Tuesday, February 12, 2019   6:39 AM

Charles Richet'a Psychic Autobiography

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

Over the years I have written several articles about Charles Richet’s psychical research, among them a general overview of his work on the subject, and an analysis of his Traité de Métapsychique (1922). My last published discussion of Richet is an article in which I translated and reprinted a chapter from one of his books in which he presented an autobiographical essay of his involvement with the subject. Here is the reference and the abstract:

“Fragments of a Life in Psychical Research: The Case of Charles Richet” (Journal of Scientific Exploration, 2018, 32, 55–78.


“In this paper I present a translation of an autobiographical essay French physiologist Charles Richet wrote about his involvement in psychical research in his Souvenirs d’un Physiologiste (1933). In the essay Richet presented an outline of aspects of his psychic career, including: Early interest in hypnosis and hypnotic lucidity, encounters with gifted individuals such as Eusapia Palladino and Stephan Ossowiecki, contact with the Society for Psychical Research, his Traité de Métapsychique (1922) and his lack of belief in survival of death. Richet’s account will be of particular interest for those who are not acquainted with his career. However, the essay is succinct and lacks important events that need to be supplemented with other sources of information. An examination of this autobiographical essay illustrates the limitations of autobiographies to reconstruct the past, but also provides an opportunity to discuss aspects of Richet’s psychical research.”

I wrote: “One of the purposes of the present article is to present information about Richet’s interest in psychic phenomena via his own, admittedly brief, account. It is my impression that most contemporary workers in parapsychology, although aware of Richet’s existence, know little about his actual work. Being short, and personal, the excerpt presented below may be of more relevance to workers in parapsychology than the more academic writings cited above. The reprint of the excerpt is also an opportunity to give Richet a voice never heard before in English, since the excerpt in question originally was published in French.”
Richet and Linda Gazzera

I wrote:

“Richet was part of this movement, particularly strong in France, that explored the existence and range of non-conscious human functioning and that included both conventional and unconventional phenomena . . . This is seen in his writings about personality changes in hypnosis, unconscious movements, and the induction of trance at a distance . . .”

“An important early contribution, and a classic of Nineteenth-Century ESP literature, was Richet’s [1884] article about mental suggestion, or the “influence that an individual’s thought exerts over a specific sense, without an appreciable exterior phenomenon on our senses, over the thought of a nearby individual”. . . This included transmission of thoughts and images, as well as other effects such as the induction of trance at a distance. In the paper, Richet described his use of statistical analyses in several guessing tasks with various targets, as well as discussions of conceptual ideas such as the unconscious nature of the process . . . In later papers Richet continued testing various gifted individuals . . . and included observations of Polish psychic Stephan Ossowiecki (1877-1944) . . .”

“There were also many experiences with various mediums and psychics. Examples were séances with Eusapia Palladino (1854–1918 . . .) and Leonora E. Piper (1857–1950 . . .). Richet’s . . . materialization séances with medium Marthe Béraud are well-known, an episode that generated many controversies . . . Here both full and partial materializations were observed . . .”

The best known of his works was the highly influential Traité de Métapsychique [1922] . . . where instead of psychical research he used the term “métapsychique” (metapsychics), a word he had suggested before . . . In the Traité, and elsewhere, Richet frequently expressed hope that future developments in science would allow us to understand psychic phenomena. His popularization and discussion of psychical research not only continued in other books . . . but also in articles in non-psychic journals . . . and in newspapers . . . In addition to the above mentioned examples, Richet’s articles in psychic journals included topics such as statistical analyses of ESP tests . . . , recurrent doubts in the study of psychic phenomena . . . , the decimal indexing of psychic literature . . . , xenoglossy . . . , an ancient case of near-death experience . . . , premonitions . . . , and survival of death . . .”

“Richet did much to support psychical research in various forums of conventional science. He opened the door to, and defended the importance of, psychical research in the international congresses of psychology . . . He was also one of the founders of a very important French journal, the Annales des Sciences Psychiques, first published in 1891, where not only French but also authors from other countries discussed psychic phenomena . . . Furthermore, Richet was a supporter of the Institut Métapsychique International since its beginnings.”

