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Biorhythms: A Missing Component in the Study of After-Death Communication

Posted on 25 September 2023, 7:51

In an article published in the December 1925 issue of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, Dr. Hans Thirring, professor of physics at the University of Vienna, reported on his research with several mediums, primarily the brothers Willy and Rudi Schneider. “I had not believed in the existence of metapsychic phenomena at the commencement of our research, but when I saw how easily a mere suspicion could be turned into an exposure, I became sceptical of the sceptics, and resolved to study these matters a little more closely,” Thirring (below) explains his introduction to the subject matter, adding that a committee involving eight other professors was formed to study different mediums. Much of his research was with committee members, but he also carried out research on his own in his laboratory.


Thirring goes on to report on many sittings with strong phenomena, many with weak phenomena, and some with no phenomenon at all. “These sittings confirmed an observation which we had already made a year ago: periods of poor phenomena by the medium were alternating with periods of strong phenomena, while the control conditions remained constant,” he wrote of sittings with Willy Schneider (below) during 1924 and 1925.


While Thirring concluded that many of the phenomena he observed were genuine and beyond trickery, the lack of consistency was a major detriment to the research.  A number of other committee members lacked the patience and understanding to deal with the negative sittings and they gradually withdrew.  At the same time, the inconsistency prevented Thirring and the few who remained on the committee from reaching any definite conclusion.  Moreover, some actual fraud by one of the alleged mediums studied by the committee influenced certain committee members to believe that Willy Schneider was simply more cautious and skilled than other tricksters. It was all beyond natural law and so it had to be a trick of some kind, even if it was not obvious to the committee members. 

The inconsistency in phenomena was much the same with other well-known mediums, including D. D. Home, Eusapia Palladino and Leonora Piper.  All seem to have had their bad days or their bad periods, which frustrated the researchers.  If any consideration was given to the biorhythm theory of human behavior by the early researchers, I have not come across it. Basically, that theory holds that we all have our good periods, our bad periods, and those in a gray area between good and bad.  Biorhythms is the “science” that studies our built-in natural cycles that influence our physical, intellectual, and emotional behavior.  The primary tenet of the theory seems to be that we all have a 23-day physical cycle, a 28-day emotional cycle, and a 33-day intellectual cycle.

One of the pioneers in this area of biorhythms was, like Thirring, a professor at the University of Vienna.  Dr. Hermann Swoboda, a professor of psychology there, teamed with Dr. Wilhelm Fleiss, a German medical researcher, both focusing mostly on the physical and emotional rhythms affecting patients. Their works were published in the first decade of the 1900s.  During the 1920s, Alfred Teltscher, an Austrian doctor of engineering, developed the intellectual cycle.

The 28-day emotional cycle governs sensibility, nerves, feelings, intuition, cheerfulness, moodiness, and creative ability, while the 33-day intellectual cycle affects memory, alertness, logic, reasoning power, reaction and ambition. The 23-day physical cycle encompasses physical strength, endurance, energy, resistance to disease, and confidence.

Sometime around 1985, I read a book entitled Biorhythm Sports Forecasting by Bernard Gittelson. The book included complete biorhythm charts for the years 1977, 1978, and 1979, three years during which I kept a somewhat detailed log books concerning my daily efforts in long-distance training and racing, including notes as to when I was feeling energetic or lacking in energy. In matching up my notes with Gittelson’s charts, I found a positive correlation between my efforts and my supposed biorhythms.

In one of my most memorable races, I noted in my log that I was in “cruise control” all the way and that I had a strong kick at the finish.  According to the biorhythm charts, I was at both a physical and emotional peak that day, but pretty close to an intellectual low. However, according to Gittelson, distance running “does not significantly involve thinking.” He says that too much thinking about the pain and strain of the run has been the undoing of many an athlete.

All Systems Charged

According to Gittelson, the 11 ½ days in which the physical cycle is in a positive phase, all systems are charged and giving off energy.  During the 11 ½ days of the down cycle, the negative days, there is reduced vitality. The critical days, he explains, are when there is a change in rhythm from positive to negative or vice versa. This is when extra caution is called for. In one of my 1978 log entries, I noted that a knee began bothering me.  The charts showed that I was in the negative zone in all three categories that day.  Likewise, when I developed an ankle problem several months later, I was in three negative zones. 

