Théodore Flournoy

Last updated

Théodore Flournoy
Theodore Flournoy photograph.png
Born(1854-08-15)15 August 1854
Died5 November 1920(1920-11-05) (aged 66)
Geneva, Switzerland
Nationality Swiss
Known forStudy of spiritism and psychic phenomena
Scientific career
Fields Psychology
Institutions University of Geneva

Théodore Flournoy (15 August 1854 – 5 November 1920) was a Swiss professor of psychology at the University of Geneva and author of books on parapsychology and spiritism. He studied a wide variety of subjects before he devoted his life to psychology. Flournoy had an interest in a very skeptical area of psychology. He did extensive observations on a participant to investigate psychical phenomena. He was the President of the Sixth International Congress of Psychology, the Chair of Experimental Psychology at the University of Geneva in 1891 and was the first professor of psychology in Europe to become a member of the Faculty of Sciences instead of the Faculty of Philosophy. [1]

Contents

Early life

Theodore Flournoy was born on August 15, 1854 in Geneva Switzerland. He was born into a well-off family. His father Alexander Flournoy was a stockbroker and his mother Caroline came from a long line of ministers, judges, and teachers. [2] He attended the University of Strasbourg Medical School as well as the University of Geneva. He received bachelors degrees in mathematics, natural sciences, literature, and engineering. [2] Flournoy also had interest in philosophy, theology, and medicine. [2] Flournoy could have been a doctor, but never went into practice. He did a short stint in Germany where he was interested in studying philosophy. He had a particular interest in Immanuel Kant. While in Germany, he attended classes taught by Wilhelm Wundt. [2] In his travels, he became acquaintances with William James and Alfred Binet who both also had significant contributions to psychology in their lifetimes. After returning from his time away, he met and married his wife Marie Burnier. It wasn't until later in his life that he decided to devote himself to the study of psychology.

Medium studies

His book Spiritism and Psychology (1911) translated by Hereward Carrington claimed more broadly that mediumship could be explained by suggestion and telepathy from the medium's subconscious mind and that there was no evidence for the spirit hypothesis. [3]

Research

Flournoy is most known for his research on psychical phenomena. This was the study of mediumship, apparitions, clairvoyance, healings, poltergeists, premonitions, and thought transference. [4] Flournoy knew when he began his research that he was going to receive criticism from other psychologists, as the research he was conducting seemed bizarre at the time. However, as he began his research it seemed that interest in the subject began to expand in other countries. Flournoys study was based on research he conducted on a 30-year-old woman who he called Helene Smith. [5] Smith was a woman with a regular job and had sound health and mind. [5] She was well known in the community for her spiritual practices. She had practiced her abilities for 3 years before Flournoy began his research. [5] All who knew her would say that she was an honest woman. This is important to know because of the nature of her claims. She was a medium who relayed supernatural information through a tranced state. Once Flournoy got into contact with her, he copied down everything the woman said while in a tranced state for the next 5 years. From what he observed came his most popular book, From India to Planet Mars. The book was published in 1900. [5]

Accomplishments

He was the President of the Sixth International Congress of Psychology, the Chair of Experimental Psychology at the University of Geneva in 1891 and was the first professor of psychology in Europe to become a member of the Faculty of Sciences instead of the Faculty of Philosophy. Flournoy received the Chair of Experimental Psychology after starting and implementing a course in physiological psychology. [5] After his implementation of this course he was given his very first laboratory at the university. However, several years later it caught fire. Flournoy was said to have written a letter to William James stating that he was not upset about the fire because he was getting tired of doing experimental research anyway. [5] In the end, the laboratory was rebuilt, and Flournoy remained there for a few more years before starting another chapter in his life.

