Parapsychology - Crystalinks


Parapsychology is a discipline that seeks to investigate the existence and causes of psychic abilities, near-death experiences, and life after death using the scientific method. Parapsychological experiments have included the use of random number generators to test for evidence of precognition and psychokinesis with both human and animal subjects and Ganzfeld experiments to test for extrasensory perception.

Parapsychological laboratory and field research is conducted through private institutions and several universities. Privately-funded units in psychology departments at universities in the United Kingdom are among the most active today.

In the United States, interest in research peaked in the 1970s and university-based research has declined since then, although private institutions still receive considerable funding from donations. While parapsychological research has occasionally appeared in mainstream academic journals, most of the recent research is published in a small number of niche journals. Journals dealing with parapsychology include the Journal of Parapsychology, Journal of Near-Death Studies, Journal of Consciousness Studies and Journal of Scientific Exploration.

Parapsychologists describe parapsychology as an emerging science, however the status of parapsychology as a science is disputed. While the results of parapsychologists' experiments are regarded by the Parapsychological Association as having demonstrated the existence of some forms of psychic abilities, critics argue that methodological flaws can explain the apparent experimental successes.

External scientists and skeptics have criticized the discipline as being a pseudoscience because, as they see it, parapsychologists continue investigation despite not having demonstrated conclusive evidence of psychic abilities in more than a century of research.

The term parapsychology was coined in or around 1889 by philosopher Max Dessoir. It was adopted by J.B. Rhine in the 1930s as a replacement for the term psychical research in order to indicate a significant shift toward experimental methodology and academic discipline. The term originates from the Greek: para meaning "alongside", and psychology.

Early Psychical Research

The Society for Psychical Research (SPR) was founded in London in 1882. The formation of the SPR was the first systematic effort to organize scientists and scholars for a critical and sustained investigation of paranormal phenomena. The early membership of the SPR included philosophers, scholars, scientists, educators and politicians, such as Henry Sidgwick, Arthur Balfour, William Crookes, Rufus Osgood Mason and Charles Richet.

The SPR classified its subjects of study into several areas: telepathy, hypnotism, Reichenbach's phenomena, apparitions, haunts, and the physical aspects of Spiritualism such as table-tilting and the appearance of matter from unknown sources, otherwise known as materialization. One of the first collaborative efforts of the SPR was its Census of Hallucinations, which researched apparitional experiences and hallucinations in the sane. The census was the Society's first attempt at a statistical evaluation of paranormal phenomena, and the resulting publication in 1886, Phantasms of the Living is still widely referenced in parapsychological literature today.

The SPR became the model for similar societies in other European countries and the United States during the late 19th century. Largely due to the support of psychologist William James, the American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) opened its doors in New York City in 1885. The SPR and ASPR continue research in parapsychology.

Rhine Era

In 1911, Stanford University became the first academic institution in the United States to study extrasensory perception (ESP) and psychokinesis (PK) in a laboratory setting. The effort was headed by psychologist John Edgar Coover. In 1930, Duke University became the second major U.S. academic institution to engage in the critical study of ESP and psychokinesis in the laboratory.

Under the guidance of psychologist William McDougall, and with the help of others in the department including psychologists Karl Zener, Joseph B. Rhine, and Louisa E. Rhine laboratory ESP experiments using volunteer subjects from the undergraduate student body began. As opposed to the approaches of psychical research, which generally sought qualitative evidence for paranormal phenomena, the experiments at Duke University proffered a quantitative, statistical approach using cards and dice. As a consequence of the ESP experiments at Duke, standard laboratory procedures for the testing of ESP developed and came to be adopted by interested researchers throughout the world.

The publication of J.B. Rhine's book, New Frontiers of the Mind (1937) brought the laboratory's findings to the general public. In his book, Rhine popularized the word "parapsychology," which psychologist Max Dessoir had coined over 40 years earlier, to describe the research conducted at Duke. Rhine also founded an autonomous Parapsychology Laboratory within Duke and started the Journal of Parapsychology, which he co-edited with McDougall.

