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Notes on the New Age--Pro and Con

August 30, 1987

With an actor in the White House who has no medical degree, we get advice to women on how to handle their bodies and abortion. And with an actress in Hollywood turned philosopher, we get advice on how to spiritualize our lives. You have published two articles with Shirley MacLaine on Eastern religions and reincarnation. Isn't it time the other side was heard?

MacLaine's views are too long for extensive refutation, but I would like to comment on the two most important ideas. First, her ideas on Karmic justice are totally empty. Karmic justice holds that "whatsoever a man sows either in the field of action or thought, sometime and somewhere the fruit of it will be reaped by him." That is to say there is a Karmic idea of divine justice, and each of us gets what he deserves. Did the seven astronauts who died in the Challenger expedition get what they "sowed"? Then what about those other astronauts who lived because they didn't go? What about Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr. and the two Kennedy brothers? Perhaps MacLaine can explain this. I can't.

My second criticism of this curious idea has to do with people claiming they once lived previous lives. The most notorious example I know of is Bridey Murphy. Careful investigation revealed that Virginia Tighe, who claimed to have lived in Ireland long ago, actually got her material from various sources such as the Irish village erected 20 years earlier in her hometown, Chicago. Again, in England, a Jane Evans claimed she once lived a past life in Roman Britain as Livonia, daughter-in-law of the Roman governor, Constantius. Hypnotism revealed she had read a book, "The Living Wood" by Louis de Wohl, containing the bulk of her tale, but she had forgotten she had read it.

I think the most unfortunate aspect of beliefs of this kind is that they create divisiveness among people, whereas today we need more than ever unity and agreement based on scientific knowledge.

EDWARD NEWMAN

Woodland Hills

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