Monday, March 03, 2008

Psychic Rant

If you spend time on the internet, you know there are whackjobs at every turn ready to say something ridiculous. It's a fact of internet life, and being online means accepting that.

Nevertheless, every once in a while you come across something that strikes a nerve, so today I am elaborating on an exchange that took place regarding a psychic.

Some random internet person was in the middle of discussing something when he broke to express his outrage - outrage I tell you! - over a psychic who some friends consulted after their son had died. They were vulnerable, he said, and this psychic told them he had a special place in heaven taking care of animals. Typical bullcrap, he says.

his emotionally vulnerable parents went to a similar psychic who used the same method of collecting information before the "reading" and filled in the rest with the kind of crap you would expect from a horoscope. He told them that their son had a special place in heaven taking care of all the animals because he was so kind to them while he was on Earth. Who doesn't like to think of their departed loved ones as being kind to animals?

The unmitigated nerve. The raw audacity. How. Dare. They.

My response:

Are you really angry at the psychic your friend's parents went to for this? Psychics are legally prevented in most places from making claims about psychic ability. They have legal disclaimers stating "for entertainment purposes only." When someone in crisis goes to a professional psychic, what to you expect them to say?

People go to psychics because they want to believe something they have no proof of. They want confirmation of their hopes and protection from their fears. Are you angry at the psychic for telling them what they wanted to hear? What would have been the alternative? To say:

"I'm sorry, Mr. and Mrs. - but this psychic stuff is crap and you can forget about exploring any belief that will bring you peace. Some exceptions may or may not apply to officially sanctioned religions. Have a nice day."

People get so angry at psychics. Maybe psychics should just pull the "faith" card once and for all. If your friends had gone to a priest, a rabbi, etc who said the exact same things- or if Montel had one on his show, there wouldn't be so much umbrage.

Can you imagine? My priest told me my son was with God! How DARE he say that to a grieving parent?

This exchange highlights a number of issues with the nature and role of psychics that need elaboration, but right now there is a cat that WILL NOT get off the keyboard and so I'll have to do this in two parts.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Do Tarot Card Readings Actually Work?

Tarot does “work,” if by working we mean that about 80-85 percent of the time, the cards accurately describe specific details of the life or activities of a person in question. There is some healthy room for error, which I estimate on the high side up to 15 or even 20 percent (hence the 80 - 85 percent estimation of accuracy), depending on the skills of the reader. Some readers close this gap very tightly, but I don’t think anyone is dead on all the time about anything, and this includes Tarot readers.

How can this be? How can it possibly be that Tarot Readers can gather specific, accurate details through merely reading cards? The answer is simply that no one knows. This is precisely what has so many of us hooked. Once you try reading, you may start to believe that psychic powers do exist, and that you yourself posses them. Many readers believe that everyone is “psychic,” because they have seen it for themselves. Virtually no one believes that the cards themselves are magic, though the decks are treated with the care with which one might treat any favored object.

The experience, however, of accurately reading other people’s situations is so powerful that we do have a respect for the practice. Although no one knows why, or how, Tarot cards work, we can still come up with some theories. What follows are some of mine. First, however, some context is necessary. Tarot is just one method of divination, and divination is just one practice in a large number of practices involving psychic ability. Before specifically addressing Tarot, we must touch on some of the qualities of psychic ability, and also divination, in general before discussing Tarot in particular.

Some elements of psychic ability do seem clearer than others. The first and most notable is that whatever part of our mind is able to connect to information from outside of our physical environment can not do so without the cooperation of the intentional part of our mind. To put this more succinctly, our conscious mind, or ego, sends signals that control our subconscious mind, or id. We can not directly control our subconscious, so we must “manage” it through our conscious mind. This means that if we are saying or thinking, “this is stupid,” or “this is fake,”
our subconscious mind gets the message and responds accordingly by working in a way that will fulfill this intention. Recent scientific studies have indicated that positive thinking in athletes creates a physiological reaction that includes increased endorphins to the body, allowing an athlete to overcome pain and push harder, further, and faster. Negative thinking, on the other hand, inhibits these endorphins and the physical body is not capable of as much.

This was all true before anyone knew it was true. It was true before anyone even knew what an endorphin was. Whatever turns out to be true about the psychic process is likewise true today, even though we don’t have an observable explanation. It is essential to make peace with this idea if you would like to experience psychic ability for yourself. This can be more challenging for some than others, so a few notes may be useful before we move on to divination.

