Parapsychology is a discipline that can be summed up as an inexact attempt to measure the unseen realm of paranormal phenomena. It attempts to bridge the gap between spirituality and psychology and understand the nuances of one with the clinical methodology of the other. It seeks to explain portions of the spiritual and the ethereal realms through the use of scientific method. Parapsychology attempts to investigate paranormal phenomena that otherwise have no logical explanation and do not otherwise fit into the established notions of modern day science.
In the early era of psychology, many experiments were conducted in an attempt to prove the existence of phenomena such as extra sensory perception (ESP), which could include events such as telepathy, psychokinesis and the physical manifestation of the spiritual realm. the main form of experimentation in the early stages consisted of a quantitative statistical approach where five different shapes on playing cards were presented to subjects and they were asked to sense what shape was presented without being able to see it. Statistically, they had a twenty percent chance of getting the correct answer, and any statistical success rate above twenty percent was considered proof of the existence of the phenomena. This method had several problems.
First of all, it did not require qualitative evidence, which requires controls be put in place that ensure the results can not be disputed. In fact, the results were later disputed and criticized because there were no controls to prevent the manipulation of the results, and this brought all of the data into question. Secondly, these methods relied almost completely on the collection of large amounts of statistical evidence that was carefully vetted to support the desired outcome. Again, no real controls were put into place to prevent the misuse of data. After this was discovered and criticized, scientific controls were instituted in future experiments and the success rate of those experiments never achieved that of the initial experiments. This, of course, led to the majority of the scientific community to label it as pseudo-science.
Research continued to expand through the seventies and eighties despite the initial setbacks and also despite any real evidentiary support or provable findings. Most research that was conducted did not manage to produce compelling or repeatable results that changed the prominence of parapsychology or furthered its reputation and acceptance within the scientific community. Perhaps the fundamental downfall was that it never embraced true scientific method to achieve its results, thus, those results could be disputed because they relied on interpretation of data and were subject to methodological errors.
The foundation of parapsychology was based on psychological viewpoints as far as studies and experiments of the minds role in paranormal phenomena were concerned, thus standard scientific practices were not employed nor could they really be when it concerned developing evidence of events that, for the most part, occurred within the mind of the individuals. Parapsychology developed its own methods and practices in order to substantiate any evidence collected during the experiments. The problem was that these methods had their foundation in psychology and lacked the qualitative nature of true scientific method, and in turn, used flawed methodology to achieve results. In this way, it merely continued to perform the same experiments over and over until it could show some statistical anomalies that could be used to support desired conclusions. This led to the consensus that parapsychology appears to place its emphasis on achieving results that support its desired outcome at the expense of acceptable experimental criteria. This has led to further, wide-spread criticism and a final refute by the scientific community as a whole.
The main question is, despite the shortcomings of parapsychology, are there in fact paranormal phenomena that do exist, such as reincarnation, telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, haunting and psychokinesis? If so, is there a method other than the examination of statistical evidence that can be used to establish acceptable and repeatable evidence that proves out the existence of such phenomena? Can events that transpire in the super natural arena ever be truly measured or proven to exist, and if not, is it because parapsychology and science in general have not yet come far enough along in their respective evolution to discover new methods that could prove out such phenomena in a way that is measurable. Of course, none of this means that paranormal phenomena doesn't exist, it only means that we have yet to develop techniques that can adequately define and measure it, and in the mean time, our ability to clinically prove out the realm of spirituality is at a stand still.
Perhaps, if we look at things in another light, the question arises as to the possibility that the ethereal realm of spirituality might not be meant to have its existence proven or measured by scientific method. Maybe the mystical world of paranormal phenomena and the magical wonder of it are reserved for those who have the adventurous spirit to seek it out and discover it. Perhaps this place will remain solely a land of faith that can neither be proven nor denied. Perhaps it is meant to be this way so that only the faithful and the true believers can find the magical wonders of life.
Spirituality and Psychology