Jung wrote at length about tricksters & magicians. Sai Baba died recently. He had a bagful of tricks like apparently conjuring watches & jewellery from nowhere for those who came to see him (pilgrims?) He may also have had some genuine psychic powers. He must have had shed loads of charisma. He must have had skip loads of it. In fact it probably isn’t hard to attract followers. Anyone (I am reliably informed) can start a cult. In India there are thousands of gurus. God like figures, God figures indeed, who attract devotees. Many of them live in California (that really is true) – well they are ethnically Indian at any rate. Christopher Isherwood the writer of Funeral in Berlin & Mr Norris Changes Trains amongst other books, had a guru. Meyer Baba is another guru much loved in the West. In fact I have the book Beams of Meyer Baba in front of me as I type this. It was said that drug addicts only had meet someone who had met Meyer Baba & then they would themselves, in turn give up taking drugs.
There is a link between the shaman & the magician. It is that they use a bit of both. Some people do have psychic powers. Take Charles II, King of England. He was said to have the Kings Touch. He was said to be a healer. People came to be healed & then they were healed. But he himself didn’t believe he had any such powers. But he took the attitude…well what attitude did he take? Presumably he thought if they want to believe it, why shouldn’t they? Thus the body heals itself. Sometimes patients are given sugar lumps instead of actual medicine & report back that they do feel better. All this is known as the placebo effect. The body heals itself. A person is running, somebody shouts out, come on, you can do it & he can. There are lots of examples of how input from somebody else can have a positive influence. Myself, I never say to people, oh that must be hard. I always say, I know you can do it. This was what my mother used to say to me. At critical times, I hear it in my head.
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Sai Baba? Well it was shown pretty conclusively that conjuring watches & jewellery from nowhere was just that; a conjuring trick. He was filmed in slow motion & it was there for all to see. In addition there are allegations of sexual abuse on his part. But he really was credited with the most amazing powers. Well, he is laid to rest now. Possibly, he did some good, possibly a lot of good. Maybe, after seeing him, sick people healed themselves.
The trickster & the shaman; it goes back to the beginning of man’s existence. But they are not so different. Think about it. A person enters a room. He has some influence or he doesn’t by his mere presence. If he influences the place it might be for good or for bad. Uri Geller bends spoons. I haven’t seen him doing it in person although I have seen him doing it on television & I believe him. Nobody has unmasked him, at least not yet. People can do all sorts of extraordinary things. .I don’t know why he, rather me, can do it. It may be a trick. But if it is, he hasn’t been unmasked yet. He doesn’t claim to talk to dead people, to conjure jewellery from thin air. He doesn’t claim to move mountains. Bending spoons, that is all. Why not? Why should it not be possible? It doesn’t seem so amazing to me. Trivial & not important in the great scheme of things. Is not great music a miracle or life itself, consciousness & so on, an even greater miracle? You can use your mind for lots of things. Uri Geller can apparently use his mind to bend spoons. Darren Brown uses tricks to do the same thing as mediums. He claims to unmask them. I do like him. But just because he, Darren Brown can do all these things by trickery, it doesn’t mean to say that it can’t be done by using psychic powers. Before the introduction of anaesthetic, people who were operated on were rendered unconscious by hypnosis. That is the thing about Indian gurus. Some of the things they do is trickery, some of things may not be. It doesn’t matter.
Rupert Sheldrake has coined the phrase Morphic Resonance, an example of which is that apes in Australia started used implements to dig salt from the ground & then all the other ape tribes in the area started doing the same thing. He gives other examples of animals apparently having psychic powers or at least telepathic powers.
The mind can be used to overcome pain, lift heavy objects without any effort. Indian holy men can lie on beds of nails. Marshal arts experts can break bricks with their hands. Shaolin monks have amazing powers. There is just so little difference between the apparent & the actual. I don’t believe it is possible to say whether Sai Baba was mostly one or the other & it doesn’t matter. He was almost certainly both.