Category: Recent Publications


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

Antonio Leon, who I know via email, presents in this book, Sessões de Ectoplasmia: Experimentos com Ectoplasma na França de 1920 no Instituto de Metapsíquica Internacional [Ectoplasm Seances: Experiments with Ectoplasm in France in the 1920s at the International Metapsychic Institute] (Epígrafe, 2019) a study of ectoplasmic experiments conducted in France at the Institut Métapsychique International. He has a masters degree and a doctorate in history from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

Antonio Leon

The book focuses on studies by Gustave Geley and others with the famous mediums Eva C., Franek Kluski, and Jean Guzik.

Materialized Head with Eva C. and Moulds of Materialized Hands with Franek Kluski

Table of Contents

  1. Background of the Foundation [of ] IMI]
  2. The Context of Ectoplasm in the Decade of 1920
  3. Eva Carriere
  4. M. Franck Kluski
  5. Jean Guzik
  6. Final Considerations

Appendix A: Letter of Rocco Santoliquido to Charles Richet – October 3, 1918

Appendix B: Letter of Oliver Lodge to Charles Richet – October 16, 1918

Appendix C: Letter of Rocco Santoliquido to Charles Richet – November 6, 1918

Appendix D: Decree of Recognition of the Institut Metapsychique as a Public Utility

                          Interview

Can you give a brief summary of the book?

The book aims to be a reconstruction of the institutional history of the Institut Métapsychique International (IMI), based on ectoplasm experiments conducted by the Institut in the 1920s and by its predecessor Gustav Geley’s laboratory, located at the Suffren Avenue in 1918. This study suggests the existence, in that period, of two schools of metapsychique, the French School and the English School. Its objective is to question the veracity of the experiments and, based on primary sources, identify if there was any evidence of fraud. This paper also aims to understand the reasons for the subsequent decrease in research on ectoplasm. The applied methodology analysed primary sources such as letters, documents, speeches, magazines and books from that time. The results pointed out two metapsychique schools, the French one linked to the phenomena called objective, and the English one linked to the phenomena called subjective or intellectual.

Gustave Geley

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

I am a psychologist by profession. I carried out historical and epistemological research in parapsychology and anomalous phenomena during my master and PhD degrees in the Program of History of Science and Techniques and Epistemology the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

What motivated you to write this book?

My interest in developing this study started with a seed planted in my early childhood observing the work done by both my paternal and maternal grandmothers. Both were highly respected as healing mediums at the time they worked. Sylvia de Oliveira Leon, my paternal grandmother, once had an article written about her deeds as a medium in a widely circulated magazine called “Fatos e Fotos” in the 1970s. About the same time, she wrote a series of books of various themes under the same title: “Nós a Vocês, Obreiros Mediúnicos Grandeza Astral” (1971). Zélia de Carvalho Sucena, my maternal grandmother, recognized as a healing medium, was studied by some American researchers, including Lindsay Hale, a professor at the University of Texas, who mentions Zélia in his book published in 2009. Throughout my childhood and youth talking about paranormality, parapsychism and the use of energies was part of my routine. At the beginning of adulthood I had contact with the books of researchers with a scientific approach such as Charles Tart, Charles Richet, Waldo Vieira, and was determined to go deeper into the study of parapsychology from a scientific perspective. In my book I opted to view the 1920s through a magnifying glass, in Paris, and at the Institut Métapsychique International (IMI). At that place and time the investment in research on ectoplasm was paramount and highly regarded by researchers interested in the subject in question. My desire was to delve deep into the primary sources, not only through research, but also to feel what that period was like and what actually happened back then.

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

I think that historical research is important so that we can understand what truly happened in the past. My main objective was to research the ectoplasmic experiments carried out during the 1920s, in France at the Institut Métapsychique International (IMI). By that I mean, to investigate their experiments, their organization, their care to avoid fraud, their control procedures, their phenomena, their description and also who the mediums and researchers were involved in the whole process. My goal was to verify the various aspects that permeated the experiments in the 1920s, to explore the values and rules in research on ectoplasm as well as the context in which the experiments were inserted. Somewhat quoting Latour (1987), I felt like opening the black box of these experiments.

Jean Guzik

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

Psychologist David Vernon has just published an overview of parapsychology entitled Dark Cognition: Evidence for Psi and Its Implications for Consciousness (Routledge, 2020). David used to be the editor of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, and is the author of Human Potential: Exploring Techniques Used to Enhance Human Performance (Routledge, 2009). He is currently Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Canterbury Christ Church University.

