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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Mentally Speaking » » Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium (19 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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January
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I was merely commenting on the use of the term "fraud," which is a legal term, but one could use in a more informal way as well. I do think the conversations have a tendency to become circular.

I've started reading the book as a result of this thread, however. It's at least entertaining so far, and I enjoy texts that present complex ethical problems.
January
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So I just read the first 80 or so pages of the book during the break at work, and I have to say--I'm a bit confused by the ethical lines he draws for himself.

He seems to think cold-reading is somehow more virtuous than warm/hot, and that using more straight up mentalism techniques is somehow underhanded.

I think I agree with Iain on this. He describes the behavior of others as bordering on "blatant criminality" for their use of pre-show work, while he is participating in it, and was apparently fine with just using Barnum statements, etc., to accomplish the exact same effect. A lot of stone-throwing for a glass house owner, but still an interesting read so far.
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Maybe someone could post up a video of lark mewis?

I think that's his name...
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Tony Iacoviello
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Quote:
On Mar 15, 2017, IAIN wrote:
Maybe someone could post up a video of lark mewis?

I think that's his name...


I saw a video posted here of that gentleman doing a palm reading just a few weeks ago. The reading was fantastic!

Tony
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On Mar 15, 2017, Tony Iacoviello wrote:
Quote:
On Mar 15, 2017, IAIN wrote:
Maybe someone could post up a video of lark mewis?

I think that's his name...


I saw a video posted here of that gentleman doing a palm reading just a few weeks ago. The reading was fantastic!

Tony


Here is a link to the video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8ZV8X22U_c

Tony
seadog93
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On Mar 14, 2017, Max Maven wrote:
It would seem your reading has not been all that thorough, as the text you missed is contained in the first two pages -- i.e., the Introduction.


I came back to this thread because of this post, and a back and forth that seems to have been deleted.
Just yesterday I thought to re-read the Introduction to Mr. Maven's book on divination and (despite protestations) it presents his views on divination in an extremely clear way that both takes him out of the false dualism of believer/skeptic, but also makes it 100% reasonable and 'ethical' to have written a full book on divination (besides the fact that it's a fascinating subject and why shouldn't he!?).

EDIT:
And to keep it on topic...
...I thought Psychic Blues was great. I read it right after it came out. It doesn't matter if or what I personally agree or disagree with in terms of best practices, it's always fascinating to read the experience of a long time pro in the field.
"Love is the magician who pulls man out of his own hat" - Ben Hecht

"Love says 'I am everything.' Wisdom says 'I am nothing'. Between the two, my life flows." -Nisargadatta Maharaj

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January
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Quote:

...I thought Psychic Blues was great. I read it right after it came out. It doesn't matter if or what I personally agree or disagree with in terms of best practices, it's always fascinating to read the experience of a long time pro in the field.


I agree--one doesn't have to embrace the ethical ideas contained in a text to enjoy reading the text. I enjoyed reading Psychic Blues.

The strange contradictions in the text were interesting to me.
*Spoiler alerts*

Edwards would criticize people who didn't believe he really possessed psychic powers (e.g., the radio DJ he worked with for a while). Even when the DJ didn't fall for elaborate pranks like Edwards having his friends call in to the show, this seem to anger Edwards even further. He described the DJ as "short-sighted"--as though the DJ was somehow of inferior mind for not being fooled into believe him. It seemed like if he weren't so bent on having to convince the DJ that he really possessed powers, he could have avoided developing an antagonistic relationship with the guy.

That said, he would also describe those who were fooled as inferior for being fooled so easily. Furthermore, when he finally succeeds in REALLY fooling people, suddenly he starts expressing guilt about it.

In the same way, I couldn't really tell if he loved or hated working as a psychic. Probably it was a bit of both. Sometimes his descriptions seem glamorous and impressive and then they suddenly shift to something that sounds only slightly better than working a kid's birthday party. When people weren't interested in his readings, he seemed bothered. When people were overly interested in his readings, he was annoyed. He described a few good readings, but it seemed like the majority were frustrating to him and potentially the sitter as well. I know psychics often blame misses on the sitters purposefully and subtly to make themselves seem more accurate, but it seems he had internalized this practice to the point he wasn't quite self aware of it, as it dominates his book.

I guess I just expected a veteran like him to have developed a sort of realistic, laid-back approach to the endeavor, but he seemed to be searching and always unsatisfied, always having an ideal picture of how it was supposed to be in his head, and continually frustrated when reality inevitably failed to live up to his expectations.

