Latest Entries »

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

Here is a blog by Nancy L. Zingrone about free online lectures about various aspects of survival of death sponsored by the Parapsychology Foundation.

Nancy Zingrone 2019

Nancy L. Zingrone

Enrollment Open Now: ParaMOOC1029

Nancy L. Zingrone, PhD, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

The Parapsychology Research and Education free online course is now open for enrollment. The schedule has been restructured and the course now has a specific topic, “Survival of Death and Parapsychology.” Enrollment for the course opened on March 21st and will close on May 31st. To enroll click here and to see a quick tutorial about enrolling click here (the academy on the social media teaching platform, WizIQ, has changed somewhat this year). The first live session will be held on Saturday April 6th and the last live session will be held on Sunday May 19th. All live sessions will take place on Saturdays and Sundays, including the discussion forums, with most of them scheduled for noon Eastern.

As usual, folks who enroll in the course will have access to the course materials and the recordings of the live sessions at least until April of 2020. All of the substantive lectures will be published to the Parapsychology Foundation’s YouTube channel (barring technical difficulties that preclude that), and will roll out over the next couple of years, along with the remnant of lectures from the previous years.

Begun in 2015 by Carlos and I, the ParaMOOC enrolled over 1000 people in its first year, and the effort was supported by a number of donors including the Parapsychology Foundation, Natasha and Jonathan Chisdes of Chizfilm.com as well as Dr. Phil Morse who is one of this year’s speakers. From 2016 through this year, with over 300 individuals enrolling each year (well so far I think we have around 48, so plenty of room in the course, folks!), the Parapsychology Foundation took over all of the funding, enabling Carlos and I to continue to manage a large course with many speakers per week, and a great deal of work both during the course and after with the most active participants. As we and the Parapsychology Foundation faced a downturn in the economic feasibility of such a big endeavor this year, Carlos and I began to think about not only the content, but the scope. After four years of casting a wide net over the areas of study the field encompasses, we began to think that a thematic MOOC was in order, hence the focus on survival.

In ParaMOOC 2017, we opened a few of the live sessions to anybody who wanted to attend, and because that was appreciated by the attendees, the speakers and their network of colleagues and friends, we decided to open all of the live sessions to the public in 2018. We’ll be continuing that policy this year. Only enrollees are eligible for certificates, however.

As for the faculty members, from the beginning of the ParaMOOC series, Carlos, who has always taken the lead on faculty recruitment, wanted to make sure that speakers were almost always active researchers or theorists or others engaged in some important activity for the promotion of serious parapsychological research. The vast majority of past and present speakers hold doctoral degrees in their areas, or on occasion, have been physicians who also conducted research, or post-graduate students. And we have also included a couple of extraordinary individuals without advanced degrees who have a clear reputation for engaging in high level research. Our hope was to provide attendees with the opportunity to interact with the faculty, raising questions and making comments, and to provide the faculty with the opportunity to craft a lecture or lectures of a length that was unavailable to them at the conferences and other academic and scientific events. To be honest, we’ve been very lucky to have had so many excellent speakers agree to speak and some, more than once!

The following are the ParaMOOC2019 faculty and their specific topics:

Dr Carlos S Alvarado, the co-director of The AZIRE, an online project of Alvarado, Zingrone & Associates, and a Research Fellow at the Parapsychology Foundation (USA). Dr Alvarado will present “Survival of Death and the Development of Parapsychology” on Sunday, April the 7th, and “European Interest in Survival of Death: The Case of Ernesto Bozzano” on Saturday, April 13th.

Carlos S. Alvarado 9jpg

Carlos S. Alvarado

Dr Janice Miner Holden, editor of the Journal of Near Death Studies, and Professor of Counseling Education at the University of North Texas (USA), will present “Near-Death Experiences and the Survival of Physical Death” on Sunday, April 14th.

Jan Holden

Janice M. Holden

Dr Phil Morse, retired Professor Emeritus of Education at the State University of New York at Fredonia (USA), will present “The Amazing, Unimpeachable Mediumship of Leonora Piper,” on Saturday, April 20th.

Phil Morse

Phil Morse

Dr Masayuki Ohkado, Professor in the Graduate School of Global Humanics and Faculty of General Education of Chubu University (Japan), will present “How Real are Past Life Experiences under Hypnosis?”, on Saturday, April 27th.

Ohkado Masayiki 2

Masayuki Ohkado

Dr Alejandro Parra, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Psychology of the Universidad Abierta Interamericana (Argentina), will present “Unusual perceptual experiences in hospital settings and anomalous experiences in nurses” on Sunday, April 28th.

Alejandro Parra 6

Alejandro Parra

Dr Julie Beischel, co-founder and director of Windbridge Research Center (USA), will present “The Four Types of After-Death Communication Experiences (ADCs),” on Saturday, May 4th  

SONY DSC

Julie Beischel

Dr Callum E. Cooper, Instructor in Psychology at the University of Northhampton (UK) will present “Apparitions and Other Experiences of the Bereaved,” on Sunday, May 5th.

Callum Cooper - BSc Psychology

Callum Cooper

Dr Alexander Moreira-Almeida, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Federal University of Juiz de Fora (Brazil), will present “Mind-Body Independence and Survival of Death,” on Saturday, May 11th.

Alexander Moreira Almeida 2

Alexander Moreira-Almeida

Dr Michael Nahm, researcher at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health (Germany), will present “The Unexpected Return of Mental Clarity before Death: Examples, Implications, and Future Research Perspectives of Terminal Lucidity Terminal Lucidity,” on Sunday, May 12th.

Michael Nahm

Michael Nahm

Steve Braude, Emeritus Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Maryland at Baltimore County, will present “Post-mortem Survival: The Central Issues” on Saturday, May 18th.

Steve Braude 4

Stephen E. Braude

And as always, additional materials, links to previously recorded lectures and YouTube videos, and tutorials will be included in the course. To embed the Google calendar for the course into your own calendar, click here.

