views updated May 17 2018


From the front pages of tabloids like the National Enquirer to the classified advertisements of more reputable local weeklies and late-night television infomercials, psychics appear with their predictions or phone hot lines. They bend spoons, contact the dead, conduct miraculous healings, and make apocalyptic forecasts. Some psychics set up shop in small houses, where they dissect the past and predict the future for clients. The term "psychic" is derived from the Greek word psyche for "soul" or "spirit." Contemporary American psychics are so labeled because they say that they commune with the spiritual world, "channel" spirit entities, and demonstrate unusual skill at healing and extrasensory perception. Information about psychics flows through an informal network of workshops, books, magazines, tapes, videos, psychic fairs, and healing circles.

Some psychics claim to be clairvoyant (to see the future) or psychokinetic (to move material objects through acts of mental will—Uri Geller's spoon-bending is a famous example), while others say they hear and see spirits, sometimes bringing messages from the spirit world to humans (a practice called "channeling," with origins in nineteenth-century spirit mediumship). Diagnosis of illness and healing techniques such as psychic surgery are among the psychic's claimed skills. These techniques usually employ visualization or meditation and do not necessarily require the patient's physical presence. Psychic healers are eclectic, combining many methods, including flower remedies, herbs, colors, breathing techniques, fasting, dreamwork, t'ai chi, Yoga, herbs, and crystals.

Psychics' beliefs vary widely, but they usually attribute their abilities to a transcendent power outside themselves. Psychics cross the boundaries of religious traditions, aiming to draw on the powers of forces as varied as the Christian God, pagan Goddess, or impersonal energy. Many psychics are associated with the New Age movement, which has roots in New Thought, a metaphysical tradition that emphasized mental healing and developed from the teachings of Phineas P. Quimby (1802–1866).

Because psychics place themselves at the boundary between the spirit world and the world of humans, they may be ostracized or marginalized. Many psychics say they experienced a spiritual calling when they were children or adolescents, often during or after a period of illness. Edgar Cayce (1877–1945), a famous clairvoyant healer from Kentucky, lost his voice due to a serious illness and subsequently diagnosed and cured himself. Cayce's teachings continue to be spread through the Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE). Like other psychics, Cayce's abilities seemed manifest when he was in an altered state of consciousness, such as meditation or a trance. Dubbed the "sleeping prophet," Cayce entered a sleeplike or trance state to practice his work. For psychics, trance is a dissociative state that allows the psychic to be displayed by another entity or to draw on knowledge or power otherwise unavailable.

Although psychic research has attempted to establish itself as a science, many skeptics (The Skeptical Inquirer journal is the most well known) continue to dispute all claims of psychic ability. Research into psychic phenomena was most significantly advanced by Duke University professor J. B. Rhine, whose Ph.D. was in botany. Rhine committed his life to adapting scientific methods to psychic research, renaming the field parapsychology and founding the Duke Parapsychology Laboratory in Durham, North Carolina, in 1940.

See alsoChanneling; Healing; Meditation; New Age Spirituality; New Religious Movements; New Thought; Occult, The; Paranormal; Yoga.


Fuller, Robert C. AlternativeMedicineandAmericanReligious Life. 1989.

McClenon, James. WondrousEvents:FoundationsofReligious Belief. 1994.

McGuire, Meredith. RitualHealinginSuburbanAmerica. 1988.

Sarah M. Pike


views updated May 14 2018

psy·chic / ˈsīkik/ • adj. 1. relating to or denoting faculties or phenomena that are apparently inexplicable by natural laws, esp. involving telepathy or clairvoyance: psychic powers. ∎  (of a person) appearing or considered to have powers of telepathy or clairvoyance: I could sense it—I must be psychic.2. of or relating to the soul or mind: he dulled his psychic pain with gin.3. Bridge denoting a bid that deliberately misrepresents the bidder's hand, in order to mislead the opponents.• n. a person considered or claiming to have psychic powers; a medium. ∎  (psychics) [treated as sing. or pl.] the study of psychic phenomena.DERIVATIVES: psy·chi·cal / ˈsīkikəl/ adj. (usu. in sense 1).psy·chi·cal·ly / ˈsīkik(ə)lē/ adv.psy·chism / ˈsīˌkizəm/ n. (in sense 1).


views updated Jun 11 2018


A term denoting (1) as an adjective, the paranormal character of certain phenomena and (2) as a noun, a sensitive individual, one susceptible to psychic influences. A psychic is usually not a medium and tends to attribute his/her ability to clairvoyance or ESP rather than spirit contact. The term psychic, however, is used very loosely in an inclusive manner to include the medium, the somnambule, and the magnetic or mesmeric subject, i.e., anyone who is in any degree sensitive. Camille Flam-marion seems to have been the first to use the word as a French term while Edward William Cox seems to have introduced it into England.


views updated May 23 2018

Psychic ★½ 1991 (R)

A college student with psychic powers believes he knows who the next victim of a demented serial killer will be. The problem is: no one will believe him. And the victim is the woman he loves. 92m/C VHS . Michael Nouri, Catherine Mary Stewart, Zach Galligan; D: George Mihalka; W: Paul Koval; C: Ludek Bogner; M: Milan Kymlicka.


views updated Jun 08 2018

psychic (sy-kik) adj.
1. of or relating to the psyche.

2. relating to parapsychological phenomena.

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