In parapsychology, clairvoyance (meaning "clear-seeing") denotes a form of extra-sensory perception in which knowledge about a contemporary object, situation, or event is acquired by paranormal means. Clairvoyance is different from telepathy in that the information gained by a clairvoyant is assumed to derive directly from an external physical source, and not from another person's mind. The term "clairvoyance" is often used as a blanket term, incorporating concepts like second sight, retrocognition, and precognition, as well as prophetic visions and dreams. Colloquially, the term has also been used to refer to fortune tellers. In more scientific arenas, the ability to clairvoyantly see an object from a distance is known as "remote viewing." As with all psi phenomena, there is wide disagreement and controversy within the sciences as to the existence of clairvoyance and the validity and interpretation of clairvoyance-related experiments. Yet the desire that there be more to the world and existence in it than can be experienced through the physical senses alone drives many to continue to report and study this phenomenon. In fact, adherents to various faiths believe that the ability is natural and can be awakened through spiritual practices such as meditation, and that its increasing occurrence indicates an elevation of human consciousness.
Most cultures throughout history have anecdotal reports of clairvoyance and claims of clairvoyant abilities. Often clairvoyance has been associated with religious or shamanic figures, offices, and practices. For example, ancient Hindu religious texts list clairvoyance as part of one of the siddhis, or skills that can be acquired through appropriate meditation and personal discipline. Additionally, 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 in the area.
Clairvoyance was one of the phenomena reportedly observed in the behavior of subjects put into a trance state by the Marquis de Puységur, a follower of Franz Anton Mesmer. Mesmer believed that forces he called "animal magnetism" could be manipulated to heal illness. In the 1780s, Puységur discovered a state he termed "experimental somnambulism" (later termed "hypnosis") in peasants that he had attempted to "magnetize." While in this state, patients demonstrated telepathic abilities, vision with the fingertips, and clairvoyance. It should be noted that the early magnetists believed that the telepathy and clairvoyance demonstrated by the entranced subjects had a physiological cause, and were not paranormal in nature.
Clairvoyance was a reported ability of many mediums during the spiritualist period of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and was one of several phenomena intensively studied by parapsychologists. The first scientific investigation of clairvoyance is often attributed to Britain's Society for Psychical Research (SPR).
From the 1930s through the 1950s, parapsychologist J. B. Rhine conducted some of the most well known experiments in the history of clairvoyance, many of which made use of Zener cards. Rhine determined that differentiating clairvoyant phenomena from telepathic phenomena was difficult, if not impossible, and that both may be different manifestations of a single psychic function.
Another well known study of clairvoyance was the U.S. government-funded "remote viewing" project during the 1970s through the mid-1990s, where clairvoyance was investigated as a means of acquiring covert knowledge about enemy operations.
Clairvoyance is often divided into three main categories: Precognition, retrocognition, and spontaneous clairvoyance. Spontaneous clairvoyance refers to the ability to see an event while it occurs, no matter how far away it may be. Precognition refers to the ability to view events before they happen, and post/retro-cognition refers to clairvoyance of past events. Within these categories, additional terms are often employed, like "clairaudience" and "clairsentience." Other terms, such as "clairalience" (psychic knowledge obtained through the sense of smell), and "clairgustance" (knowledge obtained through the sense of taste) are less commonly used.
Clairaudience ("clear hearing") is a form of extra-sensory perception where a person acquires information through paranormal auditory means. Clairaudience is essentially the ability to hear in a paranormal manner. This may refer to actual perception of sound that is inaudible to other people or recording equipment, but may also indicate impressions of the "inner mental ear," similar to the way many people think words without having auditory impressions. A clairaudient person might claim to hear the voices or thoughts of the spirits of persons who are deceased, a form of necromancy. Clairaudience may be 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).
Another form of clairvoyance, clairsentience ("clear feeling") occurs when a person acquires psychic knowledge primarily through means of feeling. A term related to clairsentience is "psychometry," where a person has the ability to receive information about an object or its owner by holding it their hands.
