Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Challenges for Mediums


There is a general public percetion that psychic mediums and others who claim ESP abilities are unlikely able to live up to their claims. The early history of psychical research was laden with fraud on the part of some claimants. While more recent research is freer from such concerns, a dedicated skeptical community has engaged in questionable practices and has been reasonably successful, to date, convincing many that claims of psychic abilities in general and mediumship in particular are false. What goes unsaid in these discussions, aside from a careful consideration of the skeptics' true agendas, is the impact that criticism has on individuals who indeed may be as sensitive as they claim. While many think that these individuals are unwilling to be subjected to scrutiny because they are fakes or uncertain of their abilities, it may indeed be the case that such individuals' overriding concern has more to do with maintaining their psychological well-being.


To understand this we must suspend any a priori notions regarding whether or not sensitives are real. We must ignore their potential motives and focus instead on their personalities and how those personality reactions might cause them to behave.

If a person's behavior is motivated by a desire to survive and a need to be comfortable, it would follow that like most all people, claimants of psychic abilities and specifically mediumship would strive to do what they feel is their life's purpose while at the same avoiding undue mental anguish and hardship. Many of these people perceive their purpose to be one of helping others, especially those who have passed on or those who survived others' deaths. Accepting this purpose in life creates an internal tension. While there is a desire to serve, that very service potentially creates conflict between these individuals and some in the outside world who are skeptical of these individuals' abilities.

Those with no experience in discarante communications are unaware that those who have passed often desperately need assistance. This theme recurs in reported discarnate post-mortem contacts. Often a timely message must be gotten to a family member or close acquaintance. This can be difficult for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that the message recipients are in grief and often protectively enclosed by others. Outsiders tend to be shunned during this time as families close ranks in mourning. This makes it difficult for messages of this type to be delivered in a timely manner. This challenge can weigh heavily on intermediaries as they come to realize the communications are real and vital. Yet at the same time, at every turn, they meet with resistance and suspicion.

Delivering messages is especially difficult in high profile cases. Not only is the family protected by the usual relatives and friends, but there is a larger circle of fans and associates each of whom has their own unique and conflicting agendas. Most of these agendas have little to do with telling truths about the deceased, especially if doing so would compromise future profits or projects. The great irony is that these people would not even comment in public about the death if there were nothing to gain on their own behalf.

It should be obvious that getting a message through is quite difficult in these conditons. Receiving public recognition for doing so is even more problematic. Hence it should no surprise that reports of such messages being successfully delivered and acknowledge by surviving family members are indeed quite rare. In fact messages are received and in some cases even successfully delivered, but the public is quite unaware of these activities.


Often in public cases disinformation is put out by so-called "media psychics" - people who are recognized by the public for their proclaimed psychic abilites. These people often appear on national talk shows, are cited by media, have published, speak on the subject and may even have had their own television programs over the years. Unfortunatley, most of these people would not be considered by most reputable research Parapscyhologists as realistic mediumship claimants. Yet their words are considered valid and their comments valued.

The other confounding factor for the public and the perception of any messages that might in fact have been received is the way in which others wish to preserve the public memory of celebrities in particular. Much of this is controlled by personal agendas and financial considerations which in turn tend to mediate away from truth-telling. Fans in particular have their own myths relative to the deceased's persona and there is a strong desire to maintain those myths even in the face of post-morten disclosures by authorities, not to mention pronouncements from those claiming post-mortem contacts.


Some real-life examples will illustrate these issues. In one case, a well-known Australian television personality died quite unexpectedly. He made himself known to a medium shortly after his death with a message for his wife. The message was delivered, but not without some difficulty on the part of the medium who had only indirect contacts with the family. The message had to do with the personality's intentions regarding his memorial. Changes were made at the last minute to his memorial services based on the information discovered as a consequence of receiving this message. Despite all of this, the message was never publicly acknowledged by the man's widow or the family.

Another example involves a recent death of a worl-famous pop music star. Within hours of his passing the man made himself known to a medium. He was quite confused about his sudden death and kept asking what had happened and how he could return to his body. He was concerned about the family, especially his children, but did not want them contacted. Instead he wanted to know what people were saying about him in death. He was decidedly against moving on or transitioning to any form of afterlife. This case was so public, the medium was highly reticent to mention it to any degree publicly for fear that she would be perceived as trying to cash in on this tragic event. Yet she had been told that some things should be said publicly, presumably by her.


Remembering those who have deceased is a cherished part of our personal and public grieving. Often though, directly because we tend to focus inward during this process, we cut ourselves off from those who might have legitimate messages from the deceased who are trying to communicate after their passing. This is further complicated by the prevalence of irresponsible and fraudulent individuals masquerading as psychic practitioners. In celebrity cases there is a block from those who are affected in various ways by the celebrity passing and who are generally not disposed to acknowledge post-mortem communications. All of this creates a great sense of stress for credible mediums who are indeed receiving communications, many of which should be shared.

If those who knew the deceased well could validate their messages, the messages could be trusted to a degree. This would separate factual messages from those that are clearly fraudulent.

If we were more open to the potential for post-mortem communications and willing to integrate evidenciary and legitimate messages into the grieving process, what a difference this could make in the resolution and acceptance of passing as a transition from one life to another rather the cold end so many perceive it to be.