which is the topic of Dingwall’s article. Perhaps the most common form of Nineteenth-Century ectoplasm was that of clouds or nebulous formations, such as those observed with Monck . . .  In D. D. Home’s séances there were reports of a ‘small white cloud without any well-defined shape’ and of a ‘luminous cloud-like body’ . . . On one occasion, according to Crookes, a hand was seen ‘ending at the wrist in a cloud.’ ”

Katie King 2

Katie King

Katie King 5

William Crookes and Katie King

“There were also many discussions of materializations during the first decades of the Twentieth Century, as seen in the writings of Gambier Bolton . . . , Paul Gibier . . . , Enrico Imoda . . . , Enrico Morselli . . . , and Charles Richet . . . Of particular importance was the work of French sculptress Juliette Alexandre-Bisson . . . , German physician Baron Albert von Schrenck-Notzing . . . , French physician Gustave Geley . . . , and New Zealand–born mechanical engineer William J. Crawford . . . . Their descriptions of ectoplasm provided much information about this mysterious substance.”

Juliette Alexandre Bisson

Juliette Alexandre Bisson

William J. Crawford

William J. Crawford

In this section I cited many fascinating publications such as:

Adare, Viscount (1869). Experiences in Spiritualism with Mr. D. D. Home. London: Thomas Scott.

Adshead, W. P. (1879). Miss Wood in Derbyshire: A Series of Experimental Séances Demonstrating the Fact That Spirits Can Appear in the Physical Form. London: J. Burns.

Alexandre-Bisson, J. (1921). Les Phénomènes dits de Materialisation: Étude Experimentale (2nd ed.). Paris: Félix Alcan.

Crookes, W. (1874). Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism. London: J. Burns.

Oxley, W. (1876). A spirit materialising under the eyes of the observers in Manchester. Spiritualist Newspaper, (May 12):222–223.

Schrenck-Notzing, [A.] Baron (1920). Phenomena of Materialisation: A Contribution to the Investigation of Mediumistic Teleplastics (revised edition). London: Paul Trench, Trübner.

Another section is about theoretical ideas: “Vital Forces, Ideoplasty, and Materializations.” “The idea that materialization depends on the vital force of the medium, what one writer called the “stuff for form-building”. . . , was frequently discussed during the Nineteenth Century by students of the subject . . . , and in messages presumed by some to come from spirits of the dead . . .” These speculations include those that advocated for discarnate agency and for the idea that the materializations were produced and guided by the minds of mediums, and sometimes, sitters.

Eglinton materialization

Artistic representation of connection between materialized form and medium William Eglinton

This includes the ideas of French researcher Gustave Geley. “Based on the idea of a basic universal substance as the substrate of living things, Geley . . . considered ectoplasm and organic formations ideoplastic creations. Seeing materialization as a biological process, Geley compared the incomplete and grotesque character of ectoplasmic formations to those found in animal and human forms. ‘Like normal physiology, the so-called supernormal has its complete and aborted forms, its monstrosities, and its dermoid cysts. The parallelism is complete’ . . . He also compared ectoplasmic development to the histolysis of insects: ‘The same phenomenon takes place, as has already been said, in the closed chrysalis of the insect as in the dark cabinet at the séance.’ ”

H407/0191

Gustave Geley

Some references used in this section about theory were:

Aksakof, A. (1898). A Case of Partial Dematerialization of the Body of a Medium: Investigation and Discussion. Boston: Banner of Light.

Carrington, H. (1921). Vital energy and psychical phenomena. Psychic Research Quarterly, 1, 271–277.

Geley, G. (1920). From the Unconscious to the Conscious. Glasgow: William Collins. [First published in French in 1919]

Harrison, W. H. (1876). Speculations tending to explain certain spiritual manifestations. Spiritualist Newspaper, (May 5):205–206.

Morselli, E. A. (1908). Psicologia e “Spiritismo:” Impressioni e Note Critiche sui Fenomeni Medianici di Eusapia Paladino (2 vols.). Turin: Fratelli Bocca.

Richmond, C. L. V. (1877). Is materialization true? If so, it’s philosophy. Banner of Light, (June 9):2.

Then I present some biographical details about Dingwall, and the text of his article. The reprint of the article is annotated to provide further information and bibliographical sources, many of which were not mentioned by the author. Dingwall pays particular attention to the ectoplasm reported to take place around mediums Eva C. and Kathleen Goligher.

