Finding out about ‘the gift’…
“All mediums are psychics but not all psychics are mediums,” says popular psychic James Van Praagh. Frankly, that didn’t help much as I set out to define the “gift” of being able to tap into something “out there”. My first clue should have been my vague description of what I was actually looking for. But Van Praagh continues to say that the difference is that psychics can sense energies in and from the living only. Mediums can interface between the living and the dead as well as sense these living energies. The bottom line is that what I will call “Psychic Mediums” are much more complex even than this cryptic definition. In fact, the one thing that follows all levels and variances is that whatever the specific ability, it is not something the average person uses in a typical day. After that, the definition gets a little fuzzy.
There are three distinct camps on where these abilities come from. The least popular theory is that anyone can be a psychic they just have to be taught. This presumes that the ability to talk with the dead or to predict the future is not really a gift at all but rather a skill, like math or driving a car. Anybody can do it if they are taught properly. Most psychics believe, however, either that you are born with the ability via some sort of genetic line of psychics or you are given this special gift rather randomly but that it is not something you learn from scratch. That’s not to say there are no classes, however. Even those who believe their abilities are truly gifts will tell you that practice makes perfect.
The most generally accepted way to “hone your skill” is to use it. Any honest psychic will tell you he or she makes mistakes. It happens. But it is generally believed that the more you do it the better you will become-and by better I mean more accurate and more thorough. Many psychics report using their friends to practice on-whether it be with some sort of tool like tarot cards or simply a hands on sensory experience. Additionally, many established psychics will hold classes and seminars to help educate those that already have a little “talent” and want to perfect the art. And once you have established yourself as a “proven” psychic, you can even get certified. The Association of Certified Psychics based in Troy, NY has a certification process wherein you apply to the Board with four references from people you have known in a professional metaphysical relationship for at least two years. They contact your references and if all goes well you are granted an interview, and then are tested by the board of psychics. They offer this free of charge. In Canada, professional psychic Dr. Kathleen Meadows offers a comprehensive online certification program as well.
If you are really a good psychic, you may get to be part of the Lily Dale, NY community. Lily Dale is a small gated community on the shores of Lake Cassadaga about an hour south of Buffalo, NY and now includes the former home of Spiritualist Kate Fox which was moved to the location. The Lily Dale Assembly evolved from the First Spiritualist Society of Laona in 1855 and the Cassadaga Lake Free Association in 1879. It is the oldest and largest psychic community. Lily Dale has strict guidelines as to who may channel or give readings in the community in the hopes of keeping out frauds. The Lily Dale spiritualists ensure they are genuine through a series of training circles and tests and getting through this process can take many years. Psychics in training can often be seen giving free readings at the Stump of Inspiration while the community is open to the public in the summer. The theory again is that with practice, the skill increases.
There are two types of mediums-mental mediums and physical mediums. Mental mediums include clairvoyance wherein the psychic can see spirits, clairaudience where the psychic can hear spirits, and clairsentience where psychics can sense a spirit. Clairsentience is by far more common than either clairaudience or clairvoyance. Most people have had some sort of clairsentient experience; a feeling of being watched when there is no one about, smelling a fragrance that seems to have no source, the infamous “cold spots” in a purportedly haunted place are all incidence of clairsentient experiences. Most strong psychics report their first experiences were clairsentient and the others came later.
Physical psychics are a far less common type of psychic medium. Accomplishing this usually takes more time and patience, and requires not only a strong medium but also a strong spirit. The two working together provide tangible evidence. The Fox Sisters were considered physical psychics because they were able to channel the spirits into knocks that were heard by all people present as opposed to a clairaudient event where only the psychics would hear the communication. Harry Price’s study of Stella C was physically psychic as well. Stella was witnessed channeling spirits who could move items even as large as a heavy table or light a fully contained bulb with no outside influence beyond whatever the spirit world seemed to be bringing. Physical psychic events sometimes produce sound using the medium’s vocal chords while he or she is in a deep trance, or causes ectoplasm to be produced from the psychic’s body. Other physical psychic events include direct voice (a listening “trumpet” is placed in the middle of the table and a voice communicates to all from the trumpet); transfiguration which is where the face of the spirit appears superimposed over the face of the medium; and apports wherein something tangible suddenly appears from some distance or even from a different location altogether.
As you can imagine, physical psychics often find themselves exhausted after such an experience. Typically, however, all psychics report some sort of physical or emotional drain after a psychic event. In the psychic community, the recent television show “Medium” is thought to be fairly accurate in that regard. Psychic Echo Bodine says, “They are getting it right so far” especially in how confusing these things can be for the medium and how frustrating it is to not have full control. Significant others in the life of the psychic may feel the toll as well, especially if they are not quite certain they believe in the phenomenon to begin with.
