The Psychological Society
The Psychological Society, a precursor to the Society for
Psychical Research, was founded in England in April 1875 by
Edward William Cox. Cox counted among his associates William
Stainton Moses, Walter H. Coffin, and C. C. Massey. Cox
articulated the aim of the society was the study and elucidation
of those Spiritualist and related problems now grouped under
the term psychical research, to which he somewhat loosely attached
the designation of ‘‘psychology.’’
To this end Cox proposed to collect and consider the available
material bearing on psychic phenomena. In reality the
members accomplished little of any practical value, as may be
seen from their published Proceedings (1875–79), published in
London in 1880. Cox did not possess the necessary scientific
background for investigation of such phenomena. In November
1879, on his death, the society came to an end.
Although the Psychological Society regarded psychic phenomena
from a more or less popular standpoint, and conducted
its investigations in a somewhat superficial manner, it nevertheless
contained the germ of scientific inquiry into the domain
of psychic science that, a few years later with the founding of
the Society of Psychical Research, was to raise the study to a
level where it became worthy of the attention of the academy.
Up to that time, those intrigued by Spiritualist phenomena had
to content themselves with the explanation of spirit intervention.
The Psychological Society was the crystallization of a small
body of ‘‘rationalist’’ opinions which had existed since the days
of Mesmer.
Sergeant Cox, in his book The Mechanism of Man (2 vols.,
1876–79) stated that ‘‘spirit’’ was refined matter, or molecular
matter split into its constituent atoms, which thus become imperceptible
to our physical organism; this view may have been
shared by some members of the Psychological Society. (See also
London Dialectical Society)