Eric John Dingwall

Eric J. Dingwall

Dingwall Plasma Theory

Eva C 5

Ectoplasm with Eva C.

Kathleen Goligher 5

Ectoplasm with Kathleen Goligher

 After Dingwall’s paper, I summarized developments after 1921 in sections about observations and studies, critiques, and theoretical ideas. Among other references, I cited: Bozzano, E. (1926). À Propos de l’Introduction à la Métapsychique Humaine. Paris: Jean Meyer; Dingwall, E. J. (1926). A report on a series of sittings with the medium Margery. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 36, 79-158; Fodor, N. (1934). Simplifying “miracles”: Theory of materialization process. Light, 54, 10; Gulat-Wellenburg, W. von, Klinckowstroem, C. von, & Rosenbusch, H. (1925). Der physikalische Mediumismus. Berlin: Ullstein; Hamilton, T. G. (1931). Some new facts regarding teleplasms. Psychic Science, 9(4), 262-270; and Lapicque, L., Dumas, G., Piéron, H., & Laugier, H. (1922). Rapport sur des experiences de contrôle relatives aux phénomenes dits ectoplasmiques. L’Année Psychologique, 23, 604-611; Schrenck-Notzing, [A.] F. von (1921). Das Materialisationsproblem nach den Untersuchungen W. Crawfords. Psychische Studien, 48, 337-366.

Bozzano A Propos

Schrenck Notzing Crawford 1921

I also cited Charles Richet’s theoretical comments published in his celebrated Traité de Métapsychique in 1922:

“When I put a hand in front of a mirror, the image of my hand is reflected: reflection of light. In front of a thermometer, reflection of heat. In front of a galvanometer, reflection of electricity. It is true that in front of one balance there is nothing there. But is it unreasonable to suppose that this projection of light, heat, and electricity could be accompanied by a projection of mechanical force? . . .”

“Materialization is a mechanical projection. We already have projection of light, heat, and electricity. It is not going very far to see as possible, besides these projections of heat, light, and electricity, a projection of mechanical force. The memorable demonstrations of Einstein establish at which point mechanical energy approaches luminous energy.”

Charles Richet 10

Charles Richet

Richet Traite

I concluded that Dingwall’s article is a good reminder of parts of the old materialization literature. “Although my interest is mainly historical, I realize that many study the topic to determine if the phenomena are real or not. As pointed out by various modern authors . . . , there are good observations that cannot be ignored. But the topic is still generally dismissed. In general this material tends to be seen today with suspicion due, at least in part, to recorded instances of fraud . . .”

I end saying: “. . . hopefully future work on the topic will be inspired by essays such as Dingwall’s, so as to benefit from awareness of previous findings, as well as of methodological issues, and the problem of fraud. But more important, to be significant, this work needs to go beyond the observational stage so typical of much of this literature. By this I mean that, if it is possible to make a good case for the reality of the phenomenon, and that it appears consistently enough to be studied carefully, research needs to be conducted to learn something about its nature.”

 

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

Here is an English-language bibliography about mental mediumship published between 2000 and 2019. I am not including here publications about sociological and anthropological aspects of mediumship, not of the effects of mediumship on bereavement.

Overviews

Bastos Jr., M.A.V., et al. (2015). Mediumship: Review of quantitative studies published in the 21st century. Archives of Clinical Psychiatry, 42, 129-138.

Beischel, J. (2018). Mental mediumship research. In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research.

Beischel, J., & Zingrone, N.L. (2015). Mental mediumship. In E. Cardeña, J. Palmer, & D. Marcusson- Clavertz (Eds.), Parapsychology: A Handbook for the 21st Century (pp. 301-313). Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Braude, S.E. (2003). Immortal Remains: The Evidence for Life After Death. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield. Chapters 2 and 3.

Rock, A.J. (Ed.). (2013). The Survival Hypothesis: Essays on Mediumship. Jefferson, CA: McFarland.

History

Alvarado, C.S. (2014). Mediumship, psychical research, dissociation, and the powers of the subconscious mind. Journal of Parapsychology, 78, 98-114.

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

Alvarado, C. S. (2016). Classic Text No. 105: “Report of the Committee on Mediumistic Phenomena,” by William James (1886). History of Psychiatry, 27, 85–100. Abstract

Alvarado, C.S., & Biondi, M. (2017). Classic Text No. 110: Cesare Lombroso on Mediumship and Pathology. History of Psychiatry, 28, 225–241. Abstract

Alvarado, C.S., Nahm, M., & Sommer, A. (2012). Notes on early interpretations of mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 26, 855-865.

