Psionics refers to the practice, study, or psychic ability of using the mind to induce paranormal phenomena. Examples of this includes empathy, telepathy, telekinesis, and other workings of the outside world through the psyche.
History and terminology
B. P. Wiesner and Robert H. Thouless first proposed the term "psi" in 1942 as a more general term to include both extrasensory perception and psychokinesis. The original terminology proposal divided psi into psi-gamma, for cases of cognition, and psi-kappa, for cases of action. These terms were later modified into "passive psi" and "active psi".
In 1952, John W. Campbell proposed the term "psionics", from psi (‘psyche’) and the ending -onics from electronics (machine), which implied that the paranormal powers of the mind could be made to work reliably.
Many religions of the world believe in psionic gifts having been given to their worthy practitioners, deities, saints, and apostles in order to assist in their ability to enlighten the non-believer.
Psionics as a practice
Psionics as a practice has been becoming more and more common. Many communities exist on the internet claiming to be psychic and to be able to instruct their members in the ways of psychokinesis and ESP, the first of which being Psi Palatium in 1997. One belief that distinguishes them from other types of psychic groups is that they believe that psi is a type of cerebral energy manifested in the form of thought forms; in their terminology, constructs. They believe that the abilities, tasks, or traits these thought forms are subject to the thoughts of the creator. The exact origin of this belief is quite vague, but it appears to have taken off during the late 20th century.
"Psionic" abilities or "psi" powers may appear in fiction where it has been referred to as "psience fiction" and "psi fiction", or simply "psi-fi" with as much variety as magic, and are often deeply entwined with many related paranormal or science fiction phenomena.
The term psionic is often used to provide science fictional characters with the same abilities that would make the story fantasy if the term "magic" were used. Psionics usually appear in science fiction or contemporary settings, although it is sometimes seen in medieval fantasy as well (mostly in role-playing games), sometimes with both magic and psionics existing side by side as two distinct phenomena.
The most widely utilized psionic ability in fiction is telepathy, which is often attributed to magical or highly technologically or mentally advanced cultures. As an example, the Vulcans from Star Trek were given limited telepathic abilities in order to make them appear more otherworldly. Psionic abilities are often displayed by beings who do or are in process of transcending their physical existence (such as humankind, in the science fiction classic Childhood's End).
- In the video game Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3, the Empire of the rising sun has an ultimate weapon called the Psyonic Decimator.
- In the video game XCOM: Enemy Unknown, psionics play a major role in completion of the games' ending sequences and final missions.
- In the video game Sins of a Solar Empire, one of the main races, the Advent, focus on cybernetic induced psionic abilities. The combined power of their minds grant their capital starships devastating powers.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land, humans are able to utilize many psionic-like abilities by learning the Martian language and adopting a more Martian mindset.
- Telekinesis and precognition, as exhibited by the Jedi in Star Wars for example, are also quite common in fictional examples of psionics.
- In the science fiction TV show Babylon 5, human telepaths are organized into an organization known as the Psi Corps.
- In the 2000 AD comic Judge Dredd, the Justice Department has a special division called the Psi Division that consists of judges that possess psychic abilities.
- In the anime Akira (and the manga it is based on), psionic powers are a main subject. A secret research project of the Japanese military results in the creation of several psionically gifted children.
- In the strategy game StarCraft, psionics play an important role in explaining many of the abilities and powers of special units and aliens in the game. It is also the backbone of how a main plot element works.
- Many of H.P. Lovecraft's stories allude to psionic abilities such as in the residents of K'n-yan. This power often manifests itself in his stories as the ability of powerful creatures such as Cthulhu to induce madness as a sort of overwhelming telepathy in the minds of those who approach him.
- Roughly 80 per cent of James H. Schmitz stories involve psi in some form especially his futuristic Hub stories with Telzey Amberdon and the Psychology Service, and also his Agent of Vega stories while other stories like Ham Sandwich have a contemporary setting.
- In the Earthbound series, psionics plays a major role. Many of the protagonists utilize psionics as an ultimate secondary ability. This consists elemental PSI, status-dealing PSI, Recover PSI, etc. The protagonists – Ninten and Ana in Mother; Ness, Paula, and Poo in Mother 2(Earthbound); and Lucas, Claus and Kumatora in Mother 3 – are known to utilize psionics.
- In the Talents universe, the setting for several books written by Anne McCaffrey, conclusive identification of psionic abilities — in the near future when the first stories were published — leads to the development of a licensed profession whose members ("Talents") provide numerous special services. Perhaps the most notable are those with exceptionally high telekinetic and telepathic ability, capable of enhancement by generated power sources. Eventually such "Prime Talents" effect instantaneous transportation and communication across interstellar distances, which enables humanity to colonize the solar system, eventually other star systems, without developing a traditional interstellar technology.
