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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)


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 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:


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


At the End of 2018

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

Another year has gone by. This one has been mainly good, not counting the recent loss of a  friend. May I wish all of you a Merry Christmas (or, if you do not celebrate Christmas, a good end of 2017)?

christmas mistletoe

Like in previous years, I have summarized for my readers various important publications related to parapsychology. These include:

Star Gate Project Publication (February 1)

New Paper About Mind-Body Issues in Psychiatry (February 12)

Biographies of Psychical Researchers in the Psi Encyclopedia (February 26)

Study of Japanese Reincarnation Cases (April 5)

Precognition Discussed in a Psychology Journal (April 19)

Open Source Data in Parapsychology (July 4)

Synesthesia and Other Experiences (November 22)

Exceptional Experiences of Scientists and Engineers (December 11)

As always, I take great pleasure in informing my readers about articles relevant to the study of the history of parapsychology, among them:

Hans Driesch and Psychical Research (April 10)

Hans Driesch

Hans Driesch

Psychoanalysis and the Occult—Revisited (May 13)

Uri Geller and Parapsychology in the 1970s (September 14)

Article about Julian Ochorowicz (December 1)

Julian Ochorowicz 3

Julian Ochorowicz

Similarly, I spread news about new books via author interviews: Real Magic, by Dean Radin (April 25); Arthur Balfour’s Ghosts: An Edwardian Elite and the Riddle of the Cross-Correspondence Automatic Writings, by Trevor Hamilton (June 6); The Elements of Parapsychology, by K. Ramakrishna Rao (July 8); and Psience Fiction: The Paranormal in Science Fiction Literature, by Damien Broderick (July 24).

Broderick Psience Fiction

Other blogs are about list of publications, mainly from the old days: Important Books About Experimental ESP, 1930-1958 (May 23); Our Psychic Past in Digital Libraries: VII. SurvivalAfterDeath | CienciasPsíquicas (September 21).

And of course, I have also posted comments about the articles I have published. What is the point of having a blog if you are not going to publicize your own work?: Flournoy’s From India to the Planet Mars Revisited (March 11); Psicologia e “Spiritismo:” An Italian Psychical Research Classic (April 10); Charles Richet’s Psychic Autobiography (July 29); Historical Views of Mediumship and Pathology (October 20); On William Stainton Moses (December 20).

My thanks to all of you who have followed my blog during 2018. Stay tuned for further news and discussion in 2019. My best wishes for the coming year.

Happy New Year

Unpaid and unacknowledged (but greatly appreciated) Blog Staff

Nancy L. Zingrone

(Advisor, Problem Solver, and Morale Officer)

Nancy L. Zingrone 4


Spotty and Pinky

(Master proof readers)

Pinky and Spotty 22

On William Stainton Moses

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

One of my last published papers is “Note on the Intellectual Work of William Stainton Moses” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2018, 32, 596–603; available here). Here is the abstract:


William Stainton Moses


Most discussions about William Stainton Moses have focused on his mediumship. This note is a reminder that, in addition to mediumship, such as the spirit communication recorded in Spirit Teachings (1883), he contributed in other ways to the study of psychic phenomena, including studies of direct writing, materializations, and spirit photography. Furthermore, Moses wrote about apparitions of the living and out-of-body experiences, and veridical mediumistic communications, and criticized the writings of others, among them physiologist William B. Carpenter. A consideration of this and other neglected aspects of Moses’ work, enlarges our view of his contributions to Nineteenth-Century British Spiritualism and psychical research.