But I guess all that was in the title, after all. Smile
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Yes, I thought those contradictions were great. They showed a conflicted realism that you don't often see/read.
I hadn't thought about the DJ bit in the way you mention, but that is hilarious and right on.
"Love is the magician who pulls man out of his own hat" - Ben Hecht

"Love says 'I am everything.' Wisdom says 'I am nothing'. Between the two, my life flows." -Nisargadatta Maharaj

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January
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Yeah, just to be clear--I'm not bashing Edwards; I genuinely found that conflicted aspect of his persona compelling. I think we've all experienced it to some degree or another. It's frustrating when people won't be fooled, but when we fool people too easily, we often respect them less, or even feel guilty.
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I finished the book last night...well worth a read, but again - couldn't shake the double standards throughout...its written like he's almost "undercover" in some respects...even though he is blatant...strange in a way...
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January
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On Mar 22, 2017, IAIN wrote:
I finished the book last night...well worth a read, but again - couldn't shake the double standards throughout...its written like he's almost "undercover" in some respects...even though he is blatant...strange in a way...


I think my only criticism of the book is that he 1) refuses ultimately to say why he thinks cold reading, tarot, etc. are OK, but other methods are wrong, and 2) doesn't chronicle how those beliefs evolved, if they did.

It seems to me that one's beliefs almost have to evolve over time, and with experience. When Edwards expresses guilt, sometimes it's unclear whether he felt guilty at the time, or only in retrospect. I'd love to hear him sum up his beliefs in the last chapter, but instead we get a strange hodge-podge of sentiments, similar to what we've heard before, along with the declaration that as long as there are flawed people who will fall for psychic readings, he'll have a job.

For the weird ethical line he draws regarding method, see pg. 218:
Quote:
In the purest sense, being "psychic" is paying attention without deception. My tricks of the trade have hopefully demonstrated how easy it is to increase my accuracy. I haven't been averse to using the most blatant cons to get information, thereby heightening my visibility. Being too accurate has proven to unrealistic. Ultimately, any attempt to magically dazzle has never made a difference in whether or not a sitter has bought into my "gift." Preaching to the choir is always a waste of time. People will believe whatever they want to believe.
But watch out. Some of my peers operating in the vast psychic marketplace may not share my sense of conscience and will blithely tell you the name of your first-grade teacher, the color of the car you once owned, or your dog's nickname, since it's all out there now for anyone who does his or her homework. It's not magick, only an inevitable technological toehold.


He makes it very clear that in the introduction that he doesn't believe in any spirit guides, or supernatural powers at all. So isn't the fundamental deception the claim to be psychic? How is cold reading less deceptive than researching someone online? How does someone who makes a living doing "psychic readings" get to say that psychics who use online research don't have a conscience?


What is the craziest thing, in my opinion, is James Randi's foreword!

Read it--
Quote:
Mark freely admits that he's a performer, not of supernatural wonders, but of pretty d--n clever mind tricks that are revealed in the pages of this book. There are so many lessons to be learned from Psychic Blues and so many points to be made that a companion book enumerating these subtleties could easily be drawn up.
Thank you, Mark Edward. Just don't wander over to The Dark Side or I'll have to come after you.

-James Randi


One has to wonder if Randi even read the book. Out of the ~240 pages of the book, how many are devoted to "pretty clever tricks"?

9 pages. That's it. A short little chapter on his work at the Magic Castle.

The rest of the book chronicles his working as a traveling reader, radio psychic, a psychic on a 900 line, doing private readings, a psychic reader at parties, etc. In none of these instances did Edwards's claim to be a "performer of clever tricks"--quite the opposite! He claimed to be "a performer of supernatural wonders." As I've mentioned, if people accused him of merely working "clever tricks," he went to outrageous lengths to convince them otherwise.

In all of these endeavors, Edwards was absolutely claiming to be the real deal. Edwards seems like precisely the kind of guy Randi hates. I honestly am not much of a Randi fan because I find his entire goals a little misguided, so how do I feel that Edwards is unethical but Randi praises him? I don't get it. Does merely writing an obscure book in which you own up to "it was all a trick!" make it OK to do what is undoubtedly in Randi's mind duping and swindling people for decades?

What would be "going over to the Dark Side" to Randi? It seems like Edwards has done absolutely everything in the book that Randi hates. Honestly, people could easily argue that (again, from the radical skeptic Randi perspective, which I don't necessarily agree with) that Edwards duped and potentially harmed far more people than someone like Uri Geller, who Randi seemed so bent on destroying.

