Two historians are tracing the origins and development of psychical research in the Netherlands, which otherwise has been seldom discussed in English language studies. They show how historically, Dutch parapsychology has been a significant part of the discipline of psychology.
Ingrid Kloosterman is a PhD student at Utrecht University in the Netherlands, investigating the history of Dutch parapsychology in the twentieth century. She has a Bachelor in Interdisciplinary Social Sciences and a Masters (cum laude) in Historical and Comparative Studies of the Sciences and Humanities. With her background in the social sciences, she is especially interested in the history of these disciplines. With her current research she wants to contribute to understanding how psychology in general and parapsychology in particular have changed over time in their aim for academic recognition.
Drs. Wim H. Kramer holds degrees in psychology and business administration and has worked in clinical psychology and telecommunications. Since January 2011, he has been the managing director of the Dutch foundation Stichting Het Johan Borgman Fonds (HJBF). The foundation is financing projects in psychic healing and parapsychology. He has published articles on clinical parapsychology and the history of parapsychology in the Netherlands. He is currently writing a biography of internally renowned Dutch parapsychologist W.H.C. Tenhaeff, the first formal study of Tenhaeff’s life’s work. Last year, he co-edited Perspectives of Clinical Parapsychology: An Introductory Reader with Eberhard Bauer and Gerd H. Hovelmann (Bunnik: Stichting HJBF, 2012).
I interviewed them both ahead of the Psychical Research in the History of Medicine at the Sciences being held at University College London, 25-27 January 2013, where they are presenting their papers. I had met them during my own research travels in North Carolina and England in August and September. I wanted to find out more about the history of Dutch psychical research, its interactions with non-Dutch researchers, and what Ingrid and Wim were going to present on at the upcoming conference.
Christopher Laursen: I want to begin by setting the scene. How did psychical research emerge in the Netherlands, and who are the major people who have worked in this study since it began there?
Wim Kramer: Within the Netherlands, traditionally there has always been a serious interest in so-called psychic phenomena. Back in February 1858, the famous D.D. Home was invited over to Amsterdam by a group of ten critical scientists and laymen to demonstrate his alleged powers in a séance to be held in an Amsterdam hotel. Not only Dutch critics were interested. Two days after this séance in Amsterdam, Home was invited by Queen Sophia of The Netherlands to give a séance at the Royal Palace in The Hague. The Queen showed her appreciation of this séance by giving Home an expensive ring. The ‘case for Spiritism’ was discussed widely in nineteenth-century newspapers, books, journals and special brochures on the topic. Newspapers and public magazines in general took a very critical point of view on the subject. Nineteenth-century Holland was still a very Protestant, religious society; the vicars decided what was right and wrong and, as expected, most were furiously against any Spiritual phenomena as being an act for the devil himself trying to lure mankind into darkness. Remarkably, on the other hand, many advocates of the Spiritistic movement in Holland were vicars. By the late 1890s, a strong movement of what we can call a Christian Spiritistic movement became mainstream. Also, the Theosophical movement, and about twenty years later, the Anthroposophical movement became influential in Holland.
Next to these spiritual movements there was interest by scientists in psychic phenomena. So when, in 1882, the British Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was founded, soon several Dutch scientists joined their ranks. One of the early participants was the famous Dutch author and psychiatrist Frederik van Eeden. He published several articles in the SPR’s journal and proceedings, and many of his books have spiritualistic elements in them. Remarkably, the First World War-era prime minister of the Netherlands was a member of the British SPR.
Ingrid Kloosterman: One could say that the real beginning of Dutch psychical research is to be situated in 1920. This is when the Dutch version of the Society for Psychical Research (Studievereeniging voor Psychical Research) was established. Several respected Dutch scientists were among its first members; such as the psychiatrist Gerard Jelgersma, the astronomer Jacobus Kapteyn and the first professor in experimental psychology Frans Roels. Another highly renowned pioneering psychologist – Gerard Heymans – was the first president of the Dutch SPR. His successful experiments – together with Brugmans and Weinberg – into telepathy on Abraham van Dam are still famous nowadays. In an ingenious experiment design, Van Dam had to point out a specific field on a chess board – a field which was decided upon by the experimenter beforehand.