There were too many variables and too much subjective data for my little personal study to be meaningful. Baseball lends itself to a more scientific study of biorhythms as it is a numbers game. Anyone who really follows the game knows that most every player, if not all of them, has his “hot” streaks and his slumps over the course of a 162-game season. He might be “on fire” for a week or 10 days and “cold as a cucumber” for an equal period of time. If any statistician has done a detailed study on this, I am not aware of it.

According to Wikipedia, “the biorhythm theory as a pseudoscientific idea that suggest that people’s daily lives are significantly influenced by rhythmic cycles with periods of exactly 23, 28, and 33 days.”  They say that the theory was developed by Wilhelm Fliess in the late 19th century and popularized in the United States in the late 1970s. “It is important to note,” Wikipedia says, “that there is no scientific evidence supporting the validity of biorhythms. Therefore, it is not recommended to make important decisions based on this theory.”  As most readers of this blog know. Wikipedia is heavily biased against all paranormal phenomena, including mediumship. It seems that their writers regard anything not lending itself to exact measurement and replication is pseudoscience. 

I admit to having a problem with that part of the theory holding that the individual’s date and time of birth triggers the rhythms and that they continue from the moment of birth,  without change, for the person’s lifetime, but it is clear to me that we have our hot streaks and our slumps in our everyday lives.  Therefore, I see no reason why scientists who researched mediums should have expected them to produce strong phenomena on every experiment or not to have anticipated them having off days, or off periods, when they produced little or nothing.  Assuming that a medium should produce strong phenomena on every occasion seems very unscientific to me. 

Harmony Required

In addition to periods of strong and weak phenomena, Thirring concluded “that the production of the phenomena must necessarily depend on the mutual feeling of goodwill between medium and sitters if they are to be really genuine; that is to say, of psychic origin.”  Many other researcher before Thirring had recognized the need for a passive mental state for the medium and overall harmony during the experiment. It was often reported that soothing music was played to achieve the harmony and that negativity on the part of a sitter or sitters could defeat the medium (or the spirits working through the medium) in the production of phenomena. It has been likened to a comedian on a stage reacting to laughs and cheers or to boos and taunts. 

In many failed studies, it appeared that the medium succumbed to the pressure.  Back to the baseball analogy, many players have said that when they try to hit homeruns they fail. When they just try to make contact with the ball, no harder swing attempted, they succeed.  Thirring explained; “It is obvious that good many average men would not even be able to fall asleep in their own beds at 10 p.m. if half-a-dozen university professors were sitting around them waiting in deadly silence for the occurrence of the phenomenon.  The far more delicate metapsychical phenomena cannot be produced by the mere will of the medium. Some psychic emotion seem to be necessary – in the same way as certain sexual functions are started by emotions and imaginations. In the case of our medium, the necessary emotions seem to be furnished by rhythmical music; by the touch of a woman; or by the buoyant spirit of a cheerful circle. Whenever the atmosphere of the circle resembles a law court with the medium as the poor delinquent; or even still worse, when the sitting takes the form of a college examination, no phenomenon will occur.”

“Thirring summarized the results of his investigation: “As a teacher of exact sciences I had never dreamt of believing in metapsychical phenomena until the beginning of 1924. My investigation with Willy Schneider taught me, however, that the hypothesis of genuine telekinetic phenomena is much better founded than the average scientist realizes.  My conviction of their genuineness would be still greater except that the experience with [a charlatan] had taught me to be very cautious. I learned further that the information concerning psychical research given by the daily press as well as by scientific journals is generally one-sided and unreliable. There seems to be a great gap between the group of convinced occultists or spiritists and the very badly informed average intellectual man.”

Another factor, one which Thirring does not go into, was reported by other researchers – that some of the psychic energy of the sitters added to the psychic power of the medium and thereby raised the overall psychic power available for the alleged spirits to carry out the particular phenomenon.

It should be noted that Babe Ruth hit 714 homeruns during his 22-year baseball career, but he also struck out 1,330 times and had his share of streaks and slumps. 

