An interview with author and psychic Litany Burns
“It’s my work. And I take it seriously.”
On a bright, clear Friday morning, I arrived at a modest two-story walkup in the middle of Nyack, New York, a suburban town thirty miles from Manhattan, noted for its artistic residents. Nyack has been home to such luminaries as internationally renowned painter John Hopper, Academy Award winner Ellen Burstyn, and Hollywood legend Helen Hayes. It is also the workspace of bestselling author, medium, and clairvoyant Litany Burns, whose counseling life outside the field of psychic practice has included work with abused women, heroin addicts, and the homeless (she co-founded and is director of the Nyack Homeless Project). Put plainly, this accomplished woman is no ‘store-front’ psychic.
To briefly introduce Litany’s work, as well as that of thousands of others all over the world, here is a short explanation of how to understand what “psychic” means, independent of religious connotations or cultural stigmas:
Throughout history, psychic abilities have been referenced cross-culturally in a multitude of forms, just as myriad terms have been used to describe people who possess these types of abilities to a greater degree than the mainstream. Titles for people with high level sensing ability have included:
Prophet, Diviner, Seer, Soothsayer, Visionary, Oracle, Reader, Intuitive, Energist, Channel, having “Extrasensory Perception” (ESP), Psychic, and many others.
Transpersonal Psychology, also known as “Parapsychology,” is the modern field of academic study relating to experiences of heightened consciousness, wherein psychic aptitude is classified in relation to our five physical senses. This field accounts for the experience of these senses on a higher level than the physical and external, meaning most people also experience these senses in relation to a person, place, or event that exists outside their current circumstances, or as Albert Einstein might have put it, “space time.”
Breakdown of physical senses with their corresponding “psychic” ability:
Sight – Clairvoyance
Hearing – Clairaudience
Touch/Physical Feeling – Clairsentience
Taste – Clairgustance
Smell – Clairalience
I walked upstairs and stopped at the door to Litany’s office, taking a moment to inspect one of her eye-catching business cards sitting atop a wall-mounted holder. (I was also a few minutes early, so I didn’t want to interrupt in case she was finishing a session.) Instantly, she opened the door and greeted me warmly with a hug.
Over the next hour, I had the privilege of learning how a clairvoyant medium of Litany’s stature approaches her therapeutic sessions, handles the not-so-occasional skeptic, guides her clients, envisions the greater good, and keeps herself grounded amidst the ubiquitous pop culture frenzy surrounding “psychic” work today.
PTM: How long have you offered psychic services to people, unprofessionally and/or professionally?
Litany: I would say, unprofessionally, probably most of my life. But professionally, l would say over thirty years. And it’s been very rewarding because people come back, or I see people and they tell me how it touched them.
People don’t realize that with psychics, after you walk out the door, I have some idea of how priceless whatever [information] I gave [a client] is going to be, but I don’t know what they’re going to do with it, or how they use it. They’re complete strangers, and then they walk out the door after forty-five minutes to an hour. [. . .] I don’t have a personal investment in the information. It’s their information.
Do you feel stronger about one area of your psychic ability than others?
Yes, I’m a medium — I talk to dead people and they talk back to me, but I also give people information about their past, present, and future by using that talent.
I’m also clairvoyant, so I see things in images or pictures and give people that information. I use psychometry, which is the ability to look at a photograph [or use an inanimate object to perceive information], and so people can bring photographs in, or send me photographs, but I can also work from a name so I don’t need a photograph. And I’m also a psychic healer, so I help people to heal themselves.
When you say ‘healer,’ do you mean more physically, like a physical ailment, or more of a cleansing, or a bit of both?
Well, I’m not into the whole “mumbo-jumbo” of New Age-y stuff. Basically, as a healer — a healer can be a teacher, a healer can be someone who gives information, and also, in certain instances, I do “laying on of hands,” transferring energy to someone’s body so they can heal themselves, and giving them information.
Anyone in the fields of parapsychology, spirituality, and psychic practice has to be faced with the occasional or not-so-occasional ‘skeptic.’ So how do you respond to someone who tells you, “I don’t believe in psychics”?
When I first started, people wouldn’t even have eye contact with me, and now I’m their pet rock, so it’s a little different now. But yes, of course, you encounter people like that, and that’s fine for me. I don’t really need people to believe anything; I think people should just be open. And if they’re not open and they’re going to be closed, that’s fine. They don’t have to believe anything, and they don’t have to come to me. It’s not a problem. And I don’t like it either on the other end of the spectrum where people are total “believers” and everything I say is gospel — that’s not good either. People should make up their own minds, but I do feel that those minds should be open.
Many believe that anyone can benefit from seeing a therapist. Do you feel that anyone can benefit from seeing a reputable psychic?
Yeah, I do. I send people to therapists; therapists send people to me. A lot of times I’ll give people information about something they’ve been trying to deal with and give them some insights that will help them grow. That’s my whole focus.
