The following article has been reprinted from the PJSA. It is old and although checked for accuracy (using spelling in British English!) it is possible that reference numbers or other typographical errors have arisen. Nevertheless, as this paper reflects the pioneering work in the area of subjective anomalous experience in relation to clinical psychiatric frameworks, it may be of enormous importance to phenomenologists and researchers and it is reprinted here for academics.


Vernon M. Neppe BA, MB, BCh, MMed (Psych), PhD (Med), DPM, FF Psych (SA)


Parapsychology Anomalous Experience Anomaly Focus Base Gestalt Correspondence Heuristic Dimensions Intention Ego-consciousness Judgement Subjective paranormal experience Classification Delta

Individual findings in psi research have been extremely difficult to replicate. Spontaneous apparently anomalous experiences are often classed together on the basis of brief common descriptions. Both research and spontaneous cases may be limited with enduring subgroup homogeneity. Like psychiatry, parapsychology needs a multiaxial classification system. This paper suggests a tentative ten level description of anomalous experience so that the possible errors of classifying heterogeneous phenomena into single subgroups can be eliminated. These axes run from A to J involving the following levels: Anomaly, Base, Correspondence, Dimension, Ego-Consciousness, Focus, Gestalt, Heuristic, Intention, Judgement. Specific terms for use at each of these levels are suggested. This Multiaxial System for Anomalous Events now needs empirical testing.


A major- difficulty in parapsychological research has been the replication problem - highly significant results are initially found in one experiment but when the research is repeated by a different group or even in the same laboratory, non-significant results are found. Alternatively, loosely controlled experiments have yielded promising results but when greater controls are added, the experiments have yielded chance results. So prevalent is this kind of results that sceptics have argued, quite legitimately that these results do not reflect paranormality (i.e. psi) at all, but can be explained within the frame work of "normal psychical and


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psychological experience. The converse explanation is that the original results obtained were non- artefactual but that the tightening of experimental controls has removed certain very special environmental, interpersonal and psychological aspects that have been conducive for psi phenomena. Paranormality is perceived as an elusive property not easily elicited within the framework of the laboratory. This has led to the rather facetious comment that Catch 21 is that 'psi is in the first place difficult to elicit', and Catch 22 is 'when attempts at replication are made the phenomena will disappear' because of the differences in psychological and physical circumstances. This leads to the ultimate paradox: 'psi phenomena might be inherently non-replicable and if this is so, parapsychology cannot adopt the present-day empirical, naturalistic scientific framework for research


As opposed to experimental research the second major domain of parapsychology is investigation of spontaneous phenomena. These often involve retrospective evaluations and consequently post hoc attempts at conclusion. When the researcher does encounter a spontaneous psi phenomenon that is occurring under some kind of condition that can involve immediate corroboration or evaluation within days (e.g. precognitive veridical dreams), a major difficulty is "typing" similar kinds of experiences into homogeneous entities. The parapsychologist may talk as a group about "precognitive dreams". Like any other subjective experiences, these dreams may be heterogeneous in origin, in development or in causality. The problems of replication in research and description of spontaneous phenomena may partly reflect homogeneous conceptualization of the heterogeneous.

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In my opinion, there is an urgent need to subdivide all apparently anomalous experiences into greater detail from the onset. This may ray allow analyses - creative human or mathematical computerized - which ultimately will better allow the parapsychological researcher, the phenomenological psychiatrist or anomalistic psychologist greater insight into the presence of homogeneous entities.

Psychiatrists have for many years attempted to detail their diagnosis with other factors that may be relevant. Diagnosis is commonly linked for example with predisposing, precipitating and perpetuating factors in relation to the illness. The American Psychiatric Association has, in fact, formalized diagnosis into five axes, namely I psychopathology, II personality, III organicity, IV social precipitants and V recent functionality. Specific diagnostic or operational criteria have been adopted within each axis producing the internationally recognized Diagnostic and Statistical Manual - 3 (DSM - 3)

I believe that a multi-axial schema can be applied in the in the phenomenological description of anomalous events i.e. happenings which apparently do not fit within our conventional psychophysical framework. The schema which follows is tentative and has ten components. To facilitate recall the ten axes run from A to J, each letter serving as a mnemonic for that specific axis. The ten are listed in Table I. The order of analysis appears appropriate so that a sequential description from A to J is apparently workable.

