Tom Cordle

Tom Cordle
Beeffee, Tennessee, CSA
June 16
There is your truth ... there is my truth ... and there is everything between. That leads to the better question: Is there an Everlasting Truth? I submit there is only the Everlasting Quest for the truth. __________________________________ I believe that in essence We are God. That is to say, humankind, for all it's faults, has power over Good and Evil. As the Eden Tale intimates, humans alone, in all Creation, have "eaten" from the the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; and thus humans alone, in all Creation, have the ability and responsibility to choose between the two. Thus, each of us is in essence a god, and the Sum of us, through all generations past, present and future is God. By those choices, we are the creators of what was, what is and what will be. And by those choices, we, collectively, choose whether to exist here and now in the Kingdom of Heaven or in a Living Hell. _________________________________ "I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and incur my own abhorrence." Frederick Douglass _________________________________ "You can't pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you don't have any boots, and you can't put yourself in another's shoes -- you can't even try on their socks." Soulofhawk _________________________________ "I prefer silent vice to ostentatious virtue." Albert Einstein _________________________________ Only in silence can your hear the voice of God." Soulofhawk ____________________________________ "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." Martin Luther King, Jr" ____________________________________ "Racists can hide in the closet, but the smell usually gives them away." Soulofhawk _________________________________ "Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it." Mark Twain ____________________________ "When we are young, Death comes as an unwelcome stranger; but as we get nearer the end of our own too-often rocky road, he comes more and more to resemble a long, lost acquaintance." Soulofhawk ____________________________________ “When monetary gain is involved, mans capacity for self-delusion is infinite.” Lord Byron _________________________________ "Where greed is good, need is great." Soulofhawk _________________________________ “And let it be noted that there is no more delicate matter to take in hand, nor more doubtful in its success, than to set up as a leader in the introduction of change. For he who innovates will have as his enemies all who are well off under the existing order of things, and only lukewarm supporters in those who might be better off under the new. This lukewarm temper arises partly from the incredulity of mankind, who will never admit the merit of anything new, until they have seen it proven by the event.” Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, Chapter VI _________________________________ "if a man falls from a pedestal, who is really to blame -- the man or those who put him up there?" Soulofhawk ____________________________________ "The history of any country, presented as the history of a family, conceals fierce conflicts of interest (sometimes exploding, most often repressed) between conquerors and conquered, masters and slaves, capitalists and workers, dominators and dominated in race and sex. And in such a world of conflict, a world of victims and executioners, it is the job of thinking people, as Albert Camus suggested, not to be on the side of the executioners." Howard Zinn _______________________________ "The worst thing to be around a bigot is right." Soulofhawk ______________________________


DECEMBER 27, 2008 11:45AM

The Kool-Aid Acid Test Redux

Rate: 29 Flag
michael bernard beckwith In The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe examined The Sixties counter-culture’s experiment with "subjective reality”. Today’s counter-culture has its own “subjective reality”, one in which “spirit guides” offer up their version of a separate reality every bit as strange as that of Timothy Leary’s “tune in, turn on and drop out” LSD acid trips.

One of these “spirit guides” recently showed up on Larry King Live. His name is Michael Bernard Beckwith, and he's the founder of something called the Agape International Spiritual Center in Culver City, California.

Why is it always California?

King has a well-earned reputation for serving up softballs to his guests, and this interview was no exception. King lobbed the set-ups, and Beckwith hammered them home with chutzpah and charisma. With his long dreadlocks and striking features, Beckwith is a guru right out of central casting; so in this uncertain and gullible age, it's not surprising he has found an audience. But his success still begs the question:

Who’s drinking the Kool-Aid?

Judging by the woman who appeared with Beckwith, the answer is scary. King asked her several questions, but before she answered, she stared nervously at Beckwith, as if trying to read in his eyes how she was supposed to answer the question.

Can you say cult? Comparisons with Jim Jones are unavoidable.

Like Jones’ followers, Beckwith’s are likely disaffected outcasts of society, people who probably grew up in the church, but were turned off by the politics and hypocrisy. Still, they were desperate for something – anything – anyone – to believe in, for anything or anyone that promised a better life than the one they were experiencing. Who wouldn’t believe in anything or anyone that promised that?

Answer: Someone who took the trouble to look behind the curtain at the wizard.

There’s little on the Internet about Beckwith other than promotional materials. One site had a vague reference to his having a doctorate in religious science, but offered no mention of where or when. Even on the Agape International Spiritual Center website there are no curriculum vitae, as one would expect from someone who puts ‘doctor’ in front of their name. The site did offer this:

“Dr. Beckwith’s achievement as a humanitarian and emissary of peace have been widely acclaimed. In 2003, his activities were enumerated when he was written into the Congressional Record of the 107th congress. He is the recipient of numerous humanitarian awards, some of which include: The 2004 Africa Peace Award, Thomas Kilgore Prophetic Witness Award, Howard Thurman Stained Glass Window Award by Morehouse College, a commissioned oil portrait for Morehouse’s prestigious Hall of preachers, and the Humanitarian Award of the National Conference for Compassion and Justice.

That sort of filler is all too obvious to anyone who’s ever padded a resume. When you gotta dig that deep and pile it that high, there’s something rotten in Culver City. Even Wikipedia offered little beyond a sketchy entry that included this interesting tidbit:

“In March 2007, Beckwith with partners, Bob Proctor and Jack Canfield, launched The Science of Getting Rich Seminar (SGR Program). After the official launch of the program, Beckwith was removed from the marketing material due to the perceived commercial nature of the program. However, his audio content remains part of the program. After some changes, Beckwith is now again a Part of The SGR-Program.”

Beckwith and his friends are hardly the first to peddle get-rich-quick, self-help schemes. America has a long tradition of more or less unsavory characters doing exactly that – Werner Erhard, Tony Robbins, Napoleon Hill, Charles Givens, Glenn L. Turner, Kevin Trudeau – the list is virtually endless.

Then there are their kin; televangelists like Jimmy Swaggert, Jim Bakker and Benny Hinn. And for those just a bit too sophisticated for the racist xenophobia of Swaggert or the coat-waving swoons of Hinn, there's Joel Osteen, the “you deserve to be rich” best-selling author and pastor of a mega-church in Texas.

Why is it always Texas?

What New Age deceivers like Beckwith do is combine the two scams, mixing positive thinking and glorification of greed with an all but irresistible repackaging of religion, spiritualism and mysticism. Their dark art is a twist on the ancient practice of alchemy – they turn people’s baser desires into gold – gold with which they line their own pockets.

Anyone who doubts that should check out the teaser on one website: “Anyone Can Now Capitalize on $12 Billion Personal Development Market.”

Like all purveyors of superstitious religious nonsense, New Age gurus like Beckwith tap into people’s feelings of powerlessness. They appeal to those who desire to have power over material things, power over others, power over death, power even to decide who they will be born as in their next life. No doubt, the promise of such power has a seductive appeal.

Some will say this dalliance with deceivers is only a harmless diversion, a victimless crime that ought to be ignored. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that this dirty business all too often preys upon the poor and the weak, or that sometimes those who drink the Kool-Aid pay with their lives.

The secret is there’s no secret to The Secret; it’s a shell game as old as humankind. And this latest version is just one more sad carnival come to town to take advantage of rubes. The Kool-Aid Kids would do well to put people like Rhonda Byrne and Michael Beckwith to the acid test:

If they can do what they say they can, let them prove it, let them say what they’re going to make happen. If it happens once, they’ve got a coincidence. If it happens twice, they’ve got a theory. If it happens again and again, they’ve got science. Until then, all they’ve got is just another religion, and not a very good one at that.

©2008 Tom Cordle

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"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God
who has endowed us with sense, reason, and
intellect has intended us to forgo their use."
Tom, I'm rating this because of your honesty and depth into this subject. I know who my God is and I know that He takes care of me and my kids. No one can tell me different. However, I do feel for those still struggling to find theirs. Sharks lurk at every corner.

But the comparison to the 60s in your title, and especially to Kesey's group, isn't quite apt.

