We’ve already talked about what the inhabitants of our shared universe know (or think they know) about paranormal phenomenon. To reiterate briefly, one-and-a-half centuries of study has left mankind with the ability to quantify and measure certain phenomena, mostly related to Psionic abilities, to formulate some basic explanatory theories, and to catalog some stranger things which, so far, have no good explanation. However, most of the subject remains both unexplained and unidentified.
Now we’re going to take a shot at categorizing the most important and frequently encountered forms of paranormal phenomena. We’re also going to explain how they actually work, or at least explain it as well as our imperfect, primary world language will allow.
But first, we need to discuss a couple preliminary concepts: Aether and Morphic Fields.
The root of most phenomena called ‘talents’, ‘super powers’, or ‘magic’ is a metaphysical substance called the Aether. Aether is, essentially, the creative impulse of Almighty God, emanating perpetually throughout creation. Aether is not a physical substance that can be directly measured, not even theoretically. Rather it is that principle of active, living imagination and creation that gives birth to all things physical and spiritual. Raw aether differentiates, taking on different forms such as matter or energy, space and time, and many more besides. One of these differentiated aspects of aether is the ambient pool of energy known to human science as the Psychic Potential Field (PPF), which human talents can tap to power their miraculous abilities.
A talent’s ability to use his power is therefore constrained by the availability of this metaphysical ‘fuel’: if operating in an area where the ambient PPF is low or drained, one’s powers may be weak or entirely neturalized. On the other hand, if the talent is an area with a strong PPF pool, they may be able to manifest their abilities in more spectacular ways or sustain their usage for a longer period of time.
Important as the PPF is, there are many more aspects of the aether to consider, and treating the PPF as merely a pool of potential energy glosses over manifestations that are still more mind-boggling than common psychokinesis.
All creation is a sort of holographic projection from an aetheric plane, a metaphysical sea of information containing the patterns of every facet of reality. At the highest levels, these patterns deal with things like the parameters of physical laws and the quantity of available energy, but there are smaller data structures that describe the organization and behavior of every object and natural process that occurs within it, from stars to the reproductive cycle of a particular species of bacteria. These aetheric data structures are called morphic fields. They extend from the informational substratum into the physical world, interacting with physical objects through a phenomenon called morphic resonance.
Living creatures interact with a special kind of morphic field called a morphogenetic field. The organism’s genetic material, whatever its happens to be made of, determines which field(s) it resonates with. Morphogenetic resonance is a two-way street; the field defines a creature’s anatomy, the function of its biological systems, and its instinctive behaviors, but the creatures can also alter the field by their own behavioral and biological adaptations. The more times this new adaptation occurs, the more prominently it is encoded in the morphogenetic field. At a certain threshold, this new adaptation spontaneously becomes available to the entire population. Usually these population-wide changes only manifest in subsequent generations, but some adaptations can also express themselves in still-developing youth or even in mature organisms. Certain human genetic lines are able to resonate with non-human morphogenetic fields, and thus acquire their behaviors and elements of their physiology; a phenomenon referred to as Zoomorphism.
Morphogenetic fields also store factors of individual consciousness, like memory and personality. These are, of course, mediated by the physical hardware of the creature’s brain, sensory organs, and nervous system, so although the field records in perfect fidelity, it cannot record information the creature is unable to perceive or comprehend. This information is persisted eternally so no data is ever truly lost, even if the brains of most creatures, even when healthy, are unable to perfectly recall data from the field.
Resonance with the parts of the field that record consciousness is much more finely attuned to the individual they originated from, though it is sometimes possible for others to tap into them. This ability lies behind a range of phenomenon including telepathy, psychometry, and deja vu. Additionally, an idea or experience can become so widely held that it becomes sublimated into a broader morphogenetic field called the noosphere, whence it is disseminated as part of a racial memory. The accumulated knowledge of all humans, living and dead, is recorded in the noosphere, and it is possible for very extraordinary individuals to tap into it.
