During his travels in East Asia, Dr Kurt E. Koch has often encountered the problem of group suggestion. He illustrates this with a few examples:

Ex 74 The following story was told to me by a German doctor whom I know very well. Many years ago he was a ship’s doctor. One day his ship was visiting Hong Kong. Together with a lawyer and a naval officer, he took a short trip inland. They came across a large group of people. They stopped and watched a fakir demonstrating his skills. Among other things, he was doing the usual trick with the mango tree. The fakir put a mango seed in a bowl. Within minutes a small tree had grown. The tree blossomed and produced fruit, and then the fakir offered the three foreign spectators a mango from the tree to eat. The doctor and his two companions ate the fruit. They could not explain what had happened. When the show was over, they discussed this „miracle“. They asked each other, „Did we really eat a mango? Our hands are completely dry. Mangos are very juicy and sticky. Surely we would have traces of mango juice on our hands. Anyway, it is practically impossible to eat a mango without a knife. Does anyone have a knife?“ The naval officer had a penknife. They opened it. The knife was clean too. When they returned to the ship, they even did a Nylander test to see if there were any traces of mango on the knife or on their hands. The test was negative. The three men concluded that they had been victims of group suggestion. lt is impossible for a mango seed to grow into a tree, blossom and bear fruit in a quarter of an hour. I have heard similar stories in East Asia and know from experience that fakirs have the power to induce group suggestion. I have not encountered such powers in the Western world.

However, the problem is more complex than this example suggests. Let us consider another case.

Ex 75 A Swiss pastor was on a visit to East Asia when he had a similar encounter with a fakir who was performing this mango tree miracle. The pastor photographed the different stages. He showed the pictures to me. In one you can see the fakir placing a seed in the bowl. The second picture shows the bowl a few minutes later with a small plant in it. A few minutes later there is a small tree, then the tree with flowers and fruit. At first, the pastor thought it was a case of suggestion, but he could not explain the images. Cameras are not susceptible to suggestion.

This second example leads to the conclusion that the fakir did indeed manage to make a tree grow from a seed in a short space of time. But even in this case, certain questions remain unanswered. We therefore need to look at it in more detail.

Ex 76 On almost every continent I have met magicians who possess a kind of magnetic power which enables them to influence and accelerate the growth of plants. Even Watchman Nee, the Chinese Christian leader and writer, mentions this in his book, “The Latent Power of the Soul”. I have also read in German books on parapsychology that there are people who can magnetise plants and make them grow faster. However, I have not heard that this magnetic power can enable someone to grow a seed into a tree in a matter of minutes.

Ex 77 Regarding the photographs taken by the Swiss pastor, I have heard of similar phenomena both in East Asia and in Haiti. I have heard of spiritualists who are able to produce an image on a photographic plate or an X-ray screen by means of mental power. This question is occasionally discussed in books on spiritualism. A final example shows that we are dealing with occult or demonic powers. It concerns a Swiss missionary who worked in East Asia.

Ex 78 The missionary was watching a fakir performing the famous rope trick. The fakir threw a rope into the air. The rope stopped and a young boy climbed up. Other tricks were performed. The missionary was surprised to see the trick with his own eyes. He took his camera and photographed it. In this case the effect was different from the first example. When the film was developed, all he saw was the fakir sitting on the ground. The picture showed neither the rope nor the boy. The missionary realised that demonic powers were involved. The next time he saw a fakir, he challenged this illusion in the name of Jesus Christ. He saw it as as an answer to prayer when he found that he could no longer see the fakir’s magic trick. The other spectators, however, watched the miracle with the same astonishment and bewilderment as before.

These few examples illustrate the complexity of the issue. In any case, it is clear that man’s natural powers are not sufficient to explain such tricks. We are dealing with powers from below. I advise Christians not to watch tricks performed by fakirs. If you find yourself unwittingly in a crowd where such things are being performed, you must place yourself under God’s protection. If necessary, we must also command the powers in the name of Jesus Christ. I have been in the presence of fakirs several times in East Asia, and in such situations I have invoked the name of Jesus and placed myself under His protection.