volume I have gathered a series of non-technical essays from the
present and the past by persons of exceptional intelligence who
encountered parapsychology in the course of their professional
careers and who eventually became leaders or advocates of
research in this field. These essays will allow readers to form
their own opinions as to the reality of ESP without a knowledge
of statistics or of any specialized branch of science. Busy
scientists will find this book a quick and relaxing introduction
to the field. Below I have described from the book the
contributions of some eminent figures of the past.
Sir William Barrett (1844 -1925), professor of physics and
Fellow of the Royal (scientific) Society of London was
instrumental in founding the (British) Society for Psychical
Research in 1882. He describes some of his experiences with
children that convinced him of the occurrence of mental
William James (1842 -1910),
the foremost American Psychologist of the 19th century used this
memorial address to describe the work of Frederic Myers
(1843 - 1901), the most revered name among the founders of the
Society for Psychical Research.
William McDougall (1871 - 1938), a Fellow of the Royal
Society, is accepted today by academic psychology with some
ambivalence as a brilliant British-American pioneer. His most
important contribution to psychology may prove to have been the
sponsorship he gave to Drs. J.B. and L.E. Rhine at Duke
University from their parapsychological beginnings in 1927. In
this excerpt from McDougall's 1920 presidential address to the
(British) Society for Psychical Research he discusses the
unwillingness of psychologists to be associated with psychical
research--an unwillingness that persists to this day.
Gardner Murphy (1895 - 1979) was an American
psychologist of great distinction who strongly supported
parapsychological research. The growing scientific acceptance of
Rhine's ESP experiments in the mid twentieth century was
significantly aided by the endorsement of Murphy. He served as
the editor of the Journal of Parapsychology for two years.
His guidance was crucial to the scientific respectability of the
American Society for Psychical Research until his retirement.
In this 1953 paper, abridged somewhat herein, Mruphy endeavors
to rationalize the relationship between psychology and
parapsychology. He declares his rejection of mental dualism, but
it is not clear to me what he meant by this. His inclusion here
allows one to savor the fog of psi conceptualization that existed
50 years ago and still does.
Walter Franklin Prince (1863 - 1934) received a
doctoral degree in abnormal psychology from Yale. His most
important work was "The Doris Case of Multiple Personality." Its
1400 pages in the Proceedings of the American Society for
Psychical Research is the most complete record of its kind
ever gathered, being based upon three years of recorded daily
observations of the patient, Doris, whom he legally adopted as
his daughter. Despite its scientific pre-eminence, the Doris case
is less well known than the earlier Sally Beauchamp case reported
by Morton Prince. Morton Prince (no relation) was the
founder of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology.
Into the eight pages quoted in my book, Walter Franklin Prince
has condensed a remarkably concise clinical account of Doris,
including her telepathic ability.
Louisa E. Rhine (1891 - 1983). The unconscious nature
of psi (psychic) phenomena is their singly most important
characteristic. With rare exceptions, those who experience these
phenomena have no direct subjective indication of their
occurrence. The central nervous system concomitants of the psi
process, whatever they may be, do not directly enter awareness,
although they may indirectly do so via various psychological
Those of us who knew Dr. Louisa Rhine think of her first, not
as the wife of J.B. Rhine and the mother of their children, but
as a leading parapsychologist by her own accomplishments and as
the foremost student of spontaneous psi in her era. In these
excerpts she discusses the unconscious nature of psi phenomena in
spontaneous cases and in the laboratory and gives us a look at
some of the cases that must be accommodated in future theory.
J.B. Rhine (1895 - 1980). Beyond a doubt, J.B. Rhine
will be acknowledged as the greatest leader in the first one
hundred years of parapsychology. The vigor and experimental
direction of the field today are the outgrowth of his work at
Durham, North Carolina. In the paper presented in this book he
gives his view of the history of parapsychology in relation to
American psychology over the sixty years from 1892 to 1951. In a
longer version and under another title, this paper was delivered
as an invited address on September 4, 1967, at the Annual
Convention of the American Psychological Association in
Washington, D.C., and was later published in the Journal of
Parapsychology (32, 101-128).
