Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #19: Animism

Scientific discovery is the bane of woo-woo’s existence, since New Agers adore their appeals to nature, as well as the ancient, while hilariously spreading their propaganda regarding the ails of societal advance through social media they accessed using the very progressive science and system they abhor. One of the most vital concepts in their repertoire is animism, which is basically the belief that everything is consciousness, and has spirit. The consensus defines matter as being directly constructed from spirit, which they misconstrue in the rhetoric as “energy” so they may dupe some people into thinking their way is scientific. Spoiler: it’s not. Science has revealed much more simple explanations for the existence of stuff in the universe. Of course, New Agers will insist that science hasn’t revealed everything yet, thus they cling to their nonsense as if it has any use.

old time religion

Spiritual concepts evolve over time, thus each age that passes embodies their own particular alterations to the traditions of the past. With the rise of monotheism during the bronze age, many began to reject the ideas of animism, instead asserting that worship of multiple spirits that dwell in the rocks and trees was silly, blasphemous, and primitive. The modern age has provided even better refutations to the tribalistic belief of animism, and the age of enlightenment has shown itself to actually be a utility. Still, woo-woo tribes reject this because they feel it is somehow limiting, regardless of how much the enlightenment age of empiricism has expanded our lifespans, connected us in ways we never imagined before, and given us the opportunity to actually find answers to how the universe functions. So many limits, yet animism has provided lots of inventions and progress of its own, right?

wrong

It is rather childish to anthropomorphize everything you see, and while I typically applaud imagination, I also find it to be a paranoid state in adults who take it too seriously. Think about the implications of everything having a spirit that needed appeasement – the rocks, trees, and grains of sand – all are watching you…

“I think the main reason these beliefs regarding consciousness and spirit are so appealing is because they muffle an inherent dread of death.”

cat

What does this belief do to the human psyche? For one, it gives them a reason to hold delusions of grandeur about themselves.

“I am a super shaman that sees stuff you normies can’t! Behold my pow-ah, and buy my tea leaf readings! They gives you luck becuz spirits!”

Charlatans toting a label of “shaman” tend to prey on those who seek answers, suckering folks out of hard-earned money for the magic beans Mr. or Missus Spiritual pulled out of their holy ass.

goku

Having multiple ghoulish eyes upon you from everywhere, is the ultimate induced state of madness. The consideration of every bad occurrence being the direct result of “dark forces” is a paranoid, irrational, useless belief. Have you ever tried to talk to someone who thinks invisible forces are after them? They get very angry when you try to reason with them, and are not convinced by evidence because “feelings” are what drives them.

I think the main reason these beliefs regarding consciousness and spirit are so appealing is because they muffle an inherent dread of death. We know that at some point, our bodies will fail us, which is a scary notion that us adults must face. The basic claims of this seem to make it quite evident to me:

Everything is spirit.
Spirit is immortal.
I am spirit.
Therefore: I am immortal, and everything.

Talk about some real dedicated wishful thinking! I suppose it takes real courage to face death.

People are free to believe that rocks have consciousness, and that water remembers passing through Adolf Hitler’s bladder, spreading harmful beliefs from the cradle of humanity like babbling infants. However they are ultimately wrong in doing so, and regressive with their agenda. I have every right to question the behaviors that result from this, and to ridicule bad ideas when they affect my life. Those who believe in these fantasies fall into the paranoid pit of their own psyche, which hurts them and their loved ones. I have been one of those loved ones hurt by such horrid fantasies, thus I deem it a duty of mine to speak out against it. Believing these things is like a drug that peaks then crashes – damaging the body, the mind, and relationships along the ride. Ultimately, these ideas become an addiction. Just say no to animism.

