I regret ever writing this article. Aliakbari is a hoax
and a charlatan, as far as I am concerned. Siamak Namazi, February 2002.
The energy man
"I felt something like a magnetic field around me"
May 7, 1999
I am a skeptic by nature. I don't believe in supernatural powers. Actually, I
don't even really have much faith in modern medicine, come to think of it. So you
can imagine how unimpressed I was when I first heard of Mohammad "Sakha"
Aliakbari. The man claims he can diagnose and heal people using energy-therapy. Great,
but so what? We are talking about a society where in every kitchen one can find esphand,
an herb with supposed special powers to ward off the evil.
I bet you can find millions of lunatics who would believe Aliakbari's super-natural
powers. Then I was told that he was cleared of fraud charges in the Revolutionary
Court after he stopped the second hand of the clock with his mind. And some of Tehran's
most famous doctors had gone on record saying that this man had indeed cured some
of their patients... Yeah, yeah, yeah. Whatever!
But Aliakbari impressed the only person I consider an equal in my rank as a world-class
skeptic: my mother. It was only then that I thought it was time to meet him.
The story goes that a close relative of mine swore that she was healed by Aliakbari's
energy therapy and thus convinced my aunt to invite him there to perform his magic.
My mother asked me to join her on this invite, just to have some fun. I declined,
opting to do anything but witness another charlatan. And so I left Aliakbari at the
mercy of my mother's sense of humor.
Taking no prisoners, my mother teased, mocked, mimicked and
ridiculed him in public so much that the man lost his cool, I was later told. He
demanded that the host (my aunt) bring over the strongest spoon in the house. She
did. Then, Aliakbari balanced the spoon on his index finger and proceeded to concentrate
as my mother and some twenty people, mostly my very own close relatives, watched
curiously. He turned red, purple, and green. He grunted in pain, and after about
a minute, the spoon started bending back and forth. Aliakbari stops and gasps for
air, clutching his heart, as he hands over the spoon to my uncle, bent into a "u".
Don't give up on me yet. No way was I about to believe that this could be anything
more than a trick just like pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Okay, so I was impressed
that the spoon belonged to the host, and that he had it balanced on one finger so
that there was no way he could bent it with his thumb, but there must be another
explanation, right? Perhaps he secretly bent the damn thing some time in between
the great illusion act, when everyone was more concerned for the man clutching his
heart. Nevertheless, I was curious enough to want to see the man myself.
It turned out that Aliakbari had managed to impose on my poor aunt again by asking
to come back the following week. What a great scam, I thought; he comes over, invites
his "patients" to a stranger's house, and feasts on tea, sweets, and fruits
too. Feeling bad for my naive aunt, I felt a little vengeful. I could not believe
that people -- strangers -- had come all the way from England to have this man pretend
he can heal them, nor that my aunt was serving them all!
Chairs were set around the dining room and the living room,
which together formed a pretty big area to accommodate the crowd. After the obligatory
greetings with relatives and others, I sat politely in a corner and asked for something
to take notes on. A few minutes later, Aliakbari left his makeshift examination room
(my aunt's TV room) accompanied by my mother's cousin. He looked rather handsome,
in his early forties at the most, and with the charm of a good showman. He did not
let me down.
"Behold," shouted Aliakbari. "Another patient has been healed.
Praise the lord and remember, it is God that healed her not I." He continued
to interview the woman, asking her to announce aloud what her ailment was and how
long she had been suffering from it. She testified that she had felt a lump in her
throat for months and that now she was healed.
But as far as I was concerned, what everyone was witnessing was the ability of
a person to heal herself by believing that this man can. Basic psychology.
Aliakbari's charm was only matched by his lack of modesty. He proceeded to lecture
the crowd, boasting that he has been interviewed by domestic and international media,
ranging from Jam-e Jam TV to CNN. He claimed that a famous French scientific research
institute had done some 9,000 tests on him and certified that he had special powers.
But what caught my attention was the assertion that Princeton University scientists
had tested him, and made him use his powers to heal lab rats, in an effort to see
if he really has healing powers. He boasted that he passed the tests with flying
colors, having healed almost all the rats, and that Princeton has published the results
on the Internet and unequivocally accredited him.
