Parapsychology – the Way Ahead, or Just Way Out There?

27 10 2012

Parapsychology is the ‘the scientific study of paranormal phenomena, in particular the capacity attributed to some individuals to interact with their environments by means other than the recognised sensory and motor channels’ (Watt, 2006).


I first heard about it during my induction week at UHI where we were discussing future career paths.  At the time, I gave a snort of derision and dismissed it out of hand.  However, I looked at it in more depth this week and I realise it’s not just a load of wackos and charlatans but, if rigorously applied, may go some way to breaking new ground in psychology.

Dr. Keith Hearne highlighted 3 ‘premonitions’ in the 70’s and 80’s (you can watch a short clip about the predictions here).  If you don’t think about it too hard, these sound like amazing phemonena.  However, here’s a few observations to throw into the pot.

  • Barbara Garwell’s accounts seem to be interpreted to fit events which happen after her premonitions; the Reagan/’Actor being shot by Nazi’s’ scenario is especially vague.  A more rigorous experiment would require her to write down her premonitions as they come to her, then send them to the experimenter to eliminate any doubt that she is trying to fool anyone.
  • Even then, how long can you leave between the premonition and the event?  Days, months, years?
  • One of the most noted seers of all time, Nostrodamus, is held up as visionary, but his prophecies are written in such vague and poetic language that they are easily moulded and misinterpreted to fit certain cataclysmic events.
  • Are there increases in the amount of premonitions after cataclysmic events (9/11, deaths of Diana, JFK, etc.) simply because these are widely publicised and in the wider consciousness?

But let’s not dismiss precognition out of hand.  Once upon a time, it was common knowledge that the world was flat, the sun moved around the Earth and lightning was the weapon of the gods.  In time, explanations were discovered and became the accepted wisdom.  Maybe there is a good explanation for ghosts and aliens, but we just haven’t found it yet.

Scientists should not discount fields such as parapsychology out of hand.  Emanuel Swedenborg was a highly regarded scientist, inventor and philosopher, who later became a visionary after experiencing lucid dreams and visitations by Christ and angels.  Maybe enlightenment and all the answers are inside you?  Buddhists strive to attain Nirvana, and there are equivalents of enlightenment in other religions or belief systems.

Einstein described himself as an agnostic, but certainly believed in a higher power:

  • The scientists’ religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.
  • The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.
  • The finest emotion of which we are capable is the mystic emotion.  Herein lies the germ of all art and all true science.

So while parapsychologists could endear themselves to the scientific community by focussing on hard facts and rigorous experimentation, being completely rational is not necessarily the ideal; innovation will often only come when someone thinks outside the box.


Hearne, K. 1982. An Ostensible Precognition of the 1974 Flixborough Disaster . [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 27 October 12]

Watt, C. 2005. Parapsychology’s Contribution to Psychology:. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 27 October 12]




2 responses

1 11 2012

May I comment on your blog Doctordebee, just to say I am enjoying your journey into parapsychology. Thoughtprovoking and enjoyable.

3 11 2012

Thank you, stedcam. Stay tuned for my thoughts on online identities in the coming weeks.

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