Unlike Beckwith, the Merry Pranksters weren't trying to con gullible people into giving them their money, nor did they pretend to be something that they knew they weren't.

Crazy and narcissistic, yes, duplicitous and craven, no.
My brother is just this guy's kind of sucker. Back in the early 1970's him and his wife shelled out $1200.00 a piece for some, " Est Standard Training." For his $1200.00 he learned that if he was walking down the side walk and a piano fell on his head it was, "because he wanted it to"... He also learned how to lie and when you caught him at it he would just say, "that's your story.."

Yep, the 1200 bucks was well spent. "Quack, quack, quack..."
That photo kills me! Look at the man, nearly commanding the forces of nature!. Unfortunately, this happens all over the world, you should see our local gurus of redemption and success, appearing on TV, in stadiums, doing very, very good business.
Thanks for this breath of fresh, skeptical air, Tom.
Screaming - We all believe in something, but we still need to keep our eyes opena as well as our hearts
Michael Fox - you're point is well-taken, though Sixties counter-culture was hardly all fun and games. Crazy kids can be forgiven for their youth, but gurus like Leary and Castaneada - not so much
RIx - If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, it's probably not what it's quacked up to be
Marcela -- in the words of PT Barnum, there's a sucker born every minute
Rob - Given the continuing battle on OS about spiritualism vs rationalism and traditional vs holisitc medicine, I think we may have to keep opening windows
Tom, an excellent, cogent, reasoned dissection of those who prey on the seekers, the hopeless and the helpless with such cynical disregard for their genuine pain. If only those who blindly follow them could really see how much money the "teachers" are making. Not by inventing new concepts but by repurposing and repackaging shell games as old as time.

I have to add my agreement with Michael Fox... Leary may have preached a new kind of 'enlightenment', but at least he told his follwers "this is Kool Aid."
Sally, I lived thru The Sixties -- check that, survived The Sixties -- and I assure you there are a lot or people still in recovery and experiencing flashbacks from those "halcyon" days -- and some who never returned from their bad trips. For my money, Leary and his ilk shouldn't be let off the hook just because they weren't as avaricious.
Many years ago I became involved with some Hare Krishnas in some scams. We were making money (not of the suitcase variety, but at least the basketfull) for a short while.
Several years ago I ran across a book "Monkey on a Stick" and was surprised to see some familiar scams and names. My involvement was strickly personal enrichment, theirs' on the other hand was for their movemet. It always amused and frightened me to see the privations, humiliations, and risks the "devotees" were willing to put up with in service to their cause.
After a small amount of research I was actualy able to contact via e-mail a devotee who had intimately been involved in criminality for the sake of building New Vrindaban since it's inception.
What struck me most after talking to him was inspite of all the fraud, deception, and outright heresy that he and others perpetrated he still believed the fairy tales. It was not "god" who had failed, but he himself. He has long since backed away from the scams and thefts, but he still excuses them as being permissable since they were done in service to "the godhead".
This new crop of hucksters are no different, they are only telling the "devotees" that they are no longer required to starve, and suffer. They are now allowed, encouraged to profit materialy. A lot easier to swallow for most of us who relish creature comforts such as indoor plumbing.
Mick -- What's sad is that people are so desperate for something to believe in they will give up family, friends, possessions, and even reason for it. But you cannot fill an empty cup with a hole in its soul.
UK - always glad to do my small part in making the universe a perfect place. You on the other hand, might at least consider that exposing frauds is not negative, but very positive behavior.

I'm not surprised you have a different view of Beckwith, but could you please help out this poor Doubting Thomas by telling me where and when the good doctor received his doctorate in Religious Science?

And let me say, for the record, I'm not impressed by degrees. Jesus didn't have one, for example, and he turned out to be a pretty influential guy. But if I someone puts that "Dr." in front of their name, then someone like me is entitled to ask where it came from.

In any case, I admire your persistence, if not your perspicacity.
Why California and Texas, indeed? Never met a Doctor who wasn't WAY proud of his creds. I never heard of this guy, but I know what a dead fish in the bottom of the laundry basket smells like.
Hell, I know I could use some extra cash right now. I wonder where you can apply for a Guru license?
UK – I do not doubt the sincerity of your quest, nor from what you say, the sincerity of your Chinese teacher.

In some ways, you and I are not so far apart as you imagine; I have very close friends who are NA shamans. Under the teachings of their faith, they are not allowed to accept payment under penalty of losing their spirit powers. They are allowed to accept whatever gifts are freely given.

My favorite story is of one of the grandfathers who was presiding over a sweat lodge when a rich wannabe approached with his checkbook. “So, who much is this going to cost me?” Mr. Bigshot sneered. “More than you can pay,” explained the grandfather. “Hardly,” said the rich man, content in his puffery. “No, it’s true,” insisted the grandfather, “you must pay attention.”
Tom, have you not heard about the upcoming live event that will be showing in your local movie theater on January 15th? I think it's called "Beyond the Secret" with all the originals back with MORE of the Secret. I saw this important preview at the movies yesterday. These people know a secret all right...The Sucker Born Every Minute Secret. The thing too is that there's some damn good positive one needs not throw the baby out with the bath water...just don't spend a dime doing so. Great post.
UK - As for Christian orthodoxy, there is no need for anyone to accept the miracles to believe Jesus was a wise teacher or to learn from his wisdom teachings. Thomas Jefferson excised all the miracles from his Bible.

And it isn’t just miracles -- most Christians are utterly unwilling to accept Jesus’ teachings about pacifism and communism. Yet Gandhi, a Hindu, based his non-violent revolution on those teachings, a fact that ought to – but doesn’t – shame militant Christians. Most Christians do not grasp that the miracle of the loaves and fishes is a lesson about sharing as much as a lesson about God’s bounty.

Truth is most Christians are in denial about miracles, since Jesus said that we are all capable of greater miracles than his. And this is true – my son is an in vitro child, a miracle if ever there was one.

As I also pointed out in my post, the Christian religion, like all religions, is full of posers, charlatans, hacks and degenerates – and abusive priests are a prime example. But that sad fact is hardly an excuse for people to give themselves blindly over to charlatans, posers, hacks and degenerates of another religious stripe.

The fact that Beckwith is fudging his background on his own website is to me a sign he is being less than honest, and I’m being generous in leaving it at that.
MaryT - see how it is? You and me giving these guys all this free bad publicity is gonna make 'em even more successful! Oh, the oerversity of it all!
MaryT - see how it is? You and me giving these guys all this free bad publicity is gonna make 'em even more successful! Oh, the perversity of it all!
Christmas Day I hung out with a friend who has been part of Agape. A friend of hers--an Agape minister gave her that book. He gave a second copy to her roommate. Having read lots of New Age literature I thumbed through it. There is not cult stuff there. It's not some evil thing. And it isn't, to me, anyway, the keys of the secrets of the universe.

So I asked a few questions and my friend made a comment about Churches and places of worship, or places where people are seeking. What she said was, was that such people are usually dealing with things that are painful. The community--or the guru, or teacher, or leader isn't the main point, though there are certainly people who like to be the servants of such people. The point is is that people are interested in finding some solace, some peace, some healing.

I don't think this Beckwith guy deserves the tirade you've launched. I'm not a fan of guru's myself (go read some Krishnamurti--a great teacher who said be your own guru) but I think its disrespectful to be judgemental to people and things you don't know much about. Actually--it's prejudiced.

I wonder what you get out of your anger--I read the post as being angry. Also, why all this judgement? If people enjoy the Secret let them. What business is it of yours? Have you found all of life's solutions? Is everything in your life perfect?

I don't care if this New Age stuff is true or not. I don't care if people "get taken." Hopefully people learn from their experiences. But if you haven't had an experience--then why judge? There are so many really horrible things people do--this is just silliness.

Good post here. I think the whole thing is summed up with this: what is Religious Science?

Religious Science?

Is that anything like superstitious knowledge? Speculative fact? Blind sight?

Religious Science? Heh, nothing more need be said. The only scientific thing about religion is the psychology used to scam people.

