Do psychics, fortune tellers, channellers etc. believe in supernatural powers?

Several of the occult arts rely on standard techniques such as cold reading to fool subjects into believing that their power is real and supernatural. It would seem then, that practitioners of these “parlor trick” techniques would be among the strongest skeptics of the existence of supernatural powers. Is this really the case? Are they so good that they fool even themselves? Perhaps they believe that other practitioners really possess supernatural powers while they themselves lack them and are forced to fake it. Are psychics, fortune tellers, and channelers secretly laughing at the gullibility of their subjects or are they so wrapped up in the charade that they lose track of what is real?

I called the official office of what psychics, fortune tellers, channellers etc. actually believe, and they said they’d get back to me.

Seriously, I know a few people who do these things at Ren Fests and the like, and some do and some don’t.

Cops tell me of scam artists who keep an eye on the infomercials and tabloids in order to be aware of what the lastest trends are - this does suggest they don’t actually beleive in any of them.

A woman I know is the neighbor of a fairly well-known (at one time) TV seer and says the seer is quite open about it being a sham. Don’t know this women well enough to be sure if I believe her - not that she would lie, but maybe she dislikes the neighbor enough to imagine bad things.

I practice the occult arts but I don’t believe in the supernatural. Typically if you try to discuss it here from my standpoint the jerks come out in droves and try to put words in my mouth.

Lumping together “psychics, fortune tellers and channellers” makes it hard to give a clear and simple answer.

Let’s start off with people who give readings and tell fortunes. Given the evidence to date, we can be pretty sure they don’t have any real psychic ability (but of course new evidence could turn up tomorrow). However, they broadly fall into three groups:

  1. People who genuinely believe they have some sort of gift, because they keep giving readings to the best of their ability and their clients keep telling them how wonderful and marvellous the readings are. It is possible to be very good at cold reading without realising that’s what you are doing. See Susan Blackmore’s book 'Adventures of a Parapsychologist" for a very well-written account of how this can happen.

  2. People who know that they are faking a psychic gift in order to make money out of anyone willing to believe them.

  3. People who do not necessarily believe they have any psychic gift, as such, but who genuinely believe they have a sort of rapport with people and a sufficient understanding to be able to provide a benign and useful service, almost like counselling, and who try to perform this service as responsibly as possible (e.g. if asked for advice outside their boundary of competence, such as medical advice, they refer the client to someone better qualified). Such people generally take the view that if this kind of service is generally labelled as ‘psychic’ in popular parlance, well, so be it.

Unless you are a genuine mind-reader, you can’t say for sure which of these three groups someone belongs to. For what it’s worth, my experience in this field suggests there are lots of people in groups one and three, and some but not many in group two. (And I do know a bit about this area, given that I wrote the book on cold reading and demonstrate it live during my lectures to skeptical audiences).

When you widen the discussion to ‘psychics’ and ‘channellers’, it gets a bit hazy. There are some so-called ‘psychic’ feats which you can only perform if you knowingly resort to deception and trickery. In other words, in some cases we know that the ‘psychic’ knows they are using trickery, because the stuff they are doing can’t be done any other way (and in my business, the magic business, we know exactly who these people are and what methods they are using). It’s hard to give specifics without risking legal action!

They believe in money and know how to get it from the people who believe in the supernatural.