I’ve talked about the perils of paranoia, and now it’s time to examine the problem of magical thinking – irrational causal reasoning. Like paranoia, magical thinking appears to be on the rise these days. And magical thinking can be dangerous. The Xhosa and Thembu tribes of South Africa nearly starved themselves into oblivion because some a**hole ghost told them to sacrifice all their cattle. Many an alchemist poisoned himself in his quest for gold or immortality. Bridget Cleary was beaten and burned to death by a husband who suspected her of being a malicious fairy. Belief in the efficacy of lucky talismans or rituals can lead people to take risks they normally wouldn’t even consider.
Now, there’s probably little to no harm in believing you’re an elf, wearing a QLink pendant, or practicing feng shui. But here are just a few examples of how magical thinking can go seriously, seriously wrong…
Fatal exorcisms: Untrained or inexperienced people who diagnose possession and attempt exorcisms have killed possessees, either by withholding food and water or by using violent means to dislodge the demons.
– In 1973, 19-year-old Anneliese Michel died while being exorcised by two priests. It subsequently came to light that she had stopped taking her medication for epileptic seizures.
– Father Daniel Petru Corogeanu of Romania starved a nun to death when he lashed her to a cross for days in an attempt to get the demons out of her.
– In 2000, Pastor Luke Lee of New Zealand killed Kum Ok Lee in the course of an exorcism. At his trial, he calmly assured the court she would rise from the dead. Also in New Zealand, in 2007, 22-year-old Janet Moses was drowned by family members who believed they were cleansing her of a curse.
– In 2003, 8-year-old Terrance Cottrell Jr. was smothered to death by a pastor during an exorcism.
– Last year, Ronald Marquez beat up his daughter and tried to perform an exorcism on his 3-year-old granddaughter. Police summoned to the scene by neighbors found Marquez with the child in a headlock, his daughter huddling nude and bloody in a corner. They Tasered him, which resulted in his death.
– In February of this year, Jan Clark murdered his wife after performing an exorcism on her. He claims the demons entered his body and forced him to kill her.
Baby-tossing: As reported recently, parents in India consider it lucky to pitch their infants 50 feet to the ground from the rooftop of a mosque. Do I really have to tell you what’s wrong with this?
“Reptilians steal babies”: Belief in a race of ultradimensional or extraterrestrial lizard-like entities that preys upon human beings is causing great emotional distress for some people. Kinesiologists Michael and Stephanie Relfe believe their first child was stolen from Stephanie’s womb by Reptilians (they also believe Michael worked for the government on offworld colonies). Reverse-speech analyst Peggy Kane says she has been raped by Reptilians from the lower astral plane, and that a close friend was brutally murdered by them while he was a guest in her home. Psychic alien abductee Ted Rice believes that as an 8-year-old boy he was taken into a spaceship with his grandmother and forced to watch her copulate with a tall, reptoid alien disguised as his dead grandfather. When the woman prevented this creature from raping her grandson, she was warned she would die in two days’ time. She did, Rice said. The late Karla Turner, author of Rice’s biography, thought her fatal cancer was caused by Reptilians. She also thought the reptoids had eaten Rice’s body and replaced it with an exact duplicate made from organic materials obtained during cattle mutilations! Peggy Kane also says many humans have been replaced by clones, after their real bodies have been horrifically tortured and consumed by the Reptilians.
And it gets worse. In 1999, professional scam artist Diazen Hossencofft managed to convince a clique of followers that his ex-wife, Girly Chew, was a Reptilian priestess in disguise. They abducted and murdered her at his request. Hossencofft also persuaded various women that he could cure cancer, and keep them eternally youthful with a serum he had developed. He told some his young son was a super-kid genetically engineered by NASA scientists. (This case was the basis for the CSI episode “Leapin’ Lizards”.)
Taking health advice from visionaries and mystics:
– The Conscious Development cult led by Texan Terri Keanely (formerly Hoffman) has been linked to several suicides, murders, and suspicious deaths, but one of the most disturbing stories is that of Hoffman’s third husband, Richard Donald Hoffman. He committed suicide in 1988, leaving behind a video explaining that he had been diagnosed with inoperable cancer. However, no trace of cancer was found in Hoffman’s body during autopsy. His children allege that Terri Hoffman persuaded their father he had cancer by revealing visions of his imminent death.
Keanely is currently one half of MoneyForce Press and co-author of The Colors of Money: Finding Your MoneyForce.
– Brazil’s Joao de Dios (John of God) is not a doctor, but he can channel dead doctors to perform surgery through him (unlawfully, I might add). Some of his surgeries take place only on a psychic level, but others are hands-on, invasive procedures that involve real instruments. These don’t resemble any known medical operations. ABC News reported in 2005 that one patient had forceps shoved up his nose and violently twisted. Needless to say, Joao doesn’t do follow-ups. Yet he boasts of healing 15 million people in 35 years. As James Randi points out “Working 8 hours a day, taking no lunch hour, 6 full days a week for 35 years, taking no holidays at all, he would have to “heal” ONE PERSON EVERY 21 SECONDS of every minute of every hour of every day he worked, with no time off, and no failures!” Busy guy.
Ask yourself, what would happen if Joao collapsed during a surgery?
– Mother of five Michelle Mingo starved her infant son to death in 1999 because her sister-in-law had received a vision telling her Mingo needed to purge herself of her “ungodly vanity” and prescribed a dangerous diet regimen for both mother and son.
Indigo/psychic children: Thousands of parents believe their children are the next step in human evolution, endowed with marvelous powers: ESP, telekinesis, mediumistic ability, the gift of listening to trees (shades of The Ramones), etc. How are these children going to feel when, as adults, they gradually (or suddenly) realize that they’re just plain ol’, run-of-the-mill human beings? This is much bigger than Santa and the Tooth Fairy. These kids are essentially being told that they’re supernaturally gifted, super-human, or just not human at all. That’s a huge misconception to get over.
Not to mention, magical thinking can lose you a heap o’ money:
– It has been estimated that Scientology Clears will have spent between $50,000 to +$300,000 in auditing and other costs in order to reach that level. For these prices, you can get psychoanalyzed (which is all auditing is, anyway, in a cruder form) and rent dozens of sci-fi movies. Same diff.
– Many have fallen for the Black Dollar (or Wash Wash) scam, but some have lost their life savings after being convinced by psychics that their money is cursed.
– Money spent on Kabbalah Center merchandise, QLink pendants, feng shui consultations, aura cleansing, firewalking workshops, and other dubiously effective products, treatments, and lessons could instead be invested in things that will benefit you directly. One example: Madonna spends the rough equivalent of one person’s college loans on Kabbalah Water every year.
– Psychic surgery can cost hundreds of dollars, not including travel, meals, accomodations, and bribes paid to customs officials.
– A 2-hour family session at A Place of Light, a center for “intuitive children” and their relatives, starts at $75. The day program for preschoolers costs $50 per week, though there is a discount if their siblings can speak with the dead or something. Factor in travel costs (the center is in Massachusetts) and you’re looking at some serious cash.