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Evil Skeptic and a Visit to Awareness 2000
By David Glück
Posted on: 4/5/2002
Kil recounts the origins of the Evil Skeptic, and reports on a field trip in which he finds tachyons, noni, oxygen, harmony and a stumped psychic.
I was once invited to a Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist meeting. I was still a teenager at the time and vaguely knew the leader of this particular group from high school. He told me he had chanted for me to come and join them. I doubted that because we hadn’t so much as nodded hello to each other before.
Anyway, I went. The meeting was held in a small room. Sticks of smoldering, cheap incense, strategically placed around the room, made the air sickly sweet. The room had a makeshift altar, a TV table with a small open cabinet on it which contained a Buddha, as I recall. People sitting around me chanted in unison. Others, standing off to the side, kept time by waving rolled up newspapers back and forth.
“Chant Nazis,” I thought. “Nom-Yahoe-Renge-Kyo,” they chanted over and over again.
After the chanting was done, we had a sharing session. People stood up and told of the miracles chanting had brought to them that week. One fellow rose and waved a five dollar bill. He told the faithful that he was hungry and had no money for food, so he chanted and found that five dollar bill. The faithful clapped. I raised my hand.
“May I ask a question?” I asked.
“Sure you can,” said the leader of this coven.
I turned to the guy with the five dollar bill and asked, “So, why didn’t you eat something? I mean, you said you were hungry?”
“Oh, I got so excited when I found this money that I lost my appetite.”
“So, right. So, um, if you can chant up money (which seemed to be the goal of these people) why not give that five to someone who really needs it and chant up some more money?”
“That’s not how it works,” I was told.
“How does it work then?” I wanted to know. “Does chanting make you lucky? Does whoever lost that five have to go without food? Did the five simply materialize? If you aren’t hungry anymore, do you still need the five?”
I was asked to leave and I was never invited back.
(Note: This took place in the late sixties. This group of “Buddhists” probably had no idea of what they were supposed to be doing. They were kids. The goal of this sect was material gain. Before I get letters about this, I want you all to know that I have known other Nichiren Shoshu Buddhists whose quest includes spiritual enlightenment.)
For years, I have been the family skeptic. My mother believes that extra-sensory perception and the ability to psychically predict the future exists. She believes that she, like her mother, possesses some psychic abilities. She believes that I do, too. She thinks I became embittered when I gave up my spiritual quest (such as it was) the day I left a would-be cult called Psychanetics.
Psychanetics was led by Jim Tachas, a charismatic sociopath with delusions of grandeur. He taught gullible people willing to plunk down serious money a clever mix of baloney and common sense that he lifted from both est and Scientology. I left when he told us that we had to make him “right” all the time, and that his disillusioned administrator, who had resigned, would be “dead within the year.” (She wasn’t.)
Truthfully, leaving Psychanetics was not like losing a religion. There was no great trauma involved. I hadn’t been a “member” for very long. No “cult-like” stuff was pulled on me. Since I had a tendency to ask embarrassing questions, my departure probably pleased Jim.
A light went on for me. I realized how easy it is to uncritically accept all kinds of silly claims and woo-woo stuff, especially if that’s what it takes to be a member of the club. People didn’t come, take a class, and go back into the world to use what they had learned at Psychanetics. More often, they came back to Psychanetics to be with those who believed the same things that they now believed. The “trainers” probably thought they were teaching Jim’s great lessons in living life and getting “It.” What they were actually teaching was the secret handshake that would get you back into Jim’s Club. Most certainly there was a lonely hearts aspect to all of this. My guess is that most cults work this way.
I became aware that I am a Skeptic. My mother equates my skepticism with cynicism. She thinks I’m bitter.
“I’m not bitter,” I explain to her.
“What’s the harm in people believing in things that give them comfort? Even silly things?” she asks.
