A Curious Skeptic in the Land of Woo-Woo

I pride myself on being a logical, evidence-based professional.  None of that woo-woo Wiccan, pagan, shamanism stuff for me. So it’s reasonable to wonder what I’m doing with not one but three decks of tarot cards, seven decks of oracle cards, a bag of Rune stones, a handful of crystals, and a copy of the I Ching.

Defining Woo-Woo

There are several definitions for woo-woo, only one of which is not derogatory. That is Your Dictionary’s  delightful “(childish) the sound of a fire truck, ambulance, or police truck’s siren.”

One man’s woo-woo, of course, is another’s deeply held belief system.

Julia Moskin

Otherwise, woo-woo is a term usually used by skeptics to refer to ideas or practices that are pseudoscientific, supernatural, mystical, or new-agey.

Woo-woo is not just a noun, but also an adjective. When applied to people, woo-woo is a synonym for crazy, irrational, nonsensical.

Defining Skeptic

Skeptics don’t fare a whole lot better. On the positive side, a skeptic is simply someone who isn’t easily swayed to a point of view, who wants some evidence.

But from the negative perspective, there’s Deepak Chopra quoting author Lyall Watson with “skeptics are self-appointed vigilantes for the suppression of curiosity.” When applied to people, think distrustful, cynical, guarded.

Defining Cognitive Bias

A cognitive bias is “the common tendency to acquire and process information by filtering it through one’s own likes, dislikes, and experiences.” Polite skeptics accuse woo-woos of cognitive biases rather than tell them they are nuts.

A very bright guy named Buster Benson spent four weeks of his paternity leave organizing Wikipedia’s page of 175 cognitive biases into four large categories based on the problems they help our brains address.

When it comes to woo-woo, the problem for our brains is one of too much information. In order to survive and manage the firehose of information coming at us 24/7, our brains have to pick out the most useful bits. This need leads to a whole shopping list of cognitive biases that apply to both those who wholeheartedly embrace woo-woo and the skeptics who vehemently dismiss it:

  • Bias blind spot: We see bias at work in other people’s judgment, but not in our own.
  • Confirmation bias: We search for, interpret, favour, and recall information in a way that confirms our preexisting beliefs.
  • Congruence bias: We’re more likely to try to prove our existing hypothesis than to disprove it.
  • Illusory truth effect: We believe information is correct if we are repeatedly exposed to it.
  • Naive realism: We believe what we see in the world is objective reality, and other people who have different perceptions are uninformed.
  • Ostrich effect: We avoid information that may cause psychological discomfort.
  • Semmelweis reflex: We reflexively reject new evidence if it contradicts existing norms.
  • Subjective validation: We consider information to be correct if it has any personal meaning or significance to us.

If you’re interested in learning more, this site offers flashcards and matching games for all of the biases in Benson’s four categories.

I Was a Skeptic, Full Stop

Several decades ago, a friend urged me to spend some of my hard-earned money on a reading by a psychic. I was, at that time, the worst version of a skeptic–cynical, rigid, distrustful.  I was 100% convinced that all psychics were charlatans. My friend said this one was different, but the real reason I went was that we were going out for lunch after our appointments.

I made things as difficult for Lucy, the psychic, as I possibly could. I kept my facial expression neutral, my clothing indistinct, and my answers monosyllabic. Lucy knew my first name and that I was a teacher. That was it. Name, rank, and serial number. 

Calling it lunacy makes it easier to explain away the things we don’t understand.

Megan Chance

My only prior experience of  a psychic was watching Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost.  Remember those flowing robes, purple tablecloths, a crystal ball, and stumbling ‘predictions’ that occasionally, to Whoopi’s surprise, landed on the name of the deceased loved one the duped customer wished to contact?

Lucy was dressed in beige cotton pants and a soft blue blouse. We sat in a room of her house that had two chairs, a small table, and not a bit of purple fabric in sight. She asked for permission to turn on a tape recorder so that I would have a record of her reading to take home and review. That impressed me. The tape was a form of evidence, a sign that she was either confident in her reading or that she’d spout meaningless generic platitudes I couldn’t possibly dispute.

