Cover image for Lives of the psychics : the shared worlds of science and mysticism
Lives of the psychics : the shared worlds of science and mysticism
Frohock, Fred M.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xv, 281 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF1031 .F73 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The daughter of a man about to leave on a trip wakes up crying during the night. She has just had a nightmare that his plane will crash. The father flies without incident to Spain, but the next day, the plane he has taken to Spain crashes and burns outside Malaga on its return trip to New York. Was the dream a premonition? Many people experience similar phenomena, ranging from extra-sensory perceptions all the way to near-death experiences on operating tables. Are these events evidence of the paranormal, or are they mere coincidences or hallucinations? How should we regard such claims of supernatural experiences?

Lives of the Psychics , a journey through the terrain of psychic phenomena, tries to answer these questions through interviews with practicing psychics, a survey of the heroic attempts of researchers to test psychic abilities in controlled experiments, and an exploration of out-of-body, near-death, and mystical experiences. Fred M. Frohock brings together a wide variety of psychic claims and examines them with a rich set of materials--interviews, critical anecdotes, history, multiple theories of the paranormal--that allows him to use whatever tools are necessary to illuminate beliefs in the supernatural. He relates real-life events to scientific studies, so the reader is a party not only to fantastic experiences and first-hand stories of the paranormal but also to the rationales for these experiences proposed by scientists. There is no more rewarding guide to the limits and powers of science in explaining psychic phenomena.

To a field filled with uncertainty and suspicion, Frohock brings a discerning eye, a critical sensibility, and a fundamental sense of curiosity about the role of mysticism in science. Even skeptics will be intrigued.

Author Notes

Fred M. Frohock is professor of political science at Syracuse University and the author of The Nature of Political Inquiry (1967), Normative Political Theory (1973), Public Policy: Scope and Logic (1979), and Abortion: A Case Study in Law and Morals (1983).

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Frohock, whose previous works include books about alternative medicine and spiritual communities, now seeks truth in the ground separating belief and skepticism in psychic phenomena. Lengthy theoretical discussions on the nature of reality, consciousness, and the limitations of scientific inquiry are followed by summations of the results of research experiments designed to test psychic abilities. Most are inconclusive when statistical analysis is involved, yet they reveal some remarkable abilities in individual cases. Frohock's more entertaining chapters contain profiles of the psychics themselves and their counterparts, the professional skeptics. He provides short and interesting historical biographies of the "grand psychics" Daniel Home, Eileen Garret, and Edgar Cayce, but the stories that best illuminate the psychic's mind are those of the present-day spiritual practitioners whom Frohock interviews, and readers will wish he'd devoted more pages to them. They come across as dedicated, caring healers rather than as the charlatans they are often portrayed. In conclusion, Frohock observes that inquiries into the unknown are best conducted with a combination of science, intuition, faith, and spiritual communication. --David Siegfried

Library Journal Review

Frohock (political science, Syracuse Univ.), the author of the well-received Healing Powers: Alternative Medicine, Spiritual Communities and the State, aims to introduce and evaluate a set of disparate arguments on the supernatural using the opposition between skeptic and believer, with each chapter presenting both sides. Informed by interesting interviews that Frohock himself conducted, this work allows readers to listen to practitioners while being guided by the best research in these areas. It is also a good historical compilation of psychic scientific research. Still, much of what we know, Frohock concludes in a philosophical and overblown manner, is limited by our senses and intellect. The author spent years researching this material, and it is well documented with extensive notes. Another book this concise would be hard to find. The writing has an academic flavor and, therefore, is recommended only to large public and academic libraries.-Kimberly Bateman, Broward Cty. Lib., Deerfield Beach, FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

A mainstream scholar captivated by the traditional methodological elusiveness of psychic phenomena (and experience), Frohock (political science, Syracuse Univ.) constructs a wide-ranging incursion into the "no-man's land" of faith that typically characterizes spiritual communities. Normal science (the realm of traditional explanation, so labeled by Thomas Kuhn) avoids even the boundary between known scientific explanation and the magical realm of common belief in the "supernatural," the main categorization used by Frohock to discuss psychic and paranormal phenomena. The author penetrates this boundary by introducing ethnographically gathered testimony and description of psychics "in action." He juxtaposes these materials with appropriately related traditional material drawn from a broad-based sample of discourse selected from philosophy, religion, science, and social science. Frohock opens a pregnant dialogue between intellectual (scientific) skepticism and the intuitive reality of psychic phenomena, which seems to be devoid of substantive sensory and cognitive explanation. Like a journey in which the explorer is not quite sure where his destination will find him, this discussion examines a jungle of scientific, philosophical, religious, and psychological (sensory, cognitive, science) materials in a noble attempt to explore rather than explain psychic phenomena. Gaps occur, but Frohock successfully crosses the boundary in this carefully researched effort. Graduate and professional audiences will find it most approachable. M. Evans; SUNY Empire State College

Table of Contents

1 Domains of Consciousness
2 Psychics
3 Experimental Controls
4 Intuitive Science
5 Boundary Crossings
6 Spiritual Landscapes
7 Mystical Experiences: Self and Reality
8 On Knowing and Not Knowing
9 Natural Intelligibilities