pet rock

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #17: Karma and Morality

For last weeks article, click here: Wednesday Woo #16: Astral Projection

One of the most important aspects of life for us social animals our relationships, and in order to maintain good, loving relationships, we must have some sense of integrity. In fact, one of the largest debates during humanity’s enlightenment period was how to conduct ourselves morally. This debate remains alive and well, and is still a very poignant when it comes to progress. Our moral concepts drive us past the instinctively selfish states toward more harmonious goals and achievements, simply because of concern for the best in human well-being. Those who follow the gurus of New Age teachings tend to leave their innate sense of humanity behind, instead choosing a path that encourages selfishness and an utter lack of concern for other people. One of the most important aspects of life for us social animals are our relationships, and in order to maintain good, loving relationships, we must have some sense of integrity. In fact, one of the largest debates during humanity’s enlightenment period was how to conduct ourselves morally. This debate remains alive and well, and is still a very poignant when it comes to progress. Our moral concepts drive us past the instinctively selfish states toward more harmonious goals and achievements, simply because of concern for the best in human well-being. Those who follow the gurus of New Age teachings tend to leave their innate sense of humanity behind, instead choosing a path that encourages selfishness and an utter lack of concern for other people.

Obviously this is not a man who wished to transcend his own selfish desires in order to achieve the best possible morality. Instead, he was more concerned with having as much for himself as possible, surrounded himself with the very rich, and duping them out of millions of dollars so he could satiate his own folly. This is a definite step backward in terms of any serious moral argument born from the enlightenment. While Osho claims to have abandoned the teachings of the past, he certainly seems to be living in accordance to the concept of karma, which is a philosophy utilized by his native India in order to maintain the hierarchy of power and poverty in the country. The caste system is an atrocious, undignified ideology, which highlights consequences being passed on through reincarnation as opposed to actual human effort.
Karma
Basically, karma works as follows:

1. “It’s your own fault, even if you don’t remember why.”
If you’re poor, sick, or being abused, well, tough shit! You should’ve never done the stuff you don’t remember doing. It must have been horrible, so let’s treat you like crap until you learn not to do the things that we have no evidence of you ever having done.
2. “What you do now impacts the future.”
Kind of self evident, but again, this is a grain of truth in a bag full of shit.
3. “We get what we deserve.”
There is no evidence for this, but those who maintain that karma is the medium through which justice is served don’t feel they need evidence, and can selfishly justify treating people like crap while leaning on the idea of “act now, pay later.” What a wayward way of thinking!
4. “Let’s assume that nothing we do matters.”
Of course, this is pretty much where the idea of karma logically leads, although it does contradict the above notions of impacting the future, and getting what you deserve. Perhaps this is the only pillar of the entire philosophy. What kind of real morality assumes nothing at all matters?
5. “Nothing is random.”
Once again, there is no evidence to back up this claim, and only serves as a way to confirm a bias that upholds the monstrosity that is the caste system. This is a religious concept that creates a boundary between the rich and poor, us and them, those who “deserve” horrible lives and those who do not. I see no way that a person could truly hold these beliefs while maintaining a moral way of life. The belief in karma should be abandoned if we are to achieve the best possible course toward human well-being. The struggle to end this type of karmic discrimination has been going on for a long while now, and hopefully, for the betterment of their own people, those who stand against the caste system shall be victorious. The question I have is, do we really want to maintain these ideas of karma that have spread so much horror in the country from which they derive? 

When I was a New Ager, I struggled with accepting this idea, so I had to redefine karma as “lessons we learn in life” as opposed to its actual meaning. I knew about the caste system, and despite wanting to accept the New Age type of enlightenment, a part of me just could not accept karma without changing it to suit my own terms. This was one of the cognitive dissonances I had to face ultimately, and as soon as this concept broke down for me, I began to notice the horrible things people in my “tribe” were saying about other people, as well as world events. The last straw for me was seeing a friend of mine complain about videos being shared on her timeline about the Syrian gas attack that showed children writhing in pain and struggling to breathe. Her issue with it wasn’t about how horrible it was that human beings were made to suffer in such an agonizing way – no, she was bitching because it brought down her “good vibes”.  This made my jaw drop and my blood boil, and upon recalling this event, the hypocrisy and lack of concern still makes me angry. This was a woman who talked nonstop about loving others, yet where was the love?
New Agers say they abhor religion, but this isn’t really the case, they consider all religions to have some sort of truth, which of course is just cherry picking. The truth is that these ancient holy books have very little actual truth in them, and if one follows the logic of old religious concepts like karma, we take a step backward morally. I think we can do better, and in order to do that, we need to leave behind the cruel philosophies of “holy” books.

