James Van Praag|
Interviewed By: Jody Glynn Patrick
My friend Donna Gray is interviewing psychics all over the world for her next book, and IĂm lucky to tag along on many of those trips to write author interviews for bookreview.com. We have already traveled to New York to see mediums George Anderson and John Edward, and then made a quick sidetrip to St. Louis, where Queen of the STance Suzanne Northrup was in the middle of her book tour. She blew us both away with on-target remarks about our dead sons in the midst of her workshop, and so we came to believe in the process in a really up-close-and-personal kind of way. Then we interviewed another woman ű a well-known psychic healer -- and soon felt like we were in the audience at a cheap carnival trick show. These folks run hot and cold; they are either experts or wanna-be psychicsÓ not much in between.
So we both are thrilled when Donna is able to arrange for a personal interview with the famous medium James Van Praag. However, during the drive from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago, we canĂt help but wonder how weĂll like Van Praag in person, and if he will meet the standards weĂd come to expect from the cream of the crop. Supposedly he is actually good enough at his craft that we fear he might be arrogant, so we mentally prepare ourselves for a quick and unceremonious interview.
Van Praag agrees to meet in the lobby of the downtown Chicago hotel where he is staying ű it isnĂt the hotel where his next day seminar will be held, but rather, an elegant hide-away from the ever-present fans who might ask for a reading on the elevator. ItĂs only 3:30 in the afternoon, but this will be his 30th interview of the day -- and hopefully his last -- he tells us. He shakes hands and smiles, then agrees to have a glass of wine with us in the hotel bar. Minutes into the interview, heĂs called by someone at the Chicago Tribune and agrees to yet another request this evening. ItĂs hard to turn down the Trib.
This is his life now, since the medium launched a very rapid launch to public celebrity after his personal history became fodder for a made-for-television movie starring Ted Danson. His own television show followed on a major network, but it wasnĂt a good match, Van Praag said. Hollywood and psychics, he learned, have two different agendas. He seems ambivalent about the success, not quite certain, he says, if his message is always delivered in the way it was intended because of the background noise provided by other psychics and network publicists. ˘It was my show, but I wasnĂt really expected to make any decisions,÷ he explained, recalling how the studio wanted him to tape four psychic murder investigations in a week. He found it personally draining. ˘And they really wanted it to be the daughterĂs mother who killed her,÷ he said, sighing. Apparently that would boost ratings.
As the conversation continues, Van Praag appears to relax. He is charming, but he doesnĂt seem to be giving pat answers. Sometimes he wants to go ˘off the record÷ and we turn off the tape recorder. He gossips! ItĂs wonderful to hear his stories! He knows the inside, the lowdown, the stories you just donĂt hear every day (and you wonĂt learn them here), and other stories that you might have caught wind of. The tape machine is turned on and off. HeĂs intelligent, witty and downright funny. He makes an occasional short-person joke, which is funny because he is not a tall man. He calls Donna, ˘my little gnome friend,÷ because she is shorter than he. Donna and I look at each other and she raises her eyebrow and grins. He isnĂt at all what we expected. HeĂs much better. He seems down-to-earth ű eager to talk, and eager to teach someone about his profession. Eager to share. Frankly, it is refreshing.
˘The term Špsychic mediumĂ is an oxymoron,÷ he says, inferring that the two words are redundant. ˘Everyone who is a medium is psychic. But not all psychics are mediums.÷ Consider that his first lesson. And by the way, speaking of terms, heĂd like credit for coining ˘psychic amnesia,÷ which refers to someone in the audience who suddenly forgets their dead husbandĂs name in the excitement of being chosen for a visit. ˘ThatĂs my expression,÷ he said. He then told us a colorful example of it, but as much as IĂd like to repeat it, it was off the record. He doesnĂt want someone reading his review and feeling any embarrassment. ˘It happens all the time,÷ he said. ˘It is SO frustrating for the medium, because the spirits just keep repeating the message. They donĂt quit just because the person canĂt process the information at that moment.÷
Donna asks him about his latest book, ˘Looking Beyond,÷ which was written for young adults. Van Praag says he really wants to connect with them before they develop barriers to expressing themselves or experiencing all that could be experienced in the world. Helping younger folks understand spirituality in their own terms demanded that he learn their paradigms. ˘We used their lingo, like ŠReality Check,Ă÷ ű he says, referring to little sections of the book wherein the reader stops to see if their perceptions are consistent with the information they are gathering from their senses. The book proved to be a re-write of the material he has already presented in other works for the adult reader, but it had to be conceptualized differently and expressed differently.
Van Praag knows about being different, and the difficulties inherent in the young adult world. He began seeing dead people at an early age ű a talent that his mother accepted and understood because she, too, had displayed psychic ability. When he said his night time prayers at around the age of six, he remembers seeing lights at the end of his bed; glowings that moved. His mother explained the palpable presence to be angels. He later understood them to be souls.
His skills made him special with his peers, but not in the way he might have chosen while in elementary school. He developed an inclination to blurt out whatever information that a classmateĂs dead relatives might want him to share, which made him one who both mesmerized and frightened other children. ˘It was a very confusing time because of the reactions of those around me, but I always had a strong sense of me ű which helped,÷ Van Praag says. ˘I always knew who I was, and the ability that I had was so natural that I thought if they couldnĂt do it, they were the weirdos!÷ Van Praag was also a small boy, which made him a natural target for bullies. During his youth, this was painful, but as heĂs grown to adulthood, heĂs matured and turns his height into a joke. ItĂs not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
As heĂs grown, heĂs also discovered that while self-esteem is essential, and ego strength is a shield, if a psychic has Ego-with-a-capital-E, God shuts down the ability. Van Praag, who actually went to seminary for a year to answer the question of if he might have been called to be a priest, says, ˘ThereĂs no place for Ego. When you give into thinking there is, you arenĂt doing GodĂs work, youĂre doing your own. And without God, you donĂt have a door.÷
The door he is referring to is the door to dead souls. Van Praag estimates that it takes seven to eight years to properly open up, learn to handle the experience of being a medium, and also learn how to close down and turn if off. Those who canĂt do one of the three have a hard life as a medium, he says. He describes two planes of existence, and on the other side of the world we know, the energy is moving much, much faster. A psychic, he says, must mentally speed up ű thatĂs why they give such rapid-fire reports ű and during that time, a talented psychic is saying things that they are receiving by all of their senses. It may be like a thought in his mind, or a voice in his ear, or the memory of a similar experience. He says what he feels with as little interpretation as possible.
People always want to know if there is an adjustment period after death, during which time the soul is not accessible. Van Praag says that in his experience, ˘if the death is quick, it is easier to come back÷ more quickly in the form of a visitation. ˘ThatĂs opposed to cancer or AIDS, or other conditions that drain the body. The spirit has to revive to generate the energy necessary to reconnect.÷
For all he understands about the universe ű and Van Praag believes he has been contacted by beings beyond this universe ű he doesnĂt understand violence. ˘I just donĂt get it at all,÷ he said. ˘We have, on earth, the ability to tap into and harness the energy of love. ItĂs a basic element that is available to us, but we donĂt use it. Why?÷
If Van Praag is to make his next interview, we have to say good-bye. He offers hugs all around and tells his ˘little gnome÷ Donna that her husband should stop smoking. Normally such an observation would freak us out a little, but not today. Not with Van Praag.
If you ever get the chance to meet James Van Praag, meet him. Meanwhile, read his books. HeĂs all youĂd want in a psychicÓ and in our experienceÓ more.
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