of the subjects
covered [on this website] come under the umbrella of
the "New Age" and can be found under appropriate headings such as
crystals, auras, spirit, channeling, meditation, a host of alternative
medicines and therapies and variegated philosophies such as the Inner
professed to possess paranormal powers herself,
prominent among the New Age personalities is the talented actress
Shirley MacLaine. A believer in the existence of UFOs, spiritualism,
reincarnation and the occult in general, her seminars are well
attended, her books avidly read and her films well patronized. Her
teachings have had a greater influence on the public than any other New
Age promoter and almost single handedly has elevated her own personal
medium, Kevin Ryerson, to fame and fortune. In particular, her book, Out
on a Limb, outlining her beliefs and experiences sold in
millions, and the television version of the same name became one of the
most talked about mini-series. Although denying that she is, many
of her followers regard Shirley MacLaine as a guru.
protagonists of the
New Age movement embrace a veritable plethora
of ideals, pursuits, philosophies, beliefs, myths and superstitions,
encompassing virtually every aspect of pseudoscience and the
paranormal. It is not a distinct movement, some see it as a religion,
others see it as an extension of the 1960s hippie culture — a rebellion
against scientific and social conservatism in which "scientific
materialism" is the bete noire. It espouses a garbled mixture
psychology, alternative unproven health therapies, ill defined and
unverified claims and ancient re cycled belief systems, all of which
are grist to the mill and have provided the foundations on which many
an entrepreneur's fortune has been built.
million dollar businesses selling a wide variety
of products ranging from clothes through magazines, books and tapes, to
expensive seminars, a market place in which the willing and the
credulous are parted from their money in ways that would make Phineas
T. Bamum turn in his grave with envy, not the least of which are the
"human potential" and "conscious raising" courses promoting
matter how inane the
concept, no matter how nonsensical the premise,
no matter how silly, inconsistent or contradictory the belief, no
matter how lacking in empiricism, the endless list of pseudoscientific
and New Age philosophical gobbledygook is swallowed hook, line and
sinker, and in so doing, New Age proponents alienate themselves from
reality, become vulnerable to financial and emotional rip offs, and lay
themselves open in many areas to the dangers inherent in untested,
unproven and highly suspect "cures", "therapies" and "miracles." It is
an introspective philosophy where one is trying to find the answers to
life's problems, real or imaginary. It teaches that God is within each
of us, and as long as it feels right, it is right. This belief that God
is within us and that we are responsible for whatever happens to us
leads to a selfish attitude towards others—the disadvantaged, the sick,
and those starving in abject poverty have only themselves to blame
according to the New Age philosophy.
conspicuous by their absence in New Age lectures,
superstitious mumbo jumbo, inanities and pseudoscience abound. An
endless list of paranormal beliefs are unquestionably embraced, as are
the many fads and fallacies in the areas of medicine and psychology.
"what harm is there in believing in an
irrational premise or seeking an alternative treatment as long as it
achieves the desired result?", there are several reasons why one
shouldn't, not the least of which are the dangers and hazards involved.
Personal responsibility is abrogated by attributing behaviour to powers
and influences beyond one's control, and a pre-ordained or immutable
future is implied. Yet this is contradicted by other aspects of New Age
beliefs where it is taught that "free will" can change or alter future
critical thinking and
analyses fundamental to scientific and
rational processes are discouraged and rejected, encouraging a belief
in the equality of opinions, regardless of the evidence for them.
Without a system of checks and balances, claims may be made without
proof, challenge or scrutiny. New Age thinking exposes the public to
exploitation by failing to offer any means whereby paranormal and
pseudoscientific claims can be evaluated, thus allowing the
dissemination of misinformation and the presentation as fact of
unproven or unprovable events. It promulgates the belief that
supernatural forces exist, and that intuition is a valid avenue of
knowledge. It encourages irrational thought, it is limited by a non
judgemental philosophy, and relegates every day decision making to a
reliance on half baked concepts. Where these beliefs are applied in the
field of alternative medicine to psychological and physical illnesses
(imaginary or real) it can be decidedly dangerous. Some of the New Age
diagnostic methods, therapies and miracle cures mentioned in this book,
such as iridology, psychic healing, homoeopathy, crystal therapy et
are examples of the inherent dangers in so far as they entice people
away from orthodox tried and tested methods to those scientifically
proven to be inefficacious and fallacious.
erroneous pseudoscientific claims such as racial
superiority have had horrendous ramifications in the past, and
membership of bizarre cults practising under the aegis of one claiming
supernatural powers have often proved to be life threatening. The mass
suicide of 911 followers of the Rev Jim Jones in 1978; the 73 deaths
attributed to the Branch Davidian in 1994, and the March 1995 gas
attack on a Tokyo subway by a fanatical cult (Supreme Truth Sect),
which killed 12 and hospitalised another 5000, are testimony to that.
