was relieved to find that the reading process was straightforward
and not at all spooky. We simply relaxed in the psychic's
living room. After a short prayer and meditation, she
began to tell me of my past lives, my talents, and my
future. The descriptions of my personality and talents
had a ring of truth. The past life information was fascinating
but hard to swallow; perhaps I had lived in ancient Rome,
but how could I prove it? One item truly impressed me:
the psychic said she saw the word RESEARCH on my forehead,
flashing on and off. She interpreted that as my future
direction. Since research was my primary professional
interest, I took this as a very positive sign. I departed
feeling encouraged by the information I had received,
but wanting to know more about the potential of psychic
ability. Soon after, I moved to Virginia Beach, to make
research into psychic phenomena a career.
other people's experiences with psychics like mine? Were
some psychics better than others? Might I be better off
using my own intuition, meditation and dreams to guide
my decisions? These were some of the questions I wanted
to address. As a researcher at Atlantic University, I
joined in an ongoing A.R.E. program developed by Mark
Thurston and Henry Reed, to explore the process of psychic
readings and other intuitive forms of guidance.
most recent step in this quest occurred in October, when
twenty-four people came to Virginia Beach to intensively
seek guidance for their life questions and participate
in a week-long research project. For several years psychics
have shared their talents and insights to improve our
understanding of the intuitive process. At the same time,
conference participants have discovered the potential
of intuitive guidance for life transformation.
focal point of the week was the opportunity for each participant
to obtain readings from two different psychics. The Edgar
Cayce readings emphasized that Cayce was not the only
person who could provide useful psychic guidance. Others
were encouraged to follow in his footsteps. But although
Cayce gave psychic readings, he did not encourage people
to rely solely on his psychic perceptions. He frequently
suggested meditation, dreams, and inspirational writing
as sources of valuable attunement and information. For
an outer form of guidance, he recommended the study of
astrology, though he cautioned that the human will is
the paramount factor in one's life path. Our goal was
to evaluate the usefulness of all these sources of insight.
this conference, the participants were co-researchers
with us. While they were seeking answers to personal questions,
we were seeking ways to identify gifted psychics and develop
guidelines for how to evaluate readings. Questionnaires
were created to aid the participants in evaluating their
life purpose, and to assess the contributions of psychic
and other guidance to their goals.
participants had a busy week. They worked with their own
meditation, dreams, and personal inspirational writing.
Together they participated in small group discussions
and attended a session with music and creative imagery.
The conference staff provided lectures on interpreting
psychic readings, dreams, and synchronicity. Conferees
even received a computer-generated astrology horoscope
and attended a talk on astrological interpretation.
for Intuitive Guidance
receiving a psychic reading, participants were asked to
work with their own intuitive abilities. Meditation, dream
work and other exercises were used both to develop and
refine questions, and later to aid in interpretation of
the readings from the psychics. The intent was for each
person to arrive at an optimum combination of inner and
Cayce readings frequently recommended meditation as inner
preparation for receiving guidance. The first step is
to set an ideal - a spiritual vision for your life. This
could be a single word, like "love," or a phrase
like "the Christ spirit." Then it is possible
to relax and quietly go within, while remaining focused
on your ideal. Sometimes there will be a sudden insight
during meditation. At other times, meditation serves as
a period for attunement, and the guidance will arrive
later through a dream or a reading from a psychic.
are a second source of intuitive insight. The psychoanalyst
Sigmund Freud once called them the "royal road to
the unconscious." In our dreams we often rework the
events of the day, testing new solutions to the problems
that concern us. Parapsychologists (scientists who study
psychic ability) have also found dreams to be the most
common source of psychic experiences. Dreams of distant
happenings or future events occasionally come true.
dreams with useful guidance come spontaneously, with no
special preparation. One very practical example in my
own life came several years ago, when I dreamed that I
was making a presentation in front of a group of people,
with fancy computer-generated graphics. The audience was
enthusiastic, and I felt great in the dream. The next
day I looked through advertisements I had received in
the mail, and found one for the same kind of computer
software I had seen in the dream. I decided to follow
this inspiration and order the software. When it arrived,
my first project was to put together a presentation for
a meeting where I was to speak about my research. A few
weeks later I gave the presentation, complete with color
graphics - and I won an award for the best presentation
at the meeting! Now in this example, it is hard to separate
psychic perception of a future event from intuitive inspiration,
but it doesn't really matter. By acting on guidance from
a dream, I had quite a positive result.
this conference the participants took dreams a step further.
