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    Stafford Betty

    From the publisher’s website: What happens after we die? Spirits speaking through mediums know. They want us to know. This book unveils their world.

    Stafford Betty earned his PhD in theology from Fordham University, teaches religious studies at California State University in Bakersfield, and has gradually evolved into a world expert on afterlife studies. Originally a specialist in Asian religious thought and the philosophy of religion, he branched out into paranormal research when he found the big questions about life's meaning unanswered in the safe, tidy world of academic orthodoxy. "Paranormal studies is the next frontier for philosophers and scientists to venture into," Professor Betty says. He has published five books of fiction, his latest "The Imprisoned Splendor" (November 2011), which has as its setting the afterlife. When not writing and teaching, he tries to guide his children, enjoys watching BBC drama with his wife in the evenings, and golfs once a week. He lives in Bakersfield, California.

    Ted Dixon

    In this short book, Stafford Betty, Professor of Religion at California State University at Bakersfield looks at what he regards as “some of the most interesting literature on the planet”, the communications from the ‘other side’ that in his view are “the best of the genre... the richest, most revelatory, most fertile I have come across in a quarter of a century of researching this sometimes dubious material”.

    The core of the book is a chapter each on what we learn from the spirit/medium ‘collaborations’ between (in chronological order): 1. Imperator (and his group) and Stainton Moses (in Spirit Teachings1883 and More Spirit Teachings 1892); 2. Leslie Stringfellow and his mother (in The Afterlife of Leslie Stringfellow 2005); 3. Judge David Hatch and Elsa Barker (in Letters from the Afterlife 1995); 4. Frederick Myers and Geraldine Cummins (in The Road to Immortality 1995); 5.Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson and Anthony Borgia (in Life in the World Unseen 1934); 6. Frances Banks and Helen Greaves (in Testimony of Light 1977); and 7. Alvin D. Mattson and Margaret Flavell (in Witness from Beyond 1975 and Evidence from Beyond 1999).

    Each of these chapters says a little about the ‘communicator’ and medium involved, the method of communication (e.g. through automatic writing, the use of a planchette or clairaudient dictation) and Betty’s evidential reasons for believing the source to be the spirit named rather than the medium’s subconscious, before giving the gist of the communication in the form of spirit quotes (in bold so they stand out) linked by Betty’s’ questions, summaries and comments. 

    In the Introduction, Betty outlines his reasons for both believing and doubting what comes through in these accounts and why on balance “I am very nearly convinced that most of what you read here really came from the other side and came through accurately”. He also argues that it is a good thing both for individuals and for society at large that we know what we can look forward to (or not in some individual cases!)

    In the Conclusion, he summarizes “what we have learned from our seven spirit sources” in 43 succinct numbered points plus a longer review of what was said about reincarnation. In an Afterword, he responds to Karen Armstrong’s saying that the question of an afterlife is a ‘red herring’ and distraction from important questions and experiences in this life. 

    The book is very well organised, clearly written and fully indexed. If we take on trust that he has fairly quoted from and summarised his published sources, then it provides a very easy way for anyone to engage with a representative selection of such 19th and 20th century UK and US material without having to go to the sources themselves. (I just saw that the cheapest used copy of the Leslie Stringfellow book on Amazon costs £75!).

    But what should we make of the picture of the afterlife (if there is one) presented here? It is one thing to be persuaded by the evidence and arguments for the possibility of some form of survival of personal consciousness (despite the most powerful philosophical and scientific arguments against) but quite another to picture with any confidence at all what such life after death might actually be like. In Betty’s accounts (as in others), some of the broad structural features of the spirit world and the generalisations about links between the earth world and the spirit world seem to me at least plausible, if not convincing. It is the specifics that are impossible for me – as for so many others well-disposed in principle to the idea of an afterlife – to take at face value, as Betty for the most part seems to do.

    Moreover, not all readers – even those who have lived exemplary lives or are moved by the book to do so from now on – will find the prospect of the afterlife presented here equally appealing. The ways in which the world that awaits us (or most of us) is a ‘world of exquisite natural beauty... a joyful, fascinating place, full of challenges for those who desire to grow” sound all very well in themselves – but not so good for someone whose main pleasures in this life are motor cars (there is no traffic in the afterlife) or playing or watching competitive sport (there would be no point to it as “thought controls movement and the usual effects of gravity can be annulled at will”). It is suggested that “there is a superabundant supply of vastly more entertaining things to be seen and done here’ – but the examples given (such as going to historical plays and knitting) may seem disappointing.

    What we would like to be the case in any afterlife is of course not relevant to the question of what is the case –at any rate if there is any answer to the question ‘What is it like to be in the spirit world?’ that is objectively independent of the spirit answering at a particular time and place in that world.  But Betty’s reports suggest that the world his spirit sources describe is largely if not wholly, a subjective world – that  the music, gardens, landscapes and buildings that surround them and that they find so exquisitely beautiful are not objective features of the spirit world they find themselves in (the same for everyone) but personal to them individually. If this is the case then the music and gardens etc could be just what one wants them to be. If not, then do all spirits suddenly some to share the same taste in music and gardens etc? And what are we to make, to give just one of many puzzling examples, of Leslie Stringfellow’s report of Mozart giving a public lecture on music, more than a hundred years after he had died?

