Laurence J. Bendit
Dr. Laurence J. Bendit was an English Theosophist and psychiatrist who practiced in London, England. He is best known as a researcher, writer, and lecturer on parapsychology who worked in collaboration with his wife, clairvoyant Phoebe D. Bendit.
Early life and education
Laurence John Bendit was born in Marseille, France to Edmund Bendit and Emily Westerman. His father was born in Bavaria, but emigrated first to England and then in 1879 to the United States where he became a naturalized citizen. He engaged in the import-export business "connected with American interests." Laurence grew up speaking English, French, and German proficiently. He lived with his parents and younger brother in Marseille until 1909, when he was sent to England for schooling. In 1911 he attended the Bedales School, a coeducational prep school in Hampshire. He matriculated at Cambridge University, where he studied medicine and was awarded M.A. and M.D. degrees. After additional study, he received a diploma in psychological medicine.
In 1925, Laurence married Ethel May Impett in Leeds. That marriage seems to have ended in 1939. Dr. Bendit was a citizen of the United States until at least 1921, he did not visit there until much later in life. He may have become a British citizen with his marriage to Ethel, as records show that he lived and voted in England until the 1960s.
In 1923, Dr. Bendit established his medical practice in London with professional credentials including M.R.C.S. (Member of the Royal College of Surgeons) and L.R.C.P. (Licentiate, Royal College of Physicians). By 1931 he had been awarded the D.P.M. (diplomate in psychological medicine). He became a member of the British Psychiatric Society, and by the 1940s had established an office at a prestigious Harley Street address in London. He worked in Tavistock Clinic, Maudsley Hospital, and other psychiatric institutions.
In 1943, Dr. Bendit's thesis "Paranormal Cognition: Its Place in Human Psychology" was accepted by the Faculty of Medicine of Cambridge University. The Society for Psychical Research observed in its journal:
We note with satisfaction the acceptance by the Faculty of Medicine at Cambridge University of a thesis by Dr. L. J. Bendit dealing with paranormal perceptions as occurring in psychopathological states. This appears to be the first doctorate in medicine that has been given, at any rate in this country, for a thesis embodying the findings of psychical research, and we may congratulate Dr Bendit on his successful presentation of the subject.
In 1946, that work was published by Faber & Faber as Paranormal Cognition.
During the 1940s, Dr. Bendit and Phoebe Bendit were members of the Society for Psychical Research and participated in its meetings. On October 20, 1943 he presented a paper summarizing his thesis, "Paranormal Cognition: Its Place in Human Psychology." Mrs. Bendit spoke on " Personal Impressions of Clairvoyance." The SPR was pleased to have an eminent psychiatrist and a clairvoyant join its ranks, but some members were critical that the Bendits were too accepting of the existence of psychic phenomena. While the Bendits both embraced the scientific method in their work, they recognized that traditional means of measuring and observing psychism were inadequate and that methods had to be updated. They wrote this letter to the SPR:
We are comparatively new members of the Society. But for some years we have felt that a time must soon come when it would have to take stock of itself and its position in the scientific world. For, according to what it decides, it can either keep alive the pioneer spirit of its founders, who, despite the unpopularity of the subject, set to work and established psychical research on a scientific footing, or else it can become a kind of geological museum of dead facts, carefully docketed and labelled and locked away in cases—and as dreary as only a geological museum can be.
Recent events and correspondence seem to show that this time has come. The crux of the matter seems to be whether we are to be allowed to consider new ways of approach to the problems of the human psyche, which involve subjective experience, or whether we are to be compelled to stick closely to what its protagonists still believe to be the only scientific attitude, eliminating from our researches everything but objective assessment.
... science has changed, and nowhere more so than in the field of psychology, of which psychical research is a branch...
We joined the S.P.R. because we wanted to get to know about matters psychical in their relation to the mind in general. We imagine that in this we are not alone, and that the majority of the members, like ourselves, are more interested in the subject itself than in the question whether it is approached by one particular road or by another, or by many. And it would surely be wrong, as well as in the true sense unscientific, to allow ourselves to be tied down to an orthodoxy which is really outworn and outmoded. Granted that critical standards must be upheld: but there are many more ways than one of upholding these, and we sincerely trust that those responsible for the policy of the Society will insist on this eclecticism, and not allow it to be forced into a narrow dogmatic channel from which no departure is allowed.
Journals such as Occult Observer and Psychic Science also took note of the Bendits' psychic observations.
Marriage to Phoebe Payne Bendit
Bendit met Phoebe Daphne Payne through a group of people who were studying clairvoyance, and they began to work together in 1937. After marrying in July, 1939, they lived in London. Until Phoebe's death in 1968, they collaborated in lecturing, teaching, and writing. She worked as a psychotherapist while he continued his psychiatric practice. They engaged in research taking advantage of her clairvoyant abilities in diagnosing medical and psychological conditions.
Theosophical Society involvement
Both Bendits became popular speakers, appearing before Theosophical groups. In 1936, Dr. Bendit delivered an address "Justice for Individuality" at the Fourth World Congress of the internationalTheosophical Society, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1948 he delivered the Blavatsky Lecture on the subject Adam, the Prodigal Son. He was involved with the Theosophical Research Centre in London during the 1950s.