Rhine, along with associate Karl Zener, had developed a statistical system of testing for ESP that involved subjects guessing what symbol, out of five possible symbols, would appear when going through a special deck of cards designed for this purpose. A percentage of correct guesses (or hits) significantly above 20% was perceived as higher than chance and indicative of psychic ability. Rhine stated in his first book, ExtraSensory Perception (1934), that after 90,000 trials, he felt ESP is "an actual and demonstrable occurrence."

The parapsychology experiments at Duke evoked much criticism from academics and others who challenged the concepts and evidence of ESP. One such criticism was that subjects were simply cheating. Illusionist Milbourne Christopher wrote years later that he felt "there are at least a dozen ways a subject who wished to cheat under the conditions Rhine described could deceive the investigator".

According to Christopher, Rhine did take precautions against cheating in response to criticisms of his methods, but once he did, he was unable to find the same high scores reported in earlier trials. Another criticism, made by chemist Irving Langmuir, among others, was one of selective reporting. Langmuir stated that Rhine did not report scores of subjects that he suspected were intentionally guessing wrong, and that this, he felt, biased the statistical results higher than they should have been.

Rhine and his colleagues attempted to address these criticisms through new experiments, articles, and books, and revisited the state of the criticism along with their responses in the book Extra-Sensory Perception After Sixty Years (1940).

In 1957, Rhine and Joseph Gaither Pratt wrote Parapsychology: Frontier Science of the Mind.

The administration of Duke grew less sympathetic to parapsychology, and after Rhine's retirement in 1965 parapsychological links with the university were broken. Rhine later established the Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man (FRNM) and the Institute for Parapsychology as a successor to the Duke laboratory.

In 1995, the centenary of Rhine's birth, the FRNM was renamed the Rhine Research Center. Today, the Rhine Research Center is a parapsychology research unit, stating that it "aims to improve the human condition by creating a scientific understanding of those abilities and sensitivities that appear to transcend the ordinary limits of space and time."

Establishment of the Parapsychological Association

The Parapsychological Association (PA) was created in Durham, North Carolina, on June 19, 1957. Its formation was proposed by J. B. Rhine at a workshop on parapsychology which was held at the Parapsychology Laboratory of Duke University. Rhine proposed that the group form itself into the nucleus of an international professional society in parapsychology. The aim of the organization, as stated in its Constitution, became "to advance parapsychology as a science, to disseminate knowledge of the field, and to integrate the findings with those of other branches of science".

Under the direction of anthropologist Margaret Mead, the Parapsychological Association took a large step in advancing the field of parapsychology in 1969 when it became affiliated with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the largest general scientific society in the world. In 1979, physicist John A. Wheeler argued that parapsychology is pseudoscientific, and that the affiliation of the PA to the AAAS needed to be reconsidered. His challenge to parapsychology's AAAS affiliation was unsuccessful.

Today, the PA consists of about three hundred full, associate, and affiliated members worldwide.

The 1970s and 1980s

The affiliation of the Parapsychological Association (PA) with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, along with a general openness to psychic and occult phenomena in the 1970s, led to a decade of increased parapsychological research. During this period, other related organizations were also formed, including the Academy of Parapsychology and Medicine (1970), the Institute of Parascience (1971), the Academy of Religion and Psychical Research, the Institute of Noetic Sciences (1973), the International Kirlian Research Association (1975), and the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory (1979). Parapsychological work was also conducted at the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) during this time.

The scope of parapsychology expanded during these years. Psychiatrist Ian Stevenson conducted much of his research into reincarnation during the 1970s, and the second edition of his Twenty Cases Suggestive of Reincarnation was published in 1974. Psychologist Thelma Moss devoted time to the study of Kirlian photography at UCLA's parapsychology laboratory.

The influx of spiritual teachers from Asia, and their claims of abilities produced by meditation, led to research on altered states of consciousness. American Society for Psychical Research Director of Research, Karlis Osis, conducted experiments in out of body experiences. Physicist Russell Targ coined the term remote viewing for use in some of his work at SRI in 1974.