We hope you’ll join us again this year. And keep an eye on the ParaMOOC playlist on the Parapsychology Foundation’s YouTube Channel as we’re going to continue to upload past presentations as we can.

Advertisements

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

Over the years I have seen Dr. Roger Nelson at various conventions of the Parapsychological Association and of the Society for Scientific Exploration, and had the pleasure of publishing an interview with him in this blog in 2014. During that period he worked at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research  laboratory and presented many papers reporting experiments about psychokinesis.

Roger Nelson 3

Roger Nelson

Roger held the position of Coordinator of Research at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory located at Princeton University (1980-2002). Since 1997 he has been the director of one of the most exciting research programs in parapsychology, the Global Consciousness Project, which is the topic of the book discussed here.

The book, Connected: The Emergence of Global Consciousness (Princeton, NJ: ICRL Press, 2019; available via Amazon), is about the development and results of  The Global Consciousness Project (see also a shorter article, a slide presentation, and a video), which postulates the possibility that human consciousness can interact with physical systems at a global level, when we respond synchronously to specific events, negative and positive.

Nelson Connected

As Roger has stated elsewhere: “The Global Consciousness Project . . . is an international collaboration of scientists and engineers that tests the claim, insisted on by sages throughout history, that there exists a unified field of human consciousness. The project looks for evidence that thoughts, emotions and perceptions may potentially cohere in response to major world events, producing detectable effects. Data collected from a worldwide network of random output devices has been found to show small but statistically significant deviations that suggest this is indeed the case.”

The book has 28 chapters that appear in four parts: Part 1 The Egg Story (chapters such as: Starting Points, Interconnections, Development, Encouraging Results); Part 2 The Instrument (Chapters such as: Intention Affect RNGs [Randon number generators], The FiedREG Experiment, The Egg Network, Suitable Measures); Part 3 The Results (Chapters such as: Terror Attacks and Wars, Natural Disasters, Compassion and Empathy, Modelling and Theory); and Part 4 Interpretation and Meaning (Chapters such as: Extracting Meaning, Implications of the Evidence, What We Can Do, Love to Earth).

Interview

Can you give a brief summary of the book?

Connected documents the Global Consciousness Project (GCP) in depth, including its history and sources, descriptions of technology and examples of results. More than enough technical and analytical detail, some discussion of notional explanations, and finally some chapters on interpretation and implications. It builds on research showing that human intention can change random number generator (RNG) behavior, and that group consciousness, when it is coherent and resonant, can change random sequences. A network of RNGs around the world was designed to ask whether we can see effects of a global consciousness responding to great events in the world. The answer suggests that when large numbers of people share emotions stimulated by major tragedies or great celebrations there is a small but meaningful effect on the GCP network. The implication that we are interconnected at an unconscious level poses the next question — what might happen if we work consciously to understand and strengthen these connections?

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

I’m a cognitive psychologist with long interest in “alternative” psychologies. I came to Princeton in 1980 to join the PEAR research group, to develop experiments in remote perception (RV) and mind-matter interaction (MMI). My interest in broader applications of the MMI technology led to “fieldREG” experiments studying group consciousness, and to the next level of integrated or shared consciousness effects in the Global Consciousness Project, which I created in 1997.

What motivated you to write this book?

The GCP is a major research project that I wanted to document in an accessible, relatively linear fashion. Its findings and implications offer insight into the extraordinary reach of human consciousness, and suggest that we are not only capable of but responsible for conscious evolution.

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

We are at a time in history when collaboration and cooperation are essential to address global issues. Millions of us understand that we must come together as one, and this book speaks of a potential to become a noosphere — a sheath of intelligence for the earth. Consciousness, as I wrote in the book. “is not just a secondary emanation from the brain, but instead is both part of and independent of the physical substrate of neurons and synapses protected by the skull. Mind has a real and participatory role in the world” (p. 12).

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

Modern discussions about the mediumship of D.D. Home typically focus on his physical phenomena (e.g., S. Braude, Daniel Dunglas Home. Psi Encyclopedia, 2016). These include raps, movement of objects, luminous effects, touches, materializations, and elongation and levitation of the mediums’s body. However, the authors of accounts of Home seances also describe phenomena that are seldom mentioned. These include accounts of trances and spirit communications, some of which were reported to take place via raps. Here are some examples.

HOME HOLDING BOOK

D.D. Home

HOME TESTED BY CROOKES 2

Home in Test Conducted by William Crookes

There are several interesting accounts of trances. In one of them it was stated: “Mr Home now passed into the trance state, and, rising from his seat, his eyes closed, his arms rigid and drawn across his chest, he walked to and fro; opening the door, he beckoned for the unseen friends to enter” (H.D. Jencken, Elongation of Mr. Home, with Measurements. Human Nature, 1869, 3, 138-141, p. 139).

In addition to Jencken, other writers described how Home used to walk around during trances, usually talking. Here is one account in which he did not talk: “Home now went into one of those strange trances in which he is unable to speak; he bandaged his eyes with a handkerchief, walked about the room a little, then brought the candle, two sheets of paper and a pencil, and placing them on our table, sat down; then spreading open one of the sheets he commenced writing the alphabet on it in large capital letters. He proceeded with a firm bold touch as far as the letter F, when his hand became violently tremulous, he went on to the letter L, the shaking of his fingers gradually increasing, when he made a gesture as if he could not proceed, and handed the paper and pencil to me. I finished the alphabet. He then, following the lines that I had made, traced over the letters R, S, T, U, V, W, with the same tremulous motion of his hand, and proceeded to decorate with leaves and flowers the letters A, G, S, T, U. He drew a cross in the letter U, a heart pendant on T, a star or double cross in S, an anchor in G, something resembling a bird in A, and marked the letters A and U with the figure 2” (Viscount Adare, Experiences in Spiritualism with Mr. D.D. Home. London: Thomas Scott, n.d. [1869], p. 129).