I Became a Curious Skeptic

The reading began with Lucy saying nice things that made me feel good… and even more suspicious. For example, she told me that I am really smart. “Nice touch, Lucy,” I thought. “Good move to stroke the ego of an obvious skeptic.”

She got specific and told me that I would be buying a house clad in wood with floor to ceiling windows. The house would be facing south, overlooking a body of water that she thought was either a pond or a river. It would be surrounded by nature, with lots of white birch trees right near the house.

It was an appealing image but I couldn’t know that Lucy’s prediction was accurate until I bought my house, that exact house, a few years later.

I Tipped from Curious Skeptic to Something Else

The tipping point came when Lucy asked if she could share a message from someone who had passed on. I kept my face neutral, but mentally my eyes were rolling so hard they were spinning.

Then Lucy wondered who this person with the unusual name was to me. Did I know someone named Rati?

It took me a minute. I’d only met Rati once in my life, on a trip to Scotland when I was eleven years old. Rati was my paternal grandmother’s sister. Her given name was Rita but for some obscure reason having to do with her being a twin, she was known as Rati.

Let’s pause here for a definite woo-woo moment. There is absolutely no way that name was a lucky guess. And Lucy didn’t research her way to success or pick up any tells from me. I hadn’t thought of the woman in decades, and Lucy wasn’t Whoopi. She wasn’t casting about trying out a few dozen names hoping for a reaction.

Rati didn’t have anything earth-shattering to share with me. I was a member of a university research group at the time of the reading, as well as a full-time teacher, and I was eating too much fast food. Rati told me to stop, a message I found a bit disappointing. Really? If you’re going to communicate with me after death, stop eating fast food is the best you’ve got?

I Can’t Define the ‘Something Else’

After that experience, I consulted with Lucy several more times. She made many useful and inspiring predictions, supportive things I needed to hear at the time whether they came true or not. Most of them did.

Sometimes Lucy would get sidetracked by whatever money-making scheme she was into at the time. Full-time clairvoyants, as she calls herself, don’t make a lot of money. I remember a couple of readings where she was getting ‘messages’ that I needed to be buying a particular nutritional powder that she just happened to be selling. During those readings my skepticism would return full-strength.

But I never forgot Rati. That single moment helped me believe that there’s more going on in this world than what I can see, hear and touch. I’m still hugely skeptical (feel free to substitute words like scornful and disparaging) of many forms of woo-woo. I am curiously skeptical of psychics/mediums/clairvoyants/professional intuitives. I believe there are some good ones, like Lucy, but they may be hard to find.  And I am open to some woo-woo like Oracle and Tarot cards. I’m also really open to energy work, but that’s a topic for another post.oracle card for play

Oracle Cards Were My First Form of Woo-Woo

I actually don’t think of  oracle cards, sometimes called angel cards, as particularly woo-woo. I picked up my first deck from the checkout counter of a regular bookstore. It was the Daily Guidance deck by Doreen Virtue. I bought it because I liked the art, and I thought it could be fun to pull a card every morning to see what ‘advice’ I’d be given for the day.

It’s pretty tame stuff, especially if you ignore the angel references which I do, except on bad days, when I figure I can use all the help I can get. Here’s an example of a card I find helpful since I am, as several have noted, just a teensy bit driven.

Play

“The angels see that you need to play, so they sent you this card. You’ve been working and worrying a lot lately, and your soul cries out for fun. Feelings of fatigue, irritability, or depression are additional signs that you’re overdue for some playtime. You don’t need to wait until you have a free moment, because you can inject fun into your day today. Simple pleasures, moments of silliness, laughing with a friend, or watching a funny movie are examples of ways to have fun that don’t require a lot of time or money.”

Over the years, I’ve bought other decks, all of them by Doreen Virtue who is the big name in oracle cards.

Angel Answers, Angel Dreams, and Butterfly Life Changes were all a waste of money for me. I’m hard-core skeptic on those ones.

Daily Guidance continues to be interesting, and not woo-woo. The Life Purpose deck, on the other hand, sends shivers along my spine.

There are 44 cards in the Life Purpose deck. Here are three of the 44:

writing, author and book cards from Life Purpose oracle deck

I have shuffled and drawn from the Life Purpose cards maybe twenty times over the last five years. Every single time, without fail, I have pulled either the writing or the author card. And if I do a reading where I pull three cards to show past, present and future, then along with author or writing I  get ‘books’. Every single time.