Anderson, R.I. (2006). Psychics, Sensitives and Somnambules: A Biographical Dictionary with Bibliographies. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.

Blum, D. (2006). Ghost Hunters: William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death. New York: Penguin Press.

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

Fryer, C. (2012). Geraldine Cummins: An Appreciation. White Crow Books.

Hamilton, T. (2017). Arthur Balfour’s Ghosts: An Edwardian Elite and the Riddle of the Cross-Correspondence Automatic Writings. Exeter: Imprint Academic.

Hazelgrove, J. (2000) Spiritualism and British Society Between the Wars. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

Le Maléfan, P., Evrard, R., & Alvarado, C.S. (2013). Spiritist delusions and spiritism in the nosography of French psychiatry (1850-1950). History of Psychiatry, 24, 477-491.

Leonard, T.J. (2005). Talking to the Other Side: A History of Modern Spiritualism and Mediumship: A Study of the Religion, Science, Philosophy and Mediums that Encompass this American-Made Religion. New York: iUniverse.

Maraldi, E. de O., & Alvarado, C.S. (2018). Classic Text No. 113: Final chapter, From India to the Planet Mars: A Study of a Case of Somnambulism with Glossolalia, by Théodore  Flournoy (1900). History of Psychiatry, 29, 110-125. Abstract

Massicotte, C. (2017). Trance Speakers: Femininity and Authorship in Spiritual Séances, 1850–1930. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Moreira-Almeida A., Almeida, A. A. S., & Lotufo Neto, F. (2005). History of spiritist madness in Brazil. History of Psychiatry, 16, 5-25.

Robertson, B.A. (2017). Science of the Seance: Transnational Networks and Gendered Bodies in the Study of Psychic Phenomena, 1918-40. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press.

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

Tymn, M. (2013). Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife. Guildford, UK: White Crow Books.

Research

Veridical tests

Beischel, J., Boccuzzi, M., Biuso, M., & Rock, A. J. (2015). Anomalous information reception by research mediums under blinded conditions II: Replication and extension. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science & Healing, 11, 136-142.

Beischel, J., & Schwartz, G.E. (2007). Anomalous information reception by research mediums demonstrated using a novel triple-blind protocol. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science & Healing, 3, 23-27.

Jensen, C.G., & Cardeña, E. (2009). A controlled long-distance test of a professional medium. European Journal of Parapsychology, 24, 53-67.

Kelly, E.W., Arcangel, D. (2011). An investigation of mediums who claim to give information about deceased persons. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 199, 11-17.

O’Keeffe, C., & Wiseman R. (2005). Testing alleged mediumship: Methods and results. British Journal of Psychology, 96(Pt 2), 165-179. Abstract

Rocha,. AC., Paraná, D., Freire, E.S., Lotufo Neto, F., Moreira-Almeida A. (2014). Investigating the fit and accuracy of alleged mediumistic writing: A case study of Chico Xavier’s letters. Explore: The Journal of Science & Healing, 10, 300-308. Abstract

Rock, A. J., & Beischel, J. (2008). Quantitative analysis of mediums’ conscious experiences during a discarnate reading versus a control task: A pilot study. Australian Journal of Parapsychology, 8, 157-179.

Rock, A. J., Beischel, J., Boccuzzi, M., & Biuso, M. (2014). Discarnate readings by claimant mediums: Assessing phenomenology and accuracy under beyond double-blind conditions. Journal of Parapsychology, 78(2), 183-194.

Roy, A. E., & Robertson, T. J. (2001). A double- blind procedure for assessing the relevance of a medium’s statements to a recipient. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 65, 161–174. Abstract

Roy, A.E., Robertson, T.J. (2004). Results of the application of the Robertson-Roy protocol to a series of experiments with mediums and participants. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 68, 161-174.

Schwartz, G.E., Geoffrion. S., Jain, S., Lewis, S., Russek, L.G. (2003).  Evidence of anomalous information retrieval between two mediums: Replication in a double-blind design. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 67, 115-130.

Schwartz, G.E., & Russek, L. (2001). Evidence of anomalous information retrieval between two mediums: Telepathy, network memory resonance, and continuance of consciousness. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 65, 257-275.

Schwartz, G. E. R., Russek, L. G. S., Nelson, L. A., & Barentsen, C. (2001). Accuracy and replicability of anomalous after-death communication across highly skilled mediums. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 65, 1–25.

