Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #14: Shamanism and Psychosis

For last week’s article, Click Here.

For this article, I wanted to discuss something a bit more serious, as well as very personal. Psychosis, if left untreated can have a negative impact on the individual, causing isolation, loss of financial stability, and self harm (including suicide).

Symptoms of psychosis and treatment: https://www.nami.org/earlypsychosis

The New Age movement has a way of exalting mental illness in a way that can be problematic for those already suffering from delusions and/or paranoia. The belief system provides reinforcement of an already grandiose sense of self, and if one has psychosis or anxiety about the world, it can have significant consequences. A person with mental illness who holds the belief that they are a shaman with special powers, gives themselves the green light to simply follow their impulses, as well as anxious ideas, while disregarding any reasonable explanation. This isolates them from support of family, friends, and psychiatric help that could potentially ease their symptoms. The individual will reject any idea that there is anything wrong with their brain function as a personal attack on who they deem themselves to be. Confirmation bias is all they will allow into their consciousness, and they will seek out persons and sources who will fulfill their fantasies of being a powerful entity who sees and hears that which is not present in reality.

As you can see in the above example, the denial is quite strong in this individual diagnosed with bipolar. Unfortunately, he is not an outlier. Most folks with the same diagnosis are very uncomfortable with being told they have a mental illness, since there is a stigma attached to it (though with expanding awareness, not as much as it used to have), but also the medications they offer tend to dampen the excited, euphoric states of mania and heightened self-esteem that accompanies it. While the heightened state of mood provides a wonderful high, the lows are extremely dangerous. Yes – medications suck, but not being able to function is much worse, as is the inevitable crash that ensues after mania has ceased. Bipolar individuals are at a high risk of suicide, and are more likely to abuse drugs, which medication along with therapy can help curb significantly. The idea of gaining a diagnosis being merely a label is an absolute myth. There is so much more to diagnosis than merely slapping on a “defective” sticker – it is a way of identifying an inner struggle, and offering solutions in order to tackle the issues that arise from genetic dispositions.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2004, and began taking medications as treatment. They helped somewhat with manic symptoms, such as impulsivity and racing thoughts, but the depression was much more difficult to manage, so I quit taking them in an attempt to wrap myself in the comforting high of a mood I considered better. Soon after, I left the love of my life during a state of impulsive mania – a decision I regretted for nearly a decade afterward. After moving back in with my mom, I began college and found a bit of solace in my studies. After finals that semester, depression hit me with a vengeance. I began to contemplate how much I missed my husband, and felt all alone in a world that no longer seemed to have a purpose. My mother knew about my feelings, but wasn’t very supportive at all. She assumed I was merely being histrionic when I said I wanted to die. Her lack of empathy made the situation much worse. Now there was a sinking feeling that absolutely no one cared, including the very person who gave me life. So I decided merely wishing for death and talking about it was no longer enough. I took the remainder of my Xanax prescription, and slit one of my wrists before passing out in the bathroom floor. To my dismay, I awoke at some point, though memory fails me as to what occurred for quite a few days afterward. Mom urged me to go back to the psychiatrist, and I began the meds once again.

Things got back to “normal” for a few years. I went back to school, and worked as much as I could to keep busy. After my mom’s death in 2008, my self-care went out the window, and grief took over my life for quite a few of the following years. I quit school, and tried to focus on just going to work. After discontinuing my mood stabilizers, the depression and mania I felt worsened, and it got to where I had to drag myself to my stressful job some days, then ride the wave of irritation on others. It was incredibly rough, not only because I was still grieving, but also having to deal with symptoms of a mental illness for which I denied myself treatment. In fact, I felt the only thing motivating me to continue forward was the manic states, which had me working circles around my fellow employees, and eventually I got promoted to management. When the depression hit, I would often become ill from forcing myself to work at the same pace as I did during mania, but would still press onward because I desperately needed the money.

Eventually forcing myself to deal with a stressful state of grief while working through the ups and downs of my mood took its toll on my grasp of reality. During a day of particular high stress at work, I glanced over toward the store’s entrance to see my deceased mother walk in. I knew it was a hallucination, and immediately felt the tears well up in my eyes. In my distress, I ran to the back so no one would see me so upset. It was embarrassing, especially since we were at the peak time of business, so I knew my absence was quite obvious, but at the same time, I knew my ability to wear a mask of functionality had ceased, and this was a psychotic break.

Once again, I got back on the medication, but this time, I had to take something stronger to tackle the psychosis. There were terrible side-effects: some medications turned me into a zombie, others made me confused. It was absolutely devastating and degrading to have to visit the psychiatrist as well. There had to be another way.

I got online, and I found a plethora of ideas regarding bipolar that made me question my condition. One of the ideas I ran across was presented by Phil Borges, who asserts that bipolar disorder is a spiritual awakening as opposed to a “label” of mental illness. It was an appealing idea for me, so I looked into the concept more and more. I became obsessed with the idea that my mom had REALLY visited me, and that I was being called to mysticism, so I quit my job in an effort to dedicate my life to the esoteric. I felt exactly as the guy in the above video felt – I had been misdiagnosed, and my gifts were being suppressed by medications. I was a spiritual being in a physical body, and all that mattered was my spirit, which of course was powerful enough to heal the entire planet. It was so easy to believe this, especially since it felt good during the manic cycle, but as always, the depressive side of me awaited. Regardless of how much time I wasted learning about the mystical realm, I didn’t truly feel healed. Believing in spiritual concepts only widened the gap between my extreme moods. Considering the notion of the physical world being of no consequence, when the extreme lows hit, they were lower than ever. During one depressive episode after my “awakening” I decided to take a stroll down a nearby highway and wait for a truck so I could jump in front of it. Fortunately, there was no traffic at that time.

While in the manic cycle, I was ridiculously motivated to push these beliefs onto other people, and my delusions of grandeur got much worse. Everyone who rejected my ideas were sheep, and those who agreed were the wise ones of my tribe. Conspiracy theories made the most sense, and skeptics were limited fools who simply held no creative energy. My following on social media expanded to the maximum level, and there were a multitude of folks willing to grant me my delusional mindset, and even cheer me on. This was such an intoxicating feeling, especially for someone who had once felt that absolutely no one in the world cared. I found I could induce psychosis by going into trance states, and felt I had amazing abilities to travel anywhere, even to other planets via the astral plane, as well as intuit what people were thinking.

