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Re: Recovering from New Age Mumbo Jumbo
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: August 28, 2010 10:25PM

This was in a comment from a thread on the SaltyDroid blog back when James Ray was being discussed.

The author of that comment summed things up up so very well that I thought it worth printing here.


X said: # 15 February 2010 at 10:17 am

I am very interested in this topic because my wife and I, pretty experienced Catholics who are hard to fool, were indeed fooled by the New Thought movement.

I would like to start by saying this:

Whether you are Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, or Aetheist…

Run…run hard far and and fast from any one, any book, or any “siritual center” that preaches this rhetoric.

They are all scam artists who like to pick and choose from accepted religious philosophies in order to string together a mosh of BS designed to mess with your mind and fish through your wallet.

(This is a very valuable insight--corboy)

For thoses who actually believe in sincere spirituality this is a particularly dangerous menace because they will take familiar philosophies that your faith most likley invented, and twist them to suit their purposes of mind control and wealth attainment, thus forever tainting your original beliefs with their twisted version of the same.

This James Arther Ray is nothing more than par for the course. These churches, Unity, Sciences of Mind, The Spiritual Center of yadda yadda…and so forth abound with “James Arthur Rays”.

They all have their little books to sell, they are all self proclaimed teachers healers and ministers…the “Law of Attraction” is used as an excuse to blame any dishonest or abusive treament coming from their actions upon you…the vulnerable student.

Please don’t fall for this crap. My wife was almost killed by one of these so called energy healers…it cost us more than a hundred thousand dollars of money we didn’t really have just to turn back to conventional medicine in order to save her life.

By God’s grace she is now fine…but it was a matter of life and death.

Of course the attitude from the so call leaders who had swindled us was…”well she created this for herself”

Satan worshippers are more honest and spiritual than these idiots.

Run far and fast.

Feel free to email me in private about details.

Thanks for reading


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Re: Recovering from New Age Mumbo Jumbo
Posted by: Stoic ()
Date: August 29, 2010 09:29AM

Found this article on the partisanship of psychological research and the possibility that what is resulting from that research is not truths of the human condition but cultural truths about the very small percentage of North Americans that is selected to be subjects for the research:

'according to Dr. Henrich. He and two other UBC researchers authored a paper shaking up the fields of psychology, cognitive science and behavioural economics by questioning whether we can know anything about humanity in general if we only study a "truly unusual group of people" — the privileged products of Western industrial societies, who just happen to make up the vast majority of behavioural science test subjects.'

Read more: []

"The fact that WEIRD people are the outliers in so many key domains of the behavioral sciences may render them one of the worst subpopulations one could study for generalizing about Homo sapiens," the authors conclude. "If the goal of the research program is to shed light on the human condition, then this narrow, unrepresentative sample may lead to an uneven and incomplete understanding."

In other words, we do not know what we thought we knew about the human mind. We only know about the mind of a particular, unusual slice of humanity.

The UBC researchers also found that 96% of behavioural science experiment subjects are from Western industrialized countries, which account for just 12% of the world's population. Sixty-eight percent were Americans. The United States is dominant in the field of psychology, accounting for 70% of all journal citations, compared with 37% in chemistry. Undergraduate students are often used to stand in for the entire species.

"This is a serious problem because psychology varies across cultures and chemistry doesn't," says Jonathan Haidt, a psychologist at the University of Virginia.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 08/29/2010 09:30AM by Stoic.

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Re: Recovering from New Age Mumbo Jumbo
Posted by: margarets ()
Date: August 29, 2010 10:52AM

Oooh, interesting post Stoic.

I would add to the WEIRD concept the fact that we humans have only been "civilized" for about 10 000 years - less in some places. We evolved as hunter-gatherers, and we still have the same brains and bodies as our recent ancestors. So not only is it weird to live in settlements, living off agriculture and animal husbandry, in hierarchical societies, it's off-the-charts to be living the WEIRD lifestyle. We WEIRDos are basically living in the middle of a mass experiment, and there is lots of evidence that it's turning out badly. In couple of generations we WEIRDos might need some obscure tribe to teach us how to survive all over again.

