What Is a Psychic? Psychic Meaning, History, Criticism & Research

What does it mean to be psychic?

Throughout human history, there have been special or “psychic” individuals with unique abilities that go beyond the normal human senses. These people sometimes inspire amazement and fear among people. But what exactly are they, and where do their psychic abilities come from?

Does a psychic person simply have access to more of their brain than a normal human? Is it an issue of abnormal psychology, or do their powers indicate that being psychic may actually represent something more? Join us as we explore the psychic world of visions, dreams, and parapsychology in search of answers about the seers, prophets, and mediums that walk among us.


A psychic is a person that is sensitive to the parapsychological forces of the nonphysical realm.

Psychics and their practices have been present in various cultures throughout history, often associated with spirituality, mysticism, and the paranormal. So, if you’re asking, “Are psychics real”, and “How do psychics see things,” here’s a look at the definition of the word “psychic.”

For example, a psychic medium’s ability to see dead spirits or a fortune teller’s ability to envision the future.


The concept of psychic power and the belief in extraordinary mental abilities have a long and intriguing history. Here’s what you should know.


The word psychic is taken from the Greek word “psukhikos,” meaning “of the mind or soul.” This refers in part to our commonplace thoughts or state of mind and the subtle, life-giving force that religious philosophy would call your soul.

The Goddess Psyche’s story in Greek mythology illustrates this concept of Greek psukhikos as she endeavors to unite her soul and mind through love.

In the actual myth, Psyche is a young, mortal maiden rewarded with immortality for both surviving the obstacles created for her by Venus and her loyalty to Cupid. In more modern times, the French Astronomer and Spiritualist Nicolas Camille Flammarion coined the word “psychic” in the mid-1800s to describe spiritualists.

The publisher Edward William Cox subsequently introduced the term into English in the 1870s following his extensive interest and reporting on English Spiritualism.


Since antiquity, many stories of prophets, seers, and psychics have played an influential role in human life.

From the Shamans of indigenous cultures to blind Tiresias in Homer’s Odyssey and the Book of Samuel in the Bible, psychic insight has had a long, fantastic history.

Some scholars feel paid and free psychic reading services actually began with Astrology readings after people started noticing connections between the heavens and earthly events.

On the other hand, some individuals didn’t need to use any sort of oracle or comparative tool for their insights. These people seemed to have inherent psychic abilities by which their intuition easily interacted with natural laws to interpret psychic phenomena instinctively.


One specific example is Pythia, the woman who presided as priestess over the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. Believed to be the voice of Apollo, many of the messages she delivered in a possessed, psychic state have been preserved in the myths and legends of Greek mythology.


Another pure psychic luminary who lived during the 14th century in Europe was the legendary Michel de Nostredame. Latinized into the name we now recognize as Nostradamus, his book of psychic prophesies titled Les Propheties was first published in 1555.

Since then, this classic of psychic literature has rarely been out of print. Altogether, Nostradamus composed several thousand quatrains or prophecies, most predicting disasters like floods, plagues, murders, and battles. None of these quatrains are dated, and over the centuries, this omission has caused a great deal of controversy over their relative accuracy.

Many of Nostradamus’s followers and the press have credited him with an almost God-like psychic ability to predict future events.

His critics, though, have pointed to inaccurate translations and/or intentional distortions of the quatrains by his followers as an attempt to manipulate his psychic predictions. Regardless of the controversies, the simple fact is that the psychic predictions of Nostradamus have fascinated both young and old for nearly five centuries.


Other notable seers and mystics that followed in the 15th and 16th centuries were the inventor and scientist Emmanuelle Swedenborg and the artist William Blake. Swedenborg had natural psychic powers, and his observations on how the spirit world was constructed resonated with those of the later “spiritualist” movement. Blake was a psychic artist and poet who lived in relative obscurity, though after his death, he eventually came to be regarded as both a legendary artist and psychic.


In the 1850s, a phenomenon known as Spiritualism, or the belief in communication between the living and the dead, emerged in France. At that time, a middle-aged scholar and scientist named Hippolyte Rivail (a.k.a Allan Kardec) began applying his scientific training to investigate this new movement. After years of research and much institutional resistance from his scientific peers, Kardec eventually published his seminal work titled The Spirits Book in 1857.

Even today, this book still serves as a bible of sorts for anyone interested in the nonphysical world, psychic activity, the spirits, and being a medium. Spiritualism eventually spread to the British Isles and the United States, where psychics like Daniel Dunglas Home and Madame Blavatsky became notable figures.


Following the Second World War, the public’s interest in psychics and psychic phenomena was rekindled partly due to the work of the psychic Edgar Cayce. Known as The Sleeping Prophet, Cayce went into a psychic trance during his sessions to channel the intelligence of his higher guardian angel. At first, these sessions were primarily health-oriented for those in physical discomfort, but soon Cayce also began to receive metaphysical questions. In these readings, Cayce’s psychic visions described the existence of many fantastic things like space beings, Angels, and the ancient City of Atlantis.

Many of these psychic sessions were recorded, with thousands now archived at the Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) in Virginia. Following a brief cultural nap in the conservative 1950s, psychic readings, Spiritualism, and Occultism saw a significant revival in the 1960.


Psychic phenomena and the concept of psychic powers have captivated the imagination of people worldwide, making their way into popular culture in various forms.


When Spiritualism was sweeping across Europe in the mid-1800s, Neptune, the planet that rules psychic phenomena, was transiting through its home sign of Pisces. Fast forward approximately 160 years to the turn of the millennium, and once again, we see Neptune transiting through Pisces as psychic readings take over the Internet.

Is this a coincidence, or are Astrologers actually onto something by saying that the cycles of the planets can be used to predict future events? As astrology websites and psychic reading services continue to pop up and everyone nowadays knows their zodiac sign, you tell us. Where once psychic abilities represented the superstition of a pre-industrial world, now they’re an accepted form of counseling for many in these technological times.


Anyone who has encountered a psychic phenomenon or ghosts knows they’re real. The problem is when you have to prove these things objectively to someone if they’ve never had the experience. Skeptics will likely nod their heads approvingly, but not so fast. Consider this example. We all know love is real, but without any outer indicators to go by, how can you objectively prove the existence of love between people?

For years, Science has conducted studies of parapsychological forces, but what has actually been learned? Critics from the National Science Foundation have been skeptical from jump.

They assert that most psychic research has flaws in methodology, which allows parapsychologists to claim psychics are real. Meanwhile, unexplainable things happen every day that can’t be conveniently fit into a testing protocol. If you don’t believe that, just look up the work of Charles Fort.

He spent years searching through newspapers from around the world and collecting reports on strange phenomena that were often based on multiple eyewitnesses. It’s also a matter of record that the U.S. government, in tandem with private industry, has spent a great deal of money on psychic research programs.

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