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Sylvia Browne at Coconut Creek, June 2, 2010- A Review

When I told my Psychic Development class that I had gone to see Sylvia Browne on her new lecture tour, half the class was impressed. The other half had never heard of Sylvia Browne.

That surprised me. To me, she is a household name. Granted, I have never actually seen her on TV, and I’ve only read one of her books, but to me she is the grand dame of professional psychics in the United States.

I paid attention during the brief media flurry that followed the revelation that she had gotten it wrong- way wrong- when she read for the parents of a miraculously recovered missing child. I was interested to see that her loyal public forgave her and moved on.

I’ve noticed that her ever-growing number of husbands is surpassed only by her every-growing number of published books. Each book seems to capitalize on a spiritual trend of the past decade or so; The Secret, The DaVinci Code, angels, dreams . . . You get the idea.

Of course I have been to her website, and have read with some interest about her church, Novus Spiritus. So when, on the way to the beach some months ago, I saw a billboard announcing her appearance at the Seminole Casino at Coconut Creek, I knew I wanted to be there.

Coming from the legendary and larger-than-life casinos of Connecticut, the casino itself seemed small and dingy to me. The staff was friendly and helpful, though, and the food and drink were good and reasonably priced. Two live bands played, one in each bar. Not bad for a Wednesday.

Sylvia was doing two shows at Coconut Creek, I saw the second. I know that a few of my audience mates were there for both nights, hoping to be chosen to be able to ask a single question of Sylvia. Predictably, the audience was primarily female and primarily middle-aged. Not as many crystal pendants and gypsy skirts as you might see at a Pagan festival or a Stevie Nicks concert, but certainly a lot of colorful, sequined, flowing polyester knits.

The four-hundred seat pavilion (really a poorly air-conditioned tent) was almost full. We were each given a raffle ticket on the way in. I clutched mine in my hand the entire time, afraid to lose my chance to speak directly with Sylvia. I noticed my peers doing the same.

The pavilion had a nice feel to it when we walked in. The stage was set modestly, with a cushy chair, some plants, and a microphone. Enya-like music played in the background, as pink and purple light shapes played against the backdrop. Not psychedelic, certainly, but definitely new-agey.

The whole left side of the pavilion was taken up by lit tables. Vendors! My shopping genes turned on immediately. As I got closer, I realized it was one vendor; Sylvia Browne’s jewelry, books, and international tours.

I took a seat in the back of the pavilion. Soon, a tall, slim, casually dressed gentleman walked on to the stage and introduced himself as Sylvia’s new husband. He proceeded to tell us about the jewelry, the books and the tours. After a brief delay due to air-conditioning troubles, he led Sylvia onstage.

To me, she looked and sounded like a hairdresser of a certain era, who would pin your perm and give you the latest with a cigarette hanging out of the corner of her bright-red mouth.

She began her lecture, seated, with very little fanfare. I liked her honest, direct, approach to the audience. Not lofty, but practical. I couldn’t help thinking, though, that a lot of what she had to say sounded more like Joan Rivers- style comedy than glimpses at enlightenment.

One of the first things Sylvia talked about was something she called “a dark soul entity.” She said we have all known them, and a lot of the women in the audiences nodded their head emphatically.

A “dark soul entity,” said Sylvia, is a person who is a narcissist. The person may be your husband, or your son. If that is the case, you cannot fix the problems, you cannot blame yourself, and you must take care of yourself and get away. When these “dark soul entities” die, they are immediately reincarnated into a new life. At least I think that’s what she said.

As she spoke, she had very little compassion in her voice. She segued in to talking about her most recent ex-husband and the terrible things he did to her. Her anger was palpable. She shared that he had taken 1.5 million dollars from her that her lawyer said she couldn’t recover. But, she said, making a remark about karma, now he has throat cancer.

“That’s because he’s a liar,” one woman from the audience shouted out.

I was honestly appalled. Sharing the intimate details of her personal, legal and financial life with an audience of strangers seemed cheap and sleazy to me. Taking delight in anyone’s illness seemed low and unenlightened. As I saw a majority of heads bobbing up and down enthusiastically, I realized I was by far in the minority. 