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #16: Astral Projection

Jennifer is back this week with an all new edition of Wednesday Woo. It was fun to take the reins for a week but I am glad to see her back in the fray. For last weeks article, Christian Woo, click here.


The New Age magical thinking knows no bounds, especially when it comes to the physical world. There seems to be an innate desire within these folks to hold unlimited power, and to escape the dreary limits of their position as a physical being. In other words, they wish to be everyone, and everywhere, therefore the idea of traveling wherever they desire in an instant would definitely hold appeal.

Unlimited Power

In order to actually believe this, you would have to accept that:

1. Consciousness has nothing to do with the brain.
2. You have more than one type of body, and many of your “bodies” are not physical.
3. That it is possible to separate these bodies while maintaining conscious ability.
4. The outdated concept of “aether” is true.
5. Auras are a thing.
6. Chakras are real.
7. That conscious awareness of the chakras, auras, and ether gives you superpowers.
8. Imagination is reality.
9. Near death experiences testimonials are “proof” of these things.

Now that’s a lot to swallow, considering there is no evidence of any of these features. Of course, there wouldn’t be, since (according to peddlers of woo) the physical world is an illusion, and scientific evidence is bullshit. If there is any indication that followers of such concepts are prone to escapism, this is definitely one of them. I cannot blame human beings for having very human feelings, and who hasn’t held the desire to instantly teleport to another place for whatever reason? That would be cool as fuck! However, constructing an entire belief system without evidence just to confirm a comforting lie is not a healthy way of living.

So let’s go over the concepts you would have to accept to sustain a belief in astral travel:

1. Consciousness exists in the brain, and there is evidence for this fact. I have already gone over this subject here. (link to consciousness blog)

2. There’s no evidence for anything other than a physical body.

3. I refer to #2.

4. The concept of aether, developed by Aristotle, was disproven by Einstein’s theory of special relativity. (http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/physics/Ether.html)

5. Auras are more than likely synesthesia as opposed to a real phenomenon. There is no evidence they are real. (http://neurowiki2014.wikidot.com/individual:emotion-evoked-synesthesia)

6.

7. Since none of these things are true, consequently, super human abilities are also bullshit.

8. Imagination is… imagination, and by definition, not real.

Imagination.png

9. **Near** death (not actual death) experiences are produced by brains that are not functioning properly, and therefore do not produce any reliable, demonstrable representation of “spirit” nonsense.

Seems these criteria fall flat on their face, don’t they?

When I was a New Ager, I fervently believed in all of this stuff because I had an out-of-body experience while fasting and inducing a trance state for a few days. I went to sleep, but oddly enough, it didn’t feel as though I had actually lost consciousness. Instead, I seemed to be lingering over my body – watching over it as weird things occurred. Sometime in the middle of the night, three black dogs arrived and began to feast upon my body. It was a very strange thing to witness, but didn’t elicit any fearful emotions. Somehow I got the feeling they were healing me of some ailment or latent psychic problem. Of course, there was no reason to believe this was actually occurring, but I was willing to ignore this because I wanted healing desperately. When I awoke, I felt as though I hadn’t really slept, despite a lack of fatigue. I believed this had actually occurred, despite having no evidence, and never attempted to investigate the instance to find out. Now I understand that it was a dream, instigated by my fasting, trance state, and subconscious desires. I am not the only skeptic this has happened to, either.

 

Notice how investigation brought down the notion of an OBE? That’s how it always pans out, too. Sure you will have “studies” conducted by pseudoscientists offered to you by believers, and there are plenty to be found online and in various books. There’s a also an ocean of anecdotes and testimonials people love to share so they can confirm their own bias, but none of that is evidence of astral travel, remote viewing, or any form of BS out-of-body phenomena. Every time these things are subjected to double-blind studies, they fail miserably. Every. Single. Time. They cannot be replicated, and therefore not scientifically confirmed. And, just for the record, the stuff about remote viewing from the CIA doesn’t count as evidence, either. Just because experiments were done in the past, top-secret ones with redacted information released, doesn’t mean that OBEs really happen. These stories indicate absolutely zilch. One cannot help but wonder why they eventually abandoned these ideas, but I’ll bet it has something to do with the urgency and desperation of a Cold War came to its inevitable end. Hopefully government agencies no longer give a platform to just any kook that crosses their path, but considering the current political climate, who can say?

