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Definition and meaning
extrasensory perception is most commonly called the "sixth sense" and also
Esper. The definition of ESP is sensory information that an individual
receives which comes beyond the ordinary five senses sight, hearing,
smell, taste, and touch. It can provide the individual with information of
the present, past, and future; as it seems to originate in a second, or
The term "ESP" was used in 1870 by Sir Richard Burton. A French
researcher, Dr. Paul Joire, in 1892 used the term to describe the ability
of person who had been hypnotized or were in a trance state to externally sense things without using their
However, the phenomena of esper activity has been indicated much earlier,
some say even in Biblical times. Although there is no clear evidence as to
the certainty of the phenomena it has attracted the attention and
enthusiasm of many throughout the centuries.
In the 1920's a Munich ophthalmologist, Dr. Rudolph Tischner, used
extrasensory perception meaning in describing the "externalization of
sensibility." Then in the 1930s the American parapsychologist J. B. Rhine
popularized the term to include psychic phenomena similar to sensory
functions. Rhine was among the first parapsychologists to test ESP
phenomena in the laboratory.
The first systematic study was conducted in 1882, when the Society for
Psychical Research was founded in London. The journals of this society Proceedings
and Journal were published as well as other publications in the
United States and the Netherlands. Soon, other countries were reporting
However, these first studies were rarely experimental. The studies
consisted of mostly spontaneous incidents that were located. Many of the
individuals studied were self-claimed "sensitives" or psychics. Rarely
were they examined under anything resembling laboratory conditions. The
researchers conducting the examinations resembled prosecuting lawyers. The
subjects were bombarded with questions, those standing up the best were
The Rhine experiments
The first card-guessing experiments were conducted by Rhine at Duke
University in 1930. The cards consisted of five designs, now called ESP
symbols, a square, a circle, a plus sign, a five pointed star, and a set
of three wavy lines. The symbols were printed singly, in black ink, on
cards resembling playing cards.
In the classic Rhine experiments on extrasensory perception, the subject
tries to guess or "call" the order of the five symbols when they are
randomly arranged in a deck of 25 ESP cards. The likelihood of calling a
card correctly by chance is one in five. Therefore, it is possible to
calculate how often a particular score is likely to occur by chance in a
given number of calls. It was Rhine'' argument that when his subjects made
high scores that could be expected by chance only once in a thousand
tries, or once in a million, they displayed "extrachance" results, or ESP.
The early experiments faced several criticisms. Two were automatically
dismissed: (1) The statistics were unsound which was refuted by the
president of the American Mathematical Association. (2) That ESP is
physical impossibility which begs the question.
Several appropriate criticisms were accepted by Rhine which he used to
improve his experiments. Examples are: (1) There may have been sensory
cues. An example of this is that if a strong light shined on the back of
the ESP cards, it might be possible to see the symbol through the back.
Currently to avoid this possibility the target card is covered by an
oblique shielding, or kept far from the subject. (2) An experimenter that
knows the target might whisper it or otherwise give a cue to the subject.
Presently no one in contact with the subject knows the target. (3) More
hits might be recorded than actually occurred. Currently hits and
responses are recorded by machines or by someone not knowing either.
Three criticism remain: (1) The "file drawer" effect. Only favorable
results are published. Larger experimental data like one in a million make
this unlikely. (2) Results are inconsistent and not repeatable. This can
be remedied statistically. (3) Charges of fraud. Can be refuted by other
reputable investigators obtaining similar results.
There was a finding which seemed puzzling until better understood. While
some label it "missing-ESP" it might be thought of as reverse-ESP too. It
is found among subject who dislike extrasensory perception. Even though
the subjects were consciously trying to achieve good scores, they scored
lower than chance. An unconscious factor seemed to come into play here.
Experimenters have found they can predict higher scores for some groups
(for example, those who are interested and relaxed), and lower scores for
other groups (those who show fear, negativity, or boredom). The factor of
missing-ESP indicates why extra sensory perception data is unreliable.
More recently computer games are increasingly being used to test
extrasensory perception. The computer is programmed so that a random
series determines the targets, and the subjects attempt to outguess the
Another factor that researchers and experimenters must watched for in this
phenomenon and all psychical experiments is preconceived or previously
learned knowledge. This concerns any knowledge which might influence the
subject's activity. For example, a person might say she sensed her son
would telephone her on that certain day at that specific time. If the son
had previously called her in such a fashion, then her sensation must be
suspect for it might have been based upon knowledge of her son's previous
performance. A person might strongly feel that he would receive an email
message from a friend on a certain day, and he does; but, can this be
considered a ESP phenomenon considering that this person had not head from
the other person for sometime and was expecting the message. The point
being made is that when dealing with psychic phenomena all factors must be
considered when examining the performance.
