Clairvoyance (French clair = “clear” and voyance = “vision”)
Just as the nineteenth-century medium is now called the channeler, and the former New Thought movement has been recast as the New Age, clairvoyance is a slightly antiquated term that’s been updated with the more specific ideas of psi, PK, and remote viewing.
The term clairvoyance seems to be making a bit of a comeback, however. It’s still being used as an umbrella term for practically every type of alleged paranormal perception—i.e. perception beyond the range of the normal senses.
Critics of the idea say that there’s no real hard scientific evidence to support clairvoyance. Sympathizers say that successful clairvoyance hinges on delicate factors, making scientific replication impractical.
Believers in God who are not hostile to clairvoyance (as some devilish trick) add that successful inner vision is entirely dependent on God’s will. That is, God permits clairvoyance to happen in specific situations for some good reason. If this is true, then it is ludicrous for science to expect God to always bend to the demands of scientific investigators. Skeptics like James Randi seem totally oblivious to this possibility. For them, if something cannot be replicated in a controlled experiment, it never happened.
Suburbanclairvoyant nicely sums up how many clairvoyants (and those sympathetic to the idea) would likely see skeptics and scientists who overreach the inherent limitations of science:
…the words “controlled experiment” are an oxymoron in the Clair world, and make me laugh. There’s no pinning this down. It just is what it is…¹
- Excerpts from “Seership! The Magnetic Mirror!” (1874) (vonfaustus.blogspot.com)
- Connecticut School Shooting – and a day that sucked to be psychic (ifyoucouldseewhatihear.wordpress.com)
- Free Jazz Saxophonist IVO PERELMAN Releases Three Albums: “Living Jelly,” “The Clairvoyant,” and “The Gift,” Available November 13 on Leo Records (theurbanflux.com)
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The history of psychology reveals that some researchers held spiritually inclined views towards such phenomena. Charles Mesmer and his followers of Animal Magnetism, for instance, believed that a mysterious, universal cosmic fluid connected all elements of the universe, to include healer and patient.
The “magnetizers” believed that this fluidic substance could be channeled and directed among individuals, the net result being a kind of communication through a fluidic medium of thoughts, emotions and sensations.
This rapport could become so intense that patients sometimes became obsessed with their healer. The condition apparently became even more pronounced when the mystical rapport-at-a-distance had an erotic, sensual component.
The pop singer Bjork perhaps similarly speaks of a mysterious “sex without touching” in her album Post (1995).
Look at the speed out there
It magnetizes me to it
And I have no fear
I’m only into this to
Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.
I wish I’d only look
And didn’t have to touch…
How can I ignore?
This is sex without touching
I’m going to explore
However, it’s difficult to know what alleged mystics are really talking about due to the essentially interior nature of their experience.
But this isn’t just a problem with the inner life of the mystic. Some philosophers of conventional perception contend that a similar problem arises with statements about external reality. For instance, the ‘color inversion’ problem of philosophy asks whether one person’s perception of the color ’x’ is another’s perception of the color ‘y.’ Until advanced neurological transplants become commonplace, we’ll probably never know. And even then, we still might not.
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Clairaudience is the alleged inner hearing of sound different from, or beyond the range of, normal human hearing. Rosemary Ellen Guiley notes that the term comes from the French, “clear-hearing.”¹
The spiritually inclined see clairaudience as a phenomenon common to saints, mystics and seers throughout the ages.
The recently canonized Catholic Saint Faustina Kowalska (1905-38) writes in her Divine Mercy Diary that she often heard a quiet inner voice, accompanied with a feeling of grace. This synchrony lead her to believe that the voice was from God.²
St. Joan of Arc (1412-1431) heard voices which prompted her to masquerade as a man and enlist in the French army. She was eventually declared a heretic by the Catholic Church and burned at the stake at age 19 under a politically predetermined trial. Not until almost 500 years later did the Church canonize her in 1920.
St. Teresa of Ávila provides a more intellectual assessment of hearing voices, which she calls “locutions.” In her spiritual classic, Interior Castle, she says one must learn to discriminate among locutions that are from God, from the devil, and from the imagination. Locutions from God, she adds, are usually quite simple and accompanied with a strong and undeniable feeling of peace.³
In the Biblical Old Testament the voice of God tells King Solomon of his great wisdom. In the New Testament Christ beseeches Paul from the heavens, “Why do you persecute me?” Both of these example could be interpreted as instances of clairaudience.
