Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pat Robertson, James Randi, and the New Age

Christian evangelicals have been a major force the world over, especially the United States. The main intellectual reason has been that Pat Robertson used the arguments of postmodernism to create an intellectual basis for fundamentalist Christianity. I do not see why he would not. If postmodernism can be used to bring in Hare Krishna or paganism, I see no reason why it cannot be used to bring in Christianity as well. It was a brilliant move, and Pat Robertson used it to become a leader of a very powerful spiritual and political movement.

As for James Randi, the leader of the so-called “skeptic” movement, he is a fool. Why on earth would God or Ganesh or the Tao want to be studied by people who do not believe in them? It says in the Bible, “Do not put the Lord your God to test”; and Buddha explicitly forbade his followers the use of miracles as means of persuasion. The Christian's powers are not under conscious control; they come either from Christ or from Christians with either spiritual knowledge or very strong faith – in many cases people who have converted to Christianity from paganism or New Age while retaining what they have learned. As for the people whose powers are under conscious control, very few of them can reliably reproduce a one in a million result, and those who can either do not want to call attention to themselves or else they either do not need or do not want a million dollars.

With the New Age movement, we see both good things and bad things. I see absolutely nothing wrong with teaching people Reiki or yoga or Zen, or bringing into the West the wisdom of Native Americans or Australian Aborigines. Astrology is something that I once had dismissed, but it has been shown to me by people who are not stupid in any way to make very precise descriptions of both individual and generational character. I see none of these things as being unethical or destructive. There is however something that's very wrong with the New Age movement.

One of the central claims of the New Age movement is that people are responsible for everything that happens to them. I find this to be morally wrong. This attitude can be used to excuse any atrocity under the sun under the claim that those at the receiving end of the atrocity have brought it about.

It also is a claim that is very easy to stand on its head. All that one needs to do is negatively impact the other person – as people of course do all the time – and then the person will have to blame herself. A witch who gets burned at the stake will have to say that she did it and not the Grand Inquisitor. A woman who gets beaten to death by her husband will have to say that she caused it and not the man. And if a New Age community comes under barbaric attack from Muslim or Christian fundamentalists, they will also have to say that they did it to themselves.

Probably the one thing that makes people such as James Randi credible to some is the fact that the main religion of the place – Christianity – has put a damper upon magick, spiritism, shamanism and similar pursuits. This has destroyed the evidence for spiritual activity in Christian-influenced societies, leading many to think that such things are hogwash. I do not have the option of such beliefs; I know what I have experienced, and I also have a testimony of many others, including distinguished scientists, successful entrepreneurs and highly educated, highly successful professionals. A person who has not seen evidence for such activity and is skeptical of it is making an honest, innocent mistake. A person who has had such experiences and either repressed or denied them is in no way honest or innocent.

The same is the case for many in the academia, who have seen any number of scientific studies that demonstrate spiritual activity but have censored them or dismissed them with a likewise dishonest claim that “an extraordinary claim requires an extraordinary level of proof.” I see absolutely nothing extraordinary about something that the bulk of humanity believes in. A far more extraordinary claim is that the bulk of humanity are lunatics and that the only sane people are ones partaking of academic groupthink.

Pat Robertson has disgraced himself by making claims that were obviously false. If AIDS had been God's way of controlling the homosexual population, then the bulk of people dying of AIDS would be homosexuals in San Francisco and not straight men and women in Africa. And if 9-11 had been God's punishment for America for the feminists and liberals living in America, then it would have happened not in 2001 but in 1960s and 1970s when there were far more feminists and liberals in America than there were the last decade. This impugns Pat Robertson and brands him America's biggest conman, which of course he has been all along. It does not however impugn either Christianity or spirituality.

It is valid to use reason; not valid to believe that the bulk of humanity are loonies. It is valid to have faith; not valid to use it to deny one's children an adequate education or to militate against science and mathematics. It is valid to have spiritual experience; not valid to believe that if I were to rape you and kill you it would be your fault rather than mine or that the 50 million people who perished in the Gulag had it coming to them or that if a truck runs over a 4-year-old child it is her fault.

