Scientists who study anomalistic psychology consider mediumship to be the result of fraud and psychological factors. Research from psychology for over a hundred years suggests that where there is not fraud, mediumship and Spiritualist practices can be explained by hypnotism, magical thinking and suggestion. Trance mediumship, which according to Spiritualists is caused by discarnate spirits speaking through the medium, can be explained by dissociative identity disorder.
One of my favorite calls was somebody who wanted a psychic reading of her cat. It had been throwing up and she wanted to know why. I hemmed and hawed, "It feels like a stress around something involving morning or evening ... is she being fed regularly?" Eventually it became clear that the cat was really sick and unfortunate enough to belong to someone who thought psychics had more training than veterinarians. The call ended with me saying, "I think the cat wants to go to the vet, and throwing up is the sign she's giving you."
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In old-line Spiritualism, a portion of the services, generally toward the end, is given over to demonstrations of mediumship through contact with the spirits of the dead. A typical example of this way of describing a mediumistic church service is found in the 1958 autobiography of C. Dorreen Phillips. She writes of the worship services at the Spiritualist Camp Chesterfield in Chesterfield, Indiana: "Services are held each afternoon, consisting of hymns, a lecture on philosophy, and demonstrations of mediumship."
Attempts to communicate with the dead and other living human beings, aka spirits, have been documented back to early human history. The story of the Witch of Endor (In the most recent edition of the NIV witch is rendered medium in the passage) tells of one who raised the spirit of the deceased prophet Samuel to allow the Hebrew king Saul to question his former mentor about an upcoming battle, as related in the Books of Samuel in the Jewish Tanakh (the basis of the Old Testament).
Then I got a call from “Denise,” wanting to know if she is going to get enough money from the insurance company for being rear-ended because she needs the money desperately. I wanted to say, “In that case, hang up the phone!” as well as explain to her that I was an expert on love, not claims adjustment. I laid out the cards anyway. I realized I really didn’t want to give this woman advice, so I hemmed and hawed, and she let her time run out at five minutes.
A very large part is played by fraud in spiritualistic practices, both in the physical and psychical, or automatic, phenomena, but especially in the former. The frequency with which mediums have been convicted of fraud has, indeed, induced many people to abandon the study of psychical research, judging the whole bulk of the phenomena to be fraudulently produced.