What We Learn When Psychic Mediums Disagree
By Bob Olson
One benefit to exploring the gifts of more than one psychic medium comes from recognizing the differences and discrepancies between them. Early in my research, I was excited by the parallels among psychic mediums regarding how they worked and what they taught. Later, I was surprised to notice how often psychic mediums differ in what they say and do. This chapter discusses some of those differences and discrepancies, and reveals the lessons these dissimilarities teach us.
Whether it’s a live psychic medium demonstration, a television show or a private reading, psychic mediums are almost always asked questions about the afterlife. And in almost every case, each psychic medium provides an answer. So what are we supposed to believe when three or four psychic mediums answer the same question differently?
I first realized there were some discrepancies between psychic mediums when I was reading books written by famous psychic mediums like George Anderson, Sylvia Browne, John Edward and James Van Praagh, to name just a few. Later, I heard such inconsistencies among the several psychic mediums I interviewed in person. One of the key issues psychic mediums do not agree on is suicide. Many people want to know what happens to a person when they commit suicide. Well, ask three different psychic mediums and you could get three different answers.
Most psychic mediums agree that there is no hell, except for what we mentally create for ourselves here on earth. So there is agreement that suicide victims do not go to hell. But one psychic medium says that suicide victims return to another earthly life immediately to accomplish what they originally planned to do. Another psychic medium claims that suicide victims lie in a dormant state of limbo for a period of time, almost as though they are sleeping off a bad hangover. Another claims that people who commit suicide must wait out the life they took (their own) until it was supposed to be over, as though they lie waiting in regret while watching their loved-ones go through that life without them. And finally, most psychic mediums will tell you that you go into the light and love of the spirit world like everyone else—possibly under the care of special souls who help suicide victims—but with deep regret for cutting short the learning opportunity you had hoped for before entering that life. The different versions vary so much that it is confusing to know exactly what to believe.
What these inconsistencies teach us is that psychic mediums don’t have all the answers. They are limited in their knowledge of the afterlife in two ways: One, they are limited by their own human ability to understand infinite principles; and Two, they are limited by their own subjective perceptions.
Spirits teach us that the brilliancy of the colors, the striking beauty of the music and loving warmth of the light in the spirit world are unlike anything we can imagine here on earth. Some of you are probably asking yourself, “There is light and music in the spirit world?” Who knows? Whatever spirits are experiencing in their world is apparently indescribable using our human language and understanding. Therefore, spirits use points of reference that we can understand, like describing the light as “the sun,” to give us some idea of what they are experiencing.
When spirits try to explain these unexplainable things to a psychic medium, they will use points of reference meaningful to each individual psychic medium to convey the most accurate description possible. A description that might work for one psychic medium won’t necessarily fit the mental framework of another psychic medium. Hence, we get confusion and discrepancies between what psychic mediums know about the afterlife.
I wish more psychic mediums would refrain from answering certain questions about the afterlife. My frustration lies in knowing that individuals and audiences hearing or reading their answers often take what these psychic mediums say verbatim. Many people will even argue about something they heard or read from a psychic medium as if it were God’s truth. It is true that some psychic mediums know a lot more about the afterlife than most people; but again, what they know is filtered by their own perceptions and points of reference. If they are going to answer questions about the afterlife, I think psychic mediums should begin their answer with, “Now understand that what I am about to tell you is limited by my own imperfect human abilities to understand the infinite and my own subjective perceptions and experiences…”
There are some inconsistencies among psychic mediums that are unexplainable, and not very important either. I read from one psychic medium’s book that people in the spirit world are all thirty years old. Other psychic mediums tell me that spirits show themselves as they felt best while here on earth—that could be at age twenty, thirty, or even sixty. Again, psychic mediums should stick to answering these types of questions by saying, “In my experience, this is what it’s like in the spirit world…” Apparently, different psychic mediums have different experiences in the way spirits show themselves, including the ages in which spirits appear.
