The term clairvoyance (from 17th century French with clair meaning "clear" and voyance meaning "vision") is used to refer to the alleged ability to gain information about an object, person, location or physical event through means other than the known human senses, a form of extra-sensory perception. A person said to have the ability of clairvoyance is referred to as a clairvoyant ("one who sees clearly").
Claims for the existence of paranormal and psychic abilities such as clairvoyance are highly controversial. Parapsychology explores this possibility, but the existence of the paranormal is not widely accepted by the scientific community.
Within parapsychology, clairvoyance is used exclusively to refer to the transfer of information that is both contemporary to, and hidden from, the clairvoyant. It is very different from telepathy in that the information is said to be gained directly from an external physical source, rather than being transferred from the mind of one individual to another.
Outside of parapsychology, clairvoyance is often used to refer to other forms of anomalous cognition, most commonly the perception of events that have occurred in the past, or which will occur in the future (known as retrocognition and precognition respectively), or to refer to communications with the dead (see Mediumship).
(Bruce Main-Smith writes):- It is unfortunate, indeed careless, that clairvoyance has come to be indicative of all/most forms of purported mediumship. There are four primary channels, clairsensing, trance, healing and physical plus a whole raft of others that do not fit neatly into any one primary channel. Clairvoyance (seeing) and clairaudience (hearing) for example are both kinds of clairsensing and belong in that main group. Many mediums who are good clairvoyants may well have little or no clairaudient capability even though both "gifts" belong in the primary channel of clairsensing. Remote viewing is a facet of clairvoyance and usually appears in practitioners suffering from arrested development.
Trance is the ability to communicate with, and mainly to receive from, other entities, incarnate & discarnate, and may sometimes be independent of time; it is usually divided into deep trance (obliterative & so dangerous, where the operative abdicates the throne, quite common) and light trance (a high or even total degree of awareness & thus safer for the practitioner, and extremely rare when well-done).
Healing is the ability to induct health benefits from some usually unspecified higher source where the healer can direct the effects to the beneficiary. Contact healing involves the healer being in the closest proximity but not necessarily actually touching. Absent healing is explained by its alternative name of distant healing and is independent of spatial distance.
Physical mediumship includes events such as table turning, production of quasi-physical objects (even personages) & sometimes involving so-called ectoplasm. It is often said to require either total darkness or at the most a weak red light.
There are many further mediumistic events, still unfortunately too often dubbed clairvoyance, which do not fit neatly into any of the four main channels. These include psychometry (establishing the history of an object), slate writing (common in Victorian times), extras appearing in photographs (seemingly no more; possibly since the advent of compound camera lenses using plastic as well as quartz-glass) and a long list of other curiosities too extensive to be dealt with here.
It is most unusual for a medium to have more than one primary channel "open" and under control.
Status of clairvoyance
Within the field of parapsychology, there is a consensus that some instances of clairvoyance are verifiable. There is also a measured level of belief from amongst the general public, within a portion of the US population who believe in clairvoyance varying between 1/4 and 1/3 over the 15 year period from 1990 to 2005.
- Year - Belief
- 1990 26%
- 2000 32%
- 2005 26%
The concept of clairvoyance gained some support from the US and Russian governments both during and after the Cold War, and both governments made several attempts to harness it as an intelligence gathering tool.
According to skeptics, clairvoyance is the result of fraud, self-delusion, Barnum effects, confirmatory biases, or failures to appreciate the base rate of chance occurrences. For example, in a scientific experiment of clairvoyance, a purported clairvoyant participant will inevitably make correct guesses some of the time (i.e., during some of the trials within the same experiment), simply because of chance. Furthermore, because of the nature of the statistical tests used by experimenters, a very small proportion of all experiments conducted will yield an overall statistically significant result (suggesting that clairvoyance took place at above-chance levels), again simply because of chance. A proper summary of the experimental evidence on clairvoyance should include a summary of all experiments that were conducted, taking into account their probabilities of turning out false positive and false negative results, and making sure that studies are not included in the review selectively. Some researchers on clairvoyance have tended to purposefully exclude negative findings from their reviews , thus biasing their own conclusions.
