- For information about the psychology discipline that deals with the measurement and assessment of abilities and traits, such as intelligence and personality, please see psychometrics.
In the field of parapsychology, psychometry (soul-measuring) is defined as a form of extra-sensory perception whereby a psychic is able to obtain information about an object or its owner by holding the object or touching it to his forehead. In recent times the term has been superseded in favor of “token-object reading,” due to confusion with the psychological discipline of psychometrics. As with all abilities relating to the paranormal, the ability to obtain information in this way is considered suspect by many. Nevertheless, notable examples have been documented. In modern times, those with such abilities have been utilized in police investigations and have contributed to solving crimes, although most law enforcement agencies are reluctant to acknowledge their work. Explanations invoke the concept energy or vibrations contained in each object, either as part of its own existence, or imparted by other people who interacted with it, that can be accessed by the person with the ability to use their spiritual senses in this way.
The term psychometry was coined by Joseph Rodes Buchanan in 1842. It literally means "measuring the soul," but Buchanan defined it as "measuring by the soul." He believed that every field of knowledge could benefit from certain gifted people, one of whom was his wife, who could provide important information through this ability:
The past is entombed in the present, the world is its own enduring monument; and that which is true of its physical is likewise true of its mental career. The discoveries of Psychometry will enable us to explore the history of man, as those of geology enable us to explore the history of the earth. There are mental fossils for psychologists as well as mineral fossils for the geologists; and I believe that hereafter the psychologist and the geologist will go hand in hand, the one portraying the earth, its animals and its vegetation, while the other portrays the human beings who have roamed over its surface in the shadows, and the darkness of primeval barbarism. Aye, the mental telescope is now discovered which may pierce the depths of the past and bring us in full view of the grand and tragic passages of ancient history.
Beliefs surrounding psychometry
Buchanan believed that thoughts, actions, and events leave impressions on objects, or the ether, and these impressions can be accessed by someone with psychometric abilities. Many consider psychometry to be closely related to the concept of the Akashic Records, which is a sort of universal filing system that records every occurring thought, word, and action by impressing a record on a subtle substance called "akasha."
Psychometry is also often connected to beliefs of animism, that all objects possess an inner psychological existence. This enables objects to both receive and transmit impressions to other objects or beings. Some, like occultist Arnold Crowther, believed that psychometry is also connected with auras. This is based on the theory that the human mind gives off an aura in all directions, which collects on the surface of objects surrounding the person. Objects worn near the head have the strongest impressions, since the aura emanates from the brain. Crowther described psychometry as akin to the "mind's eye."
In the early 1920s, Gustav Pagenstecher, a German doctor and psychical researcher, observed psychometric abilities in one of his patients, who could describe sights, sounds, and feelings about an object's "experience." Pagenstecher theorized that objects had experiential vibrations which the psychometrist could access. This vibrational theory is the one that intrigues researchers the most. There also appears to be a certain scientific basis for such a theory, as all matter on a sub-atomic level exists as vibrations or waves.
Famous examples of psychometry
- William F. Denton: In 1854, Denton, an American professor of geology, was fascinated by Buchanan's work. A professor of physiology, Buchanan had found that his students could often successfully identify a drug in a glass vial simply by holding the vial in their hand. Denton enlisted the help of his sister, Ann Denton Cridge, to see if she would be able to correctly identify geological specimens wrapped in cloth. By holding the wrapped specimens to her forehead, she was able to accurately identify many specimens.
- Stephan Ossowiecki: Born in Russia in 1877, Ossowiecki claimed several psychic abilities, including aura reading and psychokinesis. Ossowiecki was well-known for being able to perceive the contents of sealed envelopes. It was claimed that he perceived the ideas of handwritten letters, but was unable to do so if a statement were typed or printed. Ossowiecki was also tested at the University of Warsaw, where he produced apparently accurate information about the detailed lives of prehistoric humans by holding a 10,000 year old flint tool. After the Nazis invaded Poland, Ossowiecki used his abilities to help people find out what had happened to their loved ones, by holding a photograph of the missing person. He refused to accept payment for these services. Ossowiecki died before the end of the war, having accurately predicted such a thing would happen.
