Is there no longer a celebration of reality?

by James Randi

Dr. Andrew Weil, MD, is a major figure in the Guru business. He preaches a pop- medicine, rosy-hued, attitude-is-everything, brand of "wellness" that adheres strictly to the highest standards of medieval thinking and technology. This landed him on the cover of TIME Magazine last year.

I first met Weil in the Spring of 1974, when he interviewed me for Psychology Today Magazine. The result was an article that appeared in two parts, in the June and July issues. They were titled, "The Enchantment" and "The Letdown," respectively. The first dealt with his total conviction that Geller was for real a decision that resulted from a visit he made to the Spoonbender, and the second part told of his subsequent disillusionment after I had an opportunity to do a few demonstrations for him and asked him to rethink his previous accounts of miracles that Geller had shown him.

However, Weil's incredible ability to devalue facts led him to state, at the end of the Psychology Today article, "It might be possible to take more conscious control over the process by which reality is shaped and made to seem objective. `Wishful thinking,' though it has a negative connotation, is an appropriate term to describe this process. We all engage in it, often unconsciously, to bring things into reality according to our needs, and to make them leave reality according to our needs. That is why certain questions like, `Is Uri Geller a fraud?' or `Do psychic phenomena exist?' are unanswerable. The answer is always yes and no, depending on who is looking and from what point of view. Each of us has the power to make such phenomena real or unreal. The first step toward making them real is to believe that evidence exists. As for Uri Geller, I wish him good fortune and the wisdom to use his abilities well. From knowing him, I have learned an enormous amount about the way I see things and the need for great care in evaluating evidence especially the kind of evidence which seems to prove things I want to believe."

I hardly need to explain why I disagree so very strongly with what Dr. Weil expressed on this matter. He's brought in the silly "multiple realities" nonsense that should have vanished along with bell-bottoms and tie-died shirts. Of course those questions can be answered, though Weil seems to have a problem facing up to that fact.

When he visited me at my home in New Jersey, I not only duplicated everything that Geller had done for him by trickery, of course, since as we all know, Mr. Geller does his stunts by divine powers, and I have to use sleight-of-hand and other such mundane artifices but I even outdid the Geller performance on a few points. A taste of what Weil experienced at that session is best expressed by a partial quotation: "The key was bending. In a trice it was bent to about 30 degrees, looking for all the world like a Geller production. "No!" I protested. My faith in Uri Geller lay in pieces on the floor. . . . I had never before had the experience of going from such total belief to such total disbelief in so short a time. Nor had I ever doubted my perceptions so thoroughly."

Recent news about Weil show that in spite of what should have been a revelation to him about his inability to solve simple magic tricks, all of my efforts to alert him to that fact, appear to have failed. Or perhaps he has now found that he can more easily reject reality in favor of fantasy which admittedly can and does dramatically improve one's income and popularity in the guru business. Dr. Weil has just last month chose to endorse books by Uri Geller and Deepak Chopra, and thereby, in my opinion, gone to the Dark Side.

Until Weil opted to give such strong affirmation, I had opted to classify him as a naive- though-intelligent scientist. The species is rare, but not rare enough. In light of these recent actions, I now think of him as a not-so-innocent opportunist. Why? Because Dr. Andrew Weil most certainly knows better, not only because of the eloquently- expressed eye-opening I provided for him twenty-five years ago, but simply because he's smart enough. I cannot believe that a man of such erudition and experience cannot see through the nonsense that he appears to so totally accept as reality. He is not deceived, he is dangerously tolerant of quackery. Rather than being merely a spectator to the parade of dubious operators who display and peddle their doubtful notions and potions for the public, he's now one of the vendors.

Andrew Weil could have been an ally but we lost him.

This article was first published at
"James Randi Educational Foundation"