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Psi and Psychiatry


Edgar D. Mitchell: Psychic Exploration - A Challenge for Science. Edited by John White. G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1979


This chapter traces the close connection that has always existed between medical psychology and psychic research. Beginning with the interest of some of the pioneers of both the SPR and the ASPR in the exciting discoveries of the unconscious dimensions of human personality and the possible relevance of the study of abnormal mental states to their pursuits, the theme of this interconnection was examined by the founders of the psychoanalytic movement and their followers down to the contemporary scene. The contributions from the clinical setting have provided a rich store of information concerning the emotional atmosphere in which psi occurs, the personality dynamics at play, the relative roles of patient and therapist, and the clinical criteria for the recognition of the telepathic dream. An example of one such dream is included.


Psychiatry is the branch of medicine that deals with disturbances in thought, feeling, and behavior. Such disturbances may be mild and reversible or severe and irreversible. They may be functional or organic, depending on whether there are identifiable changes in brain structure or physiology. Psychiatry as such may be viewed as an applied science coming under the broader' heading of the behavioral sciences. The latter designation is multidisciplinary and includes both theoretical and applied sciences having to do with behavior; it addresses itself to the full range of human behavior, both normal and pathological. Several common threads bind the behavioral scientists of today with their precursors of the last century. These include an interest in the unconscious determinants of behavior, the range of human potential, and the roots of eccentric, deviant or unusual behavior.

All of these interests are prominently revealed in the writings of the early group of scholars and scientists who struggled to initiate and develop psychic research on a scientific basis. Thus, major themes filling the publications of the SPR and the ASPR during their formative years were the problems of subliminal consciousness, the nature of suggestion and hypnosis, the nature of trance states, possession, and multiple personality. All of these concerns are very much with us today, in more modern dress, in the attention we pay to the unconscious dimension of human personality and in our various investigations into the broad range of phenomena associated with altered states of consciousness (reverie, trance, hypnosis, dreams, hypnagogic states, psychotic states, etc.). Then, as now, psychic researchers were intrigued with the possible relevance of these states to psychic or paranormal phenomena.

A number of distinguished psychologists and medical men specializing in "nervous disorders" were associated with the early work of the SPR. Their efforts were both exploratory and reactive-exploratory in terms of their dogged efforts to study, evaluate, and record instances of paranormal phenomena and reactive in the sense of taking issue with what they felt were the limiting aspects of the materialism and determinism that characterized the science of their day and the outlook of scientists generally. They were perhaps the humanistic psychologists of their time, open to all that could shed new light on human nature and its potential. Holding that the danger of mechanistically boxing man in was far greater than the almost inevitable social stigma and the frustration of false leads that one encounters in tracking down the paranormal, they nevertheless chose the latter course. They set themselves the task of examining occult claims, including the evidence for survival, designing experiments in thought transference and clairvoyance and exploring the emerging field of hypnosis for its possible relevance to the phenomena they were studying. They took a second look at various psychopathological syndromes with the same end in mind. Hysteria (45, 46) was studied not only in relation to unconscious mental functioning but also for the light it could shed on such well-known effects as the sensory and motor automatisms that often occurred in trance states. Cases of multiple personality (45, 47) were assiduously observed for their bearing on a theory of consciousness and the role of the subliminal or subconscious. Cases of paranoia and obsession (53) were studied from the standpoint of possible spirit possession and the question of the continued existence of discarnate entities.

The contributions of two men in particular stand out. F. W. H. Myers and William James both played critical roles during this early phase. Myers's lifework is embodied in an encyclopedic two-volume study (47). Over 20 years in the making, this work covers what we would now classify as almost the entire spectrum of altered states of consciousness in relation to normal, pathological, and paranormal manifestations. Myers skillfully and persuasively engaged in theory-building leading toward the elaboration of his concept of the subliminal self and his conviction concerning the survival of this self following death. Slowly and methodically he derived supporting evidence for this from the realm of sleep and dreams, insanity, hysteria[1], genius, hypnotism, automatism, and the evidence for thought transference and clairvoyance. It was Myers who coined the term telepathy. His mapping of this psychic underworld led him to what James (35) referred to as an "evolutive" concept of the unconscious realm. The subliminal self, according to Myers, served a higher, regenerative, inspirational function in contrast to the prevailing "dissolutive" point of view of neurologists that these unconscious manifestations were regressive and degenerative in nature.

