Seriously, Don’t Lie to Students

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In response to yesterday’s post on how we trick novices into thinking they’re feeling energy, Kol points out that many teachers use a rigged demonstration to overcome students’ lack of confidence:

This is something done by many disciplines; using some ‘trick’ to demonstrate the ‘power’ of their art. Martial Arts demonstrations are as much about it as those doing ‘basic energy sensing’.

And, sometimes it is those same ‘tricks’ which break the typical skepticism / resistance toward an idea or concept and ‘allows’ the person to open to the larger possibilities.

I get why you’d do that. It’s so hard to demo real magick with novices — I know, I’m working to do it. I get how tempting it is. Plus, you know the stuff you’re teaching is really good, and you know they’ll eventually be able to convince themselves for real. It’s not lying, not really…

But if one of the most basic claims of an art is false, it discredits the entire art. This is one of the reasons most scientifically-minded people scoff at magick: We (mages) make easily testable claims that are simply untrue.

For example: I received that almost-touch-your-palm exercise from a certified Therapeutic Touch instructor. She’s a registered nurse, doing energy healing professionally in the hospital, so she knows what good research looks like. And she knows how hard it is to be taken seriously by doctors, and desperately wants her healing art to advance into a science. In other words, she should be the most honest and credible teacher around.

Well, she gave us that demo, had us try it, and said that now we had all felt our energy body and knew it was real. A few minutes later, we had another exercise, and I had a friend help me re-run that test with my eyes closed. It took 30 seconds, and falsified the very first thing she taught us. So, either she had never tested it herself, or she knew it was false and said it anyway. Either way, not great for her credibility.

Starting with a lie that’s easy to disprove is a recipe for continuing to be marginalized.

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