Why do psychic mediums give answers to questions that are in disagreement with other psychic mediums? In most cases, the psychic medium doesn’t know his or her answer is in disagreement with that of another psychic medium. Most psychic mediums are not comparing notes. I remember learning in college as a criminology major that five people can witness the same crime at the exact same moment and at the exact same location, yet give five different versions of what happened in their witness statements. Are they lying? No. They are simply describing the crime the way they saw it. Who is right and who is wrong? We can never really know. Even if the criminal returned to confess his version of the story, his individual perspective would also taint his description of what happened. Psychic mediums are giving honest answers to questions they are asked about the afterlife, but their answers differ due to their personal human perceptions of how they learned the answer.
There is a chapter in this book that explains how “knowing” comes from personal experience, not from vicarious experience (not from hearing about someone else’s experience). This is also true when it comes to understanding the afterlife. In studying information on Near-Death Experiences (when people die but return back to life), I noticed many similarities in people’s descriptions about their death experience. However, the inconsistencies among people’s descriptions were often based on their subjective spiritual frame of reference (spiritual beliefs, religion and personal points of reference).
Many people (during their near-death experience) were soon met by a “greeter” after leaving their body. For some, this is described as a white being of light or an all-knowing light. Others say it is a bright ball of love. Some describe it as a relative, friend or guide from the spirit world—even a deceased pet. Still others describe it as a spiritual being, Buddha, Mohammed, Jesus or God. The variations of details were many; the basic concept was the same. There is little question that these people have described similar experiences; they were all met by a “greeter.” It was their subjective contexts that altered the particulars.
So it is with psychic mediums. What they learn about the afterlife is affected by their subjective experiences and beliefs. But there is also another reason for the differences in how psychic mediums answer questions: each psychic medium’s gift may work a little differently.
For the first year and a half into my research, I would often call Vicki to ask her questions. I got used to the way her gift worked, and assumed most other psychic mediums worked the same way. About a year later, I was talking to an exceptionally gifted psychic medium and decided to ask him a question.
“I have a question for you,” I said. “Two days ago I was sitting in my bedroom and had an overwhelming sense that a spirit was in the room with me. I actually felt like this spirit was trying to get a message to me, but I had no intuitive sense of who it might be. Can you get anything on who it was or what the message was about?” I asked.
“Sorry, Bob, it doesn’t work that way,” he said. “If you had called me two days ago while it was happening, I might have got something, but not now. I can’t look into the past, you know,” he laughed.
At first I felt embarrassed for asking such a naïve question. Then, after I hung up the phone, I realized that I shouldn’t feel embarrassed because Vicki had been doing this for me ever since I met her. With Vicki, she would know who I was talking about immediately because the spirit would show up in front of her the second I brought it up, telling her what they wanted to convey to me at couple days prior. If I was wrong, and there wasn’t anyone trying to give me a message, then nobody would show up when I mentioned it to Vicki. She would say, “Either you don’t need the message anymore or there wasn’t anyone trying to communicate with you, because nobody is claiming to have been there that day.”
What this other psychic medium may not have realized was that “his” gift does not work this way. Consequently, this was the first day I recognized the differences in the way psychic mediums’ gifts work. This gifted psychic medium wasn’t telling me false information; he was telling me true information based on his personal point of reference—how his own gift works. How was he to know that another psychic medium’s gift does work this way? Why should he? It’s not like he’s going around getting readings from other psychic mediums all the time. I, on the other hand, do get readings from other psychic mediums regularly. Thus, I discovered this important lesson.
Aside from the fact that some psychic mediums see spirits, some hear them, some communicate telepathically and some do all of the above, there are also differences in how, when and where their gifts work. Some of these differences, however, might have more to do with the psychic medium’s belief system than the actually reality of the situation. I believe that this psychic medium actually does have the ability to answer the question I had above, but he “believes” he can’t and is therefore limited to that reality. Perhaps he had a teacher or mentor who passed this limiting message on to him. Let me explain.
