The term psychokinesis (from the Greek ψυχή, "psyche", meaning mind, soul, heart, or breath; and κίνησις, "kinesis", meaning motion; literally "movement from the mind"), also known as telekinesis (Greek τῆλε + κίνησις, literally "distant-movement"), sometimes abbreviated PK and TK respectively, is a term coined by Henry Holt to refer to the direct influence of mind on a physical system that cannot be entirely accounted for by the mediation of any known physical energy. It has been called the most powerful of psychic powers, essentially the power of a god.
Examples of psychokinesis could include distorting or moving an object, or influencing the output of a random number generator.
The study of phenomena said to be psychokinetic is an aspect of parapsychology. Some paranormal researchers believe that psychokinesis exists and deserves further study, pointing to experimental results such as those done using random number generators.
However, there is no scientific evidence that this phenomenon exists. Scientists have concluded that evidence supporting the existence of psychokinesis is subject to publication bias, fraud, delusion, and statistical manipulation of scientific data and cannot be experimentally repeated. Other natural phenomena have been identified as being able to explain certain claimed instances of psychokinesis.
The term "Telekinesis" was coined in 1890 by Russian psychical researcher Alexander N. Aksakof. The term "Psychokinesis" was coined in 1914 by American author-publisher Henry Holt in his book On the Cosmic Relations and adopted by his friend, American parapsychologist J. B. Rhine in 1934 in connection with experiments to determine if a person could influence the outcome of falling dice. Both concepts have been described by other terms, such as "remote influencing", "distant influencing "remote mental influence", "distant mental influence", "directed conscious intention", " anomalous perturbation", and "mind over matter." Originally telekinesis was coined to refer to the movement of objects thought to be caused by ghosts of deceased persons, mischievous spirits, angels, demons, or other supernatural forces. Later, when speculation increased that humans might be the source of the witnessed phenomena not caused by fraudulent mediums and could possibly cause movement without any connection to a spiritualistic setting, such as in a darkened séance room, psychokinesis was added to the lexicon. Eventually, psychokinesis became the term preferred by the parapsychological community. Popular culture, however, such as movies, television, and literature, over the years preferred telekinesis to describe the paranormal movement of objects, likely due to the word's resemblance to other terms, such as telepathy, teleportation.
As research entered the modern era, it became clear that many different, but related, abilities could be attributed to the wider description of psychokinesis and telekinesis are now regarded as the subspecialties of PK. In the 2004 U.S. Air Force-sponsored research report Teleportation Physics Study
, the physicist-author Eric Davis, PhD, described the distinction between PK and TK as "telekinesis is a form of PK. Psychokinesis, then, is the general term that can be used to describe a variety of complex mental force phenomena (including object movement) and telekinesis is used to refer only to the movement of objects, however tiny (a grain of salt or air molecules to create wind) or large (an automobile, building, or bridge). Hypothetically, a person could have very profound telekinetic ability, but not be able to produce any of the additional effects found in psychokinesis, such as softening the metal of a spoon to allow its bending with minimal physical force. Conversely, someone who has succeeded in psychokinetically softening metal once or a number of times may exhibit no telekinetic ability to move objects.
Measurement and observation
Parapsychology researchers describe two basic types of measurable and observable psychokinetic and telekinetic effects in experimental laboratory research and in case reports occurring outside of the laboratory. Micro-PK (also micro-TK) is a very small effect, such as the manipulation of molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, etc., that can only be observed with scientific equipment. The words are abbreviations for micro-psychokinesis, micropsychokinesis and micro-telekinesis, microtelekinesis. Macro-PK (also macro-TK) is a large-scale effect that can be seen with the unaided eye. The adjective phrases "microscopic-scale," "macroscopic- scale," "small-scale," and "large-scale" may also be used; for example, "a small-scale PK effect."
Spontaneous movements of objects and other unexplained effects have been reported, and many parapsychologists believe there are possibly forms of psychokinesis/telekinesis. Parapsychologist William G. Roll
coined the term "recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis" (RSPK) in 1958. The sudden movement of objects without deliberate intention in the presence or vicinity of one or more witnesses is thought by some to be related to as-yet-unknown PK/TK processes of the subconscious mind. Researchers use the term "PK agent," especially in spontaneous cases, to describe someone who is suspected of being the source of the PK action. Outbreaks of spontaneous movements or other effects, such as in a private home, and especially those involving violent or physiological effects, such as objects hitting people or scratches or other marks on the body, are sometimes investigated as poltergeist
Psychokinesis is the umbrella term
for various related specialty abilities, which may include:
- Telekinesis; movement of matter (micro and macro; move, lift, agitate, vibrate, spin, bend, break, or impact)
- *Speed up or slow down the naturally occurring vibrations of atoms in matter to alter temperature, possibly to the point of ignition if combustible (also known as pyrokinesis and cryokinesis respectively).