It could be argued that the emergence of psychical research in the Netherlands was very much intertwined with the emergence of the discipline of psychology, perhaps moreso than in other countries. Heymans’ experiments with the student Van Dam were certainly not the first serious attempt to investigate paranormal phenomena. Wim mentioned the psychiatrist, pioneering psychologist and author Frederik van Eeden. For example, van Eeden had investigated the mediums Fay and Thompson in 1890 and 1902 respectively. In his opinion, the investigation of spiritualistic phenomena were an integral part of the new discipline of psychology. He pleaded for an anti-materialistic psychology in which these phenomena – and their complex relationship with fraud and deceit – could and should be researched seriously.
Wim: Two of the most interesting persons from the early twentieth century in my opinion are Mr. N.H. de Fremery and Floris Jansen (link in Dutch). Both were instrumental in establishing the first experimental laboratory dedicated to parapsychology. This laboratory existed from 1906 to 1908 in Amsterdam. Mr. de Fremery was also the nucleus of a ‘heavy’ debate in 1914 about the American medium Susanne Harris. Mr. de Fremery accused her of fraud. This caused an enormous row among Dutch Spiritualists and in the end, Mr. de Fremery resigned. Ingrid and I have just stared to investigate this ‘row/debate’ and intend to publish an in depth article on it in 2013/14. After the Laboratory of Jansen was closed it would take another decade before the next significant chapter in Dutch psychical research would start. That was in 1920, as Ingrid mentioned, with the creation of the Dutch SPR.
Another interesting person in the history of psychical research was Prof. Valckenier Suringar, Professor of Botany at Wageningen University. From a scientific point of view, he was caught between the Spiritistic explanation and the psychological (animistic) explanation. A few years back, Derk Jansen and I wrote an article on him. Interestingly, I recently obtained the original handwritten reports on the sittings held between 1920 and 1922.
Christopher: Ingrid, you and I met at Duke University this past summer where the archives of J.B. Rhine’s Parapsychological Laboratory are held – and what a fantastic collection and archive it is! Can you start by telling me a bit about your research project, and why it brought you to the United States and England?
Ingrid: Ah yes, the wonderful archives of the Parapsychology Laboratory! Those were amongst the most complete and elaborate archives I have worked with thus far. As a PhD student, I’m investigating the history of Dutch parapsychology in the whole twentieth century. The history of parapsychology in the Netherlands is quite unique, especially regarding its institutionalization. One of the first professors in parapsychology was appointed in the Netherlands at Utrecht University in 1953, this was Wilhelm Tenhaeff (link in Dutch). And in the ‘70s, there were even two professorships in parapsychology in the Netherlands, with two corresponding research institutes. In my project, I try to relate the developments in parapsychology – regarding institutionalization, research objects and methods – to developments in the discipline of psychology in general. In doing so, I eventually hope to demonstrate that many of the problems parapsychologists encountered in trying to become accepted as a scientific discipline could be regarded as an enlargement of similar issues all other researchers in psychology had to and still have to deal with.As part of my research I went to the United States, since for a long period of time – I would say from the 1930s up till the 1960s – the Parapsychology Laboratory of Joseph Banks Rhine was the center of international parapsychology. Rhine was corresponding with many parapsychologists all over the world and among them were several Dutch parapsychologists. I was particularly interested in the correspondence between Rhine and Johan van Busschbach. Rhine and Van Busschbach sent back and forth many letters from 1952 until 1974, which are all nicely kept in the archives of the Parapsychology Laboratory.
Van Busschbach was a school inspector, who – in his free time – conducted experiments into telepathy with teachers and students. The experimental setting that he used – in which the teacher had to look at a certain image and his pupils wrote down what they thought the teacher was looking at – and the fact that Van Busschbach used standardized forms which made statistical analysis easy, duly impressed Rhine, as did the fact that Van Busschbach obtained highly significant results. Van Busschbach came to visit Rhine several times in the 1950s and 1960s and conducted his experiments in Durham as well. In 1957, Rhine awarded Van Busschbach with the first MacDougall Award for distinguished work in parapsychology. Their correspondence – and the correspondence between Rhine and other Dutch parapsychologists –not only gave me a lot of information about the international reputation of Dutch parapsychology but also about which research objects were deemed interesting and what methods were used.
Christopher: I remember that I would come across the occasional letter from a Dutch researcher at that archive, and I would invite you to my table to have a look, Ingrid, and it became a really fun exercise in connecting in our research! It made things lively to have a researcher with similar interests there.
Wim, you and I met across the pond the following month, at the conference of the Society for Psychical Research. You were presenting on Floris Jansen, who you already mentioned briefly. A truly fascinating presentation that took us all the way from the Netherlands to Argentina. How did you come to find out about Jansen and how does he fit in with your historical research project?
