Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center
Much has been said about the physical phenomena of the Felix Circle, also known as Felix Experimental Group, which centers on medium Kai Muegge. Up to now the published material about this circle has consisted of informal Web articles, many of which have appeared in the Circle’s page. However, the first detailed reports of investigations of the materialization and other physical phenomena of the Circle have just appeared in the Journal of Scientific Exploration , reports that mention what the authors believe is evidence for fraud in the case. The reports are authored by Dr. Michael Nahm and Dr. Stephen Braude, who is also the editor of the journal.
Braude wrote in his editorial:
“As I mention in my paper in this issue, I don’t yet consider the FEG phenomena, and in particular the conditions of observation, to meet the standard set by the best cases from the heyday of Spiritualism. And of course the recent evidence of at least occasional fraud has tarnished the case as a whole. Nevertheless, on some of the occasions described in this issue’s reports, the controls were far from negligible . . . Moreover (thanks in part to those controls), some FEG phenomena have not yet been discredited and remain very difficult to discount . . . And I believe it’s fair to say that Nahm agrees with me on this point. Where we disagree is on the issue of whether at least the strongest FEG phenomena are perhaps worth pursuing further. Nahm seems inclined to disagree. I’m not so sure . . . And as I hope will become clear both from the foregoing considerations and the reports in this issue, the evidence gathered so far can’t be dismissed simply by the all too familiar and unacceptably glib and sweeping rejection of eyewitness testimony.”
Here are the abstracts of the papers.
The Development and Phenomena of a Circle for Physical Mediumship
Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2014, 28, 229-283.
“The present paper describes the development and the phenomena of a circle for physical mediumship, based predominantly on my own observations. Over the course of four and a half years, I have participated in 21 sittings. Typical phenomena include unusual movements of a table, raps on the room walls and the ceiling, various luminous and psychokinetic phenomena, the generation of supposed ectoplasm, and apports. I will describe the controls applied during the sittings and my personal involvement in accompanying the development of the phenomena, and explain why I finally arrived at the conclusion that considerable parts of the phenomena were produced by fraudulent means.”
Investigations of the Felix Experimental Group: 2010–2013
Stephen E. Braude
Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2014, 28, 285–343.
“This paper chronicles my introduction to and subsequent investigation of the Felix Experimental Group (FEG) and its exhibitions of classical physical mediumship. It’s been nearly a century since investigators have had the opportunity to carefully study standard spiritistic phenomena, including the extruding of ectoplasm, and the FEG is the only current physical mediumistic circle permitting any serious controls. The paper details a progressively stringent, personally supervised series of séances, culminating in some well-controlled experiments with video documentation in a secure and private location belonging to one of the investigators. Regrettably, recent indications of fraud (explored also by Michael Nahm in this issue) have tarnished the case as a whole. However, it remains unclear how extensive the fraud has been. Accordingly, this paper evaluates the arguments both for and against the paranormality of the phenomena displayed under the author’s supervision.”
The discussions of the suspicious incidents are too detailed to be presented here. The reader is encouraged to study the reports, which may be obtained from the authors.
Nahm believes there was fraud in some phenomena, but that it is a matter of speculation how much of the whole performances are fraudulent. Consequently, he presents several methodological suggestions for further research in his report.
Braude believes that at the moment not everything can be explained via fraud. But he writes in his paper: “It seems clear that if Kai wants to salvage or rehabilitate his reputation, he must now voluntarily submit to—and succeed under—many test conditions he’s so far resisted. In fact, he at least has to try. So long as Kai continues to resist better conditions of illumination and observation, especially those in which other carefully investigated mediums have succeeded, his mediumship will be tainted and remain an easy object of skeptical suspicion, even if some of his phenomena remain hard to doubt.”
It is difficult to disagree with Nahm and Braude’s recommendation for further research. The question is, would they be allowed to study this medium further after what they have written? Hopefully their skepticism will not be considered an inhibiting influence on the circle and used as an excuse to keep them out the séance room. Regardless of the possible negative effects of skepticism, we need to remember that many mediums in the past were able to perform even under extreme disbelief. As the matter stands, we may not be able to explain everything normally, but there is enough circumstantial evidence to have serious doubts. If future phenomena are not forthcoming under much better conditions of control the case is certainly destined, as that of so many other mediums of the past, to be dubious.
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