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The word psychic (pronounced /ˈsaɪkɨk/; from the Greek psychikos—"of the soul, mental") refers to a proposed ability to perceive things hidden from the normal senses through what is described as extra-sensory perception, or to those people said to have such abilities. It is also used to refer to theatrical performers who use techniques such as prestidigitation and cold reading to produce the appearance of such abilities. It has also been used to describe the belief of the ability of the mind to influence the world physically and telekinetic powers some claim to demonstrate, such as Uri Geller.

Belief in psychic phenomena is widespread in the United States, where a 2005 Gallup poll revealed that 41 percent of Americans believe in extra-sensory perception. Psychics appear regularly in fiction and science fiction, such as the The Dead Zone by Stephen King, Jean Grey from the Marvel comic book universe or Alice Cullen from the Twilight Series written by Stephenie Meyer. A large industry exists where psychics provide advice and counsel to clients, though debunkers attribute such putative powers to intentional trickery or self-delusion. Some famous contemporary psychics include Miss Cleo, Sylvia Browne, and John Edward.

The scientific community has rejected claims of psychic phenomena, and no compelling evidence of psychic phenomena has been found. A study using neuroimaging published in 2008 provides the strongest evidence yet obtained that paranormal mental phenomena do not exist.

In 1988 the U.S. National Academy of Sciences gave a report on the subject that concluded there is "no scientific justification from research conducted over a period of 130 years for the existence of parapsychological phenomena." In 1991 a survey of opinion amongst scientists in the National Academy of Sciences, 96% described themselves as "skeptical" of ESP, although 2% believed in psi and 10% felt that parapsychological research should be encouraged.


History Edit

Etymology Edit

The word psychic is derived from the Greek word psychikos ("of the mind" or "mental") and refers in part to the human mind or psyche (ex. "psychic turmoil"). French astronomer and spiritualist Camille Flammarion is credited as having first used the word psychic, while it was later introduced to the English language by Edward William Cox in the 1870s.[

Early seers and prophets Edit

Aegeus, a mythical king of Athens, consults the Pythia, who sits on a tripod.

Elaborate systems of divination and fortune-telling date back to ancient times. Perhaps the most widely-known system of early civilization fortune-telling was astrology, where practitioners believed the relative positions of celestial bodies could lend insight into people's lives and even predict their future circumstances. Some fortune-tellers were said to be able to make predictions without the use of these elaborate systems (or in conjunction with them), through some sort of direct apprehension or vision of the future. These people were known as seers or prophets, and in later times as clairvoyants and psychics.

Seers formed a functionary role in early civilization, often serving as advisors, priests, and judges. A number of examples are included in biblical accounts. The book of 1 Samuel (Chapter 9) illustrates one such functionary task when Samuel is asked to locate the donkeys of the future king Saul. The role of prophet appeared perennially in ancient cultures. In Egypt, the priests of Ra at Memphis acted as seers. In ancient Assyria seers were referred to as nabu, meaning "to call" or "announce".

The Delphic Oracle is one of the earliest stories in classical antiquity of prophetic abilities. The Pythia, the priestess presiding over the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, was believed to be able to deliver prophecies inspired by Apollo during rituals beginning in the 8th century BC. It is often said that the Pythia delivered oracles in a frenzied state induced by vapors rising from the ground, and that she spoke gibberish, believed to be the voice of Apollo, which priests reshaped into the enigmatic prophecies preserved in Greek literature. Other scholars believe records from the time indicate that the Pythia spoke intelligibly, and gave prophecies in her own voice. The Pythia was a position served by a succession of women probably selected from amongst a guild of priestesses of the temple. The last recorded response was given in 393 AD, when the emperor Theodosius I ordered pagan temples to cease operation. Recent geological investigations raise the possibility that ethylene gas caused the Pythia's state of inspiration. Michel de Nostredame (Nostradamus) was a seer who published collections of prophecies in the 1500s.

One of the most enduring historical references to what some consider to be psychic ability is the prophecies of Michel de Nostredame (1503 – 1566), often Latinized to Nostradamus, published during the French Renaissance period. Nostradamus, was a French apothecary and seer who wrote collections of prophecies that have since become famous worldwide and have rarely been out of print since his death. He is best known for his book Les Propheties, the first edition of which appeared in 1555. Taken together, his written works are known to have contained at least 6,338 quatrains or prophecies, as well as at least eleven annual calendars. Most of the quatrains deal with disasters, such as plagues, earthquakes, wars, floods, invasions, murders, droughts, and battles — all undated.

Nostradamus is a controversial figure. His many enthusiasts, as well as the popular press, credit him with predicting numerous major world events. Interest in his work is still considerable, especially in the media and in popular culture. By contrast, most academic scholars maintain that the associations made between world events and Nostradamus' quatrains are largely the result of misinterpretations or mistranslations (sometimes deliberate) or else are so tenuous as to render them useless as evidence of any genuine predictive power.

In addition to the belief that some historical figures were endowed with a predisposition to psychic experiences, some psychic abilities were thought to be available to everyone on occasion. For example, the belief in prophetic dreams was common and persistent in many ancient cultures.

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