Occult Sciences and Parapsychology
There are many requests for assistance in researching "the occult," as it is popularly called. One person asking this question might be interested in such topics as alchemy, ghosts, magic, palmistry, witchcraft, UFOs, Bigfoot or yoga. Another person might be interested in para-psychology, which is concerned with the scientific investigation of clairvoyance, reincarnation and other paranormal phenomena. The range of interests covered by either category is incredibly wide. Therefore, this guide will not attempt to provide titles dealing with unique subjects within the Occult Sciences or Parapsychology but will direct the reader to general sources and bibliographies. Emphasis is on the most current and comprehensive sources.
The New York Public Library has an extensive collection of materials on the occult. The General Research Division collects a wide range of topics including esoteric magic (as opposed to stage magic, which is collected by the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts), spiritualism and witchcraft. There are particularly strong collections on divination and Theosophy. The Science, Industry and Business Library collects materials on alchemy and flying saucers. Books on oriental mysticism and yoga are collected by the Asian and Middle Eastern Division. The Slavic and Baltic Division collects, in the original language, the works of Russian mystics, such as H.P. Blavatsky, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture collects titles on voodoo, santeria and related topics.
Parapsychology, the branch of psychology which deals with the scientific investigation of paranormal or psychic phenomena, is collected by the General Research Division.
Access to certain material requires identification and must be read under supervision.
If you need further assistance, visit our reference desk, or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Using the Catalogs
General instructions for locating materials are given in the Research Guide, How Do I Find a Book?. The following information is specific to the topic at hand.
The Dictionary Catalog uses the following subject headings:
- Curiosities and wonders
There are many other unique subject headings. For instance, there is a specific subject entry for the Tarot. Personalities such as Nostradamus or Aleister Crowley will also have entries in the catalog.
CATNYP, the computer catalog which lists items acquired by the Library since 1972, employs the following subject headings:
Curiosities and wonders
New Age movement
As with the Dictionary Catalog there are also many other unique subject headings including Tarot, crystal gazing, etc. Consult the librarians at the Information Desk for further help with searching.
Basic Reference Volumes
Dictionary of cults, sects, religions and, the occult, edited by George Mather & Larry Nichols. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1993) Pub Cat 94-71; available at the Information Desk in Room 315. Essays on most of the major and many minor unconventional religious organizations, including occult- and UFO-oriented churches, satanism etc. Attempts to relate these churches to Christian teachings. Extensive bibliography appended.
Dictionary of mysticism and the esoteric traditions, edited by Nevill Drury. (Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 1992) Pub Cat 93-2934; available at the Information Desk. A revised edition of Dictionary of mysticism and the occult, 1985. Brief definitions or descriptions of occult terms, movements, personalities, gods, goddesses, etc. A good quick reference tool.
Encyclopedia of occcultism & parapsychology, 3rd ed., edited by Leslie Shepard (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1991) 2 vols. *R-YLB 91-9589. Based on two classic works, Encyclopedia of occultism by Lewis Spence and Encyclopedia of occult sciences by Nandor Fodor. Assorted special indexes and additional up-to-date information make this an important reference tool.
Encyclopedia of the paranormal: a complete guide to the unexplained, edited by Lynn Picknett. (London: Macmillan, 1990) JFF-91 766. The editor does not consider anything in this volume as "occult." Coverage includes UFOs, famous personalities, Marian apparitions and more. Indexed.
Encyclopedia of parapsychology & psychical research (New York: Paragon House, 1991) *R-YLB 91-4528. Covers "weird, occult and new age phenomena". The particular strength of this source is its coverage of personalities, current and historical, who have in any way been associated with the supernatural. Includes an extensive bibliography and appendix of schools offering courses in parapsychology.
Frazer, James George, Sir. The Golden bough; a study in magic and religion 1 vol., abridged ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1974 cl950) *R-ZAC 76-6140. This abridged edition is shelved in the Main Reading Room along with a 1951 edition of the original 12-volume classic work which traces the origins of magic, superstition and religion. The abridged edition claims to eliminate and correct errors in the original edition.
Guiley, Rosemary. Encyclopedia of ghosts and spirits. (New York: Facts on File, 1992) JFF 92-4032. In attempting to include all topics relating to ghosts, spirits and other unusual apparitions, Guiley provides a wide range of information. Most entries include a bibliography of further reading. Some illustrations. Indexed.
Harper's encyclopedia of mystical & paranormal experience, edited by Rosemary Guiley. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1991) *R-YLB 91-7543. Written for the lay person. Covers a wide range of occult, "alternative" or otherwise unusual phenomena, disciplines, philosophies, traditions and concepts. Most entries are of significant length and include extensive bibliographies. Some coverage of personalities but is much stronger on concepts than people.
Schultz, Ted. The fringes of reason; a whole earth catalog (New York: Harmony Books, 1989) JFF 89-370. Examines unusual groups, such as the "flat earth society."
Chicorel, Marietta. Chicorel index to parapsychology and occult books (New York: Chicorel Library Pub. Corp.,1977) MZC 78-976; available in the Theatre Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. This classic work is based on the collections of the Association for Research and Enlightenment founded by Edgar Cayce.