Myers concluded that the various states alluded to above could be best linked together and explained in terms of a subliminal self that constituted an unconscious, but organized, agency, one that was active at all times but that only under special circumstances could break through into consciousness. Hypnotic phenomena, for example, occurred as a consequence of a successful appeal to the subliminal self through suggestion. More esoteric phenomena such as phantasms of the living and dead, bilocation, or traveling clairvoyance suggested that the subliminal self could establish independent relations with space as well as with other minds. Mediumistic trances, hypnosis, and reverie were all states favorable for the breakthrough of sensory (hallucinatory experiences) and motor automatisms (automatic writing, etc.). Viewed from the waking state these various properties of the subliminal self appeared discontinuous. Myers sought to establish them in their unity and continuity, suggesting that each merged imperceptibly into the next. Thus, hyperesthesia or increased sensory acuity merged into telepathy. This in turn merged into phantasmogenetic telepathy in which the phantasm of a living person might appear to a percipient and, finally, the phantasmogenetic space invasion by a dead person, or - in more common parlance - a ghost.

William James maintained a strong and even passionate interest in psychic research in the last 30 years of his life and was active in both the SPR and ASPR, lending his prestige to both organizations. His open empirical approach to the psychological realities of man did not stop short in the face of those difficult or seemingly impossible to explain. He discovered the well-known medium Mrs. Piper and engaged in many sittings with her.[2] A keen admirer of Myers, he took issue with his particular formulation of survival, preferring his own transmission theory (36), namely, that individual consciousness flowed from, and back to, a universal stream.

Another leading figure who engaged with the challenge of psychical research from a psychological point of view was the neurologist and medical psychologist T. Weir Mitchell. In his writings on multiple personality (43, 44) and hysteria (45), he conjectured on the possible relevance of psychic research to these syndromes. Early investigators, including Mitchell, were intrigued by the possibility that supernormal powers (44) might occasionally be manifest in the more dramatic instances of dissociated states, particularly under circumstances where seemingly distinct and separate personalities seemed to emerge (41, 45).

Mitchell, like James, acknowledged the importance of psychic research, James in relation to psychology in general and Mitchell in relation to psychopathology. Streams of thought had been coming together in the work of a number of various investigators (30, 31, 35, 41, 45, 47, 52, 53) linking dissociated states and hysteria to the diverse and supernormal properties of what was variously called the subconscious (65, 66), the subliminal (47), and the coconscious (52), as well as to speculative theories concerning the human soul (35, 41, 47). With the establishment of Freudian psychoanalysis, this richly speculative period seemed to go out of fashion (as indeed did the syndrome itself of multiple personality). The streams that had been coming together now separated, psychic research going in one direction and psychoanalytic psychiatry in another. This was the general trend, although there were people in both camps, Freud included, who tried to bridge the gap and people who, like Mitchell, felt it could be bridged. With the advent of psychoanalysis, however, a narrower instinctual and biological view replaced the more broadly philosophical and more richly speculative and imaginative view of the hidden dimensions of personality that so characterized the thinking of the early pioneers in psychic research. Interestingly enough, it is precisely this more expansive view of human potential that is coming back into focus in reaction to the mechanistic framework of much of modern psychiatry. And, as was the case a century ago, the link to the paranormal is also becoming more apparent.

Edmund Gurney, a scholar with a medical background, made many notable contributions to the early history of hypnosis and to the careful recording of cases. of phantasms of the living. He elucidated the various stages of hypnosis and the range of memory under hypnosis and felt that hypnotic phenomena suggested the persistence of an hypnotic self as an agency in its own right, a remembering and reasoning entity persisting into the waking state (30, 31) .

The idea of an agency with special powers derived further support from the French investigators studying hypnosis at a distance. Gibert, a French physician working with a middle-aged peasant woman, was able, among other things, to induce hypnotic trance by mental commands when he himself was situated at a considerable distance from the subject - for example, in another part of the town. The distinguished psychiatrist Pierre Janet and the Nobel laureate physiologist Charles Richet both witnessed and reported these experiments (37, 54). Richet conducted experiments on his own suggesting that the woman had telepathic abilities while in a hypnotic trance.


Sigmund Freud devoted several papers (26-29) to a consideration of the occult and, more specifically, to the questions of the relationship of psychoanalysis to telepathy and of dreams to telepathy. In his public statements there is no question that he seriously entertained the telepathy hypothesis, although he consistently stopped short of any indication that he himself had any firm conviction about the matter. Despite this equivocation, he offered practical and theoretical suggestions from a psychoanalytic perspective as to how to make the prognostications of fortunetellers and others claiming occult powers dynamically understandable. He suggested that information is picked up via thought transference from the unconscious of the person seeking the reading and the logical inferences are then fed back as seemingly accurate prognostications.

For the most part the material Freud worked with was secondhand. He did, however, come to certain conclusions on the basis of the facts called to his attention. One was that someday claims concerning thought transference might have to be taken seriously. Another was that telepathic information reaching the unconscious is subject to the same laws of transformation as other material rising into consciousness. He accordingly emphasized that telepathy, were it to be established, would have no bearing on the theory of dream formation. Whereas his discovery of the dynamic transformation of unconsciously perceived telepathy content was in fact an important step forward, his point about dream theory seems gratuitous and unwarranted in the face of how ignorant we still are concerning the nature of the relationship between the paranormal and the various states of consciousness.

