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Psychopathology and Psi Phenomena

Montague Ullman

Handbook of Parapsychology. Edited by Benjamin B. Wolman. Published by Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1977


In trying to relate psi events to psychopathology we face the uncomfortable fact that in neither instance are we dealing with clear-cut entities about which there is basic consensus. In the case of psi phenomena, for example, despite the fact that there is more general scientific agreement now concerning their existence than ever before, there is no agreement even among parapsychologists as to how they fit into the scheme of things.

Two broad theoretical approaches to psi start out with diametrically opposite assumptions. In one, there is an attempt to fit psi into an existing model of the universe. In the other, there is the conviction that we have to move beyond our present picture of the world to a radically revised one rooted in the reality of psi and the implications that follow from that reality. Advocates of the former view are hopeful that psi can be successfully incorporated into our present scientific outlook. Others are convinced that nothing short of a radical revamping of science itself is necessary. The controversy surfaces in concrete ways around questions of experimental design. Will object- and event-oriented positivist approaches be more fruitful than subjectivity-oriented psychological approaches? What characterizes the current scene is, perhaps, not so much the appearance of these issues but rather the sense of urgency concerning their resolution.

The contemporary scene with regard to a specialized area such as psychopathology is no less riddled with controversy. Although there is general consensus about the existence of psychopathology, there is little or no agreement as to what it is or which conceptual approach to its understanding will ultimately prove the most valid. Thus we have a variety of psychoanalytic theories focusing on developmental impediments and interpersonal tensions, communication theories concerned with the caliber of family interaction, and genetic and biochemical theories investigating the role of inborn and metabolic factors, particularly in the major psychoses. Perhaps the only unifying statement that can be made is that the specific content of the psychopathology will depend on the life experience of the individual. The various dynamic theories, despite their differences, all seek to provide a conceptual framework within which to understand the evolution and manifestations of psychopathology in the discrete individual.

Viewing the theories of psychopathology in historical perspective reveals a concern with ever-expanding fields of influence impinging on the individual, a fact which may have some converging relevance to developments in the theoretical approaches to psi phenomena. Prior to the elaboration of unconscious determinants of behavior, various neurological and constitutional theories were put forth to account for the occurrence of both the major psychoses and the various psychoneuroses. Psychiatric illnesses were looked upon as stigmata representing genetically and constitutionally determined degenerative processes in the nervous system. This view placed the individual in the role of helpless victim of an inexorable organic process.

As the concept of unconscious influences came to be dynamically elaborated - first through the work of Janet and then, more effectively, through Freud and his followers - a change occurred in the way the individual and his problems were conceptualized. No longer was he seen as victimized by forces totally beyond his control. He was now the victim of forces that were beyond his control only as long as they remained not understood. This dialectic, in the form of the struggle between the unknown and the known, ushered in the modern era of dynamic psychiatry. The word dynamic refers to the elaboration of strategies (mechanisms) enabling the individual to cope with his needs as these are biologically, psychologically, and socially elaborated from birth on. Here, too, we see theoretical constructs moving perceptibly in the direction of a concern with a broader and broader field of interaction. If the appearance of the "Unconscious" on the scene freed the individual from the tyranny of a defective nervous system, then the interpersonal schools of psychoanalysis freed him from the tyranny of his own instincts. Communication theorists in turn, by elaborating the nature of the informational field generated in a family setting, helped liberate the individual from an exclusive concern with his own psychological structure by casting that structure in the context of a larger whole.

Holistic views extending outward and linking the individual more specifically to the entire social scene have been elaborated in different ways by Burrow (1927), Angyal (1941), Fromm (1941), and Laing and Cooper (1964). In each instance their contribution had a further freeing effect by noting more accurately and truthfully the context in which psychopathology arises. Each of these revisions has influenced our understanding of precisely what it is that is unconscious. There has been movement away from a particulate "Unconscious" (made up of specific and specifiable contents such as the Freudian concept of unconscious infantile wishes) to a "system" view in which whatever is not congruent with the dominant system organization controlling conscious awareness lies outside of awareness. Elaborated at the level of family dynamics by Jackson (1957) and others, at the level of personality by Angyal (1941), and at the social level by Laing and Esterson (1964) and Fromm (1963, 1973), the "Unconscious" becomes the domain of the potential rather than the hiding place of the instincts. The limitations imposed by earlier reductionistic approaches have been partially dissolved in recent years by both the evolution of techniques that more actively assault the presenting façades (encounter, Gestalt therapy) and by the growing interest in, and exploration of, altered states of consciousness for their capacity to reveal sources of untapped potential. We appear to be returning to a concept of the "Unconscious" that recalls some of the subliminal and supraliminal notions of Myers (1903).

