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{Originaklly published September 2004}

In a former life, I was an archbishop.  A powerful figure in the Catholic church.

That’s just one of the amazing things I learned at the Colorado Springs Metaphysical Fair.  I learned the color yellow cleans my liver, a spirit guide hovers over my right shoulder, and a light bulb stuck in salt improves my health. 

Being a skeptic means demanding extraordinary evidence for extraordinary claims.  But being human means being open to new experiences.  So it was with equal parts trepidation and determination that I gave up a beautiful Colorado Saturday afternoon, paid my five bucks and walked in to the exhibit hall.

First I watched some readings.  There were many different kinds, but I was struck by the similarities.  The “psychics” made constant eye contact, and did their best to get the customer to talk.  This wasn’t too tough.

It all looked like a carnival technique called “cold reading”.  You start with visual clues about the target, and then throw things out for a response.  A sympathetic client will respond to hints and let you know if you’re on the right track. 

One way to throw off cold readers is to clam up.  Don’t talk, just let their psychic powers work by themselves.  After all, isn’t that what you paid your $15 for?  So that’s what I did with my psychic.  I picked one at random, told her (truthfully) this was my first reading, and off we went.

Looking into her “clairvoyant space”, she saw career changes, family issues, and an upcoming crossover to a major transition point.  All of this was news to me, but I said nothing, continuing only to make eye contact and nod sympathetically.  She talked about two of my past lives:  Growing up in a wealthy family in the Old West, and an earlier incarnation as a Catholic archbishop. 

(Why do past lives always involve wealth and power?  Wasn’t anyone a ditch digger or peasant?  Still, my psychic made it clear that I was not the Pope, so I guess that’s something.  I know my rabbi will be pleased.)

My psychic said that past life experiences showed I was repressed emotionally.  I needed validation to express my feelings.  (No surprise  there, I deliberately didn’t talk much).  She also talked about physical changes in my body in the near future. (I’m a man in his mid-forties with gray in his beard, duh). 

Her psychic abilities revealed I was rejecting the repressive religion in which I was raised.  She wanted me to know it was OK to integrate spirituality into religion.  Remember, she knew this was my first psychic reading.  Since this is Colorado Springs, she probably had me pegged as an evangelical Christian looking at alternatives.  All standard cold reading stuff.

I thanked her as politely as I could, and headed for the door.  I was bummed about being set back $17, but glad for the extra two bucks I paid for a tape recording.  Those $2 were for you, dear reader.

Thanks to the wonders of real science, you can experience my psychic reading and make up your own mind, all in the privacy of your own home.  I’ve posted the tape and a transcript HERE.  Enjoy.

On my way out, I passed by a booth promoting the film “What The #$*! Do We Know?”. Hoping for a thoughtful exploration of quantum mechanics and philosophy, I took in the late show that night. 

Unfortunately, the film is an unadulterated piece of New Age garbage.  Bad writing, worse science.  It makes Michael Moore look objective.

Some readers will say I don’t have an open mind.   I try as best I can.  But having an open mind doesn’t mean anything gets in.  Critical thinkers are like good colleges.  Our minds are open, but the admission standards are high.

The producers of the film and the exhibitors at the Metaphysical Fair have one thing in  common.  They’re convinced science supports their trendy New Age philosophy.  Nonsense.  Science provides our best understanding of the natural world so far.  That’s all.

What the #$*! do we know?  Quite a lot, actually.  We know that if something looks like #$*! and smells like #$*!, then it is #$*! until proven otherwise. 

Sometimes, you don’t need philosophy.  Common sense will do just fine.