Seven women sat at my table in the lobby of the Granit Hotel which was itself, in its day, one of the grande old dames of Catskill resort hotels. These women were high school buddies, but they hadn't seen each other in twenty-five years. And this elegant weekend away with fine meals provided and entertainment every night was their reunion. When they came to see me, they had photo albums with them--snapshots of their lives over the past quarter century.

They sat around my table-each one to get a psychic reading from me and each one to support the others. I began with the woman on my left. That's always the hot seat. But, before I could begin, an image rushed into my head unbidden. It was accompanied by a profound feeling of sadness. "This may be crazy," I said, "but I see a young woman with long dark hair. She is dressed in white, but it's not her wedding dress. And she looks so very sad." Tears appeared in the eyes of the woman next to me. She opened up the photo album on her lap and showed me the picture I had envisioned. It was her daughter, dressed in white, who died at the age of twenty. This particular scene was not an everyday situation. I usually don't get images like that. It's the kind of thing that people remember when they recall psychic stories. When I remember it, however, the startling vision of the deceased daughter is not what sticks out for me. My chief memory of that day was of the feeling engendered by those seven reunited friends. I was an eighth beneficiary of their loving energy.
That's what I remember in my heart's core. For it is the exchange of energy, rather than the exchange of information, that is at the center of any psychic reading. I haven't always been a psychic reader. For a significant chunk of my adult life I was a devout Marxist-and an academic to boot. An historian by training, I know there are many aspects to change in the lives of individuals and nations. I can, however, point, to the moment in my life that launched my transition from the groves of academe to the lobbies of the Borscht Belt hotels just as they were falling on harder times after many decades of flowering renaissance. It was May 11, 1973. On that day I passed the last hurdle between me and my PhD in history at the University of Wisconsin. On that evening at the house of friends I received my first tarot reading. It was the end of one era and the beginning of another. I taught at my college for another eight years, but I have been playing with the cards ever since that night. Fast forward to 1987. After four years' residency in a spiritual community and six months in the Bay area of California, I had relocated to Woodstock, New York, with my daughter Hira. I had taken early retirement from teaching and was planning to pursue book writing and psychic readings as a career. So I advertised my psychic services in the local paper. Sometimes the phone would ring several times a week. Sometimes I would wait an entire month for one appointment. "Try the Jewish Alps," said Day, the haircutter and last of the Woodstock red hot hippies.
He meant the Jewish resort hotels in the Catskill mountains immortalized in the movie, Dirty Dancing. In 1987 there were at least twice as many of these grand establishments as there are today. These hotels constitute the legendary Borscht Belt of Milton Berle, Jackie Mason, Lenny Bruce and Simon Says. "We don't have psychics here," said one of the managers at the Raleigh Hotel. "We're a Jewish hotel." "That's okay," I answered. "I'm Jewish." Next thing I knew I was giving a reading to George Gilbert, one of the two owners of the Raleigh. The following week I had a desk in the lobby of the hotel, my cards, and a sign. My career as Borscht Belt psychic had begun.Within a month, I had established myself as a reader at several other hotels. By the fall of 1987 I was working as a psychic five days a week. From the very first time that I set myself in a hotel lobby and put up my sign, "Psychic Today" I got a response that I would get again and again. People would furtively rush past the sign and mutter, "I don't want to know." It was a strange thing to say. Then I realized that what they didn't want to know was the "scary" information they thought I was going to impart. After all, psychics are those people that see death, disease, and lost love, aren't they?That fear is built into the culture. From the time we are small, we learn in school, in church or synagogue, in movies and books that the world of the psychic is a scary place. In that regard thank goodness for the Harry Potter books.
At least they put some fun into the psychic world.Johnny Greco, activities director of the now-defunct Pines Hotel suggested that if I explained what I did, maybe people would be less nervous, and I could take appointments afterwards instead of sitting on my thumbs waiting for my ship to come in. Thus began the Sarvananda Bluestone talk "What is Psychic?" at the various hotels of the Borscht Belt. First thing I needed to state was that what I did had nothing to do with fortune telling. Fortune telling is a fraud. Anybody who thinks that they can predict the "future" is seriously disturbed. Bottom line: there has never been a professional psychic who has ever won a lottery. Rather than deal with some "future," my readings deal most essentially with the moment. Second, what I do is not particularly mysterious. Psychic intuition is part of our birthright as human beings. Intuition, creativity, and imagination are all sisters. Without them we would not have survived as a human race. They all involve going beyond that which is known-getting out of the box. And, even though our educational system is lopsidedly geared towards the retention of knowledge, imagination is where it all begins. Finally, I never tell anybody anything that they don't, on some level, already know. And, since I never tell anybody anything that they don't already know, there is nothing to be afraid of. Of course we don't always want to know what we know. Sometimes people want the reader to support them down a little trip of denial.
Take the woman who hated her daughter-in-law. She asked me a question about her son's marriage. The question was simple: "Is my son going to remain married to my daughter-in-law"? Never had I heard so much acid poured into those three words "daughter-in-law". I asked her to pick three cards for the question. It was a no brainer."I know you aren't going to like this answer," I said, "but your son an daughter-in-law love each other very much and their marriage is unusually strong."She looked at me, shook her head and groaned, "I know." She knew the answer, all right. She wanted me to tell her something else.