J.B. Rhine received the doctor of philosophy degree in plant
physiology at the University of Chicago in 1925. In 1926 he and
his wife went to Boston to work with William McDougall at Harvard
and with W.F.Prince at the Boston Society for Psychic Research.
They followed McDougall in 1927 to Duke University where the
laboratory experiments for which they are best known were carried
out. With Rhine's approaching retirement from Duke University, he
established in 1962 at Durham the Foundation for Research on the
Nature of Man, which is now known as the Rhine Research Center.
Its operating subsidiaries are the Institute for Parapsychology
and the Parapsychology Press.
Upton Sinclair (1878 - 1968) is known today as an
American Charles Dickens whose many novels exposed social evils
in the United States in the first half of the twentieth century.
Perhaps in the future he will be better remembered as a lay
scientist who, with his wife as his subject, performed one of the
most important experiments in the early history of
parapsychology. There had been many other picture-drawing
experiments before his, but none so extensive or so fully
reported, and none, I might add, so spectacular.
The first publication of Sinclair's Mental Radio,
coming as it did in 1930 shortly before Rhine's first book in
1934, served to strengthen and complement Rhine's card-guessing
research. Sinclair's work remains to this day a major obstacle to
those who wish to deny the reality of extrasensory perception.
Or, to put it more bluntly, any competent and open-minded
scientist who read his book would have been convinced of the
reality of the phenomenon. The argument about ESP should have
ended right there. The trouble with most scientists is that they
are specialized linear thinkers, ignorant of history, and
incompetent to make a final judgment as to the intellectual
integrity and competence of even so public a man as Sinclair.
For presentation here I have selected some passages that
reveal the cast of mind of Sinclair and his wife and their ideas
about the possible meaning of their experiments. I have skipped
over the drawing evidence that the Sinclairs gathered. The book
may still be in print from C.C. Thomas at Springfield, Illinois.
Eleven examples of target and response from their book can be
found in any general science library in my paper "ESP and
credibility in science" published in the American
Psychologist, 24(1969), 531-538.
L.L. Vasiliev (1891 - 1966), the Soviet Union's
foremost parapsychologist, is little known in America. At the
time of his death, Vasiliev was Professor of Physiology at the
Institute of Brain Research in the University of Leningrad, a
corresponding member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and
holder of the Order of Lenin.
His work in parapsychology, carried out from 1921 to 1938, is
reported in his book, Eksperimentalnie Issledovaniya
Mislennovo Vnusheniya, from which I present excerpts.
Several feature of his book deserve mention. It is a Soviet
document whose publication in 1962, in the time of Krushchev, was
ordered by the Editorial Council of the University of Leningrad.
The book reveals that from the beginning of their research the
Russians had a surprising knowledge of Western
parapsychology--the East-West window must have been fitted with
one-way glass. Even so, it is evident that, although Vasiliev and
his co-workers drew inspiration from the West, they built their
scientific opinions upon their work and not upon ours.
They began with the belief that ESP is a form of
electromagnetic radiation (radio waves)--a comfortable,
materialist assumption. Over a period of years, by careful and
diligent experimentation, they proved that this was not true, and
they developed a psychological sophistication as to the nature of
the phenomenon. For us, the message of their work is this:
Vasiliev was a first-rate scientist and we must assume that there
were others like him in the Soviet Union who had read his
A comparison of Vasiliev's method of experimenting with that
of Upton Sinclair reveals a striking difference between Soviet
and American approaches to extrasensory perception. As judged
from his book, Vasiliev engaged in empirical exploration of the
characteristics of ESP with little apparent concern for the prior
question: "Does it occur? Is there a real phenomenon of the
purported kind?" Sinclair, on the other hand, in his presentation
and in his experiments, was almost totally absorbed by the
question: "Does this unbelievable phenomenon really occur? How
can I convince myself and others?"