“What I care about are those who are making money by making claims they know are not true,” I answer. “To me, that’s stealing. Should we let that happen because it makes some people feel good? Isn’t a con a con? Isn’t it fair to criticize silly claims? Even those made by sincere people? Scientific claims are tested, re-tested and published for peer review. If paranormal claims are allowed to skip even minimal scrutiny, how can you know if they have any value?”
Well, maybe I am a little angry. This does seem to be a crusade for reason in an unreasonable world. I have told my mother to think of skeptics as consumer advocates. I think, ultimately, that is what we are.
From my brother’s point of view, my love of science is leading me away from the real truth of things, and therefore, into darkness. While my brother has opened himself up to a spiritual awakening that would have made George Harrison envious, I have taken the low road. I like to ask questions.
Critical thinking has no place in my brother’s world. Doubting, according to my brother, prevents me from experiencing the world as it really is. He says that I experience the world as I believe it to be, but unlike him, I am unable to control the world. He controls the world by controlling his beliefs about it. My brother’s world is void and formless until belief gives it shape and substance. Belief is everything.
It has occurred to me that this is the perfect belief system for a criminal. For example, a person could hypothetically create a belief that it’s okay to rob a bank. Doubting is for, well, we less evolved skeptical types. Science only exists to describe what scientists, and those of us who listen to them, already believe. We create our observations.
“I can make cold water hot by changing my belief about it,” he said to me. “I have done that.”
“Can you do that for me?” I ask. “I mean, make cold water hot? Without touching it? No tricks?”
“Something doesn’t feel right about doing that,” he answered.
“Aww, come on now. You tell me these stories. Why should I believe you if you aren’t willing to demonstrate your ability?”
“You’re not ready.”
“Geez, not ready? Wouldn’t it be better to show that stuff to a skeptic? If you want to change the world wouldn’t it be best to let the world in on what you can do? Over a million dollars is waiting for anyone who can demonstrate the kind of ability that you claim to have. All you would have to do is make the cold water hot!”
“Hmm, it just doesn’t feel right. People have to come to this on their own.”
“Why don’t you create a belief that we are ready?”
I learned later that the water he caused to turn hot was running from a shower faucet in a hotel he was visiting. In my brother’s world, a shower that takes a while to heat up becomes a supernatural event. Honest!
My Aunt Olga claimed to be a witch. She was a sweet old lady. She was a New Ager years before there was a New Age. She loved the supernatural and claimed special powers, such as astral projection and mind-reading. There are a few family anecdotes about her adventures. For instance, correctly describing while in Los Angeles a dress her daughter was wearing that day in Chicago, seen in an out-of-body experience, is one such story. When I introduced her to Lorrie, my wife to be, and told her she was my fiancée, Aunt Olga said “I know.”
In all of my recollections of Aunt Olga, I can only think of one time I ever saw her angry at anyone. I mentioned, within earshot of Aunt Olga, that a camera had caught Uri Geller bending spoons against himself. She yelled at me. I was shocked speechless. She said Geller could do exactly what he said he could do, and the people saying he was a fraud were a pack of liars. She was really angry. I found out later that Geller had taught a class she had taken. He was one of her heroes. The film didn’t matter. It was taken by Evil Skeptics…
The believers in psi say we skeptics bring a negative vibe to the party. It is for that reason that ghosts, I recently read, won’t reveal themselves to skeptics. (This runs counter to the stories of those who say they were skeptical until they saw a ghost. For obvious reasons, saying you were once skeptical of a claim you are now convinced of is a good selling point. Saying that you were once a skeptic is as common among paranormalists as avoiding skeptical inquiry and criticism are).
I have heard that a skeptic’s doubting nature is all it takes for nothing to happen at any test of claimed psychic ability. When a skeptic walks into the room, the evidence disappears. My brother tells me that because of our doubt we can never be witnesses to the event. What about the psychic’s belief? Surely, all beliefs being equal, the psychic’s faith in his abilities should prevail now and then. Are a skeptic’s vibes more powerful then the vibe of a psychic who can bend metal by merely thinking about it? Well, I guess so…
Evil Skeptic Field Trip
Recently, I treated myself to a few hours at a New Age expo called “Awareness 2000: An Expo for the New Millennium.” There were “100 exhibits and 100 speakers.” I skipped the speakers. It cost $35.00 to get into the exhibit hall. It cost even more money to get into the lectures, and parking at the Airport Hilton nearly broke me. I needed to save some cash for, who knows? Maybe New Age knick knacks?