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Re: Recovering from New Age Mumbo Jumbo
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: August 31, 2010 12:02AM

Trying to Live by Oprah's Principles for a Year--Robyn Orkut

This URL will take you to a post describing how one woman found some of Oprah's advice helpful but other Oprah advice led her to feel less secure and less confident, especially the dressing and watch makeovers on TV

Very, very interesting stuff.

And..Orkut's book was even reviewed in a great, no nonsense website writen by and for people who know what life in the raw is like, when you're not cosseted by an entourage.

And who want good value for their time and money, whether it is books, movies and equipment.

Note: this site has a splendid collection of articles on health and physical training--a great thing to bookmark if you're interested in either staying fit or becoming that way.


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Re: Recovering from New Age Mumbo Jumbo
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 01, 2010 12:55AM

The Thin, Trembling Line Between Wishing, Aspiring, Creativity and Lying?


From Maureen Dowd in the New York Times: The most fascinating insight which had never crossed my mind with much clarity is the notion of Bella DePaulo, a psych prof at the UC Santa Barbara.

Lies, she suggests, are like wishes. When you wish you were a certain kind of person, but are not, and maybe not willing to do what it would take become that person, then it becomes very tempting to lie.

Or, a person may be willing enough but not have the right tools or be afraid.

A wish comes from our ability to want to be different from who we are right now, or to better our circumstance. A wish may well be a squirt of juice, of life energy, aspiration, ambition.

This is how America began. This is what led our ancestors to trek across the ice floes of the Bering Strait, or sail in junks or dugout canoes, and later, the wooden hulled sailing ships, then by steamer, wagon train, railway, airplanes to reach the Goldene Medina.

This wish, this aspiration, is part of who we want to be. That is a kernel of truth.

But if we dont live in such a way as to embody that truth, we are tempted to impersonate it, to use props and illusion or to hide it.

Thats what leads to lying and to so many of the careers dicussed on this board.

This insight is that the wish, the longing is very human. That aspiration is a kernal of truthfulness. But what one does with that aspiration to embody it in the social world, that will be the difference between a truthful career vs a career based on a sort of fan dance in which images and masks and played back and forth and where PR and marketing consultants are called in for each version of the show.

But if you want to be a certain way and either cannot reach that goal or dont want to take the time or spend the money and effort then one may fantasize.

If a lot of people are mad at you, move elsewhere and change your name.

If your lies catch up with you and you have to move around a lot, claim you work for the CIA and get sent off on assignments all the time. This choice of story line reveals someone who wants an exciting life--so thats the kernel of truth. But the person doesnt have the stablity or skill to be employable by the CIA and hates facing angry girlfriends and defrauded friends and relatives. Thats the lie.

Arnt rich and want to feel or look well off? Buy the stuff and carry it on your credit card as debt. Marry for money.

Get pregnant by someone outside your marriage and you cant stand to face the consequences of telling the truth? Let your husband think the kid is his, and keep mum. Let the kid grow up feeling strange vibes because he or she reminds you of your shameful affair.

Want to be powerful in a hurry? Do you want to be a shaman but dont happen to have been born into a tribe or family that has the initiatiory right? Convince yourself you have had a dream or inspiration and start marketing yourself as a shaman.

Feel special but no one thinks you are special? Go to India and convince some guru to tell you you're enlightned. Study marketing read a few familiar books and call yourself enlightened.

Want big muscles but not want to spend 5 years body building and earning those muscles? Or you have a genetically slender physique that hinders such?

Lie by using steriods.

Want to be a doctor but cannot pass premed or cant get into medical school? Fake it.

Want to succeed in a homophobic world and you happen to be homosexual? Hide in the closet, force yourself to date and marry heterosexually, live a lie as a closet case and deal with your frustrations by bashing persons out of the closet who have earned the
truth title of gay.

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Re: Recovering from New Age Mumbo Jumbo
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 01, 2010 11:50PM

From the Smiling Buddha Cabaret

"Calls to reject identity and adopt a “greater good” approach never make clear who defines that greater good. Who decides which issues have to wait and which are of utmost importance?"

Same thing happens if there is injustice or abuse in an ashram or Buddhist Dharma center. Often we are told, 'Oh you dont see the ultimate nature. You need to deepen your practice and then it will all make sense.'