    If we are more inclined to accept some parts of what is said about the afterlife than others, on what basis can we be confident that we are not just cherry-picking those part that most appeal to us?  Betty attaches weight to descriptions in the various reports that tie in with or reinforce each other – but if the mediums in the later cases were picking up ideas from other than the ostensible communicators, then these would be the most obvious candidates.

    After reading The Afterlife Unveiled and drafting the bulk of this review, I checked Jeffrey Mishlove’s  excellent interview with Stafford Betty in his ‘New Thinking Allowed’ series on You Tube.  Here Betty  gives a very clear summary of the main ideas in the book which, as Mishlove says, ought to be of interest to all of us, whatever we may think of them.

    The Afterlife Unveiled. O Books, June 2011. ISBN-13: 978-1846944963

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    Michael Sudduth

    From the author’s website: Michael Sudduth provides a critical exploration of classical empirical arguments for post-mortem survival—arguments that purport to show that data collected from ostensibly paranormal phenomena constitute good evidence for the survival of the self or individual consciousness after death.  Focusing specifically on arguments based on the data of out-of-body/near-death experiences, mediumship, and cases of the reincarnation type, he aims to revive the tradition of empirical inquiry into life after death associated with philosophers William James, C.D. Broad, H.H. Price, and C.J. Ducasse. Sudduth proposes to advance the debate with a novel approach.  For the first time, the traditional arguments are formalized using the tools of formal epistemology.  Sudduth shows that this procedure exposes the Achilles Heel of the classical arguments, a self-defeating dependence on auxiliary assumptions. He further argues that when reformulated in the light of the “problem of auxiliaries,” long-standing skeptical objections to survival arguments are immune to traditional survivalist counter-arguments.  For further details, visit Facebook – Philosophy of Postmortem Survival, or read Book Overview or sample chapter.

    Table of contents:

    Introduction: The Classical Empirical Survival Debate

    Exploring the Hypothesis of Personal Survival

    Out-of-Body and Near-Death Experiences

    Mediumistic Communications

    Cases of the Reincarnation Type

    This book was reviewed by Professor Donald West in the April 2016 issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.

    A Philosophical Critique. Palgrave Macmillan, October 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1137440938

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    John Poynton

    From the publisher’s website: Science, mysticism, and psychical research are generally thought to be irreconcilable; this book centres on a towering synthesis achieved by the late Michael Whiteman, an Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town. It is revolutionary; Whiteman was able to meld mathematical physics and general science with psychical research and Indian and Western mystical texts, clarified by a life-time of psychical and mystical experience, and coupled with an extensive knowledge of philosophy and psychology.

    Part One is about the experience of states, spaces, and worlds other than physical. It provides essential groundwork for understanding the psychical and mystical. Whiteman’s own experience is combined with evidence ranging from quantum mechanics to the Upanishads. Part Two centres on two murder cases that Whiteman studied, as an entry to the concept of the corporate structure of personality, and the workings of the mind in personal development. Part Three covers his analysis of ancient texts based on his understanding as a mystic. His interpretations differ radically from standard treatments. Part Four investigates his exploration of non-physical existence. Part Five considers the mystical life, including Whiteman’s own, and how it relates to physical laws. The book concludes with a brief biography.

    Science, Mysticism and Psychical Research. Cambridge Scholars, September 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1-4438-8019-0

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    An online article using the new all-female 'Ghostbusters' film as a peg discusses the contributions of Eleanor Sidgwick, an important early SPR member, to psychical research.

    An online article using the new all-female 'Ghostbusters' film as a peg discusses the contributions of Eleanor Sidgwick, an important early SPR member, to psychical research, referring to her as 'The Original Female Ghostbuster' (though it does concede that she did not use proton packs in her research!).  Despite the headline it is a balanced assessment of her work.  The link is here:

    http://www.seeker.com/the-original-female-ghostbuster-eleanor-sidgwick-1915626256.html

     

    (Posted 12 July 2016)


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    Dr Carlos Alvarado has produced a blog post which discusses the large quantity of psychical research written in languages other than English, 'All Our Past is Not in English'.
    Dr Carlos Alvarado has produced a blog post which discusses the large quantity of psychical research written in languages other than English, 'All Our Past is Not in English'.
     
    He notes that English-language publications which rely solely on English-language sources often give an incomplete picture:
     
    'These works tend to emphasize developments in the English-language world—such as the work of the Society for Psychical Research and of J.B. Rhine and associates—to the neglect of developments in other countries. No one would deny the importance of this work. What I decry here is that reliance on these sources produces an incomplete view of the development of the discipline. But what is worse is that some seem to have accepted these incomplete views as the whole canon, and feel no need even to qualify the obvious incompleteness of their writings.
     
