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Macalpine, I. (1954). Psychoanalysis and the Occult: Edited by George Devereux. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1953. 432 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 23:268-270.

(1954). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 23:268-270

Psychoanalysis and the Occult: Edited by George Devereux. New York: International Universities Press, Inc., 1953. 432 pp.

Review by:
Ida Macalpine

The naïve reader may expect of this anthology evidence that psychoanalysis has lifted the veil from 'the occult' as it has from such erstwhile occult phenomena as dreams. Far from it! Nor does the volume purpose to prove by psychoanalysis that 'psi phenomena' exist. The editor makes clear that he collected 'quite specifically psychoanalytic studies of so-called psi phenomena, and these must therefore be viewed primarily as contributions to the theory and practice of clinical psychoanalysis'. It is accordingly fair to review this book as 'a contribution to one aspect of psychoanalytic technique'.

Of course questions of psychoanalytic technique can be raised only after the reader has decided whether or not he believes in the existence and clinical importance of telepathy and the occult. To the clarification of this indispensable premise, the greater part of the book is devoted. This editorial dilemma runs on and on, with much proving—and less disproving—the reality of the occult, and tedious, often repetitive discussions as to what constitutes absolute proof of extrasensory perception and communication. Ellis, the only nonanalyst included, brings weighty arguments to a demonstration of the unsoundness of some of the evidence. Perhaps his most important point is that mathematical and statistical evidence (such as that obtained at Duke University, which Eisenbud believes 'simply has to stand') does not raise psi phenomena above scrutiny. Collapse of the whole structure is still, one feels, a possibility.

Although the volume contains not all, but only a selection, of the psychoanalytic contributions to the subject, those that are included show a breath-taking inequality. The four papers by Freud (one of them here translated for the first time) present a measured and guarded attitude in striking contrast to such journalistic statements as, 'Here indeed was a thrilling finish to our telepathic steeplechase with more excitement than we had originally bargained for' (Eisenbud, p. 235).

The evidence produced is not likely to persuade the sober-minded that telepathy exists; this the editor did not intend. But he has failed in his intention of clarifying its use in psychoanalytic practice.

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