There have been anecdotal reports of clairvoyance and 'clear' abilities throughout history in most cultures. Often clairvoyance has been associated with religious or shamanic figures, offices and practices. For example, ancient Hindu religious texts list clairvoyance amongst other forms of 'clear' experiencing, as siddhis, or 'perfections', skills that are yielded through appropriate meditation and personal discipline. But a large number of anecdotal accounts of clairvoyance are of the spontaneous variety among the general populace. For example, many people report seeing a loved one who has recently died before they have learned by other means that their loved one is deceased. While anecdotal accounts do not provide scientific proof of clairvoyance, such common experiences continue to motivate research into such phenomena.
The earliest record of somnambulistic clairvoyance is credited to the Marquis de Puységur, a follower of Mesmer, who in 1784 was treating a local dull-witted peasant named Victor Race. During treatment, Race reportedly would go into trance and undergo a personality change, becoming fluent and articulate, and giving diagnosis and prescription for his own disease as well as those of others. When he came out of the trance state he would be unaware of anything he had said or done. This behavior is somewhat reminiscent of the reported behaviors of the 20th century medical clairvoyant and psychic Edgar Cayce. It is reported that although Puységur used the term 'clairvoyance', he did not think of these phenomena as "paranormal", since he accepted mesmerism as one of the natural sciences.
Clairvoyance was a reported ability of some mediums during the spiritualist period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and psychics of many descriptions have claimed clairvoyant ability up to the present day.
Early researchers of clairvoyance included William Gregory (chemist), Gustav Pagenstecher, and Rudolf Tischner. These were largely qualitative experiments in which selected participants sought to identify a concealed target image, or to provide accurate information about the history of a target object. Charles Richet, the noted physiologist and, later, Ina Jephson, a member of the Society for Psychical Research, introduced more quantitative methods. A significant development in clairvoyance research came when J. B. Rhine, a psychologist at Duke University, introduced a standard methodology, with a standard statistical approach to analysing the data, as part of his research into extrasensory perception. Perhaps the best-known study of clairvoyance in recent times has been the US government-funded remote viewing project at SRI/SAIC during the 1970s through the mid-1990s; at least those studies amongst these that did not involve "agents" visiting or being otherwise aware of the target sites.
Some parapsychologists have proposed that our different functional labels (clairvoyance, telepathy, precognition, etc.) all refer to one basic underlying mechanism, although there is not yet any satisfactory theory for what that mechanism may be.
Parapsychological research studies of remote viewing and clairvoyance have produced favorable results significantly above chance, and meta-analysis of these studies increases the significance. For instance, at the Stanford Research Institute, in 1972, Harold Puthoff and Russell Targ initiated a series of human subject studies to determine whether participants (the viewers or percipients) could reliably identify and accurately describe salient features of remote locations or targets. In the early studies, a human sender was typically present at the remote location, as part of the experiment protocol. A three-step process was used, the first step being to randomly select the target conditions to be experienced by the senders. Secondly, in the viewing step, participants were asked to verbally express or sketch their impressions of the remote scene. Thirdly, in the judging step, these descriptions were matched by separate judges, as closely as possible, with the intended targets. The term remote viewing was coined to describe this overall process.
Targ and Puthoff both believed that Uri Geller, retired police commissioner Pat Price and artist Ingo Swann all had genuine psychic abilities. They published their findings in Nature and the Proceedings of the IEEE. Their work however met criticism from a number of writers, such as psychologists David Marks and Richard Kammann in their 1980 book The Psychology of the Psychic.
In order to explore the nature of remote viewing channel, the viewer in some experiments was secured in a double-walled copper-screened Faraday cage. Although this provided attenuation of radio signals over a broad range of frequencies, the researchers found that it did not alter the subject's remote viewing capability. They postulated that extremely low frequency (ELF) propagation might be involved, since Faraday cage screening is less effective in the ELF range. Such a hypothesis had previously been put forward by telepathy researchers in the Soviet Union.
