History of Psychic Phenomena Part 1

About the various forms of psychic phenomena, an introduction with history, definitions and a look at the controversy surrounding it.

Psychic Phenomena


First a few definitions. Basically, psychic phenomena refer to events that cannot be explained by presently accepted laws of physics or psychology. A useful shorthand term is psi. The scientific study of psi is called parapsychology or psychical research. The former is the more modern term, but in the articles that follow we have used the 2 interchangeably.

The range of phenomena called psychic is huge. We have telepathy and clairvoyance, precognition and psychokinesis, dowsings, hauntings, seances, mediumships, astral projections, auras, psychic healings, and "the survival question," which refers to the search for proof of life after death. These forms of psi are all interrelated. For example, auras are usually seen only by clairvoyants; they seem to change during psychic healing, and may be a visual form of the force used in psychokinesis; what they represent may also be involved in astral projection and perhaps even in the survival question. Categorizing psi is obviously not easy, but the phenomena are usually broken down into 3 main types: ESP, extra-sensory perception, which involves information coming to the individual from the environment; PK, psychokinesis, mind over matter, or the effect of the individual's mind on his environment; and the survival question. Just about every aspect of psi fits into one or more of these 3 categories.

Psychic phenomena are, of course, controversial. Do such matters really exist? Is it all imagination, coincidence, and fraud? What has been proved by the parapsychologist and what has not?

To begin with, it must be admitted that a large percentage of the experiences reported as psychic adventures probably are not. We are a suggestible species, and the will to believe is strong. On the other hand, there are scientists who feel that total acceptance of psi will upset many of the theories of science, and their determination not to believe in psi is just as strong, and just as foolish, as is the overly credulous approach. In fact it is the old science that would have been upset by psi. The new physics of relativity, subatomic particles, and quantum mechanics is fazed very little by the concept of a consciousness that can span time and space, or cause the heap of atoms in a compass needle to move. (The atoms that constitute a compass needle, or anything else, are all moving anyway; it's just a matter of getting them all to move in the same direction at the same time.)

However, most psychic phenomena are still controversial. In recent years the world of psi has been electrified by the young Israeli Uri Geller. He seems to be able to bend keys, spoons, and other objects by gently rubbing them. He seems to have caused objects to dematerialize and rematerialize elsewhere. He seems to be telepathic. But there are doubts. Many of his feats can be duplicated by stage magicians--which is not to say that he does not do them psychically, just that he might not. He is almost too eager to display his talents, to persuade others that they are real. Geller has convinced many fine scientists that he is genuine, and many others that he is a fraud. At the time of this writing, the jury is still out.

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