What are Psychic Abilities?
Most people are familiar with individuals who claim to possess psychic abilities, though fewer understand the distinction between a ‘psychic’ and a ‘medium’. The rather general term ‘psychic’ is used to refer to those people allegedly possessed of unusual mental powers such as telepathy and psychokinesis (also known as ‘telekinesis’ – the movement of objects by the mind alone).
A ‘medium’, on the other hand, acts basically as a human intermediary for messages between ‘spirits’ and the physical world. The study of the effect of these psychic and mediumistic abilities is nowadays generally known by the scientifically-sounding label ‘parapsychology’.
One confusing point on the subject of psychics and mediums is that the mental powers of both may overlap considerably. For example, they may claim various abilities which come under the general heading of Extra Sensory Perception, or ESP.
The term ESP was coined by noted psychical researcher J.B. Rhine (1895-1980), who carried out ground-breaking research into unexplained human abilities such as clairvoyance, telepathy and precognition at Duke University, North Carolina. A person with ESP, a power of the mind often referred to as a ‘sixth sense’, can allegedly acquire or transmit information by means other than the five ordinary senses. Controversial (and probably fraudulent)
Russian psychic Nina Kulaginadisplayed a range of apparently psychic abilities, while the English ‘medium’ Stells C claimed to possess both psychic and mediumistic powers, including precognition (prior knowledge of an event or situation before it occurs), psychokinesis and telepathy. It must be stated that Kulagina and many other ‘psychics’ remain controversial and have been accused of trickery on more than one occasion.
Another curious ‘psychic ability’ is automatic writing, where material is recorded that does not originate in the conscious mind of the writer. Both Pearl Curran Patience Worth and Matthew Manning made extensive use of automatic writing, ostensibly as a communication device between themselves and apparently discarnate entities, though an origin in the subconscious of the writer is the most favoured explanation for this phenomenon.
Some researchers, including Colin Wilson, have remarked on the similarities between the mental abilities displayed by many psychics and mediums and the effects of a poltergeist. Indeed, Wilson went as far as to theorize that many phenomena witnessed in the presence of psychics and mediums – objects moving around the room of their own accord, knocks, raps, changes in room temperature, were in effect controlled poltergeist phenomena, that is, consciously controlled by themedium or psychic rather than occurring randomly, as in poltergeist cases.