People go, “Well I don’t want to know the future, and I don’t want to talk to dead people,” but I don’t edit my information. But a lot of my information is about where people are at, like, “You’re here, and this is where you’ve been going around on the train,” and it encompasses many things depending on the person, but I like to take the spiritual and make it understandable for people so that they can use it as a practical, tangible thing in their lives.
Do you have advice for people about choosing a reputable psychic and not a potential scam artist?
In my first book, Develop Your Psychic Abilities (Pocket, 1985 / Barnes & Noble, 2004 / E-book, 2012), I put a whole chapter in called “What to Look for in a Competent Psychic,” because I think that that’s important.
But I remember a person once called me up and he wanted a reading, and he kept testing me, and testing me, and testing me. Finally, I said to him:
“Can I just ask you — if you were needing to have brain surgery, would you just go to a doctor’s office and say, ‘Could you just show me a little? Just do a little surgery to let me know if you’re good.’” You should do your own research, and find the right person, whether it’s a doctor, psychic, therapist, teacher, whatever.
I had a woman who called me up and said, “I want to come see you. I saw you about five years ago, and I just thought you were terrible. I hated the reading, you were totally wrong, I threw away the tape [recording of the session], and I just found the tape five years later, and I played it, and everything came to pass.”
But it doesn’t mean that I’m one-hundred-percent accurate, and I’m always right, for everybody. I think that, again, psychics are human. But, I don’t think people should give psychics that godly power where you get to believe everything they say and, either discredit them, or credit them so much. And there are a lot of people who are psychics who play that, who keep their followers.
It becomes about the ego.
Yes. And that’s when it gets into trouble with any profession because it gets out of the way of talent, and it brings in all the psychological barriers.
So just like in therapy, it’s really an exchange. It’s a psychic exchange.
Exactly. Although, while [talk] therapy is great, people come in and they’re not used to being with a psychic, and then they start talking and saying a lot of things because they think it’s like [talk] therapy. And the problem is, it gets in the way of the information coming in. So I don’t want people to tell me anything about themselves, and if I have a question to ask, I’ll ask them to clarify the information. But a lot of people, because they’re used to [conventional] therapy, they’ll just go and start telling their whole life story and you’re like, “No, no, I’m supposed to tell you!”
I am giving information that sometimes has to do with a lot of psychological things, and going, “This is where you’re holding back, this is what you’re doing, this is your defense, this is where it started — it started with your mother, and here’s what your mother’s like, and this is what you’re doing, and you’re playing this in your relationships.” So, it adds more perspective than just the moment.
Do you use any divination tools (e.g. tarot cards, tea leaves, palm reading) in your practice?
I don’t use any of them. People go, “Oh, you’re the Mercedes-Benz!” But that doesn’t matter because tools are tools, and some people are really good with tools, and I don’t use those tools. [. . .] If people want to record, we just start recording and…go!
How would you explain the difference between an “unintentional” psychic experience — like having a prescient dream or unexpected vision — and an intentional psychic exchange, during which a practitioner is looking to receive information?
Well I think again it’s practice and understanding where it’s coming from, instead of going, “Oh, what was this? Who’s talking to me now?” It’s really about having had the experiences and being in touch and gaining knowledge, and I think those experiences for the people that haven’t been doing it by practicing in a way — I think it’s great because it opens them up, and it makes them question, and maybe it leads them towards being experienced. It’s more about knowing who you’re talking to. Do I make a random phone call to somebody and go, “Hi, who are you?” or “I’m trying to find you!” or am I knowing what’s going on on the non-physical [plane] and who I’m connecting with, and what’s happening.
Do you ever institute any rules in your sessions?
From my experience, I feel that’s kind of a limitation. A lot of mediums will say, “I can’t talk to someone until they passed over the third level, or if they committed suicide and they’re in limbo.” To me, that’s kind of a mental construct.
To me, when people pass over, they pass over, there’s no particular time. If I can talk to your spirit while you’re here, I can talk to your spirit while you’re not here. I honestly take issue with that a lot. Or telling people you’re on this level of development or that.
I think when people go to teachers or they go to mediums, I think they need to trust their own barometers of how they feel about the information or the person, and take what’s good for them — and I don’t mean things they want to hear, but what’s really good for them — what, people say, ‘resonates’ — what they really feel, feels right, and take it and let the other stuff go. And if you can’t understand it, listen to your gut because that’s going to tell you your truth.
Method of Educating Children
Do you think anyone can be a practicing psychic if given the right education and training?
I don’t think everyone needs to be a practicing psychic, but they need to use their psychic abilities in their own lives.
A good therapist is a good intuitive. A good teacher is a good intuitive. A good parent is a good intuitive. A good friend is a good intuitive. A good artist is a good intuitive.
So I don’t think everyone has to be a professional psychic. It would be great if they all used their psychic abilities, because it would make everything better.
I remember talking to some teenagers and saying, “What about all these kids killing kids in schools?” I said, “Do you think learning to use and be aware of their psychic abilities would help?” And they said, “Yeah, because they [the perpetrators] would feel them [the other children]. They would feel them more deeply,” as opposed to having that mental distance and having all of those psychological blocks [contributing to their violent behavior].
