Parapsychology; A little bit of History

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The Society of Psychical Research

     For as long as humans have walked the earth, paranormal phenomena has been witnessed and recorded. Many people fear the unknown, but there have always been those that have been fascinated by it as well and feel the need to better understand it. In the past there have been individuals and researchers preforming their own experiments to prove the existence and learn more about the phenomena that even today still remains a mystery. The thing was that back then, people would do this kind of work only as a hobby in their spare time. Their results were poor in quality and not the most accurate.
     The first official organization that was created to bring standards and quality to psychical research was the British Society for Psychical Research, abbreviated as SPR. It was formed on February 20, 1882 with Prof. Henry Sidgwick as the President of the organization. Other founders were Frederick W.H Myers, and Edmund Gurney. Spiritualism and mediums were getting more and more attention those days so the SPR came together to confirm or deny the authenticity of the debatable phenomena that the spiritualists of that time claimed to experience. The topics they covered in the early years of the society was poltergeists, ESP(extra-sensory perception), multiple personalities, hypnosis, and of course mediums. The majority of the mediums they investigated were exposed as frauds. They also experimented with clairvoyance by the use of playing cards.
     The Literary committee of the SPR had to gather all the reports of the peoples psychic experiences. Many witnesses were interviewed, and they searched through the libraries information as well as official records. Surprisingly, there were a lot of reports of "crisis apparitions", which the SPR eventually concluded to be peoples hallucinations. These documents were published in 1886 and later became"Phantasms of the Living", a 1,300 page book. After many of the founders passed away, things slowed down for the SPR. They didn't stop working but it was not nearly going as strong as it did when it started. When the twentieth century dawned, the amount of psychical research had slowed down dramatically and needed something or someone new to bring the fresh science back to life.


A New begining for a New Science

     Psychical research was given a great foundation by the SPR in the late 19th century. However, it was not until the 1930's that psychical research actually became a profession, the one we know today as parapsychology. It all began when Joesph Banks Rhine (known as J.B.) arrived at Duke University in Durhan, North Carolina in 1927. J.B. spent his first few years at Duke assisting William McDougall (a British psychologist) with experiments on trait inheritance. By 1930 J.B. began to work on his own, conducting experiments on ESP with local children and students at Duke. He discovered students that could consistently score better than average guesses with ESP cards (which were designed by a specialist in perception) and found that the drug sodium amytal had a very negative affect on ESP. After Rhines discovery of the phenomena he quickly named it "extra-sensory perception".
     By April of 1934, J.B. Rhine had his first book on his ESP research published, which was called "Extra-Sensory Perception" It was a huge step forward for the new found science. This 240 page book is very in depth, covering all the experiments that were done at Duke, with the results shown in graphs and tables. The new book received a positive response for the most part, despite the predictable criticism that came along as well.
     He continued his testing on ESP as well as with precognition and psychokinesis. Although other researchers began to copy Rhines methods of testing, none of them had the same passion and drive that he did. By 1937 just about everyone knew about the testing of ESP in the U.S. By1939 Rhine and his team began to put another book together consisting of all the experiments, statistics, and results of their ESP research. It was published in 1940 as "Extra-Sensory Perception After Sixty Years". The title was pertaining to the work on ESP since the SPR was founded in the year of 1882. The book got a good response and parapsychology was finally being accepted as a true science by psychologists and other Universities.
     Joesph Banks Rhine passed away on February 20, 1980 after decades of improving and growing the new found science of parapsychology. Unfortunately, there is still those researchers and scientists that deny the existence of ESP and psychokinesis even though the evidence has grown so much stronger in the last 70 years or so.There are those scientists that believe in the possibility of the phenomenas existence but at the same time there are critics out there that are accusing parapsychologists of fraud. The point in the matter is that the science or the people that will not yet except it are too new for global acceptance. We will have to wait for the kind of evidence so blindingly obvious that even the most cynical critic could not deny it as a truth.

ESP Testing Cards Used at Duke University
These symbols were chosen because of their simplicity and because they are easy to remember.


             The SPR, Still Working after Death!?!

     For the founders of the SPR, their work did not even end in death, and no I am not referring to the continuing work of the foundation, although it did continue. It began a few weeks after Frederick Myers had died, and a medium that the SPR had often worked with started to get messages from the deceased founder. Later, other mediums with the same relation to the foundation received his messages as well. As more founders passed away, the mediums would get similar messages from them as well.
     The Spirits of the SPR founders were trying to prove their is an existence of the human conscience after death. The mediums would record the messages through automatic writing. The clever thing about these messages was that many mediums around the world would receive the same kind of message. This was eventually called "cross correspondence" and can be regarded as proof  that not all mediums are frauds and that some are the real deal.
     The writings went on for thirty years and filled thousands of pages. Some critics say that there is just so much writing that it's just not unusual for some of the words to match. Some also say that if the messages are really from the founders of the SPR, why wouldn't they send less complicated messages.

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