Posted in Female Author, Nonfiction

Review ~ Adventures of a Psychic

Adventures of a Psychic: The Fascinating and Inspiring True-Life Story of One of America’s Most Successful Clairvoyants by Sylvia Browne & Antoinette May

Cover via Goodreads

In this uniquely fascinating book, world-renowned psychic Sylvia Browne recounts her captivating life as a clairvoyant, telling of her earliest “readings” as a young child in Kansas City, and of her first contact with “Francine”, her spirit guide.In engrossing detail, Sylvia tells how her “gift” has assisted police departments in their search for missing children and dangerous criminals — and how her predictions of deaths, plane crashes, and momentous world events were sometimes heeded — or tragically ignored.

But more than anything else, this is the remarkable story of one woman’s psychic odyssey, for it offers illuminating insight into how we can better understand ourselves and our own psychic abilities. (via Goodreads)

Why did I read this book… I have been researching the techniques spirit mediums have used historically and I’m strongly skeptical of Sylvia Browne and her modern colleagues. And I will recuse myself, as I often find myself doing here on my blog: I am not a believer. I did not even try to be objective while reading Ms. Browne’s book. I was curious, I guess, about how a late 20th century psychic presents her history.

The first thing that struck me was the similarity in presentation of Browne’s early history and the semi-fictional biographies of magicians. Some details are over-blown: Browne stating that her ancestors are from a noble Rhine family. Other details are obscured. Dates are few and far between, so some details are hard to pin down. Like the wandering magician, Ms. Browne had an older mentor, in this case her grandmother Ada.  She is physically described several times in the book (more than most fictional characters)  and is always portrayed as good-looking. Model-esque and doe-eyed. These things are meant to accentuate the positive. They’re a sales job. Even Robert-Houdin knew the value of a good sales job.

Speaking of the positive, Sylvia Browne is never wrong in this book. She might relate times when her talents predict something unfortunate, but she’s never wrong. The book paints herself as completely and uncannily reliable.This is in contrast to a statement made after one of her more recent failures: “Only God is right all the time.” Or maybe it’s her spirit guide Francine who is wrong and, considering what a party the afterlife is, spirits are sometimes too busy to talk.

Francine is also an interesting throwback to mediumistic history. Ms. Browne redubbed her spirit guide with a European name, but like many spirit guides of the Victorian and Edwardian era, Francine is the helpful spirit of a Native American woman.

(Another incredibly co-incidental connection to mediums of old, and something not mentioned in this book, is Sylvia Browne’s criminal conviction involving selling securities in a gold-mining venture under false pretenses. The money solicited from investors was not used for operating costs, but to establish Browne’s psychic research foundation. David Abbott tells of “spirit mine” case in the early 1900s that at least involved a boulder of gold quartz materializing at a seance.)

Much of this book is a presentation of Browne’s religious and philosophical beliefs. Biographical stories are turned into catechism-like Q&A sessions. The afterlife, it seems, is for extroverts, full of parties and discussion groups. Reincarnation exists, as long as you feel the need to work through issues in your next life. There is a God, but he/she is loving and all-knowing, interested in what’s best for us little people. In general, it’s all pretty…general. If I could credit Ms. Browne with anything, it’s devising system of spirituality that is encompassing and tolerant. It seems to be designed to be appealing to a wide range of people. Unfortunately, these very didactic sections make the case-study anecdotes feel vague and glib.

The one area where Ms. Browne shows her warts is her love life. She’s been married or nearly married many times. And I have to wonder, why do so many people follow someone who has made a great hash of her life in this arena? Or, is this weakness calculated? Who hasn’t been foolish in love? Are people inspired because she has seemingly become a success despite these really bad decisions?

I have to be most harsh when Ms. Browne describes the medical applications of her talents. She has no science background and when she mentions something scientific it’s just…wrong. Seven levels of abnormal behavior? The spirit enters through the pituitary gland?  Arthritis is described as energy bulging from the joints. Heart attacks are caused by broken-heartedness. In an effort to be scientific during sittings, controls are used to make sure there is no telepathy involved, not to prove that Ms. Browne isn’t using earthly means instead of her clairvoyance. I would find Ms. Browne to be less dangerous if she limited herself to spiritual matters. Leave policing to police and doctoring to doctors.

Genre: Biography/Autobiography
Why did I choose to read this book? Curiosity
Did I finish this book? (If not, why?) Yes.
Format: In-Browser eBook
Procurement: Phoenix Digital Library