An Article From The Journal Of

The American Society For Psychical Research




A Comparison of Old and New Methods of Response

to Targets in ESP Experiments Footnote.1

RHEA A. WHITE footnote.2


The majoriy of the clairvoyant schools in the United States, use the Rose Method which was made popular by the Beverly Psychic Instiute. There is an actual study that show how well this method works. It was published in 1964!! Wow! I was really happy to come across this study. 


Rev. Dame Merit Mayati

History of the Problem

Since 1882, with the founding of the (British) Society for Psychical Research, organized and systematic attempts have been made to investigate and demonstrate the existence of ESP; and some attempts have also been made to study the way in which the percipient responds to the target. However, a review of the literature of these eighty-odd years reveals some rather striking differences in both the kind and the number of observations concerning this important problem of method of response. This period can be roughly divided into two parts: the first falls between 1882 and 1940 and the second between 1940 and 1962. The differences in these two periods in regard to the attention given to the percipient’s subjective method for making the test response will be reviewed in this paper in the hope that some insights may emerge which will shed light on how to further current investigations.

One notes that in the earlier period the percipient’s method of response was frequently mentioned, whereas in the more recent experimental reports it is seldom considered. This may be due in part to the fact that most of the work in recent years has been done with groups of subjects working together; under such conditions, it is obvious that very little attention can be given to each individual subject’s method of response. The general practice in these group experiments is simply to instruct the subjects to write down or otherwise indicate whatever comes into their minds as to the identity of the target.

While the general question of the percipient’s state of mind, particularly in regard to concentration and relaxation, has been discussed in the more recent literature footnote.3 to the best of my knowledge no definite hypothesis has been put forward concerning a “correct” method of responding in the ESP test situation, in the sense of proposing a specific series of steps to be taken by the percipient in order to obtain significant results.

Certain assumptions are implicit in this approach, or “lack of approach.” The first is that there is no “correct” way of making a response; that is, that there is probably a different kind of response for every person, or at least for certain personality types. This being the case, the experimenter does not presume to dictate the method to the subject. Rather than force the subject’s response into a mold that it does not fit, he is permitted to drift into his own method and respond in whatever manner seems most spontaneous and natural to him.

Secondly, some experimenters have felt that the more introspective a subject becomes about his response, the more that response will tend to be inhibited, sometimes even leading to psi-missing (obtaining a significant negative deviation by means of ESP).Footnote.4 Here the implicit assumption seems to be that the less attention paid to the nature of the task, the better it will be carried out.
The final assumption is that if positive psychological relations between subject and experimenter and optimum working conditions are established, the way in which the subject makes his response, as such, does not really matter. This implies that under circumstances of psychological freedom and spontaneity, the subject’s response, no matter how it is made, is likely to be free and spontaneous. There is some doubt whether this is true; and even if it is, one wonders how effective such “spontaneity” can be.

Apparently some very different assumptions were in the minds of the earlier psychical researchers. It seems clear from their reports that they assumed there was much the percipient had to do before he could expect to attain a state of mind in which it would be possible for him to obtain paranormal knowledge of the target; 

that if he could attain this state of mind, then he would be far more likely to get a correct impression than if he simply grasped the first thing that presented itself to consciousness. Therefore these pioneer investigators encouraged their subjects not only to respond to the target, but to attain the proper state of mind for doing so.

Perhaps this approach evolved out of the nature of the target materials used: pictures, diagrams, objects, or other items with a much smaller probability of success than that associated with the five standard ESP symbols used in modern experiments. A subject is perhaps more likely merely to “guess” at the target when he knows it is one of five definite possibilities.

On the other hand, he may be dismayed by the task if he is confronted with a whole universe of items from which to choose. And yet, perhaps this in itself can serve the purpose of subduing the conscious mind, thus throwing the percipient back upon deeper levels of himself.

In the 1930’s and early years of the 1940’s, when individual high-scoring subjects were sought and took part in quantitative experiments extending over long periods of time, techniques very similar to those discussed in this paper may have been used (although the reports are not explicit on this point). To cite an example from J. B. Rhine’s first monograph:

Several subjects have described their ESP experience as involving a state of “detachment,” “abstraction,” “relaxation” and the like. And it is rather apparent to the objective observer in many of them. Miss Bailey practically goes into light trance with eyes closed. Pearce seems to me to approximate light trance after he works steadily for sometime. In fact, his eyes almost close and the pupils turn somewhat upward. Cooper, Zirkle, and Miss Turner close their eyes when they do not have to keep them open … Both Linzmayer and Pearce like to look off with a “far away look” much of the time. The former especially was given to staring out of the window. He preferred this to closing his eyes, saying that the images were uncontrolled with the eyes closed. The fact that Miss Ownbey perceives the figures …by hallucination, suggests that she, too, has achieved relatively good abstraction from sensory disturbances … She, like Miss Bailey, has the ability to go readily into trance by her own volition … (14, p. 132)

Even here, however, the emphasis is not on the introspective reports of the subjects themselves,although they are considered individually. But in many of the more recent experimental reports, even if the subject’s mental state is considered at all, it is presented in the form of generalizations based on the observation of a number of subjects. Until we know much more about what inner states, if any, are associated with the successful demonstration of ESP, speculation in this manner without first presenting the observations from which the generalizations are derived is an instance of incomplete scientific reporting.

As we have already pointed out, the percipient’s mental state is described in many of the early reports and these descriptions indicate that a more or less definite ritual was encouraged by the investigators. Thus the vestiges of a method that can be traced in the older literature may be the remains of the baby that was thrown out with the bath water when the strictly quantitative experiments took over the field.

The Basis of the Present Investigation

This paper is based on the assumption that the best way to discover the manner of response most likely to succeed in ESP experiments is to learn how it “feels” from the percipient’s point of view. In doing this, of course, we will encounter the same problem of dealing with subjective reports as did psychology many years ago. One way in which psychology met this problem was to recognize only “objective” observations of behavior as being within the purview of its science. Must parapsychology do the same?

Even in psychology the question remains as to how “objective” we can be. To be objective may be equivalent to wearing blinders. This is fine if we merely wish to see straight ahead, but perhaps what we most want to know is off to one side. In any case, we should try to give some idea of our subjective bias (as far as we can be aware of it) in our reports. We all have such a bias, whether we admit it or not, and simply to ignore it and present our reports as if we stood completely outside our subject is ostrich-like behavior not befitting the truly objective scientist. Perhaps the most objective thing we can do is to try to understand our own subjectivity. A similar approach has been adopted by many psychologists, e.g., Hall and Lindzey, who wrote in their book on personality theories: “There is no such thing as ‘no theory’; consequently, the moment we attempt to forget about theory ‘for the present’ we are really using implicit, personally determined, and perhaps inconsistent assumptions concerning behavior and these unidentified assumptions will determine what will be studied and how” (3, pp. 16-17).