We find comfort among those who agree with us –growth among those who don’t.

Frank Clark

I’m not a very superstitious person, but I use the Life Purpose cards sparingly. I love drawing those particular cards and will be so disappointed when/if that ever changes. There’s no point pushing my luck or second-guessing the Universe on this one!

Tarot Cards Can Be Way More Woo-Woo if You Want

I never had the slightest interest in tarot until I read a completely unrelated book by Angeles Arrien. Arrien was a cultural anthropologist, a teacher, leader and visionary. She died in 2014 of pneumonia.

When I read my first Arrien book, I knew that I had to read all of them. As her publisher explains, her work “bridges the disciplines of anthropology, psychology, and comparative religion, while focusing on universal beliefs shared by humanity.”

So the second book I purchased was her extensive guide to the symbology in one of the classic tarot decks called the Thoth Tarot. Arrien’s scholarship removed a lot of the woo-woo from tarot for me.

I bought a couple more decks–the Llewellyn tarot because of the stunning artwork of Welsh mythology. I am passionate about Welsh mythology. No idea why.

And, recently, the Voyager tarot where each card is a gorgeous collage. Here’s the same card from the three different decks.

Ace of Cups tarot card from Thoth, Llewellyn and Voyager decks

Even the most cursory of online searches will confirm that there’s a ton of woo-woo connected to tarot if you want to read the cards to divine your future. Someday soon, I’ll be visiting a professional tarot card reader and I’ll let you know how it goes.

However, there’s another use for Tarot and that’s one that “emphasizes personal insight and creativity.” That’s the approach taken by scholar, teacher, and author, Mary Greer.

I’m keen to make a study of tarot, to see how it can help me in developing self-knowledge. It’s early days but I’m finding tarot quite fascinating. I’ll provide an update in a month or two.crystals and stones on red background

The Other Stuff

At the top of the post I mentioned a few other trappings associated with woo-woo. Allow me to come clean:

I have a handful of crystals because I love the colours of them. I know what they are supposed to be used for when I buy them, but I always forget. They sit in a bowl in my studio and look pretty.

The bag of Rune stones was a Christmas gift I’d asked for because they looked so nice in that shop where I got the crystals. I’ve had them for years but only tried them a handful of times. The jury is still out.

Finally, the I Ching is a book of Chinese wisdom that a massage therapist told me about. It’s quite interesting to use. Basically, you toss three coins six times to come up with a specific hexagram. You look up the hexagram in the book and read the information. The I Ching is supposed to give you the answer to any question. I wouldn’t know; I use it like Daily Guidance oracle cards, with just a single question – “So, what do you want me to know today?” The I Ching gives measured and wise answers. Here’s an excerpt from one hexagram:

Waiting

“There is a situation at hand that cannot be corrected by force or external effort. The Creative will provide the solution to one who waits with a correct attitude. This is a time for patience and careful attention to inner truth.
Do not give in to doubt and agitation now. You are not meant to wait in a state of desperate longing but in one of patient inner strength. Without certainty in the power of truth, success is impossible. Attempts to force a change, rather than allowing it to mature naturally, will only cause misfortune.”view under a bridge mystical

Changes are Afoot

I’ve travelled quite a distance from the high school student whose favourite activity was to debate adults, desperate to be as unemotional, as purely logical as Spock on the Star Trek shows I loved to watch.

And yet, I don’t feel that far away from the adult who wrote books with titles like The Evidence-Based School. I’ve simply enlarged my definition of evidence, while maintaining enough healthy skepticism to avoid being duped by every very-much-for-profit woo-woo activity that is out there.

Tarot is a big step for me. I’ve always associated it with gypsy fortune tellers at carnivals, with dark rooms and scary portents of death. Now I’m seeing that it is the hero’s journey in playing card form, and a whole new world is opening up.

I think I’m still a curious skeptic, but more curious than skeptical. How about you?  Your thoughts and comments are, as always, both welcomed and appreciated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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42 comments

  1. great post Karen – loved how you wrote it down like the opening of a flower. Enjoyed Debbie’s after comments as well. the science and the unknown riding together. Exciting thoughts.