William Carpenter

William B. Carpente

I wrote: “In [a] . . .  long paper, Moses (1876–1877) presented discussions and classifications of cases of what he referred to as the “Trans-Corporeal Action of Spirit.” This included various cases of out-of-body experiences and of apparitions of the living. Moses wrote that the cases he presented here were scattered and in need of “classification and arrangement” . . . In Psychography: A Treatise on One of the Objective Forms of Psychic or Spiritual Phenomena, Moses (1878) reviewed the evidence for the phenomenon of direct writing obtained via mediums. He presented examples of cases attested by the senses (vision, hearing), cases presenting writing in languages unknown by the medium, and cases obtained in conditions preventing the previous preparation of writing to fake the phenomenon. In Moses’ view, psychography was only one of many phenomena ‘which testify to the existence of a soul in man, and to its independent action beyond his physical body; an earnest of its survival and independent life when released by death from its earthly prison-house’ ” . . . Another book was Spirit Identity, in which Moses (1879) studied veridical mediumistic communications. This included personal experiences, and communications recorded by others. The author concluded: ‘Intelligence is perpetuated after the body is dead’. . . , and that the “human spirit after its separation from the body loses none of its individuality.”

Moses Psychography

Moses Spirit Identity

Moses also published in the spiritualist magazine Light a long article unique in the 19th Century literature of materialization phenomena. The article appeared in 56 installments and covered many mediums and topics, an excellent source to conduct research on the subject.

Moses Materialization Light 1885

Page from materialization multipart article published in Light

In addition to his contributions as a medium, Moses also left us a rich bibliographical legacy that will be of help to those interested in the aspects of the spiritualistic literature he surveyed.

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

Here is a new survey of exceptional experiences.

Helané Wahbeh, Dean Radin, Julia Mossbridge, Cassandra Vieten, and Arnaud Delorme, Exceptional Experiences Reported by Scientists and Engineers. Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing, 2018, 14(5), 329-341. doi: 10.1016/j.explore.2018.05.002. Epub 2018 Aug 2. (First author’s email

Helané Wahbeh

Helané Wahbeh

Dean Radin 4

Dean Radin

Julia Mossbridge 7

Julia Mossbridge

Cassandra Vieten

Cassandra Vieten

Arnaud Delorme

Arnaud Delorme


CONTEXT: Throughout history people have reported exceptional experiences that appear to transcend the everyday boundaries of space and time, such as perceiving someone’s thoughts from a distance. Because such experiences are associated with superstition, and some violate currently accepted materialist conventions, one might assume that scientists and engineers would be much less likely to report instances of these experiences than the general population. OBJECTIVES: To evaluate 1) the prevalence of exceptional human experiences (EHEs), 2) the level of paranormal belief, 3) the relationship between them, and 4) potential predictors of EHEs in three groups. PARTICIPANTS: Potential volunteers were randomly selected to receive invitations for an anonymous survey. MAIN MEASURES: Data were collected on 25 different types of EHEs, demographics, religious or spiritual affiliations, paranormal beliefs, mental health, and personality traits. Group differences were analyzed with chi-square tests and analysis of variance, and predictors were evaluated with a general linear model. RESULTS: 94.0% of the general population (n = 283), 93.2% of scientists and engineers (n = 175), and 99.3% of enthusiasts (n = 441) endorsed at least one EHE (X2(2) = 21.1, p < 0.0005). Paranormal belief was highest in EHE enthusiasts, followed by scientists and the general population F(2,769) = 116.2, p < 0.0005). Belief was positively correlated with experience (r = 0.61, p < 0.0005). An exploratory general linear model showed that variables such as mental health, personality, impact and family history predict the endorsement and frequency of EHEs. This study indicates that EHEs occur frequently in both the general population and in scientists and engineers.


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

Polish psychologist and philosopher Julian Ochorowicz (1850-1917), who also contributed to psychical research, is the topic of this recently published article: Karolina Maria Hess, The Idea of Ideoplasty and Occult Phenomena in the Theoretical and Empirical Research of Julian Ochorowicz (Preternature, 2018, 7, 239-274; for reprints write to the author:

Julian Ochorowicz 3

Julian Ochorowicz

Here is the abstract:

Julian Leopold Ochorowicz (1850–1917) was a psychologist, philosopher, and inventor, as well as a photographer, journalist, and poet. As a positivist, he postulated strict research methods in science and treated psychology as a field of study to which the tools of natural sciences can be applied. Ochorowicz’s interest in occult phenomena, which for him were not supernatural but just unexplained and misinterpreted qualities of the human body and mind, in time grew to be the most intriguing topic of his work. Ochorowicz wanted to experimentally examine medium-related and other occult phenomena, which he associated with hypnotic states. He used the term “ideoplasty” for a class of phenomena that he deemed theoretically possible, whereby psychic energy is transformed into material excretions. Ideoplasty was a part of his wider conception of transformations of energy (e.g., of power into motion), which combined his theoretical attitude in psychology and his technical inventions.

