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What is ESP
ESP or extrasensory perception is
most commonly called the "sixth sense". It 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 alternate reality.
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 ESP 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 ESP 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 extrasensory perception phenomena in the
The first systematic study of ESP was conducted in 1882, when the Society
for Psychical Research was founded n 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 similar findings.
However, these first studies of ESP 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 ESP 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 ESP, 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 machine 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 ESP. 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 ESP data is unreliable.
More recently computer games are increasingly being used to test this
phenomena. The computer is programmed so that a random series determines
the targets, and the subjects attempt to outguess the computer.
Another factor that researchers and experimenters must watched for
in 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 extrasensory perception 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 ESP, and discover the physical
mechanism by which it operates. "The mind has been equated with the brain,
and scientists search to discover how extra sensory perception 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, nonmaterial 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, ESP 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. ESP is independent of such factors as geography, time,
intelligence, age, or education.
ESP 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.
It was researcher Lousia E. Rhine who proposed the theory that ESP 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 ESP 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 esper 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, ESP 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 supersense which evolves in the nervous system.
Psychical research does support the theory that everyone is born with
extra sensory capability, though some may possess more than others. Most
people have experienced at least one ESP 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 extra sensory perception. Eleven years
earlier the figure was 58 percent. It was thought the increase indicates
an increased acceptance of the possibility of ESP among the general
Gertrude Schmeidler, The City College,
New York, 61.
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