The most complete account of Freud's encounter with the occult appears in Ernest Jones's biography (38). Here the disparity between Freud's public position of interested, but neutral, openness and his private statements concerning his growing conviction that thought transference may represent the pure and important distillate from the morass of the occult comes most sharply into focus. Jones exerted a powerful negative influence on Freud with regard to occult matters, stressing the harmful impact that any dabbling in this field by the founder of psychoanalysis would have on the then controversial public image that newborn specialty was itself experiencing at that point in its history. A countervailing pull came from another disciple, Ferenczi, who matched Jones's closed-mindedness with an opposite measure of belief. Jones's caveats were the stronger, and Freud's most explicit public statement (29) did not appear until after his death in 1939.

On the private side, Freud maintained membership in both the British and American societies (38) , published an article in the Proceedings of the British society (25) and engaged in a lively correspondence with some of the leading psychic researchers of the day. In a letter to Hereward Carrington, Freud acknowledges that if he had his life to live over, he would devote it to psychic research (38). Although Freud later denied the contents of this letter, Jones himself, on the basis of an exact copy provided by Fodor, came to the conclusion that it was true.

Perhaps the most dramatic confrontations around occult issues occurred between Freud and Jung. The background of Jung's interest in the occult and in the emerging discipline of parapsychology is given in Jung's autobiographical volume (39). The development and exposition of the theoretical system he evolved to account for the range of inexplicable phenomena noted by psychic researchers appears in a book written in collaboration with the physicist Wolfgang Pauli (40).

Jung's interest early in his own life may have stemmed from the stories his mother told of her encounters with "ghostly phenomena" and "presentiments." At any rate, he had his own share of clairvoyant and precognitive dreams and on rare occasions witnessed what he felt to be genuine PK effects. He devoted his doctoral thesis to work based on experiments he had conducted with a 15-year-old cousin whom he considered a medium. He himself participated in mediumistic experiments conducted by the then prominent German psychiatrist and psychic researcher Albert von Schrenck-Notzing (58). These s�ances involved one of the most famous mediums of the time, Rudi Schneider, and the results were impressive to Jung. Eugen Bleuler, the distinguished Swiss psychiatrist, also attended these sittings.

Jung became more and more convinced that paranormal phenomena could not be accounted for within the accepted scientific doctrine of causality. One had to look elsewhere for an explanatory system. He postulated the theory of acausal meaningful coincidences or synchronicity (40), whereby events that appear to be intrinsically meaningful and that cannot be accounted for on the basis of any chain of causal events are nevertheless linked together on the basis of meaning and come into being as a consequence of the realization, or "constellation," of an archetypal upsurge precipitated by the context in which the coincidental events occur. Jung thus postulates a coming together in a meaningful way of an event in the outside world synchronously with a subjective state and where the meaning can be understood in relation to the specific archetype energized at that moment in time.

Jung regarded the work of Rhine and his co-workers as establishing the existence of this acausal order, an order that could not be accounted for in terms of space, time, causality, or energy relations. He felt that the further elaboration and experimental verification of this principle of acausal synchronicity would require a fresh look at both Eastern philosophy and the mantric and divinatory practices that characterized ancient Chinese and other oriental cultures. This led Jung into active explorations of astrology and observations using the I Ching, seeking further corroboration of the dovetailing of outer and inner events that were psychologically meaningful to the individual involved. Jung's investment in the occult was too much for Freud and was one of the issues leading to the break between them.


Some interest in the subject of telepathy was manifest among the early disciples of Freud and the early practitioners of psychoanalysis. Stekel's report (67) in support of the telepathy hypothesis appeared two years before Freud's first published account. As might be expected, the controversial nature of the subject exerted a polarizing influence on those enthusiasts of the psychoanalytic method who themselves were engaged in a struggle to establish a scientific beachhead of their own. As already noted, the strongest negative voice was that of Ernest Jones, who strongly cautioned Freud against the danger to psychoanalysis that would be posed should the founder himself publicly and favorably acknowledge his interest in the subject. That this influence was effective is apparent in the discrepancies that exist between Freud's public utterances and his more private admissions as noted in recorded comments and in his correspondence.

The psychoanalytic and psychiatric writings on the subject served to clarify the interpersonal context in which telepathic events were reported in the clinical setting, either in the form of exchanges between therapist and patient during the analytic hour or in the form of a telepathic dream reported by the patient. It failed, as even its most avid proponents knew it would, to bring about any substantial increase in scientific respectability and, more important, responsibility toward the field of psychic research. Attacks from within the psychiatric arena were based on the ease with which alternative dynamic explanations based on the wish-fulfilling propensities of the unconscious could account for much of the evidence offered in support of the telepathy hypothesis. Critics from the outside took very little heed of the clinical data, lacking as it did any quantitative dimensions as well as any controlled or experimental base.