How on earth did Randi, of all people, write that foreword?! Does anyone have any ideas?! Seriously asking!
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On Mar 23, 2017, January wrote:

How on earth did Randi, of all people, write that foreword?! Does anyone have any ideas?! Seriously asking!


Yes, lots of people have ideas.

You just need to read more about Mark. You're a teacher, right?

try his Wikipedia page and then "Project Alpha"

s
January
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With Project Alpha, are you confusing Mark Edward with Michael Edwards, the man involved in Project Alpha?

I do know about the "skeptic" work of Mark Edward, and IMO only makes him seem more two-faced. His book is full of examples where he claims he helped people by doing, what is by his own account, outright lying and deception. Some of these people were suicidal, in abusive relationships, etc. What did he offer them? I'm sure Randi would label it woo-woo speak. If Edward genuinely believed in psychic powers, it'd be one thing, but it seems even more dishonest in light of his supposed status as a skeptic. Yes, his book reveals the methods of psychics and mentalists, but at the same time, it seems to condone cold-reading and Tarot as authentic while demonizing other methods, which I don't understand. As a skeptic, shouldn't he be devoted to totally repudiating his past work, instead of bragging about it? And why isn't Randi horrified at that?

Edward still gives psychic readings at parties, etc. If you've read his book, you will have no doubt that the sitters for these readings are led to believe that they are receiving a genuine, real psychic reading.
Edward currently advertises them on his site in a manner that should make any Randi-ite squeamish:
Quote:
Mark considers himself an entertainer first, and a psychic (if such a thing is indeed possible) second. Intuitive skills, mixed with good will carries through as the most accurate way to describe what a sitting with Mark is like. No tricks or magician scams are used or in any way necessary.


Again, I don't personally have a problem with something like the above, but it's certainly not something I could see the hyper-skeptic Randi endorsing--especially since in the foreword Randi says that Edward only claims to be the performer of clever tricks, but his own website explicitly says no tricks are used when referring to his psychic readings.

EDIT: Just to be clear--I'm not much like Randi. I don't seek to destroy the career of every psychic I see who crosses a line I wouldn't. Though I find some of the things recorded in Edward's book a bit disturbing, but overall, I enjoyed the book. The idea that Randi endorsed it, however, still seems quite a stretch to me, for all the reasons given above!

I suppose my main problem with Edward (if I have one) is that it seems he's eager to sell himself as a legit psychic when there's money to be made, and similarly, to sell himself as a skeptic when there's money to be made from that, all along the way exposing the methods used by many fellow mentalists and magicians who have never tried to swindle anyone, along the way using terms like "scam" to disparage these fellow performers.
seadog93
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On Mar 23, 2017, January wrote:
I do know about the "skeptic" work of Mark Edward, and IMO only makes him seem more two-faced. ...


I suppose my main problem with Edward (if I have one) is that it seems he's eager to sell himself as a legit psychic when there's money to be made, and similarly, to sell himself as a skeptic when there's money to be made from that, all along the way exposing the methods used by many fellow mentalists and magicians who have never tried to swindle anyone, along the way using terms like "scam" to disparage these fellow performers.


I agree.
Randi is also two-faced, with situational ethics (e.g. "it's NOT okay to lie/cheat, ...unless it's me and it furthers my interests or promoted worldview).
Makes sense.
"Love is the magician who pulls man out of his own hat" - Ben Hecht

"Love says 'I am everything.' Wisdom says 'I am nothing'. Between the two, my life flows." -Nisargadatta Maharaj

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January
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Yeah, I know Randi has some pretty troubling deceptions in his history.
(Warning--this is a bit of a tangent.)
I too, have been guilty of hypocrisy in my life, so the throwing stones in a glass house is always a good admonition.
So for me the traditional thing is to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. I know we all draw different ethical lines, but unless I see someone placed in real danger, I'm not going to go screw up their performance just because they've crossed a line I wouldn't have crossed. I won't run up and reveal their method just because they didn't give this or that kind of disclaimer in their show or whatever.

There have been a lot of specials that revealed mentalism methods that are probably only rarely used by psychics. If one really wanted to debunk psychics, I think one would do better to point out the failure rate of prominent psychics, etc. That's a much stronger case IMO. Unless you really want to reveal every method available to mentalists and magicians, psychics will always have a methodological place to hide, so I don't really think the endeavor of debunking psychics by revealing method will ever be successful without really doing some damage to the mentalism/magic community.

Lastly, just to be clear, although I'm somewhat skeptic, I think it's possible, though not probable that some sort of psychic phenomena exists that hasn't been documented yet. But now I'm getting quite off topic. Smile
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