Good afternoon, My name is John Michael Thornton, Thank you for coming. I would like to start off by clarifying the title of my talk here today – the full title was "This I Choose" – Ethics and Responsibilities of the Modern Mystic was the tagline to the original title. I bring this up not because they cut my beautiful and beloved words… they did, but because my central thesis for this discussion is the importance of choice and choosing and I don't want y'all sitting there wondering where that came from.

Also, since I see some people I know in the room I should explain about the pages of notes here. See, I don't usually write out my lectures, I show up with a page or two of notes so I don't mix up the organs associated with the second and third chakras and then fly with the energy of the room. That's my normal way of teaching, but after I proposed this topic last fall I started over thinking the whole thing. It didn't help that I was obsessed with Dr Horrible's Singalong Blog at the time and was this close to turning the whole thing into a musical, I already had songs picked out when I came to my senses, It's only a blessing that was before Glee came out. Musicians would have been a stretch but there is no way I could have afforded backup dancers.


So please allow me to introduce myself – I am a psychic and teacher and I am immensely please to say that has been my full time job for two years this January. Who else here has gone full time? Isn't it awesome?

I was off and on, part time, hobby kind of thing as a psychic for sixteen years, before giving in and letting it be my life in 2007. My parents are both metaphysically inclined, I was raised with the Edgar Cayce Readings and Ray Stanford and we were always very involved with the ARE. Psychic work, metaphysics, and exploration of the stuff of the Universe were always respected vocations growing up.

At 15 I trained as a psychic at the Natural Psychic School of Metaphysics and I've been giving readings with varying frequency ever since. The structures and mores of the metaphysical community have always intrigued me and for a long time I wanted to be a preacher. (specifically a televangelist, {nervous laugh} Youthful indiscretions) I studied Religion and ethics at Youngstown State University, graduating in 1998, worked at the A.R.E. (Association for Research and Enlightenment) in both the Youth and Family Life Department and The Archives before moving to New York City to wear a tie and pretend to be a normal, non psychic, person. It didn't work out.

I moved back to Ohio in 2004 and continued to circuitous journey that has lead me here – Psychic, Teacher and Yoga instructor. 10 million times better than being an office laky and normal person.

I have taught and lectured a bit all over the place the last few years Including Youngstown, Rochester, Columbus and LilyDale. Which reminds me – as I was griped at in LilyDale for "Inappropriate Language", I said hell once and sucks twice, Chick in the front row with the HAIR was counting. Let me give a brief disclaimer: this lecture contains adult content and language, view discretion is advised. I bring this up because I don't want to get caught up in a long tedious discussion of language or sex. I believe there is too much emphasis put on proper language and sexual morays and not nearly enough on how we behave toward one another. So other than the comment I could not care less about "bad language" or what two or more consenting adults do in private, I would prefer to stick to more substantive issues. If you want to talk about sex and cussin, save it for the questions at the end.

Second, while I have thought long and hard about the issues we will be discussing here this afternoon, Sadly, I have no Missives of truth from on high, no stone tablets or wisdom of Solomon, and while I have many a time wanted to smite those I see as con-artists or scammers I have no great moral or legal authority to do so. I don't even have a lycra superhero costume to slip into so to strike fear into the hearts of evildoers… as much as I may want to.

I suppose I should also talk about why I wanted to give this talk in the first place. Since I made the proposal last November I've been all over the place with this talk. As I mentioned earlier, most of those places were vaudevillian in nature, but the nice thing about putting in a proposal that far in advance is as long as you stick to the basic guidelines in your 200 word proposal you can range far and wide over the topic. The terrible thing about putting in a proposal that far in advance is you can range far and wide over the topic.

The sad truth is, it was not a positive and altruistic imperative that sent me into the topic of ethics and responsibility – I was just really pissed off. Last year I got a run of reading clients here at ULE who were horribly miss trained certified Reiki Masters. Yeah, that's me getting all judgmental, but it came directly from my source, in horrified tones, "this person has been doing energy work in a dangerous way. Set em straight." (In stories my source always talks like James Earl Jones.) So we talked about grounding and clearing and channeling energy rather than using your own. These readings really became energy worker's summer school and I became increasingly freaked out wondering who was "certifying people as energy workers without making sure they were well trained and safe, both for themselves and others.