- George McMullen: McMullen, a carpenter and wilderness guide, was tested by educator J. Norman Emerson in 1971. McMullen was able to correctly identify a fragment of clay as belonging to an Iroquois ceremonial pipe, as well as describing how it was made and used. McMullen went on to assist Emerson and other archaeologists with their research, providing information about prehistoric Canada, ancient Egypt, and the Middle East that were later confirmed by research. When he visited an Iroquois site with Emerson, McMullen claimed he could actually hear the Iroquois talking, and that he could also understand what they were saying.
Psychometry is perhaps best known for its contributions to crime-solving. There have been countless cases of psychics allegedly assisting the police on missing person, murder, and other criminal investigations. Police are often skeptical about working with psychics; such collaboration is generally controversial, and some law enforcement departments have prohibitions against it. The Los Angeles Police Department issued a statement saying that it "has not, does not, and will not use psychics in the investigation of crimes, period." The statement goes on to say that free psychic advice offered by phone is politely listened to, but it is a "waste of time" to take such information seriously. The United Kingdom's Scotland Yard has stated that "there are no official police psychics in England" and that "the Yard does not endorse psychics in any way." Despite this, it is claimed that police departments do occasionally (and often "unofficially") bring in psychics to assist in cases. Vernon Geberth, the author of Practical Homicide Investigation, described how psychic Noreen Renier held an object belonging to a murder victim at the time of the murder, and was allegedly able, through psychometry, to help the police track down the murderer.
While some tout the amazing accomplishments of psychometrists, like the Dutch Gerard Croiset, who assisted authorities in crime solving after World War II, others claim that lists of successes are often padded with fraudulent claims. Psychics have claimed to be consultants on numerous cases, but more often than not, the police departments in question have denied any such association. Particularly with sensational, well publicized cases, police often have to contend with hundreds of self-proclaimed psychics calling in with information about the case. Time devoted to exploring so many "clues" would clearly bog an investigation down, even if some facts turned out to be true. Often, psychics give vague statements, such as "the body is near water." From a skeptical point of view, statements like this stand a good chance of being true. Even if such a statement is viewed as authentic, it provides no actual help to investigators.
- Parapsychological Association terms glossary, Psychometry. Retrieved December 17, 2006
- Joseph Rodes Buchanan,Manual of Psychometry: The Dawn Of A New Civilization (Kessinger Publishing, 2006). ISBN 1428604669
- THe Mystica, Akashic Records. Retrieved April 10, 2007.
- The Mystica, Psychometry. Retrieved May 10, 2007.
- Stephen Wagner, What You Need to Know About... Psychometry. Retrieved May 11, 2007.
- Stephen Wagner, "What You Need to Know About... Psychometry" About.com. Retrieved May 14, 2007.
- Occultism and Parapsychology Encyclopedia, Stephan Ossowiecki. Retrieved May 11, 2007.
- Jennifer Spees, Good Vibrations. Retrieved May 11, 2007
- Stephen Wagner, What You Need to Know About...Psychometry. Retrieved May 11, 2007.
- Bret Christian, Murders and Clairvoyants. Retrieved May 14, 2007.
- Katherine Ramsland, Do the Police Really Use Psychics? Retrieved May 14, 2007.
- Buchanan, Joseph Rodes. 2006. Manual of Psychometry: The Dawn Of A New Civilization. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 1428604669
- Ellis, Ida. 1993. Thoughts on Psychometry: The Science of Psychometry. Mandrake Press. ISBN 1872736491
- Flower, Sidney. 2004. A Course of Instruction in the Development of Power Through Psychometry. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0766190749
- Hara, Hashnu O. 2003. Practical Psychometry. Kessinger Publishing. ISBN 0766145832
- Wilson, Colin. 1989. The Psychic Detectives. Mercury House. ISBN 0916515060
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