In sum, theoretical approaches to psychopathology appear to be moving away from a positivistic stance toward a humanistic one. Instinct, mechanism, and energy transfer yield to purpose, meaning, and value in the context of field disturbances. The concept of the "Unconscious" becomes modified in the direction of a greater concern with social anarchy than biological anarchy and more to a state of creative unrest than tabooed yearnings.

It is precisely this more open, inventive, expanded view of the unconscious side of our lives that is setting the stage for a renewed exploration of the possible role played by psi events in the evolution of psychiatric disorder. Although historically the twin themes of psi and psychopathology have had closely related roots, they went through a period where separate developments took place as each sought to establish its own legitimacy. The beginnings of a new coming together are discernible. Let us briefly trace this development.


At the time of the founding of the (British) Society for Psychical Research in 1882, there was a lively interest in hypnosis centering not only on its use as an instrument for investigating the unconscious and latent aspects of human personality but also in its relationship to paranormal perception. Early investigators like T. Weir Mitchell (1922), W. F. Prince (1915-1916), and Pierre Janet (1886) were intrigued by the possibility of psi linkages to altered states of consciousness. They investigated this connection not only in hypnosis (Janet, 1886), but also in the cases of hysteria (Mitchell, 1922), multiple personality (Mitchell, 1921; Prince, 1915-1916), and paranoia (Prince, 1927). Myers' classic two-volume study, Human Personality (1903), not only outlined the evidence for survival but also provided a comprehensive survey of what was known at the time of the relationship between disordered internal states, including hysteria and insanity, and man's supraliminal (the term used to connote psi ability) capacities.

This early linkage of psi and psychiatry, forged as it was by the combined interests of some of the key investigators, soon loosened, giving way to two divergent developments representing two different kinds of historical necessities. The thrust of the psychoanalytic movement, led by Freud and his initial circle, was aimed at establishing, on the basis of observations, theory, and clinical practice, the nature, range, and significance of the unconscious determinants of personality and psychopathology. This goal required constant vigilance so as to preserve the scientific image of the newly emerging science of psychoanalysis. This is best illustrated by the kind of watch-dog attitude assumed by Ernest Jones (1957) with regard to Freud's show of interest in the "occult" and the constraints he succeeded in placing on this interest.

In the late 1920s, and in a somewhat analogous fashion, J. B. Rhine approached the monumental task of achieving scientific credibility for what was, at the time, a very odd and heterogeneous assortment of anomalous observations and beginning experimental endeavors. By his emphasis on the use of controlled laboratory methods, he too sought to achieve scientific respectability for the new science of parapsychology, a term he introduced. Parapsychology's concern with its own self-image, at least in the early stages, also had the effect of diluting its earlier ties to psychiatry. The Rhine school tended to eschew an active interest in and involvement with the dynamic contexts in which psi effects occurred. Its emphasis was by and large on rigorous quantitative assessment and the use of objective measures of evaluation.

The net result was that scientific parapsychology developed in a laboratory setting while clinical parapsychology was kept alive by the interest and writings of a handful of psychiatrists. These are reviewed from the point of view of dynamic and therapeutic considerations elsewhere in this volume. What now follows is a summary of the implications of this work for psychopathology. Since there is no sharp line between psychodynamics and psychopathology, some overlap will be inevitable.


Most of the writers on the subject of psi and psychiatry, being analysts, have stressed the dynamics of psi events as they arise in a clinical context. Only a few have gone further to theorize about the role psi may play in the evolution and symptomatology of the major psychoses.

Ehrenwald (1948) was the first in the modern era to undertake a serious assessment of the significance of the telepathy hypothesis for an understanding of paranoia and the schizophrenic psychoses. Favoring the view of psi as an archaic, regressive, or primitive faculty, he considers the occurrence of telepathy or heteropsychic input, as he refers to it, as evidence of some impairment of a filtering mechanism designed to ward off such influence. Heteropsychic stimuli operating in adult life pose a potential threat to one's sense of intactness and definition as a discrete entity. He notes as a possible exception the existence of a "psychic" character type as one who is able to accommodate in a positive and self-gratifying way to the existence of such a defective barrier and the consequent increased role of heteropsychic influences. Although sharing characterologic features in common with hysterical personalities, such types differ in the degree to which they are susceptible to heteropsychic influences and the organized manner in which these influences gain expression.

