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Parapsychology Foundation Home Page (LogoLink) About the Parapsychology Foundation

The Parapsychology Foundation has hosted numerous conferences in a variety of countries. For forty years of its 57-year history, the Foundation has brought together noted scholars and scientists to discuss a variety of relevant themes and issues. Beginning with the ground-breaking Utrecht Conference held in Holland in 1953 and continuing to its most recent conference on “Parapsychology and Thanatology” held in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in 1993, the Foundation has never forgotten its commitment to providing a worldwide forum to support scientific exploration of psychic phenomena. Among the topics of past conferences are: “Parapsychology and Anthropology” (London, England); “Quantum Physics and Parapsychology” (Geneva, Switzerland); “Education in Parapsychology” (San Francisco, USA); and “Parapsychology, Philosophy and Religious Concepts” (Rome, Italy).

In order to give the visitor to this website an overview of the many conferences the Foundation has hosted in its more than 57 years of existence, we decided to reprint the abstract of a presentation given at the 44th Annual Parapsychological Association Convention which was held in New York City in early August, 2001. The roundtable in which the presentation appeared was called Fifty Years of Supporting Parapsychology: The Parapsychology Foundation. Well-known psychologist and parapsychologist, Dr. Stanley Krippner chaired the roundtable which also included presentations by Lisette and Eileen Coly and Dr. Carlos S. Alvarado.

PF’s Director of Publications and Executive Editor of the International Journal of Parapsychology Dr. Nancy Zingrone’s contribution to the roundtable was called “The International Conferences of the Parapsychology Foundation.” At the time of the talk, Dr. Zingrone was finishing up her year (2000-2001) as President of the Parapsychological Association and had not yet obtained her Ph.D. The abstract of her talk follows:

Eileen J. Garrett and the Honorable Frances P. Bolton, the two founders of the Parapsychology Foundation in 1951, knew that supporting scientific investigation of psychic phenomena required more than funding and facilities. Bringing scholars together in a stress-free environment to focus topics of interest to both the academic and scientific communities was also important. Garrett and Bolton were well-aware that the average research worker in parapsychology was a penniless academic, pursuing his or her research on a shoestring budget, under the often disapproving eyes of colleagues and sometimes family, and with infrequent access to peers. In addition to providing the financial resources to underwrite research projects, Garrett and Bolton were aware that something needed to be done to refresh the intellectual commitment of these lonely workers. The international conference program was inaugurated to bring such scholars together in an environment in which structured presentations and formal discussions could lead to creative after-hours conversations.

The “First International Conference of Parapsychological Studies” held in Utrecht, Holland in 1953 was the first of these. Four working groups on different issues within the field were organized: 1) quantitative studies; 2) psychotherapeutic and psychoanalytic approaches; 3) spontaneous phenomena and qualitative research; and 4) the personality of the sensitive. Among the participants who set the agenda for research in parapsychology in the second half of the 20th century were: Prof. Hans Bender, the founder of the IGPP in Freiburg, Germany; Dr. Gertrude Schmeidler, whose exceptionally productive career still continues in retirement; Dr. Emilio Servadio, the Italian psychoanalyst who was among the most prominent of his country-men over his long career; and a host of others. The Utrecht conference set the tone for the Foundation’s later meetings in that key players in the field were invited, a pleasing venue was provided, a timely topic was chosen, and the intellectual work that resulted was both ambitious and ground-breaking.

Eight more Parapsychology Foundation conferences were held in the 1950s alone, with topics ranging from unorthodox healing to spontaneous phemomena to the relationship between parapsychology and psychedelics. Similarly, from 1961 to 1965 five more conferences were held with such wide-ranging topics as psychophysiological correlates of paranormal states and the intersection of religion and parapsychology. Venues for the conferences ranged from Cambridge University which hosted the spontaneous case conference in 1955 to the Foundation’s headquarters in the south of France, a venue which provided unique opportunities for invited participants to meet and discuss in comfort, and then to return to their own working lives, re-dedicated to the task at hand.

Fom 1967 forward, the Foundation has made available the published proceedings of its 25 most recent international conferences. What is most interesting about these is the prescience of the topics — altered states of consciousness and Quantum physics and psi explored well before the notions took hold in the field — a productive mix of key insiders and important outsiders with fresh perspectives. If social historians of parapsychology must acknowledge the contribution of the Parapsychology Foundation’s grant program, then intellectual historians must acknowledge the profound impact that the Foundation’s conferences have had on each generation of workers since 1951, both through personal experience of these exciting meetings, and through the published record which the Foundation is committed to keeping in print.

The work of the Foundation’s conferences has continued through its PF Lyceum Forums, the Perspectives Lecture series, and its new international conferences, the most recent of which was held in 2008, Utrecht II: Charting the Future of Parapsychology.


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