Psychic crimes: should we change our law to recognize and prosecute intentional cursing and hexing?

#1
As I said in my personal introduction on the new Skeptiko forum, I have an education of a lawyer. One of my most vivid and interesting memories about it is the criminal law lesson describing the attempts to commit crime and its prosecution. In Russian law, attempt can be prosecuted if the crime was stopped not because of perpetrator’s voluntary decision, but because of his or mistake in the methods and implements; for example, if you tried to shoot someone but had bought a bad gun that broke in your hand instead of shooting, your will still be charged with a murderous attempt.

But, according to our criminal law professor, there was one type of method of crime commitment which was not prosecutable at all, not even as attempt; it was the so-called “superstitious method”. Well, as you might have guessed already, it meant trying to harm someone with one’s psychic abilities, or some mystical/magickal techniques. According to our professor, if we try to prosecute someone for the attempt to harm others using the forces which are forbidden to exist by our dominant materialistic worldview, we will undermine this worldview and will “fall back to the Dark Ages and witch-hunts”. We should instead show that the state (and societal elite which rule it) consider such attempts to be so hopelessly “superstitious” that they do not deserve attention at all.

(Interestingly, at the very same time our materialistic legislation recognized the free will, holding the person responsible for his or her actions, as long as one can “control one’s actions”. But how a biological robot – and we were persuaded during our lessons of forensic psychiatry that people are biological robots, nothing more – control its actions? Its actions are fully determined by its neurology, which, in turn, is totally determined by the heredity and physical environment. None of our professors was able to give an answer if asked; they just quickly moved to another topic.)

Recently, I visited an interesting energy healing blog “Bioenergy and cancer”, and read the blog post "Some interesting research on the placebo effect" there. Judith, the author of the blog, said:

Placebo is an important consideration in energy work. I have been told by many people skeptical about energy healing that all our successes are due to the placebo effect. Consider, then, how powerful the placebo effect might be, when a patient dying from stage-4 pancreatic cancer stops taking morphine after receiving a few sessions of energy healing, sees his jaundice reverse and his blood values return to near normal, is discharged from the hospital and lives ten more weeks, able to walk, to go the mall, to go to the cottage, even to cook dinner. If that is placebo, then we must acknowledge that the mind is powerful beyond belief, and that what medicine should concentrate on, above everything else, is the awakening of this incredible ability of the mind to heal the body.

Yet medicine does the exact opposite. Recently I saw a TVO special about the incredible work being done by brain surgeons and after a while I just had to turn it off. I watched a mother being told that her child had brain cancer, and the surgeon, who I am sure was a kind and compassionate man, explained at great length to the viewers that the mother had to be made to understand the reality of the situation, which was that her child had a kind of cancer that nothing much could be done about and would most likely die. When doctors tell a patient (as I've seen one do) that she had a 10 per cent chance of survival with chemotherapy and 0 per cent without, they believe they are being merely realistic, but in fact what they are doing is activating the nocebo effect. Dr. Larry Dossey wrote an entire book about this entitled Be Careful What You Pray For; it is well worth reading.
I looked at the book by Larry Dossey she mentioned. He describes the means of spiritual harming – the “dark side” of spiritual healing – there, such as negative prayer, cursing and hexing…

A thought appeared in my mind: when psi and spirituality will be recognized by a society, how will we deal with deliberate psychic attacks? Should we treat them as “psychic crimes”, and perceive them as a form of intentional assault? Would we evaluate the “psychic violence” – the intentional attempts to harm someone with bio-PK abilities, or spiritual practices of negative prayer, cursing and hexing (not all spiritual practice is benevolent!) as akin to physical violence? Would we change our law accordingly to such recognition and evaluation?

What do you think?
 
#2
A very interesting post, Vortex, with much food for thought.

I suppose there's a distinction between being aware of a nocebo or uttered curse/harmful wish, and being unaware of it. It's well known that in parts of Africa where superstition is rife, knowing about a curse or spell having been cast on you by a witch doctor can make you ill if you believe it will. That would correspond with an unthinking nocebo effect from a doctor who means well and wants to be ethical, reporting the truth as s/he sees it. I suppose that also, in superstitious areas of the world, when one becomes ill, one might suspect a spell has been cast and stop oneself making a recovery, or respond favourably to propitiatory rituals performed by a witch doctor on one's behalf.