The article also illustrates the limitations of autobiographies as historical documents. An analysis of the essay considering Richet’s publications about psychic topics shows occasional omissions of important information and incorrect recollection of facts. “Autobiographies, like history in general, are reconstructions of the past, but reconstructions based on one person’s perspective and motivations, on their priorities at the moment of ordering the recollections of a lifetime. The latter is particularly an issue.” Nonetheless, “when used together with other sources of information . . . [autobiographies] are not only informative, but illuminating of a time period.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2019   6:26 AM

New Entries in the Psi Encyclopedia

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

I have commented about the Psi Encyclopedia in previous essays, a project sponsored by the Society for Psychical Research. The project, managed by Robert McLuhan, has continued to grow. Here is a list of some new entries posted in 2018 and 2019.

Animals in Psi Research, by Michael Duggan

Announcing Dreams and Related Experiences, by James G. Matlock

Arigo, by Karen Wehrstein

Behavioural Memories in Reincarnation Cases, by James G Matlock

Creery Telepathy Experiments, by Karen Wehrstein

Decline Effect in Parapsychology, by Matthew Colborn

Experimental Psi Research in Asia and Australia, by Michael Duggan

Fraud in Science and Parapsychology, Chris Roe

Gladys Osborne Leonard, Trevor Hamilton

Global Consciousness Project, Roger D Nelson

Hubert Larcher, by Renaud Evrard

Indridi Indridason, by Erlendur Haraldsson

Mediumship and Pathology, by Carlos S Alvarado

Mental Mediumship Research, by Julie Beischel

Parapsychology in Psychology Textbooks, by Chris Roe

Perspectival Postmortem Awareness, by Stephen E Braude

Psi Research in the Netherlands, by Dick Bierman, Hans Gerding, and Hein van Dongen

Unusual Ways of Testing for Psi, Michael Duggan

Tuesday, February 12, 2019   1:00 AM

New Article About Eleanor M. Sidgwick

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

I just published a short article entitled “Eleanor M. Sidgwick (1845-1936)” (Journal of Parapsychology, 2018, 82, 127-131; available on request carlos@theazire.org). This is the first of several short articles about historical figures and topics that the editor of the journal, Etzel Cardeña, plans to include in future issues.

Here is the abstract:


Eleanor M. Sidgwick was an important figure in the early history of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR). In later years she became known for her critiques of the evidence for physical mediumship, and for her systematic studies of apparitions of the dead and hauntings, premonitions, clairvoyance, and the mediumship of Leonora E. Piper. Sidgwick also made significant contributions to the study of spontaneous and experimental telepathy, the cross-correspondences, and book tests, or attempts to get spirit communicators to obtain veridical information from the content of a book.

I wrote at the beginning of the article: “Mrs. Eleanor Mildred Sidgwick was one of the most productive psychical researchers of the early Society for Psychical Research (SPR) . . . She was Treasurer, Vice-Principal, and Principal at Newnham College. Sidgwick married Henry Sidgwick in 1876, and shared with him deep interests in women’s education and in psychical research . . . Sidgwick was involved in psychical investigations before the SPR was founded. Together with some close associates, among them Edmund Gurney, Walter Leaf, Frederic W. H. Myers, and Henry Sidgwick, she had séances with several physical mediums during the 1870s . . . They included Annie Fairlamb, Anna Eva Fay, Kate Fox (then Mrs. Jencken), Mary Rosina Showers, and Catherine Wood. But the results of the séances were not in favor of the genuineness of the phenomena and led the group to a general feeling of skepticism.”

Mrs. Sidgwick contributed to many areas of psychical research, as seen in the following papers published in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research:

(1885). Notes on the evidence collected by the Society, for phantasms of the dead. 3, 69–150.

(1886). Results of a personal investigation into the physical phenomena of Spiritualism: With some critical remarks on the evidence for the genuineness of such phenomena.4, 45–74.

(1888). On the evidence for premonitions. 5, 288–354.

(1891). On the evidence for clairvoyance. 7, 30–99.

(1891). On spirit photographs: A reply to Mr. A. R. Wallace. 7, 268–289.

(1910). Cross-correspondences between Mrs. Piper and other automatists. 24, 170–200.

(1915). A contribution to the study of the psychology of Mrs. Piper’s trance phenomena. 28, 1–657.

(1921). An examination of book-tests obtained in sittings with Mrs Leonard. 31, 241–400.

(1923). Phantasms of the living: An examination and analysis of cases of telepathy between living persons printed in the “Journal” of the Society for Psychical Research since the publication of the book “Phantasms of the Living,” by Gurney, Myers, and Podmore, in 1886. 33, 23–429

(1924). On hindrances and complications in telepathic communication. 34, 28–69.

