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

If you are interested in learning about studies of ESP during the Nineteenth-Century you will find much relevant information in Frank Podmore’s Apparitions and Thought-Transference (London: Walter Scott, 1894, available here and here). I have recently summarized the book here: Podmore’s ‘Apparitions and Thought-Transference’ (In R. McLuhan, ed., Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research, 2017).

Podmore Apparitions and Thought-Transference 2

Frank Podmore

Frank Podmore

I start the article quoting Podmore’s goals for the book: “The thesis which these pages are designed to illustrate and support is briefly: that communication is possible between mind and mind otherwise than through the known channels of the senses. Proof of the existence of such communication, provisionally called Thought Transference or Telepathy (from tele = at a distance, and pathos = feeling), will be found in a considerable mass of experiments conducted during the last twelve years by various observers in different European countries and in America.”

Telepathy experiments are discussed under these headings: “transference of simple sensations in the normal state; simple sensations with hypnotized participants; induction of movements and other effects such as anesthesia; and other effects at a distance, such as images and induction of trance.” This includes studies published by many researchers, such as Max Dessoir, Edmund Gurney, Pierre Janet, Oliver Lodge, Charles Richet, and Albert von Schrenck-Notzing.

Max Dessoir

Max Dessoir

Oliver Lodge younger

Oliver J. Lodge

Albert von Schrenck Notzing

Albert von Schrenck Notzing

But in addition to experiments, Podmore discussed spontaneous incidents similar to those presented in the classic work Phantasms of the Living (1886, click here), by Edmund Gurney, Frederic W.H. Myers, and Frank Podmore. There are also chapters about coincidental dreams, collective hallucinations and induced telepathic hallucinations.

Phantasms of the Living vol 2

Here is a case cited by Podmore from Phantasms of the Living:

“In the spring and summer of 1886 I often visited a poor woman called Evans, who lived in our parish… She was very ill with a painful disease, and it was, as she said, a great pleasure when I went to see her; and I frequently sat with her and read to her. Towards the middle of October she was evidently growing weaker, but there seemed no immediate danger. I had not called on her for several days, and one evening I was standing in the dining-room after dinner with the rest of the family, when I saw the figure of a woman dressed like Mrs. Evans, in large apron and muslin cap, pass across the room from one door to the other, where she disappeared. I said, ‘Who is that?’ My mother said, ‘What do you mean?’ and I said, ‘That woman who has just come in and walked over to the other door.’ They all laughed at me, and said I was dreaming, but I felt sure it was Mrs. Evans, and next morning we heard she was dead.”

I wrote: “The phenomena of telepathy, Podmore states, have no explanation. He says earlier that this lack of knowledge about the telepathic process, ‘is not a defect which in the present state of experimental psychology can be held seriously to weaken the evidence…’ Podmore concludes that we only know about the mental aspects, not about physical forces behind the process:”

Podmore continued: “To begin with, there is no sense-organ for our presumed new mode of sensation; nor at the present stage of physiological knowledge is there likelihood that we can annex any as yet unappropriated organ to register telepathic stimuli… In lacking an elaborate machinery specially adapted for receiving its messages and concentrating them on the peripheral end of the nerves, telepathy would thus seem to be on a par with radiant energy affecting the general surface of the body. But the sensations of heat and cold are without quality or difference, other than difference of degree; whereas telepathic messages, as we have seen, purport often to be as detailed and precise as those conveyed by the same radiant energy falling on the organs of vision.”

Podmore also discussed clairvoyance and the mediumship of Leonora E. Piper. The medium, he wrote, “stated facts which were not within the conscious knowledge of any person present, and which could not conceivably have been discovered by any process of private inquiry.”

Leonora Piper 2

Leonora E. Piper

The article ends with a summary of how the book was received. For example, and representing a negative review: “The British science fiction writer HG Wells . . . [complained]  that the evidence it offered fell far below the standards of mainstream science, a view he held about psychical research works in general.”

H.G. Wells 2

H.G. Wells

 

Advertisements