As with most other psi phenomena, there is a great deal of controversy surrounding the scientific investigation of clairvoyance. Parapsychologists claim that numerous studies have produced favorable results significantly above chance. Critics, on the other hand, call parapsychology a "pseudo-science," and claim that the experimental protocol is often flawed, statistics are not handled properly, and that any result that differs from the expected value of chance does not necessarily prove anything more than a chance deviation.
Clairvoyance was studied by parapsychologist J. B. Rhine using Zener cards, which used a set of five symbols on the back of each card. To test clairvoyance using Zener cards, Rhine would have the subject attempt to guess which of five designs each card was as the cards were laid face down. Whereas chance would dictate that only five guesses out of twenty five would be correct, many subjects consistently scored seven, eight, or nine correct out of twenty five.
Many other parapsychological studies also claim to have produced results that were significantly above chance, and meta-analysis has often vastly increased the significance of such studies. For instance, at the Stanford Research Institute, 154 remote viewing experiments undertaken between 1973 and 1988, were analyzed by Edwin May and his colleagues, and the odds against the results being due to chance were more than a billion billion to one.
Parapsychologists also claim to have discovered some interesting attributes of clairvoyance. Remote viewing experiments, for example, indicate that "right-hemispheric" functions, such as discerning shape, color, form, or texture, are easier to do clairvoyantly than "left-hemispheric" functions, like reading words or numbers.
Around 1970, the CIA began to get concerned about the amount of research the Soviet Union was doing in paranormal subject areas. Since the 1950s, the Soviets had set up a number of research centers to study the applications of what was referred to as "psychotronic" research, with the intent to perform mental spying, as well as long distance mind control. By 1970, the Soviets were spending approximately 60 million rubles on psychotronic research. Concerns about the potential success of Soviet research prompted the United States to launch a series of programs themselves. The initial program, named "SCANATE" (scan by coordinate) was first funded in 1970, to research remote viewing (the ability to clairvoyantly observe a remote location). Testing was limited to just a few promising individuals, who were taught to use their talents for "psychic warfare." Proponents claim that, particularly in the later stages of the training, the accuracy of remote viewing exceeded 65 percent.
The remote viewing program, later known as "STAR GATE," carried out hundreds of experiments. Three main techniques for acquiring information were used: Coordinate Remote Viewing, where subjects were asked what they "saw" at designated locations, Extended Remote Viewing, which used a combination of relaxation and meditation, and Written Remote Viewing, which combined channeling and automatic writing. This last method was the most controversial and often regarded as the least reliable. Remote viewers allegedly located lost aircraft, reported information on enemy submarine specs, and located SCUD missiles.
In 1995, the CIA commissioned a report from two experts to evaluate the past performance of the STARGATE program. Various techniques used by the program were evaluated, such as the ganzfeld method and the "beacon and viewer" method, where the subject (viewer) consciously tried to retrieve images sent by an operative (beacon) who would travel to a location or look at a picture in National Geographic Magazine. One of the commissioned experts, Jessica Utts, a statistician, found that such tests proved remote viewing to be a real and measurable phenomenon. The other expert, Raymond Hyman, a psychologist, asserted that STAR GATE had proved nothing, and that deviations from a chance baseline do not constitute proof. However, Hyman agreed that testing methods were sound, and that findings were promising enough to merit continued research.
One theory among proponents of clairvoyance posits that most people are born with clairvoyant abilities but then start to sublimate them as their childhood training compels them to adhere to acceptable social norms. Numerous institutes offer training courses that attempt to revive the clairvoyant abilities present in those early years.
Another school of thought claims that the "sixth sense" grows with spiritual practice. With regular spiritual practice done according to basic spiritual principles, it is thought that one can raise his/her spiritual level, and gain abilities such as clairvoyance.
According to many Taoist- and Buddhist-related practices, abilities such as clairvoyance and many other "supernormal" abilities are by-products of spiritual awakening and the elevation of human consciousness. So called "paranormal" abilities are believed to be latent abilities that everyone possesses but need "waking up." Devout practitioners such as Qi Gong, and yoga are said to achieve clairvoyance, as well as other abilities like telepathy and psychokinesis. In some schools of thought, however, such abilities are considered distractions from the true path of enlightenment.
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