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The invention of telepathy 1870-1900

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The Invention of Telepathy explores one of the enduring concepts to emerge from the late nineteenth century. Telepathy was coined by Frederic Myers in 1882. He defined it as 'the communication of any kind from one mind to another, independently of the recognised channels of sense'. By 1901 it had become a disputed phenomenon amongst physical scientists yet was the 'royal road' to the unconscious mind. Telepathy was discussed by eminent men and women of the day, including Sigmund Freud, Thomas Huxley, Henry and William James, Mary Kingsley, Andrew Lang, Vernon Lee, W. T. Stead, and Oscar Wilde. Did telepathy signal evolutionary advance or possible decline? Could it be a means of binding the Empire closer together, or was it used by natives to subvert imperial communications? Were women more sensitive than men, and if so why? Roger Luckhurst investigates these questions in an exciting and accessible study that mixes history of science with cultural history and literary analysis.
... That said, there is undeniable sensationalism in the act of a medium, who called up spirits that variously talked, rang bells, rapped the table, moved objects, wrote messages and caused people to levitate. Yet spiritualism brought the ghost to the scientist where the supernatural could be subjected to rational enquiry by all manner of different methods (Cooter 1984;Lamont 2004;Luckhurst 2002;Noakes 1999Noakes , 2002Noakes , 2004Van Wyhe 2004;Winter 1998). ...
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This book presents a series of cutting edge research studies in the field of public understanding of science, with particular focus on aspects of informal science education. In addition to providing up-to-date overviews of current thinking about how best to conceptualise the field, it offers a range of primary research studies examining informal public venues of science and mediations of scientific knowledge and representation. With contributions from some leading international researchers, the book provides discussions and case studies addressing the USA, UK and Europe, Africa and India, offering insight and assessment of key issues on a global footing. Challenging extant notions of science-public relations in terms of deficiency, engagement and knowledge transfer, the book taken as a whole argues for approaches that take seriously the multiplicity of publics and that recognise the centrality of social relations and social contexts to forms of knowledge and ways of knowing.
... The origin of the concept of telepathy in the western world dates back to the later 19 th Century when the physical sciences made significant advances and scientific concepts were applied to mental phenomena with the hope that this would help understand paranormal phenomena. The modern concept of telepathy emerged in this context (8). ...
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Telepathy is considered a unique supernatural phenomenon that falls under the classification of Extra Sensory Potentials. The western world has developed several concepts and theories based on the assumptions and experiences of several learned individuals. Here, the present study was based on eastern philosophies written and practiced by Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya Ji, who is the most recent legend with a perfect balance of scientific perspective towards spirituality. His establishments and achievements are unique as they all despite his physical absence consistently thrive to blend both the extreme ends. This research aims to present a concept of telepathy from the viewpoint of Pandit Shriram Sharma Acharya Ji. Telepathy is renowned fashionably for its misconceptions as well as scientific inexplicability. The potential classified as extrasensory exists and is experienced substantially but when it comes to controlled experimentation, it is very difficult to carry out as they are dependent on individuals’ spiritual life and journey. Pandit Shriram Sharmaji was a spiritual scientist who has throughout his life experimented with spirituality on his life. His concepts are not only mere assumptions but filled with deep understanding, scientific references, and research. After the in-depth study of the literature of Pandit Shriram Sharmaji, which includes his huge volumes of complete works (Vangmays) and other spiritual and scientific texts, it was found that the telepathic capacities, through the proper practice of various spiritual techniques and personality refinements, can also be acquired and enhanced too. This opens up several new areas of research in the field of Extrasensory potential, especially Telepathy.
... Se incorpora aquí un tópico habitual en la ciencia ficción de los años '40 y '50. Repárese que, en los albores de la investigación parapsicológica en las postrimerías del siglo XIX, a la telepatía se la denominaba "radio mental" (Luckhurst, 2002). Haciendo una analogía con la radiotelegrafía, se especulaba que el cerebro, asimilado a una antena emisora y receptora, genera "ondas cerebrales" que transmiten imágenes y pensamientos. ...
