By Dean Radin, et al (Parapsychology FAQ, 1995)
Note: For the most up-to-date version of Dr. Radin’s Parapsychology FAQ, please visit the Parapsychological Asociation web site: http://www.parapsych.org/section/36/frequently_asked_questions.aspx
Parapsychology is the scientific and scholarly study of certain unusual events associated with human experience. A long-held, common-sense assumption is that the worlds of subjective and objective are completely distinct, with no overlap. Subjective is ‘within us, inside our minds,’ and objective is ‘out there, in the world.’ Parapsychology is the study of phenomena suggesting that the strict objective/objective dichotomy may instead be part of a spectrum, with some phenomena occasionally falling between purely subjective and purely objective. We call such phenomena ‘paranormal’ or ‘anomalous’ because they are difficult to explain within current scientific models.
These anomalies fall into three general categories: ESP [extrasensory perception, such as telepathy and clairvoyance], PK [psychokinesis, or anomalous mind-matter interactions], and phenomena suggestive of survival of bodily death, including near-death experiences, apparitions, and reincarnation. Most parapsychologists today expect that further research will eventually explain these anomalies in scientific terms, although it is not clear whether they can be fully understood without significant (possibly revolutionary) expansions of the current state of scientific knowledge. Other researchers take the stance that existing scientific models of perception and memory are adequate to explain some or all parapsychological phenomena.
WHY IS PARAPSYCHOLOGY INTERESTING?
Parapsychology is interesting mainly because of the implications. To list just a few examples, psi [psychic] phenomena suggest that:
1). What science knows about the nature of the universe is not complete;
2). The presumed capabilities and limitations of human potential have been underestimated;
3). Fundamental assumptions and philosophical beliefs about the separation of mind and body may be incorrect;
4). Religious assumptions about the divine nature of ‘miracles’ may have been mistaken.
Throughout history, human beings have reported the occurrence of parapsychological events and abilities. Our earliest ancestors appeared to talk to the gods through paranormal means. Events of interest to the tribe were prognosticated through trance, divination, dreams, and intuitive knowing.
Our forefathers sought to control the weather by ritual magic and to accomplish cures by invoking the appropriate spirits, or enlisting the aid of plant and animal guides. Shamanic practices throughout the world regularly included out-of-body travel, bilocation, thought transference, and distant influence on the physical universe. These “powers” were not all working for the good.
Tribal peoples used magical spells against their enemies individually and collectively, sometimes for no other reason than to steal their land or to enslave them. In individual and tribal disputes, the battleground often moved into the realm of the spirits, each party invoking extraordinary powers in an effort to overcome the other. Even to venture into the realm of extraordinary powers involved great risk, and could work against you. While these powers could bring knowledge and influence beyond our ordinary capabilities, so also could they bring death, disaster, disease, and even insanity.
The modern study of parapsychology began over 100 years ago and in that time has amassed thousands of case studies and formal experiments in order to better understand these non-ordinary realms. But, at the same time, it has done little to address the social impact of so-called paranormal events in the daily lives of individuals or groups. Researchers have painstakingly recorded countless thousands of attempts to apprehend, predict, or influence random events in laboratory settings. They have gathered powerful statistical evidence to prove their existence, and have developed theories and models to explain how they might occur, however, very little has been done to deal with these phenomena phenomenologically. Therefore, the American Institute of Parapsychology has adopted a phenomenological approach, offering counseling and support, as well as research, both scholarly and applied, approaches to Parapsychology and Paranormal Studies.
Modern surveys have confirmed that surprisingly large numbers of individuals in Western societies report experiencing one or more forms of parapsychological phenomena, and yet the field of experimental parapsychology has little advice to offer them. Often, these people need knowledgeable advice, guidance, or counseling to help them deal with their experiences. But where do they go for help? In modern American society, we are not encouraged to talk about thought transference with another person, spirit entities, precognitive dreams, an inner knowing when a friend or relative has died, or an encounter with a UFO. And we are especially not encouraged to speak of such things with psychologists, psychiatrists, or other professionals, including most traditionally trained scientists, who are likely to view them summarily as signs of mental disintegration or involvement with some kind of quackery or pseudo-science.
Whether they have, in fact, had a paranormal experience in the technical sense – that it was not due to some bizarre but explainable perceptual anomaly- is not the issue here. The fact is that a paranormal experience of it may be more than curiosity arousing, it can be confusing, disorienting, or even life-changing to the one who experiences it. And this is where someone trained in parapsychology, and trained within it in new ways, can be of help.
In 1969, after many years of hard work on its own behalf, the scientific discipline of
parapsychology was formally admitted as a member science into the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Of all the many dozens of member sciences in that community, parapsychology has from its inception been virtually the only one not to have found or made a place for itself within the traditional international mainstream college and university community. Because it acts as a repository for so much of what current science does not yet understand, or choose to take seriously or wish to study, parapsychology has been virtually shut out of worldwide higher education.
