As we will seek to highlight this year, Peterborough has a somewhat unknown but strong sub-culture of psychics and mediums. Indeed, the father of Las Vegas mysticism Manly P. Hall was born here. Last weekend, Arthur sought to experience this for itself, as I went to a psychic presentation with Arthur’s Berfin Aksoy.

Whilst I am extremely skeptical of most belief systems and spiritual practices, in that I struggle to fathom the knowledge that practitioners claim to have access to, I am also open-minded. Who am I to say they are wrong? It would take just as much faith for me to deny their knowledge as it would for me to affirm it. I entered the presentation expecting to be baffled and interested, but not sure beyond that.

The presentation began by introducing the audience to the culture, the terms and the practices, led by Reverend Judy Morgan.

Psychics and mediums can be distinguished as follows. All mediums are psychics, but not all psychics are mediums. Psychics read your energy and your spirits, but mediums know where the messages come from. So, a medium might read your energy based on the spirit of a deceased relative, for example.

A lot of psychic practice is based on educated, experienced intuition. The psychic or medium will “start to get a feeling”, but through thoughts that are not necessarily their own. Even if you don’t believe in psychic abilities, this intuitive ability was clearly impressive as the presentation progressed.

The psychics present had, during their careers, a pretty wide breadth of experience, wider than I could have imagined. For instance, police forces have asked them onto crime scenes to see if they can pick up any messages from spirits at the scene. Here, a psychic would use psychometry, an ability to read an object and its history without having experienced it before. On another occasion, a farmer once asked them to speak to their sick horses to find out what was wrong with them. The farmer’s horses were said to be spiritual, so hoped that the horses would be able to tell the psychic what is wrong.

With this pedigree established, the readings began. Observing as an outsider, this process would sometimes seem little more than deep thought. In other moments, this was a very physical, reactive and emotional process, that would make even the most ardent skeptic reconsider their stance. When a psychic would “tune in over the top” of the person that they were reading, I initially found myself being skeptical of my own skepticism. Their raw, animated demeanour appeared too authentic for them not to be accessing a realm of knowledge that’s alien to me.

Tuning in, as I understood it, was part of reading your message. A light appears over your head, indicating something about your life. Wings, for example, reflect that your life is about to change in some way or that you are in motion. In reading one person’s message, one of the psychics saw a hermit with a lantern, corresponding to a tarot card. This represents soul searching, introspection and growth in a person’s life, the hermit’s standing atop a mountain reflecting this growth.

All in all, I came out of this presentation impressed, interested and less skeptical, but still skeptical. It is very difficult to fathom their spiritual realm of knowledge, but witnessing them in action made it, to some extent, hard to deny as well. Some things were deeply unsatisfactory: for instance, why did every spirit tell their family member that everything would turn out alright? It seems completely implausible that every person’s problems in that room would all be nicely resolved.

It is very easy to be cynical about psychic practice but seeing it in an action certainly opened me up to it more. Take away the spiritual abilities, which many can struggle to understand, and they are still extremely impressive, experienced and intuitive, offering answers, wisdom and more importantly forcing you to entertain difficult ideas about yourself.

All humans look for answers, we’d be much better off if we turned psychics rather than the many cynical avenues people take.