Our 65th Anniversary

Lisette Coly, President of the Parapsychology Foundation


Today is a time for celebration, a time for reconsideration, memorialization and ultimately rededication — that is the definition of PF’s 65th Anniversary. As someone who literally grew up in and around Parapsychology Foundation, I am  presently experiencing a mix of emotions in the recall and realization that so many individuals participated and worked hard to pursue the goals of the organization as envisioned by my grandmother, Eileen J. Garrett, at its inception on December 14th, 1951. As my own professional life at the PF will, in a couple of months, span 48 years, not counting my childhood and teen years spent on the sidelines of the ebb and flow of PF, I am filled with both astonishment and pride that a venture that few thought would survive dealing with a subject matter that many decried has withstood the test of time.

Frances P. Bolton, Vice-President of the PF, 1951-1977; US Congressman from Ohio, 1939-1969

Of course all is owed to the two ladies, Eileen J. Garrett and Frances P. Bolton, the clairvoyant and the congressman, who set the PF ball rolling. Quite a different pair in background and personality, they together, having forged a friendship in 1926, created an indefatigable union in their desire to gain answers to the questions raised by psychic functioning. Undoubtedly parapsychology owes them a debt of gratitude for having the forethought to create an organization that has done much to support the field and its workers. How fortuitous that they both agreed with Carl Jung when he stated “I shall not commit the fashionable stupidity of regarding everything I cannot explain as a fraud.”

Mrs. Bolton eloquently described PF’s mission in her own words in 1970, that of acting as a worldwide forum supporting scientific exploration of psychic phenomena. At one of PF’s International Conferences devoted to “A Century of Psychical Research: Continuing Doubts and Affirmations” she said:

 “To me, the whole area of parapsychology — it is world-wide, it is universe-wide, is something that the future MUST understand. So that for us who are trying — it is a wonderful opportunity to get together, to argue, to discuss, to say, ‘I don’t believe a word of it!’ And ‘Oh, but I do,’ …. Here we are, all of us intent upon getting further into the unknown. We are here to find out what progress parapsychology has made during the last century. Some of us believe in it, others are much more skeptical. All right go ahead, have it your way. What is important is that we are here to discuss it, and to try to get at the truth and its meaning for all of us.”

Eileen J. Garrett, President of the PF, 1951-1970

Many think erroneously that, as the organization was entitled Parapsychology Foundation, its thrust would be to prove the existence of psi. To the contrary, the PF holds no corporate opinions realizing that there are a mass of questions to be answered about many diverse phenomena each requiring individualized study. By utilizing scientific methodology and an open mind, we welcome researchers with oft times very divergent opinions to mine parapsychology’s fertile fields in hopes of gaining illumination and understanding of not only the nuts and bolts of how psychic phenomena work … if they work at all … but to take value if possible for humankind.

It fell to Eileen Garrett who herself experienced a high degree of psychic functioning as a trance medium to somewhat humanize PF’s intent to provide knowledge to those who also experienced psychic functioning and longed for greater understanding when she wrote:

 “I make a plea at this point, therefore, that those who have sensory perceptions consciously known to themselves, and who have allowed themselves to be forced by society to regard themselves as abnormal, will understand, once and for all, that the only abnormality lies in misrepresentation and misunderstanding of that soul language which is given to each one of us. We must play our role in the dispensation of the knowledge which each one possesses, and which rightly used makes possible the world of peace and usefulness for each of us that we all seek.”

Eileen Coly, President of the PF, 1970-2013

Given the opportunity for reflection during this anniversary milestone which followed the very near dissolution of the organization due to financial hardship during the recent global nightmare, we have thought long and hard how best to carry on the mission of the PF to continue to be a clearinghouse for information on a complex yet fascinating subject as well as to be of support to academicians and researchers who, alas, have very little funding opportunities available to them. It  seems to me that both Eileen Garrett and her daughter Eileen Coly herself — who took the reins of PF at Garrett’s death in 1970 as its second President and never truly let go until her death in 2013 — spent most of their time explaining what parapsychology is. I, as PF’s third President, spend most of my time explaining what it is not.

