The psychic accepts she was wrong in terms of plain fact, but right in the terms of the psychic or divinatory system she is using. For example, if the psychic is giving a tarot reading, she may hazard a guess that the client has a sister, and make a statement accordingly:
"And I see some sort of financial transaction involving your sister."
If the client rejects this on the basis that she does not have a sister, the psychic immediately chimes in with something like this:
"Well, actually, within tarot we use 'sister' to mean any female with whom you have a close friendship or whom you know well... "
Broadening and adapting the meaning in this way provides a much greater chance of obtaining a hit or a near-hit. Similarly, the astrologer may offer something like this:
"And if I go back to last September, the influence of Pluto in your fifth house at this time would suggest you benefited financially, or came into some money."
If the client rejects this, the astrologer can smoothly introduce this kind of revision:
"Well, I said 'money', but in astrological terms we rarely think of wealth as purely coins and hard cash. What I really meant was wealth in terms of your life and fulfilment, that kind of wealth."
Provided the client can think of any bit of good news during the period referred to, the psychic can count this as another hit.
Spiritualists are especially liberal with their use of this method. Since they alone can tell us how those in the spirit world think and feel, they can invoke whatever explanations seem expedient at the time. The commonest example arises when the psychic has mis-stated the client's relationship to the person coming through from the spirit world:
"And I have an elderly gentleman with me now who says you may well have been trying to communicate with him, since he passed recently. I sense this could be your father."
At this point the client might point out that her father is still alive, but that her brother passed recently. The psychic might then ask a Direct Question to establish that the client's brother was older than her, and then say:
"Oh, I understand now. What he meant was that when you were both young, there were often times when he was left with responsibility for you, and he was almost like a father figure to his little sister."
This would be another triumph for the special semantic licence granted to psychics. There are always themes and variations available to the skilled cold reader. In the example above, it really does not matter whether or not the brother's age turns out to be convenient. Even if he had been much, much younger, the psychic could offer a line like this:
"Oh, yes, he's coming through more clearly now. It was me that was in a muddle, not your brother! I got the word 'father' and I jumped the gun. He was trying to explain to me not that he was your father, but that you and he both had the same father... that's right, isn't it?"
And so on to the rest of the reading. There is always a way out!
10. Wrong small print, right headline
The psychic accepts a correction as confirmation that she was, broadly speaking, right all along. Example:
"And was there a problem with the wheels on this car?"
If the car did indeed have wheel problems (as many cars do) then it is another hit. If not, and the client says it was the brakes that were faulty, then:
"Oh it was the brakes, was it? OK, then, but you did have a problem with the car, that's right isn't it?"
Another triumph for psychic powers. A slight refinement is for the psychic to hint that she got something wrong only because she did not use her own gifts properly, like this:
"Oh it was the brakes, was it? Well that'll teach me! I wanted to say 'brakes' but then I got this impression about the wheels. I should learn to trust my first instincts, shouldn't I? OK, then, but nonetheless I got this problem with the car, and that's right isn't it?"
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The pathology of the poet says that the undevout astronomer is mad the pathology of the very plain man says that the genius is mad and between these extremes, which stand for ten thousand analogous excesses, the sovereign reason takes the part of a moderator and does what it can. I do not think that there is a pathology of the occult dedications, but about their extravagances no one can question, and it is not less difficult than thankless to act as a moderator regarding them.