Sunday, November 22, 2015   2:00 PM

History of Parapsychology IV: G. Stanley Hall as a Critic of Psychical Research

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

It is well known that many of the early psychologists were negative about the existence of psychic phenomena, preferring to explain them via conventional principles such as fraud, suggestion, hallucination, and other ideas. Individuals such as Alfred Binet, Joseph Jastrow, and Hugo Münsterberg are examples of this tradition. In a paper I recently published I discuss a prominent example of this, namely the work of American psychologist G. Stanley Hall.

G. Stanley Hall

The paper, “G. Stanley Hall on ‘Mystic or Borderline Phenomena’ “(Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2014, 28, 75–93; available from the author: was not meant to be a detailed overview of Hall’s critical work, but an introduction to a little known paper of his about psychic phenomena. Here is the abstract:

“G. Stanley Hall (1844–1924) was one the most prominent of the early American psychologists and an outspoken skeptic about the existence of psychic phenomena. This article presents a reprint of one of his critiques on the topic, a little-known paper entitled ‘Mystic or Borderline Phenomena’ published in 1909 in the Proceedings of the Southern California Teacher’s Association. Hall commented on some phenomena of physical mediumship, as well as on apparitions, telepathy, and mental healing. In his view all could be explained via conventional ways such as trickery and the workings of the unconscious mind. The paper is reprinted with an introduction and annotations providing biographical information about Hall and additional information and clarification of the points he made in the paper. It is argued that Hall’s paper represents an instance of boundary-work common at the beginning of organized psychology, representing an attempt to give authority to the discipline over fields such as psychical research.”

I argue in the paper: “In addition to Hall’s unquestionable importance for the development and history of American psychology, I had several . . . reasons to choose this article. The paper is a good summary of Hall’s negative views about psychic phenomena and psychical research and represents the opinion of other psychologists at the time . . . Hall’s paper is an example of the attempts of many early psychologists to separate their emerging field from psychical research . . . I am also presenting Hall’s paper as a reminder of the importance of remembering critics and criticism in our discussions and understanding of the past developments of psychical research. This is because many historical articles published by workers in the field tend to focus on proponents of, or on defenses of, the ‘reality’ of psychic phenomena.”

Unfortunately Hall misrepresented psychical researchers several times in his paper. For example, he assumed they needed to know something about topics such as hallucinations and hypnotism. But Hall knew better than this, as he had read Gurney, Myers and Podmore’s Phantasms of the Living (1886) and he knew about Myers writings which covered much of abnormal psychology. In fact, I believe that Hall could have learned much about these topics from the psychical researchers.

Hall’s paper was also not fair to psychical researchers when he wrote: “There is almost nothing tricks cannot do, aided by skill and practice. There are many codes: for instance, reading cards can be done by two confederates, one of whom catches the heart rhythm as the toe or a crossed leg moves, and counts off the suit and the card, marking the beginning of the count by any rustle or noise of the foot, hem, sniffle, or any other sign, which the observers never detect. Probably hundreds of these tricks are well known and are found in the copious literature on this subject . . . My contention is that every investigator should know what are the resources of sleight of hand.”

But as I comment in my article: “Here, as in other writings, and in other parts of the article, Hall presents his comments without acknowledging that psychical researchers were aware of the issue of fraud and of techniques of fraud from the beginning of the movement . . . Hall had a tendency to offer advice and issue recommendations under the apparent assumption that his points had not been considered before. While this may have been true among some, such as members of the general public . . . , it did not apply to most psychical researchers.”

Consequently Hall’s writings need to be critically assessed.

On Hall’s contributions to psychology see:

Arnett, J. J. (2006). G. Stanley Hall’s Adolescence: Brilliance and nonsense. History of Psychology, 9, 186–197.

Bringmann, W. G. (1992). G. Stanley Hall and the history of psychology. American Psychologist, 47, 281–290.

Hogan, J. D. (2003). G. Stanley Hall: Educator, organizer, and pioneer. In In G. A. Kimble & M. Wertheimer (Eds.),Portraits of Pioneers in Psychology(Volume 5, pp. 19–36), Mahwa, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum; Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Hulse, S. H., & Green, B. F. (Eds.) (1986). One Hundred Years of Psychological Research in America: G. Stanley Hall and the Johns Hopkins Tradition. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University.

Rosenzwig, S. (1992). Freud, Jung, and Hall the King-Maker: The Historic Expedition to America (1909), with G. Stanley Hall as Host and William James as Guest. St. Louis, MO: Rana House Press.

Ross, D. (1972). G . Stanley Hall: The Psychologist as Prophet. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Sokal, M. M. (1990). G. Stanley Hall and the institutional character of psychology at Clark 1889–1920.Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, 26, 114–124.

Friday, November 13, 2015   9:31 PM

History of Parapsychology III: Frederic W. H. Myers

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

I published an article about Frederic W.H. Myers entitled “Vignettes on Frederic W.H. Myers” (Paranormal Review, 2014, No. 70, 3-13). As said in the first paragraph:

“Frederic W.H. Myers, a researcher of great importance for the history of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), and for the history of parapsychology in general, was one of the most interesting and complex figures of nineteenth-century psychical research. His work has been discussed in recent times by several authors [such as Emily Kelly and Trevor Hamilton] . . . In contrast to these works, in this paper I do not attempt to present a cohesive picture or study of Myers. Instead I present several somewhat disconnected notes about Myers’ life and work, some of which have been compiled from little known sources, that I hope will interest those readers of the Review who are fascinated with his work and with the period in which he worked.”

