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Psychic Terminology 101

Parapsychology is the study of paranormal and psychic phenomena that cannot be qualified or quantified by routine scientific research. As a result, without hard evidence, many people disbelieve claims of the existence of psychic activity. However, the study of such metaphysical occurrences has been the meat of serious exploration for hundreds of years.

In 1882, The Society for Psychical Research was founded in London, with the objective of bringing some of the finest minds of the day–including philosopher Henry Sidgwick, Knightsbridge Professor of Moral Philosophy at Cambridge University; physicist Balfour Stewart, Professor of Physics at Queen’s College, Manchester; American psychologist and philosopher William James; classical scholar and philosopher Frederic William Henry Myers; and Chair of Physics at the Royal College of Science in Dublin, Sir William Fletcher Barrett–to bear on the subjects of telepathy, spiritualism, and other sixth-sense manifestations that could not be explained by traditional means or measures. (1)

In the ensuing years, an entire lexicon has evolved to describe a variety of psychic abilities. Though several of the terms are often used interchangeably, there are subtle nuances in the definitions. The following list will familiarize you some of the most recognizable forms of psychic phenomena.


The ability, by using the focus of the mind, to cause objects to appear or disappear.

Aura Reading

People, places, and things are said to be contained by unique fields of energy that vary in color and strength, and can serve as a gauge of health, or lack thereof. Aura readers are able to see and describe the condition of a subject’s aura, and offer suggestions to bolster both psychic and physical defense systems.

Automatic Writing

This is writing that is created via a free flow of subconscious thought, and is sometimes thought to be guided by spirits seeking to communicate with those on the mortal plane.

Astral Projection

Many believe that human beings have both a corporeal body and a spirit body. Astral projection occurs when the spirit body travels outside the physical body.


Also known as Extra Sensory Perception, it is the ability to see, hear, or intuit information not perceived via the traditional five senses. Clairvoyant activity may encompass telepathic communication between living individuals, or spiritual communication by the living with those who have passed on.


The use of a ritual to learn the truth of a situation. Divination is a common practice in tribal-based belief systems, such as voodoo.


The ability to locate objects via a tool called a dowsing or divining rod. The most familiar use of dowsing is to locate water for a well.

Energy Medicine

Channeling healing energy to rid the body of illness or injury, this practice may involve the use of “the laying on of hands,” whereby the healer places his or her hands over the afflicted area and channels the energy to that location.


The ability to fly, or raise the body off the ground. While true levitation may or may not be possible, most reported instances may actually be accounts of astral projection.


This form of clairvoyance describes the ability to communicate with spirits, either of the dead, or other entities that are thought to exist in parallel dimensions.

Precognition and Premonition

Often occurring in dreams, precognition is the ability see events before they happen. Precognition tends to be more literal, while premonitions often contain symbolic imagery that must be interpreted.


Also called telekinesis, this ability to manipulate objects through the power of thought was made famous by Israeli mentalist and magician, Uri Geller, who purportedly used his mind to bend spoons as part of his stage act. (2)


This is the ability to obtain information about someone by touching and concentrating on an object to which they have or had a strong connection.


This is the ability to start a fire using the power of the mind, and has been used as a plot device in many a horror movie.

Remote Viewing

This is the ability to collect information from a distance. Rumor suggests that remote viewing has likely been under review as a resource by the military and intelligence communities for decades.


While it may sound counter-intuitive, this is the ability to see visions from the past that one would have no prior knowledge of, and is sometimes described as déjà vu.


The use of an item, such as a crystal ball or “magic mirror” (think Snow White), to view events as they unfold at a distance or in the future.


This term, coined by Frederic Myers, refers to the ability to perceive the thoughts, emotions, or intentions of another consciousness without verbal communication. (3) Telepathy can occur at close range or over great distances.


This concept was introduced by Michael A. Thalbourne, and literally means “the tendency to cross the threshold into awareness.” (4) Persons highly possessed of this trait are said to be more prone to both believe in and claim experience of psychic phenomena.