It’s a running joke that everyone who studies psychology does so to figure out what the fuck is wrong with them, and when I was getting my degree I was no different. The difference was that while most people were trying to figure out why they had crippling anxiety or probing the depths of that weird sexual kink they didn’t understand, I was trying to get to the bottom of why exactly I encounter transdimensional art gods when I take hallucinogens.
What I found was that modern psychology had zero explanations for someone like me. It simply didn’t account for people who have exotic visions but aren’t crazy by any standard definition of the word. In effect, it just didn’t recognize the reality of shamans, mystics, sorcerers, or whatever you want to call them—which you’ve got to admit, is a fairly huge hole in the accepted psychological worldview.
But, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due on occasion. Just like how studying hallucinogens seemed utterly impossible when I was an undergrad in the early 2000’s, studying something as strange as spirit mediums seemed almost more inaccessible. Yet, things do in fact change as this is now being studied at Yale and covered in such mainstream media outlets as the Atlantic. Read on:
“A lot of the time, if someone says they hear voices, you immediately jump to psychotic illness, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia,” Corlett said. But research suggests hearing voices is not all that uncommon. A survey from 1991—the largest of its kind since—found that 10 to 15 percent of people in the U.S. experienced sensory hallucinations of some sort within their lifetime. And other research, as well as growing advocacy movements, suggest hearing voices isn’t always a sign of psychological distress.
The researchers at Yale were looking for a group of people who hear voices at least once a day, and had never before interacted with the mental-health-care system. They wanted to understand, as Corlett put it, those who do not suffer when “the mind deviates from consensual reality.”
What Corlett calls consensual reality—the “normative shared experience we all agree on”—is probably not something you spend too much time thinking about. But you know when it’s being violated. The sky is blue, the sun is hot, and as Corlett points out, most would generally agree that people don’t receive extrasensory messages from one another.
Jessica was quite frank with me about the way some people may view her. “We know these experiences are weird and they’re seen as weird,” she said. “You just can’t go into a room and say ‘Hey, I’m a psychic medium’ and people are gonna accept you.”
Finer points of what counts as reality can change over time, and vary based on geography or culture. For centuries people walked the earth believing the sun orbited around them, which today would be considered unreasonable. Who decides that consensus, and where along its boundaries voice hearers fall, depends on a wide range of circumstances.
The anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann, who has studied voice hearing in psychiatric and religious contexts, has written that “historical and cultural conditions … affect significantly the way mental anguish is internally experienced and socially expressed.” Noting that there is no question psychiatric distress and schizophrenia are “real” phenomena that call for treatment, Luhrmann adds that “the way a culture interprets symptoms may affect an ill person’s prognosis.” Every psychiatrist I spoke to shared the belief that unusual behavior should only enter into the realm of diagnosis when it causes suffering.”
What’s funny about me is that even after channeling entire books, it didn’t actually occur to me that I was a spirit medium until a few years back. What happened was that I was in this trance state and there were all these black mist entities swirling around me (which was sort of normal for me at the time believe it or not). Anyway, all of a sudden one of these mist creatures detached from the swarm and affixed itself to my head. When it did so it projected the message: “YOU ARE A SPIRIT MEDIUM!” in a booming voice telepathically into my spirit. Again, it had never honestly occurred to me before, mainly because most people who attain any sort of acclaim as spirit mediums are at least partially frauds (Jesus Christ, cut it out with the cold reading bullshit already).
What I love about this article and these sort of studies in general though is that while they’re starting to question long held definitions of crazy and sane, what they’re not doing is questioning materialism at all, which is sort of par the course in mainstream academia. You can speculate about weird shit all you want these days, so long as the obviously flawed worldview through which you’re viewing the phenomenon is never ever called into question.
Nowhere in this article is the idea that a spirit world might exist and that these folks might be interacting with it even sort of entertained. So how is it that these entities I’m encountering have predicted the future publicly in very specific ways on multiple occasions now (more on that later)? Why does remote viewing work exactly? Where’s the scientific evidence disproving the reality of a spirit realm? Oh yeah, there isn’t any as it turns out, just an outdated model of consciousness we blindly adhere to filled with logical holes the size of China. Still can’t question that or your funding gets cut apparently. The more things change, the more they stay the same I suppose.