Spiritual advisor, trance medium, and psychic detective Sylvia Brown has proclaimed that her goals are to prove that the soul survives death, that God is a real and loving presence, and that there is a divine plan to everyone's life.
Browne is an example of the modern channel/medium who has become a media personality, thanks to her 27 years of making television and radio talk show appearances, 47 years of giving psychic readings, and 25 years of conducting paranormal research. Slowly building a reputation as a psychic-sensitive and trance channeler in California throughout the sixties, seventies, and eighties, Browne arrived upon the national scene in December of 1998 when she appeared on the Montel Williams Show to promote her biography, Adventures of a Psychic. The best-selling book was quickly followed in 1999 by The Other Side and Back: A Psychic's Guide to Our World and Beyond. These books, coupled with her appearances on Larry King Live, the Montel Williams Show, and Unsolved Mysteries, soon increased her popularity quotient to celebrity status.
Born Sylvia Shoemaker in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1936, she first gave evidence of her psychic ability at the age of five when she experienced frightening premonitions of the deaths of her two great-grandmothers just weeks before their passing. Fortunately for the sensitive child, she had her grandmother, Ada Coil, an established and respected psychic counselor and healer, to guide her and to help her to understand her paranormal talents, including the ability to communicate with those in the spirit world. Developing as a deep trance medium, Browne learned to allow her
For many years Sylvia Browne quietly shared her insights with family and friends and became well known in the Kansas City area for her talent in helping people foresee their future. Even after moving to California in 1964, she continued assisting people on a private basis.
About 10 years after making the move to the West Coast, Browne decided that after having spent 18 years as a Catholic school-teacher, she now wished to research the paranormal and her own psychic abilities through a professionally established and legally sanctioned organization. In 1974, she incorporated the Nirvana Foundation for Psychic Research, a nonprofit organization known today as the Sylvia Browne Corporation. Soon the readings in her home with a dozen or so friends in attendance had grown to gatherings of two or three hundred people in churches and town halls. Although she was raised predominantly a Roman Catholic, she was familiar with the Jewish, Episcopalian, and Lutheran backgrounds of her extended family. In 1986, she established a church called the Society of Novus Spiritus (New Spirit), which, though based essentially upon Christian Gnostic theology
While many spirit mediums reject reincarnation as contradictory to their concept of the divine program of spiritual evolution for the spirits of the deceased on the other side, Sylvia Browne accepts past lives as a central theme in her philosophy. She states that she has conducted thousands of hypnotic regressions and hundreds of trance sessions, which have convinced her that to understand the laws of karma/reincarnation is to possess one of the keys to understanding the true meaning of life. Browne is not dogmatic regarding any of her personal views, however, and she makes a point not to force her beliefs on anyone else.
There are hazards in establishing a high profile as a medium or a psychic-sensitive. Orthodox religionists condemn them as satanic; skeptics accuse them of exaggerating their claims of success; and nearly everyone charges them with being in the "spooky" business only to take money from the gullible and the grieving. In addition, various research groups often demand to conduct their own tests to decide whether or not the medium or the psychic has what they deem true paranormal abilities.
Brill's Content (2001) claimed to have examined 10 of the Montel Williams programs that featured Browne's work with the police as a "psychic detective," dealing with 35 cases. According to their analyses, in 21 the details were too vague to be verified. Of the 14 cases remaining, interviews with the law-enforcement officers involved in the investigations or family members of the victims produced comments that Browne had contributed nothing of value to the solving of the cases.
Regardless of the skeptics and the critics who seek to undermine her reputation, Sylvia Browne has counseled hundreds of men and women who will attest to the value and accuracy of her psychic readings. According to her supporters, Browne has been able to help thousands of men and women gain control of their lives, understand the deeper meaning of life, and find God in their own individual way.