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Chico Xavier[edit]

I changed the statement that Chico Xavier was nominated for the Nobel Prize in 1981 and 1989, since it cannot be found on his wiki-page and even more the Nobel-Foundation states that it is kept secret for 50 Year who was nominated. (If somebody has a prove we can put it in again) + i love you all, so go out, make a spell, and do the damn seance, who cares if you have to sneak out, its for your own good, just dont get caught!!! get your ass out there and do it man!!

Also I put the 'npov check' on this page, since this article gives the impression that it is really possible (i.e. generally accepted that it is possible) to talk to the dead. Especially the last section. The last sentence 'this has caused some skepticism' seems by far not enough to balance this out. - Andreask 13:47, 4 September 2005 (UTC)

ancient seances[edit]

Maybe I am a bigger dummy than I thought but would you say 'The Oracle' in Greek mythology was a person going into trance state and then conducting a seance? how about eastern mystics? Tiksustoo 22:57, 22 October 2005 (UTC)

Of course you are not a dummy :) . I agree, that the Greek Oracle went into a trance state to predict the future. But as far as I remember, 'the Orcale' didn't do so by talking to the dead, which is crucial to call it a seance. To the question about eastern mystics: How far east you wanna go? I remember from the 1950 Japanese Rashomon movie, that they conducted a seance to solve a crime. Maybe we can take this as a hint for seances in japanese culture. Andreask 06:57, 25 October 2005 (UTC)

thanksa again. hmmm Wiki should be inclusidve of east and west.. so take it as far as the sun goes ;o). am busy hitting magic pages in case you didnt notice from my edits. Tiksustoo 13:42, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

I don't think that list of 'Seance in the Media' is complete without a reference to the movie 'Beetlejuice'.

The Pythian oracles 'went into a trance'/inhaled noxious fumes and then Apollo 'spoke' through them. In Greek mythology, talking to the dead was done by going to Tartarus and having a face to face (i.e. Odysseus and Teiresias).-- (talk) 23:42, 9 July 2008 (UTC)

Seance on a wet afternoon[edit]

I just changed the description of this; so the plot is less visible. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 11:17, 15 February 2007 (UTC).


It is important, when writing any article that deals with people's religious and spiritual beliefs and practices to not put criticism in the lead paragraph. In particular, the tag "pseudoscience" is being pasted on dozens of spirituality, paranormality, and religion articles in an indecent and tendentious manner. Wikipedia is not "The Atheist's Encyclopedia" or "The Skeptic's Encyclopedia." I have removed skeptical criticisms from the lead paragraph and from descriptive paragraphs and placed them in a section called "Critical objections," which contains objections made by spirit-believers as well as by non-spirit-believers. Courtesy is as essential as accuracy when presenting information to the general public. Imagine if Wikipedia were run by racists. Would you read it? How about if it were run by Fundamentalist Christians. Would you read it? There is a reason we ask for NPOV writing, and for mutual respect among editors, and this article needs more of that NPOV writing and more mutual respect. cat -- Catherineyronwode (talk) 21:07, 16 November 2007 (UTC)

