The Limits of Influence is a detailed examination and defense of the evidence for largescale-psychokinesis . It examines the reasons why experimental evidence has not, and perhaps cannot, convince most skeptics that PK is genuine, and it considers why traditional experimental procedures are important to reveal interesting facts about the phenomena.
For over thirty years, Stephen Braude has studied the paranormal in everyday life, from extrasensory perception and psychokinesis to mediumship and materialization. _The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations_ is a highly readable and often amusing account of his most memorable encounters with such phenomena. Here Braude recounts in fascinating detail five particular cases—some that challenge our most fundamental scientific beliefs and others that expose our own credulousness. Braude begins with a south Florida woman who can make thin gold-colored (...) foil appear spontaneously on her skin. He then travels to New York and California to test psychokinetic superstars—and frauds—like Joe Nuzum, who claim to move objects using only their minds. Along the way, Braude also investigates the startling allegations of K.R., a policeman in Annapolis who believes he can transfer images from photographs onto other objects—including his own body—and Ted Serios, a deceased Chicago elevator operator who could make a variety of different images appear on Polaroid film. Ultimately, Braude considers his wife’s surprisingly fruitful experiments with astrology, which she has used to guide professional soccer teams to the top of their leagues, as well as his own personal experiences with synchronicity—a phenomenon, he argues, that may need to be explained in terms of a refined, extensive, and dramatic form of psychokinesis. Heady, provocative, and brimming with eye-opening details and suggestions, _The Gold Leaf Lady and Other Parapsychological Investigations_ will intrigue both adherents and detractors of its controversial subject matter alike. (shrink)
Keith Augustine’s critical evaluation of the essay contest sponsored by the Bigelow Institute of Consciousness Studies (BICS) is an interesting but problematic review. It mixes reasonable and detailed criticisms of the contest and many of the winning essays with a disappointing reliance on some of the most trite and superficial criticisms of parapsychological research. Ironically, Augustine criticizes the winning essays for using straw-man arguments and cherry-picked evidence even though many of his own arguments commit these same errors.
The Limits of Influence is a detailed examination and defense of the evidence for largescale-psychokinesis. It examines the reasons why experimental evidence has not, and perhaps cannot, convince most skeptics that PK is genuine, and it considers why traditional experimental procedures are important to reveal interesting facts about the phenomena.
In October 2015 I supervised a series of séances in Hanau, Germany with Felix Circle physical medium Kai Mügge. The purpose was to try to obtain better documentation of Kai’s table levitations than my team was able to achieve in Austria in 2013 (Braude, 2014). Although that goal was not met over the course of four séances, we nevertheless witnessed some interesting phenomena that are difficult to explain away normally given the control conditions imposed at the time. These include object (...) movements beyond the reach of the sitters, a very strange “exploding” sound from the séance table, and some extended levitations in which the table seemed to sway or swim in mid-air. But what may be most interesting about this series of séances is the way the phenomena reflect the complex, and tortured, underlying psychodynamics of the occasion. Indeed, what readers need to know about the FEG phenomena has as much to do with personalities involved as with the phenomena themselves. As a result, this report focuses as much on the background to the investigation as on the investigation itself. (shrink)
This paper chronicles my introduction to and subsequent investigation of the Felix Experimental Group (FEG) and its exhibitions of classical physical mediumship. It’s been nearly a century since investigators have had the opportunity to carefully study standard spiritistic phenomena, including the extruding of ectoplasm, and the FEG is the only current physical mediumistic circle permitting any serious controls. The paper details a progressively stringent, personally supervised series of séances, culminating in some well-controlled experiments with video documentation in a secure and (...) private location belonging to one of the investigators. Regrettably, recent indications of fraud (explored also by Michael Nahm in this issue) have tarnished the case as a whole. However, it remains unclear how extensive the fraud has been. Accordingly, this paper evaluates the arguments both for and against the paranormality of the phenomena displayed under the author’s supervision. (shrink)
In my writings on the evidence for postmortem survival. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I consider much of the literature on the subject to be very shabby, usually because the authors are empirically myopic or inferentially-challenged. That is, writers on survival notoriously ignore or treat very superficially relevant areas of research having their own extensive literatures (e.g., on dissociation, savantism, prodigies, gifted under-achievers, and language mastery), and too often they seem unable to formulate valid arguments. In Braude, (...) 2003 I explored these deficiencies in great detail. Here, I’d like simply to comment on a particular class of confusions and a recent eruption of nonsequiturs. (shrink)