There were moments to doubt my newfound spiritualism, though. Some of the people had notions even I had to reject. I recall getting a comment from someone who claimed he was the Christ, and that people tremble when he “would become”… whatever that meant. Even in my own madness, I knew this was a strange statement. There were others who acted questionable whom I had attracted, including people who believed bigfoot was a spiritual guardian, and that unicorns were a real thing. I began to veer toward skepticism more and more because of this. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, I started noticing the consequences of folks feeling their facts, and how a lot of the stories people were sharing were fake. This made me question some of my own sources. The more real evidence I tried to find to validate my spiritual beliefs, the more I found rational arguments and evidence to the contrary.

After some time, I decided to abandon my spiritual pursuits and get back on medication. Now, I am more or less still in recovery from my partially self-inflicted psychosis, and it is very difficult to be around some of the folks I love because I see them falling into the same traps as I did – the conspiracy theories, grandiose ideas of self, a dangerous rejection of science, and the spread of ideas that cause nothing more than a sense of guilt for one’s own humanity. None of these things are healthy, especially for individuals who are already genetically prone to losing their grip on reality. Some of the folks I have known were driven to homelessness because they chose to follow these ideas and reject social norms like holding down a job, or relying on a family that loves them simply because they suggested they get psychiatric help, or they questioned their supposed shamanistic abilities.

There are many other varieties of mental illness that can be worsened by these harmful belief systems that reject science, such as OCD, schizophrenia, substance/alcohol abuse, depression, and other forms of anxiety. The denial and exaltation of these psychiatric problems runs very deep in the New Age community, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t issues there that can be managed with therapies and medication. The idea that we should play into the delusions of psychotic individuals only makes the problem worse, and can have a life-altering impact. So please, if you are suffering, let go of these unfounded beliefs and get professional help.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the national suicide hotline (https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org )at 1-800-273-8255

NOTE: The above is a United States phone number. Here’s the international list: http://ibpf.org/resource/list-international-suicide-hotlines

 

This week, I have an additional contributor to Wednesday Woo. Being a nurse, she has a professional perspective, and I am very honored to have her featured. Without further ado, here’s Stephanie’s very apt addition:

TV-Nurse-Jackie

“A Nursing “Woo” Story.

I didn’t decide to be a nurse until I was in college. I was fascinated with medicine growing up but didn’t feel confident enough to pursue a medical degree. Since then, I have found a love for the nursing profession and am very fulfilled. I do not believe I would have found the same satisfaction in medicine.

Having said that, there are disappointments in nursing. One is that while nurses are generally bright individuals, the educational requirements are more rigorous than many paths, the scientific rigor required to practice is extremely variable. Remember that many nurses enter the field with as little as 1 year of vocational school training. As many as 40% of practicing nurses do not have a bachelor degree and have never taken a statistics course or research methods. I did not take these until I was 20 years into my career. I say all this to try to excuse one of the most egregious uses of “woo” within a so-called science-based profession.

Going through nursing school I learned of an alternative therapy called “therapeutic touch”. In short, a nurse trained in therapeutic touch (TT) holds his/her hands over a body part that the patient or nurse feels may be the source of discomfort. By sensing temperature differentials, the nurse is able to tell where “energies” are imbalanced and by some technique (I’m not versed in this) is able to balance the energies and heal the patient of the imbalance. I thought this was crazy when I was in nursing school because I was a good Christian and this sounded like New Age hokey. Later on I became more educated, more secular but had forgotten about TT.

Then I found an article from the late 90s of a school child who tested TT. Unsurprisingly her mother was an RN who disbelieved in TT. Her child had seen her mom watching video of the techniques and supposedly suggested a way to blindly test the practitioner’s ability to perceive energy fields. Previous experiments were not this rigorous, generally had small sample sizes, poor design and a plethora of other issues.

The 11yo helped design, recruit and perform the experiment where the practitioner, who could not see if a person’s hand was behind a curtain, had to feel the energy of the hand and report that the hand was present or absent. The results showed the practitioners had no better success than chance would give them. The parents helped the child write-up the results and they were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Granted, the AMA has on occasion had a contentious relationship with the nursing profession but the data was made available, they were quite transparent. A Cochrane review (one of the most respected reviewers of medical effectiveness evidence) has warned of the unproven nature of the treatment and that any positive effects are likely due to the positive interactions between the patient and the practitioner.

So sorry for the length of this woo story. My take home message is, even respected healthcare providers can be questioned. This technique is still widely taught in nursing schools and is part of many (if not most) of nursing textbooks. One reason I want to be a nurse researcher is to drive the profession away from unproven methods and toward proven methods of helping and healing. The more I read on nursing history and underlying theory, it is really sad how many of them integrate unproven or unprovable premises for nursing practice. The supernatural beliefs run the gamut from Christianity and other traditional religions to more modern versions like New Age spiritualism.

So please, if your healthcare provider wants to try therapies that sound strange, ask them for the supporting evidence. They might not be able to instantly present it to you but should be able to get you a couple of articles at minimum or at least some searchable key words for Google Scholar.

And that little girl, Emily Rosa, she entered the Guinness book for the youngest author of a paper in a peer-reviewed journal and is now a college graduate. I have to believe her parents are so proud of her.

 

Cochrane review:

https://www.ahcmedia.com/articles/33533-therapeutic-touch-and-wound-healing

Emily Rosa’s article:

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/187390

A quackwatch article by one of the co-authors exploring questions on method:

https://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/ttresponse.html

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo: New World Disorder

New World Disorder

One would be hard pressed to have browsed youtube for any period of time without running across the plethora of videos pertaining to the unseen, powerful reach of the so-called “Global Elite” AKA “The Illuminati” conspiracy theory. In fact, these theories have been a pop culture sensation for several generations, and is a favorite of those who have a deep-seeded need to gain an explanation for an authority responsible for their life’s issues; a scapegoat to bare the burden of all their ailments, shortcomings, and missed opportunities in life. Psychologically, it seems to be a way for adults to point the finger at a shadowy group of parents who guide and interfere with major aspects of their lives, and no worldview is immune from this way of thinking. There are lots of symptoms of this shadowy elite, including significant news events like assassinations, mass murders, elections, any scientific advancements, and world banks. It would take a lifetime to debunk them all. Instead I will focus on some of the more extreme ends of the spectrum in an attempt to offer an insight into the type of worldview the conspiracy theorist will hold.