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El Eternauta, la historieta de ciencia ficción creada por H. G. Oesterheld y F. Solano López, escenifica una comunicación de crisis: la difusión urgente de información acerca de una invasión extraterrestre en Buenos Aires . En la emergencia, la radio juega un papel oscilante, ora informando a los sobrevivientes, ora conduciéndolos a una emboscada. El vaivén, analizado a la luz de la lucha por el control de la radio entre el gobierno peronista y la oposición, así como de las extendidas ideas sobre el poder omnímodo de los medios, ilumina percepciones ambivalentes acerca del dispositivo radiofónico y de la tecnología en general. El análisis, aparte de sugerir una lectura alternativa de la obra, acredita su valor documental del impacto de la teoria de la aguja hipodérmica en la cultura de masas argentina.
... Like so many branches of psychical research, however, it would remain a controversial subject. 13 But telepathic impressions were difficult to control and replicate and for this reason many scientists doubted their existence or that they constituted a worthwhile subject of enquiry. 14 Many spiritualists accepted telepathy's existence but maintained that some of the information revealed by spiritualist mediums could not be ascribed to thoughts flowing into their minds from distant living persons. ...
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This paper revises current understandings of the connections between electrical and psychic forms of communication in the early twentieth century. It builds on and moves beyond scholarly studies that explore the metaphorical and analogical uses of electrical communication in understanding telepathy, spiritualism and other psychic phenomena. I argue that in American and British cultures of wireless telegraphy, electrical experimentation, psychical research and spiritualism, there were sincere attempts to extend electrical-psychic analogies into technological thinking and realisation. Inspired by debates about telepathy, brain waves and other psychic effects, members of these cultures imagined and constructed electrical communication technologies that would address a range of psychic puzzles. Although the technological solutions to psychic puzzles ultimately proved inconclusive, they provide historians with striking insights into the role of ‘irrational’ topics in shaping imagined and actual technol...
... It goes against the grain of mainstream psychological discourse where 'psyche' gave way some time ago to 'mental' and now simply to 'neuro', as the brain, albeit conceived of as plastic, responsive, porous and in some ways relational, has become the psychological subject. The notion of a psychic life is tinged with something unsavoury, perhaps a leftover connection with the 19th-century interest in telepathy and the occult, linked historically in Britain to the Society for Psychical Research, with which Freud had some connection (Luckhurst, 2002;Frosh, 2013). ...
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Psychosocial studies is a putatively ‘new’ or emerging field concerned with the irreducible relation between psychic and social life. Genealogically, it attempts to re-suture a tentative relation between mind and social world, individual and mass, internality and externality, norm and subject, and the human and non-human, through gathering up and re-animating largely forgotten debates that have played out across a range of other disciplinary spaces. If, as I argue, the central tenets, concepts and questions for psychosocial studies emerge out of a re-appropriation of what have become anachronistic or ‘useless’ concepts in other fields – ‘the unconscious’, for instance, in the discipline of psychology – then we need to think about transdisciplinarity not just in spatial terms (that is, in terms of the movement across disciplinary borders) but also in temporal terms. This may involve engaging with theoretical ‘embarrassments’, one of which – the notion of ‘psychic reality’ – I explore here.
... In this vein, historical research has investigated the social contexts in which the interest in and controversy over psychical phenomena and occultism occurred (Brandon, 1983;Braude, 1989;Edelmann, 1995;Oppenheim, 1985;Taylor, 1999;Treitel, 1999;etc.). Nevertheless, in these works and more recent research (for example Edelmann, 2006;Lachapelle, 2005Lachapelle, , 2011Luckhurst, 2002;Monroe, 2003;Owen, 1990Triantafillou & Moreira, 2005;Wolffram, 2006Wolffram, , 2009aWolffram, , 2009b some national contexts, like the events in Spain, are not mentioned. Only a few works on the history of magnetism, hypnotism (Dieguez Gómez, 2002;Gonzalez Ordi, Cano, Miguel-Tobal, 1995;Montiel & González de Pablo, 2003), spiritualism (Horta, 2001(Horta, , 2004Vilaplana, 2006), and metapsychics (González de Pablo, 2006;Mülberger, 2008;Roca, 1986) are available. ...
