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Why Are People Born with Psychic Abilities?

psychic crystal ballSutra 19 of Book One of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali

19. Of those who are Videhas and Prakrtilayas birth is the cause.

Patanjali is now discussing those people who from birth are seen to possess marked psychic faculties and psychic powers–even to a miraculous degree. Such persons are usually assumed to be spiritually advanced and are respected accordingly, but this is not wise.

It is only because of certain abnormalities in their previous life (or lives) that they now manifest these abilities. Patanjali says that simply being born precipitates these capabilities, and not yoga at all–no, not even in a previous life. He speaks of two classes of such people: videha and prakritilaya.


Videha means “bodiless” and he is referring to persons who for some reason spent a great deal of their time in the previous life separated from their bodies to a great degree.

Edgar Cayce, “the sleeping prophet,” said that in his previous life he had undergone a lingering death on a battlefield in which his subtle bodies had been almost completely separated from the physical. Dying in that state, when he was reborn he possessed the intense psychic, almost mediumistic, powers he utilized in his later healing work.

Spontaneous astral projectors are videhas.


A prakritilaya is a person who in a previous birth has somehow become absorbed into certain psychic levels of existence–the subtle energies of Prakriti. Having identified with psychic energies, when they are born they have the ability to access those powers and even work miracles.

Vedehas usually manifest intellectual psychic abilities–intution, etc., and prakritilayas actually make external changes or produce external phenomena. However, each may overlap into the territory of the other.

Make no mistake

Aimee McPhersonThe important point Patanjali is making here is that they are NOT spiritually advanced people, but only possessors of unusual abilities, and we must not make the mistake of attributing spiritual wisdom and worth to them.

A vivid case was that of Aimee Semple McPherson, the famous evangelist who was a remarkable psychic and healer. She was hailed as a greatly spiritual and even holy person, but in reality she was a drug and sex addict, remarkably unintelligent and amoral, and in the end committed suicide.

One time in New Delhi I was visiting with John McDiarmid, head of the UN mission to India. John kept declaring that if he believed “Sister Aimee” had really worked miracles he would stop believing in God–for he knew her true character. Like so many of East and West, John could not distinguish between the psychic and the spiritual. But Patanjali certainly could, and so can we if we apply ourselves.

Previous Sutras: Patanjali’s Two Types of Samadhi
Next: The Four Qualities Necessary for Samadhi

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