I know many folks wish to consider their consciousness to be immortal, but there’s no evidence or good reason to believe it. These concepts may be comforting to some, and I understand that, however the truth does matter, however painful it may seem. This discomfort, just like life, doesn’t last. Personally, I am confident that adults can handle an inconvenient truth, even if it makes them uncomfortable.

Comforting Lies

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo: Christian Edition: Name It And Claim It

So Jennifer is recuperating from the holidays and our daughter just went back to school today so writing a blog was the last thing on her mind. So I figured why not jump on here and write my own article for the Wednesday Woo series? Today I will be talking about some of the woo like beliefs that many Christians follow even if there is no biblical standard for any of these beliefs. While New Age beliefs and Fundamentalist Christianity seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of theism some of the beliefs are so similar that you would think they are one and the same.

Prosperity Doctrine

money.png

One of the major ways that American Christianity sets itself apart from the rest of the world would be the plethora of televangelists that promote what is commonly known as “The Prosperity Gospel.” What this set of beliefs attempts to promote is the idea that god will financially bless anyone that fully puts their trust in him. Now how does one put their trust completely into the hands of god, you ask? Well by sending cash to whatever televangelist you happen to like best.

This belief is built around a scripture in the parable of the Sower:

“And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.” – Mark 4:20

So basically the parable is about reaping souls for god, in other words saving lots of people from the fires of hell. However those who promote the prosperity gospel will use this verse and a few other cherry picked scriptures in an effort to give the idea that god wants to make you rich. The other scriptures that these pastors will use deal with the idea of tithing, giving a tenth of all your increase(income) to the priestly order, a practice that was stipulated in the old testament and continued by many Christian sects throughout the centuries. What they then say is that if you give 10 dollars you will receive 100 or 1000 in return and so who wouldn’t want to give a small offering if god is definitely going to return to you all of it and way more.

Well the facts are tithing is a tremendously arduous and sometimes painful process. If you have never practiced tithing, imagine having to set aside ten percent of your income, income that may be needed for food or bills, and giving it away, hoping that you will be blessed in the future. Now charity is good but tithing is in some ways nearly murder. I have known elderly women on social security who have begging for food simply so that they can pay their tithe and not fear the wrath of god if they don’t. This is one of the main reasons that when I was a minister I never taught on tithing, it’s one of the few things that I am proud of from that facet of my life.

So anyway, you give your 10 dollars and you get 100 back, everyone wins right? No because you almost never see this return and when you don’t see the blessings that the minister guaranteed who is at fault? If you said the minister, you’re wrong. The person who is always at fault is the one who gave the money to begin with. What you will hear is that the person gave with the wrong idea in mind, because if you give wanting a blessing then you will never receive that blessing, even if the minister promoted the blessing as the only reason to give.

Now imagine if you went to buy a car, you give the dealership your money and the dealership throws you out on your ass. When you ask why the dealership states that you gave your money expecting to get a car in return and so you don’t get the car. If you had only showed up and given the money with no expectations in your mind, the dealership would have blessed you with a car in return. Does that make any sense? Absolutely not, but this is the exact same mindset that the prosperity gospel promotes. Give your money because a blessing will be returned to you but be sure that you aren’t doing it expecting a blessing because if you do that you’ll end up fucked….It’s absolute bullshit.

name it

Name It And Claim It

In the same vein as the prosperity gospel is the “name it and claim it” crowd.  An offshoot of mainline Pentecostalism this group of ministers claim that your words have power and that if you claim good things you will receive good things, if you claim bad things you will receive bad things. If you think this sounds exactly like new age gobbledy gook then you would be 100% correct.

Basically, what this theology teaches is that our world is shaped by the things we think and more specifically the things we say, hence the “name it and claim it” moniker. While on the surface it might seem innocuous in reality this belief system can be incredibly dangerous. Positive thinking can help to a certain point and a healthy psychological perspective can be built around telling yourself good things that you like about yourself.

