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What is Clairvoyance?

Mary Elizabeth
Updated Jan 26, 2024
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Clairvoyance comes from a French word meaning “clear seeing.” It is a form of extrasensory perception (ESP), which refers to knowledge of external things or happenings that is gained without the use of the senses and the ordinary methods of perceiving and reasoning, thus a so-called psychic experience. Specifically, it provides a person with information through “seeing” or visualizing things and happenings beyond the range or capability of physical sight. When hearing is involved, as it sometimes is, the phenomena may be referred to as clairaudience, meaning “clear hearing.”

The practice of clairvoyance is often connected with the state of consciousness called a trance and the object of knowledge and understanding is often the spirits of the dead. As such, it is connected with Spiritualism, which holds the belief that the dead can communicate with the living through a medium. The phenomenon is sometimes explained as a vision that arises from psychic communication with spirits or, alternatively, as a form of telepathy in which communication takes place from one mind directly to another.

To the present, studies have been unable to establish an underlying understanding for the claims of clairvoyance that quells the concerns of all about its validity, but research continues. The Stargate Project in the latter part of the Twentieth Century was one of several projects by the US Federal Government to investigate the validity and possible strategic deployment for military use of psychic phenomena, especially “remote viewing,” which is a subset of clairvoyant experiences in which some rigor is applied to situation. In remote viewing, a viewer is able to accurately describe a scene that is at a distance. The particular project called Stargate was ended in 1995 as it was not proving useful.

The recently coined term “genetic clairvoyance” refers to the new-found ability for genetic testing to determine a person’s medical future to a certain degree. People with a history of Huntington’s disease, for example, can learn if they carry the gene that would determine their future, even before the disease has caused any symptoms. Not everyone wishes to have this kind of knowledge, however, as is demonstrated by the number of people with Huntington’s disease in their family who choose not to have the genetic work done.

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Mary Elizabeth
By Mary Elizabeth , Writer
Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the Internet. In addition to writing articles on art, literature, and music for WiseGeek, Mary works as a teacher, composer, and author who has written books, study guides, and teaching materials. Mary has also created music composition content for Sibelius Software. She earned her B.A. from University of Chicago's writing program and an M.A. from the University of Vermont.

Discussion Comments

By anon986890 — On Jan 28, 2015

Humans only use 10 percent of their brains. Clairvoyance may be inside all of us; we just have to train enough for it or it will pop up anonymously a few times. It has happened to me many times this week and last week.

By OeKc05 — On Sep 13, 2012

My identical twin and I have telepathy clairvoyance, but only with each other. On several occasions, we have been miles apart but experienced the same things.

Once, when she was in New York and I was in Mississippi, we both went to the same retail store chain and bought the same dress. We discovered this when we went to a New Year's Eve party wearing the dresses.

When she had appendicitis, I felt severe pain in my abdomen, and I even got nauseated and experienced chills. My appendix was fine, but I was feeling what she was going through to an extreme degree.

By orangey03 — On Sep 12, 2012

@DylanB – While I agree with you that you can't develop clairvoyance if you don't already have it, I disagree about whether a clairvoyant person has a choice in what he sees. Those who claim they can communicate with the dead get approached all the time by people who have lost loved ones.

Sometimes, they say things that they could not possibly have known while under the influence of a spirit, or so I've heard. So, they have to invite the presence of that spirit in order to do their job.

I try to stay away from supernatural stuff that I don't understand, so I doubt I will ever enlist the help of a clairvoyant individual. However, from all I've heard, some of them can call on their powers at will.

By DylanB — On Sep 12, 2012

I think that clairvoyance training is just useless. I believe that either you are born with the gift or you aren't. It's not something that can be learned.

I believe that the Stargate project failed because the military officials were trying to get clairvoyant individuals to see a specific thing. Often, people with the ability to see the future have no choice regarding what they can perceive. The visions just come to them.

So, it would be impossible to try to force a vision. They just come naturally and without being coerced.

By giddion — On Sep 11, 2012

Genetic clairvoyance does not fall under the usual clairvoyance meaning. It's not a certain individual with psychic powers who is telling someone whether or not they have a gene for a certain disease; it is a scientific test.

I find it strange that it is even called by this name. True, it can predict the future, but not by supernatural means.

By anon152093 — On Feb 12, 2011

Can clairvoyance be the ability to tell what people are feeling? Like beyond how they are acting? I mean auras.

By anon142376 — On Jan 12, 2011

Clairvoyance is nothing more than the ability to detect things beyond the obvious. It's like being perceptive and intuitive. Normally, the word is used without any intention of referring to pseudo-psychological phenomenon. --Gralizzo

By GardenTurtle — On Jan 11, 2011

@boathugger: A trance is known as a state of mind. It represents the level of consciousness and awareness of the human mind. The state of trance in our mind is an involuntary process. A trance occurs to an altered level of consciousness.

It can be a result of prayer, meditation, or some people even say, magic. During a trance, a person concentrates more on the inner self.

By BoatHugger — On Jan 10, 2011

What exactly is a trance?

Mary Elizabeth

Mary Elizabeth


Passionate about reading, writing, and research, Mary Elizabeth is dedicated to correcting misinformation on the...
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