Finally, something I could sink my teeth into: a study by Princeton available
on the Internet. Mind you, for some strange reason claiming the "eenternet"
has published something carries the same authority in Iran, as say, CNN or BBC. People
here still don't get it that any Ali or Asghar can publish whatever they want on
the Net. All the same, I had gone to this event right after work, and happened to
have my laptop with me, which happened to have access to the "eenternet."
So, I asked Aliakbari's sidekick, Mr. Ahmadi, to give me the web address of this
great Princeton experiment, so I could check it out. Ahmadi said he would do so right
away, and disappeared into the crowd. Fat chance he was going to get away from me
though. I persisted and this time asked aloud so the people around me could here.
With this, Ahmadi led me to his boss, who in turn pulled out a thick scrapbook filled
with articles, letters from the Revolutionary Court describing his case, etc. The
documents were all obviously genuine.
In the typical manner of Iranians, a group of spectators gathered around me to
see what will be the outcome of what is considered a bold (read "rude")
request from such a distinguished guest. "This is all great," I said as
he showed me all the clippings he had gathered. "But in scientific matters,
I have more faith in the findings of Princeton University than that of some court.
Can I just have the Web address please so I can check it out? Please?"
Aliakbari then flipped the album till he reached a letter in English on Princeton
letterhead, which was definitely genuine.
"Not to be rude, but I worked in a couple of universities and had full access
to their letterhead. If it is the same to you, I prefer the Web address." I
"No, I never said the experiment was on the Internet," interrupted the
Energy Man, while nervously flipping through the album and showing me a computer-printed
curve that was supposed to prove that the rats in Princeton were healed.
"Well, I have been taking notes, and you did make the claim, but let's not
get into that and see what this letter says," I pressed.
The letter was a thank you letter, saying something along the lines that it was
"very interesting" to have worked with Aliakbari. Nothing there to indicate
certification of his claims. I brought that point up, which somehow did not make
the man very happy.
"Yes it does! You are just too illiterate to understand what it says!"
he yelled, obviously losing his patience with my skepticism. "Here! Look! Look!
Here is another letter from [some French scientific institute]. See!"
I calmly looked over the letter in French, understanding enough of it to realize
that too is not more than a "thank you" note. Again, I pointed that out,
but a little less politely since Aliakbari had decided to flip on me. "Well,
this too just thanks you. You should not make claims that are not true, in case someone
in the crowd calls you on it. I think you should calm down too, it is not my fault
you assertions turned out to be rubbish."
The terms "rubbish" upset the Energy Man for some strange reason. While
he continued to shout and scream at me, I stepped out of the circle of curious folks
that had formed a tight ring around us by now, feeling there was no reason for me
to argue with this man. My uncle (the host), pulled me aside and told me that I should
not be rude to such a distinguished man. I calmly protested that I was not rude.
He had claimed something and I asked to see it.
"I am not saying that he has or does not have the powers he claims, just
that the document from Princeton is not what he says it is." As I turned to
walk away from my upset uncle, another relative grabbed me and quietly warns me:
"Siamak! Be careful! Don't upset this man. He may drain your energy," I
laughed, saying I would take my chances.
After ten minutes or so, most of which I spent explaining what had transpired
to those who were curious but not enough to join the ring, things calmed down. I
had enough time to realize that I am really upsetting my aunt and uncle, and it seems
someone told Aliakbari to be careful, since I write for the "eenternet".
That certainly explained the charm offensive that followed.
Aliakbari started singing again and the crowd got quiet as his hypnotic voice
filled the room. To my surprise and amusement, I found myself being singled out by
him to the delight of the crowd who smiled and laughed at how the two of us were
handling the situation. After the fantastic performance, he kissed me on the cheek
and I said out loud that "you have convinced me that you are a great singer,
if nothing else."
Then, Aliakbari called for a TV and VCR to show the tape with all the testimonies
on it. The hosts set it up upstairs, while the Energy Man retired to his "examination
room." Sometime in the middle of all this, I had a chance to take a look at
the infamous bent spoon,which had been in my uncle's pocket since that day. It scared
me a bit, for I realized that I was incapable of bending it with two hands.