Adare also recorded an instance in which Home talked much, and physical phenomena also took place: “I was seated at the table in Home’s room at Ashley House writing; he was seated at the opposite side, reading; we heard raps upon the door; Home said ” Your grandfather has come in, do you not see him sitting in that chair yonder?” “I see no one,” I answered; “Which grandfather do you mean?” “Your father’s father; you will at any rate hear him.” I heard a sound as if some one sitting on the chair he had mentioned had put his foot on the ground. Home, while speaking, went into a trance. The chair moved very slowly up to the table (no one touching it) a distance of eight feet eleven inches. ‘He is moving the chair,’ Home said, ‘He is pleased to be able to do that, he says you never saw a much prettier manifestation than that; Ah! he has gone over there now.’ Another chair moved close up to me, a distance of about a foot. Home said ‘He is sitting in that chair near you; he has come because he wishes to speak to you; you are rather in difficulties he thinks.’ He then spoke to me about certain private matters. Presently Home said ‘Your mother does not wish you to think that she forgot you because she said so little about your marriage; she could not say more then, and after all what could she do more than pray God’s blessing upon you in this as she would in everything that you undertake, honestly, and with a desire to do that which was right. She has much more to say on the subject, but not now” (Adare, pp. 148-149).

Image result for adare experiences in spiritualism with mr. d.d. home

 

Like other mediums of his era, sometimes Home delivered long speeches about a variety of general subjects while he was in trance. Once he stated: “There are laws which govern the approach of spiritual beings to earth, and their organic life, and there are epochs of darkness when the spiritual spheres are far removed from the earth; when the approach of spirits. is all but impossible. These epochs have been called by those on earth the dark ages; they mark the absence of spiritual intercourse. There are also times of near approach, not unlike your winter and summer seasons . . . You are now entering upon a period of very near approach. It is coming like the tide in a river—irresistible, overriding the current, overcoming all; it is coming grandly and Godly” (Adare, p. 18).

On another occasion the trance was accompanied by possession:

“In the midst of our conversation Mr. Home fell into a trance; this was, perhaps, the most salient feature of the séance, for while in this state, which must have lasted about an hour, he appeared to be influenced or possessed by the spirit friends who surrounded us, personating in manner those whom he had never seen, but who had been known by the several members of our circle. This was most remarkable in the case of one whom we will call by the name designated to her by Mr. Home, namely, that of Margaret, although she had only been known by that of Christy, as a servant in the family of one of the gentlemen present, and had been drowned forty years ago. Mr. Home went through the action of drowning, and gave such proofs of the identity of ‘Christy,’ that the son of her former master, who was the gentleman present, was fain to accept them as unmistakable” (L.M. Gregory, A Seance with Mr. Home. Spiritual Magazine, 1866, 1(n.s.), 226-227, p. 227).

Another example of veridical information: “Mr. Home had by this time gone off into a trance state. Whilst in this trance he said he saw a spirit-form standing next to my guest. The form, character, and past history were so accurately detailed that the identity of the spirit-friend was unmistakably established, much to the surprise of the gentleman, whose departed friend had been quite unknown to Mr. Home” (H.D. Jencken, New Spirit Manifestations. Spiritual Magazine, 1868, 3(n.s.), 30-39, p. 36).

image of page 30

In the same article Jencken also reported what follows: “On one occasion the friends present had only casually met; and were seated round the drawing table. Suddenly Mr. Home, who had all the while been engaged conversing with the ladies, changed the expression of his countenance, rose, and, having played a few chords on the piano, returned to resume his seat, but now in a state of trance; his face rigid, hands cold, and the fingers extended. He steadfastly gazed across to where Mrs. — was seated, and said, ‘L— S— is standing between you and Mr.—. I see her as she was in life— mark, not as she is, but as she was when on earth.’ Mr. Home then accurately described the personal appearance of the spirit when on earth. So marked and clear were the traits he delineated that no doubt as to identity remained in the minds of those present. He said a child which had passed away in early infancy was standing next to L — S— , and that the spirit of L — S— was much pleased, and anxious to communicate with Mrs.—, whom she had loved on earth; and to prove her identity recalled a conversation that had taken place years ago between the two friends. He then said that L — S— wished to say that since passing away her views had much changed— that she had first to unlearn in order to learn. The spirit then impressed Mr. Home to remind Mrs.— of a conversation Mrs.— had recently held with her husband, and repeated part of the conversation that had taken place. I must mention that Mr. Home was a perfect stranger to the deceased person, whose name he had never even heard of. We have here what borders very narrowly upon a proof of the actual presence of the spirit of a departed friend, tor we have name, description of person, marked incidents in past life, all given, sufficient to establish an identity in any court of law; but possibly not proof enough to dispel the doubt of a sceptic” (pp. 37-38).

DD HOME AND CHAIR

In the words of someone who had several seances with Home: “All who have seen Mr. Home in this state of trance, are aware how clearly he sees and communicates with spirits that have passed from the body. And marvellous and marvellously beautiful have been the communications made by them, through him, which it has been my fortune to hear. The gestures, the most trivial actions of bodily life, the mode of walking and speaking, the voice, the infirmities of persons who have passed away long before he was born, and concerning whose peculiarities in all these particulars Mr. Home had not the least possible means of obtaining any knowledge, are all repeated by him when in this state with an accuracy of detail which leaves no doubt, either that he is at the moment possessed by the spirit whose earthly characteristics he is delineating, or that he is receiving from them or from other spirits impressive communications which enable him to reproduce them” (M. D., Guardians of Strength. Spiritual Magazine, 1867, 2(n.s.), 112-118, p. 112).

Interestingly another author stated: “The communications we received were always strikingly characteristic of those by whom they were made, and in strict accordance with the opinions they had always in life expressed; the rapidity and clearness of their replies to mental interrogation was also remarkable in the extreme. I have also seen communications made by means of the alphabet in several languages, Polish amongst the number, with which neither Mr. Home nor any one present (except the individual communicated with) was acquainted” (Mrs. Eric Baker, Fraud, Fancy, Fact: Which Is It? An Enquiry into the Mystery of Spiritualism. London: J.S. Hodson & Son, 1862, p. 19).
Here are two other accounts about deceased persons.