Other possible examples of clairaudience are found in the religious and even philosophical literature. Plato’s Socrates, for instance, has a daimon hovering about him, forever cautioning him what not to say.
The Indian mystic Sri Aurobindo writes of a voice which lead him to establish an ashram in the French settlement at Pondicherry, India. Aurobindo also speaks of “false voices.” These, he says, come from dark beings, called asuras, which forever try to distract and deceive spiritual seekers.4
The Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung writes of a “ghost guru,” whom he called Philemon. Philemon apparently guided Jung via clairaudience until Jung got tired of his direction and stopped listening, at which point Philemon went away.5
The British scholar of religion Evelyn Underhill writes that mystics must apply rigorous logic and sincere self-analysis to ensure that inner voices are not products of the imagination or evil spiritual entities.6
With regard to the possibility of auditory hallucinations, contemporary psychiatry distinguishes between unhealthy hallucinations and healthy beliefs that are in keeping with one’s religious tradition. Psychiatry, however, still cannot fully explain how the brain creates hallucinations, leaving room for hypotheses concerning an interplay of biological, developmental and evil spiritual influences.
Concerning the notion of evil spiritual influences, practically every religious tradition in the world suggests that evil spirits actively deceive (or impart partial truths cleverly combined with lies), while Godly spiritual beings always tell the truth.
Along these lines the gospel writer of Matthew says that one may judge alleged prophets by their deeds—that is, by their fruit.
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (Matthew NIV 7:15-20).
While many fundamentalists uncritically latch onto this passage, for thinking people, some methodological issues do arise. For instance, how long must one wait to determine whether a prophet’s utterances are true or not? For that matter, will a prophet’s truth be realized within a given lifetime?
According to the Christian tradition, Jesus Christ, himself, spoke actual words that the people around him did not understand. And it wasn’t until after his death that the subtlety and power of his prophesying was realized. For example, Jesus’ words “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19 NIV) is often interpreted to refer to Jesus’ own death, descent to hell and resurrection, a sequence of events which, according to scripture, lasted three days. But in his day, many would have supposed that Jesus was simply talking about a physical building.
With a misunderstanding like this arising from real, spoken words, it seems that ordinary people could be even more confused by inner voices.
¹ Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical and Paranormal Experience, 1991, p. 109.
² Saint Maria Faustina Helena Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul, 2nd edition, Stockbridge Mass.: Marian Press, 1990.
³ St. Teresa of Ávila, The Interior Castle, trans. E. Allison Peers. Image Books, 1961, pp. 138-148.
4 Aurobindo Ghose, The Riddle of This World, Calcutta: Arya Publishing House, 1933, pp. 56-57.
5 See more details here: http://www.bodysoulandspirit.net/mystical_experiences/read/notables/jung.shtml
6 Evelyn Underhill, Mysticism: A Study in the Nature and Development of Man’s Spiritual Consciousness (New York: The New American Library, 1955 ), p. 361.
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- From language games to mysticism – Allan Watts and Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (stottilien.wordpress.com)
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Channeling is a new, perhaps more marketable, name for the old esoteric idea of mediumship.
A channeler allegedly permits a purely spiritual being to speak or write through his or her living, embodied person. Channeled beings may be people who’ve passed or entities in heaven, astral realms and other universes and dimensions.
Information derived from channeling is often quite general, repetitive and, some critics say, sugar-coated. Much of it can be summed up as follows:
Earthly life is a cosmic schoolroom in which we must learn to better love one another. Humanity is evolving into a new type of higher species or awareness. Already existing higher beings are helping us to achieve that higher level of being or awareness.
The alleged cosmic helpers may have Biblical or ancient Egyptian-sounding names (e.g. Seth, Lazarus, Ramtha). The channelers themselves usually present lectures and workshops (usually for a donation or fee) and author books, CDs and DVDs in which transcripts of the channeled entity’s words are made available to the public.
In some instances the channeler seems to become self-aggrandized, believing they’re called for a great, Divine Mission. Sober questioning, however, usually places a question mark around such claims.
From the perspective of parapsychology, one possibility, which might not go over too well in some New Age circles, is that lying and manipulative transcendent beings could see into a channeler’s psyche and play on his or her psychological complexes, weaknesses and desires—all to stroke up the channeler’s ego so they believe they’re divine emissaries.