As stated above, it is in the earlier published accounts that we find attempts to develop a mental technique for making correct responses in ESP tests. Footnote.5 Save for a few scattered experiments which we will review here, apparently no one in recent years has tried this kind of approach. But perhaps today we are in a better position to take up this thread which runs through the earlier work and which had to be abandoned for the time being when the more urgent problems of ruling out all objections to the ESP hypothesis became the main concern of experimenters in this field.
It is true that most of the work to be reviewed here was carried out before experimenters became preoccupied with problems of careful controls and correct experimental designs. Not only were some of the experimental conditions very poor, but the nature of the target material used made a statistical evaluation of the results difficult or impossible. This is unfortunate, not only because we do not know to what extent chance may have been responsible for the seemingly striking results obtained, but also because we have no consistent basis for comparing the results obtained under various conditions or in different experiments.Footnote.6 However, we are not trying to rest the case for the existence of ESP on these early experiments; the later, better-controlled experiments have since done that. We are merely turning to the task of finding reliable techniques of response to the target. And it is in respect to thisproblem that modern experimental reports are lacking.
In the reports to be presented here, the experimenters were convinced-and also convinced others-that they had demonstrated ESP. At any rate, an apparent psi factor was thought to be present.Footnote.7 Let us assume that there was and, on this basis, go on to a consideration of the material in order to look for clues to a method for encouraging ESP which can be tested by further experiments. As reports of such experiments become available, a clearer picture will emerge of the characteristics of the right method of response, if such there be. But until this work is done, we should not neglect the rich sources of information the older material provides concerning the percipient’s awareness of what happens when he responds to the target in the ESP test situation.


The Experimental Conditions

  • Only a brief and very general description of the experimental conditions need be given here. Those interested in examining the detailed conditions and results of each experiment may consult the original reports. Footnote.8 References are given in all cases. This paper attempts to deal only with the subjective aspects of the psi response as recorded by the percipient or the experimenter.
  • For the most part, drawings and actual objects were used as targets in these experiments. However, in many cases cards (usually ordinary playing cards) were used, as in some of the work of Dessoir, Lodge, Rawson, Richet, and Thaw.
  • As a rule, the tests were for telepathy; i.e., an agent was looking at the target and attempting (usually) to “send” it to the percipient. Usually agent and percipient were in the same room during the experiment; however, in the case of Rush and Warcollier, agent and percipient were sometimes separated by many hundreds of miles. In most of the remaining cases, a “two-room” situation was provided when the agent was actually drawing or otherwise determining the target, but since the percipient was brought back into the agent’s room in order to make his response, this cannot be considered equivalent to the standard modern requirement for a two-room procedure. Often, however, the percipient was blindfolded or ostensibly kept his eyes shut.
  • Occasionally, the tests were for clairvoyance; i.e., no agent was concentrating on the target and, supposedly, no one knew what the target was until after the percipient had made his response. (Tyrrell’s subject, Miss Johnson, and Richet’s subject, Léonie, did some clairvoyance tests.) The possibility exists, of course, that even in the “telepathy” tests the percipients gained their knowledge clairvoyantly from the target without the mediation of the agent.

The Participants

The names of the percipients are listed below in alphabetical order. When the percipient does not give his own introspections directly, the experimenter’s name is listed (within the same alphabetical order), followed by an asterisk. The percipients are Dorris Carlson, Max Dessoir, Mlle. Eugénie and Mlle. Jane (subjects of Schmoll and Mabire), Gertrude M. Johnson, Oliver Lodge* (subjects were Miss E. and Miss R.), J. E. Mabire, Gilbert Murray, Henry G. Rawson, Charles Richet* (subject was Léonie), J. H. Rush (with Ann Jensen), Anton Schmoll, Mrs. Henry Sidgwick* (subject was Gilbert Murray), Craig Sinclair, A. Blair Thaw, G. N. M. Tyrrell* (subject was Gertrude M. Johnson), and René Warcollier.
Among these the following acted both as subject and as experimenter: Carlson, Dessoir, Mabire, Murray, Rawson, Rush, Schmoll, Sinclair, Thaw, and Warcollier.

Description of the Method

It has already been stressed that in the earlier period of investigation a good deal of attention was paid to the way in which the percipient responded to the target. A major development growing out of this emphasis is the somewhat ritualistic technique used for obtaining the correct response. Most of the remainder of this paper will be devoted to a detailed study of this method and a consideration of the advisability of using it, or an adaptation of it, in future experiments.

This method is divided into several steps, each of which is described together with relevant passages from the original reports. The steps are (1) Relaxation, (2) Engaging the Conscious Mind, (2A) The Demand, (3) The Waiting, the Tension, and the Release, and (4) The Way the Response Enters Consciousness.

This separation into steps has been made mainly for convenience in presenting the material and to facilitate discussion. As nearly as possible, the separation was made along the lines suggested by the material itself. Other separations may be possible. In any case, it would be unwise to consider any division as hard and fast, for the essence of the method being considered (paradoxically enough, since it is quite deliberate) is to allow the freest response possible to well up in some form of spontaneous expression from the deeper levels of the percipient’s mind.

It may be well to mention here that although the steps in this method are conscious,i.e., deliberate, the aim is to produce a spontaneous and unconsciousresponse, i.e., one not initiated by the conscious mind. By the very nature of the situation, the percipient begins with conscious knowledge of his aim, which is to discern the target by nonsensory and (apparently) unconscious means. In addition to remembering his aim, the percipient is forced by the situation to remind himself that at the moment he does not know what the target is, nor will he be able to discover it by any “normal” (sensory and rational) means. This throws him back upon the deeper, non-rational resources of his being.

With the information available to consciousness at that moment, then, the percipient is aware that the only course open to him is pure guessing. Thus far, this approach corresponds to what takes place both in the more recent experiments and the older ones. But in both cases there must be something more than mere guessinginvolved, since the results obtained are not of a chance nature. In much of the modern ESP testing, however, the subject is, so far as he knows, merely “guessing.” But the earlier work may have carried the process a step or two further, at least in regard to the percipient’s conscious awareness of what was happening. (The actual dynamics at an unconscious level may be the same in both cases.)

As will be seen in the pages to come, one of the purposes of this method is to take the “guesswork” out of the ESP response at the conscious level. Apparently the correct response exists at an unconscious level. By making the contents of the unconscious conscious, much of the guesswork can be eliminated. The main task confronting the conscious mind, then, is to recognizethe correct response if and when it comes to the conscious level; a second task may be to school itself to waitfor this response. (It is at this point that many of the modern “guessers” respond, willy-nilly, by indicating the first thing that comes to mind.) There follows a detailed account of the four steps into which the method is divided.

Step One: Relaxation

The early reports place a great deal of emphasis on achieving a state of deep mental and physical relaxation. Deliberate attempts are made to still the body and mind, and these techniques are, in most cases, incorporated in a kind of ritual. This is in marked contrast to more recent methods where directions (if any) merely consist of telling the subject to “relax.” (Actually, relaxation is not easily attained and may even require some degree of training. Footnote.9) In most of the cases reviewed here, specific techniques are made an integral part of the method for achieving a relaxed state. The subjects of this study say the following about relaxation:


[The percipient was instructed to] … close the eyes lightly, and thus to avoid all muscular exertion… to give himself up to a completely passive condition … (21, p. 325).