Schwartz, G.E., with Simon, W.L. (2002). The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death. New York: Pocket Books.

Schwartz, G.E., & Simon, W.L. (2005). The Truth About Medium: Extraordinary Experiments with the Real Allison DuBois of NBC’s Medium and other Remarkable Psychics. Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads.

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.

Physiological tests

Bastos, M. A. V., Jr.; Bastos, P. R. H. de O. Osório, I. H. S., Muass, K. A. R. C., 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.

Beischel, J., Tassone, S., & Boccuzzi, M. (2019). Hematological and psychophysiological correlates of anomalous information reception in mediums: A preliminary exploration. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science & Healing, 15, 126–133. Abstract

Delorme, A., Beischel. J., Michel, L., Boccuzzi, M., Radin, D., & Mills, P. J. (2013). Electrocortical activity associated with subjective communication with the deceased. Frontiers in Psychology, 4: 834. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00834

Hageman, J. H., Peres, J. F. P., Moreira-Almeida, A., Caixeta, L., Wickramasekera, I. II, & Krippner, S. (2010). The neurobiology of trance and mediumship in Brazil. In S. Krippner & H. L. Friedman (Eds.), Mysterious minds: The neurobiology of psychics, mediums, and other extraordinary people (pp. 85-111). Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO. Abstract

Peres, J.F, Moreira-Almeida, A., Caixeta, L., Leao, F., & Newberg, A. (2012). Neuro-imaging during trance state: A contribution to the study of dissociation. PLoS One;7(11)

Psychological tests

Moreira-Almeida, A., Neto, F.L., & Cardeña, E. (2008). Comparison of Brazilian spiritist mediumship and dissociative identity disorder. Journal of Nervous and Mental, 196, 420-424.

Moreira-Almeida A., Lotufo Neto, F., & Greyson, B. (2007). Dissociative and psychotic experiences in Brazilian spiritist mediums. Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 76, 57-58.

Negro, P. J., Palladino-Negro, P., & Rodrigues Louza, M. (2002). Do religious mediumship dissociative experiences conform to the sociocognitive theory of dissociation? Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 3, 51–73. Abstract

Roxburgh, E.C., & Roe, C.A. (2011). A survey of dissociation, boundary-thinness and psychological wellbeing in spiritualist mental mediumship. Journal of Parapsychology, 75, 279-299. Abstract

Wahbeh, H., & Radin, D. (2018). People reporting experiences of mediumship have higher dissociation symptom scores than non-mediums, but below thresholds for pathological dissociation. F1000 Research 6: 1416.

Other (see also Leonard, 2005 from History section)

Beischel, J., Mosher, C., & Boccuzzi, M. (2017). Quantitative and qualitative analyses of mediumistic and psychic experiences. Threshold: Journal of Interdisciplinary Consciousness Studies, 1(2): 51-91.

Emmons, C. F., & Emmons, P. (2003). Guided by Spirit: A Journey into the Mind of the Medium. New York: Writers Club Press.

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.

Maraldi, E. de O., & Krippner, S. (2013). A biopsychosocial approach to creative dissociation: Remarks on a case of mediumistic painting. NeuroQuantology, 11, 544-572.

Rock, A. J., Beischel, J., & Cott, C. C. (2009). Psi vs. survival: A qualitative investigation of mediums’ phenomenology comparing psychic readings and ostensible communication with the deceased. Transpersonal Psychology Review, 13, 76-89.

Rock, A. J., Beischel, J., & Schwartz, G. E. (2008). Thematic analysis of research mediums’ experiences of discarnate communication. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 22, 179-192.

Roxburgh, E. C., & Roe, C. A. (2013). Exploring the meaning of mental mediumship from the mediums’ perspective. In C. M. Moreman (Ed.), The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and Around the World (pp. 53-67). California: Praeger Publishers.

Roxburgh, E. C., & Roe, C. A. (2013). “Say from whence you owe this strange intelligence”: Investigating explanatory systems of spiritualist mental mediumship using interpretative phenomenological analysis. International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, 32(1), 27-42.

Roxburgh, E. C., & Roe, C. A. (2014).  Reframing voices and visions using a spiritual model:  An interpretative phenomenological analysis of anomalous experiences in mediumship. Mental Health, Religion, & Culture, 17, 6, 641-653. Abstract

Wabeh, H., Carpenter, L., & Radin, D. (2018). A mixed methods phenomenological and exploratory study of channeling. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 82, 129-147. Abstract

Other Topics (Mainly Conceptual)

Alvarado, C.S. (2012). Mediumship and dreams. Paranormal Review, No. 64, 8-12.