The philosophical literature on multiple personality has focused primarily on problems about personal identity and psychological explanation. But multiple personality and other dissociative phenomena raise equally important and even more urgent questions about moral responsibility, in particular: In what respect(s) and to what extent should a multiple be held responsible for the actions of his/her alternate personalities? Cases of dreaming help illustrate why attributions of responsibility in cases of dissociation do not turn on putative changes in identity, as some have (...) supposed. Instead, it is argued that traditional criteria of rationality and behavioral control apply also to cases of dissociation. It is noted, however, that one can distinguish different kinds of responsibility in cases of dissociation, and that one is responsible for one's dreams in a different sense from that in which one is responsible for actions one can control and evaluate. It is also argued that in cases of multiple personality it is important to distinguish control over switching of personalities from an alter's control over its own behavior. Moreover, the author considers reasons for thinking that amnesia is less relevant to attributions of responsibility than many have supposed. (shrink)
The so-called “problem of personal identity” can be viewed as either a metaphysical or an epistemological issue. Metaphysicians want to know what it is for one individual to be the same person as another. Epistemologists want to know how to decide if an individual is the same person as someone else. These two problems converge around evidence from mediumship and apparent reincarnation cases, suggesting personal survival of bodily death and dissolution. These cases make us wonder how it might be possible (...) for a person to survive death and either temporarily or permanently animate another body. And they make us wonder how we could decide if such postmortem survival has actually occurred. In this essay I argue, first, that metaphysical worries about postmortem survival are less important than many have supposed. Next, I'll consider briefly why cases suggesting postmortem survival can be so intriguing and compelling, and I'll survey our principal explanatory options and challenges. Then, I'll consider why we need to be circumspect in our appraisal of evidence for mind-body correlations. And finally, I'll try to draw a few tentative and provocative conclusions. (shrink)
I’ve been both fascinated and distressed by the arguments raging over how best to respond to the covid-19 pandemic. In particular, I’ve been struck by the way people claim scientific authority for their confident assurances of what needs to be done. And I’m especially intrigued by the scorn they often lavish on those who hold differing views on what science is telling us. The heat generated by the resulting debates is strikingly similar to the heat generated by debates over the (...) science connected with human-caused climate change. And in both cases, the disputants too often presuppose indefensibly naïve views about scientific authority and certitude, apparently unaware that even the allegedly most obvious logical truths lack the certainty attributed to scientific authority in these debates. As a rule, I dislike re-circulating my Editorials, but I think it’s time to resurrect one (modestly tweaked) from a few years ago, addressing precisely this issue (Vol. 31, No. 3, pp. 379–386, 2017). …………………………………… “Man is a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.” --Oscar Wilde I’ve often noticed how debates within the SSE community sometimes parallel debates in the political arena, perhaps especially with respect to the passion they elicit and the intolerance and condescension sometimes lavished on members of the “opposition.” Occasionally, of course, the debates in the SSE are nearly indistinguishable from those in the political arena—say, over the evidence for human-caused climate change. But what I find most striking is how the passion, intolerance, etc.—perhaps most often displayed by those defending whatever the “received” view happens to be—betrays either a surprising ignorance or else a seemingly convenient lapse of memory, one that probably wouldn’t appear in less emotionally-charged contexts. What impassioned partisans tend to ignore or forget concerns (a) the tentative nature of both scientific pronouncements and knowledge claims generally (including matters ostensibly much more secure than those under debate), as well as (b) the extensive network of assumptions on which every knowledge claim rests. So I’d like to offer what I hope will be a perspective-enhancer, concerning how even our allegedly most secure and fundamental pieces of a priori knowledge are themselves open to reasonable debate. A widespread, but naïve, view of logic is that no rational person could doubt its elementary laws. But that bit of popular “wisdom” is demonstrably false. And if that’s the case, then so much the worse for the degree of certitude we can expect in more controversial arenas. Let me illustrate with a few examples.  I’m indebted to Aune, 1970 for much of what follows. (shrink)
Critics of survival research often claim that the survival hypothesis is conceptually problematic at best, and literally incoherent at worst. The guiding intuition behind their skepticism is that there’s an essential link between the concept of a person (or personality or experience) and physical embodiment. Thus (they argue), since by hypothesis postmortem individuals such as ostensible mediumistic communicators have no physical body, there’s something wrong with the very idea of a postmortem person, personality or experience. However, critics can’t simply beg (...) the question and assert that physical embodiment is essential to personhood, personality, or experience, because the evidence suggesting survival is a prima facie challenge to the contrary. On the other hand, defenders of ostensible mediumistic communication need to explain how postmortem awareness and knowledge of the current physical world can occur without a physical body that experiences the world and represents it accurately enough to ground veridical postmortem reports. This paper will fi rst consider why survivalists face potentially serious problems in trying to make sense of apparent postmortem perception. Then it will consider a plausible—and arguably the only—way to deal with the issues. However, that solution turns out to be a double-edged sword. Ironically, the best way to deal with the problem of perspectival postmortem awareness may render the survival hypothesis gratuitous. (shrink)
mainstream academicians. Perhaps the major common area of interest was that of dissociation Ã¢â¬â in particular, the study of hypnosis and multiple personality, The founders of the S.P.R. believed, along with many others, that dissociative phenomena promised insights into the nature of the mind generally, including..
