Tag Archive: Revue Spirite; Proceedings of the Society for Psychical research; Journal of Parapsychology; journals of psychic phenomena


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

The Journal of Parapsychology, founded in 1937, had its 80th anniversary in 2017, a date commemorated with the publication of a special issue of the journal (2018, Vol. 82, Supplement). The issue starts with Etzel Cardeña’s editorial, “Four Score (Plus) Years Ago,” where he states:

Etzel Cardena 5

Etzel Cardeña

“Among their many achievements, Joseph Banks Rhine and collaborators launched The Journal of Parapsychology (JP) in 1937, the foremost venue for experimental research on parapsychology and sur­passed in longevity only by the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. There had been important experiments in parapsychology preceding the Rhine era, but during the latter experimental parapsy­chology was established more solidly. The eighty-plus years of JP issues would constitute an extraordi­nary achievement in any field, but is even more remarkable in such a contentious area as parapsycholo­gy. To avoid repeating mistakes one should be cognizant of the field’s previous history . . . and even a cursory look at the JP indexes shows how the field has developed throughout the years. My intention for this Supplementary E-issue was to give a bird’s eye view of the coverage in the JP.”

JP 1937 First Issue

First Issue of the Journal of Parapsychology

 

This is followed by two overview articles:

John Palmer

80 Years of the Journal of Parapsychology: An Historical Overview

John Palmer 3

John Palmer

Abstract: In this invited article, the author reviews the history of the Journal of Parapsychology from its inception in 1937 to 2017. The focus is on published controversies and debates with critics outside the field of parapsychology, JP publication policy, and the changes in editorship.

Journal of Parapsychology 5

Carlos S. Alvarado

Eight Decades of Psi Research: Highlights in the Journal of Parapsychology

Abstract: This is a short review of the 80 years of existence of the Journal of Parapsychology. Found­ed in 1937, the journal articulated the experimental research program of J. B. Rhine and his asso­ciates at Duke University. Highlights of the journal are discussed, starting with examples of articles reporting experiments of extrasensory perception and psychokinesis. Also discussed are articles about spontaneous cases, the presentation of novel and creative approaches, critiques and discus­sions, overviews of the field, J. B. Rhine’s use of the Journal of Parapsychology to prescribe for the field, and concepts and theories. The Journal of Parapsychology is seen as an important influence in the development of parapsychology.

In my paper, I concluded:

“The appearance of the JP represents a change from the psychical research tradition that existed in the United States and elsewhere before the late 1930s, which was dominated by the study of cases and of mediumship . . . Although the research program of J.B. Rhine and his associates was to some extent a reinstatement of earlier interest in experimentation, the JP greatly assisted the devel­opment of parapsychology. This was accomplished by providing a forum that assisted processes such as the standardization of techniques to assess chance, controls for contaminating factors such as sensory cues, and terminology in parapsychology . . . Like every good scientific journal, the JP also facilitated communication between researchers and others in the field helping to disseminate ideas and encourage professional attitudes. The presentation of informa­tion, in the form of reviews of the literature, and book reviews (not discussed in this paper) has made the journal an essential reference source over the years for researchers, students, and others. One hopes that this tradition of excellence and dedication continues beyond this anniversary as parapsychology moves to new horizons.”

The Journal of Parapsychology V36 No 1 March 1972 ESP Precognition Research NC

The editor also reprinted various articles originally published in the JP. These were:

Some Basic Experiments in Extra-sensory Perception: A Background (1937)

By Joseph Banks Rhine

J.B. Rhine 2

J.B. Rhine

Spontaneous Telepathy and the Problem of Survival (1943)

By Gardner Murphy

Gardner Murphy 3

Gardner Murphy

Subjective Forms of Spontaneous Psi Experiences (1953)

By Louisa E. Rhine

Louisa Rhine

Louisa E. Rhine

Precognition of a Quantum Process (1969)

By Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt

Studying Individual Psi Experiences (1970)

Gertrude R. Schmeidler

Gertrude Schmeidler

Gertrude R. Schmeidler

A Joint Communiqué: The Psi Ganzfeld Controversy (1986)

By Ray Hyman and Charles Honorton

Ray Hyman

Ray Hyman

Charles Honorton

Charles Honorton

An Assessment of the Evidence for Psychic Functioning (1995)

By Jessica Utts

Jessica Utts 4

Jessica Utts

Mind Matters: A New Scientific Era (2008)

By Roger D. Nelson

Roger Nelson 3

Roger D. Nelson

Those of you interested in the history of the JP may want to consult the following sources:

journal of Parapsychology 7

Alvarado, C.S. (2011). Prescribing for parapsychology: Note on J.B. Rhine’s writings in the Journal of Parapsychology. Australian Journal of Parapsychology, 11, 89–99.

Alvarado, C.S. (in press). Journal of Parapsychology. In R. McLuhan (Ed.), Psi Encyclopedia. London: Society for Psychical Research.

