Digitized sources for the history of German parapsychology

Sphinx journal

German occult, spiritualist and parapsychological journals now digitized and available online.

The history of parapsychology has been one of my research interests in recent years. It is not so long ago that I  reviewed Heather Wolffram’s recent book on German parapsychologyStepchildren of Science,  and noted that it breaks new ground in providing access to little-explored German sources – in English. Much of the source material for German parapsychology is indeed very hard to access outside of Germany. In my own research, I have been able to draw on a good collection of psychical research literature at the Amsterdam University Library, much of which was collected by a students society for psychical research active in Amsterdam in the early 20th century. Even this collection is weak on German sources, however. The same is true for the digital collections available through Archive.org – a great resource for anglophone sources, but less so for other languages. In my case, I had to spend a couple of days at the IGPP’s collections in Freiburg to finish the parts of my research that dealt with German parapsychology.

It was therefore very nice to hear last week from Eberhard Bauer, who is pretty much running the show in Freiburg, that the IGPP in collaboration with Freiburg Unviersity have started to release digitized versions of obscure German journals and periodicals of occultism, spiritualism, and psychical research/parapsychology. Journals such as Sphinx, Psychische Studien, Zentralblatt für Okkultismus, and the curious Zeitschrift für kritischen Okkultismus are all available for free from the University of Freiburg’s websites. It is simply a wonderful resource for researchers interested in aspects of German occultism, parapsychology, or for that matter the historical precursors of the contemporary skeptics’ movement (I still think “critical occultism” is an underestimated and under-researched precursor). Although too late for me this time around, it is very good to know that these sources are now easily available. We should be grateful to Eberhard Bauer for this resource, for he has, as I understand, been working countless hours over many years to make this a reality.

On a related note, the parapsychologist and noted historian of parapsychology Carlos Alvarado has recently been blogging extensively on sources in this field. Particularly relevant in this connection is his series on “Digital Libraries with Holdings of the Old Literature” (the old literature of psychical research, that is), the latest installation of which mentioned the website of a group calling themselves “The International Association for the Preservation of Spiritualist and Occult Periodicals”. This, too, appears to be a great resource for obscure spiritualist periodicals that have been digitized, this time in the English language. It is great to see so much interesting research literature becoming available, and at a rapidly increasing rate.

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This blog post by Egil Asprem was first published on Heterodoxology. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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