YACHATS, OREGON: Everywhere we go, Americans are telling us that President Calvin Coolidge wasn’t wrong when he proclaimed, “The business of America is business.” From the smallest commercial fishing docks on the Pacific coast through tiny towns and back woods neighborhoods, we’re all feeling the fear of the country’s financial turbulence.
But Americans are distinctive around the world for the strength and breadth of their reliance on faith, so the moment we heard that a Psychic Fair lay ahead of us on the road, we made a quick turn into the parking lot. Soon we were weaving among jam-packed booths selling crystals, magic wands, massage creams and tarot cards.
“A lot of people are turning to us for crystals because of their vibration energies and healing properties,” said Scott Vandehey of Crystal Heart Books in Beaverton, Oregon. “Compared with just a couple of years ago, we’re seeing a lot more people coming to the truth of metaphysics because they’re so worried about life today.”
The Gallup Organization, which has been tracking what it calls “paranormal beliefs” for many years, routinely releases data that show 1 in 4 Americans believe in astrology and that extraterrestrial beings have visited Earth in the past. Responses vary in some ways: More women follow astrology and more men believe in ETs. Only 1 in 5 Americans believe we can speak to the dead. Overall, though, this group of alternative believers, if organized into a single religious denomination, would be as large as the Catholic church in America.
“More people are coming to see us just to lessen their stress levels,” Vanderhey said.
That’s possible, although not entirely provable nationally. The Gallup reports don’t show a sharp upswing in these basic beliefs, but reporting on these groups nationally in recent years, it does seem that millions of Americans are more active in their longstanding alternative beliefs.
Our visit to the Yachats Psychic Fair may seem like an odd way to take an America’s pulse, but today (Thursday August 12) is the 50th anniversary of NASA’s launch of ECHO, the first American satellite to bounce communication back to people from one distant point to another on the planet. Today, our 9,000-mile journey depends on a GPS device that was a science fiction fantasy not too many years ago.
So, in Yachats, we held crystals, tried energy-inducing wrist bands, watched demonstrations of aura therapy and, finally, we settled into the folding chairs set up at a card table by the psychic Raia.
“Just Raia. Raia is my only name,” she said. “I call myself a psychic or a seer. I live in Lincoln City, Oregon, and I’ve been helping people for a very long times. I’m 65 and I’ve been doing this for 45 years professionally.”
We explained that, as journalists, we couldn’t pay her and that, rather than a personal reading, we’d like to hear what she sees ahead of us as an entire nation.
“All of America? Oh, wow!” she said, then paused for a very long moment. “You want to hear the truth?”
We nodded and braced.
“The truth is we haven’t seen the worst of it. As I say that, you need to understand that I’m not a negative seer. I’m not even a negative person,” Raia said. “But I’m being completely honest here. I don’t think we’ve seen the worst of it as a country. The problem is we don’t learn from our own lessons. We keep practicing our warring ways. We engage in so much conflict all the time. It’s so clear where that pathway is going to take us: toward worse things ahead. There are reasons people are afraid today.”
Is there hope?
“People who become enlightened or develop a more generous spirit actually will do much better. A major portion of the world is headed to a serious fall. I do see that clearly ahead. But after this very negative picture I’m giving you, I do want to turn the whole thing around for a moment.
”If you want to survive this, you’re really going to have to concentrate on the positive. If you take on the world’s negativity, you’re going down with everything else that goes down. This may sound cliché and hippy-dippy, but if you don’t have a loving energy for other people, you’re going to have a negative energy. Everybody’s got one form or the other. One form of energy will take you down and the other form will get you through these times.
“I have two adult children myself and grandchildren, too, and I am worried myself. People are just so materialistic today that they can’t see beyond themselves. My hope is that everything alive is cyclical. Life changes and turns and renews itself. Those of us who are positive and loving will raise up new generations that will be part of the rebirth. Positive parents and their babies do give me hope. That’s honestly what I see.”
(Photos and story by readthespirit.com Editor David Crumm and his son Benjamin who are devoting 40 days and 9,000 miles to circling the United States and talking with Americans about what divides and what could unite us.)
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