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Table 1: The ten Multiaxial Levels for Describing Anomalous Experience
Axis A: Level of anomaly (unconventional psychophysical frameworks)
Axis B: Base level (locus of anomaly)
Axis C: Correspondence level (degree of verification)
Axis D: Dimensional level (temporo-spatial facets)
Axis E: Ego-consciousness level (state of experient)
Axis F: Focus level (kind of experient)
Axis G: Gestalt factors (context - expectancy and motivation)
Axis H: Heuristic perspective (general parapsychological description)
Axis I: Intention level (aims prior to the SPE)
Axis J: Judgment level ('goes guesstimate.' of SPE probability).


Prior to describing any specific kind of psi experience, it is necessary to establish whether the phenomenon being described is, in fact, ostensible psi - can it be regarded as of such a kind that: a modification or rejection of our present Newtonian laws of physics is necessary? This implies what Devereux has called parafamiliar or metafamiliar explanations - "para -" implying an extension of our natural laws and "meta-" referring to non-physical explanations. There may be three alternatives to psi as an explanation for a happening that appears anomalous, namely sub- liminal stimuli - Devereux's "latent familiarity"2, organic explanations like a hallucination or memory disturbance (paramnesia) - Neppe's "pseudofamiliarity"3, thirdly psychological non- organic explanations based at the level of the unconscious (i.e. psychodynamic or simply "dynamic") - Neppe’s

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"antefamiliarity". Before explaining or describing something as ostensibly psi, the anomalistic psychologist must consider the "subliminal", "organic" and "dynamic" explanations. Because these commonly difficult to differentiate, I have suggested the term "delta" for any kind of anomalous experience which may not necessarily be psi4. Thus "delta" is the composite term, and Axis would be used to describe, for example, a precognitive veridical dream as "psi" when it occurred unexpectedly, with correspondences within a day with the real event in several specific and unusual ways. If however, this same dream could potentially have occurred because of residue from the previous day' a experience, there may a be a psychoanalytic or broader psychodynamic explanation so that Axis A would be "psi/dynamic". Alternatively, after the real event, the subject may have been uncertain of the exact dream in which case memory distortion may be important - psi/organic". Similarly overhearing a conversation while asleep may lead to subliminal or "latent" explanations (subliminal/psi). Because more than two explanations would be bulky, "delta" would imply uncertainty as a to the likely explanation. It is probable that most spontaneous subjective paranormal experiences (SPEs)5 have psi and dynamic components, both of which may interplay. The researcher should preferably place the most striking component first. Psi/dynamic' would imply putative psi with possible dynamic factors, dynamic/psi on Axis A would imply the reverse.

At times, the phenomenon may be common or expected. "Delta" .implies extrachance experience. If the phenomenon could easily be coincidental, Axis A should be chance/delta or chance/psi or psi/chance (i.e. psi more likely than coincidence) as the case may be.

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Finally, our experience may be anomalous because of it’s apparent acausal synchronicity. This I have called "prefamiliarity"3. As this is more a philosophical concept, I believe "psi" can be used to embrace it.

In summary, Axis A describes the level of the ANOMALY. This can be chance or delta and delta is further subdivided into subliminal, organic, dynamic or psi (Table 2).

Table 2: Main descriptive items in the multiaxial system for anomalous events
Axis A: Anomaly Chance, Delta1 Subliminal, Organic, Dynamic, Psi.
Axis B: Base Afferent, Efferent, Central, A-E, E-A.
Axis C: Correspondence Unvalidated, Relationship, S-validated, U-validated, 0-validated, Psychotic.
Axis D: Dimensions Precognitive, Contemporaneous, Retrocognitive, Timeless, PE, PD, RE, RD; Laboratory, RT, Distant, SE, Growth.
Axis E: Ego-Consciousness Clear, Clouded, Coma, Sleep, Dream, Hypnagogic, Hypnopompic, Drowsiness, Hypnotic, Ganzfeld, Remote Viewing (RV)*, Meditative, Mystical, Religious, D-Trance, F-Trance, C- Trance, N-ASC, Depersonalized, Derealized, Shift.
Axis F: Focus Percipient, Agent, Experimenter, Animal, Dyad, Relationship, Other.
Axis G: Gestalt HE +, LE +, UC, LE-, NE-; NM, SM, NM.
Axis H: Heuristic Any "Psi" or "Delta" experience.
Axis I: Intention Spontaneous, Experimental, CE, UE, Induced, II, UI
Axis J.. Judgments: VE, Evidential, Suggestive, NE.

