Self Proclaimed psychic Sylvia Browne has recently died, and the New York Times has a spot-on obituary for her. I am quite sure that she has many mourners, both within her family and among her many followers. However, in this case, the Times does not follow the common trope that we must not speak ill of the dead. Along with biological information the article comments on some of the obvious and extreme damage she has done to grieving and distressed families.
More than once, with the television cameras rolling, Ms. Browne told the parents of a missing child that their son or daughter was dead — sometimes she would say precisely where — only for the child to be found alive later. In 2004, she told the mother of the Ohio kidnapping victim Amanda Berry that her daughter was dead. Ms. Berry, held captive for more than a decade, was rescued this May.
She often took credit for accurately predicting that the government intern Chandra Levy would be found dead in Rock Creek Park in Washington — though law enforcement officials had been searching that area since shortly after she was reported missing in May 2001.
Further information can be found in the latest edition of The Skeptical Inquirer. In addition to her many best selling books, her sources of income included $700-$850 for a telephone reading. It’s a great way to get rich for the unscrupulous and ethically challenged.
Of course, she is not the only person who makes money off grief. The Marks family in Florida has recently been convicted of fraud, and John Edward, a favourite of Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Oz is another well known and proven huckster.
However, the trigger for this post in an article I came across by another so-called psychic, Karen Noe. She is also an author and the founder of the Angel Quest Center in New Jersey. She has list of 10 ways we can know that our deceased loved ones are still with us.
- They come through as an animal. Our loved ones are able to use their energy to go inside of an animal, such as a butterfly, ladybug, bird, or dragonfly – for a brief period of time. The animal does something it usually would not do
- They place common objects such as feathers, coins, or rocks in our path. Our loved ones like to place things over and over again in our path that were significant to them.
- They give off fragrances. We can often tell our deceased loved ones are around us when we smell their perfume, flowers, cigar or cigarette smoke, or any other familiar smell they had.
- They make songs come on at the perfect time.
- They come to us in dreams.
- They show us the same numbers over and over.
- They allow us to feel peaceful for no reason.
- They place thoughts in our head. Because they in spirit form, our loved ones don’t have an audible voice. Therefore, they give us messages telepathically.
- They love to play with electricity. They turn electricity on and off. They like to flicker lights, turn the television and radio on and off, and make appliances beep for no apparent reason.
- They make buzzing noises in our ears. Because our loved ones speak to us on a different, higher frequency, we may hear ringing in our ears when they are trying to get our attention.
It’s pretty easy to see that all of these events are actually very common in our everyday lives and happen frequently. It is only after a major event that we imagine any significance to them. People we have interacted with throughout their lives make an impression on us, and those we deeply care for, even more so. It does not require any type of mysticism to understand that random occurrences will bring up thoughts and memories. In fact , it would be very unusual if they didn’t. Has anyone not had similar experiences involving people who are still alive, and perhaps some who just walked out the door.
As a counterpoint, we are also reminded , for various reasons, of events in our lives that we would rather not remember. In extreme cases, we call this Post Traumatic Stress, we readily ridicule anyone who suggests that the people involved are ‘haunting’ us, especially when any people involved are still alive.
In Noe’s words “They really are okay and want you to be too!”, but any christian must admit that a certain proportion of the people in theirs lives is suffering the eternal torments of the damned for any of the unforgivable sins: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, “and such like”
If you consider the coincidences and naturalistic explanations for these events, we can accept that our loved ones live in our memories and the best way to reinforce these memories is through conversations with family and friends. Transferring money into the hands of someone preying on your grief is no way to honour or remember your loved ones.
Of course, even a diehard skeptic like me must recognize the reality of some spirits.