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Biology, vitalism, and the "golden era" of continental European parapsychology.

ABSTRACT: The "parapsychological paradigm" prevailing during the 1920s and early 1930s--the period the author calls the Golden Era of continental European parapsychology because of the degree of integration of the field into academic life--is explained (telekinesis as a precursor of materialization and the concepts of ectoplasm and ideoplasty). The author details the reasons for the then proximity of biology and parapsychology and introduced the leading figures in the field (first and foremost Schrenck-Notzing). The basis that the issue of physical mediumism is still being discussed are the unsurpassed experiments of father and son Osty with Austrian medium Rudi Schneider in 1930/1931, which have never been seriously challenged. In these then state-of-the-art experiments, a strong correlation was found between the respiration rate of the medium (extremely increased during his trance state) and the oscillation of a substance segregated by the medium's body and partially absorbing a beam of infrared light--ulti mately a physiological effect. Thus the apparent biologism in parapsychology of that period is justified.

The major positions in biology during that period are reviewed, particularly Neo-Vitalism (Bergson and his elan vital as a philosopher; Driesch and his experiments on sea urchins from the zoological point of view) and its position toward parapsychology. Furthermore, the situation of vitalist biology in Germany is reviewed at the time the Nazis came to power (1933). Also, a few aspects of Nazi ideology--as far as they are pertinent to this sort of biologism--are examined.

The Nazi regime firstly, and subsequently World War II, brought along not only a gap of several years but also a shift in paradigms, psychokinesis replacing telekinesis (which is not merely a change in wording). The details of this shift in paradigms are examined. An answer is given to the question as to why that old paradigm was so tacitly abandoned in favour of the new Rhinean one, whereby not only parapsychological aspects are taken into account but also broader historical, social, and political issues.
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Article Details
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Author:Mulacz, Peter
Publication:The Journal of Parapsychology
Article Type:Abstract
Geographic Code:4E
Date:Dec 1, 2001
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