South African Society for Psychical
Research
The first South African Society for Psychical Research was
founded in 1910 but existed for only a few years. It was not until
1955 that a second attempt to form such an organization was
attempted, this time by Arthur E. H. Bleksley and others at the
University of Witwatersrand. The previous year an informal
group had gathered to study psychic phenomena, and the interest
stimulated by this group led directly to the society’s formation.
No sooner had the society formed than it came under a
strong ideological attack by a group of psychic debunkers, described
as ‘‘Marxists, atheists, and communists,’’ and the original
program of the group was diverted to answering the challenge.
It developed a public program to establish the existence
of psi phenomena and the legitimacy of scientific efforts to
study it. It was able to survive this crisis successfully and has
continued to exist to the present. In 1968, it founded the South
African Institute for Parapsychological Research and moved
from an exclusive emphasis on education to the development
of a research program. The institute survived for several years
but eventually ran out of funds.
Over the long haul, the society has suffered from the country’s
former apartheid policies, which prohibited the participation
of black people in the organization. Social customs also
prevented research among the native population, which would
have provided a unique resource for the society. Also, the relatively
small white population has had difficulty keeping the society
functioning on a steady basis. Its meetings and publications
are sporadic, and it has been unable to establish a
headquarters or hire staff. However, the society now publishes
the Parapsychological Journal of South Africa, and in 1974 a
branch of the society opened at the University of Natal in Durbin.
It may be contacted at P.O. Box 23154, Joubert Park, Johannesburg
2044, South Africa.
Sources
‘‘The South African Society for Psychical Research.’’ Journal
of the Psychical Research Society 40 (1959) 43.