“He then said, ‘There are other spirits behind your chair, Elizabeth, Mary, Harriet.’ The two first puzzled me, but Harriet I knew well; she was my old school-fellow and earliest friend. I begged Mr. H. to describe her. He directly began scribbling, (she was a great writer) and looked very merry. Soon after, my chair was playfully pushed twice-—just what Harriet would have done, had she been present in the body; for she was full of fun” (A. Branker, Correspondence. Spiritual Magazine, 1861, 2, 431-432, p. 431).

“Mr. Home then suddenly went into the trance and saw ‘Charles,’ and gave such a description of his appearance and manner, that Mrs. W. recognised her late grandson, whose name at birth she had wished to be called Charles, but the wish had been over-ruled! and another name was given. Shortly, a sprig from a verbena plant in the room was broken off by invisible agency, and placed on the table by her right hand, and the sounds spelt out ‘Grandma, this is from little Charles.’ The lady was much affected, even to tears” (J. Jones, Correspondence. Spiritual Magazine, 1861, 2, 479-480, p. 479).

The latter part of the previous quote is an example of physical manifestations apparently guided by spirits related to the sitters, as is the following account of raps: “Q. (by Mr. Home) Is there a spirit present ? A. Yes.— Q. (by one of us whom I forget) What do you want to say ? A. My dear Ned, watch over you; be patient, you will be cared for.—Henry, your father! This message was written down, letter by letter, without word division, and we had to spell it over afterwards before we could understand it” (E.H. Chawner, Letter. Spiritual Magazine, 1865, 6, 45-57, p. 45).

Other physical phenomena showed relationship to actions in the séance room. “During this séance, Mr. Home recited a poem . . . As he repeated it the table rose with two feet into the air, and with the other two beat time to the rhythm of the poem on the floor. At a particular passage, with words to this effect, ‘And when I opened my eyes, a thrill went through me,’ the table gave such a thrill and shake, that even Home started back” (W. Howitt, Some Séances with Mr. Home Some Years Ago. Spiritual Magazine, 1872, 7(n.s.), 424-428, pp. 425-426).

Raps were reported to follow verbal statements: “Five raps is the understood signal whereby a Spirit (supposed) signifies its presence and desire to communicate . . . The communication itself is thus obtained:—The alphabet is in some leisurely manner repeated: A—B—C, etc. When a particular letter is arrived at, three raps on the table—or risings of it, indifferently—as the understood sign of assent (yes), indicate it as that wanted: it is accordingly taken down; and the alphabet being begun anew, a series of other letters is in the same way obtained, and noted. Two raps indicate the close of the communication ; and the word, or sentence, as it may be, is then readily deciphered and read out” (P.P. Alexander, Spiritualism: A Narrative with a Discussion. Edinburgh: William P. Nimmo, 1871, p. 21).

Alexander Spiritualism

Another example involved a communication via raps: “A spirit announced its presence, and rapped out, ‘It is Pophy Sophy? ‘Pophy Sophy!’ said Mr. Home; that is very odd. It does not seem like a name, either in English or any other language known to me. Can any one at the table explain?’ Whereupon a lady present gave signs of great agitation, and presently she burst out, ‘Pophy Sophy’ Oh! that is our poor dear little Sophia, whom we lost two years ago. Pophy Sophy!—that was the dear little pet name she always went by in the family, as she had given it to herself when an infant.’ On this, another lady present (the aunt of little Pophy, as it appeared) began to cry bitterly. Five raps were then again heard, and the following was rapped out—’Do not cry, Auntie dear! You were not to blame, and I am happy, happy now.’ And immediately after came this: ‘I did not die. Am I not alive? And could I forget you all?’ The story, as after inquired into by my friend, was thus :—The little child, left under charge of her aunt, during absence of the parents in England, had died of scarlet fever, and the poor lady had been eaten up with morbid remorse, as supposing that, through some blind carelessness on her part, the infection might have been caught” (Alexander, pp. 35-36).

A consideration of these phenomena will provide us not only with more information about D.D. Home, but with a wider and more complete view of his mediumship.

Image result for d.d. home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abstract

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

Agenor de Gasparin 2

Agénor de Gasparin

 

De Gasparin Tables Tournantes

de Gasparin Science

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

MEDIUMSHIP/TABLE TURNING

Table tipping

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

Roubaud Danse Tables

 

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

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

Borel Compte Agenor de Gasparin

de Gasparin L'Egalite

de Gasparin Uprising

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

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

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

In the conclusion I stated:

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

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

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

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

Image result for table turning

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

by

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

Cassandra Vieten 2

Cassandra Vieten

Helané Wahbeh

Helané Wahbeh

Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy

david presti

David Presti

Arnaud Delorme

Arnaud Delorme

Abstract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Blanco, S., Sambin, M., & Palmieri, A. (2017). Meaning making after a near-death experience: The relevance of intrapsychic and interpersonal dynamics. Death Studies, 27, 1-12.

This study aims to investigate the processes used by individuals to integrate a near-death experience (NDE) and to discuss the use of a meaning-making component to help people who have had such experiences. A psychotherapist interviewed six individuals who reported having had a NDE. Transcripts of the interviews were coded using an interpretative phenomenological analysis. The authors identified intrapsychic and interpersonal dynamics implicated in the individuals’ meaning-making processes, and the problems encountered during their integration of the experience. Meaning-based approaches are a feasible theoretical framework for shedding light on the NDE and providing support for people who have lived through them.

Chandradasa, M., Wijesinghe, C., Kuruppuarachchi, K. A. L. A., & Perera, M. (2017). Near-death experiences in a multi-religious hospital population in Sri Lanka. Journal of Religion and Health, 57, 1599-1605.