David Vernon

According to the publisher’s website: “David Vernon provides essential coverage of information and evidence for a variety of anomalous psi phenomena, calling for a paradigm shift in how we view consciousness: from seeing it as something solely reliant on the brain to something that is enigmatic, fundamental and all pervasive. The book examines the nature of psi research showing that, despite claims to the contrary, it is clearly a scientific endeavour . . . [that has] significant implications for our understanding of consciousness.”

Here is the table of contents.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Psi as science

3. Telepathy and scopaesthesia

4. Clairvoyance and remote viewing

5. Precognition

6. Psychokinesis

7. Fields of consciousness

8. Energy healing

9. Out of body experiences

10. Near death experiences

11. Post death phenomena

12. Implications for consciousness

Interview

Can you give a brief summary of the book? 

In this book I examine the nature of psi research showing that, despite claims to the contrary, it is clearly a scientific endeavour. Following this the book explores evidence from a range of topics, including, telepathy and scopaesthesia, clairvoyance and remote viewing, precognition, psychokinesis, fields of consciousness, energy healing, out of body experiences, near death experiences and post death phenomena. Each of these areas provide some interesting and useful results, clearly showing that something unusual is occurring. Though precisely what this is, or how and why such effects occur, remains at present an intriguing mystery. Importantly, the prevailing view of consciousness, as an emergent phenomenon of brain activity, completely fails to account for such findings. Hence, based on evidence outlined in the book, I argue that to understand consciousness a paradigm shift is needed. One that moves consciousness away from being solely reliant on the brain to a view of consciousness that is something more fundamental and all pervasive.  

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

I’m currently working as a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Canterbury Christ Church University in the UK. I have a background in cognitive neuroscience and have conducted research across a range of areas including memory, peak performance, electroencephalographic biofeedback and creativity. However, I’ve always had an interest in consciousness and psi and a few years ago decided to come out of the closet (scientifically speaking) and focus on these issues more fully and explicitly. I began by exploring the retroactive facilitation effects reported by Daryl Bem and since then have been exploring scopaesthesia, telepathy using virtual reality and morphic resonance effects. Given my interest I was also keen to get involved in the field and learn more which led me to become a Board Member of the Parapsychological Association and a Council Member of the Society for Psychical Research, which also involved me spending two years working as Editor of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.  

What motivated you to write this book? 

Following the principle of Docendo discimus, which generally means ‘by teaching we learn’, I decided to put together a final year option module on the undergraduate programme at my University that explored anomalous cognition. I wasn’t sure how popular this would be but I’m quite chuffed that it is now in its third year and I have about sixty final year undergraduates signed up. The contents of the book came from these lectures and it will now be the core text for the students on this module.   

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

I think the book will be an indispensable source of information and evidence for anyone wishing to obtain a good understanding of anomalous psi phenomena. However, more than this, the three pre-conceived ideas or beliefs that I’m always faced with when lecturing the undergraduates about this are: 

  1. Psi is pseudoscience and not scientific 
  2. There is no evidence for psi  
  3. So what. . . what does it matter?  

Hence, I wanted the book to clearly address these issues by showing that not only is psi research scientific but that it is often more robust and rigorous than other areas of psychology. That, when one takes the time to look, there is in fact a plethora of empirical support for a whole range of anomalous phenomena. And the implications of this are so important that it is likely to lead to a paradigm shift with regards to the way we think about consciousness.   

My hope is that it will stimulate the interest of anyone who reads it and open their minds to new possibilities. 

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

Another one of my articles was just published. This one is about nineteenth century ideas of mediumship, the unconscious mind, and dissociation. Here is the title and abstract:

Dissociation and the Unconscious Mind: Nineteenth-Century Perspectives on Mediumship.

Journal of Scientific Exploration, Vol. 34, No. 3, pp. 537–596, 2020.

