Archive for the ‘Paranormal’ Category

How Does the Paranormal Work… If It’s not Real

So, awhile back, I wrote a piece about casting spells, how to do it, and how I think it works, along with a couple other ideas on how other people think it works. However, I left out how people who don’t believe in magic think it works. This is the piece that presents their ideas on what is at work.

Say what? People who don’t believe in magic have no reason to think it works, right? Well, right, but they also know that some people do think it works, and sometimes remarkable things happen or seem to happen. So, they’ve studied it and come to some of their own conclusions. Whether or not they’re right about all paranormal effects resulting from these phenomena, you definitely want to know about their insights, because they are all real effects observable in other areas of study, and they are things that you can do to trick yourself into thinking you’re performing some paranormal activity when you aren’t. By no means is this list complete, but it should give you something to think about.

1) Confirmation Bias

This is when you subconsciously pick and choose your evidence. The time you nail the exact card being drawn from a deck of cards sticks out in your mind more than all the times you get the wrong card. That one part of one dream you had (and wrote down), then it happened sticks out compared to all the dreams you had that have never come true. Forcing eight heads in a row to come up out of ten coin tosses, even though most of the time you end up with four to six. Unfortunately, this really doesn’t mean anything, because statistically speaking, that one time is insignificant compared to all the times nothing happened.

Wikipedia’s Article on Confirmation Bias

2) False Memories

Ever have a dream, then something happens just like what happened in the dream, and that causes you to remember the dream you had? If you didn’t write it down, what may have happened is you constructing a false memory instead. It’s actually very common for us to construct false memories, because our memories aren’t anywhere close to perfect. It’s just how we are. Anytime you have a vision, dream, or other prediction of the future, but don’t write it down before the future event happens, it could be you creating a false memory of predicting the event instead.

A News Story on Meta Religion about False Memories

3) The Placebo Effect

Technically speaking, this is something that happens when you think you should be healing, so your body activates systems designed to induce healing. In most clinical trials of new drugs, there are two groups of people told they are receiving the new drug, but one group is given a placebo pill, which is just a capsule containing sugar, milk, and/or other inert substances that don’t provide any medical benefit. And sometimes, people taking placebos show just as much improvement as those taking the real medication on trial, and it’s simply the act of taking a pill causes the body to use it’s own healing systems to take care of the problem.

Now, the first area to look for a placebo effect is in energetic healing. When people go to see a healer, if they fully believe the healer can help them, they actually might. However, the way it happens would be by inducing a placebo effect in the patient which causes their bodies to heal themselves. Obviously, placebo effects don’t cure everything, but they can hit a lot of common ailments that aren’t too serious, and even some serious ailments. To be clear, this is not to say placebos could replace real medicine, however, they are a real effect shown to exist and they are scientifically explainable.

Another area where you might see a “placebo effect” is in general energy manipulation. I put it in quotes because it’s not truly a placebo effect, but a lot of people seem to believe it’s a similar response. Basically, you expect to feel subtle energy, so your body obliges you and provides a tingling sensation to simulate the feeling of subtle energy. Heat, cold, wind, and tingling are all common perceptions to energy manipulators, which makes sense, because people commonly associate these feelings with energy of some kind.

Read about the placebo effect at Science Daily

In Conclusion

The point of this isn’t to say the paranormal does not exist. If you read my site, you know I do believe in paranormal things. Rather, the point is to air some real science that explains at least some of what seems paranormal, and to remind everyone that just because it seems paranormal doesn’t mean it is. In general, people interested in the paranormal are far more easily swayed than those who don’t, because those who are interested are inclined to believe things like “anything is possible” and “you can’t know for sure”. While both of these things are technically true, they are not license to throw out all the knowledge we have, and doing so can lead to problems. So just remember to keep your head about you, and don’t be too quick to label things as paranormal when there may be another explanation.

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Ethics of Magic (And Some Possible Side Effects)

Recently, I wrote a piece about how to cast a spell. In hindsight, I probably should have written this piece first, but at the time I was thinking about trying to write something that got to the good stuff, what I was always looking to find when I went hunting for information on the paranormal. However, how you use magic is also very important.

Now, that said, I don’t believe for a minute you have to be pure of heart to use magic. I’ve known people who are far from pure (by their own admission) who have been capable of doing some pretty awesome things. So, the ability itself isn’t restricted to those who are perfect. I think this thought came about simply because we don’t want to consider that someone unethical could make use of something we don’t understand for their own gain, especially at the expense of others, and especially at our expense.

Of course, since we’re all human, we all do things we regret once in awhile. The point of this piece isn’t to say “BAD!  Don’t do that!”  Rather, it’s to make you think about what you’re doing so you can understand the ethical implications and decide for yourself what to do.

The biggest rule of thumb is this: if you could do this without using magic, would you find it ethical to do it that way? If so, it’s a safe bet it’s ethical to use magic to do it as well. If not, it’s probably not ethical to use magic to do it either.

My general rule is simply if it doesn’t cause harm to someone else, it should be ok to do it. However, you have to realize that I’m talking about all kinds of harm, not just physical harm. Subverting someone’s free will is causing harm. Stealing their property is harm. Causing them to lose their job is harm. Basically, if you wouldn’t want it done to you (and you aren’t a masochist), it’s probably causing harm and you shouldn’t do it.

As an example to what I’m talking about, most people who have found my guide to casting spells have found it by looking for love spells. Now, love spells as a whole aren’t necessarily bad, but I would say that some kinds are. The kind of love spell that is cast to make someone fall in love with you would fall into the bad category. You’re attempting to subvert their free will to make them love you. Not only is this bad because you’re subverting their free will, but it’s also bad because, if the spell were successful, then it wouldn’t really be love, because the person the spell was cast upon wouldn’t have chosen it.

On the other hand, there are other ways to use magic in the quest for a suitable partner. For instance, casting a spell to cause you to cross paths with someone compatible with you, or your soul mate, or something along those lines doesn’t invalidate anyone’s free will. It just sets up circumstances for you to meet someone who you might find you have a mutual bond of love with. You aren’t forcing anyone to do anything with this type of love spell, you’re just nudging events to work out well for you and the mystery person who you happen to find.

Likewise, money spells, in general, aren’t a bad thing either. With these, it is a good idea to specify that you don’t want harm to come to anyone, as inspecific magic can have unintended effects. You don’t want to cast a money spell only to find that your money is coming by inheritance. However, a desire to have money is perfectly natural, as it tends to help us along in life in numerous ways. Some people say spells like this show greed, I say so long as they’re cast in a way that won’t hurt anyone, they’re perfectly fine. I’ve found they don’t tend to be very successful, though a few people report success. Money seems to be weirdly hard to effect via magic though. However, it’s certainly not unethical to try to get more.

Also, what I said about unintended consequences and making part of the spell a specific request not to cause harm is probably good advice for any spell you cast, so you don’t wind up inadvertently causing harm some way you didn’t expect.

Something else to keep in mind is that some traditions of magic believe in forces such as karma and the Threefold Law. If they’re right, anytime you cast a spell with positive intentions, to help yourself or another, it also brings good to you. If you cast a spell with negative intentions, to harm yourself or another, then it will bring harm to you as well. Personally, I don’t think there’s a universal law that says this will happen.

That said, if you gather enough negative energy around you from casting negative spells, I could see that drawing some unpleasant events to you. Likewise, if you gather enough positive energy around you over time, I could see that manifesting some good events in your life. But I don’t think it’s a hard and fast rule so much as it’s something that builds over time. I also think this could be manipulated with the right knowledge of subtle energy, so someone could clean away the negative energy if they knew what they were doing, or simply build up the positive energy on their own.

The main point I want to get across though, is that you should consider magic just as any other tool. If you would find it ethical to do something without the use of magic, then using magic to do it would also be ethical by your code of ethics. If you would find it unethical without magic, then using magic to do it would also be unethical. Please be responsible with your spells. While we don’t know for sure whether they work or not, it’s best to be careful so we don’t harm others with anything we do.

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How to Cast a Spell

It’s true there are a lot of these kinds of guides on the internet. They all seem to have their own slant though, so I feel as though it can’t hurt to add my own perspective on this. While I’m going to attempt to make this as comprehensive as I can, I’m still working only from my own experiences and limited research, so there will be plenty more information out there. So even if you find this is a good starting point, if you feel like something is missing, look around the internet or in bookstores and libraries, and you’ll probably find it. Or you could also ask for clarification in the comments section if you like as well.

What Is Magic?

First off, if you travel in paranormal circles, you might notice I don’t use a “k” at the end of magic like some people do. I don’t think the differentiation is needed between stage magic and real magic because, like many words, context tells the story. The most common definition you’ll find for magic will be something along the lines of “causing change to occur in conformity to will.” Basically, if you want something to happen, you can make it happen. Obviously, this assumes some sort of mystical component, and not just wanting a sandwich, then getting up and making one.

That said, magic is subtle. You don’t wave your hands, chant, and get a big ball of fire to throw at someone. This is real life, and the laws of physics don’t just break with the wave of your hand and some visualization. To use an idea I’ve heard before, magic is basically active prayer. I’ll slightly contradict this point later, but it makes the point now that you can expect results from magic that are similar to what you might expect from praying. You figure out what you want, you cast a spell to make it happen, then you move on with your life, working towards your goal, and if you were successful, your spell will help you out and help bring you what you wanted in time. It’s spiritual reinforcement for your goals. It doesn’t just make what you want appear, it just helps you out a bit. Certainly, one can dispute whether magic or prayer actually does anything to help, but many people do believe in the power of prayer, magic, or both, and it does seem to help in some cases.

As I alluded to earlier, I do make a distinction between magic and prayer. To me, calling upon a higher power, such as God, other spirits, angels, and other entities such as these is prayer. Using subtle energies, such as the classical elements, psi, or the energy of celestial bodies and setting your intention into it before letting it do the work is magic. Also, while some who use magic will advocate commanding entities to do things for you, I highly disagree with this approach, since at best you’re being rude and at worst you’re forcing them to work for you against their will. Surely you can simply offer a prayer and ask for what you want if you want the help of other entities. Seems the kinder thing to do if you ask me.

How Does Magic Work?

We don’t know. Simply put, this is the only answer I have. However, there are a few different possible ideas people have on this, and I’m going to share a few.

God Does It

The idea here is that God, or one of many gods, or spirits, or some other non-physical entity always has to intercede to make magic work. If this is the case, then casting the spell isn’t at all what makes something happen, but rather the interceding entity does all the work. He or she notices that you’re trying to make something happen, and decides to help you out. Alternatively, if you call on any of these entities, then they decide to help you out when they hear your plea.

Intention Manifestation

This is the idea that you attract whatever you think about. By thinking about something, you draw it to you. If this is the case, it’s the act of thinking about what you want that brings it to you, and casting a spell is just a mechanism that makes you think about it in a focused manner that communicates what you want to the universe. How you cast the spell doesn’t matter at all in this case, so long as you focus on what you want.

Energy Imprints

This is how I think magic works, and it’s actually pretty similar to intention manifestation in some ways. The idea here is that through focused intent, you can imprint your desires on the subtle energy permeating the universe, both on the physical plane and the subtle planes that coexist alongside the physical plane. From there, the change in the mental planes permeates through all the other planes until reaching the physical plane and causing a change here. The most important thing to realize is that thoughts become reality on subtle planes far removed from the physical plane, and in order to have them come through, they have to have enough “density” and energy to them to travel through all the intervening space. So, with enough focus, you build up the energy and strength of what you want on a mental plane so it can travel to you on the physical plane, and if it reaches you, you get what you were aiming for. Of course, working toward your goal also reinforces the spell, since thinking about it will provide more energy and “heft” to it and rejuvenate it if it’s almost ready to dissipate. Plus, you should be working toward your goal anyway, because magic won’t generally solve your problems for you without you taking some kind of action.

How Do You Cast a Spell?

If you’re anything like me, this is the part you’ve just skipped to without reading anything above. If so, that’s cool with me, just realize that what I said above provides some context for what I’ll say here. Most importantly, the way I think magic works and the ethics of dealing with other spiritual entities will definitely color my descriptions of the different ways you can cast spells.

Moving on though, you should know there is no one method to casting a spell, and many people experiment quite a bit before finding one they like. You can usually mix and match a few of these together to form a spell that’s right for you. The most important part is making sure you build up enough energy and get your intent out there, so it can make it back to you and bring you what you want.

Prayer

I don’t generally consider praying to be casting a spell, as prayer is asking someone else to do the job for you. However, many people do see prayer as magic, and I feel as though it’s appropriate to give this method a mention. Choose a powerful, benevolent being you believe in, and ask for help and guidance. Generally speaking, I feel most comfortable with prayer when it’s to help someone else out, or when it’s for something I really need for myself. I’d rather not ask for things I don’t really need, because it feels like God must have better things to do than grant every wish someone might have. Naturally, there are other viewpoints on this, it’s just my own take on the matter. I like to reserve prayer for things that are really important.

Directly Imprint Subtle Energy

This is the method I use most often. The idea is to draw in ambient energy from around you, imprint it with thoughts of what you would like to happen, then send it off to do it’s work. It’s a difficult process to describe, so the best I can do is give you guideposts. Basically, you want to try to mentally reach out and feel the energy around you. When you have a feel for it, mentally draw it towards you. From here, you can either allow it to hover close around you, or you can compress it into a little ball of energy between your hands, commonly known as a psi ball. Either way, once you have a substantial amount of energy gathered, think about what it is you want, and imagine the energy you’ve gathered holding this thought with you. This imprints your desire into the energy. From there, release the energy back into the universe, where the imprinted thoughts will work to bring what you want to you. Also, when working with energy, don’t try to force it. It tends to work much better if you guide it and let it flow after that.

An alternative to this is to gather elemental energies, which already have certain thoughts associated with them. For instance, water is widely regarded as soothing and healing, while earth is regarded as strong and protecting. Fire can be passionate, sustaining, or destructive, and air could be about communication and mental acuity. Of course, there are far more associations than just these, but they’re a start. The idea behind using elemental energies is that they already carry imprinted ideas, so using the right element will help reinforce the ideas you imprint, or you can not imprint anything at all if you’re just looking to improve the general traits that element posseses.

Find or Create a Ritual

It’s widely agreed that creating a ritual is more powerful than using one that has been created by someone else. However, you may want to search the internet for some premade rituals just to get an idea of what you might want to put into a ritual.

You can have a chant of some kind, which usually takes the form of poetry about what you would like to happen. If used in conjunction with prayer, you may also invoke a higher power and ask for his or her help in your chant as well. Naturally, this doesn’t have to be a poem, however, many people feel the cadence and possible rhyming poetry has helps set the mood of the spell.

You also may have certain materials on hand. Crystals are a very popular item, and if you look around online, you’ll find different associations with different crystals, or you can just choose the ones that feel right for creating the situation you hope to create. Salt is also a commonly used item if you feel creating a protective circle is important. The circle is generally used to protect against negative energies and entities getting involved in your spell. I’ve never found this to be necessary, but many people think it’s important, so certainly cast a circle first if you feel it’s necessary.

You may also wish to use correspondences such as the moon phases. In general, a waxing moon is a good time to cast spells to bring something into your life, such as new friends, a new lover, or monetary prosperity. A waning moon is a good time to cast spells meant to drop something from your life, such as that smoking habit you’d like to kick. Since I’ve brought it up though, I feel I should issue a word of caution on spells for love and friendship. You shouldn’t cast spells to make specific people become your friends or lover, because if it were successful, it would subvert their free will to choose. Rather, the ethical way to do this is to cast a spell to bring people to you who would like to be your friend or lover, so you can find each other in the first place. Yes, this is off topic, but it’s a point that ought to be made since it’s come up.

Back to the topic of ritual magic now, I want to describe a little bit about how I think it works. Basically, the idea is that going through the ritual will draw the energy you need to you without you consciously pulling it in yourself. I recommend building energy on your own as well, as I described in the previous section, but it’s up to you whether that’s the right approach for you. Since your ritual will be designed to have symbols of what you want, it will have you thinking about that already, which should imprint whatever energy you draw in with your desire. Finally, completing the ritual disperses that energy. Naturally, if you’re praying as part of the ritual, then a higher power may also be granting you what you want or helping out as well.

Really, there are many ways you can add to a ritual spell to make it your own, and what I’ve mentioned above are only a few. Ritual magic isn’t really my thing. So, if you’re interested in casting spells in this way, use these ideas as a stepping stone, and come up with other things that work for you. Also, you can find a lot more about ritual magic plastered all over the internet, so certainly feel free to take ideas from other sites as well.

Parting Thoughts

Hopefully, this guide has given you some ideas of how to cast your own spells to improve your life. Just remember, casting spells isn’t a substitute for taking action, it’s to supplement the actions you’ll take to improve yourself. If you’d like any help, feel free to ask in the comments or drop me an email, and I’ll try to help you when I can as long as I have some ideas, or you can check out forums about this kind of thing elsewhere. The Astral Society forum may be a good place to start. In any case, good luck with your first spells, or in making positive changes in your current spellcasting habits. I hope that either way, you found something that may help you out here.

Additional Online Resources:

Casting a Circle – Describes one method of casting a circle in detail while touching on a couple of others.

Elemental Correspondences Chart – Provides a very large list of correspondences between the elements and aspects of life they govern in a handy chart.

Wejee’s Wiccan Magick Correspondences – A list of correspondences that goes into less detail on elemental correspondences, but includes correspondences for moon phases, celestial bodies, star signs, and a few others you may be interested in. Although it’s aimed at Wiccans, the correspondences could be useful to anyone looking to make their own ritual spell.

Remember, the above links describe one way to perform a given task or one interpretation of the meaning of various symbols. If you feel the meanings don’t seem to fit or the processes aren’t quite right, there are other interpretations to find out there, or you can work out your own. Magic seems to be very flexible in how it works, so don’t hesitate to experiment a bit to find out what works for you.

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Don’t Rely on The Paranormal to Pull You Out Of Your Mess

Most people who believe in some kind of magic, prayer, or other form of mystical power have at one point contemplated using it to get themselves out of a jam. Far be it from me to tell you otherwise. But don’t rely on it with nothing else to get you out of whatever jam you’re in. It won’t work. Okay, it might work, but the odds aren’t in your favor given everyone else’s stories.

Perhaps I’m a little late to the party, as The Secret is no longer the big thing everyone is talking about. But I still see plenty of people looking for help on forums in order to get intention-manifestation, magic, the law of attraction, or any other paranormal thing they can think of to get them out of whatever mess they’re in, usually some kind of money or relationship problem. Unfortunately, there’s something a lot of people don’t seem to be teaching anymore: that you shouldn’t rely only on the paranormal. It’s finicky, especially when it comes to magic and similar processes.

When I first became a part of a number of paranormal communities, their was one thing they all had in common. They recommended that one use magic, prayer, and the like as a way to bolster your efforts in the physical world. A good luck charm might not help you out, but it can’t hurt. Plus, keeping your goals in mind long enough to cast a spell or pray about them will at least give you direction for when you go work on them. The key phrase there is “work on them.”

See, that’s the thing about magic. It’s subtle. You don’t know if the results were from the magic you performed or if they were just your own effort. It blends in with what I’ll call normal reality, making it seem as though nothing unusual happened, other than a possible string of good luck being capitalized on. This means you have to provide a way for what you want to happen to actually happen. You can’t just sit back and let your own personal genie do everything… at least, no one I’ve met can do that, and neither can anyone I’ve heard of who hasn’t first put in the effort to create their own successful business.

Does that mean it’s impossible to make magic work without accompanying physical effort. Not necessarily, but I haven’t heard of anyone who’s done it. You aren’t likely to be the first. Instead of looking to magic as a universal way to solve your problems, look at it as a complementary action you can take, if you have time, in addition to the much more important part of going out and working towards the goal you wish to achieve. By actively working on what you want, you’ll be much more likely to get it. And if the magic works too, you’ll get what you’re aiming for all the faster.

The point is, as much as we’d like a quick fix to all our problems, that usually isn’t what we get. So go ahead and do a little ritual to help yourself out, whether it’s using candles and calling upon the elements, sending your intention to the universe, a short prayer, or any number of things people do. But once you’ve done that, stop sitting around, get up, and work on achieving what you want. We live in the physical world, so don’t ignore it, or the rules that govern it. Sometimes you might be able to bend them a bit, but they don’t break.

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Paranormal Experiences I’ve Had

I’ve had a fair number of experiences that some people would say qualify as paranormal. On some of these experiences, I agree, on others, I think another explanation seems more likely. The main reason I’m writing this is to show how there is a lot of uncertainty in dealing with anything paranormal, and even if there are some pretty solid experiences, it’s still very easy to question yourself. This is healthy, as I pointed out in my last piece on the paranormal. At the same time, it may also be frustrating to practice for a long time, only to realize you still aren’t certain of anything. I have some good and bad news on this: it’s normal. If you find yourself in this position, there are lots of others trying to learn in the same position. Of course, that means it’s also going to be difficult to get past that point, and you’ll likely have to find your own way. I’m still working on that part myself. However, now I want to get on with the experiences.  Hopefully, reading about these and the way I view them might help you out in some way.

1) Call the Card

The Experience: I was chilling  with some friends in the basement of their house, when one of them just looked over at me, showed me a deck of cards, and said “top card, what is it?”

I immediately responded “ace of spades” and flipped the card over with a confident flourish… and they started flipping out saying how awesome that was. Confused, I looked at the card to see that it was indeed the ace of spades, and I had called it. Of course, then they wanted a repeat performance, so I tried again a few times. The very next card, I got the right number, wrong suit, and after that, I had nothing.

Was It Paranormal: I doubt it was anything other than blind luck. You guess enough cards, you’re bound to get one right eventually. I just happened to get it right on the first try, which made it seem awesome. If I had managed a couple more hits in a reasonable amount of time, I’d have been convinced, but as it happened, I’d say I just hit my 1 in 52 chance. Let’s face it, those odds are better than the odds of me winning $20 off Powerball, and I’ve managed that before too.

2) See a Level of an Unreleased Video Game

The Experience: I had a dream one night, and in this dream I was playing a Sonic the Hedgehog game I’d never played before. I played through one zone of this game, full of crystals, and a stand for the chaos emeralds. Later on in life, I got my hands on the game Sonic and Knuckles, and when I reached the Hidden Palace Zone, I felt an intense feeling of deja vu. Probably because I’d played through the zone before… in the dream I just talked about.

Was It Paranormal: I think so, but I do still question this one sometimes. After all, I never wrote the dream down beforehand, so the feeling of deja vu could have been from something else, and then I could have constructed the dream memory to explain the feeling. I really don’t think that’s how it went down, but human memory is tricky, and with no written record, I would be remiss in not mentioning the possibility. Other than that though, I’m pretty confident in this one.

3) Pinging a Friend… a Little Too Strongly

The Experience: I’m not sure how commonly the term ping is used in psychic communities, as it’s a term I’ve really only seen at Psipog, so in case you aren’t sure of what I’m talking about, a ping is supposed to be a kind of brief telepathic greeting, like a mental handshake of sorts. I was attempting to use a psi ball to do so, but I had also been experimenting with some elemental magic ideas at the time. So, I used a symbol of elemental fire to add some oomph to the psi ball, and consequently, the ping. Then I sent it flying at his head telling it to get his attention. It did. Apparently it also gave him a splitting headache, because he asked me what I did, so I told him. He told me not to try that again, because it really hurt. So I haven’t tried it since then.

It should be noted that we had an agreement it was ok to do this before, because we wanted to see if we could really get each others attention in this way. We found our answer, and decided that was enough of that experiment.

