The 2011 International Conference of the Society for Psychical Research took place in the fair city of Edinburgh, Scotland, from September 2-4. As usual, the SPR is to be commended for including papers from a wide variety of perspectives, from traditional “hard core” laboratory research to philosophical studies to mediumship studies to contemporary “ghost hunting.” It was a pleasure to hear Daryl Bem speak concerning “feeling the future.” Dr. Bem’s careful research methodology has led to his being published in mainstream psychology journals, to to grudging respect from some of his psychological colleagues who do not accept the existence of psi. It was also a pleasure to hear Erlendur Haraldsson, one of the giants of the field. Before I was interested in parapsychology as such, I found his book with Osis on deathbed visions when I visited a flea market with my granddaddy in Tennessee. That book had a great deal of influence on me and helped stimulate an interest in the field that has only come to fruition in the last few years.
Matthew Colborn’s talk, encouraging more openness in parapsychology to reconsidering non-physicalist approaches to the mind-body problem, was a refreshing reminder that the recent upsurge in philosophical materialism among psi researchers does not end the debate over the nature of human beings. He did an excellent job of assimilating the latest philosophical thought on the mind-body problem into his talk. After he spoke, I had the misfortune of preceding Ed May’s incredible talk on the end of Stargate. This is like being the act preceding the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show. But I was happy to share my view that Occam’s Razor does not play a useful role in deciding between the living agent and the spirit theories of poltergeist phenomena.
I must apologize for the rather obvious effects of jet lag as I sat in the audience–my body’s reaction was no reflection on the speakers–I was absolutely exhausted after the flight from America. But the facilities there were excellent–I was pleased with the rooms, and the food was superb. My wife, Karen, and I enjoyed the city–the Royal Mile‘s historic buildings. ghost tours underground and at Greyfriars Cemetery, and the Royal College of Surgeons Museum, which was, for me, one of the most fascinating stops in our journey. Visiting the Edinburgh Castle was a powerful experience, especially gazing at the very crown placed on the head of Mary, Queen of Scots, at her coronation. The rooms with paintings of all the monarchs of Scotland marked an incredible journey toward the room with the crown jewels.
All in all, the SPR conference was superb, and I could not imagine a better location–nor could I have imagined being blessed with such fine sunny weather. I hope future conferences are every bit as good as this one.