Key Paranormal terminology

Revised July 16, 2021

As part of the educational mission of my work, I am providing a basic guide on some important definitions in the paranormal world.  If you are interested in these topics or feel that you have some abilities or “gifts”, it’s important to know the vocabulary.  Check out these important definitions.  And please let me know which other things you suggest I add to this list.  Thank you!

Paranormal is anything that is not scientifically explainable . . . supernatural.  Anything supposedly thought to be the figment of imagination which cannot be proved by scientific means. Extra terrestrials and ghosts fit into this category. There is no proof that either do not exist.  If you have ever seen anything you can’t explain scientifically, then that is paranormal by definition.

Supernatural is attributed to some force beyond scientific understanding or the laws of nature and beyond the visible observable universe.

Spiritual is relating to or affecting the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

Spirit Guide, in western spiritualism, is an entity that remains as a disincarnate spirit to act as a guide or protector to a living incarnated human being.  Spirit guides are not always of human descent. Some spirit guides live as energy, in the cosmic realm, or as light beings, which are very high level spirit guides. Some spirit guides are persons who have lived many former lifetimes, paid their karmic debts, and advanced beyond a need to reincarnate. Many devotees believe that spirit guides are chosen on “the other side” by human beings who are about to incarnate and wish assistance.  Others feel that a passed loved one could be a spirit guide.

Shamanism is a practice that involves a practitioner reaching altered states of consciousness in order to perceive and interact with what they believe to be a spirit world and channel these transcendental energies into this world. Shamanism is an ancient healing tradition and way of life. Shamanic teachings focus on our connection to nature and all of creation.

Active verses Residual Energy.  Active or intelligent energy refers to spirit energy  which is dynamic in that it can change shape, scope (size), and location.  This spirit energy moves around and can interact with a human.  On the other hand, residual energy is an energy that would only linger in a space from the previous presence of dynamic beings or live humans.  Typically residual energy is strong human emotional energy (many times negative and dramatic like anger, fear, deep sadness, etc.) that has been absorbed somehow into the space.  Residual energy doesn’t move or change locations.

Magic or Magick (an ancient spelling) is the general category into which have been placed various beliefs and practices considered “separate” from both religion and science.  This will be the new science of the future once we figure it out.  Magick covers all the paranormal human abilities and phenomena that have been written about and documented throughout time.  The word Magic is also used with the performance art skill in which audiences are entertained by staged tricks or illusions of seemingly impossible feats using natural means.  This is stage magic and has nothing to do with the field of the paranormal or real magick.

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that is concerned with explaining the features of reality that exist beyond the physical world and our immediate senses. Metaphysics might include the study of the nature of the human mind, the definition and meaning of existence, or the nature of space, time, and/or causality.

Sensitive is the broad or generic category of people who have any type of paranormal or “magical” abilities or “gifts” like clairvoyance, clairaudience, being an empath, etc.  To identify the specific abilities or gifts you may have, you can try to figure it out (discern) on your own by investigating and researching the different abilities to learn about them  or you can consult with an expert in the field like a professional Medium or Psychic who can help you identify what you have.  Examples of sensitives are Psychics, Mediums, Empaths, and Healers.

Psychic is a person that connects with a living person’s energy or soul and then translates what they pick-up into everyday language and meaning in regards to their current and future life.  A psychic can pick up information from people, public buildings, homes, outdoors, etc.  A psychic deals with or “reads” just living people only.   On the other hand, a medium communicates with just the dead or spirits.  A medium has psychic abilities but a psychic may not have mediumship abilities.

Clairvoyant is a person who has the ability to see images to gather information as a psychic or medium.  The most common way people see clairvoyantly is through subjective clairvoyance, which is much like the way we see things in our imagination – as mental images.  A clairvoyant receives information through visual methods.  It is the power of seeing objects or actions beyond the range of natural vision.  For mediums, objective clairvoyance is a rare gift in that you would see the spirit the same way you would see a living person.  Clairvoyance means clear sight.

Clairaudient is a person who is able to receive information or messages by “hearing” it. Subjective clairaudience is when messages, music, or guidance is heard in a person’s own thoughts.  For mediums, clairaudience is a rare gift in that you would hear the actual voice of the spirit outside his or her own body; this is called objective clairaudience. Clairaudience means clear hearing.

Clairsentient is a person who is able to receive information or to perceive energy and emotion by “sensing” or feeling it.  A clairsentient feels or senses the message or information.  Clairsentience means clear sensing or feeling and is the common method of psychics and mediums.

Claircognizant is a person who receives information by just knowing it.  The information makes direct contact with one’s mind with no effort.  A claircognizant receives information, answers, or messages by it just “dropping” into claircognizant’s mind. Claircognizance means clear knowing.

