Since 1950, almost every top publishing house in the United States has been issuing books that its editors know to be occult garbage. Why? The answer is obvious. Like worthless diet books, they make lots of money. I am sure I speak for everyone in CSICOP when I say we are all firmly opposed to government, at any level, telling publishers what they can't print. There are, however, moral issues involved. Just as publishers have the democratic freedom to print books that mislead and do harm, so we citizens have the freedom to express ethical outrage.
Hundreds of shabby books could be cited as examples, but I'll confine this chapter to just one, because it has an amusing history and because it ties in with one of the craziest of New Age fads--using acupuncture to arouse memories of previous lives. In Shirley MacLaine's latest autobiography, Dancing in the Light, she tells about her treatment in a village near Santa Fe by Chris Griscom, a trance medium who also practices acupuncture. (This is not the book I will be attacking; Shirley's four autobiographies have redeeming merit as works of fiction.) Shirley writes:
The yoga tantra tradition maintained that there was unlimited energy locked in the central nervous system located along the spinal column. . . . If it is released, it flows up and down the spine. Along the way it passes through the seven centers of energy (chakkras) that govern various functions of the body. The chakkras, they say, are the knots of centered energy by which the soul is connected to the body.
With yoga and proper meditational techniques, the energy at the base of the spine (kundalini energy) can be aroused until it moves up through each chakkra dissolving the knots binding the soul until it reaches the brain and a feeling of the liberation of the soul is achieved.
In most people, Shirley continues, the seven chakras (I adopt the conventional spelling with one k) are "closed," permitting "only the barest amount of vibrational current necessary for functioning. The person is walled into himself and sees the world from a closed and limited perspective. When the chakkra centers are opened, he sees with a more unlimited vision."
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: The New Age:Notes of a Fringe Watcher. Contributors: Martin Gardner - Author. Publisher: Prometheus Books. Place of publication: Buffalo, NY. Publication year: 1991. Page number: 123.
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