The Case for and against Psychical Belief

The Case for and against Psychical Belief

The Case for and against Psychical Belief

The Case for and against Psychical Belief

Excerpt

Back in December, 1925, Professor William McDougall, Mr. Harry Houdini, and I, while eating luncheon in the grill room of the Bancroft Hotel, Worcester, Massachusetts, began talking about spirit mediums, psychic phenomena, and other matters relating to psychical research. Professor McDougall and Mr. Houdini, though the best of friends, did not seem to be in entire agreement concerning certain matters that have become of wide social interest because of newspaper emphasis. Half jokingly and half in earnest, I suggested that they and other representatives thrash out the entire matter in a public symposium to be held at Clark University. The suggestion struck both of them with great force, and the three of us worked together in the lobby for more than two hours, planning the form of the symposium as well as we could at that early date. The President and Trustees of Clark University were favorable to the idea, and voted the use of certain funds left to Clark University some years ago for such purposes.

We want it distinctly understood that Clark University, in promoting this symposium, is by no means assuming the rôle of friend to psychical research and its various adherents. Clark University is assuming only the rôle of parliamentarian in the controversy. At this moment it is well to announce that the members of the Clark University Department of Psychology are most decidedly not yet convinced of the validity of the psychical interpretations based upon the subject matter of psychical research. Being scientists, we guarantee fair play in the conduct of this symposium. If there is a spirit world, we also, being human beings, are interested in learning about it.

Great care has been exercised in determining the individuals to whom invitations would be extended to participate in this symposium. We do not believe that a more able group of authorities could possibly be selected. A majority of the speakers are of world renown, and are experts of the highest order.

The manuscripts from Sir Oliver Lodge and from Professor John E. Coover arrived too late to be presented during the symposium, which was held at Clark University November 29 to December 11, 1926, and so are printed here for the first time. The letters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and from Professor Joseph Jastrow continue the controversy initiated during the symposium, and are printed here . . .

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