It’s also possible that some channelers are channeling nothing more than their own fertile imaginations. This is not to say that channeling is necessarily a deliberate or unconscious sham. To place a question mark around the issue simply means we can’t be sure, one way or the other.
Whatever its veracity, the idea of channeling has become so widespread that we often see it used lightly on the TV news and in the entertainment industry. Wikipedia gives a great outline as to how pervasive this idea has become: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Channelling
To this joyfulseeker adds:
I would say that rather than being a replacement for the term mediumship, channeling is acutally a broader term under which mediumship and other forms of spirit communication fall. For instance— automatic writing, Ouija, pendulum, clairaudience, clairsentience, etc.
I also agree that there are manipulative and deceptive beings that use these means of communication to connect with and manipulate people. Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean that you all of a sudden become kind and ethical. Channeling, like any form of communication requires care in both how you communicate and with whom. Its not unlike the internet. There are a lot of wonderful people on the net with much to offer you simply have to use discernment in revealing too much of yourself and how much you trust the other person. » See in context
Robert G. Black says:
Quite a lot of good comments about channeling. It’s a big Universe out there, and there’s hardly any doubt that our physical eyes can’t see it all. We can’t even see half of the things today that we take so for granted. » See in context
And Michelle writes:
I believe when we step into the spiritual realm through prayer or meditation, we can be influenced by good or evil. I think that is why we need to be careful who we are trying to contact – and possibly why the Old Testament gives clear warning to stay away from speaking to the dead. » See in context
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Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) was an American who claimed to be trance prophet, psychic and healer. He also believed in reincarnation. Cayce claimed, among other things, to have lived in the fabled Atlantis, ancient Egypt, Persia and Troy.
He believed he was able to absorb information from books just by holding them near his stomach.
Cayce gained quite a following. He rubbed shoulders with the elite of the psychic world and had prominent clients like Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Edison, Irving Berlin, and George Gershwin. A workaholic, his own readings warned him that if he did more than two readings per day he would deteriorate. He responded by doing four to six readings per day and eventually collapsed in 1944. His alleged healing techniques involved restoring patients’ equilibrium through natural methods.
Several organizations devoted to his work and ideas continue to this day, although some critics see him as eccentric and possibly fraudulent.
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Normally clairalience involves the smelling of odors and scents beyond the usual range of human perception.
Reports of clairalience could be grouped into three main types¹:
- Smelling a familiar odor or scent associated with a loved one who’s passed
This usually happens sometime soon before, during or not too long after the loved one has passed.
Parapsychologists hypothesize that this type of clairalience takes place to warn, prepare or possibly reassure friends and family that their departed loved ones are still alive, possibly see them on Earth, but are mostly in another world.
- Smelling a hellish, rancorous odor such as burning sulphur, or heavenly scent such as roses
Parapsychologists hypothesize that this type of clairalience warns of the dangers of hell and, conversely, reassures of the joys of heaven.
- Smelling another living person or thing at a distance beyond the range of the normal senses. This may be further differentiated into distance smelling (a) a physical body or conventional environment or (b) a spiritual body, essence or subtle environment
Parapsychologists hypothesize that type three takes place to teach us that all of creation is connected in some fundamental way, with the implication that we should strive to behave responsibly toward others, our planet and beyond.
As for the mysterious connecting principle implied by the idea of clairalience, tentative explanations arguably depend on the worldview of the theorist.
For instance, a Catholic might talk of The Holy Spirit (in the positive sense of, say, smelling roses while praying to the Virgin Mary) or Satan (in the negative, deceptive sense) whereas a sub-atomic physicist or futurist might invoke concepts like wormholes, quantum non-locality and quantum interconnectedness.
Meanwhile, a psychiatrist would likely want to check for physiological factors contributing to potential olfactory hallucinations (phantosmia) before considering the possibility of clairalience. And many individuals with a strong materialist bias might entirely dismiss the idea of psi and prefer to explain clairalience using a neuropsychological model.
