Originally the name given to the branch of philosophy dealing
with the soul (from the Greek psyche, or soul), then to the
science of the mind, and now generally understood to be the
science of behavior, both human and animal, and of human
thought processes. Early psychical research, in contrast, concerned
itself with the demonstration and investigation of paranormal
faculties and the concept of the soul, with the question
of survival after bodily death as a legitimate inference.
According to the criterion of Charles Richet, everything
that the human intelligence can do, even when it is most profound
and penetrating, is psychological. Everything of which
such intelligence is incapable belongs to metapsychics.
The crux of the matter is that the greatest difficulty is experienced
in drawing the line between what the human intelligence
can and cannot do, because many paranormal faculties
appear to originate in the subconscious mind and manifest
along the same channels as the phenomena of abnormal psychology.
Their difference from abnormal phenomena seems to
be primarily their social functionality.
Abnormal Psychology and the Paranormal
Some would contend that an abnormal bodily condition
may facilitate the function of a paranormal faculty without
being the reason and cause of it. Hereward Carrington, in The
Story of Psychic Science (1930), relates the story of a female acquaintance
who fell into Lake Minnetonka, sank three times,
and was rescued unconscious. A severe illness complicated with
pneumonia followed her misadventure. During her convalescence
she became clairvoyant and could tell what letters were
in the mailbox in the morning and often their approximate
contents. When she was completely restored her clairvoyant
faculty disappeared.
Neither pneumonia nor near-drowning can be supposed
the cause of such clairvoyance. Similarly it is reasonable to
infer that in the clairvoyance of hysteric subjects, the abnormal
bodily condition is simply a coincidental phenomenon but not
the cause and explanation of the clairvoyance. An abnormal
condition may open up a channel of function for paranormal
faculties. If the abnormal condition becomes permanent, mediumship
may develop in organisms that constitutionally were
not adapted for paranormal manifestations.
The study of abnormal psychology may also have relevance
to the emotional and temperamental problems of some mediums,
particularly those who are disposed to fraudulent tricks,
even if gifted with some genuine psychic faculties.
Parapsychology adopted much from modern behavioral
studies and does not assume any particular psychological structure,
as did psychical research. Its name implies that it is a
branch of psychology that specializes in the study of paranormal
behavior. Parapsychologists seek to use appropriate psychological
methodologies and integrate their findings into the
larger body of psychological knowledge.
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