Frederic W.H. Myers

I included sections in the paper entitled: Impressions and Behaviors, Travels, Discussing Myers in America, Discussions of Myers in France, Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death in the United States and in France, and Elected SPR President.

In France Charles Richet wrote about Myers in his book The Natural History of a Savant (1927):

“What I admired most in Myers was his scrupulous scientific probity. Although he had an excellent memory, he would take exact notes of all the circumstances of any experiment. His courtesy, his charm, his learning, were set off by a delicate sense of humor, which made his conversation delightful. He was a man of the world, in his manners far removed from those savants who wrap themselves in their specialty like bears in their fur . . . .”

It is interesting to know about Myers’ activities in countries such as France and the United States. “Some of Myers’s travels to France were in connection to the international psychology congresses. The first one, held at Paris in 1889, included psychical research in its programme . . . In this congress we find Myers participating in discussions about hallucinations and hypnotism with other attending the congress . . . In the 1900 congress, also held in France, Myers . . . presented a paper about the mediumship of Mrs Rosalie Thompson . . .”

I also presented in the article seldom discussed aspects of Myers’ visit to the United States and how his work was received there. “In the United States Myers participated in a psychic congress held in Chicago. A report published inThe Dialread: ‘ ‘Psychical Science’ was the subject of a Congress some of whose sessions must have made the judicious grieve. It was given dignity by the presence and frequent participation of Mr. Frederic W.H. Myers, and, we need hardly add, proved the popular success of the week’ . . . During this congress, held during August of 1893, Myers presented papers about ‘The Subliminal Self,’ and ‘The Evidence for Man’s Survival after Death’ . . . While he was in the States Myers said that he had seances with Mrs. Piper . . .”

Many authors in the United States commented about Myers, among them Clark Bell, Hereward Carrington, William James, Joseph Jastrow, Rufus Osgood Mason, Morton Prince, and Boris Sidis. Some comments referred to Myers’Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (HP, 1903), such as the following positive and negative views:

“Physician Rufus Osgood Mason (1903) wrote a two part review of HP in theNew York Times. The systematic approach of Myers, Mason believed, made the work an ‘epoch-making book’ . . . The review ended arguing that pioneers in science—such as Galileo, Newton, Franklin, Morse, and Darwin—were rejected at first, and so we should expect the same in the case of Myers . . . A different perspective was presented by skeptical philosopher I. Woodbridge Riley (1905). PlacingHP in the context of the ‘new thought’ literature, he stated that the future would tell if ‘this pioneer of the subliminal was not a mere squatter, whose holdings are bound to grow narrower with the advance of the legitimate psychologist and physiologist’ . . . He clearly believed there were normal explanations for many of the phenomena described by Myers . . .”

There were also mixed reactions from France. “Pierre Janet . . . regarded Human Personality as a work presenting ‘exaggerated generalizations and adventurous hypotheses,’ but also ‘remarkable descriptions and useful indications’ . . . Another French writer, philosopher Émile Boutroux (1908), believed Myers contributed precise observations to the study of the subliminal mind. But he was skeptical of Myers’ use of gradations and similarities between phenomena to make his points.”

I ended the article—by no means an exhaustive review of Myers—citing Richet, “who considered Myers the harbinger of a new science. Richet believed that Myers’s ‘name will not perish, his work is indestructible’ and ‘will be placed at the top of this future psychology which perhaps will eclipse all other human knowledge.’ ”


Thursday, November 12, 2015   7:58 PM

History of Parapsychology II: Théodore Flournoy

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

One of the most interesting early figures in the psychological study of mediumship and other phenomena was Swiss psychologist Théodore Flournoy (1854-1920). In my last published paper, with several colleagues, we reviewed his main psychical research-related work: Carlos S. Alvarado, Everton de Oliveira Maraldi, Fatima Regina Machado, and Wellington Zangari, “Théodore Flournoy’s Contributions to Psychical Research” (Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 2014,78, 149-168; available from the first author:

Theodore Flournoy

Théodore Flournoy

Here is the abstract:

“In this paper we review the main contributions of Swiss psychologist Théodore Flournoy (1854–1920) to psychical research. Flournoy always advocated the scientific study of psychic phenomena as an important area that should not be ignored. After a short discussion of Flournoy’s attitudes to psychic phenomena we focus on his main work, his study of Hélène Smith (1861–1929) published in Des Indes à la Planète Mars (1900), in which he summarized communications about previous lives in France and India, as well as those coming from the planet Mars, which Flournoy attributed to subconscious abilities involving imagination and cryptomnesia. In addition, we review his other investigations of mental mediums, observations of physical mediums, and writings about telepathy and precognition. We argue that Flournoy’s work with mental mediums made him a significant contributor to the study of the capabilities of the subconscious mind, work that was important to the theoretical concerns of both dynamic psychology and psychical research.”

The paper is divided in the following sections: Biographical Sketch, Early Studies in Psychology, The Psychical Research Context, General Attitude to Psychic Phenomena, Study of and Speculations about Hélène Smith, Other Investigations of Mental Mediumship, Observations of Physical Mediums, and Telepathy and Precognition.

While many in psychology and in other fields rejected psychic phenomena, others studied the topic seriously and defended their reality, as seen in the early work of the Society for Psychical Research, including figures such as Frederic W.H. Myers. We wrote in the paper “that Flournoy was similar to Myers in that he argued that some phenomena, particularly mediumship, had conventional explanations based on the workings of the subconscious mind, but that other manifestations required the acceptance of some supernormal principle. There were, of course, important differences between the two men’s thinking. But for our purpose we want to argue that Flournoy’s work illustrates the interaction of psychical research and the study of the subconscious mind in early psychology.”

