Chapter 05: The Study of Parapsychology

The Study of Parapsychology

Parapsychology is the scientific study of paranormal events including extrasensory perception (ESP), psychokinesis and survival of consciousness after death. Parapsychologists refer to these phenomena as psi. Parapsychology proposes that the separation of mind and matter could be an incorrect assumption. Parapsychologists believe that further research and future scientific advancements will eventually explain these paranormal anomalies.

Parapsychology is not anything weird or bizarre. It is also not concerned with studies of UFOs, Bigfoot, astrology, vampires, paganism or witchcraft. It does not involve conjuring dark forces or other magic. While parapsychology does study psychic abilities, the psychics are not parapsychologists. Others also not qualified to be called parapsychologists are psychic readers, fortunetellers, magicians, paranormal investigators and ghost hunters. The statement is not meant to discredit these careers but to point out a fact. The Parapsychological Association is an elected affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the largest scientific organization in the world. Parapsychology is a scholarly field of study.

This section will briefly touch on the topics of parapsychology.

Extrasensory Perception (ESP): ESP, referred to as the sixth sense, is defined as the acquisition of information by paranormal means beyond the five human senses. The information received can come from either an external event or directly from the mind of another individual in the past, present or future.

ESP is knowing what someone is going to say or do next. ESP is knowing which card in a deck of cards is the next to be turned over. ESP is knowing when and where something will happen before it does. ESP is not actually a sense despite the fact that ESP has been coined the sixth sense or second sight. ESP does not require the working ability of the other five human senses. Time, geography, intelligence, education, religious beliefs and age also do not affect the abilities of ESP. ESP is one of the few paranormal abilities considered to be inherent in all human beings on some level. Studies done in controlled laboratory environments have shown that human emotion and external environmental factors can affect ESP performance for better and worse. It is believed that these levels can be raised and honed through continual study and practice.

Precognition: Precognition is described simply as pre-knowing and is also referred to as future sight. People with a precognition ability acquire information about a future events through extraordinary means before the event happens. Precognition happens spontaneously in the forms of waking visions, auditory hallucinations and flashes of thought. This is the parapsychology subject most frequently reported.

Precognition typically happens within a period of forty-eight hours before the perceived event occurs. It is rare for a precognition experience to involve far-off future events. The nature of the event is usually negative, including sudden illnesses, deaths, accidents and natural disasters. A high percentage of reported precognition cases involve family members, close friends or loved ones. The inability to stop these horrible events despite having the vision can cause guilt and trauma. It can be disheartening to see terrible events unfold in a vision and yet be unable to stop that event from occurring and save the lives of those involved.

Telepathy: Telepathy is mind-to-mind communication. It is a paranormal method to transfer thoughts, ideas, sensations and feelings to another person without using the five human senses. Telepathy communications can come in several different forms: visions, dreams, mental images and fragments of thought. The most common form of telepathy happens spontaneously during a crisis situation. Individuals receive images of danger at the exact time someone with whom they share a close emotional tie with is in trouble. Identical twins are widely known for sensing when their twin is hurt or in danger. Sometimes the tie is so great that the twin will share the pain. Mothers also tend to have a more heightened sense of telepathy in regards to their children leading some researchers to theorize that telepathy has a biological connection. Prayer also falls into the category of telepathy. This mind-to-mind communication counts even if one of the minds belongs to a god.

Clairvoyance: Clairvoyance is an ability to gain visual information from an object, person, place or event. A person with this ability is referred to as a clairvoyant. Clairvoyant visions range from strong mental images to the common sensation of a “gut feeling.” Clairvoyance is said to happen naturally or it can be induced using various techniques. Induced clairvoyance has occurred worldwide in many cultures throughout history. The concept of clairvoyance gained support from the US and Russian governments both during and after the Cold War. Both governments made several attempts to harness the ability of clairvoyants as an intelligence-gathering tool.

Psychokinesis (PK): Psychokinesis (PK) is referred to as mind movement. It is a nonphysical force of mind over matter described as the ability to influence the natural environment by intention alone. Psychokinesis is broken down into two separate groups. The first group, micro-PK, is when the effects studied are on a small scale. These effects are so small that they are only detectable by statistical analysis in a scientific laboratory. The second group is macro-PK. The effects of macro-PK are large enough to be seen by the human eye. Common forms of pychokinesis involve moving objects and levitation both of which happen in poltergeist cases.

Out-of-Body Experience (OBE): Out-of-Body Experience (OBE) is a phenomenon in which a person feels separated or projected from their physical body. One in ten people report an out-of-body experience at some time in their lives. OBEs occur most often as part of the near-death experience. Those who have experienced OBEs claim to have observed details that were unknown to them previously.

Near-Death Experience (NDE): A near-death experience (NDE) refers to a broad range of personal experiences associated with an impending death. NDE is a phenomenon in which a person clinically dies or comes close to death and when revived, is able to recall stories of spiritual worlds and paranormal events. Individuals typically report feeling like they were floating outside of their body. Sometimes they can watch their death scene from above their physical bodies being able to see and hear everything that happened around them. Other people who have a near-death experience report traveling through long tunnels of light and seeing deceased friends and relatives.

PSI: Psi is a general term, introduced by Thouless and Wiesner in 1948, and refers to the factors responsible for a variety of paranormal phenomena. Psi represents the Unknown Factor.

Training psi: There are personal, biological and environmental factors that influence the ability of psi subjects Ñ positively and negatively. The best mental strategy for positive results appears to be an attitude of passively striving. The subject should keep a clear idea of what they are attempting to do while not trying to make it happen. The subject should not force the process. Forcing will only lead to frustration and failure. Anxiety, negative mood swings and boredom have been shown to decrease psi success rates. Psi performance improves with positive moods and a welcoming environment. The mere belief in success is also important for achieving results.

PSI Hitting and Missing: Hitting and Missing are the terms used to characterize the responses on laboratory psi tests. A correct answer is a hit and an incorrect answer is a miss.

Besides environmental factors that influence these tests, the sheep/goat effect also alters the hit/miss outcome. The terms were coined to differentiate between someone that believes in psi subjects (a sheep), and someone that does not believe in psi subjects (a goat). Sheep usually achieve better results on psi tests. Goats tend to miss through avoidance. An unusual amount of psi missing is also positive evidence for psi subjects. A target can only be successfully and consistently missed when the test subject ‘knows’ the target. In other words, statistically, there is a limit to how many misses are coincidental. The subject could be missing the target on a subconscious level.

NEXT Chapter 04: Misconceptions and Fears of Parapsychology