By making the body insensitive I mean simply to relax completely your mental hold of, or awareness of, all bodily sensation. After giving yourself this suggestion a few times, you proceed to relax both body and mind. Relax all mental interest in everything in the environment; inhibit all thoughts which try to wander into consciousness from the subconscious … This is clearly a more thorough affair than “just relaxing.”

Drop your body, a dead weight, from your conscious mind. Make your conscious mind a blank. It is the mind, conscious or subconscious, which holds the body tense. Give to the subconsciousness the suggestion of concentrating on one idea, and then completely relax consciousness. To make the conscious mind a blank it is necessary to “let go” of the body; just as to “let go” of the body requires “letting go” of consciousness of the body. If, after you have practiced “letting go” of the body, you find that your mind is not a blank, then you have not succeeded in getting your body rid of all tension. Work at it until you can let both mind and body relax completely (24, pp. 181-182).

It appears, then, that the first general requirement is to achieve a state of complete relaxation. The induction of this state requires a considerable length of time, especially in the beginning, and it is not unusual to spend from five to ten minutes on this step alone. Variations of some of the classical techniques for inducing relaxation are used by many of the percipients; for example, relaxing the toes of one foot, then the ankle, and so on up one side of the torso, and then beginning all over again with the other side. Others suggest beginning with the head and working downwards. Some percipients advocate sitting on a stiff-backed chair, while others consider that it is best to lie flat on one’s back. It would seem that here (as well as in all the other steps in this method) it is necessary for the individual to make pilot experiments of his own to discover what works best for him.

At the same time that one is relaxing the physical body, mental suggestion may be employed. In this connection, it appears that Step One cannot be properly carried out without introducing Step Two. Although the whole person is involved, it is the conscious ego, at least in the beginning, that must initiate and guide the work.

It might be well for anyone attempting this method to adopt Mrs. Sinclair’s technique of working out a system of checks in order to tell when a step has been properly accomplished and one is ready to progress to the next. She found, it will be recalled, that if her mind was not a blank, she had not properly carried out Step One.

Some percipients stress the importance of doing these exercises “religiously” at a specified time each day, and if possible in the same place, allowing no interference with this schedule. If the conscious mind demonstrates, so to speak, the sincerity of its intention by developing and adheringto a regular daily regimen, the unconscious mind may then fall in line with that intention.

Step Two: Engaging the Conscious Mind

When the percipient has achieved the proper degree of relaxation, the second step in the process begins in earnest (although, as we have pointed out, it was also present in the first step). Here the goal is to engage the attention of the conscious mind, which will wander. The ways in which some of the percipients tried to do this are as follows:


An attempt was made to hold the mind still. This was done by concentrating on the mental image of a yellow rose. I worked at it until I could see it clearly, and would hold it as still and as long as possible … At no time was I “thinking” about a rose. By intense effort, and with eyes closed, I mentally visualizeda rose; effort was made to hold to that one single point until I could “see” the very texture of the petals. This was not at all like thinking. It was concentration, which in one sense was “tension”-or equivalent to “friction,” perhaps … Hold the image as long as possible. When it slips away, bring it back again and again. When it is held firmly, relax the hold and wait a minute … (1).


The percipient … must endeavor above everything not to strain expectation in looking for the emergence of the image, but simply to wait quietly. He should empty his brain, as it were, of all disturbing imaginations, and gaze with closed eyes into a deep darkness (2, pp. 123-124)


[The percipient] is told to keep in a perfectly passive condition, with a mind as vacant as possible … (7, p. 191).


When I am getting at the thing which I wish to discover the only effort I make is a sort of effort of attention of a quite general kind (10, p. 58).


[He expresses the opinion that when the agent urges] “You must know what it is,” Footnote.10 the chief good of such expressions would, in my view, be to prevent the percipient from letting his mind wander, or from thinking of other things, which would probably be fatal to success-unless for a sufficient interval he kept his mind a tabula rasafor the transferred thought to impress itself upon (12, p. 17)


In receiving, J. H. R.’s practice was to clear his mind as nearly as possible of sensory distraction, frequently sitting in darkness, and then to stop the usual stream of rational “daydream” imagery, thus creating a subjective blank screen upon which incoherent, unanticipated forms might take shape (18, p. 124).


[The percipient was instructed to] … give himself up to a completely passive condition, and carefully to avoid straining his mind in search of the idea (21, p. 325).


The kind of concentration I mean is putting the attention on oneobject, or one uncomplicatedthought, such as joy, or peace, and holding it there steadily. It isn’t thinking; it is inhibiting thought, except for one thought, or one object in thought … Simultaneously, [the percipient] must learn to relax, for strangely enough, a part of concentration is complete relaxation (24, p. 179).

… visualize a rose, or a violet-some pleasant, familiar thing which does not arouse emotional memory-trains. Gaze steadily, peacefully, at the chosen object-think only of it-try not to let any memories it may arouse enter your mind. Keep attention steady, just seeing the color, or the shape of the flower and nothing else. Do not think things about the flower. Just look at it. Select one thing about it to concentrate on, such as its shape, or its color, or the two combined in a visual image: “pink and round” (24, p. 183).

After you have practiced the exercise of concentrating on a flower -and avoiding sleep-you will be able to concentrate on holding the peculiar blank state of mind which must be achieved if you are to make successful experiments in telepathy. There may be strain to start with, but it is getting rid of strain, both physical and mental, which constitutes relaxation, or blankness, of the conscious mind. Practice will teach you what this state is, and after a while you can achieve it without strain (24, pp. 184-185).


One must create in oneself a void of thought, keeping the attention solely upon the one idea of visualization (31, p. 20).

The main features of Step Two seem to be lack of strain, passivity, a blank mental screen, persistence, and-paradoxically-concentration in one form or another. As Gardner Murphy and Laura A. Dale have pointed out:

The apparent inconsistency, then, between the value of concentration and the value of relaxation appears to stem from failure to specify whatis concentrated, whatis relaxed. The fact seems to be that the everyday attitude of perceiving is directed toward the immediate world of time and spaceto which we are normally adjusted, and unless one learns how to break this attitude, more concentration does nothing but focus the normalperception. Unconsciously,however, and without effort, one may be oriented toward events with which our normal perception is unable to make contact, and if this orientation is strongly motivated, contact may be established in another way – subconsciously – provided only that the conscious processes do not interfere. Some individuals can consciously train themselves to hold their conscious processes in leash, or even to give their deeper processes the “go” signal; in other individuals the training process proceeds unwittingly, perhaps through the deeper satisfaction and self-fulfillment which subconscious processes release (9, pp. 13-14).