Flournoy’s best known work was his analysis of the mediumship of Hélène Smith, the pseudonym of Catherine Élise Müller (1861-1929), who presented “subliminal romances” about life on planet Mars, and previous lives in India and France. As was to be expected, the descriptions of Mars, and the creation of a Martian language, attracted much attention at the time, and even to our days.

As we discussed Flournoy interpreted the phenomena mainly as the result of the medium’s subconscious creations: “To Flournoy the subconscious activity was the expression of a natural and spontaneous creativity . . . Interestingly, Flournoy stated . . . that he believed he had ‘perceived a little telekinesis and telepathy’ in some of his séances with Smith . . . But he did not document this in detail and basically presented it as an impression.”

We had sections in the paper about Flournoy’s writings about telepathy and precognition and his observations of physical mediums. Among the latter were Eusapia Palladino and Stanislawa Tomczyk, who convinced him of the reality of their phenomena.

Among other topics we summarized a little known survey of mediums conducted by Flournoy begun in 1898. We wrote:

“He sent questions to members of the Société d’Études Psychiques de Geneva and received 72 replies, 23 from men and 49 from women. Among other topics, those questions were about when and under what circumstances the respondent realized that he or she possessed mediumistic faculties, how these experiences changed over time, observations of mediumistic faculties in other people and in the medium’s family, and the influence of physical, medical or moral conditions upon mediumship. In this study, unique for its time, Flournoy studied the medium from a psychological and social perspective instead of an exclusively parapsychological one.”

Interestingly, Flournoy accepted that the content of some mediumistic communications were veridical, but he believed that their presentation as coming from spirits was a dramatization of the medium’s subconscious mind.

We conclude stating that Flournoy’s main contributions to psychical research were conceptual, namely showing the dramatic capabilities of the subconscious mind. “Flournoy’s psychological contributions have been acknowledged by some historians of psychology. The influential historian of ideas concerning the unconscious mind, Henri F. Ellenberger, referred to Flournoy’s study of Hélène Smith as a ‘great step forward for dynamic psychiatry’ . . . Shamdasani . . . has noted that Flournoy’s ideas about the subconscious mind were an alternative to Freud’s theories in the early twentieth century, one that emphasized the more creative and constructive aspects of the unconscious.”

Flournoy was “an important representative both of early psychology and of psychical research, and particularly of the interactions of the two fields.” His work “is a reminder that some ideas and studies of early psychology took place in the context of interest in and research on psychic phenomena.”



Wednesday, November 11, 2015   1:21 AM

History of Parapsychology: I. Mediumship, Dissociation and the Subconscious Mind

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

In this series of blogs I plan to summarize some of the articles I have published in recent years anout the history of psychical research and related matters. The latter includes mesmerism, and spiritualism, among other topics.

One of these papers is “Mediumship, Psychical Research, Dissociation, and the Powers of the Subconscious Mind” (Journal of Parapsychology, 2014,78, 98–114). It is an overview of ideas about the aforementioned topics from the old days of psychical research. Here is the abstract:

“Since the 19th century many psychiatrists and psychologists have considered mediumship to be related to the subconscious mind and to dissociative processes produced mainly by internal conventional processes of the medium’s mind. However, some psychologists and psychical researchers active between the last decades of the 19th century and the 1920s expressed a different view. Individuals such as Théodore Flournoy, Cesare Lombroso, Enrico Morselli, Frederic W. H. Myers, Julian Ochorowicz, Charles Richet, Eleanor Sidgwick, and Eduard von Hartmann, argued that some mediums combined dissociation with supernormal phenomena such as knowledge acquired without the use of the senses, and the production of physical effects seemingly beyond the normal bodily capabilities. Depending on the theorist, other issues such as pathology and discarnate agency were also part of the discussions. The supernormal was never accepted by science at large and today is rarely mentioned in the dissociation literature. But ideas related to the supernormal were part of this literature. A complete history of dissociation, and of the subconscious mind, should include consideration of this body of work.”

Eduard von Hartmann

The article has sections entitled: Mediumship in Context: Spiritualism, Psychical Research, and Psychiatry; The Influential Writings of Frederic W. H. Myers and Eduard Von Hartmann; Speculations on the Mediumship of Leonora E. Piper; Speculations on the Mediumship of Eusapia Palladino; and Further Speculations on Mediumship. I discuss in the article several theoreticians generally neglected in the English-language literature of mediumship such as Joseph Maxwell, Enrico Morselli, William Mackenzie, Julian Ochorowicz, René Sudre, and Eduard von Hartmann.

Many discussions centered on medium Leonora E. Piper. While some were survival-oriented, others were not. These included the speculations of English classical scholar and banker Walter Leaf, English educator Eleanor Sidgwick, and German philosopher Traugott Konstantin Oesterreich.

