Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Psychic Sciences

People have been asking me about cold reading a lot lately, so I thought it was time to finally address this. To be a reader, it's best to know at least one psychic science, preferably more. I know to a skeptic the term sounds like an oxymoron. Really, we're just referring to systems that enable a reading.

Palmistry is one of the most common varieties as it's very easy to learn and study and can be done literally anywhere with no prior setup. There's a certain level of depth to it, but getting the fundamentals under your belt is typically all you need to start doing short readings.

Astrology is another popular choice because it still retains a certain ubiquity in our pop culture. Newspapers still print astrological horoscopes that are about as deep and accurate as a fortune cookie, but millions of Americans still swear by them.

Tarot cards remain popular even with all of the media out there showing them to be just fancy decks of cards with no supernatural qualities whatsoever. It's not uncommon to give readings using the only the major arcana, but using the full deck is also recommended.

Numerology is a little less common, but still very frequently seen among readers. Reason being that the use of numbers makes it look more like math or science and that leads many people to think that makes it more credible. It's really no more credible than the other psychic sciences, but that's largely irrelevant to the point, isn't it?

From here, we get into the psychic sciences that are popular within the New Age movement but don't have as large an audience outside that. The first would be tea leaves. By now most of us have seen the tea leaf reading scene in book 3 of the Harry Potter series and that's more or less what it's like if a bit less dramatic.

Gem stone readings are not uncommon in some regions, though they tend to have less appeal outside of the New Age movement. If you plan on doing a lot of readings in Sedona, Arizona you can probably find an audience for this easily. Otherwise, do you research on the local markets first.

Crystal gazing still has an avid following, though you have to be careful not to let this slip into the realm of camp. Considering how frequently crystal gazing has been lampooned in pop culture, that's pretty easy to do. Approach with caution and make sure you've got the acting chops to pull it off.

Rune readings are a bit niche, though if your city has a large Goth community such as LA or New York, it's worth looking into. The PUA community went through a fad of rune readings for a while, but I haven't seen that as much lately. Probably because, as I said, it's pretty niche.

There are others, though their popularity is even more niche than runes. Candles, free writing, doodles, dice, auras, etc. They can be a good way to provide people with something different and interesting or they can just be a total bear to have to explain to everyone. It really pays to know one of the more popular systems described above before you dabble in any of these.

Now why go through this? Because most of the people buying readings already believe in one or more of these systems. That's just where the market is. Ian Rowland in Full Facts of Cold Reading has said that you don't actually need to learn any psychic sciences to do a reading and can just fake it. He's half right. You don't need a psychic science to do a reading. But if you think you can do an astrology reading and just make crap up on the spot and no one is going to catch you, you're dreaming.

Again, this is where the market is. It's obvious that Mr. Rowland has never performed a paid reading for the shut eye market in his life. There's no other way he could make a statement that profoundly arrogant and ignorant. The shut eye market who are the most likely to buy readings are already familiar with these things. They know what the various star signs mean. They know what the major arcana mean. They know this stuff. And if you make up meanings for star signs or whatever, they will know you're taking them for a ride.

"Ah, The Hierophant! That means there's travel in your future!" Yeah, and if you pull my other leg it plays Judas Priest.

Mind, you can get creative with it. Docc Hilford describes a young man who does readings in a nightclub using Docc's System 88 program in which he gives readings to young ladies based on a kiss test. They give him a kiss, and he makes his reading from there. No kidding. Of course, unless you've got the charisma I don't recommend trying that yourself.

The point is that if you're going to be doing readings, you should have one of these systems ready to go. It's part and parcel with the job. If you find these psychic sciences so offensive to your sensibilities that you refuse to learn them or use them to facilitate readings, then you're probably not cut out to do readings at all.

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