There are any number of folks on the ground with all sorts of knowledge, and they have been taking it in all sorts of directions. I know of a Jehovah's Witnesses family in Australia that has taken extensive interest in psychology and the occult and has been using that knowledge to further the Jehovah's Witnesses agenda. I know of a number of Christians in both Australia and America who came to Christ after having been part of the consciousness movement, Hare Krishna or the New Age and have likewise been using what they had learned to promote Christianity. The people who have no use for such things think that they are smart, but whom they are fooling really is themselves. As one of the leaders of Alcoholics Anonymous said of such people, “I feel sorry for you.”

One useful observation of the spiritual and social conflicts of recent decades has been made by a fellow from Louisiana. He has told me that nobody has won the conflict; instead everyone has gotten better at what they did. Probably the major reason for this is that all parties have learned from one another. It is inevitable in a democracy that different parties will influence other parties; as of course they do all the time. Not political correctness, not closed-mindedness and blind faith, not blinkered ignorant rationalism and dishonest psychological brainwashing, can avoid this outcome.

So now I know of any number of people who either left Jehovah's Witnesses or attempted to do so in order to join “the world.” And I know of a psychic lady in America whose son was co-opted by the Jehovah's Witnesses, whom she has not seen in years. There are Jews and Muslims converting to Christianity, Christians becoming atheists, atheists becoming occultists or Buddhists or pagans, and on and on and on. I see no resolution to this in sight. My solution is to learn from all sides by both experiencing them from within and assaying them from without in order to create what I call an integrative understanding of them all.

An understanding that combines the perspective of observation with the perspective of experience, making it possible to know both how a phenomenon is experienced by its participants and the effects that it has on the rest of the world.

Scott Lasch said that my generation was “at sea”; so I respond, “Learn to swim with the mermaids.” There is a reason for the phenomenon that he has seen. It is called democracy. In a democracy we will see all sorts of people influencing one another in all sorts of directions both for good and for ill. I offer my generation a practical way to use this situation for rightful ends. Learn from all sides and create a more informed worldview than what we see practiced by any given side. In the process, teach all the sides what they need to know from one another and correct their errors. Create a more informed worldview for yourself and for everyone with whom you work.

I have found useful things in everything that I have studied and experienced. I have also found wrong things in each. I learn what I need to learn, and I correct the wrongs that I see.

When I see someone practicing an obviously wrong belief – such as that women or Jews are evil, or that AIDS is God's way of controlling the homosexual population, or that business is the only root of prosperity and scientific knowledge isn't, or that men are by nature destructive, or that the Western civilization is the root of oppression of women, or that “sociopaths” and “narcissists” are evil and can only be evil whatever they do, however hard they work and whatever work they do on themselves - I correct them with reason.

When I see an illegitimate power grab, such as Catherine McKinnon and Eminem claiming to speak for 50% of humanity without these 50% of humanity having voted for them to do so, and in the process dictating to their gender the worst possible behavior, I correct them with political science.

When I see libertarians expending all their scrutiny on the federal government without adequately scrutinizing private religious, communitarian and economic power to allow the same to get away with horrendous abuses, I correct them by informing them of these abuses.

When I see gender warriors creating a wrongful set of incentives within society to encourage and reward horrific behavior in each gender, I correct them with economic concepts and an economic solution: To bring together women and men from around the globe who are willing to be good to one another and as such to create rightful incentives on both genders that reward good behavior and good will.

When I see wrong historical lessons learned or cultures having been shaped by bad influences, I correct them with psychological analysis.

When I see someone pushing on people an unethical and cruel belief structure, I correct them with Christ.

John Keats said that the way toward intelligence is to make one's mind a thoroughway for all thoughts. John Keats produced some of the greatest writing in history. Many people believe that romanticism has been discredited, but then for a long time many people thought that so was Christianity. I find the concepts from Romantic poets to be as useful as I am finding Christianity. And I am applying them toward highly rational – and highly principled - ends.


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