The surge in paranormal research continued into the 1980s: the Parapsychological Association reported members working in more than 30 countries. For example, research was carried out and regular conferences held in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union although the word parapsychology was discarded in favor of the term "psychotronics".

In 1985 a Chair of Parapsychology was established within the Department of Psychology at the University of Edinburgh. Robert Morris, a respected experimental parapsychologist from the United States took up the position, and with his research associates and PhD students pursued a comprehensive research program.

Era of Psychotronics - the Rejdak Era

In 1973, a specific era of psychological research (parapsychology) began that was related to the creation of a new discipline called Psychotronics. The greatest promoters of the psychotronics were Z. Rejdak and F. Kahuda. Z. Rejdak kept enforcing the psychotronics as a nature science on the world-wide scale and for many years, he organized conferences on research in psychotronics. The first conference with an international participation on research in psychotronics took place in Prague (Czech republic).

The psychotronics of this era is being understood as a new science in the terms of human bionics. The main objectives of psychotronics were to verify and study the phenomena of telepathy, clairvoyance and psychokinesis, to discover new principles of nature. The philosophy of the approach to studies and research on the issue of psychotronics were different from the approach used in parapsychology.

The founders of psychotronics tried to consider the phenomena in the framework of historical and dialectical materialism and the classic philosophy (Kant, Hegel, Plato, Socrates etc.), they chose the different name of parapsychology to avoid negative connotations.

The name of psychotronics was adopted from the Frenchman F. Clerg, who had published the article "Psychotronigue" in the journal Toule la Radio, Electronigue-BF-Television No.192 in January 1955. The radio engineer K. Drbal suggested this term to Rejdak.

After the Mesmer's magnetism, spiritism and parapsychology, psychotronics was meant to be the next phase of the psychological phenomena research, which should culminate in the birth of a new science.

In 1973 he founded the international association for the research in psychotronics (IARP) and became a president of the association. F. Kahuda creates his own hypothesis on the origin of psychotronic phenomena on the basis of hypothetical particles (the so called "mentions") and mental energy. This own school of his within the psychotronics he considers to be a scientific field, which he calls psycho-energetics.

The same year there has been founded the Laboratory of psychotronics at the Faculty of Uiversal medicine within the Charles' University in Prague and the Psycho-energetic laboratory at the Institute of Chemical Technology in Prague

In 1976, the Czech researchers Z. Rejdak along with M. Nakonecny published the very first concept of psychotronics as a field studying distant interactions among organisms. Their hypothesis predetermined the development of psychotronics, particularly in the former Communist Block. For these reasons, psychotronics was mentioned as a kind of parapsychology being enforced in the East (in Eastern Europe).

Another milestone in the development of psychotronics was the 5th international conference on psychotronic research that took place in Bratislava in 1983.

The psychotronics is in the ascendant. In Czechoslovakia, the research of psychotronics enters the world of military universities. At the Technical Military University in Liptovsky Mikulas, ten theses are ordered to secure the starting materials and to prepare the personnel so that a military laboratory of psychotronics can be founded.

In 1987, the first symptoms of political changes occur in the society and the laboratory is not set up any more. The promoter of psychotronics in military was the lieutenant-colonel V. Moravek, who was a close colleague of Z. Rejdak. In their research work their student O. Valek later continues.

At the turn of 80s to 90s of the 20th century dramatic changes take place in psychotronics. With the finishing of the communist era Z. Rejdak gives psychotronics its spiritual-based scientific concept.

In 1991, the Psychoenergetic laboratory is cancelled as well as the Laboratory of psychotronics in 1992. The development of psychotronics stagnates. The studying and the research of psychotronics goes into the private sector and into domain of social organizations such as Czech Psychoenergetical Society The studies and research in psychotronics are transferred to the private sphere and social organizations (e.g. the Czech psycho-energetic society and the Club of psychotronics and UFO)

More Recent Developments

Since the 1980s, contemporary parapsychological research has waned considerably in the United States. Early research was considered inconclusive, and parapsychologists were faced with strong opposition from their academic colleagues.

