a1 UCL Centre for the History of Psychological Disciplines, University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK
Shortly after the death of Albert von Schrenck-Notzing (1862–1929), the doyen of early twentieth century German para psychology, his former colleague in hypnotism and sexology Albert Moll (1862–1939) published a treatise on the psychology and pathology of parapsychologists, with Schrenck-Notzing serving as a prototype of a scientist suffering from an ‘occult complex’. Moll’s analysis concluded that parapsychologists vouching for the reality of supernormal phenomena, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis and materialisations, suffered from a morbid will to believe, which paralysed their critical faculties and made them cover obvious mediumistic fraud. Using Moll’s treatment of Schrenck-Notzing as an historical case study of boundary disputes in science and medicine, this essay traces the career of Schrenck-Notzing as a researcher in hypnotism, sexology and parapsychology; discusses the relationship between Moll and Schrenck-Notzing; and problematises the pathologisation and defamation strategies of deviant epistemologies by authors such as Moll.
A.S. was grateful to Andreas-Holger Maehle, Lutz Sauerteig and the anonymous reviewers for helpful feedback. His work is funded by a Wellcome Trust History of Medicine PhD studentship.