Leonora E. Piper

Leaf “argued that in the medium’s ‘abnormal state there is a quite exceptional power of reading the contents of the minds of sitters; but that this power is far from complete’ . . . The thought transference process suggested by Leaf was one related to sitters’ subconscious minds, that is, content not consciously recollected at the time of the séance.This gave the impression that a spirit was communicating. Sidgwick argued that telepathy could provide the ‘material necessary to successful personation’ . . . This assumed that a dissociative process (the trance and the personation accompanying it) could incorporate telepathic information.” “Oesterreich suggested that Mrs. Piper’s veridical communications involved ‘an elaboration by the creative imagination of Mrs. Piper’s telepathically-acquired knowledge and by her telepathic faculty working in conjunction with the minds of others’ . . . ”

Regarding Palladino I summarized the ideas of Italian psychiatrist Enrico Morselli, presented in his 1908 bookPsicologia e “Spiritismo”: “According to Morselli . . . the low intellectual content of these effects [physical phenomena] was indicative of psychological disaggregation (or separation of mental processes) because the medium’s ‘inferior personality’ . . . manifested at a low intellectual level.” Morselli believed “that she could project a biopsychic force from her body, a force that could join with other forces coming from the other persons in the mediumistic circle . . . This force could be imprinted with the ‘oniric or subconscious thought of the medium’ . . . , which constituted the principle guiding telekinesis and shaping materializations. Morselli . . . believed that the subconscious thought and will of the medium directed the phenomena . . . However, their uniformity and repetitive nature suggested to him that Palladino had ‘fixed ideas,’ or delusional dominant ideas affecting both actions and thought. These ideas probably helped the production of the phenomena by her subconscious mind and also suggested hysteria . . .”

In conclusion, I wrote that “ideas of the supernormal as regards dissociation and the subconscious were not integrated into the psychology and psychiatry of the times discussed in this paper. Although most medical men held a closed model of the mind (and of dissociation) in which the phenomena were explained mostly by internal resources and a few external influences such as suggestion, few accepted a more open model of mind, such as the one some psychical researchers upheld based on powers that extend sensory and motor capacities beyond the confines of the body . . .” Furthermore, I argued that discussions of the functions of the subconscious mind “are incomplete without consideration of the psychical research perspective.”

“In the period discussed here, psychical researchers considered that the functions of the subconscious went beyond memory, pathology, creativity, and imagination. In the case of mediumship, psychical researchers extended current ideas about dissociation (in this case trance and personation) by adding the supernormal to the equation.”

“It is my hope that the material discussed in this paper will remind current students of mediumship of aspects of a past forgotten by many. Furthermore, I hope that my writings and those of others will influence the general historiography of psychiatry and psychology . . . Currently most of this work refers to the ‘closed’ model of the mind and of dissociation . . . But to limit historical analysis in this way produces an incomplete picture of the past, the details of which are ignored or dismissed by many historians as well as by psychiatrists and psychologists.”



Tuesday, November 10, 2015   9:55 PM

Extrasensory Perception: Support, Skepticism and Science, edited by E. C. May and S. B. Marwaha: Interview with May

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

Edwin C. May and Sonali Bhatt Marwaha recently published a two volume collection of articles, Extrasensory Perception: Support, Skepticism and Science (Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger, 2015). Here I present an interview with Ed May about this work.

The book, I believe, is one of the most important high level publications about parapsychology published in recent times, with emphasis on ESP experimental and theoretical work. The first volume is subtitledHistory, Controversy and Research, and the second Theories of Psi.

Here is the table of contents, followed by the interview:


Foreword James Fallon


The Fundamentals of Psi, by Edwin C. May and Sonali Bhatt Marwaha

Part I: History of Psi Research

A Brief History of Psi Research, by Nancy L. Zingrone and Carlos S. Alvarado

Mind and Knowledge at the Margins: On the Possible Revitalization of Research on Mind and Knowledge through a Reunion between Philosophical and Psychical Research, by Anand Jayprakash Vaidya

 Part II: Psi Research and Skepticism

ESP, Causation, and the Possibility of Precognition, by Richard Corry

The Psychology of Belief and Disbelief in the Paranormal, by Christopher C. French

A Skeptical Eye on Psi, by Eric Jan Wagenmakers, Ruud Wetzels, Denny Borsboom, Rogier Kievit, and Han L. J. van der Maas

Part III: Psi Research

What Constitutes Replication in Parapsychology?, by Jessica Utts

 Anomalous Cognition and Psychokinesis Research in European Labs, by Patrizio Tressoldi and Michael Duggan

Anomalous Cognition/ESP and Psychokinesis Research in the United States, by Loyd Auerbach, Dominic Parker, and Sheila Smith

Anomalous Cognition and Psychokinesis Research in Australian and Asian Labs, by Lance Storm and Adam J. Rock

Evidence for Precognition from Applied Remote Viewing, by Joseph W. McMoneagle

Psychophysiology and Anomalous Cognition, by Dean Radin

Neuroscientific Investigation of Anomalous Cognition, by Michael A. Persinger

Variation of ESP by Season, Local Sidereal Time, and Geomagnetic Activity, by Adrian Ryan and S. James P. Spottiswoode


Foreword James Fallon

Fundamental Issues for Psi Theorists, by Sonali Bhatt Marwaha and Edwin C. May

Part I: Theories of Psi

Higher Dimensions of Space and Time and Their Implications for Psi, by Bernard Carr

Physics beyond Causality: Making Sense of Quantum Mechanics and Certain Experimental Anomalies, by Richard Shoup

Remembrance of Things Future: A Case for Retrocausation and Precognition, by Daniel P. Sheehan

What You Always Wanted to Know about the Observational Theories, by Brian Millar

Entropy and Precognition: The Physics Domain of the Multiphasic Model of Precognition, by Edwin C. May and Joseph G. Depp

The Multiphasic Model of Precognition, by Sonali Bhatt Marwaha and Edwin C. May

Consciousness-Induced Restoration of Time Symmetry, by Dick J. Bierman

Activational Model of ESP, by Zoltán Vassy

Experimenter Psi: A View of Decision Augmentation Theory, by Edwin C. May

The Model of Pragmatic Information, by Walter von Lucadou

First Sight: A Way to Thinking About the Mind, and a Theory of Psi, by James Carpenter

Anomalous Cognition and the Case for Mind-Body Dualism, by David Rousseau

Part II. The Future of Psi Research

Has Science Developed the Competence to Confront Claims of the Paranormal?, by Charles Honorton

Next Step: Process-Oriented Research: Guidelines for Experimenters, by Edwin C. May and Sonali Bhatt Marwaha

Appendix 1: General PK Protocol

Appendix 2: AC Protocol

Appendix 3: Research Organizations and Journals



Can you give us a brief summary of the book?