* Editorial 1997 addition as Remote Viewing (RV) is now a relevant state.

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"Base" here refers to the locus - the position of direction of the phenomenon. Where is it based? It could be on the level of incoming/communication/perceptions i.e. "afferent" as in so-called "extrasensory perception" where information is apprehended or perceived4 . Alternatively, the base could be "efferent" control, influence or manipulation of objects or events in so-called psychokinesis4. There could be an "afferent" and "efferent" aspect to the base: for example in a controlled telepathy experiment the efferent aspect is an "agent". The agent ( or sender) is trying to influence the percipient (or receiver) who is apprehending information (i.e. afferent aspect). This is afferent-efferent, easily abbreviated A-E. The word "afferent" preceding "efferent" could imply that the focus (person or animal) being described is receiving/perceiving SPEs. In such telepathy experiments the researcher generally focuses on the state of the percipient not so much the agent. Alternatively Efferent-Afferent (E-A) would imply focus on the agent: for example in so-called "Paranormal healing" where the healer is influencing the patient and supposedly and supposedly the "psychic" partner.

Finally extending the cybernetic model further, the base can be neither afferent nor efferent but at the central integrating/modulating/executive level. In man this is usually conceived as nervous system or brain. In parapsychology or dualistic psychology, "mind" may be more appropriate at times. I call this "central". An example would be the out-of-body (separative) experience.

This Axis B - the Base - can be subdivided into Afferent, Efferent, Central, A-E or E-A (Table 2).

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Axis C - Correspondence Level examines the level at which SPE corresponds with the actual real event. There is a substantial difference between someone who describes a vague "feeling" compared with a description of the details of a train accident which or which occurs exactly as described. I have previously attempted to use terms such as "not validated SPE.', "high-score SPE" and "low-score SPE 6". These terms seem to me unwieldy. I prefer now to use "unvalidated", "relationship", and "validated".

"Unvalidated" implies a subject admitting to a particular kind of -of SPE. "Relationship" implies that the SPE is not easily contingent or very peculiar but it is symbolic or non-equivalent alternatively was not recorded in some way prior to its verification. "Validated" implies a far higher level of subjective validation, with actual equivalence, a direct cognitive or behavioural component and some kind of external validation. This as validation may involve a written record unseen by anyone else to the real event (i.e. "subjectively validated" or S-V) or objective communication with someone else. This external verification could be unconfirmed ("unconfirmed validation" or U-V) or reliably confirmed ("objective validation" or 0-V). Again, quantity can be stated e.g. 0-V (4 people).

The final level of event may be one which is unvalidated and has components of psychosis. In this instance the SPE has components of out-of-touchness with reality and delusional influence or self- reference. This I have called "psychotic SPEs" 7 and the level of correspondence is "psychotic." This may if necessary combine with another term e.g. "psychotic unvalidated"

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Thus Axis C - Correspondence uses such terms as "Unvalidated", "Relationship, "S-Validated", "U-Validated", "0'-" Validated" and "Psychotic" (Table 2).


Axis D - Dimensional Level refers to an attempt at placing the anomalous event into a three dimensional space - unidimensional time framework. Time is fundamental to describing any SPE, the terms "retrocognitive, "contemporaneous and "precognitive" being common scientific equivalents for events perceived in the past, present and future respectively. Spatial relationships are less often described. It seems logical to qualify this by "laboratory" or "right there" (abbreviated R-T) as opposed to "distant" (e.g. a telepathic experiment over thousands of miles or a remote viewing

Time and space can often be quantified: thus there may be a substantial difference between precognition of an event a few seconds as opposed to a few months before. This should be recorded (e.g. pre-12h would be precognition -12 hours, and distant -2 kilometers).

Finally when comparing the different afferent data (i.e. so-called sensory perception) experience and the real occurrence, certain events seem to involve a time or space shift. For example, some Deja vu experiences begin in the present, and the person then believes he knows the immediate future. I have called this "Precognitive extensions" (P.E. )8 By the same token "retrocognitive extension a (R.E.)8 and jumps from the present to the remote part ("retrocognitive distancing" - RD) or remote future.

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(precognitive distancing" - PD) may be described (also often in the Deja vu context). similarly Deja vu may have a "spatial extension" (SE) component where the experience seems to incorporate more and( more or a non-specific "growing" aspect ("growth" (8 These terms can equally be used to describe other SPEs.