    'An example of such distortion is that it is sometimes assumed that what was very important in a country was equally important all around. It may be questioned, to give two examples, that the important work of Frederic W.H. Myers and of J.B. Rhine had the same impact in places other than the UK and the US.'
     
    It must be borne in mind that psychical research has always been an international enterprise.  Alvarado remarks that the situation is changing to an extent, though with historians rather than psychical researchers making the running, and he provides a number of suggestions that would further help to remedy the situation
     
    The article can be found here:

    https://carlossalvarado.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/all-our-past-is-not-in-english/

     

    (Posted 12 July 2016)

     

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    Tricia. J. Robertson

    From the publisher’s website: In this eagerly awaited sequel to her successful Things You Can Do When You’re Dead, foremost psychical investigator Tricia Robertson digs deeper into her extensive casebook to discuss a wide range of physical and mental phenomena which provide evidence for survival after death. Yet again this book is written with a no-nonsense approach to phenomena and in a knowledgeable, enjoyable, easily understood style.

    Book one really fired up people’s appetite for more about paranormal phenomena in general and survival in particular. This book examines more cases of genuine poltergeist activity, apparitions, mediumship, paranormal healing and reincarnation, but also digs a bit deeper into direct voice mediumship, drop-in communicators, psychic art, near death experiences, materialised spirit figures, earthbound spirits, automatic writing, inspiration, obsession, possession, genius and informed discussion on what an afterlife may be like. Tricia also discusses science and psi and resistance, in general, to the acceptance of the reality of such clearly demonstrable events.

    This book contains a deal of original material, humorous at times, which is not available anywhere else.  You may love it, you may hate it, but once again you will certainly not be bored.

    More Things you Can do When You’re Dead. White Crow Books, November 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1910121443

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    Volunteers aged over 18 are needed for a PhD research project at the University of Central Lancashire. The study will investigate what people report hearing when listening to sound clips where it is unclear what is being heard. It will look at connections between a number of different personality measures and characteristics and see if these affect what people report hearing.
    Volunteers aged over 18 are needed for a PhD research project at the University of Central Lancashire, conducted by Ann Winsper.
     
    The study will investigate what people report hearing when listening to sound clips where it is unclear what is being heard. It will look at connections between a number of different personality measures and characteristics and see if these affect what people report hearing.
     
    The questionnaires used in the study cover a broad range of topics, which include attitudes and belief in the paranormal and life after death, religion, loneliness, mood, drug use, and other possibly sensitive subjects.
     
    You should be aware that this study does focus on themes concerning the paranormal and life after death, and if you think this may upset you, you may not wish to participate.
     
    If you are interested in taking part, or would just like to know more, please email arwinsper@uclan.ac.uk for further information.
     
     
    (Posted 24 July 2016)

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    A blogger has been delving into the publications of the SPR:'Since its founding in 1882, the Society for Psychical Research has extensively studied everything from psychic abilities to run-of-the-mill hauntings, reporting their findings in a series of publications and journals, many of which have been preserved for future generations to discover and enjoy. Today, we will share with you some of the more interesting cases investigated by the SPR from the year 1899.'
    A blogger has been delving into the publications of the SPR:
     
    'Since its founding in 1882, the Society for Psychical Research has extensively studied everything from psychic abilities to run-of-the-mill hauntings, reporting their findings in a series of publications and journals, many of which have been preserved for future generations to discover and enjoy. Today, we will share with you some of the more interesting cases investigated by the SPR from the year 1899.'
     
    The blog post can be found here:
     
     
    All past issues of the SPR's Journal and Proceedings are preserved in our online library, accessed through the 'Online library login' tab.
     
     
    (Posted 2 Auguest 2016)

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    Caroline Watt of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit has been promoted to a full professorship, with effect from 1 August 2016.

    Caroline Watt of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit has been promoted to a full professorship, with effect from 1 August 2016.

    SPR member Caroline Watt becomes the second Koestler Chair of Parapsychology at the University of Edinburgh.  The Chair had been vacant after the death of the first Koestler Professor Robert L Morris in 2004. Caroline's appointment marks a welcome return, and is an indication that the Koestler Parapsychology Unit under Professor Watt's direction has continued to conduct an energetic programme of teaching and research.  The promotion should ensure that the Chair acts as a flagship for parapsychology in future, as it did under Professor Morris.

