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Doubting Thomas, Dick & Harry

by Paul Naras

Most of us will probably agree that cynicism has never been as pervasive as it is today. This is not a human quality that should be lauded or nurtured.

Skepticism, on the other hand, may question the truth of everyday claims, statements and principles but does not hold that someone's motives are necessarily selfish or insincere.

A healthy dose of skepticism is not only important but absolutely integral to personal, intellectual and spiritual growth. How many of us periodically examine our belief systems? Is our philosophy of life constructed on a foundation of investigation, scrutiny, analysis - or do we subscribe to certain views and convictions because they have simply been passed down to us by family, church or state?

This said, it has to be noted that there is today a new breed of skeptic writing books and articles and generally firing volleys at anything that smacks of New Age. This is the professional debunker. Now skeptics are as essential to the New Age as they are to any other theory, movement or ideology. There is a lot of chaff that has to be separated from the wheat. However, most of the debunkers have their own agendas and their subjective jaundiced preconceptions have to be taken with a grain of salt (if not an entire tablespoon of it).

Many debunkers have to realize that a true New Ager is a seeker of wisdom and revolts against superstition every bit as much as the scientist and the logician. Yet here are a few 'facts' that the average debunker swears by:

  • There is no such thing as E.S.P.
  • The millions of people who have had out-of-body experiences are delusional.
  • Thousands of near death experiences can be attributed to some sort of chemical occurrence in the brain.
  • Every UFO sighting since the dawn of time can be traced to natural phenomena (weather balloons, swamp gas or perhaps one of those bimonthly firefly conventions in the atmosphere).
  • The cosmos (from Big Bang to Homo sapiens) resulted from a series of very fortuitous little accidents.
  • There is no God/Absolute - whether you envision this Higher Power as an anthropomorphic Creator with a beard and halo or whether the Infinite is understood in a pantheistic sense.

And the list can go on and on ...

The yardstick of valid criticism should be a familiarity with the fundamentals of the topic under examination. Any skeptic with a shred of integrity has to look at him or herself in the mirror and ask a few vital questions - Am I open-minded or will I grasp at straws in order to justify my own point of view? Am I ridiculing this idea because it has no basis in fact or because I'm so insecure and partisan that I can't bear the thought of my neat and tidy concept of "the way things are" being in error and thus invalidating a belief system I've embraced for decades?

William James wrote that "nothing can be more stupid than to bar out phenomena from our notice merely because we are incapable of taking part in anything like them ourselves". A key point that has to be debated in the public forum is the debunker's outright persistence regarding the scientific method as the only adjudicator of life/reality as we know it. What about phenomena that cannot be measured or quantified? Is love irrational because someone who has never felt this emotion is having a hard time grasping our definition of the word? Is Einstein's theory of relativity illogical if it is unsuccessfully elucidated to a five year old just entering kindergarten? Ergo, is a mystical experience or an out-of-body adventure illegitimate or manic just because some scientist has never encountered it personally and has not been able to get a requisite print-out from an electroencephalograph? Mystical occurrences cannot be plumb-lined, only experienced.

R.G. had been on the spiritual path for decades and as a high-ranking officer of a fairly well-known mystical fraternal organization he had been granted audiences and had met a number of advanced adepts during the course of his world travels. While conversing with an Indian yogi one day a number of issues were deliberated and the evening ended when the yogi put certain principles into action and literally disappeared while sitting in the lotus position two feet in front of R.G.

Was this a trick, or magic? Of course not. There are natural laws and systems of teaching that have been extant for millennia. The sincere seeker will eventually come face to face with them. Through earnest study and application many so-called 'miracles' are exposed for what they really are - the resultant of specific principles being put into practice.

It is at this point that debunkers leap to their feet en masse and exclaim for all to hear - Show us! We'll believe if you'll let us set the conditions, the tests, and then have these masters show us their stuff.

So why are not these remarkable people making themselves available, performing their feats in front of hundreds of millions of us on television? The answer is a simple one but it will not satisfy the skeptics. These 'powers' are rarely openly displayed for the same reason that Jesus stood silently and passively in front of those Roman officials mocking him and exhorting him to prove himself by performing some miracle; because the very self-importance and vainglory a student on the spiritual path is attempting to vanquish is oftentimes an unavoidable consequence of flaunting 'psychic otherworldly' skills and capabilities. These gifts, hard-earned though they may be, should not be utilized for ostentatious purposes but only to teach, to heal and to serve.

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