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  • Writer's pictureCat Ward


Following on from the first post in this series, that on Instinctual Telepathy (or "gut feeling"), let's look at the second type defined by research and experimentation: mental telepathy, also known as thought transferrence or mind-to-mind communication.

Unlike instinctual telepathy, which is more an indirect sensory impression- an unexplained prompting, urge or instinct that a certain action must be taken or avoided, or perhaps an instinct about a particular person, this second type of telepathy involves direct transmission of information between two minds, and can occur over vast distances.

Over the years, there have been many who have considered, and many who have experimented, with the concept of mental telepathy. Let's take a look at some of those..


In the oldest "dream book" in existence, the Egyptian papyrus of Deral-Madineh, which dates back to 2000 B.C., there are examples of "divine revelation". The Egyptians believed that practices such as sleeping in temples could induce divinely inspired dreams, which then would supply the dreamer with answers concerning their state of health and their future. Such dreams even had an effect on Egyptian affairs of state.

In his 1971 book "The Psychology of Dreaming", Robert Van de Castle notes that there are also about 70 references to dreams and visions in the Bible.

One dream, possibly suggestive of telepathic influence, is the dream of King Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:1-35). The King awoke one morning and was unable to remember a dream he felt was divinely inspired in its content. His dream interpreters were left at a loss. When the King consulted Daniel, Daniel turned to God in prayer, and Nebuchadnezzar's dream was revealed to him in a dream vision. He then related the dream to Nebuchad­nezzar, who recognised it as being his own.


Another of the the first recorded approaches to understanding mental telepathy was undertaken by the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 - 322 BC). While writing about dreams, and how some people might possibly share the same dream, Aristotle considered that perhaps it was a matter of telepathy (although of course it was not known by that name during his time, and would indeed not be termed as such until more than another 2 millennia had passed).

Aristotle hypothesised that telepathic transmissions were comparable to a stone being thrown into still water, and ripples radiating from the splash, and questioned whether thoughts perhaps had similar waves that moved through the air and affected dreams. Although Aristotle thought these "mental waves" were also present during the day, he felt that the tranquility of night-time, combined with the person being in a state of rest or sleep, meant the human mind was more receptive to these waves at night.


Another ancient Greek philosopher, Democritus, held a theory on telepathy too. According to him, human beings project an energy created by the millions of vibrating atoms we are composed of, and this energy can be felt by someone else: the recipient of any projected information. Information was believed by Democritus to enter the body of the recipient through the pores of the skin.


Moving forward a few thousand years, in the 1850's, Oliver Lodge- then a professor of physics at Oxford University, and eventually a president of the Society for Psychical Research, became particularly interested in the phenomena of thought transference.

So great was his interest that decades later (in 1912), he sent correspondence to a London reporter for "The Day Book", a Chicago newspaper, in the form of a guide to some do-it-yourself telepathy experiments.

In 1874, the eminent British chemist and physicist, Sir William Crookes, gave his theory on telepathy. Crookes stated:

"It is known that the action of thought is accompanied by certain molecular movements in the brain, and here we have physical vibrations capable from their extreme minuteness of acting direct on individual molecules, while their rapidity approaches that of the internal and external movements of the atoms themselves."

There's perhaps a slight correlation there too with Democritus' thoughts that "atomic vibrations" have something to do with telepathy..

F.W.H Myers was one of the founders of the S.P.R., and coined the term "telepathy" in 1882. He theorised that telepathy is a basic law of life.

Myers believed that thoughts perceived without use of any of the five recognised senses were perhaps a natural extension of an individual's mind, stating:

"Telepathy forces us into a position where it is no longer safe to assume any sharply-defined distinction of mind and matter..I think it possible that the facts of telepathy may compel us to extend our conceptions of physico-psychical concomitance (affiliation), and to face the supposition that though forces may exist, and agencies operate, which the ordinarily materialistic view altogether denies, yet these may also be correlated with the force and matter with which our mathematical science already deals..Our notions of mind and matter must pass through many a phase as yet unimagined"

One of the first telepathy experiments the S.P.R. conducted was in the form of the then-popular parlor game, "the Willing Game". It required one person to leave the room and those remaining to decide on a task they would mentally convey, or "will", to the person when they returned. If the person succeeded in completing the task, they were the winner of the game.