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The present article deals with a kind of parapsychology called metapsychics (metapsíquica) as conceived and practised in Spain between 1923 and 1925. First we focus on the reception of a treatise by Richet that evoked both support (Ferrán) and criticism (Mira). Then we examine some experiments on clairvoyance performed at the Marquis of Santa Cara’s home, dealing chiefly with the rise and fall of a case of prodigious vision. The analysis gives special attention to the question of how metapsychics was understood and to which discussions it gave rise. The authors argue that the project of metapsychics must be understood within a frame of two tendencies, namely, the increasing popularization and the demarcation of science that were under way in modern society.
... As Roger Luckhurst concludes, his 'only consistency, in short, is his resistance to dogma'. 44 What is clear is that Machen sought always to pursue his own spiritual quest, and though it drew upon elements of Catholicism and the ancient Celtic Church, it was at last an individual endeavour, one which left a powerful impression upon his friends but is now largely overlooked in considerations of early 20th century Christianity as well as literary history. Machen's 'ecstasy' transcended or overrode doctrinal affiliations, but because it was so personal, and indeed, articulated through fiction that was persistently associated with the Gothic, it could not be shared by any readers beyond those who were entirely sympathetic to its approach. ...
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This essay examines the treatment of epiphany in the fiction of Arthur Machen from 1894 to 1922. It argues that whereas modernist writers often preferred to detach the notion of epiphany from its originally spiritual context, Machen’s characters experience versions of it inflected by pagan and Christian religious practice. Accompanying this was his evolution of ‘ecstasy’ as a literary concept; the essay explores the way that the two ideas were fused in fiction such as The Hill of Dreams (1907), The Great Return (1915) and The Secret Glory (1922).
... 147). Luckhurst (2002) notes that of Freud's close adherents in the early years of psychoanalysis, "Sándor Ferenczi's first paper in 1899 was on mediumship, as was Jung's doctoral thesis in 1902. Together Ferenczi and Jung sought to convince Freud to 'conquer the field of occultism'" (p. ...
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Book synopsis: Hauntings: Psychoanalysis and Ghostly Transmissions shows how the present is troubled by the past and by the future, using the idea of haunting to explore psychoanalytically how identities, beliefs, intimacies and hatreds are transmitted across generations and between people. It deals with the secrets that we inherit, the 'pull' of the past, and the way emotions, thoughts and impulses enter into us from others as a kind of immaterial yet real communication. This book demonstrates how past oppressions return, demanding acknowledgement and reparation, and explores how recognition and forgiveness can arise from this. Rooted in psychoanalysis, postcolonial and psychosocial studies, Frosh addresses the question of what passes through and between human subjects and how these things structure social and psychopolitical life.
... Secondly, both X-rays and wireless were associated with telepathy, thought transference, and mind-reading. telepathy, as Roger Luckhurst (2002) has thoroughly documented, functioned as a leading paradigm for whose who invested their efforts in psychical research at the turn of the century. Coined in 1882 by Frederic Myers, a member of the British Society for Psychical Research, the term was an oxymoronic combination between distant (tele-) and intimacy or touch (pathos). ...