Now, let me say right off that while I think a skeptic must be open to new ideas, I went to the affair with a skeptic’s bias. I was prepared to be the Evil Skeptic if the occasion arose. I went to ask questions and, hopefully, consider the answers to my questions if there were any. I went to see what weirdness the “New Age” has in mind for the next millennium. My weirdness meter shot off the scale.
I could have purchased a Tachyon Energy Belt. I could have purchased some water “vitalized” with tachionic particles. Why wait for the 24th century?
I asked how they managed to harness the energy of a faster-than-light hypothetical particle. They gave me a brochure that explained the “science” behind the product. It went on to say, “The problem is that most scientists do not like to deal with the ethereal. It is not something they can grasp, measure or analyze in their labs.” Well, when they’re right, they’re right. They have a website: Tachyon Energy Research, Inc.
“Emu oil” cures every kind of cancer. It cures just about everything else, too.
The Unarius Academy of Science had a booth. There I learned that in the year 2001 the Martians will reveal themselves to us. They have been laying low until enough of us reach a required state of consciousness. Sort of a critical mass thing. They have a letter promoting the teachings of the Unarius Academy. Here are a few lines:
Countless thousands like yourself are attempting to pierce through the material fog of welter and confusion into the first rays of Light, which are coming from the Sun, initiating a new age of logic and reason, a spiritual renaissance just ascending above the horizon.I wished them luck and moved on.
The teaching of Unarius encompasses all known and unknown elements and factors of life and the creative principles that make all things possible.
Next, I met a man selling assorted supplements. He had bottles of “Noni Juice.” I asked him about the drink, and he said it makes you healthy. Tahitians and Hawaiians drink it, and it makes them healthy.
“How does it do that?” I asked.
“The results speak for themselves,” he answered.
“What results?” I asked.
“People who drink this stuff feel better,” he answered.
“How do I know you’re not just saying that?” I asked.
“Everyone is drinking Noni Juice now. And my Noni Juice sells for half of what most other brands are selling for.”
“But even at half the price, you haven’t exactly told me anything about it.”
“Buy it, or don’t buy it, my Noni Juice is a bargain and most of the people here want a bargain.”
I moved on.
A few booths down from the huckster selling the Noni Juice at bargain basement prices, I found a couple of guys selling Homeopathic Noni. They gave me a paper about their product to answer my questions about Noni. It actually listed a few of the chemicals in Noni. It told of the research done by one Dr. Ralph Heinecke who found a couple of nutrients that give Noni “its special therapeutic properties.” The brochure goes on to say that there are 148 nutraceuticals in Noni. “Noni can be considered an anti-bacterial, analgesic, anti-congestive, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, astringent, laxative, blood purifier and tonic, among other things.”
Wow, but wait! This is homeopathic Noni. Howard Davis, Ph.D. and homeopathic formulator, says “putting a substance like Noni through the homeopathic process brings out its latent properties for a more thorough clearing of one’s health conditions. Standard homeopathic techniques of dilution and succussion (intense shaking) breaks down the Noni into microscopic components which become more bioactive and are readily absorbed and utilized by your cells…”
The brochure ends with two notes that I’ll share. “The Noni used to make this product in grown volcanic-rich soil, ecologically harvested, and hand prepared using traditional Hawaiian methods and very low temperatures to ensure the highest possible potency.”
Folks, I submit that high potency is hardly paramount in a homeopathic since most, if not all of the potency, is lost in the dilution process. Often, not even a molecule remains of the original medicine in a homeopathic formula. A “high potency homeopathic” is an oxymoron.
