Do Mediums Actually Talk to the Dead?
Since the 1800s when spiritualism became a favorite pastime of the progressive-minded Victorians, contacting the spirits of the dead had never decreased in popularity. In fact, with the onset of reality television it's experiencing a glorious revival.
John Edwards, James Van Praagh, Chris Stillar, Theresa Caputo, "Monica the Medium," and now Tyler Henry are mediums who've captivated the minds of the masses, sparking the controversy over the legitimacy and the ethics of "talking to the dead" business.
I am not a skeptic by any definition - I believe in the afterlife, reincarnation, healing crystals, the third eye, hugging trees - you name it, but when it comes to mediums, my inner Bill Maher rears his ugly head (no offense, Bill).
The skeptics say mediums perform "cold readings" - a term used to describe fake psychic readings based on visual observations and clues rather than a true psychic insight.This conversation actually took place on an episode of "The Long Island Medium":
"Did you lose a brother or a brother-in-law?"
"Ehhh...I lost a friend. In college."
"But he was like a brother to you, right?"
Most people come to expect an element of deception from reality TV shows, but how much deception is too much? And is there an alternative explanation for the mediumship phenomenon?
MEDIUM: an individual held to be a channel of communication between the earthly world and a world of spirits (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
The Nature of the Messages
After watching a number of TV mediums at work, I made two observations that led me to conclude that one possible explanation for the mediumship phenomenon lies in Extra Sensory Perception (ESP), or reading someone's mind.
My first observation is: The messages are usually of a comforting nature, almost as if the medium vocalizes the person's deepest wishes and hopes concerning the deceased. For example,
The Medium: "You mother says that she accepts you as you are, and she is proud of you. She takes the responsibility for the relationship that you had while she was alive. She says: I'm sorry."
The Medium: "Your son tells me that you blame yourself for his death. He says there's nothing you could have done. You have to move on."
The Client: "I did blame myself. But now I can let it go."
That's all good and dandy but it sounds a lot like telling people exactly what they want (or desperately need) to hear.
Isn't it possible that a medium simply "reads" a person's energy field to get an idea on what their hopes and wishes for the session are, supplemented by the possible details from their memories? That brings me to the second reason it looks like ESP.
EXTRA SENSORY PERCEPTION (ESP): ability to know things (such as what another person is thinking or what will happen in the future) that cannot be known by normal use of the senses (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
No New Information:
My second observation is: The messages rarely (if ever) contain any FACTUAL information that is completely NEW to the person.
Imagine a medium saying: "You know that lemon tree in the backyard, the one your grandma planted? She says if you dig underneath it, you'll find a shoe box with $50,000."
That never happens, does it? Whatever factual information a medium is able to extract always correlates to a person's memories of a loved one, like: "Do you still wear your mother's pendant? She's asking me about the pendant."
That's what makes the reading seem "real": the details that the medium conveys are so personal, only the departed loved ones could have known that.
But another person who could have known that (and does know that) is the person sitting in front of the medium with all their memories, emotions and hopes that a psychically sensitive person can read.
It's All Energy
Everything is energy, and energy is readable. When someone comes to a psychic/medium, they come with their energy field open.
It's quite different when a non-believer gets a reading. You don't have to be a believer to have a reading, but it certainly helps to have an open mind. In Chris Stillar's words,
"When the person is open, whether that's through acknowledging a "yes" to something, or being open and participating in that way, not even verbally, it makes an incredible difference in the reading because it's all energy."
Don't Shoot the Messenger
There are those who say that mediums prey on people who are vulnerable, exploit their grief for profit. I disagree. It's a personal choice whether or not to believe in mediums, to ask for a reading, and to pay for it. I don't think anyone is being exploited here.
Whether mediums talk to the dead or the living, the most essential part is the message itself.
Is it of loving nature? Does it help people to move on? Does it heal the old wounds? Does it re-affirm the notion that the love between people never dies? If the answer to these questions is "yes," it doesn't matter where the message comes from.
"Medium," "psychic," "clairvoyant" are just labels people made up to explain something that defies explanation.
And anything "undefinable" should be seen within the perspective of a "bigger picture": understanding that spiritual messages that pertain to your life situation may come in unexpected ways, and it's up to you to either listen to them, or brush them off as nonsense.
Edgar Cayce, an iconic American prophet/medium, always recommended that seekers only take the advice that improves their lives.
Perhaps, that is the biggest lesson when it comes to mediums: take what serves your highest purpose, discard the rest. A medium may not always be "real," but the message they bring can still effect your life in some meaningful way.
However the Universe chooses to communicate with you - be it through a "medium," a book, a song on the radio, a flash of inspiration or a dream - in the end, it's about the message itself, not the messenger.
Do you know things before they happen?
Can you sense who is on the phone, what someone will say, or do your dreams sometimes come true? You may be a psychic. Take this test to find out how much ESP you possess.
© 2014 Lana Adler