|A Seance Public Domain|
I asked a group of people what they thought about when they heard the phrase "paranormal." And - what did it mean to them? Their responses were varied and enlightening:
- The power of witchcraft and Pagan rites
- Prediction of the future
- Orbs that float and hover in houses and in the sky
- Crop circles
- Experiences of regression to a previous life or lives, possibly evidence for reincarnation
- Telepathy, meaning the transference of thought from one person to another
- Extra-sensory perception, or ESP, - the ability to acquire information without reference to any physical means. This is your sixth sense, or gut instinct. Telepathy, as mentioned above, is an aspect of ESP.
- Psychokineses, or telekinesis - the ability of the mind to influence physical systems. Examples of psychokinesis include moving an object, or distorting it - like Uri Geller bending forks - or influencing the outcome of a random number system, like coin-flipping, shuffling cards or throwing dice.
- Teleportation - the transfer of matter from one point to another, generally instantaneously. In other words, an out-of-the-body experience.
To summarise: the word "paranormal" simply means anything that cannot be explained by normal, objective investigation, in other words, it is outside the realms of science to explain - at least, for the time being. Some accounts of the paranormal have an uncanny resonance with reality and truth that seem to defy any rational explanation, and it's hard to doubt the sincerity of the narrators of these accounts. We must remember, though, that being sincere does not necessarily mean the person is not mistaken.
The scope of the paranormal is far-reaching and incredibly exciting, and this is aptly expressed by the incomparable William Shakespeare, who wrote:
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. - Hamlet (1.5.167-8)
- Adapted from Cameron, Janet, Paranormal Brighton and Hove, Amberley Publishing, 2009.
Copyright Janet Cameron