A trip to the neighborhood psychic store

| April 30, 2007 | 32 Replies

Last Saturday, I was running some errands with my daughters when we passed by a store called “Mystic Valley.”  I mentioned to my daughters (they are six and eight) that some people believe that they can tell the future and read other peoples minds.  My daughters were incredulous.  They thought I was being silly, so they made me “pinky swear” that I was telling the truth.  I pinky swore before making a U-turn to head back to the neighborhood psychic store.

“Come on,” I said.  “Let’s go into the store and check out the people who believe that other people can tell the future and read their minds.”  My daughters were still suspicious that I was making this up, but into the store we went.

The first thing you notice is the smell of incense.  We passed by the rack of psychic magazines, then the shelves of crystals, the piles of drums, and some ethnic carvings before noticing that there were about seven small tables scattered throughout the store, each of them with two people seated facing each other.  Many of the experts were holding the customers’ hands.  If you listened closely, you could hear the psychics counseling the customers.

“Now do you believe me?” I whispered to my daughters.  They didn’t know what to think.

I walked up to the checkout counter and asked the pleasant soft-spoken man what was going on at the tables.  He indicated that some of the people were psychics, others were doing tarot card readings, and yet others were doing things I’d never heard of before.  He told me that the store “carefully checks out the experts who work at the store,” to make sure that the customers are getting the quality they deserve when they purchase the services of psychics and Tarot card readers. I didn’t ask him how these experts get certified, but I assumed it had nothing to do with double-blind studies. The store’s website indicates that the small-table experts do all of the following sorts of things:

  • Akashic Readings
  • Astrology
  • Aura Photography / Aura Readings
  • Primary Self-Empowerment  (including a Certified Overlight Facilitator)
  • Psychic/Medical Intuitive Readings
  • Psychics
  • Tarot
  • Seer readings
  • Reiki
  • Thought Field® Therapy

It all sounds impressive and the customers were taking it seriously.   From their expressions, many of the customers seemed to be asking these paid strangers for serious advice, and the experts were complying.  They were charging between $30-$50 per hour.

I asked the man at the counter if the psychics could really tell the future.  It’s a pretty simple question.  Nonetheless, when I ask simple questions like this I quite often get “the look.”  What look?  The look that screams “Who are you?”  I was a customer asking whether the psychics can really tell the future or read minds.  I asked my question again, and the man told me,” well, that psychics can actually tell the future or read minds is a misconception. The future is never entirely clear.  Instead of telling the future, our psychics help you prepare for your future.”  It turned out, then, that the store was full of psychics who don’t tell the future, but who charged $30-$50 per hour to not tell the future.

On the way out of the store, I picked up the March/April addition of Pathfinder, a small newspaper dedicated to “Wellness, Inspired Thinking, Spiritual Holism and Environmental Respect.”  There are many types of articles one can find in this newspaper.  For instance, I am a Taurus, and I learned that “Major change in the spring related to friends or associations which are wasteful, erratic, or controlling.” 

In a column called “The Divine Matrix,” the writer considered whether we are “passive observers or powerful creators.”  He suggests that we should live as though our dreams have already come to life and our wishes already fulfilled.  “In this way, we actively share in… our participatory universe.”

I noticed an ad for the upcoming “psychic fair and holistic health show.  It’s coming to St. Louis County on May 5 and 6.  I’m thinking about going there with my video camera to chat with some of the exhibitors.

Another newspaper column (called “Akashic Records”) cautions that emotional disturbances that are unresolved from prior lifetimes will carry over into subsequent lifetimes.  The author wrote of a woman who figured out what she had done in a past life, and traveled back to Ireland to find some of the eight children she had raised in one of her past lives.  Those children who were still alive were now in their 80s, and “The reunion brought comfort and healing to all.” 

I don’t know what is more interesting in Pathfinder, the articles or the advertisements.  For instance, at Diana Grove’s “Ministry School 2007,” a person can participate in “The ballad of Tam Lin.”  Further, one can “answer the call to go to the wild places… discovered the untamed wildness within you… bring possibility into reality.”  Is this legal, I wondered?

Or you can visit Linda Humphreys, who advertises herself as an “intuitive metaphysician and clairvoyant spiritual counselor.”  She handles those “past life regressions” mentioned above.  She can connect you with “the other side.”  Or, if you get tired of that, you can go to the “Indian head massage workshop,” part of the “Ayurvedic Body.” 

Another interesting at is a company called Celestial Services.  Under one roof, you can get Aura Fluffing, energy balancing, or intuitive readings. 

Looking for someone with an MSW?  You can find them advertising in Pathfinder.  One of these social workers offers “John of God tours, Brazil crystal bed healing sessions, Reiki, sound healing and Angels.”  Another social worker seems to offer straightforward psychotherapy and counseling.