Sidgwick, H., Johnson, A., Myers, F. W. H., Podmore, F., & Sidgwick, E. M. (1894). Report on the Census of Hallucinations. 10, 25-422.

Sidgwick, Professor [H.], Sidgwick, Mrs. H., & Smith, G. A. (1889). Experiments in thought-transference. 6, 128–170.

Sidgwick was well-known as a critic, as seen in her writings about physical mediumship. But she also showed throughout her life a capacity to evaluate immense amounts of data looking for patterns in the data and to assess their evidential quality. Examples of these were her Nineteenth-Century papers about apparitions of the dead (1886), premonitions (1888), and clairvoyance (1891).

Her 1915 study of records regarding the mediumship of Leonora E. Piper is a classic of the early literature of psychological studies of mediumship. I wrote: “Some of the chapters of this study were about spirit controls and their relation to the medium; language, memories, and association of ideas by the spirit controls; aspects of various spirit communicators (such as difficulties in communicating and symbolic statements), and relations between Piper’s different states of consciousness. She concluded about the medium’s trance that it was ‘probably a state of self-induced hypnosis in which her hypnotic self personates different characters either consciously and deliberately, or unconsciously’ . . . but with telepathically acquired information.”

Regarding telepathic experiences: “Sidgwick herself contributed to knowledge about the process in an analyses of its “hindrances and complications” as shown in percipient’s impressions (Sidgwick, 1924). She wrote: ‘I have now, I think, sufficiently shown that there are obstacles or at any rate difficulties in the way of telepathic transmission which easily may, and in fact often do, interfere with the process, and prevent a “message” being received as the sender intended. Apart from difficulties on the agent’s own side, and even when a message has apparently safely reached some part of the percipient’s mind, it may fail to pass successfully from that to the normal waking consciousness. And this not only because the impression is sometimes too feeble to prevail, but because as transmitted to the normal consciousness the latter may fail to interpret it. And the difficulties may be aggravated by differences in the results, according as different modes of externalisation—different methods of transferring the subliminal impression to the normal consciousness—are used, and even by deliberate invention in the subliminal mind.’ ”

If this was not enough, Sidgwick was also active behind the scenes of the SPR as an organizer and as an editor of publications. Her life and contributions, both to psychical research and the education of women, deserve a full-length biography. At present, we can get much information about her in Alice Johnson’s “Mrs Henry Sidgwick’s Work in Psychical Research (Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, 1936, 44, 53–93), and in Ethel Sidgwick’s, Mrs. Henry Sidgwick: A Memoir (London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1938).



Sunday, April 22, 2018   3:36 AM

Flournoy’s From India to the Planet Mars Revisited

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.

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.”

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.”

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.

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 . . .

Sunday, April 22, 2018   3:27 AM

Precognition Discussed in a Psychology Journal

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

A recent issue of the journal Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice has discussions of precognition by various authors. The discussion opens with an editorial by Erik Woody and Steven Jay Lynn (“Perspectives on Precognition.” Psychology of Consciousness: Theory, Research, and Practice, 2018, 5, 1–2). They write:

“The balance of this issue consists of five articles addressing what has variously been termed precognition, precognitive ability, and retrocausal or retroactive influences . . . In the first article, Schooler, Baumgart, and Franklin (2018) address how to strike the most appropriate and productive relation between Sagan’s “seemingly contradictory attitudes,” drawing an important distinction between entertaining versus endorsing anomalous phenomena like precognition. In the second article, Mossbridge and Radin (2018b) present a comprehensive review of existing empirical research on precognition, making the case that this body of work warrants scientists being open to this possibility despite its “bizarre or counterintuitive” qualities. The next two articles, by Schwarzkopf (2018) and by Houran, Lange, and Hooper (2018), are invited critiques of Mossbridge and Radin’s (2018b) review, applying the “most ruthless skeptical scrutiny” in pointing out what these critics believe are crucial conceptual and methodological flaws in the research. A response from Mossbridge and Radin (2018a) follows these critiques.”