Influence

Flournoy was a contemporary of Freud, and his work influenced C. G. Jung's study of another medium - his cousin Hélène Preiswerk - which was turned into Jung's doctoral dissertation in 1902. [6] Jung also used Flournoy's publication of the autosuggestive writings of Miss Frank Miller as the starting-point for his own book Psychology of the Unconscious. [7] Jung was also influenced by Flournoy's concept of a prospective element in the unconscious, laid out most clearly in his 1908 paper on 'Anti-Suicidal Teleological Automatisms', where he argued that last minute visions in suicides confirming the value of living served the (unconscious) purpose of preserving life. [8]

Flournoy was also one of the few scholars of his time to embrace William James' view of the prime reality of non-dual consciousness (which he dubbed "sciousness") as expressed in his essay, Radical Empiricism. [9] He published an introductory work, The Philosophy of William James, in 1911. [10]

See also

Related Research Articles

Parapsychology is a field of research that studies a number of ostensible paranormal phenomena, including telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, near-death experiences, reincarnation, and apparitional experiences.

Frederic W. H. Myers English poet and essayist

Frederic William Henry Myers was a poet, classicist, philologist, and a founder of the Society for Psychical Research. Myers' work on psychical research and his ideas about a "subliminal self" were influential in his time, but have not been accepted by the scientific community.

Hélène Smith French occultist

Hélène Smith was a famous late-19th century French medium. She was known as "the Muse of Automatic Writing" by the Surrealists, who viewed Smith as evidence of the power of the surreal, and a symbol of surrealist knowledge. Late in life, Smith claimed to communicate with Martians, and to be a reincarnation of a Hindu princess and Marie Antoinette.

Séance Attempt to communicate with spirits

A séance or seance is an attempt to communicate with spirits. The word séance comes from the French word for "session", from the Old French seoir, "to sit". In French, the word's meaning is quite general: one may, for example, speak of "une séance de cinéma". In English, however, the word came to be used specifically for a meeting of people who are gathered to receive messages from ghosts or to listen to a spirit medium discourse with or relay messages from spirits. In modern English usage, participants need not be seated while engaged in a séance.

Frank Podmore British parapsychologist

Frank Podmore was an English author, and founding member of the Fabian Society. He is best known as an influential member of the Society for Psychical Research and for his sceptical writings on spiritualism.

Mediumship Purportedly mediating communication between spirits of the dead and living human beings

Mediumship is the practice of purportedly mediating communication between spirits of the dead and living human beings. Practitioners are known as "mediums" or "spirit mediums". There are different types of mediumship or spirit channelling, including seánce tables, trance, and ouija.

Édouard Claparède Swiss neurologist & pedagogist

Édouard Claparède was a Swiss neurologist, child psychologist, and educator.

In psychology, the psyche is the totality of the human mind, conscious and unconscious. Psychology is the scientific or objective study of the psyche. The word has a long history of use in psychology and philosophy, dating back to ancient times, and represents one of the fundamental concepts for understanding human nature from a scientific point of view. The English word soul is sometimes used synonymously, especially in older texts.

Rudi Schneider Austrian spiritualist

Rudi Schneider, son of Josef Schneider and brother of Willi Schneider, was an Austrian Spiritualist and physical medium. His career was covered extensively by the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, and he took part in a number of notable experiments conducted by paranormal researchers/debunkers, including Harry Price, Albert von Schrenck-Notzing and Eric Dingwall. Some of these researchers declared him to be a fraud while others were unable to find evidence of trickery.

The American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) is the oldest psychical research organization in the United States dedicated to parapsychology. It maintains offices and a library, in New York City, which are open to both members and the general public. The society has an open membership, anyone with an interest in psychical research is invited to join. It maintains a website; and publishes the quarterly Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research.

William Stainton Moses British medium

William Stainton Moses (1839–1892) was an English cleric and spiritualist medium.

Sciousness, a term coined by William James in The Principles of Psychology, refers to consciousness separate from consciousness of self. James wrote:

Instead of the stream of thought being one of con-sciousness, 'thinking its own existence along with whatever else it thinks'...it might better be called a stream of Sciousness pure and simple, thinking objects of some of which it makes what it calls a 'Me,' and only aware of its 'pure' Self in an abstract, hypothetic or conceptual way. Each 'section' of the stream would then be a bit of sciousness or knowledge of this sort, including and contemplating its 'me' and its 'not-me' as objects which work out their drama together, but not yet including or contemplating its own subjective being.

