Death by Mind Control? Part 2

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Readers of our blog know I draw inspiration from the New York Times and The New Yorker, most anywhere. You loyal readers also know I recently blogged on the idea of death by mind control, as reflected in the words of an est group leader who spoke of a participant “willing his death.” Whatever one may think of Erhard Sensitivity Training (which has been called a cult similar to L. Ron Hubbard’s organization Scientology), the point really has to do with mind over body, mind over life itself.

“The Laughing Guru” by Raffi Khathchadourian, from the August 30, 2010, New Yorker, considers an experiment involving rats, the relationship between the immune system and the brain, particularly the largely uncharted limbic system, and whether, in the experiment, rats ended up willing their own deaths. “In other words,” Khathchadourian writes, “their minds were killing them.”

What about death by mind control? What about its opposite? Life by mind control.

The so-called laughing guru is Dr. Madan Lal Kataria. He hopes some day to build a Laughter University, founding it on his own work as well as that of William James, Norman Cousins (in Anatomy of an Illness, as Perceived by the Patient), and lesser-known scientists in the sometimes-amorphous field of psychoneuroimmunology.

Laughter is a funny thing as the article says. It has been a favorite subject of philosophers and psychologists, though it is rarely touched on by Judeo-Christian theologians. (There are many life lessons but not many yuks in the Bible.) Cousins asks, “If feelings of physical and mental distress damage the body’s chemistry, then shouldn’t positive ones rehabilitate it? ‘Is it possible that love, hope, faith, laughter, confidence, and the will to live have therapeutic value?’ Cousins goes on to ask further. ‘Do chemical changes occur only on the downside?'”

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