The Greek origins of the word “psychic” are “of the soul” or “mental” but today, the term almost always refers to a person’s natural ability to perceive hidden information, other than what is evident by using the five known senses. Also called ESP, or “extrasensory perception”, psychics usually possess a form of paranormal ability. While the idea, or concept, of “psychic talent” is more broadly accepted than ever before, many people still deny that it is real.
Recently made popular by the multi-million dollar industry, the term “psychic advisor” is used to describe the people who use their natural, psychic ability to give clients insight into their future. Some of the best-known psychic advisors from this past century are John Edward and Sylvia Browne.
Psychic talent and the ability to tell fortunes dates back to ancient times, with history showing many ancient civilizations closely followed astrology. People with the gift of predicting the future, without the use of systems or charts, became known as prophets, or “seers”. Over time, they were called psychics, or clairvoyants.
From the earliest prophets described in the Bible, to the seers from the Oracle of Apollo, a sense of wonder has surrounded these exceptional people, and as their gifts become known, many sought out their predictions about the future. One the best known and enduring historical figures with psychic gifts was Nostradamus, a 16th century Frenchman whose predictions are considered accurate to this day. Most of Nostradamus’ prophetic writings dealt with major disasters, such as wars, earthquakes, floods, plagues and murders, but his predictions were never dated. While he remains a controversial figure to some, fans of Nostradamus still credit him with accurately predicting many momentous events.
In the late 19th century, a man named Edgar Cayce gained global recognition for his numerous, highly publicized, psychic predictions. Cayce came onto the scene when Modern Spiritualism had just become widely accepted. Among many others who subscribed to paranormal beliefs, Cayce was known for believing he could communicate with the dead, by making contact with the spirit world.
Both skeptics and scholars often attribute the belief in psychic abilities to manipulate “tricks”, and strong self delusion. However, in a 2005 Gallup survey, a surprising 41 percent of Americans expressed some belief in ESP. The same Gallup study indicated that 31 percent believe in psychic/telepathic communication and 26 percent believe in clairvoyance.
A 2006 Oklahoma University survey showed that belief in psychic abilities is more common among college seniors, and graduate students, than it is among college freshmen. Thirty-one percent of college seniors and 31% of graduate students said they believe in psychic abilities, but only 23% of college freshmen shared this belief. Contrary to popular opinion, this survey suggests that higher levels of education make people more likely to trust in psychic advisors.
Many people believe that psychics usually inherit their psychic ability, since this gift seems to be represented in families, and passed down from generation to generation. Still, others think that psychic talents can be activated or enhanced by the practice of meditation, or other focused mental disciplines.
People who claim to have psychic gifts will often attempt to make a living from their craft, with many hosting their own web pages, radio shows, or television programs. The recent influx of psychic networks, psychic advisor hotlines, and online psychics has contributed to the industry’s increased market share, but it has also caused some confusion, making it much harder to be sure if the person on the other end is a real psychic, or just a fake psychic with a talent for manipulation and trickery.