Spiritualism is a metaphysical belief that the world is made up of at least two fundamental substances, matter and spirit. This very broad metaphysical distinction is further developed into many and various forms by the inclusion of details about what spiritual entities exist such as a soul, the afterlife, spirits of the dead, deities and mediums; as well as details about the nature of the relationship between spirit and matter. It may also refer to the philosophy, doctrine, or religion pertaining to a spiritual aspect of existence.

Leonora Piper Trance medium

Leonora Piper was a famous American trance medium in the area of Spiritualism. Piper was the subject of intense interest and investigation by American and British psychic research associations during the early 20th century, most notably William James and the Society for Psychical Research.

Eileen J. Garrett Irish psychc

Eileen Jeanette Vancho Lyttle Garrett was an Irish medium and parapsychologist. Garrett's alleged psychic abilities were tested in the 1930s by Joseph Rhine and others. Rhine claimed that she had genuine psychic abilities, but subsequent studies were unable to replicate his results, and Garrett's abilities were later shown to be consistent with chance guessing. Garrett elicited controversy after the R101 crash, when she held a series of séances at the National Laboratory of Psychical Research claiming to be in contact with victims of the disaster. John Booth, and others, investigated her claims, and found them to be valueless, easily explainable, or the result of fraud.

Hereward Carrington Jersey parapsychologist

Hereward Carrington was a well-known British-born American investigator of psychic phenomena and author. His subjects included several of the most high-profile cases of apparent psychic ability of his times, and he wrote over 100 books on subjects including the paranormal and psychical research, conjuring and stage magic, and alternative medicine.

Gladys Osborne Leonard English psychic and medium

Gladys Osborne Leonard was a British trance medium, renowned for her work with the Society for Psychical Research. Although psychical researchers such as Oliver Lodge were convinced she had communicated with spirits, skeptical researchers concluded that Leonard's trance control was a case of dissociative identity disorder.

James H. Hyslop American professor of philosophy, psychologist, and psychical researcher

James Hervey Hyslop, Ph.D, LL.D, was a professor of ethics and logic at Columbia University, a psychologist, and a psychical researcher. From 1906 until his death he was the secretary-treasurer of the American Society for Psychical Research. He was one of the first American psychologists to connect psychology with psychic phenomena.

Richard Hodgson (parapsychologist) Australian-born psychical researcher

Richard Hodgson (1855–1905) was an Australian-born psychical researcher.

Alan Gauld is a British parapsychologist, psychologist and writer best known for his research on the history of hypnotism.

References

  1. Gauld, Alan (23 April 2019), "The Foundation of the Society for Psychical Research 1882", The Founders of Psychical Research, Routledge, pp. 137–149, ISBN   978-0-429-06052-6 , retrieved 17 January 2020
  2. 1 2 3 4 Alvarado, Carlos S.; Zingrone, Nancy L. (1989). "William McDougall, Lamarckism, and psychical research". American Psychologist. 44 (2): 446–447. doi:10.1037/0003-066x.44.2.446.b. ISSN   1935-990X.
  3. Theodore Flournoy. (1911). Spiritism and Psychology. Harper and Brothers Publishers.
  4. Gauld, Alan (23 April 2019), "The Foundation of the Society for Psychical Research 1882", The Founders of Psychical Research, Routledge, pp. 137–149, ISBN   978-0-429-06052-6 , retrieved 17 January 2020
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 WITZIG, JAMES S. (April 1982). "Theodore Flournoy". Journal of Analytical Psychology. 27 (2): 131–148. doi:10.1111/j.1465-5922.1982.00131.x. ISSN   0021-8774.
  6. Stevens, Anthony (1994): Jung, A very short introduction, Oxford University Press, Oxford & N.Y.
  7. Frank McLynn, Carl Gustav Jung (1996) p. 170-1
  8. John Kerr, A Dangerous Method (2012) p. 328
  9. Bricklin, Jonathan, Ed. (2006): Sciousness, Guilford, CT: Eirini Press, ISBN   978-0-9799989-0-4
  10. Frank McLynn, Carl Gustav Jung (1996) p. 146 and p. 565

Further reading