Then there is this disclaimer at the end: “This product is not intended to treat, cure or prevent any disease.” They don’t want to be held to the above claims, I guess. Probably a good move on their part.
The fellows selling this stuff were unshakable in their belief that homeopathic Noni is a fine product.
Oxygen - Are You Getting Enough?
It is estimated that most people don’t extract sufficient oxygen from the air to meet the optimum levels needed by the body. Some researchers believe that our bodies only get 1/3 of the oxygen they require. One reason behind this is the fact that air oxygen levels have dropped dramatically over the last 50 years.This table was selling stabilized oxygen. “Taking 10 to 15 drops of this liquid in water can oxygenate your body considerably.”
Boost your life and health with “Oxy Boost” at Natural Vitality.
I drank a sample, took a deep breath, and moved on.
Next, I found a man selling pyramid hats. He was wearing one. Many interested people surrounded his table. There were actually four or five kinds of pyramid hats to choose from. Apparently, different metals the hats are made from give the wearer different benefits. For example, a paper on his table explained that the “Pyradome,” the least expensive of the pyramids, causes “deep relaxation and balance, tranquility and well-being, a reduction of headaches and stabilization of high blood pressure.” A bit more money gets you the “Firedome” model that adds a copper plating to the basic “Pyradome.” This model also “relieves arthritis, gives much energy and is a strong detoxifier.” They make this claim about copper: “Electrically, it is a super conductor and is recognized as a source of negative ions when used on a properly prepared pyramic structure.”
It may be news to some of you that copper is a super conductor. It was to me.
You can spend from $35.00 for the basic “Pyradome” to $165.00 on the “Powerdome Silver.”
(There is a long paragraph on how positive ions mess us up and how negative ions are good for making us better in every way. Negative ions are all over the place in New Age marketing, from laundry balls to filterless air cleaners, from oxygenated water to the effect of a pyramid hat with its naturally energizing copper plating to shoot negative ions right into your skull. In the science of the New Age, a negative ion is a good ion. Anything that produces negative ions positively impacts health and everything else, no matter what the product actually does.)
“How do they work?” I asked.
“They focus the energy that is all around us. The cosmic and electromagnetic energies of the universe.”
He went on. “You know, in the great pyramids of Egypt they found seeds that were fertile after five thousand years.”
“They were in a very dry place and in total darkness. Things tend to preserve nicely in that kind of condition,” I offered. “Also, if pyramids are such great amplifiers of energy, and the Egyptians knew of this, how come they didn’t live in pyramids? Why did they put dead people in them and then go home? Why don’t we see any pyramid hats in any of the hieroglyphics on the walls of pyramids?”
He frowned at me.
I suggested that it might be a nice fashion statement to put propellers on top of the hats.
“People might get their hair caught in the propellers,” he said, and then turned away from me. I moved on.
Gloria performed Body Harmony on my shoulder. “Body Harmony,” her pamphlet says,
frees the body of past limitations (mental, emotional, and spiritual, as well as physical), releases stress, and encourages the body’s own natural healing ability … allowing energy to flow freely throughout the body while addressing all dysfunctional aspects … creating a blissful body that moves more freely and breathes more easily.Well, I don’t know if all my dysfunctional aspects were addressed, or even any of them, but my shoulder did feel better when she was done playing with it. I would love her to do my upper back right now. You can read about Body Harmony at www.bodyharmony.com/
Okay, I admit I lost it. Passing a booth selling ear candles, I didn’t ask them how they work. I told them that if it were up to me, I would have their stock destroyed and have them arrested for fraud. Their jaws dropped. I told them they were selling a dangerous product that can’t possibly work and asked them how they sleep at night. I told them it made me sick to think that I have to breathe the same air as they do. They said everyone is entitled to their opinion. I moved on.
Eventually, I came upon a woman selling “Aura Cleaner.” The cleaner itself came in a little white spray bottle with “Aura Cleaner” written on the side. It smelled quite pleasant. I asked the woman why it was important for me to have a clean aura if no one could see my aura. I mean, a dirty aura might make an occasional psychic gag, but other than that, who is the wiser?
