Category: Recent Publications


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

A Special issue of the journal Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, Practice, edited by Steven Jay Lynn, is entitled “Anomalous, Exceptional, and Non-Ordinary Experiences: Expanding the Boundaries of Psychological Science” (2017, vol. 4, No. 1).

In the abstract of his editorial Steven Jay Lynn states “that readers of the current issue will find articles that fulfill an important mission of the journal: to devote coverage to the study of intriguing phenomena and experiences long considered to lie outside the boundaries of mainstream scientific research. Specifically, the articles span research and theory relevant to anomalous, exceptional, and nonordinary experiences (e.g., mystical experiences, near-death experiences, extreme sports experiences), which can exert a transformative and longstanding salutary impact on the individual.”

For a list of the articles in the issue, and their abstracts, click here.

Psychology of Consciousness

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

The last issue of the Journal of Scientific Exploration has a report authored by Alejandro Parra and Paola Giménez Amarilla entitled “Anomalous/Paranormal Experiences Reported by Nurses in Relation to Their Patients in Hospitals” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2017, 31, 1–28).

Alejandro Parra

Alejandro Parra

Paola Gimenez Amarilla

Paola Giménez Amarilla

Here is the abstract:

“Using existing reports of Anomalous/Paranormal Experiences (APE) by nurses in hospital and health center settings, the aim was to determine the extent of occurrence of certain types of anomalous perceptual experiences and their relationship to the nurses’ job stress, proneness to hallucination, and psychological absorption. From the total number of 130 participants recruited from nursing departments, we received 100 usable questionnaires from eight hospitals and health centers in Argentina. Using the Anomalous/Paranormal Experiences in Nurse & Health Workers Survey (which measures frequency of paranormal/anomalous experiences) (see Appendix), 54 experiencer nurses (APE) and 46 control (non-experiencer nurses) were reclustered. All of them also filled out the Maslach Burnout Inventory, the Hallucinations Experiences Questionnaire, and the Tellegen Absorption Scale. While nurses reporting such experiences did not tend to experience greater job stress, those who reported a combination of hallucination perceptual experiences and a high level of psychological absorption tended to score higher for anomalous/paranormal experiences compared with those who did not report such experiences.”

The authors write in their conclusion:

“The aim of this study was to determine the degree of occurrence of certain unusual perceptual experiences in hospital settings and their relationship to job stress and psychological absorption. The study was based on a comparison of the degree of job stress and absorption in nurses having these experiences with nurses not having these experiences. Results showed that of the 100 nurses surveyed, 55 of them reported having had at least one anomalous experience in the hospital setting, the most common being the feeling of ‘presences,’ hearing strange noises, voices, or dialogues, noticing the tears or groans of patients, and intuitively ‘knowing’ what disease patients have.”

“In this study, nurses who reported these experiences tended to score higher on psychological absorption . . . Absorption may also indicate a more habitual use of or recurrent desire to engage in absorbed mental activity, such that habitually poor reality monitoring becomes an enduring aspect of one’s cognitive style. Although the nurses who had APEs tended to show a higher proneness to hallucinate and scored higher in the six subscales on hallucination, this need not mean that all APEs are pure hallucinatory fantasies produced by job stress, since some could still be potentially veridical . . .”

“Hence, in the context of this study, the distinction between purely subjective experiences and those considered paranormal (veridical APE) is irrelevant. Even veridical experiences may depend on the same psychological predispositional factors as do non-veridical experiences . . .”

“Approximately 24% of the 100 respondents knew of such experiences by others, but had not had any themselves. The most common experiences reported by patients were near-death experiences (NDE, 19%). About 18% also mentioned an anomalous recovery through a religious intervention (18%) . . . In relation to anomalous experiences with children (15%), these experiences in general play an adaptive and protective function, which can decrease the level of anxiety around death and loss, and can relieve tension related to a memory . . .”

