George Nugent Merle Tyrrell (1879-1952) was a famous English parapsychologist and he became president at the Society for Psychical research in 1945, he was also a student of the Guglielmo Marconi Foundation where he was a pioneer in developmental radio. Tyrrell joined the Society for Psychical Research in 1908 and in 1923 completely devoted himself to the subject, here he conducted experiments into precognition and telepathy and became very interested in spiritualism. He seemed sceptical about ghost's and he believed them to be telepathic and only existed in regions of human personality and outside the field of normal consciousness. Tyrrell was also one of the first investigators to introduce topics of a supernatural nature into mainstream psychology. He wrote books about science and psychical phenomena, well known books including, 'The personality of man' (1946) Apparitions (1953) which was often classified as a classic theoretical study of psychical research. In 1945 he became president of the Society for Psychical Research.
Tyrrell did not except the idea that a ghost is an entity of a dead person and instead accepted that it is an hallucination from the subconscious mind of a person; an interesting theory that for the majority may accept, but the idea of that may leave the spiritual community rather uncomfortable. He carried out many repetitive laboratory experiments with interesting results, finding connections within the human mind no matter how fantastical the claim, although it had been suggested by other scientists that his research only came up with lots of statistical claims without any evidence and validity and that it only diminished its effectiveness. There also seemed to be the argument that his laboratory based investigations had limited effectiveness in the real world. Nevertheless, he did have successful positive results that was an effective way of generating proof of ESP. He put forward that hallucinations were for the most part to blame for most ghost experiences which to some again could be regarded as rather biased. He didn't manage to persuade Dr. J.B. Rhine that he wouldn't understand ESP by his laboratory methods. Furthermore, he had obtained positive ESP results whilst others failed and this could have possibly led to some jealousy amongst his rivals.
Tyrrell's dualism theory, "the view that the mind and body functioned separately, had been seriously underestimated by some and that his notion of a non-physiological element in consciousness was possibly correct. The field of parapsychology did begin to take him seriously after that. His idea-pattern concept in his theory of apparitions which Tyrrell described as hypnotic hallucinations was considered one of the most important steps forward in the slow progress of parapsychology. But Tyrrell's downfall was that he didn't support other areas of the subject and concentrated solely on mind based apparitional phenomena and in some cases this didn't arouse interest or enthusiasm for his work.
Some might argue that Tyrrell limited himself to areas such as ESP, precognition et cetera because it could only be tested in a controlled laboratory and it could be difficult to measure the subliminal self, or discarnate entity, such as ghosts and to the mediumistic community, ghosts are not always compliant at will. Therefore his repeated process of testing ESP could have proven difficult or even impossible to measure, and each of his perceptual phenomena claims consequently couldn't be properly physiologically tested.
Tyrrell's idea of ghosts as in dramatized messages projected is interesting for the most part, by somehow by one single discarnate intelligence that wishes to communicate information through induced hallucinations, Tyrrell called it 'intelligence' as the director, it then decides on what situation is present, what props to use et cetera. The ghost is part of a dramatic action, while the real message sender is somewhere else. Tyrrell thought that humanity was programmed by evolution which could be regarded as rather one sided, he points out that humans are programmed to analyse and observe the world in a particular way and anything extraordinary should be labelled or resisted, therefore does this mean people must be imagining it and are resisting anything extraordinary instinctively? He seems to be saying that psi is an evolutionary mistake because it contradicts a belief that humans are self-contained matter envelopes. The idea of us all being more than a body is a controversial one. Tyrrell can't always be right though, was he just an intelligent guesser?
Tyrrell's classification of phantoms is an interesting and thought provoking one, his system is been continued in its use today, demonstrating that he was ahead of his time.
Experimental apparitions: He surmised that a living person could consciously set out to appear to another person some distance away as in astral projection in which the conscious self leaves the physical body behind usually in a state of trance and has the ability to travel to different places, this may be purely conjecture along with some of his other apparitional categorisations such as, crisis apparitions and postmortem apparitions. Tyrrell's method of categorising ghosts is an interesting one is still widely used today, but some still disagree that his representations suffer from many drawbacks.