Off you go to sit on your cushion while the powerholder who told you these words goes off to launder some more money or find another cute young person to seduce, or goes off and vents rage and abuse on the designated scapegoat of the community, or arranges yet another troll campaign against or whoever is running a blog exposing that guru.

Just wait. Deepen your practice. Dont make waves.

Its not yet time for marriage equality.
We are not yet ready to abandon dont ask dont tell, even though the Israel Defense Force, one of the toughest and most embattled forces on the planet has no limitation on gays or lesbians. Over there, everyone's talent and energy is needed.

Those approaches that tell us to reject our own stories for the greater good The Good of the Church, in the name of spreading the Dharma, or Guru's Grace, that tell us to ditch our own story so we can get colonized into some guru's cockroach story, some gal who cried on the bathroom floor or serial divorce, trip to Italy, India, Bali--at expense of our own story--hmm. (See footnote at bottom)

This was from a larger article about delusion, politics etc.

But this one paragraph points to the lever used by New Age marketeers to recruit us.


The power of desire, of grasping, of imagination, of believing in delusions all serve to manifest social injustice. Desire can subsume the reality of our own best interests.

The desire to be identified with, and hopefully obtain “a piece of the action” held by the global elites is a powerful draw.

When the manufacture of threats instills fear on top of that desire and the heady religious notions of guilt, repentance, spiritual in-groups and demonized out-groups additionally become bound to the ideational cluster there are many levers that can be struck in order to direct large populations towards delusional actions.
"There are investments of desire that function in a more profound and diffuse manner than our interests dictate."

Thats what is so appealing about 'The Secret' the 'Law of Attraction" or stuff like those
Get Rich seminars.

Its the promise of getting access to the kind of information and social networks that will enable us, the outsiders to join the inner group, the club.

The truth is, the people who actually run these seminars dont want us to become one of them.

Because then we will learn all the tricks and set up rival franchises.

Quote is it that people whose interests are not being served (by the existing power structure) can strictly support the existing power structure by demanding a piece of the action?

Perhaps, this is because in terms of investments, whether economic or unconscious, interest is not the final answer.

Gilles Deleuze in Intellectuals & Power: A conversation between Michel Foucault and Gilles Deleuze

(Disclosure from Corboy--Ive had my times when Ive not only wept in the bathroom, Ive even used TP instead of Kleenex. So have millions of us. Damn, I shoulda gone into the guru business. I couldve even arranged a movie with product placement from Scott TP company.)

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Re: Recovering from New Age Mumbo Jumbo
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 22, 2010 07:49AM

How Confirmation Bias Operates Amongst Fascists Attributing Endorsements and Opinions to Deceased Gurus Who Cannot Refute Them

This quotation is from a longer paper well worth reading.

The Eternal Return of Nazi nonsense: Savitri Devi's last writings



Savitri Devi does quote actual expressions of sympathy by traditional Hindus for Hitler, but the reasons for their Hitler sympathy seem rather to be the following.

Firstly, he was German, and Germany was the country of some leading Sanskrit scholars, including some in British employ such as Friedrich Max Müller. They had greatly contributed to India's glory in the now-dominant West, which in turn had restored some pride in Hindu tradition among the Hindus themselves. That the Germans, not just Hitler but the German nation, had adopted the Swastika as their national symbol, further endeared them to the Hindus. There is no trace of the reverse: the German public did not get particularly sensitized to India and Hinduism, much less to its national aspiration to freedom; after all, Nazism cultivated a mood of self-celebration, not one of gratitude to some exotic nation.

And contrary to what some Hindus thought, the Germans hadn't borrowed the Swastika from India in the first place.

As for Hitler, from Mein Kampf (1924) till his meeting with Subhash Bose in 1942 and his ungrateful comments on Bose's small Indian Waffen-SS contingent deployed in the defence of the German empire in 1945, he never concealed his contempt for Hindus, Buddhists and related "Asiatic mountebanks". But this information never seems to have reached India nor made an impact there. Savitri Devi, of course, totally ignores it.