That kind of thing is different from the proposition that someone is able to influence your medical state (favourably or unfavourably) without your being aware of it. I think there's some evidence that prayer can have some effect, though I'm not sure whether in relevant experiments patients were completely unaware that people were praying for them. If they weren't, of course, that would eliminate potential placebo effects.

I don't like to think that people can be cursed without their knowledge and actually suffer as a result. Possible, I suppose, but I doubt it would be as likely to work in a society where people eschew superstition. I mean, does it have to cross the mind of a patient that s/he might have been cursed? If it never occurs to them, could there be an effect? Let's hope not.

I have a personal anecdote. Someone close to me was diagnosed with breast cancer, and surgery plus chemotherapy was proposed. It was a particularly virulent form of the disease, and I didn't like the idea of the treatment, thinking it might be worse than the disease. I tried to persuade her to at least consider alternative therapies, at least as an adjunct, but she would have none of it.

This person likes a glass of wine now and then, so I took to buying batches of small, single-glass bottles of wine, and keeping them for a while in my room where I formulated the intention that my best wishes for her recovery should become instilled in the wine. I would give her a bottle now and then (and I still do), and she doesn't know what I have been "doing to" the wine: just thinks I'm being kind, I suppose.

I have no idea whether what I've been doing is working or not, but am gratified that the doctors have told her that she's responded unusually well to treatment: she's still doing well quite some time after it, and of course I hope that will long continue. Maybe it's helped and maybe it hasn't: but whatever, it definitely helped me not feel quite so helpless, and that I was doing something for her.

There's no way to experiment with this when someone is close to you, is there? No scope for double-blind controls and all the rest of it. I think even the hardest hard-line sceptic in a position like this would want to help in any way possible, and who knows, despite themselves, hope that their hopes would be fulfilled: which I think is a kind of prayer, really.

If it ever becomes accepted that there can be psi effects in healing, then I suppose there would necessarily be ethical considerations that would need to be examined. However, if that really were to happen, I'm sure there would be all sorts of other profound changes in materialistic societies, too.
 
#3
@Michael Larkin : was it red wine? If so it contains resveratrol :) a pretty powerful antioxidant (among other things) which may help a patient's health. There's pretty good evidence that it can reverse macular degeneration ( link ) and help with heart disease and cancer ( link )

Vortex said:
A thought appeared in my mind: when psi and spirituality will be recognized by a society, how will we deal with deliberate psychic attacks? Should we treat them as “psychic crimes”, and perceive them as a form of intentional assault? Would we evaluate the “psychic violence” – the intentional attempts to harm someone with bio-PK abilities, or spiritual practices of negative prayer, cursing and hexing (not all spiritual practice is benevolent!) as akin to physical violence? Would we change our law accordingly to such recognition and evaluation?
I understand your point but this brings back memories of those dark times in which people (women in particular) were accused of sorcery and sentenced to torture and death.

It's pretty difficult not be brought back to those horrible times and I am unable to think how bringing this back one day, in a future society, may not slip out of control again, or be used to deliberately cause harm to innocent people.

Even if cursing and hexing can cause real damage there would be tremendous issues to be able to prove where such attack came from. Since psi works regardless of distance (and time too, more often than not) I think it would be close to impossible to determine where an attack came from or who the perpetrator is.

And the plot thickens even further if you think about all of the the esoteric literature that describes how psychic attacks can be performed via "attachments" and/or using helper entities... :eek:

I still hope that for this kind of issues the natural laws of karma might provide help on a larger scale. If like attracts like, those who thrive in wicked thoughts and evil deeds will sooner or later have a taste of their own medicine...
 
#4
@Michael Larkin : was it red wine? If so it contains resveratrol :) a pretty powerful antioxidant (among other things) which may help a patient's health. There's pretty good evidence that it can reverse macular degeneration ( link ) and help with heart disease and cancer ( link)
Maybe so, Bucky: and it is red wine she likes (she buys her own in addition to what I occasionally give her). Whatever, if it works, all well and good.
 