The editorial was followed by Jonathan W. Schooler, Stephen Baumgart, and Michael Franklin’s “Entertaining Without Endorsing: The Case for the Scientific Investigation of Anomalous Cognition” (2018, 5, 63–77. Here is the abstract:

“Empirical reports in mainstream journals that human cognition extends in ways that challenge the current boundaries of science (anomalous cognition) has been viewed with dismay by many who see it as evidence that science is broken. Here the authors make the case for the value of conducting and publishing well-designed studies investigating anomalous cognition. They distinguish between the criteria that justify entertaining the possibility of anomalous cognition from those required to endorse it as a bona fide phenomenon. In evaluating these 2 distinct thresholds, the authors draw on Bayes’s theorem to argue that scientists may reasonably differ in their appraisals of the likelihood that anomalous cognition is possible. Although individual scientists may usefully vary in the criteria that they hold both for entertaining and endorsing anomalous cognition, we provide arguments for why researchers should consider adopting a liberal criterion for entertaining anomalous cognition while maintaining a very strict criterion for the outright endorsement of its existence. Grounded in an understanding of the justifiability of disparate views on the topic, the authors encourage humility on both the part of those who present evidence in support of anomalous cognition and those who dispute the merit of its investigation.”

The target article, by Julia Mossbridge and Dean Radin, was “Precognition as a Form of Prospection: A Review of the Evidence” (2018, 5, 78–93). Abstract:

“Prospection, the act of attempting to foresee one’s future, is generally assumed to be based on conscious and nonconscious inferences from past experiences and anticipation of future possibilities. Most scientists consider the idea that prospection may also involve influences from the future to be flatly impossible due to violation of common sense or constraints based on one or more physical laws. We present several classes of empirical evidence challenging this common assumption. If this line of evidence can be successfully and independently replicated using preregistered designs and analyses, then the consequences for the interpretation of experimental results from any empirical domain would be profound.”

This is followed by two critiques of Mossbridge and Radin’s paper, and by their reply.

D. Samuel Schwarzkopf, “On the Plausibility of Scientific Hypotheses: Commentary on Mossbridge and Radin (2018)” (2018, 5, 94–97).

“Mossbridge and Radin reviewed psychological and physiological experiments that purportedly show time-reversed effects. I discuss why these claims are not plausible. I conclude that scientists should generally consider the plausibility of the hypotheses they test.”

James Houran, Rense Lange, and Dan Hooper “Cross-Examining the Case for Precognition: Comment on Mossbridge and Radin (2018) ‘ (2018, 5, 98–109).

“Based on a review and meta-analyses of empirical literature in parapsychology, Mossbridge and Radin (2018) argued for anomalous replicable effects that suggest the possibility of precognitive ability or retrocausal phenomena. However, these conclusions are refuted on statistical and theoretical grounds—the touted effects are neither meaningful, interpretable, nor even convincingly replicable. Moreover, contrary to assertions otherwise, the possibility of authentic retrocausation is discredited by modern theories in physics. Accordingly, Mossbridge and Radin’s interpretations are discussed in terms of misattribution biases that serve anxiolytic functions when individuals confront ambiguity, with potential reinforcement from perceptual–personality variables such as paranormal belief. Finally, we argue that research in human consciousness should be multidisciplinary, and notably, leverage informed investigators in the physical sciences to advance truly valid and cumulative theory building.”

Julia A. Mossbridge and Dean Radin, ‘Plausibility, Statistical Interpretations, Physical Mechanisms and a New Outlook: Response to Commentaries on a Precognition Review” (2018, 5, 110–116).

“We address what we consider to be the main points of disagreement by showing that (a) scientific plausibility (or lack thereof) is a weak argument in the face of empirical data, (b) the statistical methods we used were sound according to at least one of several possible statistical positions, and (c) the potential physical mechanisms underlying precognition could include quantum biological phenomena. We close with a discussion of what we believe is an unfortunate but currently dominant tendency to focus on reducing Type-I statistical errors without balancing that approach by also paying attention to the potential for Type-II errors.”

Sunday, January 21, 2018   10:53 PM

ParaMOOC 2018: Online Parapsychology Lectures

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

Here is information about ParaMOOC 2018.

ParaMOOC 2018 (the free online course "Parapsychology Research and Education" which covers scientific parapsychology, anomalistic psychology and scientific/academic disciplines in which research relevant to parapsychology/anomalistic psychology as well) starts with live sessions on January 22nd, but the course is already open and enrollment is available. Here's that link.