Alex Jones

From a Christian conservative viewpoint, the NWO is an attempt to break away from the good ‘ole days when everything was considered simpler, and guided by religious institutions. That old time religion dominates their ideology, and their main fears are biblically based. “Worship is for God, not government,” thus many of their theories have to do with some deep state movement that will supposedly usher in the era of the anti-christ. Their brand of paranoia is largely an innate fear of losing their religious identity to a more global, diverse and materialistic existence that is open to scrutiny, doubt in God, and critique of their traditionally held beliefs. They are often skeptical of any new form of technology, science, and secular movements as a threat to their traditional way of life. Often times they hold bigoted ideas, and will justify xenophobia, racism, a hatred of sexual freedom, and a reluctance of education for their fear of the globalism.

Well, it’s 2017, and I still have yet to receive my microchip, but I am rather enjoying the Obama dictatorship. Oh wait… Nevermind.

On the New Age more liberal end, the NWO tries to obstruct progress, keeping everyone docile, by opposing free-thought. Ironically, this side tends to be more concerned with an appeal to nature; being skeptical of geoengineering, genetically modified foods, and vaccinations to prevent disease. They have the same kind of traditional ideology, but it claims to be less religious, and has a more “natural law” flavor to it. They tend to hold very conflicted ideas regarding tribalism, since their love for a time when folks roamed the planet like animals, foraging for their food, and disregarding modern hygiene conflicts with their wish to evolve as a species as well as their claims to inclusivity of differing cultures. Most have no idea of the hardship this would all impose. They claim society enslaves people through television, chemicals in medicine and in the water, contrails, GMOs, HAARP, and employment. Yes, being able to work for money is considered slavery because it isn’t enjoyable to the woo crowd.

COnspiracy

What both these groups have in common is misconception, a longing for a simplicity they can comprehend, and a fantasy of unbridled freedom from a society they feel is an unbearable imposition to them. They’re bored, are suffering because they feel left behind, and seeking some sort of pattern to their disfunction. The internet has provided a breeding ground for the spread of this nonsense, and anyone who is skeptical of their claims is immediately told to, “do the research.” Since science has guided the progression of our social norms in many ways, these folks also tend to be luddites – wary of any sort of technology. What I find hilarious is how the Church will say New Agers are Illuminati, but New Agers consider the Church to be Illuminati, but in reality, the Illuminati is no longer a thing.

The Bavarian Illuminati, founded in 1776 by Adam Weishapt was a movement against prejudice, superstitious beliefs, and government overreach. It challenged the catholic church, as well as its power over the public. As a result, the Bavarian Duke-Elector issued a number of edicts banning secret societies, and arrests ensued. Weishapt was eventually exiled, having been labeled a conspirator with Bavarian’s rival at the time, Austria, as well as a heathen who dared to critique the religious institutions. Of course, while there were documents found by police discussing not only the benefits of atheism, but also suicide and abortion – two very much taboo subjects for the times. The lies constructed to demonize the group were plentiful and ridiculous, but when you sprinkle a little bit of truth in them, lies become somewhat believable to those who want them to be true. Many of the conspiracy theories have survived the lengthy passage of time, including how the group planned to poison its enemies, pull the strings of power in order to gain control over the masses, and destroy the constructs of society in an effort to usher in a new world order. This was a backlash to the enlightenment era of science and philosophy, and was often a means to shut down free-thinkers by conservative religious organizations in the late 1700’s.

But this faction of the enlightened was claimed to have survived in secret, and influenced the French revolution in Augustin Barruel’s “Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism” and John Robison’s “Proofs of a Conspiracy”. Literature made its way to the United States, keeping the ideas of these religious apologists alive. For a lengthy period, it remained on the fringes, and most people would chuckle at their crazy uncle when he would strongly maintain that: “The global elite had their scientists create the AIDS virus to create a public panic to distract us from their plans – IT’S TRUE! Look it up!” But these ideas have wiggled their way to the mainstream, thanks to easier access and the potential to capitalize on credulity. Even the History Channel, Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu have a plethora of “documentaries” describing secret societies and the “truth” of how they dominate the world. The books by Dan Brown, like “Angels and Demons,” having been a best sellers and adapted into a movies, revived the crackpot theory of a super powerful world dominating Illuminati, that is hellbent on keeping the truth of their power a secret by any shady means possible.

Another aspect of all of this is how the theorists come from entirely different worlds views, yet aspire to be fighting the same people, who they claim are working together. I find this notion highly unlikely, since many folks, even ones on the same side, tend to fight one another, and can’t keep activities secret. There’s no way that opposing forces would be a dominating world power while keeping it under wraps. I think it is more likely that folks are taking their expanding their own ideologies and creating an enemy to reinforce their bias. Remember confirmation bias?  The conspiracy theory confirmation is also largely based on symbolism, which could mean anything the believer wishes it to mean. Don’t like a certain pop star? Illuminati. Don’t like the current Prime Minister? Illuminati…. (of course!)

gaga

 

The truth is, human beings are hard wired to seek patterns and intelligence behind circumstances in their personal lives, as well as the entire world. Sometimes we pick up on real patterns, often we get a false positive.

It’s important for us to have these processes, but also to gain an understanding of how they function in order to avoid making cognitive mistakes like conspiracy theories. These types of ideas can be very harmful to relationships, as well as instigate a feeling of paranoia. It’s simply not good for one’s mental health to take up conspiracy theory ways of thinking.

More information:

http://www.bavarianilluminati.com/2011/

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/archaeology-and-history/magazine/2016/07-08/profile-adam-weishaupt-illuminati-secret-society/

https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Illuminati

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-people-believe-in-conspiracy-theories/

http://theconversation.com/why-people-believe-in-conspiracy-theories-and-how-to-change-their-minds-82514

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo: The Empath

Having been produced by millions of years of natural selection, the human brain is such a phenomenally fantastic organ, and the study of neuroscience has given us a great window into how it operates. Common misconceptions maintain that brain function remains a complete mystery to science, leaving imaginary gaps in function of  the human psyche. One of those gaps that woo-woo wishes to fill includes the concept of empathy, which of course is attributed to the ambiguous term “energy” as well as a cacophony of other facets, real and imagined. You cannot have New Age beliefs without exalting yourself as some sort of psychic, thus this particular brand I will cover today is labeled as “empath”.