Extrasensory Perception: Support, Skepticism and Science is a two-volume set that introduces ESP—also known as anomalous cognition—and psychokinesis, addressing the history, research, philosophy, and scientific theories surrounding the phenomena. With contributions from leading research scientists from within the field of parapsychology and other areas of study, this volume addresses the fundamental questions that the evidence of ESP evokes; examines ESP research from across the world; and explores the controversies, skepticism, and contemporary criticism disparaging the field.

Written for a multidisciplinary audience ranging from physicists to psychologists to lay persons, the volumes present the scientific validity of the field. Volume 1 addresses the historical, philosophical, skeptical, and research viewpoints; volume 2 lays out the current theories on ESP. The theories range from a hyperdimensional model, QM based models, entropy, neuroscience and psychology based models, including a dualist approach. Chapters reveal how strict scientific protocols and state-of-the-art technologies enable scientists to pinpoint and investigate ESP abilities. Appendices include a glossary of key terms in parapsychology, ESP research protocol, ESP research organizations, skeptic associations, and recommended reading.

What is your background in parapsychology, and with the topic of the book specifically?

I have been active in parapsychology since 1971. From 1975-1994, I was part of the on-going US Government-sponsored psi program to apply remote viewing and psychokinesis in problems of intelligence during the Cold War and to understand their properties and mechanisms. From 1985 until the close of the program in 1995, I was the contract and researcher director of the program, best known by its last code name Star Gate. In 1996, I founded the Laboratories for Fundamental Research (LFR) in Palo Alto, CA, where we have been continuing research ever since. In the Star Gate program, the focus of research was on psychokinesis and remote viewing/precognition.

Based in India, my co-editor Sonali Bhatt Marwaha (PhD Psychology) worked with K. Ramakrishna Rao for eight years, where she was introduced to the field of psi research primarily from the perspective of Indian psychology. She has been a research associate with LFR since 2006, and currently we are working on a number of projects. Based on her background in psychology neuropsychology, and Indian psychology, her interests are in the theoretical aspects of psi.

What motivated you to prepare this book?

In the process of working on our multiphasic model of precognition, we were faced with a number of fundamental questions about the nature of psi and the models that address this complex problem. Researchers from other disciplines are generally discouraged from psi research because of the seemingly “logical impossibility” of psi—especially precognition. While data is available for all to see—in peer reviewed research articles, and the many books that provide an update on the research—we felt that there was a need for literature that expressly stated the fundamental question that psi researchers address and the theoretical advances in the field. Praeger/ABC-CLIO Publications provided us the opportunity when they asked us to work on these two volumes, rather than on another multivolume series that we are currently working on (to be published by McFarland).

As our area of expertise is primarily in informational psi (ESP), it seemed appropriate that we focus on this area. In our previous work, Anomalous Cognition: Remote Viewing Research and Theory (2014), we focused on experimental research and presented a sampling of previously published research papers. We thus felt the need to explicitly put forth the fundamental problems that psi research addresses—the nature of time, causality, and information. As we see it, psi is a process rather than a singular event, thus requiring different models to address various points in the process. As we stated in our model, we have formally divided the problem space into the physics domain and the neuroscience domain. This will enable experts from various disciplines to address only that aspect of the psi problem that falls within their domain of expertise. Our current two volumes have attempted to widen the topic beyond our own current thinking to include stalwarts of psi research, skeptics, and mainstream scientists from a variety of disciplines.

Why do you think your book is important and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

In our view, the data are in. There is statistical and qualitative evidence for the existence of an information transfer anomaly the mechanism of which we currently do not understand. In our view, the evidence for micro-psychokinesis is questionable, as the data can be accounted for by informational psi.

This book is an important contribution to the psi literature as it lays out the fundamental problems that psi research addresses, discusses the fundamental issues for psi theorists, presents an overview of research and current theories, and suggests guidelines for researchers for developing a process-oriented research program.

With this book, we hope to emphasize the fundamental issues that underlay the manifest ESP experiences. In our view, the final theatre for the understanding of psi rests in the physics domain, with the neuroscience domain having the potential to provide clues for it. This book has the potential to serve as a textbook for introductory and advanced courses in psi.





Sunday, November 08, 2015   11:00 PM

A New Handbook of Parapsychology

Carlos S. Alvarado, Research Fellow, Parapsychology Foundation

Over the years many of us have found a basic reference work of great help. I am referring to the Handbook of Parapsychology, edited by Benjamin B. Wolman, with the assistance of associate editors Laura A. Dale, Gertrude R. Schmeidler, and Montague Ullman (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1977). While still useful, the book has been in need of an update for a long time, since it was published over 30 years ago. Fortunately we now have such an update: Parapsychology: A Handbook for the 21st Century (Jefferson, NC : McFarland, 2015; Print ISBN: 978-0-7864-7916-0, softcover, Ebook ISBN: 978-1-4766-2105-0, 424 pp.), edited by Etzel Cardeña, John Palmer, and David Marcusson-Clavertz.

