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Psychical research and the origins of American psychology: Hugo Münsterberg, William James and Eusapia Palladino

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Largely unacknowledged by historians of the human sciences, late-19th-century psychical researchers were actively involved in the making of fledgling academic psychology. Moreover, with few exceptions historians have failed to discuss the wider implications of the fact that the founder of academic psychology in America, William James, considered himself a psychical researcher and sought to integrate the scientific study of mediumship, telepathy and other controversial topics into the nascent discipline. Analysing the celebrated exposure of the medium Eusapia Palladino by German-born Harvard psychologist Hugo Münsterberg as a representative example, this article discusses strategies employed by psychologists in the United States to expel psychical research from the agenda of scientific psychology. It is argued that the traditional historiography of psychical research, dominated by accounts deeply averse to its very subject matter, has been part of an ongoing form of 'boundary-work' to bolster the scientific status of psychology.
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Psychical research and the
origins of American
psychology: Hugo
Mu
¨nsterberg, William
James and Eusapia
Palladino
Andreas Sommer
University College London, UK
Abstract
Largely unacknowledged by historians of the human sciences, late-19th-century psychical
researchers were actively involved in the making of fledgling academic psychology. More-
over, with few exceptions historians have failed to discuss the wider implications of the
fact that the founder of academic psychology in America, William James, considered him-
self a psychical researcher and sought to integrate the scientific study of mediumship,
telepathy and other controversial topics into the nascent discipline. Analysing the cele-
brated exposure of the medium Eusapia Palladino by German-born Harvard psychologist
Hugo Mu¨nsterberg as a representative example, this article discusses strategies
employed by psychologists in the United States to expel psychical research from the
agenda of scientific psychology. It is argued that the traditional historiography of psychi-
cal research, dominated by accounts deeply averse to its very subject matter, has been
part of an ongoing form of ‘boundary-work’ to bolster the scientific status of
psychology.
Keywords
boundary-work, discipline formation, fraud, historiography, popularization of science
Corresponding author:
Mr Andreas Sommer, UCL Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines, University College London,
Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT, UK
Email: a.sommer@ucl.ac.uk
History of the Human Sciences
25(2) 23–44
ªThe Author(s) 2012
Reprints and permission:
sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0952695112439376
hhs.sagepub.com
Eeny, meeny, miny mo,
Catch Eusapia by the toe
If she hollers, then we know,
James’s doctrines are not So!
1
Introduction: psychical research and the ‘new psychology’
At the end of the 19th century, psychical researchers such as Frederic and Arthur Myers,
Edmund Gurney, Julian Ochorowicz, Charles Richet, Max Dessoir, Albert von
Schrenck-Notzing, Richard Hodgson and Henry and Eleanor Sidgwick were actively
involved in the making of the fledgling science of psychology. Psychical researchers
initiated and organized the International Congresses of Physiological/Experimental Psy-
chology (Alvarado, forthcoming; Nicolas and So¨derlund, 2005; Plas, 2000), and they
devised methodological innovations such as randomized study designs (Hacking,
1988). They contributed important empirical findings by conducting the first experi-
ments investigating the psychology of eyewitness testimony (Hodgson and Davey,
1887), empirical and conceptual studies illuminating mechanisms of dissociation and
hypnotism (Alvarado, 2002; Ellenberger, 1970; Gauld, 1992; Shamdasani, 1993) and
experiments and large-scale surveys undermining the notion of dissociation and halluci-
nations as intrinsically pathological phenomena (Sommer, 2011; Williams, 1985). While
rooted in attempts to test controversial claims of telepathy, clairvoyance and survival of
death, these contributions enriched early psychological knowledge quite independently
of the still hotly debated evidence for ‘supernormal’ phenomena.
Nothing epitomizes the ambivalent relationship of academic psychology to psychical
research clearer than two figures generally considered as the very founders of modern
psychology, William James and Wilhelm Wundt. Whereas Wundt had publicly and pro-
grammatically rejected psychical research as intrinsically unscientific in the same year
he established German experimental psychology in Leipzig (Wundt, 1879), James
sought to integrate it into nascent American psychology. James made original contribu-
tions to psychical research and regularly collaborated and corresponded with British and
French psychical researchers (Skrupskelis and Berkeley, 1992–2004; James, 1986). In
1884, he became a founding member of the American Society for Psychical Research
(ASPR) and, in 1894 and 1895, a president of the British Society for Psychical Research
(SPR), and he reviewed and defended the work of the SPR in psychology and science
periodicals like Mind,thePsychological Review,Nature and Science.
2
In the United States, several of Wundt’s students, such as Hugo Mu
¨nsterberg, Stanley
G. Hall, Edward Titchener and James McKeen Cattell (along with other leading US
psychologists not trained by Wundt), ruthlessly combated the father of American psy-
chology in his attempts to integrate psychical research into nascent psychology (Bjork,
1983; Bordogna, 2008; Coon, 1992; Taylor, 1996). Divided by epistemological, metho-
dological and political disagreements as well as by personal animosities (see, for exam-
ple, Sokal, 1992; Taylor, 1994), leading US psychologists found themselves in rare
unison agreeing that psychical research was not to be associated with the ‘new psychol-
ogy’. Hence, the aggressive rejection of psychical research as the ‘unscientific Other’ of
academic psychology, which James’ opponents perceived as a threat to rationality and
24 History of the Human Sciences 25(2)
the scientific and social order, was a vital unifying principle aiding early psychologists to
achieve something like a scientific identity (Leary, 1987).
Joseph Jastrow, one of the most active popularizers of the ‘new psychology’ in America,
identified vital boundary issues of psychology when reminiscing about the problem of
psychical research, ‘which in the closing decades of the nineteenth century was so
prominent that in many circles a psychologist meant a ‘‘spook hunter’’’ (Jastrow,
Autobiography, in Carl Murchison [ed.] A History of Psychology in Autobiography,
vol. 1 [Worcester, MA: Clark University Press, 1930], pp. 135–62, cited in Moore,
1977: 166–7). One can thus easily imagine how James must have embarrassed many
colleagues by stating, for example, in his Science review of an early SPR study of
telepathic hallucinations that the scholarship displayed therein comprised a combina-
tion of outstanding intellectual virtues ‘not found in every bit of so-called scientific
research that is published in our day’ (James, 1887: 18). ‘Enlightened’ psychologists
were also hardly amused by the founder of American psychology exclaiming in the
Psychological Review that ‘the concrete evidence for most of the ‘‘psychic’ phenomena
under discussion is good enough to hang a man twenty times over’ (James, 1896: 650).
Among those who felt driven to protest against James’ lack of epistemological
squeamishness was James McKeen Cattell. As the editor of Science, Cattell concluded
a series of heated discussions with James about a recent SPR report on the medium
Leonora Piper in the pages of his journal by stating that he had attacked James
... only because I believe that the Society for Psychical Research is doing much to injure
psychology. The authority of Professor James is such that he involves other students of
psychology in his opinions unless they protest. We all acknowledge his leadership, but
we cannot follow him into the quagmires. (Cattell, 1898: 642)
3
It is on the backdrop of these boundary disputes that certain historical episodes which
have been celebrated as victories of American scientific psychology over psychical
research deserve a reassessment. Among the most widely promulgated success stories
of psychology expelling its unloved sibling from academia were the public ‘exposures’
by two leading US psychologists, Hugo Mu
¨nsterberg and G. Stanley Hall, of two sub-
jects most extensively investigated by psychical researchers of the time: the Italian
‘physical medium’ Eusapia Palladino in 1909 and the American ‘mental medium’
Leonora Piper in 1910. While the Hall–Piper episode will be reserved for a separate
study, this article analyses Mu
¨nsterberg’s celebrated exposure of Eusapia Palladino.