Alvarado, C.S. (2010). Investigating mental mediumship: Research suggestions from the historical literature. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 24, 197-224.

Beischel, J. (2007). Contemporary methods used in laboratory-based mediumship research. Journal of Parapsychology, 71, 37-68.

Beischel, J., & Rock, A. J. (2009). Addressing the survival vs. psi debate through process-focused mediumship research. Journal of Parapsychology, 73, 71-90.

Braude, S. E. (2000). Dissociation and latent abilities: The strange case of Patience Worth. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 1, 13–48.

Braude, S.B. (2017). Mediumship and multiple personality. In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research.

Cunningham, P.F. (2012). The content–source problem in modern mediumship research. Journal of Parapsychology, 76, 295-319.

Hunter, J. (2017). Mediumship and spirit possession in a cross-cultural context. In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research.

Maraldi, E. de O. (2014). Medium or author? A preliminary model relating dissociation, paranormal belief systems and self-esteem. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 78, 1-24.

Moreira-Almeida, A. (2012). Research on mediumship and the mind-brain relationship In A. Moreira-Almeida, & F.S. Santos (Eds.), Exploring Frontiers of the Mind-Brain Relationship (pp. 191-213). New York: Springer.

Sudduth, M. (2009). Super-psi and the survivalist interpretation of mediumship. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 23, 167–193.

Forgetting the Past

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

Nancy L. Zingrone and I commented in a short communication about a recent editorial by Etzel Cardeña in the Journal of Parapsychology: Alvarado, C.S., & Zingrone, N.L. (2018). Forgetting the Past. Journal of Parapsychology, 82, 213-215.

Nancy Zingrone 2019

Nancy L. Zingrone

Cardeña wrote about the “ignorance or disregard [some show] . . . of earlier and very pertinent research and literature, as if somehow the topic had not been studied until the authors decided to focus their attention on it” (Cardeña, E. (2017). Editorial: On scientific amnesia. Journal of Parapsychology, 81, 104-105). We argued that the topic was important because such disregard “may produce incomplete views based on lack of historical continuity that, in turn, cause misconceptions, as well as rediscoveries or reformulations of previous findings and ideas.”

We argued that this problem suggests that some persons may have forgotten that literature reviews in science are helpful in “the exploration of relevant theoretical ideas . . . in the development of hypotheses and [in] the selection of research methodology.” But the situation may also indicate that “some persons in the field, particularly those coming from other areas, have a low level of basic literacy in the parapsychological literature.”

Some examples of this problem were briefly presented citing three examples from the literature. Furthermore, it was stated that instead of dismissing the issue by labelling it as trivial, or by stating that this is a common problem in science, we should instead accept we need to solve the problem.

One way to address the problem is the compilation of bibliographies (click here), the presentation of comprehensive literature reviews (click here and here), and the organization of educational lectures presented by workers in the field (click here). We end our brief comment saying:

“In addition to the constant growth of literature in all topics—a somewhat less daunting prospect in parapsychological literature than in mainstream science—a key problem here is the belief that trying to know as much as we can about the past literature relevant to our topics of concern is not important to our future success. Authors are the first ones who need to be concerned about this, but they can and need to be assisted by the critical eye of editors and referees . . . We are not arguing that every paper needs a long review going back to antiquity, drawing in historical sources for every aspect of the topic. In fact, some reviews are too general or unfocused, full of references not of direct relevance to the topic at hand. But a good review is important, as we have argued, because it provides context, builds consensus, and deepens the meaningfulness of our research.”

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

Parapsychologist John Palmer published an interesting study in his paper “Training Anomalous Cognition in a Motor Task with Subliminal Auditory Feedback” (Journal of Parapsychology, 2018, 82, 132-147; for reprints write to the author: john@rhine.org). Here is the abstract:

“On each of 60 trials, 5 participants (Ps), selected based on high state and trait dissociation scores in a previous motor automatism experiment, explored with a computer pen a 16 x 16 inch grid affixed to a computer writing tablet, stopping to register a response to a randomly selected target square. The grid is conceptually divided into 16 squares (4 in each of 4 quadrants). The dependent variable was the average of 2 z-scores representing square and quadrant hits. Ps attended 2 1-run baseline sessions and 2 1-run test sessions. In between, they completed 15–20 1-run training sessions with subliminal auditory feedback. The feedback stimulus was the spoken word(s) “good” (quadrant hit) or “good good” (square hit) superimposed on brownian (similar to pink) noise. 1 of the 5 Ps significantly confirmed the hypothesis of higher scoring on test than baseline runs. There was significant or suggestive evidence of anomalous cognition in the baseline and/or test results of 4 Ps and the 5 difference scores showed significant between-subjects variability. There was no evidence of learning in the training sessions. According to the underlying theory, conditions for learning were not met because Ps did not successfully blank the mind and were overly attentive to the feedback sounds.”