    Prof. Watt has blogged about the KPU here:

    https://koestlerunit.wordpress.com/2016/08/08/becoming-edinburghs-second-koestler-chair-of-parapsychology/

     

    More information about the KPU can be found here:

     
     
    (Posted 2 August 2016, updated 8 August 2016)

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    Michael Grosso

    From the publisher’s website: St. Joseph of Copertino began having mystical visions at the age of seven, but it was not until he began practicing his faith as a Franciscan priest that he realized the full potential of his mind’s power over his body—he was able to levitate. Throughout his priesthood St. Joseph became famous for frequent levitations that were observed on hundreds of occasions and by thousands of witnesses, including many skeptics. Michael Grosso delves into the biography of the saint to explore the many strange phenomena that surrounded his life and develops potential physical explanations for some of the most astounding manifestations of his religious ecstasy. Grosso draws upon contemporary explorations into cognition, the relationship between the human mind and body, and the scientifically recorded effects of meditation and other transcendent practices to reveal the implications of St. Joseph’s experiences and abilities.

    The Man Who Could Fly. Rowman & Littlefield, 14 Dec. 2015. ISBN-13: 978-1442256729

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    Dr Terence Palmer has appeared in Dr Jeffrey Mishlove's video series 'Thinking Allowed', discussing 'Frederic Myers and Psychical Research'.

    Dr Terence Palmer has appeared in Dr Jeffrey Mishlove's video series 'Thinking Allowed', discussing 'Frederic Myers and Psychical Research'.

    The video can be found on YouTube:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQ6QIKnZBwM&feature=youtu.be&a

    'Here he focuses on the research, largely in the nineteenth century, of the Society for Psychical Research. Frederic Myers' great work, Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death, was published in 1903 – two years after his death. In 2003, the British Psychological Association celebrated the 100th anniversary of its publication. Among other interests, Myers focused on the question of telepathic hypnotic induction. He also developed a theoretical model in which survival after death was shown to be part of a larger spectrum of unusual experiences. Myers appears to have continued his research into human survival after his own demise. His communications to mediums on three different continents initiated the famous “cross-correspondence” series of communications that stand among the best evidence for survival of human personality.'

     

    Dr Palmer has lectured to the Society on spirit possession, using a conceptual framework drawn from Myers' work:

    http://www.spr.ac.uk/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=63

     

    He is the author of The Science of Spirit Possession:

    http://www.cambridgescholars.com/download/sample/62013

     

     

    (Posted 8 August 2016)


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    Journalist and SPR member Julio Barroso presents a Spanish-language internet radio programme from London every Wednesday, The Light of the Mystery.

    Journalist and SPR member Julio Barroso presents a Spanish-language internet radio programme from London, The Light of the Mystery, on http://laluzdelmisterioradio.blogspot.co.uk

    It probes other realities, investigates the depths of the human psyche, and is a radio journey into the world of the paranormal. The Light of Mystery is directed and presented by Julio every Wednesday from 18.00 pm to 19.30 pm 

    Julio invites all members and colleagues from the SPR to disseminate their works, studies and books through the programme.

    His blog, with contact details, can be found here: http://juliombarroso.blogspot.co.uk/

     
     
    (Posted 9 August 2016)

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    Sue Demeter-St Clair of PSICAN, Paranormal Studies & Inquiry Canada, has written a long article on the famous Morton case at Cheltenham, which was reported in the SPR's Proceedings.

    Sue Demeter-St Clair of PSICAN, Paranormal Studies & Inquiry Canada, has written a long article on the famous Morton case at Cheltenham, which was reported in the SPR's Proceedings.

    The article can be found here:  http://blog.susanstclair.com/index.php/the-woman-in-black

    The article 'Record of a Haunted House;, by R. C. Morton [Rosina Despard] can be found in the SPR's online library.

     

    (Posted 10 August 2016)


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    Andrew Green and Alan Murdie (ed.)

    From the publisher’s website: Ghost Hunting – A Practical Guide is the book which every ghost hunter should read. First published in 1973, it was the first book in the world to explain how to go about ghost hunting. It has now been updated for the 21st century by Alan Murdie, Chairman of the Ghost Club.

    Explaining the background to serious paranormal research, it covers equipment for the ghost hunter; how to examine a haunted house; investigating the surroundings and history of a site; how to interview people who have experienced ghosts; and how to eliminate the many natural causes – some of them highly unexpected – which can lead people to believe they are being haunted. Importantly, this book does not just emphasise the role of equipment, but also the appropriate mental attitude needed by the serious investigator.

    Complete with an extensive reading list and guidance on temperature readings, both the newcomer and the experienced ghost hunter will benefit from the advice and information contained in this classic book.

    Andrew Green began hunting ghosts in war-time London in 1944. From the 1970s to until his death in 2004, he actively promoted the scientific investigation of haunted properties and people, publicising many of the techniques routinely used by ghost hunters today. A respected lecturer, he published 17 books on hauntings and saw at least two ghosts himself.

