Vol. 17, No.11-12, November-December 2010
The Victorian's Guide to Consciousness
Essays Marking the Centenary of William James (1842-1910)
Guest Editor: Allan Combs
Allan Combs   full text
Editorial Introduction

Refereed Papers

Eugene Taylor
A Psychological Commentary on the Essays
Carlos S. Alvarado & Stanley Krippner   abstract
Nineteenth Century Pioneers in the Study of Dissociation: William James and Psychical Research
G. William Barnard   abstract
The Ever-New Flow of Time: Henri Bergson’s View of Consciousnes
Jonathan Bricklin   abstract
Consciousness Already There Waiting to be  Uncovered: William James’s Mystical  Suggestion as Corroborated by Himself  and His Contemporaries
Allan Combs   abstract
Neurology & the Mind at the Turn of the Century
Allan Combs, Stanley, Krippner & Eugene Taylor   abstract
Is there Awareness Outside Attention?  :A Psychological Perspective
 Arthur Hastings   abstract
William James, Conversion and Rapid,  Radical Transformation
Gary E. Schwartz   abstract
William James and the Search for Scientific:Evidence of Life After Death: Past, Present, and Possible Future
Eugene Taylor   abstract
Who Was Frederic William Henry Myers?

Continuing Debate

 Christopher Mole   abstract
The Content of Olfactory Experience

Wit and Wisdom

Ed Subitzky   full text
           Consciousness Puzzle Page

Conference Report

Graham Horswell   full text
Nature & Human Nature

Book Reviews 
full text

 Bruno Mölder
Michael Tye, Consciousness Revisited
 Chris Nunn
Michael N. Marsh, Out of Body and Near-Death Experiences
Steve Torrance
Maxine Sheets-Johnstone, The Corporeal Turn
Charles Whitehead
Charles Tart, The End of Materialism

Annual Index

Index of Titles 2010   full text
Index of Authors 2010   full text 


Carlos S. Alvarado &Stanley Krippner

Nineteenth Century Pioneers in the Study of Dissociation:William James and Psychical Research

Abstract: Following recent trends in the historiography of psychology and psychiatry we argue that psychical research was an important influence in the development of concepts about dissociation. To illustrate this point, we discuss American psychologist and philosopher William James’s (1842–1910) writings about mediumship, secondary personalities, and hypnosis. Some of James’s work on the topic took place in the context of research conducted by the American Society for Psychical Research, such as his early work with the medium Leonora E. Piper (1857–1950). James’s work is an example of the influence of psychical research on several aspects of psychology such as early models of the unconscious and of dissociation.

Correspondence: Carlos Alvarado, Atlantic University, 215 67th Street, Virginia Beach, VA, 23451 Email:
Stanley Krippner, Saybrook University, 747 Front Street, 3rd floor, San Francisco, CA, 94111–1920. Email:

G. William Barnard

The Ever-New Flow of Time: Henri Bergson’s View of Consciousness

Abstract: Henri Bergson created a rich and detailed theory of consciousness beginning with the publication of Time and Free Will in 1889 and continuing through the publication of The Two Sources of Morality and Religion in 1932. His theory had much in common with William James’s views in that both emphasized consciousness as a continuous process. James’s famous ‘stream of consciousness’ is strikingly similar to Bergson’s early notion of duration (durée), even if Bergson more strongly emphasized the temporal qualities of consciousness. Bergson later modified his understanding of consciousness, creating a metaphysical vision that he hoped might not only overcome determinism and materialism, but also offer a sophisticated way to understand parapsychological phenomena such as telepathy and clairvoyance (topics of concern to many major theorists of the time). During his life, Bergson’s ideas were widely celebrated in the United States and in Europe.

Correspondence: G. William Barnard, Department of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University, P.O. Box 750202, Dallas, TX 75275-0202, USA

Jonathan Bricklin

Consciousness Already There Waiting to be Uncovered: William James’s Mystical Suggestion as Corroborated by Himself and His Contemporaries

Abstract: ‘Is… consciousness already there waiting to be uncovered and is it a veridical revelation of reality?’ William James asked in one of his last published essays, ‘A Suggestion About Mysticism’. The answer, he said, would not be known ‘by this generation or the next’. By separating what James wanted to believe about commonsense reality, from what his ‘dispassionate’ insights and researches led him to believe, I show how James himself, in collaboration with a few friends, laid the groundwork for adopting his mystical suggestion as veridical. ‘Consciousness already there waiting to be uncovered’ — not ‘generated de novo in a vast number of places’ but existing ‘behind the scenes, coeval with the world’ — is consistent with James’s ‘neutral monism’, his belief that Newtonian, objective, even-flowing time does not exist, and his belief that parapsychological and other transpersonal phenomena had ‘broken down… the limits of the admitted order of things’. Specific parallels between James’s veridical revelation and the veridical revelation of his young contemporary Einstein, are also considered.

Correspondence:Jonathan Bricklin, New York Open Center, 22 E. 30th St., NY, NY 10016

Allan Combs

Neurology and the Mind: at the Turn of the Century

Abstract: Trends in thought about consciousness, the mind, and the brain at the turn of the century were surprisingly similar to major trends in thinking about these topics today. For instance, some psychiatrists as well as physiologists considered all actions of the human mind, as well as all behaviours, entirely the product of the electrochemical actions of nerve cells, while others emphasized the importance of consciousness, free will, and even the soul. The action of nerve cells, and thus the brain itself, was understood largely in terms of electrical activity, energy, and resistances, all leading to views of mental health and pathology based on energy and the loss of energy. Modern metaphors for understanding the brain, and along with them mental health and illness, emphasize information processing and neurochemistry. Such differences are reflected in the differences between typical treatments at the turn of the century and today.