- *Aerokinesis, the telekinetic subspecialty of being able to control the movement of air molecules specifically.
- *Hydrokinesis, the telekinetic subspecialty of being able to control the movement of water molecules specifically
- *Self levitation (rising in the air unsupported, flying).
- Object deformation (including metal softening and bending).
- Influencing events.
- Biological healing.
- Teleportation (disappearing and reappearing elsewhere).
- Phasing through matter.
- Transmutation of matter.
- Energy shield (force field).
- Control of magnetism.
- Control of photons (light waves/particles).
- Thoughtform projection (a physically perceived person, animal, creature, object, ghostly entity, etc., created in the mind and projected into three-dimensional space and observable by others; for thought images allegedly placed on film, see Thoughtography).
In September 2006, a survey about belief in various religious and paranormal topics conducted by phone and mail-in questionnaire polled
Americans on their belief in telekinesis. Of these participants, 28% of male participants and 31% of female participants selected "agree" or "strongly agree" with the statement "It is possible to influence the world through the mind alone
". There were 1,721 participants, and the poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4%.
In April 2008, British psychologist and skeptic Richard Wiseman published the results of an online survey he conducted entitled "Magicians and the Paranormal: A Survey," in which 400 magicians worldwide participated. For the question Do you believe that psychokinesis exists (i.e., that some people can, by paranormal
means, apply a noticeable force to an object or alter its physical characteristics)?, the results were as follows: No 83.5%, Yes 9%, Uncertain 7.5%.
Notable claimants of psychokinetic or telekinetic ability
- Uri Geller (1946 – ), the Israeli famous for his spoon bending demonstrations, allegedly by PK.
- Nina Kulagina (1926 – 1990), alleged Soviet psychic of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
- Felicia Parise, an American medical laboratory technician who allegedly was able to repeatedly demonstrate telekinetic movement of small objects beginning in the 1970s, in the first reported instance spontaneously, and then with practice by intense conscious intention. She said her inspiration for making the attempt was in viewing the black-and-white films of Nina Kulagina performing similar feats. Some of the items Parise reportedly caused movement in were a plastic pill container, compass needle, and pieces of aluminum foil (the latter two under a bell jar filmed by a magician). During the height of her fame in the early 1970s , the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper in the United States, then printed in all black and white, featured her in a large photo on its cover seated at a table attempting to perform telekinesis with the headline: "First American to Move Objects with the Mind." Parise eventually retired from performing telekinesis due to the physical stress on her body.
- Eusapia Palladino (alternate spelling: Eusapia Paladino; 1854 - 1918) was an Italian medium who allegedly could cause objects to move during seances and was endorsed by world famous magician Howard Thurston (1869 – 1936), who witnessed her levitation of a table.
- Swami Rama (1925 – 1996), a yogi skilled in controlling his heart functions who was studied at the Menninger Foundation in the spring and fall of 1970, and was alleged by some observers at the foundation to have telekinetically moved a knitting needle twice from a distance of five feet. Although Swami Rama wore a facemask and gown to prevent allegations that he moved the needle with his breath or body movements, and air vents in the room had been covered, at least one physician observer who was present at the time was not convinced and expressed the opinion that air movement was somehow the cause. The test device was an uncovered, balanced knitting needle (one of two glued on top of each other at right angles) positioned under a floodlight in a room where incense had been burned prior to the test.
Notable witnesses to PK events
Psychokinetic events have been witnessed by psychologists in the United States, and in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world by
professionals with medical degrees, physicists,
electrical engineers, military personnel,
and other professionals and ordinary citizens. Robert M. Schoch
PhD, professor at Boston University, has written "I do believe that some psychokinesis is real" referring to the evidence for micro-psychokinesis obtained by the Princeton PEAR laboratory experiments and similar studies and some reports of macro-RSPK observed in poltergeist cases. He reports once seeing a book "jumping off a shelf" while in a room where a female psychokinesis agent was also present.
