The Pseudo Science of the Spoken Word: Part 3
From campaign speeches to tent revivals to late-night talk radio, countless orators throughout human history have influenced, cajoled, inspired, and galvanized the masses. Though Marc Antony’s famous speech upon the occasion of Julius Caesars’ murder is from Shakespeare, we can imagine just such an oratory accomplishing its desired effect. Words well-spoken or carelessly tossed off in a business environment have launched or destroyed many a career.Â
When the Jesus character said “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned,” (Matt 12:37 KJV) he was citing a well-established principle of human interaction. Awareness of the power of words is universal. Loose lips sink ships. Insulting a person’s family will almost certainly get them to attack you. Failing to follow spoken protocol upon meeting someone will brand you a boor, simpleton, or worse.
Words have profound power. The premise of the Science of the Spoken Word, however, is that words have supernatural power. And that’s what makes it a pseudo-science.
Premise: Try it for yourself. Be open minded.
p. xvii of the introduction employs the classic new-age gambit, the appeal to be open-minded:
If you are open-minded, honest, and impartial, willing to experiment with the science of invocation as a hypothesis of cosmic law, then enter the laboratory of the Spirit and follow the instructions of the masters. For only by so doing will you ever prove to your own satisfaction that decrees do work. Truly you will never know until you try.
This is naked intellectual fraud with a barbed fishhook. The scammer has to get the mark to do the emotional heavy lifting. The mark has to be made to feel as if the con was actually their own idea. The best way to accomplish this is to appeal to a person’s sense of fair play: “See for yourself.” “Don’t take my word for it–test it out.”
With its appropriation of scientific terminology, this is a particularly pernicious sell. It relies on equivocation to redefine the word “laboratory” as including interior subjective constructs. It counts on the known cognitive illusion of confirmation bias. The reward for “success” is a heightened sense of power over the world. What person, feeling disempowered, could remain objective when the prize is the magical ability to change matter and circumstance to one’s favor by simply speaking out loud?
Rational people only need be shown a lack of evidence or false presupposition and the house of cards collapses. But the irrational and superstitious put the cart before the horse. All such successful cons rely on the desires of the mark for a quick fix or easy money. The mark wants the power, and they have told themselves they must believe (”Think positively”) or it won’t work. So of course, they believe.
This is the diametric opposite of the scientific method. I’ve discsussed this common tactic of apologetics as “proof-burden shifting.” But that’s even too charitable. It assumes the New-Age apologist is interested in proof. In actuality, people susceptible to this con have already drawn their conclusions. They’ve dismissed the rigors of science as “too limiting.” But they still try to dress up their unconstrained desires in the garb of scientific respectability.
Premise: Praying out loud is superior to wishing, willing, or silent prayer. The more rapid or intense the prayer, the more likely, effective, and swift the result.
The decree is the most powerful of all applications to the Godhead…Fiats are always exclamations of Christ-power, Christ-wisdom, and Christ-love consciously affirmed and accepted in the here and now…Affirmations are used alternately with denials of the reality of evil in all of its forms…The Call…to speak in a loud or distinct voice so as to be heard at a distance; to announce or read loudly or authoritatively…”The call compels the answer.”
The human motivational system developed in pre-history primarily to reinforce good nourishment, reproductive success, and status within small social groups. The hierarchical nature of those groups dictated that only a few people would dominate, along with their family and favored friends. The inescapable lot of most people would be to remain at others’ mercy, out of power, blocked from access to the most desirable mates, lower in the pecking order. People lacking coping skills or the desire to attain them began to seek out ways to compensate. One of these was the development of talismans, spells and ritualistic magic of all types. People out of power could pretend to do something about it to make up for their feelings of inadequacy and shame.
Non-physical intervention became a way of throwing their “mojo” at powerful forces, whether natural or political. Tribes developed rain dances and human sacrifices to please weather or volcano gods. People who were sick or dying could call the witch doctor or court magician to utter some spells to cast out “evil spirits” which might trigger the placebo effect to help them recover, or simply make them feel special as they slipped away. Even kings were not immune: if the battle was going badly, they would call the priest to utter a fervent prayer for the defeat of the enemy (while the enemy generals did the same).
Against the backdrop of unspeakable suffering or desperation, only hope remains. Hope against hope for relief–from whatever source. If that doesn’t work, wish for it. If wishing doesn’t work, then wish harder. If that doesn’t work, pray. If that doesn’t work, cast a spell. If nothing works, pray out loud. If that still doesn’t work, shout louder or longer. Eventually it hasÂ to work.Â “The call compels the answer!”
The Jesus character was facing betrayal and certain death: “And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44 KJV) It is this very same impulse of desperation which gave us the “Science of the Spoken Word” and the “Law of Attraction.” I’d call it the “anything but doing something” school of conduct. When do people most commonly pray? When they are too powerless or afraid to take concrete action. Rather than reassess their goals, strategies, or take a lesson from past failure, they press on along their failed course of action, (or no course of action), and turn the outcome over to “God” or “the universe.”