Clairolfactant is a person who is able to receive extra-sensory information by smelling scents when no one else in a group/space is able to smell the etheric fragrance.  A claireolfactant has the ability to smell like smoke, fragrances, perfume, etc.  Clairalience, clairolfaction and clairolfactance (yes lots of words for the same gift) is the ability to access spiritual or mediumistic knowledge through smell.

Clairgustant is a person with the ability of ‘clear taste’ meaning the ability to experience a variety of taste sensations, without actually placing anything on their tongue, or into their mouth. In short, clairgustance is the ability to access spiritual or mediumistic knowledge through taste.  For example, the taste of blood which is like metal because of its iron content or the taste of a particular type of food. Clairgustance or ‘clear taste’ is probably the most unusual of all the sensory gifts.

Empath is a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.  Another definition is someone with psychic ability of heightened clairsentience (see definition below).  In any case, an empath is basically like a sponge able to absorb (willing or inadvertently) someone else’s mental state or emotional feelings without even knowing it.  The empath typically will suddenly feel an emotion without any explanation.   Empaths are adversely affected in groups of people.  To live a healthy life, an empath must learn how to shield him/herself from absorbing these feelings when in public.  I plan to write a blog article on this topic soon.  

Psychic Knower can mean a couple of things.  I have to admit, this one is a little confusing.  1) A person who is in contact with a discarnate spirit through the use of claircognizance.  Not sure why they would not just call themselves a medium.   2) A person who receives information through claircognizance.

Medium is someone who can communicate with discarnate spirits in one or more of the many different methods from clairvoyances to claircognizance.  The most popular form of mediumship is when the medium becomes the vehicle of communication between the spirit world and their living loved ones on earth.  Evidential mediumship is a form of mediumship where the medium will provide specific facts and evidence of who the spirit was when they were alive, their connection to the sitter, etc.  This is important to help prove to the sitter and the medium that the medium is in contact with your past loved one.  After providing the evidence, the medium will ask the spirit for a message for the sitter.  The goal of evidential mediumship is to provide a reunion for the sitter and the spirit.  There are 2 types of mediumship:  mental mediumship and physical mediumship which are defined below.

Mental Mediums

Mental Mediumship is the most common of the two types of mediumship that are practiced today: there are literally hundreds of thousands of ‘mental’ mediums throughout the world.  Mental mediumship is unique in that the information or evidence from the spirits are NOT witnessed by anyone else besides the medium.

Uniquely, an evidential medium is able to communicate information from the spirit that can be verified unequivocally: like their physical appearance, personalty, age of death, how they died, where they lived, what did they do for a living, what their house looked like, shared memories, etc.   The information passed from the evidential medium will be of such a high caliber that there will be no doubt as to its validity.  Once the evidence is presented and verified, then the medium will provide the message from the past loved one.

Below are a just a few of they many forms of mental mediumship:

Clairvoyance: Is the ability of the medium to ‘see’ spirits. Sometimes the medium sees these spirit people as though they are real people, moving about in a normal and natural way; this is called objective clairvoyance which is a rare gift.  On the other hand, a medium who ‘sees’ spirits as a mental image is practicing subjective clairvoyance. What distinguishes clairvoyance as mental mediumship is the fact that only the medium sees these spirit people. Anybody else who is present does not. The medium can pass on to his or her ‘sitter’ what they are seeing, by way of evidence.

Clairaudience: Is the ability of the medium to ‘hear’ what the spirits are saying. Sometimes a medium hears these spirit voices as though they are real and coming from another real person in the room with them. This is called objective clairaudience.  On the other hand, a medium ‘that hears’ the voices within their head as their own thoughts is practicing subjective clairaudience.  Both are valid forms of clairaudience.  Again what classifies this as mental mediumship is that the medium is the only person who hears these voices and can pass on to their ‘sitter’ what the spirit person is telling hopefully through the use of evidence.   by way of evidence.

Clairsentience: Is the ability of the medium to ‘sense’ or feel the presence of spirits and to ‘sense’ what they are saying. It can be used to sense the height, size, and stature of the spirit communicator as well as scents or odors that trigger memories for the received of the information.  Again, the medium is the only person who can sense or feel the presence of these spirit personalities and provide the ‘message’ from a specific spirit that they can then pass on to the living person.

Inspired or Spirit Writing: Inspired writing occurs when a person writes words and thoughts received from the spirit world.  The letters are written in the medium’s own handwriting, but the ideas come from the spirits themselves.  This is also called spirit writing.  Automatic writing is different and explained below in the physical mediumship section.