Ochorowicz Suggestion mentale

Ochorowicz Mains Tomczyk

Work with Medium Stanislawa Tomczyk

The author concluded: “Ochorowicz knew that by choosing to devote himself to the study of a topic such as mediumic phenomena, he was risking criticisms both from other scientists and from the public opinion. Indeed, his interests and research, which was conducted already after he obtained his habilitation, did not advance Ochorowicz’s academic career . . . Nonetheless, Ochorowicz, convinced that the phenomena he observed actually existed, decided to describe everything in the greatest detail, even if the observations could seem implausible . . . The example of Julian Ochorowicz shows how nuanced and complex the relations in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century were between scientific knowledge and the field of phenomena characterized as occult or paranormal. Ochorowicz’s hypothesis went against the tendency that would later prove to provide a better experimental and theoretic model of reality; he endeavored to describe psychological phenomena directly with physical concepts, but it cannot be denied that his motivation was purely and properly scientific.”

Ochorowicz with Stanislawa Tomczyk Levitating Scissors

Ochorowicz with Stanislawa Tomczyk Levitating Scissors

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

Here is a new study of synesthesia in relation to many other experiences such as schizotypy, well-being, and psychic phenomena:

Simmonds-Moore, C. A., Alvarado, C. S., & Zingrone, N. L. (2018, September 17). A Survey
Exploring Synesthetic Experiences: Exceptional Experiences, Schizotypy, and Psychological Well-Being. Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice. Advance online publication.

Christine Simmonds-Moore 2

Christine Simmonds-Moore


We used an online survey to investigate the relations among synesthesia, schizotypy, exceptional experiences (ExEs), and well-being. Participants (N 1,628 [listwise N 767]; male 619, female 1,064) completed a Synesthesia Experience Questionnaire (SEQ), a general question about synesthetic experiences (Hartmann, 1991), the Anomalous Experience Subscale (AES) of the Anomalous Experience Inventory (Gallagher, Kumar, & Pekala, 1994), questions about parapsychological experiences, a multidimensional measure of schizotypy (Oxford-Liverpool Inventory for Feelings and Experiences Short [O-LIFE Short]; Mason, Linney, & Claridge, 2005), and the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS; Diener, Emmons, Larsen, & Griffin, 1985). Cronbach’s alphas for these measures ranged from .63 to .90 in our data set. Approximately half (54.4%) of the sample reported 1 or more synesthetic experiences, although the rate was much lower for synesthesias experienced on a consistent basis (3.1%). The SEQ was highly internally reliable and correlated positively with the AES, number of parapsychological experiences, and unusual experiences, and negatively with introvertive anhedonia. The SEQ was not directly related to the SWLS. Unusual experiences and synesthesia were the strongest predictors of the AES and parapsychological experiences in multiple regression models. A cluster analysis of schizotypy found 4 clusters of schizotypy, including 1 cluster reflecting healthy schizotypy, 1 reflecting high schizotypy, 1 reflecting low schizotypy, and 1 reflecting negative schizotypy. We compared clusters in terms of the SWLS, ExEs, and the SEQ and found significant differences for all variables and higher scores for healthy compared with high schizotypy on all variables. We discuss the complex relations among synesthesia, schizotypy, and well-being.

The authors stated in the conclusion: “We documented a high rate of synesthesia, depending on how we defined synesthesia. When synesthesia was judged present when it occurs “at least once,” 54.3% of participants reported synesthesia. Because the question refers to a general description of synesthetic tendencies, it may be subject to interpretation. However, because it is possible to have a “one off” experience, our finding implies that a complete account of synesthesias should not be restricted to a definition based entirely on a consistent response to an inducing stimulus.”