I no longer doubted that the Energy Man had telekinesis,
or something, to bend objects with his mind. This was no slight of hand, which in
and of itself disturbed my senses. It was the first time in my life when tales about
such super powers had lost their sense of fiction. Believe me, that was a strange
experience. Okay, but that did not mean he could heal using those powers. Right?
It was only fair to try the experience at this point. After all, the proof of
the pudding is in the tasting. So I sneaked in the room while everyone was shuffling
about trying to decide whether to stay in line or go see the video.
"No way! No way am I going to see you after all that! " protested Aliakbari.
"Don't worry, I will be fair and respectful. Your call, but this is your
chance to change my mind. Let's see what you are all about," I assured him.
That was an offer of peace, and he grabbed it. He proceeded to move his arms around
my face and head, his hands flying by fast and close, but never touching. I am not
sure how to report the feeling. What I can say is that I felt something! As his hands
passed me, I felt something like a magnetic field around me. Nothing so strong as
to be vivid, but definitely unmistakable. After all, if the man could bend a spoon
with his mental powers he could surely make me feel something on my skin. No, I don't
think I was imagining it.
I reached for my pocket and counted 3000 tomans, which I knew was his fee, and
laid it on top of the pile that was on the table. He insisted that I need not pay,
but I did anyway, at which point he told me that the money is all for charity and
he intends to start a "healing house" with it. When I questioned him how
much he had collected so far towards this project, he said he was not sure.
"Surely you must have an estimate, as you have to deposit it into some sort
of an account?" I pestered.
He insisted there was no account, and the money was just set aside. Hard to believe,
since he would have to have a big room filled with cash given that the biggest bill
in Iran is 1000 tomans. But this time, I did not make a scene.
I also learned that Aliakbari holds a PhD in Economics from Bordeaux University
in France, and that he resides in Switzerland. Apparently, he spends nine months
of his time in Swiss, charging his patients 250 Francs a pop, and three months in
Iran. Turns out that he first learned of his powers at the age of 13. When his uncle
was holding his hand, Aliakbari had a vision that his uncle will be in a car accident
and die after a few days. He tells his mother, only to be scolded for even saying
such a thing, but time proves him right.
"So does that mean that you can see the future too?" I asked.
"Yes. But not always. It just clicks sometimes and I get a vision,"
explains Aliakbari. I spend the rest of the night looking at his testimonial video
and examining the huge scrapbook with all the different letters and news clips. There
is an abundance of testimonials by various reporters who say they have seen him bend
a spoon with his mental powers or that he stopped the second hand of the clock by
staring at it. More amazing are all the testimonies of people who claim they have
been cured of various ailments.
The video had clips of many ordinary folks who confirm this man's powers. He is
shown with all sorts, Iranians and foreigners; there is even a section showing him
with Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani! Then there is Dr. Mandegar, Iran's most famous heart
surgeon, who comes on and says that Aliakbari wants to prove his powers to him. Mandegar
jokes, "Just in case anything may go wrong, I have asked Mr. Aliakbari to treat
my mother-in-law." A few clips after that Mandegar returns and tells the camera
that Aliakbari had accurately diagnosed his mother-in-law's ailments, without prior
knowledge of them, and that his mother-in-law reports that she feels better.
It is still hard for me to believe his mental powers, let alone that he can cure.
All the same, I have seen enough to be amazed by this man. When I was working for
a consulting firm as an analyst, my boss, a former U.S. Navy officer, used to tell
me to write in a military format that would tell him, "what I know, what I think,
and which is which." In that case, I can say that I am fully convinced that
Aliakbari has telekinesis and the ability to alter objects using just his mental
He is charming, and interesting to meet. I think his powers are able to somehow
affect others and in some cases heal them. I have no clue how he does it all, but
definitely his voice alone is worth the 3000 toman cover charge to check it out.
Before leaving, Aliakbari insisted that if I write all this, I should mention
that he tells all his patients that under no circumstances should they leave medical
treatment and rely on him alone.