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c) an example of genuine, perhaps unconscious psychic ability, which the mentalist misinterprets as plain intuition.
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I think we're all a little bit psychic. It's got something to do with those microtubules in our brain, (Stuart and Hammerhoff?), and how our brains work. Transmitters and recievers of information. We are also all connected together in wonderful ways, and every once in a while that true nature of reality leaks over into this so called physical reality. For a true glimpse of reality read this interesting story on the "Mystical Experiences of Scientists" website:
http://www.issc-taste.org/arc/dbo.cgi?set=expom&id=00070&ss=1

Interesting post, Michael. Let me just tell you from my own experiences as a medium, those in spirit get a great kick from messing with us. They do it to me all the time. They get me to say things to the sitter in order to make them laugh or blush with embarrassment. The mistake here is to think mediums are in control of the reading. They are not. I think spirit was messing with Darren Brown when they fed him the whole elevator bit. It was too much of a hit to just shrug off.

There are many times in my readings where things come out of my mouth that, to an outside observer, might sound like a "cold reading." I am aware of this, and I try my best to not slip up like that. The real problem is that sometimes we have to talk in interrogatives. It's part of natural human dialog. That's why I always stress to my sitters to only answer "yes" or "no" to my question of "does that make sense?" I don't want them to divulge additional information, but invariably, the sitter is all too often eager to explain things beyond a simple "yes" or "no."

Another thing that I have noticed in my readings is that the sitter is just as important to the reading as the medium is. If the sitter is not engaged in the reading, the reading starts to drift and disconnect. That actually makes sense in that a medium is just that, a connector between two other beings. If one isn't on the same wavelength, that wavelength is disrupted.

Alongside the YouTube video posted by Darren Brown, were all those horrible Montel shows with Sylvia Browne. To me, Sylvia Browne represents everything that is corrupt with mediumship. It really depresses me to no end. It's the same all over, I guess, one bad apple can spoil the whole lot.

An obvious question after watching that video is was it staged and scripted? I was not impressed by the reactions of the people being "read". They seemed a bit canned. Also the lucky guess with "Lucy" seemed almost too lucky; not the most common of names. Finally, the brief interviews afterwards also seemed scripted and canned, not the natural startled reaction you would see on Crossing Over. I would like to know more about the circumstances in which this segment was taped. Since it was for a commercial TV program, they needed it to go well. I wonder how much of it was just TV scipting and coaching?

>To me, Sylvia Browne represents everything that is corrupt with mediumship.

I also have a low opinion of Sylvia. Her annual predictions are embarrassingly wrong, yet she claims a high rate of accuracy. In readings, she specializes in saying things that can't possibly be checked, like "This is your 261st lifetime," or "You'll meet the man/woman of your dreams in two years, on a boat."

>I wonder how much of it was just TV scipting and coaching?

That is always a possibility. There was a TV special called "Psychic Secrets Revealed" that I wrote about here. It seemed to me that some of the audience reactions were unbelievable, and online I did find a casting call for actors needed for the show. Whether these actors were featured on camera or were just used in the background, I can't say. Anyway, I distrust these skeptical TV exposes as much as I distrust Sylvia Browne.

>>online I did find a casting call for actors needed for the show.

I would assume that the 'actors' were used for the show. Why would they just hire background extra actors and have real people as the featured on the show? Another example of "skeptics" playing by a different set of rules than those they claim to debunk.

If the mentalist was truly able to cold read random people with such success and it was caught on camera, that would be noteworthy. But if they were, in fact, just paid actors who were playing parts for commercial television and the whole thing was scripted, then it is completely worthless as far as any judgement of the abilities of psychic/mediums and how they pull off their feats. What does it prove? That actors and a mentalist with foreknowledge and/or leading questions can mimic psychic/mediums.

I thought that piece was too canned to be taken seriously. I suspect actors and foreknowledge with the "lucky guess" of the rare Lucy name.

What I don't get about the critics of people like John Edward is how vehement they are in their denunciations. I mean, it's not as if he's bilking people out of their life savings - he does his readings for free on his TV shows, and charges a reasonable fee for private readings. But let's say he is, in fact, an out-and-out fraud, and that in fact, there is no life after death: what harm does he do, except give people hope in a nonexistant future state?

The skeptics seem to think that any belief other than complete nihilism is not just untrue, but actively harmful. I think that that's one of the effects of nihilism - since you can't directly face the implications of your own worldview (since it leads to it's own negation) you turn it outward, making it into a missionary religion...

Jimbo,

Excellent point and one I have made to skeptics for years. Considering all the money making scams in our society, many of them legal and sanctioned by our government (like the military industrial complex and energy scams), any fradulent pyschic mediums are small potatoes in comparison and are not causing that much societal harm.

I think the angst towards pyschic mediums comes from emotional comitments made by skeptics over the years. Nobody likes to be proven wrong and skeptics are naturally trying to prove pyschic mediums are frauds to satisfy their worldview.

The mind is to evasive for anyone to really say they "know"

I have another theory regarding the intractable, contemptuous attitude of many skeptics. Not relying on "supernatural hocus pocus" in the face of life's chaos and our own mortality makes them feel superior to everyone else who's not a reductive materialist, from people like those on this blog to the deeply, fundamentally religious. They pat themselves on the back for their courage and intellectual superiority and in their need for a self-esteem boost, blind themselves to wonder and possibility. I exempt the Brights movement from this because they at least try to be ecumenical and positive in their world view.

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