Abstract

“There is a long history of discussions of mediumship as related to dissociation and the unconscious mind during the nineteenth century. After an overview of relevant ideas and observations from the mesmeric, hypnosis, and spiritualistic literatures, I focus on the writings of Jules Baillarger, Alfred Binet, Paul Blocq, Théodore Flournoy, Jules Héricourt, William James, Pierre Janet, Ambroise August Liébeault, Frederic W. H. Myers, Julian Ochorowicz, Charles Richet, Hippolyte Taine, Paul Tascher, and Edouard von Hartmann. While some of their ideas reduced mediumship solely to intra-psychic processes, others considered as well veridical phenomena. The speculations of these individuals, involving personation, and different memory states, were part of a general interest in the unconscious mind, and in automatisms, hysteria, and hypnosis during the period in question. Similar ideas continued into the twentieth century.”

I wrote in the introduction that much of what I discuss is not cited by current students of dissociation and mediumship. Consequently, I hope to make this material “more available, and to provide some historical context to current ideas on the subject with additional references . . . Readers should be aware that most of the discussions about the topic during the nineteenth century were attempts to reduce mediumship to psychological, physiological, and medical ideas. In addition, much of what I discuss as examples of dissociation was not seen as such by believers in the spiritual interpretation of mediumship.”

Before I summarize the ideas of the individuals mentioned in the abstract I present a general introduction  to nineteenth century observations of dissociation. This has sections about trances and secondary personalities, and about mediumship.

Mediumship Morgan

One of the individuals discussed, French historian and critic Hippolyte Taine, wrote that “spiritist manifestations themselves put us on the path of discovery, showing us the coexistence at the same time, in the same individual, of two thoughts, two wills, two different actions, one of which is conscious, the other of which he is unaware of and which he attributes to invisible beings. The human brain is then a theatre in which different plays are performed at the same time . . . [There is a] a doubling of the self, the simultaneous presence of two series of parallel and independent ideas, two centers of action . . . juxtaposed in the same brain, each with its own work and each with different work, one on stage and the other behind the scenes, the second as complete as the first, since, alone and out of sight of each other, they build ideas followed and linked with phrases and related sentences which the other has no part of.” (H. Taine, (1878). De l’intelligence [About intelligence] (Vol. 1, 3rd rev. ed.). Hachette, pp. 16-17).

Hippolyte Taine - Wikipedia
Hippolyte Taine

While some, such as Jules Baillarger, Alfred Binet, and Pierre Janet, did not discuss veridical aspects of mediumship, others did. The latter included Théodore Flournoy, William James, and Frederic W. H. Myers.

Alfred Binet | Biography & Contributions | Britannica
Alfred Binet
File:Pierre Janet Marie Felix.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Pierre Janet
William James | Life, Works, Influence, & Facts | Britannica
William James

I stated in the conclusion: “To a great extent discussions of nineteenth century mediumship in terms of dissociation, and the unconscious regions of the mind, were part of a common trend to reduce unusual phenomena to known concepts of medicine and psychology . . .” But there were different degrees of reductionism. Some, more consistent with the scientific establishment, only included dissociation (with manifestations such as changes of personality and state-specific memory), while others combined both dissociation and the supernormal.”

“Myers was an example of a student of mediumship who not only discussed dissociative aspects of mediums’ performances, but also believed there was evidence to accept that mediums produced veridical phenomena, such as information about sitters that could not be accounted for by conventional mechanisms. But he went beyond this. In his view the subliminal self-manifesting via dissociative means and other ways was the real self, and one that was not material, so it was the part that would survive bodily death . . . His ideas were controversial, not only for their emphasis on veridical cases, but because at the time many speculations about the unconscious emphasized pathological processes.”

Frederic William Henry Myers by William Clarke Wontner.jpg
Frederic W.H. Myers

Myers, however, was not typical, since most students of dissociation ignored the supernormal. “In fact this prejudice, a problem with which psychical researchers still have to contend with today, led to the rejection of work that had the potential of enlarging conceptions of dissociation.”

Although I emphasize the nineteenth century in the paper, in the conclusion I briefly present some example of twentieth century speculations. Among those interested in veridical mediumship I mention the writings of Théodore Flournoy, Traugott Konstantin Oesterreich, and Eleanor Sidgwick.