The case of the Brazilian medium, Carlos Mirabelli, is one of the most tantalizing and frustrating in psychical research. If his phenomena—especially his psychokinetic manifestations—occurred as reported, he was probably the greatest physical medium of all time. Mirabelli reportedly moved objects (including very large objects) at a distance, levitated himself while bound to a chair, and dematerialized and transported to another location objects of all kinds (including himself). Mirabelli also reportedly produced full-figure materializations in bright daylight. Sitters would watch them (...) form; attending physicians would carefully examine them for up to 30 minutes and report ordinary bodily functions; photographs of the figures would be taken; and then they would slowly dissolve or fade before everyone’s eyes. However, Mirabelli was also clearly guilty of fraud on occasion, including his notorious doctoring of a photo ostensibly showing him to be levitating. His case therefore presents an all too familiar challenge to psi research—namely, how to assess cases of so-called “mixed” mediumship. (shrink)
A long-standing concern (or at least a belief) about ESP, held by both skeptics and believers in the paranormal, is that if telepathy really occurs, then it might pose a threat to mental privacy. And it’s easy enough to see what motivates that view. Presumably we like to think that we enjoy privileged access to our own mental states. But if others could come to know telepathically what we’re thinking or feeling, then (among other disquieting prospects) that would mean that (...) our sins of the heart and most embarrassing or repulsive fleeting thoughts would potentially be available for public inspection. But how well-founded is that belief or concern? To get a grip on the issues, we should begin by considering the valuable distinction (perhaps first mentioned by C.D. Broad--Broad, 1953, 1962) between telepathic (or clairvoyant) cognition and telepathic (or clairvoyant) interaction. As you would expect, every instance of the former would be an instance of the latter, but the converse doesn’t hold—that is, ESP interaction may occur without ESP cognition. To see why this matters, we must take a closer look. If telepathic cognition occurs at all, it would presumably be a form of non-sensorial knowledge about another individual’s state of mind. More specifically, it would be a state of affairs in which so-called “percipient” A comes to know something about a telepathic interaction A has with another individual B. And what kind of things might A telepathically come to know? Well, presumably, in its most robust (and most intrusively intimidating) form, A would learn what’s going on in B’s mind—that is, that B is having certain thoughts, perceptions, or emotions. But it would still be an instance of telepathic cognition—admittedly, less intimidating or threatening to one’s mental privacy—if A learned merely that B was the telepathic cause of A’s current thought or experience—that is, that B was directly influencing or interfering with A’s stream of consciousness, whether or not A’s resulting thoughts or experiences were those of B or known by A to be those of B. (shrink)
James Matlock’s book, Signs of Reincarnation, is a recent addition to a seemingly endless stream of confused or superficial works on the topic of survival. Admittedly (and as one would expect), the case material is often of genuine interest. But when Matlock tries to make sense of that material, he demonstrates little grasp of the current state of the debate. Even worse, he seems unaware of the intellectually responsible strategies for challenging and criticizing positions opposed to his own. Since Matlock (...) criticizes what he says are my views throughout his book, and because this issue of the JSE features two comprehensive reviews of that book, I’ll focus only on the principal respects in which Matlock misdescribes my position and ignores the extended discussions I’ve provided, not only in Immortal Remains (Braude, 2003), but elsewhere (e.g., Braude, 2005a, 2005b, 2014a, 2014b, 2020), explaining the problems with the tired and flawed lines of reasoning he endorses. (shrink)
In these editorials I prefer not to revisit issues I’ve covered before, much less recycle previous editorials. But the recent Michigan conference of the SSE has convinced me that the time may have arrived. What provoked me was this. On several occasions I happened to overhear attendees making confidently dismissive remarks about what they took to be the extreme or outlandish views and presentations they’d encountered during the conference. And I was reasonably certain that many of those expressing these opinions (...) did so with little or no justification for the certitude they displayed. With that in mind, I submit again, with a few suitable updates, some remarks I made back in Volume 23. It’s not often that I get to feel like a spokesperson for empirical conservatism. But that happened when I was invited to give a talk at the 50th Annual Conference on Anomalous Phenomena sponsored by the International Fortean Organization (INFO). The occasion provided several healthy illustrations about what I suppose we can call boggle relativity. The conference was stimulating, challenging, and professionally run, and I was happy to meet quite a few very smart and pleasant attendees. (shrink)