Thus Axis D - Dimension can use such time as Precognitive, Contemporaneous, Retrocognitive or even Timeless. Extensions these may be PE, PD, RE or RD. This temporal description should be followed by the spatial level e.g. Laboratory, RT, Distant, SE Growth. Quantification should be attempted where possible. In a remote viewing experiment, Axis D may read contemporaneous/Distant 4K, and in a precognitive dream, Prec: 8h/Dist: 500m (500 metres) (Table 2).


After examining the fundamental kind of experience (the Anomaly) and its locus (the Base), level of verification (Correspondence) and time-space Dimensions, it is logical to examine the state of the main focus - the ego - the person (or animal) implicated in the experience. This is Axis E - his/her Ego level) and specifically Consciousness.

Consciousness is an extremely difficult concept to define, and when defined uses other terms which themselves are also difficult. It refers to a process of awareness and responsiveness. The normal day to-day state is "clear consciousness", and abnormal (i.e. do to disease) impaired consciousness is described as "clouded". Such clouded consciousness may involve progressively decreasing levels of awareness of and responsivity to the environment from drowsiness torpor to stupor to semi-coma to coma. From the parapsychological perspective, certain people having so-called "near death

experiences" may have had them in clouded consciousness and even in coma.

More important from this multiaxial descriptive perspective are the various altered states of consciousness (ASCs). For example, several such states might (disputably) be conducive to psi- namely , hypnotic, ganzfeld, meditative, mystical or religious. Sleep including dream states, and hallucinatory/illusory states immediately before or after sleep (i.e. by hypnagogic and hypnopompic states respectively ) and drowsiness could be regarded as psychological forms of ASC. Another important group of ASCs in parapsychology are so-called "trance states" characterized by an ASC communication allegedly from the dead. In the seance context the medium is often totally amnesic for events that that have occurred: this I call "dissociative trance" (or D-trance) . When the medium is apparently is in full consciousness, with no amnesia but focusing attention on something (e.g. a brooch during psychometry) this I call a "focussed trance" or F-trance. When there is no focus, no dissociation and no amnesia but a claimed trance state, this can be called "clear trance" (or C-Trance). ASCs which do not fall into any of the above categories can be called non-descript ASCs (N-ASCs) (N-ASCs).

At times, psi is postulated to be occurring between different states of consciousness. Consequently, one could punctuate such states with "shift" e.g. hypnosis shift, or where more appropriate with the two states e.g. hypnosis/clear would imply shift out of hypnotic state to clear consciousness.

Other specific ASCs or pathological phenomenological states may also occasionally be more appropriate such as Depersonalized or

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Derealized. These are time ego-states hence the term "Ego-conciousness" as opposed to "Consciousness" alone.

Thus Axis E - E9o-Consciousness can use the following main terms: Clear, Clouded, Coma, Sleep, Dream, Hypnagogic, Hypnopompic, Drowsiness, Hypnotic, Ganzfeld, Meditative, Mystical, Religious, D-Trance, F-Trance, c-Trance, N-ASC, Depersonalized and / Derealized. Two can be linked together in appropriate order and the term "Shift" can be added to any of above (Table 2).


The discussion of Axis E - Ego-Consciousness shifted from the actual anomalous experience to the ego-consciousness involved. This implies a focus. Axis-F deals with this Focus.

The "Focus" in this context refers to the person allegedly having the paranormal experience. In clairvoyance experiment example, it would be the "percipient". In recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis, the focus involved may be unclear and if so, this should be indicated, or the options as to whom the "agent" might be, should be listed. Occasionally, an experiment may centre around the "experimenter" in which case he may be the focus. Commonly, there may be several directly involved: for example, certain telepathy experiments. The focus may at times be non- human - a dog, cat, rat or pigeon for example. A conceivable focus could be inanimate - for example, the electronic voice phenomenon may be argued to be an effect on magnetic tape not due to the experimenter involved.

"Focus" therefore is a controversial area. When more than one

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focus is noted, the first mentioned, the should be the one whose Ego-consciousness has been reported on in Axis E. At times, it may therefore be logical to list more than one parson on Axis E. Focus therefore involves one or more of Percipient, Agent, Experimenter, Animal, Inanimate, relationship, Dyad or Other (Table 2).


Having listed briefly the quality of experience and of the experients, Axis G - Gestalt Factors is used to better allow a holistic perspective. Axis G lists the contextual factors, often best in tabulated form. As this kind of information may be somewhat peripheral to the actual SPE, the data may be "unknown".

