Geley, Gustav (1868-1924)

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Geley, Gustav (1868-1924)

Distinguished French psychical researcher. Geley was born in 1868 at Montceau-les-Mines, France, and became a physician. In his first book, l'Etre Subconscient (1899), he expounded a theory of "dynamo-psychism," a sort of soul energy by which he sought to escape from the difficulties of materialistic philosophy. In his second book, De l'Inconscient au Conscient (1919), published in English as From the Unconscious to the Conscious, he developed his idea into a more comprehensive treatise and admitted an external direction and intention in the phenomena of trance that could not be referred to the medium or the experimenters.

Shortly before the publication of his second book, which is considered by many the most important contribution to psychical research since F. W. H. Myers 's Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death (1903), Geley abandoned his medical practice at Annecy and accepted the post of director of the Institut Métapsychique International founded by Jean Meyer.

Geley was a keen and indefatigable investigator. When, under fraud-proof circumstances, paranormal results were apparently produced in his laboratory, he had to defend himself against the accusation of medical colleagues that he was an accomplice of the medium. He consented to having his premises examined for secret doors and to being chained up with other investigators.

The most palpable evidence he produced for the reality of metapsychical phenomena were plaster casts from the mediumship of Franek Kluski, which were put on view in the institute. Geley's last book, L'Ectoplasmie et la Clairvoyance (1924), based chiefly on his experiences with Eva C., marked another milestone in psychical research. It was to have been followed by a second volume, "The Genesis and Meaning of Metapsychic Phenomena," which, unfortunately, was never written because of Geley's death in an airplane accident on July 15, 1924.

Geley was essentially a spiritist, because he accepted the reality of survival, reincarnation, and communication with the dead. He was careful not to declare his opinion on subjects that would have alienated the scientific community. However, his belief system seems to have made him a target for tricks by the mediums he studied and, in the end, capable of suppressing negative evidence. After his death it was reported that some very suspicious photographs of the mediumship of Eva C. were found among his papers, and it was suggested that these indicated the possibility of fraud. For a discussion of the facts and speculations involved, see Rudolf Lambert's article in the November 1954 issue of the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.


Geley, Gustave. L'Etre Subconscient. Paris: Editions Pygmalion, 1899.

. De l'Inconscient au Conscient. Paris: F. Alcan, 1919. Translated as From the Unconscious to the Conscious. New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1921.

Lambert, Rudolf. "Dr. Geley's Reports on the Medium 'Eva C.'&43" Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 37, 682 (November 1954).