Central to Ehrenwald's conception of the way telepathy operates - or rather, the factors that account for its occurrence - is the notion of a minus-function. In the face of a functional or organic deficit that limits the range of the individual's interaction with the world about him, telepathic awareness emerges on the scene as a compensatory mechanism, Such functional deficits can exist either as discrete handicaps or as more global alterations in consciousness itself. They may be transient or lasting. Dreaming, hypnosis, and trance are examples of transient, reversible minus-functions, whereas psychosis, considered as an altered state, would be an enduring one.

Secondly, Ehrenwald emphasizes the significant role heteropsychic influences play in the early mother-child relationship in helping the child arrive at an intuitive orientation to the needs and expectations of the adults about him. Considering this early symbiotic matrix as the cradle of ESP, Ehrenwald (1971) sees subsequent psi manifestations as potentially regressive in character.

What Ehrenwald suggests in effect, in regard to both paranoia and the schizophrenic psychoses in general, is that, in addition to the characteristic sensitivity of these patients to hostility in others, there is also the ability to tap into the psyche of others telepathically. This sensitivity to heteropsychic stimuli often exposes deeply repressed sadistic-aggressive components of the personality of the source (agent) but may at times pick up scattered, more differentiated and specific thoughts and references at the level of the preconscious.

Telepathic sensitivity, according to Ehrenwald, plays its most significant role at the onset of a psychotic process and during the later, more deteriorated phases of the disorder. In the early stage of illness, telepathically perceived content may appear in the emerging delusional material, in which case the delusion cannot be completely understood on the basis of projection. At a more advanced stage, Ehrenwald interprets the picture of deterioration as resulting from the disorganizing effect of the intrusive flooding by both autopsychic and heteropsychic stimuli.

Applying these ideas more specifically, Ehrenwald suggests that catatonic negativism can be understood in part as the effort to ward off uncanny experiences. Catatonic stupor occurs when the individual is chaotically overwhelmed by heteropsychic input. The command automatisms sometimes seen in these patients can be looked upon as the consequence of heteropsychic influences on motor behavior. Ideas of grandeur, states of ecstasy, and ideas of mystic union may be viewed as a response to the enrichment of the personality from heteropsychic sources.

Ehrenwald's views were subject to certain criticisms at the time they appeared, by West (1948) because of the lack of supporting experimental evidence, by Eisenbud (1949) because of the lack of empirical evidence, and by Ullman (1948) because of the emphasis placed on paranormal factors. Nevertheless, offered at the time they were, Ehrenwald's theories were courageous beginnings. In the light of his conviction of the reality of the telepathy hypothesis, he gave some credence to the patient's own reading of his situation. He regarded the emergence of telepathy under these circumstances not as the primary cause of the illness, but as a compensatory effect secondary to a basic minus-function in the form of the intrinsic lack of rapport suffered by these patients.

Elsewhere in this volume (Chapter 3, Part VIII) Ehrenwald develops his ideas on the relationship of psi phenomena to hysteria. Drawing upon similar dissociative tendencies in mediumship and conversion hysteria, he interprets psi effects as the mirror-image of the patterns of sensorimotor disturbances seen in conversion hysterics.

In another volume Ehrenwald (1955) has explored the possible role of telepathy in family patterns of neurotic interaction as well as in the tendency of marital partners to be involved often in complementary neuroses. He suggests that psi factors may play a role in the shaping of the pathological structure in the case of the former, and the choice of marital partner in the case of the latter.

The significance of Ehrenwald's work lies in the fact that, in going beyond Myers' early inferences concerning the relationship of telepathy to a variety of dissociated states (mediumship, hypnosis, multiple personality, hysteria, insanity) and re-viewing the problem in the light of current psychiatric concepts, he has made a strong case for including psi effects as a factor in the development of psychopathological disturbances. He has pointed to some of the ways in which our notions of psychosis may have to be revised. He has gone even further by suggesting a developmental model to account for the origin, appearance, and function of psi phenomena (Ehrenwald, 1971). He has taken Mahler's (1968) description of the early symbiotic period as the root source of psi and from that starting point has traced the role played by psi in the origins of paranoid hostility. He views such hostility as the outcome of a struggle against an imposed passivity and compliance. Either way out of this early symbiotic relationship, through autistic withdrawal or through passive surrender, results in heightened psi sensitivity. This sensitivity is used both to further the engulfing trend of the parent and to defend against it. What later emerges in the form of a paranoid delusion is the regressively distorted counterpart of this early, symbiotic model of communication. He regards the resurgence of psi in the analytic context as due to those features of the situation which tend to revive the early mother-child relationship.