When the American Society for Psychical Research (A.S.P.R.) was founded in 1885, (a year after the English S.P.R.), telepathy became the first psychic phenomenon to be studied scientifically there. The first tests conducted around the concept were simple. A sender in one room would try to transmit a two-digit number, a taste, or a visual image to a receiver in another room.


Moving forward in time again, in the late 1920's Pulitzer Prize-winning author Upton Sinclair conducted a series of over 300 telepathy experiments with his wife, Mary Craig Kimbrough. Sinclair would draw an image and place it in a sealed envelope. In another room, Mary would attempt to "tune in" to the image, and attempt to draw a duplicate copy. In 1930, Sinclair published a book detailing these experiments and their outcome, called "Mental Radio".

Mary's accuracy rate was apparently considered impressive- it attracted the attention of several high-profile people. One of those was Albert Einstein, who wrote the original preface for Sinclair's book, praising him for his conscientious reporting. The book also caught the attention of William McDougall, a former professor of psychology at Oxford and Harvard, who was at that time considered the "dean of American psychology".

McDougall (also the president of the Society for Psychical Research in 1920, and the American Society for Psychical Research in 1921), was impressed by Mary's ability to a great degree- so much so that he, with J.B. Rhine, created a Parapsychology department at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, to further study such matters.


Amongst the pioneering experiments in dream telepathy were a series of tests conducted in the 1880's by an Italian psychical researcher by the name of Dr. G.B. Ermacora, and the results of these were published in the proceedings of the A.S.P.R. in 1889. These early experiments, however, were conducted in a manner that nowadays they would be considered to be lacking controls. Interestingly, Ermacora worked with a medium, Maria Manzini, as his main subject. Manzini had a "trance control" (a spirit she was able to channel) she called Elvira.

With Manzini in a trance state, Ermacora would describe to Elvira a narrative she was to "send" telepathically to Manzini's four-year-old cousin, Angelina. Angelina would later describe her dream experiences to Manzini, who would then relate those to Ermacora.

The results were apparently considered impressive but, due to the experiments being designed in such a way that they may have allowed for fraud or deception on the medium's part, they are nowadays considered to be "of historical interest only" for psychical research purposes.

I found some interesting information during my research, in a 2015 article written for the the S.P.R's Psi Encyclopedia, that helped me with some of the next little bit here..

During the early 1950's, Montague Ullman, a psychoanalyst, psychiatrist, and parapsychologist, conducted a series of experiments with fellow parapsychologist Laura Dale. Ullman usually played the role of "agent", or "sender", and would attempt to influence the dreams of Dale as she slept. They used a device called a dormiphone, designed to awaken the sleeper at regular intervals and play a recorded message that might influence or stimulate dreaming, and they also experimented with different sounds, tones and phrases to see if any would prove to be especially effective.

A dormiphone

On nights where trials were conducted, detailed "dream diaries" were recorded. Ullman reported that the results were encouraging enough to warrant furthering the experiment for several years.

In 1952, at the University of Chicago, Eugene Aserinsky, Nathaniel Kleitman, and William Dement discovered REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which enabled researchers to determine precisely when an individual is dreaming. This discovery enabled Ullman to further develop and refine his research and experimentation techniques.

It prompted him to consider the possibility that if an image was "sent" by the agent at a time when the dreamer was entering a dream state, it might thus induce telepathic dreaming. There was also an additional benefit, which was that of the researcher being able to determine when the sleeper had stopped dreaming, and could thus awaken them for a report on their dreams.

In 1962, Ullman set up the Dream Laboratory at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York, and it was here that he and his colleagues Stanley Krippner, Alan Vaughan, and Charles Honorton would perform a series of fascinating experiments studying dream telepathy.

Their technique involved the "receiver" sleeping in a soundproof, electrically shielded room, and their brain waves and eye movements being monitored using polysomnographic equipment. In another soundproof room, the "sender" concentrated on target pictures designed to create a particular impression.

