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A Venn diagram showing the crossover of wealth coaches, new age gurus, Oprah endorsees… and Mystery the Pick Up Artist

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I was curious as to how a Venn diagram of new age and motivational coaching gurus and gizmos would overlap. Essentially, the former devotees strive for enlightenment and the latter for financial gain.

Then I decided to throw Oprah and pickup master Mystery (creator of The Mystery Method/Love Systems, and subject of Neil Strauss’s manual for men, The Game) into the mix, just for a giggle.

No expense spared.


New Age + Oprah endorsees

Dr Doreen Virtue: A “spiritual doctor of psychology”, “fourth-generation metaphysician” and angel healer.

Gangaji: Former divorcee from Texas-turned- spiritual guru.

Louise L Hay: Author of You Can Heal Your Life and spin-offs. Her company now publishes Deepak Chopra.

Indigo children: Coined by psychic Nancy Ann Tappe, Indigo children were born in the early eighties, are spiritually superior, and identifiable by their indigo auras. They are recognisable “by their unusually large, clear eyes.”

Byron Katie: American speaker and author who founded self-inquiry method ‘The Work’ after hauling herself up from alcoholism and a stint in a halfway house.

M Scott Peck: Psychiatrist and author of 1978 tome A Road Less Travelled – a personal take on spiritual growth.

Eckhart Tolle: German author of The Power of Now and A New Earth which utilise many Buddhist teachings.

New Age + Oprah + Motivational Coaching

Jack Canfield: Motivational speaker and co-creator of the Chicken Soup For the Soul books. Advocate of The Secret; founded the Transformational Leadership Council.

Deepak Chopra: A leader of the mind-body-spirit movement; a doctor with many published papers and self-help books. Time magazine opined: “Of all the Asian gurus … Chopra has arguably been the most successful at erasing apparent differences between East and West by packaging Eastern mystique in credible Western garb.”

James A Ray: Motivational speaker and author of Harmonic Wealth, advocate of The Secret. Convicted of negligent homicide in 2011 when two people died and 18 were hospitalised when a sweat lodge he was overseeing at a $10,000 per person Spiritual Warrior retreat was over-packed by participants who had not drunk any water for two days.

Vision boards: Pasting images of what you aspire to own or achieve to a bit of board.

Motivational Coaching + Oprah endorsees

Dr Phil: Former psychiatrist and current Oprah guru. In his twenties, presented Pathway Seminars with his father. Also said to take some of his ideas from Landmark Forum.

Anthony ‘Tony’ Robbins: Motivational speaker and alpha friend to heavyweight celebs. According to his own website, he has for over 30 years “dedicated his life to modeling the most successful people in the world”. Has authored the books Unlimited Power: The New Science of Personal Achievement and Awaken The Giant Within and his seminars – including Unleash the Power Within (UPW) and Mastery University – utilise firewalking as a test of faith. Guest lecturers have included Deepak Chopra.

New Age + Mystery Method

Cold reading: Technique used by psychics, mentalists and magicians to deduce certain information about people by their appearance, behaviour and mannerisms.

Motivational Coaching

Stephen Covey: Motivational speaker and author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Mentored by James A Ray.

Pathway Seminars: Intensive, expensive personal development courses.

Justin Popovic: ‘Success coach’ and internet entrepreneur.
Mind Dynamics: The forefather of Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT) programs – any program that portends to overhaul a person’s way of thinking and make them more wealthy in a few exhaustive days of training.

Motivational Coaching + New Age

EFT: Emotional Freedom Technique, or ‘tapping’. Involves tapping on meridian lines of body while chanting statements intended to, say, bolster income or dispense with trauma. I thought Oprah would have to be all over EFT, but when I had a search, all that came up was website after website of EFT fans wishing she’d get into it. Because think what she could achieve THEN.

Landmark Forum: Four-day personal training seminars of up to 150 people run by Landmark Education. Aggressive approach is designed to strip down psychological defenses and build a person up anew.

Motivational Coaching + New Age + Oprah endorsees + Mystery Method

Law of Attraction: Essentially, visualising health, wealth and happiness will attract them to you. The Secret is a book penned by Rhonda Byrne – Australian TV writer and producer (portfolio includes World’s Greatest Commercials and Marry Me) – that’s widely accepted as THE handbook.

