I don’t believe in ghosts, spirits, wraiths, or goblins. I also don’t believe in angels, demons, devils, or gods. And since I don’t believe that those things exist, I certainly don’t believe that there are people in this world who can communicate with those non-existent beings. However, there seem to be many people who accord reality to these ethereal creatures and put their trust in those who claim to be their interlocutors.
Harry Houdini searched earnestly for a true medium, one who could communicate with the souls of the departed. All he found were fakes and frauds, charlatans who preyed on those hopeful of staying in contact with deceased loved ones. If Houdini was not able to discover an actual medium, I am willing to accept his findings.
Until recently, I have assumed that all mediums and mystics are frauds. Now I’m not quite so sure. Not long ago I had a Facebook dialog, quite by accident, with a woman who advertises herself as a psychic.
The psychic had posted the following notice on her Facebook page:
It’s a go!! May 13th I will be offering a FREE one day workshop!! It will be a 2 hour online event. It is an Intro to my Psychic Development class series
RSVP in a DM
I need a min of 4 or 5 people to run this so feel free to share
The post showed up on my feed because my daughter-in-law, Joy, had “liked” it. Being somewhat ignorant of how Facebook works, I added a sarcastic comment, thinking I was responding directly to Joy:
And by the end of that 2 hour free workshop she will predict, because of her psychic powers, exactly who among the attendees she will be able to fleece for some real money.
That’s when I discovered that my comment was actually on the psychic’s page. She responded:
that’s rude. although it illustrates a problem facing Highly Sensitive People-a lot of hostility thrown at them. If this happens to you, don’t accept the psychic whack. For whatever reason people choose to disrespect you, it is about THEIR fear and attempt to invalidate you i.e. oppress you
To which I replied:
You won’t change my mind and I won’t change yours. But there is hope for others, no hostility or disrespect intended.
Do I even know you?
My concluding comment was:
No, you do not. I stumbled onto your site via what I thought was an off-the-cuff response to one of my daughter-in-law’s “likes” of one of your posts. I also do not know you, so I don’t know if you seriously believe that you have psychic sensitivities or if you are a cynical charlatan preying on gullible people. Since I am a cynical realist, I am disinclined to favor the former possibility.
While I am not particularly proud of my role in that interchange, I started thinking about people I have known who are “highly sensitive” (without capital letters): people who are more aware of their surroundings than most of their peers; people who perceive extremely subtle clues and cues in the actions of others. With appropriate training, these people can become skilled engineers, detectives, therapists, artists, or writers. Without special training, someone with those gifts might come to believe that they are seers, psychic, or seek some other supernatural explanation for their abilities.
I am almost persuaded that it is possible that some people who identify themselves as “psychic” or “sensitive” are among those individuals who are at the top end of the continuum of normal perceptual abilities. While they mistakenly ascribe their faculties to paranormal causes, they seem to take their talents seriously and use then in ways they believe will help other people. I guess that is a possibility.
I will allow that some, but not all, may be serious and truly believe they are mediums, or psychics, or whatever. But the rest still fall into the cynical fraud and charlatan categories, preying on gullible people for their own enrichment.
As I was thinking about this issue, it occurred to me that the Christian ministry is on a track parallel with psychics and mediums: there are some who take their religious beliefs very seriously and arrange their lives to comport with their beliefs. Then there are those who appear to be motivated more by obtaining money, power, or personal adoration than by spiritual convictions. I have known quite a few of the earnest type – my father was one, as are my ministerial cousins.
I have no trouble distinguishing the well-intentioned ministers from the self-enriching charlatans: the religious quacks have their own television shows (or networks), stage huge “revival” rallies, or establish mega-churches. Although it makes me uncomfortable, it occurs to me that I should perhaps afford the same courtesy to the “good” mediums and mystics as I have to their earnest counterparts in the ministry. Or does all this mean that I should begin to regard the ministry with the same disdain that I feel toward mediums?