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ABSRACT: On December 28, 1895, the German physicist Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen disclosed his discovery of X-rays to the public. Just a few months later, Guglielmo Marconi successfully demonstrated his wireless system at Salisbury Plain, England. This article traces the relations between the early histories of wireless and X-ray technology. It does so by highlighting the role played by psychic research to open the connections between different technologies and knowledges. The disclosure of occult connections between these two technologies helps to locate the cultural reception of wireless around 1900 in a wider cosmology of rays and invisible forces. RÉSUMÉ : Le 28 Decembre 1895, le physicien allemand Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen révélait au monde sa découverte des rayons X. Quelques mois plus tard, Guglielmo Marconi faisait une démonstration de son système de télégraphie sans-fil en Angleterre, à Salisbury Plain. En examinant la parapsychologie comme un champ propice à la mise en relation entre les technologies et les connaissances les plus hétéroclites, cet article reconstruit les liens entre la télégraphie sans-fil et les rayons X. L’étude de ces liens occultes permet de situer la reception culturelle de la transmission sans-fils autour de 1900 dans une cosmologie des rayons et forces invisibles.
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How did a new science initially promoted by only a few individuals eventually become a widespread cultural phenomenon practiced and known by thousands of people? Following a transnational approach, this article traces the introduction of psychical research into China during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Known in the Republican period (1912–1949) as Spiritual Science ( xinling kexue or xinling yanjiu ), psychical research flourished between the 1920s and 1930s, playing a key role in the popularization of applied psychology and mind‐cure across China. This article takes a step back from the heyday of Spiritual Science by looking at the period that immediately preceded and helped define it. Focused on wide‐circulation newspapers, popular manuals and stage performances, it teases out the ways in which Chinese popular culture translated European, American and Japanese psychical research to local Chinese audiences in the midst of China's search for modernity. By naturalizing the reality of psychic powers, spiritual scientists blurred the boundaries between science and superstition in a period when these were posited as diametrically opposed This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
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De la mano de las neurociencias y de Internet, la telepatía ha salido del olvido y vuelve a plantear la posibilidad de la transmisión extrasensorial del pensamiento. Sin embargo, la idea de una comunicación sin mediaciones —nunca confirmada de modo fidedigno— niega la semiosis social definida por la necesidad de códigos y de la interpretación de los mensajes, en suma, por la inevitabilidad de la mediación. Partiendo de que la hipótesis telepática puede ayudarnos a entender las expectativas colectivas ante la sociedad de la información, este artículo muestra cómo el diálogo de mente a mente fue imaginado primero como un doble fantasmal del telégrafo sin hilos y de la radiofonía después; y concluye que los discursos sobre la telepatía fusionan un viejo anhelo de comunión plena con el Otro con temores al avasallamiento de la personalidad generados por los mass media y las industrias de la conciencia.
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L'Autrice rivolge la sua attenzione clinica all'ascolto nella stanza d'analisi e alle diverse modalita di trasmissione del non ancora pensato. Dalle gestualita alle sonorita. All'interno di questo percorso, inclusivo anche della trasmissione a distanza, dalla reverie al controtransfer corporeo, ai fenomeni telepatici, si snodano il mito di Orfeo, il flauto di Pan, il Flauto magico di Mozart e il Pifferaio di Hamelin dei fratelli Grimm. Attraverso il resoconto clinico diventa possibile assistere al momento in cui i suoni provenienti dal mondo infero incantano l'analista per condurla nel luogo in cui la sintonia con il paziente diventa sinfonia. L'inconscio da oggetto di indagine diventa cosi strumento d'analisi.
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William Fletcher Barrett (1844–1925) has long been recognised for his key role in the foundation of the Society for Psychical Research in 1882, but this came after years of working as a physicist and psychical researcher between Ireland and Britain, conducting mesmeric experiments, maintaining correspondence, and sharing research ideas at forums like the British Association for the Advancement of Science. This article re-evaluates Barrett’s career by focusing on his networks, projects, and organisations in Ireland. These acted as bridges connecting his work as a teacher of physics with his work as a psychical researcher and investigator of spiritualism. In doing so, this article also contributes to the history of spiritualism in Ireland by demonstrating the rich connections which existed between scientists, intellectuals, and amateur investigators in the area of spiritualism and psychical research.
