Just me, Jordan, and Sister Katy this time.

Frohock begins by saying, “I wanted to know how psychics work.” But Jordan isn’t sure there is any such thing – no single thing that all psychics have in common.

Most of the chapter is taken up with biographical sketches of three psychic readers: Francine Bizzari, Anne Marie Folger, and Nelson Guyette, all of whom read for the author at some time. For all of them, psychic gifts “run in the family.” Two of them were inspired to develop their gifts by watching Peter Herkoff at work. (Google turns up nothing on him except the references to him in Frohock’s book.) There is little out of the ordinary in these biographies – not even Bizzari’s ’eminent practicality’ or Guyette’s childhood wise-ass-ness. Psychics are, above all, real people.

In explaining their gifts, these psychics brought up several interesting issues:

Some hallucinations are true; the “thereness” of the ghost or vision is a separate issue from its “trueness.”

Francine Bizzari has St. Bartholomew as a spiritual guide; tradition says he went to India, land of arcane spiritual wisdom; this would naturally make him appealing to a psychic reader. Katy notes there is a tradition of Jesus’ tomb being in India (or maybe Pakistan), which reminded me of this tomb of Jesus in Japan. Katy says this comes from the underground Japanese Christian oral tradition, during the time when Christianity was illegal in Japan; it was eventually written down and had just been translated into English when she was there.

This led Jordan to one of his 18-karat-gold tangents: Japan is famous for the quality of its mirrors. They make some that look perfectly normal until light hits and throws a shadow image onto wall – produced by a very light graving of Jesus or Mary (or traditional Japanese image) into silver backing; nearly impossible to see head-on. Here’s a short video of such a mirror. You can also order one with Kwan Yin.

Anne Marie Folger, the reader who most resembles the stereotypical Spiritualist, says that stress and “trying to produce on demand” hobble spiritual gifts. Which led me to the question: Can you actually train to be a medium? Katy thinks (like Miss Cat) that whatever spiritual gifts you are born with can be cultivated and trained. And yet we all know readers who get all snarled up in wishful thinking and “lust for result,” as the ceremonial magicians call it – or who even allow their own paranoia or insecurity to stand for prophetic warning.

I had problems with Tarot “sucking up to me” when I started reading – that is, saying precisely what I wanted to hear, even if someone else was doing the reading. For several years, I was getting wonderful readings that didn’t come true. That passed, however, but it’s why I am still reluctant to rely on “psychic impressions”.

At this point, another golden tangent from Jared: The Geomancer’s Handbook by John Michael Greer. It’s “old school” geomancy “with a bunch of dots, not ley lines.”

Guyette’s psychic career began with a conversation in a cemetery, with “a strangely dressed man” who called himself Mark. Guyette noticed they were standing next to a Civil War tombstone with the middle initial M. He concluded he’d been talking to a ghost. Jared has been told that “the dead can’t go by their first names,” but that hasn’t actually been his experience.

Katy remembers visiting graves with her grandmother as a child and clearly remembers her step-grandfather’s funeral, but never attended funerals for her father’s family. She doesn’t know if this was an aspect of ethnic heritage on her father’s side, or if she was simply considered too young for funerals; but he never visited family graves, either.

The chapter ended with a précis of an interview with James Randi, the “anti-psychic.” Jordan considers him a smug fundamentalist materialist, though he has done a lot of good work taking down psychic frauds. Randi is correct that much of what we perceive as paranormal experience actually does have a material foundation – precognition of an explosion actually being caused by sub”conscious perception of a pressure wave, for instance, or an out-of-body experience actually being a dream. Katy is sure that everything we now consider paranormal will eventually be explained by science. I’m not so sure.

Jordan read somewhere about someone who discovered that all the phenomena associated with haunted houses can be triggered by three factors: 1) most house lights set low; 2) a few of the lights much brighter; 3) a Van de Graff generator on the premises.

We talked a little bit about the so-called “God helmet.” What I still want to know is: how is that presence-of-God sensation triggered when you’re not wearing it? Jordan’s theory: magnetism is one of the things that triggers the “ghost receptors,” in the same way that capsaicin triggers the heat sensors in your mouth (and eyes and skin, if you’re not careful).

Next week’s topic: Chapter 3, “Experimental Controls.”

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