Ok, let's say you're right- if you are, then it is reflected in Wikipedia rules. Could you point me to them? ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 06:15, 17 November 2007 (UTC)
I don't buy your embedded premise. I need not look for a wikipedia policy page; i need only to look at Wiki pages on religious topics.
The page on Christianity does not have a skeptic's tag in the lead. Nor does the page on Buddhism. Nor does the page on Taoism. Nor does the page on Animism. The pages that DO have these "pseudoscince" and "critical" and "skeptic's" lead-sentences are those that represent religious and spiritual concepts demographically small enough that the pseudoscience and atheism and skeptic fanatics can hope to overhwlem other editors because here are too few Wikipedians of those denominations to patrol all of the relevant pages.
Writing fair and accurate encyclopedia entries about religious and spiiritual traditions should not be a game in which bullies only pick on littler opponents and avoid confrontations with bigger opponents. if it is, we won't have a real encyclopedia; we'll just have a bunch of opinianated and biased POV-pushing rants from people too small to take on the big religions and too mean-spirited to let the small religions exist in peace.
For example, when i found this article, it was filled with bizarre blather about Ouija boards and fake mediums. There was no explanation of seances in any context except that provided by the debunking Houdini-wannabe, Randi. Historical, social, methodological, and cultural contexts were entirely missing. The external links were to skeptical sites, there were no references to supporting data or books about the subject, the word-usage ("pointer" for "planchette") demonstated an appalling fundamental ignorance of the subject, and each paragraph possible ended with a criticism of the subject. That is not good editing. It is setting up a straw man in order to knock it down.
I demand more of Wikipedia than that it supply a hangout where ignorant cynics can make themselves feel important by writing error-filled trash about someone else's religion.
cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 06:45, 17 November 2007 (UTC)
WP:CIVIL, please. I am a sceptic, and I find it highly objectionable, to say the least, to find myself compared in a simile with racists, notwithstanding the rest of your post. If you are asking for mutual respect amongst editors, then, equally, it should be demonstrated by yourself. — BillC talk 17:06, 17 November 2007 (UTC)
I'm sorry, i realize that was an extreme example. I was not trying to tar skeptics as racists, but rather to point out the dismay that a person feels who comes to Wikipedia to read about something they are, do, believe in, or live by -- and seeing it trashed by haters. I will try to keep the discourse here civil. cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 23:51, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
Leaving aside for now the issue about removing all elements of criticism from the lead, I have added a NPOV section to the Critical_objections section. In this section, the reader is told that "Such beliefs form a central core of their philosophical dogma - and they are thus as fully inarguable as the Spiritualist adherent's belief". This is referenced to Randi. On reading this in this manner, one should expect that the statement issued from Randi himself, and that we should find it at the link given. Not only does Randi not say anything of the kind, the link is merely to the index page of his online encyclopaedia. If we do turn to the page itself on Séance, there's nothing there that supports the statement here. It doesn't even criticise séances. — BillC talk 17:06, 17 November 2007 (UTC)
To the contrary, the lead paragraph should be a capsule summary of the article. See Wikipedia:Guide to layout and Wikipedia:Lead section. If criticism is a major part of the article, it should be mentioned in the lead paragraph. Banning criticism from the lead paragraph when it is a major part of the article is extremely POV editing. The reason why the lead paragraphs of articles on other religions do not mention criticism is not because they are about religions, but because criticism is not a major part of the article as a whole. Cardamon (talk) 19:54, 17 November 2007 (UTC)
The article on Catholicism does not mention pederast priest scandals in the lead paragraphs. The article on Judaism does not mention the blood libel in the first paragraphs. The article on Santeria does mention Vegan hatred of animal sacrifice in the lead paragraphs.
Therefore, i do not believe you can justify subversion of the Spiritualism related articles by inserting Randi references in the leads of the articles. It is just flat wrong.
If people were less tendentious and less obsessed with combatting the "paranormal" aspects of religion, perhaps they would see this for what it is: A group of followers of Randi, a Houdini wannabe, are re-fighting the legitimate battles fought by Randi's predecessor Harry Houdini against fraudulent mdiums who preyed upon gullible Spiritualists during the 19th century. But that was then and this is now. The Davenport Brothers are long dead, but Lily Dale still exists, and seances are still held there. The Spiritual Churches are still in New orleans and Philadelphia and Oakland and worshippers there still contact the spirit of Blackhawk through the intercession of gifted mediums.
You are throwing stones at people's religious faith in what appears to me to be a juvenile and cynical manner. You know that you could never get away with inserting a pragraph about sex scandals into the lead of the Methodism article, even though there have been sex scandals in that denomination, but you think it is perfectly acceptable to trash the religion of Spiritualism because 130 years ago two frauds were exposed in that religion and a few more have been exposed since then.
Look at the afrrontery you exhibit -- placing the "Paranormal" tag on the Seance article. Do adherents of Spiritualism call their religion "paranormal"? No, they do not. Did you dare to attack the main Spiritualism page? No, you did not. But out here, in the shorter articles, you are having a field day, messing up every principle of encyclopedia accuracy, refusing to engage in collegial work, sticking in totally irellevant references to skeptic pages (see Billc's note above), and just generally acting like you think it is your right to ridicule the subject of an article instead of your duty to reaseach and write a clearly worded description of it.
cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 04:35, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
Actually, the paranormal tag was put there by Northmeister. Cardamon (talk) 08:14, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
And the "totally irrelevant reference" to Randi's encyclopaedia was put as an in-line citation by you—twice—at this edit. — BillC talk 09:44, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
Billc, i don't see where i put in a Randi reference. I added the refs to the Museum of Talking Boards and to the book on Lily Dale. I did not bring anything Randi-related to the article, but i did retain it as part of my attempt to be polite and cooperative with the skeptics. If you think it should be removed entirely, please take it out. cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 23:48, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
It seems to me that the Critical Objections section is rather biased against the critics. I'm removing the references to dogma in both the paragraphs on Christians and Skeptics - neither add anything to the content of the section, rather they seem to be attempted refutations of the criticisms outlined. --Skeptic za (talk) 09:37, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
Thank you, Skeptic za. I have changed a bit of what you wrote, but left out the dogma portions. The term "empirical evidence" was not stand-alone enough in my opinion to function without something to modify, so i added "of spirits" -- check it out. Also, you changd "Some" Christians to "most" Christians. I do not believe this to be true, so rather than put a fact-tag on it, i changed it back to "some," which is a much safer and more neutral word and generally does not raise cite-tag flags. If you feel that the Citical objections section is now neutral (an i think it is, thanks to your help), i am willing to see the Neutrality tag removed. cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 23:48, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
I see that your change was reverted by User:Prosfilaes, but I do agree with you that 'most' is perhaps too strong a word. I've downplayed it to 'many', which is probably more accurate. I do agree with him though that skeptics and Atheists "... do in fact cite a lack of empirical evidence, whether or not there is such".
I've made one other small modification - the removal of the word rightly from "... state rightly that since the most commonly-reported physical manifestations...". 'Rightly' sounds like an editor (not sure who added it) endorsing the view of those particular critics
All in all, I think it's neutral enough to remove the tag if nobody has any objections. --Skeptic za (talk) 05:36, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
I have taken off the NPOV tag and i have added a ref to the First Book of Samuel in support of the statement that some Christians believe that spirits can be contacted. cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 07:15, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

Questions about mentioning criticism in the lead[edit]

Possibly we need more discussion. I would be interested in what others think about several questions. Cardamon (talk) 09:07, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

1) Is criticism an important part of this article?[edit]

I say yes. Cardamon (talk) 09:07, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

I say no. To make criticism a major part of this article is a long stretch by tendentious editors with an axe to grind, in my opinion. The article is here to provide information about four types of seances. The exposures of historical 19th century fraudulent seance of one of those four types (the Davenport Brothers) is covered in brief and there is a brief critical section. That is sufficent. cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 10:34, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

2) If criticism is an important part of an article, should it have a sentence in its introduction reflecting the existence of criticism?[edit]

I say yes. Cardamon (talk) 09:07, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