It is possible to encourage guidance from dreams by doing
what is known as a "dream incubation." The dreamer
prepares to receive guidance by carefully formulating
a question, and focusing on it prior to going to sleep.
This might involve a period of meditation before bedtime
or writing a letter to your dreams and putting it under
your pillow. In the conference, the participants listened
to a lecture on dream incubation the evening before going
to bed. Then the dreamers made sure that recording tools
- either a pencil and paper or a tape recorder - were
handy by the bed. The next morning, the dreamers were
led through a session on interpreting dream symbols. Many
dreams are symbolic. For example, a stockbroker who received
a dream interpretation from Edgar Cayce in 1929 dreamed
of a bull following a woman in a red dress. Cayce interpreted
the dream symbols to mean, "the red indicating the
danger in the bull market." (900-425) Several months
later the stock market crashed.
does not always require altered states of consciousness
like meditation or dreams. We often overlook the potential
of another common source of guidance, meaningful coincidences,
which psychiatrist Carl Jung termed "synchronicity."
Often we only need to pay attention to what is going on
around us. We find that our lives are filled with coincidences
that can stimulate new approaches to problems, and suggest
new directions for our efforts. I frequently have found
synchronicity to be useful in my own life. Many instances
occur while I am traveling. I always stop in airport bookstores,
and often find a book I have seen nowhere else that exactly
answers my needs. In one case I bought a book at an airport
that I ended up using as a text in a graduate-level course
on "The Nature of Reality."
the conference, Mark Thurston discussed the I Ching,
an ancient Chinese book of wisdom that can be used as
a stimulus for synchronicity. One tosses coins, and the
pattern indicates a particular chapter in the I Ching.
People often find information in the verses that gives
a new and useful perspective on their questions. The I
Ching can even be used to suggest possible interpretations
can also be used as a stimulus for intuitive discovery.
Astrology is not simply a pattern of stars and planets
determined by the time you were born. It is a complex
symbolic system that reflects the basic potentials and
conflicts of our inner being. The point is not to take
the I Ching or astrology as infallible oracles
of the future, but to use them to gently stimulate your
insights from all these intuitive sources can be made
even more useful if they are discussed in a group. Group
meditation can be a powerful force for cooperative attunement.
During the discussion, frequently another group member
will have insights into symbols that the dreamer missed
or into the significance of synchronicity. Our conferees
found that the group discussions were a valuable source
of additional interpretations.
for a Psychic Reading
often feel the need for help in making major decisions
in life, an outside opinion to complement our own intuitive
abilities. What role can a psychic reading play in guiding
us? It is tempting to seek a "perfect" psychic,
one who has deep insight into our needs and abilities,
and has a crystal clear view of the future. Such a psychic
could simply make decisions for us.
even Edgar Cayce did not have such an ability. He was
able to focus on key talents and possible stumbling blocks.
But he emphasized the importance of the individual's will
in shaping the future. The Cayce readings occasionally
expressed amusement at questions asking for specific predictions:
Is the prediction true that I will die suddenly, at
the age of 80, in Tibet?
If you go to Tibet and live to be 80 you may die there
- this depends on many, many, many circumstances.
You will not die in Tibet unless you go there, and
there's not the prospect now of going there."
kinds of questions are worth asking a psychic?
The participants in the conference worked alone with their
meditations and thoughts, and together in groups, to arrive
at questions addressing their personal needs effectively.
Most questions fit into several categories, suggested
by the Cayce readings and by previous work with psychics
at other conferences.
soul's purpose in this life. The goal of the conference
was to facilitate finding guidance for life's questions.
For many people their soul's purpose is the ultimate question.
It is possible to ask an open-ended question, such as:
"What is my mission or soul's purpose in this incarnation?"
You may receive more practical guidance if you are more
specific, for example, asking how you may best use your
talents in the next few years to fulfill your life's purpose.
past lives. Reincarnation is a concept some people
find helpful in understanding their lives. Edgar Cayce's
life readings typically gave details of several past lives
having major impact on the person's current life situation.