Some effects thought to be paranormal, for example the effects of Kirlian photography (thought by some to represent a human aura), disappeared under more stringent controls, leaving those avenues of research at dead-ends.

Many university laboratories in the United States have closed, citing a lack of acceptance by mainstream science as the reason; the bulk of parapsychology research in the US is now confined to private institutions funded by private sources.

After 28 years of research, Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research Laboratory (PEAR), which studied psychokinesis, closed in 2007.

Two universities in the United States currently have academic parapsychology laboratories. The Division of Perceptual Studies, a unit at the University of Virginia's Department of Psychiatric Medicine, studies the possibility of survival of consciousness after bodily death, near-death experiences, and out-of-body experiences.

The University of Arizona's Veritas Laboratory conducts laboratory investigations of mediums. Several private institutions, including the Institute of Noetic Sciences, conduct and promote parapsychological research.

Over the last two decades some new sources of funding for parapsychology in Europe have see a "substantial increase in European parapsychological research so that the center of gravity for the field has swung from the United States to Europe".

Of all nations the United Kingdom has the largest number of active parapsychologists. In the UK, researchers work in conventional psychology departments, and also do studies in mainstream psychology to "boost their credibility and show that their methods are sound". It is thought that this approach could account for the relative strength of parapsychology in Britain.

As of 2007, parapsychology research is represented in some 30 different countries and a number of universities worldwide continue academic parapsychology programs. Among these are the Koestler Parapsychology Unit at the University of Edinburgh; the Parapsychology Research Group at Liverpool Hope University; the SOPHIA Project at the University of Arizona; the Consciousness and Transpersonal Psychology Research Unit of Liverpool John Moores University; the Center for the Study of Anomalous Psychological Processes at the University of Northampton; and the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths University of London.

Research and professional organizations include the Parapsychological Association; the Society for Psychical Research, publisher of the Journal of Society for Psychical Research; the American Society for Psychical Research, publisher of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research; the Rhine Research Center and Institute for Parapsychology, publisher of the Journal of Parapsychology; the Parapsychology Foundation, publisher of the International Journal of Parapsychology; and the Australian Institute of Parapsychological Research, publisher of the Australian Journal of Parapsychology. The European Journal of Parapsychology is independently published.

Parapsychological research has also been augmented by other sub-disciplines of psychology. These related fields include transpersonal psychology, which studies transcendent or spiritual aspects of the human mind, and Anomalistic psychology, which examines paranormal beliefs and subjective anomalous experiences in traditional psychological terms.


Parapsychologists study a number of ostensible paranormal phenomena, including but not limited to:

  • Telepathy: Transfer of information on thoughts or feelings between individuals by means other than the five classical senses.

  • Precognition: Perception of information about future places or events before they occur.

  • Clairvoyance: Obtaining information about places or events at remote locations, by means unknown to current science.

  • Psychokinesis: The ability of the mind to influence matter, time, space, or energy by means unknown to current science.

  • Near-death experiences: An experience reported by a person who nearly died, or who experienced clinical death and then revived.

  • Reincarnation: The rebirth of a soul or other non-physical aspect of human consciousness in a new physical body after death.

  • Apparitional Experiences: Phenomena often attributed to ghosts and encountered in places a deceased individual is thought to have frequented, or in association with the person's former belongings.

    The definitions for the terms above may not reflect their mainstream usage, nor the opinions of all parapsychologists and their critics.

    Other fields of study: Psychic Development, Astrology, UFOs, Cryptozoology, Paganism, Vampires, Alchemy, Witchcraft, Out of Body Experiences, Near Death Experiences, and Messages from Other Realms


    Some of the research in the field of parapsychology has been debunked, especially in fields such as mediumship, the crop circle phenomenon, and more.

    Here we are in the second decade of the 21st century - as science and science fiction - from the old methods of divination to emerging technologies that help provide insights into what was once called paranormal - now merging as consciousness creates a new window of understanding of the bigger picture of reality. The understanding of was once called Parapsychology is now changing as we understand how all things are interconnected and function.

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