As i understand wiki guidelines, if a subject is very controversial (e.g. pedophilia, dog fighting, the use of tasers by police) then it is propper to cite the criticism in the lead -- but for a regular article of definition and historicity like this, it is not proper to introduce criticism in the lead.
I believe that our editorial duty is to provide information. In the case of seances, the controversies you would like to mention in the lead are not important. Most seances nowadays are informal home seances or they are held in churches. The big news of the exposure of the Davenport Brothers occured in 1875. What is the point of adding a skeptical tag to an article that defines what a seances is by referring to the story of a fraud that is 130 years old? Do you have referencs to exposures of seances more recent than 50 years ago? 25 years ago? 10 years ago? And how many exposures have there been compared to the thousands of home and church seanes which have never been discovered to be frauds?
cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 10:11, 21 November 2007 (UTC)
Mentioning a more recent case of fraud is a good idea. Thanks. I was able to find a somewhat more recent example, and have added a sentence about it to the article. Cardamon (talk) 00:01, 22 November 2007 (UTC)
I don't think criticism in the lead is necessary. The criticism section is quite comprehensive, and this isn't a highly controversial article in my humble opinion. --Skeptic za (talk) 14:17, 21 November 2007 (UTC)
Skeptic za, if the "criticism section is quite comprehensive" isn't that a reason why it should be mentioned in the lead? At least, that is my reading of Wikipedia:Guide to layout and Wikipedia:Lead section. Cardamon (talk) 00:01, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

3) Should this article have a sentence in its introduction reflecting the existence of criticism?[edit]

No-one will be surprised to know that I say yes. Also, I say that a yes answer to both 1) and 2) should imply a yes answer to 3). Cardamon (talk) 09:07, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

Well, the question here if Wikipedia has a role in supporting the skeptical point of view by allowing the application of criticism to the leads of articles on religious practices.
A similar -- but reversed -- situation recently came up in several New Thought articles i was editing. A tendentious religious editor had created a "God" template. I shan't code it here or it would festoon itself all over this page, but it is the usual double curly bracket code and you should be able to find it around, because this tendentious editor adds it to dozens of pages -- biographies of religious writers, articles on atheism, articles on selected (but not all) religions, etc. -- and i follow along behind taking it off of authors' biographies, with the note that article is not about God, it's about an author. You can see it here: [1] and read about it here: [2].
The thing is, people like you and the "God-guy" want Wikipedia to serve as promotion for a specific worldview. As i edit, i see the God-squad embellishing dozens of pages with the God template and the Skeptic Squad decorating pages with skeptical lines in the lead -- and i beliieve that neither of those approaches serves the reader, who comes here primarily to read and learn.
As i understand it, you don't believe in spiritual contact with the dead, and you want us all to know that you and your friends feel this way. Well, you have your pages about atheism, skepticism, and Lord knows what all else. Shall we who believe in God or spiritual communion with the dead come to your pages and tag them in the lead with our opinions? Would our opinions that atheism is "controversial" and "unproven" be useful to readers who come to Wikipedia to learn about atheism? I think not.
cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 10:30, 21 November 2007 (UTC)
You appear to be arguing for a point of view fork, which is forbidden by Wikipedia's rules on neutrality. There is to be no splitting of articles into those favouring one point of view, and those favouring an opposite. All significant points of view should be covered fairly within the article.
Your comments on Cardamon's views are unfair, and not relevant: one could easily make the same unfair criticism by saying that 'you want us all to know that you and your friends believe in spiritual communion with the dead'. You are correct in saying that the reader comes here to read and learn: but not all readers should be expected to be hold favourable opinions towards spiritualism. You are also correct in saying Wikipedia has no role in supporting a sceptical point of view, but it equally has no role in supporting a Spiritualist one. That séances have traction in the eyes of spiritualists, the general public, and sceptics alike may easily be seen from articles such as this. — BillC talk 19:16, 21 November 2007 (UTC)
No, i am not by any stretch of the imagination arguing for a point of view fork. The pages on atheism, skepticism, et al already exist. Opinions are cheap -- we all have them, and the natural forking of interests cannot be legislated by Wikipedia.
I am saying that those who beieve in God and spirits are too polite to go and spew their opposition in the lead paragraphs of those articles, like skeptics do on pages that describe our beliefs and practices. Read this lead from Atheism

Atheism, as a philosophical view, is the position that either affirms the nonexistence of gods[1] or rejects theism.[2] When defined more broadly, atheism is the absence of belief in deities,[3] alternatively called nontheism.[4] Although atheism is often equated with irreligion, some religious philosophies, such as secular theology and some varieties of Theravada Buddhism, also lack belief in a personal god.

See? No loaded language is given in the lead.
Now, for a contrast, read the lead for Belief:

Belief is the psychological state in which an individual holds a proposition or premise (argument) to be true without necessarily being able to adequately prove their main contention to other people who may or may not agree.

See? There is the loaded language: The lead is stuffed with negative words like "adequately" and "contention" and "prove".
If you do not see this as a clear case of how POV pushing in the lead wrecks the legitimacy of an encyclopedia article, i don't know what can make it clearer. I do not know your educational level, expertise as an editor of English outside of Wikipedia, or anything else about you, but i am going to assume good faith and trust that you will see what i mean when i say that Wikipedia is suffering from endemic skeptical POV-pushing in the leads of articles about various spiritual, religious, and belief-centered topics, and that this POV-pushing is obvious, open, ongoing, and extremely aggressive.
Seance is just a little part of the big, big picture, but even here the skeptics want to own the lead, to use it to deform the lead from a description into a soapbox for their nay-saying about the topic, even before it is fully described.
I think that this is a bad idea.
Right now, the article is balanced and fair. It still has some major problems, though. For instance, the word "trance" wiki-links to some article called "altered state of consciousness." That article does not describe a trance at all.
I say we work on the article. I would like to call upon you to add information to the article, and not to use it as a sopabox for skepticism. There is a lot of interesting information about seances to be had, but it is not on this page yet. Did you see the ref to the Balinese film documentary? Doesn't that intrigue you? Why not research it and find out what a Balinese seance is like, and write about it here? Do something constructive. Be helpful.
cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 07:15, 22 November 2007 (UTC)
And tonight, again, Martinphi has added a tendentious sentence to the lead, namely,

Skeptics generally consider séances to be scams, or at least a form of pious fraud.

