Many things in our universe remain a mystery to the scientific world: ESP,
telepathy and clairvoyance are just a few of these puzzles. Studying and trying
to explain these phenomena is all in a day's work for parapsychologists.
There's a big difference between a professionally trained parapsychologist
with a degree and background in the sciences, and so-called mainstream psychics
who simply call themselves parapsychologists. Parapsychology is the experimental
and quantitative study of paranormal phenomena, using the same research methods
used in other sciences.
However, some parapsychological research is mixed up with personal beliefs,
sloppy science and sometimes just plain fraud.
There's no legal restriction on who can call themselves parapsychologists.
As a result, the few practitioners who do quality scientific research in the
field are often rejected by mainstream science.
Charles Tart is a parapsychologist. "It's scientific research carried out
by people trained in some recognized scientific discipline focused on understanding
the nature of phenomena like telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, psychokinesis
(PK) and psychic healing," he says.
"The emphasis here is on high-quality controlled experiments up to or exceeding
the standards in other recognized fields of scientific inquiry."
Parapsychology isn't limited by the known boundaries of space or time.
And it blurs the sharp distinction usually made between mind and matter.
Cheryl Alexander works with the Rhine Research Center. "Scientific parapsychology
explores the unusual types of experiences that suggest capabilities as yet
unrecognized in the domain of human personality. We investigate those capabilities
thoroughly by exact scientific methods."
Basic parapsychological phenomena fall into these categories:
- Telepathy: direct mind-to-mind communication
- Precognition: obtaining information about future events, where
the information couldn't be inferred through normal means
- Clairvoyance: obtaining information about events at remote locations
beyond the reach of normal senses
- Extrasensory perception: a general term for obtaining information
about events beyond the reach of normal senses -- includes telepathy, clairvoyance
- Psychokinesis: direct mental interaction with physical objects,
animate or inanimate
- Bio-PK: mental interaction with living systems
- Near-death experience: an experience reported by those revived
from near death -- a core experience that includes feelings of peace, out-of-body
experiences, seeing lights and other phenomena
- Out-of-body experience: feeling separated from the body, often
accompanied by visual perceptions as though from above the body
- Reincarnation: the belief that we live successive lives, with evidence
primarily coming from the apparent recollections of previous lives by very
- Haunting: recurrent phenomena in particular locations -- apparitions,
sounds, movement of objects and other effects
Besides a fascination with these phenomena, those entering the field need
persistence. They must have a willingness to accept negative results, because
psychic functioning isn't often evident in everyday life.
Scientific parapsychology is a tiny field. Only a few dozen people in North
America work in it part time.