Oh, and I'm a California native. And a funny thing is that there are California stereotypes--but there are southern ones too.
I think Tom's doing a public service with posts like this. I mean, consider a quote like this, apparently from The Secret:

Every thought has a frequency. Thoughts send out a magnetic energy.

It's perfectly reasonable to observe that this statement is nonsense, if interpreted literally, and to wonder about the abuse of common scientific terms. (And please don't tell me it's just metaphor.)
Without a Paddle,

It is interesting that you accuse Tom of being prejudiced, judgmental, ignorant and angry, as if saying those things did not equate to exactly what you condemn Tom for.

Of course, there is a significant difference between Tom’s skepticism and your condemnations of his skepticism. Tom merely expresses a healthy skepticism, asking for some sort of intelligent examination of what claims are being presented, which is an examination that cannot present any support for those claims.

Interestingly, such skepticism is even attributed to Jesus in the Bible. I wonder what Jesus got out of his anger.

And you don’t care that people dealing with something painful get taken advantage of by scam artists preying on those painful circumstances? That seems an odd perspective to me, but you’re certainly entitled to it.

At this point in human evolution, I would think anyone would have a healthy skepticism about any religion/spiritual leadership/soul-saving/secrets proposed by anyone, and especially by people whose backgrounds are questionable. As UK and Tom have pointed out above, religions have more than earned any lack of esteem aimed at them.

I think it is time people stop putting religion beyond the spectrum of serious questioning about what is espoused as “truth”. The only truth they have is that they don’t know.
You know, Rob,

I wonder if every thought is merely the RESULT OF a magnetic energy or frequency rather than sending one out…
Well here we go:

Look, I don't see the post as "healthy skepticism." I just don't. Healthy skepticism seems a bit more friendly. When I read the post I see accusations at cheating people out of something.

And why does anyone owe him proof (of what exactly?) or an explanation? That's what I don't get. We all get to choose what we believe so live and let live.

I never said the poster was "ignorant" but he said that the minister is "a deceiver"

When I took a look at that book, the page I landed on said just that people might realize that they are already "perfect"--(in other words that they are whole and God loves them) There wasn't a word about money.

I don't get why it bothers you guys so much that people believe in stuff that you don't believe in.

And if you're concerned about doing good--just go out and do good for crying out loud.

I think human thought is fascinating. It's creative. Why take it so seriously unless it has really hurt you. That's why I asked why it makes the poster so angry apparently. Did you lose a child to a cult? What happened to make it such a big deal?
I don't get why it bothers you guys so much that people believe in stuff that you don't believe in.

Without A Paddle, have you ever held a strong political opinion, one you felt worth arguing with someone about? If so, you've probably argued with someone who didn't share your beliefs. It's like that--some of the commenters in this thread think that it's useful and worthwhile to encourage people to think clearly and rationally.

I personally haven't been hurt or even affected in any significant way by The Secret or its proponents. I still think it's worthwhile to present alternative views, ones that I think are obviously better.

But maybe an analogy would help: Do you get why it bothers some people that on the order of 40% of Americans believe in Young Earth Creationism? For me, it's pretty much the same thing. If it's all the same to you, well, there's probably nothing I can add that will make it clear.
Hold the bus!!! The Love Guru is vibrating tonight!! Seriously guys, can't we keep our discussions of spirituality and beliefs civil, and respect that we all have differing perspectives? I appreciate this post and its intent to inform and raise questions. I also am a very spiritually oriented person, and have strong faith and beliefs in higher powers, and in synchronicity, and, I have no need to convince anyone else of this. I appreciate reading different perspectives on belief and rationality and the like. Keep it coming. Thanks brother.
w/o paddle - well, you're certainly entitled to be skeptical of this skeptic -- however, I'm not claiming to be able to teach you how to mold the universe to your will. I'm just advising you to be skeptical of people who make such claims.

Angry? Yes I am angry when people are taken advantage of by con aritists, and I would think you would be, too. You suggest "Why take it so seriously unless it has really hurt you?" Do you mean to say I shouldn't be angry about a child molesting priest unless my child is molested? Do you mean to say I shouldn't be angry about the hundreds of innocent people died at Jonestown following that guru? You seem to think that these are victimless crimes or that the victims somehow deserve to suffer for someone else's greed or villainy.

As for Mr. Beckwith, I suggested that before anyone accept his claims about being able to teach people to alter the universe with their will, they at least check out his claim that he is a doctor. I also suggested that anyone who makes such outlandish claims ought to have their claims subjected to some sort of proof test, otherwise anyone can claim anything.

On second thought, send me $500, and I will show you the secret of making easy money off gullible suckers on the Internet. I'm sure after you've lost your $500 bucks, you'll have learned the lesson. I'm sure you'll be angry, too.
grif -- it's really very simple, we're all entitled to believe whatever we want, but none of us are entitled to take advantage of other people's beliefs, especially when those people are young, gullible, hurt, disillusioned and desperate for something to believe in.

If my suggesting that someone check out a guru's claims before investing their time, money and soul in them saves even one person from being further deceived, than I believe my time and energy has been well-spent, and that far from being a negative force in the universe, I am being a positive force. If you believe otherwise, you are certainly free to disagree.
Excellent post, Tom. I'm open to all kinds of religious thought, but I can smell a huckster a mile away and that website positively reeks. If Beckwith is a true guru, then why does he need a Dr. in front of his name at all? Especially since there is no proof that he is one, except in his own self-aggrandizing mind.

I've always believed that there is a special place in hell reserved for people who fleece the weak, the vulnerable and the desperate. While Beckwith may appeal to a more monied group of suckers, the end game is the same.

I don't condemn The Secret outright, but the constant emphasis on material wealth doesn't strike the right note of spirituality with me. rated
Ric - thanks for the back-up, but as for "I wonder what Jesus got out of his anger", he got crucified, and I'd rather not experience that experience, if you don't mind.

You did not use the word “ignorant”. You did, however, clearly suggest that Tom was ignorant when you stated, “…I think its disrespectful to be judgemental to people and things you don't know much about.” Not knowing is ignorance. Beyond that, disrespectful judgmentalism and prejudice are generally based in ignorance.

In my experience of reading Tom’s writing, he has displayed a fairly well-rounded, well-read persona, and I suspect that he is somewhat more knowledgeable than you infer.

Most people who have taken time to read philosophy recognize much of these new “alternatives” for the bunk they are; repackaged, cheap knock-offs of rather old concepts.

For what it’s worth, on some level, I agree with your view, as related to some of these particular fad-scams. It is the more ingrained religious dogmas that I rail against because they are destructive forces in human society. I think that, as Tom writes, many of the people who migrate to these scams are people who have rejected those ingrained dogmas, but still want something they can believe in to give their lives more meaning.

LOL! I was interpreting it on more of a "what personal gratification" level, than a physical reward.
Emma - thanks, but you realize you're going to be labeled a skeptic for having a firm grasp of the obvious. Unfortunately, some people appear to be confusing skeptic with cynic, just as some people confuse liberal with communist.

As for The Secret, I am more than skeptical of anyone or anything that claims to teach the spiritual path to riches, and observe that such "secrets" all too often enrich only the one who claims to own the secret.

Does it have to be a "higher power"? How about just a "different power"? Or an "unknown power"? Just sayin'...
I have to start out by saying I'd be hard-pressed to go into any detail on a family-oriented website about what comes to mind for me when I read the word Agape, but, be that as it may - and despite the possible riff on irony those thoughts could produce, I will allow this:

I commend Without a Paddle, Rob, Rick, umbrellakinesis and Tom for having very real disagreements and differing perspectives about all this and for actually keeping the discussion civil and respectful. I don't know of another public forum where the quality of the give and take would be nearly so even-keeled.

I also have to weigh in with my belief that neither Leary nor Castaneda actively sought the kind of attention or designed to assemble followers the way other, more modern guru charlatans have. The fact that they did attract followers and that they may not have turned out to be the best leaders is a wholly different matter than are the messages they spoke, to which people were drawn.