Traugott Konstantin Oesterreich
Tom Ruffles: Alice Johnson, Eric Dingwall, and their copy of Tertium Quid
Eleanor M. Sidgwick

I concluded: “We need to keep in mind that, in addition to dissociation, and the general workings of the unconscious mind, there are probably several other factors influencing mediumship . . . In the meantime, we would do well to remember that the ideas presented in this article belong to the various attempts—be they from psychical research, psychiatry, psychology, or Spiritualism—to explore the human mind empirically. For psychological science, ideas about mediumship were one more strand supporting the development of concepts about secondary mental states, what William James . . . referred to as the ‘hidden self.’ ”

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

Steve Braude just published a new book, Dangerous Pursuits: Mediumship, Mind, and Music (Anomalist Books, 2020). I have known Steve for many years, I think we met some time in the 1980s in one of the conventions of the Parapsychological Association. Those of you that do not know him, may want to read the statement about him in Amazon: “Stephen E. Braude is Emeritus Professor and former Chair of Philosophy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, and Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Scientific Exploration. Prof. Braude is the recipient of numerous grants, fellowships, and awards, including Research Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the BIAL Foundation in Portugal, as well as the Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Society for the Study of Dissociation, and the F.W.H. Myers Memorial Medal from the Society for Psychical Research. He has published six other books and more than 100 book chapters and essays in philosophical and scientific journals.”

Stephen E. Braude

Stephen E. Braude

Braude Dangerous Pursuits

Steve offers readers here a collection of essays on various matters, among them the fear of psi, the mediumship of D.D. Home, Carlos Mirabelli, and Kai Mugge, and critiques of terminology in parapsychology and the concept of super-psi. He writes in the preface: “The title of this collection, Dangerous Pursuits, is a wry allusion to my obstacle-strewn career path over the past several decades—to the vindictive hostility, ridicule, and condescension I’ve encountered (both inside and outside the academy) for my decision to look carefully at the data and theoretical issues of parapsychology. I’ve discussed elsewhere how that career decision affected me professionally, and I needn’t review the details again here. I’ll just note that pursuing the paranormal in an academic environment is not for the timid, no matter how responsibly and carefully it’s conducted. And it certainly won’t put one on a fast track to professional success or prominence—that is, unless one becomes a vocal skeptic (or debunker).”

Here is the table of contents:

Preface

1.The Fear of Psi

2. Investigations of the Felix Experimental Group

3. Follow-Up Investigation of the Felix Circle

4. The Mediumship of Carlos Mirabelli

5. A Case Study in Shoddy Skepticism

6. Reflections on Super Psi

7. Making Sense of Mental Mediumship

8. Can the Deceased Have a Perceptual Point of View?

9. A Grumpy Guide to Parapsychology’s Terminological Blunders

10. A Peircing Examination of the Paranormal

11. Multiple Personality and the Structure of the Self

12. The Language of Jazz Improvisation

Interview

Can you give a brief summary of the book?

Dangerous Pursuits is a collection of mostly-related essays, similar in some respects to my book that preceded it: Crimes of Reason. What the two books have in common is that (for the most part) they’re updates and revisions (hopefully substantially improved versions!) of material I’ve produced over several decades. So both books provided me with an opportunity to make what I feel are some important theoretical and empirical points in their most compelling and complete forms. This is one of the benefits of being a chronologically-challenged and seasoned (if not overcooked) psi researcher. I’ve had the multiple luxuries of hindsight, additional time to reflect and to refine my views, and (maybe most important) publishers allowing me the opportunity for this kind of do-over. If (as I believe) the material matters, then it also matters to get things right, and especially in the case of Dangerous Pursuits, to strip away some professional jargon and make some of the material more widely accessible than it was originally.    

However Dangerous Pursuits covers different topics from Crimes of Reason. The new book’s focus is on mediumship, both mental and physical, and it concentrates heavily on several issues: (1) The fear of psi, among both researchers and laypersons, along with the all too common dishonest and cowardly responses to it, (2) the difficulty (if not impossibility) of plausibly assigning any limits to the range, sophistication, refinement, or magnitude of psi functioning, and (3) the difficulty (if not impossibility) of ruling out living-agent psi in cases suggesting postmortem survival. Along the way I spend considerable time surveying some very interesting examples of ostensible physical mediumship, including the cases of D.D. Home, Carlos Mirabelli, and my extended hands-on study of Kai Mügge and the Felix Circle. The Mügge case, by the way, afforded me the opportunity to get deeply into the weeds about how to handle and evaluate a case combining apparently genuine and impressive PK with undoubted fraud. And for dessert, I add an essay on jazz improvisation. 

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

I’ve been particularly interested in, and have investigated, mediumship and macro-PK since the late 1970s. But the best way to answer this question is to quote shamelessly from my answer to a similar question the last time you interviewed me.

