In A Human Moment

Miscellany from the 19th century

William James: “Telepathy” in Johnson’s Universal Cyclopædia (1899)

Forbidden Histories

WJThough William James is now mostly remembered as a philosopher, he was one of two ‘founding fathers’ of modern professionalized psychology. While his German counterpart, Wilhelm Wundt in Leipzig, dismissed empirical approaches to reported psychic phenomena and spiritualism, James on the contrary sought to make the study of unorthodox phenomena a legitimate part of nascent modern psychology. The following article is an entry on ‘Telepathy’ written by James for vol. 8 of Johnson’s Universal Cyclopædia (ed. C. K. Adams), pp. 45-47, New York, D. Appleton & Company, 1899, which is here reproduced with accompanying figures. Nicely documenting James’ stance on psychical research, it provides a concise overview of experimental work done on telepathy by some of James’ colleagues in England, France and Germany between about 1880 and1899 and includes a short reference to his sittings with the Boston trance medium, Leonora Piper.

Teleathy [from Gr. τήλε, far…

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