I was recently listening to the Skeptics with a K podcast and was interested in their bit about the recent psychic challenge they did. Now, if you are curious about that check out their podcast and website and such for details. No, it's the question they raised about what goes on in the mind if someone who believes they are psychic. As some know I used to be a believer in many different things - I was a huge proponent of pseudo-medicine, especially herbal medicine, I believed in fairies, spirits, mystical energy, chi, gods and more. I also did tarot readings and very much believed they could tell you a possible path. I believed I could see and feel auras and that they could tell me something about a person.
This gives me some insight into what a believer may be thinking and feeling when they do readings. Mind you this is one anecdote but I think it may be interesting to those who have never been in that position.
I could actually see the things I believed in. I saw fairies, spirits, and more. This is what led me to believe in them. I would follow a ritual to see the fairies, know what I should see and then proceed to be able to see it. This is a known psychological possibility but at the time it seemed too real to be an illusion. I spoke with them, danced with them, and some were even afraid of. The emotions provoked by these apparitions were real to me. I had no reason then to believe they were a product of my mind. Moreover my friends, who were also believers could see them too and corroborated my experiences. When I spoke to them I heard them out loud or in my head - depending on what seamed to be the whim of what I was speaking to. If I heard them out loud it really did seen like they were standing in front of me and taking to me as a person would. If they were in my head it was a distinct feeling of another mind, with its own personality, voice, accent etc. they really did seem to exist as an other.
I wasn't able to see auras or energy for quite a while, my brain just didn't seem to be able to do it. It took over a year of hard work and belief for me to actually see them. I could feel them - much like feeling a slight draft from an open door down the hall - and could sense them that way but there were no visual effects until I had put the effort in. After that I could see energy, chi and auras. They were often vivid in color though if they were muted it could tell you something as well. Even to this day I can choose to see moving swaths of color in time to music. I essentially can create my own mental light show. Now this isn't just in my minds eye feeling this looks like I am actually looking at something in front of me, something real and moving around and, while ephemeral, still real. Just as real as a beam of light hitting dust in the air. Nothing you can touch but something you can see. Auras seemed to exist surrounding anything alive and they came in a vivid array of colors and textures.
Tarot readings were something different though, I studied the meanings of the cards, the meanings of the symbols on them and I practiced over and over until I had a sense of what each card could represent. When I did a reading I would allow the person their privacy on how it relates to them and simply explain what each position and each card could represent. If it didn't resonate with them then it may be an aspect of the card that isn't its main, overall aspect. The tower can be destruction, a catastrophic end, and an unwanted event or if you take just the symbol of the tower being torn down it can be the removal of your barrier keeping an opportunity away, or a reminder that everything must end - even a fortress made of stone will someday crumble. All varied things and what I know now is that I was learning to cold read, to use this prop of cards that could mean so very many things to tell a person something in a way they hadn't heard or to confirm what is in their own mind. I do still believe that tarot, especially the oracle style decks, can be extremely useful as a tool to give your mind more props to see another side of a situation, but unlike when I was a practitioner, I don't believe they are or should be used for more than that.
Looking back now after three years of being a skeptic I know the varied ways and reasons for why I believed what I did but at the time it was very convincing. We ask for evidence but to someone like me when I believed I couldn't understand why you wouldn't believe. If seeing fairies was as simple as asking them to come and play why didn't non-believers just try. I had never realized that not everyone had the over active imagination that was needed for that kind of sight. Even in the faery faith community I wasn't the norm. I was gifted with the sight to be able to see them so easily. Many others I knew had gone years of study and faith without getting more than a feeling and a glimpse out of the corner of the eye. If I hadn't done the 180 to skepticism I would likely be still in that world - teaching others to feel and see as I did. I am grateful that I have come to this community however. A place where the majesty of the universe is celebrated and where I can strive to figure out what is real and what is there by suggestion and an over active imagination.