Note that for the word "skeptics" in the above sentence, Martinphi's wiki-link is not to skepticism -- it is to debunker. That says a lot about his agenda, don't you think?
But even if he had been straightforward and not piped in s sneaky link, his sentence is off-topic for the article. The lead of automobile does not conclude with "Luddites generally consider automobiles to be evil," the lead of Judaism does not conclude with "Christians generally consider Judaism to be an obsolete religion," the lead of cat dos not conclude with "Ailurophobes generally consider cats to be despicable or disagreeable animals" and the lead of religion does not conclude with "atheists generally consider religion to be a scam, or at least a form of pious fraud."
Within the article, at several points, the potential for fraud during seances is mentioned, and both anti-spiritual as well as religious critics of seances are given some space. But this article is about seances -- not about "human activities of which debunkers don't approve."
cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 09:38, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

I am in fact fairly comfortable with the article as it stands. What did bring my attention to it were constructions like "they are thus as fully inarguable", "this is a matter of religious dogma", and "Skeptics have used historic exposures as a frame through which to view all spirit mediumship as inherently fraudulent"; and citations like this and this, which didn't back up the statements against which they were placed. I felt strongly that the article was being used to rail against scepticism (and Catholicism). These edits are now long gone from the article and I welcome that. I won't respond to the comments about my education and editorial expertise, but will say that you need to take Martinphi's edits up with him, not with the three other editors here; no-one else is responsible for them. I think you have greatly misjudged his agenda, though. — BillC talk 22:36, 22 November 2007 (UT

Thank you, BillC. I too am fairly happy with the article, minus Martinphi's tenentious criticism in the lead. As noted below, i plan to balance the "seances in media" -- which deals with fictional seances, and which i did not originate -- with a "notable seance attendees" section to give the scope of real people's involvement with seances. I will probably do this tomorrow, if not late tonight. Thanks for helping me keep a cool head. cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 23:15, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
I've about had it with cat OWNING the page in controversion of WP policy, espc WP:LEAD. If there is a section on controversy/criticism, then there should be at least one sentence in the lead reflecting that. Cat, WP does not care how people feel about this article when they read it. The only thing that matters is if we are neutrally presenting the sources, and adhering to the usual rules of structure. Seances have historically been hotbeds of fraud. There should actually be a lot more about this in the article. But for now, let's either reach an agreement to take criticism entirly out, or have it in the lead where is belongs (if it's in the article at all).
Cat, seances have been for over a century, and often still are, hotbeds of fraud. This is not true of most churches, unless they do stuff like faith healing. To gloss over this is a violation of WP:NPOV. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 00:10, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
I'd like to reply in 3 parts:
1) Regarding your claim that "seances [...] often still are, hotbeds of fraud: Do you have refernces more recent than 1976 that document fraudulent seances or how "often" fraudulent senaces are performed compared to non-fraudulent seances? If so, please cite these sources. I am not saying you are wrong; i am saying you must substantiate your claim or it cannot go into the article. We cannot simply take YOUR word for this, as i am sure you will understand.
2) No attempt to "gloss over" the existence of fraudulent senaces has been attempted; criticisms and exposures of fraud are mentioned several times in the article.
3) I have tried to assume good faith in your edits, but after you piped the lead paragraph link you had ostensibly made to skeptics so that it actually led to debunker, i have been willing to openly question what your agenda really is. That misleading or sneaky link did not seem like a good faith edit to me. I will be removing your well-poisoning lead again, yet one more time. I am not attemting to "own" the article; i am trying to keep it fair and informative. To this end i will soon be adding more links and refs that are actually ABOUT seances, and i encourage you to the same.
cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 23:07, 23 November 2007 (UTC)
Cat, my point in piping to "debunker" is that not all the skeptics are scientific about it. They are often debunkers, and don't deserve to be piped to "scientific skepticism"- read the article debunker. It's glossing over to have a major section in an article that doesn't get summarized in the lead- and against WP policy: read WP:LEAD. I'm sure there are some instances of fraud recently, but I don't have the sources. However, this is also about seances historically, and there is plenty of documented fraud there. BTW, did you know that I'm currently under ArbCom sanction for purportedly pushing the positive attitude to the paranormal? I kept telling everyone that I'm for neutrality, but because there are so many skeptical POV pushers at WP, I got the reputation for being a paranormalist. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 01:37, 24 November 2007 (UTC)
I hear your explanation about why you did it; i still saw your edit as a shifty use of the pipe function in that if you had wanted to use the word "debunker", then you should have used it and if you had wanted to say "scientific sceptic" then you should have said that. I do not think it is proper to pipe one for the other -- it's bait-and-switch linkage. As for your ArbCom siituation; i was unaware of that. We agree that there are many skeptical POV pushers at Wikipedia, i see -- but beyond that i am not sure what we can agree on. I am still adding good, solid, researched material to the article, and i still believe that it is neutral and that it is wrong to mess up the definition in the lead by side-tracking to a contrary position before we have even explained how a seance works. I hold that the opposition has been given reasonable and accurate space, with references, at several points -- under Varieties, under Tools, under Notables, and in its own section, Critical Objections -- and that to me, this seems right and proper and i do not think the article needs the "Neutrality" tag on top. cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 01:52, 24 November 2007 (UTC)
Well, they always get changed, because of POV pushing- you can't have just skeptic, it will be changed to scientific skeptic to POV push that scientists don't believe in this junk. Whatever we put in the article, if it is as large as a section, needs to also be in the lead. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 02:25, 24 November 2007 (UTC)
The fact that you call the topic "this junk" makes it ultra-clear that you are pushing a negative POV with rspect to an article on a primarily religious subject. Also, a list of scientists who have attended seances and/or who have identified as Spiritualists and/or who have claimed to have contacted the spirits of the dead already appears in the article, with references. cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 04:55, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

Famous seance attendees[edit]

The BBC article on scientists and seances to which BillC helpfully provided a link here opens up a new topic for a short section: famous / wiki-notable seance attendees. Some information for this list can be found in the BBC article itself, which can be used as a ref; other names can be found in the wiki article on Spiritualism, or elsewhere. Thanks, BillC, for bringing something new and interesting to the article! cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 09:53, 22 November 2007 (UTC)

I have made a start at writing the notable mediums, believers, and debunkers section, and have added some pictures that i picked up from other wiki articles (hence, i believe they have been vetteed for copyright acceptability issues). Thanks again to BillC for the link to the BBC News article, which i used as a ref. cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 01:34, 24 November 2007 (UTC)


WP:Lead states " and briefly describing its notable controversies, if there are any". This discussion seems to be lacking in the current lead, as there is some controversy--Vannin (talk) 04:07, 24 November 2007 (UTC).

