Older Psychic Research

#1
I was browsing the Captian Bob thread and noticed the name of Archie Roy which reminded me of his book, The Eager Dead which, in turn, reminded me of the Cross Correspondences. For anyone who has not heard of the latter, I'd urge you to look it up as it still stands today as some of the best ever evidence for survival. An article by Michael Tymn summarises, thus:

Roy spent 10 years studying them before writing the book. “Essentially, the cross-correspondences originated in a deceptively-simple idea,” he explained. “Someone who has died transmits to a number of mediums or automatists scattered round the world snippets of a theme dreamed up by him. The snippets received by any one automatist do not make any sense whatever to him or her. Only by bringing all the snippets together does the theme become clear. Moreover, that theme is characteristic of the intelligence and learning and personality of the sender who even, when he finds the group of investigators having serious difficulties in interpreting the collected snippets, speaks through the scripts directly to them, chiding and teasing them in the manner of a kindly teacher with an obtuse class. He then gives hints to them to aid them in their interpretation of the scripts.”
There is another summary here. Incidentally, Prof. Roy's obituary in the Daily Telegraph is headed with yet another example of media skeptical bias when he is described thus:

Professor Archie Roy, who has died aged 88, was a respected astronomer who also dabbled in the realms of the paranormal, becoming known as “the Glasgow Ghostbuster”.


Professor Roy didn't "dabble", he was president of the Society for Psychical Research and founder of the Scottish Society for Psychical Research. He spent years researching the Cross Correspondences.

Which brings me to the point I wanted to make at the outset. We tend to concentrate on fairly recent evidence and ignore much of the valuable work that went on in the early years of the 20th century. I'm not sure why this is - perhaps we have been put off by images of table turning and dark, Victorian seances? Or perhaps we imagine that the older research would not stand the test of modern scientific analysis? But it seems to me that there is a similar imperative to dismiss old research as there is to dismiss new anecdotes - i.e. they must all be considered unreliable.
 
#2
Because that century didn't study "psi", they studied spirits through mediumship and OBE experiments. Part of trying to appear more scientific to appease skeptics (partly due to Rhine, I'd guess) involved distancing itself from "magic" and sticking to more mundane explanations that are easily reconciled alongside the other strange things in theoretical physics. Consider how much worse the outcry over Bem's recent meta-analysis would be if it outright said they proved ghosts relayed reliable information from the dead, and you can see why modern parapsychology prefers to pretend that the last generation didn't exist.
 
#3
Because that century didn't study "psi", they studied spirits through mediumship and OBE experiments. Part of trying to appear more scientific to appease skeptics (partly due to Rhine, I'd guess) involved distancing itself from "magic" and sticking to more mundane explanations that are easily reconciled alongside the other strange things in theoretical physics. Consider how much worse the outcry over Bem's recent meta-analysis would be if it outright said they proved ghosts relayed reliable information from the dead, and you can see why modern parapsychology prefers to pretend that the last generation didn't exist.
That's a good point. Skeptics do not represent 'science', contemporary skepticism is a mix of culture and ideology that positions itself as guardian of an imaginary status quo it has created. Appeasing that invention is a mistake, and has set back exploration of these phenomena by years. C19th and early C20th spirit study and 'ghost clubs' did valuable work, and their history is not fully appreciated.
 
#4
My main interest in these issues are the empirical manifestations of an afterlife, so the psi abilities interest me only secondarily. Also I prefer the style of older psychic research rather than the style of modern parapsychology: field research, focused primarily on the subject of the afterlife, qualitative methodology, dealing with individuals apparently above average, with a strong philosophical awareness and higher historical knowledge.
 
C

chuck.drake

#5
My impression is that there is a prejudice against research from the 19th and early 20th centuries as if people in general were somehow of a rather quaint and credulous vein. I think that is likely a gross mischaracterization.
 
#6
My impression is that there is a prejudice against research from the 19th and early 20th centuries as if people in general were somehow of a rather quaint and credulous vein. I think that is likely a gross mischaracterization.
Interestingly before the naturalist explosion, there was no call for lab evidence of spirit abilities and denial was made on the basis of working out a magic trick and claiming to have debunked someone. SPR "solved" this by inviting said magicians to sit in their circles and be one of the control people, which made at least a few frustrated magicians lose their skepticism. From what I recall this sometimes even included allowing the magician to bring their own last-minute targets or picking a proxy sitter, then sitting and holding on to the medium if desired to prove no physical trickery was involved. Strangely, "parapsychologists" don't have the same open door policy and I think that has only hurt them in the long run.
 
#7
Quaint and credulous might be how they are seen now but there were some big names from the scientific community among them. Names such as Oliver Lodge, William Crookes, Alfred Russell Wallace, William James, Charles Richet and Pierre Curie. These were mainstream scientists, not "dabblers".
 
#8
My impression is that there is a prejudice against research from the 19th and early 20th centuries as if people in general were somehow of a rather quaint and credulous vein. I think that is likely a gross mischaracterization.
It's part of a wider myth of progress central to the materialist project.
 
#9
Quaint and credulous might be how they are seen now but there were some big names from the scientific community among them. Names such as Oliver Lodge, William Crookes, Alfred Russell Wallace, William James, Charles Richet and Pierre Curie. These were mainstream scientists, not "dabblers".
You mean, we shouldn't dismiss everything they wrote because Wikipedia cites examples where they were "fooled" by referencing CSICOP or Prometheus book sources?

The Wikipedia entry for Stefan Ossowiecki completely ignores the many thoroughly documented experiments with Richet, Geley, and others, but chooses an example where he was supposedly wrong. Written by a CSICOP fellow, of course.

Cheers,
Bill
 
#11
Your mention of Prometheus Books also jogged something in my memory. One of my favourite old cases is the story of the medium, Eileen Garrett and the messages she received about the R101 airship disaster in 1930. Michael Prescott is also impressed by the case and writes about it here. He is clearly less impressed by the debunking effort published by Prometheus Books:

I felt I had just received a revelation of startling import and potentially life-changing implications -- namely, that I should never, ever, ever again buy anything published by Prometheus Books.
Again, the John Booth book from Prometheus, "Psychic Paradoxes", is referenced by Wikipedia but no rebuttals are mentioned.
 
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#12
Yeah, it's a real shame that the older research has been so pushed aside, dismissed, and seldom mentioned . . . The older research is just so much more fun
 
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