For me the interesting aspect of the study was that related to dissociation. As Palmer wrote: “The general hypothesis tested in the overall research program is that psi is facilitated by dissociated states of consciousness and that the most dissociated form of psi expression is motor automatism, such as automatic writing and dowsing, where conscious cognitive processing is minimized.”

Commenting on the history of the dissociation-ESP relationship, the author wrote in his introduction: “The first experiment to test for anomalous cognition (AC) using motor automatisms was by Brugmans (1922), who had a special participant (P) point to a square with a letter-number on a grid while blindfolded, with the hope that he would point to the randomly selected target for the trial. Highly significant results were obtained, but the randomization method was poor. One of the card-guessing methods used in J. B. Rhine’s famous card-guessing experiments was ‘screen-touch matching,’ in which P pointed to one of five ‘key cards’ representing the five Zener cards symbols. This technique was used in the prominent and controversial Pratt-Woodruff experiment (Pratt & Woodruff, 1939).” However, this history is incomplete.

Not only there is no mention about the earlier attempts to use motor automatisms to test for ESP (as seen in: F.W.H. Myers, Automatic Writing.-II. Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1885, 3, 1-63; and C. Richet, La Suggestion Mentale et le Calcul des Probabilités. Revue Philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger, 1884, 18, 609-674), but there is no acknowledgement of the general interest in dissociation showed by early psychical researchers, as seen in the publications of the Society for Psychical Research during the Nineteenth-Century (see C.S. Alvarado, Dissociation in Britain During the Late Nineteenth Century: The Society for Psychical Research, 1882-1900. Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, 2002, 3, 9-33).

Palmer was also interested in training ESP performance. “The motivation to follow up [a previous study] with a training study had to do with my belief that in order to demonstrate the reality of psi to the mainstream scientific community, it is necessary to increase the strength, and especially, the reliability of psi in the laboratory. It seems to me that the best way to do this is through training of psi ability, and such attempts should be made, even if they are ‘long-shots,’ as this experiment arguably was.”

“There were a considerable number of statistically significant or suggestive results in the study . . . These outcomes with Ps selected on the basis of dissociative tendencies encourage further research on the dissociation-ESP relationship . . . However, no such success appeared during the training sessions. This lack of improvement in the training sessions indicates that whatever genuine AC [anomalous cognition] occurred was not due to learning, and there was no evidence of learning in any of the Ps’ data.”

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

Some of you probably have heard about the Nineteenth-Century table turning studies of Agénor de Gasparin. This is the topic of one of my recent papers:

Table turning in the early 1850s: The séance reports of Agénor de Gasparin. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2018, 32, 702-741.

Abstract

“The phenomena of table turning flourished during the 1850s, providing for many people a context for belief in spirit action, and for the development of explanations such as unconscious muscular movements and the exteriorization of nervous forces from the sitters. This paper consists of the presentation of excerpts from the classic study of these phenomena by Agénor de Gasparin, who reported his work on the subject in his book Des Tables Tournantes (1854, 2 volumes, translated into English in 1857). De Gasparin believed that unconscious muscular action could not explain the movements of tables, and postulated the emission of a force from the sitters around the table to account for the movements. I present a long excerpt from de Gasparin’s book in which he described the phenomena he obtained, preceded by a short review of interest in table phenomena in the 1850s, and followed by critiques showing the general skepticism about these phenomena during and after de Gasparin’s lifetime.”

Agenor de Gasparin 2

Agénor de Gasparin

 

De Gasparin Tables Tournantes

de Gasparin Science

 The purpose of my article is to remind current readers of de Gasparin’s influential work on table-turning, a phenomenon, and a social practice popular in some places during the 1850s. “While these séances have been discussed in various historical overview works . . . de Gasparin’s work does not seem to be well-known today . . . Furthermore, these studies deserve to be better-known because they were very influential at the time they appeared. Although there are many reports and discussions of table phenomena throughout the late Nineteenth Century and later . . . . , I focus my comments in most of this paper to material published in the 1850s. I extend the later discussion at the end of this paper to the reception of the work in later periods.”