Near-death experiences (NDEs) are a wide range of experiences that occur in association with impending death. There are no published studies on NDEs in general hospital populations, and studies have been mainly conducted on critically ill patients. We assessed the prevalence of NDEs and its associations in a multi-religious population in a general hospital in Sri Lanka. A randomised sample of patients admitted to the Colombo North Teaching Hospital was assessed using the Greyson NDE scale and clinical assessment. Out of total 826 participants, NDEs were described by 3%. Compared to the NDE-negative participants, the NDE-positive group had a significantly higher mean for age and a ratio of men. Women reported deeper NDEs. Patients of theistic religions (Christianity, Islam and Hinduism) reported significantly more NDEs compared to patients from the non-theistic religious group (Buddhism). NDE-positive patient group had significantly higher reporting of a feeling ‘that they are about to die’, the presence of loss of consciousness and a higher percentage of internal medical patients. This is the first time that NDEs are assessed in a general hospital population and NDEs being reported from Sri Lanka. We also note for the first time that persons with theistic religious beliefs reported more NDEs than those with non-theistic religious beliefs. Medical professionals need to be aware of these phenomena to be able to give an empathic hearing to patients who have NDE.

Kinsella, M. (2017). Near-death experiences and networked spirituality: The emergence of an afterlife movement. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 85, 168–198.

Near-death experiences (NDEs) were first introduced to the public in 1975. Shortly thereafter, an entire field of near-death studies emerged that began outlining an NDE-based spirituality. This spirituality draws heavily upon an aspect of NDEs known as the “life review,” which involves the reliving or witnessing of significant autobiographical events, either from one’s own perspective or that of others. Near-death studies have contributed to the rise of what I have termed an “afterlife movement”: a loosely organized collective utilizing NDE narratives and practices modeled after the life review to transform behaviors and attitudes toward death, dying, and end-of-life care. By presenting findings from the first ethnography ever to be conducted on the sharing and study of NDE reports in group settings, this article describes this growing movement at the local level.

Lake, J. (2017). The evolution of a predisposition for the near-death experience: implications for non-local consciousness. Journal of Nonlocality, 5.

Near-death experiences (NDE) raise important questions about the nature of human consciousness, the relationship between brain function and consciousness, the perceptual information that is available to consciousness in moments before death, the role of physical and biological mechanisms associated with altered states of consciousness, and relationships between consciousness, space-time and phenomenal reality. Challenges posed by efforts to define the NDE, claims of anomalous experiences associated with NDEs, the problem of “timing” of NDEs with respect to brain function, recent findings from neuroscience are reviewed, along with emerging evidence for quantum models of consciousness that may help elucidate the nature of NDEs.

Lawrence, M. (2017). Near-death and other transpersonal experiences occurring during catastrophic events. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care, 34, 486-492.

The purpose of this article is to describe examples of near-death and other transpersonal experiences occurring during catastrophic events like floods, wars, bombings, and death camps. To date, researchers have limited their investigations of these transpersonal events to those occurring to seriously ill patients in hospitals, those dying from terminal illnesses, or to individuals experiencing a period of grief after the death of a loved one. Missing is awareness by first responders and emergency healthcare professionals about these transpersonal experiences and what to say to the individuals who have them. Some responders experience not only deaths of the victims they assist, but also deaths of their colleagues. Information about these transpersonal experiences can also be of comfort to them. The examples in this article include a near-death experience during the Vietnam War, an out-of-body experience after a bomb explosion during the Iraq War, a near-death visit to a woman imprisoned at Auschwitz, and two after-death communications, one from a person killed in Auschwitz and another from a soldier during World War I. Also included are interviews with two New York City policemen who were September 11, 2001 responders. It is hoped the information will provide knowledge of these experiences to those who care for those near death, or dying, or grieving because of catastrophic events, and encourage researchers to further investigate these experiences during disasters.

Martial, C., Charland-Verville, V., Cassol, H., Didone, V., Van der Linden, M., & Laureys, S. (2017). Intensity and memory characteristics of near-death experiences. Consciousness and Cognition, S1053-8100(16)30380-4. doi: 10.1016/j.concog.2017.06.018.

Memories of Near-Death Experiences (NDEs) seem to be very detailed and stable over time. At present, there is still no satisfactory explanation for the NDEs’ rich phenomenology. Here we compared phenomenological characteristics of NDE memories with the reported experience’s intensity. We included 152 individuals with a self-reported “classical” NDE (i.e. occurring in life-threatening conditions). All participants completed a mailed questionnaire that included a measure of phenomenological characteristics of memories (the Memory Characteristics Questionnaire; MCQ) and a measure of NDE’s intensity (the Greyson NDE scale). Greyson NDE scale total score was positively correlated with MCQ total score, suggesting that participants who described more intense NDEs also reported more phenomenological memory characteristics of NDE. Using MCQ items, our study also showed that NDE’s intensity is associated in particular with sensory details, personal importance and reactivation frequency variables.

Martial C, Cassol H, Antonopoulos G, Charlier T, Heros J, Donneau A-F, Charland-Verville V and Laureys S (2017) Temporality of features in near-death experience narratives. Frontiers of Human Neuroscences, 11:311. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00311

Background: After an occurrence of a Near-Death Experience (NDE), Near-Death Experiencers (NDErs) usually report extremely rich and detailed narratives. Phenomenologically, a NDE can be described as a set of distinguishable features. Some authors have proposed regular patterns of NDEs, however, the actual temporality sequence of NDE core features remains a little explored area. Objectives: The aim of the present study was to investigate the frequency distribution of these features (globally and according to the position of features in narratives) as well as the most frequently reported temporality sequences of features. Methods: We collected 154 French freely expressed written NDE narratives (i.e., Greyson NDE scale total score ≥ 7/32). A text analysis was conducted on all narratives in order to infer temporal ordering and frequency distribution of NDE features. Results: Our analyses highlighted the following most frequently reported sequence of consecutive NDE features: Out-of-Body Experience, Experiencing a tunnel, Seeing a bright light, Feeling of peace. Yet, this sequence was encountered in a very limited number of NDErs. Conclusion: These findings may suggest that NDEs temporality sequences can vary across NDErs. Exploring associations and relationships among features encountered during NDEs may complete the rigorous definition and scientific comprehension of the phenomenon.

