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telepathy, supposed communication between two persons without recourse to the senses. The word was formulated in 1882 by Frederic William Henry Myers, English poet, essayist, and a leading founder of the Society for Psychical Research in London. Telepathy experiments have been conducted in Europe, the Soviet Union, and the United States, but the phenomenon remains unproved. See parapsychology.
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(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

From the Greek tele, “distance” and pathos, “to sense or feel from afar.” The word was coined by Frederick W. H. Myers in 1882, who defined it as “transmission of thought independently of the recognized channels of sense.” It therefore infers a communication between two or more individuals without use of the five regular senses. It usually involves one person sending information and another person receiving it. Sir William Crookes tried to explain telepathy as a physical process, saying, “It is known that the action of thought is accompanied by certain molecular movements in the brain, and here we have physical vibrations capable from their extreme minuteness of acting direct on individual molecules, while their rapidity approaches that of the internal and external movements of the atoms themselves.”

Nandor Fodor observed that belief in telepathy is ages old and that prayer is actually telepathic communication between the petitioner and deity. He also suggests that the basis of sympathy and antipathy may be telepathy.

There is evidence that telepathy is not confined to humans but is also experienced by animals. For example, the novelist H. Rider Haggard told his wife of a dream in which their dog, Bob, appeared to him. The animal was lying on its side in brushwood near water, and was trying to let his master know that he was dying. Four days later the dog’s body was found floating in a river. He had been struck by a train and knocked from the railroad bridge. Susan McGrath’s book How Animals Talk (1993) includes examples of telepathy in animals as does Edmund Selous’s Thought Transference in Birds (1931).

Professor James Hervey Hyslop thought it possible that spirits might be the cause of telepathy between the living. He claimed that Myers also saw this possibility at the start of his investigations into telepathy. In experiments conducted by Myers with Miss Miles and Miss Ramsden, Miles claimed that she could always tell when her telepathy had been successful because she heard rappings. (Proceedings, Vol. XXI).


Fodor, Nandor: Encyclopedia of Psychic Science. London: Arthurs Press, 1933
Myers, F. W. H.: Human Personality and Its Survival after Bodily Death. London: Longmans, 1903
Spence, Lewis: An Encyclopedia of the Occult. London: George Routledge & Sons, 1920
The Spirit Book © 2006 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.


Psychol the communication between people of thoughts, feelings, desires, etc., involving mechanisms that cannot be understood in terms of known scientific laws
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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