Our friends in the media have made the public aware of our terminology, telepathy, ESP, psychokinesis, etc. but remain still almost clueless to understand the true meaning and reality of the phenomena. It is PF’s continual desire to bring quality information about our complex subject to the fore and to stimulate students and workers internationally in all disciplines to perhaps not become full-time parapsychologists — although admittedly we need all the help we can get — but who within their own areas of expertise can contribute to help tease out more of the puzzle pieces we are looking for in the giant mosaic that is psychical research. To this end, within this newly inaugurated blog, and within the pages of our websites and our social media outreach, please check continually for our newly refined programs and new directives as they come on line. In referencing online we are cognizant of new technologies and the new methods of information transfer available. PF’s current plan is to utilize them in ways that honor our past programs such as our international conferences and Perspectives Lecture Series, reaching greater audiences but transmuted, providing greater opportunities for teaching and dissemination of information.

Lisette and Eileen Coly, in the Eileen J. Garrett Library, Greenport, NY. The bust of Eileen J. Garrett is in the foreground.

Regretfully, with all of PF’s past and present and future potential, so much more could be accomplished if we only had funding for our efforts. I can see a finite end to the organization — which is unthinkable — unless we soon receive financial support. If only those who PF have touched over 65 years could contribute, that alone would be a boon. Contributions in coin are sought of course but sweat equity is also of great value. Many of our PF family have already supported our efforts through the years by presenting papers, and writing for our publications as well as standing available for good counsel. But as our circle of influence hopefully widens through the wonders of the internet to those who would partake of the fruit of our labor, it is hoped that financially we can continue to thrive and support the science of parapsychology. Education remains of supreme importance to the organization and the field overall as we must entice and prepare new comers to our subject. The PF will therefore commit to revamping our Scholarship and Award program in 2017, with the caveat that if we have more money in hand we are of course prepared to  fund as much as possible. I know I join my mother, Eileen Coly who served longer than any other President, in expressing her intent for Parapsychology Foundation when she stated:

“The work of the Foundation will keep moving along. We will continue to encourage and support where possible the search for solutions through modern scientific techniques and interdisciplinary studies and research in all aspects of human experience — and through the acceptance of psychic
manifestations as part of “normal” existence rather than “abnormal”. Educational programs to promote understanding and communication between disciplines and many other areas of psychic studies should be explored and examined to give us answers on how to deal with psychic phenomena and also put it to good use for the benefit of all … The research MUST go on and anyone who has anything important to offer and will do their very best should receive as much attention and support as possible. WE CAN’T STOP because we haven’t solved the mystery of psychic phenomena yet! It has to be out there somewhere — but little by little the information is still being sifted and brought in.”

Utrecht II 2008, Lisette and Eileen Coly, Nancy Zingrone and Carlos Alvarado

The weight of responsibility to continue PF’s body of work is heavy. I would ask for your help. I am ably assisted currently by Drs. Nancy L. Zingrone and Carlos S. Alvarado as PF’s Research Fellows which include Dr. James G. Matlock and Dr. Kathy Dalton. The first of — I envision many — Research Associates, Gonçalo Veiga, has been enlisted along with Natasha Chisdes our Outreach Coordinator, and Susan MacWilliam, our Film Archivist. There is even a fourth generation working within PF, my daughter Anastasia Damalas who is serving her apprenticeship in much the same way as I and my mother did.

Please join us in our continued good works as I have the conviction that paranormal events are indeed part and parcel of the human condition. So many experience them and yet have no way of handling them or understanding what to do with them. I want to reassure experiencers that they are not alone. There IS a community and not consisting purely of “crazies” as these phenomena are no doubt part of being human.

Science will march forward and the PF will do as it has always done to underscore and support that effort though at times extremely difficult given our subject matter. Serving both academia and the public at large, PF has always felt the paranormal is important for the human race. As Garrett wrote in her book, Awareness, “the Key to Man’s destiny is hidden within himself … the golden key.” I personally resonate to the deeper implications of religions — not in one chosen dogmatic sect but overall. With a wider understanding and appreciation of the paranormal there is perhaps a vision possible of man’s united participation in the life force thanks to an acceptance of the paranormal which might just lead, I sincerely hope, ultimately to Salvation.

In future, PF invites you to join us as we attempt to turn that “golden key” and as signified by our undulating spiral logo, rededicate ourselves to moving onward and upward.

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