If you struggle with the idea that only what is measurable, observable, and tangible can be “real” or “true,” consider this. Love, religious faith, and emotions are all real and true, and we don’t spend a lot of time worrying about whether it is all just “fake” just because we can’t verify it through the scientific method. Do some people fake their love, religious faith, and emotions? Of course, as some people fake their psychic ability. What this means is not that everyone doesn’t have the capacity for love, religious faith, a particular emotion, or psychic ability, but that we are not connected to it and congruent with it at the time we claim to be so. Most people, however, don’t need to fake any of these things. These are realities that come from inside a person. It is absolutely true that logical explanations and consistent observations confirm our reality, but reality itself is not dependent on our ability to perceive it in a way that makes sense to us.

There is a reason why we use the scientific method when studying fossils or testing the effects of a medication on the human body, but the scientific model is just one model. Religious models,legal models, organizational models, and conflict resolution models are all models that simply don’t apply to science. Likewise, the scientific model, or scientific method as it is called, does not apply to all situations. It doesn’t apply to conflict resolution, marriage counseling, or the so called “paranormal.” That is why we have different models for different areas in the first place. We are physical beings, our lives are tied inextricably to our human bodies, and we live here in this physical world. That doesn’t mean that the observable physical world is the only possible realm of reality. Such an assumption makes the same mistake that we made centuries ago when we insisted that the sun went around the earth, because to assume that we were not at the center of the universe was an affront to God himself.

So is there a “psychic model” that applies to the area of psychic ability in the way that other models apply to other areas? If we can take a step back out of our frameworks and models, we can make room for something new to come in that is unlike anything we have previously experienced. Suspension of disbelief is key. Inability to suspend disbelief is the number one obstacle to developing psychic ability. We suspend disbelief constantly to watch TV or a movie. If you think about it, every time we see a movie we have to instantly adjust to, and accept, the laws of the world the movie exists in so that we may enjoy it without constantly being bothered by the idea that horses can’t talk, or that a car won’t really explode with the force of a firebomb if someone flicks a lit cigarette onto it. Suspension of disbelief stops the conscious mind from sending signals to the subconscious mind that it should ignore and disregard all incoming messages that do not have the approval of the conscious mind.

There are many ways in which people use their psychic ability, and it is beyond the scope of this post to provide even an abbreviated overview. Simply, psychic ability can be defined as the ability to send or receive information directly, without the intervention or assistance of sight, sound, touch, taste, or scent. Divination refers to the practice of seeking specific information by means of a particular psychic method, usually involving tools, of which Tarot cards are one example. Some people who do this may not use the words “divination” or “ psychic,” for example a person who prays to God asking for an answer, who listens to an inner voice or feeling to tell them the information they asked for. Nevertheless, regardless of what we call it, we are all taking about the same thing.

We finally arrive at our original question - do Tarot card readings actually work? Yes, they do, provided that we understand that Tarot cards don’t “do” anything. They are a very effective tool that a reader can use to translate information coming through on a psychic level into information that is expressed in words.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Tarot Plateau

As with all creative endeavors, sometimes Tarot "sight" goes into hibernation. Around the time I became pregnant with my daughter a year ago, I had a dream.

I was somewhere far from home and I needed to leave. I had unfinished business there, I had not fulfilled my obligations yet, and a woman with short dark hair wanted to know how she could be assured that I would come back. I gave her my cards. I told her - "now you know I'll be back because I won't leave my cards without coming back for them."

I woke up and my cards were gone.

Now, I'd like to emphasize here that people do not *lose* their Tarot Cards like you would lose your keys! Never, ever in my life have I asked myself - "now where did I put that deck?" But they are gone, nowhere around. The bag they were in has turned up, but not the cards. I have thought about this many times in a waking state since it happened, but I have not been able to have that dream again and get the cards back.

I was using the RWS deck for a long time, quite happily. Eventually, when the cards didn't come back I accepted this as a sign that I needed to move on. I bought a Marseilles deck and looked forward to a new endeavor. The deck came with a King of Cups, but within the hour it had vanished somewhere between my porch and my neighbor's house. I scoured everything, retraced my steps, and finally concluded that my pregnancy was incompatible with reading Tarot.

Flash forward to a few weeks ago. My daughter is a month old, and I am loading her stroller into the car for the hundredth time in four weeks. My trunk has been emptied, filled, emptied again and filled again in the last several months, and my Marseilles cards were never in the car after the deck was opened, but I open the trunk to put the stroller back in after taking it inside the bank, and there is the King of Cups, sitting on TOP of the items in the trunk.

Don't you just love it? My cards have winked out of this dimension, and one, at least, has come back to me.

So it's time to start back up - clearly! Although I see that I've got to move beyond the RWS before I'll get my missing deck back.

Tonight is Nov. 2, All Souls Day if you are Christian, and the day after the traditional "Witch's New Year," or Samhain, if you are not.

New year, New start, and the Tarot Plateau has run its course.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

I Love Life!