With the current controversy surrounding gun control and violence in our schools, from elementary schools to colleges, do you feel that seeking access to our psychic abilities fits into an eventual resolution?
Certainly we’d be able to pre-conceive things before they come. Yes, and I think also it would give us a connection to each other that everybody’s yearning for. [. . .]
Because our society is so mentally focused and so competitive, when you help kids to really connect on a deeper level when [school violence] happens, you find they’re not seeing themselves as male, female, color, gay, straight, bullying, whatever. There’s a whole different sense to people. That’s the revolution.
At Psychology Tomorrow, our mission is to find ways to de-pathologize people, understanding a person’s unique experience and how that has contributed to their behavior. How does this connect to psychic work?
What a psychic does, or what I like to do, is to see the whole person. To see what their potential is, where they’re at now, where they’re going, how they can change that. As opposed to getting drugs to just kind of ‘numb them out’ or let them function so people don’t have to deal with them or they don’t have to deal with themselves. At some point you do have to deal with yourself, you can’t keep ‘numbing’ yourself to death. And I feel that we live in such an intellectually prized world, and I think that there needs to be a balance. I’m not saying take away the intellect, because it’s so important here. But we need to have that other part of us that connects us, and is grounded.
To me, when I’m talking about your soul, I’m talking about your creativity, I’m talking about your unconditional loving, your intuition, your wisdom, your perspective.
And with your body, I’m talking about your intellect, and your physical sense of time, and your emotions, and your sense of where you are — your physical knowledge. So these all — they don’t conflict.
But we’re not taught that. When little kids come here, they’re balanced. Nobody tries to nurture that balance. What they do is they start nurturing the mental, and then we all develop those psychological defenses. Because we’re trying to fill that void.
How do you think a parent should best handle their child’s psychic experience?
I think that, just like anyone else, they should be open. I don’t think they should denigrate it or go “Wow, that’s wonderful! Now what else can you do?” because then the kid becomes a little magician. But I think they just need to be open, and have a dialogue, and explore it with the child. It may be the only intuitive experience that child has, so not to make it scary. And if they [parents] don’t understand it, go to people who might, so that they can have more knowledge to help their child.
I have designed and am planning to teach a 10-week course for teachers on “Maintaining Inner Balance in the Classroom,” using their intuitive abilities to work with kids.
How do you feel about the current entertainment craze surrounding “ghost hunting,” “hauntings,” “demonic possessions,” and “paranormal activity”? How do you feel about people doing these things?
I think they should do it with knowledge. And I know TV is very titillating — I’ve been asked to do lots of reality shows. I think psychic things are sensational and exciting. But I think there’s such a negative twist on that. It’s like the Stephen King twist. And people love that, and that’s fine. A lot of people like to be scared. But, I think you can be excited about this side of things without making things so scary and making it so demonic, and negative. And I think it’s very limiting.
There’s all this hype — and, truthfully, lack of education, lack of knowledge that allows people to add to their worst fears. It plays off of your fears. It’s like someone walking into a doctor’s office and the doctor going, “Oh, you’ve got cancer. See ya, gotta go!”
You have to understand what’s going on, so that you can be in control of the situation and work it through. Honestly, I think that there’s a lot of misinformation. A lot of people think that psychics are just these weird people. [. . .] That’s kind of what our culture does, because anything we don’t understand, we exploit.
What is the best possible experience someone can have going to a psychic, as far as how it will benefit their lives and help them move forward?
Well, I think that when you go to a psychic, you should be able to use the information so that you can work with it, and see that it can help you. And use it well to help you; that’s the idea of coming to a psychic. So if a psychic gives you information and you don’t want to use it, that’s your prerogative. If you want to use it, that’s also your prerogative. This is up to you, you have your free will and you can decide whatever you want to do with your life. But everybody that comes to me the first time always says, “When should I come back?” And I always say to them, “Whenever you feel you should.” Because that’s not up to me. But if you’re going to come back a week from now, you’re probably going to get the same reading and you’ll be throwing your money away. So you need to look at what was given to you, work with it, see what you feel, whatever reason or however — you want to come back, my door is open. But, you know, don’t come back tomorrow.
Litany Burns is an international medium, clairvoyant, author, lecturer, and filmmaker. Featured in “The 100 Top Psychics & Astrologers In America,” she worked on the infamous “Son of Sam” case at the request of the NYC District Attorney and is the author of two books: Develop Your Psychic Abilities (Pocket Books, Bantam, Barnes & Noble Publ.) and the pioneering The Sixth Sense of Children (Penguin: Putnam) sold both domestically and internationally. She has appeared on NBC, ABC, FOX, LIFETIME, has been featured in Elle, Redbook, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, London Daily Mail, on national radio, online, and she has lectured throughout the world and been retained as a consultant to CEO’s, popular celebrities, medical and educational professionals, and European royalty.
For further information, or to book an internet-based, telephone-based, or in-person appointment, visit LitanyBurns.com.
Article by Adam Neal