Hugo Mu
¨nsterberg, William James and Eusapia Palladino
Palladino and James
Whereas traditional standard accounts of psychical research have portrayed proponents of
the controversial discipline as gullible victims of a desperate will to believe or as otherwise
intellectually or morally impaired (e.g. Alcock, 1981; Hall, 1962), less ideologically com-
mitted historical research has revealed a wide range of epistemic and metaphysical posi-
tions within the controversial discipline (Gauld, 1968; Mauskopf and McVaugh, 1980;
Noakes, 2005; Oppenheim, 1985; Williams, 1984; Wolffram, 2009). Rather than
Sommer 25
favouring superficial mono-causal attributions, by, for example, explaining interest in psy-
chical research in terms of a ‘flight from reason’ and irrational obsession with the ‘occult’,
these studies have shown that scholars had not only differing motivations leading to their
involvement in psychical research, but – not unlike early academic psychologists – they
were also divided by competing research programmes and epistemic presuppositions.
4
Crude axes around which to allocate research activities within the psychical research
community were, for example, the question of post-mortem survival versus telepathy
and clairvoyance among the living, and the study of physical versus mental phenomena.
Focal points of research differed nationally as well. For instance, while the British SPR –
especially under the leadership of Henry Sidgwick – favoured the study of mental rather
than physical phenomena, French and Italian researchers like Charles Richet and Cesare
Lombroso investigated both areas. As Heather Wolffram (2009) has shown, early-20th-
century German psychical research was heavily dominated by studies in physical med-
iumship through the influence of the wealthy physician and former pioneer of hypnotism
and sexology, Albert von Schrenck-Notzing. While the automatic speaking and writing
of the American trance medium Leonora Piper – discovered and introduced to the psy-
chical research community by William James in the late 1880s – became the most thor-
oughly studied mental mediumistic phenomena of all time, the Neapolitan Eusapia
Palladino (1854–1918, Figure 1) was the undisputed queen of physical mediumship,
puzzling some of the leading scientists and philosophers of her time.
5
According to her main investigators, such as the Polish philosopher-psychologist
Julian Ochorowicz, the French physiologist Charles Richet, the British physicist Oliver
Lodge and the Italian psychiatrist Enrico Morselli, Palladino’s performances were a
strange mixture of blatant fraud and genuine ‘supernormal’ phenomena. While Eusapia
6
would cheat shamelessly whenever she got the opportunity, she was also reported to have
produced, sometimes in bright light and under good conditions of observation and
experimental control, levitations and remote manipulations of objects, materializations
of human forms and the development of bizarre pseudopodia. Many sceptical scientists
who came to investigate her left as believers. For example, Cesare Lombroso, one of the
arch-enemies of psychical research and spiritualism in Italy, attended sittings with Pal-
ladino in the 1890s to expose her tricks, but left completely converted (Lombroso, 1909).
While Lombroso not only came to believe in the reality of Eusapia’s phenomena but also
embraced the spirit hypothesis to explain some of them, most other investigators of Pal-
ladino and other mediums, such as Charles Richet, Enrico Morselli, The´ odore Flournoy
and Albert von Schrenck-Notzing, rejected the spirit hypothesis and favoured a psycho-
dynamic explanation in terms of ‘teleplasty’ or ‘ideoplasty’, describing the grotesque
phenomena as ‘externalized dreams’ of physical mediums.
Not exactly conforming to the Victorian stereotype of the etheric spiritual medium,
Palladino, an uneducated peasant woman, was notorious for her erratic and vulgar beha-
viour inside and outside her seances and trance states. For example, apart from display-
ing a diva-like behaviour, she would, apparently merely to entertain herself, tell obvious
lies and openly flirt with some of her distinguished male investigators, sometimes jump-
ing on the horrified savants’ laps. In a comprehensive treatise on the psychology and
physical phenomena of Palladino, Enrico Morselli (1908) thus testified both to her super-
normal abilities and to her hysteria, a verdict shared by other researchers who had openly
26 History of the Human Sciences 25(2)
reported instances of fraud in Eusapia and other physical mediums while claiming a
robust residue of genuine phenomena. Rather than reducing the phenomena of physical
mediumship to fraud, these investigators tried to distinguish between deliberate mali-
cious fraud, quasi-pathological trickery outside the trance state, unconscious fraud in the
trance state (where ‘dissociated streams’ of a medium’s unconscious were believed to act
out auto-hypnotic suggestions to produce phenomena no matter how) and the alleged
supernormal phenomena not thus explicable. These researchers viewed mediumistic
fraud of a certain order not only as relatively easy to control in an experimental setting,
but also as a field of psychological study in its own right.
7
Though he never conducted formal experiments with Eusapia, James had been fol-
lowing the reports by his colleagues in Europe.
8
Commenting on constant alternations
Figure 1. Eusapia Palladino and Henry Sidgwick in Cambridge in 1895 (Henry Sidgwick; Eusapia Pal-
ladino by Eveleen Myers (ne
´e Tennant), platinum print, circa 1890 ©National Portrait Gallery, London)
Sommer 27
of news regarding Palladino’s exposures on the one hand and confirmations of the reality
of her phenomena on the other, on 30 April 1903 James wrote to his friend and colleague
The´odore Flournoy: ‘Forever baffling is all this subject, and I confess that I begin to lose
my interest’ (Skrupskelis and Berkeley, 1992–2004: X, 239).
9
Four years later, after
studying confirmatory reports by French researchers, James wrote to Eleanor Sidgwick
that now to him ‘the proof seems overwhelming, and it has been an enormous relief to
my mind to quit the balancing attitude which I have voluntarily maintained for 15 years,
and come to a stable belief in the matter’ (1 August 1907, Skrupskelis and Berkeley,
1992–2004: XI, 405–6).
Among the studies in support of the reality of some of Eusapia’s phenomena has
been the report by the Britons Everard Feilding, William Baggally and Hereward Car-
rington (1909). Initially sceptical, the experimenters, expert conjurors and enjoying a
reputation as debunkers of fraudulent mediums, came to Naples to expose Palladino,
but after a series of 11 experimental sittings concluded that among the usual obvious
trickery there was a range of apparently genuine phenomena defying explanation.
After Naples, Carrington, a freelance researcher and science journalist with little if any
regular income, arranged for Palladino to travel to the USA and be investigated by
committees of scientists to bolster the scientific status of psychical research and,
although he repeatedly denied this, probably also to secure some financial gain for
himself.
10
He invited the leading papers to report the results, and the American Palla-
dino experiments were among the major stories in the New York Times in late 1909 to
early 1910.
