The faculty of ‘‘clear hearing,’’ the ability to hear sounds inaudible
to the normal ear, such as ‘‘spirit’’ voices; a faculty analogous
to clairvoyance, but considerably less frequently met
One such incident occurred to the apostle Paul on the road
to Damascus. He saw a light and heard a voice. As he later told
of the events, ‘‘They that were with me saw the light and were
afraid; but they heard not the voice of him who spoke to me’’
(Acts 239). Perhaps the best-known case is that of Joan of Arc
(see Jeanne D’Arc). She was not the only martyr who heard the
voices of saints and angels urging them to perform some special
In Spiritualist circles the faculty is claimed by mediums, but
distinction must be made between the ‘‘inner voice,’’ through
which mediums are supposed to receive communications from
the denizens of ‘‘the otherworld,’’ and an externalized voice
comparable to an actual physical sound. Frequently some such
physical sounds form the basis of an auditory hallucination,
just as the points of light in a crystal are said to form points de
repère around which the hallucination of the visualizer may
shape itself.
Clairaudience is considered a rare mediumistic gift, but the
phenomenon has been known from ancient times ‘‘The
prophet that is in Israel telleth the king of Israel the words the
king of Syria speaks in his bedchamber’’ (2 Kings 6). The experience
of hearing inner voices was described in the age of animal
magnetism by one of Dr. G. Billot’s somnambulists
‘‘At first, I feel a little breath like a light zephyr, which refreshes
and then chills my ear. From that instant I become deaf,
and I begin to be aware of a little humming in the ear, like that
of a gnat. By giving close attention I then hear a small voice
which says to me that which I afterwards repeat.
‘‘A biographer of the poet William Cowper wrote that the
most important events of Cowper’s later years were audibly announced
to him before they occurred.’’
The difficulty in where to draw the line between subjective
and objective experience is illustrated by the following narrative
of Vincent Turvey in The Beginnings of Seership (1911)
‘‘One afternoon a few weeks ago I went to sleep on the sofa;
after a time, probably about forty minutes, I became aware that
there was an indistinct conversation going on somewhere near
me. Knowing that all my people were out and that my house
stands detached in its own grounds, I wondered what it meant.
Then I realized that I was asleep and was ‘hearing’ clairaudiently,
and that those who were conversing were not ‘spirits,’ but
someone inside me and someone outside me, and yet part of
me, because both voices were ‘Turvey’ in language, etc. I caught
no sentence, save here and there a word or two such as ‘understand—no
condition—not yet,’ etc., then I heard the sentence
‘But you had better wake it up now, as there is a man coming
to the house in a minute.’ I woke and had just enough time to
throw off my rug and smooth my hair with my hand, when the
front door bell rang.’’
Clairaudience is either spontaneous or experimentally induced.
Seashells are used for the latter purpose; most people
can hear what sounds like the murmur of the sea in a shell. But
the clairaudient medium soon distinguishes other voices, may
hear distant friends speaking, may hear part of a conversation
he or she has already heard or will soon hear, and may interpret
the communications as messages from the dead or from
the living. The medium Arthur Ford was well known as a successful
platform clairaudient in the United States, whereas Estelle
Roberts had a similar reputation in England. Marjorie
Livingston published several books on esoteric matters that
she clairaudiently received.
Clairaudience fades imperceptively into the inspiration experienced
by many artists. Many poets and novelists have also
claimed that they ‘‘received’’ their material rather than consciously
constructed it. In like measure, musicians often report
initially hearing in their head a new composition, which they
then reproduce for their audiences.
Hollen, Henry. Clairaudient Transmission. Hollywood, Calif.
Keats Publications, 1931.
Roberts, Estelle. Forty Years a Medium. London Herbert Jenkins,
1959. Revised as Fifty Years a Medium. London Corgi
Books, 1969.
Sharp, Arthur. F. The Spirit Saith. London H. H. Greaves,