Dessoir, Max (1867–1947)
German psychologist who had a special interest in parapsychology—he
coined the term during or before 1889. He also
had both talent and interest in art and aesthetics. A precocious
child, he was an accomplished musician who played the violin
for the German emperor. His experiments in muscle reading
and thought-transference were undertaken in 1885 at the age
of 18 and reported in the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical
Research (1885). Three years later he founded the Gesellschaft
fur Experimental Psychologie (Society for Experimental Psychology),
dedicated to the study of hypnosis and paranormal
phenomena.
Dessoir collaborated with Albert Moll on experiments in
hypnotic rapport. He originated a theory of ‘‘Doppel-Ich’’ or
double ego, suggesting that human consciousness is not a unit
merely to our own consciousness, but actually consists of at least
two distinguishable personalities, each held together by its own
chain of memories. Because of this, an action that is quite intelligible
can be performed unconsciously (i.e., without the agent
noticing what he or she is doing, or even breaking off a conversation).
As he matured, Dessoir saw himself as an instrument for educating
the German public on psychical research. He founded
the periodical Zeitschrift für kritischen Okkultismus and wrote Vom
Jenseits der Seele (1917). He also investigated several mediums
including Eusapia Palladino.
Sources
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Dessoir, Max. Aesthetics and the Theory of Art. Detroit Wayne
State University Press, 1970.
———. Einleitung in die Philosophie. N.p., 1946.
———. ‘‘Experiments in Muscle-Reading and ThoughtTransference.’’
Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research
4 (1889) 111.
———. Das Ich, der Traum, der Tod. N.p., 1947.
———. Psychologische Briefe. N.p., 1948.
———. Die Rede als Kunst. N.p., 1948.
Hövelman, G. H. ‘‘Neglected Figures in the History of Parapsychology.
I. Some General Reflections.’’ In Liber Amicorum in
Honoue of G. A. M. Zorab, edited by F. W. J. J. Snel. Amsterdam
Nederlander Vereniging voor Parapsychologie, 1986