There appears to be a number of ways in which conditions favoring the occurrence of psi bear a certain resemblance to the subjective states that accompany a psychotic process. In both circumstances altered states of consciousness play a prominent role. In the case of psi phenomena such states are known to exert a facilitating influence. In the evolution of a psychotic state feelings of unreality and depersonalization are often prominent. At a later point in the process the dissociated state becomes more globally organized, resulting in delusional systems, catatonic states, etc. The gross symptomatology that accompanies the movement into an organized psychotic state often takes the form of outright claims to mind reading ability or complaints of being victimized by the mind reading abilities of others.

Most of the striking anecdotal reports of psi occurrences are of the "crisis" variety, involving unexpected accidents, tragedy, and loss. An analogous kind of sense of desperation possesses the person sensing the imminence of a psychotic break with reality. He experiences himself as being in the grips of a process carrying him further and further away from all human supports and from a reality which, if not friendly, was at least familiar.

Ullman (1949, 1952), in his clinical observations, noted that patients who function close enough to a psychotic break to be aware of its possible imminence do manifest psi ability in the therapeutic context more frequently and more consistently than do other patients. It is as if, having for so long used language in the service of maintaining distance from others, they reach a point of no return in their efforts to maintain meaningful communicative bonds with others, including the therapist. This appears to be the circumstance under which telepathic faculties are mobilized. Conditioned by the expectations of hostility, the content of such telepathic forays into the private domain of the therapist is often embarrassingly revealing. Telepathic "needling" of this kind occurs at moments in the analysis when the patient feels the therapist, for reasons of his own, has become diverted, disinterested, and has shifted his concern away from him. At this stage the patient is neither consciously aware of his unusual ability nor of the way in which he is strategically employing it. That he is aware of it at some level is suggested by the fact that once an overt psychotic process takes over, much of the initially prevailing symptomatology is focused around the conviction that he can either read the thoughts of others or that others can read his thoughts and thus influence him.

Formal testing at this stage does not reveal any unusual ability and when psi effects do appear, they do so with less frequency and consistency than formerly and not within the context of the struggle to maintain a sense of relatedness. They now seem to operate in the service of justifying the maintenance of the psychotic state. Bits and pieces of unconsciously hostile and rejecting thoughts are picked up and used destructively, often unerringly reaching their mark.

Ullman (1966, 1973b) links psi effects to the vigilance needs of the organism. Their occurrence with regard to any particular level of psychopathological organization would then have to be understood in terms of how time and space are structured in relation to different levels of pathological development and how the vigilance needs that characterize the resulting clinical syndromes are carried out in time and space. Does the psychopath, for example, who is inordinately concerned with maneuvering in the present, have to safeguard this way of operating by a kind of precognitive sensitivity to any impending events that may enhance the field of his self-seeking operations or that may interfere with his self-centered activities?

This question can also be raised with regard to the differential susceptibility to psi effects in the two major psychoses (Ullman, 1973a). All of the clinical reports linking psi to psychosis refer to schizophrenic processes, the possible exception being the incorporation of psi content into the rapid thought flow of the manic. Are these effects absent in the depressive psychoses? Ullman suggests that perhaps the answer lies in further exploration of how each of these categories of patients structure time.

The schizophrenic, sensing his vulnerability to unpredictable threats and assaults upon his isolation, relies on magical thinking to maneuver present reality. His weakened concern with real time and real events is augmented by a paranormal sensing of the sources of possible future danger. In the case of the manic-depressive, real time is also subject to alterations, and it is either retarded or accelerated, depending on which phase of the illness he is experiencing. Time is retarded in the depressive phase and accelerated in the manic phase. In the depressive phase the past overshadows the present and the future. In the manic phase the present overshadows both the past and the future. Ullman suggests the possibility that precognition would be more characteristic of schizophrenia (although for purposes of avoidance rather than manipulation as in the case of the psychopath), telepathy or clairvoyance of the manic state, and retrocognition of the depressive psychosis.

