Essays in Psychical Research

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, 1986 - Philosophy - 684 pages

The more than fifty articles, essays, and reviews in this volume, collected here for the first time, were published by William James over a span of some twenty-five years. The record of a sustained interest in phenomena of a highly controversial nature, they make it amply clear that James's work in psychical research was not an eccentric hobby but a serious and sympathetic concern. James was broad-minded in his approach but tough-minded in his demand that investigations be conducted in rigorous scientific terms. He hoped his study of psychic phenomena would strengthen the philosophy of an open-ended, pluralistic universe that he was formulating during the same period, and he looked forward to the new horizons for human experience that a successful outcome of his research would create.

Robert A. McDermott, in his Introduction, discusses the relation of these essays to James's other work in philosophy, psychology, and religion.

 

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Contents

Review of Planchette by Epes Sargent 1869
1
Report of the Committee on Mediumistic
14
Letter on Professor Newcombs Address before
20
Letter on Mrs Ross the Medium 1887
29
Notes on Automatic Writing 1889
37
A Record of Observations of Certain Phenomena
79
Review of Science and a Future Life by Frederic
107
Address of the President before the Society
127
Letter to J G Piddington on Mrs Thompson in Trance 1904
229
Letter to Isaac K Funk on The Widows Mite 1904
230
A Case of Clairvoyance 1907
231
Letter on Dr Gower and Table Lifting 1907
246
Physical Phenomena at a Private Circle 1909
248
Report on Mrs Pipers HodgsonControl 1909
253
The Confidences of a Psychical Researcher 1909
361
Apparatus
364

A Case of Psychic Automatism 1896
143
Controversy with Titchener on Lehmann
167
Appendix
173
Review of Telepathic Dreams Experimentally Induced by G B Ermacora 1896
180
Review of I Fenomeni Telepatici e le Allucinazioni Veridiche by Enrico Morselli 1897
182
Letter on Mrs Piper the Medium 1898
184
Review of A Further Record of Observations of Certain Phenomena of Trance by Richard Hodgson 1898
187
Frederic Myerss Service to Psychology 1901
192
Review of Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death by Frederic W H Myers 1903
203
Telepathy Once More No II 1903
216
Letter to James Hyslop Supporting the Prospectus for an American Institute for Scientific Research 1903
219
A Case of Automatic Drawing 1904
220
A Possible Case of Projections of the Double 1909
376
Notes
381
The Census of Hallucinations 18891897
411
Comments on Automatic Writing
433
Questionnaire on Hallucinations
434
Kate Walsh and Baby Eliza
436
Cattells Review of Jamess Presidential Address
442
The Case of F H Krebs
443
A Note on the Editorial Method
445
The Text of Essays in Psychical Research
453
Index
669
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About the author (1986)

William James, oldest of five children (including Henry James and Alice James) in the extraordinary James family, was born in New York City on January 11, 1842. He has had a far-reaching influence on writers and thinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Broadly educated by private tutors and through European travel, James initially studied painting. During the Civil War, however, he turned to medicine and physiology, attended Harvard medical school, and became interested in the workings of the mind. His text, The Principles of Psychology (1890), presents psychology as a science rather than a philosophy and emphasizes the connection between the mind and the body. James believed in free will and the power of the mind to affect events and determine the future. In The Will to Believe (1897) and The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), he explores metaphysical concepts and mystical experiences. He saw truth not as absolute but as relative, depending on the given situation and the forces at work in it. He believed that the universe was not static and orderly but ever-changing and chaotic. His most important work, Pragmatism (1907), examines the practical consequences of behavior and rejects the idealist philosophy of the transcendentalists. This philosophy seems to reinforce the tenets of social Darwinism and the idea of financial success as the justification of the means in a materialistic society; nevertheless, James strove to demonstrate the practical value of ethical behavior. Overall, James's lifelong concern with what he called the "stream of thought" or "stream of consciousness" changed the way writers conceptualize characters and present the relationship between humans, society, and the natural world. He died due to heart failure on August 26, 1910.

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