The Skeptic’s Confession

It may surprise you to see an admission of skepticism in a post by the author of a divination blog. But in fact I’m doubtful about the legitimacy of much that currently passes for truth in the metaphysical scripture of the unseen. For example, I’m a non-believer in the “Law of Attraction,” which as far as I can tell is merely a glitzy retread of the ideas of Franz Mesmer by way of the New Thought movement, filtered through the lens of Norman Vincent Peale (in other words, a stale and previously discredited concept tarted up with a fresh coat of paint). I just don’t think the Universe works that way, although there are plenty of people who are willing to pay a lot of money for the privilege of finding out that it doesn’t.

Similarly, psychic pretensions can readily degenerate into self-delusion, in which the psychic, rather than talking to the “dearly departed” or to an angel or a deity, is holding a conversation with his or her own “shadow” side or engaging in a dialogue with one of the less savory forms of dissociated consciousness (assuming, that is, they aren’t simply working a scam). The “lucky number” form of numerology leaves me cold, as does any method of fortune-telling that purports to deliver a high degree of accuracy with no evidence other than the claims of its practitioners. In contrast, consider the art of finding lost items with horary astrology, about which astrologer John Frawley says “When locating a lost object, we must be exactly right. Explaining to your client, ‘You almost found it,’ is unlikely to impress.” Either the item is  where the chart says it is, or it isn’t; there is no middle ground for creative maneuvering. The proof is in the finding, as it should be, whereas aiming to sway potential sitters with fluffy testimonials rather than proven ability is just so much posturing.

What we’re about isn’t a science, it’s “looking through a glass darkly,” and if we’re able to spot emerging trends or probabilities in the lives of our clients with some verifiable degree of certainty, I think we’ve accomplished our mission. If we can give them details that are useful and practical to work with going forward, so much the better. The sad thing is that we so seldom receive any kind of post-reading confirmation of the validity of our observations. Our sitters may walk away feeling “empowered” by our input and actually accomplish something remarkable, but (unless we have a long-standing personal or professional relationship with them) how often do we get feedback on whether our insights actually paralleled anything occurring in their lives?

This unfortunate situation is enough to make me rethink my aversion to psychological profiling with the tarot, since its vague generalities are so universal that they can mean almost anything to – or about – anyone (to steal a phrase from Captain Beefheart, it’s “safe as milk”). Maybe I should just stick with handling comfortable questions like “Is that good-looking guy at work thinking about me?” (“The cards say YES!” – or maybe “Yeah, he’s thinking how much he dislikes you”), rather than trying to answer “What are my chances of getting that new job I so desperately want?” I can walk away from the first case without feeling any kind of emotional investment in the outcome, while the second one moves me to work hard at sifting through the possibilities. But I don’t think I could live with myself if I always took the easy way out; I may be a cynic about human nature, but I’m not made of stone.

Where there is doubt, there is room for growth, and I’m not prepared to dismiss any mode of divination out-of-hand that has even a glimmer of honest inquiry about it (which excludes anything that looks like a shameless money grab). If the goal is to give clients the right ammunition to more accurately hit their target (or, conversely, the armor or strategic agility to avoid being nailed by said target in return), count me in. All I require is the time and energy to learn the ropes. But – and it’s a big “but” –  mastering even one technique to the point that it demonstrates consistent reliability can be a lifetime proposition. I’m still working on my tarot and Lenormand chops after 46 years, and probably always will be. I like to say I learn something new every time I do a reading, and that’s not far from the truth. Hopefully my sitters do too whenever they receive one.

2 thoughts on “The Skeptic’s Confession

  1. I thi k in the realm of divination and all attached to it, it’s healthy t be a skeptic. I think too many people assign an all or nothing attitude to the practice, and not enough critical thinking. As a former philosophy student, I think the best way to affirm you understanding of something is to take it apart and see if it still stands when you put it together again. I agree that the LoA is just glitter presented as magic, forgetting and negating the depth of what is required to truly be a practitioner. But i will say this, the aspect of getting people to think more positively isnt a downside of it.

    Liked by 1 person

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