(Investigator 52, 1997 January)

Clairvoyance is the claimed ability to see beyond the normal range of time and space. This attribute is often augmented with the use of astrology, numerology, tarot cards or palmistry. People who have consulted a clairvoyant usually express surprise at the revelations about their past history of which the clairvoyant could not possibly have had any prior knowledge.

Psychic literature abounds with documented evidence by responsible and authorative people, whose past has been unfolded before their eyes and who have been allowed a glimpse of the future. Famous personalities such as Abraham Lincoln, President of the USA during the American civil war, Lord Balfour, a former Prime Minister of Great Britain, Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, and recently, the former President of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan and the First lady Nancy Reagan.

Throughout history, royalty, heads of state and politicians, as well as ordinary folk, have consulted a variety of seers in an effort to be forewarned of events to come, to seek advice and to find answers to the problems that beset them. There have been some remarkable accounts of mishaps being avoided and tragedies that could not, advice which eventuated in a fortuitous event, of unexpected and unforeseen changes in a person's life coming to pass and of changes in attitude leading to a more positive and beneficial outlook on life. Those suffering the trauma of indecision and find it difficult to discuss their everyday problems with friends or relatives, or those who may be concerned with a particular social, financial or relationship problem and are unable or unwilling to seek the services of a specialist counsellor, often turn to a stranger versed in the art of the occult, and it seems at least, according to anecdotal evidence, with some success.

One would have thought that with the ability to foresee events ahead of time, fame and riches would be an obvious acquisition, however, apart from a relative few, the average run-of-the-mill clairvoyant, despite the comparatively low overheads connected with the business, rarely displays any pretensions of wealth or social standing. Their fees ranging from $40 - $50 for a one-hour reading, restricting them to the lower middle income bracket. To say that they do not have psychic powers one would have to prove a negative, but when the evidence is examined a far more prosaic explanation of their claimed powers emerges.

The aspects which need be addressed are the methods employed by the reader to convince the client of their ability, the client's attitude towards the reader, and what the client thinks they have been told as distinct from what they were actually told. First, observation by the reader of the client's general appearance such as clothes, shoes and jewelry will provide the initial clues for a basic assessment, followed by a judgment of the person's educational standard deduced from the opening remarks and subsequent conversation. Small visible clues such as scars; a zodiac pendant or ring which would disclose the client's approximate birthdate; the state of their hands and fingernails; and perhaps a pale band on the finger where a wedding ring was once worn. People have sometimes told me that they did have a scar but it was not visible and yet the clairvoyant knew of it. There is nothing mysterious about that, most people have had an accident, minor or serious during their lives leaving a scar. The client immediately tries to find one to fit the reading.

Although the client (and most people for that matter) is usually under the impression that their particular problems are unique, the clairvoyant will be aware that we all go through similar stages in life and suffer the concomitant problems associated with them. Hence, by utilizing the initial observations and taking into consideration the age and sex of the client, a reasonable guess can be made in respect of the client's past experiences and present problems. Then with some idle chit-chat, vague statements and some leading questions the information gleaned can be used to augment the second stage.

Next, the reader will use a technique known as "cold reading" (Hyman 1976), a generic assessment couched in ambiguous terms which can readily and equally be applied to anyone, and during which the reactions of the client are observed and any information gleaned is then remembered by the clairvoyant and fed back at a later time, the client under the impression that they are being told things about themselves that a complete stranger could not have known.

The following is a typical spiel and used with variations by psychics which, when fed back to the client with the additional information solicited from them earlier, will prove very effective in convincing them of the psychic's powers. And remember, there is a willingness on the part of the client to try and make the disclosures fit the circumstances no matter how vague and ambiguous they may be:  

Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. At times you are extroverted, affable and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary and reserved. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. You pride yourself on being an independent thinker, and do not accept other's opinions without satisfactory proof. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety, and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. Disciplined and controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself and have a strong need for other people to like and admire you.

I have tried this approach at many gatherings and at least eighty per cent of those participating have agreed that it is an accurate assessment of their character. It does not need a particularly close examination to see why!  

[From: Skeptoon an illustrated look at some New Age Beliefs, 1994, Harry Edwards. Published by Harry Edwards Publications]

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