Supported by the Parapsychology Foundation and organized by the virtual Alvarado Zingrone Institute for Research and Education (The AZIRE), this year’s group of guest speakers include the editor of the best encyclopedia on the field, a nurse who was awarded her PhD for the first UK prospective study on NDEs, a senior scientist who is also a best selling author and without a doubt the most well-known speaker on the subject, and 13 other clinical psychologists, professors, and active researchers in psychology, psychiatry, cell biology, economics, statistics, physics, toxicology, and neurology hailing from Brazil, Canada, France, the UK and the United States.

And in the meantime get and incorporate the ParaMOOC 2018 Google calendar. What we know so far is on the calendar, and the calendar will be updated as we go along.

To join the class as a whole click the enrollment link above and you've have access to collateral material, PowerPoints and more. But the Google calendar will have the individual lecture links as we confirm them and you'll be able to use those links just to come to the webinars of your choice.

And don’t forget to subscribe to the PF’s amazing YouTube Channel, 100 videos, including some of the previous ParaMOOC lectures, but so much more.

See you in the ParaMOOC!!! Starts Monday with the opening session!

Friday, December 8, 2017   1:19 AM

The Past Literature of Parapsychology: A Reading Guide: II.*

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


The journals related to psychical research are particularly important and should be studied with care. Unfortunately most of them are not indexed in modern databases for the period emphasized in my comments (19th century to 1930s). Some important journals are: Journal of Parapsychology, Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Annales des Sciences Psychiques, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, Luce e Ombra, Proceedings of the American Society for Psychical Research, Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research, Psychic Science, Psychische Studien, Revue Métapsychique, Rivista di Studi Psichici, and Zeitschrift fur Parapsychologie.

Many other journals also have valuable and interesting information about topics such as apparitions and mediumship. This is the case of: Banner of Light, Light, Religio-Philosophical Journal, Revue Spirite, Spiritual Magazine, and The Spiritualist (title changed). Some of the journals mentioned in this section are available at the website of the International Association for the Preservation of Spiritualist and Occult Periodicals.


There are also many classic works that are highly recommended. I have included in this section a few examples of major classics, and some minor ones. One example of a major classic in the sense of being highly influential, is William Crookes’ (1874) Researches in the Phenomena of Spiritualism (London: J. Burns). Here Crookes reported experiments conducted with medium D.D. Home, and his famous observations of materialization phenomena by Florence Cook. The book is also instructive regarding how Crookes was criticized, and how he defended himself, showing similarities to more recent controversies.

Other works include:

Gurney, E., Myers, F.W.H., & Podmore, F. (1886). Phantasms of the Living (2 vols.). London: Trübner.

Aksakov, A. (1890). Animismus und spiritismus [Animism and spiritism]. Leipzig: Oswald Mutze.

Flournoy, T. (1900). From India to the Planet Mars: A Study of a Case of Somnambulism. New York: Harper & Brothers.

Myers, F. W. H. (1903). Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (2 vols.). London: Longmans, Green.

Morselli, E. (1908). Psicologia e “Spiritismo:” Impressioni e Note Critiche sui Fenomeni Medianici di Eusapia Paladino [Psychology and “Spiritism:” Impressions and Critical Notes About the Mediumistic Phenomena of Eusapia Paladino] (2 vols.). Turin: Fratelli Bocca.

Geley, G. (1920). From the Unconscious to the Conscious. Glasgow: William Collins. (First published in French in 1919)

Schrenck-Notzing, A. von (1920). Phenomena of Materialisation. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, & Trübner.

Warcollier, R. (1921). La Télépathie: Recherches Expérimentales. Paris: Félix Alcan.

Osty, E. (1923). Supernormal Faculties in Man: An Experimental Study. London: Methuen.

Geley, G, (1927). Clairvoyance and Materialisation: A Record of Experiments. London: T. Fisher Unwin.

Rhine, J. B. (1934). Extra-Sensory Perception. Boston: Boston Society for Psychic Research.

Pratt, J. G., Rhine, J. B., Smith, B. F., Stuart, C. E., & Greenwood, J. (1940). Extra-Sensory Perception After Sixty Years. New York: Henry Holt.

*Most of the information presented here appeared first in Alvarado, C.S. (2016-2017). The history of parapsychology: A brief bibliography. Mindfield, 8(3), 105-109; 9(1), 14-17. Mindfield is the bulletin of the Parapsychological Association.


