College of Psychic Studies

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The College building on Queensberry Place

The College of Psychic Studies (founded in 1884 as the London Spiritualist Alliance) is a non-profit organisation based in South Kensington, London. It is dedicated to the study of psychic and spiritualist phenomena.


British National Association of Spiritualists[edit]

In August 1873, the British National Association of Spiritualists (BNAS) was formed by Thomas Everitt, Edmund Rogers and others at a meeting in Liverpool.[1][2]

William Stainton Moses, founder of the London Spiritualist Alliance.

Early members included well known spiritualists such as Charles Maurice Davies, Charles Isham, William Stainton Moses, Stanhope Templeman Speer, Morell Theobald and George Wyld.[2][3] The BNAS carried out experimental séances and investigations into mediumship. It held no dogmatic religious views but was known for "sympathising with the religion of Jesus Christ".[2]

Member list for the London Spiritualist Alliance in March 1884.

The first public meeting of the BNAS took place on 16 April 1874 under the chairmanship of Samuel Carter Hall.[4] By 1875 the BNAS had over 400 members.[2] Its headquarters moved to Great Russell Street, London.[1] In 1879 the German astrophysicist Johann Karl Friedrich Zöllner became an honorary member.[5]

William Henry Harrison and his colleagues from the "Scientific Research Committee" of the BNAS were involved in experiments that weighed mediums during materialization séances.[6] Specially built self-recording instruments were used. This was considered controversial and not all members agreed in conducting such experiments. In 1872, Harrison also caused controversy in the spiritualist community by exposing the fraud of spirit photographer Frederick Hudson.[6] In 1875, Harrison with C. F. Varley conducted an unsuccessful experiment in photographing the alleged Odic force of Carl Reichenbach.[6]

There was a large dispute between Moses and Harrison over its leadership council. Harrison was expelled from the BNAS.[6] In April 1879, Charles Massey a vice-president resigned, as did Moses on 31 December 1880.[2] In 1882, the BNAS changed name to the Central Association of Spiritualists (CAS). The remaining members such as vice-president Edmund Rogers, one of Moses's loyal supporters tried to reconstruct the society.[7] However, internal conflict between members and financial problems caused the group to dissolve.[2][7]

London Spiritualist Alliance[edit]

In October 1883 a special conference was set up to discuss the ideas of Moses to form a new society.[8] In March 1884, Moses and others formed the London Spiritualist Alliance (LSA). The first meeting was held on 5 May at the banqueting room in St James's Hall.[2] Moses was president and members included John Stephen Farmer, Massey, Rogers, Stanhope Templeman Speer, Alaric Alfred Watts and Percy Wyndham.[7] After Moses died in 1892, Rogers became the president. The LSA obtained a wider membership under the leadership of Rogers including notable figures such as Alfred Russel Wallace.[7]

In 1886, Eleanor Sidgwick from the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) claimed that the medium William Eglinton was fraudulent. Members from the LSA and articles in the journal Light supported Eglinton and accused Sidgwick of bias and prejudice. Some spiritualist members resigned from the SPR.[9]

In 1925, Arthur Conan Doyle became president and the LSA bought a new headquarters at Queensberry Place, South Kensington.[10]

Between October 1930 and June 1931 the materialization medium Helen Duncan was investigated by the LSA. Despite early favourable reports, an examination of Duncan's ectoplasm revealed it was made of cheesecloth, paper mixed with the white of egg and lavatory paper stuck together. One of Duncan's tricks was to swallow and regurgitate some of her ectoplasm and she was persuaded to swallow a tablet of methylene blue before one of her séances to rule out any chance of this trick being performed and because of this no ectoplasm appeared.[11] The journal Light endorsed the court decision that Duncan was fraudulent and supported Harry Price's investigation that revealed her ectoplasm was cheesecloth.[12]

College of Psychic Studies[edit]

In 1955 the LSA changed its name to the College of Psychic Science. In 1970 it became the College of Psychic Studies.[13][14][15]

According to psychical researcher Simeon Edmunds, by the 1955 name change there was "no doubt that from that time onwards the society was no longer a spiritualist one" as it was accepting non-spiritualist members and held no corporate opinion on the question of survival.[16] In the 1960s, after a revival in spiritualism, the college associated itself with the Society for Psychical Research, collecting thousands of case files.[17]

Paul Beard was the president of the college for 16 years.[17] In 2006, the college offered twelve courses on psychic abilities.

In April 2021 The College re-launched their website with an expanded programme of online courses, talks and events able to be completed online. Their current president, Geoffrey Dart C.B.E, references this being partly in response to the challenges of running in-person events during the Covid-19 pandemic. [18]



In 1930, the London Spiritualist Alliance published a series of five books under L.S.A Publications Ltd. These were:

  • Helen A. Dallas. Human Survival and its Implications.
  • Charles Drayton Thomas. The Mental Phenomena of Spiritualism.
  • Stanley De Brath. The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism.
  • Helen MacGregor and Margaret V. Underhill. The Psychic Faculties and Their Development.
  • Oliver Lodge. Demonstrated Survival: Its Influence on Science, Philosophy and Religion.


