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clairvoyance (klârˌvoiˈəns), alleged power to perceive, as though visually, objects or persons not discernible through the ordinary sense channels. Clairvoyance may occur in a supposedly normal state (second sight) or more generally in a trance induced by various agencies, such as drugs, fasting, illness, or crystal gazing. See spiritism and parapsychology.
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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Clairvoyance is “clear seeing,” the ability to see in the mind’s eye people and things in another dimension. Many Spiritualist mediums are clairvoyants, able to actually see and describe spirits of the deceased. In the Bible there is reference to the Woman of Endor, visited by Saul (I Samuel 28). She is described as “a woman that hath a familiar spirit.” In other words, a spirit guide or guardian angel. She is a Spiritualist medium (not a witch, as is the common misconception). When Saul meets with her—despite the fact that he tried to get rid of all such mediums—she describes exactly what she sees clairvoyantly: “I saw gods ascending out of the earth. An old man cometh up and he is covered with a mantle.” This turns out to be Samuel and Saul is able to speak with him, through the agencies of the medium. Similarly, Isaiah had a clairvoyant vision of “the Lord … high and lifted up” attended by seraphim (Isaiah 6).

William E. Butler differentiates clairvoyance by psychological clairvoyance, spatial clairvoyance, astral clairvoyance, and true spiritual clairvoyance, though he tends to combine clairvoyance with clairsentience in many instances. Lewis Spence distinguishes the ability to see people and events in the present from the ability to see things in the past. Nandor Fodor recognizes X-ray clairvoyance, medical clairvoyance, traveling clairvoyance, and platform clairvoyance. X-ray clairvoyance is the ability to see inside closed objects such as sealed envelopes and behind brick walls. Medical clairvoyance is seeing illnesses and reading auras to diagnose disease. The term is used to also cover medical clairsentience. Traveling clairvoyance is also sometimes called “remote viewing” and is seeing actual people and events at a great distance. Platform clairvoyance is the demonstration of the facility literally on a platform before an audience, or in the séance room.

One of the most striking examples of clairvoyantly seeing the past is the case that has become known as the Versailles adventure. On August 10, 1901, two young English women, Annie E. Moberly and Eleanor M. Jourdain, were traveling in France and visited the Petit Trianon at Versailles. Annie Moberly was the daughter of the bishop of Salisbury and her friend was the daughter of a Derbyshire vicar. As Eleanor Jourdain recalled, “We went on in the direction of the Petit Trianon, but just before reaching what we knew afterwards to be the main entrance I saw a gate leading to a path cut deep below the level of the ground above, and as the way was open and had the look of an entrance that was used, I said ‘Shall we try this path? It must lead to the house,’ and we followed it … I began to feel as if I were walking in my sleep; the heavy dreaminess was oppressive. At last we came upon a path crossing ours, and saw in front of us a building consisting of some columns roofed in, and set back in the trees. Seated on the steps was a man with a heavy black cloak round his shoulders, and wearing a slouch hat. At that moment the eerie feeling which had begun in the garden culminated in a definite impression of something uncanny and fear inspiring. The man slowly turned his face, which was marked by smallpox, his complexion was very dark. The expression was very evil and though I did not feel he was looking particularly at us, I felt a repugnance to going past him.” The two women further described points of architecture and landscape which seemed to pinpoint the date of the building and its surrounds to around 1770, since alterations were later made to parts of the Petit Trianon. The ladies saw men in three-cornered hats, a woman with a large white hat, and others in the dress of the eighteenth century. The Petit Trianon was built by Louis XV for his mistress, the Marquise de Pompadour, who was later succeeded by Madame Dubarry. Later, Louis XVI gave the house to Marie Antoinette. This seems to be a fine case of clairvoyance where the mediums were able to see, and later describe in detail, events in a past century.

There is also the well known case of Captain Youatt who saw, in a dream, a group of emigrants trapped on a mountain in the snow. Especially obvious was a white cliff face and other landmarks. He saw this dream repeatedly and related it to a friend who recognized some of the features and believed it to be the Carson Valley Pass, about 150 miles from where they were. A company of men, with mules, blankets, food, and other supplies, set off and actually found the stranded group just as Youatt had described them. This story was published in the 1875 volume of Sunday at Home magazine.

Clairvoyance may manifest in internal or external visions. Most examples of clairvoyance are connected to the here and now. It can be brought about by mechanical means, using drugs, incense, hypnotism, crystal gazing, drumming, or any one of a number of methods. It can also be a part of ritual dance and song. Bringing about ekstasis, or ecstasy—getting out of oneself —has been a part of ritual for thousands of years, frequently leading to clairvoyant visions. Virtually anyone can develop clairvoyance, with suitable training.


Buckland, Raymond: Buckland’s Book of Spirit Communications. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 2004

Butler, William E.: How to Develop Clairvoyance. New York: Samuel Weiser, 1971
Cowan, Tom: The Book of Séance. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1994
Holroyd, Stuart: The Supernatural: Minds Without Boundaries. London: Aldus Books, 1975
Iremonger, Lucille: The Ghosts of Versailles. London: Faber & Faber, 1957
Owens, Elizabeth: How to Communicate With Spirits. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 2002
Shepard, Leslie A. (ed.): Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology. New York: Avon Books, 1978
Clar, Lydia see Edward, John
The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.



Clairvoyance is related to such terms as ESP (extrasensory perception), telepathy, and mediumship, and these terms are often used imprecisely and interchangeably. Clairvoyance (literally, “clear seeing”) refers to psychic sensitivity, especially in the form of visual information.

One “classic” parapsychology procedure used by J.B. Rhine and other early researchers during the 1950s and 60s was to pair off subjects into senders and receivers, requiring one subject to attempt to send a mental picture to the other. In his experiments Rhine used a limited set of symbols—circles, crosses, squares, and wavy lines—which he placed on cards. Subsequent experimenters used more complex images.

Experimental studies of dream clairvoyance have used this same basic model, but with the receiving subject sleeping during the experiment, the idea being that the image projected by the sender will show up in the receiver’s dreams. Even though this basic technique is quite old, going back at least as far as 1819, it was not until the Maimonides Project on Paranormal Dreams in 1962 that the format for dream clairvoyance experimentation was formalized. The Maimonides Project (so called because the dream laboratory housing the project was at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn) was initiated by Montague Ullman, who was chairman of the psychiatry department. Two years later he was joined by psychologist Stanley Krippner. Together they published numerous articles and a popular book, Dream Telepathy (1973).

While the specifics of different series of Maimonides experiments varied widely, the basic format was to hook up the sleeping receiver to an EEG (electroencephalograph) machine and signal the sender each time the sleeper entered a rapid eye movement (REM) period. The sender would then concentrate on mentally sending a picture (which was unknown ahead of time) to the receiver until the REM period concluded. This same basic procedure continued throughout the night, with the image being sent during each REM cycle. In the morning, the receiver was given a choice of eight pictures and asked to rank them in the order of likelihood that they were the image that had been sent during the night.

A series of thirteen major experiments were carried out in the Maimonides Project, nine of which produced statistically significant results, supporting a parapsychological explanation.

The Dream Encyclopedia, Second Edition © 2009 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


A form of extrasensory perception in which there is a receiver and an extant event of which he has knowledge that has not been conveyed to him through his sensory channels.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


the alleged power of perceiving things beyond the natural range of the senses
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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