In 2010, I wrote a pair of editorials dealing with issues concerning peer review and the quality of papers appearing in the JSE. While I’m not so naïve as to think that my editorials exert any great influence (or even that JSE subscribers actually read them), I’m nevertheless a bit surprised to find—five years later—that I still receive a fairly steady stream of complaints about our peer review process. Those complaints fall primarily into two broad categories: (1) charges of rigidity, (...) bias, or tyrannical censorship from authors whose papers were rejected, and (2) complaints from readers who believe that papers appearing in the JSE should never have survived peer review. So I’m thinking it’s time to review the issues again. And since I don’t believe I can substantially improve on what I wrote five years ago, I offer below, in a spirit of unjustified optimism, my two earlier editorials for your (re)consideration. (shrink)
In my Editorial in the last issue, I dealt at some length with the topic of experimental replicability, revisiting a subject I’d addressed in another Editorial five years earlier. And back then, I followed that initial Editorial with another, dealing with an important and too often neglected side-issue—namely, whether (or to what extent) we should consider scientific expertise to be an art, or something more like a gift than a skill. As far as I can tell, this interesting topic continues (...) to receive even less attention than the usual concerns over replicability. So now I’d like once again to raise the relevant issues. Perhaps the second time is a charm. Philosopher Karl Popper notoriously once wrote: “Any empirical scientific statement can be presented (by describing experimental arrangement, etc.) in such a way that anyone who has learned the relevant techniques can test it” (Popper 1959/2002:99, emphasis added). In my Editorial last issue, I noted that given the inevitable differences between original experiments and replication attempts—magnified in the behavioral sciences (and parapsychology) by many additional kinds of potentially relevant variables (such as well-documented experimenter effects), it may be unreasonable to expect success when replication attempts are conducted by someone other than the original experimenter. That point is relatively familiar. What I want to consider more closely now are the less familiar, related questions: What are the relevant techniques? Can they be captured and conveyed by a mere list of procedures, like a recipe for baking bread? And in particular: To what extent can these techniques even be learned? (shrink)
In my book Immortal Remains (Braude, 2003), I considered an intriguing argument William James offered against the suggestion that mediumistic evidence for postmortem survival could be explained away in normal, or at least non-survivalist, terms—that is, either by appealing to what I’ve called The Usual Suspects (e.g., misperception, hidden memories, fraud) or The Unusual Suspects (e.g., dissociation + latent abilities, exceptional memory, or living-agent psi). More specifically, James was concerned with a fascinating, but frustrating, feature of the material gathered from (...) mental mediumship—namely, that even the best cases present a maddening mixture of (a) material suggesting survival, (b) material suggesting psi among the living, and (c) apparent rubbish. At their best, of course, mediums furnish detailed information for which no normal explanation will suffice. In the cases most strongly suggesting survival, that information concerns the past lives of the deceased. But sometimes mediums also provide information on the present actions, thoughts, and feelings of the living, and that’s one reason why some cases suggest psi among the living, and why a living-agent–psi interpretation of mediumship is difficult to rule out. After all, information about present states of affairs is not something to which the deceased would enjoy privileged access. Moreover, to complicate matters further,... gems of correct, detailed, and relevant information are nearly always imbedded in an immense matrix of twaddle, vagueness, irrelevance, ignorance, pretension, positive error, and occasional prevarication. (Broad, 1962, p. 259). (shrink)
