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Natural Predilections
Telepathy and Empathy

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Psychic Abilities

     The following is a brief listing of words and phrases that are commonly used to talk about psychic awareness (at least, among those who do talk about it).  This is a quick-reference glossary, with a thumbnail definition of each type of psychic ability that I will discuss in the text.  I will discuss each of these abilities in greater depth further on in the narrative.

Aura: The outer layer of the etheric energy field, which acts as a kind of "skin," keeping the vital energy contained.

Clairsentience: The ability to sense the presence, form, movement, or essential nature of subtle energy. This can include sensing one’s own subtle energy, the energy of other people, or the energy of a space (e.g., psychometry).  Those who utilize this ability do not necessarily "see" the subtle energy fields in addition to sensing them, although some people contend that they are both clairvoyant and clairsentient. 

Clairvoyance: Perceiving psychic energy as visual sensory input.  The word clairvoyance is sometimes used to describe remote viewing or intuition, but in my own narrative, these terms are mutually exclusive.

   People who experience "seeing" the etheric level of reality may use clairsentience at the same time.  For instance, someone with a penchant for clairvoyance can view subtle energy as shapes and colors, but s/he may also get psychic impressions about the thoughts and emotions behind that energy.

Intuition: The power to sense the likely course of future events.  This sensing may manifest itself as a vague feeling (a "hunch"), a clear mental idea of what is likely to occur (a premonition), or an actual vision of those events.

Etheric realm: A normally unseen layer of reality, in which the energy behind our thoughts, emotions, and intentions takes a palpable form.  This energy is not the same as the electricity that courses through the nervous system, so we cannot assume that the etheric realm is part of the electromagnetic spectrum.  It is, just as likely, a dimension of existence slightly removed from the physical plane, which we can somehow perceive with specialized senses that register in our biological nervous systems.

   For all intents and purposes, the words etheric and psychic are interchangeable.  Psychic means "of the psyche," and etheric energy has an integral connection to the inner world of thoughts, emotions, sensations and imagery.

Empathy: the ability to directly perceive other people’s emotions.  It is one of the most commonly utilized psychic abilities, even among people who don’t believe that they have any.  The emotional aspects of human experience carry a sense of mystery that borders on transcendental.  Because of this, even very secular-minded people can speak of sharing emotions as something more than just an analytical process of reflecting on others’ experiences. 

Psychometry: Sensing events that have happened in the past.  Our thoughts and emotions leave psychic imprints on physical objects, including the space we are in at the time.

Telepathy: This is probably the most commonly used term dealing with psychic ability. The word describes all types of psychic awareness in which a person directly perceives ideas, visual images, or auditory mental content that originate in someone else’s mind.  For many people, telepathy is synonymous with "reading minds" (mind-scanning), which is a deliberate invasion of another person’s innermost thoughts.  Mind-scans are the most dubious application of telepathic ability, but there is a lot more to telepathy than poking around in other people’s heads.  Mild telepathy is extremely common, but most people don’t usually notice because they only register telepathic impressions which could be explained in terms of deduction or guesswork.

Natural Predilections

     Anyone who successfully explores psychic awareness will find that he or she has a knack for specific abilities, while others remain difficult to achieve or even seem unattainable.  Psychic predilections are similar to other natural talents we discover in ourselves: there are some things that you take to, and others that don’t come as easily.  Never have I encountered someone who is able to effortlessly utilize all the major categories of psychic capability; as with everything else in our potential, some things come more easily than others.

   You should always take your predilections into account when deciding what to pursue in your psychic development.  If you find that certain types of awareness are difficult to achieve, this probably indicates that it is not your natural bent to hone those powers to a high degree of mastery.  This is no different from other life choices we make; for instance, a person who is predisposed to be caring and thorough, and has exceptional manual dexterity, might seek to become a surgeon because it makes the best use of her innate gifts.  Similar judgment calls must be made on the path to psychic self-discovery. 

   To use myself as an example, I believe I have a gift for sensing others’ emotions.  On the other hand, I have made concerted efforts to "see" etheric energy, and I’ve studied a number of ancient and modern esoteric techniques that are supposed to help bring this ability out in people, but have only had limited success eliciting clairvoyant awareness (and even then, it's like puling teeth).  To make a long story short, I just never managed to get the hang of clairvoyance, which has led me to conclude that I’m not cut out for this predilection. Thus, my personal exploration has been more focused on abilities like empathy and clairsentience.  

Telepathy and Empathy  

  When people speak to one another, the words that they choose aren’t always as important as the volume, tone, rhythm, and timbre of their voice.   Psychic interaction is just as full of intricacies.  Science fiction films often portray "psychic power" as a verbally-focused form of telepathy: the ability to project words back and forth without moving your lips, or hear other people's inner dialogue in your own head.  For all the novelty that this brings, you might as well just have a normal conversation; in any case, people have more than one internal track going at the time, so trying to hear someone else's thoughts would be more akin to discerning one conversation in a crowded room full of people shouting at the top of their lungs. 