The oldest spiritualist journal in Britain is known as Light. It was formed in January 1881 by Edmund Rogers and became affiliated with the BNAS and its successor organisations.[19]

The College of Psychic Studies publishes the Light journal twice a year.[20]

Notable historical members[edit]


  1. ^ a b Oppenheim, Janet. (1988). The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914. Cambridge University Press. p. 53. ISBN 978-0521347679 "The British National Association of Spiritualists emerged from a meeting in Liverpool, in August 1873, sponsored by the local Psychological Society. Attendance was not confined to spiritualists from the immediate area, and among the participants were W. H. Harrison and Thomas Everitt from London. The meeting heard several papers advocating the benefits of national organization for the expansion and consolidation of British spiritualism, and these arguments carried the day. The conference resolved to form a national association, and initiative then passed to London, where the following year the BNAS commenced its activities. From 1875, it was comfortably housed at 38 Great Russell Street, the scene of its numerous stances, both public and private, committee meetings, lectures, and social gatherings."
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Lavoie, Jeffrey D. (2014). Search for Meaning in Victorian Religion: The Spiritual Journey and Esoteric Teachings of Charles Carleton Massey. Lehigh University Press. pp. 19-20. ISBN 978-1611461848
  3. ^ Spence, Lewis. (2006 edition, originally published 1920). An Encyclopaedia of Occultism. Cosimo. p. 80. ISBN 978-1596052376
  4. ^ Podmore, Frank. (2011 edition, originally published 1902). Modern Spiritualism: A History and a Criticism. Volume 2. Cambridge University Press. p. 169. ISBN 978-1-108-07258-8
  5. ^ Lavoie, Jeffrey D. (2014). Search for Meaning in Victorian Religion: The Spiritual Journey and Esoteric Teachings of Charles Carleton Massey. Lehigh University Press. p. 61. ISBN 978-1611461848
  6. ^ a b c d Noakes, Richard J. Instruments to Lay Hold of Spirits: Technologizing the Bodies of Victorian Spiritualism. In Iwan Rhys Morus. (2002). Bodies/Machines. Bloomsbury Academic. pp. 125-163. ISBN 1-85973-690-4
  7. ^ a b c d Oppenheim, Janet. (1988). The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914. Cambridge University Press. pp. 55-57. ISBN 978-0521347679
  8. ^ Nelson, G. K. (2013). Spiritualism and Society. p. 110. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415714624
  9. ^ Luckhurst, Roger. (2002). The Invention of Telepathy, 1870-1901. Oxford University Press. p. 57. ISBN 978-0199249626
  10. ^ Lycett, Andrew. (2008). The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Free Press. p. 434. ISBN 0-7432-7523-3 "Having benefited from a memorial fund for the war dead, the London Spiritualist Alliance had bought a new headquarters in Queensberry Place, South Kensington. With Arthur as its president beginning in 1925, it held a three-day bazaar at Caxton Hall in May, raising 1,000 pounds to renovate and furnish the place. It also rented out its top floor to Harry Price, thus giving him a permanent location for his National Laboratory for Psychical Research."
  11. ^ Haynes, Renée. (1982). The Society for Psychical Research 1882-1982: A History. MacDonald & Co. p. 144. ISBN 978-0356078755 "The London Spiritualist Alliance had fifty sittings with her between October 1930 and June 1931; for these sittings she was stripped, searched and dressed in 'seance garments'. Two interim reports in Light were favorable, a third found indications of fraud. Pieces of 'ectoplasm' found from time to time differed in composition. Two early specimens consisted of paper or cloth mixed with something like white of egg. Two others were pads of surgical gauze soaked in 'a resinous fluid'; yet another consisted of layers of lavatory paper stuck together. The most usual material for 'ectoplasm' however, seemed to be butter muslin or cheesecloth, probably swallowed and regurgitated. Distressing choking noises were sometimes heard from within the cabinet; and it was interesting that when she was persuaded to swallow a tablet of methylene blue before one of the seances at the London Spiritualist Alliance, no ectoplasm whatsoever appeared."
  12. ^ Hazelgrove, Jenny. (2000). Spiritualism and British Society Between the Wars. Manchester University Press. p. 279. ISBN 978-0719055584
  13. ^ Rosemary Guiley. (1994). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. Guinness World Records Limited. p. 125. p. 334. ISBN 978-0851127484
  14. ^ Fichman, Martin. (2004). An Elusive Victorian: The Evolution of Alfred Russel Wallace. University Of Chicago Press. p. 191. ISBN 978-0226246130
  15. ^ Byrne, Georgina. (2010). Modern Spiritualism and the Church of England, 1850-1939. Boydell Press. pp. 60-62. ISBN 978-1843835899
  16. ^ Edmunds, Simeon. (1966). Spiritualism: A Critical Survey. Aquarian Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-0850300130
  17. ^ a b "Paul Beard". The Telegraph.
  18. ^ "The College of Psychic Studies : Enlighten : A covid 19 update from our college president". The College of Psychic Studies. Retrieved 2021-04-16.
  19. ^ Oppenheim, Janet. (1988). The Other World: Spiritualism and Psychical Research in England, 1850-1914. Cambridge University Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0521347679
  20. ^ "Light". College of Psychic Studies.

Coordinates: 51°29′41″N 0°10′39″W / 51.49461°N 0.17762°W / 51.49461; -0.17762

External links[edit]