Despite the generally negative atmosphere that prevailed toward this subject during the first half of this century (an atmosphere that in any final reckoning would be hard to account for in the face of the evidence, clinical and experimental, that had accumulated by that time), a number of noteworthy contributions were made. Many of these early contributions have been compiled in a work by Devereux (4).

Although Freud foresaw much that was later written about telepathy and psychoanalysis - that is, the distortion that unconsciously perceived telepathic content was subjected to, and the significance of countertransferential factors[3] - it remained the task of later analysts to explicate more fully these relationships based directly on their own clinical case material. Holl�s (34) noted a number of characteristics of the telepathic dream, emphasizing the importance of libidinal and affective aspects of the message, the role of repression (the connection of the message with a wish in the process of being repressed), and the vulnerability of the analyst as the source of the message as a consequence of the operation of countertransference. Hann-Kende (32) and Servadio (62) linked the occurrence of telepathic events to transferential factors, positive transference favoring the occurrence. Ehrenwald (6) arrived at a more specific formulation based both on investigations he carried out with a gifted subject and on clinical observations. He referred to telepathy as a minus function, one that developed in a compensatory way to offset a preexisting lack or handicap. He also reexamined the psychopathology of the psychoses in the light of the telepathy hypothesis and suggested that in schizophrenia, the individual is deluged by, and fails to cope with, heteropsychic (telepathically perceived external content) as contrasted to autopsychic content (derived from within). Burlingham's observations (1) led her to speculate concerning the possible role of telepathy in the early mother-child situation.

It is of interest to see how writers, often dealing with very similar material, come to different conclusions when what is at issue is the serious consideration of the telepathy hypothesis. Some, like Hitschmann (33), Zulliger (77), and Schilder (56), prefer an explanation based on a rather extended view of coincidence acting in combination with unconscious dynamisms. Some, like Deutsch (3) and Saul (56), stress the existence of a heightened sensitivity of normal powers occurring under certain circumstances-that is, intuitive empathy in the case of the former and heightened sensitivity in the case of the latter. Hann-Kende (32), Deutsch (3), and Holl�s (34) each stress the emergence of these special sensitivities under conditions where the therapist, because of his own preoccupations, turns away from the patient. This decathexis or withdrawal of attention (and libido) from the plight of the patient creates a condition of stress for the patient and provides a favorable setting for a telepathic event to occur. This is interpreted by Hann-Kende as a maneuver within the framework of a positive transference aimed at regaining the analyst's attention. Roheim (55) linked the telepathic event to the same unconscious voyeuristic needs initially related to the primal scene.

There was agreement among a number of these writers that psychoanalytic theory could be used to expose and reveal a telepathic event. By the same token psychoanalytic theory could unmask a case of presumptive telepathy, establishing it instead as a case of pseudotelepathy.


Two articles by Eisenbud (13, 14) resulted in a resurgence of interest in the subject of telepathy and dreams. He has perhaps been bolder than most others in ferreting out and working through possible telepathic linkages not only between his patients and himself but also among his patients. Agreeing with earlier writers ( 34, 62 ) concerning the connection of telepathy to repression, he emphasized that this was true for both patient and analyst. He stressed the ubiquitousness of telepathy and that if properly recognized and dealt with it could augment, extend and validate psychoanalytic theory. Eisenbud made active and explicit use of the telepathy hypothesis in his work with patients. His book (18 ) provides many fascinating accounts of telepathic interplay between his patients, including the occasional occurrence of a r�ve � deux, as well as telepathic events and dreams touching on intimate and highly charged aspects of his own life.

In 1948 a medical section of the ASPR was established to further interest and study of psi in the psychotherapeutic setting. Prominent among the founders and participants were Eisenbud, Ehrenwald, Meerloo, Booth, Pedersen-Krag, Laidlaw, and Ullman. During the eight years of its existence, it served the useful purpose of allowing a small, but enthusiastic, group of psychiatrists to share and evaluate the telepathic incidents that came to their attention, to discuss dynamics from a variety of points of view and to work out criteria for the recognition and identification of a dream or other report as telepathic (9, 72). Much of the material presented at these meetings later appeared in the literature, and many of the participants maintained an active interest long after the section itself was disbanded.

Pedersen-Krag (49), influenced by Eisenbud, noted presumptively telepathic events in a number of her patients. This kind of receptivity and openness to the phenomenon seems to be a factor in its occurrence, much as more favorable attitudes among percipients in experimental studies yield more positive results.

Fodor (21) noted the occurrence of shared dreams between several of his patients as well as between his patients and himself. He regarded telepathy as a cognitive faculty of the unconscious. Love prepared the unconscious for telepathic communication.

The strongest critical voice to be raised in response to the clinical evidence offered in support of telepathy was that of Ellis (20). He felt that the factor of coincidence was underplayed in a kind of unconsciously motivated self-serving search for correspondences. In this way a forced fit was established between the events reported by the patient and the so-called telepathically perceived events in the life of the therapist. Although somewhat polemical exchanges ensued in the wake of Ellis's critique (4), an exchange critical of both his knowledge of the literature of parapsychology and psychoanalytic theory, the fact remains that the evidence from clinical sources simply was not compelling enough to turn a skeptic into a supporter.