Similar questions have been raised with regard to characterological structuring of space and the possible relevance this might have to the occurrence of other psi effects, such as psychokinesis, in persons functioning at different levels of pathological organization (Ullman, 1973a).

Altered states of consciousness in general are characterized by unique time-space relations so that here too we have another point of convergence between psi and changes in the internal subjective milieu. Under the conditions of an altered state of consciousness, three transformations occur, all of which may have a bearing on the appearance of psi effects during such states. Alterations in space-time structuring expands the range of information available both temporally and spatially. The information once received is processed differently (in comparison with the processing of normal waking perceptions). The information is organized closer to the level of impression and feeling than for clarity of the cognitive content. The final transformation has to involve a motivational shift to a greater concern with internal processes and their effect on the arousal level of the organism. Dreaming is prototypic of this kind of transformation. The imagery that appears in dreams is processed in terms of its alerting potential (Ullman, 1973b). Psi messages have more of an alerting character than a clearly informational one.

Ullman's views on the relationship of the dreaming state to vigilance and to psi have been criticized by Eisenbud (1973), who feels there is insufficient evidence that dissociated states favor psi and that when psi does occur, its erratic nature makes it unlikely that it could serve any reliable vigilance function. Ullman, in response, called attention to the fact that in altered states of consciousness all stimuli, psi included, serve vigilance needs indirectly by mediating the level of arousal.

In a recent review of parapsychology and psychopathology Alberti (1974) reexamines the long held belief in the close relationship of psi to dissociated states such as are seen in hypnosis, hysteria, and psychosis. In addition to the early workers who strongly adhered to this point of view, for example, Myers (1903) and Janet (1886), he notes its restatement in contemporary terms by Moser (1935), Bender (1935), Ehrenwald (1948), and others. Alberti admits the association between certain hysterical features such as the tendency to dissociative states and the occurrence of various automatisms and psi phenomena, but he questions the nature of the correlation. He points to the fact, for example, that in reported cases of multiple personality genuine psi effects are the exception rather than the rule. He prefers to interpret the relationship as a contingent one rather than a causal one. He feels that proneness to dissociative states and guessing ability (ESP) are two distinct entities. When they are found together it is because the existence of dissociative states facilitates the emergence at a behavioral level of whatever it is that is responsible for a guessing performance indicative of ESP.

In further support of this point of view Alberti cites the experimental studies of Schmeidler (1960), Eysenck (1967), and Kanthamani and Rao (1972) correlating good ESP performance with extraversion and good social adaptation. He considers it unlikely, in view of results of this kind, that hysterics per se have any kind of intrinsic psi ability.

It seems somewhat risky to make comparative judgments of ESP performance without taking the context more into consideration. Extraverts and "expansives" may very well do better in a laboratory context where the atmosphere of a game prevails, whereas in a clinical or real life context the very existence of a dissociated state at either a functional or psychopathological level may contribute to the sense of urgency and "crisis" atmosphere that brings psi functioning close to being a necessity. Alberti himself comes to a somewhat similar formulation when he points out that discrepancies in the experimental results in laboratory testing of neurotics and psychotics can be explained on the basis that the existence of a psychopathological process will influence the way in which perceptual data are processed and cognitive data organized.

Complex mechanisms are involved, subfunctions of which may interact in ways that give different results on different occasions. Disturbances in these mechanisms consequent to mental illness will affect one or another aspect of ESP performance. This, Alberti believes, can account for some of the variations in the secondary aspects of ESP scores such as decline effects, the way results correlate with the expectations of the experimenters, etc. He suggests that the time is ripe for a more elaborate study of the pathology of ESP.

Working with the view of psychosis as a chronically altered state of consciousness, Rogo (1974b) has raised a number of issues with regard to the relationship of psi to the psychotic process. Basing his ideas on some of the early case reports of "obsession" and multiple personality, he suggests that not only do psi factors emerge initially in the early symptomatology, but that genuine psi ability is often seen to emerge after the cure of the disorder. He cites evidence in support of this from the autobiographies of recovered schizophrenics. He goes so far as to suggest that some cases of multiple personality can best be understood as a form of incipient mediumship.