“A clean aura is a happy aura,” I was told. Now I’m sorry I didn’t buy some, just to have the bottle.
I also had my chakra measured. It turned out that I was a bit of a pinhead, according to my chakra chart at the time it was measured. The woman who measured it was somewhat apologetic when I asked her why my head was so small. She said the size of my chakra changes all the time.
So, I had my chakra measured and my chi aligned. I was oxygenated and Noni-ized. My body was harmonized and my aura was clean. It was now time for a psychic reading.
Shelley sat at her table telling the woman facing her about her lives, loves and who knows what else. They were both laughing and apparently having a great time. Off to the side there was a stack of information sheets about Shelley.
Shelley, according to the sheets, is a very powerful psychic. Her abilities are vast. She does psychic readings, channeling, healings, and claims to be a “pet psychic” to boot. Under psychic readings she lists: Clairvoyance, Spirit Medium, Dreams, Tarot, Palmistry, Psychometry, Aura and Chakra, Past Lives, Tea Leaves and Crystal Gazing.
Her credits include the NBC Program “The Other Side,” plus several others. She is the host of the “Psychic Horizon Show” on the Cable Radio Network.
I was in good hands.
My turn came. I sat down. I told her I just couldn’t leave an awareness expo without having a psychic reading done on me. After taking my money she was only too happy to oblige. She was a bit more expensive (ten dollars compared to five) than most of the other psychics, but heck, if you want something done right…
She asked if I had a particular question for her. I said, “No.”
She asked if there was any area of my life I would like help with or need more understanding about. I said, “I dunno.”
I then told her that anything she could tell me about myself would be appreciated, but that I really didn’t have anything in particular to ask her.
She said, “Well, I see no problems with your marriage. It’s a good, strong marriage, and will be for as far as I can see.”
Wrong. My marriage has been going through a very rocky period. The future of it is unsure, to say the least. My guess is that she guessed, after seeing my wedding ring, that if my marriage was in any sort of trouble I would have asked her about it. She took a reasonable risk and she was wrong.
I didn’t answer her, though. I just stared back.
She began to fidget.
She told me that she sees good things happening to me with regard to money.
“What?” I asked.
She asked me what I do for a living. I relented. I told her I am a general contractor, but I offered no details.
Her eyes lit up. She said she saw very big buildings in my future. That I would have many, many people working for me and would earn lots of money.
The truth is, while I am a general contractor, I mainly stick to finish carpentry. I make cabinets, install moldings, hang doors, etc. All my work is on residential single family dwellings. The very idea of working commercial projects in “very big buildings” gives me the willies.
I stared back.
And so it went. For ten minutes, she squirmed in her seat. The only thing I gave her was that I am a contractor. She took that information to a very unlikely place. When my ten minutes were up, her only sure hit was that I am currently married. Maybe someday I’ll build a high rise, but don’t hold your breath.
Most of the time she was at a complete loss. She asked over and over if I had any questions. I told her to just say what came to her mind. Nothing much did. You would think that a psychic would have a backup plan for a difficult client. One of these plans, it seems to me, would be to dazzle the client by telling him about things that no one could possibly know without being psychic. That did not happen. Oh well.
I talked to Shelley after the reading. I told her I was from the Skeptic Friends Network, and that I purposely foiled her by not giving her information. I told her how I thought psychics did their magic. She agreed that some psychics do use questions and generalized statements to produce what look like “hits,” but not her. She told me she was just off her game, and that, as a skeptic, I was probably blocking her.
Ah ha! The Evil Skeptic rears his ugly head!
Shelley didn’t offer me any money back, though, even after acknowledging that she was wrong about almost everything.
I left the hall, took the elevator down to my car, and left the Hilton. While for the most part I had fun at the expo, I had to face the fact of all that bullshit under one roof.
They say that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.
I doubt that.
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