To this Art Garza adds:
What sort of smells occur in your type three clairalience? And would the smells be all different or occur all at once? And as far as purpose goes, is there any purposed idea on what the individual smells mean? What are they smelling? the souls, essence, psyche… i know they are all related in some way but certainly there is a name which works best… personality? » See in context
Michael Clark replies:
I think you are pointing toward a distinction that could be made in type 3 between smelling at a distance (a) a living person’s spiritual essence or environment and (b) their physical body or environment. » See in context
¹ This observation is, in part, based on my volunteer work at allexperts.com
Extrasensory perception (ESP) is a type of alleged psi phenomena. ESP is sometimes used as an umbrella term for many types of alleged paranormal phenomena but it properly refers to the ideas of telepathy (reading another’s thoughts) and clairvoyance (‘seeing’ without the eyes).
Some Fundamentalist, Protestant and Catholic Christians have a knee-jerk reaction to this idea, saying ESP is the workings of Satan, a delusion or evidence of mental illness. However, in Catholicism some of the more advanced saints claim to have been given similar gifts, usually called the reading of hearts. Indeed, some Catholic mystics claim to know another’s thoughts and/or feel their emotions near or at a distance with no observable cues.
Reading of Hearts. The knowledge of the secret thoughts of others or of their internal state without communication is known as reading of hearts. The certain knowledge of the secret thoughts of others is truly super-natural, since the devil has no access to the spiritual faculties of men and no human being can know the mind of another unless it is in some way communicated. But knowledge of the secrets of another’s heart may be conjectured by the devil and transmitted to a person, or they may be surmised by a deluded individual who takes his conjectures to be supernatural illuminations.¹
From the above it should be clear that Catholics – or, at least, sane Catholics – are cautious when it comes to mysticism. Central to Catholic mysticism is the idea of discernment or “the discernment of spirits.” Discernment is said to be a gift and acquired ability that enables one to differentiate supernatural experiences and abilities that come from God from those that do not.
¹ AUMANN, J. “Mystical Phenomena.” New Catholic Encyclopedia. 2nd ed. Vol. 10. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 105-109. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 29 Apr. 2012.
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Rosemary Ellen Guiley (19?? – ) is an American researcher, author and broadcaster on paranormal phenomena. Dr. Guiley promotes awareness of the paranormal. At her website she writes that her “driving purpose is to help further our understanding of our place and role in the cosmic scheme” (visionaryliving.com). She also addresses issues like communicating with the dead and dealing with malevolent spirits.
This is all very interesting stuff. Unfortunately, it’s still difficult for most people to understand because of the inherent difficulties in the public verification of paranormal reports. In addition, some materialist or (ironically enough) religious reactionaries tend to cast aspersions on anyone interested in trying to understand the paranormal—even though the very same people will often delight at movies like The Exorcist.¹
¹ The Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, of course, would say that the horror movie watcher is momentarily fascinated by the archetype of the shadow. For Jung this is not unhealthy. But in some destructive instances, if left unconscious the shadow archetype apparently can erupt and compel non-integrated individuals to behave in a manner harmful to self or others.
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Jeffrey Mishlove (1946-) is the first American to receive a doctorate in parapsychology.
Mishlove has authored several books about intuition, mysticism and spirituality. He hosted the video series, “Thinking Allowed,” which featured leading and diverse figures like Michael Talbot, Russell Targ, Kenneth Ring and Jean Millay.
Transcripts for much of that series are online at intuition.org.
Mishlove currently teaches a course on intuition and parapsychology.
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This includes moving or transforming objects in space. One of the most famous exponents of transforming objects is Uri Geller, who has bent spoons in public, apparently with the power of his mind.
Detractors such as James Randi suggest that Geller is a fraud, using trickery without the revealing the integrity to call himself a conjurer.
Since many PK performances are on TV or seen on the internet as video clips, it’s virtually impossible for the ordinary person to ascertain their authenticity. A movie editor with even the simplest video editing software could produce the illusion of, say, spoon-bending.
The scientific community generally agrees that there’s no conclusive proof for psychokinesis. However, many have reported spontaneous instances of objects moving (or appliances switching on or off) in relation to severe emotions of anger or fear. For instance, someone gets angry and all the stove elements turn on.
As a volunteer working in the paranormal section at allexperts.com, I have received countless reports of psychokineses-like phenomena. Whether or not all are authentic or the result of wannabe fantasy writers cannot be determined. But from a sheer statistics perspective, it would seem that at least some of the fantastic accounts I’ve read and replied to are authentic.
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