Wim: Floris Jansen might in fact be the most intriguing person in the history of experimental parapsychology. Back in 1906 he founded a very modern en well-equipped laboratory dedicated to what we now call parapsychology research. The interesting fact is that his motivation was completely different from all other pioneer researchers in the field. These early researchers of the SPR were all were fascinated by the effects obtained at spiritualistic séances. Floris however entered the field from a totally different point of view: physiology. He tried to understand how biological life (cells, organisms, species) transformed into psychological life (the human mind, awareness). Floris thought that the so-called ‘ether theories’ might provide a model for explanation of this transformation. This was not a bad idea at all during his time. The ether theories were a complex series of theories based on an ancient Greek philosophical background adapted to physics in the seventeenth century. At that time, many scientists were seriously interested in these theories. Also the mechanism of mitosis was not yet fully understood by science and some theories on this process involved ether theoretical components. Floris postulated that alleged psychical phenomena like ectoplasm, apparitions, and knockings obtained at séances were in fact a waste product of the transformation process. However the most interesting aspects of his work were his actual experiments. They were all methodological on a very high level – even by nowadays’ standards – and from his publications it is clear that he already understood the concepts of what we now know as the experimenter effect, statistical evaluation, control groups and hypothesis testing. Note that this was all in the time that psychology as an experimental science did not even exist in Dutch universities.
It took me more than a decade of research to find out the history of this early laboratory in Amsterdam and the background of Mr. Jansen himself. My investigations actually brought me to Buenos Aires where Mr. Jansen lived most of the rest of his life.I’ve been interested in the history of parapsychology since the autumn of 1979 when I entered Utrecht University as a freshman psychology student. I changed from studying electronics at a technical university to psychology with the sole purpose to study parapsychology. In hindsight, I was lucky because back in those days this was possible at Utrecht University. Inside the psychology department there was also the Parapsychology Laboratory headed by professor Martin Johnson and Dr. Sybo Schouten offering formal courses on parapsychology. Next to historical aspects of parapsychology, I’m seriously interested in the clinical psychological aspects of parapsychology.
Christopher: How did you get into historical research, and more specifically, in this topic of study?
Wim: My main historical interest is the history of Dutch parapsychology as an academic science and in how the Dutch played a serious role in investigating the alleged psychical phenomena over the past one-hundred years. There is still so much hidden in the past covered with dust and slipping away in oblivion, often because nobody cares, but sometimes because researchers were deliberately wiped out of the history of the field for ‘political’ reasons. An interesting example of this is Prof. Dr. E.A. Greven (1879-1956) who, formally, was the first ever professor in parapsychology in Holland at Leiden University. Although I knew of his existence back in the 1980s, the pioneer parapsychologists in Holland who knew him personally actually refused to speak about him. It was only thanks to Google that I was able to start serous research to Dr. Greven and his work; by the end, I unravelled a totally unknown part of the history of Dutch parapsychology. Also the existence of the laboratory of the Dutch SPR before the Second World War was known but what kind of research was done and by whom remained unclear. A few years ago I dove into this and was able to reconstruct the history of this laboratory, the people involved and the work that was done. This finding is the topic of my talk at the London conference in January 2013.
Christopher: Ingrid, in your research so far, have you noticed correspondence and meetings with psychical researchers from outside of Holland? What are some of the most prominent relationships that have caught your attention?
Ingrid: Dutch parapsychology has always been a small field; within each period only a handful of researchers who could dedicate all their time to parapsychological research. The Netherlands is a small country, yet centrally located in Europe. Therefore, it is only logical that Dutch parapsychologists have always been interested in contact with parapsychologists in other countries. Thus far I have mainly focused on the contact Dutch parapsychologists had with famous parapsychologists from Anglo-Saxon countries.
For example van Eeden – who was one of the first popularisers of a Dutch parapsychology – upheld an intensive correspondence with Frederic Myers. Van Eeden and Myers had met at an International Congress of Experimental Psychology in London in 1892. Until 1900, they sent each other 80 letters and visited each other regularly. Their correspondence is interesting since it demonstrates simultaneously van Eeden’s critical stance towards Myers’ psychological ideas and his profound belief in the existence of a spiritual world.
I have already mentioned Van Busschbach who was in close contact with Rhine and visited Durham several times. Rhine was also in close correspondence with Martin Johnson. In 1974, this Swedish parapsychologist was appointed as full professor in parapsychology at Utrecht University. The fact that Johnson was Swedish is also a sign of the profound international character of Dutch parapsychology. From the many letters they have sent from 1962 until 1979 it is obvious that for Johnson, Rhine was his true mentor.