Does that have anything to do with Tarot? For me, "Love and Life" is what matters, and also what can be illuminated with Tarot. So yes, I love tarot, I love life, and right now that seems relevant. I also love having a blog, because I can say whatever I want.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Tarot Cards - What's so special about them?

Some people are very attached to their particular method of divination, while others are comfortable with many different techniques and tools. When we use tools such as Tarot, the I-Ching, a crystal ball, a pendulum, candle flames, runes, tea leaves, or any type of oracle, we are using a shield or barrier to help us filter out the information that is not relevant and focus on the information that is, just the same way we use a radio to pick a particular frequency out of the air, isolating it so that we don’t hear a nonsensical combination of every broadcast at once.

Now for something really strange: anything can be used as a divination tool. Chicken bones, water, grass clippings, driveway gravel, license plate numbers of cars driving by... anything that you can make some kind of sense of. Some tools have risen in popularity because they lend themselves especially well to isolating and identifying the kind of information that matters to most people. Tarot is one of these tools. It is particularly valuable not just for its use in isolating information, but for its value in assisting the reader in the translation of information that is being received psychically or subconsciously. Remember, we can not access the subconscious directly, so the images and symbols on the Tarot cards help us translate the information from a place of knowledge we can’t describe from to a place of knowledge we can describe from. Some people don’t need shields or tools. Some people are averse to using shields or tools. I ,for one, appreciate the barrier that Tarot provides between the world we are familiar with and the worlds we are not familiar with.

Friday, July 21, 2006

What Does it Mean to be Psychic?

When discussing Tarot, often the topic of psychic ability comes up. Many of us believe that everyone is psychic, and anyone who has ever had a “gut feeling” or had their intuition guide them understands this sense of the word. Often, the word “psychic” carries a connotation of an amazing power to read minds, correctly guess lottery numbers, and see events in the future as if they were on a videotape that could be cued to the moment of interest and dissected for detail. That sense of the word is usually the one that skeptics have in mind when they are inclined to criticize Tarot, or any form of divination, as “fake.” People who tend to believe in “psychic” ability tend to think of it as the intuitive, gut feeling sort of sense that develops in its reliability the more you listen to it and pay attention to it. There are other names for this, perhaps prayer is one way of looking at it as well. How fascinating that we have different names for our feelings, and for our “sixth sense,” depending on what framework we are coming from. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we were all taking about the same thing?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Tarot, Fear, and the Public Sphere

To those of us who read Tarot cards, Tarot is a positive, enlightening, non threatening window into forces that are not usually obvious to us. Of those who don't read, some see it as an opportunity to have the exiting personal experience of a reading; others view it as harmless superstitious nonsense. Still others, however, seem to regard Tarot as both "real" and "dangerous," perhaps even anti Christian or evil. A new movie features a Tarot card reader as the arch villian. Everyone remembers the Washington D.C. area sniper that left a Tarot card in the woods as a "clue" to play cat and mouse with the police who were hunting for him.

Any Tarot reader can tell you that, bizarre as it may sound, we all experience discrimination from time to time. We are told that we can't read cards for our organization's fundraiser, we can't have cards in the break lounge at work, or some such concern that somehow doesn't apply to knitting, reading, or anything others are doing in the same circumstances.

What is a reader to do? Some of our collegues say "suck it up and go somewhere where you are welcome." These tend to be fellow readers who have never had to deal with "real" discrimination in other areas of their lives, and perceive the answer to be as easy as slipping in and out of your identity as the need arises. Others of us, women and minorities who know what it is to be unable to change who you are, are more reluctant to do this because it reminds us of the awful choice of selling out who we are as people in order to fit in, out of necessity, at a job, school, or in a social environment.

Sure, Tarot is something we can show or hide as we see fit. What remains unanswered is, what is the right thing to do? Is it a show of respect to the greater community to stifle those parts of ourselves that others have prejudices against, or is this a disrespect and a disservice to those that are like us? Even more convoluted is the religious issue. Tarot isn't my "religion," but if another person is discriminating against me because they perceive it as such, it becomes religious discrimination on the grounds that I am perceived to be part of a protected category, and discriminated aginst for that reason. Now what is the right and proper response? What is best for the good of the entire community?

Either way , there is a price to be paid. I can "raise a stink," appear to be over sensitive and antagonistic, and contribute even more negatively to the image of Tarot readers. Or I can slink away, try to accomodate, apoplogize as if there is something wrong, and contribute to the establishment of the idea that Tarot, and Tarot readers, have no rightful place wherever it is that people have misconceptions about us.

I don't have "Tarot reader" stamped on my forehead, but if nothing else, there is value in having an appreciation for the impossible position that anyone facing true discrimination is faced with - a catch 22 that no one should be burdened with.