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Mediumship is a term used mostly in Spiritualism to denote the ability of a person (the medium) to produce psychic phenomena of a mental or physical nature. The term is usually used to denote a person who is thought to be able to facilitate communication with spirits of the deceased or other non-corporeal entities, either by going into a trance and allowing a spirit to use their body, or by using extrasensory perception to relay messages from the spirits. The term channelling often used for this type of mediumship. Some mediums (or the spirits working with them) are also said to be able to produce physical paranormal phenomena such as materilizations of spirits, apports of objects, or levitation. Mediumship, often called channelling, is part of the belief systems and rituals of many religions, such as Candomblé, Voodoo, Kardecism, and Umbanda, and is popular in some New Age groups.
 History of mediumship
Mediumship was described by Allan Kardec, who in fact coined the original term spiritism, ca. 1860 . Spiritualism in the United States dates from the activities of the Fox sisters in 1848. Some mediums acknowledged by the Spiritualist Church today include Andrew Jackson Davis and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. In Britain, the Society for Psychical Research has carried on investigations of some phenomena, mainly in connection with telepathy and apparitions.
 Types of mediumship
There are several distinct types of mediumship - Mental mediumship is defined as communication of spirits with a medium by telepathy having received the communication, the medium then passes on the information. Trance mediumship is defined as a spirit taking over the body of the medium, sometimes to such a degree that the medium is unconscious. Physical mediumship is defined as manipulation of energies and energy systems by spirits, using the energy or ectoplasm released by a medium .
A spirit who communicates with a medium, either verbally or visually, is known as a spirit communicator. A spirit who uses a medium to manipulate energy or energy systems is called a spirit operator.
Channelling is another common term for mental mediumship and trance mediumship.
 Mental mediumship
Mental mediumship involves communication between spirits and the medium. The medium mentally "hears", "sees", and feels messages from spirits, which he then relays to the recipient(s) of the message. When a medium is doing a "reading" for a particular person, that person is know as the sitter.
Psychic senses used by mental mediums are sometimes defined differently in spiritualism than in other paranormal fields. Clairvoyance, for instance, is often used by spiritualists to include seeing spirits and visions instilled by spirits , whereas the Parapsychological Association defines "clairvoyance" as information derived directly from an external physical source.
 Spiritualist definitions of psychic senses
Clairvoyance or "Clear Seeing", is the ability to see anything which is not physically present, such as objects, animals or people. This sight occurs "in the mind's eye", and some mediums say that this is their normal vision state. Others say that they must train their minds with such practices as meditation in order to achieve this ability, and that assistance from spiritual helpers is often necessary.
Some clairvoyant mediums can see a spirit as though the spirit has a physical body. They see the bodily form as if it were physically present. Other mediums see the spirit in their mind's eye, or it appears as a movie or a television programme or a still picture like a photograph in their mind.
Clairaudience or "Clear Hearing", is usually defined as the ability to hear the voices or thoughts of spirits. Some Mediums hear as though they are listening to a person talking to them on the outside of their head, as though the Spirit is next to or near to the Medium, and other Mediums hear the voices in their minds as a verbal thought.
Clairsentience or "Clear Sensing", is the ability to have an impression of what a spirit wants to communicate, or to feel sensations instilled by a spirit.
In clairsentinence or "Clear Feeling", the medium takes on the ailments of a spirit, feeling the same physical problem the spirit person before they died.
Clairalience or "Clear Smelling" is the ability to smell a spirit. For example, a medium may smell the pipe tobacco of a person who smoked during life.
Clairgustance or "Clear Tasting", is the ability to receive taste impressions from a spirit.
Claircognizance or "Clear Knowing", is the ability to know something without receiving it through normal or psychic senses. It is a feeling of "just knowing". Often, a medium will have the feeling that a message or situation is "right" or "wrong".
 Trance mediumship
Trance mediumship is often seen as a form of mental mediumship.
Some mediums remain conscious during this communication period, while others go into a trance, wherein a spirit uses the medium's body to communicate. Part trance mediums are aware during the period of communication, while full trance mediums pass into an unconscious state in which their physical and mental processes are completely controlled by the spirit communicator.
 Physical mediumship
According to spiritualists, physical mediumship involves such manifistations as loud raps and noises, voices, materilized objects, apports, and materialized spirit bodies or body parts such as hands, and levitation. The medium is used as source of power and substance for such spirit manifestations. The power or substance taken from the medium is called ectoplasm.
 Research and controversy
According to an article in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, in some cases mediums have produced personal information which has been well above guessing rates .
VERITAS Research Program of the Laboratory for Advances in Consciousness and Health in the Department of Psychology at the University of Arizona, run by Gary Schwartz, was created primarily to test the hypothesis that the consciousness (or identity) of a person survives physical death. Studies are conducted by VERITAS have been approved by the University of Arizona Human Subjects Protection Program and an academic advisory board.
Critics say that Gary Schwartz's studies such as The Afterlife Experiments have not provided competent scientific evidence for survival of consciousness or that mediums can actually communicate with the dead. In the January/February 2003 issue of the Skeptical Enquirer, Ray Hyman charged that the research Schwartz presented is crucially flawed in a number of ways, including inappropriate control comparisons, inadequate precautions against fraud and sensory leakage, reliance on non-standardized, untested dependent variables, failure to use double-blind procedures, inadequate use of double-blind protocols, failure to independently check on facts the sitters endorsed as true, and the use of plausibility arguments to substitute for actual controls. Schwartz and Hyman debated these points in the March 2003 issue of the Skeptical Enquirer. In January 2007 Julie Beischel and Gary Schwartz published the results of a triple-blind study in EXPLORE The Journal of Science and Healing that also had positive results.
 Well-known mediums
Some well-known mediums are, Derek Acorah, Sylvia Browne, Kuda Bux, Edgar Cayce, Jeane Dixon, Allison DuBois, John Edward, Daniel Dunglas Home, Esther Hicks, Colin Fry, JZ Knight, Joseph Kony, Jane Roberts, Sathya Sai Baba, David Wells, Lisa Williams, James Van Praagh, Rosemary Altea, Divaldo Pereira Franco, Chico Xavier, Richard Ireland, Clifford Bias.