Some of the attributes of supposed “empaths”:

1. Ability to sense feelings of another.
2. Literal mind reading capacity.
3. Feeling drained from social situations.
4. Psychic connection to the spirit world.
5. Knowing when people are lying.
6. Psychometry – ability to psychically read the history of objects through touch.
7. Susceptibility to illness by being around sick persons.
8. Capacity to heal others by taking on their pain and releasing it…wherever….

There are many other claims of course, but these are the main characterizations typically given as symptoms of being a super psychic empath. Now if you are a fan of Star Trek, you will find these themes awfully familiar. As a child of the 80’s and 90’s, I was personally reminded of a character named Commander Deanna Troi, who was half human, and half Betazoid, which is a telepathic alien race.
Troi
Recently I began to watch the original series of Star Trek, when I ran into this episode. It was uncanny…

Star Trek: The Original Series – “The Empath”

Lots of folks seem to get their New Age beliefs from movies and TV programs. I have mentioned the ideas they have regarding “The Matrix” being a real thing previously. This is no different, and often fiction will be mixed with some bits of reality in order to relate to the audience. But when it comes to the actual claims regarding empaths, how can the truth be distinguished from what’s false?

Sure, I can understand the human source of empathy arriving at the behest of such things as mirror neurons, and perhaps the brain is largely responsible for responses to our social encounters. Neuroscience gives us quite a bit of understanding of how we feel empathy, as Dr. Thomas Lewis demonstrates below:

Perhaps there is some merit to the idea of being able to detect emotions from micro-expressions, and other non verbal forms of communication. I will even grant being around sick people can often be the source of one’s own illness because of the germ theory, and that stress can lower immune system responses.

But psychic healers? Well, there’s hoards of people who wish to believe this, yet sadly no evidence. If these people actually can heal with their abilities, perhaps they should visit as many hospitals as possible. If this notion is mentioned to anyone who claims to be an empath, watch them squirm to move the goalpost. They will say “oh but my abilities aren’t fully developed yet,” or “it drains me when I do a healing for free.” You heard that right… “for free” because it seems there is no corner of the internet where you cannot find a supposed reiki healer.

BS Detector.jpg
I used to consider myself an empath, and in some ways, I still do, except for the psychic nonsense. The truth is, aside from those who have defects in mirror neurons or unusual brain patterns, the majority of human beings have an uncanny ability to empathize, and it assists us in maintaining a healthy group dynamic. Identifying with a group is very important to the human race, and it’s this very thing that seems to lure some folks into believing they belong to an elite association of empathic light workers.  For example, the other day I ran across a self-proclaimed empath who felt it was their job to condemn a selfie poster as lacking in self-esteem. They were quite shocked to gain some backlash. You’d think a person with psychic feelings would’ve seen that coming…

Ironically enough, those who consider themselves an authority in regard to feelings tend to tread on others and misunderstand quite often. However, when questioned rationally, this authoritative stance breaks down completely, especially since humanity has empathy written into the fabric of their being. It’s definitely no outlier when one can relate to another’s feelings. A simple and rational explanation for the human capacity for empathy lies within the proven theory of natural selection. As mammals, our brains are hard-wired to care for our offspring; as apes, we are a very social species, thus the proponents of caring for one another is a key aspect of our survival. There is no need for the additional burden of supernatural abilities, nor pseudo-authoritative labels.
Spock

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #11: Wishful Thinking

For last week’s Wednesday Woo, click here.

Matrix

The latest craze in New Age philosophy, called the “law of attraction” has dominated pop culture like a maddening song. It’s the MMMbop of self help, running through people’s heads, and echoing from their lips like the annoyingly positive verbal diarrhea that it is. “Thoughts become things….thoughts become things,” is parroted over and over again, washing over the world’s populace as waves of stupid provoked by a raging storm of charlatans and self-help gurus who decided to enrich themselves by plagiarizing the emerald tablet. New age believers often dip their toes in whatever philosophy makes them feel good, since it is a form of pantheism. All religions and ideas have some bit of truth according to the pantheist, so why not steal some ideas from the occult? It would be a great way to sell books, make videos, and hold expensive self-help conferences.
Magic.png
Hermetic philosophy, which derives from the writings (the “Emerald Tablet”) of the fictional character, Hermes Trismegistus, and has inspired occult superstition since the dark ages of Europe. Now it has been simplified and mass produced on a level only the internet and microphone headsets can achieve. I will grant the notion some credit; it did inspire European culture to strive for better science, since many well-known alchemists were staunch followers. Alchemy is now considered a pseudoscience, and was eventually replaced with chemistry. Another contribution attributed to the practice of alchemy is hermetic sealing, which aided us in preserving foods by canning them. Here are the seven Hermetic principles:
Definitions.png

As you can see, many of these terms, like “vibration” “manifest” and “law” are the same ones conflated often by those who tout this inane attraction rubbish. They will tell you that in the*law* of attraction is the power of the*mind* and thinking positive or negative thoughts *cause* the *vibration* of what *manifests* as an *effect* of your thinking. Well then, let’s define these terms scientifically to see if they hold up to scrutiny, shall we?

Law – “A scientific law is a statement based on repeated experimental observations that describes some aspect of the universe. A scientific law always applies under the same conditions, and implies that there is a causal relationship involving its elements. Factual and well-confirmed statements like “Mercury is liquid at standard temperature and pressure” are considered too specific to qualify as scientific laws.’”

Mind – “noun 1.(in a human or other conscious being) the element, part, substance, or process that reasons, thinks, feels, wills, perceives, judges, etc.:the processes of the human mind.2.Psychology. the totality of conscious and unconscious mental processes and activities.3.intellect or understanding, as distinguished from the faculties of feeling and willing; intelligence.”

Cause – 1“a :a reason for an action or condition :motive b :something that brings about an effect or a result trying to find the cause of the accident c :a person or thing that is the occasion of an action or state a cause for celebration; especially :an agent that brings something about She is the cause of your troubles. d :sufficient reason discharged for cause”

Vibration – periodic back-and-forth motion of the particles of an elastic body or medium, commonly resulting when almost any physical system is displaced from its equilibrium condition and allowed to respond to the forces that tend to restore equilibrium.