No doubt this breezily written and informative volume will fill a gaping lacuna in most JSE readers' knowledge of evidence for psychokinesis generally and poltergeist phenomena in particular. It certainly did for me. Healy and Cropper survey 52 different Australian cases, spanning the years 1845-2002. The first eleven chapters cover the authors' 11 strongest cases in considerable detail. Chapter 12 describes the remaining 41 cases more briefly, and catalogues all 52 cases in chronological order. Chapter 13 purports to wrap things (...) up, but it's followed by three appendices introducing additional cases outside Australia and brief discussions of similar or at least potentially relevant physical mysteries-for example, some Asian fire poltergeist cases, ball lightning, UFOs, and reported rains of fishes. The authors rate their cases on a five-star scale, which they apply judiciously. Ratings begin at zero for apparent or proven hoaxes, and then range from half a star ("for questionable or very poorly documented cases" [p. 7]) to five stars. Healy and Cropper write: "With only two exceptions, we have reserved the four and five-star rating for very well documented cases where we were able to interview the eyewitnesses or in which we had some other personal involvement" (p. 7). The case they consider the strongest-the Mayanup case from 1955-2002-is the only one to earn five stars. Humpty Doo (1998)-possibly the most famous, or notorious-gets four and a half. Several cases earned between three and four stars, and quite a few get either zero stars or half a star. The two highest-rated cases are genuinely interesting. In the Humpty Doo case, many credible observers witnessed the phenomena under conditions which quite clearly seemed to rule out chicanery, and which conformed to poltergeist reports in other parts of the world. The phenomena included "showers of stones both indoors and out, dangerous objects thrown with great force but without causing injury, objects falling unnaturally slowly yet producing unnaturally loud sounds on impact, objects observed levitating, objects observed materializing in mid-air" (p. 48), the intense heat of apported objects, and more. (shrink)
This book accomplishes the nearly miraculous achievement of being both substantive and highly entertaining. According to Barrington, “JOTT,” derived from “Just One of Those Things,” stands for a kind of “spatial discontinuity”—namely, a motley class of events in which objects appear or disappear in mysterious ways. For example, some can be classified as “Walkabouts,” in which “an article disappears from the place where it was known to have been and is found in another place.” Similarly, in “Comebacks,” “a known article (...) disappears from the place where it was known to have been and later is found back in the same place.” And in “Turn-ups,” “a known article from an uncertain location appears in a place where it is known not to have been before it was found there.” The other primary categories in Barrington’s taxonomy are Flyaway, Windfall, and Trade-in (the reader might be able to guess what these are). The central contention of this book is that JOTT phenomena merit the attention of psi researchers and theorists of the paranormal. I’ve often lamented that lab research in parapsychology is premature, because we have no decent idea what kind of organic function scientists are trying to investigate under inevitably straitjacketed laboratory conditions. Not only are we ignorant of psi's finer‑grained features, we don't even know what its natural history might be–for example, whether it has an evolutionary role or primary or overall purpose or function (although there=s no shortage of speculation on these matters). Of course, there=s no reason to think that psychic phenomena occur only for parapsychologists, much less only when those parapsychologists set out to look for them. After all, a major motivation for conducting formal studies is that we have evidence of psi occurring spontaneously in life. Moreover, there are good reasons for thinking that psi might be triggered unconsciously or subconsciously, in which case it might also occur surreptitiously. But since we=re a very long way from understanding the nature and function of everyday psi, we don't know whether psychic functioning is an ability (like musical ability) or whether it=s a brute endowment such as the capacity to see or to move one's limbs. Obviously, then, in the absence of this rudimentary knowledge, we have no idea whether (or to what extent) our experimental procedures are even appropriate to the phenomena. After all, many human capacities or endowments are situation-sensitive and can only be evaluated in real-life contexts. (shrink)
Michael Nahm’s report in this issue of the JSE deftly presents many of the scholarly offenses perpetrated by Alejandro Parra. Some of those not mentioned had to do with Parra’s submissions to the JSE, and I feel it’s important to add those to the record. JSE published a retraction notice earlier this year (Volume 35, Issue 1) and provided examples of Parra’s plagiarism. Moreover, the Journal rejected another paper in which we found substantial plagiarism. But Parra’s boldest effort was his (...) submission, under his own name, of a paper by an Argentinian author, Anna Conforte—in fact, a paper Parra published in his own newsletter. But Parra never indicated that the paper was written by someone else. Several people independently and carefully compared the English submission to the original Spanish. All agreed that Parra apparently simply auto-translated the paper to clumsy English and presented it as his own work. (shrink)