#5
I'm not supposed to post in this forum but I'll just quickly say this: it is an important principle of our legal system that we punish based on actions, not simply thoughts. The implications of enacting a law such as suggested in the OP invokes the chill of thought police and people being prosecuted for bad thoughts against another person. It's a dangerous road to travel.
 
#6
I'm not supposed to post in this forum but I'll just quickly say this: it is an important principle of our legal system that we punish based on actions, not simply thoughts. The implications of enacting a law such as suggested in the OP invokes the chill of thought police and people being prosecuted for bad thoughts against another person. It's a dangerous road to travel.
Agreed.
 
#7
I'm not supposed to post in this forum but I'll just quickly say this: it is an important principle of our legal system that we punish based on actions, not simply thoughts. The implications of enacting a law such as suggested in the OP invokes the chill of thought police and people being prosecuted for bad thoughts against another person. It's a dangerous road to travel.
Do I have to get the big stick?
 
#8
I'm not supposed to post in this forum but I'll just quickly say this: it is an important principle of our legal system that we punish based on actions, not simply thoughts. The implications of enacting a law such as suggested in the OP invokes the chill of thought police and people being prosecuted for bad thoughts against another person. It's a dangerous road to travel.
In that case, perhaps is not at all surprising that psi effects are so constrained.
Even if they are theoretically possible, they must not be allowed to have effects beyond what is visible.
After all, we hardly know our own thoughts and motives, let alone a those of others suspected of some psi crime.
 
#9
A very interesting post, Vortex, with much food for thought.
@Michael LarkinI understand your point but this brings back memories of those dark times in which people (women in particular) were accused of sorcery and sentenced to torture and death.

It's pretty difficult not be brought back to those horrible times and I am unable to think how bringing this back one day, in a future society, may not slip out of control again, or be used to deliberately cause harm to innocent people.
I'm not supposed to post in this forum but I'll just quickly say this: it is an important principle of our legal system that we punish based on actions, not simply thoughts. The implications of enacting a law such as suggested in the OP invokes the chill of thought police and people being prosecuted for bad thoughts against another person. It's a dangerous road to travel.
Do I have to get the big stick?
In that case, perhaps is not at all surprising that psi effects are so constrained.
Even if they are theoretically possible, they must not be allowed to have effects beyond what is visible.
After all, we hardly know our own thoughts and motives, let alone a those of others suspected of some psi crime.
Thanks for all who vocalized an opinion here! I want to make a reply to all of you, to clarify some points.

First and foremost, I did not said that I want such law to exist. Being a person with a strong anti-censorship position, and an opponent of prosecuting thought-criminals of any type, I'm myself strongly afraid of implications of such legislation. As I said in one of my posts:

So, my choice is clear: freedom of speech, expression and inquiry. That's simply it. Period. No "ifs", "ands" or "buts". If you are really for these freedoms, you should be ready to give them to everyone, whether you like them or not; even if you despise them. If you are arguing for the freedom of speech, expression and inquiry for Rupert Sheldrake and Graham Hancock, you should also grant the same freedoms to Perter Duesberg and Lord Monckton. Even to David Irving. If we really want to live in a free world, we cannot allow ourselves to supress alternative dicources, narratives and imagery (even if we consider them to be totally wrong); or to create thought-criminals and Damned Groups (even if these people and groups waste their lives creating thought-criminals and Damned Groups themselves).

If we want to fight stupidity, we should not try to silence it; we should let it talk and to expose itself in public. Only by confronting stupidity openly and by exposing it, people can learn to be intelligent and critical.
So, as I said, I, personally, have no wish to see "anti-cursing" law in action. No wish at all.

But... but.