    1. Thank you, Anne. I appreciate you noticing and commenting on the structure of the post.
      Debbie’s comments will be republished as a tribe story before the night is out. I too appreciate that she took the time to share her research.

  2. Excellent post, Karen!
    Well-researched and yet personal too. I love personal stories and appreciate when bloggers share.

    I’m still boggled by how Benson could have taken on such a large project during a paternity leave. I wonder if his partner came home to a clean home, dinner on the table, and well-looked after children…oops, that’s my confirmation bias showing!!! 😉

    Seriously though, I’m so much like you. I used to throw the I Ching when I was a teen. My career passion and day job is science – all the evidence-based decision making and rationality that you could want – yet I am also fascinated by tarot and what it has told me so far. I ordered Mary Greer’s book based on what you wrote. It should arrive today. I feel like I am coming full circle these days – and returning to the “Woo Woo” as you say…and I like it AND I don’t have a problem with it. It certainly has “enhanced (my) personal insight and creativity”, already.
    Loved this…
    Deb

    1. Thanks, Deb. I suspected we were kindred spirits when it came to this, although I didn’t know that your background is in science.
      I’m excited that you ordered Mary Greer’s book. I’ve just started working with it, but I already like her approach. It will be fun to compare notes when we’ve both had some time to dive in.

  3. Hi, Karen – Thank you for this very personal and thought-provoking post. I don’t consider myself to be a skeptic, but I also have not gone out of my way to welcome in the unknown. I agree that there is so much that we do not know, and that regular science has a difficult time proving. Lots to think about! I look forward to reading Debbie’s post.

    1. Thank you, Donna. Prior to my experience with Lucy, I would have been very similar to you. It probably takes an experience or two to start pondering the unknown.
      I admit to not going very far down the path at all. When you read Debbie’s post (will be up in an hour or so), you’ll see that she goes much further and deeper than I ever have. I just play on the fringes, looking for things that help me to understand myself better.

  4. Hi Karen, thanks for today’s post. I really appreciated all the definitions right at the top. It made reading the rest of the post easier knowing we were on the same page when it came to what the words meant. I believe I mentioned to you in another post that my stepson reads tarot cards. I myself have never personally owned a deck or had a reading.

    Once, a long time in the past I did go to a psychic with my friend Joan. We were moving a long way north and I would not be seeing Joan for some time between visits or talking on the phone. So, as an activity to do together, we saw a psychic. It is funny how you describe not giving Lucy any tells or clues from facial expressions or dress and minimal information. We did the same thing! Joan and I made separate appointments (for the same afternoon). We did not mention each other or even acknowledge that we knew one another. I gave my first name and simply said I was a stay at home Mom. I didn’t even mention how many children or what sex they were.

    Like Lucy, my psychic (I forget his name now) provided me with a tape recording of my reading. He was spot on with several things he said. He told me I had two sons (which I do) and said that I lost a baby (I did but had told no one). He asked for an item that I was in physical contact with, that was mine. I slipped my ring off my finger and handed it to him. He went all quiet and shut his eyes (talk about woo woo…communing with the spirits – cue eerie suspenseful music). When he opened them again he predicted the end of my marriage (he even pinpointed why!!). It was my wedding ring I had given him. He assured me that there was someone else out there for me (in my mind I was saying “yea, right” but there was! I have married again but this was after ten years on my own with my sons.)

    He said there was a book inside me that needed to be written, that it would help many, many people. There is! I believe he was talking about my memoir. I believe on one of the memoir posts I said that I wanted to help people with my memoir; help them to know they are not alone and if I can get away from the abuse and have a better, brighter future they could too. That reading turned me from a skeptic into a curious skeptic. Years later when everything unfolded just as he predicted I became a believer. I mean, how could he know all of that? He was not just throwing out blanket predictions but got very specific. It was not the power of suggestion that caused the events that followed either…my ex-husband was abusive which led to the end of my marriage and I have always known I wanted to write a book but until the reading and what I lived through after, I didn’t know what kind of book it would be.