But that’s not all.  Other merchants offer eco-camps, Shamanism, rebirthing, Karuna Reiki, Dowsing Intuitive and special herbs.  You can even go to a workshop presented by Alan Iliff, “Grand Councilor,” where “you will learn the true meaning of being a disciple and a master of mystical principles… using the time-tested principles of the Rosicrucian Order.” 

Oh wait… here’s a second business offering “angelic services.”  More specifically, he offers “angelic readings and attunements.”  The advertisements are peppered with psychics, only a few of whom I’ve mentioned.  Cynthia Becker touts herself as an “internationally recognized professional psychic.”  She and many others advertising in this newspaper post out-of-town phone numbers.  I assume, then, that customers would call these people up and do their psychic healing long-distance.

There’s actually some no-nonsense journalism mixed in with all the new age stuff.  For instance, one of the articles considers “What happened to the old FDA?”  In that article, the author notes “not only is there a revolving door between members of the FDA and the corporate boards of pharmaceutical companies, but their allegiance seems to have changed from protecting the physical health of the American public to protecting the financial health of the name brand pharmaceutical industry.”  Amen to that, I say.

The magazine presents a comprehensive calendar of upcoming events, including crystal bed healing sessions, lectures on the history of astrology, demonstrations involving Tibetan singing bowls, herbalism and a lecture on “working with pendulums” (I checked–pendula is not the plural form).

I am a skeptic, of course, and I hate to see people wasting their money on treatments that have not been shown to be of any benefit based upon double-blind studies.  On the other hand, a lot of this does seem harmless, except for those who get carried away with it.  Then again, it makes you wonder how many people get carried away, spending hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars on psychic quackery.  And when they spend so much time consulting with psychic or new age “experts,” are they losing the opportunity to work through their issues with better qualified professionals?

Then again, I suspect that many of the people offering psychic services are really providing something important to the people who pay the money.  You can see it in the faces of the people talking to each other at the little tables.  The psychics are listening closely to the customers. How often can you get sustained attention from a member of the medical-insurance establishment?  Perhaps these customers have no one else in their lives to carefully listen to them, at least not at these moderate prices.

As my daughters and I walked out of Mystic Valley that afternoon, an old memory popped into my head.  I was eating lunch with a friend when she noticed that her cousin was eating alone in the same restaurant.  We invited to a cousin over to our table.  The cousin, it turns out, levitates.  Or, at least this is what she told me.  I felt compelled to make sure that I understood her.  I asked her “do you really levitate?”  She responded that she indeed did levitate regularly, and that I should be a witness to one of her levitation sessions.  I responded to her invitation by saying that I would be happy to watch her levitate. I said this without smirking or smiling.  I was simply curious as to how far she would be willing to take her shtick.  After about 10 seconds, she retracted her invitation and told me that I was not of the right type of spirituality to be a witness to her levitation. Therefore, I was curtly dis-invited and my friend’s cousin presumably had to go levitate all by herself.

Speaking of levitating, it’s time for me to go levitate too . . .

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Category: Consumerism, Meaning of Life

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (32)

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  1. Ben says:

    Erich Writes:

    "may well stem from their systematic violation of innately grounded expectations"

    I certainly remember being enchanted by magicians when I was younger. Slight-of-hand tricks, disappearing acts, "sawing" a person in half, levitating, and expecially card tricks were astounding to me.

    Magicians such as Kreskin, David Blaine, and David Copperfield have spawned an entire sub-culture who actually believe in their magical power. (I'm a Blaine junkie, I practice some slight-of-hand and know at least 1 decent card trick, depending on how much you like card tricks.)

    Erich's quote alludes to the psychological developmental stage of object permanence. Games like peek-a-boo, or hiding a stuffed animal (a game my dog still loves) seem to lose their excitement once you have seen them a few times and understand that no actual magic is happening.

    Also, as children we learn the skill of conservation, where the younger kids think a tall beaker has "more" liquid than a wide beaker (even though same amount). Even as adults we can still be easily tricked by optical illusions.

    Is it possible that people who believe in woo, magic, horoscopes, *David Blaine*, the God of the New Testament, ESP, and Auras have not completely developed certain parts of their childhood brains?

    This gets back to nature vs nurture. Some people might have more inherited ability to spot abnormality. In fact, I think the ability to spot abnormality passes the *natural selection* test pretty well For example animals(humans?) which would prefer a physically "normal" mate over a deformed mate.

    However, I'm not forgetting that we have seen the value of *faith* in mankind's history (thus another valid argument for "ability to believe lies" being an inherited trait). I mean, in all honesty, those prayers can indeed get you through some *dark* times.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Blaine

    Actually, Blaine also practice feats of human endurance, which just plain ROCK!

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    Ben,

    I can think of one way this might happen: dad had flipped through your mom's book at some earlier time and happened to notice the same unusual word.