Sylvia went on to talk about death, and God. She is Gnostic in her beliefs. I would have loved to hear her speak more about Gnosticism, but she glossed over it. Her views on death, and reincarnation, are pretty basic for the new breed of Christian new agers. Her message here is one of comfort.   Your pets and your family greet you when you die.   There is no hell, and no devil. God loves you. God want you to love yourself, and to forgive yourself, just as he loves and forgives you.

While I think that is a great message, and one I believe in, it seemed pretty basic. Not one I would think people would want to pay $35 dollars to hear. Again, my inner critic was silenced by the sea of bobbing heads that surround me.

Suddenly it made sense to me; Sylvia’s message really isn’t for me. It’s a message I already know. Sylvia’s message is for recovering Catholics who were taught to fear God and fear death. Sylvia’s message is for abused women who suffer in silence, not knowing they have the power to make a change. For these people, this is a revolutionary message of empowerment.

Sylvia spoke authoritatively on the mysteries of life and death. Apparently each human has five “exit points.” That is, times when we might possibly die. Not four, or six, but five. Here, my inner skeptic started to boil over. Sure, I get the idea that we have possible exit points throughout our lives. But the idea that we would all be granted precisely five doesn’t make sense, and seems unimportant and dogmatic.

Sylvia instructed us not to worry about 2012, speaking derisively about the Mayans. Then she said something that made me question her basic intelligence. She compared the anticipation of 2012 with the worries of Y2K, saying that they were essentially the same thing. 

While her prediction that 2012 may be as ordinary and anticlimactic as was 2000 may be correct, it’s a terrible analogy. The Y2K bug was not prophesied by an ancient and spiritual culture, it was a software problem.  

Sylvia went on to talk at length about how we should take care of ourselves physically. We are to eat a high protein diet and take amino acids. Again, the heads bobbed. One thing she said I really liked, especially coming from her voice of experience. That is that the best way to stay well and healthy is to enjoy other people, to stay active, and to have no downtime.   It sure seems to be working for her!

Somewhere in there, Sylvia had a long rant about how much she hates mirrors now that she’s older, and how much she hates her naked body. The things she said were certainly comical, but seemed incongruent with her message about loving oneself.

Overall, I would say that Sylvia’s message throughout her lecture was more about hate than it was about love. She hates aging, hates her body, and hates her most recent ex-husband. It could be, though, that her hatred is empowering to her audience. Those drawn to her message may need to know that they have a right to their feelings, and that they can use those feelings to make changes.  It may also help them to know that the woman they admire has the same issues they do.

Abruptly, the lecture portion was over and it was time to meditate. On cue, the house lights went down, the swirly lights went up, this time different shapes and colors, and the new-agey music began.

Sylvia’s voice is neither soothing nor hypnotic, but I really enjoyed the meditation. In fact, it was my favorite part of the entire presentation. She helped us send healing green light throughout our bodies, and helped us blast through boulders of negativity. These boulders had names like “abandonment,” and “fear.”

After the meditation, it was time to call out the lucky winners of the lottery; those who would get to ask a question. Overall, there were about forty of them. Many of Sylvia’s answers were short, and without explanation or additional comment. But the questioners seemed happy enough. A few thanked her for changing their lives.

After two rounds of questions, the presentation was over, and Sylvia went to the side of the stage to sign books. Most of the audience lined up with the books they had just purchased.

I left feeling that Sylvia Browne certainly deserves the empire she had built for herself. In her mid-seventies, she is a powerhouse of messaging and merchandising. I can’t help but admire it.

I don’t question her gifts, although I saw no particular evidence of them during the event. I know full well how grueling the life of a full-time professional psychic can be. It is impossible to get to where she is without some real gifts and talents.

I truly hope, though, that there is room in the world for other messages. I hope that there is, somewhere out there, a psychic-loving audience that is ready to move beyond the message of hate and self-deprecating humor and into a message about the empowerment that can come from inner peace, self-acceptance and forgiveness, even when forgiveness needs to be from a distance.