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    William James Psychical Research and the Challenge of Modernity, by Krister Dylan Knapp

    William James
    Publication Details: The University of North Carolina Press, ISBN: 978-1-4696-3124-0

    In this insightful new book on the remarkable William James, the American psychologist and philosopher, Krister Dylan Knapp provides the first deeply historical and acutely analytical account of James's psychical research. While showing that James always maintained a critical stance toward claims of paranormal phenomena like spiritualism, Knapp uses new sources to argue that psychical research held a strikingly central position in James’s life. It was crucial to his familial and professional relationships, the fashioning of his unique intellectual disposition, and the shaping of his core doctrines, especially the will-to-believe, empiricism, fideism, and theories of the subliminal consciousness and immortality.

    Knapp explains how and why James found in psychical research a way to rethink the well-trodden approaches to classic Euro-American religious thought, typified by the oppositional categories of natural vs. supernatural and normal vs. paranormal. He demonstrates how James eschewed these choices and instead developed a tertiary synthesis of them, an approach Knapp terms tertium quid, the third way. Situating James's psychical research in relation to the rise of experimental psychology and Protestantism’s changing place in fin de siècle America, Knapp asserts that the third way illustrated a much broader trend in transatlantic thought as it struggled to navigate the uncertainties and religious adventurism of the modern age.

    Publish date: March, 2017
    Book Review: 
    William James Psychical Research and the Challenge of Modernity, by Krister Dylan Knapp

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    Arthur Balfour's Ghosts: An Edwardian Elite and the Riddle of the Cross-Correspondence Automatic Writings, by Trevor Hamilton

    Publication Details: Imprint Academic ISBN-13: 978-1845409135

    From the publisher's website: "This book tells the incredible story of the cross-correspondence automatic writings, described by one leading scholar of the field, Alan Gauld, 'as undoubtedly the most extensive, the most complex and the most puzzling of all ostensible attempts by deceased persons to manifest purpose, and in so doing to fulfil their overriding purpose of proving their survival'. It is an intensely personal and passionate story on so many levels: May Lyttelton trying to convince her lover Arthur Balfour of her continued existence; Frederic Myers with indomitable persistence trying to produce evidence to prove survival generally; Edmund Gurney and Francis Balfour striving from beyond the grave to influence the birth of children who would work for world peace; Gerald Balfour and his lover Winifred Coombe-Tennant believing that their child, Henry, would be the Messianic leader of this group of children."

    Further information about the book can be found on Imprint Academic's website:

    http://books.imprint.co.uk/book/?gcoi=71157100349240

    Trevor Hamilton has produced an entry on the cross-correspondences in the SPR's online Psi Encyclopedia:

    https://psi-encyclopedia.spr.ac.uk/articles/cross-correspondences

    Publish date: December, 2017
    Book Review: 
    Arthur Balfour's Ghosts: An Edwardian Elite and the Riddle of the Cross-Correspondence Automatic Writings, by Trevor Hamilton

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    Angelos Tanagras – My Memoirs: A Collection of Short Stories, by Fotini Pallikari

    Publication Details: Athens, Greece. ISBN: 978-960-93-9605-9

    From Dr. Pallikari’s website: The present volume contains 23 articles based on the memoirs of Dr. Angelos Tanagras, edited, annotated and translated from the original Greek into English by Fotini Pallikari. They describe the life, work and personality of Tanagras: his childhood, when he was serving as adoctor in the Greek Royal Navy, and later when he established and ran the Greek Society of Psychical Research.

    These selected stories aim to offer a valuable source of information on the cultural heritage not only of Greece, but also of those countries Tanagras visited or just interacted with during the time from the late 19th and up to the middle 20th century. The material presented here should be of interest to historians, psychologists, parapsychologists and humanities scholars.

    Further information can be found on Dr. Pallikari's website: 

    http://users.uoa.gr/~fpallik/tanagras.htm

    and on her Linkedin page:

    https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/angelos-tanagras-my-memoirs-collection-short-stories-pallikari-viras/?published=t

    Publish date: November, 2017
    Book Review: 
    Angelos Tanagras – My Memoirs: A Collection of Short Stories, by Fotini Pallikari

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    Paranormal Encounters on Britain's Roads: Phantom Figures, UFOs and Missing Time, by Peter A McCue

