Of what use parapsychology?
International Journal of Parapsychology, Winter 1966
To many people, who claim to be scientifically oriented and to have an interest in scientific subjects, parapsychology is “different.” They cannot help feeling that it is a fascinating, adventurous and exciting activity, but one which is distinguished by features setting it apart from normal scientific research. Of course, medicine, physics, and astronomy also reveal surprising and even astonishing aspects from time to time, and yet nobody would dream of reading books on physics or astronomy for the excitement they are likely to provide. But there are people who keep up with parapsychological literature or attend lectures on parapsychology in much the same spirit as that in which other people read thrillers or go to see vampire films; all this, of course, irrespective of their cultural level, their profession, their intellectual interests, or their intelligence.
In the case of parapsychology, the search for motivation is consequently of greater importance and interest than in any other branch of study. And it must be made clear from the very beginning that, unlike the case in other natural sciences and sciences of observation, the answers (either implicit or explicit) to the question that is the title of this paper-“Of What Use Parapsychology?”may differ enormously.
Before examining more closely the historical reasons and underlying causes of these diverse answers, let us consider some of the devotees and followers of parapsychology, who could best be described by the Spanish word aficionados or the slang term “fans.” There are those who look upon a parapsychological “experiment”-particularly if it is a “séance” of the mediumistic type-as a performance offering a certain amount of excitement or as an excuse for getting together with other people and experiencing new sensations. The idea of getting in touch, even indirectly, with unknown and mysterious forces, if not actually with the so-called “spirits,” gives some of these people a feeling of superiority and perhaps provides compensation for some cultural, social or affective deficiency. The individual who, rightly or wrongly, considers himself a “failure” as far as his affections, his studies, or his work are concerned, may fed that “taking an interest in parapsychology” is something so unusual and sophisticated that it lends him dignity, besides making up for a lot of bitterness. What other people seek in parapsychological experiences is help and solutions to problems that are often of a material and worldly nature. Other people have higher interests, ranging from the search for comfort after losing someone dear to the search for proof of some particular philosophical or religious view of the world. There is, of course, a whole series of levels within this last group from the simple souls, whose aspiration is to receive a sort of “spiritual assurance” concerning their survival, to serious students who are anxious to fit parapsychological phenomena into a suitable and coherent system of thought. Sometimes it is not easy to make a distinction between the former and the latter, as irrational motivation may be very strong even in persons of a high level of culture and intelligence. It is indeed a well-known fact that illustrious men have been drawn to certain studies by the hope of assuaging the pain caused by some serious bereavement, while other no less famous men have sought in the “wonders” of the séance room a substitute for a religious supernatural long unrecognized and abandoned.
All over the world, a tacit but not easily defended acquiescence, founded partly on difficulties of a practical nature but partly also on subtler reasons, still allows people of scant or unsuitable cultural preparation, and sometimes even people who are obviously severe neurotics, to become members of parapsychological groups or societies, thus casting discredit on the reputation of these associations and their serious members. The results of this are recognizable in meetings and congresses at which membership is not limited to a few persons chosen by special committees. This was the case at an Italian congress where scholars on the university level and of international repute sat side by side with university students, “sensitive persons,” a famous “magician,” several quite unbalanced people, and a number of “members of the fair sex in search of excitement,” as the noted anthropologist, Prof. Ernesto De Martino, called them. Some years ago at a meeting of the Italian Society of Parapsychology, a distinguished member suggested the promotion of an “International Parapsychological Year” similar to the “International Geophysical Year” then taking place. I objected that there was a substantial difference between the two, inasmuch as the persons engaged in the “Geophysical Year” were geophysicists, whereas a “Parapsychological Year” would be certain to attract many people who had no connection whatsoever with parapsychological studies of a scientific nature.
