Toward a “Parapsychological Synthesis”: Proposals for Integrating Theories for Psi | Michael Nahm

Dr. Michael Nahm is a biologist at the Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health (IGPP) in Freiburg, Germany. His research interests include 1) the links between unsolved mysteries in biology and parapsychology, and 2) unusual near-death phenomena. Nahm has published four books and more than 100 scientific articles.


Background: Throughout the history of parapsychology, complaints about a lack of a reasonable theory that could explain psi phenomena have regularly been advanced. It has been argued that this lack of theory would hamper the scientific progress and acceptance of parapsychological research among scientists. In this presentation, I argue that the notion that there is a lack of theory in parapsychology is mistaken. By contrast, parapsychologists have already developed numerous approaches that may count as a theory (May & Marwaha, 2015; Kelly et al., 2015). Nevertheless, there are reasons that may give rise to the notion that there is a lack of theory in parapsychology. Two important reasons are the following:

– Some seem to hold the opinion that parapsychologists must a) be able to develop a theory that is roughly as robust as theories in classical physics in terms of allowing the performance of successfully replicable experiments, and that b) the observed phenomena must follow efficient causation and must therefore be fully explicable by using our rational, i.e., logical thinking.

– I suggest that these problems could be overcome by trying to develop an overarching theoretical framework that might be termed the parapsychological synthesis, by reference to the evolutionary synthesis that was developed by biologists between 1930 and 1950 by integrating results of several seemingly incompatible branches of research into a coherent and widely accepted theory of evolution (Mayr & Provine, 1980).

Proposals: The possible parapsychological synthesis must rely on certain core assumptions. The following are essential:

1) Parapsychology’s “Big Four” exist: telepathy, clairvoyance, pre/retrocognition, and (macro-) psychokinesis.

2) The world in itself is not perceptible and comprehensible for us. There is a background reality beyond the world we can perceive, measure, and explain using logical thinking.

3) Psi phenomena are rooted in this background reality and entail different modes of causation than efficient causation. They entail top-down principles as exemplified by concepts such as synchronicity, wholeness-causality, or final causation (Nahm, 2021).

4) The world we perceive can be regarded as being composed of epistemically differing layers or realms. Following previous philosophical concepts, distinguishing superimposed realms of matter, life, and non-physical realms, such as soul and mind, appears suitable (Hartmann, 1940).

5) Our rationality is best adapted for understanding the realm of matter. But the rational mind can, in principle, never fully understand itself or mind at large.

Building on these core assumptions, the foundations of reality can be framed in terms of idealism, dual-aspect monism, neutral monism, panpsychism, panexperientialism, or panentheism. Regarding theories for psi, parapsychologists should try to integrate promising candidates, such as the model of first sight (Carpenter, 2012), the general quantum theory (Atmanspacher et al., 2002), the model of pragmatic information (Lucadou, 2015), and hyperspatial models (Carr, 2015) into this general framework. Potential conflicts between aspects of these sub-theories could be addressed in specific forums to elaborate ways to resolve these conflicts and to create a joint parapsychological synthesis.

Conclusion: Striving to formulate one explicitly synthetic theory instead of presenting seemingly unconnected partial theories would benefit our field. Trying to comply with mainstream approaches that focus merely on the epistemic realm of matter won’t work with psi. Therefore, as highlighted already by Jacques Vallee (2018) and Gerhard Mayer (2022), psi research should lead, not follow.

Program chaired by John G. Kruth. Download the Abstracts at


The Parapsychological Association is an international professional organization of scientists and scholars engaged in the study of psi (or ‘psychic’) experiences, such as telepathy, clairvoyance, psychokinesis, psychic healing, and precognition. The primary objective of the PA is to achieve a scientific understanding of these experiences.

Find us:

Twitter –

Instagram –

Donations to support the mission of the PA, including the funding of research initiatives, can be made by reaching or the Paypal Giving Fund:

Published on September 10, 2023