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: October 9





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The 13th Witness for Life After Death:  Dr. Gustave Geley

Posted on 11 September 2023, 7:10

A French physician and Laureate of the French Medical Faculty at the University of Lyons, Dr. Gustave Geley (1868 – 1924, upper right photo) gave up his medical practice in 1918 to become the first director of the Institut Métapsychique International in Paris. He is most remembered for his research in the area of physical mediumship, especially with the mediums Marthe Béraud (“Eva C.”), Stephan Ossowiecki, Jean Guzik, and Franek Kluski (lower right photo). Many of Geley’s experiments were carried out in hi Paris laboratory with the help of Professor Charles Richet, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1913.


In my award-winning paper for the Bigelow Essay contest of 2021, I offered the testimony of 11 researchers – a judge, a physician, a lawyer, three chemists, a biologist, two physicist, a theologian, and a philosopher, all with impeccable qualifications – in support of the survival hypothesis. All of them began as non-believers or skeptics to some high degree, but, after extensive research declared themselves as supporting communication with spirits of the dead and survival of consciousness at death.  Because of the 25,000 word limit for the essay, I had to stop at 11 – all of them having accomplished most of their research before 1900.  Had I been able to go on, Professor James Hyslop would have been my 12th witness. He was the subject of my blog of December 6, 2021.  With even more space permitted, Dr. Geley would have been my 13th witness. 

As with the previous 12 witnesses, my “interview” with Geley involves his exact words as set forth in various books, journals, and reports.  My questions are tailored to fit his answers. Words in brackets are inferred to provide a proper flow of verbiage. References are provided at the end.

Dr. Geley, your reports are filled with experiments resulting in materializations of hands, faces, and other body parts developing from a substance called ectoplasm given off by the medium. Would you mind summarizing the process?

“[Certainly.] The primary substance may be solid, liquid, or vaporous.  With Eva, the solid type predominates, with most other mediums, the vaporous.  The is the case with Franek [Kluski]; the ectoplasm appears as gaseous, and only exceptionally as solid. The usual course of the phenomena is as follows: First a strong odour of ozone is perceptible. This odour, analogous to that perceived in radioscopic practice, is very characteristic, and is perceptible at the beginning of the phenomena and sometimes in advance of any, often on entering the laboratory, and sometimes even before that. This premonitory symptom has never been absent in our experiments. The smell of ozone comes and goes suddenly. Then, in weak light, slightly phosphorescent vapour floats around the medium, especially above his head, like light smoke, and in it there are gleams like foci of condensation. These lights were usually many, tenuous, and ephemeral, but sometimes they were larger and more lasting, and then gave the impression of being luminous parts of organs otherwise invisible, especially finger-ends or parts of faces. When materialization was complete, fully formed hands and faces could be seen…These sometimes disappear at once, sometimes they proceed to characteristic human forms. They were predominant facts in Franek’s sittings; never entirely absent…[The] faces were alive; they looked keenly and fixedly at the experimenters.  Their looks were grave, calm, and dignified. They seemed conscious of the importance of the matter.” (2-pgs .213, 252)

Has the ectoplasm been chemically analyzed?

“Analyses of the exteriorized substance are, of course, not to be had. The moral impossibility of amputating from the medium’s ectoplasm a portion which might grievously injury or kill her will always prevent this. We therefore are ignorant of the exact chemical composition of this substance…What we do know is that it shows biologic unity.” (1-pgs. 64-65)

I gather that complete forms are very rare. 

“Different observers – Crookes and Richet among others – have, as is well known, described complete materializations, not of phantoms in the proper sense of the word, but of beings having for the moment all vital particulars of living beings; whose hearts beat, whose lungs breathe, and whose bodily appearance is perfect. I have not, alas, observed phenomena so complete, but, on the other hand, I have very frequently seen complete representations of an organ, such as a face, a hand, or a finger.  In the more complete cases, the materialized organ has all the appearance and biological functions of a living organ. I have seen admirably modeled fingers, with their nails; I have seen complete hands with bones and joints; I have seen a living head, whose bones I could feel under a thick mass of hair.  I have seen well-formed living and human faces!” (1-pgs. 56-57)

Do you know why some materializations are so complete and others so partial and imperfect?