As has already been mentioned, there are many reasons for the hybridism that still afflicts parapsychology. As a result, we are continually faced with the paradoxical situation of persons militating in the same ranks and yet mentally as separate and far apart as if they belonged to different biological species. Going back to the beginning of the not very long history of parapsychology, we find – and this is no mystery – that it grew up in the insecure soil of spiritualism and of those phenomena which many people refer to as “occult,” “supernormal,” or “mysterious.” We must never forget that the desire for and belief in supernatural and occult beings and phenomena are as old as mankind and are still latent in the unconscious of even the most advanced and civilized persons. As Podmore wrote, “. . . the existence of a belief is the most potent factor in the creation of its own evidence.” Not many students of parapsychology seem to remember that the roots of parapsychology are to be found in the myths, folklore, magic, and mysticism of pre-civilization. Spiritualism, from which it originated, even if the attitude it later assumed was supposed to be more detached and scientific, is the necromancy of olden times, and the “sensitive persons” of today are the soothsayers of yesterday; crystal gazing has become clairvoyance, prophecy is referred to as precognition, and the magician’s alleged power of reading other people’s thoughts is now evidence of telepathy. In a previous article, the present writer pointed out that the object of parapsychology is alleged phenomena which, besides being irrational and contrary to all reasonable knowledge or expectations, respond to man’s oldest illusions, to his dreams and hopes of a magical nature, to the desire to transmit thought at a distance, foresee the future, influence objects by sheer willpower to rise into the air, move magically from one place to another, and so on.
As all students know, the first association formed to investigate these phenomena in a new spirit was the Society for Psychical Research, founded in London in 1882. I think it will be interesting to quote the objects and intentions of this Society in full:
“1. An examination of the nature and extent of any influence which may be exerted by one mind upon another, apart from any generally recognized mode of perception.
“2. The study of hypnotism, and the forms of so-called mesmeric trance, with its alleged insensibility to pain; clairvoyance, and other allied phenomena.
“3. A critical revision of Reichenbach’s researches with certain organizations called ‘sensitive,’ and an inquiry whether such organizations possess any power of perception beyond a highly exalted sensibility of the recognized sensory organs.
“4. A careful investigation of any reports, resting on strong testimony, regarding apparitions at the moment of death, or otherwise, including disturbances in houses reputed to be haunted.
“5. An inquiry into the various physical phenomena commonly called ‘spiritualistic’; with an attempt to discover their causes and general laws.
“6. The collection and collation of existing materials bearing on the history of these subjects.”
Whereas there can be no doubt that, consciously, the founders and leaders of the S.P.R. intended to carry on scientific work, some unconscious distortions of attitude already appear in the choice of the term “psychical research” which cannot but strike the attentive observer as ambiguous and indefensible. The term “psychic” was not then, nor is it actually even now, synonymous with “psychological” or “mental.” Particularly in English it had, and still has, somewhat obscure and mysterious implications, as is shown by phrases such as “I am psychic,” or “She is somewhat psychic,” which are used to imply that the individual possesses powers that are supernormal or that are inspired and set in motion by occult forces. In Nandor Fodor’s Encyclopaedia we find that as an adjective “psychic” refers to the supernormal nature of certain phenomena, and that as a noun it is a synonym of medium. But this is not, of course, the most important point. What particularly deserves attention is the fact that even in the very beginning the unconscious use of semantic instruments showed that what the members of the S.P.R. were actually seeking and expecting to find was not a scientific truth, whatever it was, but a reality that even in the beginning was to some extent conditioned and defined: a reality that not only assumed the existence of something tacitly and traditionally identified with the “soul” (psyche in Greek), but expected it, in addition, to be colored with more or less mystical tints not dissimilar to those attributed to the “soul” in olden times. The latter was considered to be synonymous with the breath or spirit of life, with something that could detach itself from the body in sleep and remain separated from it after death, with an “essence” temporarily imprisoned in us like the fire in Prometheus’ mythical staff, and with an agent for which space and time no longer existed once it was temporarily freed from the shackles of the body.
This, at bottom, was the concept of the “psyche” held by those persons who referred to certain phenomena as “psychic,” and this concept has continued to manifest itself up to the present time in others terms that are familiar to all of us, such as “psychic science,” “psychic phenomena,” “psychic force,” “metapsychics,” etc. Some of the most eloquent proofs of what has just been said are to be found in the titles of a number of books: Psychic and Mediumistic Phenomena; Mysterious Psyche; The Science of the Soul; etc. These titles provide clamorous evidence of the central infirmity of parapsychology; namely, the fact that it is still possible to confuse the concept of science with the traditional concept of the soul and that attempts are made to apply scientific measurements and schemata to something which, by definition and a priori, is in no way connected with these measurements and schemata. In fact the “soul,” irrespective of what some parapsychologists of our day, who consider themselves “scientific,” wish to attribute to it, continues to be a metaphysical concept, philosophically conceivable but experimentally indemonstrable. The big mistake made by many parapsychologists, and even by some psychologists, is to try to consider the soul-or even simply the psyche or the mind-as a separate “thing” occupying space and time! Even if we leave aside the “soul” of the theologians, or of modern spiritists such as Ernesto Bozzano, the notion of “mind” or of “psyche” is only an operational concept whose object is to join in a single unit a number of mechanisms and processes directly or indirectly appearing on the final, irreducible screen of consciousness. Its quality of Ding an sich (a separate thing) may be maintained philosophically but cannot be demonstrated empirically. Even in our day there is a tendency not only to forget this and to “personalize” the soul or the psyche until it becomes a concrete image, an eidolon, but to build up theories that are supposed to be “new”-Bergsons’s élan vital or Hans Driesch’s entelechia -in which, under another name, the soul actually reappears as pneuma, a breath, an infused spirit, just as it was conceived by our remote forebears.