Early clinical observations and speculations developed along two lines. In the one instance, emphasis remained on the intactness and integrity of the psychoanalytic method with psi effects noted as occasional, but meaningful, eruptions from an archaic residue from our phylogenetic heritage. Freud set the tone for this point of view, and it was basically the one adhered to by a number of writers down to the present day, with each in his own way contributing either new observations or important points of emphasis. Thus, Stekel (67) underscored the importance of a charged significant relationship between patient and therapist as a condition for the appearance of telepathy. In addition to Freud (28), Ehrenwald (9), Fodor (22, 23), Peerbolte (50, 51), Meerloo (42), and Servadio (64) all regarded these effects as linked to an archaic communicative system gradually submerged in the course of man's evolution because of its dysfunctional adaptive features. In a monograph devoted to the theme of telepathy as an archaic mode of communication, Meerloo (42) accounts for sudden mass reactions and panics and for the occasional eruption of telepathic happenings in the clinical situation on the basis of the reemergence of this information-gathering and communication system when other forms of communication are "congested or frustrated," Fodor (23) and Peerbolte (50) described psi as an archaic mode originating in the symbiotic relationship of the mother and child at the prenatal stage of development. Ehrenwald (12), more in keeping with observable facts, suggested that the early parent-child symbiosis formed the nexus for future paranormal abilities. Schwarz (61), eschewing theoretical controversy, documented a great many instances of telepathic interplay involving him, his wife, and their children throughout the entire course of their childhood. His book contains a total of 505 such pointed vignettes, in which the effects sometimes extended to patients and others as well. As therapists took a closer look at psi in the clinical setting and as their initial hesitations, defensiveness, and inhibitions were ignored, were rationalized, or simply faded away, the implications of the telepathy hypothesis inevitably extended the range of operations beyond that of the dyadic patient-therapist relationship. Fodor (21) spoke of "telepathy � trois" and also cited telepathic exchanges between pairs of patients. Eisenbud (18) also wrote about telepathic networks involving a number of his patients and himself. Coleman (2) called attention to the telepathic sensing by patients of the intrusion of a third force in the person of the supervising analyst. She referred to this as the paranormal triangle and, along with Eisenbud and Peerbolte, emphasized its origin in the oedipal conflict.

The existence of an altered state of consciousness on the part of one or both participants in a telepathic occurrence has been noted by Ehrenwald (5) (he uses the term minus function to refer to a deficit state of any kind, including sleep and dreams as well as the passive quiescent state structured by the analytic situation itself), Schwartz (61) (the occurrence of "mental diplopia" or minor dissociated states-momentary reverie or distraction), Servadio (62) (state of impaired awareness), and Ullman and Krippner (75) (the facilitating influence of dreaming).

Specific characterological features seen in patients who appear to be star telepathic performers (withdrawn, borderline, schizoid, narcissistic character structures) were noted by Ehrenwald (6), Ullman (70), and Coleman (2). It should be noted that this is only in apparent contradiction to the fact that under experimental circumstances, healthier and more outgoing types do better. The goals in the two situations are quite different. In the clinical situation the patient may be compelled to employ telepathy for immediate and vital self-protective reasons, because characterological handicaps limit more direct kinds of exchanges. Under natural circumstances or under experimental conditions, the healthier person may have a greater ability to deploy his psi abilities under circumstances where the limitations are objective and imposed from without instead of being subjective and characterologically imposed.

The problem of precognition, which in the anecdotal literature is more frequently linked to dreams than is telepathy, has come under scrutiny in the clinical context and has been reported on by Fodor (24), Ehrenwald (7), Meerloo (42), Servadio (64), Eisenbud (17), and Nelson (48). The last notes two kinds of functional relationships linked to the precognitive experience. One is referred to as paranormal preening and comes about in the interest of self-praise or ego enhancement. The other is revelatory in nature and involves the transformation from a closed, or self-contained, context into a more open, interpersonal one where an event in the outside world is precognized in the interest of extending beyond the confines of the self. Ehrenwald and Servadio stress the influence of the operation of unconscious dynamic configurations evolving in the two parties concerned and surfacing in what then appears as a precognized event. Eisenbud simply notes such "chronologically extraordinary correspondences" as facts of our psychic life, dynamically significant and therefore meaningful to the psychoanalyst.

Telepathy between husband and wife has been noted by Fodor (21) , Schwarz (61), and Nelson (48).

Telepathy and possible psychosomatic complications is referred to in passing by Eisenbud (13) and is again raised as a possibility by Stevenson (69) in his discussion of telepathic impressions and by Schwarz (59), who refers to them as telesomatic effects. Stevenson cites cases suggestive of the paranormal transmission of pain and other physical symptoms and calls attention to the possible implication of such transmission in obscuring physical symptoms and psychosomatic syndromes in general.