There are plenty of disbelievers. The psychic community freely admits to not helping the cause in that regard as well. With the rise in psychics for hire and the uncovering of scams even the best psychics find themselves repeatedly having to “prove” they have some sort of ability. Section 365 of Canada’s criminal code states it’s against the law for anyone to “fraudulently pretend to exercise or to use any kind of witchcraft, sorcery, enchantment or conjuration, or undertake, for a consideration, to tell fortunes, or pretend from his skill in or knowledge of an occult or crafty science to discover where or in what manner anything is supposed to have been stolen or lost.” However, anyone who lodges a complaint and tries to take a psychic to court “must prove that there was an intent to deceive and defraud.” Many people claiming to be psychics get around that law by stating up front that what they do is for entertainment purposes only. The question must be asked, then, if it is for entertainment purposes only, is it really a psychic reading?
It appears that it isn’t that difficult to deceive and mislead those who are looking for psychical guidance. Michael Shermer’s “The Myth of the Medium” takes James Van Praagh to task, claiming that he and others use one of three types of readings. The first is called a cold reading and during the experience the medium asks lots of sort of general questions and watches for reactions. He then follows the path of the reactions leading to what would appear to be some psychic revelation when in reality the subject himself has supplied the medium with the clues to get to the conclusion.
The second is called a warm reading. In this method the medium uses known principles of psychology to make solid guesses based on proven human patterns of behavior. Most people have a photo in their possession or on their bedside table of someone close to them who has died. For an alleged psychic to say he “sees” someone’s picture by the bed or in a purse it would seem to be a psychic phenomenon when in reality it is just good knowledge of patterns. This worked well with Van Praagh and his “reading” with Katie Couric not long after her husband died. It is common for women to wear jewelry that belonged to a close loved one who has died. Van Praagh asked if she was and Katie was surprised because lo and behold, she had her husband’s ring on a necklace she wore. In reality, this was just Van Praagh’s use of human behavior.
The third is called a hot reading. This is less common because it involves more than just the psychic. Someone briefs the psychic ahead of time on what sorts of things will come up within an audience. For instance if there are 25 people at a taping the director might say there are three women who have lost husbands, a man who lost a son and young woman who lost her mother. The psychic can easily win the trust of the audience by then going out and striking a concentrated pose and asking who among them recently lost a child-when a man holds up his hand the psychic then knows to say “it was your son, correct?”
Certainly legitimate psychics use some parts of these in their readings as well, but generally a good psychic should be able to provide the client with something specific that isn’t widely known. Certainly if the client is someone fairly famous this will be difficult because in today’s world famous people aren’t given the privilege of private lives. For the average person it is not unreasonable for some sort of “proof” like what your last meal with the deceased was or what kind of dog you had to serve as a good indicator that the psychic you are dealing with has some good ability. That said, many very good psychics are not able to call up information on demand. Many good psychics have a more random access-often through sudden inspiration when someone walks by them or through dreams. The inability to produce information on demand should never be taken as proof that the psychic is a fraud. Legitimate psychics have a difficult enough time garnering trust and reputation without placing unreasonable demands for proof. There are tests, some more scientific than others, but so far it has been difficult to get good proof. Research continues, and has for a hundred years.
Perhaps, as Marshall McLuhan once said, “The medium is the message.” McLuhan writes in Understanding Media that “In operational and practical fact, the medium–that is of any extension of ourselves-result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves or by any new technology.” His “message” is what we are left with after something or someone influences our lives. The “medium” is the tool that brings the change; the tool is an extension of ourselves. In that regard, McLuhan’s “medium” might as well be a psychic medium. As a tool, the psychic medium is an extension of ourselves to bring us knowledge from the spirit world, thus changing our lives on either a personal or societal level. Even for those who disbelieve, an encounter with a medium still makes some sort of change in their life, and therefore delivering a message: The medium is the message.
In reality, we really don’t believe much that we haven’t personally experienced. Likewise, we really shouldn’t claim as false that which we cannot completely disprove, and we must use caution in comparing the ‘gifts and abilities’ of different people and different circumstances. A gifted psychic on a bad day isn’t necessarily a fraud. Likewise a fraud that gets something right once in awhile isn’t necessarily psychically gifted.
Popular and famous psychics
Listed below is some general information on psychics you may have heard of. Please don’t consider this an endorsement or a judgement of their ability. This is just general information.
Jeane Dixon was born Jeane Pinckert in 1918 in Wisconsin. Often described as a 20th Century Prophet and Psychic to the Washington DC elite, she delivered a series of hits and misses which garnered her worldwide renown. Her career took off in t963 when an old prediction she made that the democrat elected in 1960 would die in office and John F Kennedy did just that.
Jeane Dixon was a devout Catholic who believed her gift came from God. She predicted scores of things, some of which were very correct, others that were way off base. One of her more dubious predictions was that Prince Charles would become king in the 1990’s. Her JFK prediction is often criticized as too vague and further refuted when she admitted that she actually predicted Richard Nixon would win the 1960 election as well. The actual Kennedy prediction was that the president would die in the first or second term of office. Kennedy was not named specifically, nor was it predicted to be an assassination.