Tuesday, November 21, 2017   10:48 PM

The Past Literature of Parapsychology: A Reading Guide: I.*

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

Many individuals involved in parapsychology today are not well read on the past literature of their field. Some are newcomers while others are not interested in historical studies but in conducting research on the phenomena and speculating about their importance. Nonetheless there are many benefits that current workers may obtain from the old literature. This includes a better understanding of the reason for and development of theories, methodologies, and controversies, the social factors that have influenced the field, and the persons involved in its development, including researchers, facilitators, mediums and psychics. In addition, the past literature of the field (somewhat different from its history), is particularly useful to develop hypothesis for research, not to mention putting current results in the context of previous findings and ideas.

Because this literature is not generally within the purview of parapsychologists, and others, I would like to present here some reading suggestions to help current workers in the field find information about the work of previous generations. These consist of various secondary sources that will be of help to locate the important primary literature of the field. Due to my interests in the field I will focus on information sources about developments between the late 19th century and the 1930s.


A good way to start is to check some of the old overviews of psychical research, which summarize much about research findings, theories, and controversies. Some examples are William Barrett’s (1911) Psychical Research (New York: Holt), Hereward Carrington’s (1930) The Story of Psychic Science (London; Rider), A.C. Holms’ (1927) The Facts of Psychic Science and Philosophy Collated and Discussed (Jamaica, NY: Occult Press), Frank Podmore’s (1897) Studies in Psychical Research (London: G.P. Putnam’s), Charles Richet’s (1922) Traité de Métapsychique (Paris: Félix Alcan; and the English translation of the second edition, (1923) Thirty Years of Psychical Research. New York: Macmillan), Emilio Servadio’s (1930) La Ricerca Psichica ([Psychical Research]. Rome: Cremonese); and René Sudre’s (1926) Introduction à la Métapsychique Humaine (Paris: Payot, 1926; and a later revised edition, Treatise on Parapsychology (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1960, original work published in French 1956).

An informative reference source is Fanny Moser’s (1935) treatise Der okkultismus: Tauschungen und Tatsachen (Occultism: Deception and Fact. 2 vols. Munich: Von Ernst Reinhardt). The book opens with discussions about positive and negative views about psychic phenomena, and some early investigations (e.g., the work of the London Dialectical Society, William Crookes, Cesare Lombroso, and the Society for Psychical Research). It also has a section about deception and facts in which Moser has chapters about the subconscious mind, sleep and dreams, and other psychological topics. Furthermore, this work has chapters about telepathy, clairvoyance, physical mediumship, and animal magnetism.

Also useful are book chapters such as Harvey J. Irwin and Caroline Watt’s (2007) “Origins of Parapsychological Research” (An Introduction to Parapsychology (5th ed.) Jefferson, NC: McFarland) and Nancy L. Zingrone and Carlos S. Alvarado’s (2016) “A Brief History of Psi Research” (In E.C May & S.B. Marwaha (Eds.), Extrasensory Perception: Support, Skepticism, and Science: Vol. 1: History, Controversy, and Research (pp. 35-79). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger).

For years I have been publishing articles covering aspects of the old psychical research literature. Some of them include:

(1987). (Second author, with N.L. Zingrone). (1987). Historical aspects of parapsychological terminology. Journal of Parapsychology, 51, 49‑74.

(1989). ESP displacement effects: A review of pre-1940 concepts and qualitative observations. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 83, 227‑239.

(2001). (first author, with E. Coly, L. Coly, and N.L. Zingrone). Fifty years of supporting parapsychology: The Parapsychology Foundation (1951-2001). International Journal of Parapsychology, 12, 1-26.

(2009). Early and modern developments in the psychological approach to out-of-body experiences. In C. D. Murray (Ed.), Psychological Scientific Perspectives on Out-of-Body and Near-Death Experiences (pp. 1-22). New York: Nova Science.

(2012). Dream ESP studies before Maimonides: An overview, 1880s-1950s. Aquém e Além do Cerebro: Behind and Beyond the Brain (pp. 77-101). Porto, Portugal: Fundação Bial.

(2012). Psychic phenomena and the mind-body problem: Historical notes on a neglected conceptual tradition. In A. Moreira-Almeida and F.Santos (Eds.), Exploring Frontiers of the Mind-Brain Relationship (pp. 35-51). New York: Springer.

(2013). Mediumship and psychical research. In C. Moreman (Ed.), The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and Around the World (Vol. 2, pp. 127-144). Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.

(2014). Mediumship, psychical research, dissociation, and the powers of the subconscious mind. Journal of Parapsychology, 78, 98–114.

