Tag Archive: Théodore Flournoy; From India to the planet Mars;


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

In an article I co-authored with Everton de Oliveira Maraldi we reprinted the last chapter of Swiss psychologist Théodore Flournoy’s From India to the Planet Mars (1900) in the journal History of Psychiatry (“Classic Text No. 113: Final chapter, From India to the Planet Mars: A Study of a Case of Somnambulism with Glossolalia, by Théodore Flournoy (1900).” History of Psychiatry, 2018, 29, 110-125). Flournoy’s book is generally recognized as a classic of both psychology and psychical research.

Everton Maraldi

Everton de Oliveira Maraldi

 

Flournoy From India 2

Here is the abstract.

“Among the many attempts to explain mediumship psychologically at the turn of the century were the efforts of Swiss psychologist Théodore Flournoy (1854–1920). In his well-known book Des Indes à la Planète Mars (1900), translated as From India to the Planet Mars (1900), Flournoy analysed the mediumistic productions of medium Hélène Smith (1861–1929), consisting of accounts of previous lives in France and in India, and material about planet Mars. Flournoy explained the phenomena as a function of cryptomnesia, suggestive influences, and subconscious creativity, analyses that influenced both psychology and psychical research. The purpose of this Classic Text is to reprint the conclusion of Flournoy’s study, whose ideas were developed in the context of psychological attention to mediumship and secondary personalities.”

Theodore Flournoy

Théodore Flournoy

 

Hélène Smith was the pseudonym of Catherine Élise Müller. “Hélène claimed to be the reincarnation of an Indian princess of the fifteenth century called Simandini, and also of Marie Antoinette, queen of France at the end of the seventeenth century. Furthermore, she claimed to travel spiritually to the planet Mars, from where she presented information, through drawings, descriptions and automatic writings, about the lifestyle of the Martians and the language they allegedly used.”

Flournoy Leopold Writing

Leopold (Spirit Control) Writing Top: Leopold; Below: Medium’s writing

Flournoy Martian Script 2

Martian Script

Flournoy Martian Buildings

Martian Buildings

Flournoy Martian Landscape and Plants

Martian Landscape and Plants

Regarding the medium, we wrote:

“Hélène’s mother as well as her grandmother also reported visions and experiences of presentiment, while one of her brothers ‘it appears, could easily have become a good medium’ . . . Additionally, Flournoy pointed to the fact that Hélène was ‘more or less visionary from her childhood’ . . . and spiritist practices only exploited, moulded and directed her predispositions through specific suggestions and doctrinal beliefs.”

Our introduction to Flournoy’s chapter placed the topic in historical context. We considered such topics as the psychology of mediumship and aspects of Flournoy’s career. We wrote, Flournoy “summarizes the main psychological findings of his study with Hélène Smith, and discusses the limitations and strengths of his investigation. He acknowledges the importance of future studies on the neurophysiological basis of mediumship, and discusses the implications of mediumistic phenomena to nosology and psychopathology, as well as to the study of supernormal faculties or processes.”

Flournoy wrote in the chapter we present in the article:

“From the psychological point of view, the case of Mlle. Smith, although too complex to be reduced to a single formula, is explicable grosso modo by some recognized principle, the successive or concurrent action of which has engendered her multiple phenomena. There is, in the first place, the influence, so often verified, of emotional shocks and of certain psychic traumatisms upon mental dissociation. By means of these the birth of hypnoid states may become the germ either of secondary personalities more or less strongly marked . . . or of somnambulistic romances . . .”

“We must also take into consideration the enormous suggestibility and auto-suggestibility of mediums, which render them so sensitive to all the influences of spiritistic reunions, and are so favorable to the play of those brilliant subliminal creations in which, occasionally, the doctrinal ideas of the surrounding environment are reflected together with the latent emotional tendencies of the medium herself . . .”

“And, finally, we must note the phenomena of cryptomnesia, the awakening and setting to work of forgotten memories, which easily account for the elements of truth contained in the great preceding constructions and in the incarnations or casual visions of Mlle. Smith in the course of her seances. But besides this general explanation how many points of detail there are which remain obscure!”

Flournoy’s book was praised at the time by such figures as F.W.H. Myers and Théodule Ribot, who were students of the capabilities of the human mind and its hidden regions. Others, including several believers in survival of death, were highly critical of Flournoy’s arguments. Today the book is considered a classic example of the studies of the creative functions of the subconscious mind.

Theodule Ribot

Théodule Ribot

We also stated:

“Flournoy’s ideas on the subconscious mind took advantage of the psychiatric and psychological knowledge available at the time, and were applied to the understanding of the so-called mediumistic phenomena that, in turn, expanded and complemented the available theories in the light of mediumistic processes. In this scenario, Hélène Smith played an important role, highlighting the influence that exemplary cases may have on the development of ideas and research programs, especially for the emerging field of multiple personalities, dissociation and hypnosis, deeply interconnected with the spiritualist beliefs of the time . . .”

Flournoy From India to the Planet Mars outside cover

Advertisements