But are they really doing anything other than hoping, wishing or begging? Why didn’t the Jesus character just have a frank conversation with Peter and Judas about their lack of loyalty? Knowing he was going to be tortured to death, instead of saving himself, he sat and prayed. His pathetic excuse as to why the prayer wasn’t going to work? He didn’t want it to. It was pre-ordained “that the scriptures be fulfilled.” How convenient for his martyrdom. Likewise for modern believers, fatalistic acceptance of the “Will of God” sets the stage for their personal abdication. Whether at a whisper or shout, prayer is a useless relic of the pre-modern childhood of humanity. It can best be described as “desperate longing out loud.”
Premise: Supernatural beings are compelled by God or “cosmic law” to obey the commands of mortal Earthlings.
Understand, then, that this earth is intended to be governed by the souls of light. Therefore, souls of light, I speak to you this night. Take your place in government and stand for truth and stand for freedom. –’Saint Germain’
The dominionist fantasies of the Ascended Masters were continually expressed through the line of so-called messengers. From the I AM activity in the 1930s, through the Summit Lighthouse and its offshoots, this thread ran strong. The “lightbearers” were supposed to rule the Earth. Problem was, the undemocratic extremism of these groups permanently locked them out of politics. Such disenfranchised extremists have only two options left, prayer or violence. Since the masters groups were non-violent by nature, they prayed.
‘Saint Germain’ projected the illusion of divine control. He always had something to say about every political crisis. And it usually centered around the plots and ploys of the “fallen ones” and “power elites” for world domination. His pronouncements of conspiracies would make Alex Jones blush. But none of it mattered. Crises came and went, and nowhere was there ever any sign of divine intervention. The weak rejoinder of believers to every debacle on the world stage was always “but for our prayers, it could have been worse.”
On September 11, 2001, the prayers of jihadists did make it worse.Â
Once the terrorist-infested planes took off from Boston, Newark and Washington, the element of surprise made saving three out of the four targets impossible. We didn’t understand the nature of the threat until it was way too late. Knowledge of the plot and the actions of brave citizens aboard Flight 93 saved the fourth target (the U.S. Capitol) from destruction.
So how could we respond to the national humiliation of watching our wives, husbands and children being turned into human projectiles aboard improvised Islamic weapons of mass destruction? We imagine a superhero who could swat down the planes, douse the flames at the World Trade Center, protect the Pentagon. The brave firefighters didn’t stand a chance. They were ineffectual as they stoically marched up stairwells to their deaths but their sacrifices still made them the salient heroes of the day.
The jihadists were far smarter than somnambulant New-Agers. They took decisive action and “answered” their own prayers by paying with their Allah-cheapened lives. In the face of that kind of religion-inspired mass murder, it would be hard for anyone not to wish for some larger benevolent force–some super-firefighter to come to the rescue. In anÂ article I wrote about 9/11, I dreamed about being just such a superhero:
I want to push rewind. I have recurring dreams where I reach up with giant hands to swat those murderous planes. Then I grab them carefully and pull them out of the sky, realizing that they too contain innocents. I board those planes and knock out the terrorists. I wield giant fire hoses to quench the flames. I fly a helicopter to rescue those standing in the windows. I prop up the towers until they can be repaired. I catch those who jumped to their deaths. Please, let me wake from this nightmare. But when awake, and powerless, I feel small.
My own desperate coping mechanism relied on my fantasy of having sufficient power to stop the attack and save lives.Â But believers are too ostensibly humble to fantasize about being superheroes. They rely on the assumption that a higher power is listening. Someone bigger than them, like Archangel Michael, with the power to do something on their behalf. As I discussed above, prayer has always been about human power or lack thereof. The power of God is the ultimate trump card. This conceit has been skewered in numerous comedies. Still, people take it very seriously. Telling someone no one listens to their prayers would be considered “cruel” in most circles, even in the 21st century. It’s tantamount to telling them to give up hope.
But let’s be real. Given the size and scope of deities, what makes us think that they would intervene on our behalf? We’re insignificant to such beings. It’s not enough that they would have to listen to the prayers of billions on Earth, but there would be quintillions more sentient beings on billions more inhabited worlds each presumably with the authority to command galaxy-sized gods into action.
Like Jim Carrey trying to sort through thousands of Post-It notes in Bruce Almighty, it just strains every fiber of credibility.
Further, if cosmic beings existed, they would be wise. And being wise, they would be bound by a cosmic prime-directive: non-interference in the affairs of mortals.
In the “Science of the Spoken Word,” this distinction is made, cosmic beings cannot intervene unless they are asked. Hence the supposed importance of prayers and decrees. But the cosmic beings are also supposed to act according to “God’s will,” of which they should theoretically have a far better understanding than us mortals. Still, we are told, it is up to us to order them into action, always asking that the prayer be “adjusted in accordance with God’s will.”
What about the other case, where people give imprecatory prayers–for death to their enemies–and fail to ask for “adjustment according to God’s will.” Are we to assume that wise cosmic beings would participate in puny human feuds?
That makes even less sense.
So we see prayer is incompatible with the evolutionary conflicts of human free will. And if compatible with God’s will, it is still wholly redundant.