Dixon was more on target with one of her most specific predictions. She predicted the assassination of Robert Kennedy while speaking at the very hotel where he would meet his demise-and she stated that his murder would happen at that very hotel. These occasional correct predictions caused Temple University Professor John Allen Paulos to coin the phrase “the Jeane Dixon effect” to describe the phenomena where people loudly tout a few correct predictions while overlooking grossly false ones.
Jeane Dixon died in 1997 after a long and prosperous career as a newspaper astrologer, psychic consultant to government personnel and their families (most noteably Nancy Regan) and many books and television appearance.
James Van Praagh
New York born Catholic James Van Praagh is a well-known psychic in the US who claims to have his first psychic encounter at age 8. According to Van Praagh, he was praying for a sign from God and witnessed a hand reaching down through his bedroom ceiling bathed in glorious light. After graduating university with degrees in Broadcasting and Communications, he moved to Los Angeles and eventually had the opportunity to meet with a medium. This medium predicted that Van Praagh would be doing this same work (psychic) within two years. He began doing readings for friends and with practice and confidence became well known throughout the world. He appears on talk shows and has done his own television series as well as being a published author.
James Van Praagh considers himself to be “Clairsentient” meaning he feels the emotions and personalities of the spirits of the dead. He also calls himself a “survival evidence medium” meaning he can bridge the gap between the two planes of existence, the living and the dead. He says the plane of the spirit world is much faster than the plane of the living. He says he does not predict the future. Van Praagh was the subject of the Michael Shermer article called “The Myth of the Medium” which claimed the three skills fraudulent psychics use in readings (covered previously in this article) and says Van Praagh only has about a 16-33% accuracy rate.
Popular psychic John Edward was born in New York and was told his psychic ability was evident from a young age. His family says he knew his family history-events from before he was born-virtually as soon as he could speak. His more professional approach to his ability began after a visit to psychic Lydia Clar who told him he had “the gift”.
John Edward holds university degrees in Public Administration and Health Care Administration but makes his living with his psychic powers. He claims he can predict the future and communicate with the dead. In addition to his many television and radio appearances, books, and tours, he does do personal readings. Currently the waiting his for his clients is over one year long and he stopped taking clients onto the waiting list in January of 2002.
Sylvia Brown believes her ability to communicate with the dead comes from God and genes; her grandmother and her son also have psychic ability. She was born and raised in Missouri and says her abilities first surfaced at age three. Sylvia believes in reincarnation and says that we all purposefully chart our lives before we undertake them. She says that with God’s help, she assists folks in accessing the information on these “charts” and helps them achieve their goals. She believes she is a tool of God to help Him give the living the answers they seek and further do His work.
Sylvia’s professional career began in May of 1973 and she currently does tours, television shows, gives lectures, works with police, and does personal readings. She does not use tarot cards or tangible property-in fact she doesn’t even require that you are present. Most of her readings are done over the telephone. Contrary to what some are claiming, she does not endorse psychic hot-lines.
Some of Syliva’s spiritual work is done through her organization called “The Society of Novus Spiritus” in the United States and it’s sister organization “The Canadian Church of Novus Spiritus” which is based in Calgary, Alberta.
Some Popular Canadian Psychics
JZ Crystal believes that psychic ability is passed down through the female lineage. She uses tarot cards and does phone readings, and her clients have included Celine Dion and Pierre Elliot Trudeau. She often makes appearances on TV and radio.
Coral uses tarot cards and in her spare time raises Arabian Horses.
Rob Adams has been a professional psychic for over 25 years. He currently works only via email except when working with an agency to locate missing persons or solve crimes.
Kathleen Meadows, Ph.D. is a Certified Tarot Grand Master and offers an online certification program for other psychics. She has been a tarot reader for over 30 years.
Sloan Bella was born in Toronto and now lives in California. She is clairaudient and began exploring her abilities at age four by talking to sprits at night.
(Not someone you would probably see listed as a psychic, but technically he qualifies and I list him because he is so often tested-with remarkable results.)
Uri Geller was born in Israel in 1946 and is distantly related to Sigmund Freud. When he started bending spoons at age five, his mother attributed it to this genetic link. Geller is interesting because Stanford Research Institute and Birkbeck College of the University of London have studied him so extensively. It is generally believed that Geller’s abilities are not at all fraudulent. The cause of his remarkable ability is still a matter of debate.
Uri Geller served in the Israeli army, has worked as a model, and is an accomplished artist. He is also a strict vegetarian. What gets him mentioned here is his dowsing ability. He apparently can detect metals deep underground.
Geller believes that psychic ability increases with practice.
Robin Pyatt Bellamy
Toronto, Ontario, 2005
Resources for this article were obtained from: