Koestler Parapsychology Unit
Following the death of author Arthur Koestler (1905–83)
and his wife, the lawyer handling their will put out the word
that money had been left to endow a chair in parapsychology.
Of the several schools that applied for the money, the psychology
department at Edinburgh University was chosen. The chair
was funded in 1984 and the following year Robert L. Morris
(b. 1942) was selected as the first occupant. Morris had done
postdoctoral work at Duke University with J. B. Rhine and had
written numerous papers relating psi to his specialization, biological
Morris organized the Koestler Parapsychology Unit and had
as an initial assignment the development of a research program
that would be integrated into the ongoing life of the
whole psychology department and the university as a whole.
Morris was fortunate to have a department with a positive history
relative to parapsychology in that through the 1970s and
early 1980s, John Beloff (now retired), a prominent parapsychologist
in his own right, had taught at Edinburgh.
Within a few years, Morris had built a viable research team
that included graduate students and several associates with
doctoral degrees. The research program was built on a research
model that honestly accepted the problems inherent in
psychical research including the hostility of much of the academic
community to the endeavor, the task of creating experiments
that might enhance the likelihood of psi emerging in a
laboratory context, and the need to treat some scientifically
fuzzy areas such as consciousness and will. The guidelines for
the chair also called for an examination of what were termed
‘‘exceptional human experiences,’’ experiences that are out of
the ordinary and enigmatic enough as to inspire (if positive) or
create dread (if negative), but may or may not involve any psi
element. Such experiences include, but are not limited to, outof-body
experiences, near-death experiences, and the sighting
of apparitions.
The program developed by Morris has concentrated on explorations
of the mechanisms of psi, the experiences of psi, and
the role of psi in the larger environment. In the meantime,
Morris has emerged as one of the most respected theoreticians
in the field. The program has met with much acclaim, and in
1996 Morris was honored with his election to the presidency of
the Psychology Section of the British Association for the Advancement
of Science. The unit may be contacted at 7, George
Sq., Edinburgh, Scotland EH8 9JZ. Its website can be found at
Morris, Robert L. ‘‘The Concept of the Target.’’ In Linda A.
Henkel and Rick E. Berger, eds. Research in Parapsychology
1988. Metuchen, N.J. Scarecrow Press, 1989.
———. ‘‘Spontaneous Synchronistic Events as Seen through
a Simple Communication Model.’’ In Betty Shapin and Lisette
Cody, eds. Spontaneous Psi, Depth Psychology and Parapsychology.
New York Parapsychology Foundation, 1992.
———. ‘‘A Survey of Methods and Issues in ESP Research.’’
In Stanley Krippner, ed. Advances in Parapsychological Research.
2. Extrasensory Perception. New York Plenum Press, 1978.
Wiseman, Richard, and Robert L. Morris. Guidelines for Testing
Psychic Claimants. Hatfield, Herts., UK University of Hertsfordshire
Press, 1995.

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