(Contains reflections on the paranormal.)
Since last month’s look at psychic reading I’ve been inundated by an email from Jean-Pierre in Geneva: Hey, John – What is this nonsense you are giving us? Psychic Reading my bottom. ‘You love to travel’? Who does not? ‘There has been a family upset recently.’ Recently? Open-ended. Show me a family who haven’t had some sort of ‘upset’ in the past year or so. ‘A dog is sending you love.’ Lots of people in England have a dog or know one well at some time. My friend, you are the victim of a scam. Note my words: next time she will ask for money.
I needed help:
A psychic reading is a specific attempt to discern information through the use of heightened perceptive abilities; or natural extensions of the basic human senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and instinct. These natural extensions are claimed to be clairvoyance (vision), clairsentience (feeling), Claircognisance (factual knowing) and Clairaudience (hearing) and the resulting statements made during such an attempt. The term is commonly associated with paranormal-based consultation given for a fee in such settings as over the phone, in a home, or at psychic fairs. Though psychic readings are controversial and a focus of skeptical inquiry, a popular interest in them persists. Extensive experimentation to replicate psychic results in laboratory conditions have failed to find any precognitive phenomena in humans.
In John Keats’ day philosophy meant science and his 1820 poem Lamia carries this warning:
Do not all charms fly
At the mere touch of cold philosophy?
There was an awful rainbow once in heaven:
We know her woof, her texture; she is given
In the dull catalogue of common things.
Philosophy will clip an Angel’s wings,
Conquer all mysteries by rule and line,
Empty the haunted air, and gnomèd mine—
Unweave a rainbow, as it erewhile made
The tender-person’d Lamia melt into a shade.
Philosophy will clip an angel’s wings.