“To build up in a few seconds an organ or an organism biologically complete – to create life – is a metapsychic feat which can but rarely produce a perfect result. That is why a great majority of materializations are incomplete, fragmentary, defective, and show lacunae in their structure. The forms are seldom other than more or less successful attempts at hands, faces, and organisms. (2- p. 240)

The skeptics constantly bring up those materializations that are not three dimensional as pointing to fraud.

“Well-constituted organic forms having all the appearance of life are often replaced by incomplete formations. The relief is often wanting and the forms are flat. There are some that are purely flat and partly in relief. I have seen in certain cases, a hand or a face appear flat, and then, under my eyes assume the three dimensions, entirely or partially. The incomplete forms are sometimes smaller than natural size, being occasionally miniatures….There are all kinds of intermediate stages between complete and incomplete organisms, and these changes often take place under the eyes of the spectator. Besides these complete and incomplete forms there are those of another kind – very strange ones.
These are imitations or simulacra of organs.  There are simulacra of fingers having only the general shape of fingers, without warmth, without suppleness, and without joints. There are simulacra of faces like masks, or as if cut out of paper, tufts of hair sticking to them, and undefinable forms…These simulacra can easily be explained. They are the products of weak power using still weaker means of execution; it does what it can, and rarely succeeds, because its activity, diverted from its usual course, no longer has the certainty of action which normal biologic impulse gives to a physiological act.” (1-p. 60-61 & 2-pgs. 188-189)

Others have reported that these materializations just sort of melt into the floor in disappearing.  It that your experience?

“The disappearance of materialized forms is at least as curious as their appearance. This disappearance is sometimes instantaneous, or nearly so. In less than a second the form whose presence was evident to sight and touch, has disappeared. In other cases the disappearance is gradual; the return to the original substance and its reabsorption into the body of the medium can be observed by the same stages as its production. In other cases again the disappearance takes place, not by a return to the original substance, but by progressive diminution of its particular characteristics, the visibility slowly lessens, the contours are blurred, effaced, and vanish.” (1-pgs. 62-63)

You are most remembered today for “The Paraffin Hands Case,” which is one of the most convincing cases of spirit life. As I recall, you and Professor Richet succeeded in having “entities” dip their hands into some paraffin wax so that molds could me made of their body parts. Would you mind explaining this?

“[My pleasure.] The procedure [with Franek Kluski] is to set a bowl containing paraffin wax, kept at melting-point by being floated on warm water near the medium. The materialized ‘entity’ is asked to plunge a hand, a foot, or even part of a face into the paraffin several times. A closely fitting envelop is thus formed, which sets at once in air or by being dipped into another of cold water. This envelope or ‘glove’ is then freed by dematerialization of the member. Plaster can be poured at leisure into the glove, thus giving a perfect cast of the hand.” (1- p. 221)

Was there an intelligence associated with the materializations and moulds?

“The lights, the touches, the apparitions of faces –all showed a directing intelligence which seemed conscious and autonomous. The mouldings showed obvious collaboration between the operating entities (whatever they may be) and ourselves. For instance, the mould of a foot was given at our request. Similarly it was on my demand that I afterwards received at Warsaw the moulds of a hand and forearm up to the elbow…The ‘entities’ did not seem to me to be of a high order of intelligence; they seem to me to have the mentality and capacity of artisans, no more.” (2-pgs. 258-259)

If the so-called “entities” were spirits of the dead, you’d think there would have been more mental phenomena.

“We made several attempts at automatic writing. Kluski is an excellent writer, but we gave up because we soon saw that the other phenomena suffered by it. When the medium failed to give all his strength to the phenomena, they were weakened or even did not appear at all….Toward the end of [one experiment] some manifestations showing mental intelligence took place [as] some very distinct communications were made by raps.  One of these asked to sing. We sang the ‘Marseillaise’ softly, and this was applauded by hand-clapping in the dark cabinet, behind the medium.”  (3-p. 685, 2- p.219-220)

But you experienced voices with Jean Guzik, right?