Manifest – verb (used with object)3.to make clear or evident to the eye or the understanding; show plainly:He manifested his approval with a hearty laugh.4.to prove; put beyond doubt or question:The evidence manifests the guilt of the defendant.
Effect – power to bring about a result :influence the content itself of television … is therefore less important than its effect—Current Biography
Now let’s reword the sentence with the real definitions, and see if it makes sense:

The*statement based on repeated experimental observations that describes some aspect of the universe [and] always applies under the same conditions* of attraction is the power of the *element, part, substance, or process that reasons, thinks, feels, wills, perceives, judges* and thinking positive or negative thoughts *brings about an effect* [of] the *periodic back-and-forth motion* of what *make[s] clear or evident to the eye or the understanding; show[s] plainly* as a *result/influence* of your thinking.
abraham.png
Sounds legit – like these thoughts are playing tennis with reality. So does this “thoughts become things” idea really work? Let’s do an experiment and see:
Think about your favorite movie star all day, and see if they knock on your door. According to this law, it should occur. Remember, laws are testable, and always reliable, like gravity, and should happen very plainly. This move star should knock on your door just as you imagined. Now if this manifests in your lifetime, without you putting forth any effort other than thinking, I will be impressed, and you should win some sort of Nobel prize for having figured out the way of thinking the world into peace. By the way, there are many folks out there trying to do this very thing – have been for years, and yet turmoil continues to exist.

I am obsessed with owls. I know it’s weird, but I like what I like. I think about them a lot, look at pictures, read books, and watch documentaries about them. I thoroughly appreciate owls, still, I rarely see an owl in the wild. If this concept were true, wouldn’t I manifest owls all the time? I think some very negative things about people sometimes – especially when I drive in traffic behind some goon who wants to go twenty miles below the speed limit. I visualize their head exploding, but it never happens. The jury is still out on whether or not this is a negative or positive thought… haha…

The only thing that will manifest as a direct result from the law of attraction is more law of attraction books and videos. Plain and simple, this is an example of wishful thinking. Once again, you have charlatans who want to make money on the desperation of others. Those who are sick, broke, want relationships, and have all sorts of needs would be the very ones attracted to such a notion. Sadly this will not help them, and if someone is sick, this kind of magical thinking can really cause damage. It’s dangerous to tell people they can think their way into wellness as opposed to seeking medical treatment.

I don’t know about you, but I am rather skeptical of anyone with the title “Reverend Dr.”
Now there is nothing wrong with trying to remain positive, in fact, it can help reduce stress which can help people in many ways. But to conflate this logically into every single aspect of reality is absolutely ridiculous and dangerous. I found this video of Rationality Rules where he breaks down the law of attraction quite well, and displays the flaws in the logic.

You can be a positive person without being a sucker to those who are trying to profit from things you desire. The best defense against charlatans is to use critical thinking, and beware of those who conflate scientific terms to suit their own claims.

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #10: Cults and Gurus

For the last Wednesday Woo, click here.

Where does one go when an existential crisis hits, or they feel misunderstood, ostracized, and in need of spiritual guidance? For some, mainstream religion just doesn’t resonate, nor does it fulfill their needs, so they seek something more mystical, and less connected to societal norms. After all, why would someone who felt betrayed by society dedicate their spiritual journey toward a majority religion that represents the masses that rejected them? Perhaps they wish to find something that has a more scientific ring to it, or is connected to otherworldly ideas – like extraterrestrials or inter dimensional beings who can whisk them away from the planet that did not accept them for who they think they are. This creates an opening for charismatic New Age leaders, who offer promises of enlightenment, peace, knowledge, power and fulfillment. While these leaders can seem relatively harmless, some of them do cause significant damage to individuals who fall prey to their manipulation. All one needs to do in order to gain an understanding of just how much dangerous potential a New Age guru can cause is looking to recent and current history.

Osho
Bhagwan Three Rajneesh, known as the “sex guru” in his home country of India, began Poona ashram in 1974, where he criticized the doctrine of organized religion, societal norms, and used his following to enrich himself, as well as have his way with as many women as possible. The ritualistic practices included strange “therapy” sessions where enraged people would seem to throw fits and assault one another while nude. Many of them had to be hospitalized due to injuries of these sessions. Rajneesh had scrupulous morals indeed, and because of his corruption and smuggling practices, eventually had to flee his own country, abandoning a multitude of adoring followers, most of which gave up everything to be with their guru.

In 1981, his trusted aide, Ma Anand Sheela, obtained a 64,000-acre ranch for his cult just outside of Antelope, Oregon. The struggles between the ranch and local/state government ensued. Sheela became quite impatient with this to say the least, and at the behest of her criminally minded guru, did whatever she could to try to stifle those deemed “enemy” by the ranch. She tried poisoning officials, setting fire to their offices to destroy documentation of their ranch’s over-capacity, flooded the towns with vagrants, threatened lives of dissents within the ranch, and eventually had followers poison 751 citizens of Oregon.

Of course, when the shit hit the fan, Rajneesh tried once again to flee. He didn’t quite make it, and was caught in South Carolina, but the horror his cult caused still brings a sense of shock. Eventually he was deported to his home country of India after a plea deal, changing his name to OSHO, and regained a following, perhaps not as significant as before, but still to this day I see people share memes with his face and quotes, as well as videos of him speaking. To be completely honest, it makes me sick to see, and each time I do, I remind people of what a psychopath OSHO was. I have only touched upon some of the story, but if you wish to know more, check out this page. 

 

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L. Ron Hubbard was an author of science fiction, who apparently thought himself to be in the wrong business when he said, “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.” Since he was so adept at coming up with nonsense that didn’t reflect reality, he decided to embark upon a woo-woo solution to mental health with his notion of Dianetics and gave lectures on the how subject. In 1952, he established the “Church of Scientology” based on his writings, and saw to its growth, which led to much controversy around the world. Australia revoked Scientology’s religious status, which of course was later reinstated, but there were also fraud charges in France, and allegations of co-conspiring international theft at the time of his death. Hubbard made many claims about himself that were false, including one that he was a nuclear physicist. If you could think of it, Hubbard claimed to have experienced it, and have extensive knowledge about it. According to his followers, Hubbard could do no wrong, and was the source for all spiritual and psychological growth.