In this connection serious and well intentioned parapsychologists must recite mea culpa. If, from the very beginning, the intentions of parapsychology had been defined as accurately and strictly as those of any other scientific discipline, parapsychologists would obviously today stand on one side arid those who believe a priori in the “soul” on the other side. To put it differently, is it worth while for people pursuing such very different objects to continue marching together? Some of these people look up at the sky and see there a God in whom they already believe; others look at it with the eyes of a lover or a poet; while still others scan it in order to try to understand what it is made of and what it contains. We must start by being sincere with ourselves. Many members of parapsychological societies are not interested in the least in knowing that, in eighty thousand runs of the Zener cards, the average number of coincidences was 8 out of 25 and not 5, or, if they are interested, it is only because they hope that even this 8 out of 25 may be an indication, no matter how remote, of the existence of a “psyche”- or better, of a metapsyche – as postulated by certain unconscious mystical needs. How these people grieve for the days when word would come, from time to time, that an “entity” had “materialized completely” in some séance room and introduced itself as the “spirit” or “soul” of Mr. Brown or Mrs. Smith! How they bewail the fact-implicitly or explicitly-that the glorious “psychic research” of former days has dwindled miserably (so they think) to the study of statistical effects or to inquiries concerning the psychodynamic conditioning of certain apparently extrasensory communications or encounters!
I would not for a moment wish the remarks I have made to be interpreted as any offense to those who have reached and defend not only a dualistic but transcendent conception of the human personality. My respect for all convictions is absolute, particularly becase I am not at all convinced that the dualistic theories have been proven false. What I am criticizing, therefore, are not convictions but compromises and misunderstandings, both logical and epistemological. I consider perfectly coherent a person who, starting from religious or philosophical positions, takes an interest in parapsychological studies, not because he expects them to confirm or demonstrate the truth of his belief or philosophy but because he thinks that he can increase and complete his understanding of conscious and unconscious mental processes, both human and interhuman. This is not, however, the attitude of those who would like to reconcile their belief in the “soul” or in “the world to come” with experiments in which the “soul” finds itself involved and reveals itself! It is easy to observe, moreover, that true scientists get along very well with people of different religious and philosophical convictions but who know how to leave these convictions outside the common laboratory, while both are reluctant to mingle with people who would like to turn religion into a science or use the results of scientific research to provide support for a certain system of beliefs which are metaphysical at best and which, only too often, are nothing but modest lucubrations of a philosophical nature-ideas ill conceived and ill digested.
That parapsychology helps in many cases to fill or at least plug gaps that are more of an emotional than of a cultural and scientific nature can be proven at all levels. The evidence is only too easy to find if one considers how many people are in search of new emotions. For them, one thing is as good as another: the words of a medium or the serious speech of a philosopher, séances in the family circle or the strict research work of a team of specialists. But even if we consider what was, and often still is, sufficient to satisfy certain scholars who not only possess academic titles but are also highly qualified and sometimes famous in particular branches of learning, the conclusions reached are still the same: Lombroso who, from one day to another, declared that he had spoken with his dead mother; Richet, still convinced after many years that the warrior, complete with helmet, who rose up in Marthe Béraud’s séance room was a genuine “materialization”; Lodge, who published his mediumistic dialogues with his dead son; and the various descriptions of a world to come where people go for walks in garden cities. These lapses of the critical spirit are clear evidence of the prevalence of irrational and affective elements over lucid and conscious judgment. They are often reflected also in the writings of illustrious men – which is even stranger, for one might think that cold reason would prevail when a man is sitting in his study, calmly holding a pen in his hand and with a ream of paper before him.
