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Psionics is the study and/or practice of using the mind to induce paranormal phenomena. Examples of this include telepathy, telekinesis, and other workings of the outside world through the psyche. The topic is widely discussed in fiction.


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".[1][2]

Later, John W. Campbell proposed the term "psionics", from psi (psyche) + electronics (machine), which implied that the paranormal powers of the mind could be made to work reliably.[3]


Psionics (used as a term for psychic abilities) in fiction appear in almost as many varieties as magic does, and are often deeply entwined with many related paranormal or science fiction phenomena.

It is often used to endow science fictional characters with abilities, which, if they were called "magic", would make the story fantasy.[4] 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 Star Trek Vulcans were given limited telepathic abilities in order to make them appear more alien. Psionic abilities are often displayed by beings who do or are in process of transcending their physical existence (e.g. humans in the SF classic, Childhood's End).

  • In the science fiction TV show Babylon 5, human telepaths are organized into an organization known as the Psi Corps.
  • 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.
  • The works of H.P. Lovecraft, of a dark and fantastic nature 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.
  • In EarthBound, Ness and Paula have Psi which is Psionics.
  • In the Talents universe, encompassing two book series written by Anne McCaffrey, conclusive proof of psionic abilities leads to those possessing them, dubbed "Talents", using their abilities as paid employees providing various services for mankind. Of particular note are Talents with such high psionic potential that, combined with the ability to tap into generated power sources to enhance their abilities, they can telekinetically move objects and telepathically communicate instantaneously across interstellar distances. With the aid of these "Prime" Talents, humanity moves forward to colonize other planets and star systems without developing technological means of interstellar travel.
  • Psionics is prevalent throughout the works of E. E. Smith, particularly the Lensman series.
  • Psionics appear frequently in the works of Philip K. Dick, most notably in the novel Ubik.
  • In the Bionicle universe, Psionics is an Elemental Power, which can be harnessed by Toa, Ce-Matoran, Makuta, and various other beings. It's prefix "Ce-" was derived from the words "cerebral" and "cerebellum", words relating to the anatomy of the brain.

Role-playing and other games

Psionics are used in a wide variety of role-playing games, often as a substitute for magic. In Tolkien-esque 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.[6] 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.

Psionics are a popular device in video games, board games, and many other forms of gaming. Typically such powers are used to introduce super-human, magic-like powers in a context where magic would not fit into the setting.

See also

External links


  1. ^ Glossary of Psi (Parapsychological) Terms (L-R)
  2. ^ The History of Psi
  3. ^ Psionics
  4. ^ Poul Anderson, Magic and psionics however, are two different subjects "Fantasy in the Age of Science", p 270, Fantasy ISBN 48-51518
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^

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