is defined as a form of extra-sensory perception
that allows a person to perceive distant objects, persons, or events, including "seeing" through opaque objects. Typically such perception is reported in visual terms, but may also include auditory impressions (sometimes called clairaudience) or kinesthetic impressions. The term clairvoyance is often used broadly to refer to all forms of ESP where a person receives information through means other than those explainable by current science. Perhaps more often it is used more narrowly to refer to reception of present-time information not from another person, there being other terms to refer to other forms: telepathy
referring to reception of information from another person (i.e. presumably mind-to-mind), and precognition
referring to gaining information about places and events in the future.
As with all psi phenomena, there is wide disagreement and controversy within the sciences and even within parapsychology as to the existence of clairvoyance and the validity or interpretation of clairvoyance related experiments (see Parapsychology
There have been anecdotal reports of clairvoyance and claims of clairvoyant abilities on the part of some throughout history in most cultures. Often these have been associated with religious figures, offices, and practices. For example, ancient Hindu religious texts list clairvoyance as one of the siddhis
, skills that can be acquired through appropriate meditation and personal discipline. But a large number of anecdotal accounts of clairvoyance are of the spontaneous variety among the general populace. For example, many people report instances of "knowing" in one form or another when a loved one has died or was in danger before receiving notification through normal channels that such events have taken place. While anecdotal accounts do not provide scientific proof of clairvoyance, such common experiences continue to motivate research into such phenomena.
Clairvoyance was one of the phenomena reported to have been observed in the behavior of somnambulists
, people who were mesmerized and in a trance state (nowadays equated with hypnosis by most people) in the time of Franz Anton Mesmer
. The earliest recorded report of somnambulistic clairvoyance is credited to the Marquis de Puysegur, a follower of Mesmer, who in 1784 was treating a local dull-witted peasant named Victor Race. During treatment, Victor reportedly would go into trance and undergo a personality change, becoming fluent and articulate, and giving diagnosis and prescription for his own disease as well as those of other patients, and forgetting everything when he came out of the trance state. All this is in a manner reminiscent of the reported behaviors of the 20th century psychic Edgar Cayce
. It is reported that although Puysegur used the term 'clairvoyance', he did not attribute any of this to the paranormal since he accpeted mesmerism as one of the natural sciences.
Clairvoyance was in times following a reported ability of some mediums during the spiritualist period of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and was one of the aspects studied by members of the Society for Psychical Research
(SPR). Psychics of many descriptions have claimed clairvoyant ability up to the present day.
While experimental research into clairvoyance began with SPR researchers, experimental studies became more systematic with the efforts of J. B. Rhine and his associates at Duke University, and such research efforts continue to the present day. Perhaps the most well-known studies of clairvoyance in recent times was the US government funded remote viewing
project at SRI/SAIC during the 1970s through the mid-1990s.
Results of some parapsychological studies, such as the remote viewing studies, suggest that clairvoyance does exist (though that interpretation is disputed strongly by critics), and that it does not in general require another person to send the information being received, i.e. it can to some extent be distinguished from telepathy. However there are as yet no satisfactory experiments designed that cleanly separate the various manifestations of ESP. Some parapsychologists have proposed that our different functional labels (clairvoyance, telepathy, precognition) all refer to one basic underlying mechanism, although there is not yet any satisfactory theory for what that mechanism would be.
There is ongoing criticism and debate of all these results in the literature.
See Also\nanomalous cognition
, and James Randi's $1,000,000 Challenge