Clarie, Thomas C. Occult bibliography: an annotated list of books published in English 1971-1975 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1978) *RS-YL 79-1234 and Occult/paranormal bibliography: an annotated bibliography of books published in English 1976-1981 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1984) *RS-NAL 85-976. These two volumes cover over 3,800 titles encompassing a broad range of topics. Extensive annotations include critical evaluations drawn from over 8,000 review articles. Alphabetically arranged entries can be accessed through subject, author and title indexes.
Kies, Cosette. The occult in the Western world: an annotated bibliography (Hamden, CT: Library Professional Publications, 1986) JFE 86-4887. A useful basic bibliography. Provides key titles for a wide range of topics relating to the occult and parapsychology.
Melton, J. Gordon, and Poggi, Isotta. Magic, witchcraft and paganism in America: a bibliography, 2nd ed (New York: Garland, 1992) *RS-ZAZ 93-1021; 1982 edition in JFD 83-6530. A comprehensive bibliography of monographs and major studies in history and social sciences on the history of magic, witchcraft and related movements from colonial times to 1990. Includes African-American witchcraft. Appendix of current and discontinued periodicals.
White, Rhea A. Parapsychology: new sources of information, 1973-1989 (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1990) *RS-YL 91-5366 and Surveys in parapsychology: reviews of the literature with updated bibliographies (Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1976). *R-YLD 76-7528. These two titles constitute an excellent overview of research done in parapsychology compiled by one of the leaders in the field. The extensively annotated entries cover monographs, periodicals, theses and government research. Includes title, name and subject indexes.
"The Flying saucer contactee movement, 1950-1994: a bibliography" by J. Gordon Melton and George M. Eberhart in The Gods have landed: new religions from other worlds, edited by James R. Lewis. (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1995) (S) JFE 95-1142. Included here because of its unique value. Patrons are cautioned that most of the titles will necessitate using Interlibrary Loan. The monograph itself is of interest since it covers a topic of perennial interest.
Berger, Arthur S. Lives and letters in American parapsychology: a biographical history.1850-1987 (Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland & Co., 1988) *R-YLC 89-641. The life stories and accomplishments of the major personalities in the field of parapsychology.
Cavendish, Richard. A history of magic (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1977) JFF 77-1498. A standard work covering the development of Western magic from ancient Rome to the 20th century. Bibliography. Index.
Inglis, Brian. Natural and supernatural: a history of the paranormal from the earliest times to 1914 (London: Hoddler and Stoughton, 1977) JFE 78-2766. An objective history written by a member of the Society for Psychical Research. Emphasizes the paranormal over the occult. Extensive bibliography and index.
Mishlove, Jeffrey. The roots of consciousness (New York: Random House, 1975) JFF 76-468 and The Roots of consciousness, revised and expanded (Tulsa, Okla.: Council Oak Books, 1993) JFF-93-3245. A history of the exploration of consciousness and paranormal phenomena from prehistoric times through the 20th century. Both editions are valuable for insights into the development of the science of parapsychology.
Thorndike, Lynn. A history of magic and experimental science(New York: Columbia University Press, 1992), 8 vols. Reprint. Original published 1923-1958. *R-Science\QI25.T52; available at SIBL. This landmark work traces the development of magic and science from ancient times through the seventeenth century. Covers occult arts and sciences, superstitions and folklore. Extensive bibliographies and indexes.
Directories, Handbooks, Guides
Ashby, Robert H. The Ashby guidebook for study of the paranormal. Revised ed. (York Beach, Maine: S. Weiser, 1987) *R-YL 92-8579. Includes chapters on how to set up ESP experiments, investigate haunted houses, develop ESP, etc.
Baker, Robert, and Nickell, Joe. Missing pieces: how to investigate ghosts, UFOs, psychics, and other mysteries. (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1992) JFE 92-10589. A scientific/skeptical approach to the study of the anormal provided by members of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal.
Gettings, Fred. Dictionary of occult, hermetic, and alchemical (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1981). JFF 83-894. Illustrates and explains the language and symbols of alchemy, astrology and other occult studies. Includes a bibliography of early occult writings.
Handbook of parapsychology, edited by Benjamin B. Wolman (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1977). *R-YLD 77-6302. Encyclopedic overview of the field. Chapters discuss the main fields of research and include extensive bibliographies. Includes glossary, name index and subject index.
Melton, J. Gordon. American cult and sect leaders (New York: Garland, 1986) *R-AB 87-8635. Includes 213 biographies of persons who were founders or leading personalities of cults and died before 1983.
Wilcox, Laird. Guide to the American Occult: directory and bibliography 1986- (Olathe, Kansas: Editorial Research Service) JFM-90-481. These annual guides list occult organizations, churches, etc. Arranged geographically, alphabetically and by zip code. It also includes extensive bibliographies with brief annotations by Mr. Wilcox. The most current information available.
In the catalogs most of the major subject headings in this area have the subdivision --Controversial literature, which includes critical material.