The first paper by Puthoff and Targ on psychic research to appear in a mainstream peer-reviewed scientific journal was published in Nature in March 1974; in it, the team reported some degree of remote viewing success. One of the individuals involved in these initial studies at SRI was Uri Geller, a well-known celebrity psychic at the time. The research team reported witnessing some of Geller's trademark metal spoon-bending performances, but admitted that they were unable to conduct adequately controlled experiments to confirm any paranormal hypothesis about them.
Electroencephalography (EEG) techniques were also used by team to examine ESP phenomena. In these investigations, a sender, who was isolated in a visually opaque, electrically and acoustically shielded chamber, was stimulated at random by bursts of strobe-light flickers The experimenters reported that, for one receiver, differential alpha block on control and stimulus trials were observed, which showed that some information transfer had occurred. In contrast, this person's expressed statements of when the stimulus occurred were no different than that which would be expected by chance. The researches were unable to identify the physical parameters by which the EEG effect was mediated.
After the publication of these findings, various attempts to replicate the remote viewing findings were quickly carried out. Several of these follow-up studies, which involved viewing in group settings, reported some limited success. They included the use of face-to-face groups, and remotely-linked groups using computer conferencing.
The various debates in the mainstream scientific literature prompted the editors of 'Proceedings of the IEEE' to invite Robert Jahn, then Dean of the School of Engineering at Princeton University, to write a comprehensive review of psychic phenomena from an engineering perspective. His paper, published in February 1982, includes numerous references to remote viewing replication studies at the time.
Clairvoyance experiments involving Zener cards currently exist on the internet. One such online system, the Anima Project, gathers user results into a master database which is then analyzed using a variety of statistical techniques.
In the field of parapsychology, clairsentience is a form of extra-sensory perception wherein a person acquires psychic knowledge primarily by means of feeling. The word is from the French clair, “clear,” + sentience, “feeling,” and is ultimately derived from the Latin clarus, “clear,” + sentiens, derived from sentire, “to feel”.
In addition to parapsychology, the term also plays a role in some religions. For example: clairsentience is one of the six human special functions mentioned or recorded in Buddhism. It is an ability that can be obtained at advanced meditation level. Generally the term refers to a person who can feel the vibration of other people. There are many different degrees of clairsentience ranging from the perception of diseases of other people to the thoughts or emotions of other people. The ability differs from third eye in that this kind of ability cannot have a vivid picture in the mind. Instead, a very vivid feeling can form.
In the field of parapsychology, clairaudience [from late 17th century French clair (clear) & audience (hearing)] is a form of extra-sensory perception wherein a person acquires information by paranormal auditory means. It is often considered to be a form of clairvoyance. Clairaudience is essentially the ability to hear in a paranormal manner, as opposed to paranormal seeing (clairvoyance) and feeling (clairsentience). Clairaudient people have psi-mediated hearing. Clairaudience may refer not to actual perception of sound, but may instead indicate impressions of the "inner mental ear" similar to the way many people think words without having auditory impressions. But it may also refer to actual perception of sounds such as voices, tones, or noises which are not apparent to other humans or to recording equipment. For instance, a clairaudient person might claim to hear the voices or thoughts of the spirits of persons who are deceased. Clairaudience may be positively distinguished from the voices heard by the mentally ill when it reveals information unavailable to the clairaudient person by normal means (including cold reading or other magic tricks), and thus may be termed "psychic" or paranormal.
Also known as Clairescence. In the field of parapsychology, clairalience [presumably from late 17th century French clair (clear) & alience (smelling)] is a form of extra-sensory perception wherein a person acquires psychic knowledge primarily by means of smelling.
In the field of parapsychology, claircognizance [presumably from late 17th century French clair (clear) & cognizance (< ME cognisaunce < OFr conoissance, knowledge)] is a form of extra-sensory perception wherein a person acquires psychic knowledge primarily by means of intrinsic knowledge. It is the ability to know something without a physical explanation why you know it, like the concept of mediums. (see: Intuition)
In the field of parapsychology, clairgustance is defined as a form of extra-sensory perception that allegedly allows one to taste a substance without putting anything in one's mouth. It is claimed that those who possess this ability are able to perceive the essence of a substance from the spiritual or ethereal realms through taste.
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