For general early occultism among German peoples, see the
entry Teutons.
Spiritualism was introduced into Holland in about 1857.
The first Dutch Spiritualist on record is J. N. T. Marthese, who,
after studying psychic phenomena in foreign countries, finally
returned to his native Holland, taking with him the American
medium D. D. Home. The latter held séances at The Hague before
several learned societies, and by command of Queen Sophia
a séance was given in her presence. The medium himself,
in an account of the performance, stated that the royal lady was
obliged to sit seven séances on consecutive evenings before any
results were obtained. These results, however, were apparently
satisfactory, for the queen was thereafter a staunch supporter
of the movement.
During Home’s visit Spiritualism gained a considerable following
in Holland and the practice of giving small private séances
became fairly widespread. Allegedly, spirit voices were
heard at these gatherings, the touch of spirit hands was felt,
and musical instruments were played by invisible performers.
Séances held at the house of J. D. van Herwerden in The
Hague were particularly notable and were attended by many
enthusiastic students of the phenomena. Van Herwerden recruited
a 14-year-old Javanese boy of his household as the medium.
The manifestations ranged from spirit rapping and table
turning in the earlier séances to direct voice, direct writing,
levitation, and materializations in later ones. The séances were
described in van Herwerden’s book Ervaringen en Mededeeling
op een nog Geheimzinnig Gebied and took place between 1858 and
1862. One of the principal spirits purported to be a monk, Paurellus,
who was assassinated some 300 years previously in that
city. Afterward van Herwerden was induced by his friends to
publish his diary, under the title Experiences and Communications
on a Still Mysterious Territory.
For a time Spiritualist séances were conducted only in family
circles and were of a private nature. But as the attention of intellectuals
became more and more directed to the new phenomenon,
societies were formed to promote research. Oromase,
or Ormuzd, the first of these societies, was founded in
1859 by Major J. Revius, a friend of Marthese’s, and included
among its members many people of high repute. They met at
The Hague, and the records of their transactions were carefully
preserved. Revius was president until his death in 1871. He was
assisted by the society’s secretary, A. Rita. They assembled a
fine collection of works on Spiritualism, mesmerism, and kindred
Another society, the Veritas, was founded in Amsterdam in
1869. The studies of this association were conducted in a somewhat
less searching and scientific spirit than those of the Oromase.
Its mediums specialized in trance utterances and written
communications from the spirits, and its members inclined to
a belief in reincarnation, an opinion at variance with that of the
older society. Rotterdam had for a time a society known as the
Research after Truth, which had similar manifestations and tenets,
but it soon came to an end, although its members continued
to devote themselves privately to the investigation of spirit
Other equally short-lived societies were formed in Haarlem
and other towns. In all of these, however, there was a shortage
of mediums able to produce form materializations. To supply
this demand a number of foreign mediums hastened to Holland,
including Margaret Fox Kane (of the Fox sisters), the
Davenport brothers, Florence Cook, and Henry Slade.
Before this the comparatively private nature of the séances
and the high standing of those who took part in them had prevented
the periodicals from making any but the most cautious
comments on the séances. The appearance of professional mediums
on the scene, however, swept away the barrier and let
loose a flood of journalistic ridicule and criticism. This in turn
provoked the supporters of Spiritualism to retort, and soon a
lively battle was in progress between the Spiritualists and the
skeptics. The consequence was that ‘‘the cause’’ was promoted
as much by the articles that derided it as by those that were in
favor of it.
Among the defenders of Spiritualism was Madame Elise van
Calcar, who not only wrote a novel expounding Spiritualist
principles but also published a monthly journal, On the Boundaries
of Two Worlds, and held a sort of Spiritualist salon where enthusiasts
could meet and discuss their favorite subjects. Dutch
intellectuals, such as Drs. H. de Grood, J. Van Velzen, Van der
Loef, and Herr Schimmel, were among authors who wrote in
defense of the same opinions, and the writings of C. F. Varley,
Sir William Crookes, and Alfred Russel Wallace were translated
into Dutch.
A mesmerist, Signor Donata, carried on the practice of animal
magnetism in Holland and endeavored to identify the
magnetic force emanating from the operator with the substance
of which disembodied spirits were believed to be composed.
Progress of the movement was hampered by the many
exposures of unscrupulous mediums, but on the whole the mediums,
professional or otherwise, were well received. Haunted
houses and poltergeists were also noted.
Psychical Research and Parapsychology
Some of the pioneers of psychical research in Holland were
Frederik van Eeden (1860–1932), K. H. E. de Jong
(1872–1960), P. A. Dietz (1878–1953), and Florentin J. L. Jansen
(b. 1881). Van Eeden was an author and physician who sat
with the English medium Rosina Thompson and was also acquainted
with F. W. H. Myers. Van Eeden contributed ‘‘A
Study of Dreams’’ to the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical
Research (vol. 26, p. 431), in which he used the term lucid dream
to indicate those conditions in which the dreamer is aware that
he is dreaming. This condition of consciousness in the dream
state was emphasized by the British writer Oliver Fox as a frequent
preliminary to astral projection.