Alvarado, C. S., Biondi, M., & Kramer, W. (2006). Historical notes on psychic phenomena in specialised journals. European Journal of Parapsychology, 21, 58-87.

Broughton, R. S. (1987). Publication policy and the Journal of Parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 51, 21-32.

Mauskopf, S.H. (1987). The origin of the Journal of Parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 51, 9-19.

Mauskopf, S.H., & McVaugh, M.R. (1980). The Elusive Science: Origins of Experimental Psychical Research. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press.

Palmer, J. (1987). Controversy and the JP. Journal of Parapsychology, 51, 33-48.

Pope, D.H., & Pratt, J.G. (1942). Five Years of the Journal of Parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 6,  5-19.

Rao, K.R. (1987). Editorial: The Journal of Parapsychology: The first and the next fifty years. Journal of Parapsychology, 51, 1-8.

Rhine, J.B. (1946). Editorial: The first ten years of the journal. Journal of Parapsychology, 10, 221-223.

Rhine, J.B. (1956). Editorial: The Journal’s first twenty years. Journal of Parapsychology, 20, 263-266.

Rhine, J.B. (1961). A quarter century of the Journal of Parapsychology: A brief review. Journal of Parapsychology, 25, 237-246.

Rhine, J.B. (1977). A backward look on leaving the JP. Journal of Parapsychology, 41, 89-102.

Zingrone, N.L. (1988). Authorship and gender in American parapsychology journals. Journal of Parapsychology, 52, 321-343.

Journal of Parapsychology 9

Advertisements

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

I recently published a review of the first volumes of three journals that were historically important in the study of psychic phenomena. The review article is entitled “On First Volumes and Beginnings in the Study of Psychic Phenomena: Varieties of Investigative Approaches” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2015, 29, 131-153; if you want a copy write to me at: carlos@theazire.org). The journals in question were: Revue Spirite: Journal d’Études Psychologiques, 1858, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1882–1883, and the Journal of Parapsychology, 1937.

In my introduction I mentioned different research styles in the history of psychology, including, for example case studies and experiments. “A similar situation and the topic of this Essay Review is the different approaches in the study of psychic phenomena over time. The purpose of this Essay Review is to introduce to modern readers some of these approaches in the forms of summaries of the contents of three different journals from the past. These are comments about the first volumes of influential publications concerned with the study of psychic phenomena that are probably not familiar to current students of psychic phenomena.”

Allan ardec

Allan Kardec

The Revue Spirite, produced by Allan Kardec, was an important resource in the spreading of Spiritism in France, and elsewhere. Most of the content of the Revue was devoted to mediumistic communications that were seen as authoritative as regards moral, philosophical and scientific issues. There was no attempt at external verification and many of the communications were not verifiable in principle. “In a two-page paper entitled ‘Utilité de Certaines Évocations Particulières’ (Utility of Some Particular Evocations . . .), it was stated that these messages were valuable because the spirits in question ‘have acquired a high degree of perfection’ . . . that allowed them to ‘penetrate the mysteries that exceed the vulgar reach of humanity. . .’ ”

Revue Spirite 1858 2The cases described in this volume were not original investigations, but accounts reprinted from popular sources. “Examples include ‘Visions’ . . . , ‘Le Revenant de Mademoiselle Clairon’ (The Ghost of Miss Clairon . . .), ‘L’Esprit Frappeur de Dibbelsdorf—Basse-Saxe’ (The Rapping Spirit of Dibbelsdorf—Lower Saxony), . . .), and ‘Phénomène d’Apparition’ (Apparition Phenomena, . . .).”

I argued, “to consider the content of the Revue, and Kardec’s work, as a scientific research program . . . begs the question of what science is. It is one thing to observe nature and develop hypotheses based on observed patterns, or to be tested by further observations or actual experimentation, and another thing to use communications through seances, which source is uncertain, as shown in this volume of the Revue, to get teachings and answers to questions about the nature of topics such as the workings of psychic phenomena and a variety of moral and philosophical issues. Similarly, it is one thing to report on non-evidential spirit communications and on cases of apparitions and other phenomena discussed in the press and other sources, and it is another to study these phenomena with attention to evidence.”

A very different approach was that found in the first volume of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. “The PSPR was the main organ of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), which was of basic importance for the development of parapsychology. Its work . . . systematized research into psychic phenomena in England, but it was also influential in other countries.”