You could ask an open-ended question seeking information
on any past life relevant to your present experience.
Or you could ask specifically about past life experiences
that affect your current life goals. People may be initially
disappointed to find that no two psychics agree about
the details of their past lives. However, often the basic
themes from these past life stories are very helpful in
understanding the present. It may be even more useful
to try to test the insights from such readings in your
own experience, rather than to be too concerned about
the "reality" of the lives.
concerns in your relationships and emotional life.
Many psychics find that the most frequent questions are
about relationships. But asking a psychic to make decisions
for you is not wise. Once a person asked Cayce, "Would
marriage to the body with whom I am going be advisable?"
Cayce replied in the reading, "Better ask the body
- not here." (3180-2) More productive are questions
intended to deepen your understanding of a relationship.
For example, you might say, "I am often angry at
my sister. What is the source of this anger and how can
I transform it into something more positive?" Or,
"I am thinking of marrying so-and-so. What are the
potentials and pitfalls of pursuing this relationship?"
and financial advice. Questions in the career area
are often most productive if you have already done substantial
preparation in the area, and intend to compare the psychic
information with your own insights and take action. You
might say, "I am holding a business plan I have prepared.
Is this a wise course of action? Suggest ways to improve
future. Occasionally, psychics will make amazingly
correct predictions of the future. However, often the
times and the specific events are uncertain. In my own
experience once, a psychic made an excellent prediction
about publication of a book I was writing, but was off
by 6 years in the publication date! It is helpful to see
the future as open-ended. A psychic may be able to see
trends, but your own application of the guidance is the
most important factor.
in seeking and interpreting your own inner guidance. Much
of the conference was devoted to working with inner sources
of guidance such as dreams and meditation. An outside
opinion is often helpful in understanding symbolism or
unusual experiences. For example, you might ask a psychic,
"Please interpret the following dream for me (giving
either a few details from the dream, or the night on which
it occurred)." Or you might ask for advice on the
personal attunement aids that would help you most in meditation,
such as specific affirmations, incense, or music.
providing these suggestions regarding the most productive
types of questions, we asked the participants to categorize
the questions they actually asked. They had been told
to come up with four questions to ask during the reading
(naturally, in the course of interacting with the psychic,
more questions might arise). Our analysis found that this
group, in agreement with the theme of the conference,
had the greatest number of questions in the categories
"career or work" (21%) and "soul's purpose
or soul's talents" (21%). Next came questions on
a variety of relationships: romantic, family, and non-family.
Taken together, 33% of the questions were relationship
questions. The rest fell into much smaller groups, such
as "personality characteristics" (8%) and "finances"
(5%). These questions are not necessarily typical of people
who ask for psychic readings in general, but they were
the basis on which our participants were evaluating their
is important to remember that the quality of a reading
does not depend only on the talent of the psychic. Cayce
emphasized the importance of your own attitudes and attunement.
Before you ever see the psychic, it is important to use
all the conscious means you have to explore your
questions. Try looking at your dreams to tap your unconscious
mind. Then, take what you have learned and formulate
questions. Prayer and meditation before a reading can
set a positive tone allowing better information to come
person seeking a psychic reading needs to bear in mind
that what he/she brings to the reading is at least as
important as what the psychic brings to the reading. Some
people have more carefully thought out their questions
than others. Some come in with greater self-knowledge
and openness than others. Some may have very high or very
low expectations - a person expecting winning lottery
numbers is unlikely to be pleased with any psychic
on the part of the psychic, the ability to give a good
psychic reading is complex. It is not simply tuning into
facts like, "You have an Uncle George with one brown
eye and one blue eye." It is the ability to tap helpful
information, and interpret it in an uplifting way that
will encourage the recipient to apply it productively.