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Extrasensory perception has been a thought-provoking subject among psychologists and philosophers of science. The concept of extrasensory perception (ESP) or what we regard as the sixth sense is that a man can make contact or communicate with distant events and people by unknown procedures that does not engage the application of sensual organs. Natural experimental scientists and critics of this phenomenon posit that claims associated with it are fraudulent, pseudoscientific, and nonsensical. The reason for this position is that it does not fit into the whole gamut of information acquired through the natural sciences. This chapter explicates the content of ESP and questions why it has not been acclaimed a monumental discovery. It concludes in its analyses that extra-sense makes sense and contributes to the advancement of human knowledge.
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This article gives an account of Victorian media studies as a sub-field that emerged primarily from investigations of nineteenth-century communication technologies and the century's accompanying preoccupations with transmission and the idea of in-betweenness. Owing to unprecedented developments such as the rise of the universal postal system, telegraphy, phonography, photography, and mass print media, historicist inquiries have proven fruitful for the sub-field. At the same time, continuities between how Victorians (such as the journalist and editor W. T. Stead) imagined communication's unifying reach across Britain and the globe and twentieth-century media theory's critique of this same reach have ensured the sub-field's grounding in theoretical engagements. The second part of the article considers how alternative frameworks for understanding media beyond communication (such as immersion, virtuality, and media archaeology) are currently redefining Victorian media studies in the twenty-first century, continuing the sub-field's robust dialectical engagements of history and theory.
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This chapter examines the investigation into second sight undertaken by the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in the closing decade of the nineteenth century. Focusing on its chief researcher, Ada Goodrich-Freer, and on her claim to possess ‘Celtic’ blood, Richardson finds a corollary for this desire for identification and proximity in the contemporaneous Celtic Revival. Reading the SPR’s inquiry alongside the rediscovery of folk culture and mysticism at the fin de siècle, it spends time with William Sharp, a Scottish-born lawyer, published poet and member of the occultist Order of the Golden Dawn, who also wrote under a female pseudonym ‘Fiona Macleod’. This chapter examines second sight in relation to the interconnected narratives of psychical research, occultism and revivalism.
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This chapter examines the history of second sight through the prism of the late nineteenth-century romance revival in British fiction and the founding of the Folklore Society and the Society for Psychical Research. Centred on the Scottish polymath Andrew Lang, it considers second sight as subject for and producer of the popular romance. Making use of Lang’s extensive and varied writing on the topic of second sight—he covers it in works on anthropology, folklore and Scottish history—Richardson explores the narrative components and generic framing of previsionary narratives. Examining the intersections between literary and psychological theory, this chapter looks at how narratives of second sight, romance and national identity contributed to evolving psychological understandings of the imagination.
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In 1892 the celebrated physicist and chemist William Crookes commented on the existence of “an almost infinite range of ethereal vibrations or electrical rays,” which he believed could revolutionize telegraphic communications (174). A few years later, and aided by Crookes's experiments with vacuums, the German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen successfully produced X-rays, a hitherto unrecorded form of electromagnetic radiation, which he tantalizingly described as “a new kind of invisible light” (Röntgen 413; Warner 256). Crookes was quick to speculate as to “the possibility of links between roentgen rays and the cerebral ganglia,” that an undiscovered organ in the brain might be “capable of transmitting and receiving . . . electrical rays” (Lyons 105; Crookes 176). X-rays, he thought, might prove a psychic counterpart to higher wavelength radio waves, allowing the transmission of messages telepathically rather than telegraphically, and even communication with the world of the spirits (Lyons 105). Crookes theorized that the parapsychological was intimately entwined with the findings of contemporary physics, occupying different zones of the same electromagnetic spectrum. An ardent Spiritualist, he believed that the ether, the “impalpable, invisible entity, by which all space is supposed to be filled” and which contained countless “channels of communication” also sustained “ghost-light . . . invisible to the naked eye” and acted as a medium that allowed “ethereal bodies to rise up” (Crookes 174; Warner 253–56). In other words, the matter through which light and electrical signals passed was envisaged as the same substance which allowed the spirits to fluctuate between visible and invisible forms. These links between the electromagnetic field and the occult, endorsed by Crookes and certain other members of his circles such as the Society for Psychical Research, anticipated turn-of-the-century associations between electricity, radiation and ancient Egypt which, through its reputation as the birthplace of magic, was central to Victorian conceptions of the supernatural.