Jong was a classical student whose doctoral thesis dealt with
the mysteries of Isis. As World War II began, he was a lecturer
HOLLAND Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed.
in parapsychology at the University of Leiden and was responsible
for a number of books and articles dealing with psi faculty.
Dietz attempted to organize a student social group for psychical
research when studying biology at the University of Groningen.
Although this was short-lived, Dietz went on to investigate
parapsychological card tests, using himself as the subject.
After qualifying as a medical doctor in 1924, he became a neurologist
in The Hague. A few years later he and W. H. C. Tenhaeff
founded the periodical Tijdschrift voor Parapsychologie. In
his book Wereldzicht der Parapsychologie (Parapsychological View
of the Universe) Dietz coined the terms paragnosy for psychical
phenomena and parergy for physical phenomena. He became
a lecturer in parapsychology at the University of Leiden in
1931 and had a reputation as an excellent speaker.
Jansen seems to have established a parapsychological laboratory
as early as 1907, while still a medical student. He
founded the quarterly periodical Driemaandelijkse verslagen van
het Psychophysisch Laboratorium te Amsterdam. He took a special
interest in experiments with Paul Joire’s sthenometer and conducted
a number of experiments to verify the od force proposed
by Baron von Reichenbach. In 1912 he immigrated to
Buenos Aires, where he worked as a physician.
Other pioneers included Marcellus Emants (1848–1932), a
novelist who experimented with the famous medium Eusapia
Palladino; engineer Felix Ortt (1866–1959), who published articles
on parapsychology and a book on the philosophy of occultism
and Spiritualism; and Captain H. N. de Fremery, who
published a manual of Spiritualism and also contributed to Tijdschrift
voor Parapsychologie.
In 1920 the Studievereniging voor Psychical Research, the
Dutch Society for Psychical Research, was founded in Amsterdam
through the enterprise of Gerardus Heymans
(1857–1930) of Groningen University. Although the society
began well, it was soon criticized for an unsympathetic atmosphere
for mediums, but in 1927 it received a new impetus
from the psychologist W. H. C. Tenhaeff and the journal Tijdschrift
voor Parapsychologie. Some notable investigations over the
years included studies of dowsing (water witching), physics and
parapsychology, and precognitive elements in dreams.
The society was suppressed during World War II, and the
Germans took the library to Germany and destroyed it. After
the war the society was reconstructed and soon numbered a
thousand members, including Javanese parapsychologist
George Zorab. Some of the work in this period included observations
on the noted psychic Gerard Croiset, an attempt to
replicate the Whately Carington tests with Zener cards, and
the investigation of ‘‘objective clairvoyance.’’ Meanwhile, in
1933 Tenhaeff founded the Parapsychology Institute of the
State University of Utrecht, later known as the Parapsychological
Division of the Psychological Laboratory,
In 1953 the First International Conference of Parapsychological
Studies, sponsored by the Parapsychology Foundation,
New York, was held in Utrecht. In 1959 the Amsterdam
Foundation for Parapsychological Research was established
and began an investigation of the influence of psychedelics on
ESP. Another investigation was a widely conducted inquiry into
the occurrence of spontaneous phenomena.
In 1960 a controversy erupted in the Studievereniging voor
Psychical Research over Tenhaeff’s authoritarian control of
the organization. Some members withdrew and founded the
Nederlandse Vereniging voor Parapsychologie, which now
provides the primary focus for parapsychological research in
the country. By 1967 there was growing interest in parapsychology
among students of five major universities, and various
societies were set up. These were later grouped into the Study
Center for Experimental Parapsychology.
The Federation of Parapsychological Circles of the Netherlands
emerged as an umbrella for several small local parapsychological
groups, including the Amsterdamse Parapsychologische
Studiekring, the Haarlemse Parapsychologische
Studiekring, the Haagse Parapsychologische Studiekring, and
the Rottendamse Parapsychologische Studiekring.
Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of
Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York Paragon
House, 1991.
Dykshoorn, M. B., with Russell H. Felton. My Passport Says
Clairvoyant. New York Hawthorn Books, 1974.
Hurkos, Peter. Psychic. London Arthur Baker, 1962.
Pleasants, Helene, ed. Biographical Dictionary of Parapsychology.
New York Helix Press, 1964.
Pollack, Jack Harrison. Croiset the Clairvoyant. Garden City,
NY Doubleday, 1964. Reprint, New York Bantam Books,