Parapsychology and Intellectual Integrity: Words of Advice from Dr. Krippner

Forgive me; I just returned from this year’s Parapsychological Association conference, and my mind is still digesting five days of intense engagement with the scientific study of exceptional human experiences.  So this column will necessarily be very brief. Rather than regurgitate some half-chewed material, I’d like to share a few insights from Dr. Stanley Krippner, professor of psychology at Saybrook University, who was honored at the convention for his contributions to the field on the eve of his 80th birthday, which is coming up in October.

It’s difficult to write a brief summary of the career of a man whose work in various fields has provided a cornerstone for social progress in the 20th and early 21st centuries.  For close to a decade, starting in 1964, Krippner was the director of the Maimonides Medical Center Dream Research Laboratory in Brooklyn, which was started by Montague Ullman in 1962 to study ESP in dreams. Serious study in all of the areas currently in vogue within the consciousness studies field, from dream studies to shamanism to distance healing, were all in some way progressed by Krippner’s efforts over the years to bring scientific rigor to the study of exceptional experiences.

He also has the rare honor of being equally respected by both the most vehement skeptics and those working in the field of parapsychology. During his address to the convention, he joked that he was one of the rare public parapsychologists to have received not one but three letters of apology from James Randi. Such a feat makes his advice to young researchers, and to those hoping to come into such a contentious field of study, very pertinent.

We are currently seeing a resurgence of focus on parapsychology after a 20-year lull, with more and more university groups and institutes returning to an area of study that held the world’s fascination for much of the 19th and 20th centuries. From the research work currently being conducted at the Rhine Research Center, University of West Georgia, University of Virginia, Windbridge Institute, Institute of Noetic Sciences, and University of Northampton, to the educational opportunities offered by organizations such as Atlantic University and the Monroe Institute, it is once again possible for students and young researchers to look forward to a career in parapsychology. However, we haven’t crested the hill yet, and much work still needs to be done to carry things forward into the 21st century.

The parting words of J.B. Rhine, founder of the Rhine Research Center, consisted of a very simple observation: “The work must go on.” Psi research cuts to the core of human experience and is perhaps one of the most important areas of study that science can tackle. But in order for this to occur, students and society have to commit themselves to a radical engagement with the frontiers of knowledge. Challenges and crossroads are many, and figures like Stanley Krippner stand as examples of how we can move forward into a more conscious evolution as societies and individuals.

Stanley Krippner speaking at the 2012 Parapsychological Association Convention in Durham, North Carolina (Photo by Jeremiah Huffine)

One of the most notable features of Krippner’s career has been his support for others in the field, whether young students or experienced colleagues. Although what follows seems like simple advice, I would encourage those who take a deep interest in these matters to look closely at Krippner’s career, and to observe how he applied these principles to become not just a luminary in the field of parapsychology but an individual whose work sits at the very heart of our current cultural experience.

Here, then, are some simple, direct words of advice to young parapsychologists (or really to anyone who is serious about pursuing a life of intellectual integrity) from Dr. Stanley Krippner, presented in response to a question posed about the future of the field during the 55th Annual Parapsychological Association conference in Durham, North Carolina.

You must:

Be persistent. Don’t give up. You will meet a lot of resistance.

Be political. Take advice, compromise, and do what you must to make progress with your science.

Be pugnacious. Don’t back down about your knowledge and your convictions. Fight back in a courteous, kind, and respectful way.

Have friends in high places. You need friends to protect you when you make mistakes — and you WILL make mistakes!

Note: A very hearty thank you to John Kruth, Executive Director at the Rhine Research Center, for taking better notes than I did on the exact wording that Stan used during his address. 

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For a recent and excellent profile of Krippner’s life, work, significance, and person, see “The Psychic World of Stanley Krippner: A Quest to Document ESP,” published last May in SF Weekly and mentioned here at The Teeming Brain in one of our Recommended Reading updates. Closer to home, David has indicated that he plans to devote future space in this column to saying more about his experiences at this year’s Parapsychological Association conference, and this means we can all look forward to hearing more about the contributions that Krippner and others have made and are continuing to make to this increasingly important, and in fact culturally central, field of study.]

IMAGE: Photo of Stanley Krippner by Jeremiah Huffine, courtesy of the Parapsychological Association

About David Metcalfe

In addition to writing De Umbris Idearum, David Metcalfe is the Books Editor for THE REVEALER, the online journal for NYU’s Center for Religion and Media. He’s also an independent researcher, cultural historian, and artist. He regularly contributes articles and reviews to Modern Mythology.net, Evolutionary Landscapes, Reality Sandwich, and Alarm Magazine.

Posted on August 14, 2012, in De Umbris Idearum and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Great to see The Teeming Brain keeping on top of the best in parapsychology. Thanks for this essay.

    • I was very pleased to receive David’s excellent report/column for TB publication, and I’m glad it resonated with you, John (which does not, of course, surprise me at all).

  2. One can only expect excellence when reading anything by David Metcalfe. Dr. Krippner’s portrayal is right on the money leaves one hungering for more–the point of the article. Well done.

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