Best-selling author and medical doctor Michael Crichton
described what he termed a "successful experience" with psychokinesis at a "spoon bending party" in his 1988 book Travels
Senior Scientist at the Institute of Noetic Sciences
, author Dean Radin
has reported that he, too, was able to bend the bowl of a spoon over with unexplained ease of force with witnesses present at an informal PK experiment gathering. He described his experience in his 2006 book Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality
and online (with photos):
Skepticism and controversy
The topic of psychokinesis is regarded as pseudoscience by many mainstream scientists. In the book Parapsychology: The Controversial Science
(1991), British parapsychologist Richard S. Broughton, Ph.D, wrote of the differences of opinion among top scientists encountered by Robert G. Jahn
, director of the (now-closed) PEAR laboratory
, regarding the psychokinesis research that the lab was engaged in at the time. Jahn is quoted as saying that six Nobel laureates commented on the lab's work and that two firmly rejected the whole topic, two encouraged his team to push on, and two were unwilling to commit either way, thus indicating that negative and positive scientific opinion on the subject, even at the highest level, is not absolute.
Supporters of research in the field point out that many things in science were once thought impossible and ridiculed, only later to be proven true. Henry Margenau
, David Bohm
, and O. Costa de Beauregard have publicly stated that they believe that nothing in quantum physics
forbids the existence of psi phenomena. Nobel laureate Brian Josephson
has stated that the results of experiments in quantum physics that he has seen have produced more compelling evidence for the hypothetical existence of psi effects than the results of experiments done in the lab so far by parapsychologists.
On the problem of eyewitness testimony of alleged psychokinetic events, anecdotes; that is, stories by eyewitnesses outside of controlled laboratory conditions, are considered insufficient evidence to establish the scientific validity of psychokinesis.
Magic and special effects
Magicians, sleight-of-hand-artists, etc., have successfully simulated some of the specialized abilities of PK (object movement, spoon bending, levitation, teleportation), but not all of the feats of claimed spontaneous and intentional psychokinesis have been reproduced under the same observed conditions as the original. According to Robert Todd Carroll, author of The Skeptic's Dictionary , there are many impressive magic tricks available to amateurs and professionals to simulate psychokinetic powers. These can be purchased on the Internet from magic supply companies. Amateur-made videos alleging to show feats of psychokinesis, particularly spoon bending and the telekinetic movement of objects, can be found on video-sharing websites such as YouTube. Critics point out that it is now easier than ever for the average person to fake psychokinetic events and that without more concrete proof, the topic, apart from its enjoyment in fiction, will continue to remain controversial.
Statements by skeptics
The more vocal members of the skeptical community
assert that because some PK effects can be reproduced or simulated by trickery or special effects, that is a more reasonable explanation than to accept that the laws of physics
should be rewritten. To support their side of the argument, skeptics may invoke the principles of parsimony
, Occam's razor
, the lack of replicable experimental evidence for psychokinesis, and the saying "extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof"
to support their position. Regarding claims of psychic metal bending, in particular spoon bending, Skeptical Inquirer
columnist Robert Sheaffer
's position is that skeptics should not waste their time investigating such claims and risk their credibility because there is no actual phenomenon to investigate: "Since magicians can readily perform the same feat using deception, there is no need to hypothesize anything more complicated.
, the executive director of the Skeptics Society
and founding publisher/editor-in-chief of Skeptic
magazine, stated in 1997 and again in 2002 in his book Why People Believe Weird Things
his position that people who claim to have witnessed psychic phenomena, which includes psychokinesis, "have committed an error in thinking" and are "misinformed" about what they claim they personally experienced or observed.
a stage magician and author, who is a long-time lecturer of paranormal skepticism has stated that psychic feats, such as the alleged softening of metal described in "spoon bending
," in his view, have contributed only to society's understanding of fraud.
The late Carl Sagan
offered this advice to scientists and the public at large about psychokinesis research in his 1995 book The Demon-Haunted World
Prize money for proof of psychokinesis
Internationally, there are several individual skeptics of the paranormal and skeptics' organizations
who offer cash prize money for demonstration of the existence of an extraordinary psychic power, such as psychokinesis. Experimental design must be agreed upon prior to execution, and additional conditions, such as a minimum level of fame, may be imposed. These prizes have remained uncollected by people claiming to possess paranormal abilities. The James Randi Educational Foundation
offers 1,000,000 US dollars to anyone who has a demonstrated media profile as well as the support from some member of the academic community, and who can produce a paranormal event, such as psychokinesis, in a controlled, mutually agreed upon experiment. The money is kept in an escrow account with Goldman-Sachs in New York. On January 4, 2008 it was announced that the prize would be discontinued on March 6, 2010 so that the Foundation could use the money for other purposes.