Saying “I like my smile” may bring you a simple confidence boost and help you feel better about yourself, however when you look at the opposite side of the coin things get very murky. Let’s say you go to the doctor and the doctor runs some tests only to find that you have cancer, well the “name it and claim it” crowd would tell you that if accept what the doctor says then you do have cancer and it will only get worse the longer you say things like, “I have cancer.” So what are you supposed to do? Go around saying, “I don’t have cancer,” and believing that god has healed you of your cancer. You don’t receive chemo, or surgery, or anything that would take away any amount of trust in god and you simply believe that the cancer doesn’t exist. Do you see the problem with this type of theology?

To bring this to a personal note, my great-grandmother went to a revival meeting one night and asked for prayer due to a heart issue that she had suffered with for several years. The minister prayed over her and asked her if she believed she had been healed, she said that she believed and so he told her to throw away her heart medication in a show of faith before god. The minister moved on to another revival in another town and my great grandmother, full of faith and lacking the heart medication that she desperately needed died of a heart attack. I’m sure the minister never thought of my great-grandmother again but the family lost a matriarch and a young boy got his first taste of skepticism which would stick with him and helped aid him leave the faith many years later.

Oil, Sand, and Other Such Bullshit

poppoff

I’ve laughed and joked about crystals and salt lamps in the past but Christianity has its own bullshit market filled with trinkets that will definitely get you closer to god. You can buy oil from the holy man that has been prayed over by a televangelist. You can buy sand supposedly from the path that Jesus walked which has healing properties because Jesus walked on it at some point in history. I knew a man who had a cloth that he said was dipped in the blood of Christ that he had purchased during a revival, in reality it was a cloth that had been dyed red but he earnestly believed that when he prayed with that cloth in hand that he was closer to god.

A local woman had scriptures written all over her house because it protected her from evil spirits. Really all it protected her from was visitors because there was no way that I was going into the creepy scripture coated house. She had them on her walls, in her cupboards, in every drawer and in every room, the worst thing was she had them scrawled all over the walls of her kids rooms too. I was friends with her son for a short period of time and knowing what teenage boys do with free time on their hand I can only imagine the psychological torture of having to wank it with the bible staring you straight in the face 24/7….not that he wanked 24/7 but you get the picture.

Anyway, most of the trinkets and practices that you see going around from church to church have little to no biblical backing whatsoever and they are simply done because it makes the person who owns it feel better. I’ve always found it hilarious that many people walk around with crosses draped around their neck even though the bible explicitly prohibits any sort of iconography. The Catholics get around this by simply removing that commandment from the top 10 but isn’t that just cheating?

mother teresa.jpg

To finish up I’ll leave you with another personal story. We had a woman in church, an elderly woman whose husband had died many years prior. She had her husbands bible and she would say that whenever she read from that bible it was as if her husbands warmth enveloped her and she felt gods power working deep inside her…Basically god granted this bible orgasmic properties which….more power to her but not the type of thing that a teenage boy wants to think about when he’s trying to wank it in his room after church….

That’s right I told the story of my great-grandmothers death and included two wanking jokes in the same blog….yep, I’m awesome!

 

 

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #15: On Higher Consciousness

For last week’s Woo,  click here.

I had a conversation the other day with a man who maintains adamantly that consciousness can in no way stem from the human brain. His reasoning was built on the fabrications built by multiple pseudoscientists, and he was happy to name every single one of their publishings, one after the other in pursuit of my concession to his claims. He was quite disappointed, but we did end the confrontation peacefully, despite the fact that I still had so many questions, specifically regarding what he deemed as the source of consciousness, and why he felt so strongly and personally about the subject. Now I am left to my own speculation, which is quite imaginative to say the least:

Perhaps he feels consciousness arises from magical pixie dust that is spread throughout the ether.

Or maybe he thinks all energy of the universe conspires to make sure Pee Wee Herman can distinguish between himself and his own porno stash.

It’s also possible he considers conscious awareness gets its source from unicorns who emit beams of thought to us from their magical horns.

But most likely, his belief stems from a total misunderstanding of quantum physics…

But quantum physics does nothing to explain a consciousness incapacitated from brain damage. No amount of “studies” on *NEAR* death experiences produced can explain the vegetative state, nor can they negate a multitude of evidence that damage to the brain causes changes in personality.