A largely unexplored area having implications for our understanding of the interplay between psychopathology and bodily change has to do with the type of case where psi communications seem to take the form of transient somatic manifestations. Eisenbud (1970) describes several cases of what seemed to be psychosomatic symptoms initiated as psi-conditioned responses. Other observers, notably Schwarz (1967) and Stevenson (1970), suggest that the effect is more frequent than is generally suspected. Based on his studies of telepathic impressions, Stevenson feels it is reasonable to assume that somatic symptomatology ranging from obscure physical symptoms to identifiable psychosomatic syndromes may come about as physical analogies of a telepathic message. Schwarz coined the term telesomatic reactions for responses of this nature and reported on a number of illustrative cases drawn from his own practice as well as self-observation. He points out that, since reactions of this kind evolve unconsciously, they are apt to go unnoticed unless the telepathy hypothesis is kept in mind. He cites the work on the plethysmographic registration of ESP effects as suggestive of the possible mechanism responsible for physiological changes and somatic symptomatology.

Two types of reported experience are worth noting in their possible bearing on the problem of remotely induced bodily changes. One is a well-documented report of the extraordinary circumstances attending the unexpected simultaneous deaths of 32-year-old schizophrenic twins (Wilson and Reece, 1964) who were under observation at the time on different wards of a psychiatric hospital. They died at approximately the same time and for causes that could not be determined at autopsy. In the analysis of the various factors that might have accounted for the simultaneity of death the authors included a "psychic" determinant.

Another kind of remotely induced organismic change is reported by Paul (1966) in her description of how two of her patients reacted during a period of time when she was under the influence of an hallucinogenic mushroom taken for experimental purposes. In each instance the patient went through a period of upset and disturbance followed by an amnesia of several hours duration correlating with the time the therapist herself was experiencing an altered state of consciousness. Temporary psychotic-like symptoms appeared to have been remotely induced, followed by a near total memory loss. Here again the question arises: if incidents of this kind do occur, how often do they go, if not unnoticed, then unrecognized as telepathically induced?

Another point of convergence between psi and psychopathology lies in the still largely unexplored area of the interpersonal milieu in which poltergeist phenomena are alleged to occur. Almost all modern writers on the subject such as Owen (1964), Roll (1972), and Rogo (1974a) have followed Fodor's (1959) lead in viewing the phenomena themselves as externally displaced paranormal manifestations of repressed aggression. Although preadolescent and adolescent youngsters are generally implicated as the key agents in connection with poltergeist phenomena, this is not necessarily always the case. In some instances an adult seems to be the focus of the disturbances. In line with prevailing trends, psychological interest in these problems has also shifted from an almost exclusive focus on the individual whose presence seems essential for the appearance of the phenomena to a broader concern with family dynamics and the way in which interpersonal crises generated in the family relate to the phenomena that occur.

Rogo emphasizes the importance of a psychotherapeutic approach to the members of the family as the surest approach to ameliorating the manifestations. Roll's elaborate investigation of poltergeist phenomena has led him to believe that the most consistent personality features of the implicated agent take the form of a combination of pent-up hostility with either strong repressive trends or a very low verbal ability. The implicated agent may be analogous to the identified patient in family therapy and like the latter may not be the source of disturbance but rather, the victim. Considerably more work would have to done along these lines, however, before any of these conjectures can be defined convincingly.


When we turn to the experimental studies that have been done to gauge the influence of psychiatric disorder on psi performance, we come upon an array of unrelated findings that fail to shed significant light on any intrinsic relationships between these two variables.

In what he considered an exploratory study using a STM (screen touch matching) procedure, Shulman (1938) tested 141 patients in a mental hospital. Most of them were diagnosed as having one or another form of psychosis. Positive scores were obtained with only one group, the manic-depressive depressed patients and surprisingly enough, these scores were significantly different from the negatively scoring involutional melancholia group. The author accounts for the difference in terms of the possible greater degree of negativism said to be present in the involutional melancholia group. Since the weight of current opinion is inclined to regard the involutionals as part of a continuum of depressive disorders, the results could be retrospectively interpreted as indicating that one group of depressives did better than another. As noted by Shulman, the attentional difficulties in working with actively psychotic patients are considerable and undoubtedly play a role in influencing the scoring level. Where the anxiety level is high, as it often is in involutionals, attentional difficulties would be expected. In this study the overall results for all patients were significant.