    Tom Ruffles

    Andrew Green (1927-2004) was a well-known figure in the world of paranormal research.  His Ghost Hunting: A Practical Guide was originally published in 1973, and while manuals on how to investigate ghosts are common now, at the time it was groundbreaking, packed with sound advice presented in a genial style and sprinkled with anecdotes to help aspiring investigators tackle with confidence the difficulties a haunting presents.  Naturally it has dated in some respects, so Alan Murdie, SPR Council member and chair of its Spontaneous Cases Committee, as well as Chairman of the Ghost Club, has brought Green’s text up to date in order to make it suitable for a new generation.  The result is wide-ranging, covering the investigator’s attitude (a factor all too often forgotten by authors), the various definitions employed, mediums, séances, and electronic voice phenomena; it looks briefly at equipment (the array employed these days, though not necessarily its value, is the greatest change to have occurred over the last forty years), how to examine the fabric of a location and its history.  There are discussions of interviewing techniques, issues around eyewitness testimony, assessing witnesses’ reliability and evaluating their responses, how to seek corroboration, and crucially the need for an awareness of possible natural causes.  This updated edition contains a reading list but no index.

    The newcomer who thinks an investigation will be like something out of Most Haunted will be surprised at one of the opening chapters which deals with telepathy.  Green was sceptical that ghosts were spirits of the dead, instead favouring a theory that they were hallucinations generated by energy imprints conveyed to percipients through telepathy, and not possessing consciousness; in some cases they outlived the sender as residual traces in the environment.  Thus there are descriptions of how to conduct informal telepathy trials using Zener cards, even though two living individuals scoring significantly in telepathy tests would be of limited use in understanding how the mechanism might operate in hauntings.  There is not enough information here to enable the carrying out of properly controlled experiments and the reader wishing to pursue this line of psychical research would need to consult a more specialised text.  Green’s intention is simply to demonstrate that there are other possibilities to consider than the assumption that a ghost has to be a conscious entity.  He also thought the evidence for psychokinesis was good, and a factor in certain poltergeist cases which were misinterpreted as spirit activity.

    Green’s general attitude was that all avenues should be explored in a coolly scientific manner, not merely the one which aligns to the investigator’s prior viewpoint, because otherwise objectivity is lost and only evidence conforming to the preconception considered.  His approach is still relevant: it is client-centred and not, as is often the way with some ghost groups with their sweatshirts and fancy websites, about image.  It is concerned with understanding people, helping them (even if it means mounting theatricals’, as he puts it, of which an exorcism would be only a species, to draw tension from the situation), and learning about the dynamics of what is happening to cause their experience.  He was a believer in the link between ignoring a phenomenon and it dissipating.  That is a key point because there is often a contradiction between those caught up in strange events wanting them to end, and the researcher wanting to study them.  Green was of the opinion that clients’ needs have priority.  To those who want to model themselves on what they see in television programmes, this will be a salutary lesson in adopting a level-headed, calm attitude to a sensitive area in which harm can be caused by an ill-judged intervention.  Green emphasised that it cannot be treated like a casual hobby but requires a high degree of dedication.  The work is demanding if done properly, which it must be if it is to have any lasting value.  Anything else is a waste of everyone’s time.

    Alan Murdie knew Green, and became his literary executor after his death.  One can see why he thought that the book was worth bringing back into print, and he has approached his task with sensitivity.  But his editing, removing outdated material and bolting on information to reflect subsequent developments, makes for a curious read as, palimpsest-like, Green’s text bleeds through the modern revisions and occasionally creates a jarring note.  For example, it is suggested that a Polaroid camera can be useful ‘in certain circumstances’.  True Polaroids cannot be manipulated like digital photographs, but apart from that their use would seem to be limited, and the film expensive, compared to the technology available today.  Then the reader is warned of the risk of confusing ghosts with living figures seen at night, such as the ghost of a highwayman with someone wearing a black coat and broad-brimmed hat, because ‘some teenagers are keen on such a garb’.  Or they might be teenagers in ‘trendy’ clothing bearing a resemblance to clothing worn in the nineteenth century.  The danger of that type of mistake was greater in the 1970s than it would be nowadays.

    That said, Green’s methods, over and above some of these minor details, are worth preserving, and this revised version should be read by all ghost researchers to remind themselves of the code by which they should operate, even if they disagree with his particular view of ghosts.  But we live in a more sophisticated world compared to 1973, as can be gauged by the presence in an appendix of an extract from Steven T Parsons’ recent Ghostology.  Putting the two books side by side shows how far we have come in four decades.  This is not to diminish the significance of Ghost Hunting– Parsons has paid tribute to it as a seminal influence on him – but one is left with the feeling that Green’s effort has served its purpose (‘ghost hunting’ is certainly a term which should be consigned to history), and a completely fresh volume by Murdie, drawing on Green, Parsons and other recent treatments of the subject, plus his own considerable experience, would have made for an even more valuable book.

    Ghost Hunting. Arima Publishing, June 2016. ISBN-13: 978-1845496876

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    On 10 August 2016, Roger J. Morgan and Alice Dass recreated the famous visit Miss Charlotte Moberly and Miss Eleanor Jourdain made to the Petit Trianon at Versailles on 10 August 1901, in which they seemed to find themselves in the time of Marie Antoinette.

    On 10 August 2016, Roger J. Morgan and Alice Dass recreated the famous visit Miss Charlotte Moberly and Miss Eleanor Jourdain made to the Petit Trianon at Versailles on 10 August 1901, in which they seemed to find themselves in the time of Marie Antionette.

    The video of the walk can be found here, with supplementary information about this famous time slip case:

    http://www.xenophon.org.uk/adventure.html


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    Applications are being accepted until September 30th for Cardigan Fund grants to fund parapsychological research or events in Australia.

    Applications are being accepted until September 30th for Cardigan Fund grants to fund parapsychological research or events in Australia.

    The Cardigan Fund is a small fund set up for the prime purpose of encouraging scientific research and interest into some aspects of parapsychology in Australia.  The research must be carried out in Australia but fund recipients may be Australian or overseas citizens.

    Further details can be found on the website of the Australian Institute of Parapsychological Research:

    http://www.aiprinc.org/resources/

    Fund aims are listed here:

    http://www.aiprinc.org/the-cardigan-fund/

     

    (Posted 23 August 2016)


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    In my last letter, I wrote of the need to understand how paranormal disbelief has come about; why cognitive pathologies insert themselves in a thinking style. The later seventeenth century provides a fascinating time when we seem to see this happening.

    New ways of thinking and enquiry developed at this time of ‘experimental philosophy’. Often called the ‘scientific revolution’, it is not generally realized that some leading scholars at this time actively studied psychic phenomena. Among them were several Fellows of the newly-founded Royal Society. A paper recently published by the Royal Society closely examines the Society’s connections with these early researchers. Written by Michael Hunter of Birkbeck, University of London, it shows that in the early days of the Royal Society, founded in 1660, some Fellows were not only interested in ideas to do with psychical research, as we now know it, but were actively engaged in careful investigation. This empirical work can properly be included as part of the scientific revolution. While it drew adverse comment from some Fellows, the criticism was largely ineffective on account of ‘an overwhelming eclecticism’ present in the new Society.[1]

    My previous letter discussed the anti-psi attitude of the eighteenth century ‘Enlightenment’, personified by Immanuel Kant, whose views cast a long shadow over psychical research. This shadow passed through the nineteenth century, to Henry Sidgwick’s gloom about the pervasive ‘attitude of incredulity’,[2] and on through the twentieth century with Jan Smuts’s dismay about the ‘iron rule of the mechanistic regime’.[3] Yet in the seventeenth century, when the Royal Society was founded, attitudes to psychic matters were adventurous and widely supported.

    Researchers had a prominent forerunner in Francis Bacon, author of Novum Organum (1620) which pioneered scientific method. In his posthumously published miscellany, Sylva Sylvarum (1627), he ‘maintained a dualism of tangible, inert matter and active, intangible spirits’,[4] which accommodated direct mind-to-mind contact, precognition and other phenomena we would call psychic.

    The Society for Psychical Reearch’s new online Psi Encyclopedia carries an article by John Newton on Joseph Glanvill, a Fellow of the young Royal Society.[5] The article describes his investigations into what can fairly be called psychical research. Along with Glanvill, other Fellows of the Society who were notably interested or active in this research included the experimentalist Robert Boyle (of Boyle’s Law), philosopher Henry More, archaeologist John Aubrey, geologist John Beaumont (author of a Treatise of Spirits),[6] and Isaac Newton. Another investigator was Richard Baxter, a prominent churchman and author of The Certainty of the Worlds of Spirits. All were leading intellectual figures.

    A belief in God was of major importance to most thinkers of that time, and an interest in psychical phenomena was approved as a counter to materialism, as well as being seen to support theological beliefs: ‘no spirit, no God,’ as More declared.[7] On the grounds that preternatural phenomena vindicated the reality of God’s power in the world, Boyle was fascinated by authenticated reports of these phenomena.[8]

    Glanvill, whose ‘public life was one of untiring controversy’, in particular attempted to refute perceived atheism and materialism through collecting and compiling reports of supernatural phenomena.[9] To seem credible, he took care to cite witnesses and to report his own investigations according to the scientific requirements of the time. Perhaps his most famous case was a phantom drummer at a house in Tedworth. This appears to have been a poltergeist outbreak initiated by a living person. After a Tedworth house-owner had 'a wandering drummer arrested and his instrument confiscated, his house was regularly shaken by the beating of a phantom drum and he, his family, and visitors were subjected to poltergeist-type phenomena such as throwing of furniture'.[10]

    Glanvill was in no doubt about the reality of spirits and their interaction with the material world. In a letter of 1668, he wrote to another Fellow urging that the Royal Society ‘direct some of its wary, and luciferous enquiries towards the World of Spirits’.[11] His uncompleted magnum opus, Saducismus Triumphatus, was a compilation of data intended to demonstrate the reality of supernatural phenomena. It was edited by More, who saw no incompatibilities with philosophical rationality.