At the methodological level, modem critics have quite rightly rejected certain experiences and certain approaches, deeming it useless to wonder whether, despite everything, there could be “something” in some of the alleged mediumistic manifestations or in the “evidence” supplied by certain people who report premonitory dreams or poltergeist activities. These critics have not even spared certain laboratory experiments, although in some cases their attitude may seem too severe and exacting. On the other hand, one cannot help remarking that, in some clubs or associations devoted to parapsychology, members still indulge in the weakness of applying the term “experiments” to approaches that have as much in common with science as a child’s scrawl with an architect’s carefully studied blueprint. What, for instance, is one to think of certain so-called “experiments” of psychometry· -as it is still improperly termed – carried out in public by “sensitive” persons to whom personal objects are handed one by one by members of the audience? The “sensitive” person then asks the audience for confirmation or refutation of what he says! It is absurd to try to pass off as valid these “experimental activities” of self-styled scientific societies. On occasion I have raised serious objections to these or similar enterprises, only to receive the candid reply that “one must offer members something.” This is further proof that parapsychology “serves” several purposes and that the state of confusion in which it finds itself makes it easy to “produce something” at any time and in any way-whereas it is not, alas, possible to “offer” the members of the Society of Astronomy an imitation eclipse of the sun when there is no eclipse, or to settle for opera glasses if the Society’s funds are not sufficient to buy a telescope.
It must be admitted that there are at present a certain number of researchers who not only appear to possess a scientific mentality when they are dealing with parapsychology, but who are, moreover, very much aware of methodological requirements, unwilling to theorize except with the greatest caution, and extremely prudent in using terms which, as we have seen in connection with psychic research or forces or science, seem to have been especially coined to allow our unconscious desires to express themselves without appearing to do so. We all know that certain expressions (even among those most widely used in modern parapsychology) – such as “telepathy,” “extrasensory perception,” or “paranormal cognition”-are far from immune from semantic criticism. Consequently, it is easy to understand why philosophically conscious parapsychologists like Thouless prefer almost algebraic terms, such as psi-gamma or psi-kappa, and that there are people who consider nine-tenths of the present parapsychological terminology to be conceptually wrong. Even more comprehensible are those who consider inadequate the conceptual schema into which we endeavor to fit phenomena, and who also consider most premature the inferences that some people – Rhine for instance -would like to draw from parapsychology as it is presently (and still precariously) formulated and systemized. In the conclusions of a conference on “Method in Parapsychology” held at Florence some years ago, the first of the final resolutions was, most surprisingly, the following: “The Phenomena Exist.” Whereas our object is how to qualify certain events as “phenomena,” this sentence almost gives the impression that it is possible to speak of “phenomena” without any precise and reliable knowledge on the part of those examining such events (just as one could have said that “primitives exist,” before progress made by cultural anthropology showed that those who had been thought of as “primitives” were not necessarily so but were actually populations whose levels of mental and cultural development were often not comparable).
Of course, there are men who would never fall into such traps-men like Broad, Fraser Nicol, Cyril Burt, or Antony Flew, to mention only a few of those who could answer, in very different ways, the question that is the title of this paper, but who have always taken care to avoid mixing concepts and multiplying entities unnecessarily and who have, of course, repeatedly asked themselves the reasons for their scientific interests and speculations. My criticisms concerning the often base and improper uses that parapsychology is made to serve show clearly that I am firmly convinced that it can also serve high and important purposes. Let us see, therefore, what further answers can be given to our question.
First of all, it should be underlined that phenomena commonly referred to as parapsychological can virtually claim membership in the coordinates of any system or theory, even in those of scientific materialism where the icy wind of mechanistic behaviorism or linguistic philosophy blows hardest. There are those who, a priori, reject the existence of parapsychological phenomena, maintaining not only that none of them can be scientifically proven but that any theory relating to them is metaphysical and therefore scientifically futile. Now it is to these very men that parapsychology presents a possibly tremendous revolution. Rawcliffe, one of the most implacable adversaries of parapsychological research, writes that “even if the accuracy of parapsychological experiments were to be fully substantiated, the metaphysical theories and concepts upon which such experiments are based would not be scientifically established; such experiments, if verified, could only prove that a causal nexus existed, whose nature could not for the present be elucidated.”
