Originally published October 2005.
<i>This is taken from a forum post in which I responded to a very misguided youth that went by the name "Chrono", and was at the time trying to come to terms with his grip on reality in the face of misguided notions about mystical forces and such.
I am reposting it here because it briefly chronicles my journey to become a Skeptic</i>
Since this is the Internet it pays to be skeptical of anyone's intentions, but I'll take Chrono at his word for now.
To put this all in perspective:
I haven't always been a Skeptic, nor have I always been pro-science. Being a bored, introspective youth of 15 with above-average intelligence and stuck in a small hick town, I myself started studying the paranormal/supernatural. My mom worked two jobs, and I pretty much raised myself, so I didn't have anyone to call bullshit on my newly forming beliefs. And the fact that I seemed to be smarter than everyone I was around only fed my teenage ego to the point where I started assuming I knew better than everyone else, including Science.
For five solid years and tapering off slowly after that, I absorbed everything I could get my hands on. I had a collection of books which included original texts dating back to the 19th century and spanning topics from just about any paranormal/supernatural/occult philosophy you could imagine. For example, I had an original edition of "The Secret Science Behind Miracles" which detailed how following the religious practices of the Hawaiian Kahunas could (and let me see if I remember this correctly) allow you to connect with a universal superconscious and use it to perform miracles. I had copies of medieval manuscripts on ritual magic, and more contemporary books by Aliester Crowley and Israel Regardie. I read Yeats just because he was a member of the Golden Dawn, and I can still recite the words of the "Wiccan Rede" from memory. Hell, I'm a walking encyclopedia of obscure occult bullshit.
But as I got older (and started to get laid more often too), it became more and more obvious that there was a reason all of this stuff and the people who believed in it existed on the fringes of society: they were fucking fruitcake nujobs, every last one of them. Seriously, go to a spiritual/metaphysics/type convention sometime. You will see the bottom rungs of the social ladder coming together like an oversized support group. It's not hard to draw the conclusion that many people are attracted to the occult because it gives them the illusion that they are somehow special and different (better) than the rest of society that they have difficulty interacting with. Many of these people aren't "misunderstood", their problem is that they're very well understood as kooks, freaks, and geeks who are socially inept.
So as I got older, I grew out of more and more of the bullshit. "Chi" was one of the last bits of bullshit that stuck with me. After all, it's not unreasonable for someone who's not a doctor to assume that there could be something to the electrical energy produced by the body. But that changed when I decided to pay $350 to a Qigong "master" to heal my knee which was hurting from doing jumping kicks in WuShu. The "treatment" involved him putting a poultice of 11 secret herbs and spices (which resembled something between tree bark, and dog ****) on my knee, grunt and groan for a while holding his hands along side my leg, and staying off the knee for two weeks.
Two days into the two week rest period, take a wild guess at which of the three modes of treatment I realized was the only one that caused any positive effect?
That's when I became a Skeptic. It would be several more years before I started Bullshido with a few like-minded companions, but this incident sticks with me as one of the driving factors in my decision to keep this place running despite the headache and expense. And to tell you the truth, I don't think I've ever mentioned it here. We're going on three years now, and this movement to improve standards and root out the bullshit in Martial Arts, despite occasional setbacks, keeps moving forward.
My point in all of this, to you Chrono, is this:
Don't feel bad because circumstance and a lack of guidance conspired to have you believing in nonsense; it happens to the best of us. How you handle coming out from under it is what demonstrates your character and maturity. The Internet is a neutral resource; there's just as much good information as there is complete garbage. But with a little digging, a little introspection, and a little self-honesty, anyone with a reasonable amount of intelligence should be able to come to grips with the difference between reality and fancy.
And don't forget this either: you might think for a while that the world is less colorful, less romantic without a belief in the supernatural. But the more you seek to understand the natural, and start to appreciate what we really have going here, the more you'll realize that a belief in the supernatural is not necessary for the world, universe, and life itself to be adventurous and exciting. This world, and life on it, is more precious to those who realize it's all that we really have.