See above discussion. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 04:49, 24 November 2007 (UTC)
The problem, as i see it, is that the "controversy" to which you refer comes from people who hate Spiritualism, because, actually, there is very little controversy within the Spiritualist commounity, and virtually none among the casual participants in social seances (e.g. teens with ouija boards).
What you call "controversy" i call "attacks by non-belivers on the religio-spiritual beliefs of others." By recasting an "attack" as a "controversy", one can justify writing scurrilous attacks in the lead paragraph of any article that describes a belief system which one dislikes.
For instance, as i have noted above, there is a lot of news lately about pederast priests in the Roman Catholic Church, and the history of that denomination is fraught with controversy -- but the lead of the Wikipedia article on the Roman Catholic Church does not mention this. Here is that lead, for comparison with the lead you propose:

The Roman Catholic Church or Catholic Church (see terminology below) is a Christian church in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, currently Pope Benedict XVI. It traces its origins to the original Christian community founded by Jesus and spread by the Twelve Apostles, in particular Saint Peter.[1][2]

The Catholic Church is the largest Christian church, representing about half of all Christians, and is the largest organized body of any world religion.[3] According to the Statistical Yearbook of the Church, the Catholic Church's worldwide recorded membership at the end of 2005 was 1,114,966,000, approximately one-sixth of the world's population.[4][5][6]

The worldwide Catholic Church is made up of one Western or Latin and 22 Eastern Catholic autonomous particular churches, all of which look to the Pope, alone or along with the College of Bishops, as their highest authority on earth for matters of faith, morals and church governance.[7] It is divided into jurisdictional areas, usually on a territorial basis. The standard territorial unit, each of which is headed by a bishop, is called a diocese in the Latin church and an eparchy in the Eastern churches. At the end of 2006, the total number of all these jurisdictional areas (or "Sees") was 2,782.[8]

See? No mention of pederast priests in the lead. No mention of the Pope's collaboration with the Nazis during World War II in the lead. No mention of Martin Luther or the Reformation in the lead. No mention of the Spanish Inquisition in the lead. Etc.
It is my belief that the articles on Spiritualism should be treated with dignity and respect, just like the articles on other religious topics. Controversies should be mentioned, with citations, in the body of the article or, possibly, in a "Critical Opposition" section, but the lead should be reserved for a descriptive outline of the topic, and not for attacks on the belief system of adherents.
cat yronwode Catherineyronwode (talk) 12:42, 25 November 2007 (UTC)
Yes, I get your point- but there are two things here: first, this is about the practice, and isn't a religion article. It isn't an article on Spiritualism, where you would foucs on beliefs. It goes beyond beliefs into practice, and part of the practice has been fraud. So in saying this, we aren't talking about the belief, but the practice. Fraud was so strong a part of seances historically, that it drove science entirly away- parapsychology left for the lab. You can have your way on this. Alright. But if my experience in Wikipedia does not fail me, this article will need constant care, and one day you will lose a fight to keep it out of the lead. It's better to just have it there from the start. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 06:38, 26 November 2007 (UTC)
To reply to your first point: seances have always been associated with the religion of Spiritualism. See the Houdini quote cited in the article, for example. Yes, there are secular social seances, as noted, but they are both historically and numerically the lesser part of the practice.
To reply to your second comment, Thanks for finally seeing my point. I am not trying to "own" this article, as you have claimed, but to bring it into line with other belief-oriented articles that are respectful of the beliefs described -- at least in the leads. Perhaps one day, as you predict, i will "lose a fight to keep [skeptical attacks] out of the lead." Certainly one day i will leave Wikipedia or die ... and i am still to this day not sure if i think that Wikipedia has a chance for stability or success. The amount of vandalism endured on a daily basis is daunting, and the entire project may be doomed. Who knows? But right now i am here and i have some spare time to edit, so ... i shall. Tonight i replaced one erroneous ref (it did not say what it was said to say, so i found a ref that did say that) and i added two more good refs to Lily Dale and Cassadaga, as samples of the way contacts with the dead are conducted in Spiritualist churches. This also allowed me to create a new wiki-link, to faith healing, which is a preliminary portion of the Cassadaga services.
cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 11:18, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

The difference between seances and other belief-oriented topics is that seances seek to actively demonstrate in a visible way a connection with a spirit world. Historically these visible demonstrations have included things like spirit photographs. It's a little different than other, more passive spiritual practices, like prayer or meditation. Here, the practitioners weren't claiming to just talk to the dead, they claimed to be able to demonstrate visible proof of it. These manifestations of spirits (photos, tables tipping, bells ringing, and so on) were what led to the quick and huge popularity of Spiritualism back in the day. Unfortunately the exposure of frauds is what led to the equally impressive quick decline. Spiritualism would have been just as popular today, or more so, if it hadn't been for the widespread exposing of frauds. It's an important part of the story, is different from other belief-related topics because it's not just a belief but also a claim, and needs to be in here at least from a historical perspective. It's not picking on anyone's religious beliefs to include historical events related to the topic. --Nealparr (talk to me) 08:34, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

Okay to remove neutrality dispute tag now?[edit]

How do folks feel about removing the neutrality tag at the start of the article? I think the article is NPOV and does not deserve the tag. For one thing, the introduction does not evn mention the existence of skepticisim.


cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 11:18, 26 November 2007 (UTC)