Most of the individuals we are considering here were able to “hold their conscious processes in leash.” The aim of this aspect of the method is to prevent the conscious mind from interfering with the unconscious paranormal process. Attention is withdrawn from the normal sensory and rational channels and the mind is curbed from all imaginative excursions. It appears that this is accomplished by concentrating the total conscious attention upon one specific thing. In so doing, interference of the conscious mind is eliminated or diminished, not by suppressing it, but by deploying it elsewhere. The concentration is directed, not to an object in the external environment, nor to the inner depths of one’s mind, but to a mental image that one deliberately sets oneself to keep in the center of attention. The ability to carry out this task should be within the conscious control of all of us to the degree that we possess the necessary qualifications of persistence and the desire to succeed.

It may seem paradoxical that some of our percipients aim at achieving a state of inner blankness or emptiness, while others, as we have indicated above, emphasize the need to concentrate exclusively on one object-what René Warcollier calls “monoideism.” It seems certain, however, that each of these approaches is used to accomplish the same purpose: to engage or distract the full attention of the conscious mind. In fact, it can be argued that the two approaches are the same in essence, although appearing at first glance to be opposites. In order to achieve “blankness,” one must concentrate on the imageof blankness, or on the act of emptying the mind, just as one must when one chooses, on the other hand, to attend to the seemingly more concrete image of a flower. One mental content is no more solid than another; in this sense, the mind is a great equalizer. In either case, it seems to be a mental imagethat one concentrates upon. Footnote.11

If one chooses to follow the technique of concentrating upon a specific image, there will probably be difficulties at first in keeping that image, and onlythat image, constantly in mind. A more or less long period of practice and discipline is called for in which intruding thoughts and images must be systematically rejected, while the intention to adhere to the chosen image is continually renewed. The goal is to reach a stage of proficiency in which one can, in the words of Mrs. Carlson, “hold the image forever[italics, mine] if need be.” A stage must be reached where the image takes on a life of its own and can be held effortlessly in a consciousness where all intruding influences have been successfully eliminated. As Warcollier put it, “It is not a question of merely thinking of a certain flower, but of seeing it appear inwardly as a hypnagogic image” (31, p. 223). Only when this trance-like state has been achieved and held effortlessly is one ready for the next step.

If one does not have the ability to produce vivid visual imagery, then one may decide to use the technique of concentrating upon an emotion or feeling, or of making one’s mind a blank. But whichever technique is selected (and here again, we would do well to experiment to find out which one is best suited to our needs), the great importance of patience and persistence cannot be overemphasized.

Step Two-A: The Demand

This is designated as a sub-step because it is peculiar to only two of our percipients, Carlson and Sinclair. Footnote.12 The fact that they followed the same method is probably because, as mentioned earlier, Mrs. Carlson was inspired to take up her experiments by reading Upton Sinclair’s book, Mental Radio (24), in which the method of his wife, Craig, is set forth in great detail. Their technique differs from that of the other percipients considered here in that, at a certain point in the process, a conscious demandis made for the correct response to the drawing. They describe it as follows:


[After working at the mental image of a yellow rose until she could see it clearly, she would hold it still as long as possible. Then, she says] I would release the image and demand: “What is the drawing? Give it to me now.” There was the feeling that the demand was being made to some level of consciousness inside myself. There was a certain amount of determination and intense desire to get it correct … When it was being held steadily for a minute or two, I would consciously “let go” of the image and quickly demand to something inside myself. “Give me the answer now.” It was a sharp command … (1).


After you have practiced the exercise of concentrating on a flower … Hold your mind a blank … for a few moments, then give the mental order to the unconscious mind to tell you what is on the paper … Keep the eyes closed and the body relaxed, and give the order silently, and with as little mental exertion as possible …

However, it is necessary to give it clearly and positively, that is, with concentration on it. Say to the unconscious mind, “I want the picture which is on this card … presented to my consciousness.” Say this with your mind concentrated on what you are saying. Repeat, as if talking directly to another self. “I want to see what is on thiscard” (24, pp. 186-187).

Again, although this technique superficially seems to differ markedly from that of the other percipients, in essence it may be accomplishing the same purpose. This method of concentrating on one image to the exclusion of all others, and then breaking the tension thus produced by a demand for an answer, may actually be the step by which Carlson and Sinclair achieved the “blankness” which the others aimed for initially. This emptiness seems to provide a favorable backdrop for the correct image when it enters consciousness, but it is very difficult to achieve. In regard to this, Gardner Murphy has written:

How can consciousness be completely blank, thus affording the impression easy entrance? Only in the rarest instances, with the most gifted trance medium or the telepathic subject at his best, can any such complete emptying of the mind be accomplished. We are, of course, ordinarily dealing with only a relative, not an absolute, emptying of consciousness. In practice, by far the most important thing is not the actual emptying or blotting out of consciousness, but the development of devices for keeping attentive effortout of the picture. We need to develop, as it were, a “clear space” within which the emerging impressions can move, so as to be quietly observed by introspection …

As a rule, the conscious states which we observe are so intimately bound up with the very act of observing them that we cannot “let go,” permitting the occurrence of conscious processes which are outside the scope of the ordinary conscious self. This gift of “letting go” is unusual. When Mrs. Sinclair tells us that the impressions which are projected upon an inward mental screen are separate and distinct from the ordinary world of her imagination, it is something which we dimly grasp, but cannot easily develop in ourselves (8, pp. 6-8).

Perhaps this “letting go” would not be so difficult if it were preceded by the necessary steps of relaxation and then concentration of attention. As long as we are conscious, we cannot get rid of conscious attention; but we canget it off the desired target and employ it elsewhere so that the target image is free to come of itself. Instead of going at this blankness directly, the Sinclair-Carlson method appears to be an ingenious way of “taking the mind by surprise.” This is indicated by Mrs. Carlson when she says it is like “… leaning against a door with all your might-and suddenly the door opens unexpectedly!” Perhaps there could be no better way to carry out Warcollier’s dictum that “One must create in oneself a void of thought.”

On the other hand, for those who strive initially to attain the state of inward blankness, there appears to be an equivalent to the Sinclair- Carlson “demand.” Warcollier, for example, emphasizes that one must, even while making the mind a blank, keep in consciousness the idea of the agent and the fact that one wants to know the answer. But in attending in this way to the answer, one must apparently safeguard the operation of the process by holding also to the image of the blank screen.

Perhaps the purpose of both these methods is to create a state of inner tension. It is this tension which makes the whole process so difficult, but it may also be the factor which provides enough momentum to result in the correct response becoming conscious without directly and deliberately aiming at it. There is a line from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s The Little Prince (20) which may be very apt in this connection: “Straight ahead of him, nobody can go very far … “

Whether we begin with the image or the blankness, we must next follow the road which leads to the third step. Having removed all awareness of the body, having successfully involved the attention of the conscious mind (producing a condition of dissociation), we are in a position to receive the impression which will, it is hoped, rise spontaneously into consciousness. By definition, however, this is not something that we can “do” by conscious means. There is only one course open to us, and that is simply to wait. (As with the “grace of God,” or the mystical ecstasy, the answer cannot be compelled; one can only remove whatever stands in the way of its coming, and then hope and wait.)