- Psionics is prevalent throughout the works of E. E. Smith, particularly in the Lensman series and his two novels Subspace Explorers and its sequel Subspace Encounter.
- Psionics appear in the form of telepathy, empathy, and telekinesis in the Binger Ray horror novel, The Heir.
- Psionic abilities (under the name "metapsychic abilities") are widespread in Julian May's Saga of Pliocene Exile and Galactic Milieu Series among both humans and the nonhuman species of the Milieu; many of the stories' protagonists have powerful psionic abilities. The various powers are classified into five types: creativity (creation and transmutation of matter and energy), psychokinesis, farsensing (ESP), coercion (mind control) and redaction (mental and physical healing).
- In the Bionicle universe, Psionics is an Elemental Power, which can be harnessed by Toa, Ce-Matoran (its prefix "Ce-" derived from the words "cerebral" and "cerebellum", words relating to the anatomy of the brain), Makuta, and various other beings.
- In the film Resident Evil: Extinction, Alice uses multiple psionic abilities she acquired from mutation with the T-Virus. Umbrella Corporation's computers monitor psionic incidents and track down Project Alice from their locations.
- Psionic abilities are common in the Avery Cates series by Jeff Somers, with several types including telekinesis, mind control (called "pushing"), and limited precognition.
- In the webcomic Homestuck of MS Paint Adventures, the troll Sollux Captor is a high level psionic. Sollux's ancestor, the Ψiioniic, alternatively known as The Helmsman, was also a high level psionic. Both of their abilities are due to their ranking on the blood caste of their world Alternia, known as the hemospectrum which greatly influences the psionic potential and abilities of each caste.
- In the Warhammer 40,000 Universe, almost every species has access to psionic abilities. Parallel to the realspace in which mortal creatures live is a realm known as The Warp. It is a realm of pure psychic energy, and almost all sentient beings have a mental connection to this realm. It is thus influenced by the thoughts, emotions, and urges of all sentient beings. Individuals that have an especially strong connection to The Warp are known as "Psykers", and with proper training, they can develop supernatural abilities such as telepathy, divination, or pyrokinesis. In some races, these abilities are more readily available than in others. The psychic energies in the Warp can sometimes coalesce into sentient entities, more commonly known as Daemons. The most powerful of these entities are the four Gods of Chaos. Most of these Warp entities are predatory and constantly seek to influence the mortal realm by manipulating psykers, whose strong connection to the Warp make them potential conduits to realspace. Every psyker is in danger of going insane or being possessed by a daemon if he does not have the proper training and strength of will. There are three races which do not have psionic abilities; the Tau, the Dark Eldar, and the Necrons. Although the Dark Eldar have the same latent psionics as the Eldar (through connection to The Warp), they choose not to develop their psychic abilities, due to suffering a curse which leeches their souls at the hands of the Chaos God, Slaanesh. Developing their psionic abilities will strengthen their connection to the Warp, thereby increasing the rate at which Slaanesh devours their souls. The Necrons and the Tau are the only races genuinely unable to interact with Psionics; The Necrons being little more than soulless robots, and the Tau having barely any warp presence at all. This renders these two races highly resilience to the corrupting effects of the daemonic entities of the warp.
Role-playing and other games
Psionics are used in a wide variety of role-playing games, often as a substitute for magic. In Tolkienesque fantasy games with a magic system already in place, such as Dungeons and Dragons, psionics are often introduced to provide an alternative system that functions differently from existing magic systems. The first role-playing game to use the term psionics was Traveller, published by GDW in 1977, and published in different licensed versions to this day. The game StarCraft and its sequels have a race called Protoss who are psionic beings. Additionally, "spellcasters" from the other races are also classified as psionic.
Psionics are a popular device in video games, board games, and many other forms of gaming. In particular, the Mass Effect video game series describes being with psionic abilities called Biotics, which are available for a wide range of species through the game. Typically such powers are used to introduce superhuman, magic-like powers in a context where magic would not fit into the setting.
- Glossary of Psi (Parapsychological) Terms (L-R)
- The History of Psi
- Online Etymology Dictionary, Entry for psionic.
- "Psionics Institute". Psionics Institute. Retrieved 2013-08-25.
- "Basic Construct Design and Programming « Psion Guild". Psionguild.org. Retrieved 2013-08-25.
- Susan Stone-Blackburn - Consciousness Evolution and Early Telepathic Tales
- Poul Anderson. "Fantasy in the Age of Science", p 270, Fantasy ISBN 48-51518
- Robert A. Heinlein, "Part Two: His Preposterous Heritage" and "Part Four: His Scandalous Career", pp 227, 317, etc., "Stranger in a Strange Land", Ace Science Fiction (Ace Books, New York, 1961) ISBN 0-441-79034-8