Was it Paranormal: In a word, yes. That is, I can’t think of any other explanation. Sure, it could be a coincidence, but the timing was very good if it was. Too good, so I find it unlikely. It wasn’t psychosomatic, because I did this with no motion, and was behind him when I sent the ping, so he couldn’t have seen me. Given that he reacted right when I sent the psi ball to him, I find it hard to believe it was anything but success. I am open to other explanations, but so far, I haven’t found one.

Not sure if I could replicate this one now or not. For the obvious reason of not wanting to cause others pain, I haven’t really tried.

4) Unblocking My Stuffy Nose

The Experience: I had been dealing with a stuffy nose for a  rather long time one winter, so I decided I was going to try and do something about it. Now, I could have just used some nasal spray, but that stuff is really uncomfortable, so I tried something else first: energy healing. I just sent energy at the blockage with the intent to clear it up and be able to breathe easy again. Sure enough, within five minutes, my nasal passages were clearing up. I now had quite the runny nose, and went through many tissues in dealing with it. It wasn’t stuffy anymore though, and that was the goal. I just forgot that everything still needed a way out.

Was It Paranormal: Maybe. The timing was pretty good, but it wasn’t perfect. In addition, I haven’t been able to replicate this often, but I do occasionally get results. I also haven’t had success on helping anyone other than myself. This leads me to think that a placebo effect is also a very good option to consider in regard to what happened. Coincidence also can’t be ruled out here, since the timing isn’t directly in line with treatment, and since it doesn’t always work. Naturally, not working all the time could also mean I just need more practice. Still, I think the jury’s out on this one, and it’s tough to make a good call here.

5) It Needs to Snow… NOW!

The Experience: I was walking to class with a friend, and there had been a significant lack of snow days that particular year. Not uncommon, as I always found days off in college to be a nice stress reliever, and a lack of them to be irritating. On this particular day, I really did not want to be in class, and I came out and said “it needs to snow now!” And no sooner had I said it, then it started snowing. Just flurries mind you, so not nearly enough to get me that snow day. But there was no snow in the forecast, so that was kind of cool.

Was It Paranormal: Well, the timing was spot on, so points for that. However, as anyone in New England knows, the weather here is notoriously unpredictable, and subject to change at a moment’s notice. So even though it wasn’t in the weather report, that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t happen on its own. Could have also been coincidence due to this. And as many psychologists like to point out, we remember the big coincidences and forget the ones that don’t seem to work out. Then again, the timing was right on. And it’d be really cool if it was me. But I’m really just not sure.

So that’s it for now. While I certainly have other paranormal experiences, these are the ones that stick out in my mind. As you can see, there’s only one experience in here I’m sure was a real paranormal experience, while most of the others fall into some kind of nebulous area of possibly paranormal and possibly coincidence. From what others I talk to about this have to say, this is pretty normal, so I’m not too worried, especially since I have the one experience that would be difficult to explain in a way not involving the paranormal. In short, while it’s good to be discerning in what you believe is real, it’s also good to have some faith in yourself. You might not be sure of what’s happening, but  believing in your ability makes it easier to continue practicing, and may help bring you to one experience that would be difficult to explain any other way.

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The Paranormal, Belief, and Skepticism

There’s something I’ve noticed about communities built around the paranormal. They seem to attract the die-hard skeptics who aren’t going to believe anything they read short of seeing an amazing, flashy display in person that demonstrates the paranormal is real. They also attract people ready to believe absolutely anything they read, because “anything’s possible” and “we should give them the benefit of the doubt, after all, this is all crazy.” I’m certainly not the first person to notice or comment on this, but I think this is something important to discuss.

Why do so many people feel the need to polarize so much on these beliefs? I’m guessing for the die-hard skeptics, it’s because they truly believe there is no way psychic powers could exist, or at the very least, it’s very doubtful. Furthermore, when they see psychics providing services, that would mean one of two things: the psychic is lying, or the psychic needs psychological help. Either way, it’s up to the skeptic to help out. In the case of the overly faithful, I think it’s a matter of feeling like they’re considered crazy, so they should give everyone else the benefit of the doubt, even on claims that are outlandish by the standards of the paranormal community. It’s not like we have a way of testing any of this after all.

