Saturday, September 26, 2020

Stephen Braude's New Book

I recently finished reading his latest book, Dangerous Pursuits (San Antonio, Texas: Anomalist Books, 2020), which consists mostly of updated versions of material he'd previously published. The book is largely about mediumship, but there's also a lot of discussion of philosophical issues related to the paranormal. Some other topics are addressed as well. You can find out more about the issues the book covers on the Amazon page linked above.

There are a couple of chapters on his investigation of the Felix Experimental Group, centering around the mediumship of Kai Mügge. Though Mügge cheats at times (which is common among people with genuine abilities, as we see in academic contexts, sports, etc.), it does seem that he's producing some real paranormal phenomena as well. Some apparently authentic table levitations were caught on video. Braude discusses them and includes some photographs. A video of a particularly impressive levitation is supposed to be included in an upcoming film by Robert Narholz (tentatively titled Finding PK). Judging by the photos and Braude's account of the surrounding context, it seems that the levitation I just referred to is genuine. Go here to watch Braude discussing the subject in an interview, accompanied by a series of photos of the levitation mentioned above. (Watch the remainder of the interview for more photographs and video of levitations not associated with Mügge. For a discussion of other paranormal events caught on video and links to the relevant videos, see here.)

I found Braude's chapter on the mediumship of Carlos Mirabelli highly interesting. I didn't know much about Mirabelli before reading Braude's material. Mirabelli was reported to have "produced full-form materializations in bright daylight, and these were often recognized as deceased relatives, acquaintances, or well-known public figures by those attending the séance. Sitters would watch them form; attending physicians would carefully examine them for up to 30 minutes and report ordinary bodily functions; photographs of the figures would be taken (for example, Fig. 1); and then they would slowly dissolve or fade before everyone's eyes. Moreover, Mirabelli reportedly materialized animals as well." (99) Braude provides some of the relevant photographs, including one apparently showing a woman in the process of materializing. He reports an occasion when one of the medical personnel present touched one of the bodies that was in the process of dematerializing and found it to be "a spongy, flaccid mass of substance and that then he experienced some kind of a shock and fell to the ground" (105). You can read an online version of Braude's chapter on Mirabelli here.

Braude also has a chapter responding to criticisms of the mediumship of D.D. Home. If you don't know much about Home, Braude's chapter is a good introduction.

Much of Braude's material in the book is about issues related to the distinction between psi and super psi. One of the chapters discusses why it might be that disembodied individuals would perceive their surroundings as if having a body (an ability to perceive the physical environment, a range of vision similar to what an embodied person has, etc.). Even the chapter on jazz improvisation includes some comments on paranormal issues. Because of the variety of topics covered, most people interested in paranormal issues should find something worth reading.


  1. Jason - is there a particular book on these topics that you would recommend to an atheist who does not believe supernatural exists? Or is this stuff likely to lead them down dark paths?

    1. You can start with the fifteen-minute video here featuring an interview of Stephen Braude. Then read the book the interview is about, The Gold Leaf Lady (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2007). Braude's not a Christian, and I disagree with him on some points related to the paranormal, but that book is a good introduction to paranormal issues from one of the best researchers in the field.

      There's nothing wrong with reading about paranormal issues. The term "paranormal" is often used as a synonym for "miraculous", with the implication that much of the paranormal activity we come across in life is good from a Christian perspective (e.g., answers to prayer). Some paranormal activity is neutral. And even that which is bad in some way is still worth knowing about and studying for a variety of reasons. There are realms of theology dedicated to studying things in life that are negative: sin (hamartiology), demons (demonology), etc. In other contexts, pro-life people often study abortion, including the details of how abortions are performed and the psychology of the people involved, people who are opposed to crime study it, etc. Read my comments here, for example, regarding the importance of paranormal research, which includes a discussion of Mark 9 and some other relevant Biblical material. Read my two posts starting here for an explanation of why I've been researching the Enfield Poltergeist, the paranormal case I've studied more than any other.

      If you're interested in reading any of my material on that subject, a collection of my posts can be found here. See here for some of my material on other paranormal topics. And here's a post by Steve Hays that addresses many paranormal subjects from a Christian perspective, and it includes references to many relevant books and articles.

  2. Thanks, I'm not that atheist btw. Do you think The Gold Leaf lady would be good to give to an atheist family member?

    1. Yes, as an introduction to the paranormal. There should also be discussions with him about the evidence for Christianity, as you have opportunity, but Braude's book is good for introducing people to the paranormal more broadly.