Several of my recent Editorials have dealt with terminological/conceptual errors and confusions that have been all too prevalent among psi researchers. In this Editorial, I want to consider a related issue often raised about parapsychological concepts and explanation. Probably we’ve all heard the complaint that parapsychology’s core concepts have only been defined negatively, with respect to our present level of ignorance—for example, taking “telepathy” to be “the causal influence of one mind on another independently of the known senses.” Perhaps some (...) of you have even expressed that complaint yourselves. Of course, the assumption underlying those complaints is that this definitional strategy is a problem. However, it seems like a perfectly reasonable procedure to me, and I can easily accept the possibility that we might eventually learn enough about phenomena so defined that we can later construct better, detailed, and more informative analytical definitions. But at least as far as psi research is concerned, I consider it presumptuous—at our present (and considerable) level of ignorance—to proceed any other way. We hardly have the barest hint, based on all the available data, as to what psi is doing in the world (i.e., both inside and outside the lab). In fact, formal, experimental evidence has been particularly unilluminating. It has barely succeeded, if it’s succeeded at all, in convincing parapsychological fence-sitters that there are any genuine paranormal phenomena to study (I’ve explored some reasons for this in Braude, 1997). And it certainly hasn’t shed light on how pervasive, extensive, and refined psi effects might be, or whether effects of radically different magnitudes would be the result of substantially different processes. At best, typical quantitative research examines only straitjacketed expressions of phenomena that non-laboratory evidence suggests occur more impressively (if not flamboyantly) “in the wild.” So it strikes me as appropriately modest and circumspect to define “PK” (for example) as “the effect of an organism on a region r of the physical world without any known sort of physical interaction between the organism's body and r.” (For additional specific parapsychological definitions, see Braude, 2002). (shrink)
This issue of the JSE includes a retraction of a paper by Alejandro Parra that we published in 2017. As far as I can determine, it’s the journal’s first official retraction of a published paper. The reason for this action is the author’s extensive plagiarism, both in that paper and in other published work (including a recent book whose publisher has since recalled all copies). It’s a sad state of affairs, of course—and perhaps the first of its kind in this (...) particular and admittedly minor scientific domain. But it reminds me that six years ago, in Volume 29(2), we published a paper on retractions in science, and in that issue I seized the opportunity to editorialize further on the subject. I recycle that Editorial below. But before that, I must note that careful examination has found no additional evidence of plagiarism in the one other research article (in 2018) and the one book review we’ve published by Parra. I must also mention that, henceforth, the JSE will run routine plagiarism tests on papers accepted for publication. I thought this was a chore I’d left behind when I retired from teaching. However, I don’t want the JSE to emulate the person who said “I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I’m certain I can repeat them exactly.” EDITORIAL FROM JSE VOLUME 29(2), 189–192. (shrink)
Parapsychologists have never been entirely satisfied with their technical vo- cabulary, and occasionally their discontent leads to attempts at terminological reform.1 Recently, a number of prominent parapsychologists, led by Ed May, have regularly abandoned some of parapsychology’s traditional and central categories in favor of some novel alternatives (see, e.g., May, Utts, and Spot- tiswoode, 1995a, 1995b; May, Spottiswood, Utts, and James, 1995). They rec- ommend replacing the term ª ESPº with ª anomalous cognitionº (or AC) and ª psychokinesis (PK)º with (...) ª anomalous perturbationº (or AP). Advocates of these new terms also propose replacing the term ª psiº or ª psi phenomenaº with ª anomalous mental phenomena.º Superf icially at least, these proposals seem merely to be modest extensions of parapsychology’s increasingly fre- quent use of the term ª anomalousº as a substitute for ª paranormal,º a practice which (although controversial) is not without merit, and which Palmer has vigorously defended (1986, 1987, 1992). But in my view, the proposed new terminology creates more problems than it solves. (shrink)