    The angel decks sound interesting for the purpose you mentioned; drawing a card each morning to see what the angels had to say to me for the day. I like seeing the artwork on the cards too.

    As for the crystals – I like shiny, pretty stones but I wear them on my fingers incorporated into rings. The i-Ching sounds interesting but totally not for me.

    Thanks for being vulnerable and exploring all of this stuff with us, Karen. It doesn’t change my opinion of you one iota. I chalk it up to we are all just curious human being exploring various things to see what holds up to scrutiny and what is woo-woo meant only to part us from our money and dignity.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Susan. It must be Skeptic Training 101 for all of us to go into an appointment with a psychic determined not to give anything away and make them prove their worth! Those poor psychics must be rolling their eyes when yet another buttoned-down skeptic walks through the door 🙂

      I’m curious and if this is too personal, please don’t feel you need to respond. You seem open to so many of the things I talked about in my post, but you seem definitely opposed to the I Ching. Bad experience?

      Thanks for your final paragraph, Susan. Always good to hear that vulnerable, out- there posts don’t put people off.

      1. LOL, Skeptic Training 101…did you go to that course too? I think it is just a logical way to test if the psychic is real or not. It sounds like your psychic has had her fair share of skeptics come through her door by the way she dealt with you. I also think psychics understand that not everyone “gets” how this works and have an acceptance that skeptics are going to test them.

        As for the I Ching, no, no bad experience with it but it seems too predictable since you look in the book for the answer once you get your hexagram. It just seems too woo-woo for me. I am pretty open to a lot of stuff but something in my gut just balks when it comes to I Ching. Weird.
        :-/

        1. Thanks for answering my question about the I Ching, Susan. There’s actually a bit more variation in the responses that I didn’t go into. If you ever talk to someone who has the book, you might find it interesting to give it a try. But if not, that works too. I think one of the things about this stuff is that it’s important to go with our guts.

          1. Hhmm, perhaps I will find a copy of the I Ching and have a look. As I said I am open to most things and maybe I am shutting this one down too quickly. I will know when I get my hands on a copy whether my gut instinct settles down or flares up. LOL, I don’t want to dismiss it out of hand and now you have made me curious. 😉

  5. I went to my first psychic reading last January. I had it on my bucket list for years and had a recommended person’s card on hand for about 10 months. I found it helpful at the time. I too got a message from someone … we could not figure out who it was as there was no name, just an impression. (the message was along the line of it would all be OK – something I needed to hear badly at the time.) I didn’t tape things and after felt that much of it was generic. But at the time, maybe because of the empathetic nature of the psychic, it gave me what I needed. I would definitely do it again. She used Tarot cards as part of her process and I found that very interesting.

    I don’t think you’re woo-woo either. I think there is something in all this “stuff”… we just don’t fully understand it. I re-read my FengShui book with my new house in mind and placed some symbols (crystals, coins, green dragon, turtle) in critical places. (It certainly can’t hurt!) I carry the crystals a psychic recommended for me in a pouch in my purse. I believe in affirmations sent into the Universe. I’ve read a bit about spirit guides, but have not tried to connect to mine. Maybe Tarot is the next thing for me to explore.

    1. Hi Pat,
      I have to tell you that I’m really relieved to hear that we are still in sync, even on this! Much like never wanting to not get the author/writing/book cards, I’d hate to have my twin thinking I’m a nutter!

      I totally understand what you mean about the psychic being empathetic. Sometimes, if that’s all we get out of a meeting with someone, that’s still enough because it was what we needed at the time.

      And good for you with the Feng Shui of your house. I’ve got a couple of books on Feng Shui but get myself confused pretty easily as I read and end up thinking I’m going to have to tear down my house and start again because everything is wrong! 🙂

      1. My tarot cards just arrived in the mail. Yup, bought ones you recommended. The book is coming behind them by a week (different source) so now I can just look at them as pretty pictures.

        Two of my learning things this quarter are meditation via podcast and reading about Tarot. So I’m joining you in woo-woo land for sure!!

        1. That’s awesome, Pat. Which cards did you end up getting? And is the book the 21 Ways to Read a Tarot Card? I’m doing a deep dive into tarot in April. If you are too, we can compare notes!