MEDIUMSHIP/TABLE TURNING

Table tipping

 The paper is divided in four main sections. These are an overview of table-turning writings during the 1850s, a discussion of de Gasparin’s life and work, an excerpt from de Gasparin’s book reporting his seances, and a general discussion of critiques of his work and of his influence.

Roubaud Danse Tables

 

Table Turning and Table Talking: Containing Detailed Reports of an Infinite Variety of Experiments Performed in England, France, and Germany, with most marvellous results; also, minute directions to enable every one to practise them and the various explanations given of the phenomena, by the most distinguished Scientific Men of Europe ... Second Edition With Professor Faraday's Experiments and Explanation.

“Count Agénor Etiénne de Gasparin (18101871), was born in Orange, France, and later lived in Switzerland . . .  An obituarist referred to him as a noble and chivalrous man who showed “grace that charmed his adversaries as well as his friends” . . . He held various political appointments, such as a member of the Chamber of Deputies from Bastia (Corsica) in 1842. Furthermore, de Gasparin was interested and active in issues related to economics, history, politics, and religion. A biographer presented de Gasparin as a man always willing to fight for causes, such as the abolition of slavery.”

Borel Compte Agenor de Gasparin

de Gasparin L'Egalite

de Gasparin Uprising

On one occasion, de Gasparin and the sitters explored “divination” by the table. “On the 20th of September, then, we desired to put to the proof the pretended faculty of divination ascribed to the tables. For this purpose, we submitted to the one around which we were sitting, and which operated to admiration, the most elementary question assuredly, that can be proposed to a spirit. We placed three nuts in the pocket of one of the experimenters; the table, interrogated as to their number, promptly struck nine blows!”

Some attempts at table moving were made without the contact of the hands of the sitters. De Gasparin wrote: “Choosing a moment when the table was impelled by an energetic and truly spirited rotation, we all raised our hands at a given signal; then, maintaining them united by means of the little finger, and continuing to form the chain at about an inch above the table, we pursued our course, and, to our great surprise, the table also pursued its course, making thus three or four turns!”

On another occasion, the record reads: “Let us return to the demonstration par excellence—the elevation without contact. We began by accomplishing it three times. Then, as it was suggested that the presence of witnesses exercised a more certain influence over a small table than a large one, over five operators than ten, we caused a round table, made of spruce, to be brought in, and which the chain reduced by onehalf, sufficed to put in rotation. Whereupon, the hands being raised, and all contact having ceased, the table elevated itself perpendicularly seven times at our command.”

In the conclusion I stated:

“De Gasparin’s work was ignored by many, particularly by strong defenders of the unconscious movement explanation. While the reports could have been more detailed, something not common at the time, the critics ignored aspects of de Gasparin’s results inconsistent with unconscious movements and simple fraud explanations.”

“Several commentators on de Gasparin’s work—Delondre, Figuier, and Podmore—raised the issue of fraud. While this has to be considered, it is important to recognize that there was no actual evidence for such an explanation. But as a consequence of this situation, the work was not generally accepted, something quite common in the history of physical mediumship and other areas of psychical research.” 

“Regardless of evidential considerations, de Gasparin’s work was certainly important in many ways. He contributed to rescuing table turning from the casual discussions in the press and popular books, and from the “learned” attempts to reduce all phenomena related to tables to delusion and unconscious muscular movements. It is less clear, however, how influential he was on later studies of table movements . . .” Nonetheless, he clearly influenced Marc Thury, and William Crookes cited him later.

“This work presented important instances of tests attempting to counter objections empirically, and emphasizing phenomena inconsistent with the unconscious movement explanations of others. While a few conducted tests to see if they could support this hypothesis (e.g., Faraday 1853), many others just accepted the argument without empirical examination (e.g., Chevreul 1854).”

Image result for table turning

 

 

 

 

 

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

The authors of this article present the results of an online survey.

Future Directions in Meditation Research: Recommendations for Expanding the Field of Contemplative Science.