The quality of the reading may depend on the health of
the psychic, daily stresses, the experience of the psychic
with counseling, the temperature of the room, and a variety
of other factors. A reading will always be a mixture of
psychic impressions combined with the personality, issues,
and inner wishes of the psychic.
example, my wife and I received a psychic reading together
shortly after we were married. The psychic was quite insightful
about our strengths and weaknesses, and offered helpful
guidance about our career paths. Then I was a little taken
aback when she said that we would have four children;
neither of us were planning on a large family. But the
psychic herself had 12 children! For her, four
children was a small family. As it turned out we
have one child (who was very well described in a reading
by another psychic over a year before he was born). It
is unlikely that we will have four. This psychic was obviously
highly attuned to the possibility of children, and freely
were developed to address these specific ideas. At the
beginning of the conference, the participants provided
information on their previous experience with psychics
and intuitive guidance, on their personalities, and on
their perception of their life's purpose. After they received
their psychic readings, they filled out an evaluation
questionnaire. We went beyond simply asking about the
overall quality of the readings. We asked about the emotional
impact of the readings, about the specificity of the guidance,
about the accuracy of the information, and about the psychics'
ability to give an inspirational interpretation.
the Guidance Process: Personal Intuition and Psychic Readings
purpose of the conference was to aid people in obtaining
guidance for their life's questions. However, in a one
week conference, it is difficult to know if working with
these sources of guidance can lead to a major redirection
or reconfirmation of one's life purpose. We tried a small
before-and-after test, using the Purpose in Life scale,
a one-page questionnaire that evaluates the degree to
which people feel that they have found a meaningful purpose
in life. We were pleased to find a statistically significant
17-point increase. That is, the average score went up
from the beginning of the week (99 points) to the end
of the week (116 points). As a comparison, in a study
we did several years ago with members of Cayce A Search
for God study groups, the average score was 109 points.
This is impressive evidence that in one week people can
gain significant insight from intuitive sources.
we wanted to know which forms of guidance were most helpful,
and what factors contributed to their effectiveness. We
asked the participants to consider the various sources
through which they obtained guidance during the week,
and to pretend that they had $100 to distribute among
these sources of guidance. They were asked to assign dollars
in proportion to the amount of help that they had received
from each source. The average amounts are listed in Table
1. Keep in mind that the amount for psychic readings involves
a sum for both psychic readings that the person received.
Thurston used this method in research conferences in the
1980s, and this conference confirmed his result: the two
psychic readings were by far the most valued source of
guidance (at $42.19). The computerized astrology charts
were the least helpful, perhaps because they lacked a
personal connection. In a conference several years ago,
participants received a personal discussion of the horoscope
on a cassette tape, and rated it as much more helpful.
However, adding together all of the other items which
include people working with their own inner intuitive
abilities (meditation, dreams, etc.), we arrive at a figure
of $53.05. So inner work with our own intuition can be
even more important than psychic readings, though we may
need to work with diverse forms.
next step was to explore in detail the factors leading
to the very positive evaluation of the psychic readings.
We asked the recipients to evaluate the overall quality
of each reading, on a 9-point scale ranging from: "1
- Totally displeased; an unsatisfactory and disappointing
reading," to "9 - Totally pleased; an absolutely
splendid reading." On the average, the psychics did
rather well: an average score of 7.2. Not all were equal,
however. The best averaged 8.4 and the worst averaged
4.8. Was this due to the quality of the psychics, or to
the viewpoint of the people receiving the readings? There
was quite a lot of individual variability. Each psychic
had some people who thought their reading was excellent,
and some who thought it was only average or even worse.
Psychic readings are an interaction between people, not
an isolated source of wisdom.
example, one person, "A," gave the following
glowing endorsement of her reading from psychic "Susan":
"I found it to ring so true and be so inspiring.
The suggestions of actions to consider taking, exercises
and affirmations, and encouragement to not only use what
abilities and talents are known to me but to find new
outlets are going to be so beneficial."
another person, "B," found Susan's reading for
her to be of little value: "I liked her very much
but never felt we really connected."
same two people then gave opposite evaluations of their
second psychic "Dorothy." Person A said, "My
reading consisted almost totally of the psychic's asking
me questions. She would then make a general statement
that could be construed from my response or be so vague
as to be of no help."
the other hand, Person B said of Dorothy's reading for
her: "She really helped me...She came forth with
about six unasked questions of mine and that shocked me...I
left the reading feeling very much uplifted. It was a
great experience for me."
sorts of responses demonstrated the difficulty of simply
rating the overall quality of a psychic reading. In a
previous conference, the participants allowed us to make
duplicate tapes of the psychic readings, and we listened
carefully to the verbal interactions on the tapes. The
styles of the psychics varied a great deal. Some started
right in with information, even before the recipient had
time to ask the first question, and anticipated the questions.