NLP: Reprogramming the brain using linguistics and hypnotherapy. Anthony Robbins and Mystery use it heavily.


A fake shaman discovers his sham does heal after all

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Quesalid, one hopes.

Continuing with the theme that unverifiable new age healing activities may be good for us after all, merely by instilling us with a powerful psychological sense of well-being, here’s an extract from Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science, in a chapter about the placebo effect.

Around a hundred years ago, there was a native Canadian Indian called Quesalid…

“Quesalid was a skeptic: he thought shamanism was bunk, that it only worked through belief, and he went undercover to investigate this idea. He found a shaman who was willing to take him on, and learned all the tricks of the trade, including the classic performance piece where the healer hides a tuft of down in the corner of his mouth and then, sucking and heaving, right at the peak of his healing ritual, brings it up, covered in blood from where he has discreetly bitten his lip, and solemnly presents it to the onlookers as a pathological specimen, extracted from the body of the afflicted patient.

Quesalid had proof of the fakery, he knew the trick as an insider, and was all set to expose those who carried it out; but as part of his training he had to do a bit of clinical work, and he was summoned by a family ‘who had dreamed of him as their saviour’ to see a patient in distress. He did the trick with the tuft, and was appalled, humbled and amazed to find that his patient got better.

Although he continued to maintain a healthy skepticism about most of his colleagues, Quesalid, to his own surprise perhaps, went on to have a long and productive career as a healer and shaman.”

I’ve got a few shamanic Snake Oil Skeptic activities lined up, and I’m curious as to whether I’ll view them in the same light as new age activities thus far. (That light being dim.) Anthropologists, including Claude Lévi-Strauss, came to view shamans as tribal psychoanalysts, rather than mentally ill savages as had been the common perception.

I’ve ordered this well regarded tome about psychological healing and the role of the shaman (along with holistic therapy and contemporary psychotherapy) – Persuasion & Healing by Jerome D Frank and Julia B Frank – in the hope of learning more about how the unconscious mind responds to ‘healing’ and manifests well-being in the body. Because I like hooking me up some of that.

Homeopaths threaten journalist with bodily harm (diluted by a squillion)

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Ben Goldacre.

Ben Goldacre is the Lord Flashheart of science journalism, lancing the boil of pseudoscience and fashioning meaningless hyperbole into a frilly bonnet.

As a bona fide doctor he’s got a bone to pick with anyone passing themselves off as having a medical background in their effort to hawk holistic wares and sell the spiel to lazy journalists. His most bloody battle is with homeopaths (followed closely by ‘Doctor’ Gillian McKeith). Homeopaths have, in fact, threatened him with bodily harm; presumably at only one part to a squillion.

Known for his exposé column in The Guardian, his website and a book, Bad Science, he uses terms like “bollocks du jour” and concocts ways for you to try your own experiments at home to see if various holistic health breakthroughs really work. (No.)

Your average 30C homeopathic preparation, he points out, is a dilution of (according to the Society of Homeopaths) “one part per million million million million million million million million million million”. Homeopaths claim (as do David Icke and Masaru Emoto) that this dilution won’t affect treatment, as water has memory and will have taken and retained an impression of the original molecules.

“If water has a memory,” brays Goldacre, “then by now all water must surely be a health-giving homeopathic dilution of all the molecules in the world. Water has been sloshing around the globe for a very long time, and the water in my very body as I sit typing away in London has already been through plenty of other people’s bodies before mine. Maybe some of the water molecules sitting in my fingers as I type this sentence are currently in your eyeball.

“How does a water molecule know to forget every other molecule it’s seen before? How does it know to treat my bruise with its memory of arnica, rather than a memory of Isaac Asimov’s faeces?

“I wrote this in the newspaper once and a homeopath complained to the Press Complaints Commission. It’s not about the dilution, he said: it’s the ‘succussion’. You have to bang a flask of water briskly ten times on a leather and horsehair surface, and that’s what makes the water remember a molecule. Because I did not mention this, he explained, I had deliberately made homeopaths sound stupid.”

My question: Why don’t homeopaths just up the ratio of herb to brandy and dispel the ‘there’s nothing in it’ argument? Or is it the brandy alone that gives you that warm glow inside?