As for sussing out secrets and sipping at the snake oil out there, I'll listen to or read just about anyone. I've traveled many miles to sit at the feet of various gurus, absorbed the magnetic vibrations of mystical, magical, hallowed places literally on four continents, and studied all the world's religions in more than a general survey. It's an unfortunate fact that money makes the world go round and has for a long time, but I nevertheless separate all these things into those that require payment and those that make it optional.

That may well be an invidious distinction, but it works for me.
Ric - of course you couldn't see my tongue planted firmly in my cheek. For those like me, it isn't crucifixion that made Jesus a "light unto the world" but the wisdom teachings he left behind. I believe we all have the chance at that same sort of immortality, in that we all leave something behind.

Even ephemera such as these postings and commentary have a effect far beyond our ability to measure, and in that sense, these thoughts do give off "magnetic vibrations" unto the universe. As someone has said, "we can know what we do, but we can't know what we do does."

Nevertheless, I believe when what we do arises out of greed, and when what we do takes advantage of the desperation of others, what it does is not likely to be something good.
To echo Lonnie, you cannot buy the sacred. Ask the Lakota who have yet to take a dime for the Black Hills.
It seems to me to be a discussion about perspectives--rationality versus spirituality. I love both though they are in far different spheres and try to integrate them within myself. An example would be part of a prayer in which I express gratitude for my women ancestors whose mitochondia I carry in every cell in my body.
This works for me.
Amen, brother Lonnie, like Carlos Castanaeda, you obviously have a button-down mind. I admire and envy your physical and spiritual journey -- tho I remind you that as a follower of the teachings of Don Juan, I am able to make such journeys without ever moving - tho it is necessary to leave my body. Beware your dreams tonight, my friend, the shape-shifter is on the loose.

Your tongue-in-cheek meaning sent out a magnetic energy and I knew what you meant. ;-)
o'steph - as I pointed out to UK in my comments, my NA shaman friends are not permitted to charge for their ministrations or they risk losing their powers. Gifts freely given are another matter.

I've been told I have four spirit warriors that guard me at all times. Given the number of times I have escaped death or serious injury in my life, it would be easy to believe that is true. I prefer, however, to act as though it were not, since one of them might be distracted for a moment, and I wouldn't want dishonor to fall upon him for failing to protect me.

I fully agree with you when you say, “I believe when what we do arises out of greed, and when what we do takes advantage of the desperation of others, what it does is not likely to be something good.”

Yep, I could not agree more.
More religious hoo-hah
I liked this post even though I didn't agree with everything in it. You brought up a good topic and did a good job on presenting your point of view. Most religious or spiritual stars are just slick snake oil salesmen to me but I have no problem if others want to follow and feel part of a group. The people you mention don't concern or scare me. The ones to watch out for our the End of Timers who believe in the Rapture and relish a war with Iran as a sign that Jesus is coming soon. There are websites out there that are truely frightening such as Rapture Ready and EndTimes .com. These assholes want to get us all killed, the people you reported on just want money.
Free will is the one and only thing I believe in strongly-life is just moment by moment decisions with consequences. One minor thought or two.
I am going to become a hippie again at 58. I think I was less materialistic and most of what I thought then has been proven as true as the years have rolled by. You say you survived the 60's, I say I have survived the 70's, 80's. 90's and Bush. Especially the 80's and Bush.
Has he been on Oprah yet? Once that happens, he has been given the nod by the Daytime Pop Goddess and everyone will be quoting him. That's the big problem I have with Oprah. Every week, she interviews another positive thinking guru without vetting his/her credentials or asking hardball questions. What's most obnoxious about The Secret adherents is that they fear asking critical questions, because that would be negative. The Secret says bad things happen to you because of your thought patterns. I've studied cults, and the first thing the leaders do is make you guilty for events you didn't have control over. What they offer is a way to take control. All you have to do is sign here and obey.
What amazes me here is all the wonderful, intelligent, well mannered, well intentioned energies devoted to convincing people that they "need" to think like you do (whoever you are and whatever you think; myself included), and are at least slightly off their marbles if they don't. There is a tone of general intolerance, despite the niceties. I fall somewhere in between both camps. I have a scientific background, a logical mind that reasons things out and makes informed decisions, but I have a shaman's heart.

Everyone skate backwards.
IdSpud - What's scary is the mindless following of leaders -- whether it's Jesus or Jones, Beckwith or Bush. What's scary is people's seemingly unlimited capacity to surrender their minds and their souls to someone's promise of secret knowledge and the promise of immediate or eternal reward -- without proof.

I got started on this subject because people on OS were proclaiming to have gotten lattes or parking spaces by exerting their will or as it was laid out in The Secret, the Law of Attraction. That may sound harmless, but it is not. That kind of uncritical thinking is dangerous to all of us as long as their vote counts the same as mine. I believe people should be discouraged from that kind of thinking.

That is not to say they should believe or disbelieve as I do, but that they ought to think about what they believe. I gave one small example here by asking where is Beckwith's proof of his claim to hold a doctorate. If you read the comments, you see the response. They don't need proof, they have belief. If I need proof, I'm supposed to contact Beckwith.

On the contrary, if Beckwith makes the claim, the onus is on him to offer the proof. And as it is with the little thing -- the doctorate -- so even more so should it be with the fantastical claims of controlling objects, persons, and events thru sheer force of one's will.
Rance – while acid is viewed by many as a harmless recreational drug, its history is hardly so innocent. Medical and psychological practitioners used it for years to induce symptoms of schizophrenia in order to study that disease. On the plus side, it has been shown to have some positive effect in treating otherwise hopeless cases of alcoholism.

It is also the case that for decades the CIA engaged in clandestine testing of the drug as a sort of “truth serum” or alternately as a means of convincing “persons of interest” that they were going nuts, and therefore, compromising them.

Test subjects included lifers and condemned prisoners in the Louisiana State prison system who volunteered in return for sentence commutation. It also included people who did not volunteer and had no idea they were being used as guinea pigs. Some of these people, convinced they had gone nuts, committed suicide.

It is alleged that the govt has stopped experimenting with LSD because its effects are too unpredictable. When the CIA considers a drug risky, recreational users might want to think twice.
dyno - when you start charging the disaffected for the revelations from your shaman's heart and promising to reveal the secret to joy and happiness and the secret to controlling all the evils that confront them -- and conversely and necessarily making them responsible for not controlling those evils -- than I will be pleased to feature you in one of these posts.
Tom, really , with all due respect; why should people be discouraged from thinking as they wish, and as they know to be true for themselves; and as makes them fulfilled and happy? As long as they aren't hurting anyone with their philosophy, why should it rankle you so? You claim to have survived the 60's. What happened to 'go with the flow' and 'different strokes for different folks'...? Or is your resumé a little padded too? I don't think Beckwith is depending on your contribution. He won't get any of my money either. OTOH, it would be just as deceitful of me to say I will be sending my tithe to you... UK and the rest of us who understand manifestation and synchronicity are connected to a world you know nothing about, and yet we are all willing to tolerate you and your personal views, despite the limited horizons. I would say the same to Rob, whom I respect just as much as I respect you.

We honor you for who you are. We are not asking you to change, and we are not suggesting that you have some sort of medical procedure to discourage your way of thinking. You are entitled, and free (thankfully) to believe as you wish.

So are the fairies and spirits. They won't harm you, Tom. They won't engage you, Rob. Listen, and you won't hear a thing. That suits you fine, and it's OK with us too. Enjoy yourself, my friend. You're gonna bust an artery if you keep this up.
This comment is freely given at no charge.
Anthony - Yes, Beckwith has been on Oprah, and he’s scheduled again in Jan ’09. He’s even got a bio on the Oprah website:

“Michael Bernard Beckwith is the founder and spiritual director of Agape International Spiritual Center in Los Angeles, California. He is a featured teacher in the film and book The Secret. In the '70s, he began an inward journey into the teachings of East and West, and today he teaches universal truth principles found in the New Thought-Ancient Wisdom tradition of spirituality. Gifted with a vision of a trans-denominational spiritual community, he speaks to a congregation of more than 9,000 people weekly at Agape.

