vendredi 1 avril 2016

Conférence à Fribourg-en-Brisgau le 6 avril 2016

A l'invitation d'Eberhard Bauer et de l'Institut pour les zones frontières de la psychologie et l'hygiène mentale, j'interviendrai durant deux heures dans leur séminaire hebdomadaire le 6 avril.

History of parapsychology in France: the Mind and its Legend

Turning tables, telepathy and mental suggestion were among the first objects of scientific psychology (Plas, 2000). They fecundated the first psychological theories of mind, especially of its non-conscious aspects. Hence, in France, the institutionalization of parapsychology was initially indistinguishable from that of psychology. But in the course of the 20th century boundaries were progressively introduced.

In my book, The Legend of the Mind: An Investigation on 150 Years of Parapsychology (Editions Trajectoire, 2016), I describe the history of French parapsychology by focusing each chapter on one prominent figure, some famous like Pierre Janet, Pierre Curie and Charles Richet; some known only in the field of parapsychology (Eugène Osty, René Sudre, René Warcollier), and others that deserve to be known (Agénor de Gasparin, Timothée Puel, François Favre, and Nicolas Maillard). I analyze data from both their personal and scientific journeys, applying a psycho-biographical approach (McKinley Runyan, 2013) to show how personal and experiential forces shape the science of these scientists. But I also apply a symmetrical approach to explore rejected knowledge and parasciences without some common biases.

My work is based on ten years of research into several archives, the testimonies of around 50 descendants or contemporaries of these researchers, and the help of many professional historians. This gives me clues about the singularity of the French situation: despite the intersection between ‘official’ nascent modern psychology and psychical research was nowhere as overt as in France (Sommer, 2013), this country has never allowed the emergence of an academic unit specialized in parapsychology, always pushing it to the marginal side of heterodoxies. The way its scientific boundaries were progressively implemented perfectly illustrates the ideas of Gieryn (1999) on the socio-cultural dynamics of science.


Evrard, R. (2016). La légende de l’esprit : enquête sur 150 ans de parapsychologie. Paris : Trajectoire.

Gieryn, T. (1999). Cultural Boundaries in Science: Credibility on the Line. Chicago, Il : University of Chicago Press.

McKinley Runyan, W. (2013). Psychobiography and the Psychology of Science. In : G.J. Feist, M.E. Gorman (dir.), Handbook of the Psychology of Science (chapter 14). New York : Springer.

Plas, R. (2000). Naissance d’une science humaine : la psychologie. Les psychologues et le merveilleux psychique. Rennes : PUR.

Sommer, A. (2013). Crossing the Boundaries of Mind and Body. Psychical Research and the Origins of Modern Psychology. Unpublished PhD thesis, University College London, London.