Here is a quote from one of John Michael Greer's books called 'Monsters' regarding Tyrrell's apparitional system. "The system of classification is good as far as it goes, but it suffers from several drawbacks for our purposes, understandably since it was developed to categorize the whole range of apparitions, rather the specific class of apparitions of ghosts. It includes many phenomena such as astral projection and crisis apparitions of the living that don't have anything directly to do with ghosts, and it leaves out some important elements of the picture.
Maybe Greer is wrong here and Tyrrell is right, maybe crisis apparitions do have a connection with ghosts, Maybe we can be ghosts whilst been both living and dead, there are claims of people who are still alive and kicking been seen as ghosts, for instance in jobs they once loved, that person would be day-dreaming about his or her old job at the chip shop in retirement and appearing in the chip shop, whilst the viewer thinks he/she is seeing a dead person until someone recognizes that person as still alive.
After accepting all this data, one must wonder; if Tyrrell was so sure ghosts didn't exist at all and that it was all in the mind and it is hard to comprehend why he spent half of his life seeking out the answer to the ultimate question, DO GHOST'S EXIST? and to put so much time and effort into something that potentially may not exist, it must have taken a great deal of effort and patience to study the subject of parapsychology especially in his era. He seemed very knowledgeable about the human mind though, he could have been proficient enough to have chosen a different career path into something more mainstream like psychiatry, as many people of his day thought psychical research wasn't a normal science.
There was a mysterious haunting case in 1884 called, 'The Morton Case, the Lady in black' it was investigated by Frederick Myers a past president of the SPR and he was secretary there at the time of the investigation.
There was a signed testimony by Captain Morton of a ten year haunting in a Victorian house in England, where multiple witnesses observed the ghost. Tyrrell called the case "one of the best observed and best authenticated ghost-cases on record and not even HE managed to discredit or explain away any of the ghostly phenomena that happened, even after half a century no other critic could explain away the lady in black case. It appears that Tyrrell may have temporarily abandoned his position, trusting the observations of the witness testimony of the Morton family and trusting the findings within the 10 year investigation of Myers, well at least until he could come up with his own objective evaluation that is.
Surely he wasn't such a profound sceptic, he must have had a slight tinge of belief in the afterlife to be able to continue his work and not essentially believing psi is totally brain based phenomena, otherwise what was the point in doing it. In spite of all this, one would wonder if Tyrrell would have been willing to accept the existence of discarnate theory if the ghost of one of his long dead relatives was stood right in-front of him in broad daylight, or if he would just blame his own subliminal self for seeing the apparition? Maybe he tested his own psychic abilities, but there is nothing to suggest he did.
He quoted: 'If we could take a material man and dissolve away his physical constituent without interfering with the sense-data by means of which we perceive him, we should be left with, exactly, an apparition.'
This is a very interesting analogy although one could be confused with it, it would be like saying if we mix flour with sugar we should be left with a bread mixture, one or two elements may have been left out!
Tyrrell once wrote: 'If we were to take a photograph of the two figures, a real man and an apparition, only the real man would come out. And if we had sound recording apparatus, only the sounds made by the real man would be recorded'. This is very suggestive and a rather 'ad hoc' statement, there are one or two curious points; had he made his own mind up that if he 'did see an apparition' he wouldn't be swayed into believing he had seen it with his own eyes? not even if it had been captured on recording equipment? or was he just using this statement as an example of how he works?
After Tyrrell's work had ended in 1953 it seems that no one else has researched ghosts and apparitions as intensively as him since. After many years of research he may never have reached his own final goal and his own perfect conclusion as to what ghosts really are, he was after all a human being and he himself may not have perfected an understanding of the subject even after all his years of study may not have realized the potential impact on today's researchers with his theories especially his apparitions theory that is used widely today, he left a legacy within the circles of parapsychology and beyond to this present day and it appears to have done more 'good than harm'. His views on psychical research are still very controversial today. He was in no doubt one of the top experts of his time in the subject of parapsychology.
This is Tyrrell's own conclusion statement: "At the end of our life in this world, is it very unlikely that we shall be shot off into another, the location of which we cannot imagine. We are there already: for a change of world is not brought about by spatial travel but by a change in what we are aware of."
An interesting admission, which may lead to one to enquire further.
It would be interesting what his thoughts are now in the afterlife.