Described in What Is Enlightenment? magazine as a "nonaligned trans-religious progressive," Michael shares his powerful conviction of creating the Beloved Community through his participation on international panels with other peacemakers and spiritual leaders, including the Dalai Lama of Tibet, Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne of Sri Lanka and Arun Gandhi. He is co-founder of the Association for Global Thought, an organization dedicated to planetary healing and transformation.

Michael is the originator of the Life Visioning Process, which he teaches throughout the country, along with meditation, scientific prayer and the spiritual benefits of selfless service. He facilitates retreats, workshops and seminars. His books include Spiritual Liberation, Inspirations of the Heart, 40 Day Mind Fast Soul Feast and A Manifesto of Peace.”

Some will read this bio as inspired, and others will read it as insipid since it makes no mention of credentials, education, and the affiliations are suspect as well. None of that will matter to devotees, so long as Beckwith is able to spout the healing balm of New Age Newthink. In Newthink, "nonaligned trans-religious progressive" and “scientific prayer” are not gobbledy-gook; they are transforming and scientific.

Anyone who doesn’t see this lack of critical thinking as dangerous should really take a second and a third look. We have experienced the results of a lack of critical thinking every day of our lives for the last eight years, and it has led to the Iraq War, Katrina and the financial meltdown.
I have no argument with your logic, and I am no more a devotee of Michael Beckwith than you are; but consciousness and harmony and self realization is not a matter of mere logic. Even the logic of science is transcended by things more organic and mysterious and marvelous than you or I comprehend. Scientists still do not even understand the nature of thought. We know there is an electro chemical process going on, but we've never seen an atom.

You think, and therefore can pass judgment on those who think differently; and yet my point is it takes all kinds to make a world; and that's what makes it so special. I don't want everyone to be just like me any more than I want everyone to be like you.

What would you suggest, Tom...? Thought control?
dyno - as long as you're not charging for revealing the secret workings of that universe unseen by rational thinkers, permit me a question. What do the faeries think -- I mean what happens when our equally condescending comments and thoughts vibrate across each other -- I wonder, do they cancel each other out with their inverse vibrations? Whaddya think?
dyno - I'm suggesting exactly the opposite, I'm suggesting people NOT fall victim to thought control, that they think for themselves, that, for instance, they ask themselves why someone puts Dr. in front of their name without credentialing, that they demand to see some sort of proof of these simple things before accepting wild assertions about the universe
I don't know what the spirits think. They rarely speak to me. I kinda wish they would, and I'm open to what they have to teach me. I think we've lost our way, and have a lot to learn from the ancients, who were in touch with the spirit world. I believe plants are much more highly evolved than humans are. They've been here a lot longer. As Carl Sagan pointed out, if you plot all of geophysical time on a clock, the tenure of humanity began at 11:59 PM. We're juvenile, and we oughta admit it. Having big brained, egocentric thoughts about our mighty selves is fairly empirical proof of how truly ignorant we are. Our biggest contribution and most enduring legacy to planet Earth may well be our own demise, and how many other innocents we take with us when we extinguish ourselves.

Our thoughts don't cancel each other out. And I'm not tying to cancel you with my comments. I would, however, like to hear something from you other than how dangerous everyone is who thinks differently than you do. That concerns me.
...and if Michael Beckwith is a self inflated quack, it wouldn't surprise me. I agree that people need to be discerning. That would include the discernment of spirits.
On another blog I read, there's a pointer to this October article in Science, Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception, by Jennifer Whitson and Adam Galinsky. The abstract:

We present six experiments that tested whether lacking control increases illusory pattern perception, which we define as the identification of a coherent and meaningful interrelationship among a set of random or unrelated stimuli. Participants who lacked control were more likely to perceive a variety of illusory patterns, including seeing images in noise, forming illusory correlations in stock market information, perceiving conspiracies, and developing superstitions. Additionally, we demonstrated that increased pattern perception has a motivational basis by measuring the need for structure directly and showing that the causal link between lack of control and illusory pattern perception is reduced by affirming the self. Although these many disparate forms of pattern perception are typically discussed as separate phenomena, the current results suggest that there is a common motive underlying them.

So that's kind of cool, as a scientific finding. Unfortunately, some people seem to be deeply, personally invested in these kinds of illusions. When I read commenters on posts like this one saying, "Why shouldn't people think as they wish?" I interpret that as their saying, "Let people believe in their comforting illusions." I don't go out of my way to destroy people's illusions, but I do think it's worth speaking up when people talk about them as if they're real. As I've said in other posts, when people make decisions based on illusory beliefs, the results can be unfortunate.

Sorry for going on so long, Tom.
I'm glad to see you weigh in, Rob. This may be illusion on my part, but I am willing to acknowledge it and take comfort from the fact that you found my comment worthy of a response. I'm glad also that you have science in your corner, for without science, what would you have to prove yourself? I love science, despite it's limitations; and I love people, despite their illusions. I care nothing for the happiness of science. As for the happiness and fulfillment of people, I find that worth a little intellectual elasticity and spiritual open mindedness.

A hardened heart will not beat so long, nor so healthy. A hardened mind is liable to be equally terminal.
"Why is it always Texas?"

That's a good question. These gurus always appeal to fear and greed. It works great doesn't it?
Rob - please feel free to comment as long and as often as you wish. As I read the study you cited, I kept saying "yes" "yes" and "yes" because it said in scientific terms what I've so clumsily tried to say here. There’s also a whole series of studies which suggest there may be a genetic cause for whether someone is conservative or liberal.

I’m trying get my mind around all this. At first blush, it would seem contradictory that New Age thinking has anything in common with conservative thinking. Perhaps the commonality is this: insecurity, whether real, perceived or genetic, has a bearing on an individual’s willingness to accept authority as well as to detect comforting illusions.

Simply put, does believing in fairies or a free-market have the same root cause? Food for thought, but it’s going to take a lot more time to digest.
dyno -- Certainly, things happen for which we have no rational explanation. Certainly, things exist of which we have no knowledge. In both cases, I’m comfortable standing with Shakespeare and Einstein:

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

“We never cease to stand like curious children before the great Mystery into which we were born.”

But saying the some things remain a Great Mystery is not to say they have no rational explanation, but simply that it is beyond our present understanding. Once upon a time people believed diseases were caused by demons rather than germs, not so long ago women were burned at the stake for a suspect mole, not so long ago maps included the phrase “here there be dragons”.

My argument is really quite simple: Question authority, and do not surrender your power to others on the promise of secret knowledge without at least some proof. I’m suggesting that following any guru unquestioningly, unexaminedly, inevitably leads to a place where “there be dragons”.
dyno -- Certainly, things happen for which we have no rational explanation. Certainly, things exist of which we have no knowledge. In both cases, I’m comfortable standing with Shakespeare and Einstein:

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

“We never cease to stand like curious children before the great Mystery into which we were born.”

But saying some things remain a Great Mystery is not to say they have no rational explanation, but simply that it is beyond our present understanding. Once upon a time people believed diseases were caused by demons rather than germs, not so long ago women were burned at the stake for a suspect mole, not so long ago maps included the phrase “here there be dragons”.

My argument is really quite simple: Question authority, and do not surrender your power to others on the promise of secret knowledge without at least some proof. I’m suggesting that following any guru unquestioningly, unexaminedly, inevitably leads to a place where “there be dragons”.
Black Bart - in the old days, the phrase "gone for Texas" meant somebody was running from the law. I used it in one of my songs about the infamous Barber-Mizell feud in central FL after the Civil War. But that's another story .....
Thanks, Tom. One point you raise that I'm in very strong agreement with is that it's always premature, in my opinion, to say that something is inherently unexplainable or incomprehensible. How arrogant is that, to claim to understand human limitations? (The reverse accusation is pretty common, of course. I guess arrogance is in the eye of the beholder.)

dynomyte, I'm not sure how much of your comment, if any, is intended ironically. For example, I have no idea what this means:

I'm glad also that you have science in your corner, for without science, what would you have to prove yourself?

Are you thinking that I "prove myself" with science? Uh, no. Or that I'd have to get a different job if there were no such thing as science and there'd be nothing for me to prove? Well, sure, but then we wouldn't be having this discussion.

