Psionics Overview

Discussion in 'Occult.. Research' started by webmaster, Sep 21, 2003.

  1. webmaster

    webmaster Administrator Staff Member

    Psionics is the common item of SF terminology referring to the study and use of Psi powers.

    Psychic, Psychical, Psychal sl' kik, si-ki-kal, si-kal (Gr. Psychikos] Belonging to the human soul, spirit or mind, psychological - applied to that force by which spiritualists aver they produce "spiritual" phenomena.

    Psychism: si-kizm - The doctrine which maintains the existence and efficacy if psychic force.

    Psychist: si-kist - A believer in psychic force

    Psychic: si-kik -

    1: (ally) able to exercise physical or occult powers
    2: Person susceptible to psychical influence, medium
    study of pyschical phenomena
    3: (lly) of the soul or mind, of phenomena and conditions apparently outside the domain of physical law.

    Psi Powers
    A name given to the full spectrum of mental powers studied by the Pseudo-science of Parapsychology, and a common item of SF terminology. In his book

    "From Anecdote to Experiment in Physical Research" (1972)

    Robert Thouless claims that he and Dr. B.P. Wiesner invented the term, prior to it's use in sf circles, as being less liable to suggest a pre-existing theory than the term Extra Sensory Perception (or ESP). The term was adopted into sf during the "psi boom" which John W. Campbell Jr. promoted in Astounding Science Fiction during the early 1950's. Campbell also popularised in the mid-1950s the related term "Psionics", which he once defined as "psychic electronics"; one of its earliest uses was in Murray Leinster's "The Psionic Mousetrap". Although many notable Psi stories deal with the entire spectrum of such powers, telepathy, clairvoyance and precognition - the "perceptual" paranormal powers - are covered here in the section on ESP. The principal sci-powers which remain for specific consideration in this section are psychokinesis or telekinesis (moving objects by the power of the mind); teleportation (moving oneself likewise, although the term is often extended to cover technologies of matter transmission); pyrolysis (psychic fire raising) and the ability to take control of the minds of others (which for some reason has never been dressed up with a fancy term).

    Campbell's psi boom was inspired by ideas borrowed from JB Rhine and Charles Fort to the effect that many individuals with latent psi powers were already among us; Campbell then took them as representing the next step in human evolution. His own "Forgetfulness" (1937, ASF, Don A Stuart) offers a significant early image if a human race which has outgrown its dependance on technology because the mind can do everything that once required tools. This idea is widely featured in the works of AE van Vogt and Theodore Sturgeon, receiving a new lease of life in 1945 when the advent of the Bomb inspired many stories in which the world before or after the Holocaust might be redeemed by psi-powered mutants, as in

    Poul Anderson's "Twilight World,
    John Wyndham's "Rebirth" and
    Phyllis Gotlieb's "Sunburst".
    Later versions of the theme can be found in

    David Palmer's "Emergence" and
    "Taji's Syndrome" by Charles Quinn Yarbro.
    All the psi powers of course, used to be in the repertoire of powerful magicians, and most are featured in occult romances. Mind control (possession) has always been a popular theme in horror stories and there is a considerable grey area between sf and supernatural fiction of this kind. Notable works featuring such powers are

    "Trilby" Daphne du Maurier,
    "The Parasite" Arthur Conan Doyle,
    "Congratulate the Devil" by Andrew Marvell,
    "But Without Horns" by Norvell W Page,
    "The Midwitch Cuckoos (Village of the Damned - US) by John Wyndham and
    "Children of Thunder" by John Brunner.
    Considered historically, teleportation may be seen as a form of levitation which is usually given rather ironic treatment in literature, as in

    Neil Bell's "The Facts about Benjamin Crede,
    Michael Harrison's "Higher Things" and
    John Shirley's Three Ring Psychus.
    In logical terms, however, teleportation may be considered simply as a special case of telekinesis and levitation therefore crops up in a lot of stories which deal with the broader range of telekinetic powers, including

    James H Schmitz's "The Witches of Karres"
    Tom Reamy's "Blind Voices" and
    Timothy Zahn's "A Coming of Age"
    In the psi-boom years, teleportation featured most prominently in

    Alfred Bester's "Tiger Tiger" (The Stars My Destination - US)
    which shows Near-Future society adapting to the development of "jaunting" (teleportation) and also in such works as

    Gordon R Dickson's "Time to Teleport"
    Science Fiction Stories as "Perfectly Adjusted"
    Teleportation by alien creatures is a significant plot element in Anne McCaffrey's Pern series and comes into sharper focus in

    Verner Vince's "The Witling" and
    Jon Walter Williams's "Knight Moves"
    A recent story in which human teleportation comes in for specific examination is "Jumper" by Steven Gould. Fire raising rarely receives separate treatment in sf stories, a notable exception to this being

    Stephen King's "Firestarter"
    In order to be dramatically effective abilities like mind control and telekinesis usually have to be moderated in some way, unless the point of the story is to sarcastically demonstrate the tyranny which would likely result from the human possession of godlike powers as in

    Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life"
    Frederik Pohl's "Pythias" and
    Henry Slesar's "A God Named Smith"
    On the other hand, the unthinkingly casual use of extravagant powers for trivial purposes is ironically featured in Henry Kuttner's comedies about the Hillbilly Hogbens. Humans made godlike by psi powers are given less cynical treatment in

    Frank Herbert's "The Priests of Psi" and
    "The God Makers,
    and in several novels by Roger Zelazny. One might perhaps wish that L. Ron Hubbard had retained the amiable cynicism he exhibited in his early Psi story "The Tramp" but instead he went on to build Scientology around a mythology of human evolution towards psionic godhood. Several stories of gradually unfolding psi power reach climaxes which may be regarded as apotheoses

    Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End" is the most notable example, others are
    Keith Laumer's "The Infinite Cage" and
    Oscar Rossiter's "Tetrasomy Two
    Carol Nelson Douglas's "Probe" and "Counterprobe"
    offer a more moderate account of psi powers, not initially under conscious control being gradually revealed.

    Despite the widespread publicity given to the phenomenon of "spoon-bending" in the 1970's there is no convincing evidence that the real world psychics can accomplish more than moderate conjurers by ways of telekinesis. It is a little recognised fact that the the evidence of ESP, seemingly a more plausible talent is even worse. That stories of ESP far outnumber stories devoted to the other psi powers has far more to do with the intrinsic narrative interest than with any questions of likelihood. Some critics feel that, in spite of the elaborate pseudo-scientific jargon developed by believers in the paranormal, stories of psi powers really do belong to the realm of magical Fantasy than in sf. The rapid growth of genre fantasy in the past two decades has, in fact, allowed many such stories to be appropriately allocated.

    Book references from The Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction by John Clute & Peter Nichols

Share This Page