Mediumship is defined as the practice of certain people—known as mediums—to mediate communication between spirits of the dead and other human beings.While no evidence has been accepted by the wider scientific community in support of the view that there has been communication between the living and the dead, some parapsychologists say that some of their research suggests that such communication may have taken place.
There are several different variants of mediumship; the best known forms are where a spirit takes control of a medium’s voice and uses it to relay a message, or where the medium simply ‘hears’ the message and passes it on. Other forms involve manifestations of the spirit, such as apparitions or the presence of a voice, and telekinetic activity.
Attempts to contact the dead date back to early human history, with mediumship gaining in popularity during the 19th century. Investigations during this period revealed widespread fraud—with some practitioners employing techniques used by stage magicians—and the practice started to lose credibility. Nevertheless the practice still continues to this day, and high profile fraud has been uncovered as recently as the 2000s.
In recent years scientific research has been undertaken to ascertain the validity of claims of mediumship. In an experiment undertaken by the British Psychological Society, the conclusion was that the test subjects demonstrated no mediumistic ability. Other experiments which have seemingly found evidence of paranormal activity have been criticised for not establishing thorough test conditions.
An experiment considered by parapsychologists to be one of the most compelling involved taking electroencephalography readings of twelve test subjects, most of which were found to have abnormal readings, with some readings bearing similarities to those found in epileptics even though the subjects had never experienced fits and had no family history of epilepsy.
While mediumistic ability is neither confirmed or denied by unusual brain activity, the findings of the experiment was that parapsychological phenomena are at least partly a function of the brain.
Last updated: May 20, 2014 at 9:01 am
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