It makes sense to me that if a spirit was trying to get a message to me, he or she would jump on the opportunity to do so the first chance they got. My father knew I was going to call Joe the night before I even knew that I was going to call him. If you recall that story, my father visited Joe the night before I called, interrupting one of Joe’s group sessions. When I finally did call Joe the next morning, my father showed himself to Joe the second Joe picked up the phone. I have heard many similar stories by other psychic mediums. In fact, my father and grandmother showed themselves to Vicki and communicated with her the very first time I called her for an appointment. What they told her is the reason she agreed to see me on a Sunday afternoon; they conveyed to her how important it was for both me and her that she see me that particular day.
Most experienced psychic mediums have learned to turn their gift off while not working. It is a useful strategy to conserve their energy this way. The gift is always there in the background, like a radio they can hear in the other room, but they keep the volume down low when they are not working so they can maximize their efforts when they are working.
So when I asked the psychic medium above about the spirit who was coming to me two days prior, his gift wasn’t turned on for him to know if anyone was there with a message for me. Because he didn’t “believe” his gift works this way, he never turned it on to see if it could. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If he never tries, his gift will never work in this manner.
Vicki, on the other hand, already had her gift turned on whenever we worked together, so this wouldn’t have been an issue for her. She was used to turning it on before I interviewed her or spoke with her on the phone. Plus, she believed her gift did work that way—nobody had ever told her otherwise—so she would have turned it on even if it were off to see if someone was there with a message for me.
A few months after this experience, my friend John sponsored an amazing psychic medium from Scotland named Gordon. When Gordon spoke at a mediumship workshop he gave for beginners (as mentioned in a prior chapter), he told us how he studied mediumship for seven years with some of the best psychic mediums in history. Then he admitted having to unlearn most of what he had learned. He said this took him another seven years to shed all the limiting beliefs he had acquired from his mentors and the books he had studied. It was an interesting testament to what I had been witnessing with some of the psychic mediums I had researched and/or met.
Psychic mediums are human, so they grow and stretch their abilities just like the rest of us. Many of us are limited in our abilities because of the limiting beliefs we have about what we can do. How many people believe they can’t draw, can’t sing or can’t juggle only to learn one day that they are mistaken? I often hear stories about people discovering an unknown talent for painting or drawing years into adulthood. Psychic mediums are no different. Therefore, if you ask a psychic medium a question, understand that you can only ask them questions about “their” gift. Other psychic mediums may give you a different answer.
In the chapter on “The Purpose Of Mediumship,” you won’t read that psychic mediums are here to teach us what it is like in the spirit world. They can give us a clue, but they don’t know for sure. No one will truly know what the spirit world is like until we get there. Even those people who seem to have gone there and returned in their near-death experiences or spiritual awakenings will admit that it is terribly difficult to explain something so infinite, sacred and divine using our limited vocabulary.
Psychic mediums can, however, help us gain evidence that an afterlife exists. They certainly can help us know that our loved-ones continue to exist and are happy, alive and pain-free despite their physical death here on earth. Perhaps, however, we should stop asking them questions beyond that, or else risk confusion and misunderstandings. Perhaps we should remember that psychic mediums are not all-knowing enlightened beings, but rather, human beings with an extraordinary ability to communicate with spirits and connect with their advanced senses. We shouldn’t confuse their spiritual gift with God-like spiritual infallibility or omniscience. We should see psychic mediums as human and allow them to be the “spiritual beings having a human experience” that we all are. With this understanding, we can take what these psychic mediums teach us based on their own individual experiences to determine our own truths and beliefs about living, dying and the afterlife.
BOB OLSON is a former skeptic and private investigator who has researched evidence of life after death for approximately five years. He now shares the spiritual insights, extraordinary experiences and gifted individuals he has met along his journey in order to bring hope, comfort and peace to the grieving. Bob is the author of Win The Battle, co-author of Understanding Spirit, Understanding Yourself and editor of GriefAndBelief.com, OfSpirit.com Magazine, & BestPsychicMediums.com.