The researchers would wake the receivers when REM sleep was determined to have ended to get an immediate report about their dreams. The receivers’ dreams were found to often contain similar images or emotional content to the images the senders had viewed and attempted to transmit to them.

Montague Ullman from the research team commented that if a subject's dream “is vivid, coloured, and somewhat puzzling to the dreamer and does not ‘fit’ into his dream pattern or reflect recent activity, then we can be alerted to the possibility that the dream is being influenced by ESP.”

A very unique experiment in telepathic transmission was conducted by the Maimoinides team in 1971, when about 2000 people attending a Grateful Dead concert, 45 miles from the Dream Laboratory, were asked to focus on a picture projected on a screen, and attempt to send it telepathically to the laboratory where a psychic, Malcolm Bessent, was asleep, and would attempt to reach out- "tune in" to- the concert attendees, and receive the image in his dreams.

Stanley Krippner commented that as many of the concert attendees were already in altered states of consciousness due to having taken psychedelic drugs, this factor may actually help the project. One image the attendees attempted to send to Bessent was that of a man seated in the lotus position, with his chakras (energy centres) all brightly coloured (see below image). Bessent commented that in his dream, he saw a man "suspended in mid-air or something", who was “using natural energy”, and that he also "saw the light from the sun… a spinal column.”

A common depiction of chakras


Ganzfeld (German for “whole field”) experiments are a type of experiment that attempts to induce a state of receptivity to telepathic transmissions through use of partial sensory deprivation, and were most famously conducted by Charles Honorton, a researcher at the Mamoinides Dream Laboratory. The Ganzfeld experiment is still popular, and widely conducted, to this day.

In this experiment, the receiver and sender are placed in separate rooms. The receiver’s eyes are covered with halves of Ping-Pong balls and his ears are covered with headphones playing white noise. A red light is used to illuminate the room. Once the receiver is suitably relaxed, the sender is shown still photos or film clips. The sender attempts to telepathically send these images to the receiver. The receiver’s impressions are then recorded and compared with the original image the sender was shown.


A while ago, I read Rupert Sheldrake's wonderful book, "The Sense of Being Stared At", which contains some very interesting examples of hypnotic subjects having a seemingly telepathic "rapport" with their hypnotist.

In the early 19th century, what we now call hypnotism was referred to as "animal magnetism" or "mesmerism"- named for Anton Mesmer, who popularised the practice. By the 1840's quite a number of surgeons were using hypnotism to induce anaesthesia in their patients. Some of these surgeons noticed that when their patients were in a trance state, a rapport, and a "community of sensation", were developed.

A fascinating early experience was recorded by a Scottish doctor, James Esdaile, who was working at the time as a surgeon in Calcutta, India. In the 1840's, he carried out more than 3,000 operations using hypnotism to anaesthatise his patients, with a large degree of success.

In one of Esdaile's experiments, the subject was a young Indian man, on whom he had performed a successful operation using hypnotic anaesthesia. When the man came to thank Esdaile after he had recovered, Esdaile asked him if he would take part in a test. He put the man into a trance, and blindfolded him, and then asked his assistant to put various substances including salt, brandy, and lime into his (Esdaile's) mouth, in random order.

Esdaile stated "the first thing he put in was a slice of half-rotten lime. Having chewed it, I asked 'do you taste anything?' (the patient replied) 'yes, I taste a nasty old lime', and he made a wry face in correspondence. He was equally correct with all the other substances"

The phenomena of mental telepathy has been the subject of contemplation, and fascination, to many minds over many centuries. To many it is considered a natural aspect of the workings of the human mind, and innumerable fascinating examples have been recorded, both in and out of the laboratory. What I've illustrated here is a very small sample of how widespread, and long-existent, consideration of mental telepathy truly is!

I think there may be a third part to this little series, friends..I've a few more things I haven't gotten to touch on yet..I hope you don't mind!

What are your thoughts? Have you had any experiences yourself in this particular area? feel free to tell me in comments!

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