But that aside, I have two thoughts that may not have been clear in my comments here. First, I try to distinguish between judging ideas and judging people who hold ideas, even if I'm not always successful. Ideas don't have feelings, so I think it's perfectly fine, in principle, to say that an idea is nonsense or self-contradictory or simply wrong. I'll hold back in some cases if I want to avoid hurt feelings, but I've been assuming that this isn't so much of a concern on Tom's blog. (That is, someone who reads through the post and the comments isn't likely to be bothered by anything I have to say.) If I were to hold back in principle from making such observations, it would be the worst kind of condescension: Oh, so-and-so gets upset when people disagree with some of his or her beliefs, so we should keep quiet. Second, I'm perfectly fine with some aspects of mystical thinking; as you say, science has built-in limitations. When there are clear disagreements, though, between mystical thinking and scientific thinking, I'll take the latter. For me, a good test is Creationism. Are you happy that people take solace in the belief that their personal God created the Earth and the human race about 10,000 years ago? If so, okay. If not, then you and I agree perhaps more than you think.
Tom, I'd be interested in that story. Your book looks interesting too from one with a Scots background from NC.
Hey Tom, It's funny that you wrote this b/c I came here specifically to send you a message about how we think alike in some general way. I read one of your comments on another post (can't even remember which one--maybe Dr. Amy's aplogogy?) and came over here to find this, something I've written about before, in fact long before everyone else (but mtk) has written about The Secret: Free Will and The Secret. It's from a longer piece I did about self-deception, and I think you'll appreciate it if you have the time to read it.
Not to keep blogwhoring, but I wanted to say that UK, Susanne Freeborne, lalucas, and others were kind enough to thoroughly espouse their views in their comments to that post of mine that I just mentioned. They are probably sick and tired of reiterating their beliefs, so this particular comment of mine is meant to steer some people who aren't fully understanding them to check them out there, where they wrote in full faith and before (I think) feeling kind of besieged by naysayers. I found them very helpful, actually, in understanding a worldview different from my own. While I default rather stubbornly toward rationalism, I enjoy reading others' viewpoints and certainly enjoy intellectual debate on all subjects--in particular the forbidden religion and politics!
To Paddle: While I agree with Rob that for most of us the "objections" are really more about enjoying intellectual debate, I do think the most oft-cited objection to the Law of Attraction has to do with the culpability that it seems to place on everyone for their own lives, which sort of indicts victims of crime or poverty with not wishing away their bad luck enough. It's still the biggest sticking point with me, and although UK and others have tried to explain it (and I've honestly tried to understand it), I can't quite grasp the idea that we can credit positive events to the positive thoughts of the beneficiaries but not blame the victim for negative events. It doesn't feel logical or consistent.

I think UK has a point about the grief New Agers take for their teachers while followers of traditional religions get a pass. I'm a Catholic, for example, but rarely have to defend the Church here on OS. (If I did, I'd give it up immediately, LOL, b/c I'm really more like what you'd call a cultural Catholic). But still.

Rob and Tom: Do you guys watch/like all the Star Treks? I've watched them all (mother of three boys and all), and they are the thing that allow me to wrap my mind, barely-and I mean sliver-like--around some of this stuff. The idea of parallel universes, etc., and Einstein's far-out time beliefs, etc., make me at least humble about what I don't know.
Lainey -- I read your post some time ago without commenting, but was fascinated by the discussion. I try to avoid these sorts of things because as the commentary on your post and the commentary here shows yet again "ne'er the twain shall meet."

But when UK posted about controlling elevators and lattes with this Law of Attraction and was joined by others praising her outrageous claims and claiming to will parking places in crowded cities -- well, that seemed so far beyond the pale, that I thought surely simple logic would cause them to pull back from what is patently absurd. Wrong.

I've been accused of all manner of evils here and elsewhere for saying what seems to me inarguable -- that the world is full of purported guides who are not what they claim to be, people willing to share their secret knowledge -- for a price -- and it seemed the decent thing to do to remind people it is wise to proceed with caution in matters that are ultimately unverifiable.

The usual response falls into two general categories -- (1) that I'm insisting that anyone who doesn't think like I do is an idiot; or, (2) I am an idiot, and I get patted on the head and condescendingly told I'm blind to an invisible universe I could see if only I'd learn to put away reason.

As far as I'm concerned I've been proceeding carefully in dealing with absurdity, but some view my caution as a rant. Obviously, they have not heard one of my rants. I try to avoid rants because they are not very useful, but apparently, for some neither is reason.

The first rule of rhetoric is that one cannot win an argument against a tautology -- or with a fool.
@ Rob ST. Amant

When you say please don't tell me they are metaphors, you labor under the unwarranted assumption that the scientific meanings of terms like energy and frequency are their proper denotative significations. But the etymology of each of these terms indicates that their current scientific usages are likewise metaphorical.
Hey Tom, I think you're right about the "ne'er the twain shall meet." I wonder, though, about aging and nearing death. I really think some people move toward the spiritual/religious as they age, perhaps out of fear. I can't ever imagine thinking that wishing something were true would make it so, though. It's just so absolutely outside the bounds of science. I could get on board something that said, "Studies show that such-and-such-a-chemical is released when a person smiles at a Target clerk, which raises the level of something-or-other, which can increase the posture and bounce of the person's step, which can make them smile more readily at the guy they sit next to on a plane, who happens to turn out to be an employer looking for someone with those skills..."
In other words, I'm open to the idea of cognitive therapy and the empirical psychological studies that might actually influence behavior, but those really are different than this, I think.
Lainey - for all its scientific terminology and pop philosophy, Star Trek is after all fiction. More and more it seems people cannot separate fact from fiction, science from religion -- thus, the fine distinction between words like skeptic and cynic is utterly lost.
Lainey, I've said here and other places, that while the effects of positive thinking are difficult to quantize, you'll get no argument from me that they are real. But that is not in the same universe as saying I can get a free latte by wishing it from fifty floors away. That is not even science fiction, that is wishful thinking.
libertarius - frequency is a metaphor? Well, the kind of thought frequencies some people are talking about here may be. But the kind of frequency science talks about can be measured on an oscilloscope. When New Agers can measure a manifestation or a thought frequency in the same way , their arguments might be taken seriously.
UK - Since you removed your post, it's hard to argue about what you remember saying. Here's what I remember:

You said you were excited because you put your teacher's suggestion to "start small" to the test. You said you put out to the universe that you wanted "a free cup of coffee". You then waxed euphoric about how the elevator went straight down fifty-two floors (which never happens, you said) to Starbucks where the clerk said "I got a mistake here, anybody want a vanilla latte?" You were kinda shocked, you said, and even more surprised to find the elevator waiting for you as you exited Starbucks with your free coffee, and the elevator took you straight back to your floor with no intermediate stops.

Now, what part of that do I have wrong?

If you were simply weaving a fanciful tale, no problem, we could all have a laugh and enjoy it. If you were passing it off as a remarkable set of coincidences, no problem, we could all shake our heads in wonderment, and smile at your good fortune. But if you say that you somehow willed this to happen with this all-powerful Law of Attraction, then some of are going to shake our heads and hope you get beyond such illusions, and the sooner the better.
UK - Since you removed your post, it's hard to argue about what you remember saying. Here's what I remember:

You said you were excited because you put your teacher's suggestion to "start small" to the test. You said you put out to the universe that you wanted "a free cup of coffee". You then waxed euphoric about how the elevator went straight down fifty-two floors (which never happens, you said) to Starbucks where the clerk said "I got a mistake here, anybody want a vanilla latte?" You were kinda shocked, you said, and even more surprised to find the elevator waiting for you as you exited Starbucks with your free coffee, and the elevator took you straight back to your floor with no intermediate stops.

Now, what part of that do I have wrong?