A second trend evolved as psychiatrists attempted to come to terms with the challenge of psi. Here the concern was not with how to fit psi into the existing order but how to reshape the existing order so as to accommodate psi as an intrinsic and necessary feature. Two qualitatively divergent approaches evolved. Ehrenwald (8) felt that this accommodation could come about if personality theory were to undergo the same transformation that took place in modern physics as discoveries in quantum physics and relativity theory expanded and enriched our understanding of the physical world. He likened current personality theory to Euclidean geometry and Newtonian physics in its rigid adherence to outworn Aristotelian and Cartesian traditions. An open model based on field theory interconnecting the world of the living and the world of the nonliving would accommodate psi on its own terms. Buttressing this point of view, Ehrenwald developed a model based on the operation of psi in the early mother-child symbiotic relationship, followed by the gradual submergence of psi potential as the evolving human organism learned to adapt to the external forces about it, this in turn followed by its occasional emergence in later life under special circumstances. Linking the mystery of psi to the more familiar, but still mysterious, operation of mind on the body, Ehrenwald formulated the concept of the symbiotic gradient to depict the decline, but not total loss, of ego control over the events to be influenced as these events begin to extend beyond the physical and neurological limits of the body proper. Paranormal abilities first cradled in the early mother-child relationship later impinge as a manifestation of the symbolic gradient upon the extended family and finally society at large.

Ehrenwald (12) defines the conditions under which these later manifestations occur as an "existential shift," meaning by this any major change in state (i.e., from waking to sleeping).

The thread that runs through Ehrenwald's writings over the three decades spanned by his writings in the field is his search for a neurobiological model to account for psi. From the time his attention was drawn to the paranormal abilities of a retarded dyslexic girl (6), to his most recent reports, he has drawn attention to certain similarities between psi effects and deficit states, the so-called minus function. More specifically, he has noted the resemblance between the fragmentation and displacement effects apparent as percipients attempt to reproduce the target picture to the productions of brain-damaged patients. He has evolved a theoretical model based on these considerations, containing four major premises: (a) the extension hypothesis, whereby psi effects are seen as compensatory extensions of normal sensory and motor abilities; (b) the hypothesis of a symbiotic gradient (11), whereby the range of abilities, normal and functional in early childhood, are in time both extended in range but become more sporadic in their manifestation; (c) to account for precognitive and PK effects he links these phenomena to ESP, noting that they are simply different aspects of the same psi syndrome; and (d) he identifies the existential shift as the circumstance that facilitates a psi event.

Ehrenwald has had a knack of coining rather felicitous terms to designate one or another aspect of telepathy as he has observed its operation clinically. The terms minus function, existential shift, and symbiotic gradient have already been mentioned. He spoke of manifest correspondences, particularly in dreams, between an element in the dream of the percipient and the actual occurrence as tracer effects, drawing an analogy to bodily substances that, when radioactively tagged, become more readily identifiable. He spoke of telepathic leakage as psi induction in connection with the spread of telepathic effects from one patient to another. He noted that patients under analysis by analysts of different schools often tended to employ dream symbols characteristic and supportive of the particular theoretical orientation of the analyst. He referred to this as doctrinal compliance (10) and felt that unconscious telepathic exchanges between analyst and patient may play a role in bringing it about.

He spoke of the scatter effect (6) to denote the fact that telepathic communications often tend to be approximate, fragmented, and scattered both spatially and temporally. To account for the fact that occasionally the percipient has an accurate and detailed vision of the distant target or scene, he regarded telepathy as "biphasic" involving at first a "catapsychic," or fragmentation, effect, followed in some cases, presumably when the affective changes are great enough, by an "anapsychic" phase, where the picture comes together in an accurate presentation.

A second and different line of theoretical speculation has been taken by Eisenbud (15, 19). In his view, psi, far from being an archaic voice from our distant past, is a significant, meaningful, and ever present aspect of our current reality. It is in fact the cement that operates in an underground or unconscious fashion to link our otherwise disparate lives together. In trying to account for the obdurate, intransigent resistance of science to the existence and importance of parapsychology despite the enormous accumulation of evidence over long periods of time and from diverse sources, he in effect turns the table and interprets the scientific endeavor as originating and still maintaining itself as a defense against the reality of psi and the powerful role it could conceivably play were it ever to become legitimated as a fact of life, all life. Eisenbud sees psi effects as not only at the root of primitive concerns with magic and the omnipotence of thought but as currently playing a hidden but meaningful role in all the affairs of men and more broadly still in maintaining - often in strange and inexplicable ways - the subtle and complex exchanges that maintain an ecological balance.

