2023: Volume 23

Abstracts from Australian Journal of Parapsychology


Volume 23(1), pp. 6-17

Are Out-of-Body Experiences Illusory?: A Pilot Study


Abstract: Traditional out-of-body experiences (OBEs) are compared with laboratory-induced illusions of body transfer from a phenomenological (i.e., participant-driven) perspective. Some researchers have speculated on theoretical differences between traditional OBEs and experiences of bodily separation induced using a body transfer illusion (BTI) paradigm. Yet, empirical research exploring phenomenological differences between both has not been conducted until now. A pilot study was developed with the aim of clarifying self-report differences between traditional OBEs and participant experiences with a BTI specifically. Five dimensions were explored, including (a) sense of separation; (b) vividness of experience; (c) first- or third-person perspective; (d) association with body; and (e) open-ended self-report. In Study 1, 15 participants took part in a BTI and were asked to describe their experience in detail. Participants in the same sample were then asked whether they had ever experienced an OBE prior to partaking in the research. Participants who answered ‘yes’ to this question were asked to evaluate the similarities and differences between their experience of the BTI and their prior (anecdotal) OBEs. Five participants noted that their prior OBEs were more realistic, tactile, and visceral than their experience of the BTI. In Study 2, only participants who have had an OBEs were recruited as part of an 18-participant sample. These participants took part in the BTI and completed a short five-question OBE questionnaire. Similar comparisons were drawn as those in Study 1. Ongoing research should continue evaluating the differences between varied illusions in which one’s sense of body ownership is manipulated.


Volume 23(1), pp. 19-34

Identifying Spiritual Content in Dream and Ayahuasca Reports


Abstract: This paper attempts to provide an ‘operational definition’ of the term ‘spirituality’, allowing the appearance of this complex descriptor in first-person reports to be identified and measured. It describes the Casto Spirituality Scoring System (CSSS), which is based on the Hall-Van de Castle system of content analysis of dream content and the Hood Mysticism Scale. The CSSS was employed to identify spiritual content in two data sets, namely a collection of 200 dream reports from six different countries, and a collection of 20 reports from people who had undergone sessions with ayahuasca, an Amazonian mind-altering tea. The CSSS was able to identify spiritual content in several areas: ‘Spiritual Objects’, ‘Spiritual Characters’, ‘Spiritual Settings’, ‘Spiritual Activities’; and ‘Spiritual Emotions’. The CSSS can be used to differentiate ‘spiritual experiences’ from ‘religious experiences’, although sometimes there will be an overlap. The CSSS is no substitute for longer phenomenological reports, but the latter do not lend themselves easily to studies attempting to correlate ‘spiritual experiences’ with other activities. Finally, the relevance of the CSSS to transpersonal psychology and psychotherapy is discussed.


Volume 23(1), pp. 35-57

The Extraordinary Case of Bishop James Pike


Abstract: Bishop James Pike was an Episcopal bishop (Church of England) and a mainline religious in the United States, especially on television throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Pike himself expressed doubts about the afterlife, and other fundamental precepts of Christian belief (e.g., virgin birth and the Trinity). Perhaps, Pike was at his most controversial in his book The Other Side, in which he described his experiences before, during and after his son’s suicide. Particularly, after the suicide, he experienced what can be explained as many cases of synchronicity (meaningful coincidence) and Pike thought these were related to his son trying to communicate with him from beyond. In this article, I examine Pike’s proposition, but I also argue that synchronicity is a more parsimonious explanation for the phenomena than extra-sensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK), and even after-death communication.


Volume 23(1), pp. 59-72

A Special Report from China: Some Testable Phenomena in Chinese Parapsychology, and Three 21st-Century Conferences in Kunming, China


Abstract: Parapsychology is on the forefront of scientific research, but certainly draws much debate around the academic world. But we cannot accept the blind denial of so-called skeptics. In China, parapsychology is the study of mainly special people and their special functions. In this article, we present findings from recent Chinese research in parapsychology. We report on the psi potential of blind children and the alleged paranormal abilities of Yang De-Gui, Chen Qui-Shi, and others. We also discuss some key findings presented at three parapsychology conferences at Kunming, China, that suggest psi experimentation can be carried out using scientific instruments. Though the functions of these special people vary with age, most appear stable and repeatable. Chinese parapsychology can be viewed in context with China’s rich traditional culture.