   What corrupted me initially was a table-tilting session in my home while I was in graduate school during the mid 1960s. It impressed me profoundly, but I was both sensible and cowardly enough to conceal this fact from my mentors, finish my PhD, get a job, establish a decent reputation doing mainstream work in philosophical logic and the philosophy of time, and finally get tenure. I realized then that if I was an honest intellect I needed to confront my table-tilting experience, and learn as much as I could about parapsychology and what other philosophers (including some major figures) have had to say about it. So it wouldn’t be quite right to trace my interest back to those days in grad school, because I really put the whole subject out of mind until years later, when–liberated by tenure–I had the freedom to reflect on that earlier experience and immerse myself in the literature.

   When I started to study the evidence for psi, I dealt first with just the laboratory evidence (since I was still in the grip of the illusion that it was the strongest and most persuasive evidence available). The result of that effort was my book ESP and Psychokinesis. By the time that was done, I’d already starting absorbing the evidence from physical and mental mediumship and realized how much better it was than even many parapsychologists realized. That’s why I dealt with macro-PK and physical mediumship in my next book, The Limits of Influence. From there I moved on to mental mediumship and started to consider what I wanted to say about the topic of survival. But I knew also that people suffering from multiple personality disorder (now called dissociative identity disorder) behaved in ways that in many respects resembled the behavior of mental mediums. So I realized I couldn’t do a responsible job of confronting the evidence for survival without knowing more about the relevant areas of abnormal psychology and psychopathology. So I took a philosophically rewarding detour, studied the history of hypnosis and psychiatry, and became very familiar with MPD research and those conducting the research. This detour also allowed me to grapple further with some important issues in the philosophy of mind which I’d begun addressing in my first book (in particular, the failures of mechanistic analyses of the mental). Eventually, all this work led to my writing my book on multiplicity and dissociation, First Person Plural. By that time, I was sufficiently challenged chronologically for a book on survival to be more than appropriate, and I eventually wrote Immortal Remains.

Then I decided to write a kind of memoir, describing my most interesting–but not necessarily my most successful–PK investigations. That resulted in my book The Gold Leaf Lady. After that, I produced my first collection of essays, with revised and updated versions of several papers I’ve considered to be among my best, and supplemented with a couple of new essays written specifically for that volume. And that opus was Crimes of Reason. Now, as a semi-retired person (I’m still busy as Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Scientific Exploration), I still chase macro-PK cases when I can drum up the financial support.

What motivated you to write this book?

After Crimes of Reason was written, I thought I was all booked out–done with big projects. But after a while, I realized that I was unsatisfied with what I’d left in print about a bunch of other topics. Years of thinking about those topics had made me see how I’d missed certain subtleties, or neglected points I now see as important, or how I could have made certain arguments more compelling and clear. That’s what led to Dangerous Pursuits, and so now I feel again that I’m all booked out–unless I write a projected opus on how cats spend their time.

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

For one thing, I hope to expand the audience for the material. The essays originally appeared either in specialist academic venues or journals that only hard-core students of serious psi research are likely to read. And I believe the issues I confront are not only important for our understanding of the world we live in, but inherently fascinating and often mind-boggling. For example, it’s hard not to be captivated by first-hand accounts of Carlos Mirabelli apparently materializing, in bright light, fully-formed human figures, which attending physicians determine to be functioning human organisms, but which then melt into the floor or dissolve in the physicians’ grasp.

Many psi researchers recoil at this kind of material and oppose it with what they know (or should know) to be poorly-reasoned arguments about the alleged unreliability of human testimony or the possibility of mass hallucination or hypnosis. I argue in the book that these lame responses are familiar manifestations of the fear of psi, and specifically, the fear that we might have to accept something close to the “magical” world view embraced by many so-called “primitive” or undeveloped cultures. It’s a view according to which we might have to really deal with things such as hexing or the “evil eye”, and in which our vagrant thoughts might have lethal or malevolent consequences. We might really have to worry about being responsible for a range of calamities for which we’d much rather be mere bystanders. These issues are what’s really at stake when you start thinking clearly and honestly about the implications of the data–all the data, and not just straitjacketed manifestations of psi in formal experiments. Now that I think of it, perhaps that’s the unifying thread in Dangerous Pursuits

I’d just like to add that, thanks to Carlos, I now realize I omitted an important category from the new book’s index: sex & chutney. (See Chapter 9).

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.”