I disagree with removing the POV tag. I do not believe the article is presently NPOV. For one thing, the introduction does not even mention the existence of skepticism. Cardamon (talk) 12:01, 27 November 2007 (UTC)
How does not mentioning scepticism in an introduction lead an article to become neutral? — BillC talk 08:56, 28 November 2007 (UTC)
If you think that "mentioning sceptisism in an introduction lead[s] an article to become neutral", then you should go through Wikipedia and add non-neutrality tags to every religious faith article that does not mention skeptical or debunking ideas in the lead. Go ahead -- do it. cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 00:47, 29 November 2007 (UTC)
You have missed my point, which was asking why does non-existence of sceptical (or critical or opposing) points of view in a lead section mean that, ipso facto, that the article is neutral? There is nothing to that effect in Wikipedia:Neutral point of view. No-one is going to run through Wikipedia as you have suggested and make disruptive edits just to make a point. Per the advice given at WP:LEAD, the lead should "summarize the most important points covered in an article".
See below: The most important point is that belief in the survival of an entity's spirit after the entitiy's bodily death and belief that the living can communicate with these surviving spirits are religious beliefs. The fact that skeptics dislike religion does not make religion itself "controversial" per Wiki rules governing leads -- or, if it does, then EVERY religion article should be noted as "controversial" in the lead. cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 06:05, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

Apparent conflict of interest[edit]

Catherineyronwode appears to [sell] spirit boards and ouija boards through [her website]. This looks to me to be a conflict of interest in relation to her editing of this article. I would suggest that, if she continues to edits this article, she might consider editing it much more neutrally than she has been, and drop her insistence on whitewashing the introduction.Cardamon (talk) 11:46, 27 November 2007 (UTC)

Cardamon, i do sell Ouija (brand) boards, along with about 3,000 other items, at my shop. However, i was not the one who added Ouija boards to this article. In fact, i actually deleted much of the extraneous material about Ouija boards from this article when i began to edit here, and i insisted on using the proper terms spirit board and talking board, rather than the brand name Ouija board. I was the one who added a link to a non-commercial spirit board site (Museum of Talking Boards). I have never added link-spam to this article. I have conducted myself in an upright, NPOV, and entirely aboveboard manner.
If you wish to suggest otherwise, i suggest you report me to an Administrator and let the chips fall where they may; it is my belief i will be found innocent of any charges of CoI and that you will be reprimanded for disruptive behaviour. I wish you would Assume Good Faith, but since you have not, and have chosen instead to make this personal, i urge you to carry out your implicit threat or retract your charges.
I will not be bullied into changing my opinion about the lead of this article. Your latest ploy -- to charge me with CoI and then suggest that i "trade" that accusation for immunity from administrative notice by allowing you to mess up the article's lead with POV-pushing criticism -- is beneath contempt. It is so counter to Wikipedia policy that i urge you to consider seriously what Wikipdia means to you, and what you are doing here.
cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 04:48, 28 November 2007 (UTC)
I am not offering any "trade". I do suggest that you might walk more lightly in this article than you have been. By this, I mean that you might try to assume good faith, strive to avoid personal attacks and ad hominem remarks, imagine that your point of view might not be considered absolutely neutral by other people, remember that, as MartinPhi already said, you do not own this page and, if the consensus should go against you on mentioning the existence of skepticism in the lead, consider accepting that result. Actually, I would likely give this advice right about now even I did not think there was at least a small COI. Cardamon (talk) 11:27, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

It's not a conflict of interest. Catherine doesn't just have a website, she's a popular occult author and could lend a certain expertise to the subject. If she were selling seance services, editing an article about herself or one of her books, then it would be a COI. --Nealparr (talk to me) 08:15, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

If spirit boards are a small part of her business, and she does not do séances, then the conflict of interest is small. Cardamon (talk) 11:27, 28 November 2007 (UTC)
I earn my living as an author and teacher. The shop is run for the enjoyment and employment of practitioners and participants; i do not draw a salary from the shop. I do not conduct seances for the public. cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 00:54, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

Religions and "Paranormality" revisited[edit]

Here's the situation, as i see it:

An Arbcom ruling stated that subjects tagged "paranormal" are ipso facto "controversial" and thus can have controversy generated by skeptics mentioned in the lead.

Religions are not tagged "paranormal."

This article Seance has been tagged "paranormal" although it is generally a religious topic.

The Spiritualism, Spiritism, and Espiritismo articles have not been tagged as paranormal, being rightfully deemed religious topics -- but the pinciple activity that distinguishes these religious traditions -- institutionalized contact with the dead -- has been tagged "paranormal," which opens the door for skeptics to push their debunking in the leads of any articles that describe the religious pactices of those who worship in those institutions, under the rule that "paranormal" claims are ipso facto "controversial".

Even nealparr's rather mild attempt to defuse the situation by writing a new lead introduced what i consider to be an inappropriate judgementalism about the religious activities of millions of people worldwide.

The articles on mediumship, and faith healing have had similar problems. At one point, the faith healing article actually included debunking references to psychic surgery, a topic that is not in any way connected to faith healing -- which was seemingly included in order to make faith healing look like a stage illusionist's act.

I asked for the paranormality tag to be taken off the seance article but that idea was nixed by Martinphi. As long as that tag remains, people will feel justified by the Arbcom ruling on paranormality to despoil any religious page they wish, by describing its beliefs (Chrisian resurrection, Taoist immortality) or liturgical activities (contact with the dead, faith healing) as "paranormal" and therefore subject to ridicule as "controversial" and "fraud" in the lead.

