PROFESSOR OF Psychology at the University of Geneva; author of perhaps the
most remarkable book in the whole literature of psychic science: Des
Indes a la Planete Mars (From India to the Planet Mars), Paris, 1900.
This was the sensation of the year and the passage of time has in no way
affected its unusual scientific worth, or mitigated its absorbing
interest. It deals with the mediumship of Mlle. Hélène Smith to whose
circle he was first admitted in the winter of 1894-95.
It was published at a time when the work of the SPR and Mrs.
mediumship had prepared a large part of the public for an impending
scientific revelation of another life. The book, written with great
erudition, a vivid sense of humour and irony, destroys many spiritualistic
beliefs, and throws great doubt on the ascertainability of the
extra-mundane existence of the entities which communicate through mediums.
Nevertheless, Prof. Flournoy admits many a puzzling phenomenon in the
history of Mlle. Hélène Smith's mediumship. He found the Hindu
reincarnation remarkably real and he could not offer an explanation for
the knowledge of remote historical incidents and traces of the Sanscrit
language. The arguments he advanced in proof that the communicators were
subconscious impersonations were very impressive. He saw no reason to
surrender this attitude in his subsequent Nouvelles Observations sur un
cas de Somnambulisme, Geneva, 1902.
The reality of telekinesis, telepathy and clairvoyance he did not doubt.
Of the first he became convinced through his experiences with Eusapia
Palladino, of the second he found sufficient proofs in the researches of
the SPR. Into the question of apparitions of the dying and the dead he
investigated as early as 1898 by addressing a questionnaire to the members
of the Societe des Etudes Psychiques and others concerning their personal
experiences. He received seventy-two replies and published his conclusions
in February, 1899, in the Revue philosophique. As he did not accept the
narratives at their face value he was accused of suppressing the evidence.
Feeling honour-bound to publish the correspondence in extenso he included
it in a later work: Esprits et Mediums, Melanges de Metapsychique et de
Psychologie, Paris, 1911, translated into English under the title of Spiritism
and Psychology, in the same year. It is an admirable book of reference
and contains a detailed exposition of his conclusions as regards psychical
research and survival. He believes in the survival of the soul, but not in
experimental communications with the dead. On Mrs. Piper's mediumship and
on the evidence of cross correspondences he dwells but briefly. In
offering telepathy as an explanation he becomes hesitative and loses his
tone of assurance. He died in 1921.
Source (with minor modifications): An Encyclopaedia of Psychic Science by Nandor Fodor (1934).