The traditional view of clairvoyance is usually one of a gypsy woman, bedecked with gold, sitting in a darkened tent and gazing into a crystal ball. The images are strong with occult associations and suggest that this form of psychic communication is somehow allied with the forces of darkness. Whilst this may have had some truth to it in the past, in the 21st Century there is little room for fripperies and props. The modern querent wants results and is far more savvy than his or her Victorian counterparts. Given that clairvoyants were once viewed with suspicion and awe, how are they perceived in the modern age?
Explaining the inexplicable
Clairvoyants have been part of our culture since civilisation began. Those with psychic abilities to contact he dead or predict future events were revered within society and often given positions of power. Rulers, pharaohs and kings often had trusted advisors who use their psychic powers to predict he outcomes of political decisions and even advise on whether or not to take arms against an enemy.
These people were often seen as the power behind the throne, but even their less-influential cousins were held in high esteem. Village elders, witch doctors and shamans were often the focal points for communities and would be called upon to adjudicate arguments, cast spells on crops and predict what the seasons to come would bring with them. These all point at man’s innate desire to find a place within the universe and to seek an explanation for that which is often inexplicable.
During the Middle Ages, when Christianity was asserting itself as the primary religion in the world, church leaders saw fit to try and taint the practices of clairvoyants as the work of the Devil. Among the innocents that were executed during the fevered Witch Hunts, many psychics also met grisly ends. Those that were able to go unnoticed kept their powers a secret or sought power in numbers, often forming secret societies or sects through which they could practice their abilities and flex their psychic muscles. All too often, these groups were seen as being covens of witches and an association with dark magic was struck - an association that would never truly fade away.
The Victorian era saw a resurgence in the interest in paranormal activities. Once outcasts, clairvoyants were now popular in society, although their gifts were primarily used as entertainment, rather than as a serious method through which to communicate with the spirit realm or tune into the psychic wavelengths of others. Charlatans and fraudsters were quick to jump on the psychic bandwagon and, to ‘reinforce’ their claimed authenticity, often purported to have links with external forces or to have some paranormal lineage.
In essence, many counterfeit clairvoyants actively encouraged the idea that they were somehow in league with dark and mysterious forces, to discourage sceptics from debunking them. At this time, there was a strong gypsy culture involving the use of clairvoyants, and they too propagated the notion that to be a clairvoyant was to walk in a realm of darkness and dealing with malevolent creatures, dressing the part and setting the template for an enduring stereotype.
21st Century psychics
Today, however, clairvoyants are quick to distance themselves from the worlds of deities and religion. While there are Christian clairvoyants and pagan psychics, most prefer to look at their gifts from a spiritual or even scientific point of view. The general theory is that clairvoyants are people with heightened powers of intuition - latent abilities that we are all born with. Just as we are all born with muscles, only a few take the time to train themselves into athletes. The same is thought to be true of psychics. Clairvoyance is seen as a natural paranormal gift that we all have, to some degree. While some may believe that their talents are bestowed upon them, the majority believe that they are merely evidence of man’s untapped resources.
Clairvoyants have also had to adapt. In times when they were not viewed favourably by the rest of society, meetings had to be conducted under a veil of secrecy, adding to their mysterious image. However, the modern world is one in which you can seek virtually any service at the click of a mouse. Aware that they either join the technological age or sink into obscurity, clairvoyants have embraced the benefits of the Internet, which is now a veritable market place for anyone looking for psychic services. Sessions are often conducted via the telephone or through email, removing the need for clairvoyant and client to even meet.
The modern clairvoyant is professional and self-possessed. Gone are the arcane window dressings, replaced by hard-working people who have a genuine service to offer. While the associations with the occult and arcane knowledge are bound to linger, meeting a 21st Century clairvoyant can be profoundly underwhelming if you are expecting a wizened crone with a crystal ball.
Today, you are far likely to encounter a smartly dressed person with no more links to Satan than you have yourself. In fact, clairvoyants are now so open about who they are and what they have to offer that you can even check out their online profiles through the various websites that offer their services.
As the attitude towards spiritualism has become more circumspect, clairvoyants have had to re-evaluate who they are and what they represent. Ultimately, they are there to fill a need in man’s existence; to help those who need to contact those who have passed on or to give individuals a sense of their role in the grand scheme of things. Where once going to see a psychic was a thing to be ashamed of and to be kept from prying eyes, it is now a relatively common occurrence. While it might still raise a few eyebrows, attitudes are changing and, given time, it will be viewed with the same lack of surprise as making a visit to go and see your local GP.
Clairvoyants have had a long and troubled history, but the present and the future are offering them a place within society through which they can help others, without fear of recrimination