However, the project turned out to be a fiasco for Palladino, Carrington and psychical
research at large. As usual, Palladino behaved erratically and cheated blatantly. She also
upset her sponsors, e.g. by suddenly cancelling a feverishly anticipated seance in the
Times tower in New York. Despite occasional positive coverage in the press, the heaviest
blow Palladino received in America was a report by the German-born Harvard psychol-
ogist Hugo Mu
¨nsterberg, claiming to have exposed the great medium once and for all.
11
The report, originally published in the Metropolitan Magazine (Mu
¨nsterberg, 1910,
reprinted with minor changes in Mu
¨nsterberg’s American Problems, 1912), was sum-
marized in the New York Times and many other papers across and beyond the country
and promulgated in both the popular and scientific press as the final word on physical
mediumship in general and Eusapia in particular.
Hugo Mu
¨nsterberg and psychical research
Mu
¨nsterberg was one of several students of Wilhelm Wundt who were to become pillars
of American psychology.
12
In 1893, responding to competition from other universities,
William James persuaded the gifted experimentalist to come to America and run the
laboratory of experimental psychology at Harvard. In Germany, like Wundt, Wilhelm
Preyer and other early German psychologists, Mu
¨nsterberg had recognized the impor-
tance of popularizing the nascent science by publicly demarcating the ‘new psychology’
from psychical research. Still in Freiburg, Mu
¨nsterberg had given a popular lecture,
Gedankenu
¨bertragung’ [Thought-transference], which was published in the Berichte der
Naturforschenden Gesellschaft zu Freiburg and subsequently as a pamphlet. He attacked
28 History of the Human Sciences 25(2)
the work of the psychological societies in Munich and Berlin in psychical research,
which, he warned, fatally reinforced the popular view of the identity of psychology
and spiritualism and other superstitions posing serious threats to modern science and
civilization.
13
Without naming them, he also scolded certain eminent scientists who
had stated that psychic phenomena were not yet confirmed sufficiently, whereas, he
complained, it would have been their scientific duty to state ‘in plain language: they
are impossible!’(Mu
¨nsterberg, 1889: 3; my translation). As in later writings on psy-
chical research, Mu
¨nsterberg tried to stress the essential difference between scientific
psychology and psychical research on the one hand, and between psychical research,
which he constantly conflated with vulgar spiritualistic belief systems, and true reli-
gion on the other.
14
Ten years after his Freiburg talk, Mu
¨nsterberg, now in charge of experimental psy-
chology at Harvard, published the essay ‘Psychology and Mysticism’ in the popular
Atlantic Monthly. Essentially repeating the basic themes of ‘Gedankenu
¨bertragung’, the
gist of the article was that science had explained all reported supernormal phenomena in
terms of hypnotism, hysteria, muscle reading, hyperaesthesia, dissociation, hallucina-
tions and illusions ‘and other mental states which psychology understands just as well
as it does the normal associations and feelings’ (Mu
¨nsterberg, 1899: 75), neglecting to
mention that it was psychical researchers rather than experimental psychologists who
had made major contributions to these areas. Mu
¨nsterberg admitted that he had ‘never
taken part in a telepathic experiment or in a spiritualistic se´ance’, justifying his reluc-
tance to gain first-hand experience by referring to ‘experiences of some friends’, who
‘had spent much energy and time and money on such mysteries, and had come to the
conviction that all was humbug’ (ibid.: 77). Mu
¨nsterberg claimed that the only time
he wavered was when he had
... received a telegram from two telepathists [sic] in Europe, asking me to come immedi-
ately to a small town where they had discovered a medium of extraordinary powers. It
required fifteen hours’ traveling, and I hesitated; but the report was so inspiring that I finally
packed my trunks. Just then came a second message with the laconic words, ‘All fraud’.
Since that time I do not take the trouble to pack. I wait quietly for the second message.
(ibid.: 77)
James was hardly impressed by the ex cathedra pronouncements of his colleague, which,
in a letter to Harry N. Gardiner on 19 January 1899, he described as strategically ‘clever’
but ‘essentially childish’ (Skrupskelis and Berkeley, 1992–2004: VIII, 484). Viewing
Mu
¨nsterberg’s article as yet another example of rhetorical trickery he had decried pre-
viously in colleagues like Hall, Titchener, Cattell and Jastrow, James wrote: ‘The inso-
lence of these fellows, sure of the applause of Scientism, whatever they may say, is
amusing’ (ibid.). Moreover, regarding Mu
¨nsterberg’s self-professed eagerness to
investigate alleged supernormal phenomena, James revealed to Edward Titchener on
21 May 1899:
My colleagues for the most part, when invited, have simply refused to see Mrs. Piper [whom
James had hosted to conduct a series of experiments]. [Josiah] Royce, e.g., who had only to
Sommer 29
step from the next door but one into my house. Munsterberg said it was no use; if he got such
results, he would know himself to have been hypnotized. I said ‘bring your wife, sit in the
corner & observe, and see if your accounts agree’. He replied ‘I should never allow my wife
to visit such a performance’. I call that real sportsmanlike keenness for new facts!(Skrupskelis
and Berkeley, 1992–2004: VIII, 532)
15
For whatever reasons, Mu
¨nsterberg apparently changed his mind at the end of the
same year and asked for sittings with Mrs Piper. In a letter to James’ fellow pragmatist,
the German-born Oxford philosopher Ferdinand Canning Schiller, James wrote on 11
October 1899: ‘He certainly ought not to be allowed to see Mrs. Piper. He will be
hypnotized, if he gets anything – if not, he will have exploded the phenomenon. It is too
late!’ (Skrupskelis and Berkeley, 1992–2004: IX, 59).
In England, Schiller had published a satirical analysis of Mu
¨nsterberg’s article in the
SPR Proceedings (Schiller, 1899), as well as a rather vitriolic review (ridiculing the bad
English) of his compatriot’s Psychology and Life in the journal Mind.Mu
¨nsterberg
complained to James about Schiller and asked for support. In his reply on 17 November
1899, James agreed that Schiller’s ridicule of Mu
¨nsterberg’s English was below the belt
and reassured him that he had scolded Schiller accordingly.
16
Regarding Schiller’s review
of Mu
¨nsterberg’s mysticism essay, however, James wrote to Mu
¨nsterberg that he had
... no just cause of complaint. Your mysticism article, so to speak with perfect candour,
seems to me a monumentally foolish performance. The time is passed for metaphysical
dogmatism about natural phenomena and I think it was a great compliment that he should
have discussed your paper at all. If discussed, how could it be discussed but in a comic vein?
Pardon these sentiments, my dear colleague; you can easily understand them; brevity forces
me to be blunt. (Skrupskelis and Berkeley, 1992–2004: IX. 86)
17
A decade later, on 15 November 1909, the New York Times headlined that Mu
¨nsterberg
had accepted Hereward Carrington’s invitation to serve on a scientific committee inves-
tigating the phenomena of Eusapia Palladino. Mu
¨nsterberg was quoted thus: ‘I will will-
ingly serve with a committee of scientists to determine the limitations of the medium
Paladino’. This was because he was ‘intensely interested ... in psychologic phenomena
of all descriptions, and if this woman is all she is accounted, I think I as well as my
fellow-scientists will know our time well spent in watching her powers’.
