EXTRA-SENSORY POWERS: A Century of Psychical Research by Alfred Douglas

EXTRA-SENSORY POWERS: A Century of Psychical Research

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To paraphrase the old commercial, you don't have to believe in extrasensory powers to enjoy reading about them. And if enjoy encompasses the pleasures of a lucid and graceful style, then Alfred Douglas wins on that count. He is a member of the American Society for Psychical Research and has written books on the tarot deck and I Ching. But like a growing number of historians of this century-old field, he has the wit and sensibility to describe the naivetÉ of the early days, the cases of fraud, the weakness of some experimental designs, and so on. Douglas' approach is chronological, dating back to Mesmer, et al., and continuing through the spiritualist movement, with individual chapters devoted to biographical sketches of the more celebrated mediums. This is followed by birth of the more scientific approach as practiced by Rhine and latter-day followers such as Charles Tart, Elmer Green, or Gertrude Schmeidler. A pleasant dividend are some historic photos. One, in particular, will either awe or amuse. It shows Sir Oliver Lodge in the company of other bearded scientific gentlemen, one levitated table, and the famous medium Eusapia Palladino. Much of the text makes fascinating reading for psychologists or psychiatrists. The possibility has been raised, for example, that a dual personality may account for such phenomena as the complete novels, poems, and plays communicated to a St. Louis housewife by her contact, Patience Worth. Douglas also discusses the personality problems or neuroses of poltergeist children in much the same way Jan Ehrenwald does in his recent study (p. 31). In later chapters Douglas speculates on the nature of out-of-body experiences, altered states of consciousness, alpha waves, relaxation, right versus left brain influences, and other current ESP items. A neat one-volume reference useful for non-believers as well as for avid advocates.

Pub Date: Jan. 27th, 1978
Publisher: Overlook--dist. by Viking