July 29, 2015, by Patrick , Category: Tarot, Oracle & Numerology
I recently viewed An Honest Liar, a documentary about the magician James Randi. Randi is an illusionist and a legendary debunker of all things to do with psychic and spiritual phenomena. There are some twists and surprises in the story, but in the end perhaps the biggest surprise is the human capacity to believe in the extraordinary...even when it goes against all available evidence.
The film’s narrative is told from the perspective of Randi and it shows how he has exposed those who have claimed special powers and made mountains of money from such claims.
Perhaps most notorious is the preacher who held mass gatherings, pretending to cure seriously ill people. Strangers in an auditorium were randomly selected, their ailments accurately - and miraculously – described by the preacher. He then instructed them to discard their medication and they were instantly “cured” by him (with a little help from the Almighty).
It turned out that the preacher was being fed information about the individuals selected via a carefully concealed earpiece. Their personal details and ailments had been collected before the participants had even entered the building.
As the film draws to a conclusion, despite publicly – and laudibly - showing up those Randi considered to be fake as fakes, there is a downbeat note: the charlatans that he exposed continue to have wide public appeal.
Years after being famously revealed for what he was, the aforementioned preacher now appears on televison successfully selling “magic holy water”.
Why are humans drawn to believe in things of which they have limited or no clear proof – such as tarot card predictions or psychic readings? What is this need within us? Such questions came to mind after watching the Randi film.
Here’s my thoughts:
1. We are human and we are constantly in need of guidance. That guidance can come from expressing a question that society either does not allow us to ask or because it appears wholly unanswerable - even otherworldly - and society therefore does not want the question asked: it is inconvenient.
2. Sometimes suspending belief is just about fun and entertainment. That’s why we watch magicians. (We want to be surprised. For callers to the 7th Sense Psychics line, that surprise can come months later when something strangely familiar occurs and they exclaim -"Hey, my psychic told me that would happen!")
3. Sometimes we want to explore a personal issue – with another human being, even a stranger - something that’s troubling us, but which we do not have the space to consider in our daily lives. Obstacles such as lack of time, lack of intimacy and lack of self-belief impede us.
Such thoughts are not profound, nor are they meant to be.
If it cannot be tested, proved or quantified in a lab, Randi asks why believe? In certain circumstances, he’s absolutely right. It’s reckless and dangerous – an example being that preacher directing seriously ill people to discard medicine that may have been the only thing keeping them alive.
It’s also immoral if it’s done for the wrong reason: money and money alone.
While we believers in things spiritual and psychic may not agree with Randi’s general philosophy, surely we cannot fault him for exposing those who only seek to gain from the desperate misery of others?
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