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There has been consistent interest in telepathy within psychoanalysis from its start. Relational psychoanalysis, which is a relatively new development in psychoanalytic theory and practice, seems more receptive to experiences between patient and analyst that suggest ostensibly anomalous communicative capacities. To establish this openness to telepathic phenomena with relational approaches, a selection of papers recently published in leading academic journals in relational psychoanalysis is examined. This demonstrates the extent to which telepathy-like experiences are openly presented and seriously considered in the relational community. The article then discusses those characteristics of the relational approach that may facilitate greater openness to telepathic experience. The argument is that relational psychoanalysis provides a coherent framework in which otherwise anomalous phenomena of patient–analyst interaction can be understood.
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This chapter offers a biographical examination of the relationship of cinema and the supernatural by following the unique career trajectory of a pioneering British filmmaker. Smith started as a Brighton stage performer whose thought-transference act brought him the attention of the fledgling Society for Psychical Research (SPR). After spending more than a decade working for the SPR in a variety of capacities, he made some of most innovative films of the time, including a variety of trick films that seem to draw on his prior professions.
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Wonder may be an important emotion, but the term wonder is remarkably ambiguous. For centuries, in psychological discourse, it has been defined as a variety of things. In an attempt to be more focused, and given the growing scientific interest in magic, this article describes a particular kind of wonder: the response to a magic trick. It first provides a historical perspective by considering continuity and change over time in this experience, and argues that, in certain respects, this particular kind of wonder has changed. It then describes in detail the experience of magic, considers the extent to which it might be considered acquired rather than innate, and how it relates to other emotions, such as surprise. In the process, it discusses the role of belief and offers some suggestions for future research. It concludes by noting the importance of context and meaning in shaping the nature of the experience, and argues for the value of both experimental and historical research in the attempt to understand such experiences.
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In this paper we discuss the work of the Victorian physicist and radio pioneer Oliver Lodge (1851–1940) in the context of what we call the mediumistic trial of the long 19th century. We are focusing on a short moment in the early 1890s when Lodge’s radio experiments were part of a common expansion into physical and psychical research. By rigorously applying David Bloors heuristic "principle of symmetry", we demonstrate how Oliver Lodge lived in a world of systems-building and Empire-building that enabled him to categorize human mediums, electromagnetic entities and technical media as parts of an indeterminate but unified field of experimental settings. Though this historical moment was to become a unique tipping point in the initial convergence and later divergence of physical and psychical research, it reveals some general aspects of the mediumistic trial in the long 19th century, namely the existence of a common interface between religious and secularist positions and aspirations.
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In Woolf’s To the Lighthouse the metaphysical journey consisted in a loosening of the binary conditions of consciousness in order to make way for a machinic practice of art and an autonomous consciousness. Surprisingly, to think about Lawrence is to ask a similar question. Although their unique modes of literary ‘science’ are formulated differently, on a fundamental level, in their striving to reveal machinic processes in their writing, Woolf and Lawrence are companions. Like Woolf, Lawrence’s project of liberation of the novel consisted in a review of the conventionally human structures of sociality, narrative, and thus more abstractly, of the egotistical and oedipal psychic structures which hold them in place. As I have been arguing, the ultimate goal of this process was to clear the path and make way for a more cosmically expansive and univocal vision, one that would liberate consciousness into non-oedipal autonomy, and include an apprehension of the material and mechanical dimension of life. In the context of the larger literary trajectory of each author therefore, we can see Sons and Lovers, The Rainbow, and To the Lighthouse in a comparable light: all these novels at once explore and ceremonially dispense with their own oedipal context.1 Hence the Deleuze and Guattarian lens which we applied to Woolf’s Lighthouse — which viewed the inhibiting egotistical boundaries imposed on the unconscious as defined minimally by the family, and maximally by God — is no less applicable to Sons and Lovers and The Rainbow, insofar as each text traces these psychic boundaries and their ramifications.