(2014). Classic Text No. 98: ‘Visions of the Dying,’ by James H. Hyslop (1907). History of Psychiatry, 25, 237-252.

(2016). Psychic phenomena and the brain hemispheres: Some Nineteenth-Century publications. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 30, 559–585.

Many authors have published articles about other topics. A few examples are:

Evrard, R. (2017). Institut Métapsychique International. Psi Encyclopedia.

Evrard, R., & Rabeyron, T. (2012). Les psychanalystes et le transfert de pensée:Enjeux historiques et actuelles [Psychoanalysts and thought-transference: Historical and current issues]. L’Evolution Psychiatrique, 77, 589-598.

Gissurarson, L. R., & Haraldsson, E. (2001). History of parapsychology in Iceland. International Journal of Parapsychology, 12, 29-51.

Hacking, I. (1988). Telepathy: Origins of randomisation in experimental design. Isis, 79, 427-451.

Hunter, J. (2015). Anthropology and Psi Research. Psi Encyclopedia.

Machado, F.R. and Zangari, W., (2017). Psi Research in Brazil. Psi Encyclopedia

Matlock, J.G. (2017). Reincarnation Accounts Pre-1900. Psi Encyclopedia.

Nisbet, B. (1973). Table turning: A brief historical note mainly for the period 1848-1853. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 47, 96-106.

Parra, A. (1995). Parapsychology in Argentina: Brief history and future possibilities.
Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. 60, 214-228.

Rhine, J. B. (1977). History of experimental studies. In B. B. Wolman (Ed.), Handbook of
(pp. 25-47). New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

Rhine, L. E. (1971). The establishment of basic concepts and terminology in parapsychology. Journal of Parapsychology, 35, 34–56.

Rogo, D.S. (1988). Experimental parapsychology before 1900. Parapsychology Review, 19(4), 11-16.

Stokes, D. M. (2002). A history of the relationship between statistics and parapsychology. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 96, 15-73.

Other topics will be covered in later comments.

*Most of the information presented here appeared first in Alvarado, C.S. (2016-2017). The history of parapsychology: A brief bibliography. Mindfield, 8(3), 105-109; 9(1), 14-17. Mindfield is the bulletin of the Parapsychologicl Association.


Monday, October 23, 2017   7:50 AM

Review of Trends in Publications about “Consciousness Beyond the Brain”

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

An interesting article has been published in a psychiatry journal about topics related to this blog. Its title is: “Research on Experiences Related to the Possibility of Consciousness Beyond the Brain: A Bibliometric Analysis of Global Scientific Output,” by Jorge Cecílio Daher, Rodolfo Furlan Damiano, Alessandra Lamas Granero Lucchetti, Alexander Moreira-Almeida, and Giancarlo Lucchetti (Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 2017, 205, 37-47).


“This study aims to conduct a search of publications investigating experiences commonly associated with the possibility of the existence of a consciousness independent of the brain held on the main scientific databases (Pubmed, Web of Knowledge, PsycINFO, Science Direct, and Scopus). Of the 9065 articles retrieved, 1954 were included (598 near-death experiences, 223 out-of-body experiences, 56 end-of-life experiences, 224 possession, 244 memories suggestive of past lives, 565 mediumship, 44 others). Over the decades, there was an evident increase in the number of articles on all the areas of the field, with the exception of studies on mediumship that showed a decline during the late 20th century and subsequent rise in the early 21st century. Regarding the types of articles found, with the exception of past-life memories and end-of-life experiences (mostly original studies), publications were predominantly review articles. The articles were published in journals with an impact factor similar to other areas of science.”

In the discussion the authors state:

“Each area was discussed separately to promote a better understanding of each area of the field and its respective gaps. The NDE area yielded the most specific articles and, in absolute terms, had the largest number of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies. This area of the field, although recent, had greater scientific consolidation an more prospective studies, largely promoted by studies related to cardiology and intensive medicine and strong media interest . . .”

“The OBE area had articles in common with the NDE area, being a potential component of NDE, but was also studied as a spontaneous occurrence . . . Given the numerous studies in different areas, it can be concluded that this area of the field has a reasonable number of studies whose objective was not the assessment of the possibility of autonomy of consciousness in relation to the brain.”

“The possession area includes a large number of investigative articles of mental disorders and many eminently descriptive anthropological investigations. These studies, although investigating associated experiences, often do not investigate the issue of survival of the consciousness per se . . .”

