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Spontaneous Psi, Depth Psychology and Parapsychology: Proceedings of an International Conference Held in Berkeley, California, October 31-November 1, 1987.

When does psi occur? Spontaneously during the course of daily life? During formal laboratory trials? During psychic readings or channeling? What motivations or other psychological factors help or hinder its occurrence? These questions mark out the general area of inquiry for a two-day conference sponsored by the Parapsychology Foundation in 1987, and they are as timely now as when the conference was held. The ten thoughtful papers and the lively discussions in this report of the proceedings can stimulate the thinking of anyone concerned with parapsychology.

The book begins with brief opening remarks by Lisette and Eileen Coly of the Parapsychology Foundation and by Stanley Krippner, the moderator; they honor Eileen Garrett. Formal papers make up about two-thirds of the book. Though all stay within the broad content area, they are so remarkably diverse that at first glance it might seem impossible to reconcile them with each other. This adds special interest to the discussions that follow the papers, where amicable questions and comments, with responses from the authors of the papers, explore ways of bringing the varied approaches into alignment. Longer and more discursive discussions come at the close of each conference day. About half of the 35 observers join those who gave papers in the discussions, which altogether make up about a third of the book. It closes with a masterfully short wrap-up by Krippner. There is no index.

In brief, the general theme of the speakers is that instances of spontaneous psi lead to theory and also can be understood by theories, and similarly can lead to and perhaps be understood by laboratory experimentation--but the theme is developed in different ways.

At one extreme are two papers by psychics who report selectively on their own experiences. Ruth-Inge Heinze discusses how her needs and her complicated relations with her family led to mystical awarenesses and flashes of ESP, and of how later as an actress she turned to meditation. Now, in her channeling, she has learned to overcome the early resistances that kept her from the shamanic way, and has found that relief of stress sometimes can open up floods of messages from the outer world. Since for her the key to spontaneous psi is working with life experiences, she thinks of laboratory research as explorations of blind alleys, a view that the other authors do not express.

Helen Palmer analyzes her psi experiences as expressions of her own neurotic style. She describes her visions and psychic impressions and relates them to her paranoid imagination. Her moods can determine the particular psychic content to which she is sensitive, and it is her guided imagination that brings the psychic insights. Although she does not add a reference list, she could. Her thesis is supported both by case studies of psychics like Croiset and by experimentation on special targets, emotionally meaningful to some individual subject, that (as her theory predicts) lead to psi responses from that subject.

At the other extreme from these personal revelations are several papers that analyze abstract concepts. The first of these is by Marilyn J. Schlitz, who gives a quick, careful summary of anthropological theories that can explain cultural parallels and who also touches, lightly, on how the theories bear on psychic unity. One of Schlitz's closing arguments is that holding many theories as possibilities will permit an open interpretation of events and recognition of many theories can provide a broad framework that leaves room for insights.

Another specialist paper comes from Vernon M. Neppe, who examines with a psychiatrist's slant the experiences that subjectively seem paranormal. Neppe chooses to lump together the veridical psi experiences and the delusions or hallucinations that seem paranormal only to the person who has them. He proposes a new classification system with 16 axes to analyze this conglomerate. Examples are Axis D to describe the relation of the experience to time and space, Axis F to describe its main focus (in the ego, a person, or an animal), Axis P, its psychiatric diagnosis.

Robert L. Morris explores whether synchronistic events can be subsumed under a simple model of psi communication. In this model, depth psychology would find a linkage between emotional themes, expressed in archetypes, and the psychic information that is obtained or the external event that occurs. He suggests that the motivational relevance of the event shows a causal relation, but that the physical way in which the event occurs is unknown and thus should be considered acausal.

An issue of a different type is explored by Keith Harary: the mass mythology about psi that the media present to us. Harary's examples from movies, television, comic books, and other sources show repeatedly that psi events are portrayed as fearful and that they present disturbing role models to those who have apparent psi experiences. He argues that experimentalists should try to influence the mass media to modify their presentations and to shift from showing these negative stereotypes.

Rex G. Stanford examines both spontaneous experiences and folklore from another angle: their bearing on experimental research. He gives long, careful analyses of the hypotheses that have been or could be derived from cases, case studies, and folklore. He then argues that experimentalists have made little use of the speculations, suggestions, or formal hypotheses, but that they are a potentially rich source for experimental research and theory.

The other three papers are neither so personal nor so specialized; they are more central to the conference's theme. Jurgen Keil presents and defends the interesting idea that when experimentation yields a positive outcome, it is because psi has spontaneously appeared on some few of the trials. Factors that Batcheldor described, such as fear of the unknown or unwillingness to take responsibility for a psi event, motivate the participants not to show psi. In addition to motivation, other unconscious psychological variables inhibit psi, and they also need examination.

Julian Isaacs, in a paper that preceded Heinze's, turns the latter's dismissal of experimentation on its head. His argument is that the laboratory is a good place to study the impact of life events on psi. For instance, one of his high-scoring subjects scored low after a stressful day. A personality clash with the experimenter can also lead to low scores. Isaacs urges experimenters to collect qualitative data in the course of an experiment, with special attention to personal relationships, motivation, emotional resistance, anxiety, and the preceding life events. He suggests that a therapeutic relation between experimenter and subject can facilitate psi.

Arthur Hastings emphasizes motivations, in all their complexity, as releasers or inhibitors of psi. His examples of how they may operate for either good or ill culminates in a description like Maslow's of metamotives or values. There are many, and they include a need for power, for unity or order, for justice, for self-regulation and full functioning, for truth, and for transcending the environment.

The discussions are consistently friendly; they express appreciation of the insights in some papers, of the detailed analyses in others, or of a provocative point of view. They then often inquire whether the approach may be extended to incorporate ideas that the authors had not expressed. The criticisms are constructive; they enlarge; they tend to harmonize the various theses. Occasionally, however, some thing that the paper mentioned only in passing elicits long, tangential comments. Examples are Sheldrake's theory from Schlitz's paper, and investments in the silver market from Hastings's. Further, especially in the general discussions where the observers take a more active part, material that the formal papers omitted or did not emphasize is described at some length. Both the papers and the discussions lend themselves to browsing, because much that is mentioned only briefly can evoke a productive line of thought.

GERTRUDE R. SCHMEIDLER Department of Psychology City College of the City University of New York New York, NY 10031
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Author:Schmeidler, Gertrude R.
Publication:The Journal of Parapsychology
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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