We all know about the fear of psi among skeptics; Charles Tart and Stephen Braude wrote a good articles about it (look here and here for these articles, respectively). But, after a period of long and deep thought about the issues raised in my post, I said to myself: "Hey, skeptics may be badly wrong about the evidence for psi; but their fear of it is not as baseless and irrational as we proponents want to think. If you really try to imagine the whole range of the social and cultural implications of psi existence - and massive recognition of psi existence - you can't but forsee some scary moments. One day we will see so-called "alternative" science and medicine becoming "mainstream" ones; we will see psychic/energy healing recognized. But, when we will recognize psychic healing, will we be able not to recognize psychic harming?

Here I came to the paradox in the thinking of many psi propnents, including my own one. We are strongly for social acceptance of psychic and spiritual dimensions of existence; but, at the very same time, we are afraid to analyze the full range of consequences of such acceptance, such as the result of mass awareness of the "dark side" of psychic and spiritual potential. How many people would try to harm others using it? Even if most of them won't see much of a result, a few may still succeed. Would we counteract such attempts? If yes, how?

Again, I am strongly against the resticting of the free flow of information, as well as for punishing people simply for their thoughts (and emotions). And I'm against "anti-cursing" law as well. But, in a world where mind and matter are constantly interacting, or just one and the same thing perceived differently, one can't but start feeling doubt whether intention can be literally criminal - as itself...

Sometimes I do understand why some people like to live in a hardcore materialistic world of psi skeptics. If you are totally certain that mind is totally unable to affect matter, you have a pretty simple and secure world to live in. No "cursing" or "hexing" for you.

But, as evidence shows, psi exists. One day it would be recognized. And when, whether we want it or not, we will have to ask ourselves very hard questions like the one which I asked with my thread. And no one, including pro-free-thought libertarians like me, would be able to avoid giving answers.
 
#10
Psi probably exists, but it seems too weak to take seriously the psychic warfare. What is interesting is if someone were to develop methods to amplify the psi effects to have practical use. If this were to happen, then maybe everyone would have to be educated in mental hygiene, to be careful with the emotions and thoughts of one, and psychic defense, shield themselves from psychic attacks.
 
#11
Vortex, I never thought that you would be in favour of prosecuting thought crimes. I did agree, however, that, were psi influences on health to become accepted as reality, there would be profound ethical implications.

I think we need to separate out different possible causes for effects on health/wellbeing, be those positive or negative. Even materialists seem to accept that there are placebo and nocebo effects: that beliefs can influence outcomes in patients, and not always be a transient response, but one that is long-lasting:


One question is, is that a psi effect? I'm not sure it is. In some way, beliefs can influence outcomes, and that could be purely a psychological/physiological response. The thing about the placebo/nocebo effect is that although the treatment may be intrinsically ineffective, patients may believe it's effective or deleterious, and that apparently does matter.

We don't tend to believe in the power of cursing in the West, so it might not work for us. Minus the belief, there shouldn't be a nocebo effect. In parts of Africa, it may be believed that curses can work, and there could be a nocebo effect: either if it is directly known that one has been cursed, or societal conditioning is that illness could be the result of a curse. In the West, a gloomy prognosis might have a similar effect, as might knowledge of statistics about recovery rates.

A different issue is when people formulate intentions about the health or wellbeing of others without voicing them to anyone. Truly good intentions, I believe, come from the spiritual self (or true self, or essence, or whatever one cares to call it). Bad intentions don't, and can't, come from that self: I believe them to arise from ego. Faux good intentions can also arise from the ego: maybe I want someone to get well only because I think I need them, or like to think I have healing powers and want that to be validated, and not for that person's own sake.

Intentions arising from ego might only have effects because of the beliefs of those they are directed at. In other words, the prime mover isn't the person with the intentions, but the beliefs of the person targeted, and there could well have to be an explicit or implicit conventional (non-psi) informational influence over that.

Formulating good intentions for someone entirely for their own sake, with no egotistical undertones, is a different matter. I believe this is one reason why mystics insist that charity should be anonymous: it makes it more likely that the charity will be effective because it comes from a disinterested desire to help. Millionaires who ostentatiously give money, and get institutions named after them, may be doing themselves and the recipients of their charity less good than there is the potential for.