18
Carrington had also invited James to participate in the media spectacle. In his reply on
15 June 1909, James declined the invitation:
My small remaining energy has to go elsewhere. You’ll think me a mollycoddle (or
whatever the translation of that Rooseveltian term into this sphere of life may be) but
I have a constitutional antipathy to the newspaper manner of explaining all such things,
and believe that they had better make their way gradually into more scientific circles
first, and from thence later down. Eusapia has had the good luck so far to follow that
line of success. After reading Courtier’s report, it seemed to me that it was quite unne-
cessary for duffers like myself to see E.P.atall.TheyhaddonemorethanIcouldever
possibly do to verify.
19
30 History of the Human Sciences 25(2)
James then issued a warning regarding Carrington’s invitation to Mu
¨nsterberg, Hall,
Jastrow and other psychologists hostile to psychical research to investigate Palladino.
He stated that if they ‘would investigate seriously, it would be a fine thing for you to get
her here for them. But I have very little faith in the candor of such men’, doubting any
useful results forthcoming from such a cooperation. Based on his previous experiences,
James concluded his letter by stating that he did not ‘wish to take any trouble to convince
such men as Mu
¨nsterberg and Jastrow’, and, uncharacteristically harsh, he advised
Carrington: ‘Let them perish in their ignorance and conceit.’
20
Mu
¨nsterberg’s ‘exposure’
Aware of his immense popularity and visibility in the American press, Mu
¨nsterberg
must have known that his verdict on any controversial matter related to the study
of the human mind would be snapped up by the media and accepted as the official
verdict of scientific psychology.
21
Hence, like Mu
¨nsterberg’s previous writings on
psychical research, his Palladino article, written after attending two sittings on 13 and
18 December 1909, revealed his determination to cleanse academic psychology from
any occult connotations at all costs and to promote psychology as an applied and thus
useful science at the same time. Commenting on his previous refusals to actively
investigate psychic claimants, Mu
¨nsterberg wrote that, daily ‘urgent requests’ notwith-
standing, he had ‘remained loyal to my program and refused consistently all contact
with the mystical phenomena’ (Mu
¨nsterberg, 1912: 119). Explaining his sudden
change of mind, wrote: It is the duty of a psychologist to examine the totality of men-
tal occurrences, and he has no right to close his eyes on that which seems to transcend
our present powers of explanation. I heard this so often and so impressively that I
finally yielded. I simply said: ‘Madame Palladino is your best case. She is the one
woman who has convinced some world-famous men. I never was afraid of ghosts; let
them come!’ (ibid.: 120).
Mu
¨nsterberg claimed that his scientific training, which, he stressed, entirely rested on
trust, would render him incapable of discovering Palladino’s cunning tricks, an explana-
tion he offered for the conversion of other scientists who had declared Palladino’s phe-
nomena real. Again blurring the distinction between empirical research and ideological
spiritualism, and neglecting to acknowledge experimental conditions in previous series
of experiments reported by non-spiritualists such as Morselli, Richet, Flournoy and the
Curies, Mu
¨nsterberg characterized the Palladino sittings uniformly:
Always the same silly, freakish, senseless pranks repeated on thousands of nights before
small groups of more or less superstitious people under conditions of her own arrangement,
conditions entirely different from ordinary life, with poor illumination and with complete
freedom to do just what she pleases. (ibid.: 135–6)
Later the reader finds an admission regarding investigators’ attempts to automatize con-
trol and thus obtain results independent of the pitfalls of human observation, contradict-
ing Mu
¨nsterberg’s previous statement. But Mu
¨nsterberg had ‘no sympathy with the
efforts to raise the level of the investigation by introducing subtle physical instruments.
Sommer 31
That gives to the manifestations an undeserved dignity and withdraws the attention from
the center of the field’ (ibid.: 140). After speculating about how Palladino might fake her
phenomena, Mu
¨nsterberg wrote:
Of course, there will be some who in reply will fall back on their old outcry that all this is
dogmatism and that instead of mere theories of explanations they want actual proof. I am
afraid I must be still clearer there. I must report what happened at the last meeting which
I attended. (ibid.: 141)
Mu
¨nsterberg then related how he and other sitters controlled Palladino’s hands and feet,
... and yet the table three feet behind her began to scratch the floor and we expected it to be
lifted. But instead, there suddenly came a wild, yelling scream. It was such a scream as
I have never heard before in my life, not even in Sarah Bernhardt’s most thrilling scenes.
(ibid.: 142)
22
Mu
¨nsterberg then breaks the ‘suspense’:
What happened? Neither the medium nor Mr. Carrington had the slightest idea that a man
was lying flat on the floor and had succeeded in slipping noiselessly like a snail below the
curtain into the cabinet. I had told him that I expected wires stretched out from her body and
he looked out for them. What a surprise when he saw that she had simply freed her foot from
her shoe and with an athletic backward movement of the leg was reaching out and fishing
with her toes for the guitar and the table in the cabinet!(ibid.: 143)
Mu
¨nsterberg’s conclusion, to be readily promulgated in academic and popular channels
of information alike, was therefore: ‘Her greatest wonders are absolutely nothing but
fraud and humbug; this is no longer a theory but a proven fact’ (ibid.: 144).
At the same time, however, he proposed that Eusapia might not be held fully
responsible for her cheating. For Mu
¨nsterberg explained that it was ‘improbable that
Madame Palladino, in her normal state is fully conscious of this fraud. I rather sup-
pose it to be a case of complex hysteria in which a splitting of the personality has set
in’ (ibid.: 144). Hence, what previous researchers of physical mediumship had long
come to view as a psychological problem that deserved to be studied in its own right,
Mu
¨nsterberg falsely claimed as his original contribution to psychology: the discovery
of ‘unconscious’ mediumistic trickery. Rather than viewing ‘unconscious fraud’ as a
confounding but controllable variable, however, Mu
¨nsterberg proposed it as a suffi-
cient explanation for the whole complex of phenomena studied by investigators of
physical mediumship.
On 22 January 1910, William James sent a copy of Mu
¨nsterberg’s article to Oliver
Lodge in England, commenting on
... the depth to which the ‘scientific’ mind can descend, in the person of my impudent col-
league Munsterberg. It is a buffoon article, as if written by a bagman. The worst of it is that I
can imagine no process by which he could possibly be made ashamed of it. So essentially
dogmatic is his mind that he will remain convinced to the end that he has ‘exposed’ Eusapia
32 History of the Human Sciences 25(2)
and be proud of the literary performance. Absolutely the only ‘observation’ was the catching
of the foot by the man on the floor. M——g insinuates that this was done in consequence of
his advice, but in point of fact he knew nothing about it till he was told after the sitting.
