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So, What is a Clairvoyant?

Updated on February 4, 2017

What is a Clairvoyant?

The literal meaning of the word Clairvoyant (dating from 1844) comes from the Latin for 'clear' and 'seeing'. But the received meaning is: a person who is able to perceive things beyond the reach of the five senses. Clairvoyants may also be referred to as mediums or parapsychic sensitives.

The tem 'clairvoyance' includes a wide range of abilities such as remote viewing and dowsing. It is considered to relate to all five senses and to a non-specific knowledge that is not derived from any sensory experience.

However the word is now used most often used to refer to some kind of medium or channeling ability, such as the ability to speak to the spirits of the dead or to some other kind of intangible spirit (such as angels).

This is most common done by the medium relaying messages they hear or see, or via automatic writing. However there are a wide range of methods employed including the use of cards, crystal balls, or interpreting patterns in tea leaves.

Some modern practitioners now eschew the word "psychic" and prefer to call themselves "intuitives".

Clairvoyant working on the street in New Orleans
Clairvoyant working on the street in New Orleans | Source



Skeptics attribute clairvoyance to some kind of perception error (such as hallucinations or other side effects of brain dysfunction). And such many clairvoyants might be sincere in what they perceive to be happening but not genuinely psychic.

The belief in clairvoyance is also associated with non-normal brain asymmetry (Brugger et al, 1993), which is general considered a defect association with mental health problems, but could also be interpreted as a natural part of human diversity also associated with positive traits such as creativity.


Some individuals have always reveled in their ability to expose a fraud. One 1882 account described who a woman presented herself as being able to clairvoyantly anticipate the content of a question written by a customer on a piece of paper. But she was actually using sleight of hand to swap the written question with a dummy piece of blank paper and secretly reading the question behind the cover of a large book.

On of the most common findings in parapsychology is that belief in psychic powers correlates with the ability to demonstrate statistically improbably (ESP) powers. So there is something of a catch-22 in that you probably need to believe in these abilities to be able to study them. Thus making the research susceptible to confirmatory bias.


Are clairvoyant powers real?

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Clairvoyant ability has not be conclusively proven in a scientific setting. However the absence of evidence and presence of fraud does not eliminate the possibility of genuine clairvoyants.

However given the number of interested researcher, and the presence of high dollar rewards, this ability would have to be fundamentally unable to be studied scientifically or used venally if it does exist. Only such a core incompatibility would explain the ongoing lack of sufficient proof.

So Why Do People Believe in Clairvoyants?

It has been suggested that people are particularly likely to seek out clairvoyants and believe in their powers when they have a strong need to support and affirmation, either in general or in relation to a specific request. This may be why there is an increase in support of clairvoyants during times of turmoil in a country and after large scale wars when many people have suffered bereavements.

However it must be noted that belief in clairvoyance, while not in the majority, remains common in the modern world (around 30% of the population). So there may be more to it than can easily be quantified by objective science, as human need if not a real ability.


  • Brugger, P., Gamma, A., Muri, R., Schafer, M., & Taylor, K. I. (1993). Functional hemispheric asymmetry and belief in ESP: towards a “neuropsychology of belief”. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 77(3_suppl), 1299-1308.
  • Clarke, D. (1991). Belief in the paranormal: A New Zealand survey. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.
  • Tobacyk, J., Milford, G., Springer, T., & Tobacyk, Z. (1988). Paranormal beliefs and the Barnum effect. Journal of Personality Assessment, 52(4), 737-739.


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    • Lily Luna profile image

      Lorri Woodmansee 5 years ago from Mesa, Arizona

      There may be lack of sufficient proof in the science community but that doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't exist.

      I am not clairvoyant but I am clairsentient. I can't prove to another person that I am especially if they haven't experienced it themselves.

      We tend to believe what we experience. If I don't experience clairvoyance does that mean it doesn't exist? Not to me. I can't prove clairsentience but I have experienced it therefore in my mind it exists.

      There are frauds in every circle of society. All of us have been given gifts and talents. How we use them is up to us, it is a free-will Universe. I can use my talents to exploit and harm others or I can choose to use them for service.

      There are many very charismatic leaders who have been given the gift of charisma for leadership. Doesn't mean they have used this gift for the greater good. Hitler is a prime example of this.