To believe that there is equal power in good and bad intentions seems kind of Manichaean to me: the idea that there are good and evil spiritual entities, and there is a constant battle between them. Personally, I don't accept that. If there is a battle, it is between ego and essence. Only essence, I suspect, has what we might think of as genuine psi powers.
 
#12
I'm not supposed to post in this forum but I'll just quickly say this: it is an important principle of our legal system that we punish based on actions, not simply thoughts. The implications of enacting a law such as suggested in the OP invokes the chill of thought police and people being prosecuted for bad thoughts against another person. It's a dangerous road to travel.
I'm not suggesting any changes to our legal system, but I have a question--do you think that thoughts, kept to yourself, can't possibly have an effect on others? I suggest that anyone making that assumption may be mistaken.

Cheers,
Bill
 
#14
I'm not suggesting any changes to our legal system, but I have a question--do you think that thoughts, kept to yourself, can't possibly have an effect on others? I suggest that anyone making that assumption may be mistaken.

Cheers,
Bill
I don't think I suggested that: more that sincere, well-intentioned thoughts kept to oneself (to avoid too much egotism) might have an effect on others because they're aligned with essence. However, ill-intentioned or faux-intentioned thoughts kept to oneself are aligned with ego, and I don't believe those kinds of thoughts can have an influence unless they become known: in which case I believe it is people who are the objects of those thoughts who may influence themselves by their reaction to them. Don't forget that keeping something to oneself includes not betraying one's thoughts by expression, body language or action. I think it's hard to do that.

This is just my belief: it might not be so, of course.
 
S

Sciborg_S_Patel

#15
I think this sort of thing just demonstrates the need for legitimate skepticism rather than materialist evangelism.

If even the tiniest flicker of PK could be demonstrated in a way that would push major changes in scientific consensus, we'd see a massive rise in superstition and confirmation bias of old prejudices. But if there are more critical thinkers, the public could better understand how such a demonstration is not proof that the wildest fantasies regarding witch-doctors and psychic assassins is true.

We need more critical thinkers rather than people running around thinking they're smart because they don't believe in anything immaterial.
 
#16
I think this sort of thing just demonstrates the need for legitimate skepticism rather than materialist evangelism.

If even the tiniest flicker of PK could be demonstrated in a way that would push major changes in scientific consensus, we'd see a massive rise in superstition and confirmation bias of old prejudices. But if there are more critical thinkers, the public could better understand how such a demonstration is not proof that the wildest fantasies regarding witch-doctors and psychic assassins is true.

We need more critical thinkers rather than people running around thinking they're smart because they don't believe in anything immaterial.
This is the answer I wanted to hear.

I hope some can communicate it to all the world rulers... For now, the revulsive information war at Ukraine I witness - with both sides demonizing each other day by day - keep me at a quite depressed state. It is a pure horror to understand that people are killing, maiming and torturing each other simply because of willful blindness and stupidity.

And this is not only Ukraine. Such things happen worldwide, every day. Every hour. Every minute.

Sometimes maintaining hope is a hard work - such in a state of being caught in a media warfare which is followed by an actual fulfillment of hateful presciptions by a people who literally do not see what they are doing. These guys attack the nightmare images provided by the warmongers' propaganda, but murdering living persons instead!

Some dosage of genuine critical thinking is the dire necessity today. With it, hateful propaganda will lose its mass nocebo effect - as Robert Anton Wilson pointed, even fundamentalist reality-maps can hurt us and our reality only if they are accepted fundamentalistically.
 
#17
Maybe so, Bucky: and it is red wine she likes (she buys her own in addition to what I occasionally give her). Whatever, if it works, all well and good.
@Michael Larkin : was it red wine? If so it contains resveratrol :) a pretty powerful antioxidant (among other things) which may help a patient's health. There's pretty good evidence that it can reverse macular degeneration ( link ) and help with heart disease and cancer ( link )


I understand your point but this brings back memories of those dark times in which people (women in particular) were accused of sorcery and sentenced to torture and death.

It's pretty difficult not be brought back to those horrible times and I am unable to think how bringing this back one day, in a future society, may not slip out of control again, or be used to deliberately cause harm to innocent people.