Volume 23(2), pp. 117-138

Spiritualist Art: The Séance Room as Art Studio


Abstract: Artists understand the importance, value, and freedom of the studio space as a place within which the interpretation of their creative thoughts transforms into diverse art forms. Throughout history, art has been born there. For the religion of Spiritualism, which supports a belief in life beyond death, the séance appears to be the studio space for pioneer spirit art mediums such as Victorians Georgiana Houghton, Anna Mary Howitt, and David Duguid, and, in modernity, Susan Barnes, Shannon Taggart and myself, to retire to in order to conjoin with believed-to-be communications from the spirits of deceased persons and produce spirit inspired, and created, art. Information has been sought from Houghton’s biographical journal, Howitt’s notations on her spirit art, plus the scribed statements from Duguid’s séance in 1872. This information, accompanied by spirit drawings and paintings, is explained alongside contemporary ethnographic experiences. Spirit inspired paintings and drawings are the backdrop for this paper which seeks to unearth the significance of the séance as a studio space for the mediums who create and created spirit art.


Volume 23(2), pp. 139-167

Physicalist Materialism: The Dying Throes of an Inadequate Paradigm


Abstract: Materialist science does not see that consciousness is causal and fundamental. In contrast, as the body of nonlocal consciousness research has become more rigorous, more meticulous, what is notable about the criticism is its growing mediocrity. This paper discusses why the resistance to incorporating consciousness in science is occurring. It also discusses the history of how nonlocal consciousness was exiled from science in the first place. And why. In the pre-Christian world thinking about consciousness and its role in physical reality could not have been more mainstream. The idea of nonlocal consciousness and that all life is interconnected and interdependent, and that space-time itself arises from consciousness, not consciousness from space-time, is not a new idea. In the past based on a kind of empirical observational science nonlocal consciousness was so well accepted for millennia it was explicitly put to use in the service of the state for governmental planning. The Egyptians, the Greeks, the Etruscans, the Romans, the Maya, all these cultures and others have maintained institutions whose function was to create a cadre of what today we would call remote viewers, often boys and girls, whose task was to provide the kind of practical guidance one can get today from remote viewing. Oracles were honored. The origins of materialism are presented and discussed and properly placed in their relationship to the Roman Catholic Church. The history of how denialism developed is discussed, and the difference between skepticism and denialism is defined. The emergence process of a new paradigm incorporating non-physiologically based consciousness is described, and examined in Kuhnian terms. And, finally, the implications of this new paradigm are discussed.


Volume 23(2), pp. 169-174

Overthrow of Paradigms? A Response to Schwartz (2023)


Abstract: In response to Stephan Schwartz’s (2023) article “Physicalist Materialism: The Dying Throes of an Inadequate Paradigm”, it is pointed out that the scientific process and the scientists conducting the research are not necessarily one and the same. Whilst one is fundamentally a self-correcting mechanism, the other is susceptible to bias and resistant to paradigm shifts. It is likely that a new generation of scholars will be required to overcome old ways of thinking and make an alternate paradigm the norm. With respect to our current understanding of consciousness and parapsychological phenomena, science does not have a sufficiently solid scaffold to transition from the physical materialistic dogma to a new paradigm. Until new insights (presumably in the field of physics), make such a scaffold possible, the overthrow of the materialist paradigm is unlikely to occur.


Volume 23(2), pp. 175-184

Is Consciousness Fundamental? A Response to Schwartz (2023)


Abstract: The presumption that consciousness is fundamental is one that has been purported often in philosophy; less so in psychological science. Yet, the Cartesian interplay of body/mind holds implications for clinical and experimental psychologists alike, perhaps most importantly relevant to one’s starting assumptions about an ontological reality. There are various problems inherent in drawing an argument around the fundamental nature of consciousness (as opposed to say, another primary quality, including most types of monism) without rounding out one’s considerations from disciplinary input across metaphysics, theology, and logic. Outside of a purely positivist (physicalism) inherent presumption, multidisciplinary dialogue is needed, as to posit that the debate has been resolved in one manner or another leads to epistemic and logical problems, some of which I overview here. These disciplines are thus invoked to temper, contravene, and in some cases query Stephan Schwartz’s (2023) ideas posited in his paper.


Volume 23(2), pp. 185-188

Reply to Comments from Dubaj (2023) and De Foe (2023) on ‘Physicalist Materialism: The Dying Throes of an Inadequate Paradigm’


Abstract: Consciousness is not a fundamental in the worldview that has been the dominant paradigm of science for several centuries. From that worldview consciousness arises, and can only arise, from the body’s physiology. There can be no continuity of consciousness; and no part of consciousness can be nonlocal. This conviction, however, is not in accord with the experimental research; but it still has adherents and it has become dogma, using that word very precisely. Like all dogmas it is antagonistic to the actual facts. It is not, as many propose, that materialist science is wrong. It is that it is inadequate. There are now almost a dozen standardized protocols being carried out in universities and institutions throughout the world, demonstrating nonlocal consciousness, each of which has odds greater than one in a billion that the results could be chance.