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by Claus Larsen

Being a skeptic means that you learn a lot about how people who believe in paranormal phenomena think. Rational thought is often a scarce commodity, and you will encounter more or less bizarre notions.

One of the more ridiculous ideas to pop up in WooWoo-Land is that nothing exists until somebody thinks of it. Proponents of this idea firmly believes that they – singlemindedly, one might say – each create the whole universe, on a need-to-know basis. It is very similar to what small children think: That the world around them disappears, if they are not able to see it. It’s the basis of the “Peekaboo”-game all mothers play with their children. A mother hides her face behind a blanket, and the child cries, because he thinks she is gone. When she lowers the blanket, the child laughs because she is back. This can, as we know, go on for some time, until the child realizes that the mother does not disappear for real. A very valuable lesson, that – apparently – some have yet to learn.

Actress and New Age guru Shirley MacLaine is one of them. She firmly believes that she creates the universe. Sure, you can create it too, but to her, whatever she sees around her, she has created by thought alone. Her dinner, her toothbrush, the people she talks to. So, if you find yourself talking to Shirley, you must realize that you are a figment of her imagination. She constructs you, while you – her creation – simultaneously constructs her.

Let’s do a test

Let us illustrate how silly this idea is. Remember the comic strip “Krazy Kat”, where Ignatz Mouse constantly threw bricks at poor Krazy Kat?

Imagine that you and Shirley are standing in a field. Shirley stands 10 feet in front of you, but with her back to you. She cannot possibly know what you are doing. Do you exist to her? Sure, she has probably seen you coming out to her. So far, her theory is sound.

Unseen by her, you bend down and pick up a brick. You throw it at her, and it hits her in the back of the head, killing her instantly.

How can she die if she doesn’t know that the brick is coming? Because you are creating the brick in your mind (which is created by Shirley), thereby killing her. She doesn’t need to imagine the brick that kills her. Still sound.

Now, let’s up the ante a bit.

Let’s roll back, right until the moment where I throw the brick. Before the brick hits Shirley, I shoot myself through the head, killing myself instantly. The question is: What happens? My mind cannot create the brick anymore, so it must vanish. Ergo, Shirley isn’t killed.

But this is silly: We know that people are killed from debris falling off buildings, where no “mind” is involved. Ergo, Shirley is killed.

Or what? I invite those who believe in this idea to propose what will happen. I would like to know the answer to the following question:

Will Shirley die from the brick?

Answers can be mailed here.

Editor’s note, August 1st, 2009

The answers I have received since this article was first published revealed more about New Age thinking than I expected.

It is noteworthy that only a small group of those responding thought that Shirley would not be killed. The idea that things, once created, could suddenly pop out of existence again apparently was too much for most New Agers. The majority thought that, yes, Shirley would indeed be killed. Once an object is created, it stays.

This, however, poses an even greater problem: If people don’t have to be alive throughout the existence of the physical objects they have created, let alone be alive when they do so, why are bad people alive at all?

During the Holocaust of the Jews and other undesirables, didn’t just one Jew think “Gee, I really, really wish that a bullet would kill Hitler”? Not a single Tutsi wished to stop those chopping him to pieces during the Rwandan genocide? Not a single Cambodian imagined that the killings of millions during Pol Pot’s reign of terror could stop, merely by thinking about it? Or that almost 3,000 people didn’t have to die on September 11, 2001, because the terrorists could have been stopped by thought alone?

When I posed this conundrum to those respondees who fell in the latter category, the answers I received were all basically the same:

“It is morally wrong to kill, even someone like Hitler, even if he is in the midsts of committing the worst massacre in known history.”

I was told, sometimes in a rather condescending tone, that it would be wrong to interfere with other people’s karma: Their destinies are not ours to change, and even if we should save just one child, it is better in the greater scheme of things to let things be.

New Agers are very quick to point to a higher knowledge and wisdom which they have gained through their hard study of the many (and often contradicting) beliefs. Insights, divined by various means, messages, channeled through psychics, or horoscopes, cast by astrologers, all point to a higher knowledge: Something we all should strive to attain, in order to become better human beings.

But that is not higher knowledge. That is beyond callousness. It exhibits a total lack of morals, an indifference to other human beings, not based on more base concepts such as greed or ignorance, but on higher wisdom than us non-believers have ever known. It is higher, because it comes from the astral levels, the energies sent to us from other worlds, through gurus, and what-have-you.

New Age teaches us that Jews being exterminated want to be exterminated. Tutsis being chopped to pieced want to be chopped to pieces. Children who are raped want to be raped. And the almost 3,000 victims on September 11, 2001, died horrible deaths, being crushed by the impacts of the planes, burned to cinder by the flames, or jumping out of the Towers, simply because that is exactly what they wanted.

If you know of someone who does another human being harm, be it Hitler exterminating millions of people, or an adult raping a small child, and you have the power to stop it (and you do, merely by thinking about it), you should not do anything. Look the other way. Do nothing. Walk away. Put it out of your mind, and just lament that the rest of the world has not reached your higher level of infinite wisdom. And don’t forget to feel morally superior to everyone else.

That is the real lesson you learn from New Age.