Step Three: The Waiting, the Tension, and the Release

There may be a kernel of psychological truth in the saying that “Everything comes to him who waits.” In patience, that quiet unprepossessing virtue, perhaps one of the least appreciated in our modern Western culture, may lie the key to parapsychological dreams. In any case, the material we are considering here seems to indicate that by virtue of being willing to wait, the percipient is not only more likely to receive the sought-for impression, but to recognize it when it comes.

But before the consciousness can brighten in this way, a period of darkness fraught with all the anxiety which is the natural accompaniment of such a state of “not-knowing” is experienced. This period can seem quite long, especially to the habitual pushing pulling “let’s-get-on-with-it” set of the conscious mind. And as if this were not enough, to the extent that this waiting is persisted in, more and more tension is produced. In fact, the main characteristic of this step is the waiting, and its apparent purpose is to let the tension mount, even as the winding of a top is a necessary preliminary to its spinning. Our percipients have this to say about Step Three:


Visualizing the rose might take anywhere from three to ten or twelve minutes before each “demand” and answer … It was concentration, which in one sense was “tension” – or equivalent to “friction,” perhaps (1).


[He says of his subject Léonie that in guessing playing cards, she made drawings of the suits over and over again] … not making up her mind to a definite choice till after a long period of uncertainty … My patience was thus pretty severely tried. To wait three, four, or five hours at dead of night till a card is named, one needs a considerable share of perseverance (17, p. 68).


For many minutes, sometimes quite a quarter of an hour, [the percipient] sees nothing (21, p. 326).


As to the percipient, he must as far as possible prevent his ideas and his imagination from taking any definite direction; his duty consists in thinking of nothing, and searching for nothing, and desiring nothing, but in waiting patiently for a more or less well defined picture to present itself to his mental vision (22, p. 172).


[After having given the demand to the unconscious, she suggests that the percipient should] … relax into blankness again and hold blankness a few moments, then try gently, without straining, to see whatever forms may appear on the void into which you look with closed eyes. Do not try to conjure up something to see; just wait expectantly and let something come (24, p. 187).


[He says of his subject Miss Johnson that when she was guessing playing cards] she had to get herself into a state of great tension, and the number, when it came, was uttered explosively, as it might be by someone who is making a great muscular effort (28, p. 305).


In order that a telepathic message may emerge into consciousness, unusual conditions are necessary. There must be a certain “potential,” a charge of energy; this charge is apparently most easily transmitted by an associative image (31, p. 24).

We do not know how we recapture a word which we desire to use, but we do know that we must not seek for it. Even less must we try to seize the telepathic message which escapes us (31, p. 25).

Everything that increases the belief of the percipient in telepathy tends to favor it. Then comes the belief that, in thinking intensely of the agent, he will release the telepathic message. This has the effect of exciting the subconscious imagination to present to the normal consciousness images which, by their novelty and apparent independence, excite curiosity and attention. When this play of imagery has begun, it is not rare that a telepathic phenomenon occurs. This was the procedure used by Mrs. Upton Sinclair. In her work, although any object might have served to release subconscious images, she most frequently chose to use the impression of a flower … This concentration brings a tendency to fall asleep; however, the subject must stop before reaching that point. When the image has appeared, the mind should be made blank, and one should wait until an absolutely novel image shows itself. … It is not a question of merely thinking of a certain flower, but of seeing it appear inwardly as a hypnagogic image (31, pp. 222-223).

From these accounts, it appears that there is a definite reason for the tension so characteristic of this step. (It can be said that unless one experiences this tension, Step Three has not been mastered.) The tension is produced because the percipient is trying to straddle two opposites: consciously, he is concentrating exclusively on an image which he knows is notwhat he seeks, while simultaneously he is entertaining an awareness of a void wherein lies the sought-for answer! But perhaps, as we have said before, it is this very tension which makes it possible for the correct image to burst into consciousness.

Step Four: The Way the Response Enters Consciousness

If the percipient can withstand the tension and refrain from a deliberate attempt to break it by mere guessing, he is in an optimum condition for allowing the correct impression to enter consciousness. Sometimes this impression appears spontaneously; at these moments the percipients almost universally report a strong feeling of conviction that the impression is the correct one. But very often, on the other hand, the impressions are neither so “single nor as singular.” When this is the case, there are certain tasks the conscious mind may carry out in order to recognize the image most likely to be correct.


I began to modify the original process somewhat. I would try to concentrate on the rose just long enough to still the mind and then would sit in relaxed but alert attitude and watch while images formed and words seemed to be “shouting” into my ears. Later on the shouting changed to ordinary hearing and then it became more subtle until I no longer heard. It was as though the words were dropped like pebbles into the pool of my mind. This faculty has grown even more subtle until now it is as though the words are simply there and I am unaware of how they arrived. It is a kind of knowingness and knowing that I know.

Almost immediately, about two or three weeks after I had started [to experiment], something began to happen; fragments of drawing could be vaguely seen. At first … very dark shadowy lines could be perceived which, when the drawing was opened, proved to be fragments of the drawing-and, later on, the complete drawing. The lines were often very faint and there was a certain strain experienced in trying to see. It was as though seeing with the inner eye, since the lids were shut tightly.

As time went on, perhaps a few weeks, a stage was reached in which the lines of the drawings were perceived “in light.” That is, the lines appeared to be somewhat like the way lightning might look if it stood still. The nearest analogy would be electric signs, although these lines appeared to be of greater intensity than the light of electric bulbs. When the lines or shapes or images were perceived in this manner, they were always correct. When the lines were dark and shadowy, they were often only partially correct and a strain was sometimes felt in the forehead. As time went on, the strain was reduced, and finally disappeared altogether. There were times, of course, when no image, either in fragments or otherwise, appeared in answer to my demands. The thing which stands out is that whenever anything was perceived in full color – it being the image of the thing drawn rather than the drawing itself, it was alwayscorrect and I always knewit was correct because of an accompanying burst of joy inside. It was as though some deeper part of me knew and knew that it knew.

Very often the process had to be repeated several times before the lines would begin to form. Sometimes the answer would be immediate, sometimes it would come after several efforts.

It became clear that it was best merely to record what was perceived and not try to interpret it or identify it or explain it. The conscious mind was evidently not in on the know-how of the process … however, it continued to butt in, destroy, misinterpret, embroider.

It was found that the first impression was the correct one … It seemed that the more tension was built up in the act of concentration, the more likely the result would be correct. This was not a hard and fast rule, however (1).


… gaze with closed eyes into a deep darkness. There will then soon emerge in it images of objects, diagrams, etc., which seem to change into one another. [The percipient] should be patient until one of these remains quietly before him, and seems definite to him (2, pp. 123-124).


