Up until 1882, there was something known as “thought-transference”, then the founder of the Society for Psychical Research, Frederic W. H. Myers, coined the term “telepathy” to refer to the age-old psychic phenomenon. Among parapsychologists, telepathy is considered to be a form of ESP, in which information is transferred through what they call “psi”. This is the unknown metaphysical factor in extrasensory perception that isn’t explained by known physical mechanisms. This is also true of other psychic phenomena, such as precognition and clairvoyance. I have personally done a lot of work with things like Zener cards, which can help people make use of any or all of these abilities. Those are the cards that have five different symbols on them, namely a hollow circle, a plus sign, three vertical wavy lines, a hollow square, and a hollow five-pointed star. Along with this, the more recent ganzfeld experiment is a different kind of technique that is now being used to test individuals for ESP, particularly telepathic psychic powers. However, consistent, independent replication has not yet been achieved. So, there’s no real proof of telepathy, at all, as far as I can tell. Still, I have personally experienced the phenomenon first-hand on more than one occasion and I would like to be able to make sense of what happened to me. Wouldn’t you? At the same time, I have a healthy bit of skepticism, so I’m really searching for a viable “Theory of Telepathy”. That is to say, I want nothing less than a scientifically sound understanding of what’s going on with all of this. In other words, I will settle for nothing less than an extensive psychological description of telepathy, not just a brief parapsychological definition. As part of this, I want to know exactly what is and what is not telepathy. As an example of what I mean, the Japanese concept of “ishin-denshin” is what some call heart-to-heart transfer. This refers to an unspoken mutual understanding, and some do translate it to mean telepathy.
In general, telepathy is usually defined as the vicarious communication of thoughts or feelings by means other than the known senses. Again though this is just a limited dictionary definition, which doesn’t really explain that much about what psi is and how telepathy works. That’s why it’s important to have a more encyclopedic starting point for a topic that is so taboo. With that being said, I like the way that telepathy is more concisely described in The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena:
“Also called mind-reading, telepathy is said to occur when one person receives a thought or feeling from the mind of another person. For example, in 1955 a Wisconsin housewife named Joicey Hurth was washing dishes when suddenly she became certain that her daughter was about to be killed. She later learned that at the time she received the impression that her daughter was in danger, the girl had been hit by a car and seriously injured, though not killed. Hurth’s experience is an example of one of the most common incidents of telepathy, in that it occurred when the apparent sender of the telepathic message was in crisis. Moreover, according to one study by Ian Stevenson, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Virginia, nearly 70 percent of telepathic incidents involve close family members, whereas approximately 28 percent of such incidents occur between friends or acquaintances and only 2 percent between strangers.”
Along with this, according to parapsychologists, there are a few different types of telepathy, namely latent, precognitive, emotive, and superconscious. Of these, latent telepathy is described as the transfer of information, through psi, with an observable time-lag between the transmission and reception of thought. Precognitive telepathy is described as being the transfer of information, through psi, about the future state of an individual’s mind to another individual. Emotive telepathy is the process of transferring kinesthetic sensations through altered states. Superconscious telepathy involves tapping into the collective awareness of the human species. Along with this, there are spontaneous and intentional kinds of telepathy as well. In the cases of the former, Louisa Rhine even determined that roughly about 30% of these occur during waking states, 60% during dreams, and 10% during visions. Some experiments would also seem to suggest that hypnosis can heighten one’s telepathic ability. Plus, Rupert Sheldrake has even found that animals can use telepathy, or what he calls “anpsi”. He has personally studied a wide range of domesticated animals and accumulated hundreds of anecdotes of pets anticipating the return of their owners, and similar kinds of inexplicable occurrences. Every animal in the world is born with latent telepathy, which allows humans to make a connection with non-humans and potentially even have an actual two-way conversation. The truth is that every animal has a soul, and humans are just animals. Therefore, psi and anpsi must be the same thing. As such, some of us retain this ability as we grow up, while others are able to regain it through classes and special training exercises. Simply put, this is how witches talk to their familiars and vice-versa.