The expectancy of psi occurring under the specific circumstances of the experiment or SPE should be listed for each participant namely high expectancy (HE), uncertain (UC), or low expectancy (LE), of positive (+) or negative (-) outcome. Thus five HE +, LE +, UC, LE-, HE- could be used. Such expectancy in is rather complex area interacting with such general factors as attitude to psi (i.e. sheep, goats, supersheep, supergoats) and overall personality. These general factors while valuable data with large sample numbers, are probably not necessary to routine list in describing the single SPEs the above classification is intended for.

"Motivation" is the second quality to list. Again this will be in the context of the SPE. A graded system of Not at all Motivated (NM), Slightly motivated (SM) and Highly Motivated (HM) can be used.

Thus expectancy/motivation is the basis for Axis G - Gestalt

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Axis H - Heuristic perspective involves using components of Axis A to G in the context of the anomalous. This should be short and involve the way in which a experience of the kind is usually described in parapsychological journals. Examples would be "precognitive dream" "separative (i.e. out of body ) experience", "recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis", "trance mediumship" and "walking ESP". Axis H is the quick reference axis: the axis that describes what would have been briefly said without a multiaxial schema ( Table 2)


Axis I - Intention Level focuses on the intentions that preceded the SPE. in other words was the SPE spontaneous in that it occurred n a non-laboratory setting unexpected? Alternatively was the result a consequence of an "experiment"? Was experiment "controlled (CE) or uncontrolled (UE)? Did some kind of ritual precede SPE? The ritual could be, for example, meditative. The intention of such a ritual may or may not have been to induce psi. Consequently, one can speak of "intended" (II) or unintended induced (UI) respectively. The magical ritual found in preliterate cultures (e.g. Malopo dancing)8 are indirectly intended to induce psi. The would therefore be "II". Axis I emphasizes therefor the mechanism which precipitated the SPE and this can be "spontaneous", experimental (CE, UE) or induced (II, UI) ( Table 2)

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The final axis - Axis 3 - involves Judgement. On the basis of information at hand, in form described by Axes A to I, what interpretations can be made? These judgements involve a "guesstimate of the probability of the SPE. Operationally SPE is of the kind that Axis H - Heuristic Perspective has called it. Axis J - Judgement takes into account information that may not have been mentioned such as reliability of witnesses and of the description. It considers particularly Axis A - the level of the anomaly, and Axis C ---the level of correspondence and of validity.

Axis J can be scored as Very Evidential (Vii), Evidential, Suggestive (NE) (Table 2). If necessary, specific judgmental comments can be made can be made under Axis J. Any probability scores found through research method would be indicated under this Axis because this implies a judgement.

Table 3: Example of the Multiaxial System for Anomalous Events
Axis A: Anomaly psi / dynamic Delta
Axis B: Base Afferent Central
Axis C: Correspondence S-Validated Relationship
Axis D: Dimensions Precognitive: 2 day / Dist: 4 km Contemporaneous/RT
Axis E: Ego-Consciousness Dream Clear
Axis F: Focus Percipient Percipient
Axis G: Gestalt UC/NM HE/NM
Axis H: Heuristic Veridical Dream Separative Experience - Complete
Axis I: Intention Spontaneous II
Axis J: Judgement Suggestive non-evidential

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These ten axes are a preliminary and novel attempt at developing a multiaxial system for describing subjective paranormal experiences, either single spontaneous ones, or clusters for example in laboratory PK experiments. This system can be called Neppe's Anomalous Multiaxial Event System or NAMES. Examples of a precognitive dream and of a separative experience applying NAMES are listed in Table 3. NAMES now needs to be applied to research and clinical situations.

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  3. Neppe V M. Parapsychology : a conceptual overview. PJSA. 1980, 1:1, 1-16.
  4. Neppe V M. Extrasensory perception : an anachronism and anathema. J Soc Psychical Research 1984, 52, 798, 365-370.
  5. Neppe, V M. Temporal lobe symptomatology in subjective paranormal experients. J Amer. Soc Psychical Research. 1983, 77:1, 1-30.
  6. Neppe V M. Subjective paranormal experience and temporal lobe symptomatology. PJSA. 1980, V:2, 78-98.
  7. Neppe VM. Subjective paranormal experience psychosis. Parapsychology Review. 1984, 15:2, 7-9.
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