[Subject of Schmoll and Mabire.] I do my best to banish any thought that might distract me, and I watch for the appearance. It is not always possible for me quite to renounce thought and volition … after about a minute there appears a circle, lit up as though by magnesium, in which are to be seen figures of more or less distinctness; sometimes there are so many of them that I do not know which to sketch. It has happened in unsuccessful cases … that having once seen the right figure, I have been deceived by others which have followed, and appeared with greater distinctness (22, p. 206).


[Subject of Schmoll and Mabire.] … I have endeavored to expel from my mind all thoughts and images, and have remained inactive … waiting for the production of an impression … At other times the ideaof an object has presented itself to me before I have seized its form, but most frequently I seemed to see the picture either black on a white ground, or white on a black ground. In general, the objects present themselves in an undecided manner and pass away very rapidly; usually I only grasp a portion of them. Whenever I have been most successful, I have remarked that the picture has presented itself to my imagination almost instantaneously. Sometimes also I have been led to draw an object of which the name was forced on me, as if by some external influence (22, pp. 206-207).


The supernormal … is stamped with a feeling which is like nothing else. The stamp or feeling is all-important. I invariably trust to it in the affairs of daily life and have never known it to fail; but it is practically impossible to describe it. All I can say is that it has the settled feeling of finality about it. It impels you and simply does not let you doubt it … if one does as it impels, there is a very satisfactory feeling of accomplishment and rightness (29, pp. 101-102).


With regard to the feelings of the percipients [Miss E. and Miss R.] when receiving an impression, they seem to have some sort of consciousness of the action of other minds on them … I asked Miss E. what she felt when impressions were coming freely, and she said she felt a sort of influence or thrill. They both [Miss E. and Miss R.] say that several objects appear to them sometimes, but that one among them persistently recurs, and they have a feeling when they fix upon one that it is the right one (7, p. 200).


The thing may come through practically any sense-channel, or it may discover a road of its own, a chain of reasoning or of association, which, as far as I remember, never coincides with any similar chain in the mind of anyone present, but is invented, much as a hallucination is invented, for the purpose of the moment (10, p. 58).


… I have never been able to get a clear concept (mental or visual) of any card at all after the 12th. Several cards would persist in recurring together. I say “mental or visual,” because in my experience it has been sometimes one, sometimes the other. When most successful I have distinctly seemed to seethe card (12, p. 2).


She [his subject Léonie] never ceased talking of other things … talking, in short, of everything except the card which she was trying to tell. “She was waiting for it to come,” she said, and suddenly, in the midst of our conversation, she would stop and name a card then begin again two or three times to talk; and it was only at the end of all this that she settled definitely what card she would name (17, p. 68).


Under favorable conditions these forms become coherent and intelligible; the greatest difficulty is in combatting the intrusion of associative rationalization upon the development of the image. The conscious, rational element of the mind is kept passive only by continuous effort. As soon as the suggestion of a form begins to take shape on the subjective screen, the rational faculty leaps in to impose a plausible interpretation and thus to distort or entirely misconstrue what might otherwise have become an accurate response (18, p. 124).


According to our experience, the following are the mental processes that took place before the closed eyes of the percipient. For many minutes, sometimes quite a quarter of an hour, he sees nothing. Soon, however, it appears as though a white shimmer of a certain form was periodically moving in the field of vision. Little by little this vague, inconstant picture appears in a manner to condense itself, and to make its appearance at shorter intervals. He begins to seize certain outlines, which become clearer from minute to minute, till he at last says “Now I believe I see what it is” (21, p. 326).


.:..the percipient … cannot sufficiently guard against all cerebral activity; he must carefully deny all free range to his ideas and imagination, and concentrate his endeavors on seizing the impressions or completing the rudiments of those which present themselves to his mental vision (22, p. 205).


Professor [Gilbert] Murray distinguishes three things-namely, the impressions that come to him from without, inferences from these impressions, and guesses to supplement them. No doubt both inferences and guesses may sometimes really be impressions from without, but they do not appear so at the time to the percipient … It is of course the “impressions,” as probable examples of telepathy, that interest us; and their nature and quality vary in different ways. First they differ in intensity and clearness-varying from strong to faint or even very faint, and from clear to blurred. From the remarks occasionally made by the percipient about the vividness, etc., of particular impressions, I should judge that one which is strong and clear, or which comes quickly, is usually right, but not always. But, on the other hand, the impressions may be faint and dim or blurred, or slow in developing, in quite successful experiments … Slow development is, sometimes at least, a kind of groping after the “subject” with or without ultimate success (23, pp. 241-242).

In contrast to cases of gradual development are those where the impression comes instantly, and the percipient probably could not have told us how it came to him (23, p. 243).


My experience is that fragments of forms appear first. For example, a curved line, or a straight one, or two lines of a triangle. But sometimes the complete object appears; swiftly, lightly, dimly-drawn, as on a moving picture film. These mental visions appear and disappear with lightning rapidity, never standing still unless quickly fixed by a deliberate effort of consciousness. They are never in heavy lines, but as if sketched delicately, in a slightly deeper shade of gray than that of the mental canvas. A person not used to such experiments may at first fail to observe them on the gray background of the mind, on which they appear and disappear so swiftly. Sometimes they are so vague that one only gets a notion of how they look before they vanish. Then one must “recall” this first vision. Recall it by conscious effort, which is not the same thing as the method of passive waiting by which the vision was first induced. Instead, it is as if one had seen with open eyes a fragment of a real picture, and now closes his eyes and looks at a memoryof it and tries to “see” it clearly.

It is necessary to recall this vision and make note of it, so as not to forget it. One is sureto forget it-indeed it is his duty to do so-in the process of the next step, which is one of blankness again. This blankness is, of course, a deliberate putting out of the conscious mind of all pictures, including the one just visioned. One must now order the subconscious not to present it to the conscious mind’s picture-film again unless it is the right picture … Make the conscious mind blank again for a brief space. Then look again on the gray canvas of mind for a vision. This is to test whether the first vision came from subconscious guessing, or whether it came from the deeper mind-from some other source than that of the subconscious, which is so apt to offer a “guess,” or a false picture. Do this whole performance two or three times, and if the first vision persists in coming back, accept it (24, pp. 187-189).

Another difficulty is the way things sometimes appear in fragments, or sections, of the whole picture. A straight line may appear, and it may be either only a portion of the whole, or it may be all there is on the card. Then I have to resist the efforts of my imagination to speculate as to what object this fragment may be part of. For instance, I see a series of points, and have the impulse to “guess” a star. I must say no to this guess-work, unless the indescribable “hunch” feeling assures me it is a star … Then I must start over, and hold blank for a while. Then repeat the request to the deep mind for the true picture (24, pp. 193-194).

I learned, in a more or less vague way, how these things behaved and how I feltabout them. This enabled me to notice, when later I got a true vision, that there was a difference between the way this true vision came and the way the “idle” visions came. When the true visions came, there usually came with them a “something” which I called a “hunch.” There was, of course, always in my consciousness the question: is this the right thing, or not ? When the true vision came, this question seemed to receive an answer, “yes,” as if some intelligent entity was directly informing me.

