Anomalous Subjectivity Articles
Parapsychological J. of South Africa. 1981; 2 (2): 56-64.
'PSI-GENETICS': AN ORGANIC PERSPECTIVE
Hurst and Neppe reply
We were stimulated by the response of Dr. C.T.K. Chari to our two articles in this journal.2~3
In particular, we were interested in Chari's intensive pedigree analyses, which did not disclose
any familial factor. As predicted by Chari, we will be the first to concede that research into
'psi-genetics' has just begun.
Although the evidence for a genetic factor in paranormal ability derived from our own two
families is admittedly of a fragmentary and suggest we nature only, encouraging the initiation
of extensive twin-family studies, we, nevertheless, have the following kind of model in mind,
extending the argument of Aldous Huxley in his 'Doors of Perception'4 and 'Heaven and Hell's
to the effect that chemical influence (by Mescaline) on the whole cerebral cortex widens our
experience to realms which we call paranormal. A localized area of cerebral dysfunction (whether
chemical, epileptic or due to a space occupying lesion) could conceivably let in this wider
reality also. This is in keeping with Ehrenwald's concept of flaw-determined psi responses.
Because of the 'flaw', penetration through the 'Bergsonian filter' can occur.7 This hypothetical
filter normally prevents psi information from entering awareness. The genetic mechanism may parallel
cryptogenic epilepsy in which the work and analyses of Metrakos favours an autosomal dominant genetic
mechanism with special penetrance features.8 However, anomalous temporal lobe functioning without
epilepsy is very different 9 and the postulated genetic mechanism may also be different.
Turning to Chari's communication, we start with his transcultural information concerning the
content of temporal lobe experiences in India as compared with other countries. A parallel from
our work is in the content of delusions and hallucinations in Black psychotics in the Johannesburg
area in comparison with Whites. 10 We are grateful for this further transcultural information.
However, the diagnosis of temporal lobe epilepsy ?`TLE) is sometimes difficult 11 and frequently
non-TLE cases are misdiagnosed as TLE: thus, this transcultural information must be interpreted
with care. This is particularly so, as certain subjective experiences - the content of which is
modified by the environment - only rarely relate to TLE (e.g. deja vu) and the actual concept of
TLE is not interpreted homogeneously.
We are in agreement with Chari as to the absence of a genetic factor in hysteria, as crucially
argued by Eliot Slater in his definitive Maudsley Lecture.13 In this, he summarized his own twin-family
data as well as those of Ljungberg.
However, Chari's carefully analysed pedigrees are in our view, amenable to the alternative of the
'no-genetic factor view' espoused by him, of a single recessive autosomal genetic mechanism. This would
explain the absence of the trait in ascendants, descendants and even those in the collateral line of
descent, having regard to the small size of human families.
The variability of the age of manifestation o, a genetic trait - at birth as in polydactyly or in
middle age as in Huntington's Chorea - is well made by Chari. We may add to a later age of manifestation
category - cryptogenic epilepsy, schizophrenia and manic depressive disorder, along an increasing age scale.
This minimizes the role of psychogenic factors in inducing these states. But these, it may be correctly
claimed are abnormal mental states. In the case of musical ability instanced by Chari, however, we are
dealing with the upper range of a normal ability. Amram Scheinfeld supplies us with substantial pedigree
evidence of familial musical genius, without his being able to specify the nature of the genetic mechanism
involved.14 Chari stresses the complexity of this trait and the possible involvement of polygenes,
pleiotropism and moderator genes. Moreover, it may well be that only one component, such as pitch response,
This last hypothesis strengthens, rather than weakens, by analogy, the likelihood
of a genetically determined paranormal ability. It is stressed
that our original paper 3 looked at people who perceived their
experiences as paranormal (i.e. 'subjective paranormal experiences'
l5 (SPEs)) not at people with objectifiable paranormal experiences
(i.e. ostensible paranormal experiences l6). Moreover, these
SPEs were of a special kind - they co-existed in patients
with temporal lobe dysfunction. The mechanism involved may
not be generalizable to all subjects with SPEs (i.e. Subjective
Paranormal Experiments 17) and the subjects discussed may
represent a minority subgroup. It is more likely, however,
that anomalous temporal lobe functioning co-exists with SPE
as found by Neppe in his controlled trial in e7~t his SubjectiveParanormal
Let us end on the note of Chari's contention cited earlier that 'psi-genetics has just begun', and plan
with him the experimental design of twin-family and other studies to answer definitively the question of
the existence or otherwise of a genetic factor or genetic factors in psi-phenomena.
1. Chari C.T.K. 'Some questions about psi-genetics'. PJSA. 1982, 3:1, 50-53.
2. Neppe V.M. and Hurst, L.A. 'Psi, Genetics and the Temporal Lobe'. PJSA. 1981, 2:2, 35-55.
3. Hurst, L.A. and Neppe, V.M. 'A familial study of subjective paranormal experience in temporal lobe dysfunction subjects'. PJSA. 1981, 2:2, 56-64.
4. Huxley, A. Doors of Perception. London: Chatto & Windus. 1954.
5. Huxley, A. Heaven and Hell. London: Chatto & Windus. 1954.
6. Ehrenwald, J. 'Cerebral localization and the psi syndrome'. J. Nerv. Ment. Dis. 1975, 161:6, 393-398.
7. Bergson, H. Matter and Memory. London: George Allen and Unwin. 1911.
8. Metrakos, J.D. 'The Centrencephalic EEG in Epilepsy'. Proceedings of the Second Internationa1 Conference of Human Genetics. Rome.1961,1792 - 1795.
9. Neppe, V.M. 'Non-epileptic symptoms of temporal lobe epilepsy'. South Afr. Med. J. 1981, 60:26, 989-991.
10. Hurst, L.A., Hall, R.S. & Fisher, C. Syndrones of and attitudes to Mental Disorder among the Johannesburg Bantu. British Journal of Social Psychiatry. 1970, 4:2, l-10.
11. Neppe, V.M. Symptomalogy of temporal lobe epilepsy. South Afr. Med. J. 1981, 60:26, 902-907.
12. Neppe, V.M. Differing perspectives to the concept 'temporal lobe epilepsy'. The Leech.
1982, 52:1, 6-10.
13. Neppe, V.M. Is deja vu a symptom of temporal lobe epilepsy? South Afr. Med. J. 1981, 60:23, 907-908.
14. Slater, E. 'The Thirty-fifth Maudsley Lecture - Hysteria'. J. Ment. Sci. 1961, 107, 359-381.
15. Scheinfeld, A. The Human Heredity Handbook. New York: Lippincott. 1956.
16. Neppe, V.M. 'Subjective paranormal experience'. Psi. 1980, 2:3, 2-3.
17. Neppe, V.M. 'New ideas on old concepts in parapsychology'. Paper presented to the SASPR, Johannesburg. 1981.
18. Neppe, V,M. A study of deja vu experience. Ph.D (Med.) thesis, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. 1981.
19. Neppe, V.M. 'Subjective paranormal experience and temporal lobe symptomatology'. PJSA. 1980, 1:2, 78-98.