New Age thinking
appeals to those most vulnerable — the naive,
the young, the lonely, the poorly educated and the emotionally
troubled, who see salvation in claims of mysterious and wonderful
forces. Others, motivated by low self esteem or greed, see the courses
offered by the purveyors of the "New Age" as vehicles circumventing the
effort normally required to acquire knowledge — a quick fix for
opinion it seems
basic to objectively seek verifiable evidence
before I part with my money, to show for example, that a "channel" is
really in communication with the spirit of one long dead, or that a
crystal has the innate powers attributed to it; and in the absence of
such corroboration, I am inclined to conclude that a far simpler
explanation for the phenomena can be found in the New Ager's total
disregard for objectivity and their proclivity to embrace fantasy.
medical fads and fallacies popular among New Age
adherents can be referred to under individual headings throughout this
book, but perhaps a brief mention of some of the prominent gurus in the
movement would be appropriate.
entertainment profession have a reputation for believing
in superstition and the occult. Late in 1988, it was revealed that the
then President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, and the first lady
Nancy Reagan, had for years been consulting astrologers and had acted
on their advice regarding the most auspicious times to travel and when
to formulate policies.
that the high incidence of believers in the
profession is mainly due to their Jewish or Catholic backgrounds,
possibly because their mainstream beliefs are based on an acceptance of
the existence of a supernatural being. This can be confirmed by a
perusal of their respective biographies.
has always been cognizant of the fact that an
endorsement of their product by well known personalities, regardless of
whether they believe in or use them, will enhance sales. The same
criterion applies to New Age products.
teachings have had a greater influence on the
gullible than any other New Age promoter. Whether or not she is a true
believer or has used her thespian talents as an opportunist to jump on
the New Age band wagon is a matter for conjecture; whatever the case,
her position in the New Age hierarchy to influence is undisputed. A
critical examination of her teachings however, raises, at least in my
mind, some serious doubts about their value to an individual and to
society as a whole. While the banalities in MacLaine's books and TV
mini series were read and viewed by millions, tens of thousands
unfortunately took them seriously, reiterating the incidents as fact in
organizations such as the Inner Peace Movement. In all her books
MacLaine recounts paranormal anecdotes that strain one's credulity. Her
visit to her acupuncturist in Dancing in the Light, for
not to have treatment for an ailment but to take her back over past
lives. She explains that the needles "stimulate memory patterns locked
in the cellular memory of the physical body" but omits to say how these
cells are preserved for another lifetime after the original body has
teaching was her response to a question on AIDS
on Canadian TV. "Doctors ... are so confused with this disease they
don't know what to do. Maybe this is the purposeful good of the
disease. By the way...there's a purposeful good to everything..."
Perhaps an AIDS sufferer would have trouble in equating their
affliction with “purposeful good." Scientific illiteracy abounds in her
statements. On the Phil Donahue show, September 9, 1985, she said:
"Nothing ever dies science tells us that
nothing ever dies, it just changes form." This is a distortion of a
principle of physics—that matter and energy remain constant, although
they can change in form. But science does not tell us that nothing
dies. Some of her teachings defy interpretation. In the Los Angeles
Times, July 20, 1987 for example, she is reported as saying, "The
vibrational oscillation of nature is quickening". If any reader can
tell me what that means I'd be glad to hear from them.
faith in, or an uncritical acceptance of a creed,
without first examining its tenets to see whether or not they rest on
foundations in accord with natural laws, casts one onto the quicksands
of pseudo ideological speculation.
MacLaine and her
beliefs can only be seen in the same context
as other paranormalisms — she provides a crutch for those who wish to
avoid dealing with the realities of life.
Adams, R. 1982. The
New Times Network. Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Bromley, David G. &
Anson D. Shupe, Jr. 1981. Strange Gods. Beacon
Cinnamon, K. and Farson,
D. 1979. Cults and Cons. Nelson Hall Chicago.
Cohen, D. 1975. The
New Believers. M. Evans & Co. NY.
Chipperfield, M. 1988.
"Karma, Crystals and Cash." The Australian
Magazine. December 10th. 1988.
Evans, B. 1954. The
Natural History of Nonsense. Alfred A. Knopf.
Evans, Dr C. 1973. Cults
of Unreason. George G. Harrup & Co. K.
Fair, C. 1974. The
New Nonsense. Simon & Schuster NY.
Friedrich, O. 1987. "Om
... The New Age." Time Magazine. Australia.
Gardner, M. 1957. Fads
and Fallacies in the Name of Science. Dover
_________ 1984. "Notes of
a Psi Watcher." Skeptical Inquirer. 8(3):214
Gordon, H. 1987. Extrasensory
Deception. Prometheus Books. NY.
Hanna, D. 1979. Cults
in America. Belmont Tower Books. NY.
MacLaine, S. 1984. Out on
a Limb. Bantam.
__________ 1986. It's
All in the Playing. Bantam.
Randi, J. 1986. Flim
Flam. Prometheus Books. Buffalo. NY.
Reed, C. 1987. "Strange
Journey with a Mystical MacLaine." The Age.
Roberts, J. 1981. The
God of Jane. A Psychic Manifesto.
Ward, R 1978. Common
Fallacies. Oleanda Press. Cambridge. UK.
(From: Edwards, H. c.1996 A
Skeptic's Guide to the New Age]
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