PSPR 1882-83 Vol 1

PSPR 1882-1883, Vol. 1,  Table of Contents

PSPR 1882-1883, Vol. 1, Table of Contents

William F. Barrett

William F. Barrett

Some of the authors in the first volume of the PSPR were William F. Barrett, Edmund Gurney, Frederic W. H. Myers, and Henry Sidgwick. “The first volume, containing four issues appearing in 1882 and 1883, was formed of papers reporting on the collection and analysis of evidence for psychic phenomena coming from accounts and from experiments. Some of these were . . . Barrett, Gurney, and Myers’ ‘First Report of the Committee on Thought-Reading’ (1882 . . .) . . .Barrett, Keep, Massey, Wedgwood, Podmore, and Pease’s ‘First Report of the Committee on ‘Haunted Houses’ ‘ (1882 . . .), and Barrett, Massey, Moses, Podmore, Gurney, and Myers’ ‘Report of the Literary Committee’ (1882 . . .). These, and other reports such as Barrett’s ‘On Some Phenomena Associated with Abnormal Conditions of Mind’ (1883 . . .) and Malcolm Guthrie and James Birchall’s ‘Record of Experiments in Thought-Transference, at Liverpool’ (1883 . . .), point to the empirical approach prevalent in the SPR even if such attempts seem methodologically crude by modern standards.”

Barrett Phenomena Abnormal Conditions PSPR 1883Different from the Revue, the SPR had high evidential standards with cases. As stated in the “First Report of the Committee on ‘Haunted Houses’ ”, published in 1882: “In the first place, we . . . begin by tracing every story to the fountain-head. But we do not consider that every first-hand narration of the appearance of a ghost, even from a thoroughly trustworthy narrator, gives us adequate reason for attempting further investigation. On the contrary, our general principle is that the unsupported evidence of a single witness does not constitute sufficient ground for accepting an apparition as having a prima facie claim to objective reality. To distinguish any apparition from an ordinary hallucination . . . it must receive some independent evidence to corroborate it. And this corroboration may be of two kinds; we may have the consentient testimony of several witnesses; or there may be some point of external agreement and coincidence—unknown, as such, to the seer at the time—(e.g., the periodic appearance on a particular anniversary, or the recognition of a peculiar dress), to give to the vision an objective foundation.”

The volume also had the beginnings of an experimental tradition in the study of ESP, something that would be developed in later volumes. An example was “Records of Experiments on Thought-Transference, at Liverpool,” by Malcolm Guthrie and James Birchall (1883). Furthermore there were instructions about precautions to follow in conducting such experiments.

Guthrie Birchall Thought Transference PSPR“While the PSPR included some reports of experiments (and this became more frequent in later volumes), this approach was not the main one taken by SPR researchers. But it was the research style predominant in the Journal of Parapsychology.” This is clear in the first volume of this publication, appearing in 1937.

Journal of Parapsychology

J.B. Rhine

J.B. Rhine

The Journal of Parapsychology (JP) came from Joseph Banks Rhine research group at Duke University and represented an experimental and quantitative research tradition. “According to my count of types of paper in the first volume, excluding correspondence and notes, there were 16 experimental reports, 4 editorials, 3 reviews of specific topics, 3 summaries and reviews of specific experiments, and 3 discussions of statistical issues.”

“Examples of experiments include ESP studies such as J. G. Pratt’s . . . ‘Clairvoyant Blind Matching’ . . . , J. L. Woodruff and R. W. George’s ‘Experiments in Extra-Sensory Perception’ . . . , Lucien Warner’s ‘The Role of Luck in ESP Data’ . . . , and Vernon Sharp and C. C. Clark’s ‘Group Tests for Extra-Sensory Perception’ . . . The experimental approach was not limited to proving the existence of ESP. The JP carried interesting experiments to study ESP in relation to other variables, such as J. B. Rhine’s ‘The Effect of Distance in ESP Tests’ . . . , Margaret H. Pegram’s ‘Some Psychological Relations of Extra-Sensory Perception’ . . . , and Edmond P. Gibson’s ‘A Study of Comparative Performance in Several ESP Procedures’ . . . In addition, several studies were reported about ESP tests with special participants.”

J.G. Pratt

J.G. Pratt

In conclusion: “The journals discussed here . . . had to carve out their own territory, so to speak, when they started. The Revue appeared in a context in which mesmerism was better known, a movement that was not always open to spiritism . . . Similarly, to some extent the PSPR and the JP represented ‘new’ beginnings in terms of spiritualism and psychical research, respectively. However, it would be wrong to reduce everything to breaks and discontinuities. In fairness, the issue was more one of general trends, and it is important to recognize that there were clear conceptual and methodological connections between the movements.”

“While different, the three journals presented in their pages material showing empirical attempts to study psychic phenomena, even though they represent different research styles. Of the three approaches—the teaching of the spirits, the analyses of testimony, and the conducting of experiments—only the last two are still pursued in parapsychology. In fact, I doubt that today many parapsychologists . . . will consider the use of mediumistically obtained teachings as a reliable approach to study psychic phenomena, although one may argue that it may be useful to generate hypotheses that may be put to test by other means. But leaving aside modern standards and practices, we must admit that Kardec saw his work as empirical, different from faith, an attempt to collect information from the natural world, albeit from an unusual source.”

“Different from the above, the PSPR and the JP, not to mention other journals . . . , emphasized cases and experiments as the means to generate knowledge for psychical research. Later developments within the SPR and the Duke group, as articulated in the PSPR and the JP, significantly affected the study of psychic phenomena, transforming it into a more systematic endeavor . . .”