Now, let’s talk about talents.
The Basics: Psychokinematics of Force and Energy
When most people think of talents (‘super powers’), they probably think of those who can project energy or throw things around “with the power of their mind.” These forms of psychokinesis represent the most basic use of the PPF. Telekinetics convert this adulterated aether into mechanical force which they can project against physical objects at a distance. Others convert it into some aspect of electromangetism: magnokinetics turn it into magnetic fields, electrokinetics into electricity, thermokinetics into heat, and so forth. Those talents who can affect only particular forms of matter (e.g. hydrokinetics, aerokinetics, pyrokinetics, etc…) may simply lack sufficient skill to utilize their abilities more generally, or suffer from a mental block. Sometimes it is because their talent is able to manipulate the intrinsic properties of matter in a way that is entirely alien to scientific understanding (and this is where things begin to get really interesting).
ESP: Psionic Interface with Informational Fields
The second most well-known type of psionic talent fall under the broad category of Extra-Sensory Perception. These abilities enable the talent to perceive in ways that go well beyond the senses of mundane humans, both in their capabilities and the way they function. Rather than being simply boosted forms of the normal five senses, these abilities actually interact with otherwise undetectable informational fields which human science has only begun to speculate about. These fields are usually morphic fields that record sensory impressions, memories, and thoughts of sentient beings, but a rare few talents can tap into even more esoteric morphic fields, like those that contain information about the basic properties and structure of physical objects, universal laws, and even abstract conceptsThe rarest and most highly developed form of ESP enables a talent to tap into what spritualists have called the Akashic Records, vast repositories of knowledge accumulated over the aeons by creatures both hnau and supernal.
Though originally thought to be a form of highly acute electrokinesis, telepathy, or mind-reading, also taps into these informational fields. True telepathy is very rare, and its utility is hampered by the division of the human race into several incompatible Psi Bandwidths, the psychic equivalent of blood types. A telepath of one bandwidth can only communicate with and read the minds of those of an identical bandwidth, with the exception of rare Rho-band “universal transmitter” and Tau-band “universal receiver” bandwidths.
Even though their mechanism is related to access to these informational fields, many forms of ESP are mediated by mundane senses. Psychometry, for example, relies on tactile contact or the near proximity to objects with a psychic residue. Remote viewers and animal empaths can see and hear through the eyes and ears of other people or animals.
ESP is not strictly the domain of biological organisms, either. So-called technopaths can interact with complex machines, artificial intelligence, and recording devices by tapping into the morphic fields particular to those machines. Technopathy is an especially valuable talent in the modern world; their ability to diagnose, control, and defeat complex technology has had an enormous impact on everything form manufacturing to warfare.
Ectoplasm, Shapeshifting, and Mass Multiplication
Some talents can add to existing mass or create new mass, seemingly out of thin air, but modern science frets at an explanation for these abilities. The standard theory is that that such talents are a “mere” conversion of the PPF to matter, but the truth is that they are able to differentiate ambient aether into physical form, as constrained by their associated morphic fields.
Contrary to their portrayal in popular media, however, talents who can grow, stretch, or alter their body plan cannot usually do so rapidly. The addition or redistribution of this extra mass requires considerable time and concentration to achieve properly, at least in the range of minutes for small changes, and in the range of hours or even days for large alterations.
Ectoplasm generation is a special case of these “mass from nowhere” powers and is also the most common manifestation of these abilities. Ectoplasm is a fluid or vaporous substance, highly psi-reactive, and able to be shaped psychokinetically by talents. It is typically thought to be an unusual type of bodily fluid extruded through bio-mechanical processes, but in fact is created through the same aether manipulation processes as other mass-multipliers. Some ectoplasm wielders have been powerful enough to create functional duplicates of themselves, animals, or inanimate objects, while most are capable only of rapidly-deteriorating and amorphous constructs.