  3. grumpypilgrim says:

    It is easy for us to forget that before the widespread use of the scientific method, subjective beliefs and superstitions were all people had to help them understand their world. If your daughter was ill, but got better the day after your neighbor's dog licked her hand, you might think maybe the dog had special healing powers. The French town of Lourdes has virtually its entire economy based on such random coincidences. (See, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lourdes/.)

    Behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner published a paper about this phenomenon in 1948 titled, "Superstition in the Pigeon." He had observed that he could train pigeons to press a lever for food by giving them food immediately after they had pressed the lever — so-called operant conditioning. But what would happen, he wondered, if pigeons were given food at *random* intervals? Turns out, the pigeons would develop all sorts of "superstitions" about how their behavior led to their getting food. If food appeared immediately after a pigeon had walked in a circle, lifted its left leg, or bobbed its head, then it would keep walking in circles, lifting its left leg, or bobbing its head in the hope of getting more food. It didn't know that the food had appeared completely at random, but you can bet that if food happened to appear another time it walked in a circle, lifted its left leg, or bobbed its head, then this behavior would become even more ingrained: the pigeon would develop superstitions about its behavior from purely random reinforcing events.

    James and Mary display this phenomenon, too. They observe some random coincidence and assume there is a cause-and-effect relationship even though none actually exists. It is probably how all superstitions develop.

    For more information about neo-paganism, witchcraft and other "woo-woo," see the articles at this website:
    http://www.aren.org/prison/documents/wicca/

  4. Mary says:

    Actually grumpy, my allusion to the Akashic Records being made real as the Internet is exactly that, a self-fulfilling prophecy. Someone came up with this idea of all thoughts, words and deeds being recorded in ether and now we have the Internet. I think we people like to think up really impossible things and try to make them come true. What is flying (in airplanes & with jetpacks & gliders) but levitation made real? The more I read about quantum physics, the closer I think some of it gets to explaining a few of these really odd things. I love the dangerous intersection between magical thinking and science and, the older I get, the more I see the magical IN the scientific. Great discussion, everyone. You're all so gosh darned smart! :)

  5. Ben says:

    "I can think of one way this might happen: dad had flipped through your mom’s book at some earlier time and happened to notice the same unusual word."

    Well, that's what one would assume, but it turns out that it was a new magazine that he hadn't read. Another time, my dad was talking to my uncle on the phone, and the same sort of thing happened. Only that time WAS given the first letter H…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagiography

  6. Mary says:

    Well, grumpy, I guess I'm just going to have to be a pigeon then. Good thing I like birds.

  7. grumpypilgrim says:

    Further to Ben's comment about hagiography, I wonder if he is aware of the many bizarre sainthoods among the more than 5,300 patron saints recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

    Saint Matthew: Patron Saint of Accountants. (He was a tax collector before becoming an apostle.)

    Saint Joseph of Cupertino: Patron Saint of Air Travelers. (Nicknamed "The Flying Friar," because he could levitate.)

    Saint Fiacre: Parton Saint of Taxi Drivers, Hemorrhoid Sufferers and Venereal Disease.

    Saint Matrona: Patron Saint of Sysentery Sufferers.

    Saint Louis IX of France: Patron Saint of Button Makers.

    Saint Adrian of Nicomedia: Patron Saint of Arms Dealers.

    Saint Anne: Patron Saint of Women in Labor. (Not to be confused with Saint John Thwing, Patron Saint of Women in Difficult Labor.)

    Saint Nicholas of Myra (a.k.a., Santa Claus): Patron Saint of Children and Pawnbrokers.

    Saint Bernardino of Siena: Patron Saint of Advertisers and Hoarseness.

    Saint Blaise: Patron Saint of Throats (he saved a child from choking) and Diseased Cattle (he also healed animals).

    Saint Joseph: Patron Saint of Opposition to Atheistic Communism.

    Saint Sebastian: Patron Saint of Neighborhood Watch Groups.

    Saint Joseph of Aramathea: Patron Saint of Funeral Directors.

    Saint Eligius: Patron Saint of Gas Station Workers. (He miraculously cured horses, the precursors to automobiles.)

    Saint Martin de Porres: Patron Saint of Race Relations, Social Justice and Italian Hairdressers.

    Saint Martha: Patron Saint of Butlers.

    There are patron saints for virtually every profession, and against every affliction, from vertigo and lawsuits, to sexual temptation and fear of the Lord. There are many curiosities. For instance, the patron saints of "happy death" are not the same as the ones for "holy death." Also all eight of the patron saints against sexual temptation are women: perhaps the Church has always known it could not trust its priests.

    A full index of patron saints, organized by topic and name, can be found here:
    http://www.catholic-forum.com/saints/indexsnt.htm….

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