“We found support for a not-uncommon tendency to experience synesthetic phenomena, and we replicated findings that some experiences of synesthesia are more common than others. We also determined that synesthesia shares variance with positive schizotypy (unusual experiences) and with ExEs [exceptional experiences], when defined broadly, and traditional parapsychological experiences. Regression analyses supported the potential contributing roles of both unusual experiences and synesthesia in the etiology of ExEs.”

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

Another of my articles was recently posted in the Psi Encyclopedia. Its title is Mediumship and Pathology. Here is the abstract:

“From its beginnings in the mid-nineteenth century, mediumship was considered by some scientists and medical professionals to be a pathological phenomenon, explicable in terms of nervous and psychological disturbance. Others viewed the paranormal elements of mediumship as genuine while holding an underlying pathology to be the cause. This article describes a range of such views held during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.”

Most of these ideas are not widely supported today.

As seen in the abstract, I focused my discussion of two groups: those who saw mediumship as pathology, with no veridical manifestations, and those who conceptualizaed it as paranormal, but also pathological.

The first group included individuals such as Philibert Burlet, William Hammond, Frederic R. Marvin, Pierre Janet, and Joseph Lévy-Valensy.

American physician Frederic R. Marvin wrote about mediumship in his The Philosophy of Spiritualism and the Pathology and Treatment of Mediomania (1874).  In this short book Marvin wrote: “Like other disorders mediomania is a member of a family from which it is not easily alienated. Hysteria, chorea, utromania, and mediomania are all in one group, and though not always attended by the same causes they are very closely related.”

Image result for marvin the philosophy spiritualism

Reflecting 19th century ideas of uterine pathology, Marvin stated: “Tilt the organ a little forward — introvert it, and immediately the patient forsakes her home, embraces some strange and ultra ism — Mormonism, Mesmerism, Fourierism, Socialism, oftener Spiritualism. She becomes possessed by the idea that she has some startling mission in the world.”

I wrote about the French clinician Pierre Janet: “For Janet, most mediums were victims of a nervous crisis, ‘neuropaths, when they are not obvious hysterics’. He wrote: ‘The movement of tables begins only when women or children, that is to say, people prone to nervous accidents [symptoms] put their hands… around a table’. Mediumship was related to a pathological state that could eventually become hysterical, although Janet held mediumship to be a symptom rather than a cause.” Janet stated these ideas in his classic work L’Automatisme Psychologique (1889).

Pierre Janet 5

Pierre Janet

Janet L'Automatisme Psychologique 1889

Interestingly, there were also believers in mediumship, particularly physical mediumship, who believed that real phenomena and pathology coexisted, and were linked. Examples include Francis Gerry Fairfield, Cesare Lombroso, and Enrico Morselli.

I wrote about Fairfield: “Although he had no medical training, his observations of mediums led him to believe that psychic phenomena were related to nervous system lesions . . . and that these lesions developed ‘a peculiar sensory and motor aura’ (atmosphere), which, entering into ‘intimate molecular relations and contact with surrounding objects’ led to phenomena such as clairvoyance, table-tipping, rappings, and the like . . . Fairfield believed that this aura related to disorders of the nervous system.”

Fairfield Ten Years

“In his 1908 book Psicologia e ‘Spiritismo,’ Morselli . . . saw Palladino, and all mediums, as victims of disease, which he termed a metahysterical condition’ . . . Mediums, he believed, ‘if not seriously impaired in their physio-psychic constitution, are always, in some way, affected during the exercise of their faculty by a functional disorder of the nervous system.’ ”

Enrico Morselli 4

Enrico Morselli

Enrico Morselli Psicologia e Spiritismo

The latter group of theoreticians represent ideas that deserve more historical exploration. A case in point is the work of Lombroso.

