Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Psychic or not..?
Have just had a friend describe a session with a "psychic" which she described as "amazing". This person seemed to know all about my friend. Even I got a mention. Now, here's the thing. Everything the psychic said was exactly what my friend had been espousing to me for the last few years...her beliefs about the people in her life and the things that were happening or had happened to her. Now, did this reader (as I believe they are commonly called) psychically connect with my friend and "read" her mind, thereby feeding back to her all the information she could see stored there? Or, more incredibly does she have the ability to see the multiple strands of a person's life by some intuitive "sixth sense". Can she then follow those strands, knotted and tangled by circumstance and chance and predict where they are going to lead to in the future?

If, my friend had returned with a few correct "hits" from this psychic and some startling unexpected revelation I might have left the subject well alone. What got me was the fact that the information imparted was such a strong affirmation of my friend's beliefs....she had been told or believed she had been told, what she wanted to believe. So I went surfing for information on psychics and discovered "cold reading" and "hot reading" techniques. They make a good read (forgive the pun). To put it briefly, they are techniques to get a person to reveal facts, their opinions and their feelings and to then feed this information back to them as if the reader had "sensed" them. Some people get very good at this, so good in fact, many begin to believe that they actually have psychic powers. It's worth a few minutes to look up these techniques which involve careful observational and listening skills and "fishing" ( general questions that can lead down specific paths depending on the response). The success of these techniques is also due to the human brain's ability to associate facts, words, ideas, and numbers and for people's willingness to apply these associations to their circumstances. A good example of this is the daily horoscope sections of newspapers. Read any star sign prediction regardless of your birth date and you will invariably find something with which to relate. Most of the sceptics websites use similar arguments against the existence of psychic powers. A common question is, if these people can predict future events, why not go for something big, like warning all those poor devils before they perish in earthquakes and tsunamis. Another site about psychic mediums makes the point that people who are too busy to talk to the living suddenly want to talk to their dead relatives...who never seem to say much of any consequence anyway and totally fail to answer some of the BIG questions like is there a god and have they met him (or her). Another interesting slant on this is in the book "Plague Species - Is it in our genes?' by Reg Morrison. Simply put, he argues that genetically we are programmed to have a "penchant for the mystical" and that "believing the unbelievable" excites us and frequently overrides logic.

Now, this is where my "mystic gene" kicks in. I would really love to believe that some people do in fact have some super intuitive powers that enable them to, if not predict the future, at least connect with other humans on a mind to mind level. (A sort of "mind meld" for all the Trekkies out there. )