    Newton was the most famous, and perhaps the most misunderstood, member of this group. His interest in alchemy was shared by many leading Fellows of the Society in its early years. In alchemy Newton found ‘a natural philosophy that spoke in terms of life and spirit rather than inert particles in motion’.[12] His alchemical work ran in tandem with theology, about which he held deeply learnéd but heretical views.

    It seems that there could have been enough people of high standing and in sufficient communication to have formed a society something like the Society for Psychical Research. There were of course, as in the 1880s, notable sceptics. In the Royal Society there was Robert Hooke, who had a negative influence even though he had worked with Boyle on the construction of his air pump, and held a close friendship with Aubrey. Yet this negativity did not become Society policy. As Hunter points out, since other ‘grandees’ of the Society had outspoken enthusiasm for ‘the world of spirits’:

    There was clearly something to be said for avoiding the topic, on the grounds that it was one likely to lead to disagreement that a focus in ‘safe’ science would avoid.[13]

    A preference for ‘safe science’ was probably linked to the growing influence of an intelligentsia impatient with older lines of thinking. This influence was not based on careful evaluation of empirical data. The ‘wits’ of the play-houses and coffee-houses

    seem to have been in the forefront in rejecting magic at this time, when more serious-minded figures such as the clerics and professionals who made up the Royal Society were more divided in their views.[14]

    Hunter reports one Restoration wit as saying, ‘speak of spirits, and he tells you, he knows none better than those of wine’. The satirical debunking of psi was essentially the activity not of practising scientists but of non-scientists. A Fellow declared of the wits, ‘I acknowledge that we ought to have great dread of their power’. Their influence raised concerns among psychic investigators about personal reputation; Boyle suppressed some of his work and it is now lost.[15]

    Beyond the wits, there was a growing materialistic current, channelled notably by Thomas Hobbes, who saw the world as a mechanical system. With few scientific credentials, he was not favoured by the Royal Society, even though he may now be seen as ‘one of the true founders of modernity in Western culture’.[16] Which is to say that he took part in developing a restrictive worldview no longer able to accommodate ‘worlds of spirits’. So while in the seventeenth century there was a fascination with the supernatural and the occult, with roots in the past, the period is also characterized by the development of newer attitudes that were displacing the former.

    The ‘attitude of incredulity’ cannot be attributed to the growth of scientific thinking and practice that developed during the seventeenth century. The Royal Society kept its corporate distance from the confrontation between Baconian–Boylean acceptance and a new critical view which took little notice of scientific data. Hunter comments, ‘phenomena that Glanvill and others considered crucial and worthy of serious investigation were simply sidelined by the Society as a corporate body’.[17] It seems that the ‘great dread’ of revolutionary intellectualism compromised an open-minded adherence to scientific research. John Newton records Harry Price’s opinion that Glanvill was the ‘father of psychical research’.[18] Regrettably, this is hardly so, because a line of descent effectively disappeared in the following two centuries until the period around the founding of the SPR.

    That the sceptical attitude became consolidated is illustrated by Hunter in the study of Scottish second-sight. It fascinated Boyle, among others, and was discussed at a meeting of the Royal Society in 1698. Yet a Fellow deeply interested in the subject in the mid-eighteenth century believed it could not be ‘brought before us as a Society not coming within the Design of our Institution’.

    In line with this came a virtual re-writing of history, with sceptics asserting that the Royal Society had discredited psychic investigation. But as Hunter points out:

    This is precisely what did not happen. The Society did not inquire into these phenomena and discredit them: it simply avoided them – even if […] this very avoidance was influential in itself.[19]

    From the alehouse wits and intellectuals of the seventeenth century to eighteenth-century self-declared rationality, one can detect symptoms of the cognitive dissonance discussed in my last letter. With the tide of truly rational interest in psychical phenomena ebbing, one may ask what were the underlying causes of this pathology that binned perfectly good data that we associate with psychical research?

    The ‘dispute as to the reality of [psi] phenomena’ which worried Sidgwick is a complex philosophical, psychological and historical issue, not simply a scientific one, as I noted in my last letter.[20] Was the disparagement the product of an upheaval in thinking, in which aspects of the medieval world were closed by the confident, free-thinking style that followed? Art, music and society went on to display tremendous self-confidence, a self-confidence that led Linnaeus in 1758 to name our less-than-sapient species Homo sapiens. With high satisfaction in the worldly state, perhaps interest in the ‘supernatural’ looked ridiculously out of date. The matter deserves extensive study. If some kind of psychical research society had formed in the seventeenth century, one may question whether it would have survived the eighteenth-century reactionary brand of confidently claimed rationality.