A number of contemporary psychiatrists have extended their interest in psi beyond the consulting room. Eisenbud (16) has investigated thought photography, Stevenson (68) the problem posed by claims of reincarnation, Servadio (63) the investigation of a clairvoyant, Schwarz (60) the investigation of well-known mentalists, and Ullman (73-76) the study of telepathic dreams in a laboratory setting.

Any patient undergoing analysis may, like anyone else, on occasion have a telepathic dream. In my experience, however, there have been only a very few who have appeared to be consistent "telepathic dreamers." The conditions outlined as favoring the occurrence of telepathic dreaming may in each instance be experienced as prejudicial by the patient. In one way or another, the patient may sense the interest, need, and tension of the analyst as in some way adversely influencing the relationship or as interfering with the maintenance of the analyst's clear focus solely on the therapeutic situation. The occurrence of a telepathic dream under these circumstances constitutes a safe way of "needling" the therapist insofar as it both exposes the patient's awareness of the therapist's dereliction and at the same time does so in a way that leaves the therapist impotent to do anything about it unless he owns up to the manner in which his own preoccupations and concerns may at the moment obstruct the progress of the analysis. Telepathic rapport seems to occur in the clinical setting under conditions in which there is a temporary loss of effective symbolic contact between therapist and patient at those times when the patient considers such contact to be vital. Anxiety or other deflecting negative emotions in the therapist act as predisposing influences. By means of the telepathic maneuver the patient does succeed in exposing the countertransferential block and releases a contradictory message to the therapist. He makes his own awareness of the therapist's secret known to the therapist and at the same time remains in a position to disclaim any responsibility for so doing. The inhibited, obsessively organized individual who tends to use language in the service of distance mechanisms rather than to facilitate contact is in my experience the kind of patient most likely to fall back on this maneuver. Telepathic contact appears as one way of establishing contact at critical points in the management of the contradictory needs for distance and inviolability, on the one hand, and the inextinguishable needs for closeness and contact, on the other hand.

The following example drawn from my own practice illustrates the difficulties involved in the management of one's own private domain when telepathic sensitivity is abroad during therapy.


The patient was a 40-year-old male, married and with one child, who had been under therapy for a period of a year prior to the occurrence of the dream to be presented. He worked as a sales promoter for children's wear. The impression he created in therapy was that of someone who avoided any direct or spontaneous interchange in treatment and who seemed to wrap himself up in an unending series of speculations about the nature and cause of his difficulties. His dreams revealed attitudes of distrust and belligerence in relation to the therapist (myself). His approach to people was essentially defensive and evasive. In the face of any criticism by his wife, his withdrawal and hostility deepened. Outside relationships carried little depth of feeling or real interest in others.

On Monday, December 24, 1951, the patient presented the following dream, which had been recalled upon awakening the previous Saturday morning:

I'm in a hotel room (the same one where the last exhibit I attended was held). I was there with a man I represent. He is from Texas. I was wrapping up a few of the samples that had been on exhibit and was preparing to leave. Someone gave me, or I took, a chromium soap dish. I held it in my hand and I offered it to him. He took it. I was surprised. I asked him, "Are you a collector, too?" Then I sort of smirked and said knowingly, "Well, you're building a house." He blushed. He smirked and kept on smoking his cigar ....

I was preparing his new spring line. We disagreed as to how to go about it, but I became convinced he was right. It was his decision to make something for girls. He implied I was weak in this field. He is now the mainstay of my income. I always feel the relationship will be broken off and he is capable of doing it. He wants me to expand and would pay my rent to do so, but it means putting all my eggs in one basket. I've been wary and unsure, yet he seems to be sound ....

I have no associations. It was a glittery, shiny thing. When I was at the hotel for the exhibit we did swipe a few towels but later threw them out. I used to swipe books from the library. I once swiped 15� from my aunt for the movies and got a terrific thrashing.

The pertinent data in my own (the therapists's) life in regard to the dream are as follows: My new home had been completed a year and a half before. It was built cooperatively as one of 13 homes in the community. At the time of the original building operations, an extra chromium soap dish had been shipped to my house by mistake. In a spirit of belligerent dishonesty (resenting the ever-increasing costs of the house), I had made no mention of it to anyone. About six months prior to the dream report, it had been noted that owing to uneven settling, a large picture window had gotten very much out of line, requiring attention of the builders. On Sunday, December lo, a week before the dream, the men who were involved in the original building operations came over to see what had to be done. One of them spied the chromium soap dish lying about unused in the cellar and embarrassed me by calling attention to it and making a wisecrack about my having gotten away with it. On Saturday, the day of the patient's dream, one of my neighbors, whose home had been built at the same time as mine, drove me to my office in the city. On the way in I told him the story of the trouble with the picture window and the plan to fix it. The incident of the soap dish occurred to me, but I said nothing about it to him.