Secondly, there were the well-known temporary political circumstances. Though Hitler wanted the best for the British empire, a magnificent instance of white rule over the coloured races, events forced him into the role of its principal adversary. Therefore, many Hindus welcomed him as the enemy of their enemy, hence their best friend. Savitri Devi seems to have had a blind eye for India's nationalistic aspirations, which hardly figure in her writings at all. She managed not to see that elephant in the room, essentially because she never thought anything wrong of British rule; her own mother happened to be of British origin.

Thirdly, Hitler was reputed to conform to certain Hindu ideals. As a "unifier" of Europe, he filled a slot similar to that of the chakravarti , the energetic king who would bring the whole of India under one sceptre. In his private life, he was a teetotaller, a vegetarian and officially a celibate. According to Hindu belief, these observances and especially the last one confer an enormous charisma. If all parties including the enemy conceded one quality to Hitler, it was certainly charisma. From there, it was but a small step to calling him a "realized soul", a jnâni or "knower" and what not.

In neo-Nazi circles, it is even claimed (here by Claudio Mutti on p.26), on the authority of one Sadhu Arunachala: A Sadhu's Reminiscences of Ramana Maharshi (1994, p.52) that Ramana Maharshi (d.1950), indisputably one of the greatest Hindu yogis of the 20 th century, had declared: "It is possible that Hitler is a jnâni , a divine instrument." If the account is true, Ramana's utterance sounds to me like the answer to a question posed by a visitor eager to hear a confirmation of his own idealization of Hitler: the sage did not commit himself to such a confirmation, but politely allowed that it was "possible",-- like most things. Note the difference with Savitri Devi's rendering of Ramana Maharshi's opinion: "Someone asked Ramana Maharshi (..) what he thought of Hitler. The answer was brief and simple: 'He's a jnâni ', i.e. a sage (*)." (p.73) This is her word against Sadhu Arunachala's. Either the latter has rendered Ramana's words softer and more conditional in deference to the anti-Hitlerian mood of the times, or she has rendered his words more decisive and unconditional to satisfy her own ideological preferences.

If any Hindu sages have glorified Hitler, I wouldn't be too impressed that this proves anything one way or the other. I have the greatest regard for the higher states of mind cultivated by them, but I have also noticed that this still doesn't free them from the universal law that our judgments about things and people are conditioned by the quality of the basic information fed to us. If only a rosy picture of Hitler is communicated to some recluse practising his yoga in a cave undisturbed by newspapers, he may form an opinion that is only as accurate as the original information. In that case, we are dealing with a "circular argument of authority", where someone contrives to get the authoritative person to give as his own an opinion subtly spoon-fed to him.


The beginning of the article states

"The eternal return of Nazi nonsense: Savitri Devi's last writings

Among the numerous publishing houses in Paris, there is a fringe-rightist one called Avatar. Its name (Sanskrit avatâra = "divine incarnation") and publishing policy are inspired by Julius Evola, d. 1971, the Italian "integral traditionalist" aristocrat who worked for the SS research department Ahnenerbe ("ancestral heritage") and who dabbled in Oriental lore as part of his esotericist musings.

Avatar Editions has its nominal legal headquarters outside Dublin, Ireland, apparently to avoid problems with France's draconian anti-racist and anti-revisionist laws.

One of its ongoing projects is a series of booklets called Cahiers de la Radicalité , under the Evolian motto: "Be radical, have principles, be absolute, be that which the bourgeoisie calls an extremist: give yourself without counting or calculating, don't accept what they call 'the reality of life' and act in such a way that you won't be accepted by that kind of 'life', never abandon the principle of struggle."


(Regarding Subhas Chandra Bose and his Indian Legion, the interested reader is advised to read a chapter in Agehananda Bharati's biography, The Ochre Robe. Bharati, born an Austrian met Subhas Chandra Bose just before the outbreak of World War II and did his obligatory army service as a soldier in the Indian Foreign Legion, providing us with a fascinating description Bose's career, the Legion, and conditions within it. Bharati (at the time he was still Leonard Fischer) so fully befriended and acculturated with his Indian comrades that he was subjected to degrading harassment and bullying from Germans who were disgusted that he was forgoing what they saw as Teutonic privilege. Fischer lived in barracks with the Indians, was treated as a comrade, and voluntarily stayed with them after they were all captured, and spent over a year as a POW, hoping to be deported with them to India. Instead, a colleague finally tattled that the young man was Viennese, blew his cover, and Fischer was sent home to his annoyed family, and two years later finally left Europe and reached India and a new career.