(Skrupskelis and Berkeley, 1992–2004: XII, 418)
On 26 January 1910, James wrote to The´odore Flournoy:
There is no limit to his genius for self-advertisement and superficiality. Mendacity too!He
would have the readers think that Morselli, Bottazzi, Ochorowicz, Richet et al are ‘spiritu-
alists’, and by lugging in pragmatism (!) he tries to insinuate that I am also one. (ibid.: 423)
23
In another letter to Flournoy on 9 April 1910, James reinstated the previous allegations
regarding Mu
¨nsterberg’s claims to responsibility for Palladino’s exposure:
The gentleman who seized her foot was a stranger to M——g, and none of the company
knew what had happened till after the sitting was over, when he informed M——g and one
or two others. M——g tells everybody (or gives them to believe) that this man was his
employe´ , acting by his direction!In point of fact he was one of the guests whose payment
made it possible for Carrington to invite M——g gratis. (ibid.: 466)
24
Prior to the publication of Mu
¨nsterberg’s Metropolitan Magazine article, rumours of the
impending publication had reached Hereward Carrington, who wrote to Mu
¨nsterberg on
6 January 1910, asking him to withhold publication before a fuller record of the series
was published:
... your remarks at the time, as shown in the stenographic notes, and your subsequent utter-
ances to Mrs. Carrington, myself and other sitters at the conclusion of the se´ance, indicated
clearly enough that you believed and, in fact, stated at the time that the case was of great
interest, scientifically, and that the phenomena were, in a large part, at least, not due to fraud
on the part of the medium. If your opinions have since changed, this must be due to some
cause or causes which I think you should state.
25
Years later, Carrington concluded his final published analysis of the Mu
¨nsterberg–
Palladino affair thus: ‘Inasmuch as I wrote a letter to Professor Mu
¨nsterberg, at the
time, accusing him of willful falsehood, I can see no reason to refrain from repeat-
ing that assertion here. His own dictated statement to the stenographer refutes his
claim’ (Carrington, 1957: 246).
26
In fact, if we were to believe the published minutes of the sittings, there were more
problems with Mu
¨nsterberg’s ‘exposure’ than those identified by James. For example,
contrary to what Mu
¨nsterberg’s article implied, nobody except Eusapia herself had
claimed that her foot was grabbed, and all sitters at the time denied such action (Carrington,
1954: 113, 117). Furthermore, while Mu
¨nsterberg implied that Eusapia’s scream
marked the cessation of the sitting on 18 December, the experiment not only contin-
ued uninterrupted for another 17 minutes (ibid.: 114), he also neglected to mention
that the cry following the alleged foot-grabbing incident at 11.44 (‘E. screams sharply.
Reason not known’, ibid.: 113) was not the first one. According to the minutes, at 11.01
Sommer 33
Eusapia had cried ‘as if in pain’ and wept ‘as if physically hurt’ (ibid.: 111).
27
The min-
utes also state that at the time of the alleged exposure, Mu
¨nsterberg, who controlled
Palladino’s hands, and Professor Bumpus (a friend of Mu
¨nsterberg), controlling both
of her feet, explicitly stated: ‘control is all right’ (ibid.: 113).
Physical mediumship in general, and the Palladino case in particular, posed a com-
plex enough problem to trained scientists and clinicians open to the possibility of the
genuineness of Eusapia’s feats. Obviously, mediums and their investigators were par-
ticularly easy prey for determined debunkers such as Mu
¨nsterberg, Jastrow and others,
who could be sure that the popular and academic press alike would accept their verdicts
as scientifically authoritative. Hence, James, who commented on Palladino’s beha-
viour in America to Flournoy that ‘Eusapia’s type of performance is detestable –if
it be not fraud simulating reality, it is reality simulating fraud!’ (9 April 1910, Skrups-
kelis and Berkeley, 1992–2004: XII, 466) was not the only psychical researcher who
had doubts regarding the value of Carrington’s project. The philosopher and psychical
researcher James Hyslop exemplified disagreements in the psychical research commu-
nity over the scientific merit of physical mediumship in general and Palladino in par-
ticular when he wrote:
The Palladino case, as it has been managed, is not calculated to influence intelligent people
who have no time to spend years and fortunes on it. It only excites dispute and many of the
facts asserted of it are so closely related to fraud that even the apology of hysteria has little
effect. (Hyslop, 1910: 182–3)
28
After James’ death, Mu
¨nsterberg continued his crusade to expel psychic phenomena
from the epistemological and professional territories of psychology. His last debunk-
ing exercise in the name of scientific psychology was another Metropolitan Magazine
article in 1913, an enlarged version of which he incorporated in Psychology and Social
Sanity (Mu
¨nsterberg, 1914), which outlines his investigations of Beulah Miller, a 10-
year-old girl in Warren, Rhode Island. Newspaper reports had claimed that the girl was
able to read minds and perceive remote or hidden objects. After rejoicing that ‘organi-
zations for antilogical, psychical research eke out a pitiable existence nowadays’, Mu
¨n-
sterberg related that he had undertaken his investigation of Beulah Miller from the same
‘feeling of social responsibility’ in which he had ‘approached the hysterical trickster,
Madame Palladino, who had so much inflamed the mystical imagination of the country’
(ibid.: 143). Mu
¨nsterberg proposed that Bleulah’s feats were to be explained by a patho-
logical hypersensitivity, which enabled her to unconsciously perceive and decode subtle
sensory clues by members of her family and other persons in possession of the infor-
mation Beulah was to present. Though not a fraud, Mu
¨nsterberg explained, the girl’s
‘mental makeup in this respect constantly reminds the psychologist of the traits of a
hysteric woman’ (ibid.: 172).
Conclusion: historiography as boundary-work
Pointing, for a change, the spotlight that orthodox critics have put on scientific deviants
back on the critics themselves, a large can of worms threatens to explode in the
34 History of the Human Sciences 25(2)
historian’s face. For not only does the Mu
¨nsterberg–Palladino episode fail to stand out as
particularly ‘juicy’; problematic strategies employed by Mu
¨nsterberg seemed moreover
the norm rather than the exception in other examples of ‘boundary-work’ (Gieryn, 1983)
not restricted to American history (see, for example, Sommer, in print; Wolffram, 2009;
Prince, 1930; Taylor, 1996).
29
Historical debunking exercises of psychical research have
regularly involved intellectual ‘virtues’ that would quickly cost the critic his or her job if
employed in the treatment of respectable fields of study. Moreover, far from marking a
discrete or closed historical chapter in sociological studies of the rejection of modern
parapsychology (the quantitative study of alleged extra-sensory perception and psycho-
kinesis) by psychologists and mainstream scientists have shown that these strategies con-
tinue to be employed (see, for example, Collins and Pinch, 1979; Hess, 1993; McClenon,
1984, and Pinch and Collins, 1984).
30
Apart from the significance of such episodes for academic and scientific core val-
ues we usually take for granted (such as intellectual integrity and academic freedom),
fostering the taboo of the ‘occult’ has disastrous consequences for historical scholar-
ship. Just to remain with William James studies: whereas the first select compilation
of James’ psychical research writings was published in French about two and a half
decades after his death (James, 1924), it took almost another four decades for an Eng-
lish compilation to appear (Murphy and Ballou, 1961), and another two and a half for
the most recent and comprehensive collection (James, 1986). These ‘apocryphal’
works are obviously necessary additions to the corpus of James studies, but their sep-
arate issuing documents the artificial divide that scholars have created between the
man’s unorthodox and ‘respectable’ works and achievements, which has enormously
complicated a coherent understanding of James. This has been documented, for exam-
ple, by Marcus Ford (1998), who published an analysis of the James literature up to
the late 1990s with regard to the implications of James’ interest and involvement in
psychical research. He found that most James scholars have been reluctant even to
address James’ active and lasting involvement in psychical research and his convic-
tion of the reality of certain psychic phenomena, let alone discuss the importance
of his unorthodox interests for an understanding of his psychological and philosophi-
cal writings. Shortly before Ford addressed this problem, Eugene Taylor (1983, 1996)
had started to demonstrate the immense significance of James’ involvement in psychi-
cal research for his work in psychology and psychopathology, particularly in the
period between The Principles of Psychology (1890) and The Varieties of Religious
Experience (1902).