Rawcliffe writes “only,” but it seems to me that this is a valuable admission! Since, in my opinion and in that of many others, some parapsychological experiments, even if only a very few, have in fact excellent foundations, this assertion opens a wide breach in the closed fortress of the monistic-materialistic system, even if it may be preferable for the present not to enter this breach! This, moreover, is the “wait and see” attitude of those Soviet researchers who, like L. L. Vasiliev, have recognized the existence of telepathy but do not feel inclined to abandon the position of dialectical materialism. They recognize that the “physical” hypotheses referring to telepathy are not satisfactory, and they are waiting to find better ones, of which, however, they have not been able to catch even a glimpse. This is a perfectly legitimate position which shows that parapsychology can “serve” to arouse theoretical unrest, even in the best guarded forts.
Only slightly more courageous are those who, like Antony Flew, recognize the existence of si phenomena but, since they are unable to see in them either perception or cognition, seek to fit them into terms of correlation which they consider “slightly abnormal” with respect to the fortunately regular trend of all the rest of the universe! However, parapsychology has also given these philosophers of language food for thought; and if the results of their analyses seem but scant as compared with the vast and varied range of the material examined, that, after all, is to the advantage of parapsychology!
Completely different, of course, is the attitude adopted by those who, like most parapsychologists, consider it possible, irrespective of their monistic or dualistic origin, to speak operationally of psychological processes, mechanisms and conditioning. For some of them, however, the temptation to drift into positions that are no longer scientific, but philosophical, moral and theological, is sometimes irresistible. Then there are the many British and American parapsychologists who hold that paranormal facts, by revealing unknown aspects of human activity, compel us to recognize a spiritualistic concept of man and therefore to justify religion. Just as far off the track as the latter are those adversaries of parapsychology who see it as an argument in favour of religion and of mystic irrationality, and who combat it for this reason! Some serious parapsychologists – wrongly in my opinion – still devote their attention to the evidence that parapsychological phenomena may provide as to a hypothesis of survival; among these are Broad, Gardner Murphy, and Thouless. It seems to me that Robert Amadou gave them an answer worth remembering when he wrote, ten years ago, that “Whatever these speculations may be to the less daring, they do not even start solving the problem of our, of my, life after death. We are always told about the paranormal fact, the fact whose inferior situation must always be borne in mind. There is nothing that throws any light on the soul or its survival or on the soul and its immortality. For the immortal soul, the divine spark within us, is neither the abode nor the cause of parapsychological phenomena.”
Nor is it possible to think, as Rhine does, that parapsychology serves to consolidate moral values. Since when have the sciences of observation recommended rules of behavior? Does anyone really believe that parapsychologists are either more or less moral than the rest of mankind?
There are those who believe that parapsychological powers are a kind of anticipation of what the human personality will be, once it is freed from the weight of the body after death and in the world to come. Their number includes Bozzano and all those who have proclaimed with him that “animism is the proof of spiritism.” Even if we were to accept-as the present writer does not-that the word “animism” has a scientifically defensible meaning and that spiritism is something more than a set of ill-formulated hypotheses, it would be a very meager solution to one of the greatest problems of existence. No less wrong are those who, like Tyrrell, expect great and favorable repercussions once mankind has accepted and integrated the discoveries of parapsychology. In 1926, René Sudre announced consequences of “capital” importance. Nearly forty years have passed since then, and yet this wonderful apocalypse does not appear to have even started.
Of what use, then, is parapsychology?
Amadou wrote in 1953 (and I said in the same year at the Utrecht Conference) that parapsychology’s contribution to our culture “is recognizable, above all, in the better knowledge it enables us to acquire of man’s psychological and physiological nature-of the human personality.” In this respect it has already made important contributions to general medicine, psychosomatic medicine, psychiatry, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, and mental health. This has in fact been acknowledged by some illustrious ethnologists, pediatricians, and pedagogists, by a number of psychoanalysts and several biologists and students of the natural sciences, as well as by a growing number of philosophers.