Stable ectoplasm has a variety of important applications and can command high prices. It has been used, for example, in the creation of anaesthetics and hallucinogens by imprinting psychic impressions onto it, and to coat projectiles so that telekinetics can guide them in mid-flight.
Focuses, Nulls, and Psinks
Some talents produce no outwardly miraculous effects in and of themselves; instead, these meta-talents affect other paranormal phenomena. The psychic focus, for example, is a sort of lightning-rod for strangeness, accumulating the PPF and raw aether wherever they go. A Focus may have other talents and therefore be capable of staggering abilities, or amplify the abilities of other talents nearby. Sometimes, however, the accumulation of aether is so heavy that it can cause painful feedback or even short-circuit the use of other powers.
On the other end of the spectrum are Psychic Nulls and Psychic Sinks. Nulls, or Voids, are those with no psychic attunement whatsoever; their Psi Bandwidths are non-existent (sometimes colloquially referred to as the Null-band). Their minds cannot be read, their senses cannot be used for remote viewing, and they leave no psychometric residue on the environment. Often they cannot be detected by other psychics at all. They also are not capable of experiencing many sorts of paranormal phenomena that rely on psychic manifestations, including Telepathic Illusions, ‘haunting’ phenomena, deja vu, and so forth. The prototypical Void is staid, unimaginative, non-intuitive, highly skeptical, irreligious, unempathetic, and anti-social–sometimes violently so. It is often said that while not all Nulls are sociopaths, all sociopaths are Nulls.
A Psychic Sink, or Psink, is a sort of Null who actively cancels out talents and other paranormal phenomenon. They are walking, talking black holes for aether. In the presence of a void, even the most powerful sensitives and psychokinetics can be rendered impotent. While rumors of Psinks have persisted ever since the re-emergence of talents in the mid-19th century, scientific recognition of their existence dates only to the second half of the 20th century, when Dr. John Silence produced an infant with such abilities (some believe the child’s power-negating abilities provoked the derangement and suicide of his psychic mother). Consequently, Psinks are also colloquially called Silencers.
Estimates of the the numbers of these so-called ‘meta-talents’ vary. Nulls may make up as much as 10% of the non-talent population, while Focuses and Psinks are far rarer, somewhere between 0.1-0.5% of the population.
Zoomorphism and Agromorophism
A zoomorph is a somewhat unusual kind of talent whose genes synchronize with the morphogenetic fields of non-human animals. Consequently, these people may undergo changes to their physiology and even their gross body plan, adapting traits of the animal(s) they sync up with. Zoomorphs are thought by many to be the origin of stories of ‘were-‘ creatures, but unlike traditional werewolves and the like, the changes that a zoomorph goes through are permanent.
Most zoomorphs never develop anything more than superficial similarities, but a few go through major transformations and end up with superhuman abilities. So, for example, an acute case of canine zoomorphism may develop a greatly enhanced sense of smell, ultrasonic hearing, hirsuitism, and even digitigrade posture; while a cetacean zoomorph may lose all of their body hair and undergo physiological changes that produce a facsimile of a dolphin’s diving reflex, such as collapsible lungs and the ability to store oxygen in myoglobin. Of course, such abilities are achieved only at great cost, and the transformation can be both physically and psychologically traumatic; certainly the most well-known case of acute zoomorphism in history, that of Gregor Samsa, proved a great tragedy.
Most people with the genetic potential for zoomorphism remain latent all their lives for two main reasons. The first is that expression requires frequent and prolonged proximity to the appropriate animal. As a result, the most frequently encountered zoomorphs are aligned with the fields of pets or other domesticated animals. Indeed, most expressive zoomorphs were triggered while working on farms, zoos, or in pet stores. The second reason is that the initial expression must be triggered in a limited time window between birth and the end of puberty.
Agromorphism works the same way, only with plants. This phenomenon is so rare that there are only two confirmed cases on record, and a handful of arguable cases from history and mythology (like the Green Children of Woolpit).