“[Yes.] The mouth of the ‘entity,’ visible by the lights on the lips, is seen to open, and words are heard, pronounced with difficulty. The voice differs greatly from a normal voice; it seems associated with a vibratory movement of the air on the lips, and produced by inhalation rather than exhalation.  It is not like a laryngeal utterance.  It is often not clear enough to be understood, but is sometimes quite distinct.” (2- p. 284) 

I read that most of the experiments with Kluski were carried out in your laboratory behind locked doors after strip-searching the medium. Professor Richet has said that there was no possibility of fraud.  Do you agree?

“All of us who participated in the experiments know full well that there has been no fraud, and that our confidence in the obvious honesty of Mr. Franek Kluski has never been abused.  We know, too, that our close control did not permit of trickery, but we must act so that the reader may, if possible, be brought to some certitude…I do not merely say, ‘There was no trickery.’, I say, ‘There was no possibility of trickery.’” (2-p. 216, 1-pgs. 60-61)

Professor Richet leans toward some kind of subconscious explanation not yet known to science for all this phenomena.  How do you see it?

“It should be beyond doubt that the Self both pre-exists, and that it survives the grouping which it directs during one earth-life; that it more particularly survives its lower objectification during this life. This may at least be admitted, if not as a mathematical certainty, at least as a high probability. If so, the manifestation of a ‘discarnate spirit’ on the material plane by the aid of dynamic and organic elements borrowed from the medium then appears an undeniable possibility. In face of a fact apparently of a spiritistic nature, one attitude only befits the instructed investigator – to take good sense as his guide. It is for good sense and sane judgment to appraise the statements of the communicator. [And] it is in the name of good sense that English and American investigators, weary of strife, and well aware of the disconcerting subtleties which have been advanced to explain the mental side of mediumship, have ended by accepting, with striking unanimity, the categorical and repeated affirmations of the communicators.” (1-p. 267)

So you are in agreement with those English and American investigators – Hodgson   Hyslop, Myers, Lodge, Barrett and others —all of whom have favored the survival hypothesis?

“[Yes.] For my own part, if I may give a personal impression of what I have observed in the domain of mediumship, I should say that even if in a given case spiritist intervention could not be affirmed as a scientific certainty, one is obliged, willingly or unwillingly and on the aggregate of cases, to admit the possibility of such intervention.  I think it probably that there is, in mediumship, an action of intelligent entities distinct from the medium. I base this opinion not only on the alleged proofs of identity given by the communicators, which may be matters of controversy, but on the high and complex phenomena of mediumship. These frequently show direction and intention which cannot, unless very arbitrarily, be referred to the medium or the experimenters. We do not find this direction and intelligence either in the normal consciousness of the medium, nor in his somnambulistic consciousness, nor in his impressions, his desires, or his fears, whether direct, indirect, suggested, or voluntary. We can neither produce the phenomena nor modify them. All happens as though the directing intelligence were independent and autonomous.”  (1-pgs. 267-268)

References: #1 – From the Unconscious to the Conscious, by Gustave Geley, Harper & Brothers, 1920; #2 – Clairvoyance and Materialization: A Record of Experiments, by Gustave Geley, T. Fisher Unwin Ltd., 1927; #3 – Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, December 1923.

Michael Tymn is the author of The Afterlife Revealed: What Happens After We Die, Resurrecting Leonora Piper: How Science Discovered the Afterlife, and Dead Men Talking: Afterlife Communication from World War I.
His latest book, No One Really Dies: 25 Reasons to Believe in an Afterlife is published by White Crow books.

Next blog post: Sept. 25

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The Only Planet of Choice: Visitations – Many people use the word ‘Alien’ to describe a visitor from outer space. Extra terrestrial is another word, which is rather more user friendly. For the sake of the question and answer format, the word used by the questioner has been left, though even Tom questions our use of‘Alien’. Should we wish to foster openess between all beings of the Universe perhaps we should also look at our vocabulary? In a discussion between Andrew and Tom many years earlier, Andrew had asked Tom about UFOs and whether they were created manifestations. Tom had replied: “Many of the flying things that you call UFOs come from our place, but they come from other places also, and they do come in physical form. But many of them are not physical. They are like your movie screen”. Read here
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