In another exploratory study (Urban and Kock, 1949), 216 psychiatric outpatients were tested for ESP. Although overall significance was achieved, the conditions under which the testing was carried out were far from optimal according to modern standards. Comparisons were made before and after shock therapy or various kinds of narco-analysis. Significant, but in some cases temporary, increase in scoring was noted during and upon completion of the treatment.

In a study conducted in 1938, but reported on in 1951 (Bates and Newton), ESP tests were carried out with 50 state hospital patients representing nine different diagnostic categories (six of which were psychotic disorders). Subjects were asked to get as many (high-aim condition) or as few (low-aim condition) "hits" as possible. While no significant differences in scoring ability were found for the various diagnostic groups, the overall results were highly significant, as was the difference in scoring rate in high- and low-aim conditions. Subjects classified as cooperative scored more successfully than those classified as apathetic or as irritable. In contrast with Shulman's results, both the manic-depressive depressed and the involutional melancholia patients scored significantly. The only group that did not succeed in getting results in the desired direction were the patients diagnosed as paranoid dementia praecox, who scored positively in both high- and low-aim conditions. Alberti (1974) notes that the difference in scoring level between high- and low-aim conditions was smallest in the three schizophrenic categories and in the organics. He suggests that since these are the patients in whom selective attention is apt to be most impaired, this factor may account for the fact that they were less successful in steering their ESP in the desired direction than were the patients in the five other diagnostic categories.

A series of tests by West (1952) was designed to see whether hostile and suspicious attitudes in psychotic patients would be conducive to negative scoring. No clear evidence of an ESP effect was found. As might be expected in patients of this kind, defects of attention, difficulty in maintaining contact, and stereotypy of behavior make for difficulty both in administering routine card-calling tests and in evaluating the results.

Humphrey (1954), working with psychotic patients in a London hospital, failed to confirm Urban and Kock's (1949) findings of increased scoring after electroshock therapy. She did, however, note positive scoring in all the schizophrenics tested.

Zorab (1957) tested a small sample of psychiatric patients (schizophrenic, manic-depressives, and a mixed group) using a standard card guessing technique and found no evidence of ESP in any of the groups.

Nash (1966), testing normal subjects for correlations between ESP and ten scales of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) pertaining to schizophrenia, depression, and other psychopathological potential, found the correlations generally negative with regard to neurotic and psychotic tendencies.

These studies highlight some of the problems involved in carrying out experimental work with seriously disturbed patients suffering from the various psychoses. Aside from the practical problems in securing the patients' cooperation in carrying out a preset plan, there is also the limiting effects of attentional problems, distractibility, autistic response, etc. In addition there are nosological difficulties. Diverse classificatory systems are employed. Differences of opinion concerning diagnostic criteria exist. Diagnostic impressions vary not only with the observer but also with the context in which the observations are made. With regard to each diagnostic category, there are differing degrees of severity and differing symptomatology linked both to intrinsic processes and the setting in which the patient finds himself. Most of the reports described above did not go into detail concerning diagnostic criteria, context, or process.

The other problem that emerges in working with a too global categorization of patients is the likelihood, as indeed happened, that conflicting results, the product of the many unidentified variables, are apt to occur. In only a few instances were specific enough hypotheses set down for the experiment, such as testing high-aim versus low-aim (Bates and Newton, 1951) or the effect of paranoid ideation (West, 1952). The only specific hypothesis concerning the relationship of psi and psychosis to be tested was the one offered by Ehrenwald, dealing with heteropsychic influences on incipient schizophrenia and the role these played in the various manifestations of this illness. It is dubious whether West's study (1952) adequately put this hypothesis to the test. It is in situations like this that context and motivation play a significant role, and results obtained in a formal ESP card-guessing type of experiment cannot be automatically carried over as an indicator of what may or may not happen in the natural course of a psychotic process. Procedures have yet to be devised that would test the limits of psi abilities in a patient experiencing a particular kind of psychotic process under conditions where psi would playa meaningful role in terms of the motivation of the patient.