The book, which won an award from the Parapsychological Association, is not a mere second edition of the first Handbook. In addition to different editors, it also covers some different areas and topics, while keeping to the subject matter of the original. The table of contents can be found here

Following a preface by the editors, the book is organized in nine sections: Basic Concepts, Research Methods and Statistical Approaches, Psychology and Psi, Physics and Psi, Psi Phenomena: Anomalous Cognition, Perturbation and Force, Psi Phenomena: Research on Survival, Practical Applications, and To Sum It Up. These sections include 31 chapters.

The book is an excellent follow-up to the 1977 Handbook and, overall, an indispensable reference work for the serious student of parapsychology. The emphasis is on experimental work, as seen in chapters such as “Ariadne’s Thread: Meditation and Psi” (by Serena M. ­Roney-Dougal), “Explicit Anomalous Cognition: A Review of the Best Evidence in Ganzfeld, Forced Choice, Remote Viewing and Dream Studies” (Johann Baptista, Max Derakhshani and Patrizio E. Tressoldi), “Implicit Anomalous Cognition” (John Palmer), “Psi and Psychophysiology” (Dean Radin and Alan Pierce), “Experimental Research on Distant Intention Phenomena” (Stefan Schmidt), “Micro-Psychokinesis” (Mario Varvoglis and Peter A. Bancel), “Experimenter Effects in Parapsychology Research” (John Palmer and Brian Millar), and “Implicit Physical Psi: The Global Consciousness Project” (Roger D. Nelson).

But there are also discussions about non-experimental work. This includes “Macro-Psychokinesis” (Stephen E. Braude), “Reincarnation: Field Studies and Theoretical Issues Today” (Antonia Mills and Jim B. Tucker), “Ghosts and Poltergeists: An Eternal Enigma” (Michaeleen Maher), and “Psi in Everyday Life: Nonhuman and Human” (Rupert Sheldrake).

Interestingly, a few chapters combine experimental and non-experimental work. In addition to mine, which I mention below, examples of this are “Physical Correlates of Psi” (Adrian Ryan ), and “Drugs and Psi Phenomena” (David Luke) and, to some extent, “States, Traits, Cognitive Variables and Psi” (Etzel Cardeña and David ­Marcusson-Clavertz).

In addition to the above mentioned papers about reincarnation and hauntings and poltergeists, a section about the topic of survival of death has several of the most interesting articles in the volume. In my view the best of these is “Mental Mediumship” (Julie Beischel and Nancy L. Zingrone). In addition, there was a discussion of ”Electronic Voice Phenomena” (Mark R. Leary and Tom Butler), a topic seldom discussed in books of this sort.

There are also chapters about approaches to the study of psychic phenomena, namely “Experimental Methods in Anomalous Cognition and Anomalous Perturbation Research” (John Palmer) and “Research Methods with Spontaneous Case Studies” (Emily Williams Kelly and Jim B. Tucker), and “Macro-Psychokinesis: Methodological Concerns” (Graham Watkins). Statistical issues are discussed by Patrizio E. Tressoldi and Jessica Utts in “Statistical Guidelines for Empirical Studies.”

Criticisms of parapsychology also receive attention in the volume’s preface, “Reintroducing Parapsychology.” Cardeña, ­Marcusson-Clavertz, and Palmer, present 12 invalid criticisms of parapsychology. Some of them are that parapsychology does not utilize the scientific method, that only individuals with poor reasoning skills or biases believe in psychic phenomena, that the statistical evidence has been explained away, and that proposing a hypothetical conventional explanation is enough to discount many findings in the field regardless of the unlikeliness of the explanation.

I was glad to be the second author on a chapter in this new book, the opening article, after the preface, written with Nancy L. Zingrone and Gerd H. Hövelmann. Our paper, “An Overview of Modern Developments in Parapsychology,” was divided in the following sections: Research Topics and Approaches, Scholarly Work: History, Religion and Other Disciplines, Conceptual and Disciplinary Approaches, Influential Conceptual Frameworks, Methodological and Statistical Developments, and Social Aspects: Criticism and Institutional Developments. Because we believe that parapsychology is an international discipline, we made an effort to include references published in languages other than English, something not done by many other authors, even when relevant material exists.

It is interesting to see a chapter presenting a skeptical view of parapsychology, “The Case Against Psi,” by Douglas Stokes. Cardeña argued in the last chapter, in my opinion correctly, that the critique was anything but convincing. Certainly criticism and skepticism are important in science, and particularly in a field so controversial as parapsychology. Critical views are frequently presented in this work, but they are critiques that are not destructive, that seek to improve the field instead as to close it, or dismiss it, as seen in the works of some critics.

Other topics also receive attention. Examples are those about conceptual issues: “Parapsychology in Context: The Big Picture” (Edward F. Kelly), “Psychological Concepts of Psi Function: A Review and Constructive Critique” (Rex G. Stanford), “Psi and Biology: An Evolutionary Perspective” (Richard S. Broughton), and “Quantum Theory and Parapsychology” (Brian Millar). In addition, there are chapters about “Exceptional Experiences (ExE) in Clinical Psychology” (Martina Belz and Wolfgang Fach), and “Applied Psi” (Paul H. Smith and Garret Moddel).

The book ends with two very interesting contributions. In “On the Usefulness of Parapsychology for Science at Large” Hövelmann argued that “The suggestion of a known or presumed lack of usefulness of parapsychology for science in general is … a chimera, an uninformed invention in historical scientific terms of less than conscientious minds that are not aware of the actual facts” (p. 391). The author presents examples of contributions, which include statistical techniques and early research on dissociation. Certainly as Adam Crabtree, Regina Plas and others have shown, the early psychical research movement was an active contributor not only to dissociation studies, but also to the development of the concept of the subconscious mind.

