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Keeley, J.P. (2001). Subliminal Promptings: Psychoanalytic Theory and the Society for Psychical Research. Am. Imago, 58(4):767-791.

(2001). American Imago, 58(4):767-791

Subliminal Promptings: Psychoanalytic Theory and the Society for Psychical Research

James P. Keeley


In 1912 Freud published “A Note on the Unconscious in Psycho-Analysis” in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research. The Society for Psychical Research, or the SPR, was founded in London in 1882, the result of the efforts of several prominent British intellectuals, scientists, and professionals sympathetic to, but by no means unanimously convinced of, the claims and practices of Spiritualism—the belief that the human personality survives the death of the body and can be contacted by the still living. The SPR originally intended to investigate those claims and practices by subjecting them to rigorous scientific investigation: this in a (as it turned out) futile attempt to salvage such religious beliefs as the spiritual, the miraculous, and the afterlife from the predations of post-Darwinian science by placing them firmly, if possible, on a scientific foundation. In response to various early developments, however, the original purpose of the SPR quickly evolved to include explorations into such occult phenomena as trance states, clairvoyance, and telepathy; into such psychological issues as hypnotism, dreams, and mental pathology; into such occult movements as Theosophy; and into such historically spiritual matters as supernatural events recorded in the Bible and in the lives of the saints and the history of the Church.


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