Does Psychic Ability Represent an Evolution of the Brain?

A professional psychic named Ilona recently made a remark that startled me. I was interviewing her for my new book and I’d thought I’d heard it all, but that certainly was not the case. Her comment wasn’t an epiphany-inducing personal prediction. Nor was it about anything as agonizingly cliché as the world ending. But it did have implications that, in my mind, reverberated down through the unfolding centuries to come. She predicted that in another 500 years psychic ability would become mainstream.

Think about that. Try to envision a world in which the average person would possess what we now consider to be extraordinary abilities as a clairvoyant or medium. (For the sake of clarity, clairvoyants are people who know something about the past, present or future that they should have no way of knowing. Mediums are people who communicate with the departed.) The ramifications of such a development are mind-boggling.

Can you imagine what sort of impact universal psychic ability would have on business and political practices? How would the stock market work if it were no longer a gamble? Would history professors channel figures from the past to provide more accurate first-hand accounts of milestone events? And on a personal level, would widows and widowers find it harder to remarry with their late spouses popping in and out of their lives?

I began researching this notion in work done by scientists. There are a number of organizations that dedicate themselves to validating and/or debunking the paranormal and many have Suggested Reading Lists. One book I read, written by a John Hopkins-trained neuropsychiatrist who had taught at Harvard Medical School, suggested that psychic ability represents an evolution of the brain. When describing psychic ability, Dr. Diane Hennacy Powell, in her book The ESP Enigma: The Scientific Case for Psychic Phenomena, explained that the nervous system is like an energy antenna. In some people, the antennae are so sensitive that they can pick up information that eludes the rest of us.

Genetics vs Trauma

According to her observations, most gifted clairvoyants and mediums inherit their ability. So that highly sensitive nervous system has a genetic component. That may, in part, explain why she suggested psychic ability as an evolution of the brain. It would be interesting to see if that psychic neuro-variation could be pinpointed on the human genome. Although, that might be complex to do as scientists have conceded that it is not necessarily a single gene that accounts for a single human trait so much as the totality of genes interplaying with each other.

Dr. Hennacy Powell also observed that some people acquire psychic ability through trauma. For instance, well-known psychic medium George Anderson developed brain swelling as a complication from chicken pox at the age of six. He was not expected to survive, but he did. When he recovered, his nervous system was altered and he was able to see dead people. Famous Dutch psychic Peter Hurkos fell off a ladder and hit his head, an event which initiated his abilities. And Joseph McMoneagle, who worked for the U.S. Army Intelligence remote viewing program for more than ten years, developed his psychic ability after a near-death experience. (Remote viewing is another name for clairvoyance.)

I should disclose that for most of my life, I have been a strong skeptic of paranormal phenomena. I apparently belong to the more Neanderthal branch of humanity that is deficient in psychic ability. In fact, I have spent most of my career writing about scientific topics and I confess to feeling more comfortable with information that is supported by double-blind, placebo-controlled studies.

I can only suggest that our quantum universe must have a sense of humor, because when I met my future husband more than 20 years ago, the last thing I was expecting was that he would be one of those psychic types.  To make my situation all the more absurd, in keeping with the genetic tendencies mentioned earlier, half of his family is psychic as well. So, for the past two decades, I guess you could say I’ve been surrounded.

Measuring the Method

The scientific method that establishes fact through reproducible studies was designed to measure properties in the physical world. So is measuring etheric phenomena possible with this method? Is it even valid? Are we trying to capture a cup of water with an 8-ounce sieve?

I fully realize that any experiences I might have to share, from a scientific standpoint, would be considered anecdotal and subjective. But I would like to suggest that paranormal phenomena, by their very character, tend to be that way. I am not alone in that viewpoint. Dr. Irvin L. Child, then Professor of Psychology at Yale University, observed in a paper presented to the American Society for Psychical Research in 1974 that “unlike other areas of experimental study, paranormal phenomena have never been the subject of any kind of dependably repeatable experiment … Psi phenomena may, of course, be of such a nature that no procedure will ever be adequate to guarantee their occurrence at a particular time and place.”

As a case in point, my husband’s Italian grandmother, Dolores, had sporadic precognitive dreams that came true. But she couldn’t summon a dream upon will nor could she manufacture them in a reproducible volume. Her predictions tended to be about specific impending accidents or death. One might reason that mortality can often be anticipated based on age. But that wouldn’t explain the morning she woke up, extremely upset, and insisted her daughter call an uncle they rarely contacted. Dolores was convinced something terrible had happened. It had. His college-aged son had just been in an automobile accident and died ten days later.

You could certainly attribute that to coincidence. And I certainly did when such events occurred shortly after I married my husband. But after 20 years of inexplicable experiences, I have grudgingly changed my mind.

Time, the Final Arbiter

If the archive of this article is by some unlikely coincidence preserved over time, perhaps five centuries hence, readers can view Ilona’s prediction and know for certain if it was a brilliant flash of clairvoyance or unfounded babbling nonsense. For now, we can only ponder.

(C) 2013


Louisa Oakley Green is the author of Loitering at the Gate to Eternity: Memoirs of a Psychic Bystander. Her recently published book (visit offers a combination of history and research on various types of paranormal phenomenon as well as more than 100 true paranormal stories. She has been a professional writer for more than 40 years, working as a journalist, magazine editor, creative director and science writer. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, Stephen.

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