This is a particularly rich issue of the JSE. And a hefty one. Its size is due primarily to two quite lengthy essays, one by Bryan Williams and one by Michael Sudduth. Of course, all of this issue’s articles and reviews are worth reading; that’s why we’re publishing them. But these two huge essays merit a few extra comments. Bryan Williams has given us something that I and various SSE members have hoped for over the years, a detailed review of (...) a specific line of anomalistic research—the kind of article that would be useful to both veterans and newcomers to edge science. I’ve often tried to recruit such an opus from SSE colleagues at our conferences, hoping my considerable charm would dazzle them into accepting the opportunity. I’ve even been assured on several occasions that the solicited reviews would be forthcoming. But only Bryan, so far, has delivered the goods, a splendid essay surveying research on PK with random number generators. Not surprisingly, this review took Bryan a long time to write, and I want to thank him, not only for the result, but for his tenacity. Michael Sudduth’s essay is a forensic tour de force (as befits an admirer of the TV detective show Columbo)—an unprecedently detailed critique of the James Leininger case of ostensible reincarnation. That case is both complicated and messy, and it illustrates a general problem with CORT investigations that I’ve dubbed the Problem of Investigative Intricacy. (shrink)
Readers of the JSE will have recently been exposed to some data and issues regarding macro-PK (see, in particular, Volume 28, Number 2). And probably many JSE readers realize that some individuals seem to have demonstrated the ability to psychically influence, and in particular move, ordinary visible objects outside of the spiritist context characteristic of physical mediumship-that is, by means of one's own ostensible PK abilities and without invoking the assistance of deceased spirits to produce the effects. The Russian Nina (...) Kulagina may be the best-known twentieth-century example. However, another interesting mid-twentieth-century case, roughly contiguous with that of Kulagina, is the case of the American Felicia Parise. However, very little has been written about this case. I'm pleased, then, that we're able to present in this issue Rosemarie Pilkington's very recent interview with Felicia in 2013, which brings the case up to date and contributes substantially to what little is known about it. Moreover, for readers who've never heard about Felicia-and to refresh the memories of others-we're pleased to reprint the late Charles Honorton's 1993 report of his firsthand experiences with Felicia. (shrink)
I’ve recently found myself discussing apparitions with some SSE members and various other correspondents. And to my dismay I’ve discovered that many suppose, all too readily, that when apparitional cases require paranormal explanations, they should be viewed as instances of telepathic interaction. I addressed this topic quite some time ago (in Braude, 1997), arguing that the telepathic interpretation of apparitions is problematical—at least as an approach to apparitions generally. And back then I expected (admittedly, rather foolishly) that my trenchant and (...) extended analysis would settle the matter decisively. So now that I’ve been humbled once again by this latest indication of my lack of influence, I’d like to revisit the topic briefly and review its essentials, in the hope that some might then adopt a more sophisticated and nuanced approach. Apparitional phenomena have intrigued me for a long time. One reason is that they reach into all corners of the human population. Even hard-nosed, otherwise outwardly skeptical academics have confided their apparitional experiences to me and acknowledged they were baffled and impressed by them. That august group even includes an ex father-in-law (an anatomist at Ohio State) and my dissertation advisor (a distinguished and suitably hard-nosed philosopher). From the earliest days of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), the dominant view, at least within parapsychology, has been that if apparitions aren’t simply internally-generated (e.g., exhaustion- or drug- or illness-induced) hallucinations, they can then be explained by appealing to various sorts of telepathic interaction. And I suspect that’s still the prevailing view. So for example, according to this view we’d understand apparitions of the dead to result from telepathic interactions between a postmortem and an ante-mortem individual, and we’d explain apparitions of the living entirely in terms of ante-mortem telepathic interactions. Thus, a so-called “crisis apparition” would be understood as a kind of moment-of-death (or peril) telepathic reaching out from the agent to the percipient. (shrink)