This was not always the case. At times no answer came, or at least, if it came, it was obscured by guesses. But usually it did, after I had watched for it, and a sort of thrill of triumph came with it … The subconscious answers questions, and its answers are always false; its answers come quietly, like a thief in the night. But the “other” mind, the “deep mind” answers questions, too, and these answers come, not quietly, but as if by “inspiration … … with a rustling of wings, with gladness and conviction. These two minds seem different from each other. One lies and rambles; the other sings, and is truthful (24, pp. 200-201).


All the percipients except myself seem to have some sort of clear vision of the object, more so, often, when the object is afterward rightly named; many of the successes are reached with a certain decision which adds to the effect on those present. For myself, I cannot describe my sensation as a visualization of any kind. It seemed rather to be by some wholly subjective process that I knew what the agents were looking at … Those percipients who seem really to see the object often find that there are many in view from time to time, but that one persistently recurs … (27, p. 430).


[Miss Johnson] is quite definitely aware, during the periods when these groups [of successes] occur, of almost losing consciousness of her surroundings. She says that a peculiar, and rather exalted feeling comes over her, making her feel that it is almost impossible to fail, and so long as this lasts, the successes follow one another in an almost unbroken chain; but it is never maintained for more than a few seconds at a time … If I were asked, from my observations of G. J., to state in a word the condition most essential for success, I should say joie de vivre (30, p. 108).


Experimental telepathy is, for the percipient, a problem that he turns over for solution to his subconscious, which has at its command all his past sensations. It is by memory and imagination that the problem is solved. Even during the emergence of the message to the percipient’s conscious mind, nothing is involved, from the intellectual point of view, but imagination. The will has been voluntarily submerged. We may say that the creative factor, having conscious memories no longer at its disposal since the percipient has made his mind a blank, uses these paranormal interior elements. But he uses them as he habitually uses what his senses provide by the same associative mechanism. On the other hand, since it is impossible to eliminate all that is provided by the senses-by vision, for example the imagination combines that with paranormal elements, and confused combinations result (31, p. 102).

Telepathic imagination has all the characteristics of association of ideas. It is not creative imagination, but, in common with creative imagination, it has suddenness and the feeling of impersonality. It acts in the same manner as genius and instinct, but it does not produce a finished work (31, p. 103).

[The normal consciousness is presented with] images which, by their novelty and apparent independence, excite curiosity and attention. When this play of imagery has begun, it is not rare that a telepathic phenomenon occurs (31, p. 222).



One of the most tantalizing hints in these reports is the almost “too-good-to-be-true” one that, at times, particularly when the point of highest tension has been reached and held until spontaneously released, an image pops into consciousness accompanied by a sense of conviction that it is the sought-for answer. It does this in such a way that the percipient can say of it, “I know, and knowthat I know this is correct.” This imagery seems to come of itself, rising spontaneously from the void, perhaps sucked in via the vacuum created by the single-pointed attention of the conscious mind. Is this an indication of another level of the self, one seldom tapped in the general run of parapsychological experiments, to which the word “guess” can no longer be applied?Footnote.13 Simply hypothesizing the existence of such a level may perhaps open new vistas by shifting the emphasis of our research.

In the reports cited here, a continuum is indicated ranging from completely correct images to completely incorrect ones; and the percipient’s feeling of conviction may also range from “absolute” to “non-existent.” The problem is, of course, that the correlation existing between the degree of conviction and the correctness of the image is not always reliable; however, the method described in this paper apparently resulted in a higher correlation between conviction and correctness than is generally found in modern quantitative work in which the subject is merely “guessing.” Footnote.14

Signs of Correctness

There is another feature of some of these reports which may furnish clues for future experiments. In addition to the purely intuitive “hunch” commented upon in particular by Sinclair and Thaw, many percipients report additional characteristics or “signs” that seem to accompany correct impressions. Some of these are: (1) Feeling of joy (Carlson, Mlle. Eugénie, Johnson, Schmoll, Sinclair); (2) The first impression (Carlson, Mlle. Jane, Murray); (3) A quality of light, brightness(Carlson, Mlle. Eugénie, Johnson, Schmoll); (4) Colors,or black on white,or white on black(Carlson, Mlle. Jane); (5) Vividness(Dessoir, Murray, Rawson, Rush, Schmoll, Warcollier); (6) A recurrent image(Miss E., Sinclair), and (7) Compulsion(Carlson, Mlle. Jane, Sinclair).

What kind of mental content seems to be associated with conviction when the percipient’s response is correct? How many other “signs” of success (or failure) may we be able to discover?Footnote.15 Are they associated with particular persons or personality types? The answers to questions such as these await further research.

The Importance of Details

There is an aspect of the method which we have not as yet specifically emphasized, but which is present at every step. Many of the percipients stress the importance-even the psychological necessity– of giving careful and painstaking attention to the detailsof the method. Perhaps motivation and interest are kept alive by a strict adherence to the details of the individual rituals and techniques. Gilbert Murray, for example, states that “the least disturbance of our customary method … is apt to make things go wrong” (10, p. 58). And Mrs. Sinclair admonishes:

The details of this technique are not to be taken as trifles. The whole issue of success or failure depends on them. At least, this is so in my case. Perhaps a spontaneous sensitive, or one who has a better method, has no such difficulties. I am just an average conscious-minded person who set out deliberately to find a way to test this tremendously important question of telepathy and clairvoyance, without having to depend on a “medium” who might be fooling himself, or me. It was by this method of careful attention to a technique of details that I have found it possible to get telepathic messages and to see pictures on hidden cards … This technique takes time, and patience, and training in the art of concentration … (24, pp. 191-192).

Mrs. Carlson says: “… I believe that the hard work required to mentally visualize an object is what contributes to the success of the experiment. One must hold the image as long as possible. When it slips away, bring it back again and again” (1).

It is possible that success in perceiving extrasensorily does not depend on concentration, or relaxation, or setting aside a special time and place, or any other methodological restriction; however, an underlying motivation or sense of purpose strong enough to enablea person to go to the trouble involved in carrying out such restrictions may well be indispensable. Without the method and its painstaking details, would it be possible for the percipient to sustain his motivation? Whatever it is in his method that the percipient feels he must emphasize and adhere to seems to serve the all-important task of carrying his motivation along at a high pitch and over a long period of time.