These are just some examples of interesting contact between Dutch parapsychologists and their international counterparts, but there are of course many more!
Christopher: How about yourself, Wim? Who are some of the key people from outside of the Netherlands with whom you have noticed Dutch psychical researchers corresponding, and how did their relationship develop?Wim: Ingrid is right in pointing at the intensive correspondence between the British SPR and many Dutch researchers at the beginning of the twentieth century. From the letters of Floris Jansen in our archive, we know that back in 1906 he was in correspondence with many researchers outside Holland. Not only in the UK but also with French researchers like Albert de Rochas. Dutch researchers however were also in close contact with Germany. We know for example that in the 1920s, Dr. E.A. Greven was in close contact with German researchers like Prof. Hans Driesch and Prof. Johannes Verweyen (link in German). German was the language for science in early twentieth-century Holland. German journals like Psychische Studien were important sources of information for Dutch researchers. In 1926, Tenhaeff, still a student of experimental psychology at Utrecht University , was contacting Harry Price in London to learn more about his experiments with Rudi Schneider. The contact between Price and Tenhaeff was sustained over the years and was the basis for the Dutch translation of Price’s book Confessions of a Ghost Hunter. Thanks to the correspondence between Tenhaeff and Price that is kept in the Harry Price Library in Senate House, London, we know more details about the interactions between these two famous researchers.
Christopher: You are both going to be presenting at the conference Psychical Research in the History of Medicine and the Sciences at University College London on January 26th and 27th. On what will you be presenting? And what else at this conference are you looking forward to hearing about?
Wim: Inspired by the laboratories of Floris Jansen in Amsterdam and Harry Price in London, Tenhaeff argued from 1929 onwards at the annual meetings of the Dutch SPR that if the Dutch SPR would be a truly scientific community, they must have an up-to-date laboratory to investigate the claims of the paranormal. This dream was fulfilled in 1935 when the Dutch SPR had the opportunity to open a small but very well equipped parapsychology laboratory at the premises of a large hospital in Amsterdam. Due to the outbreak of the Second World War, the laboratory was closed down and never opened again. However many interesting experiments were conducted at this laboratory, and my presentation at the UCL conference will give an overview of this. In my presentation, I will focus on the remarkable finding that in this parapsychology laboratory most of the pre-Second World War experiments with EEG (electroencephalography) were conducted. In 1930s Holland, the medical establishment was not overwhelmingly interested in the new EEG possibilities. It was only within psychiatry and parapsychology that the new EEG options were used for experimental research.
At UCL, I hope to meet other scientists that, like me, are interested in the history of psychical research as a scientific field of experimental studies. I would like to exchange information on international laboratory research in the first part of the twentieth century in order to compare the laboratory set-ups and methodology used in different countries in those early years.
Ingrid: First of all, let me say that I’m really looking forward to the UCL conference. It doesn’t happen often that a conference solely dedicated to the history of psychical research and parapsychology is being organized. And this one even lasts three days! I’m really excited to hear all the different historians that are working on this subject. What is their approach? What historiographical claims do they make? What do they believe we could learn from the history of psychical research and parapsychology? I expect many vibrant and inspirational discussions.
In my own presentation I will make a comparison between two Dutch organizations of psychical research in the 1920s: on one hand, the Dutch Society for Psychical Research (SPR) and on the other, the Society for Psychical Research and Applied Magnetism (SPRAM). In the historiography of Dutch parapsychology, the Dutch SPR, founded in 1920, is always attributed a central role, if only because of its famous first president, the pioneering psychologist Gerard Heymans, and his well-known experiment with Van Dam.
In my presentation, however, I will claim that SPRAM thrived more than the Dutch SPR in the 1920s. SPRAM was oriented very practically. Its members educated magnetizers, treated patients in the society’s magnetic hospital and were forerunners in the public debate on whether only doctors should be allowed to practice medicine. Two members of SPRAM, Paul Dietz and Wilhelm Tenhaeff, would go on to save the waning Dutch SPR in 1928 and both would acquire university positions as parapsychologists. By comparing the two societies, I believe a crucial aspect of the emerging discipline of parapsychology becomes evident: its relevance to the general public, and hence, the public’s support. Lack of that support almost ended the Dutch SPR. Without the practical approach of SPRAM, the intellectuals of SPR would not have survived and Dutch parapsychology would not have developed any further.