In the article I mention some critiques of these ideas and point point that recent research has not supported those views. I also present a bibliography of historical studies, such as:

Alvarado, C.S., & Biondi, M. (2017). Classic Text No. 110: Cesare Lombroso on mediumship and pathology. History of Psychiatry, 28, 225–241; Alvarado, C.S., & Zingrone, N.L. (2012). Classic Text No. 90: ‘The Pathology and Treatment of Mediomania’, by Frederic Rowland Marvin (1874). History of Psychiatry, 23, 229–244; Brancaccio, M.T. (2014). Enrico Morselli’s Psychology and ‘Spiritism’: Psychiatry, psychology and psychical research in Italy in the decades around 1900. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 48, 75–84; Le Maléfan, P. (1999). Folie et Spiritisme: Histoire du discourse psychopathologique sur la pratique du Spiritisme, ses abords et aes avatars (18501950). Paris: L’Hartmattan; Moreira-Almeida A., Almeida, A. A. S., & Lotufo Neto, F. (2005). History of spiritist madness in Brazil. History of Psychiatry, 16, 5–25; and Owen, A. (1990). The darkened room: Women, power and Spiritualism in late Victorian England. Philadel­phia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

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

The site SurvivalAfterDeath | CienciasPsíquicas, in Spanish, has much information about psychical research, particularly about mediumship and the topic of survival of death. There is a section presenting links to many important books, (click here), many of which have been taken from other digital libraries such as Internet Archive and Google Books. Here are some examples.

Baird, A.T. (Ed.). (1944). One Hundred Cases for Survival After Death.

Barrett, W.F. (1926). Death-Bed Visions.

Bennett, E.T. (1905). Automatic Speaking and Writing: — A Study.

Carrington, H. (1909). Eusapia Palladino and Her Phenomena.

Crawford, W.J. (1921). The Psychic Structures at the Goligher Circle.

De Morgan, S. (1863). From Matter to Spirit.

Fodor, N. (n.d.). Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science.

Fournier d’Albe, E.E. (1908). New Light on Immortality.

Gurney, E., Myers, F.W.H., & Podmore, F. (1886). Phantasms of the Living.
Vol. 1,   Vol. 2

Hamilton, T.G. (1942). Intention and Survival.

Hyslop, J.H. (1913). Psychical Research and Survival.

Lodge, O.J. (1916). Raymond or Life After Death.

Lombroso, C. (1909). After Death—What?

Maxwell, J. (1905). Metapsychical Phenomena.

Myers, F.W.H. (1907). Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death.

Owen, R.D. (1860). Footfalls on the Boundary of Another World.

Schrenck-Notzing, Baron von. (1923). Phenomena of Materialisation.

Smith, W.W. (1920). A Theory of the Mechanism of Survival.

Wallace, A.R. (1896). Miracles and Modern Spiritualism.

Zollner, J.C.F. (1880). Transcendental Physics.

These are only a few examples of many other books available in this collection. In addition, the are many issues of the Annals of Psychical Science, and of the Proceedings and Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research.

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

Here is the abstract of an interesting thesis in history about Uri Geller and parapsychology in the 1970s.

Uri Geller and the Reception of Parapsychology in the 1970s, by Jacob Older Green. Masters’ Thesis, University of British Columbia, 2018.


“This paper investigates the controversy following the publication of work by scientists working at the Stanford Research Institute that claimed to show that the extraordinary mental powers of 1970s super psychic Uri Geller were real. The thesis argues that the controversy around Geller represented a shift in how skeptical scientists treated parapsychology. Instead of engaging with parapsychology and treating it as an incipient, if unpromising scientific discipline, which had been the norm since the pioneering work of J.B. Rhine in the 1930s, parapsychology’s critics portrayed the discipline as a pseudoscience, little more than an attempt by credulous scientists to confirm their superstitious belief in occult psychic powers. The controversy around Geller also led to the creation of The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), one of the first skeptical organizations specializing in investigating supposed instances of paranormal phenomena. I argue that the shift in critics’ attitudes and the creation of CSICOP were partially due to a fear among some scientists and their supporters that the scientific work on Geller would lend legitimacy to the “Occult Revival”—a term used to describe rising popular interest in the occult, astrology and psychic abilities in the late 1960s and early 1970s.”