In this connection, Walter Franklin Prince made an interesting comment on the Schmoll, and the Schmoll-Mabire experiments. He was casting about for an explanation of the fact that all eight of the percipients in these two series were successful, yet apparently they were selected more or less fortuitously, and not on the basis of having any special psychic sensitivity. Prince therefore concluded that there must have been something different in the conditionsof the procedure: “The one outstanding peculiarity of the Schmoll series of 1886 and the Schmoll-Mabire series of 1887 is the length of time, occupied by the percipients [in making their responses] and the principles[italics mine] on which the period was determined” (11, p. 124). By “principles” Prince apparently meant that the percipients were instructed to wait (1) “if need be, half an hour,” and (2) until such a time as an image appeared “of an intensity approaching visual hallucination …” (11, p. 125). That there were principles involved may be an important clue: a lack of just such attention to the detailsand the principlesof a technique for readying the mind to receive psi impressions may be one reason why some percipients who have attempted to use the method (in whole or in part) discussed in this paper have reported that their results were no more successful than those they had achieved by sheer “guessing.”


Underlying Assumptions

Why have we consistently emphasized the importance of this method and stressed the fact that it differs from the methods used in current parapsychological experiments? The answer may become clear if we consider the contrasting assumptions inherent in the two approaches. In the earlier work it was assumed that the percipient had to “do” something before results could be expected, whereas in more recent experiments the assumption seems to be that the subject (even the change in terminology from “percipient” to “subject” may be significant) does not have to do anything more than rattle off whatever comes into his head. It is the hypothesis of this paper, based on some assumptions to follow, that the earlier method was more deliberate, but, at the same time, led to results which were more spontaneous than those of present-day experiments.

It appears that the earlier workers were trying to develop a method of response as an integral part of their attempts to demonstrate ESP. Recent experiments have concentrated almost exclusively on obtaining evidence of ESP from subjects who respond in whatever way comes naturally (and usually unconsciously) to them. The difference lies not so much in the nature of the results as in the degree of subjective awareness of how these results were obtained. If we could be conscious of our inner states while producing significant results in an ESP test, this would indeed seem to be a step toward gaining control over the elusiveness of psi. We would then know from introspection when the necessary conditions for producing results had been achieved. The unselfconscious way of responding in modern ESP tests in a catch-as-catch-can manner has achieved results and established the reality of psi to the satisfaction of many. But the time may now be ripe to go a step further in seeking for conscious awareness of the subjective events that go into the making of a correct ESP response. This approach might even enable us to gain new vistas from which we are barred when we proceed only by the newer, but less deliberate methods. It is not unlikely that a different door will open if we ask a different question; if instead of “score” we concentrate on “method.”

It has been argued that deliberately stressing introspection could be fatal to the production of a correct psi response, which by its very nature is a spontaneous phenomenon. But let us assume that a seemingly deliberate approach is not inhibitory to a correct psi response. As evidence for this, we have the testimony of the subjects of this report; they were apparently able to distinguish several stages in the process of making their responses. One of the reasons why the modern ESP subject is thought to be more spontaneous in his approach to the task is because he makes his guesses quickly. But it may be a mistake to equate spontaneity with speed; perhaps the slower method is even more spontaneous. When the subject rushes along, responding with whatever comes into his mind, he tends to fall into guessing habits and his call patterns become more and more mechanical. It is true that the preparatory steps in the older approach are far from spontaneous; in fact, they are quite deliberate and conscious. Nevertheless, the response that finally comes at the point of highest tension may be far more spontaneous than that achieved by mere “guessing.” It is possible that in the latter case the response is a product of both conscious and unconscious processes, and the uncertainty in the results and the large margin of error is due to contamination by the conscious mind. If we know we are merely guessing, it might be wise to withhold the response. As we have seen, it is this very act of withholding that allows the necessary tension to build. As Mrs. Carlson remarks, “The conscious mind is not in on the know-how of the process.”

Why a Method Seems Necessary

The purpose of introducing a deliberate method is to discipline and train the conscious mind so that it will no longer inhibit the spontaneous emergence of the answer. (Perhaps this would not be necessary if we were not in the habit of trying to keep the reins of our mental life in the hands of consciousness; although useful in our extraverted adjustment to life, it defeats our purpose when exploring the inner world.) When this disciplinary process has been accomplished, the percipient’s success may no longer depend on mere guessing, but rather on voluntary factors such as how much he is able to persevere, the extent to which he is willing and able to pay attention to the details of the method, and the amount of self-respect that is bound up with the task. All these factors are, to some extent, subject to the control of the conscious ego, which has had experience of them in daily life, and so may bring them to bear upon the method of making the correct ESP response.

Because of the deliberate attempt to adhere to a method, the percipient no longer needs-nor is as likely-to fall back upon mere “guessing” for lack of anything else to satisfy his need to “do” something. In fact, if he follows closely each specific step in the method discussed here, then to slip back into unconscious (or consciously “random”) guessing is to misapply the method. This change of perspective delivers the percipient from a senseless guessing procedure and immerses him in a task which demands full use of all his conscious faculties. Perhaps we shall never be able to produce ESP at will, but by means of the “will” we can put ourselves in the proper frame of mind to receive psi impressions. It then remains for us to stay there, at the point of highest tension, until the spontaneous image arises. This method offers a challenge to the conscious mind and gives it a task which it is able to grasp and upon which it can take hold.

Repeatability of Results in ESP Experiments

Parapsychologists are often reminded that the most important criterion of scientific validity is repeatability. Perhaps we have been hindered in achieving this goal because of our predilection for mimicking the kinds of experiments that are done in the physical sciences. In doing so, we may have concentrated too intently on the externalconditions necessary for success in our field; yet it is certain that the conditions which are at least partly essential for repeatability in parapsychological experiments are internal,i.e., states of mind.

Many will disagree with this on the grounds that to attempt to base experiments on descriptions of states of mind-mere subjective vagaries-is to lose oneself in countless and unaccountable unknowns. But it is a mistake to assume that subjective states are necessarily vagrant or incapable of repetition. In time we may be able to control states of mind which, in turn, can be correlated with ESP. But we must make a start, even if at present these states of mind appear to be nebulous and uncontrollable. Even in the physical world, an unexplored wilderness cannot be mapped, let alone civilized, until someone grants it enough reality to set foot upon it. Certainly many persons in religion, the arts, education, and many other professions live and move-more or less consciously -in the inner regions of the mind. (In private life probably many parapsychologists do, too!) By means of ESP tests we may eventually be able to grasp objectively and quantitatively that which hitherto has only been accessible to introspection. But the Columbus of parapsychology has yet to appear.

The persons reported on in this paper were explorers: they were not afraid to begin. Their preliminary explorations indicate that a method capable of leading to repeatability of psi results may lie just over the horizon. In the physical sciences, if certain objective conditions are fulfilled, a predicted result will follow; similarly, this early ESP work indicates that in parapsychology prediction of results may also be possible with but one difference-the conditions to be fulfilled are subjective.

To those who argue that the evidence for ESP presented by much of this material is not of high enough caliber to warrant such an assumption, I would reply that just as these reports do not establish the case for ESP, neither do they refute it. That is not the question here. They doindicate the possibility of an investigative approach very different from that currently in use-an approach which gives promise of yielding repeatable results and which, rather than being a stab in the dark, is a continuation of a tradition already well-established in the history of our subject.


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