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BORN IN 1913, Hernani Guimarães Andrade graduated in civil engineering from the University of São Paulo in 1941, spending the rest of his working life with various public and private companies, including Brazil's National Steel Company and the Water and Electricity Department of the state of São Paulo, where he became technical director of its electricity and telephone division. After his retirement he moved to Bauru, in the interior of the same state, where he died in April 2003, a few weeks short of his ninetieth birthday. A chance remark at a social gathering in 1930 set him on his parallel career as the pioneer of scientific parapsychology in Brazil. Asked for his views on the question of life after death, he replied that he regarded life as an essence independent of the physical body, and that after bodily death this essence went away to reappear in another living being. Hearing this, a family friend thrust a copy of Allan Kardec's What is Spiritism? into his hand and told him to read it, which he promptly did, finding that, as he later told me, "I had been a Spiritist all along without knowing it."
He was a cautious one, however. At one of the first séances he attended, he worked out how all the various phenomena demonstrated could have been produced by normal means, repeating the supposed medium's performance in every detail. Even so, he decided that the phenomena associated with Spiritism were worth serious study, and in 1961 he and a group of like-minded friends founded the Brazilian Institute for Psychobiophysical Research (IBPP) with the objective: "The study of paranormal facts and systematic research into the laws, properties and potential of the spirit by scientific methods". In his first book, A Teoria Corpuscular do Espirito (The Corpuscular Theory of the Spirit, 1958), he upset some of his fellow Kardecists by telling them that "The ridiculous strategy of the ostrich is to be avoided at all costs. There should be no hiding the head under the sand of blind mysticism and senseless dogmatism." He also reminded them that Kardec had insisted that Spiritism had to be scientific as well as philosophical and religious if it was to survive.
Although the IBPP was always a small group, Hernani and his colleagues amassed a remarkable amount of first-hand evidence for a wide variety of psi phenomena, notably his two special interests, poltergeists (32 cases) and reincarnation (75 cases). Field work always came first. At the age of eighty Hernani drove several hundred miles to investigate an unusually persuasive case of claimed reincarnation on which he published a full-length book, Renasceu Por Amor (Reborn to Love, 1994). He also found time to write fifteen other books, the last of which was published a few months before his death. These include the first Brazilian parapsychology textbook, Parapsicologia Experimental (1967), several original case histories, and a number of theoretical works in which he put forward his detailed theory of the 'biological organising model' behind all forms of life, and the connections between matter and spirit by means of an organising psi field and what Kardec called the 'perispirit' body.
More detailed accounts of Hernani's research and writings can be found in my books, The Flying Cow (1975) and The Indefinite Boundary (1976), and in three IBPP monographs that were translated into English: The Ruytemberg Rocha Case (1973), a detailed verification of an unusually convincing drop-in case; Psi Matter (1976), a summary of the theoretical work mentioned above, and A Case Suggestive of Reincarnation: Jacira & Ronaldo (1980), one of the best cases of its kind in the IBPP files, all of which were meticulously compiled by IBPP archivist (and active field researcher) Suzuko Hashizume.
Hernani was a man of infinite kindness: but for his encouragement and infectious enthusiasm I might never have become involved in psi research at all. The time I spent with him and his colleagues from 1973 to 1975 amounted to a prolonged private tutorial with an incomparable teacher and friend. This continued through correspondence until shortly before his death.
Source: Guy Lyon Playfair, Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, October 2003, Vol. 67.4, No. 873. Published on this website with the author's and Editor's permission.