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The History of the Rhine Research Center

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The changing face of the Rhine Research Center. The East Duke building housed the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory that was home to the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (FRNM) and the Institute for Parapsychology from 1965 to 2002. The new building on Campus Walk Avenue, currently houses the Rhine Research Center.

When Joseph B. and Louisa Rhine joined Professor William McDougall at the newly founded Duke University in 1927, the field of investigation into psychic phenomena was known as psychical research. At that time psychical research was mainly concerned with working with mediums in the search for evidence of an afterlife. J.B. Rhine recognized that answering the survival question depended first on investigating the ability of the living to gain psychic or psi information by other than sensory means (telepathy and clairvoyance), an ability for which he used the term extrasensory perception (ESP). Rhine began testing Duke students with specially designed cards to study ESP and later used dice machines to study psychokinesis (PK), the movement of objects by mental intention alone.

By 1935 Rhine’s experiments into the unexplained powers of the mind had shown sufficient promise to justify the creation of a special unit, the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory, where under his guidance and with help of a growing team of graduate students and colleagues, a new science was born, the experimental science of parapsychology. In 1937 the Journal of Parapsychology was founded as an independent peer-reviewed professional journal to provide an outlet for reporting the findings from the Duke research as well as from other laboratories at home and abroad.

youngrhinecardsFor the past 70 years, we've been researching and studying the experimental science of parapsychology. Now in the 21st century, the Rhine continues the mission and work of its founder J.B. Rhine with a broadened scope directed deeper into the Study of Consciousness. 

ESP cards and dice games have long since been replaced by modern techniques that allow more subtle measurements of psi, such as by looking at the physiological changes or bioenergy characteristics of psychics and healers, or by measuring the telepathic awareness of emotional targets in a simulated dream-like situation. Efforts are made to detect clues that come directly from the psi experiencers themselves, whether they are healers, intuitives, or simply ordinary people who have these extraordinary experiences.

The Rhine expands its search for knowledge by an active give-and-take between the psychic experiencer and the scientist with educational programs and discussion groups available for the general public. This is a collaboration that stems back to the late 1940’s when Louisa E. Rhine began her original collection of spontaneous psi experiences from the general public, a case collection and analysis that extended and amplified the findings that were continuously emerging from the solid experimental research that is more closely identified with her lifelong collaborator and husband J.B. Rhine.

Progress and Controversy

From the start, parapsychology has known both progress and controversy. The early years at the Duke Lab were characterized by new discoveries into the forms and conditions of psi abilities, improvements in methodology, training of new researchers, and considerable efforts to disseminate the findings. But despite the continued accumulation of evidence for the existence of psi, skeptics and conservatives dominated the academic environment around the Duke Lab and as he neared retirement in the 1960’s, Rhine foresaw the need for an independent organization to allow his work to continue.

In 1965, with the help of benefactors such as Chester Carlson, the founder of Xerox, J. B. Rhine started the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (FRNM) and moved it off campus where the work continued with broader connections to other workers on both a national and international scale. For the next thirty years FRNM served as a parent organization to the Institute for Parapsychology, its major research and education institute, and the Parapsychology Press, its publishing branch. In 1995, the centenary of J. B. Rhine’s birth and 15 years following his death, the FRNM was renamed the Rhine Research Center to honor the Rhines and their unique contributions to parapsychology.

Consciousness Research, the New New Thing

Today the Rhine continues the mission and work of its founder but with a broadened scope that is reflected in its new subtitle, an Institute for the Study of Consciousness. ESP cards and dice games have long since been replaced by modern techniques that allow more subtle measurements of psi, such as by looking at the physiological changes or bioenergy characteristics of psychics and healers, or by measuring the telepathic awareness of emotional targets in a simulated dream-like situation. Efforts are made to detect clues that come directly from the psi experiencers themselves, whether they are healers, intuitives, or simply ordinary people who have these extraordinary experiences.

As can be seen in the range of their educational programs and discussion groups available for the general public, the Rhine seeks to broaden its search for knowledge by an active give-and-take between the psychic experiencer and the scientist. This is a collaboration that stems back to the late 1940’s when Louisa E. Rhine began her original collection of spontaneous psi experiences from the general public, a case collection and analysis that extended and amplified the findings that were continuously emerging from the solid experimental research that is more closely identified with her lifelong collaborator and husband J.B. Rhine.

The Rhine Today

In 2002, over thirty years after the move from Duke to the FRNM building, it was decided there was a need for more modern experimental space and updated research equipment as well as for expansion of the Center’s library. The aging Buchanan Avenue building was sold to Duke University and a new building, the first ever in the world built for experimental work in parapsychology, was constructed for the Rhine Research Center at 2741 Campus Walk Avenue in western Durham about a mile west of the Duke Medical Center. This location, across from the Millennium Hotel, is easily accessible from the interstates and is near the Stedman Auditorium on the Duke Center for Living campus where frequent Rhine Center programs are held. Smaller programs and social events are regularly held in the Rhine's Alex Tanous Research Library that was initiated and supported by a gift from the Alex Tanous Foundation of Portland, Maine.

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Bridging the Gap Between Science and Spirituality