    Publication Details: The History Press, ISBN: 9780750984386

    From the publisher's website: In this detailed book, Dr Peter McCue reflects on the enormous range of paranormal phenomena to have been reported along Britain’s roads, and examines the theory that certain areas seem to be hotspots for such occurrences, such as the A75 and B721 roads in southern Scotland, and the Blue Bell Hill area in Kent. He delves into the sightings of apparitional vehicles; encounters with ‘colliding apparitions’; ‘phantom hitch-hikers’; out-of-place big cats; phantom black dogs; UFOs; ‘missing time’ (strange memory gaps); vehicle interferences (such as mysterious breakdowns); and incidents in which drivers and passengers seem to have been translocated in space or time. This thorough book debates the evidence and theories in a critical but open-minded way, and is a welcome addition to the genre.

    https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/publication/paranormal-encounters-on-britains-roads/9780750984386/

    Publish date: February, 2018

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    Science of the Seance: Transnational Networks and Gendered Bodies in the Study of Psychic Phenomena, 1918-40, by Beth A Robertson

    Publication Details: UBC Press, ISBN:9780774833509

    From the publisher's website: In the 1920s and ’30s, people gathered in darkened rooms to explore the paranormal through seances. Science of the Seance resurrects the story of a select transnational group and their quest for objective knowledge of the supernatural world, casting new light on empiricism and its relationship to gender, sexuality, and the body in this era.

    Drawing on publications, correspondence, seance notes, and photographs from Canada, the UK, and the US, Beth A. Robertson draws back the curtain to reveal a world inhabited by researchers, spirits, and spiritual mediums, including the notorious Mina “Margery” Crandon. Representing themselves as masters of the senses, untainted by the effeminized subjectivity of the body, psychical researchers believed that machines and empirical methods could transform the seance from an isolated spiritual encounter into a transnational empirical project. The laboratory of the spirits that they created, however, opened up a space where mediums and ghostly subjects could and did challenge their claims to exclusive scientific expertise and authority.

    This innovative reassessment of paranormal investigation and the transatlantic ties of the seance reveals how science, metaphysics, and the senses collided to inform gendered norms in the interwar era.

    This book will be of interest to historians of science, medicine, and religion and technology, as well as feminist scholars and cultural theorists.

    Publish date: November, 2017
    Book Review: 
    Science of the Seance: Transnational Networks and Gendered Bodies in the Study of Psychic Phenomena, 1918-40, by Beth A Robertson

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    The Survival of the Soul and its Evolution after Death, by Pierre-Émile Cornillier

    Publication Details: White Crow Books, ISBN 978-1-78677-031-8
    From the publisher's website: Pierre-Émile Cornillier (1862-1942), was a renowned artist and the son of the merchant Pierre-Émile Cornillier,  the deputy mayor of Nantes, and Marie-Joséphine Leroux. He was also the uncle of the writer, Mireille Havet.  He exhibited for the first time at the Salon of 1885 and sent his works to the Salon of the National Society of Fine Arts until the beginning of the First World War.
     
    One day in 1912, he noticed that Reine, an 18-year-old model he had been employing for several months, had psychic abilities of some kind.  Although a student of agnostic philosopher Herbert Spencer, Cornillier had closely followed the psychical research of the time and had been an observer at some séances. On a November afternoon, when it became too dark to paint, Reine asked Cornillier if they could experiment with table tipping, something he had mentioned to her.
     
    He somewhat reluctantly consented and they sat facing each other at a small table.  They sat for a full hour and nothing happened.  They were about to give up when they heard cracking noises and the table swayed to the right and to the left, then tapped clearly several times. Familiar with this phenomenon, Cornillier noted that the taps were spelling out letters.  After some confusion and repetition of the message, Cornillier understood that he was to hypnotize Reine.  Although he had never hypnotized anyone before, he had observed the process and decided to give it a try.
     
    It was on November 29, 1912 that Cornillier recorded his first real success in what amounted to clairvoyance by Reine. After she was in “hypnotic sleep,” he asked her to visit his apartment, on another floor of the building, and she, never having been in the apartment, provided an accurate description of the layout.  Further experimentation involved communication with some apparently low-level spirits, but a “high spirit” named Vettellini emerged in the ninth séance and continued on as Reine’s primary guide, the 107th and final séance in this book taking place on March 11, 1914.
     
    Further information, and an extract, can be found on the White Crow Books website:
     
    Publish date: September, 2017
    Book Review: 
    The Survival of the Soul and its Evolution after Death, by Pierre-Émile Cornillier

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    Please note that there has been a change of date for the lecture by Dr Krister Dylan Knapp - 'William James: Psychical Research and the Challenge of Modernity'. It will now take place on 19 July.
     