“Generally speaking, the information that most people have about these experiences and their association with psychiatric disorders leads to prejudice and resistance to providing data. Thus there are a number of drawbacks connected with this research in hospital settings as they are conservative institutions, unlikely to be open about their population and even more so with respect to providing information relating to the subject of this investigation. The nurses did reveal their personal and professional experiences and those of their patients, noting that they considered experiences of paranormal phenomena within a hospital setting not to be infrequent or unexpected. They were not frightened by their patients’ experiences, or their own, and exhibited a quiet confidence in the reality of the experiences for themselves and the dying person. Acceptance of these experiences, without interpretation or explanation, characterized their responses. By reassuring them that the occurrence of paranormal phenomena was not uncommon and was often comforting to the dying person, we may assist nurses to be instrumental in normalizing a potentially misunderstood and frightening experience.”

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

I recently reviewed in an article some old ideas about psychic phenomena and the brain hemispheres. This was an article entitled: “Psychic Phenomena and the Brain Hemispheres: Some nineteenth-century publications” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2016, 30, 559–585; available from the author carlos@theazire.org).

In the article I summarize the ideas of various authors, among them Catherine Crowe,     F.W.H. Myers, and Cesare Lombroso. They wrote in a historical context. As I stated in the paper:

“The rapid development of neurology in the Nineteenth Century led to an interest in physiological explanations for psychic phenomena and related psychological anomalies such as mediumistic and hypnotic trance, and hysterical dissociation . . . Among the hypotheses presented to explain reports of alleged psychic phenomena, particularly those reported to occur in the presence of mediums, one group of physicians offered a variety of neurologically and psychophysiologically based notions.”

fuller-view-of-the-brain-in-architecture-of-the-brain-1896

Photo of Brain, in W. Fuller, Architecture of the Brain (1896)

These developments included what was learned about localization of sensory and motor functions. Particularly important was the work about aphasia (see Reader in the History of Aphasia  and this article.

brocca-aphasia-paper-original-first-page

Paul Broca, “Remarques sur le Siège de la Faculté du Langage Articulé, Suivies d’une Observation d’Aphémie (Perte de la Parole)” [Comments About the Seat of the Faculty of Articulated Language, Followed by an Observation of Aphemia (Loss of Speech)]. Bulletin de la Société Anatomique de Paris, 1861, 36, 330-357.

bastian-treatise-aphasia

bastian-drawing-treatise-aphasia

Aphasia Diagram from Bastian’s Book (Above)

“Interest in the brain and in the functions of the hemispheres also flourished during these times. Although some researchers defended a unitary or an equipotential view of the functions of the cerebral cortex . . . , the emphasis on localization began to be more widely accepted with the development of clinical and experimental neurology . . .”

In spite of much controversy, the idea of hemispheric dominance developed, leading to the “acceptance of the concept of left hemispheric dominance and the right hemisphere as the minor one . . . However, and regardless of dominance, the concept of duality of the brain was a popular subject for discussion during the Nineteenth Century”, as seen in speculations about education, disease and other topics. A famous early work of the period was Arthur Ladbroke Wigan’s A New View of Insanity: The Duality of the Mind  (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1844).

 wigan-a-new-view-of-insanity

English novelist Catherine Crowe was familiar with Wigan’s ideas but, as I wrote, she rejected his “speculations about déjà vu and pointed out that presentiments of future things were particularly difficult to explain in this way.” Crowe stated: “The theory of one-half of the brain in a negative state, serving as a mirror to the other half, if admitted at all, may answer as well, or better, for those waking presentiments, than for clear-seeing in dreams.” She wrote about this in her famous book The Night-Side of Nature (London: T.C. Newby, 1848, Vol. 1).