Of course, the belief system is a quite wacky, with their ideas regarding “Thetans” – which are rather like souls, and “Xenu” – a galactic dictator. I don’t wish to really delve much into these aspects, instead, focus on their atrocious practices. What really bothers me about this cult, is how they isolate, abuse, and take total control over their members. They force them to sign contracts with terms of a billion years, make them essentially slave-laborers, and do not allow outsiders to know the goings on of the organization. It costs thousands, and sometimes millions of dollars to move up in the ranks of Hubbard’s teachings, as well as countless hours undergoing “audits” where members hold “cans” in their hands. The cans are attached to an e-meter monitored by inquisitors who ask highly personal questions. The goal is to move up the “bridge to total freedom” through clearing out imprinted memories hidden deep within the psyche, in order to attain a state of pure spirit so they can save the world. That’s not hyperbole – Scientologists actually think their religion saves the world.

David Miscavige, who seized authority over the cult after Hubbard passed, has been said to be highly abusive towards members. Those who do not hold up to his standards are often subjected to his violent fits of rage. If someone speaks ill of Scientology, be sure that Miscavige and his goons will do anything they can to smear them in the press.

Members are not allowed to research scientology, are often held prisoner at what they refer to as “the hole” if they cause a stir. If someone questions the cult and speaks out, they are deemed a “suppressive person” and their families are urged to shun them, tell lies about them, and claim they have committed crimes against Scientology. Those who suffer from mental or physical illnesses are denied access to much-needed medication, and instead, subjected to more audits, which of course, costs them more money. There is absolutely no end to the horrors and abuse this cult inflicts upon people.

If you have yet to check out “Leah Remini: Scientology & the Aftermath” on A&E, I highly recommend it. The show really highlights the personal damage caused by this cult. I have found myself in tears watching this compelling series.
Huuu

Paul Twitchell was another fiction writer from Kentucky who founded the cult of Eckankar in 1965. Much like the rest of the belief systems previously mentioned, this cult isolates its members by rejecting society, makes ridiculous assertions, and has a leader who claims to know the ultimate truth about stuff that happened long ago (without evidence, of course). Followers of this cult consider it the “path of spiritual freedom” – sounds familiar, right? Well, turns out, Twitchell was a member of the Church of Scientology, and was later placed on their “suppressive persons” list. Like Hubbard, he gave lectures on what he deemed as “soul travel”and was urged by his wife to turn his spiritual teachings into a religion. Granted, he dedicated his life to exploring the occult, having joined Premananda Giri’s Self-Realization Church of Absolute Monismuntil, only to be kicked out in 1955, and was also involved in Ruhani Satsang, until he had a falling with its leader, Kirpal Singh.

It seemed that Paul just couldn’t find his tribe, nor a master to give him pearls of wisdom he could pass on. So he decided to pull some from his ass. “Rebazar Tarzs” is what he called his ancient, imaginary ECK master, and supposedly this was the torch-bearer of the cult for over 500 years. There are so many of these fictional figures, and I will not bother to list them all, but according to the religion, they have the ability to help people reach god. How do you reach god? By singing the ancient name of god, which is “HUU” for 30 minutes a day. That simple? Well no. There’s lots of other sounds to study, and all kinds of karma, reincarnation, astral travel woo-woo to go with it. This religion is very much like the Hare Krishnas, except while they do allow Christians to join their cult, but they maintain Eckankar is the ultimate path to god.

The main issue I have with this cult is how is brainwashes people into losing their grip on reality, while defending its leaders multiple lies, plagiarism, and inconsistencies. They are told that society is corrupted, and the only way to think is their way. No questions or criticisms of their ridiculousness is allowed, and you are forced to wash away your personal identity. If one tries to break away from the cult, it takes a long time to adjust to life in society again. Read about their personal accounts here:

http://truthabouteckankar.blogspot.com

I want to assert that the following persons are not all necessarily confirmed to be cult leaders, but I do have my suspicions on how their following acts when it comes to being questioned, as well as how their beloved gurus treat them. Alarm bells also go off when I hear people completely deny reality to not only their own peril, but their families, and society’s as well. While religious apologists tend to insert god claims into the gaps of scientific understanding, New Age believers choose to conflate science in order to justify their claims. This way they can create a following by means of pseudoscience, and sometimes, outright ostracizing science itself, all while maintaining their beliefs are scientific. Many of these gurus will create false dichotomies, false memories, and program their followers to disregard any evidence presented to them that sheds a negative light on or contradicts their outrageous claims.

Teal Scott/Swan has a huge following online, and even has a house full of giddy sycophants to do her laundry, take care of her son (according to one who has lived with her), and come to her defense whenever she makes a horrible claim like: “We should rethink Hitler….” It’s usually echoes of “well, at first it bothered me, but then I listened to her more and more, and decided it was ok.”

The more I listen to her, the more I think she has lost her grip on reality:

Ok… so you’re an alien, Teal? And only YOU can save the planet from these made up creatures that wanna take it over, huh? Sounds as though you made up a problem just to deem yourself the only solution. This isn’t a new tactic. She also has a tendency to gaslight victims of trauma through her shadow work and cutesy sayings like, “What you resist persists.” Again, this is not a new idea. It seems as though Teal did some reading and decided to act as though she is Carl Jung or something. So if I am in danger, or things in my life go wrong, it’s my own fault because I’m projecting, and resisting. I should just stop and allow whoever is abusing me to continue. Sorry, I don’t buy that way of absolute thinking – surely many things are my own responsibility, but to conflate it into all things are my fault is just ridiculous victim-blaming. She forces her housemates to participate in “shadow work” which is much like an inquisition where she has them reveal their deepest fears for millions to see on youtube. There are mountains of other issues with Teal’s claims, and it’s worthwhile to look into them.

*Disclaimer: These are personal opinions; not facts.* Now, this is merely speculation, but I personally consider her a psychopath who takes advantage of people for her own amusement. When I see how people react to her, I am reminded of Ted Bundy and the adoring fans that took audience in the courtroom as he defended himself. “Oh my gawd! He’s so handsome! Surely he doesn’t torture and murder people, and even if he does… HANDSOME!”
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Byron Katie is another one that I keep hearing about, and when I question the methods, of course, her fans get defensive. Just like with the above examples, Katie has a tendency to claim she has THE answer to everyone’s emotional problems. As with all philosophies and techniques that lack nuance, there are some problems with this, mainly when it comes to those who suffer from PTSD. Turns out, practicing psychotherapy without having a psychological degree can lead to damaging effects.