31
In fact, prior to authors like Ellenberger and Taylor, professional historians of
psychology – the majority of who were and still are trained psychologists – were simply
not interested in these issues. Edward Titchener, another contemporary of James vehe-
mently opposing the latter’s advocacy of psychical research, had concluded his assess-
ment of the scientific status of psychical research with a statement that could qualify as a
tacit yet powerful epistemological prescription underlying the academic curriculum
of modern psychology – and its historiography – up to the present day: ‘No
scientifically-minded psychologist believes in telepathy’ (Titchener, 1898: 897).
Titchener’s pupil Edwin Boring, the eminent historian of psychology, continued this tra-
dition and even went so far as retroactively to censor James in a preface to a debunking
Sommer 35
study by the psychologist Charles E. M. Hansel, whose ‘historical’ part, incidentally,
relies on Mu
¨nsterberg’s Palladino account (Hansel, 1966: 42, 213–14). Selectively quot-
ing from James’ last public statement on psychical research (James, 1909a), where James
admitted his inability to account for psychic phenomena with a specific theory, Boring
sweepingly disqualified any belief in psychic phenomena by reference to the ubiquitous
‘need to believe’ theory. Surprisingly, he then also praised as exemplary ‘James’s own
suspended judgement on psychic research’ (Boring, 1966: xvii), neglecting to mention
James’ emphatic statements to the contrary in the same article and elsewhere as far as
the very facts in question are concerned.
32
While pre-1990s James scholarship is perhaps the most conspicuous example of what
might be called passive or boundary-work pace the historiography of psychology, the
visible interest and involvement of other renowned psychologists in the study of psychic
phenomena following James (William McDougall, Alfred von Winterstein, J. C. Flu
¨gel,
Cyril Burt, Constance Long, Gardner Murphy, Hans Eysenck and others) and psy-
chotherapists discussing the occurrence and significance of psychic phenomena in the
therapeutic setting (e.g. S. Freud, S. Ferenczy, N. Fodor, J. Ehrenwald, J. Eisenbud, E.
Servadio) has also largely failed to be appropriately reflected by historians.
33
These
examples clearly show that interest in alleged psychic phenomena has never been limited
to an eccentric or let alone intellectually inferior minority in the psychological commu-
nity. This also suggest that the unloved sibling of modern psychology has been disso-
ciated from its history mainly by editorial fiat.
The very vehemence and affectivity of attacks, and the thinly veiled academic con-
tempt towards ‘the Other’ of modern psychology, suggest that what was (and apparently
still is) at stake is more than merely intellectual disagreements or problems of professio-
nalization. The traditional historiography of psychical research, dominated by the ‘win-
ners’ of the race for ‘the science of the soul’, reveals fascinating epistemological
incommensurabilities and a complex set of interplays between scientific and metaphysi-
cal presuppositions in the making and keeping alive of the scientific status of psychol-
ogy. Thus, revised histories of psychical research and its relationship to psychology
with a critical thrust not limited to that which has been viewed with suspicion anyway,
offer both a challenge and a promise to historians, the discussion of which the present
article hopes to stimulate.
34
Notes
I am grateful to Carlos Alvarado, Sonu Shamdasani, Hasok Chang, Liz Valentine and the
anonymous reviewers for thoughtful feedback on the original manuscript. My work is funded
by a Wellcome Trust History of Medicine PhD studentship.
1. Josiah Royce, undated note in the James–Royce correspondence at Houghton Library,
Harvard, cited in Bjork (1983: 67).
2. For a collection of James’ psychical research writings, see James (1986). While James was
certainly the most distinguished early US psychologist advocating psychical research, perhaps
the most enthusiastic was Harlow Gale of the psychological laboratory at the University of
Minnesota (Moore, 1977: 155–6).
3. Cattell, to whom James wrote in 1899 to express gratitude for publishing his replies in Science
(Skrupskelis and Berkeley, 1992–2004: X, 3), defended James in 1903, when James’ election
36 History of the Human Sciences 25(2)
as a member of the National Academy of Sciences was opposed because of James’ acceptance
of the reality of psychic phenomena. Cattell countered that the academy included Christian
members embracing the Immaculate Conception and the Resurrection as facts, and that, as
‘the Academy would not reject the greatest psychologist in the world on the ground that he
was a Methodist or a Catholic ... William James should not be rejected no matter what his
views on telepathy and spiritualism’ (cited in Sokal, 2010: 33).
4. Compare, for example, the opposing views regarding alleged psychic phenomena in two
leading psychical researchers, Charles Richet and Frederic Myers. Richet, viewing psychic
phenomena as challenging scientific anomalies, strictly adhered to scientific materialism and
held that supernormal phenomena would eventually become comprehensible in terms of a
physiological theory (Wolf, 1993). The research of Myers, on the other hand, was driven
by a personal need to find empirical evidence for the spiritual nature of mind and its survival
of death, though this did not lead Richet, James, Flournoy and other eminent contemporaries
of Myers to dismiss his research as intrinsically flawed (Hamilton, 2009).
5. Though there were overlaps, ‘mental’ mediums produced automatic writing and speech, or
conveyed quasi-sensory impressions, while ‘physical’ mediums allegedly produced physical
effects such as levitations, telekinesis, materializations, apports, etc. For a concise history of
the Palladino controversy, see Alvarado (1993).
6. The popular and scholarly literature often referred to Palladino using her forename only.
7. See, for example, the typology of mediumistic fraud in Eusapia by the psychologist and phi-
losopher Julian Ochorowicz (1896). More than three decades later, Eugen Bleuler defended
the work of Albert von Schrenck-Notzing in physical mediumship against accusations to cover
fraud (Bleuler, 1930). Bleuler stressed the importance of first-hand experience in psycho-
pathology in order to understand and experimentally control for mediumistic trickery, which
he and others considered part and parcel of genuine mediumship.
8. However, James occasionally investigated other physical mediums. See, for example, James
(1909b).
9. Emphases are always James’ own.
10. In a letter to Hugo Mu
¨nsterberg on 17 November 1909, Carrington wrote: ‘In asking E. P. to
this country, I did not expect to make one cent from her visit: on the contrary, I expected it
would cost me a good deal (as it has done) to bring her here. We have not yet covered
expenses!’ Hugo Mu
¨nsterberg papers, Boston Public Library.
11. Joseph Jastrow also conducted a sitting with Palladino and reported her trickery in popular
magazines (1910a, 1910b). Mu
¨nsterberg’s article, or rather its summary in the New York
Times, has received more attention than Jastrow’s equally programmatic and problematic
reports. Pre-war NYT editorials dealing with psychology had a strong focus on Hugo Mu
¨nster-
berg’s rather than any other US psychologist’s work (Dennis, 2002). For details and a criticism
of the Jastrow sitting, see Carrington (1954: 244–7).
