Spiritualism, mediumship and talking boards
Our interest in talking boards is not a secret, in fact we published an article entitled ‘What is a planchette’ when we launched our sterling silver Planchettes’ Collection in May 2013 -which goes hand in hand with the history of talking boards- and we have even our own travel Ouija board: the one and only Singular Talking Board!
But let’s look back to the past for a moment in order to refresh our memories. Spiritualism was in vogue in the 19th century and channelers used automatic writing or drawing in regular basis. In fact, mediumship became quite popular in the USA and the UK after the rise of Spiritualism as religious movement. The trance mediums Paschal Beverly Randolph and Emma Hardinge Britten were among the most celebrated lecturers and authors on the subject in the mid-19th century. However, scientific tests by the English scientist Michael Faraday, the French chemist Michel Eugène Chevreul, and the American psychologists William James and Ray Hyman have demonstrated that many phenomena attributed to paranormal forces or ‘energies’ are actually due to ideomotor action. After the exposure of the fraudulent use of stage magic tricks by physical mediums such as the Davenport Brothers and the Bangs Sisters, mediumship fell into disrepute.
If you want to learn more about the history of the Ouija board in science, read now this article from the Smithsonian Magazine: ‘The Strange and Misterious History of the Ouija Board’.
So, can Ouija boards be used to communicate with the spiritual dimension? We may not have a definitive answer to this question, but the ideomotor effect may help us throw light over other relevant issues…
The ideomotor phenomenom in modern science: Inner Intelligence Project
If you are a Ouija board connoisseur, the ideomotor effect will be familiar to you. As you probably know, it is a psychological phenomenon wherein a subject makes motions unconsciously.
This term was coined by William Benjamin Carpenter in a scientific paper in 1852, discussing the means through which the Ouija board produced its results (hence the alternative term Carpenter effect). Carpenter, friend and collaborator of James Braid, the founder of hypnotism, derived the word ideomotor from the components ideo, meaning ‘idea’ or ‘mental representation’, and motor, meaning ‘muscular action’.
Today, a group of intrepid researchers believe that ‘You Know More Than You Think’. The Visual Cognition Lab is located in the department of Psychology at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada). Founded in 2000 by principle investigator Dr. Ronald Rensink, the Visual Cognition Lab has embarked on a diverse array of research experiments seeking to understand visual attention, visual intelligence, and automatic (or nonconscious) cognition.
And now, the Ouija mojo as per the Inner Intel Project crew:
We believe that Ouijas are a window into our unconscious mind, and our research methods offer the first in-depth look into the human subconscious.
In their own words:
The Visual Cognition Lab’s latest research is blazing trails in more than one way. The research, dubbed the Inner Intelligence Project, has become the first research project out of the University of British Columbia to attempt to crowdfund their research. Using the crowdfunding site Microryza.com, the project is seeking to raise funds to continue their pioneering new research into the subconscious, using a tool which most people wouldn’t ever expect science to take seriously: Ouija boards. When playing the Ouija game, the players subconsciously answer questions, giving researchers a perfect opportunity to peek into a person’s subconscious.
Ideomotor effects are actions that are not perceived as intentional, but seem to emerge with no identifiable source; they are often associated with a sense of involuntariness. The Ouija Board phenomenon is a classic example of this. The goal of this project is to test if a device based on the use of the ideomotor effect and then bypassing the explicit cognition could help to study implicit cognition.
The Inner Intel Project launched a six-week crowdfunding campaign at the end of 2013. Unfortunately this campaign fell short of its goal, but luckily a generous anonymous donation allowed them to continue running sessions through the rest of the year and this time the project’s team is hoping the second campaign, to be launched in a few weeks, will achieve its goal. We share their view: ‘we believe that scientific research should be collaborative and easily accessible. Crowdfunding allows us to actualize your ideas and scientific visions’.
And now, visit the official website of the Inner Intelligence Project [www.innerintelproject.org] and have a look at this inspirinational video in order to learn more about the project and how to become a supporter of the new experiment underway!