In the field with which I am most familiar-namely, that of the relations and interferences between psychoanalysis and parapsychology-the usefulness and heuristic value of the contribution made by parapsychology is being recognized more clearly every day by a growing number of psychoanalysts. It is, in fact, only by taking into account the possibility of extrasensory encounters and communions that one can obtain a complete picture and full understanding of certain interhuman situations that are absolutely basic to the whole theory and practice of psychoanalysis. The mother-child relationship, with all its consequences for the psychological and psychopathological formation of the personality, is seen in a new light if one admits that certain influences, certain subtle exchanges proper to this decisive and nuclear dual-unionism, take place on an extrasensory level. Some years ago, Jan Ehrenwald advanced the hypothesis that an “open” extrasensory perception of the mother’s unconscious processes by the child may be one of the causes that are decisive, both for a good internal situation and for the individual’s relative psychological balance, or for the fatal splittings of the ego that, sooner or later, lead to the schizophrenic catastrophe. A dual situation that in certain respects repeats the important relationship between one individual and the “other” is the situation created by analysis. In a paper I submitted to the 1955 International Psychoanalytical Congress in Geneva, I set forth my present ideas concerning the mechanisms of the possible emergence, in the transference and counter-transference exchanges of the analysis, of extrasensory contacts. I also pointed out the possible extrapolations and appliances of my schema to other dual situations that are transferential in the Freudian sense but do not pertain to analysis proper.
At the 1953 Utrecht Conference, I stated: “If the study of parapsychological phenomena is useful, it is only because it can provide us with a better understanding of the human spirit and its nature as well as of mental life in general and some manifestations thereof upon which we may have an influence, but not because we can derive scientific information directly from this study or enrich our cultural values through it.”
Today I should like to add that parapsychology can be of use to those who approach it without any hopes or claims. It can be of use because it teaches us – as Krishna and Arjuna teach us in the Bhãgavãd-Gita – to fight without expecting to win. It can be of use because it accustoms us to feeling perplexed and reconsidering our convictions-a sign of intellectual honesty and not of weakness. It can be of use, especially if it is illuminated by psychoanalytical criteria, because it can reveal the irrational and unconscious motivations underlying many events, many opinions, and much human evidence. It can help us to expect problems, not certainties; changes, not static situations.
Parapsychology is not like any other discipline. Also, in present times, many of those who show an interest in it have an unconscious tendency to consider it as a means of satisfying aspirations, motivations or ambitions which are much more emotional than rational. This was ascertained not only with mediocre individuals but also with men of high repute, who had given ample evidence of their superior intelligence in other realms.
The author points out that parapsychology has a somewhat spurious ascendency, and that parapsychological phenomena (true or presumptive) seem to comply with human hopes and expectations of a magical sort. Even nowadays, persons who call themselves “parapsychologists” create a great deal of confusion and make gross methodological errors. Also, in some serious parapsychological societies, criteria and methods without scientific value are at times adopted or accepted.
The counterpart of all this, of course, is the work of a small number of investigators who may very well have different views and sponsor different theories.
The author ends by showing what ways parapsychology, in his opinion, can enrich the general psychological design of human personality. He expounds, finally, his own personal ithas and criteria on the subject.
La parapsychologie n’est une discipline comparable à aucune autre. Aussi bien, dans le temps présent, beaucoup de ceux qui montrent de l’intérêt pour elle ont-ils une tendence inconsciente à la considérer comme un moyen de satisfaire des aspirations, des motivations ou des ambitions qui sont beaucoup plus émotionnelles que rationnelles. Cela s’est vérifié non seulement chez des individus médiocres mais aussi chez des gens de haute réputation qui avaient dorme d’amples preuves de leur intelligence supérieure en divers domaines.
L’auteur met en évidence que la parapsychologie a une ascendence quelque peu bâtarde, et que les phénomènes parapsychologiques (vrais ou présumés) paraissent se soumettre aux espérances et attentes humaines d’un genre magique. Mme de nos jours, des personnes qui se donnent le nom de “parapsychologues” commettent de lourdes confusions et de grossières erreurs de méthode. De mémé, dans certaines sociétés sérieuses de parapsychologie des critères et des méthodes dénuées de valeur scientifique sont parfois adoptés ou acceptés.
En contrepartie de tout ceci, il y a, bien entendu, l’existence et l’œuvre d’un petit nombre de chercheurs qui peuvent fort bien avoir des vues différentes et soutenir des théories différentes.
L’auteur termine en montrant par quelles voies la parapsychologie peut, à son avis, enrichir le modèle psychologique général de la personnalité humaine. Il expose finalement ses propres idées et critères sur le sujet.
