Fragments of a Life in Psychical Research: The Case of Charles Richet

Carlos S. Alvarado

Abstract


Autobiographies are one of the sources we have to learn about past developments in psychical research. While powerful in terms of presenting a personal perspective, such documents can be problematic and may present incomplete perspectives. I will discuss this in the context of a translation of an autobiographical essay French physiologist Charles Richet wrote about his involvement in psychical research in his Souvenirs d’un Physiologiste (1933). In the essay Richet presented an outline of aspects of his psychic career, including aspects such as: Early interest in hypnosis and hypnotic lucidity, encounters with gifted individuals such as Eusapia Palladino and Stephan Ossowiecki, contact with the Society for Psychical Research, his Traité de Métapsychique, and his lack of belief in survival of death. Richet’s account will be of particular interest for those who are not acquainted with his career. However the essay is very succinct and lacks important events that need to be supplemented with other sources of information. An examination of this autobiographical essay illustrates the limitations of autobiographies to reconstruct the past.

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