My dad and I are at odds on this topic.
For a very long time, I was always sceptical of the idea of mediums and other psychics, but I kept my mind open to the possibility that, amongst the hundreds and thousands out there, a handful of them might be genuine. It's only within the past year that I've finally found a definite position on the matter:
I don't believe in them.
Part of the process I went through to get to this position was quite simply to research them. Through my own research, as well as watching shows such as Derren Brown, and other illusionists who can accurately recreate mediumship, without using any psychic abilities whatsoever, I found myself faced with overwhelming evidence against psychics, and very sketchy, subjective evidence in their favour.
I was speaking at some length about this the other day with ~mistergleeson. To prove my point, I successfully performed two readings on him using two different methods: Hot Reading, and Cold Reading.
Now, it wasn't the best of tests, as I obviously know Conor pretty damn well, but the point still remained. My hot reading was to "read" something I already knew about him. In the case of a real psychic, this will be when they covertly attain information about the person in advance of a reading, without their knowledge (such as names of those close to them, financial issues, medical issues etc). It's the more "cheating" method of reading, but if the person being read doesn't suspect it, it gives a very impressive show.
Cold reading is the more commonly used method, and does not require any real foreknowledge of those the psychic is trying to read. In Conor's case, my cold reading of him was this:
"I can see a man coming forward for you. An adult man, perhaps a grandfather or uncle, or someone like a close male family figure. I get the impression he's no longer with us. He's gesturing to his torso, the chest and abdomen area. So, perhaps a man who died of complications somewhere in the chest or stomach?"
Who reading this can think of a male who fits that description? The likeliness is that most of you will. We all know men who have died, and the most common causes of death are through organs in the torso (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach, bowels). Once I'd made that connection, I took it even further:
"He's gesturing very violently towards his chest and abdomen. Have you, perhaps, had any worries in the past years about something to do with your own body?"
Again, this SEEMS specific, but in reality, it's not. I know from my own experience that I sometimes wonder about if my heart is beating too fast, or fret about my asthma. The torso contains the body parts we tend to worry most about, so it's generally a safe bet to make an assumption based on that knowledge.
These examples are of the most basic shows of cold reading. Those who are adept at it can do it much more expertly, judging a person by their age, appearance, jewellery, clothing, apparent mood, who they're there with... There are a whole plethora of things that can be used to the psychics advantage. As well as that, there is also the element of luck, and that the target will be so keen on the idea of contact from the beyond that they will draw their own links between themselves and the information given by the psychic, thereby doing most of the work themselves!
It's very difficult to convince a believer of these matters. My favourite way to try and educate people on the matter is to direct them to Derren Brown, who has no only shown multiple times just how effective his cold-reading skills are on a total stranger, but has also accurately recreated a seance (contacting the dead, through ouija boards and possession) with a group of total strangers. He is always very clear to make it known he has no psychic powers, and that the methods he use can be learned by anyone with the time and inclination to master them. He's a brilliant example of how many psychics are charlatans.
So, my stance is very clear. I don't believe in them. Until I get outstanding evidence otherwise, I'll likely never believe in them. When I near death, I will inform all those close to me of a very specific "code word" I will use should I ever try and contact them from the beyond (if there is one). I do not want my loved ones being conned by a psychic in an attempt to quell their bereavement.
Which brings up another, slightly unrelated question, but still an interesting one. This was brought up to me by ~chimocho when we discussed the matter the other day:
Even if a psychic is fake, does it matter, so long as they bring relief or assurance to the worried and bereaved?
A difficult question. To me, yes. It does matter. I understand peoples need for answers and reassurance, but to me, doing it through lies and deceit is immoral. To charge money for it, to me, is utterly reprehensible. I've lost people close to me during my life, but I'd be outraged if someone had the audacity to lie to me, to pretend to bring me a message from the beyond to console me, when they had no such ability. I'd be livid if they had charged me money for the privilege.
I can understand some people 'not caring', and just wanting to hear something to calm them about their worries and losses... but that doesn't seem logical or mature to me. As much as it scares me, we all have to accept that life has an end, and there is a possibility (a strong one, in my opinion) that there is little else for us beyond mortality. What good is clutching to lies and hlf-truths going to do for our minds? Instead of reaching for frail and questionable answers from the dead, I'd rather spend my energies on remembering the good they did whilst they were living, and strive myself to use that experience as a means to better my own life, and live it to the full. I have no interest in being conned by someone claiming to have a message from the beyond.
I daresay that those who follow religions will have very varying views to my own on this, mainly due to the belief in an afterlife.
I'm very interested to hear peoples views on this.
Thanks to ~Ariyaunna for the avatars!
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