In New Frontiers of the Mind (1937) Rhine said that ESP
experiments were changing the way people thought the mind sensed
information. Historically learned people held the human mind received
information through the ordinary five senses, and that therefore, the mind
is subject to the laws of the mechanical world. Laboratory tests have
attempted to determine the existence of extrasensory perception, and
discover the physical mechanism by which it operates. "The mind has been
equated with the brain, and scientists search to discover how ESP
registers in the brain/mind."
However, increasing evidence is demonstrating that ESP does exist, but it
cannot be explained or quantified by physical laws; and furthermore, that
the mind (consciousness) and the brain are two separate entities.
Simultaneously, research in quantum physics points to the existence of a
second, non material universe. So, the time is fast approaching when
Western scientists must come to terms with the Eastern mystical concept:
"that an extrasensory force exists in another realty, and intersects and
integrates with the physical world."
In function, this sixth sense is dissimilar to the ordinary senses. There
is no location like governs the other senses which receive information
through various parts of the body; and it is not dependent on any of the
other five senses. extrasensory perception is independent of such factors
as geography, time, intelligence, age, or education.
It has been given various names. In the 19th century is was called
"cryptesthesia," later it was labeled "relesthesia" which since became clairvoyance,
or "seeing in the distance." It was Rhine who coined the term "general
extrasensory perception" (GESP) to include both telepathy and
clairvoyance. Later the term psi was designated to cover ESP and PK(psychokinesis).
It was researcher Lousia E. Rhine who proposed the theory that it starts
in the unconscious, a storehouse of memories, hopes and fears. At this
point a contact is made between the objective world and the center of the
mind. The person remains unaware of this contact until or unless the
information is brought to the conscious level. Also, the psychiatrist Carl
G. Jung proposed a similar theory that the conscious mind has subliminal
psychic access to the collective unconscious, a vast repository of
accumulative wisdom and experience of the human race.
Others theories attempting to explain ESP have been produced. One such
theory involved macrophages, cells present in connective tissue, lymph
nodes, and bone marrow and tied to nerve endings. The person thought these
might be the body's ESP organs, sending and receiving impressions below
the normal perceptive level. Such cells are more sensitive and active
during childhood, but deteriorate without proper diet.
Some theories involve the discussion of two subconsciousnesses, the second
one sometimes called the superconsciousness, soul, subliminal self,
transcendent ego, dream self and several other terms. The argument rest on
the hypothesis that two realities exist, the physical one and a second
one. ESP can occur when there is a integration between both realities.
This occurs infrequently only when the barriers between the realities are
broken which does not happen often because if it did all unconscious
thought would flood and overflow the conscious mind. A condition which the
mind could not withstand.
When considering types or forms that extrasensory perception might take
dreams become an important factor, especially in relationship to the
theory of two realities. Upon this basis dreams were separated into two
categories: realistic, vivid having detailed imagery of the information
conveyed, and intuition which includes "gut feelings." forebodings, and
premonitions; and unrealistic dreams containing fantastical imagery and
symbols. Hallucinations that relayed visual and auditory information also
were included. Rhine suggested the reason for dreams being efficient
carriers of ESP messages is because the barriers surrounding the conscious
mind appear to be thinnest.
It has been discovered that the natural tendency for ESP in individuals
can be distorted by previous prejudices, thoughts, and conditioning.
Likewise, inaccurate ESP messages may be the result of distortions and
blockages of the conscious mind. However, in times of crisis such as
accidents and death of loved ones, these messages seem to occur
spontaneously. It is theorized that perhaps trauma and shock enable
negative information to penetrate the subliminal barriers more easily than
There are theories concerning individuals who possess ESP and how they
acquired this ability. One theory holds that some people such as seers,
prophets and diviners were bore with the gift which was inherited by their
relatives. Another theory hold that it is` a primordial sense which has
decreased in populations as their cultures advanced. Still another theory
claims ESP is a super sense which evolves in the nervous system.
Psychical research does support the theory that everyone is born with this
sixth sense capability, though some may possess more than others. Most
people have experienced at least one extra experience in their lives. It
was found in a survey published in 1987 by the University of Chicago's
National Opinion Research Council, that 67 percent of all adult Americans
believed they have experienced extrasensory perception. Eleven years
earlier the figure was 58 percent. It was thought the increase indicates
an increased acceptance of the possibility of extrasensory perception
among the general public. A.G.H.
Gertrude Schmeidler, The City College,
New York, 61.