About Psi Research
‘Psi’ (the Greek letter ψ) is the modern collective term for the psychic functions of telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and psychokinesis. Psi phenomena were studied by Fellows of the Royal Society, among others, in the late seventeenth century, and were noted in the late eighteenth century in relation to hypnosis. In the second half of the nineteenth century, scientists such as Robert Hare, William Crookes and Johann Zöllner began to uncover more evidence in their experiments with séance mediums. Systematic study began in 1882 with the founding in London of the Society for Psychical Research, which, besides investigating the claims of spirit mediums, carried out surveys of ‘spontaneous’ phenomena – experiences of telepathic connections, ghosts, apparitions and poltergeists, precognitive dreams and the like – and conducted the first formal experiments.
From the 1930s the focus switched to experimentation based on statistics, pioneered by Joseph Banks Rhine at Duke University in the US. The Society for Psychical Research, Parapsychological Association and other privately-funded organisations continue to investigate psychic claims and carry out experiments, publishing the results in their peer-reviewed journals.
About the Psi Encyclopedia
There is now a vast research literature that validates the existence of psi as an anomalous, fleeting and little understood aspect of human experience. Psi researchers believe that it has been demonstrated many times over, and in a variety of contexts. But this remains controversial, since psi appears to contradict long-accepted scientific principles. In particular, accumulating evidence of links between mental experience and biological brain functions lead many to believe that the brain is the sole source of consciousness. Some scientists are known to sympathize with psi experimentalists, who use well-established statistical methods and robust methodology: the possibility of psychic experience has been seriously considered by an impressive number of Nobel prize winners and other eniment people. However, a vocal minority of sceptics – often active in sceptic organisations – campaign in books, articles and in the media against psi research, disparaging it as 'pseudoscience' and disputing its conclusions.
In recent years this conflict has spread to the Internet, notably the free encyclopedia Wikipedia, where editors hostile to ‘fringe science’ routinely edit articles on psi research to make them conform to their view. As a result, articles that were originally written by knowledgeable experts have become adulterated with misleading claims and assertions.
The Psi Encyclopedia is being created by the Society for Psychical Research, funded by a bequest, to provide a more informative view of psi research (also referred to as ‘psychical research’ and ‘parapsychology’), one that reflects the findings of experimenters and investigators. The project began in 2014 and by January 2019 offered nearly 300 entries totalling 1.2 million words, written by more than 50 authors and experts. Readers are asked to bear in mind that this is a work in progress, a multi-year project that will see numerous additions, changes and improvements (see below).
Types of entry include:
- overview articles about generic topics (eg experimental parapsychology, mediumship research, near-death experiences)
- articles that explore aspects of those topics, key researchers, etc.
- case studies of key experiments and investigations (children who remembered a past life, poltergeist disturbances, mediumship episodes, etc)
- lists (people, events, experiments)
Some case studies include pdf versions of the original research report from which they are drawn, giving readers the opportunity to understand the researchers' methods and reasoning in greater detail.
Work in Progress
The Psi Encylopedia is a work in progress. If you have expertise in an area that remains to be covered, as a researcher or author, and would like to contribute, we would be glad to hear from you. We welcome suggestions for topics related to scientific research that are not so far included.
The compilers of the Psi Encyclopedia gratefully acknowledge the contribution made by Ian Rons, who created the basic software for the project in Drupal. Thanks also to Emma Ellis, Emma Ball, Christine Gardner and David Moreton at Circle Interactive for supplementary development, to Logo Design for design work, and to Colin Elgie for category illustrations.
The Psi Encyclopedia uses photographs acquired from a variety of sources. Every effort has been made to ensure that no copyright has been infringed. However, if you believe this is the case for an image for which you hold the the copyright, please contact the editor.