The very final paper, by one of the editors, is “On Negative Capability and Parapsychology: Personal Reflections” (Etzel Cardeña). He writes that even though we have learned some things after the publication of the 1977 Handbook, we have to recognize how little we know about the phenomena in question. “The various analyses . . . documented in this tome show in my mind a too remarkable regularity to be explained away by wholly or partly dishonest researchers, . . . thus I conclude that we do have evidence for something like what we call psi. Nonetheless, the small effect sizes and lack of ability to design an experiment that would almost certainly produce evidence also signifies that we are very far from understanding psi . . .” (p. 400).

There are, of course, omissions that may be due to the length of the book and to other practical problems. A notable one is the lack of a chapter about near-death experiences. This area has become too important not to receive specific attention. I would also have liked to see long discussions of OBEs and healing. While there is a chapter about statistics, the volume would have been improved with one about the various modern ways to conduct qualitative analysis.

But these omissions in no way detract from the immense amount of work in the compilation of this volume, and the high quality of the discussions in the individual chapters. The editors are to be congratulated for producing such an important summary of many of the areas, topics and problems related to modern parapsychology.





Saturday, May 09, 2015   2:34 AM

Parapsychology Foundation’s Online Forum

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

The Parapsychology Foundation has announced their first online forum “Parapsychology Foundation Forum: Recent Advances in UK Parapsychology.” This will take place on May 20, 2015.

In addition to Professor Chris Roe and Dr. Elizabeth Roxburgh, other presenters include Callum Cooper, Rachel Evenden, and David Saunders.

For registration information, which is free, and the titles of the presentations, click here.

Sunday, December 07, 2014   4:22 PM

Parapsychology Massively Open Online Course (MOOC)

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

Nancy Zingrone and I are organizing a free online course, Parapsychology and Anomalistic Psychology: Research and Education, on the social media teaching platform,, to start Monday January 5th, 2015 and complete Friday February 14th, 2015. The course will be marketed by the WizIQ course group to its 3.5 million teachers and students from all over the world, as well as marketed by us to our various networks and contact lists.

This course is being hosted by our virtual/teaching learning project , the Alvarado Zingrone Institute for Research and Education (The AZIRE) and the Parapsychology Foundation  and its President, Lisette Coly. The AZIRE’s Board of Advisors are: Dr. Dean Radin (Institute of Noetic Sciences), Dr. Stanley Krippner (Saybrook University), Dr. Charles T. Tart (University of California-Davis, Emeritus, and Sofia University), Dr. Christine Simmonds-Moore (University of West Georgia), Dr. Chris Roe (University of Northampton), Eberhard Bauer (Institüt de Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene), and Dr. Erlendur Haraldsson (University of Iceland, Emeritus).

We are styling the course as a MOOC, (on MOOCs click here and here) that is, a massively open online course—with open enrollment—so that we can reach the widest audience possible with high quality presentations suitable for post-graduate students, young researchers and academics in our field. We are hoping not only to serve our global community of scientists, academics, clinical professionals, and students at the bachelors and post-graduate stages, but also to pull in individuals we have not yet met who have a serious interest in parapsychology.

If the MOOC is successful, we hope to run it once a year in January/February with a shifting set of speakers. While the WizIQ platform cannot accommodate more than about 5,000 learners—and in all honesty we will count ourselves as successful if we obtain 1/10th of that amount on a yearly basis—we believe that the global reach of our course may help to set our science on a more stable footing, at least in terms of the visibility of the real work going on in the field.

For the first MOOC, we are focusing on five areas: 1) experimental and non-experimental research with a mix of, we hope, review presentations and some specific to a single research program, phenomena, or approach; 2) theories; 3) interactions with other fields, 4) university education; and 5) an ”other” area in which we might include, say, a lecture by a knowledgeable, self-reflective experiencer.

We have set up a schedule of 22 guest speakers for the course, with potential dates of presentation ranging from Tuesday the 6th of January through Thursday the 12th of February. Nancy and I will conduct both the opening and closing ceremonies on Monday, January 5th and Friday, February 13th, respectively. Nancy will also conduct occasional “housekeeping” online meetings for those among the attendees who are interested in obtaining a certificate of completion for the course from The AZIRE, our virtual teaching/learning project.

The Parapsychology Foundation will issue the certificates to all attendees to complete the requirements. To do this attendees may choose between the following: writing and submitting a reflection on 10 of the total number of online meetings, with approved reflections uploaded to the course materials; completing an informational or expressive project in the virtual world Second Life that will be displayed in The AZIRE Learning Center (we will offer attendees training for accomplishing work in a virtual world), of which a video will be uploaded in the course materials; completing successfully four of the six weekly quizzes that Nancy will write; or by filming a presentation to share with other attendees and speakers in the course materials, or on some other freely accessible online site.

A few of the confirmed speakers are: Dr. Steve Braude, Dr. Richard Broughton, Dr. Jeffrey Kripal, Dr. Fatima R. Machado, Dr. Alexander Moreira-Almeida, D. Roger Nelson, Dr. Alejandro Parra, Dr. Dean Radin, and Dr. Chris Roe.

If you’re interested in seeing the virtual classroom in action, you can check out the following lecture on our YouTube Channel.

We hope you will be able to join us in this new course.