One might ascribe Vasiliev's casual acceptance of ESP to his
personal experience with it as a child, or one can speculate that
he was constrained by political considerations to ignore the
philosophic enormity of the phenomenon. I rather doubt, however,
that either of these factors was the ultimate determinant of his
experimental approach. I think we are in the presence of a
cultural discrepancy and that resulting differences in
method--often quite subtle--in all of the natural sciences will
be found between Western Europe and the Soviet Union.
The discrepancy might be thought of as between an indigenous
culture and one that was, in some measure, acquired. Admittedly
in all non-Western, technologically sophisticated countries there
are scientists who have been wholly westernized, but for the most
part, scientists in those countries do not perceive science
within a Cartesian world view. It is in the latter context that
ESP is an enormity--and only in that context moreover, that
Western science could and did flourish as a self-sufficient
philosophic endeavor. I.E., it is my hunch that this divided
thinking, which had its roots in Greece, explains why Western
Civilization and no other achieved greatness in science (as
opposed to technology).
Footnote: By "Cartesian world view" I mean dualism in
which mind and body interact and in which mind is the province of
religion but not of science. Operationally, Descartes' dualism
was a materialistic monism. Later, when religion went out of
fashion, scientists escaped from the necessity of dealing with
mind by declaring it to be merely an impotent epiphenomenon of
the brain. This neo-Cartesian stratagem is discussed by
Charles Honorton in his essay "Parapsychology and the
mind-body problem," later in this book.
What happened in the USSR after the 1962 publication of
Vasiliev's book? There is reason to believe that the Soviet
government, having temporarily set aside its ideological fear of
basic novelty, intensively investigated psi phenomena. In 1972,
the authoritative ideological and scientific Soviet journal,
Voprosi Filosofi, published what was, by its own claim, a
position paper from the Presidium of the Soviet Association of
Psychologists. In their conclusion, its four eminent authors
"There is a definite need to organize the scientific research
work into the areas of real occurrence described in
parapsychology. . . and to do it at the Institute of Biophysics.
. . and at the Institute for Problems of Information Transmission
of the Academy of Sciences. . . . The Psychological Institutes of
the Academy of Sciences and of the Academy of the Pedagogical
Sciences and other psychological institutions should also review
the possibility of the strict scientific investigation of these
phenomena. . . .
"It seems to us that the attention of serious scientific
organizations to the phenomena described in parapsychology will
help reveal their true nature [and] will block the road to
charlatans who are profiting by the quite natural curiosity of
the general public."
After 1973, open sources of information about parapsychology
in the Soviet Union dried up. On June 11, 1977, Robert Toth,
correspondent for the Los Angeles Times was arrested and
detained for receiving a parapsychological document from a
laboratory chief of the Institute of Medical-Biological Problems
(New York Times, June 12, 1977). Although the
interpretation of this event remains obscure, the indisputable
fact of its occurrence tells us something about the status of
parapsychology in the upper levels of the KGB and raises a
question as to how that status was reached. With the dissolution
of the USSR, psychic superstition has been running wild in
Russia, and there is no reason to suppose that any serious
parapsychological research is going on there now.
Vasiliev's book has been translated twice into English, once
in England in 1963 in cooperation with its author under the aegis
of Anita Kohsen and C.C.L. Gregory, and once by the United States
Government, presumably at the request of the Central Intelligence
In Chapters 15 and 16 of my Introduction to Parapsychology
in the Context of Science, I have presented Vasiliev's work
proving that hypnosis is the psychokinetic control of the brain
of the test subject and the U.S. response to that idea. My
present excerpts from Vasiliev's book were selected to display
the administrative history of the Soviet effort, one kind of
experiment they have done, and the growth of Soviet scientific
understanding of this field. Although the original book is
heavily documented, for simplicity I have omitted all references
to notes and appendices. Page numbers refer to the American
translation (which was produced as Report 59163 by the U.S.
National Technical Information Service).