Driesch, Hans (1867–1941)
Embryologist, professor of philosophy at the University of
Leipzig, pioneer in many domains of science, and one of the
most influential psychical investigators in Germany. Driesch
was born in Bad Kreuznach, Germany, October 28, 1867, and
had a distinguished academic and scientific career.
In his Philosophie des Organischen (1905) he expresses the
opinion that behind psychic phenomena there may be a truth;
and in his Wirklichkeitslehre (1917) he states, referring to the
work of the Society for Psychical Research, that anyone who
declares these things impossible has given up the right to be listened
to by serious people.
He mainly meant mental phenomena, but he included physical
phenomena as well after his sittings with Willi Schneider
in 1922. In his report he saw no reason to deny the objectivity
and the genuineness of the phenomena and in a lecture before
the London University in 1924 he declared that ‘‘the actuality
of psychical phenomena is doubted today only by the incorrigible
In the second edition of his Ordnungslehre (1926) a special
part is devoted to parapsychology and parapsychophysics. In
Grundprobleme der Psychologie, published in the same year, the
problems also receive elaborate discussion. In answer to a questionnaire
sent out by Oreste Parfumi, published in Luce e Ombra
(1926), he states 1. The mediumistic phenomena are not effects
of simple hallucination; 2. It appears to me that they depend
exclusively upon the organism of the medium; 3. The
spirit theory does not seem to me proven; but spiritism, were
it proven, would be a scientific theory. In acknowledgment of
Driesch’s contribution to psychical research the Society for Psychical
Research elected him to the presidential chair for
1926–27, the first German so honored.
Driesch lectured widely on philosophy at universities
throughout the world and associated with such pioneers of psychical
research as Gustave Geley, Eugene Osty, Baron von
Schrenck-Notzing, Sir Oliver Lodge, and Walter Franklin
Prince. He also sat with such famous mediums as Willi and
Rudi Schneider, ‘‘Margery’’ (Mina Crandon), and Gladys Osborne
Driesch retired from his position as lecturer at the University
of Leipzig in 1933 under pressure from the Nazis following
his support of Jewish scientists. Thereafter he devoted time to
his writings, which include a translation into German of J. B.
Rhine’s book New Frontiers of the Mind (1938). He died April 16,
1941, at Leipzig.
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Driesch, Hans A. E. Alltagraetsel des Seelenlebens Psychical Research
(Everyday Enigmas of the Mind). N.p., 1938.
———. The Crisis in Psychology. N.p., 1925.
———. Leib und Seele. (Body and Mind). N.p., 1916.
———. Parapsychologie, die Wissenschaft von den ‘‘occulten’’ Erscheingen
(Parapsychology, Science of ‘‘Occult’’ Phenomena).
N.p., 1932.
Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology.
New York Helix Press, 1964.
Sudre, R. ‘‘The Ideas of Hans Driesch.’’ Journal of the American
Society for Psychical Research 20 (1926).