12. For biographical accounts, see, for instance, Hale (1980) and Spillmann and Spillmann (1993).
13. This did not prevent him from publishing in the proceedings of the Gesellschaft fu
¨r psycho-
logische Forschung (Mu
¨nsterberg, 1893), which was an amalgamate of the leading psychical
research societies in Berlin and Munich. On the German psychological/psychical research
societies see Kurzweg (1976) and Wolffram (2009).
14. However, as Hale (1980) argued, Mu
¨nsterberg’s conversion from Judaism to Christianity was
likely motivated by political rather than religious considerations.
Sommer 37
15. Mu
¨nsterberg was also living in Cambridge at the time, in close vicinity to the James family.
Regarding Royce’s refusal to test Leonora Piper, James wrote on 19 May 1894 to his wife
Alice that he had lost his temper with him (Skrupskelis and Berkeley, 1992 –2004: VII,
611). Titchener continued to refuse investigating Leonora Piper after James’ letter.
16. See James to Schiller, 19 October 1899 and 17 November 1899, Skrupskelis and Berkeley
(1992–2004: IX, 63, 86).
17. Later, Mu
¨nsterberg ‘defended’ James in the New York Evening Post (8 January 1901) as
well as in the Nation (17 January 1901) against a newspaper article claiming that James
had lost his mind, which the reporter responsible for the statement thought was indicated
by James’ endorsing a spiritualist medium (Leonora Piper). Mu
¨nsterberg, writing in his
capacity as chairman of the Harvard Department of Philosophy, set the record straight but
also used the opportunity to explicitly posit himself as the main critic of James’ involve-
ment in psychical research. James was not overly happy about Mu
¨nsterberg’s ‘defence’. On
1 February 1901 he wrote to George Herbert Palmer: ‘I wish he hadn’t been quite so
lengthy in his argumentative vindication of my sanity in the E[vening] P[ost], which to
my profound horror I find reproduced in the more permanent pp. of the Nation!’ (Skrups-
kelis and Berkeley, 1992–2004: IX, 417).
18. Palladino scrapbook in the archives of the Society for Psychical Research, Cambridge Univer-
sity Library, SPR.MS44/4/2/70. Eusapia’s surname has been spelt inconsistently in the liter-
ature, Italian authors tending to ‘Paladino’ and English to ‘Palladino’.
19. James refers to a report of Palladino experiments with Henri Bergson and Marie and Pierre
Curie as co-investigators (Courtier, 1908).
20. James to Carrington, 15 June 1909, published in Carrington (1957: 41–2). A copy of this letter
is in the James papers, Houghton Library, Harvard (MS Am 1092.1.[20]).
21. Paul Dennis (2002) found that Mu
¨nsterberg was the one US psychologist receiving the most
extensive coverage in editorials and other articles in the New York Times between 1904 and
1914.
22. The original article contains the following sentence: ‘It was a scream as if a dagger had
stabbed Eusapia right through the heart’ (Mu
¨nsterberg, 1910: 571).
23. In his article, Mu
¨nsterberg had justified his refusal to consider supernormal phenomena as
even theoretically possible by stating that he was ‘no pragmatist’ (Mu
¨nsterberg, 1912:
147).
24. According to Eric J. Dingwall (1962: 211), the foot-grabber was Edgar T. Scott. For informa-
tion corroborating James’ accusation and casting doubt on further crucial details of Mu
¨nster-
berg’s report, see Carrington (1910; 1913: 127–215; 1954: 107– 17). See also Flournoy’s
critique of Mu
¨nsterberg’s article (Flournoy, 1911: 282–8).
25. Mu
¨nsterberg papers, Boston Public Library.
26. Carrington refers to his letter to Mu
¨nsterberg, 31 January 1910, Mu
¨nsterberg papers, Boston
Public Library, in which Carrington protested against the treatment of Eusapia and himself by
Mu
¨nsterberg, accusing him of wilful deception and requesting compensation by paying the fee
which he had waived for Mu
¨nsterberg.
27. Sudden screams, outbursts of weeping and laughter, loud moans, coughs, hiccups, yawning
and other noises were no unusual incidents in Palladino’s sittings.
28. The addendum ‘as it has been managed’ indicates disagreements between Hyslop and Carrington
beyond matters concerning the handling of the American Palladino sittings.
38 History of the Human Sciences 25(2)
29. Ferdinand Schiller in England, for example, claimed that his confidence in the intellectual
integrity of professional psychologists had been shaken as a result of
... the unfortunate outcome of my only attempt to enlist an experimental psychologist’s
co-operation in a ‘psychical’ experiment’. He took advantage of the opportunity to secure
the failure of the experiment. No doubt his scientific conscience permitted, nay, persuaded,
him to protect ‘science’ against the possible inroads of ‘superstition’ by such means, but
after this I naturally incline to guard myself against the possibilities of deception on both
sides. For it is decidedly humiliating to have escaped the wiles of the professional mediums
only to fall a victim to the excessive zeal of a professorial psychologist, whose good faith
one had taken for granted!(Schiller, 1899: 359; original emphases)
30. This is of course not to say that psychical research and modern parapsychology stand out as the
only disciplines that have received unfair treatment (see, for example, Mauskopf, 1979;
Wallis, 1979). The case of psychical research, unlike other stereotypical ‘pseudo-sciences’
such as astrology, alchemy, phrenology, UFOlogy, crypto-zoology and cold fusion research,
derives its particular interest not only from its historical significance as a hitherto largely over-
looked ‘force’ in the making of modern psychology; unlike these other disputed fields modern
parapsychology is (apart, perhaps, from alternative medicine) the only – or at least most visi-
ble – one that still attempts to gain access into academia. For example, while university-based
departments of parapsychology are globally on the decline, the Parapsychological Association
(an umbrella organization of parapsychological researchers) is still a member of the AAAS.
31. The recent Harvard-based online presence in celebration of the centenary of James’ death
breaks with the ‘psychical taboo’ tradition and includes a neutrally phrased section on James
and psychical research. See: http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/houghton/exhibits/james
32. James is unambiguous when he writes: ‘As to there being such real natural types of phenomena
ignored by orthodox science, I am not baffled at all, for I am fully convinced of it’ (1909a: 587).
33. An obvious exception has been the Jung scholarship (see, for example, Shamdasani, 2003).
34. One of the anonymous reviewers raised the concern that my claim regarding the contributions
by psychical researchers to fledgling psychology (see Introduction) was lacking in originality,
since it was believed this constituted common ‘working knowledge’ among current historians
of psychology. This may well be the case; however, to my knowledge no historian of psychol-
ogy has ever provided a summary of these contributions or delivered a concise positive claim
to this effect in print, or revealed and problematized in detail methods commonly employed to
marginalize certain kinds of epistemic deviance. These lacunae are at least compatible with –
if not in support of – my broader thesis of historiography as passive boundary-work.
