Do Psychics Really Have Mystic Powers?
Editor’s Note: The following question was received recently from one of our readers in Great Britain. We have asked a friend, Steve Lloyd, a highly respected minister of the gospel, and a student of “magic” for almost 40 years, to respond. Our readers should find his observations fascinating.
“Prior to my parents’ conversion to Christianity, they visited a psychic who predicted certain things that were supposed to happen in our family. The things predicted seemingly turned out to be true! For example, the psychic predicted that my mother would have two unplanned pregnancies in the future and would resort to two abortions. This happened. The psychic said my dad would have an affair; he did. The psychic also was able to cite certain events from the past. How are these things to be explained?”
Steve Lloyd’s Response
The short answer to your question is this: psychics have no power, either to predict future events or to cause what they predict to come to pass. You are wise to avoid them.
To flesh out the answer further, let me direct your attention to Isaiah 40-48. In this entire section the Lord sets Himself apart from the idols of the people by affirming that He alone will tell them what will happen before it happens, so that when the event takes place they can know that He is God. A corollary point made is that because He can do this (among other things) He cannot be compared to anyone else (Isaiah 40:18,25). Yahweh [Jehovah] challenges the other gods:
“Let them bring forth, and declare unto us what shall happen: declare ye the former things, what they are, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or show us things to come. Declare the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together” (Isaiah 41:22-23).
The ability to know the future is restricted to God. That’s the point of the text. It makes sense that if God is the only one with the ability to know the future, then only those with God’s help could foretell it — like Daniel (Daniel 2:26-28; cf. 2 Peter 1:20-21), and in foretelling it, God is the one extolled for the ability.
Modern-day psychics fit nowhere into the picture just painted.
I have studied sleight-of-hand as a hobby for nearly 40 years, and have had the opportunity to hear some of the world’s most proficient exponents lecture on the subject, and explain their secrets.
I visited a magic shop years ago and overheard one of the customers say something about his act. He was a professional “mind-reader.” I struck up a conversation with him long enough for him to say, “I don’t tell the people I read minds, but I don’t tell them I don’t either.”
I heard a professional performer lecture at a club for magic enthusiasts on how to make extra money at psychic fairs.
“You develop nine ‘lines’ to deliver to customers. When the first customer extends their palm to be read you deliver the first three lines. You deliver the second set of three lines to the next customer and the third set of three to the third. And then you recycle the lines for the fourth through sixth, and so on. You recycle the lines so no one is ever in earshot of what you said to the other customers.”
I am not suggesting that all “psychics” operate this way. I am simply offering you a case in point.
Much of what passes for psychic readings today is nothing more than what those “in the know” refer to as “cold readings.” You may be familiar with John Edward, a self-professed psychic. Edward’s psychic abilities were discussed August 2001 on a public Internet forum for magicians hosted by Genii Magazine.
Here are some of the comments made by some of the professionals that offered their two cents worth. (Doris Stokes, referred to below, was a famous medium.)
“John [Edward] basically does Doris Stokes’ old act. And, he does it brilliantly. There is no doubt, he is a brilliant cold-reader.”
“That is Doris Stokes’ old act, word for word!”
“I did cold reading at Caesars Resorts for about 2 years and I think John is doing a great job. I don’t really have an ethical problem with it. He’s not advising on investments or on how the spectators should live their lives. He’s just giving people a little piece of mind.”
Although I am no expert in “cold reading” (in that I’ve never performed one), the concept is simple enough to grasp. If the “psychic” wants to reveal something about a person’s past, he or she begins fishing for affirming nods or verbal agreements from the one on whom the “reading” is being conducted. They continue along these lines, making very general statements, until they are satisfied they have “revealed” something that would impress you, or at least earn them their money.
Danny Korem was hired by Mike Douglas [a popular talk show host of some years ago] to be a “plant” in his television audience. Korem is a magician. Douglas’ guest was a psychic. When Douglas asked for a volunteer from the audience, Korem volunteered. The psychic performed a “cold reading” on Korem. Douglas then introduced Korem as a magician, and produced a sealed envelope from his coat pocket. The envelope contained a “prediction” of things the psychic would say about Korem.
One man has described psychics as “terrorists of the mind.”
If it is the future they are foretelling, their predictions are vague enough to be “fulfilled” in any number of ways. One woman was told that her life would be filled with song. Her daughter became a song leader in high school. I have often wondered how many of the speculative predictions that fit in the realm of the fantastic, but have failed, are ever revisited.
I am persuaded that the reason psychics — or for that matter astrologers, fortune tellers, Ouiji boards, and such like — are an abomination to the Lord is that they encourage people to place their confidence in someone or something other than God and His will for their lives (Deuteronomy 18:11,12).
You wrote that you want to lead your life in freedom from the predictions made by a psychic. God sets us free in a variety of ways; in this case, it would be a freedom from fear over what a psychic has predicted.
Fear Him and you need not fear anyone else (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Matthew 10:28; 1 Peter 2:17).