Martial, C., Charland-Verville, V., Dehon, H., & Laureys, S. (2017). False memory susceptibility in coma survivors with and without a near-death experience. Psychological Research, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00426-017-0855-9

It has been postulated that memories of near-death experiences (NDEs) could be (at least in part) reconstructions based on experiencers’ (NDErs) previous knowledge and could be built as a result of the individual’s attempt to interpret the confusing experience. From the point of view of the experiencer, NDE memories are perceived as being unrivalled memories due to its associated rich phenomenology. However, the scientific literature devoted to the cognitive functioning of NDErs in general, and their memory performance in particular, is rather limited. This study examined NDErs’ susceptibility to false memories using the Deese–Roediger–McDermott (DRM) paradigm. We included 20 NDErs who reported having had their experience in the context of a life-threatening event (Greyson NDE scale total score ≥7/32) and 20 volunteers (matched for age, gender, education level, and time since brain insult) who reported a life-threatening event but without a NDE. Both groups were presented with DRM lists for a recall task during which they were asked to assign “Remember/Know/Guess” judgements to any recalled response. In addition, they were later asked to complete a post-recall test designed to obtain estimates of activation and monitoring of critical lures. Results demonstrated that NDErs and volunteers were equally likely to produce false memories, but that NDErs recalled them more frequently associated with compelling illusory recollection. Of particular interest, analyses of activation and monitoring estimates suggest that NDErs and volunteers groups were equally likely to think of critical lures, but source monitoring was less successful in NDErs compared to volunteers.

Moore, L., & Greyson, B. (2017). Characteristics of memories for near-death experiences. Consciousness and Cognition, 51, 116–124.

Near-death experiences are vivid, life-changing experiences occurring to people who come close to death. Because some of their features, such as enhanced cognition despite compromised brain function, challenge our understanding of the mind-brain relationship, the question arises whether near-death experiences are imagined rather than real events. We administered the Memory Characteristics Questionnaire to 122 survivors of a close brush with death who reported near-death experiences. Participants completed Memory Characteristics Questionnaires for three different memories: that of their near-death experience, that of a real event around the same time, and that of an event they had imagined around the same time. The Memory Characteristics Questionnaire score was higher for the memory of the near-death experience than for that of the real event, which in turn was higher than that of the imagined event. These data suggest that memories of near-death experiences are recalled as ‘‘realer” than real events or imagined events.

Royse, D., & Badger, K. (2017). Near-death experiences, posttraumatic growth, and life satisfaction among burn survivors. Social Work in Health Care, 56, 155-168.

Survivors of large burns may face positive and negative psychological after-effects from close-to-death injuries. This study is the first to examine their near-death experiences (NDEs) and posttraumatic growth (PTG) and life satisfaction afterwards. With an available sample of 92 burn survivors, half met the criteria for an NDE using an objective scale. Those who indicated religion was a source of strength and comfort had high scores on life satisfaction, PTG, and the NDE Scale. Individuals with larger burns reported greater PTG than those with smaller total body surface area burned (TBSA). There were no significant differences on life satisfaction, PTG, or NDEs when examined by gender or years since the burn injury. Elements of the NDE most frequently reported were: An altered sense of time, a sense of being out of the physical body, a feeling of peace, vivid sensations, and sense of being in an “other worldly” environment. Social workers and other health providers need to be comfortable helping burn survivors discuss any NDEs and process these through survivors’ spirituality and religious belief systems as they recover.

Tassell-Matamua, N., & Lindsay, N., Bennett, S., Valentine, H., & Pahina, J. (2017). Does learning about near-death experiences promote psycho-spiritual benefits in those who have not had a near-death experience? Journal of Spirituality and mental Health, 19, 95-115.

Research has revealed a consistent pattern of positive aftereffects in those who report a near-death experience [NDE]. Beneficial outcomes are also possible for those who have not had a NDE, but instead learn about them, although much of this research has been conducted on therapeutic populations. Using a sample of 143 participants randomly assigned to either an intervention or non-intervention group, we investigated whether learning about NDEs generated the same psycho-spiritual benefits having a NDE does. Results revealed significant changes in appreciation for life, spirituality, and appreciation for death, in the intervention group after learning about NDEs.

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

I have commented about the Psi Encyclopedia in previous essays (click here, here, and here), a project sponsored by the Society for Psychical Research . The project, managed by Robert McLuhan, has continued to grow. Here is a list of some new entries posted in 2018 and 2019.

psi encyclopedia 2019

Animals in Psi Research, by Michael Duggan

Announcing Dreams and Related Experiences, by James G. Matlock

Arigo, by Karen Wehrstein

karen wehrstein

Karen Wehrstein

Behavioural Memories in Reincarnation Cases, by James G Matlock

Creery Telepathy Experiments, by Karen Wehrstein

Decline Effect in Parapsychology, by Matthew Colborn

matt colborn

Mathew Colborn

Experimental Psi Research in Asia and Australia, by Michael Duggan

Fraud in Science and Parapsychology, Chris Roe

chris roe 2

Chris Roe

Gladys Osborne Leonard, Trevor Hamilton

Global Consciousness Project, Roger D Nelson

Hubert Larcher, by Renaud Evrard

renaud evrard 2

Renaud Evrard

Indridi Indridason, by Erlendur Haraldsson

Mediumship and Pathology, by Carlos S Alvarado

Mental Mediumship Research, by Julie Beischel

SONY DSC

Julie Beischel

Parapsychology in Psychology Textbooks, by Chris Roe

Perspectival Postmortem Awareness, by Stephen E Braude

Psi Research in the Netherlands, by Dick Bierman, Hans Gerding, and Hein van Dongen

dick bierman 2

Dick Bierman

Unusual Ways of Testing for Psi, Michael Duggan

 

 

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

I had the pleasure of meeting David Presti in 2009 when I was affiliated to the Division of Perceptual Studies of the University of Virginia and he came to visit the group there. He organized the book discussed here, Mind Beyond Brain: Buddhism, Science, and the Paranormal (Columbia University Press, 2018).

