Parapsychology: Research on Exceptional Experiences

By Jane Henry | Go to book overview

Chapter 7

Extrasensory perception
JohnBeloffwith Jane HenryThe expression extrasensory perception or ESP was introduced by J.B. Rhine when he set up a parapsychology laboratory at Duke University in the 1930s. It was intended to cover mind to mind communication cases known as 'telepathy' (defined as non-sensory communication between separated individuals), 'clairvoyance' (non-sensory awareness of some scene or object) and 'precognition' (non-inferential awareness of some future event or state of affairs). Retrocognition was subsequently introduced to refer to non-inferential awareness of a past event. ESP was contrasted with PK (psychokinesis) which implies the influence of the individual on the external world otherwise than by the use of the limbs and body (mind over matter). The terms 'telepathy', 'clairvoyance', 'precognition' and 'retrocognition' were retained to denote the particular mode of ESP in operation. Many experiments use telepathic, clairvoyant and precognitive variants of the same basic protocol, for example card guessing or the ganzfeld technique.The following are some of the questions which parapsychologists have addressed concerning the nature and modus operandi of ESP.
1 Is it, like sense-perception, limited by space, time and situation or is it, potentially, independent of space-time and situational limitations?
2 Is it an acquired skill which anyone could, with practice, hope to attain? Or is it, like genius in music or mathematics, something one is born with?
3 Can it be explained in the sort of way that we can now explain sensory perception?
4 Are ESP experiments replicable?
Like most questions in parapsychology, or, indeed, in psychology, there are no universally agreed answers; the first author's answers to these questions follow:
1 Unlike normal perception, ESP does not appear to be limited by spatial and temporal factors.

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