It is time for people to realize that the sci-fi metaphysics is patently naïve—a gross simplification that has only gained social acceptance because it is couched in what people find most familiar.  True psychic communication is an open sharing of what we are really made of, and we are all much more than the words we use.

One rung up the ladder from the verbal telepathy concept is the idea that there are two kinds of psychic ability.  These are telepathy and empathy—the power to psychically exchange thoughts and emotions, respectively.  There is a bit more truth to this belief than the sci-fi version, but like most dualistic models, it falls short of seeing the big picture.  When people think that there are only a couple different categories of psychic ability, they only end up wearing a new set of blinders (albeit, a slight upgrade from the ones they had on before).  Admitting that people can directly exchange thoughts and emotions is a step up from total disbelief, but the telepathy/empathy dualism does not leave room for the sheer scope of ways that we can psychically communicate.

One of the more common misconceptions in the psychic development circuit is that there is a clear dividing line between telepathy and empathy.  In my experience, this is far from the truth.   In the realm of psychic interaction, thoughts and emotions are often inextricably intertwined, just as they are in each person's psyche.  Our feelings lend cohesion, intensity, purpose and direction to our thoughts, which in turn prompt new feelings.  We project these two core aspects of our consciousness as a gestalt, because without their complimentary forces, neither one would have any meaning. 

Feelings and ideas are so closely interwoven that we rarely sense one side of the spectrum without also gleaning some of the other.   For instance, if a person feels scornful toward someone nearby, and the target of his scorn senses this, there could be many different types of communication transpiring.  The recipient may be picking up on the sender’s thoughts or emotions, or both.  S/he could just be responding to physical cues, like a frown, furrowed eyebrows, tensed shoulders, or a hostile timbre to the voice, but the physical and etheric are anything but mutually exclusive, so the correct answer is often "yes to both."  There are psychic elements to all forms of human interaction, which mirror the physical aspects in the form of mental, emotional, and sensorial content.  The main question is, in what proportion do we express them?

  Empathy is probably more common than telepathy.  A lot of people, if questioned, could recount a time when they shared their feelings with someone so deeply that it seemed like something transcendental had occurred.  One of these days, the Western world may own up to the fact that psychic abilities are part of the human potential.  If this much-touted paradigm shift ever happens, empathy could be the single most influential factor leading up to it.  Even those who would otherwise count themselves skeptics tend to be more open to this possibility.  Society is primed to recognize that emotions bridge the gap between individual psyches, and empathy could be the catalyst in this paradigm shift.  

Looking at Western cultures, it might seem a logical conclusion that human beings are naturally more predisposed to empathy than telepathy.  However, we must also take the social context into account.  Put simply: social conditioning impels us to screen out anything that is designated unreal.  People are regularly affirmed for being "sensitive," or feeling what others feel.  If someone ever claims to be privy to another person’s thoughts, on the other hand, they wouldrun the risk of others thinking that they are running a scam, pulling a practical joke, or experiencing delusions. 

In early upbringing, we learn that there are some things which we simply must not think or perceive.  Myriad social cues, both subtle and obvious, deliver messages that our instinct for social survival responds to by modifying not only our thoughts and feelings, but the types of perception that enter into our conscious awareness. The underlying message of this social programming is that "If you consider notions A, B and C, you are getting out of touch with Reality.  People who are too out of touch with Reality suffer and become outcasts.  Do you want that to happen to you?  No, we didn’t think so."  We have all learned, in some way, that we can only survive if we conform to the correct version of reality.  Thus, we come to unconsciously protect ourselves from alienation by screening our perceptions, forming censors that keep us safely inside society’s definition of sanity most of the time. At a certain point in our development, we completely lose sight of these buried aspects of our full potential.

It is widely accepted that people share emotions by reflexively "feeling" what others feel.  Prompted by this conditioning, we have become mildly sensitive to emotional energy, within limits that others don’t find threatening.  There is no such corollary, however, for exchanging thoughts and imagery.  Materialist conditioning compels us to screen out mental energy so thoroughly that telepathy has been blacklisted from most people’s perceptions.  We get a bit of leeway in the empathy department (in the guise of "normal" sensitivity), but our telepathic abilities become atrophied.

Another reason that people are generally more inclined toward the empathic side of psychic awareness is that facial expressions, body language, and the voice are more suited to imparting emotions than ideas.  All of these forms of expression give others a context for the emotional energy that we send out, which facilitates them attuning to what we project on the etheric plane.  Remember, psychic awareness comes through more clearly when we can already conceptualize what the other person is projecting. 


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© 1999, 2003 by Lucius R.  Ringwald.  All rights reserved.