Most annoyingly, no one would tell me who their teachers were, who were these people who would certify a Reiki master in a single weekend, or sit and read from the book for 4 hours and call it a class, or (best yet) give the first and second attunements from a distance as soon as your check cleared and call you when it was done. I'm going to find her. It could be they saw the vengeful glint in my eyes, but what was I gonna do? Sneak up behind the miscreants in a dark ally, whisper, "I'm Batman," and try to scare 'em straight? Hardly. Batman has better toys than I do.

So I really got to thinking, what are the responsibilities of "New Agey" teachers, and how can I present this without it just being me telling appalling stories for forty five minutes? Cuz it's not just the appalling stories that bother me. I mean, for many people, myself included, this is my business and creepy cons in business are as old as business. Should we just say buyer beware the way we would in any other service industry or should we in the spiritual and metaphysical businesses be held to a higher standard? If so, and I believe we should be, what standard?

So I suppose we probably need to talk about money, this is America after all. 

I hear a lot of people talking about money in the metaphysical community with views spanning the divide from you should never charge! to charge what ever you can for your services… and that is something we often forget – services are very different from products. In the same way that you never want to go to a discount surgeon you probably don't want a cut rate healer, so be aware that being the cheapest psychic in the room may not be the best business strategy. But I digress.

Returning to the central idea here – is it ethical and moral to charge for the services of the divine? If we are using unseen and hard to quantify talents should we charge for them? If I provide you a psychic reading should I charge you for it? I have heard a lot of people say no. Saying that Psychic services should be free or by donation only. It is more important to do the work than it is to be paid for it, as if selling your services and talents was tantamount to prostitution. The argument that what we do as psychics and healers is sacred and should not be sold on the barrow to the highest bidder is a powerful one. It is clear and high-minded and I don't agree with it.

While I do believe that those of us who are "sanefully God employed," as one reader puts it, should never turn away a person truly in need – regardless of ability to pay. We still must support ourselves and in the same way that a talented musician or athlete can and should use those talents to make a living so should we. It would be lovely to not have to worry about keeping the lights on and only focusing on a higher, spiritual purpose, that is not the way our current world works. So yes, we should trade upon our gifts and talents to make the world a better place and support our place in it. And while I believe with all my heart that it is wrong to turn away a person in need if you have the skills and abilities to help I also believe those people who are unable to pay anything are very few and far between – everyone else pays cash.

One thing I have discovered over years of readings, some paid and some free, is when you exchange goods for services you are creating an energetic contract that connects the reader and the client until the debt has been cleared. On a spiritual, or energetic, level the psychic is obligated to connect with the client to fulfill the contract and give the best information he is able to provide. In the purest sense the reader must give bad news, good news and everything in between not the make the client happy, but to be honest and truthful while fulfilling the contract. Readers who blow smoke and tell people what they want to hear - frauds as it were - are in breach of their sacred contract and will undoubtedly be held accountable by Spirit. If the reader is unable to connect or give a truthful reading he is obligated to return the payment.

The client on the other hand, is agreeing to be open and honest as well, to not lie or block the reader in the fulfillment of his duties. I also believe that clients who are willfully blocked or blocking give up their right to a refund.

I think most people understand that on a very basic level. There is a sense of security in paying for something that isn't there when you get the same thing for free. I also think that every reader and healer has come to the depressing realization at some point that people don't value what they don't pay for – especially in this society. "You get what you pay for" is hammered into our heads form a very young age and most people believe that deep in their heads.

Psychic work, energetic healing and every other form of mystical, magical, mojo is a team effort between the practitioner, the client, and the divine. Reading for people who think you are a fraud or are actively blocking is really annoying and difficult. Healing people who don't want to be healed is an exercise in futility. Handing over that cold cash creates a bond and is yet another act of giving permission. The client is paying you to connect with their energy and expecting you to do so – it's practically a signed consent form.

But outside the framework of a business transaction, what are the rules and guidelines for being a psychic (for the purposes of this discussion I am going to use the term psychic as a catchall for everyone with the mysical, magical, mojo. Saves time).

What is acceptable and good?

The ever popular first, do no harm, is a great place to start. It may even be a good place to stop, but I have another 30 minutes to fill and I think it lacks an element of human psychology. The other way to go would be from a religious framework. But as much as I respect religious theory and theology in general, I have a problem with most religious frameworks of morality and acceptable behavior - even the best of them seem to be rooted in a system of threats, punishments and rewards. If you are bad you go to hell for ever and ever is one of the most brutal, but even "you reap what you sow," "karma is a boomerang" and the rule of three still come down to do good things and good things happen (you go to heaven), do bad and you get an almighty smack down. I see the use and need of such ideas. It works great for children and Zen Gnostics, but I think we can do better.