A Skeptic's handbook of parapsychology, edited by Paul Kurtz (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1985). *R-YLB 93-11127. A collection of essays reflecting the varying opinions of parapsychologists and skeptics. Includes historical overviews and critical essays. Chapter 19 is an annotated bibliography of skeptical literature on parapsychology. Index.
Parker, Russ. Battling the occult (Downers Grove, Ill: Intervarsity Press, 1990) JFD 91-2812. Criticism from a Christian viewpoint.
Randi, James. Flim-flam!: psychics, ESP. unicorns and other delusions (Buffalo, N.Y. : Prometheus Press, 1982) JFE 85-2946. Includes a comprehensive bibliography of other skeptical studies of the occult.
Schick, Theodore. How to think about weird things: critical thinking for a new age (Mountain View, Calif.: Mayfield Pub. Co., 1995) JFE 95-6736.
Skeptical Inquirer vol. 1- (Fall/Winter 1976-). JFL 80-349; current issues available in Room 108. Published by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, this journal includes critical articles on the paranormal, fringe-science and other unusual phenomena. Special columns include current events, book reviews and selected bibliographies.
There is a multitude of small journals and newsletters dealing with the occult. Consult a librarian at the Information Desk in Room 315 for reference volumes which will provide lists of current titles. NYPL has not attempted to collect these titles due to their ephemeral nature. However, journals considered to be of research value have been acquired. In the Dictionary Catalog, look under the subject heading Occult sciences--Per. & Soc. Publications for older publications. In CATNYP, the subject Occultism will retrieve both journals and monographs.
Some significant journals are listed here. Unless otherwise noted, current issues are available in the Periodicals Section, Room 108.
Fate: true stories of the strange & unknown (1948-1962, incomplete) YLA; no current issues.
Fortean Times no.5- (July 1974- ) JFM 86-417.
Journal of Parapsycholgy, vol. 1- (March 1937- ) *ZAN-4369.
Journal of Religion and Psychical Research, vol. 4- (January 1981- ) JFK 93-383.
New Age Journal (October 1983- ) JLM 87-859.
Journal of the Society for Psychical Research (London) vol. 1- (1882- ) YEA.
Psi Researcher (London: Society for Psychical Research) no. 2- (July 1991- ) JFM 92-745.
There is no current specialized index for the occult sciences. However, substantial coverage is given by the standard general indexes such as Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature. The following is all that is readily available:
Eberhart, George M. A Geo-bibliography of anomalies: primary access to observations of UFOs, ghosts, and other mysterious phenomena. (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1980) *RS-YL -80-4812. Arranged geographically, this title lists 22,100 strange events in the U.S. and Canada. Coverage includes journals and national and local newspapers. Extensive indexes.
King, Clyde. Psychic & religious phenomena limited: a bibliographical index. [citation missing] *RS-YL-79-775. Good for historical research with coverage of the years 1890-1974. Books, newspapers, and periodicals are indexed, including Fate, The National Enquirer, and The New York Daily News.
Parapsychology abstracts international, vol. 1-vol. 7 (Aug 1983-1989) JFM 91-432. This title is continued as: Exceptional human experiences, vol. 8, no. 1- (Dec 1990- ) JFM-91-431. Both are publications of the Parapsychology Sources of Information Center.
The terms occultism, parapsychology, psychic science, extrasensory perception and many others, used in search strategies, will yield favorable results in many electronic databases. Please consult a librarian at the Information Desk for further information.
Selected Internet Sites
- Alchemy Web Site and Virtual Library
Searchable site contains articles, texts, images, bibliographies, and links.
- Byzant Biography - Encyclopedia of Biography and Quotations
The site "contains biographies and quotations of significant figures in the history of mysticism, and others, such as poets and philosophers, who have made important observations on the nature of existence. Each entry contains biographical details, quotations and pictures, where available, as well as links to help you search for further information and books by or about the subject."
- Conciousness Research Laboratory Home Page
Focuses on controlled, laboratory studies of such experiences as mind-matter interaction phenomena, distant healing, clairvoyance, and precognition.
- Dr. Charles T. Tart Home Page and Virtual Library
Covers the areas of consciousness, altered states of consciousness, dreams, hypnosis, meditation, mindfulness, personal growth, transpersonal psychology.
- Mysticism in World Religions
"This site explores the mystical traditions of six religions by comparing and contrasting quotations drawn from their respective literatures."
- Occult Glossary
A compendium of Oriental and Theosophical terms, by G. de Purucker. Second and Revised Edition copyright © 1996 by Theosophical University Press (print version also available); First Edition published by Rider & Co., London, 1933.
- Paranormal Phenomena
About.com's page of links to resources concerning paranormal phenomena.
- Science Without Bounds: A Synthesis of Science, Religion and Mysticism
An "online electronic book. . .that describes a world view based on the insights of the mystics,compatible with science's way of knowing."
- The Mystica
An online encyclopedia with over 450 articles which attempt "to objectively describe past and present ideas, concepts, beliefs, and practices in the worlds of the occult, mysticism and paranormal."
- Traditions of Magic in Late Antiquity
Based on a University of Michigan Library exhibition devoted to "magic and its practitioners in the Mediterranean basin and the Near East from the 1st to the 7th centuries A.D."