  6. I love your term “curiously skeptical” and think that it could well describe me. I am very analytical and prefer evidence-based thoughts and opinions, but I also know that I don’t know everything (crazy, I know). Your post reminded me a bit of my father. He was very analytical too – his career was as a clinical psychologist – not religious at all, and very rational. But, he also believed in a certain amount of non-scientific “woo-woo,” which surprised me but I also found charming. I wish I had spent more time talking to him about his beliefs.

    1. It sounds as if we, and our backgrounds, are quite similar, Janis. A strong preference for evidence-based with an understanding that there’s a lot we don’t know.
      Our fathers were also similar. Mine was an inventor, not a psychologist, but he too prided himself on his rationality. Yet he also trusted his intuitions and claimed to have premonition dreams.
      When I was younger, I thought that I needed to be one way or the other. I’m finding it refreshing to move a bit more toward the center.

  7. Definitely a sceptic! I can’t explain Rati, but maybe you bought that house because she implanted the idea and you were subconsciously looking for it? My main thought was as someone else wondered above – what happened to the poor baby during the paternity leave???

    1. Hi Anabel,
      I do understand your skepticism, I really do! The only reason I don’t share it is because, as you said, we can’t explain Rati.
      As for my house, if Lucy did plant a subconscious suggestion, she planted it pretty deep. I think I lived in the house for four years before I remembered that she had predicted it.
      And as for the baby 🙂 our poor misunderstood Buster Benson specifically said he worked while rocking his baby.

  8. Hi Karen

    What an informative and interesting post! I learned so much. I loved the title-the curious skeptic. In your true style, your post is well researched and mixed with a strong taste of your personality. I can see your skeptical look as you visited the psychic.

    I cannot say I have ever sought out psychics or even participated in something as well-known as tarot cards. However, I am game to try. I am particularly interested in the beautiful crystals you talked about.

    I do have a question though. Did what she say make a difference? In other words, if you had not visited with her and heard what she had to say would that have altered your subsequent actions? Just curious.

    1. I can just imagine that you could picture my skeptical look, Fran 🙂
      Love that you’re game to try some of these things. Maybe we can do something together sometime soon.
      You asked a good question. There were things Lucy said that I ignored. For example, she said I was overdue making a trip to the British Isles, but the timing wasn’t right for me so I didn’t go.
      On the other hand, she definitely provided some much needed encouragement when I took my unpaid leave to write my first book. She told me I was going to do very well and not to worry at all. She even quoted some specific dollar amounts and when I’d realize them, and she was right. So when I’d been writing and speaking for a while and she had things to say, I did pay more attention, although I still didn’t follow her every word. I think that good psychics aren’t rigid. Lucy certainly said many times that it was essential to exercise free will and do with the information what I wished.

  9. Interesting post Karen – and I definitely don’t think you’re woo-woo. I’ve always believed that there was “something” out there – but then I believe in angels too. My maternal grandmother swore she was “fey” and often knew things other people didn’t. Admittedly she did come up with some predictions that were unexpected and I learned to respect her ability to foretell when something was going to happen. Suffice it to say, I did not inherit that particular gene. I’ve never received, nor sent, a message to the “other side” and while I dabbled in Tarot during my misspent youth, perhaps now in my old age it’s time for me to find a psychic and see if perhaps my grandmother would like to tell me something.

    1. Great comment, Anna!
      I wonder what your grandmother would tell you. I’ll bet it would be something way better than “stop eating fast food.” (Yup, still chafing at that one.)
      It’s interesting that you dabbled in tarot. Do you remember why you stopped?

      1. The more I learned about Tarot, I came to believe that there was a dark side. I met people who quite literally would not make any decisions whatsoever with consulting the Tarot cards and the cards ruled their lives. It creeped me out.

        1. Thanks for following up, Anna.
          It sounds to me as if the dark side is in the way people chose to use the cards, rather than the cards themselves. It’s unfortunate, but there will always be people who will take a tool to inappropriate extremes, making use of it in ways that were never intended.

  10. Hmm, I am not at all attracted to new-agey stuff. While I am not sarcastic or an eye-roller, it just doesn’t draw my interest.