Now while there may be many things we still have yet to know about consciousness, there is no need to fill in the gaps with wild claims. As neurology progresses, we shall learn more about our sense of self, and it will be an exciting endeavor as we peer through the marvelousness that is higher order consciousness. While speculation about these things may be fun, it can be harmful to assume that damage to a human brain cannot possibly change identity. I have known folks who suffered from head trauma, which subsequently altered their sense of self, behaviors, and ability to function at the same level before their injury. If the source of their consciousness stemmed from somewhere other than the brain, then why did the brain being damaged alter who they were? This is a worthy question to ask the New Agers who tend to separate the brain from the self.

From my perspective as a skeptic, the simplest explanation is the most likely, hence the higher functioning consciousness human beings utilize has evolved over a long period of time with genetic and environmental factors working in unison as contributors to developing the human brain. We had to be inventive and anticipate the future in order to survive, and this implies a deeper understanding of our own mortality – we realize that death is inevitable, and that can be an unsettling concept. We try to rationalize our own death in order to escape the fear attached to such an idea, as well as the pain that arises when we lose the company of those we adore. It’s the human condition to occupy the spaces of boredom, happiness, sorrow, and a deep sense of loneliness that accompanies higher order consciousness.

Assumptions regarding the perplexity of one’s self awareness and inner dialogue play leap frog with logic. While human consciousness may present itself as the end-all be-all that permeates everything, there is no way we could possibly know for sure, but nonetheless, the woo crowd takes this ball and runs with it. They claim that since observation is key to translating reality, that it *must BE* reality itself, and from this follows eternal life. The reasoning is that consciousness is energy, and energy only changes form. But of course, entropy isn’t considered as a portion of this idea, because that would be deterioration, which is a negative cherry these folks tend to avoid.

Panache

The cattle finds these sweet patches throughout New Age fields to be euphoric, but in truth is a misunderstanding of what we know of consciousness, and acts as if scientific inquiry yet touches the subject. We have discovered magnificence within the field of neuroscience. Like I said in a previous article, these folks long for the comfort of some sort of hive-mind, but have yet to question the implications or efficiency in their reasoning. Herds have immunity to being reasonable.

Example of this:
Elf.png

“I am all that is real…”

Kinda doesn’t follow the whole “death of the ego” concept. The incongruities just keep piling up with the enlightened crowd, don’t they? But you can bet your bottom dollar that when faced with the problems in logic, they will add some special pleading into the mix to make these ideas work, because the aim is to believe we are more than mere animals subject to mortality. It makes us feel better to think this way, at least until the frail reality of life hits someone over the head, and we must rely on the hard-working neurologists to help them recover. I am so thankful we have medical professionals and scientists to come to our aid! To me, that is way more of a comforting thought than any nonsense the woo folks can conjure.

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 #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. 

 

Cruise.png
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.

Wednesday Woo

Wednesday Woo #7: Demons and Denial

For last weeks Wednesday Woo, click here.

New Age and occult philosophy has a wide array of imaginary life forms or forces within their belief systems. From demons to faeries, egregores, and ghosts, the possibilities are endless when it comes to the realm of the unseen world. The majority explanation is these creature are directly constructed by the mind, since most things allegedly manifest through thoughts. Silly as it may sound, this notion is notorious in such “tribes” or circles of influence within the community. “Your thoughts create your reality” is a common meme within their threads:

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Which of course leads to thousands of YouTube videos about how “The Matrix” is a true depiction of how reality works.

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What I find problematic is when people think the supernatural beings in their imagination are actually real, and are in a complete state of helplessness. They become panicked, lose sleep, begin unnecessary fights, and of course, frantically spend time, money, and effort in trying to find some peace. This state of mind can cause erratic behaviors in a person, often leading to a loss of job, and cause inevitable strains on relationships. It’s really ironic yet totally disheartening to find those in search of tranquility are losing their grip on sanity and solace. Many of these folks wouldn’t normally be prone to such a paranoid state of mind, but there are some who hold a psychological/genetic disposition.