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This essay explores the idea that traces of Western esoteric traditions continue to exist as active, albeit largely unacknowledged, influences within contemporary psychoanalysis through the writings of Wilfred Bion, James Grotstein, and Michael Eigen. After initial consideration of esoteric currents active at the inception of psychoanalysis, the essay examines the persistence of those currents within contemporary psychoanalysis in the work of the three analysts. The writings of Bion in particular have functioned as a conduit for the transmission of such currents.
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Book synopsis: This concise companion explores the history of psychoanalytic theory and its impact on contemporary literary criticism by tracing its movement across disciplinary and cultural boundaries. Contains original essays by leading scholars, using a wide range of cultural and historical approaches Discusses key concepts in psychoanalysis, such as the role of dreaming, psychosexuality, the unconscious, and the figure of the double, while considering questions of gender, race, asylum and international law, queer theory, time, and memory Spans the fields of psychoanalysis, literature, cultural theory, feminist and gender studies, translation studies, and film. Provides a timely and pertinent assessment of current psychoanalytic methods while also sketching out future directions for theory and interpretation
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Book synopsis: This concise companion explores the history of psychoanalytic theory and its impact on contemporary literary criticism by tracing its movement across disciplinary and cultural boundaries. Contains original essays by leading scholars, using a wide range of cultural and historical approaches Discusses key concepts in psychoanalysis, such as the role of dreaming, psychosexuality, the unconscious, and the figure of the double, while considering questions of gender, race, asylum and international law, queer theory, time, and memory Spans the fields of psychoanalysis, literature, cultural theory, feminist and gender studies, translation studies, and film. Provides a timely and pertinent assessment of current psychoanalytic methods while also sketching out future directions for theory and interpretation
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Some of the early representatives of psychoanalysis had a lifelong interest in certain 'occult' phenomena. Although several theories were born for the purpose of understanding the interest of Sigmund Freud, Carl Gustav Jung or Sándor Ferenczi in spiritualism and related phenomena, interpreters usually ignore the changing cultural meaning and significance of modern occult practices like spiritualism. The aim of the present essay is to outline the cultural and historical aspects of spiritualism and spiritism in Hungary, and thus to shed new light on the involvement of Ferenczi - and other Hungarian psychoanalysts like Géza Róheim, István Hollós, and Mihály Bálint - in spiritualism and spiritism. The connections between spiritualism and the Budapest School of Psychoanalysis will be discussed, highlighting the cultural and scientific significance of Hungarian spiritualism and spiritism in the evolution of psychoanalysis. Taking into account the relative lack of the scientific research in the field of spiritism in Hungary, it can be pointed out that Ferenczi undertook a pioneering role in Hungarian psychical research. Copyright © 2015 Institute of Psychoanalysis.
