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Considering the Paranormal

What are paranormal phenomena and what might they mean to us?


Welcome to Paranormal Phenomena at About.com. This is a special welcome in two ways: a welcome to new visitors who are just discovering this area of About.com, and a welcome again to regular visitors.

There certainly is a growing interest in the this topic in our society, as evidenced by the success of the many praranormal-themed TV shows, films, magazines and books - and the proliferation of related sites on the Internet. Our entry into this new millennium might also contribute to this fascination because, perhaps, such marks in time cause us to contemplate our place in the cosmos and the nature of our existence.

Beyond Scientific Understanding

Many people just naturally have a curiosity about the supernatural and the unexplained; they intuitively know that current scientific models don't have all the answers. And although many consider the paranormal nonsense, unscientific or, at the least, a harmless diversion, it could represent something far deeper than that. What we commonly refer to as "paranormal phenomena" - whatever that is - could be a glimpse into the very subconscious of human beings and how our minds might interact with the universe around us. Consider:

  • A young woman wakes from a deep sleep, feeling distressed, thinking she hears the phone ring. She answers it and hears her mother tell her that she loves her and that everything is going to be alright. She goes back to sleep, awaking in the morning to learn that her mother had died - about the same time she received the mysterious phone call.
  • A middle-aged man lies on an operating table, the recent victim of an auto accident. To the doctors working on him he's unconscious and near death. But the man suddenly finds himself outside his body, looking down at the operating procedure and is able to hear and understand the conversation of the doctors and nurses as they work to save his life. A being of light appears to the man and tells him that it's not time for him to leave the earth and that he must return. He returns to his body and recovers from the trauma.
  • A couple is driving down a dark, lonely highway late at night when they pass a small building engulfed in flames. It seems to be abandoned and beyond help, so they drive on to the nearest town where they spend the night. The next day, out of curiosity, they return to the site of the fire only to find the charred remains of a building amid overgrown grass and weeds - the remains of a fire that must have happened many years ago.

Such experiences are called paranormal because they are, using the dictionary definition of the word, "scientifically unexplainable." The word means beyond (from the Greek, para) normal. And it includes experiences, events and phenomena that, as Fox Mulder used to say on "The X-Files," cannot be catalogued, categorized or easily referenced. Weird stuff. Stuff that doesn't fit our everyday view of the world.

Such experiences remain scientifically unexplainable because they are difficult, if not impossible, to examine by the scientific method. They are spontaneous, fleeting moments and largely unrepeatable. There is usually no tangible proof of them having occurred; stuff that cannot usually be brought into a lab to be probed, dissected, photographed or tested. So they are most often dismissed as figments of the imagination, hallucinations or psychological phenomena. And, of course, many such experiences could be just that.

Next Page > Are we on the verge of understanding the paranormal?

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