For many years, Dr. Bendit edited and contributed to The Theosophical Journal, published in London. Published from 1960-1997, it was the journal of the Theosophical Societies in the British Isles. From 1958-61, Dr. Bendit served as General Secretary of the Theosophical Society in England. At the end of his term, the American Section, Theosophical Society in America, invited him to head the research department at their headquarters in Wheaton, Illinois. In 1962, he and Phoebe were asked to revitalize the education program at Krotona School of Theosophy in Ojai, California. They toured the United States as lecturers several times, over the years 1957-1973.
The Union Index of Theosophical Periodicals lists 154 articles with Dr. Bendit as author and 24 articles about him and his books. His articles were often translated into Theosophical journals in French, Spanish, Greek, and other languages.
He wrote a number of books, and many were in collaboration with his wife. They listed here in chronological order:
- A Renaissance in the Art of Healing. London: Theosophical Pub. House, 1926.
- Paranormal Cognition. London: Faber & Faber, 1946.
- Adam, the Prodigal Son: a Study of Man. London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1948. Available at Internet Archive. 36 pages.
- Man and His Universe. Adyar, India: Theosophical Pub. House, 1957. 71 pages.
- Evolution of the Mind. Wheaton, Illinois: Theosophical Publishing House, 1960s. 16 pages.
- Key Words in the Wisdom Tradition. Wheaton, Illinois: Theosophical Publishing House, 1963. Available at Hathitrust.
- Self Knowledge: a Yoga for the West. Wheaton, Illinois: Theosophical Publishing House, 1967.
Written with Phoebe D. Bendit:
- Space-Time, Its Relation to Man: a Transaction. London: Theosophical Research Centre, 1939. Coauthors Phoebe D. Bendit. A. B. Crow, Doris Groves, C. R. Groves, and E. Lester Smith. 19 pages.
- The Psychic Sense: A Clairvoyant and a Psychiatrist Explain How It Develops. 1943. Several reprints including Quest Books (imprint of Theosophical Publishing House) in 1970.
- Living Together Again. 1946. This volume was focused on mental health of families reunited after war.
- An Introduction to the Study of Analytical Psychology. London: Theosophical Research Centre, 1947.
- This World and That: An Analytical Study of Psychic Communication. London: Faber and Faber, 1950. Reprinted Wheaton, Ill., Theosophical Pub. House, 1969. Available for borrowing at Internet Archive and Open Library.
- Some Unrecognized Factors in Medicine. London: Theosophical Research Centre, 1949. Coauthors were Phoebe Bendit, H. Tudor Edmunds, E. Adelaide Gardner, and M. Beddow Bayly.
- Man Incarnate, A Study of the Vital Etheric Field. Wheaton, Illinois: Theosophical Publishing House, 1957.
- The Yoga of Beauty. Adyar, India; London; Wheaton, Ill.: The Theosophical Pub. House, 1969, 1976, 2004. 24 pages.
- The Transforming Mind. Wheaton, Illinois: Theosophical Publishing House, 1970. Published after Phoebe's death.
- The Mirror of Life and Death. Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1965 and 1981.
- The Mysteries Today, and Other Essays. Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973.
- The Etheric Body of Man. Wheaton, Illinois: Theosophical Publishing House, 1977. Reprint of Man Incarnate.
These audio recordings were made by the Theosophical Society in America from live lectures and radio broadcasts:
Dr. Bendit with Phoebe Payne Bendit:
- Visions, Dreams, and Symbols. 1961. 69 minutes.
- Medical Diagnosis by Clairvoyance. 1957. 44 minutes.
- Imagination as Creative Force. 1961. 54 minutes.
- Resources of the Mind. 1961. 63 minutes.
- Hidden Aspects of Health and Healing. 1961. 54 minutes. The speaker discusses the dynamic energy fields interpenetrating the physical body and the role they play in the process of healing.
- The Development of Mind. 1959. 49 minutes.
Books and articles
- Collamore, Harry. Knowledge of self: the contributions of Laurence and Phoebe Bendit to psychology. California Institute of Integral Studies/Theosophic Studies Project, 1981.
- U.S., Registration Certificates - Widows, Divorced Women, & Minors, 1907-1914.
- U.S., Passport Applications, 1795-1925. American passport issued in Marseille on 5 Apr 1918.
- The Medical Directory, 1942. See Ancestry.com database UK & Ireland, Medical Directories, 1845-1942.
- "A Step in the Recognition of Psychical Research" Journal of the Society for Psychic Research 33 (Sept-Oct, 1943), 27. See IAPSOP database.
- "Meetings of the Society" Journal of Society for Psychical Research (Nov-Dec 1943), 34.
- "Discussion Meetings" Journal of Society for Psychical Research (Jan-Feb 1946), 189.
- Laurence J. Bendit and Phoebe D. Bendit, "Correspondence" Journal of the Society for Psychical Research 33 (March-April 1943), 122-124.
- California, U.S., Death Index, 1940-1997.