Mediums of deceit – Breaking Barriers – The Borneo Post – 23 August, 2015

Mediums of deceit
August 23, 2015, Sunday Peter Tan,

‘Fortune Teller’ by Albert Anker 1880.
‘Fortune Teller’ by Albert Anker 1880.

WHEN I was six years old, my mother went to consult a clairvoyant with me in tow. The woman, slightly older than her, was a dressmaker by day. She held consultations in her tailoring shop, which was a short walk from where we lived.

Dusk was settling in when we entered. It was dingy inside. The single incandescent bulb hanging from the ceiling provided bare illumination. When my eyes got used to the semi-darkness, I noticed a long work table in the middle of the living room. Fabrics, half-sewn clothes and sewing pattern books were neatly arranged on one side of the wall. Mannequins adorned with blouses stood on the other side.

I paid scant attention to the conversation between my mother and her. The ambience gave me the creeps. I was fidgety. I wished we were at my auntie’s house where I could play with my cousins instead. After what seemed like the longest time, my mother gestured for me to go sit beside her.

The woman shuffled a deck of playing cards and asked me to pick one. She then cut the deck and dealt the cards on the table. Of all the things the cards supposedly revealed about my life, I only remember one now.

“Your handwriting is like a hen clawing on the soil,” she told me in Hokkien, her eyes never looking at me as she went on interpreting what the other cards meant.

My little ego was bruised. I cried and threw a tantrum, asking my mother to take me home immediately. She was right though. My handwriting was atrocious. Anyway, what could one expect from a kid who just entered kindergarten? I wished she had warned me about the more fortuitous events in my life, like not to dive into the swimming pool or else very bad things would happen to me.

None of the mediums and fortune tellers my father consulted to help me do better in my exams or get better when I was sick foretold the ominous mishap that would befall me. We happily went on living and believing our lives were better off with some spiritual help every now and then.

And then our world turned topsy-turvy when they received the ominous phone call informing them of my accident. As the reality of my condition sank in, they vacillated between trusting the doctors, spiritualists and practitioners of alternative medicine.

Parents being parents, they were desperate to see me get back on my feet again. Whoever gave the assurance I could be cured gained their undivided attention and trust, irrespective of whether it was earthly or supernatural. They travelled near and far to seek treatments and divine interventions for me.

From mainstream to mystic eastern religions, we have dabbled in them one time or another. Family and friends always had someone or something to recommend, from faith healers to talismans from supposedly powerful deities. I have had people who laid their hands on my head while praying, made me drink water laced with ashes or got me to chant prayers. Those were guaranteed to cure me, they said.

One by one, I began to give up believing these people, whether in their human or spiritual forms, when none of their promises of me walking again came true. To make matters worse, I was instead blamed for not trying hard enough or not having enough faith.

Other than spending money on medical treatments and therapies, my father spent an equal amount on quacks and these supernatural ‘healings’. I wished we had known better then and not wasted the money for nothing. Experience has taught me that modern medical treatments and rehabilitation are the best options. That is why I keep to strict appointments in seeing doctors and undergo scheduled diagnostic tests religiously.

Anything else with the guarantee of a cure is just plain deceit designed to prey on our desperation to either convert us to a certain religion or make us part with our money. I am not saying that religion or other beliefs are bad. Rather, it is the people professing or practising them with ulterior motives who are giving them a bad name.

What I deplore most is that religion is often imposed by over-enthusiastic and overzealous people on those who are vulnerable and desperate with promises that can’t be fulfilled. People can say what they want but I have lived with my impairments long enough to know for sure that faith and all things supernatural can’t heal me physically.

My advice for people seeking cure from the supernatural is to be very cautious. Many of the mediums claim to be able to do wonders but can’t deliver their promises in the end. I would be especially wary of those asking for money because 10 out of 10 times, they will turn out to be tricksters. I have many friends who, against my advice, have lost tens of thousands of ringgit to these people. It is sad to see money that could have been put to good use wasted just like that.

Read more:

Author: Peter Tan

Peter Gabriel Tan. Penangite residing in the Klang Valley. Blissfully married to Wuan. A LaSallian through and through. Slave to three cats. Wheelchair user since 1984. End-stage renal disease since 2017. Principal Facilitator at Peter Tan Training specialising in Disability Equality Training. Former columnist of Breaking Barriers with The Borneo Post. This blog chronicles my life, thoughts and opinions. Connect with me on Twitter and Facebook.