I think this issue needs to be revisited in geater depth, and a decision made as to whether Wikipedia wishes to pursue a consistently anti-religious POV by calling ALL religions "paranormal" or NO religions "parnormal" -- because what is happening right now is that the rule is applied inconsistenly: LARGE religions, like Roman Catholic Christianity, are allowed to "get away" with paranormal claims and also with having controversies involving fraud, with no mention of either in the lead, while SMALL religions, like Spiritualism, are tagged as "paranomal" and presented as "controversial" and "fraud" in the lead.

cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 02:11, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

Yeah, you have a point. I mean, you're basically right: WP is run by a lot of people, who have biases. It isn't consistent (this is an acknowledged well-known fact). I'm correct about what I say about the lead relative to WP rules. But you're right that major religions have enough manpower to keep criticism out of the lead. This article is essentially like the Eucharist, because it is about a practice, which makes paranormal claims. So I would say it isn't necessarily religious, because you don't have to be religious to go to seances- you can go just for the phenomena. Seances are all about phenomena, not religion. In addition, I believe Spiritualism while organized as a religion, is often viewed as a practice, not a religion, and moreover Spiritualists believe the phenomena of seances prove things scientifically. So the case is not clear. If seances are partly attempts to prove or demonstrate objective phenomena, then skepticism has a much greater claim than if they were merely religious services. But you are also right that the whole thing is rather fuzzy (to put it in a nice way) at WP. ——Martinphi Ψ Φ—— 05:27, 29 November 2007 (UTC)
This article, seance, altough tagged "paranormal", does not seem to me to fall within the scope of WikiProject Paranormal, unless WikiProject Paranormal is perhaps a cover for attacking religions from an atheistic-scientistic viewpoint by tagging them as "paranormal" in order to allow them to be given skeptical-opposing-"controversial claims" judgements in the leads. Here's how WikiProject paranormal describes itself, and, in bold, how these subjects can and do actually turn out to be religious subjects.
Scope - Subjects covered by this project include: Anomalistics (The use of scientific methods to evaluate phenomona that fall outside of current understanding, with the aim of finding a rational explanation. [This easily includes atheistic, scientistic, and skeptical claims made in order to "evaluate" and "investigate" any and all religious beliefs]; Cryptozoology (The search for animals hypothesized to exist, but for which conclusive proof is missing.) [This allows for many religions to be labelled "paranormal", as they include belief in such animals, e.g. Foo Dogs (Taoism), Hanuman the Monkey King (Vaishnavism), Ganesh the Elephant-headed God (Shaivism), etc.]; Paranormal phenomena (An umbrella term used to describe a wide variety of reported anomalous phenomena, including any phenomenon that in one or more respects exceeds the limits of what is deemed possible/plausible under current scientific understanding.) [This includes virtually all religions]; Paranormal hoaxes and frauds (Incidents in which an attempt has been made to trick an audience into believing that they are witnessing, or reading about, a genuine paranormal phenomanon.) [This includes all religions, as "contested" or opposed by atheists, skeptics, or debunkers, e.g. attempts to explain the miracles of Moses as stage magic]; Parapsychology (The study of evidence for "paranormal psychological phenomena" such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and psychokinesis. [This permits some religions to be labelled as "paranormal," e.g. the Catholic miracle of St. Clara, all Catholic miracles of bilocation by saints, all attested visions or prophsies made by seers, etc.]; Scientific inquiry which departs significantly from orthodoxy (Generally, the research that goes against current thought of a majority of researchers which usually entails something that is extra-ordinary or unusual. This includes elements from fringe science, protoscience, and pseudoscience, as well as claims of a more speculative nature that do not fall into the above categories. [This is so over-broad that it can be made to include most or all religions of the current era, and most religions of earlier eras]; Ufology (The study of unidentified flying object (UFO) reports, sightings, alleged physical evidence, and other related phenomena. [This would result in tagging several religions as "paranormal," e.g. Judaism's Merkabah mysticism and all modern UFO religions]; Urban myths and legends involving the paranormal (Modern folklore consisting of stories often said to be factual by those circulating them. [This can be said to include all modern urban miracle-accepting religions, and all remnants of the ghost- or spirit-oriented older religions that continue within modern cultures and circulate as tales of hauntings]; WikiProject Paranormal also covers many topics which have been associated with the paranormal due to myth [The word "myth" includes all ancient religions whose cosmologies are characterized as "myths" by modern non-believers], legend, and popular belief [The words "popular belief" include all folk religions], or which have involved the presence of a mystery containing paranormal parallels but which are not strictly related to the paranormal (including instances where rational explanations have been established and accepted) [This includes all religions]. Examples of such topics include unexplained disappearances [This includes all religions in which bodily transfiguration occurs, e.g. tales of the Taoist Immortals, and also the Assumption of Mary in Catholic Christianity]; selected conspiracy theories involving UFOs and/or other factors that exceed the boundaries of accepted science, such as free energy suppression; and locations or objects about which unscientific beliefs exist, such as megaliths [The subject of megaliths includes funerary traditions associated with ancient religions].
As for your contention that seances need not be religious -- quite true; but historically and at the present time, the practice is primarily associated with Spiritualist, Spiritist, and Espiritismo churches and with non-affiliated adherents to Spiritualist (survival after death) beliefs, whether or not they are formal members of such a church. People attend seances because they wish to talk to the dead; the embedded premises within their wish -- the premise that the spirit survives after death, the premise that communication with the surviving spirits of the dead is possible -- are essentially religious beliefs.
cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 05:58, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

Again, it is the claims associated with seances that are criticized, not the belief. The belief that contacting the dead is possible would be treated like any other belief. It's just a belief. You don't see criticism in the animism article, for example, or in the afterlife article. It's when a controversial claim is made, like that faith healing actually heals, that when it's open to criticism.

It doesn't have anything to do with how widespread Spiritualism is either. You don't see criticism in the lead of Christianity not because there's a bunch of Christians out there who can keep it out. It's because they don't claim to have physical proof of life after death like Spiritualists do (at least early ones). Seances were conducted to show tangible proof that there is life after death, and it is because of this that Spiritualism became popular. The exposing of frauds is what made it less popular. It's because the claims were so extraordinary that a great deal of scrutiny befell the early Spiritualists. Unfortunately that scrutiny exposed a lot of fraudulent activity. If the claim wasn't so great, and the fraud wasn't so widespread, seances wouldn't be so notable. That's why it needs to be covered here. It is an essential part of why the (partly) religious practice is so wide known. It's not just famous, it's infamous.