Saturday, October 18, 2014   3:51 AM

Parapsychology and Psychology Online Conference

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center

Nancy Zingrone and I are organizing a small online conference about “Parapsychology and Psychology: Research and Theory.” This will take place on November 1 and 2 of the current year. As stated in the conference page, where you will find information about registration:

“On November 1st and 2nd, 2014 an international group of scientists and scholars will present a variety of papers and posters on the interface between parapsychology and psychology. Presenters will cover such topics as altered states of consciousness, personality and cognitive variables, and clinical issues. Posters will also deal with anomalistic psychology, dream variables, and history of the often complex relationship of these two fields, among other topics. Presenters and Poster authors are academics, scientists and professors from the Instituto de Psicología Paranormal in Argentina, the University of São Paulo in Brazil, the University of Northampton in England, the University of Strasbourg in France, the Institut für Grenzegebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene in Germany, the University of Padova in Italy, and the University of West Georgia in the United States, among other locations. Four synchronous 90-minute sessions, with a presentation followed by a Q & A sessions will be presented on Saturday and five such sessions on Sunday in the Virtual Classroom on each of the two conference days. Ten Poster Presentations will also be uploaded as stand-alone PowerPoints to the WizIQ Course Schedule. Registration is $50 for non-students and $30 for students with a proof of studentship. If you can’t afford the registration but would like to attend, plenty of scholarships are also available. Just ask!”

The conference schedule appears here. The formal (real time) presentations are:

November 1

Parapsychology and Psychology: An Overview
Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD & Nancy L. Zingrone, PhD, Rhine Research Center, USA

Clinical Dimensions of Psychic Experiences
Renaud Evrard, PhD, University of Strasbourg, France

Cognitive and Emotional Empathy in Relation to Five Paranormal/Anomalous Experiences
Alejandro Parra, PhD, Universidad Abierta Interamericana & Instituto de Psicología Paranormal, Argentina

November 2nd

We Are All Psychics, but (Often) We Do Not Know How To
Patrizio Tressoldi, PhD, University of Padova, Italy

ESP and Altered States of Consciousness
Chris Roe, PhD, University of Northampton, England

ESP and Synesthesia
Christine Simmonds-Moore, PhD, University of West Georgia

First Sight

Jim Carpenter, PhD

There will also be a dozen posters, consisting of Power Point presentations that will be available through the two days of the conference and later. Some of them are:

Parapsychology and Psychology: A Selected Bibliography

Gertrude R. Schmeidler (1912-2009): Psychologist and Parapsychologist

Evidence-Based Dualism and Transpersonal Psychology
Charles T. Tart, PhD
Professor Emeritus, Sofia University, University of California at Davis

Outline of the Counselling Work at the Institute of Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health
Eberhard Bauer, Dipl.-Psych., and Wolfgand Fach, Dipl.-Psych.
Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene, Freiburg, Germany

Brazilian Mediumship: A Psychosocial Study
Everton de Oliveira Maraldi, PhD
University of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Seeing Rare Things with the Mind’s Eye: Visual Imagery Vividness and Paranormal/Anomalous Experiences

Alejandro Parra, PhD
Universidad Abierta Interamericana & Instituto de Psicología Paranormal, Buenos Aires,

A Survey of Depersonalization and Parapsychological Experiences
Nancy L. Zingrone, PhD,* Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD,* and Natasha Agee
*Rhine Research Center

The Academic Consolidation of Anomalistic Psychology in Brazil
Vanessa Corredato, MA, and Wellington Zangari, PhD
University of Sao Paulo

Psychologists’ Rejection of Psychical Research: The 1900 International Congress of
Psychology at Paris

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD
Rhine Research Center, USA

Psychology and Psychical Research: The Work of Théodore Flournoy
Everton de Oliveira Maraldi, PhD*, Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD**, Fatima Regina Machado, PhD**, and Wellington Zangari, PhD**
*University of Sao Paulo, **Rhine Research Center, USA

The conference room is open already for those who are registered. You will find there people to chat with and materials to view (the posters, and coming soon presenter biographies and presentation abstracts). These materials will be available indefinitely after the conference, exclusively for registrants, along with the recordings of the presentations.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014   5:11 PM

Online Reincarnation Course

Carlos S. Alvarado, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Rhine Research Center

Anthropologist James G. Matlock , known for his writings about reincarnation and other topics, is offering an online course entitled Signs of Reincarnation. Dr. Matlock describes the course as follows:

Dr. James G. Matlock

Dr. James G. Matlock

“Signs of Reincarnation is a 15-week online seminar course offered through The Alvarado Zingrone Institute for Research and Education. The course is an interdisciplinary offering that draws on anthropology, consciousness studies, and psychical research, among other fields. It is designed as a graduate-level course to introduce enrollees to academic research on reincarnation (chiefly by Ian Stevenson and his colleagues) and presupposes some acquaintance with academic argument and the scientific method."

Dr. Ian Stevenson

"The course covers all aspects of research on reincarnation, including reincarnation beliefs, methods of case investigation, findings from investigations, and the interpretation of those findings. It includes original lectures as well as readings from the reincarnation and larger scientific literature and involves participation through discussion among enrollees. It is self-paced with an estimated time commitment of 6-8 hours per week, including discussion periods.”

The course, running from May 26 to September 7 of 2014, includes such varied topics as belief in reincarnation, studies with children, hypnotic regression, theory, and much more (for a detailed syllabus click here). You will find information about the price of the course, and about its schedule, and registration here. For additional questions write to Dr. Matlock (

© 2015 The Parapsychological Association. All rights reserved.