If you were simply weaving a fanciful tale, no problem, we could all have a laugh and enjoy it. If you were passing it off as a remarkable set of coincidences, no problem, we could all shake our heads in wonderment, and smile at your good fortune. But if you say that you somehow willed this to happen with this all-powerful Law of Attraction, then some of us are going to shake our heads and hope you get beyond such illusions, and the sooner the better.
@ Tom Cordle

Frequency comes from the Latin frequentare, to visit regularly, repeat and its earliest recorded usage in English carried that signification. It was not until 1831 when it acquired the scientific meaning to which you refer and it did so by metaphorical extension. So yes the scientific term frequency is a metaphor. I say this not as a brief for New Age philosophy of any description, being myself a fairly orthodox episcopalian with a deep suspicion of mystical movements. I say it rather to dispel the common confusion of scientific meaning with literal meaning, a confusion leads to or attends a confusion of scientific truth, i. e. those statements accredited within various scientific discourses, with the Truth writ large, i. the final or at least the ruling judgement to be made on the state of things.
libertarius - what you seem to be suggesting is that scientific use of the term frequency as a means of measuring many things, including audio frequencies and the intensity of stars, is somehow illegitimate because the term was previously used for other purposes. By that reckoning, homosexuals should not be called gay because that term was previously used to connote something far different. On the face of it, that rationale flies in the face of the ever-changing nature of language.

In any case, your argument does nothing to address the issue I raised which is that science can measure frequency, and philosophy, New Age or otherwise, cannot. Therefore, it does New Agers no good to attempt to couch their arguments in pseudo-scientific terms. As "a fairly orthodox episcopalian with a deep suspicion of mystical movements", I would think you would agree.
UK - No, I have never hit a woman, though I must admit there have been a few times I was tempted. I find it hard to understand how repeating your story is verbally abusive. In fact, I think it's verbally abusive to dismiss my recap of your post as a lack of understanding on my part. If that isn't what you said, please correct me.
Tom Cordle--

I never used the term illegitimate in reference to scientific usage. Nor would I. The metaphorical quality of any given lexicon is inevitable and so hardly de-legitimating. For the very same reason, however, the claim of any given lexicon to the literal signification of the terms it uses is inaccurate, unwarranted, unscientific if you like.

And yes I agree entirely that it does New Age philosophy no good to couch its ideas in psuedo-scientific terminology. Like any discipline--history, literature, geography, archaeology, theology--the sciences are defined by the method or methods the employ, which is to say the way they put their metaphors to work to achieve effects. New Age philosophy, so far as I can tell, does not share the same methods, so that its repetition of scientific terms does not cohere in anything like a scientific discourse. I would never suggest that it did, irrespective of my episcopalianism.
When you say please don't tell me they are metaphors, you labor under the unwarranted assumption that the scientific meanings of terms like energy and frequency are their proper denotative significations. But the etymology of each of these terms indicates that their current scientific usages are likewise metaphorical.

libertarius, I don't have the background to talk with you on the level of semiotics; however, I'm not claiming that the scientific meanings of "energy", "frequency", and so forth are the true meanings of the words and should be adhered to. Rather I'm just saying that communication depends on people sharing an implicit understanding of the meanings of words, and statements like the one I gave seem to break that rule. It's as if you're buying a car and looking at a BMW, and a friend says, "No, no, you need something much more powerful," and you say, "What, a Mercedes? Or something exotic?" Your friend eventually gives you an example, pointing you to a Prius. Possibly your friend is talking about making a green statement being an expression of power, but you really have no idea, because your friend says it takes years to gain a clear understanding of words used in this way. You throw up your hands.

Here, similarly, we're seeing words that have a relatively obvious and natural interpretation in this context (for example, it's possible to measure the energy expenditure of thinking), but the words are used in a non-obvious way. It's misleading and not conducive to communication.
Oh, and for what it's worth I don't disagree with you on metaphor and its pervasiveness. I simply think it's not very helpful to get ideas across when someone uses obscure, possibly ad hoc meanings of words to create statements that are syntactically correct and yet false if the words are interpreted as having their common or most obvious meanings. It's not quite colorless green ideas sleeping furiously, but close.
Rob and Tom: Do you guys watch/like all the Star Treks?

Hey, Lainey, as a matter of fact I do, and I have since I was a kid watching the original re-runs. Let's see... in order of being willing to watch a random re-run from the various series, my preferences would run along these lines: original series; Next Generation; Deep Space 9; Enterprise; Voyager. I think they're a lot of fun. In fact,

The more complex the mind, the greater the need for the simplicity of play.

I'm just kidding about that last, of course. :-)
I'm sorry I didn't get back to this sooner, but can see the discussion continues as before; with Tom &Co. feeling very solid in their pragmatics and willing only to allow that the rest of us have something to learn. Tom, to say there is a genetic disposition for any political belief or persuasion is, I think, better explained by the environmental experience provided (or subjected) by parents and other close confidants. I suggest a child born of extreme conservatives would, if orphaned and raised by liberals, grow up to hold some of the liberal's values in higher regard than if they'd been raised by their conservative blood parents. You'll notice I did not use the term "narrow minded" conservatives, despite the urge; and perhaps that is in part due to my own parents, who taught me better. I will get my licks in. I also think it's disingenuous and unbecoming for you to say that liberalism is a function of insecurity. To be quite honest, your reaction to the substance of this topic smacks of extreme insecurity on your own part; and everyone involved on the other side of the issue is both concerned and astonished that you are so obviously threatened by their feelings and philosophy (never mind their political persuasion).

I can stand with Shakespeare and Einstein too; and do. Einstein was a very spiritual man, he had some very liberal ideas, and he wrote passionately against war. I won't speak for Shakespeare, as he spoke so well for himself; but in his day, maps had dragons on them; although that doesn't mean he believed in them; nor I. Sailors were tall tale tellers, hence the maps; but I don't get my directions from medieval maps. I question authority (especially yours) and I am not inclined to relinquish my freedom or my common sense to any guru; especially some new age nonsense peddler. I dare say most if not all of the others formerly engaged in this discussion feel likewise. They may be willing to learn something, however; and even the nonsense peddler likely has something of merit to say. That's why we listen to you, too. The room had thinned out considerably last night, with only you, Rob, and myself in attendance; and most everybody left in favor of other blogs, where they aren't chastised as stupid, leftist morons for believing what you are unable to comprehend. Some people actually listen when others speak, whereas you are quite content to listen to yourself.

I really don't relish the task of battling with you, and I won't put too much more energy into it; but if you really want to be objective, and hold a decent discussion between intelligent individuals, you might start by being cordial and genuine in a fashion that is not seen through so easily. I don't mind your difference of opinion, but I don't like even the insinuation of being called a liberal moron. You really do make good sense sometimes, but then you cap it off with a statement about having to argue with fools. If you cannot see the duplicity in that, then you are beyond help. Your treatment of UK is all too obviously patronizing at best. You complain of being accused of idiocy, but your behavior is beneath that of an idiot; who would be far more genteel than you are. You'd be surprised at how conservative I really am, in many ways. But as you can see, if I am pushed hard enough, I will respond; and you won't bowl me over with false sincerity or self inflated hypocrisy.

I always question the gurus.

Rob, we are closer than you think; although as you say, arrogance is in the eye of the beholder. I don't claim to understand the real extent of human limitations, although they are mighty evident. I wouldn't want to make any predictions on that score. And yes, I do employ irony. It's one thing we can count on in life. You use empirical science as your rod and staff; and I've merely stated that science has built in restrictions. What we don't know vastly outweighs what we do know. I have a strong scientific background myself, and I am amazed at human innovation. I am amazed at how smart some people are, and at the advancements we enjoy. But there is a great deal we don't know, and our entire civilization is now threatened by the very progress we've made. And I do not think science or technology will pull us out of the hole. We have savaged the Earth, and treated our planet like she is our bitch; but we can't throw this one away; because it's the only planet we have.

I don't like to repeat myself, but I will. I think we've lost our way, and we have a lot to learn from the ancients, who were themselves quite scientifically advanced, and yet also in touch with the spirit world. I believe plants are much more highly evolved than humans are. They've been here a lot longer. As Carl Sagan pointed out, if you plot all of geophysical time on a clock, the tenure of humanity began at 11:59 PM. We're juvenile, and we oughta admit it. Having big brained, egocentric thoughts about our mighty selves is fairly empirical proof of how truly ignorant we are. Our biggest contribution and most enduring legacy to planet Earth may well be our own demise, and how many other innocents we take with us when we extinguish ourselves. I'm glad to see we've gotten around to Star Trek.