Trance:  Trance mediumship occurs when a spirit communicator shares the consciousness of a medium with the cooperation of that medium.  The medium does not completely surrender control of their mind.  The trance state can be light for evidential mediumship or deeper for discovering greater wisdom and philosophical ideas.  During the trance state, the spirit will communicate with the person who is receiving the message.

Physical Mediums

Physical Mediumship is totally different from Mental Mediumship. Physical Mediumship is unique in that the information or evidence from the spirits are witnessed by everyone including the medium.  This is the spirit world attempting to provide the continuity of live in an even more evidential manner.  The spirit people work through a medium to manipulate objects on the earth.  It involves transformation or manipulation of energy in such a way that events occur which are noticeable to humans through our five physical senses. Physical mediumship involves a form of phenomena whereby external spirit entities manipulate the energies and substances of a medium, to form physical manifestations such as spirit bodies that in human form or voice boxes where a spirit can speak directly from their world to ours.   Please note that physical mediumship is extremely rare and has been abused by many frauds who have exposed over the centuries.

Below are the many forms of physical mediumship:

Automatic Writing:  Automatic writing occurs when a person writes words and thoughts received from the spirit world.  The letters are NOT written in the medium’s own handwriting and the ideas come from the spirits themselves.  The medium is just the vehicle and being used by the spirit to write the message which can be a book, a love letter, a quick message to a loved one, etc.  The writer has no idea what is being written at the time.

Table tipping:  Table tipping is when the medium is able to focus and encourage a spirit to physically move (slightly) or vibrate a table with all sitters placing their hands lightly on the table top.

Transfiguration: Transfiguration is a super rare form of mediumship that allows those in spirit to materialize and communicate through the medium. To put it in the simplest way, it’s when the face of the person who has passed on will appear over the face of the medium. The medium enter a trancelike state or an altered state of consciousness. Then, when the time is right, a veil of ectoplasm slowly appears in front of their face, and it’s this veil that gets molded into the exact features of the spirit who’s trying to communicate.

Direct voice phenomena is the ability to produce the spirit voices in different places in a room for everyone to hear.

Rapping:  Rapping is when the spirit is able to communicate with the medium through raps in the room.  The medium ask the spirit questions and instructs the spirit, for example, that one rap for yes, two raps for no, and so forth.

Apporting:  Apporting is the alleged paranormal transference of an article from one place to another, or an appearance of an article from an unknown source that is often associated with poltergeist activity or séances. Materialization is similar in that the ability for a spirit to materialize an object “out of thin air” like a rose or fruit

Physical mediumship involves a form of phenomena whereby external spirit entities manipulate the energies and substances of a medium, to form physical manifestations such as spirit bodies that in human form or voice boxes where a spirit can speak directly from their world to ours. The spirit communicators provide an interface of communication between our world on earth and their worlds known as spirit world. Other physical phenomena that can be produced are physical smells, hot or cold drafts, levitation, apportation of objects from mid air, transfiguration, spirit lights, raps or knocks, direct voice communication, and physical apparitions.

Physical mediums are capable of performing séances, channel spirits through their bodies to talk to the living, manifest items, etc.  Not only is this type of mediumship rare, it’s also the part of the paranormal that has received the most negative reception, doubters, and debunkers.  When physical mediumship is taking place, everybody who is present is able to witness it.

Typically a physical medium’s objective would be to help spirits communicate with the living using their living person’s body and energy.  The physical medium would go into a trance and become the vessel through which spirits would use their vocal abilities to talk to the living.  These spirits could be either relatives of someone present at the séance wanting to give their greeting to that person or a wise spirit wanted to provide an important message to the group.


Nohavec, Janet, and Suzanne Giesemann. Where Two Worlds Meet: How to Develop Evidential Mediumship. Aventine Press, 2010.  Chapter 2:  What is Mediumship? pages 20-26.

Holland, John (2010, September 30).  Seeing Is Believing:  Witnessing The Many Faces of Spirit.  Retrieved May 21, 2019, from

4 thoughts on “Key Paranormal terminology

  1. My dog was looking in a direction making a blowing sound, kind of like a deer does when it smells danger. I got up to look to see what it was looking at and it was a Catahoula looking dog with his nose to the ground and it went behind a small patch of ferns. I walked toward the ferns and I called for my Catahoula dog thinking it was her and she came running from around the house behind me. It confused me being I was about ten feet from the ferns so I went to look thinking the dog laid down since it never came back out and nothing was there. So I’m now thinking dogs have souls and when they pass over they go where we go? I’m not sure what to think. But both me and my other dog saw it in solid form.


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