Where is there room for doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do?

I think most, if not all, people start with the idea of punishment. Most kids learn the word No before Yes, even my dog gets no. Then comes the idea of punishment for doing bad. Ideas of Hell and eternal punishment, often from a supposedly loving God (proving once and for all that all of western culture has daddy issues and should seek therapy), usually comes next. Whether it be sitting in the corner for all eternity or an almighty spanking, even the most enlightened religions have punishment and reward stories.

The next phase or level of ideological evolution seems to be the golden rule – you reap what you sew, what goes around comes around, Karma is a boomerang, what you do returns threefold, or tenfold, or however many times you can fold it all up.

Better, but still has that element of punishment to it, only it adds the element of personal responsibility that I like. Still a bit carrot and stick, but I really like it. I use the carrot and stick framework in many of my readings, but I'm still not entirely happy with it. It always leaves me wondering, why do people need the threat of punishment or the promise of reward to do the right thing? Where is the idea that taking care of yourself and the people around you, not for the benefit you may receive in the future or because reincarnation says you may be that poor slob next time around or what ever, but just because it is the right thing to do?

Don't worry folks, this is the most Pollyannaish I will get today, but I truly believe that the evolution of morality is doing the right thing because it is the right thing even if the only person or being watching you is you.

The crux of it is. If you truly know the difference between good and evil you cannot choose evil and still say you are on the path of light… and when you do evil works you cannot just say it was for the greater good or you had no other choice and shrug it off. Worse still, you cannot say we are the good guys and if we do it, it must be good. It doesn't work. Evil acts are evil acts no matter who is committing them or why they are being committed. And the core of evil of wrong, of casual choice is seeing people as things.

Here's the thing. You have to choose and you have to take responsibility. It's what being on a spiritual path is all about. You can't say "he did it," or "it's her fault not mine." You chose this life. You chose this path and you have to choose to take responsibility for your choices. Choice is the thing. It's our greatest gift and our greatest challenge. If we are gifted with free will and the knowledge of good and evil then everything we do and every choice we make is our own and no one else's… even the choice to give up that free will.

What you do is always your choice, you cannot say I was just following orders or everyone else was doing it, or just keeping up with traffic officer. It always comes down to you – making choices and going where those choices take you.

It is the action of making a choice that I believe is important and owning that choice. That is not to say you have to be all bold and brash, standing by a bad choice and refusing to admit you were wrong. No, what I mean is say "Yes, I chose to invade Pennsylvania. It was a stupid thing to do and I will not make that choice again." Don't blame bad advice or faulty intelligence. Stand up and say I did it and I take responsibility for my actions.

There has been a lot of faulty discussion about personal responsibility in the news lately, most of it related to the health care debate. And I suppose we need to talk about a subject I was trying to avoid: public or social responsibility. I was going to try to keep this personal, but the recent health care debate has brought personal responsibility front and center with the argument, why should I, someone who works out and takes care of himself pay for the healthcare for some slob who eats a dozen donuts a day?

I believe it is the duty of every person to take care of the body they have been given. To treat the body as a temple, caring for it, building it of quality ingredients and polishing the pews, as it were. It is also the duty and responsibility of every soul to care for others, to provide help and love and heath care to even the donut lovers. If you need to take it to a truly selfish level: if God and I are One. And God and You are One, then You and I are One and we should have drinks and get to know ourselves better.

But that is taking it back to the old carrot and stick, punishment and reward and we can do better. We can learn from these choices and we can say the choice was mine and I took it and I will learn from the consequences. If this was a lesson, if this was a test, I will take it and I will learn and I will take that and be better next time. There is always a next time.

That is the wonderful opportunity here at Earth school. There is always a next time to be better and to Choose Again and learn the lesson and pass the test and get ready for the next one and choose to take it.

You and I are on a wonderful journey here as modern mystics. We have the opportunities to be leaders and healers or be demons and monsters or to drop out and be just another person choosing not to choose. All I want is for you to make the choice and then choose again and again and again.

And to those out there who want to make the choice to scam and sleaze and sell snake oil all I can say is [Rips open suit to uncover Superman Logo}