Even if cursing and hexing can cause real damage there would be tremendous issues to be able to prove where such attack came from. Since psi works regardless of distance (and time too, more often than not) I think it would be close to impossible to determine where an attack came from or who the perpetrator is.

And the plot thickens even further if you think about all of the the esoteric literature that describes how psychic attacks can be performed via "attachments" and/or using helper entities... :eek:

I still hope that for this kind of issues the natural laws of karma might provide help on a larger scale. If like attracts like, those who thrive in wicked thoughts and evil deeds will sooner or later have a taste of their own medicine...
Psi probably exists, but it seems too weak to take seriously the psychic warfare. What is interesting is if someone were to develop methods to amplify the psi effects to have practical use. If this were to happen, then maybe everyone would have to be educated in mental hygiene, to be careful with the emotions and thoughts of one, and psychic defense, shield themselves from psychic attacks.
In that case, perhaps is not at all surprising that psi effects are so constrained.
Even if they are theoretically possible, they must not be allowed to have effects beyond what is visible.
After all, we hardly know our own thoughts and motives, let alone a those of others suspected of some psi crime.
I'm not supposed to post in this forum but I'll just quickly say this: it is an important principle of our legal system that we punish based on actions, not simply thoughts. The implications of enacting a law such as suggested in the OP invokes the chill of thought police and people being prosecuted for bad thoughts against another person. It's a dangerous road to travel.
Recently I found a truly SUPERB short essay by Robert Anton Wilson concerning the topic of cursing, hexing, psychic attacks and black magick:

Don't Be Afraid of Black Magick

Old Bob is eloquent as always, and describes his two most powerful defensive techniques against psychic agression - the Power of Love and the Power of Humor. As for his general attitude of using one's magickal skills and psychic abilities for hurting others - here it is:


Stupidity of Black Magick

The hoodlum-occultist is “sociopathic” enough to, see through the conventional charade, the social mythology of his species. “They’re all sheep,” he thinks. “Marks. Suckers. Waiting to be fleeced.” He has enough contact with some more-or-less genuine occult tradition to know a few of the gimmicks by which “social consciousness,” normally conditioned consciousness, can be suspended. He is thus able to utilize mental brutality in place of the simple physical brutality of the ordinary hooligan.

He is quite powerless against those who realize that he is actually a stupid liar.

He is stupid because spending your life terrorizing and exploiting your inferiors is a dumb and boring existence for anyone with more than five billion brain cells. Can you imagine Beethoven ignoring the heavenly choirs his right lobe could hear just to pound on the wall and annoy the neighbors? Gödel pushing aside his sublime mathematics to go out and cheat at cards? Van Gogh deserting his easel to scrawl nasty caricatures in the men’s toilet? Mental evil is always the stupidest evil because the mind itself is not a weapon but a potential paradise.

Every kind of malice is a stupidity, but occult malice is stupidest of all. To the extent that the mindwarper is not 100 percent charlatan through-and-through (and most of them are), to the extent that he has picked up some real occult lore somewhere, his use of it for malicious purposes is like using Shakespeare’s sonnets for toilet tissue or picking up a Picasso miniature to drive nails. Everybody who has advanced beyond the barbarian stage of evolution can see how pre-human such acts are, except the person doing them.

Genuine occult initiation confers “the philosopher’s stone,” “the gold of the wise” and “the elixir of life,” all of which are metaphors for the capacity to greet life with the bravery and love and gusto that it deserves. By throwing this away to indulge in spite, malice and the small pleasure of bullying the credulous, the mindwarper proves himself a fool and a dolt.

And the psychic terrorist, besides being a jerk, is always a liar and a fraud. Healing is easier (and more fun) than cursing, to begin with, and cursing usually backfires or misfires. The mindwarper doesn’t want you to know that. He wants you to think he’s omnipotent.
 
#18
I suspect if you could show such actions could cause harm, in the same way that a weapon would then perhaps if could be dealt with via the law. On the other hand, in UK law there are the public order acts and harassment law which might be applicable; If I do something intending to cause harassment, alarm or distress that might cover it.
 
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