    No doubt such a society in the eighteenth century would have interested the likes of Emanuel Swedenborg during his London sojourns, although that could merely have sharpened Kant’s attack on him. Swedenborg’s empirical approach to the spirit world came up against vehement opposition; it encountered a cultural dissonance that was perhaps even stronger than the one we face today, but hardly different. Surely it is time to sweep away this false rationality in the new tide noted in my first letter.[21] 


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    Science, Mysticism and Psychical Research: The Revolutionary Synthesis of Michael Whiteman, by John Poynton

    Science, Mysticism and Psychical Research: The Revolutionary Synthesis of Michael Whiteman, by John Poynton
    Publication Details: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, ISBN-13: 978-1443880190

    From the publisher's website: Science, mysticism, and psychical research are generally thought to be irreconcilable; this book centres on a towering synthesis achieved by the late Michael Whiteman, an Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Cape Town. It is revolutionary; Whiteman was able to meld mathematical physics and general science with psychical research and Indian and Western mystical texts, clarified by a life-time of psychical and mystical experience, and coupled with an extensive knowledge of philosophy and psychology.

    Part One is about the experience of states, spaces, and worlds other than physical. It provides essential groundwork for understanding the psychical and mystical. Whiteman’s own experience is combined with evidence ranging from quantum mechanics to the Upanishads. Part Two centres on two murder cases that Whiteman studied, as an entry to the concept of the corporate structure of personality, and the workings of the mind in personal development. Part Three covers his analysis of ancient texts based on his understanding as a mystic. His interpretations differ radically from standard treatments. Part Four investigates his exploration of non-physical existence. Part Five considers the mystical life, including Whiteman’s own, and how it relates to physical laws. The book concludes with a brief biography.

    "Science has been dominated for too long by a blinkered view which insists on the one-level view of reality espoused by materialistic reductionism. One of the most important proponents of higher levels of reality was Michael Whiteman. His prodigious writings combined both mystical and mathematical insights, yet they are not always easy to understand, so his contribution has been hitherto somewhat neglected. With this masterly exposition by John Poynton, his ideas finally receive the scrutiny and dissemination which they deserve. Poynton is arguably a better expositor of these ideas than Whiteman himself, so he has done a tremendous service by explaining them so cogently and comprehensively in this volume." - Bernard Carr, Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at Queen Mary University of London; Fomer President of the Society for Psychical Research

    "Michael Whiteman was an original thinker with a uniquely diversified life. To summarize Whiteman's thought and life is tantamount to capturing a rare tropical bird, but John Poynton has risen to the task. Whiteman lived for over a century, yet his books and essays are more relevant in this millennium than they were when he wrote them.

    Ranging from mathematical physics to psychical research, and plumbing the depths of mystical experience, archetypes, and bisexuality, Whiteman wove a remarkable synthesis of East and West, science and spirituality, and male and female into a seamless fabric that cannot help but entrap and enrapture its reader." Stanley Krippner PhD, Alan Watts Professor of Psychology, Saybrook University

    "Wide-ranging yet concise, thorough yet accessible, this is a marvellous introduction to Michael Whiteman's thought. It shows Whiteman to be an empiricist in the best sense, open to evidence of all kinds, whether from physics, psychical research, or mysticism. Dr Paul Marshall, author of Mystical Encounters with the Natural World; co-editor of Beyond Physicalism: Towards Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality.

    “Polymath J.H.M. Whiteman combined a deep understanding of science and mathematics with an unusually rich history of first-hand experience of out-of-body and mystical states of consciousness. John Poynton's book provides by far the best available introduction to this important but neglected body of work." - Dr Edward F. Kelly, Research Professor, Division of Perceptual Studies, University of Virginia

    Publish date: September, 2015

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    Music, Witchcraft and the Paranormal, by Melvyn Willin

    Publication Details: Melrose Books, ISBN-13: 978-1905226184

    Synopsis: "Music, Witchcraft And The Paranormal" is a series of essays on parapsychology and psychical research with special reference to the importance of music in paganism and witchcraft. The book is excellently researched using a myriad of sources including historical and first-hand accounts, relevant publications and of course the author's own thorough investigations. Melvyn Willin, an expert on music and the paranormal or 'paramusicology', analyses the links between these fields through controlled experiments where music is used to make telepathic contact between two individuals. Spiritualists, psychics and mediums who claim their contact with dead composers allows them to write and perform music of startling similarity to the original composers' works are also scrutinised. Willin investigates too the claims of those who have heard 'ghostly' music, that is music being heard when there is no obvious sound source. Willin then discusses the place of music in pagan and witchcraft culture and ritual. Music in witchcraft before and at the start of its modern revival is examined as well as the history of witchcraft's personification in classical music.

    "Music, Witchcraft and the Paranormal" concludes by bringing music in paganism up to date with details of its use in modern rituals.

    Publish date: August, 2005

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    Ghosts Caught on Film, by Melvyn Willin

    Ghosts Caught on Film
    Publication Details: David and Charles, ISBN-13: 978-0715327289

    Collection of strange and unexplained photographs which might represent ghosts and paranormal activity captured on film, complete with commentaries. 'Great gift for the spookily inclined.' --Bookseller. "Whatever your beliefs, the images examined provide an interesting talking point." -- Ghost Voices Magazine

    Publish date: August, 2007

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