Paranormal activities have always been a part of folklore. Be it books or movies, the thrill of facing an unknown entity has always been a crowd-puller. In academia there are people who are bent on exploring this aspect of life under the rubric of parapsychology. The term parapsychology can be explained as the study of anomalous experiences like psychic experiences, near-death experiences, reincarnation, apparitional experiences, telepathy and psychokinesis.
Many universities have set up research units to study such incidents. Some even follow through with individual research. Parapsychologists have studied indications for supernatural entities for years now. Says Caroline Watt, senior lecturer, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences at The University of Edinburgh, UK, “Researchers have been studying paranormal beliefs and experiences for over a century in USA, UK and mainland Europe. This began in the 1800s with the craze for spiritualism (where various media claim to pass on messages from deceased persons), it then developed into more controlled experimental tests, mainly of extrasensory perception (ESP — claims of mind-to-mind communication) and psychokinesis (PK — claims of mind over matter).”
Though career opportunities in the field are slim, it is an intriguing field to explore. Universities and special organisations offer certificate programmes in parapsychology. The American Institute of Parapsychology offers a certificate programme. It is home-study based and students need to complete the course in a year or less. Modules include Foundations of parapsychology, PSI and Parapsychology and Investigating hauntings and poltergeists. Course fee is $6,000 (approx over `30 lakh)
The University of Ediburgh, UK, has a separate research unit under the Psychology Department — The Koestler Parapsychology Unit which was established in 1985. When quizzed about its activities, Caroline Watt says, “I teach an online course, which is open to anyone since it is non-accredited. We have two courses that form a small part of the undergraduate psychology curriculum. To be eligible you have to achieve entry into the psychology MA or BSc degree courses at the university. My colleague and I also supervise PhD students in psychology, specialising in parapsychology. To be eligible for that, you need a good quality undergraduate degree and MSc in psychology.”
The online course offered by The Koestler Parapsychology Unit has no formal assessments and no formal qualification is achieved. Public can learn about parapsychology. Students will receive a course completion certificate, if they regularly participate in the course. The syllabus starts off with the history of the field and the terminology. Research methods are also analysed as many equipment like the ESP and PK are also available. Visit www.koestler-parapsychology.psy.ed.ac.uk for details.
The Australian Institute of Parapsychological Research offers an online certificate course in parapsychology and an advanced certificate in parapsychology. Students need to have completed their higher secondary before applying. Modules include History of parapsychology, Extraordinary paranormal feats, Conspiracy and Controversy in Parapsychology and The Theory of Psychopraxia. For details visit, www.aiprinc.org/courses_online.asp.
Some universities offer parapsychology as a module in their undergraduate programmes. University of Derby, UK, offers Anomalistic Psychology and Parapsychology as a module unders its BSc psychology (Hons). You could also choose to speacialise in parapsychology in the PG level after graduating in psychology.
We haven’t been able to prove the existence of paranomal forces, but certain incidents have definitely made us curious. If you are intrigued and eager to learn more then get ready to research paranormal activities at the above mentioned institutes.