Photo by Zachary Zhang // CC0 1.0
Can psychics really glimpse into the future?
It was a few years ago now that I had my first psychic reading. The lady, who claimed to be a 5th-generation witch (I would be keen to ask her specifically when, and with whom, this apparent genetic disposition entered her bloodline), was seated in my kitchen. A group of us was waiting patiently next door to have our futures assessed. I could hear the emotional whimpering of other members of the group as they came back with their own stories. When it was my turn, I entered the room. I have to say I felt a presence with that woman, like there was another force swirling around the ether. I’m unsure as to whether this was a valid perception or due to expectation. This was my first dabbling with the ‘occult’—but not the last.
My second reading came a year or so later when a bored Tuesday afternoon stroll lead me into a tiny crystal shop for a £10 tarot card reading. I nearly died from the incense fumes on the way in, and the reading didn’t seem as impressive as the last time, but I still took note and began to observe the world around me to see if there was any relative truth to be gained.
Later I got hold of my own pack of angel cards and regularly read for myself in order to tackle or reaffirm decisions having to do with travel or relationships. I would ask questions, give the pack a shuffle, and then interpret the outcome to derive meaning from the spread and symbolism. If there had been any paranormal basis to these cards and this technique, then I was surely misusing them. If not, then I was having fun!
Testing the Psychic
During these readings I received several pieces of information that turned out to be relevant to my life in some way. I was told that my cosmic number was ‘13’, a number that is usually considered a bad omen. Being a non-believer of such notions, I decided to test my psychic one night after finding a casino chip on a friend’s bedroom floor. I placed a bet on the number 13 and waited for definite evidence that my reading was conducted by a fifth-generation bullsh*tter. To my great surprise, the number dropped in. The fact that I had entered the scenario to ‘test my psychic’ made me feel a little weird, but I didn’t think too much of it at the time.
But there was more. In a rather macabre demonstration of psychic power, the witch lady had told me to warn friends to wear seatbelts. A few weeks later I was in a friend-of-a-friend’s car (these readings are never quite perfect, are they?), and I forewent the advice to give him a warning. A few weeks later he died in a car crash.
To lighten the tone, the second reading involved an emphasis on purple flowers, “lavender, perhaps”. An admittedly confused psychic mumbled on about my possibly running a business selling lavender products abroad. Months later I ended up working on a lavender farm in France. That one is actually quite specific! You can’t help but think… Similarly, she said that my travel would last for two years and that on the third year I would be doing something else—that people would need me back home. She wasn’t wrong!
Nowadays I don’t mess around with this stuff at all. You can rest assured that I have my reasons, and it is not out of a lack of experience. But I’m more interested in discussing the philosophy as I am dismissing psychic readings. I would rather open up honest debate and embrace multiple theories as to the ‘why?’ of paranormal and occult happenings.
Let’s dig into the philosophical interpretations of the psychic reading experience, of which there are many. Then we can get closer to deciding whether psychic readings are real, imaginary, or both.
The future is pre-determined – The psychic catches a glimpse of the future using either their own talent or a medium such as tarot cards, or with the help of a spirit/demon. In this model, the psychic literally sees events that haven’t yet occurred, making these events pre-determined and giving you a world view with very little free will.
The reading affects the future – The reading, or the experience of the reading, somehow influences the future or changes reality in some way. This could be through a psychological effect like ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ or ‘belief creating reality’. So, the highly-impactful experience becomes a belief, which then becomes reality, which then becomes a manifestation.
The same ‘reality’ happens, but the mind perceives it differently – In this model, the psychic reading does not change reality. The same events happen that would have always happened, but they are perceived differently by the mind of the observer, who uses the information from the psychic reading as a kind of mental filter. Anything coherent with the reading is retained, and anything not coherent is omitted, edited or glossed over. This model, and the one above it, basically make psychic readings akin to black magic, where the mind of the observer is charmed or cursed by an impactful experience of belief. The reading is both real and not real.
It’s a load of codswallop – Nothing happens. The psychic reading has absolutely no impact on reality, the future is not glimpsed, and the mind of the observer is unaffected. The psychic might be knowingly or unknowingly fraudulent in this case, but, either way, the outcome is the same. In this case, psychic readings are completely fake. I think this can only be the case if the observer doesn’t believe, or isn’t impacted by, the experience; otherwise he or she will at least experience differences in perception.
What are your thoughts on psychic readings? Has anyone had experience with this? Which philosophical interpretation do you prefer, or do you have your own?