In writing my books, I need to experience the reality of what is going on to fully understand. For my book, Spiders, I spent hours every day getting up close and personal with my local spiders. I still blog my observations, I adore them so much. The blog is called The Spiderblogger. For my current research I am doing 25 memory experiments.
For The Skeptic’s Guide to the Paranormal, the most difficult and most rewarding was learning to do cold readings. I wanted to understand what was going on in the minds of psychic readers and sitters, and to discover if there was any way I could prove psychic ability was real. All I discovered was that I could replicate psychic readings such that my sitters felt it was real. I used only an understanding of the psychology involved and a lot of practice.
Ray Hyman started it all with his famous article, ‘Cold Reading’: How to Convince Strangers That You Know All About Them’, Ian Rowland is author of the definitive work on the subject, The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading. Ian is a good friend and the acknowledged world authority on Cold Reading. His advice on my own cold reading has been invaluable.
I have not a psychic bone in my body, nor psychic cell in my brain, yet I was constantly told that I had revealed details to my sitters than only a psychic could know. Cold reading is the art of convincing people you know lots about them, using psychology and experience. Even when I explained what I was doing, some people were convinced that my readings worked because I was using tarot or astrology. I might claim that I was only using science, they said, but the astrology or tarot was working at a psychic level. So I created my own system, from scratch, so I knew that the only thing ‘working’ was me. Tauromancy was born.
Some of the most rewarding and close conversations I have ever had have resulted from doing a reading first. Cold reading offers far more than debunking psychics.
Tauromancy is an artificially created system for performing ‘psychic’ readings. I made it up from scratch so there was no chance of any factors other than pure science. As with Tarot, Astrology, Numerology and Palm Reading, the reader is able to make a large number of statements about the client which appear to give information the reader could not know without special powers.
The complete set of tools for Tauromancy:
1. The Book – handwritten and illustrated ‘during my training in China’ as is the tradition with Tauromancy. I get to set all the traditions being the only practitioner in the world. Every page gives plenty of information in new-age-speak which sort-of makes sense.
2. The mat – clients place the masks and essences on the mat themselves once they have held them and then relaxed and placed them as they feel most exactly represents themselves. They may reject any they feel do not resonate with their lives.
3. The masks and essences. Actually Chinese bookmarks made of metal.
4. My special Pointer. At the top left of the picture. Very spiritual.
5. The staves and rods and blockers. Top right.
Once the sitter has placed the masks and essences on the mat, there is lots of space for them to ‘build an image of their world’ with the staves and rods after we have talked through whatever they have done with the masks.
So by the end, the client has the masks all arranged, some rejected. They have chosen rods and stave and built some kind of structure in the space. They usually chatter while they do this – some taking positively ages!
This is what the stage looks like after the sitter has done both sections. The masks and essences are arranged on the mat, enabling me to talk about ‘willing to break the boundaries for …’ and ‘central to your focus …’ and so on. The few up the top have been rejected, which can be interpreted in numerous ways. Either -‘ rejected because you do not allow yourself to feel hatred – well done’ – or ‘rejected because you have not yet acknowledged the full extent of ….’ .
On the right are the selected staves and rods. Each has a meaning. They are ‘at cross purposes’ or ‘pointing towards your …’ or ‘aligned with’ or anything else I like. The unselected rods and staves are interpreted as suits my purpose as well.
I have not done Tauromancy readings for a number of years now. I became too uncomfortable with the number of people wanting to believe that I was real and offering me money to do private readings for them. I have never been paid for a reading.
My purpose was to understand the way our minds work in the reading situation. I have also had readings done for me as a sitter. I found all situations very emotional and far from simple. I am convinced, however, in the wrong hands, cold readings can be used to exploit the vulnerable and trusting.