Psychokinesis in religion, mythology, and popular culture
Religion and mythology
There are written accounts and oral legends of events fitting the description of psychokinesis dating back to early history, most notably in the stories found in various religions and mythology. In the Bible, for example, Jesus is described as transmuting water into wine, which "could be called psychokinesis", healing the sick, and multiplying food.
Mythological beings, such as witches, have been accused of levitating people, animals, and objects. The court wizard and prophet Merlin in the King Arthur legend, is said to have used his power to transport Stonehenge across the sea to England from Ireland.Popular culture
Psychokinesis has a well-established existence in movies, television, computer games, literature, and other forms of popular culture. In the 1976 film Carrie, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, Sissy Spacek portrayed a troubled high school student with telekinetic powers. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress, the first psychokinetic character in a film ever to be so recognized (Ellen Burstyn was the second, in 1980's Resurrection). Numerous characters have the ability to control the movement of objects using the "the Force" in the Star Wars canon. In the 1988 anime movie Akira, a few of the main characters use telekinesis throughout the film. Prue Halliwell's main power as a witch was telekinesis in the series Charmed.
The comic book character Jean Grey of the X-Men exhibits powerful telekinetic ability. Also from the TV show Heroes, the serial killer Sylar frequently exhibits telekinetic ability. It is also commonly used as a power in a large number of videogames and role playing games.
- The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena, Dean Radin, HarperEdge, 1997.
- Distant Mental Influence, William Braud, Hampton Roads Publishing, Inc. , 2003. ISBN 1-57174-354-5. (largely a collection of published scientific research papers on formal experiments in psychokinesis conducted by the author with others between 1983 to 2000).
- Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality, Dean Radin, Pocket Books, 2006.
- The Field: The Quest for the Secret Force of the Universe, Lynne McTaggart, HarperCollins, 2008, updated paperback edition. ISBN 978-0-06-143518-8.
- Flim Flam!, James Randi, Prometheus Books, 1982. ISBN 0-87975-198-3.
- Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, James Houran and Rense Lange, editors; McFarland Press, 2001. A collection of science articles by leading researchers on documented ghost and spontaneous PK cases, with technical discussion also of possible methods of action for PK. ISBN
Published Papers on PK / TK
- The Journal of Non-Locality and Remote Mental Interactions A journal of PK-related research papers published by EmergentMind.org.
- Examining Psychokinesis: The Interaction of Human Intention With Random Number Generators – A Meta-Analysis by Holger Bösch, Fiona Steinkamp, and Emil Boller, Psychological Bulletin, 132, 497-523, 2006.
- Solar-periodic full moon effect in the Fourmilab RetroPsychoKinesis Project experiment data: an exploratory study by Eckhard Etzold Journal of Parapsychology, Fall 2005.
- Does Psi Exist and Can We prove It: Belief and Disbelief in Psychokinesis Research by Eckhard Etzold, presented at the Parapsychological Association Convention 2004.
- Material Deformation by Intention by Jack Houck, presented at the Science of Whole Person Healing Conference, March 28, 2003.
- Can Our Intentions Interact Directly with the Physical World? by William G. Braud, European Journal of Parapsychology, Vol. 10, 1994.
- The Persistent Paradox of Psychic Phenomena: An Engineering Perspective by Robert G. Jahn, ''(1982) Proceedings IEEE, 70, No.2, pp.136-170. ]
Military Papers on PK / TK
- Psychokinesis and Its Possible Implication to Warfare Strategy A 1985 study on potential military applications of psychokinesis by the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas USA. Listed at the U.S. Defense Technical Information Center's website and available to the public through the U.S. National Technical Information Service.
- Teleportation Physics Study A study published in 2004 that reviews the current state research of real and hypothetical methods of teleportation. Includes a section titled PK phenomenon. Conducted by Eric Davis of Warp Drive Metrics, Nevada and sponsored by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards AFB, California. Available publicly on the Federation of American Scientists website.
- New Correlation Between a Human Subject and a Quantum Mechanical Random Number Generator A 1967 study by Helmut Schmidt conducted at the Boeing Scientific Research Laboratory in Seattle, Washington USA that concluded: "From the results, it is tentatively concluded that there exists a weak but significant correlation between the statistical processes operative in these experiments and the experimenter who initiates the processes." Listed at the U.S. Defense Technical Information Center's website and available to the public through the U.S. National Technical Information Service.