from "The Emperor's New Clothes"--
(pp.27-29) While on vacation at a resort hotel in the Bahamas, I found myself seated for lunch with a bronzed, golden-haired psychologist from Arizona, a woman friend of his, and a young couple from Massachusetts. The psychologist noticed that I was reading "Profound Simplicity".
Now "Profound Simplicity" is an extreme, though not untypical, example of the self-help through positive thinking genre. among the profound simplicities listed by its psychologist author are the following items.
--There are no accidents.
--Events occur because we choose them to occur.
--Every death is a suicide.
--A rape "victim" is choosing to be raped.
--Social minorities are oppressed only if they allow themselves to be put in a position they call oppression.
"That's a great book, isn't it?" offered the psychologist. I couldn't bring myself to agree with him, and so we fell to talking about psychology. He was in the business of past-lives therapy and had written two or three books on the subject. Most of his inspiration for this had come from Hinduism and Buddhism. I asked if he thought there was anything of value in the Western tradition or in Christianity. Christianity, he explained with an amused smile, makes people feel guilty; guilt is a crippling emotion. The others at the table nodded assent, and the psychologist settled comfortably back in his chair. It was an open and shut case.
I inquired further, "Why are you attracted to the idea of reincarnation?"
"Because," he answered, "it solves the problem of suffering." All his life, he explained, he had been perplexed by the sufferings of the unfortunate and handicapped; the little girl, for instance, who is born crippled. How could such a thing be allowed in a God-governed world? The answer, he discovered, is simple. Everyone gets what he wishes for; some people just aren't very good at wishing. The crippled girl's present sufferings stem from her past life. She is now simply getting what she deserves for failing to make the right choices in her former reincarnation. It is, in short, her own fault.
As I tried to comprehend this resolution to the problem of suffering, the man from Massachusetts began to speak. He had mentioned earlier that he was a computer scientist. Surely, I thought, in the name of science and Yankee skepticism he will voice a dissent. But no. He offers that this is pretty much in line with his own thinking. You're totally responsible for your own life. You choose everything that happens to you, and you pretty much get what you deserve. He had learned this at an est seminar. At this point, his wife, a social worker, added that the same ideas were corrobated by the "Seth Journals."
"Wait a minute," I protested, feeling faintly like Alice in Wonderland. "You (addressing the psychologist) said you gave up on Christianity because it made people feel guilty, but this is the most guilt-provoking scheme I've ever heard. You're telling this crippled girl, in effect, that she has no one to blame for her handicap but herself."
"From one plane you could call it guilt," he replied calmly, "but it's really just a matter of responsibility. We choose what happens to us. Perhaps she should try harder this time around. People have much more choice than they think; they're just afraid to use it."
By this time, I had had one or two drinks. Tropical drinks taste so sweet that I tend to swallow them right down. A haze of sunshine filtered through the palm fingers above and settled on our table. I noticed that the blue twinkle in the psychologist's eye matched the blue water below. He was a pleasant fellow really. The others at the table smiled benevolently at me. They were nice people, I thought. Maybe they had something there. We sat on a shaded patio, surrounded by palms, looking down at flights of terraced deck descending to the sea: the intellectual class at leisure to philosophize widely. Had I been a Brahmin all along without knowing it? We had found our place in the sun. Surely, we deserved it. Let the others attend more carefully to their affairs...
(excerpt entitled: "The Brahmin in the Bahamas", typed while listening to The Magnetic Fields)
(photo: Ringo in India, looking a bit skeptical)