    Details of the talk are on the website:
     

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    Poltergeists, by Alan Gauld and A D Cornell, is back in print from White Crow Books.  First published in 1979, it quickly established itself as a classic in the field.

    Alan Gauld is a long-standing senior member of the SPR, as was the late Tony Cornell.

    Details of the new edition of Poltergeists can be found on the White Crow Books website:

    http://whitecrowbooks.com/books/page/poltergeists/

    Here is Dr Gauld's page on the SPR website:

    https://www.spr.ac.uk/about/people/alan-gauld

     

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    The review on the SPR website of The Survival of the Soul and its Evolution after Death, by Pierre-Émile Cornillier, has been translated into Spanish.

    The original review is here:

    https://www.spr.ac.uk/book-review/survival-soul-and-its-evolution-after-death-pierre-mile-cornillier

    The translation, on the SurvivalAfterDeath | CienciasPsíquicas blog, is here:

    http://survivalafterdeath.blogspot.co.uk/2018/03/la-supervivencia-del-alma-revision-tom.html


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    front cover of Real Magic: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Science, and a Guide to the Secret Power of the Universe
    Publication Details: 
    Harmony Books, ISBN: 978-1524758820
    Publish date: 
    April, 2018

    Professor Dean Radin, Chief Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS), is one of the world's best-known parapsychologists. He has now been active in the field for about forty years. Radin has long urged his readers to subvert the dominant paradigm, that is, materialism. With what one wonders? Real Magic provide an answer. Have you ever heard the expression “be careful what you wish for” - according to Radin this is sound advice because psi, hence magic too, are very real and consciousness is fundamental to reality.

    If humanity has any chance of maturing beyond its barely controlled adolescence, we're going to need a much better understanding of what consciousness is, and what it-and by association all of us-are really capable of.

    The evidence, summarized in his previous popular books The Conscious Universe, Entangled Minds, and Supernormal, suggests that telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition etc. are real. Radin thinks the evidence is in, and although we might disagree about how to interpret it parapsychology does not remain controversial due to a lack of evidence: “The simple truth is that people believe what they want to believe.”

    In the Western world psi is associated with entertainment, mentalists that pretend to read thoughts, dubious seers that spout vague statements, and horror movies. Psi is also regarded as heretical, that is, one should not dabble with it. Psi is associated with witchcraft and as sceptics like to highlight due to belief in witchcraft people still suffer grave consequences if they are believed to be witches. Psychics in the Western world are more likely to “just” be regarded as fraudulent or deluded.

    Nevertheless, as Radin points out, truth be told, reality might be strange too. The stories about Daniel Dunglas Home, St. Joseph of Copertino, and Ted Owens suggests that at least some people are capable of a lot more than just correctly guessing which ESP card a computer will display. The US government certainly regarded psi as real and long supported a classified program, now best-known as Star Gate. People were employed to use their psi ability to spy on the Soviet Union during the cold war.

    Radin outlines the results of some of his own studies, one involving testing an idea that underlies voodoo (!), others involve blessed chocolate and tea. The reader also gets to know a bit about what the data gathered through the website Got Psi? shows. Radin clearly outlines the experimental procedures for laymen and explains what the results mean.

    Still many will remain unconvinced, perhaps they cannot even be persuaded by any data. Why is that? It has to do with worldviews, yet it has become increasingly clear that our thoughts really do matter. In addition, both physicists and philosophers have come to regard consciousness as fundamental to reality. Nevertheless, this is not enough for sceptics to calm down and Radin shares a few experiences about the effects the taboo of psi has had. Parapsychology and psi are however not as controversial everywhere.

    Radin has accepted that psi is a real phenomenon and has turned to esotericism in search of clues about how to best proceed with the research. Parapsychologists usually shy away from associating psi with magic, partly because other scientists tend to regard belief in magic as some kind of popular delusion. Radin is however not afraid and his overview is well-written.

    Besides being about parapsychology, controversy, and esotericism Real Magic also to a large extent deals with philosophy of mind and Radin attempts to explain what kind of reality we are really living in. Although, the possible negative effects of psi being real are not adequately discussed by Radin. However, perhaps fortunately:

    … for magic to work reliably under conscious control requires both steadfast practice and natural talent. Practice can be managed with persistence. Talent - you either have it or you don't.

    Regardless of whether you have it or not, to many reading Real Magic will be an enjoyable and thought-provoking experience. Be careful what you wish for you might get it.