Both groups have their own issues, as does the group I put myself in, which I’ll talk about in a minute. For the die-hard skeptics, they’re more or less unwilling to acknowledge the possibility of the paranormal. This is despite a long list of evidence, both in lab settings and through people’s experiences, that points to the possibility of their existence. For more on this, see Sean’s excellent list How to Prove Psychic Abilities are Real over at A Little Weird.

Now, I know all the science types are saying that experience doesn’t count, and I certainly understand that. In terms of proving something, replication in controlled circumstances is important. That’s what the scientific studies are provided for. They give us an objective viewpoint on all of this. Methods to experience psychic abilities are provided because, even with scientific evidence, we don’t exactly have concrete proof, other than to say something strange that we can’t explain is going on. Furthermore, even with complete proof, I think the existence of psychic abilities is something that would be hard to swallow without some kind of experience with them. After all, I have experience with them and I still doubt sometimes.

We also have the completely faithful, who believe anything about the paranormal that anyone tells them. I think this is because we simply don’t know enough about the paranormal. Since we don’t know much about it, no one knows when to call someone on lying about something that they claim may be possible or they may have done. Since no one knows when to call someone on it, clearly the thing to do is give them the benefit of the doubt, otherwise, they’re being hypocritical by claiming to believe in the paranormal, but also claiming that someone else can’t do something paranormal.

I think both of these groups have it wrong though. You can believe something is possible, while still being skeptical of it. I think this is currently the appropriate view to hold on many psychic abilities. I’ve said this in my disclaimer, but I believe psychic abilities exist, and think I’ve had some minor experiences with them. I’ve been informally studying and practicing them for around ten years now, but I still don’t know if I’ve been experiencing bona fide psychic abilities or simply coincidence and feeling things that aren’t there. Given that it would be a lot of coincidence for none of it to be real, I tend to lean toward thinking something is happening, but I also know people find significance in the things that do happen, while forgetting the things that don’t work out. So, for me, it’s still up in the air about whether they exist.

Furthermore, anything paranormal seems to get lumped together, but there are a large number of phenomena that need to be tested. It could turn out that some are real and some aren’t. For instance, maybe it’s possible to predict the future, yet not possible to spontaneously teleport across town. Both claims have been made. But there will need to be different tests for both claims, and one could be shown true while the other is shown false.

Finally, many skeptics like to argue by Occam’s Razor: the most likely explanation is the one you should use. So, whenever it turns out a psychic ability can be replicated by other means, such as cold reading or magnets, they assume that means the psychic ability doesn’t exist. Naturally, while this is sensible to avoid getting conned, it’s also quite reasonable to realize there’s more than one way to get the same result.

Of course, rabid supporters of the paranormal forget this important idea too. Just because it’s possible something is paranormal, doesn’t mean that it is. There are perfectly mundane reasons lots of seemingly paranormal things can happen, and you can’t just rule them out. Furthermore, there are people who will lie about what they can do. If they can pull it off convincingly, it could be for money, or it could just be for fame or to feel special.

I have two major tests I use when I think about whether or not some claim is plausible. One is to think about if it matches up with my own experiences. The other is to see how well it matches up with other claims. If it matches up pretty well, then I tend to think it’s fairly plausible, though I also know there are other reasons claims may match up, such as proliferation of these ideas across the internet. Of course, there are other factors to take into account as well. If it sounds too good to be true, or if it sounds like the idea being presented came out of a cartoon or rpg, that can seriously hurt the credibility of an idea. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to see which came first, the idea or the cartoon. If the idea came first, then it may still be valid, but if it came after, then it could just be someone who wants their favorite show to be real.

In the end, I think what’s important is to realize you need to think for yourself. Don’t have blind faith in anything. Use reason to think about the world around you. This doesn’t mean you can’t believe in all sorts of crazy things, but figure it out for yourself, and don’t rely solely on other people to tell you how it is. You’ll certainly need to hear other ideas, but by filtering them, reasoning, and coming to your own conclusions, you have a better chance of finding an answer without being conned.

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