Christopher: The conference sounds fascinating, and for those reading who will be in London later in January, you can check out the program and register on the conference’s website. I’ve found your overview of the history of Dutch psychical research most enlightening, Wim and Ingrid.
Some years ago, I spoke at a conference in Ireland, Science and Technology in the European Periphery (STEP). It was founded to give more attention to the development of science and tech in European countries that were outside of the usual historical narrative that places Germany, France, and Britain at the centre. This is a bit of a Latourian concept, I have to say, the idea of a centre and a periphery. So, many historians of science from “peripheral” countries in northern, eastern, and southern Europe, as well as Ireland, were in attendance, arguing that scientists in their countries truly did make significant contributions to the scientific profession. What surpised me most of all were the number of Dutch historians at this conference. “The Netherlands as peripheral to the history of science?” I thought. I didn’t realize how underrepresented historians in Holland felt that science in their country had been in the broader study of the history of science.
Myself, I presented on a case that extended to two “peripheral” countries – Hungary and Spain. But for me, there was an additional peripheral element, and that was that this was a case of trance mediumship in which a Hungarian girl was allegedly possessed by the spirit of a Spanish woman, and thus displayed xenoglossy, speaking Spanish fluently even though she had never been exposed to the language before. Furthermore, she permanently transformed into this personality. (You can read about this case in the fantastic paper by Mary Rose Barrington, Peter Mulacz, and Titus Rivas in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research and an overview that Guy Lyon Playfair wrote on the case for Fortean Times.)
In essence, what I found through the STEP conference was while these historians of science were busy trying to recover national science endeavours that otherwise had been left out of mainstream history books that had favoured a grand narrative of research and invention carried out in the “centres” of Europe, I brought forth yet another layer of what periphery meant – how psychical research and a productive relationship between science and religion had also largely been left out or minimized in historical accounts of European science. (This goes back to what you were saying, Wim, about how elements of history have been erased because of politics.)
What strikes me about what you’ve said here is that you are maybe in the same boat. You are recovering the voices and lives of psychical researchers and parapsychologists and attempting to integrate as part of the history of science. By bringing this historical Dutch practice to the attention of the Society for Psychical Research, the Parapsychological Association, and now Psychical Research in the History of Medicine and the Sciences at University College London, you are integrating the history of Dutch psychical research into what has been the “master narrative” of this history – which by and large as been British/American-centred among English-language scholars. In the reasonably young English-language historiography of psychical research and Spiritualism, over the past decade or so, historians have brought other regions into this narrative – for example Heather Wolffram and Corinna Treitel on Germany; Sofie Lachapelle, John Warne Monroe, and Lynn L. Sharp on France; and increasingly I’m seeing more studies on places such as Spain, Brazil, and Canada.
I am particularly impressed by how in your work, you are revealing the importance of Dutch psychical research’s relationship to the development of professional psychology, and how Dutch researchers themselves were eager to contribute to an international discussion about this field, and to draw on and further the progress of the study (for example, creating experimental laboratories inspired by those of Harry Price and Floris Jansen, and seeking practical applications of these studies as SPRAM did).
I wonder if you have any thoughts on a few points that I raise here:
Does this concept of “periphery” and “centre” have any relevance in your research projects, or do knowledge and research activities operate in a different way?
Wim: No, not for me. However I do not consider parapsychological nor – what we now call regular – psychological research in the Netherlands as being peripheral. In fact the Netherlands have always been very active in this kind of research. It was only in the early 1960s that US-based psychology and parapsychology became major in these fields. This was due to the fact that English became the leading scientific language and that the big USA had seemingly huge amounts of money and scientists available for research and lecturing. Also for regular psychology at Dutch universities the world completely changed around the early 1960s. In this respect I do not see any difference between the developments in Holland for mainline psychology and parapsychology.
Ingrid: Without a doubt, in the broad narrative of the history of science it is rather difficult to regard the Netherlands as a peripheral country. For example, being a superpower in the seventeenth century, the many contributions of Dutch ‘scientists’ and philosophers are widely acknowledged.
Within the history of psychical research and parapsychology, specifically, this is certainly a different story. Although international parapsychologists are well aware of the active parapsychological community in the Netherlands in the twentieth century, historians have not truly picked up on this yet. I believe this hiatus is also related to the fact that most historians thus far have largely focused upon the fin de siècle when investigating the history of psychical research and parapsychology. The common idea seems to be that psychical research was a ‘normal’ part of the sciences at the end of the nineteenth century, but that this has faded out rapidly afterwards. But it is only after the Second World War that Dutch parapsychology becomes internationally really unique and more important. And this second half of the twentieth century just has not been investigated as extensively by historians of psychical research and parapsychology. This appears to be changing right now (and maybe your own work is an example thereof, Christopher!) and I hope that Wim and I can contribute to this development.