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The pursuit of poetry and the new science of the mind were inseparable strands of the seminal work of the late nineteenth-century poet, psychological and psychical researcher Frederic W. H. Myers. An early passion for classical prosody translated in later life into a complex, nuanced poetry devoted to the performative externalization of intense psychological experiences of various kinds. Myers was a founding member of the Society for Psychical Research and co-authored the two-volume study of ghost sightings, 'Phantasms of the Living' (1886). He also conducted extensive research into trance mediumship, telepathy and automatic writing, immersed himself in contemporary continental work on hypnosis, dissociation, and secondary personality and was the first to describe the early work of Pierre Janet and Sigmund Freud in English. This work, in turn, inspired Myers’s seminal theory of the subliminal self that profoundly influenced the psychology of William James. Myers described himself as a ‘minor poet’ and an ‘amateur savant’, the latter referring to his psychical research. But despite their minor status in the Victorian canon, Myers’s poetry provides a unique record of his concept of poetic language as an ‘intensification’ of private experience, in contrast to the objectivity and empirical drive of scientific language. Myers was deeply influenced by the poetics of Wordsworth and Tennyson. What he admired in particular was their capacity to reinvigorate the classical contours of the poetic line with modern rhythms, metaphors, and motifs capable of rendering the invisible or ‘subliminal’ aspects of everyday life visible, the most important of these being the laying bare of the mind in the act of dreaming, mourning, reverie, and reflection. Myers’s elegiac lyric to Tennyson, for example, written on the occasion of the poet’s death, is a self-conscious stylistic homage to 'Crossing the Bar'. The motif of the immortal journey of the soul is infused with Myers’s spiritualist faith in the eternal presence of the departed, to quote the final lines of the poem: ‘Be stilled an hour, and stir from sleep/Reborn, re-risen, and yet the same.’ This resonates with Myers’s belief, stated in the prefatory autobiographical fragment that serves as a prelude to this and the following poems, that ‘all things thought and felt, as well as all things done, are somehow photographed imperishably on the Universe, and that my whole past will probably lie open to those with whom I have to do’. The proposed article will argue that Myers’s poetry and poetics sustains and develops a uniquely nineteenth-century poetic engagement with ‘scientific’ theories of mind that begins with the Romantics he admired. Poetry created a space for Myers to dramatize the dynamic and evolving dialogue between conscious and unconscious states that extended beyond the confines of the mortal body. Poetic language evoked and explored the mind of the speaker in a dialogic or confessional style, representing a secret history of subliminal thoughts and impulses, rather than prosaically resolving epistemological paradoxes or diagnosing the various crises that haunt the individual psyche. This article argues for Myers as a significant, rather than a minor, contributor to the Victorian poetic figuring of the mind as a ‘double’ phenomenon, to invoke the terminology of the new mental science.
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This article argues that overtly theatrical techniques and problems have played a vital part in the design and execution of scientific experiments. Taking as its case-study Michael Faraday’s famed experiment debunking the spiritualist phenomenon of table-turning in 1853, attention is focused on the crucial role played by sleight of hand, patter, misdirection and other theatrical tricks in it. Saturated in the wider culture of stage and parlour magic familiar to Victorians, Faraday’s experiment into ideomotor activity highlights the many connections running back and forth between the worlds of science and theatre in the mid-nineteenth century, in which performativity and theatricality were not only part of flamboyant scientific demonstrations, but at the heart of experiments themselves.
The aim of this paper is to use Sir William Crookes' researches into psychical phenomena as a sustained case study of the role of epistemic virtues within scientific enquiry. Despite growing interest in virtues in science, there are few integrated historical and philosophical studies, and even fewer studies focussing on controversial or 'fringe' sciences where, one might suppose, certain epistemic virtues (like open-mindedness and tolerance) may be subjected to sterner tests. Using the virtue of epistemic courage as my focus, it emerges that Crookes' psychical researches were indeed epistemically courageous, but that this judgment must be grounded in sensitivity to the motivational complexity and context-sensitivity of the exercise of epistemic virtues. The paper then considers Crookes' remarks on the relationship between epistemic virtuousness and the intellectual integrity and public duties of scientists, thereby placing epistemic virtues in the context of wider debates about the authority of science in late modern societies. I conclude that Crookes' researches into psychical phenomena offer instructive lessons for historians of science and virtue epistemologists concerning the complexity and contextuality of epistemic virtues, and the profitable forms that future studies of virtues in science could take.
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Article is post-print version. The British Academy; The Royal Society
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