Once you start researching beyond the simple cogs of paranormal investigation, you will most likely start looking into elements of parapsychology. It is a term often used by many in the paranormal field, but sometimes people don’t fully understand what it is and what a parapsychologist actually does.
Parapsychology is a field of study that investigates what is considered to be ‘psychic’ phenomena. Mainstream science considers this to be a pseudoscience with claims from the scientific community that the research of the past has failed to prove anything. While to a lot of scientists it is a taboo area that gathers a lot of criticism, science has over the years become more and more open-minded toward this field. Psychology refers to the study of human behaviors and the mental process. Parapsychology is an extension of this and looks at the mental process and human behavior which are inexplicable by what is considered to be orthodox science.
The term parapsychology was coined in 1889 by philosopher Max Dessoir. He was a German philosopher, psychologist and theorist of aesthetics. He wrote a paper in the German periodical Sphinx where he used the German translation of the term (Parapsychologie). He went on to say: "If one ... characterizes by para- something going beyond or besides the ordinary, than one could perhaps call the phenomena that step outside the usual process of the inner life parapsychical, and the science dealing with them parapsychology. The word is not nice, yet in my opinion it has the advantage to denote a hitherto unknown fringe area between the average and the pathological states; however, more than the limited value of practical usefulness such neologisms do not demand."
In the 1930's J.B Rhine adopted the English translation of this term to replace the phrase: physical research. He was thought to have founded parapsychology as we know it today as a branch of psychology. He focused his research on experimenting with test subjects. It is thought of almost like experimental psychology. Rhine himself is well known for establishing Parapsychology institutes. First was the Parapsychology lab at Duke University, founding the Journal of Parapsychology and the Parapsychology Institute and what is now known as today as the Rhine Research Center. Rhine cards may also sound familiar to you which is related to the experimental studies Rhine carried out using Zener cards as a way of testing ESP.
Image Source: The Scientist Magazine
As parapsychology is seen as almost experimental psychology, it will not surprise you to know that parapsychologists spend their time researching and conducting experiments. Their main focus is PSI which is a term that parapsychologists use to describe the different types of psychic phenomena. They do not focus their time on studying things like UFO's, big foot etc, their focus is mainly on PSI. The 5 main areas they concentrate this study on are:
Telepathy: This is the ability someone has to understand the thoughts and ideas of others. It could be hearing the words or thoughts of another person or seeing flashes of images. They may also be able to send or receive a message to another person purely through thought.
Clairvoyance: This is usually the ability to 'see or predict the future'. They either have a vision or a dream of themselves in a situation or someone else who delivers this message to them.
PK or Psychokinesis: Think of Carrie! It is the ability to move or manipulate things with the power of the mind. Interestingly, when an EVP is caught, it is thought to be a form of micro-PK as a spirit has manipulated the recording - or is the recording a result of the human mind?
Apparitions, Hauntings, and Poltergeists: This area is very broad but it is usually approached from a different angle than how most other paranormal investigators would approach it. What exactly is a ghost? Is the activity a manifestation of the human mind? This is why this area is considered to be a part of parapsychology.
NDE or Near-Death Experiences: A near-death experience is the personal experience of a person where moments before death they feel they have been in contact with deceased family members. While science often tells us that it is a chemical response of the brain shutting down, studies have suggested there could be more to it and again this is an area that parapsychologists do look into.
Of course, there is more to it, but these are the most popular categories that you will find parapsychologists looking at. Anyone can study parapsychology. There are privately funded institutes all over the world that offer courses in varying degrees. In order to have a qualification as an actual parapsychologist, you need to have a degree in psychology. It doesn't mean however if you don't have this degree that you can't research and experiment.
Famous experiments conducted by parapsychologists include:
The Ganzfeld Experiment: Using sensory deprivation can a person demonstrate ESP and telepathy ability and send an image to another person using the mind? To find out more about this experiment and its results, visit my article:
The Philip Experiment: Can a spirit be a manifestation of the human mind? To demonstrate this, subject created their own ghost of a fake character using only the human mind. To find out more about this experiment and its results visit my article:
Rhine Experiments: Similar to the Ganzfeld experiment, Rhine wanted to test the ESP ability of sitters to see if they could correctly identify a card by a sender mentally sending them the image using their mind. The difference here is that participants were not subjected to sensory deprivation. To find out more about this experiment and Zener cards visit my article:
Critically, a lot of the experiments had their flaws, and due to the random element of someone being able to correctly guess the correct response during a telepathy experiment, a lot of these experiments have been discredited by the scientific and skeptic community even though the results showed levels above the benchmarks. Even so, however, paranormal investigators have adapted a lot of these experiments for use during a paranormal investigation. It has also opened up the question to a lot of investigators about what a ghost could be and what the human mind is potentially capable of. While it may be capable of PSI ability, it can also fool us as the brain is a very powerful tool. Parapsychology has become a very important link to the paranormal community and they compliment each other. If you have been investigating for a while and want to take your work further, studying or at least researching parapsychology would be extremely beneficial. This is where the real work begins.
If you have studied or are studying parapsychology, feel free to recommend a great mentor or course for people to look into.
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