    And yet:
    – I can’t play a board game (especially a word game) on an opposing team from my mother, because we read each other’s minds. (We make great board game partners though!)
    – I frequently have had both waking and dream premonitions that came true
    – I have left my body
    – I have been visited by a spirit

    These occurrences do not fit with my theory of how things work in the world. But I can’t explain them away either.

    Jude

    1. Hmm indeed, Jude. Those are some fascinating experiences you have had for someone who isn’t interested in any of this stuff.
      I wonder if, like me, retirement will afford you the spaciousness of time and mind so that you will one day dip your toe into these waters to see what’s there. If you ever do, I sure hope you blog about it. Given what has happened for you, you would certainly provide a unique perspective!

  11. This has certainly been a post to stimulate discussion!

    I’ve been exposed to too many woo-woo moments in my life to discount them … and that’s been a challenge for me because I’m married to Mr Science who is definitely one of those “self-appointed vigilantes’.

    I am a firm believer that it is conceit, at best, to assume that something isn’t real just because we don’t understand it.

  12. I am a skeptic, for sure, Karen. I have never dared to go to a psychic and also think it is somewhat of a hoax. But I can’t explain Rati. That is pretty interesting. I am tempted to try Doreen Virtue’s oracle cards. I like how she advised you to ‘playmor.’ LOL. I am interested in your exploration of the Tarot cards and where it takes you. I am a big fan of evidence based guidance. But I do recognize there are spiritual forces at play in my life that cannot be explained or rationalized.

    1. I understand, Molly. And as you know, I certainly felt the same way about psychics. If only I could explain Rati.
      Duh. I completely missed the ‘playmor’ connection between our posts. Thanks for pointing it out. I need more sleep. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.
      I will definitely keep you posted about Tarot. I’m hoping to put a lot of time into exploring the cards in April.

  13. Hi Karen!

    I know I’m a little late coming to the conversation but I had to jump in here with everyone else. In case you couldn’t tell from my own blog, I’m a proud card-carrying member of the woo-woo club. BUT–and that’s a big but, I find that how each of us defines woo-woo is different. I have been fascinated since a very young age with the unexplainable. I love the mysterious. I am drawn to connection and wholeness. On the other hand, I am equally attracted to scientific explanations and uncovering how and why things work. According to astrology, I am a Gemini, which as the sign of the twins allows me to easily see opposites and contrasts. My dual nature has no problem connecting dots and embracing paradox.

    However, with all that said, I believe that my view is immensely practical by nature. If it doesn’t serve me or others, I can’t see the point. I guess that is why my first book was entitled “Practical Spirituality!” I’ve never felt comfortable with fundamentalism of any type–religion or science. To me, life is so much more wondrous than any one type of description can encompass, so I like to use it all to navigate my life. Of course, while I’m comfortable sharing my point of view, I have no need or desire to convert others to my way of thinking. I know what works for me and that is enough.

    It is interesting to me that you describe all the external material items that fall into the woo-woo camp. While I do have a few “trinkets” that appeal to me, I’ve never been drawn to crystals, tarot cards or most other items associated with the movement. So much of that falls into what I call “spiritual materialism.”
    With that said, I did buy my first copy of the I-Ching when I was 18 and still own it!

    I also went to a tea-leaf reader at age 21 with girlfriends during our “lunch hour.” The only thing I remember was that she told me that I would meet and marry my husband. I thought she was completely wrong because I had just broken up with my fiance and was devastated. As it turned out, I met Thom, my husband, a month later, and married him before the year was out. We have now been together for 41 years!

    Still, in the 80s we both attended a famous “medium” from England who basically told us nothing new except that we would have two sons. He failed to recognize that we had chosen not to be parents –ever. In fact, Thom had had a vasectomy two years before that time. And no, we still have no children. 🙂

    As I mentioned above, I believe that any approach to life needs to be practical. If it improves the quality of one’s life and brings happiness and balance, and another person isn’t insisting I have to believe it too, I’d say go for it. Discernment in all things is also wise. There are a lot of people with “agendas” on both sides of the divide. Practicing kindness, compassion, and love as much as possible continues to help me decide where to put my attention. Other than that, the skies the limit! ~Kathy

    1. Hi Kathy,
      I’m delighted that you took the time to share your thoughts. It’s never too late to do that.

      There’s a book I read years ago – I think it’s called The Opposable Mind. The author posits that what our world needs are more people like you – people who can embrace contradiction. To be able to do that and have a utilitarian focus seems to me to be the best of all worlds. It makes such good sense.

