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Journal of Parapsychology - Volume 40 - 1976

Book Reviews

  • THE GELLER PAPERS: SCIENTIFIC OBSERVATIONS ON THE PARANORMAL POWERS OF URI GELLER. Edited by Charles Panati. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976. Pp. xiii + 316. 16 plates. $10.00.

    If there are persons living in Himalayan caves or in remote Indian or African villages who have not heard of Uri Geller, this would simply be because Uri—or radio, television, or the printed word —has not yet gotten around to them. As a result, according to Charles Panati, physicist and editor of The Geller Papers, "in a mere four years Geller has focussed more scientific attention on the field of parapsychology than it has seen in its entire ninety-year history."
     With the exception of Andrija Puharich's Uri, an indispensable part of any Geller record, and John Taylor's Superminds, much of whose Geller material is repeated in this volume, most of the published and some hitherto unpublished scientific attention paid to Geller and his paranormal abilities has been gathered into the twenty-three papers issuing from six countries that make up The Geller Papers. Beginning with the October 1974 editorial from Nature, "Investigating the Paranormal," that served as an introduction in that journal to the precedent-setting publication in it of Puthoff and Targ's "Information Transmission under Conditions of Sensory Shielding," which follows in this volume, the contributions include reports by thirteen physicists and teams of physicists, two engineers, three parapsychologists (a mathematician, a psychologist, and a physician writing as parapsychologists), three magicians (including the parapsychologist W. E. Cox writing as a magician), and one photographer. The subjects dealt with include various kinds of ESP and PK demonstrations by Geller in and outside of laboratories (where different types of measurement were attempted under varying conditions of control) the physical and chemical analysis of metals altered through direct or indirect contact with Geller, an instance of paranormal photography, and the widespread development of unsuspected PK abilities in persons directly or indirectly exposed to Geller (the so-called Geller effect). These are all summarized and discussed in a twenty-nine page introduction.

     On the whole the papers are of high caliber and, although one might (as the Nature editorial does in the case of the Puthoff and Targ paper that it introduces) raise a question or enter an objection here or there concerning a reported procedure or statement of fact, the net effect of the volume is to leave little room for doubt about the paranormal character of Geller's now notorious effects on cutlery, timepieces, and other things. Just what the Geller phenomenon, or this book, has added to parapsychology from points of view other than the narrowly descriptive, however, is less easy to assess.
     To begin with, the book shows a notable lack of historical perspective. Panati's "ninety-year history" of parapsychology (see above) crudely lops off, as in a badly framed snapshot, William Crookes' extensive observations in the early 1870's of the striking physical phenomena of D. D. Home; and there is no hint anywhere that subjects like Palladino, Tomcyk, the Schneider brothers, and Serios—to name only a few—or investigators such as Richet, Ochorowitz, the Rhines, and others ever existed. True, the volume purports to deal with Geller, not with the history of parapsychology. But bad history (or no history) can make bad science, and when one reads that "our observation of the phenomena leads us to conclude that experiments in the area of so-called paranormal phenomena can be scientifically conducted" (Puthoff and Targ), or "we feel that if similar sessions continue to be held . . . there will be no room for reasonable doubt that some new process is involved here which cannot be accounted for, or explained, in terms of the laws of physics at present known"

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