Allan Combs, California Institute of Integral Studies Email:

Allan Combs, Stanley Krippner& Eugene Taylor

Is there Awareness: Outside Attention? A Psychological Perspective

Abstract: This paper approaches the question of awareness outside of attention through a broader psychological examination of human consciousness. Questions regarding the boundaries of conscious awareness, as well as the possibility of ‘subconscious’ or ‘unconscious’ mental processes, were widely discussed 100 years and more ago when they played a central role in the thinking of turn-of-the- century theorists such as William James, F.W.H. Myers, Jean-Martin Charcot, and Pierre Janet, all of whom were interested in dissociative phenomena suggestive of consciousness, or awareness, beyond the margins of attention. Such phenomena included hypnosis, hysteria, trance states, and motor automatisms, and for many scholars also sleep related conditions such as dreaming and hypnogogic states.

Correspondence: Allan Combs, California Institute of Integral Studies Email:
Stanley Krippner, Saybrook University Email:
Eugene Taylor, Saybrook University Email:

Arthur Hastings

William James, Conversion and Rapid, Radical Transformation

Abstract: This essay briefly considers the psychology of radical psychological transformations, sometimes termed ‘quantum change’, such as religious conversions. Such transformations are the focus of two of William James’s chapters in The Varieties of Religious Experience. They can occur abruptly, resulting in a restructuring of the entire personality, sometimes in the direction of greater health, or recovery from drug addiction. The author summarizes seven reported aspects of quantum change such as positive shifts of values or attitudes, widening of perspectives, and increases in self discipline.

Correspondence:Arthur Hastings, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, 1069 E. Meadow Cir., Palo Alto, CA 94303 Phone: (650) 493-4430 Email:

Gary E. Schwartz

William James and the Search for Scientific Evidence of Life After Death: Past, Present, and Possible Future

Abstract: William James’s historic fascination with psychic phenomena, including the possibility of life after death, has become more widely known with the publication of recent books and articles on this controversial aspect of his scientific legacy. However, little is known about the emerging evidence suggesting the possibility that James’s scientific interest in these topics has not waned since he died. This paper reviews preliminary observations, including two exploratory double-blinded mediumship investigations, which are consistent with the hypothesis that James (with others) may be continuing his lifelong quest to address the question of the survival of consciousness after physical death ‘from the other side’. These proof-of-concept investigations illustrate how future systematic laboratory research is possible. The limitations of current neuroscience methods are explicated in terms of investigating the hypothesis of the brain as a possible antenna-receiver for consciousness. If James’s tentative conclusions about the nature of the relationship between consciousness and the brain turn out to be accurate, then it is logically plausible (if not essential) to posit the possibility that his efforts have persisted in the recent past and present, and may even continue in the future. Scientific integrity plus the pursuit of verity require our being open to this important theoretical and empirical possibility.

Correspondence: Gary E. Schwartz, Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health, Department of Psychology, The University of Arizona, Box 210068, Tucson, AZ 85721-0068, USA. Email:

Eugene Taylor

Who Was Frederic William Henry Myers?

Abstract: The scientific study of consciousness in the late 19th century, which took place in Western countries across disciplines such as neurology, physiology, neuropathology, psychology, psychiatry and philosophy, appears to have striking parallels to current cross- disciplinary developments in the neurosciences. The 19th century period, however, has received little scholarly attention from historians of medicine, psychology, or science. Historians of depth psychology have investigated the area as part of the history of psychiatry, but cleaved most closely to the versions presented by early psycho- analysts-turned-historians, who have consistently portrayed Freud as the only legitimate history of the period, thus marking the territory of the late 19th century as inherently Freudo-centric. More recently a new line of historiography emanating from the work of the late Henri Ellenberger has launched a post-Freudian perspective in which the classical depth psychologies of Freud, Jung, and Adler may now be understood in a wider and deeper historical context defined by the development of a so-called French, Swiss, English, and American psychotherapeutic axis between 1881 and 1918, before the advent of psychoanalysis. Chief among the prime movers of this axis was Frederic William Henry Myers, graduate of Cambridge University, and co-founder of the Society for Psychical Research in England in 1882. Myers’ grasp of the literature of the day regarding the scientific study of consciousness was both profound, and highly influential, particularly on such figures as William James. Since the period itself has yet to be fully reconstructed, the identity of Myers and his contribution to the scientific study of consciousness remain obscure, but are also receiving new attention in the area of modern consciousness studies.

Correspondence: Eugene Taylor, Saybrook University, 747 Front Street, 3rd floor, San Francisco, CA, 94111-1920, USA. Email:

Christopher Mole

The Content of Olfactory Experience

Abstract: Clare Batty has recently argued that the content of human olfactory experience is ‘a very weak kind of abstract, or existentially quantified content’, and so that ‘there is no way things smell’. Her arguments are based on two claims. Firstly, that there is no intuitive distinction between olfactory hallucination and olfactory illusion. Secondly, that olfaction ‘does not present smell at particular locations’, and ‘seems disengaged from any particular object’. The present article shows both of these claims to be false. It shows that naïve subjects find it quite natural to draw a distinction between olfactory hallucination and olfactory illusion. And it argues that the phenomenology of normal olfactory experience is of particular objects as having smells. Two confusions are responsible for Batty thinking otherwise: (1) Batty’s examples are cases of extreme pungency, and she mistakes a peculiarity of intense perceptions for a property of olfaction more generally; (2) Batty focuses on very short time slices and so confuses limitations on the information carried by a single sniff for a limitation on the logical form of all olfactory content.

Correspondence:Christopher Mole, University of British Columbia, Department of Philosophy, 1866 Main Mall E370, Vancouver BC, V6T 1Z1, Canada

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