04/27/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

'Second Sight' Will Either Creep You Out -- Or Convince You That You Too Are An Intuitive

You're a young doctor, just six months into your psychiatric practice.

And here, out of the blue, comes a dream about a patient: wandering down streets, alone, lost, searching.

The next day is the patient's appointment.

She comes in looking anything but lost: tanned, cheerful, full of purpose.

Clearly, that dream had nothing to do with her.

Then you look out the window. You see clouds, you feel peaceful, calm and cool.

And, suddenly, you know: Your patient is about to kill herself.

What do you do?

That is, do you validate your premonition and say something? Or do you honor your training and file your "certainty" in the file marked counter-transference?

Judith Orloff said nothing.

As she tells this story in Second Sight, her premonition returned a few days later.

This time, Dr. Orloff decided to speak up --- at the patient's next session.

Only there wasn't one.

The next time she saw her patient, the woman had taken an overdose and was on life support.

In the medical texts, Orloff writes, claims of premonition are "a sign of profound psychological dysfunction." Well, here was evidence to the contrary. And as Orloff tells her story, we see that it was far from her first experience of second sight; as a child, she had been a talented intuitive. But like any sensible person --- like you, like me --- she realized how easily people who can see into the future could be mocked and marginalized. And so she fought her gift right up to the moment she could no longer deny it.

The first section of this book is spooky. As a teenager, Orloff was a passenger in a car that went off a cliff; in the slow-motion fall that followed, she found herself in a "tunnel" that was peaceful and protecting. She didn't really feel at home with her unasked-for insights until she hooked up with researchers doing serious work on intuition, energy fields and non-traditional healing.

Judith Orloff is a talented writer, and her book moves like a thriller. So when she comes to make the case that we are both matter and spirit, she's very convincing. After all, she'd almost died, she'd glimpsed the other side, and she no longer thought she "knew", she was sure about it:

Death was not an end but simply a transition into another form... Human beings were blessed with gifts that I never dreamed possible. Psychic ability was only one of them. I no longer was willing to limit myself or to buy into other people's notions of my capabilities. The sky had no ceiling. It was boundless. And so was the spirit within us.

As a first reaction, it's easy to say that she sees what she wants to see. Consider Orloff's account of being called in to issue a death certificate for a man who just died. In the silence that follows the moment of death, she writes, "an alchemical reaction" occurs and suffering is transformed into love. She would have that reaction, wouldn't she?

But it's not like Orloff is spouting anti-rational drivel --- she's a classically trained professional. And she's so honest about her own ambivalence that she becomes more credible with each anecdote. Your resistance weakens as the evidence cascades.

But the point of "Second Sight" is not memoir; that's just the long set-up.

Orloff's real goal is to awaken your sense that you too are an intuitive --- indeed, that we all are --- and that you can sharpen your gifts. If you've ever had an experience that gives you chills to remember, if you ever find that you "know" facts about people they would never have told you, this book will be a great relief and a door to more. Or it will send you screaming for mother.

I can guess what some of you are thinking: What has happened to Jesse's critical judgment? It's still operating, thanks. Just not in the matter of Judith Orloff.

Forgive me my moment of intuition, but this book feels right.

[cross-posted from]