Although I do think I have had some psychic encounters with critters, there is one kind of telepathy that I don’t ever remember experiencing. Stanley Krippner and Montague Ullman carried out dream telepathy experiments at the Maimonides Medical Center in New York. They ultimately concluded the results from some of their experiments supported dream telepathy. However, the results have not been independently replicated, as usual. The picture target experiments that were conducted by Krippner and Ullman were later criticized by C. E. M. Hansel. According to Hansel there were weaknesses in the design of the experiments in the way in which the subjects became aware of their target picture. Only they should have known the target and no other person until the judging of targets had been completed, however, an experimenter was with the person when the target envelope was opened. Hansel also wrote that there had been poor controls in the experiment as the main experimenter could communicate with the subject. An attempt to replicate the experiments that used picture targets was carried out by Edward Belvedere and David Foulkes. The finding was that neither the subject nor the judges matched the targets with dreams above chance level. Results from other experiments by Belvedere and Foulkes were also negative. So, again, there doesn’t seem to be any real proof that telepathy is real.
Nonetheless, I know what I’ve experienced, and I can’t just chalk all of it up to coincidence. So, let’s return to what Ian Stevenson said, “nearly 70 percent of telepathic incidents involve close family members”. Thus, the connection seems to depend on physiological systems as much as psychological. This is where identical twins become indispensable in the search for true telepaths. For instance, in one famous experiment, Marilyn Elkins supervised an English exam that was taken by three sets of twins. They were given tests in groups being separated from their siblings. They were told to commune silently with their sisters in their heads as they took the test. The Ashford twins claimed to have exchanged answers telepathically. Sure enough, when Professor Elkins graded the exams she did notice that they appeared to have somehow cheated off of each other. She said, “as a teacher, if they were in my classroom I might have some concerns”. The thing is, they both had the same wrong answers twice, which could just be from learning and studying together, but in conjunction with the 10 answers that they got right, it starts to look like there might have been some telepathy involved. In yet another compelling instance of telepathy among twins, there was an incident with Lisa and Debbie Ganz. Lisa was driving in Australia when her car hit a cow and she crashed, meanwhile Debbie immediately knew that something was wrong even though Lisa was more than 10,000 miles away. Debbie even began contacting Lisa’s family and friends, never having received an actual phone call regarding the emergency. So, what is it that really happens in cases like this? Better yet, is there any way to know for sure?!??
Well, as I said before, the tests are all inconclusive, but this may just be the result of incessant nitpicking by the scientific community. Still, if something doesn’t hold up then it can’t be thought of as a fact. As yet another example of what I mean, there are lots of ways to look for telepathy. For instance, when using Zener cards, one individual is designated the “sender” and another the “receiver”. The sender selects a random card and then visualizes the symbol on it, while the receiver attempts to determine that symbol using telepathy. Statistically speaking, the receiver has a 20% chance of just randomly guessing the correct symbol, so to sufficiently demonstrate the ability, they must repeatedly score a success rate that is significantly higher than 20%, which I often did, but I usually score high on every test I take. Still, J. B. Rhine’s famous experiments with Zener cards were discredited due to the discovery that sensory leakage could account for all his results. That is to say, the subjects might have somehow been able to read the symbols from the back of the cards, or maybe see and hear the experimenter give away subtle clues. Either way, the thing is that once Rhine took precautions in response to criticisms of his methods, he was unable to find any high-scoring subjects. So, due to those methodological problems, parapsychologists no longer utilize card-guessing studies. Thus, they have now moved on to conducting the ganzfeld experiment.
In the latest test for telepathy, one individual is designated as the receiver and is placed inside a controlled environment where they are deprived of sensory input, and another person is designated as the sender and is placed in a separate location. The receiver is then required to receive information from the sender using only psi. Of course, this still needs a great deal of refinement to be made useful. Out of the 42 ganzfeld experiments that were conducted, Charles Honorton reported that only 36% of the studies used duplicate target sets of pictures to avoid handling cues. That’s not good. Plus, according to Ray Hyman over half of the studies failed to safeguard against sensory leakage. So, because of those flaws, the ganzfeld studies could not support the claim for the existence of psi. This means there’s a lot more work that needs to be done to help explain how it is that identical twins can feel each other’s pain from thousands of miles away, or cheat off of each other during an exam even when they’re not in the same room together. There has to be a test that can be devised to help move telepathy out of the field of parapsychology and into the field of psychology, where I think it belongs. The anecdotal evidence is just far too overwhelming for me to ignore, although I’m part of the marginalized fringe in feeling this way. Still, as far as I’m concerned, in the end, the stories will all eventually add up to something meaningful, they just have to keep being recorded and reviewed until the research eventually reveals something useful. There’s definitely something going on here and I’m determined to find out what it is. So, if you have any anecdotes that you care to share then please do so in the comment section below, and as always, thanks for reading.