david presti

David Presti

David sent me the following brief biography for this blog. He is teaching professor of neurobiology, psychology, and cognitive science at the University of California, Berkeley. David has a master’s degree in physics and a PhD in molecular biology, both from the California Institute of Technology, and a PhD in clinical psychology from the University of Oregon. For ten years he worked in the clinical treatment of substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder with military veterans at the VA Medical Center in San Francisco. And for the last 15 years he has been teaching neuroscience and dialoguing about science with Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns in India, Nepal, and Bhutan.  In addition to the book discussed here, he is the author of Foundational Concepts in Neuroscience: A Brain-Mind Odyssey (W.W. Norton, 2016).

presti mind beyond brain

Mind Beyond Brain: Buddhism, Science, and the Paranormal has essays by David, and other authors who are researchers at the above-mentioned Division of Perceptual Studies. In the book all of them challenge reductionistic concepts of the mind relating the topic of consciousness to Buddhism (mainly David), and via essays about parapsychological topics.

Here is the table of contents.

Table of Contents

Foreword (Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche)

Prologue: Deepening the dialogue (David Presti & Edward Kelly)

Chapter 1: Scientific revolution and the mind-matter relation (David Presti)

Chapter 2: Near-death experiences (Bruce Greyson)

Chapter 3: Reports of part-life memories (Jim Tucker)

Chapter 4: Mediums, apparitions, and deathbed experiences (Emily Williams Kelly)

Chapter 5: Paranormal phenomena, the siddhis, and an emerging path toward

reconciliation of science and spirituality (Edward Kelly)

Chapter 6: An expanded conception of mind (David Presti)

     Notes: (David Presti)

Interview

Can you give us a brief summary of the book?  

The book is about expanding an empirical science of mind and consciousness. It approaches this issue by looking at the historical trajectory of how we understand the relationship of mind and brain in modern science – and considers the successes and the limitations of the current approach. One way forward in expanding a science of mind is to take seriously empirical data for phenomena that are not accounted for within the current explanatory framework of biophysical science – that is, empirical data documenting certain paranormal or psi phenomena. This, of course, is no surprise to the folks who already consider the study of the paranormal to be a serious scientific endeavor. In this book we specifically consider aspects of near-death experiences, small children who spontaneously talk about having lived another life (cases of the reincarnation type), apparitions associated with death or other crises, studies of mediums, and laboratory investigations of certain psi phenomena. These empirical data are addressed in four chapters authored by investigators at the University of Virginia who are respected long-time researchers on these topics.

The discussion in this book is framed in the context of the contemporary dialogue between Buddhism and science – specifically neuroscience, psychology, and physics – initiated and nurtured over the last 35 years by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Appreciating that the nature of reality and the nature of mind are among the deepest mysteries in modern science, and are also essential topics of Buddhist philosophical investigation, the Dalai Lama conjectured that a conversation between the complementary perspectives on mind and world represented by these two traditions might generate new ideas – insights that would hopefully benefit all parties in the dialogue, and perhaps, by extension, the larger community of humanity.

dalai lama

Dalai Lama

The conversation has evolved now for several decades and has contributed to interest among scientists – especially psychologists, cognitive scientists, neuroscientists, and other biomedical researchers and clinicians – in the study of how meditation practices impact physical and mental health, and on neural and physiological correlates of various aspects of meditation and mindfulness practices. However, a broader aspect of this conversation is the engagement of complementary worldviews. One, modern science, views the physical world as external to the human psyche and introduces mind/consciousness as a sort of afterthought, appearing only after conditions for its emergence have been created following billions of years of physical and biological evolution. The other, Buddhist philosophy and tradition, essentially begins with the premise that all we know is via our experience, and mind and world are likely to have a far more interdependent relation.

Topics such as those discussed in the present book, while of great interest to the community of Buddhist scholars, and of central importance to deepening our investigation and understanding of how mind and world relate, have been off-limits for discussion in any of the formal Buddhism-science dialogues to date. A variety of reasons are no doubt at play, including the belief held by many scientists that investigation of the paranormal is not a legitimate program of scientific endeavor, as well as a general lack of awareness in the scientific community of the scope of investigations that have been and are being conducted. The present book was inspired by a one-day conference hosted by an esteemed Tibetan teacher, Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, in which scientific and Buddhist perspectives on these topics were discussed.

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

I am a neuroscientist and university educator, working at the interface of biology, psychology, chemistry, and physics. I’ve been distantly following research in parapsychology for more than 40 years, and strengthened my connection with the field substantially 13 years ago, when I became part of a consciousness research group at the Esalen Institute that included a number of distinguished investigators in the field, and notably the researchers from the University of Virginia who would eventually contribute to the present book. This led to my spending part of a sabbatical semester in Virginia in 2009, further deepening my knowledge and connection with the field, and specifically with the topics that are major foci of discussion in the present book.

With respect to Buddhism, I have been following the contemporary engagement of Tibetan Buddhism with science for several decades. I met with the Dalai Lama in 2003 to discuss some of the questions that are addressed in this book. And I have been teaching neuroscience and dialoguing about science with Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns at monastic institutions in India, Bhutan, and Nepal for 15 years – part of a program to develop science education and collaborations with Tibetan Buddhist monastics. This educational program (Science for Monks & Nuns) was inspired by the Dalai Lama, in part to enlarge the community of scientifically knowledgeable discussants among those already highly proficient in Buddhist philosophy and practice.

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

As a scientist and educator, my intention is to expand the perspective we currently have on the evolving science of mind and consciousness, and I believe it is important to pursue many paths forward in this endeavor. Fostering a discussion of the empirical investigation of paranormal phenomena in the context of the ongoing dialogue between Buddhism and science is one such way. This may facilitate a deeper appreciation of how to engage the worldviews of not only Asian spiritual traditions such as Buddhism, but other spiritual and religious traditions as well, in productive conversation with the complementary worldview of modern science.