How do-or how should-we parse the world into kinds of things? Going back at least to Plato, most philosophers have done so with respect to some notion or other of natural kinds. And many analyses of natural kinds have been essentialistic-that is defining those kinds with respect to universals, or some set of intrinsic properties, or necessary and sufficient conditions. And there's a long-standing dispute between thinkers who regard scientific categories as natural kinds with essential properties fixed by nature-those that (...) "cut nature at its joints"-and thinkers who maintain that our classifications and categories have no essence and instead merely reflect human interests and values. A typical example of the former would be "having a mass of 1.7 × 10-27," and examples of the latter would be the categories of "ADHD," "race," or "child abuse." Khalidi aims for an epistemic, naturalistic, non-essentialist, account of natural kinds, one which comfortably embraces not only the usual candidates favored by essentialists (e.g., elementary particles, chemical elements, biological species), but also categories in the social and behavioral sciences. Drawing on cases from many scientific fields, from fluid mechanics and polymer science to virology and psychiatry, Khalidi argues that "natural kinds are investigative or epistemic kinds, in the sense that they are the categories revealed by our systematic attempts to gain knowledge of nature" (p. 43). Moreover, he claims that natural kinds can be "fuzzy" (i.e. have indefinite boundaries), satisfy epistemic virtues to varying degrees, and be mind-dependent in a way that doesn't detract from their reality or objectivity. Although the book is pitched for a sophisticated and philosophically informed audience (and, needless to say, too complex to be adequately summarized in a brief notice such as this), it's clearly written, nuanced, compellingly argued, and worth the effort for JSE readers curious about the unavoidable metaphysical dimensions of doing science of any kind. (shrink)
Scholarly studies of physical mediumship typically list D. D. Home and Eusapia Palladino as the most convincingly documented mediums of all time, and most also rate Home’s case as among the most spectacular. Although many consider other cases of physical mediumship to be as dramatic as that of Home (e.g., that of Carlos Mirabelli, and Indridi Indridason), and while other less dramatic cases are often ranked as highly significant (e.g., Kathleen Goligher, Rudi Schneider, Eva C.), the prevailing view is that, (...) despite their different virtues, these cases lie within the shadows of Home and Palladino. My own survey of physical mediumship (Braude 1997) represents this received opinion, an opinion which the book currently under review has forced me to reconsider. (shrink)
In my previous Editorial, I took a short detour from the main topic (telepathy and mental privacy) to comment briefly on one of the deeper flaws in the trendy, but seriously misguided, practice of replacing the terms “ESP” and “PK” with (respectively) “anomalous cognition” and “anomalous perturbation.” As I’ve discussed in great detail elsewhere (Braude, 2020), there’s actually quite a lot that’s wrong with this terminological folly. And it’s hardly the only time psi researchers have botched efforts to explicate or (...) replace some of the field’s key concepts. The terminological error that I discussed in my earlier Editorial was the failure to accommodate the valuable distinction between ESP-cognition and ESP-interaction. And in that Editorial, I also noted that another, and increasingly trendy, practice likewise commits this error. It’s the strategy of abandoning the venerable arsenal of psi-terms and replacing them with a single expression—either “nonlocal awareness” or “nonlocal consciousness.” (The underlying rationale for this is usually that the traditional vocabulary is likely to be professionally toxic.) I’m thinking about these matters again because recent events have conspired to remind me of still another, but less trendy and prevalent, approach to parapsychological terminology that also deserves a few words of disapproval. (shrink)
This paper examines the complex and creative strategies employed in keeping beliefs, memories, and various other mental and bodily states effectively dissociated from normal waking consciousness. First, it examines cases of hypnotic anesthesia and hypnotically induced hallucination, which illustrate: (1) our capacity for generating novel mental contents, (2) our capacity for choosing a plan of action from a wider set of options, and (3) our capacity for monitoring and responding to environmental influences threatening to undermine a dissociative state. These observations (...) are then extended to cases involving dissoci- ated memories of trauma. The strategies needed to maintain a dissociated belief or memory are strikingly similar to those involved in preventing our lies from being exposed. Moreover, these strategies are complex, and they potentially affect seemingly remote aspects of a person’s psychol- ogy. That point is illustrated by examining the dispositional nature of both memory and belief, the complex web of relations between our men- tal states and other elements of our psychology, and the interrelatedness of personality states and human capacities. [Article copies available for a.. (shrink)