Friday, September 14, 2012

The Shy Psychics

You will believe he's psychic.  He's not.
Derren Brown is an elite mentalist. He makes a comfortable living theatrically exhibiting what appear to be psychic powers, and he is very, very good at it. He can make you believe; he can make you feel faint, and he can convince you of nearly anything. He can walk up to a perfect a stranger, chat for a moment, and then make off with his mark's wallet and car keys, freely handed over.  He is not the only mentalist who can do what he does.  He is the first to tell you, however, that he has no real psychic powers.

Some mentalists have even completely deceived academic researchers under what those researchers were sure were carefully controlled conditions.  People who believe that their academic credentials shield them from being fooled are among the most vulnerable.

Do we know that there are people who possess psychic powers?  No.  We know that there are countless people who pretend to have such powers, but are easily exposed by those with the requisite skills. To convince me, a genuine psychic would have to be able to do what showmen like Brown can not do, and under conditions that they do not control.  That's a high standard.  The usual tricks with cold reading and spoon bending don't hold up to even casual scrutiny. The question arises, how would we go about finding these people?

If genuine psychics do exist, we only know what they are not. They are not eager for publicity, or we would know of at least a few.  In fact, just the opposite, they are extremely reluctant to reveal their abilities to anyone.  This makes sense.

If you could predict the stock market, or read a poker opponent's mind, or heal the sick, or track troop movements without leaving your chair, imagine the disaster that would befall you if anyone knew this.  Millions would hound you, many would want to exploit you, and some would want you done away with.  With your skills you could easily make a good living quietly, so the Million Dollar Challenge would not draw you out.

The secrecy of the knowledge that someone was genuinely, repeatably psychic would be so unstable that such persons must not only be highly reticent to expose their abilities but extremely rare.  So rare, neither science not the financial industry has identified even one.

If you believe you are genuinely psychic, I would encourage you to first attempt to objectively test yourself.  For example, have a friend shuffle a deck of cards thoroughly some distance away from you (miles, preferably), have them look at them one by one and write them down as you write down what your perceive.

If that works, contact me and I can put you in touch with sincere investigators who will not reveal your identity or attempt to exploit your abilities for their own gain.  Maybe the answer will be that your gifts are not available to you on-demand as you thought, but wouldn't that be a relief?

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The Dream of an Open Channel by Paul Carr is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.