Die Parapsychologie ist nicht eine Disziplin wie alle anderen.
Selbst in unserer Zeit zeigt sich bei vielen, die sich für sie interessieren, eine unbewusste Tendenz, in ihr ein Mittel zur Befriedigung von Bestrebungen, Motivationen oder Ambitionen zu sehen, die viel mehr gefühlsmäßiger als verstandesmassiger Natur sind. Dies wurde nicht nur bei mittelmäßigen Leuten festgestellt, sondern auch bei hoch angesehenen Persönlichkeiten, die in verschiedenen Bereichen reichlich Zeugnis ablegten von ihrer überlegenen Intelligenz.
Der Verfasser weist darauf hin, dass die Parapsychologi sozusagen etwas illegitimer Abkunft ist und dass parapsychologische Phänomene (ob echt oder angenommen) gewissen menschlichen Hoffnungen und Erwartungen magischer Art entgegenkommen. Selbst heutzutage machen sich Leute, die sich “Parapsychologen” nennen, grosser Konfusionen und grober methodologischer Irrtümer schuldig. Auch in einigen ernsthaften parapsychologischen Gesellschaften werden zeitweise Kriterien und Methoden ohne wissenschaftlichen Wert angewendet oder hingenommen.
Das Gegenstück zu dem allen ist natürlich das Vorhandensein und das Werk einer kleinen Anzahl von Forschern, die sehr wohl verschiedene Ansichten haben und verschiedene Theorien vertreten können.
Der Verfasser schlisst damit zu zeigen, auf welche Weise seiner Meinung na.ch die Parapsychologie die allgemeinpsychologische Vorstellung von der menschlichen Persönlichkeit bereichern kann. Er entwickelt schliesslich seine persönlichen Gedanken und Kriterien hierüber.
La parapsicologia non è una disciplina come un’altra. Anche attualmente, molti di coloro che intendono occuparsene la considerano – quasi sempre senza rendersene conto – come un mezzo che dovrebbe soddisfare cene aspirazioni, motivazioni o ambizioni assai più emozionali che razionali. Ciò si è potuto constatare non solo in persone mediocri, ma anche in uomini illustri, che avevano dato sicura prova del loro alto intelletto in altri campi.
L’A. rileva che la parapsicologia ha un passato e un’ascendenza assai spurii, e che in sostanza gli stessi fenomeni parapsicologici, o presunti tali, vanno incontro a speranze ed aspettazioni umane di tipo magico. Ancora oggi, persone che si definiscono “parapsicologi” incorrono in gravi confusioni e commettono grossi errori di metodo. In Società anche serie di parapsicologia si procede con criteri e con metodi che sono assai spesso privi di rigore scientifico.
A tutto ciò si contrappongono, beninteso, la serietà e la consapevolezza di un numero esiguo, ma non disprezzabile, di ricercatori, anche se di diversa mentalità e seguaci di teorie diverse.
L’A. conclude mostrando in quali modi, a suo avviso, la parapsicologia arricchisca il disegno psicologico generale della personalità umana, e sottolinea al riguardo le proprie particolari idee e i propri criteri.
La parapsicología es una disciplina diferente a cualquier otra. Inclusive en la actualidad muchos de los que se interesan en ella tienen una tendencia inconsciente a considerarla corno un medio de satisfacer aspiraciones, motivaciones o ambiciones que son mucho más emocionales que racionales. Esto no sólo es verdad respecto de los individuos mediocres sino también respecto d hombres de alta reputación, que han dado amplia evidencia, en diferentes campos, de la superioridad de su inteligencia.
El autor señala que la parapsicología tiene una ascendencia algo espuria y que los fenómenos parapsicológicos (reales o presuntos) parecen concordar con esperanzas y expectativas humanas de clase mágica. Aun hoy, personas que se denominan a si mismas “parapsicólogos”, cometen grandes confusiones y gruesos errores metodológicos. Inclusive algunas asociaciones parapsicológicas serias han a veces aceptado o adoptado criterios y métodos carentes de valor científico.
Desde luego que, como contrapartida de esto, existe y trabaja un pequeño numero de investigadores, que pueden muy bien tener diferentes encuadres y sustentar diferentes teorías.
El autor muestra por qué medios puede la parapsicología, en su opinión, enriquecer el diseño psicológico general de la personalidad humana. Expone finalmente sus propias ideas y criterios al respecto.