PLoS ONE 13(11): e0205740. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0205740

by

Cassandra Vieten, Helane Wahbeh, B. Rael Cahn, Katherine MacLean, Mica Estrada, Paul Mills, Michael Murphy , Shauna Shapiro, Dean Radin, Zoran Josipovic, David E. Presti, Michael Sapiro, Jan Chozen Bays, Peter Russell, David Vago, Fred Travis, Roger Walsh, & Arnaud Delorme

Cassandra Vieten 2

Cassandra Vieten

Helané Wahbeh

Helané Wahbeh

Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy

david presti

David Presti

Arnaud Delorme

Arnaud Delorme

Abstract

“The science of meditation has grown tremendously in the last two decades. Most studies have focused on evaluating the clinical effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions, neural and other physiological correlates of meditation, and individual cognitive and emotional aspects of meditation. Far less research has been conducted on more challenging domains to measure, such as group and relational, transpersonal and mystical, and difficult aspects of meditation; anomalous or extraordinary phenomena related to meditation; and post-conventional stages of development associated with meditation. However, these components of meditation may be crucial to people’s psychological and spiritual development, could represent important mediators and/or mechanisms by which meditation confers benefits, and could themselves be important outcomes of meditation practices. In addition, since large numbers of novices are being introduced to meditation, it is helpful to investigate experiences they may encounter that are not well understood. Over the last four years, a task force of meditation researchers and teachers met regularly to develop recommendations for expanding the current meditation research field to include these important yet often neglected topics. These meetings led to a cross-sectional online survey to investigate the prevalence of a wide range of experiences in 1120 meditators. Results show that the majority of respondents report having had many of these anomalous and extraordinary experiences. While some of the topics are potentially controversial, they can be subjected to rigorous scientific investigation. These arenas represent largely uncharted scientific terrain and provide excellent opportunities for both new and experienced researchers. We provide suggestions for future directions, with accompanying online materials to encourage such research.”

They concluded that “mystical and extraordinary experiences  are prevalent enough among meditators, and salient enough to those who have them, to warrant further scientific inquiry.” Some of the mystical experiences were feelings of peace and tranquility, feelings of joy, loss of usual sense of time, fusion of self with a larger whole, and feeling that “all is one.” Regarding these, and other experiences, it is said in the report that “the vast majority reporting having them “2–5 times” or “many times” for almost all items.”

Other experiences included alterations in vision and hearing, perception of nonphysical beings, a sense of collective energy, and ESP-type experiences. “Over half of the meditators in our sample reported experiencing clairvoyance or telepathy (perceiving information that could not have been known to them by any known physical means, but later turned out to be true) at least once. Not only that, but the majority also found the experience “somewhat pleasant” and “quite meaningful or important.”

“Discussions of the relationship between meditation practice and advanced capacities of meditators can be traced in written form back to Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, published roughly two thousand years ago . . . Claims such as precognition, clairvoyance, telepathy, and mind-matter interactions are still controversial, although a growing body of literature suggests that some such claims could be supported by data . . . External physical phenomena, or objects moving by a non-physical force, physical objects appearing when they had not been there before, objects falling over, a light going out, psychokinesis (the supposed ability to move objects by mental attention or intention alone), or other physical manifestations that seemed to have no physical cause are also discussed in historical literature. Approximately one-third of the meditators in our sample endorsed having experienced something like this at least once.”

“Physical and perceptual sensations not apparently caused by the physical environment were experienced by the vast majority of our survey respondents, including: heat, cold, pressure, or tingling; seeing lights, visions, or images; lightness or heaviness, floating, out of body experiences, body parts disappearing, or feeling like the body changed in shape or size; hearing buzzing sounds, humming, or voices or music that were not in the physical environment. These are experiences that have rarely been examined in a scientific context, but were endorsed by 60–90% of our respondents.”

The authors also state: “It is important to note here again that there did not appear to be a substantially higher rate of psychological disorders in this sample than in the general population. While these experiences could be completely illusory, they also could point to aspects of human potential and reality that challenge prevailing paradigms. Western scientists may hesitate to entertain the possibility that one possible explanation for these perceptions of non-local aspects of consciousness are that they are ontologically real. In many meditative traditions, whether they are considered real or not, these experiences are discounted as potentially derailing. Patanjali and others have cautioned that focusing on such experiencing can be seductive, cause egocentricity, or become distractions . . . At the same time, there are views within some contemplative traditions that such experiences can be utilized with wisdom and compassion by experienced masters, and some highly respected practitioners of contemplative traditions have encouraged more research on such domains.”

Overall, the authors of this paper argue that, more than side effects, all these experiences “may be crucial to people’s psychological and spiritual development.” One hopes that their call for further scientific research in these areas is heard.