The dream occurred a week after the original incident and on the same morning as the day I had recalled the soap dish incident in discussing home-building problems with the neighbor. The most striking correspondence centered around the unusual occurrence in the dream of a chromium soap dish and my experience with just such a dish the week before, an experience disturbing enough to have it come to my mind a week later. The patient indicated his knowledge of the house that the other man was building. (The patient had no normal knowledge of any of the facts connected with my home.) Furthermore, the patient, aware of the other's vulnerability, teased him about it, as in reality the therapist was the butt of a joke based on his own collecting tendencies.

Again including the telepathic elements in the interpretation of the dream, we see a situation in which the patient, protesting the inroads of therapy, concerns himself with vulnerable areas in the therapist's own structure. The chromium soap dish lying about unused and unconnected with the rest of the house is a borrowed experience that serves admirably for the purpose. The dish is a potential container for a cleansing or healing substance. In its isolation and lack of connection with an appropriate setting and in its characterization as "stolen goods," the symbol expresses the patient's profound distrust of the therapist and his unwillingness to put his eggs in the therapist's basket. This dream illustrates the problem of potential anxiety in relation to the vulnerability of the analyst (71).



Anecdotal and clinical experience suggest two generalizations concerning psi. The first is that situations of impending loss or threat favor the occurrence of such events. The second is that the character of the loss may be twofold: it can take the form of the threatened dissolution of a significant affective bond or it may reflect a more personal threat to one's sense of physical or psychological intactness, If paranormal abilities are mobilized under extreme conditions, as anecdotal accounts of spontaneous psi appear to suggest, then the first kind of loss would occur when the precipitating event poses a threat to the continuation of the species - that is, a threat to the continued operation of affectionate and unifying dynamisms. The second kind of loss would occur in response to events threatening the preservation of the individual. Anecdotally, the first is illustrated by the telepathic perception of tragic events involving loved ones, and the second, by the telepathic or precognitive awareness of events posing a personal danger to the percipient.

This formulation suggests that the paranormal event is part of an emergency response system evoked under conditions of threat to sustaining affective bonds or threat to the physical integrity of the organism.

I have elsewhere (72) developed a theory of dreaming based on the vigilance hypothesis. This view suggests that dream consciousness is an elaborate form of orienting activity designed to attend to, process, and respond to certain aspects of our residual experience, with an endpoint being reached in either the continuation of the sleeping state or its interruption and consequent transformation to awakening. While dreaming, conscious experience is organized along lines of emotional contiguity rather than temporal and spatial contiguity. The affective or feeling residue that makes its presence felt in the dream operates reflexively or automatically as a scanning mechanism. Ranging over the entire longitudinal history of the person, it exerts a polarizing influence, drawing to itself aspects of past experiences that are related to it in emotionally meaningful ways. This enables the sleeping organism to assess fully the meaning and implications of the novel or disturbing stimulus and, through the development of the ensuing dream, either allows sleep to continue or helps bring about awakening.

The affective scanning that takes place while dreaming can, on occasion, bridge a spatial gap and provide us with information independent of any known communication channel. Emotional contiguity, under conditions we know very little about, appears capable of integrating transpersonal, as well as personal, content into the dream. Anecdotal accounts have for a long time pointed in this direction, and the circumstances under which they occur strongly suggest that in matters of life and death the vigilant scanning of one's emotional environment reaches out across spatial boundaries in a manner that has yet to be explained.

At a practical level there are clear-cut technical and instrumental gains when there is explicit recognition of the telepathy hypothesis and its possible application to the therapeutic situation. Eisenbud (18) is the foremost exponent of this point of view. As he notes, anyone sensitive to the occurrence of such effects would be in a position to recognize and handle countertransferential difficulties more promptly and more honestly.

There is one perhaps somewhat tangential, but nevertheless relevant, aspect to the work on telepathy. Those of us who have taken a public position espousing the reality of psi are aware of a lost battalion of people who are in distress and wish to seek psychiatric help but who hold back out of fear of rebuff. They are people who have had paranormal experiences that they consider to be both genuine and either central to their problem or related to it. They fear exposing themselves to an entrenched bias but at the same time recognize their need for objective assessment and help. Many of them know from the kind of past experience they have had along the straight psychiatric route that no credence is to be expected and that what they have experienced as valid is received as if it could not be anything but pathological. Caught in this bind, many such individuals ultimately gravitate toward mystical, spiritual, or occult fringe groups in search of the support they need. One hopes that greater knowledge and a deeper understanding on the part of the therapist of the nature and reality of psi will someday save these individuals from the pain and distress of a frustrated search for help and at the same time broaden the horizon of the helping profession itself (75) .


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[1] His view of hysteria as a "disease of the hypnotic spectrum" was remarkably similar, although independently derived, to the view of Breuer and Freud.


[2] Mrs. Piper was for James his one white crow. He set himself the task of doing what he could to make room in the universe for this anomaly.


[3] Attitudes and feelings in the analyst inappropriately directed toward the patient but having their origin in the analyst's own past. Analogously, transference is the reverse of this.