This has occurred because of unfortunate misconceptions and undeserved negative connotations surrounding the field even though there is now irrefutable evidence, from thousands of experiments and studies over the past 120 years, that many of the various anomalous experiences, phenomena, processes, and abilities studied by parapsychologists are actually real and merit further study and potential application for the good of our species. It is now more important than ever before to provide a place and way for those who wish to seriously study parapsychology and related paranormal and consciousness fields. There is a pressing need to have people trained to:
• Carry out much-needed research that can further open the scientific and lay community to the reality and potential utility of what is found with regard to paranormal phenomena and experiences studied by parapsychology
• Teach within existing academic programs and departments; or set up and teach within new educational programs in parapsychology.
• Provide in-service training and continuing education to a wide variety of already credentialed and working professionals who seek to understand the paranormal and how it relates to their work.
• Publish, give presentations, workshops, and in other ways help to raise consciousness about paranormal phenomena, abilities, and potential.
• Create new vocational niches for oneself and others, new ways to earn a living, as
authorities on the paranormal; be entrepreneurs, in academia, business, human services, information systems; be resources, consultants, start new enterprises to meet the needs of those seeking understanding, support, and expertise with regard to the paranormal.
• Meet the needs of those troubled by their paranormal experiences, either clinically or as non-clinical helping professionals.
There are, at present, few employment opportunities for those with a specialization in parapsychology, and there are only a handful of institutions in the world besides the American Institute of Parapsychology with an educational program in parapsychology. Nonetheless, there is mounting evidence to argue that there will be a rapid rise in the need for educational research and training programs in the field of parapsychology.
RISING GRASS-ROOTS INTEREST IN PARAPSYCHOLOGY
The world is in the midst of an extraordinarily widespread and inspired interest in, and increasing personal experiences of, the paranormal and the otherworldly on the part of an ever-larger percentage of the population.
THE PARAPSYCHOLOGIST AS HELPING PROFESSIONAL
Some peoples’ experience of the paranormal is problematic or disturbing for them. They may feel threatened, feel they are losing their mind, are questioning or becoming detached from the usual, familiar, and normal. This may lead to estrangement from others and even dysfunction and psychopathology. Conversely, purely subjective or psychopathological roots can lead to claims of paranormal experiences and abilities that are groundless. Many people troubled by the paranormal would like and need to work with someone uniquely trained to help them– a new kind of professional, the parapsychological consultant specializing as a helping professional rather than as a researcher.
Russia, the US, and other countries have been engaged in very serious, often well-funded, usually-covert, research with regard to the nature and efficacy of a variety of
psi (psychic) phenomena and abilities with particular emphasis placed on developing psi abilities, such as telepathy, clairvoyance or “remote viewing,” and remote influence on both living and inanimate systems, for purposes of “intelligence gathering” (spying) and psychically oriented defensive and offensive strategies. It is anticipated that such past long-term covert psi research and application will become more overt and public. Although originally conducted for military-type applications, much of this reseach can be applied to helping humanity.
PARAPSYCHOLOGY AND ALTERNATIVE HEALTH CARE
Parapsychology, through its study of anomalous mind-matter interactions and the relation of human consciousness and intention to living systems (an aspect of psychokinesis), is coming of age to make dramatic contributions to the emerging field of alternative or complementary medicine, to new modes of diagnosis, treatment (including what is called anomalous healing), illness prevention, and wellness maintenance. Parapsychology stands poised to make important contributions to the current health care system.
There is increasing evidence to support the contention that the much-discussed and long-awaited “paradigm shift” in our scientific understanding and offshoot technologies is close at hand, and that it is even in the process of occurring in our lifetime. This shift involves a number of inter-related discoveries or anticipated breakthrough areas of research, all of which are central to parapsychology.
These areas include:
• The role that consciousness/intention plays in both non-living and living systems, and the study of the nature and capacities of consciousness itself
• The study of extrasensory perception, or anomalous cognition or information processing, extending our human capacities.
• What quantum physicists call “non-locality,” or the now experimentally proven fact that systems once thought to be separate are connected/correlated in paranormal ways.
• The study of kinds and levels of energy, “subtle” energies, higher dimensions, higher octaves of vibratory energy and information adjacent to physical-level reality.
• The fact that we are rapidly entering a second Copernican revolution with mounting evidence that we are not alone in the Universe, the otherworldly is making itself known through interaction with the afterlife, through UFO and extraterrestrial type experiences, and a rise in perplexing related trans-physical, subjective-spiritual, deeper-meaning phenomena.
DEATH AND DYING
One of the three branches of the field of parapsychology, and the central early focus within its precursor field of psychical research, is survival research, or the study of whether or not human consciousness can operate outside of, or survive beyond the death of, the physical brain and body.
It is anticipated that there will be a pressing need for the professional preparation of people to provide new and alternative services for:
1). Those who have questions or needs about dying, death and a possible afterlife.
2). Those who are dying and their relatives and loved ones.
3). Those who seek some form of communication between themselves and someone who has moved to the reported next mode of existence following physical death.