“Regarding the mediumship area, we found a large number of case reports with mediums, analyzing a range of different manifestations such as the truthfulness of information or neurophysiological aspects . . . After the 2000s, investigations into mediums adopted more rigorous methodological criteria, with results that have yet to be fully accepted.”

“The reincarnation (past-life memories) area was associated with a substantial number of cross-sectional studies. This area is characterized predominantly by results obtained from reports by study participants and analysis of their truthfulness . . . There is also an extensive debate on whether these cases can be explained by fantasy, false memories, and hypnosis . . .”

“The ELEs [end-of-life experiences] area, although a relatively recent with fewer articles, showed greater growth in the past decade. This rise was likely attributed to the increase in studies on palliative care and spirituality . . . “

Sunday, August 27, 2017   6:22 PM

Online Information About the History of Parapsychology: The Psi Encyclopedia

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

In a two-part article about sources to find information about the history of parapsychology published in Mindfield, the online bulletin of the Parapsychological Association, I presented suggestions of many books and articles with useful information about the topic (The history of parapsychology: A brief bibliography. Mindfield, 2016, 8(3), 105-109; 2017, 9(1), 14-17). Here I would like present further information that has appeared in the Psi Encyclopedia.

The Psi Encyclopedia, an online project founded by the Society for Psychical Research, is edited by Robert McLuhan. Although it is still developing, the encyclopedia already has accumulated a good number of entries on various topics, as I have discussed before (click here, here, and here). Many of its entries offer useful information about the history of parapsychology, particularly as regards people in the field.

Many entries are devoted to psychical researchers. Examples of these are: John Beloff (by Melvyn Willin), Ernesto Bozzano (Carlos S. Alvarado), C.D. Broad (Stephen E. Braude), C.J. Ducasse (Stephen E. Braude), Gustave Geley (Renaud Evrard), Edmund Gurney (Andreas Sommer), Richard Hodgson (Michael Tymn), James Hyslop (Michael Tymn), William James (Carlos S. Alvarado), Andrew Lang (Melvyn Willin), Frederic W.H. Myers (Trevor Hamilton), Frank Podmore (Melvyn Willin), Charles Richet (Carlos S. Alvarado), and René Sudre (Renaud Evrard).

Mediums and psychics are also represented:

Marthe Béraud (Eva C.)
(by Benjamin Steigmann)

Rosemary Brown
(Melvyn Willin)

Uri Geller
(Guy Lyon Playfair)

Daniel Dunglas Home
(Stephen E. Braude)

Carlos Mirabelli
(Stephen Braude)

William Stainton Moses
(Michael Tymn)

Eusapia Palladino
(Carlos S. Alvarado, with material by R. McLuhan)

Leonora Piper
(Michael Tymn)

Henry Slade
(Stephen E. Braude)

Hélène Smith
(Everton de Oliveira Maraldi)

The encyclopedia also includes several cases from the old days of psychical research, among them: Borley Rectory (Melvyn Willin), Cheltenham Ghost (Robert McLuhan), Copenhagen Fire (Erlendur Haraldsson), The Cross-Correspondences (Trevor Hamilton), Raymond (Michael Tymn), Reincarnation Accounts Pre-1900 (James G. Matlock), and The Tedworth Drummer (John Newton).

The authors of several entries present information of historical interest. This is the case of Ghost Hunting (John Fraser), Human Radiations (Carlos S. Alvarado), Photography and the Paranormal (Melvyn Willin), Precognition (Robert Rosenberg), and Psychometry (Mary Rose Barrington). The same may be said about entries covering organizations (Parapsychology Foundation, Carlos S. Alvarado; Society for Psychical Research, Donald West), and developments in various countries (Psi Research in Brazil, Fatima Regina Machado and Wellington Zangari; Psi Research in France, Renaud Evrard).

I have written summaries of various classic works for the encyclopedia. Those that have been published to date are Bozzano's 'Phénomènes Psychiques au Moment de la Mort' (Psychic Phenomena at the Moment of Death), Muldoon and Carrington's The Phenomena of Astral Projection (1951), Podmore’s 'Apparitions and Thought-Transference', Richet's 'La Suggestion Mentale', and Richet’s Traité de Métapsychique (Thirty Years of Psychical Research).

There are many topics relevant to the history of parapsychology that have not been included yet, which is understandable in a work in progress. But much is available now that will help current students of the field to get useful information about past developments.

© 2019 The Parapsychological Association. All rights reserved.