Beginnings have been made along these lines in designing tasks that are apt to mobilize psi functioning at an unconscious level in relation to genuinely felt needs. In this connection the line of research proposed by Stanford (1974) is of some relevance. He has evolved an experimentally testable model to account for spontaneous psi events based on evidence suggesting that psi operates unconsciously as a nonintentional but need-relevant response. His model, which he refers to as the psi-mediated instrumental response (PMIR) model, proposes that the organism uses psi nonintentionally to scan its environment for need-relevant objects or events or for information significantly related to such events. Once having obtained the information, the organism tends to act in ways which are instrumental in satisfying its need in relation to the particular object or event apprehended. This model links an unconscious psi-based scanning mechanism to the operation of unconscious needs. A model of this kind seems to fit precisely the dynamics connected with the appearance of psi in the clinical context. By inference it suggests the role psi might play in the evolution of a psychopathological structure since psi appears to be as readily deployable in the service of sick as well as healthy needs.


Conceptual ferment is intrinsic to the nature of scientific inquiry. When the ferment rises to the point of challenging existing paradigms, resistance is encountered and change proceeds unevenly. Here and there specific disciplines send out exploratory pseudopods into the future. Humanistic psychology dabbles in the transpersonal. At a philosophical level the debate goes on concerning the shortcomings of a positivistically-oriented science. Theoretical physicists, having grown restive with the search for the elusive elementary particle, are seeking a more satisfactory view of the nature of physical reality. The consciousness of man has even been implicated as a factor influencing physical events at a distance (Wigner, 1970). While there is some evidence of movement and change in the conceptual underpinnings of psychopathology, the structure remains basically unaltered and therefore unaccommodating to psi effects. Where will the leverage come from to change this?

I would suggest that it will come from the same two sources that, in the last century, contributed to the rise of modern psychopathology. I refer to the science of physics and the budding science of psychical research. Newtonian based physics profoundly influenced the approach to all scientific questions in the nineteenth century, and psychopathology was no exception. The mechanics, energy relations, and economic aspects of Freud's system bear witness to this influence. What is not generally appreciated are the contributions to psychiatry that came in the wake of the investigations of early psychical researchers into the claims of spiritism. This resulted in widespread interest in such phenomena as automatisms, multiple personalities, dissociated states in general, and what Myers (1903) referred to as the manifestations of our "supraliminal" self. Other examples of this psychiatric yield are given by Ellenberger (1970) in his scholarly treatise on the origins of the unconscious. In this connection he considers the appearance of Flournoy's From India to the Planet Mars in 1900 as one of the two books published that year that subsequently became classics in dynamic psychiatry. The other was Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams. Flournoy wrote his book after a lengthy study of a medium in Geneva who produced a variety of communications from purported discarnate entities both from the planet Earth as well as from Mars. Flournoy succeeded in tracing the sources of these messages to forgotten memories (for which he coined the term cryptomnesia). These memories in combination with the remarkable capacity of the unconscious for imaging and dramatic display and under the motivating influence of wish fulfillment provided the psychological underpinnings for what seemed to emerge as separate entities in the form of the medium's controls.

In the modern era the world of Newtonian physics has been transformed into the world of relativistic physics and the appreciation of this change, as Ehrenwald emphasizes in his writings, is necessary if the behavioral sciences are to accommodate the data of parapsychology. Some movement is occurring in psychiatry, but slowly. Thus far it has resulted in some shift away from a conceptual system based on the issues arising from the tension between safety and pleasure to a conceptual system more concerned with meanings, goals, and purposes. Psychiatry has become more holistic, field-oriented, relational, and interactional and is just beginning to send out transpersonal pseudopods. Helping in this process, hopefully, will be the conceptual fallout from the world of relativity physics, along with the newer behavioral technologies now available. From the former may come a greater awareness of, and sensitivity to, the way which our assumed spatial and temporal ordering of reality limits and impairs subject-object unity. It may also provide us with a deeper understanding of the role our notions of space and time play in structuring psychopathological processes.

The availability of the new technologies will inevitably move us further along in the process of conceptual review. The descriptive term dissociation can now be explored operationally in a number of ways. As an altered state of consciousness it can be dealt with along a physiological continuum of arousal; studied as a specific means of information processing; explored as a tension between right and left hemisphere function; or manipulated vegetatively through biofeedback techniques. Many of those exploring these new techniques approach their work without an antipsi bias so that the chances are greater than ever for a fruitful collaboration between behavioral scientist and parapsychologist in the interest of a deeper understanding of the psychological ills that befall us.

Psi is an effect in an interpersonal field and as such it presumably is incorporated into the ongoing dynamics of the members of that field. As psychiatry takes more cognizance of their occurrence, psi effects will move from an eccentric, anomalous position to whatever its rightful place may ultimately prove to be.


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