In my own work the concept of ‘periphery’ and ‘centre’ certainly plays a role in another respect. The focus of my research is upon the interplay between psychology in general (the ‘centre’) and parapsychology (the ‘periphery’) in particular. Often the relation between psychology and parapsychology is portrayed as an amicable one in the fin de siècle that later on changed drastically into a hostile one. I believe the Dutch history of parapsychology shows that this relationship is way more complex and illustrates the inherent kaleidoscopic nature of the discipline of psychology. In the current ‘neurological’ times this colourful history of psychology tends to be forgotten.
Christopher: What kinds of comments have you received from audiences at the conferences you have attended outside of Holland?
Wim: Always positive. People are really surprised to hear that parapsychology had such an overwhelming and rich tradition in Holland. Also almost nobody – including historians of psychology – realize that all of the founding fathers of psychology were also seriously interested in psychical research and parapsychology. Many of them actually considered the possibility of the existences of possible paranormal powers within humans to be of an utmost important fact for psychology. However, due to the Spiritualistic movement, the almost holy belief system behind this and the often aggressive and closed character of the Spiritualistic movement, most serious scientists did leave the field. This happened to Floris Jansen, De Fremery, Heymans, Tenhaeff and all others. Actually, the ongoing debate and closed attitude of the Spiritualistic movement toward serious experiments almost caused the termination of the Dutch SPR in 1929. Also it is remarkable that Holland, being a small country, appointed Dr. Paul Dietz to be a lecturer in parapsychology at Leiden University in 1932. In 1933, Tenhaeff was appointed to a same position at Utrecht University. From 1953 until 1980 at Utrecht University, there was the Parapsychology Institute headed by Tenhaeff. Even more special was the fact that from 1971 to 1989 within the faculty of psychology at Utrecht University, the Parapsychology Laboratory existed. Both the institute of Tenhaeff and the Laboratory of Johnson became world famous within the field. Apart from these formal scientific institutions, within Holland many more or less serious layman societies were active in the field. All of this shows that Holland has a very large and rich tradition in Psychical Research and parapsychology and that even more, still unrecovered, facts have to been dig up from under the dust of the past. One of the big projects running within the HJBF is the Archival Project, in which we try to save, as much as possible, books, journals, documents and personal archives related to parapsychology and make sure they will be indexed and publicly available for researchers. In the past years several students have used these archive materials for bachelor and master theses.
Ingrid: The international conferences I have visited show quite nicely the differences between parapsychologists and historians in the acknowledgement of Dutch parapsychology. Whereas parapsychologists usually know many Dutch parapsychologists, international historians are often quite unaware of the role the Netherlands have played in international parapsychology. A conference on the history of psychical research and parapsychology has recently resulted in a special issue of the journal History of the Human Sciences discussing the discipline in various countries such as England, the Netherlands, Japan and Hungary.
Christopher: And what is the state of Dutch psychical research today? Is there something in your historical research that is benefitting the work of today?
Wim: It breaks my heart to say that today the scientific research in parapsychology in Holland is coming to a standstill. The field is frozen. This means that the generation of the 1970s and ‘80s parapsychologists are not followed up by young blood and new energetic ideas. It is as if the field has frozen to remain forever in 1990.
Of course closing down the Utrecht University Parapsychology Laboratory in 1989 caused this. It is no longer possible to be trained at university level. Also, no steady funds are available for doing fundamental research. The situation today inspires young and talented researchers to choose another field other than that which has little to nothing to offer in jobs and prestige.
Ingrid: As Wim has already mentioned the discipline of parapsychology is virtually non-existent in the Netherlands in this moment. I hope, with my research, to benefit psychological researchers in general. I would like with my research to add to the awareness of psychological researchers about the history of their discipline. In a period where psychological research and psychological knowledge are severely questioned (such as because of the fraud of the social psychologist Diederik Stapel) it is important to reflect upon the current research practices. I believe that knowledge of the history of Dutch parapsychology could be helpful in this regard. Many of the problems parapsychologists have encountered in gaining academic acceptance are reminiscent of issues in psychological research in general today.
Christopher: Thank you so much for your insights about psychical research in the Netherlands, Ingrid and Wim!