It’s tedious to direct a believer toward reason and away from these ideas, especially a psychotic one. To detach their personal identity from their premonitions of invisible forces initiates a fight or flight response. They have become a see-er, scryer, prophet, crystal child, star-seed, or a light worker who is on a mission from the divine to save the world and bring forth some sort of utopia, and now some critical thinker is asking for evidence of their claims. Their philosophies have now been reduced to absolute, dichotomous thinking, where they are the good guys fighting the negative Nancys who dare to question their wisdom and powers. The system alone is set up to label all critics as “fearful sheep” who need to “do their research” – a common conspiracy theorist response that shuts down the conversation before it even begins. If you do not hold the same idea of reality as they do, then you’re still plugged into the Matrix, and either are in desperate need of them to awaken you, or are in the grasp of an evil force. So much for the concepts of rejecting duality, and us being all one.

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Perhaps you’re wondering why anyone would adopt a belief in the power of thoughts such as this, but in all honestly, I cannot emphasize any one variable as a cause for every single person. What I can assert is my own reasons for cultivation and preservation of supernatural conclusions and the beings that may dwell within. I am a pattern seeking human being  – making connections where there may be none.
In a world such as this: with all of the struggle, grief, and unfairness, it’s comforting to find some sort of explanation, especially one that makes one feel more powerful.

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But is it the idea of unseen worlds influencing our personal experience really the least complex when contrasted with innate human qualities such as pattern seeking? Is it much simpler for my mind to actually be creating all of the detail of reality, or that reality exist independently of my thoughts? There is millennia of evidence that existence was before my arrival, and I think it’s a safe bet that it shall continue on long after I have died. It’s much more complicated for everything to be a product of thoughts than it is for things to just simply be. Evidence is predicated upon predictability, testability, and reliability, therefore anything beyond this scope has the potential to be set aside until further investigation. Even if this reality were a simulation, or a product of some super, unified mind, how could I possibly test this?

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It logically follows that if human beings had the power to connect with the mystical, we would have some way of proving this, right? It would be even more sweet if they could demonstrate their powers, AND collect a prize for their efforts! Sadly, this has yet to occur.

Here’s some of the more recent prizes offered for a demonstration of paranormal abilities:

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This of course doesn’t make the paranormal to be any less lucrative of a business. There are many books, and workshops dedicated to teaching people how to wield their non-existent magical powers. I cannot tell you how much money I spent purchasing books, crystals, talismans, oils, and charms in order to alter my mind so I could manifest a better reality. Truthfully, it did give me a nice distraction from whatever was stressing me out at the time, but it did very little to help my pocketbook, nor my long-term peace of mind. I have spent many nights awake in bed fearing whatever weird presence was there. I get cranky when I’m lacking sleep, so of course, this would make matters worse. I kept thinking I saw stupid signs everywhere, which conjured up some rolled-eyes when I would mention this to others. Pretty sure that’s not what the spells were for, but I digress…

So, if the belief in the paranormal can potentially lead to financial chaos, delusional thinking, tear apart personal relationships, and disrupt your inner peace, wouldn’t you want it to at least be true? A skeptic would maintain that extraordinary evidence would be necessary for such extraordinary claims.

I wrote a short letter to my past self that kinda sums up how I feel about my old beliefs. Thank you for reading!

“Dearest Friend,

Why have you chosen to believe in whatever satisfies your imagination’s fancy? Wouldn’t it be better to occupy your mind with things that can be demonstratively true instead? You read Plato and thought life to be an illusion. Movies can be evidently differentiated, therefore while your creativity may know no bounds, your reality is indeed a subject to physical limitation. There’s no proof that those cloud angels are empirically there, however, they can shield your eyes from a harsh sun, if even for a brief period of time. There is no joy lost in living a moment that is evident, and no productivity within chasing the shadows. Demons do not truly haunt you; it’s merely a metaphor for a feelings not yet expressed. What I can know for sure, is that life as you know it shall eventually come to a close; so precious few moments left to enjoy. Is it your wish to waste them in deep paranoia of demons?

Signed,

Your Ability to Reason

P.S. You don’t have to have superpowers to be a positive influence on your world, or to be worthy of your existence. Love yourself as you truly are.”