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The Scrivener: Look For The Egress

"It is said that when emotion comes through the door, intelligence flies out of the window.'' Brian Barrett says that we believe what we want to believe, but we should be very cautious when faith and healing are based on deception.

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The guru spoke with a delightful Indian accent laced with the influence of his long sojourn in the USA. His diction was clear, his enunciation dramatically professional, and his eye contact with the audience exemplary. He used significant long pauses, to let a point sink in.

The rapt audience laughed heartily at his weak jokes. It’s always nice when you preach to the converted. The problem was that he said nothing of substance. It sounded profound, and those significant pauses were impressive.

Beneath the veil of Eastern philosophy in chummy language, the homily seemed to be an extended sales talk. This was confirmed when, at the end of the TV program, we were invited to visit his website, where his books are on sale.

At this point, perhaps I should mention my credentials. I had three years training in homiletics and have done quite a bit of public speaking. I’ve spent 50 years, off and on, pondering religion and Eastern philosophies. And I used to perform an amateur stage act, magic and mind reading — audiences gasped in amazement.

Oh, yes, there’s something else — the president of a Theosophical Lodge told me that I’m a very highly evolved soul.
It was with some scepticism (or skepticism) that I watched another TV program about a well-known Indian guru. I believe he has a devout following throughout the world. What he said was more genuinely Indian in its substance, but the tricks he performed to display his psychic powers and impress the faithful were those of an amateur conjuror.

Televangelists also merit scepticism. Where an audience is involved, the power of mass persuasion — stage hypnotism if you will — is clearly demonstrated. There are never medical reports on the people whom the Lord hath healed. We have no idea what they really suffered from, if they were healed, and whether they remained in good health.

There are ‘psychic surgeons’, too. It’s interesting what a conjuror can do with sleight of hand, especially when you can see it being done. It is, however, very sad when you see an Australian Aboriginal healer using the same techniques.
Then we have the channellers. They used to be called Spiritualist mediums. I think we all know the story of the ancient Roman ‘spirit guide’ who became very annoyed when asked to speak in Latin! I watched a TV documentary about the same channeller, and was again saddened that gullible people were hoodwinked by what is, in the end, very bad acting.
If you watch some of these people carefully, it is obvious that they are ‘fishing’. I well remember a Spiritualist service where three unrelated people each accepted a message as personal. It turned out to be for only one of them. In response to a hit-and-miss series of suggestions and leading questions, someone in the audience thinks they recognise a name and accepts a message.

Anyone with a knowledge of conjuring would have seen right through an Australian TV program about a woman who claimed to have the stigmata (the crucifixion wounds of Christ). For a start, two of them were in the wrong places. Then you could actually see her inducing some of them, on camera. Her sleight of hand was less than skilful.

We could continue, and talk about visions in clouds, snow and steamed-up window. Plus bleeding statues, weeping pictures, and things that go bump in the night.

It’s said that when emotion comes through the door, intelligence flies out of the window. Blind faith has a similar affect on intellect. If these things make people feel better, and add some purpose to an otherwise confused life, that’s good. It’s part of the human condition to seek miracles and intervention by the Other.

We believe what we want to believe. But when faith and healing are based on deception we should be very cautious about real affects and long-term results. If they depend on having to fork out money to dubious practitioners, then we should follow P.T.Barnum’s directions and look for the egress.

© Copyright Brian Barratt 2003, 2005
Adapted from an article first published in Bonzer!


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