catherine-crowe

Catherine Crowe

crowe-night-side-of-nature

Myers also wrote about the topic in relation to automatic writing. “He considered the similarities between ‘supernormal’ automatic writing and the ‘writing performed by patients who have . . . only the partially untrained half of the brain to rely on,—those centres which habitually initiate the graphic energy having been destroyed or rendered temporarily useless by accident or disease’. . . This is what many clinicians called agraphia, but which Myers preferred to call agraphy. In making this comparison, Myers pointed out that in both conditions the subject was occasionally unable to write and that sometimes repetition of letters or senseless words appeared. Transposition of letters and mirror writing were also considered as pointers to right-hemispheric action in writing problems . . .”

by Eveleen Myers (nÈe Tennant), albumen print, late 1890s

Frederic W.H. Myers

myers-automatic-writing-pspr-1885

F.W.H. Myers, “Automatic Writing—II.” by Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1885, 3, 1–63.

These are only some of Myers ideas. His writings have much more detail, which is also the case with other writers I will not discuss here who touched on the relationship between the hemispheres and mediumship.

I concluded:

“The ideas discussed here may be considered an interesting but forgotten chapter of the history of hemispheric functions and attempts to explain or find physiological correlates of psychic phenomena. They were certainly influenced by the Nineteenth Century interest in finding specific cerebral localizations of diverse functions, and particularly by concepts and discussions on the duality of the brain . . .  While these ideas may be interpreted as part of the trend of Nineteenth Century science to conceptualize the phenomena of consciousness in natural terms, it was also an example of how spiritualists and psychical researchers appropriated neurological concepts as part of the workings of the supernormal . . . Of the examples discussed here, Myers is of special interest in that he attempted to put his speculations into the context of knowledge of aphasia and agraphia in the 1880s.”

 

 

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

Here is a new article about conceptual aspects of research:

Alexander Moreira-Almeida and Francisco Lotufo-Neto, “Methodological Guidelines to Investigate Altered States of Consciousness and Anomalous Experiences”   (International Review of Psychiatry, 2017, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09540261.2017.1285555).

alexander-moreira-almeida-2

Alexander Moreira-Almeida

francisco-lotufo-neto

Francisco Lotufo Neto

Here is the abstract:

“Anomalous experiences (AE) (uncommon experiences or one that is believed to deviate from the usually accepted explanations of reality: hallucinations, synesthesia, experiences interpreted as telepathic…) and altered states of consciousness (ASC) have been described in all societies of all ages. Even so, scientists have long neglected the studies on this theme. To study AE and ASC is not necessary to share the beliefs we explore, they can be investigated as subjective experiences and correlated with other data, like any other human experience. This article presents some methodological guidelines to investigate these experiences, among them: to avoid dogmatic prejudice and to ‘pathologize’ the unusual; the value of a theory and a comprehensive literature review; to utilize a variety of criteria for pathology and normality; the investigation of clinical and non-clinical populations; development of new appropriate research instruments; to be careful to choose the wording to describe the AE; to distinguished the lived experience from its interpretations; to take into account the role of culture; to evaluate the validity and reliability of reports and, last but not least, creativity and diversity in choosing methods.”

 

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

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

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

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

The authors write:

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

Poltergeist Case

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

Here is a recent report of a poltergeist case.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wrote at the end of the paper:

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

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

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

 

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

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

joseph-maxwell-profile-1895

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

 

Here is the abstract:

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

maxwell-les-phenomenes-psychiques-1903

maxwell-metapsychical-phenomena

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

ansel-bourne

Ansel Bourne

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

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

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

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

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

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

william-james-4

William James

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

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

maxwell-metapsychical-phenomena

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Dr. Adam Crabtree

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

diana-espirito-santo

Dr. Diana Espirito Santo

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

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

leonora-piper-4

Leonora E. Piper

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

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

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

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

fernando-pessoa

Fernando Pessoa

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

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

elizabeth-desperance

Elizabeth d’Espérance

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

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

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

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

bettina-schmidt-2

Dr. Bettina Schmidt

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

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

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Helene Preiswerk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Titus Rivas

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

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What motivated you to write this book?

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

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

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

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

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

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