“The work” is an irrational perversion of CBT inquiry, intended as a fix-all cure with sides of suppressing critical thought, and quite possibly the reality of the situation. More victim-blaming.  Those who have participated in her technique have also been subject to public humiliation; having their personal secrets being questioned on stage, and forced to be homeless for a day. While Katie may seem harmless, and there may be some individuals who benefit from her teachings, there is reason for pause when it comes to some of these claims. As much as people pay for these self-help courses, they may as well spend their hard-earned money on a professional who won’t cause them embarrassment, and is subject to confidentiality laws.

Now these are just a few historical and current examples of gurus who mislead people in order to gain a fame, following, money, (sometimes sex and power), but there are many more out there who prey upon those looking for answers, or a sense of community. It’s best to keep your wits about you, and keep your skeptical eye open for attributes of cult-like behavior.

Warning signs of a cult:

1. Suggests they have “the answer” to all of life’s problems that only they can provide.
2. “Love-bombing” or an attempt to influence new comers with lots of affection.
3. Charismatic leader who everyone adores and must never criticize. 
4. Use of euphoric (dancing or chanting) or humiliation (exposing one’s darkest secrets publicly, forced poverty, or forced nudity) driven programming methods to break individuality.
5. Driving wedges between families through isolation and lack of communication. 
6. When questioned by outsiders, those in the cult provide the same cookie-cutter answer.
7. Demonize societal standards, and hold contempt for the law. 
8. Pressures initiates to hand over large sums of money (if not all of their money), and properties. 
9. Wild, ridiculous claims are made, which are typically outright lies. 
10. Dangerous cults do not disclose doctrine and ritual to initiates (no informed consent), and does not allow for leaving without harassment or fear tactics.

If you suspect you or a family member is in a cult, get help, and get out now! The longer an individual is in the cult mindset, the more difficult it is to gain back individual control.

More resources:
https://freedomofmind.com/ex-member-recovery/
http://ownyourbrain.org
http://www.culthelp.info/index.php
http://www.ex-cult.org

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #9: My Woo Journey

For last week’s Wednesday Woo, click here.

This week, I want to do something different and more personal. Here’s the story of my journey from woo.

I had always felt like a misfit – as if those who surrounded me on this planet did not reflect who I was deep inside. This caused a lot of anguish for me, especially after I lost my mom to liver disease nearly a decade ago. She was the only one who even slightly understood me, and even her assessments were sometimes distorted. I was all alone in the world, and desperately felt like I needed to find support and comfort. There were a few friends in my life at the time, but none of them truly seemed to understand what I was going through. They didn’t call or check on me very often, and when they did, the concern didn’t seem genuine, so it was as if I were a burden. I felt abandoned, and as though I wanted to die. There was no luster to any of the things I used to enjoy. Depression had a firm grip on me, and the only motivating emotion within option was anger; seething anger toward everyone and everything. My family felt compelled to argue with me over silly things like where mom was to be buried, and why we didn’t visit as often as they felt we should have in the past. This created a further divide; expounding upon the depression and grief I already harbored.

During these times of darkness, I ran into a lot of financial difficulty. At the time of my mom’s death, I was attending a local university in order to obtain a sociology degree. Depression did not allow me to function for quite some time after her passing, so thinking on a higher level just wasn’t an option anymore. I had a child to support, so it was time to dedicate myself to working full-time instead. Finding ample work to satisfy paying bills and providing for child care was especially tedious. There was a lot of “robbing Peter to pay Paul” kinds of tactics when it came to paying bills, and we ate a lot of ramen noodles. I ended up working at a fast food place, putting in as many hours as I possibly could. Still grieving, and in a state of isolation, despite the fact that I was in a relationship at the time, I put on a brave face, and pushed through each day. He had a wandering eye, couldn’t keep a job for more than a few months, and wasn’t really on my level intellectually. All of the financial responsibility was put on me, but at least he could babysit while I put in more and more hours. It wasn’t long until I got promoted.

One day, while I was hard at work at supervising a shift at the fast food restaurant, I saw my dead mother walk into the establishment. I knew I was hallucinating, and was really afraid, disoriented, and panicked. After having that experience, I decided that it was best to seek professional help. They diagnosed me as “bipolar” then swiftly put me on antipsychotics, which seemed to help, but also stifled some of the characteristics which I felt defined me. There had to be another solution, so I got online to research what was going on, and found some videos on YouTube describing how it wasn’t “bipolar” but an “awakening”. This shall forever be known to me as mistake number one.

My angst to find belonging, as well as my resolve to find tranquility, instigated a willingness to allow my sense of reasoning to fade, and to open my mind to anything that would make me feel better. I began watching more videos on YouTube, including Teal Swan and Spirit Science, then decided that what I need to make my life better was to find enlightenment, which was, from what I had heard, the only pathway toward the peace I required. This opened the social floodgates for me, as I joined enlightenment and esoteric groups. I found myself with lots of friends who sought the same sort of relief from the ails of life. Suffering was what brought us together, and made us question absolutely everything about the reality in which we live. We talked about astrology, tarot, astral travel, aliens and who or what controls reality constantly. Oddly enough, despite all the discussions, I was afraid to disagree with people, even if what they said was something I knew was absolutely wrong or unfounded. All that mattered was getting along, and growing my social circle so I could feel I belonged somewhere. The problem was, I still didn’t really feel like I had found my “tribe” quite yet. There was something missing. My relationship wasn’t working, and by this time, I felt confident enough to leave him, and reunited with my long-lost love, Matthew. I was so happy to be with the one person I knew would really understand me, and felt at the time that it was god/the universe who had granted me that privilege.

