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“It’s the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.” – Albus Dumbledore
Parapsychology, previously called psychical research, emerged as a scientific field in the latter half of the 19th century due to the paranormal and spiritualism movements. The first American Society for Psychical Research (ASPR) was opened in 1885 in Boston. By 1911, Stanford University laboratories housed the first academic studies on ESP (extrasensory perception) and PK (psychokinesis). In the 1930s, J.B Rhine coined the term “parapsychology” and was a trailblazer in paranormal research at Duke University. Today, the Rhine Research Center is a parapsychology research unit, stating that it "aims to improve the human condition by creating a scientific understanding of those abilities and sensitivities that appear to transcend the ordinary limits of space and time".
While some parapsychologists may focus their interest on the concept of haunting and poltergeists, the majority of research scientists in the field focus on the study of consciousness and the mind to evaluate human abilities that are outside the normal range. Parapsychology is the scientific study of interactions between living organisms and their environment that seem to transcend physics and the known laws of nature. The goal of studying these extraordinary experiences is to understand and normalize them so we can dispel the fear that Dumbledore described, as fear inevitably manifests as bias and intolerance. To that end, parapsychologists study 5 broad areas:
· Telepathy – mind-to-mind communication through a means other than the normal senses.
· Clairvoyance or Remote Viewing – knowledge of objects, people, or events that are hidden via space or time.
· Precognition – knowledge of an event that has not yet occurred, or information that appears to be transferred from the future into the present.
· Psychokinesis – Mind interacting with matter at a distance.
· Survival Studies – An examination of whether consciousness survives the physical form. This includes near-death experiences (NDE), mediumship research, reincarnation, out-of-body experiences (OBE), apparitions, and hauntings.
Parapsychological research has been ongoing through the Parapsychological Association (PA) and the Rhine Center since the late 1950s. The 1960s through the 1980s saw a major uptick in global research into paranormal and extrasensory abilities along with consciousness studies. In fact, the U.S. federal government conducted extensive research into extrasensory perception under The Stargate Project, which began in 1978 and ended in 1995.
Since the 1980s, parapsychological research has decreased considerably in the United States, but there has been a rise in funding for research in Europe. Currently, the United Kingdom has the largest documented number of active parapsychologists and they also enjoy the support of the mainstream communities in other areas of psychology.
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