In this book, we have strived to present the material in a clear, concise, and scientifically rigorous manner – and also to ground the discussion within established frameworks of history and philosophy of science. The hope is to reach scientists and other interested individuals who are open-minded enough to read and think about this material with earnest curiosity.

My hope is that this will offer a contribution to expanding the way we think about the relationship of mind and reality in contemporary science. And this is not simply an interesting intellectual exercise – for how we define or conceptualize the nature of mind, and the nature of who we are with respect to the rest of what we consider to be reality, greatly impacts everything about how we behave in the world.

 

 

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

I just published a short article entitled “Eleanor M. Sidgwick (1845-1936)” (Journal of Parapsychology, 2018, 82, 127-131; available on request carlos@theazire.org). This is the first of several short articles about historical figures and topics that the editor of the journal, Etzel Cardeña, plans to include in future issues.

eleanor sidgwick 3

Eleanor M. Sidgwick

Here is the abstract:

Abstract

Eleanor M. Sidgwick was an important figure in the early history of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). In later years she became known for her critiques of the evidence for physical mediumship, and for her systematic studies of apparitions of the dead and hauntings, premonitions, clairvoyance, and the mediumship of Leonora E. Piper. Sidgwick also made significant contributions to the study of spontaneous and experimental telepathy, the cross-correspondences, and book tests, or attempts to get spirit communicators to obtain veridical information from the content of a book.

I wrote at the beginning of the article: “Mrs. Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick was one of the most productive psychical researchers of the early Society for Psychical Research (SPR) . . . She was Treasurer, Vice-Principal, and Principal at Newnham College. Sidgwick married Henry Sidgwick in 1876, and shared with him deep interests in women’s education and in psychical research . . . Sidgwick was involved in psychical investigations before the SPR was founded. Together with some close associates, among them Edmund Gurney, Walter Leaf, Frederic W. H. Myers, and Henry Sidgwick, she had séances with several physical mediums during the 1870s . . . They included Annie Fairlamb, Anna Eva Fay, Kate Fox (then Mrs. Jencken), Mary Rosina Showers, and Catherine Wood. But the results of the séances were not in favor of the genuineness of the phenomena and led the group to a general feeling of skepticism.”

Mrs. Sidgwick contributed to many areas of psychical research, as seen in the following papers published in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research:

 (1885). Notes on the evidence collected by the Society, for phantasms of the dead. 3, 69–150.

sidgwick phantasms of the dead (1886). Results of a personal investigation into the physical phenomena of Spiritualism: With some critical remarks on the evidence for the genuineness of such phenomena.4, 45–74.

(1888). On the evidence for premonitions. 5, 288–354.

 (1891). On the evidence for clairvoyance. 7, 30–99.

image of page 30

 (1891). On spirit photographs: A reply to Mr. A. R. Wallace. 7, 268–289.

 (1910). Cross-correspondences between Mrs. Piper and other automatists. 24, 170–200.

 (1915). A contribution to the study of the psychology of Mrs. Piper’s trance phenomena. 28, 1–657.

 (1921). An examination of book-tests obtained in sittings with Mrs Leonard. 31, 241–400. 

 (1923). Phantasms of the living: An examination and analysis of cases of telepathy between living persons printed in the “Journal” of the Society for Psychical Research since the publication of the book “Phantasms of the Living,” by Gurney, Myers, and Podmore, in 1886. 33, 23–429.

sidgwick phantasms of the living 

 (1924). On hindrances and complications in telepathic communication. 34, 28–69.

Sidgwick, H., Johnson, A., Myers, F. W. H., Podmore, F., & Sidgwick, E. M. (1894). Report on the Census of Hallucinations. 10, 25-422.

Sidgwick, Professor [H.], Sidgwick, Mrs. H., & Smith, G. A. (1889). Experiments in thought-transference. 6, 128–170.

Sidgwick was well-known as a critic, as seen in her writings about physical mediumship. But she also showed throughout her life a capacity to evaluate immense amounts of data looking for patterns in the data and to assess their evidential quality. Examples of these were her Nineteenth-Century papers about apparitions of the dead (1886), premonitions (1888), and clairvoyance (1891).

Her 1915 study of records regarding the mediumship of Leonora E. Piper is a classic of the early literature of psychological studies of mediumship. I wrote: “Some of the chapters of this study were about spirit controls and their relation to the medium; language, memories, and association of ideas by the spirit controls; aspects of various spirit communicators (such as difficulties in communicating and symbolic statements), and relations between Piper’s different states of consciousness. She concluded about the medium’s trance that it was ‘probably a state of self-induced hypnosis in which her hypnotic self personates different characters either consciously and deliberately, or unconsciously’ . . . but with telepathically acquired information.”

sidgwick piper trance phenomena 2

Regarding telepathic experiences: “Sidgwick herself contributed to knowledge about the process in an analyses of its “hindrances and complications” as shown in percipient’s impressions (Sidgwick, 1924). She wrote: ‘I have now, I think, sufficiently shown that there are obstacles or at any rate difficulties in the way of telepathic transmission which easily may, and in fact often do, interfere with the process, and prevent a “message” being received as the sender intended. Apart from difficulties on the agent’s own side, and even when a message has apparently safely reached some part of the percipient’s mind, it may fail to pass successfully from that to the normal waking consciousness. And this not only because the impression is sometimes too feeble to prevail, but because as transmitted to the normal consciousness the latter may fail to interpret it. And the difficulties may be aggravated by differences in the results, according as different modes of externalisation—different methods of transferring the subliminal impression to the normal consciousness—are used, and even by deliberate invention in the subliminal mind.’ ”

If this was not enough, Sidgwick was also active behind the scenes of the SPR as an organizer and as an editor of publications. Her life and contributions, both to psychical research and the education of women, deserve a full-length biography. At present, we can get much information about her in Alice Johnson’s “Mrs Henry Sidgwick’s Work in Psychical Research (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1936, 44, 53–93), and in Ethel Sidgwick’s, Mrs. Henry Sidgwick: A Memoir (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1938).

eleanor sidgwick 4