Being a peaceful, loving pacifist, who considered all reality to be a creation of a shared mind, I thought all opinions were equally valid. That is until I joined a Gnostics group and saw some posts about how Earth was flat, and the holocaust didn’t happen. This provoked the skeptical side of me, which led me to question the people who I was associating myself. Having been raised fundamentalist Christian, I recognized some of the same tribalistic and anti-science rhetoric from my childhood. I couldn’t help but be bothered by this, so I began researching things people said and shared online to find the truth. It took some time and effort to do this, but it was worth it to truly know if what I was told and personally believing was true. I began to say, “No, that’s not true,” more often, and it no longer bothered me if people liked my evidence or not. It wasn’t merely about appeasing people so they would stay friends with me, but rather what was moral or scientifically proven. It helped a lot that I have a Matthew, who is also a skeptic, and never was convinced by my New Age beliefs, no matter how much I tried to convince him at the time. He questioned me often during discussion, which really highlighted the flaws of my logic. I am forever grateful to him for that.

One by one, my New Age beliefs came tumbling down. After a while, I started to see some major flaws in my initial attempt to escape reality. It was difficult to avoid when I gazed into the reflection of others who believed as I did. One thing in particular made me quite angry at the belief system, was seeing a friend get outraged because someone posted a video of the Syrian gas attack. This person was only upset because it disrupted their “good vibes” that day, not at the horror or injustice of seeing children suffer by the hand of a cruel dictator. I couldn’t even begin to fathom a lack of empathy on this level. That’s when I decided the entire ideology was merely an escape from reality, and a disgusting one at that. There is absolutely no moral compass in someone who would rather deny reality, and a sense of right and wrong, for a conclusion that only makes them feel better.

While I may be a misfit, and a now a skeptic, I still have found some companionship through seeking to understand reality as opposed to escaping it. It’s a much better place, since I don’t have to pretend to agree with everything for the sake of offending others. I can finally be accepted for the contrarian being I am, and while it’s not easy, it is worth the effort. I love science, current events, social dynamics and studying the human mind. These are the subjects I find joy in discussion now, as opposed to aliens and astrology. There is so much more to learn and strive for in reality, and I don’t have to make-believe in order to find peace, happiness, or understanding.

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #8: Pwning Clickbait “Evidence”

For last week’s Wednesday Woo, click here.

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a contrarian as:

“A person who takes a contrary position or attitude; specifically :  an investor who buys shares of stock when most others are selling and sells when others are buying”

If this be the true confines of the term, then I am a contrarian, since I refuse to buy into nonsense beliefs in things without evidence, conflations of the truth, and suspect definitions. I just cannot bring myself to invest in stupidity anymore, no matter how popular it may be, or how happy it makes people feel.

For instance, this shitpost I saw the other day from “author unknown”…

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This author should remain unknown, and their ideas should be well hidden under the moldy rock from which they came. And yes, I redacted the photo and put a cat there. It felt about as silly as the original pic. So yeah – I’m not linking to this credulous drivel. I wouldn’t grant it the privilege of clicks nor the money it receives in ads as a result of these clicks, but I will address the article’s ideas, which I have seen expressed over and over again in woo-woo circles.

One cannot help but wonder about the terms given here. What do they mean by “activation” and “ascension process?” Perhaps the article sheds some light on the writer’s meaning. Turns out, they go on to say that the ascension process is “going back to” the twelve strands of DNA as opposed to two, explaining that these extra strands are on other dimensions. Although some stranded structures could potentially develop artificially or hypothetically, DNA is typically known to be a double helix, and I have no idea why they have conflated mathematical systems like “dimensions” in their article for any other reason than to confuse the reader. Why the hell would our DNA be in the math we made up? Sure, there is the element that we created the math, but that seems to be the only logical connection I can make to DNA being even remotely close to the concept of mathematical dimensions. But don’t take my word for its meaning.

Dimensions

Multidimensional Systems

Dimensions and Equation Systems

Check this one out.  I don’t even like math, but it was easy to define the terms that have been misused in this piece by doing a quick google search. It just goes to show that either “author unknown” didn’t understand what a dimension is, or they are willingly being deceptive. Clickbait would never be deceptive though, right?

Next it goes on to describe how the right and left hemispheres of the human brain are disconnected, so the only course of action to reestablish connection is activating the DNA strands in the other dimensions, and ascend!

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Whatever that means. Assuming they are describing the real, physical human brain, the corpus callosum, a band of nerve fibers, already connects the right and left of the brain.  Knowing the terms the article uses makes it seem like utter hogwash, doesn’t it?

It then continues on to appeal to the ancient, invoking the pyramids and Egypt. Then echoes “spirit science” with the whole “we are evolving from carbon forms to ‘crystalline’ nonsense. It also boasts about how the chakra systems are so wonderful they can cause this newly activated DNA to send and receive messages from the “higher self” to the “soul” – God, right? They must mean god. The next section discusses how you will gain special new “programs” so you can connect to the mythical Akashic record, which supposedly contains all knowledge of the past, present and future. All you have to do is “vibrate at a higher frequency” by altering your thoughts and emotions. Yeah they want you to believe you can talk to magical beings with your DNA and obtain all knowledge that exists in the fairyland dimension by the power of thought and emotions. Cool story, bro.

Picard

 

It concludes with a short description of how this is an ongoing process, since they say children are being born with 3 strands of DNA. (Uh…citation, please?) It ends with the conspiracy theory of how the Annunaki (aliens) altered our physiology, and we must look for a “cosmic wildcard” such as solar flares or cosmic wind in order to activate our DNA back to…however it was. It never says what a cosmic wildcard would look like, so I’m guessing it takes the form of whatever you want it to. I cannot help but wonder what the folks that took this article seriously are keeping an eye out for. Perhaps they took it literally and are awaiting actual wild cards from the game “uno” to fall from the sky.

How I feel reading articles like this:

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While it may feel good to wonder about other dimensions, aliens, and if there is some super-duper space we can tap into in order to gain instant knowledge of everything, there’s simply no evidence to justify believing these things are real. Using these this article and others like it as confirmation to ideas that make you feel superior, and on a path to some kind of super power is pure mental masturbation. Surely if there were a way to activate our DNA and obtain all information of past and present it would have been done already. There would be human encyclopedias among us who could answer any historical question presented, easily demonstrating their knowledge by pointing to the exact location where Jimmy Hoffa is buried (or some other unknown fact that science could verify). The fact is, this idea is utter fiction, and such articles should never be taken seriously. I suppose it just takes too much work to be a skeptic, and far too easy to believe whatever the hell you wish.