I'm not concerned with manifesting a cup of latte. I don't care how it happened, or how cosmic the manifestation was. I don't think UK does either. Her message, and mine, is far more broad reaching and universal than that; and those who latch on to the metaphorical cup of coffee miss the larger meaning. Ultimately, despite this futile argument, we are all on the same team, faeries and all. In Tom's mind, we're all faeries; I know; and so be it. Any discussion with Tom turns into bitter dispute, and that serves no purpose. It wouldn't hurt to open your minds to something beyond what you can see and feel and touch. But if you can't, that's OK too. You cannot see and refuse to acknowledge the spirit world - and you don't have to... because there are others who do; and you can stick to science, which is also valuable and necessary. As I also said earlier, I am not intimate with any spirits, but I'm trying to open myself to their wisdom; and the lost wisdom of the ancients; and believe there is something tangible to it all, because we are not solving our problems with science, or our considerable intellect. If the spirits aid humanity, they will serve you also, despite your lack of belief.

This planet Earth is the only test tube we've got.
dynomyte, I have a question for you: Do you think that I personally could manifest something, given my current beliefs and state of mind, or at least what you perceive of them? Basically I'm not sure what people mean when they talk about manifesting. If you're talking about positive thinking, being open to opportunities and so forth, then I should be able to manifest the same things that the more mystically-minded do. But if there's a spiritual/supernatural element to it, then I shouldn't. What do you think?
dyno - does asking me in effect, as UK did, if I've stopped beating my wife constitute cordiality? Does patting me on the head, as you did, and telling me it's okay if I'm too blind to see this spirit world cordiality?

I posted a fairly straigh-forward piece intended to do three things:

(1) to point out that seeking a separate, non-rational reality had some negative consequences whether that was The Sixties or The Secret. Some who commented don't see the connection between The Sixties and The Secret as I do, and that's their right, but at least they disagreed agreeably.

(2) to suggest that it is wise to check out the claims of preachers, gurus, spirit guides, etc who put Dr before their name without credentialing, or who make other dubious claims without benefit of evidence

(3) and most importantly, to state that dalliances, whether with LSD or the Law of Attraction are not without consequences for others as well as for yourself

That this has degenerated into name-calling and anger and fits of pique is hardly entirely my fault as anyone who reads this commentary fairly would agree.

This is my blog and my post, and as I understand it, I'm entitled to speak my mind as clearly, firmly and persuasively as I am able -- without having to comport with your or anyone else' s notion of what constitutes good manners. To be blunt, I'm not all that interested in a discussion so bland that it can't possibly offend anyone's sensibilities.

Frankly, for a guest on my blog to question my motives, my vision, and my interpretation of the facts can easily be construed as the height of rudeness. As should be quite evident by now, I have gone to considerable lengths to explain what should have been perfectly obvious from the original post, which you and anyone else were free to take or leave as you wish.

I did not ask you or UK or anyone else to comment here. It is not required reading, nor is it required that you comment. But if you do, it is only reasonable to expect that I will reply in kind.
Tom, I think this blog was bigger than you from the beginning; so I must compliment you on you prescience. I notice you showing up spouting on UK's posts, and I suspect she doesn't solicit your opinions. You can always close the comments and delete the blog if it get's away from you.

Rob, my understanding and appreciation of manifestation is pretty much the same as yours. Coming from a fairly conventional meat and potatoes background, I've transitioned into my open mindedness often by backing into insight that I didn't even ask for. My academic training is in science, my religious background is totally conservative, and my family experience is likewise steeped in what is tangible, hard won, and proven. My father was ex Navy, and an engineer. Higher consciousness was not something we ever talked about at the dinner table; and if someone had been interested enough to bring it up, they would have been treated to a derisive and deprecating blast of my father's consciousness, which was rooted anywhere but Earth, or Heaven.

My evolution started somewhere in the constellation Ozzie and Harriet, and the closest I got to paranormal was the Twilight Zone. This said, I experimented liberally in the early 70's, mainly out of sheer exultation at the freedom I found when I left home; and I slowly learned that the world was a much larger and more amazing and magical experience than what I'd been taught. I made slow progress, because I am anything but an adept, and my conscious mind has always forced me to ask questions and demand answers. I accepted little on faith, and I believed in the scientific method. I still do. However, I've also learned that there is a universe beyond what science can prove to be demonstrable fact. I'm still grappling with this, and still questioning; still wanting answers; and yet I am slowly yielding to a new (and old) knowledge that transcends everything science teaches us.

I am, truthfully, caught in between; looking both ways, invested now in each modality; and a sincere believer in a marriage of the two. This allows me a unique perspective, and I have been given the ability to be a bridge between them. Having become aware of serendipity and living within that 'consciousness' for some time now, I've become more attentive to how inter-connected everything really is; and one thing leads to another... I don't have spirits talking to me; and while I do talk to plants, they don't answer back; at least not out loud in audible language that I would hear anywhere but in my imagination. I don't try to manifest parking spaces or cups of latte, although such little things are liable to happen, and when they do, I accept and am grateful. I believe that being grateful is a huge part of the process. And being grateful is something we all can do without requiring us to believe in spirits.

Positive energy attracts positive events and positive people; although as you can see, it also firmly attracts negativity; because those who are negative are determined to share it, and they can't stand it when someone is having a better time than they are. To add the paranormal only deepens the perceived wound, causing even more vehement rants. The world is over populated with people like that, and eventually they have to be avoided and ignored.

And yet I have hope that everyone can benefit, and I would prefer they do. So much of our life is up to us and our attitude. It's very simple, really; and doesn't require an advanced degree to grasp. Think positive, and positive things occur. It isn't necessarily cause and affect as evidenced by the scientific method, but it happens. We don't have to consult the tarot or speak in tongues or look for UFO's. It isn't super natural.

It's natural. Yes, you can do it too.
This post and commentary having now reached triple-digits and complete circularity, I will assume my rightful prerogative and say thanks to one and all for your contributions, and I hope someone got something out of this. Comments are now closed.
The tempest -- and a decent interval -- having passed, I've reopened comments to future visitors. I'm especially interested in receiving comments from whatever supernatural force is willing to share The Secret with me.
Just stumbled upon this--can't believe the discussion it touched off.

On a related note, Reverend Ike died recently. One of my favorite flim-flammers.
As a religion or "spiritual approach," I don't think the Law of Attraction is any more a form of magical thinking than most other faiths out there, which is to say irrational and exploitative teachings are the rule and not the exception. My feeling is that if it makes people happy to organize their brains based on this kind of framework, so be it.

A few of my felon clients were believers, and they thought I'd get something out of it that I could share with all of the residents, so I ordered the DVD. A colleague put it on for the residents to watch before I had a chance to screen it. The facility director said "What is this DVD?" I said it was new age magical thinking, known as The Law of Attraction, and he said "get rid of it." I asked him why this was any less permissible than the prayer groups and bible studies (which were by clients' choice and organization). "It's all magical thinking, Robert." He didn't like that very much.
Yes, one man's myth is another's messiah. I hope I made it clear I don't think this clown is any worse than the Prosperity Gospel clowns, or the Jim Bakker clowns. If there is a Hell, I suspect they'll all be neighbors.
This midget poseur is a shameless knee slapping song and dance screaming yelling Southern Baptist style self promoter who claims that the Nigerian pirates are justified because ships dumped toxic waste in "their" ocean. He gets the sappy liberal do-gooders to feel sorry for him because a fireman called him the N word whilst trying to put out a fire when MBB was 5 years old.

I notice that he now passes the collection basket BEFORE his appearances on Sunday. This guy rode a wave on the so called "Secret" and it looks like even his congregants are catching on to his shallowness.

"Shearing in the sheep, shearing in the sheep
we will come remunerating, shearing in the sheep."
Thanks for visiting, my older posts do get lonesome.