      You’re absolutely right that at this stage, my focus has been on the external material stuff. At least that’s true other than psychics, and energy work (Reiki, tapping and the like) which some people consider total woo-woo, but which I find incredibly effective and powerful. I’ll be writing about energy work later.

      I’ve never been to a tea-leaf reader. I’ve always had trouble imagining what could be seen in tea leaves but then I’ve also never had the occasion to meet a reader. If I did, I’d certainly give it a try. You had quite the experience on that one! But it is so hit and miss, isn’t it. Witness your famous medium from England who seemed to miss the boat with you and Thom.

      I love your last paragraph. Great advice for life, not just for woo-woo.
      Karen

  14. Hi Karen…I might have to look that book up. It sounds like it would be right up my alley! I also always loved that quote by Fitzgerald that said, “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” But I don’t claim it too often because I’m sure my confirmation bias is at work 🙂

    And as for studying more of the inner and energy side of woo-woo, have you ever heard of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS)? It was founded by Edgar Mitchell the astronaut who on his return trip from walking on the moon saw the globe from his spaceship and and knew, just knew that life was more amazing that all of his previous science. When we came back he founded IONS based on the idea that there are multiple ways of “knowing.” While he has since passed away they continue to do scientific research attempting to prove that woo-woo isn’t something that people makes up–but is rather just something we haven’t figured out how to measure or understand. You might want to check them out. They, and a couple of others in the field, are really attempting to bridge the gap. http://noetic.org/

    Like some of my other blogger friends I wish you lived closer. Something tells me we would have LOTS to talk about if we ever get the chance to meet in person. ~Kathy

    1. I hadn’t heard of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, but will definitely look into it. Thanks for letting me know about it.
      I too wish we lived closer together. We absolutely would have lots to talk about. I think we’re just going to have to look for an opportunity to meet in person. There’s no alternative 🙂

  15. I really enjoyed your post, Karen, since I can relate to it almost 100%. I have always been a skeptic, only believing things when evidenced, or seen with my own eyes. That being said, I am open to “what else is out there”, because, if nothing else, I am a curious person and enjoy new experiences. I have read accounts of the supernatural, and, while I used to dismiss any of that when I was younger, I now read the accounts and stories with interest. When people have had encounters with “spirits” or received “signs” from loved ones that have passed on, I’m almost envious. So, I guess I”m a curious skeptic as well, only, my curiosity and open-mindedness has not led me to new beliefs. There is still time! 🙂

    Most of the examples you state using cards and readings, could be suggested to me right now. Tough and stressful periods with all work and no play, cause that, right? I’ve never had a psychic reading. I have been curious about it, but afraid as well. I’d rather not know the future, I guess, whether it would be good or bad. On the contrary, and maybe hypocritically, I do want MRIs and check-ups to define whether findings are malignant or not.

    When Lucy told you about your future house, maybe it affected your subconscious to end up with a house like that?

    1. Hi Liesbet,
      I don’t think a good psychic gives bad news. I found that talking with Lucy was more like a therapy session with a benevolent coach. Even when she was telling me things that could be interpreted negatively – like “You need to step off the treadmill before you get thrown off” – it was always really obvious that I had free will and could change many of the things that were possibly coming my way.

      If Lucy did plant a suggestion in my subconscious, it was planted really deeply. I lived in this house for four years before remembering the reading she had given. If anything, she might have ‘read’ my interests since I wanted a house like this forever. Not that I had specifics in mind, but I’ve always loved a water view – even if that water is a pond!

      I think we’re probably pretty similar in all of this, Liesbet. I too am intensely curious and I’m open-minded, but I don’t think I’m ready to say that I wholeheartedly believe in everything. I had a really good experience with Lucy most of the time, so I see value in what she offered for sure, but I wouldn’t apply that faith and trust to every psychic out there. I’m sure a bunch of them are total charlatans.

      As you say, there’s time! It will be so interesting for both of us to see how things progress over the years.

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