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