I say "partly" religious practice because it's not just a religious practice. Parker Brothers made talking boards into a game for a reason. Just as notable as the religious aspect, it's also a form of entertainment. Everyone I know has at one time participated in a seance at a party when they were teenagers, and none of them are Spiritualists. --Nealparr (talk to me) 06:14, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

Parker Bros. labelled their brand of spirit boards a "game" so they could sell them with impugnity in states that had laws against fortune telling and divination. Their reasoning was strictly financial and had nothing to do with the beliefs of those who use their brand of board. Now that such laws have largely been overturned or are being ignored, no one needs to label their spirits boards as "games" -- yet Parker Bros. continues the practice.
You are missing something essential when you make the blithe statement, "Everyone I know has at one time participated in a seance at a party when they were teenagers, and none of them are Spiritualists." But think! Could you say that if you had grown up as a Mohawk Indian or a Navajo -- among people who believe that any contact with the dead is contaminating and greatly to be avoided?
Read again what i wrote about embedded premises.
Getting a perspective of your own cultural paradigms is essential to understanding which cultures use spirit boards and conduct seances and which do not -- and why. Do not take for granted that your culture's religious paradigms or embedded premises are universal. Do not overlook the religious character of customs and beliefs that seem secular to you only because you have failed to note their LACK of universality among human cultures and thus failed to grasp how deeply they are embedded within a culture-specific religious belief.
European-Americans make up the majority of spirit board users in the USA. Spirit boards are particularly popular in the USA among teens with a cultural heritage that is Scots-Iirish/Germanic/Celtic/British -- groups that prehistorically held religious beliefs involving the survival of the dead as contactable, speaking spirits and ghosts and who maintained these beliefs after nationally converting to Christianity, despite the fact that such beliefs are NOT part of straight-line Christianity, which teaches that the dead are only going to be revived at the Resurrection!
African Americans, who retain remnants of ancient religious belief that the spirits of the dead can be conacted, likewise have many Spiritual Churches -- but they are more likely to expect contacts with the dead to come through dreams rather than through spirit boards.
Mohawks and Navahos do not use spirit boards -- and this is not because they do not believe in spirits, but because they fear contamination from the dead.
Think about these things -- don't just parrot the culture you were raised in and claim that "everyone" shares that background.
Do Chinese children believe in the Tooth Fairy? Do Korean teens consult spirit boards? Do Lacandon Mayans have an Easter Bunny? Do Quechua teens hold seances? THINK!
cat Catherineyronwode (talk) 07:00, 29 November 2007 (UTC)
As a Wikipedia editor, I'm only required to follow WP:FIVE, not consider the genealogical or spiritual heritage of teenagers playing around with Ouija boards or holding seances at sleep overs : ) It's not my cultural viewpoint that seances are European-American and both a religious practice while also secular entertainment, it's simply what they are. Do Mohawks, Navahos, African cultures and the rest of the world have their own practices for dealing with the dead? I'm sure they do, but that's not the topic of this article. Here it's seance only. Seances are European-American notably, stemming from a mid-nineteenth century movement that placed an emphasis on demonstrating contact with the dead, but in modern times is just as popular as secular entertainment at social gatherings. Wikipedia ranks ideas. Those are the noteworthy ones. We're just here to talk about seances themselves and those, I'm sorry to say, are culture-specific. Shamanism covers the other cultural viewpoints you mentioned. --Nealparr (talk to me) 07:45, 29 November 2007 (UTC)


So there is this paragraph:

"Mediumship is the term used to describe the reception of messages from spirits of the dead and other spirits. Some mediums are fully conscious and awake while functioning as contacts; others may slip into a partial or full trance or an altered state of consciousness. Trance-mediums often state that, when they emerge from the trance state, they have no recollection of the messages they conveyed; it is customary for such practitioners to work with an assistant who writes down or otherwise records their words."

This first two lines in particular seems POV, as there is considerable debate as to whether or not anyone is receiving messages from the dead, and if there is such a thing as a trance, and if they are functioning as 'contacts'. This just seems like it was written by someone who is involved in the 'community', and lo and behold, the reference is an article written by 'practitioners'.

I would like to change it to this:

"Mediumship is the term used to describe an act where the practitioner attempts to receive messages from spirits of the dead and other spirits that the practitioner believes exist. Some self-ordained mediums say they are fully conscious and awake while functioning as contacts; others say they may slip into a partial or full trance or an altered state of consciousness. These self called 'trance-mediums' often state that, when they emerge from the trance state, they have no recollection of the messages they conveyed; it is customary for such practitioners to work with an assistant who writes down or otherwise records their words. "

I don't just want to change it , as there should be a consensus. One more thing "spirits of the dead and other spirits" what other spirits are there?--Iclavdivs (talk) 00:04, 10 July 2008 (UTC)

That looks like a fair change. I support it.--Vannin (talk) 01:34, 10 July 2008 (UTC)

Obama refrence[edit]

You should mention obama in this article using the term —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:20, 8 November 2008 (UTC)

George Lyttleton reference - why?[edit]

Is there any evidence that the "Dialogues of the Dead" was anything but a literary device he copied from an ancient Greek rhetoritician (and others)? If not, this reference should be removed as irrelevant and confusing. HistorianKris (talk) 10:49, 15 September 2009 (UTC)

Seance photo not credible?[edit]

Is the photo at the beginning of the article from 'The Haunting In Connecticut, or is it just me? I think thats a photo of the chief mortician and some attendees, and not a real photo of a legitimate seance. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:17, 13 October 2010 (UTC)

Séances in the media[edit]

This section seems to be an unreferenced and unverified collection of random instances. Per Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Trivia sections, is there any reason to keep it? Cusop Dingle (talk) 18:21, 23 January 2012 (UTC)

OK, I have boldly removed it. Cusop Dingle (talk) 17:44, 19 February 2012 (UTC)