In a similar vein, the same reviewer was also concerned that I overstate the case by inflating
the apparently extreme example of Mu
¨nsterberg as representative of the kind of boundary-
work exercised by psychologists, and the belief was expressed that such behaviour would
surely be sanctioned nowadays. Both the historical and sociological literature which I cite
in support of my claims to the contrary clearly shows otherwise. Moreover, and as mentioned
in the Introduction, to make a stronger case this article had originally intended to include and
discuss the historical relevance of a similar episode, G. Stanley Hall’s and Amy Tanner’s
staged ‘exposure’ of Leonora Piper (which even involved physical abuse) shortly after James’
death (Tanner, 1910), as well as its overall positive reception in the psychological press, which
Sommer 39
space limitations forced me to reserve for a separate occasion. Finally, regarding ongoing
boundary-work by psychologists, complaints very similar to those which James, Schiller,
Flournoy, Sidgwick, W. F. Prince and other psychical researchers had levelled against Mu
¨n-
sterberg, Hall, Jastrow, Titchener, Cattell, etc., continue to be made against certain present-
day professional debunkers and self-styled media experts of science and parapsychology,
many of whom are psychologists, and whose work is widely cited as authoritative and sup-
ported by other psychologists and scientists. The relevant sociology of science literature from
the late 1970s, which I partially cite, demonstrates a clear continuity of ethically problematic
boundary-work, and more recent works suggest that very little has changed in the last few
decades (see, for example, Carter, 2007, 2010; McLuhan, 2010). Even though these accusations
of intellectual dishonesty continue to be serious, appear well-substantiated and have in essence
remained unanswered by the targets of criticism, their reception is limited to circles outside the
scientific and psychological establishment, and they continuously fail to be acknowledged or
discussed in the mainstream science and psychology literature.
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Biographical note
Andreas Sommer, MA, is a doctoral student at the Department of Science and Technology, UCL
Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines, University College London. His research uses
the work of German philosopher and psychical researcher Carl du Prel (1839–99) to understand
historical developments at the intersection between late-19th- and early-20th-century psychology
and psychical research.
44 History of the Human Sciences 25(2)
... In order to demonstrate the strong scientific interest in the psychic phenomena, we can mention the remarkable fact that, in 1882, a group of intellectuals from the Cambridge University founded the Society for Psychical Researches from London (SPR) (Alvarado, 2002). Two years later, in 1884, William James founded the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) (Sommer, 2012). ...
... [28] En el fin del siglo XIX e inicio del siglo XX, muchos científicos y pioneros de la psicología se interesaron por el estudio de los fenómenos anómalos, también conocidos como fenómenos psíquicos en aquel periodo y por parte de la literatura del área de hoy. Como un marco del interés científico por los fenómenos psíquicos, en 1882, un grupo de intelectuales de la universidad de Cambridge fundó la Sociedad para la Investigación Psíquica de Londres (SPR -Society for Psychical Research) (Alvarado, 2002) y más tarde, en 1884, William James, fundó la Sociedad Americana para la Investigación Psíquica (ASPR -American Society for Psychical Research) (Sommer, 2012). ...
... Albert de Rochas (Alvarado, 2016a), as well as mediums such as Eusapia Palladino (Sommer, 2012) and William Stainton Moses (Alvarado, 2018a). ...
... Albert de Rochas (Alvarado, 2016a), as well as mediums such as Eusapia Palladino (Sommer, 2012) and William Stainton Moses (Alvarado, 2018a). ...
Book
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New peer-reviewed journal on anomalous experience and cognition
... De la voluminosa bibliografía sobre el tema, rescatamos sobre todo:Luckhurst (2002);Wolffram (2009);Noakes (2008);Plas (2012);Sommer (2012). ...
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Full-text available
Con el nombre de I Congreso de Psicoanálisis Universidad Santiago de Cali, tuvo lugar este evento “intempestivo” en el mes de octubre de 2015. Jorge Baños Orellana, Mauro Vallejo y Mariano Ruperthuz Honorato dieron cuenta de parte de su investigación, indicándonos al mismo tiempo, cómo se debe investigar a un buen nivel. ¿Es demasiado temprano para nuestra cultura provinciana tocar, por parte de investigadores reconocidos en su medio –Argentina, Chile– estos temas de cuyo desarrollo nos percatamos con admiración? ¿O es demasiado tarde, puesto que las críticas al psicoanálisis abundan desde diferentes perspectivas y la descalificación de Freud por algún filósofo francés de impacto en los mass media, y antes por un libro que lleva el poco amable título de El libro negro del psicoanálisis? ¿Qué podemos aprender de estos documentados conferencistas y cómo estimularán las investigaciones sobre el psicoanálisis en nuestro medio? Ya se ha visto que la sola presencia de propulsores de una disciplina no basta para que sus semillas caigan en tierras feraces. Hay algo más que esas presencias esporádicas no pueden suplir. En el caso del psicoanálisis es patente y para decirlo con un lugar común, patético.
Article
Argument Eusapia Palladino (1854-1918) is remembered as one of the most famous mediums in the history of spiritualism. Renowned scientists attended her séances in Europe and in the United States. They often had to admit to being unable to understand the origin of the phenomena produced. Cesare Lombroso, for example, after meeting Eusapia, was converted first to mediumism, then spiritualism. This article will retrace the early stages of her career as a medium and shed light on the way she managed to gain the attention of scientists. It will also show why they chose her as an epistemic object.
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Julian Ochorowicz (1850–1917) belonged to the first generation of psychologists who regarded this discipline as a scientific, positive endeavor. At the same time, he was a representative of psychic sciences, following a strictly positivist attitude to researching psychic phenomena. This article discusses the key event of his career, experiments with the famous medium Eusapia Palladino, in Warsaw, between late 1893 and early 1894. Ochorowicz's séances with Palladino attracted wide local and international attention and improved his standing as an internationally leading psychic researcher. In Warsaw, however, these experiments were fiercely controversial and, as a result, Ochorowicz was discredited and left the city. As I argue, this dissociation of credibilities was the outcome of a changing media landscape in the late nineteenth century. While Ochorowicz's strategy of boundary‐work and asserting his credibility aimed at scholarly media, it proved fatal when facing intensive, daily coverage in the popular press.
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A review of H. F. ELLENBERGER's book, The Discovery of the Unconscious, opens up this section. In this monumental work the author shows how the main schools of dynamic psychiatry over the past two centuries had their roots in the broad cultural movements of their time. A wide perspective of psychotherapeutic approaches ranging from faith healing to psychoanalysis is presented. J. ZUBIN highlights cultural factors regarding etiological models of schizophrenia and regarding the diagnosis of this illness. He comprehensively discusses emerging trends in descriptive psychopathology and cross-cultural studies. E. F. TORREY has provided us with a preview of his book, The Mind Game: Witchdoctors and Psychiatrists. Based on his experiences in several cultures he has identified com monalities in the activities of psychotherapists all over the world. He offers models based on his experiences with different ethnic groups for future mental health services for these groups and others. The last paper in this section concerns itself with the application of verbal psychological tests in translation for cross-cultural psychological or psychiatric purposes. K. GLATT compared differences in the responses to the MMPI in French, Spanish, and German translations (see also R. Prince and W. Mombour, Transcultural Psychiatric Research.