Others started with a conversation, drawing out the person's
concerns, much the way a therapist would. Both types often
contained useful psychic information, but they appealed
to different people. We needed to explore the factors
leading to these evaluations.
the expectations and preferences of the recipients could
have a major effect on the ratings, so the next step was
to evaluate the evaluators. One way to do this was to
discover whether any of the questions the people answered
before they received their readings could predict
how they would evaluate their psychic readings. We found
two strong predictors. The first was belief in the possibility
of psychic guidance and experience with previous psychic
readings. The more that a person had seriously worked
with psychic guidance before, the more likely that person
was to give the psychics high ratings. The other predictor
was the personality of the person receiving the
reading. People who indicated that they were self-critical
and concealed their inner worries behind an outward show
of confidence were less likely to like their readings.
It appeared that people with a low opinion of themselves
were also likely to reject positive comments and helpful
suggestions from the psychic. These factors were able
to explain about 50% of the variability in the evaluations.
The other 50% would reflect actual differences in the
quality of the psychics. This is important confirmation
that what you bring into a reading is equally important
to what the psychic brings.
this point you may be thinking that perhaps people who
believe in psychic guidance will believe any vague statement
that the psychic makes. Then all we would be studying
is how gullible people are. Psychologists call this the
"Barnum Effect," named after P. T. Barnum, the
showman who said, "A good circus has something for
everyone," and "There's a sucker born every
minute." Psychologists have studied the Barnum Effect
by putting together a set of vague personality statements
that sound a little bit like a psychic reading. One example
is, "At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable,
while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved."
This would apply to almost everyone! To study gullibility,
they ask people to rate how closely these statements personally
did the same thing, including a set of Barnum-type statements
in our initial personality questionnaire. After the people
rated their psychic readings, we checked to see whether
their rating could be explained simply by their tendency
to accept or reject vague statements. The relationship
was not statistically significant, but there was actually
a slight tendency for people to reject vague statements.
To put it another way, our group seemed good at detecting
vague personality descriptions, and tended to downrate
psychics who provided this sort of information. Far from
being gullible, they tended to be "critical consumers."
They wanted personally specific information. Most readings
were given very positive scores, but the occasional critical
comments addressed this issue directly, for example, "There
was an overall flatness and vagueness and almost nothing
she said resonated within me as being authentic."
presence of "evidential" statements in a reading
was a major factor that contributed to a high rating for
a psychic. Evidential statements are those pieces of information
that the psychic could only have obtained by psychic means.
A statement like, "You have some unresolved anger
toward your mother," is not evidential. A statement
like, "Your mother's favorite dress was purple with
little red and gold flowers," would be very evidential.
had reactions from the participants commenting on evidential
statements, for example, "Very specific here with
details which have been in my mind but could never have
been deduced from my current situation or our conversation."
asked the participants to estimate the number of evidential
statements. The psychic with the lowest overall rating
had an average of 2.8 evidential statements per reading,
while the one with the highest rating had an average of
6. But this is not many evidential statements for an hour-long
reading. Other factors must be important.
else did the psychic do that caused the readings to be
seen as so valuable for guidance? The highest ratings
were not given for the amount of information or
how specific it was. Rather, the emotional
impact of the reading, and the inspirational interpretation
of the information were the key factors. A reading simply
giving psychically-derived facts was not as useful as
one that made an emotional connection with the person.
The facts had to be there, but people were really looking
for inspiration and guidance. The most highly rated readings
received comments like this:
session left me absolutely reeling. Everything she said...resonated
inside of me as being real, true, authentic...She said
things that completed puzzles I had been struggling to
finish...She validated things I had suspected about my
soul's tasks for this lifetime, and her insight has given
me the courage to move ahead."
summarize the results of the research: The participants
felt the entire process to be valuable, weighting the
psychic readings and the inner sources roughly equally.
They departed from the conference with a significant change
in their sense of purpose. We, the researchers, gained
insight into the process of psychic guidance, confirming
the presence of several factors that go into a successful
reading, coming both from the psychic and from the person
receiving the reading.
for Working With Psychic Readings
working with psychics, in this conference and other research
projects, I have come up with seven suggestions that
may be helpful if you choose to seek psychic guidance.