Koestler Parapsychology Unit

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Koestler Parapsychology Unit

Following the death of author Arthur Koestler (1905-83) and his wife, the lawyer handling their will put out the word that money had been left to endow a chair in parapsychology. Of the several schools that applied for the money, the psychology department at Edinburgh University was chosen. The chair was funded in 1984 and the following year Robert L. Morris (b. 1942) was selected as the first occupant. Morris had done postdoctoral work at Duke University with J. B. Rhine and had written numerous papers relating psi to his specialization, biological psychology.

Morris organized the Koestler Parapsychology Unit and had as an initial assignment the development of a research program that would be integrated into the ongoing life of the whole psychology department and the university as a whole. Morris was fortunate to have a department with a positive history relative to parapsychology in that through the 1970s and early 1980s, John Beloff (now retired), a prominent parapsychologist in his own right, had taught at Edinburgh.

Within a few years, Morris had built a viable research team that included graduate students and several associates with doctoral degrees. The research program was built on a research model that honestly accepted the problems inherent in psychical research including the hostility of much of the academic community to the endeavor, the task of creating experiments that might enhance the likelihood of psi emerging in a laboratory context, and the need to treat some scientifically fuzzy areas such as consciousness and will. The guidelines for the chair also called for an examination of what were termed "exceptional human experiences," experiences that are out of the ordinary and enigmatic enough as to inspire (if positive) or create dread (if negative), but may or may not involve any psi element. Such experiences include, but are not limited to, outof-body experiences, near-death experiences, and the sighting of apparitions.

The program developed by Morris has concentrated on explorations of the mechanisms of psi, the experiences of psi, and the role of psi in the larger environment. In the meantime, Morris has emerged as one of the most respected theoreticians in the field. The program has met with much acclaim, and in 1996 Morris was honored with his election to the presidency of the Psychology Section of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. The unit may be contacted at 7, George Sq., Edinburgh, Scotland EH8 9JZ. Its website can be found at http://www.moebius.psy.ac.uk/.


Morris, Robert L. "The Concept of the Target." In Linda A. Henkel and Rick E. Berger, eds. Research in Parapsychology 1988. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1989. . "Spontaneous Synchronistic Events as Seen through a Simple Communication Model." In Betty Shapin and Lisette Cody, eds. Spontaneous Psi, Depth Psychology and Parapsychology. New York: Parapsychology Foundation, 1992.

. "A Survey of Methods and Issues in ESP Research." In Stanley Krippner, ed. Advances in Parapsychological Research. 2. Extrasensory Perception. New York: Plenum Press, 1978.

Wiseman, Richard, and Robert L. Morris. Guidelines for Testing Psychic Claimants. Hatfield, Herts., UK: University of Hertsfordshire Press, 1995.