‘Psychics’ and the Art of ‘Leveraging Intuitive Guidance’

The SF Weekly has an article about the use of “psychics” by tech executives in Silicon Valley that is both amusing and disturbing. It seems this is quite a popular thing to do out there. The combination of corporate management-speak lingo and “psychic” nonsense should fill up your bullshit bingo card in record time.

The apps Faubion has hired Yegor to make are not so much a sideline business as the spinning-off of her gifts into a lucrative new market: Search for “numerology” on iTunes and you’ll turn up nearly 300 apps; search for “astrology” and it’s more than 1,200. Sally Faubion Concepts — headquartered in a studio apartment in Lower Nob Hill — has already rolled out Forecast Wheel, whose prophetic roulette spits out fortunes such as “your financial and social status will improve when you marry”; Meaning of House Numbers, which reveals a house’s prime selling or purchasing price; and Cosmic Mates, the crown jewel of the lot, which for $3.99 teaches people the “secrets of [their] personality and destiny.”

“I call myself the Dr. Phil of numerology because I’m so incredibly honest and forthright,” Faubion says.

Hilarious that she thinks comparing herself to Dr. Phil somehow makes her sound more credible.

Nicki Bonfilio is one of those psychics. “I have many clients from Salesforce, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Zynga, Microsoft, and Cisco,” she says. We’re sitting in her office in the Mission. The room is small and luminous, with white shag carpet, and white furniture, and a view of Twin Peaks glazed with white light. The decor is multicultural, as though set-dressed by a producer uncertain of her audience: a Buddha, framed pictures of the Orient, a glass Anubis. Nobody wears shoes in here.

“I’m a seer, and I’m also clairaudient, which means I can hear things on a different level,” she says. In other words, she can read your mind.

When Bonfilio was 5, she says, an apparition of St. Francis visited her in the backyard of her family’s Mill Valley home. That kicked off a childhood procession of phantom colors and 3D shapes levitating in midair. When she was 13, she experienced something like “an explosion from the inside out” — a firework in the brain that uncorked her extrasensory gifts.

“It was like going from slight color to HD,” Bonfilio says. “Everything was suddenly so vivid and clear.”…

Today, Bonfilio sees about 25 clients a week and has a calendar that’s booked two months in advance. “The tech boom seems to have helped my business,” she says. “It created more people who are here looking for answers in a different way.”

Among those people are young startup CEOs seeking advice about which apps to launch first, or which to shop around to venture capitalists. Bonfilio claims to see product names switch on “like klieg lights” and says she knows if they’ll be successful. “It’s almost like I’m on a different neurological level,” she says.

Bonfilio’s clients ask questions clients from any industry might ask, only tinged with the exoticism of seed rounds and IPOs: “What does my trajectory look like over the next six to 12 to 18 months?” “Should I try to laterally move into another department where I’m not product manager but might be more on the platform side of Salesforce?'”

One of Bonfilio’s clients, Caroline Cross, compares their relationship to that of a patient and her psychiatrist, a common analogy that many psychics embrace. “You can tell her very little but she can tell you a lot about people and what they’re thinking,” Cross says. “She can read a situation from so many different angles.”

Cross, who requested that her employer be identified only as “the largest SaaS CRM provider,” began seeing Bonfilio in 2010. She and five co-workers, all women, would get readings once a year and compare notes. Bonfilio and Cross mostly discussed Cross’ career trajectory at the large CRM provider.

“Nicki definitely kicked off that whole process of leveraging intuitive guidance,” Cross tells me, noting that since 2010, many more co-workers across departments have started seeing Bonfilio.

That combination of corporate lingo and psychic bullshit is downright vomit-inducing.

A quick search for “house clearing” led them to Reverend Joey Talley, a Wiccan witch in Marin County with more than four decades of experience and three master’s degrees.

“It was a new condo building in Oakland, but there was a parking lot across the street, and I knew terrible crimes had been committed there,” Talley tells me. “I could feel children suffering. I’m pretty sure there had been a murder at some point.”

Talley built what she calls a “psychic seawall.” It’s akin to an exorcism, except more benevolent and with none of the Judeo-Christian trappings. According to her own tagline: “No problem is too big, too small, or too weird.”

Nor, as Talley’s tech clients can attest, too beyond her qualifications. Despite lacking a background in computer science or IT, Talley is occasionally called on to perform cyber security miracles. Her approach is more Etsy than McAfee.

“Most people want me to protect their computers from viruses and hacks,” she says, “so I’ll make charms for them. I like to use flora.”

Jet, a black gemstone energy-blocker, is ideal for debugging office hardware, Talley says; bigger or more vulnerable computer networks often require “a rainbow of colors to divert excess energy.” If all else fails, she can cast a protection spell on the entire company, office supplies included.

This is all quite easily testable, of course. We just put a virus or two on a pair of computers, let one actual computer tech armed with the usual tools work on one and let Talley shake her floral charms over them and mumble some spells and see which one is fixed. None of them would agree to such a test, though, because it might threaten their ability to fleece their credulous clients.

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