Metapsychics and the
Incredulity of Psychologists:
Psychical Research Before 1927
JOHN E. COOVER
In a recent article suggesting an admirable metapsychic experiment, Dr. W. F. Gehrhardt ( 1926) reiterates "the wonder with which one must regard the opposition of official science, particularly psychology, to the new field." The opposition of the psychologist is probably stronger than that of his fellow scientists because much of the detail in his particular field of knowledge has an especial pertinence to the evidence and methods of metapsychics. To understand his position, however, it is necessary first to examine the opposition of "official science," which he shares, and which springs from a persistent, sometimes described as an "obstinate," incredulity.
It is a fact that official science regards the phenomena of metapsychics with incredulity. It is an old fact. Official science was incredulous in 1848 when the Rochester Knockings began with Catherine and Margaret Fox; it was still incredulous 34 years later, when Professor Henry Sidgwick in the first presidential address before the Society for Psychical Research said, "I say it is a scandal that the dispute as to the reality of these phenomena should still be going on, that so many competent witnesses should have declared their belief in them, that so many others should be profoundly interested in having the question determined, and yet that the educated world, as a body, should still be simply in an attitude of incredulity." There followed the further accumulations of evidence for a period of 44 years, and René Sudre (1926) in an address delivered in the Amphitheatre of Medicine ( College of France, in Paris), under the auspices of the School of Psychology, on March 22, 1926, exclaimed:____________________