According to Bharati, the Indian Foreign Legion consisted of Indians who served in the British Army and had been captured in North Africa. The legion , insignia was a leaping tiger. One could as an optional part of the uniform, wear a turban, if one so desired, but Bharati stated it was not required. Bharati also noted that there were various rumors and versions of how Hitler and Bose came to a parting of the ways, and Bharati said he did not feel he was in a position to say anything more. He did note that it was the Japanese, not the Germans, who fully recognized Subhas Chandra Boses capacities and charisma and, unlike Hitler appreciated Bose, gave him full support and enabled him to raise an eastern foreign legion in Asia that was a far more formidable fighting force. When Bose reportedly died in a plane crash, many refused to believe it and assumed he would return.

When he arrived in India, Bharati found Boses image or photo on many family altars, and sometimes this was merged with imagery of the God Ganesa. Bose was and is especially honored in Bengal, for he was from an upper echelon Bengali family--Boses surviving brother gave Leonard Fischer his final days of secular hospitality before Fischer took monks vows and entered a monastery..all this and more in The Ochre Robe. -Corboy)

Final note to collectors of militaria: it is possible that insignia, medals, to say nothing of uniforms for the Indian Legion are probably rare and if you see anything pertaining to it, and can afford it, buy it.

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Re: Recovering from New Age Mumbo Jumbo
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: October 04, 2010 10:32PM

Some Stated Concerns about the Practice of 'Lucid Dreaming'--Sleep Becoming a Project

"With lucid dreaming this would mean that our dreams could become objects for the same kind of disregard that we have witnessed in many of our national forests, for example. Indeed, as I have said before, dreaming is one of the few remaining natural wilderness areas of human behavior. "


Lucidity Letter

December, 1988; Vol. 7, No. 2

Clinical and Spiritual Implications of Lucid Dreaming: A Panel Discussion


Given our limited time here, therefore, would like to focus particularly on the essential structure of human dreaming existence and on the implications of the study and practice of lucid dreaming for this unique mode of being human. Dreaming is, most essentially, a manner of existing which is taken up while we are asleep and which “overcomes” us as a spontaneous, precipitant and compelling openness to being in the world. It is a way of being conscious, of being “lit up,” if you will, of “Being-light,” into which we are thrown. Suddenly in the dark, still night we are unceremoniously cast into an illuminated witnessing which is not of our own choosing, which is given to us apparently independent of personal desire, intention or reason. Given this understanding of dreaming what then is the best manner for developing a knowledge of this unique manner of being in the world.

Clearly as human beings we always have the possibility for simply participating in our existence as it is given to us in either waking or dreaming. Naturally, we also have the possibility, which is crucial for lucid dreaming, for observing our participation, for being deliberately aware of the event of our conscious participation in life even as it happens. But in this latter possibility we are no longer “merely conscious” but rather we are, to some degree, “objectively conscious”. That is, we are establishing a distance, while in the very throes of experience between ourselves and our raw, unadulterated participation in life as such. In other words we are, to a certain extent, making an object of our conscious participation in our own existence. Naturally, with this possibility we are also given the possibility either for “letting things be” or for predicting and controlling the happening as which we exist.

This latter set of possibilities for objectification, prediction and control is what enables us to carry out scientific and technological projects, the project of the study and application of lucid dreaming being one of these. But we definitely always have both kinds of possibilities: our existential possibilities for simply being in the world and our more narrowly defined technological possibilities for objectifying, predicting and controlling personal and/or worldly events. The fact that we have these two different kinds of human possibilities, the latter being naturally subsumed as only one category of the former, presents no problem in itself. However, it can become problematic if we fall prey to the assumption that objectification, prediction and control are our most important manners of soliciting knowledge or of caring for things. With lucid dreaming this would mean that our dreams could become objects for the same kind of disregard that we have witnessed in many of our national forests, for example. Indeed, as I have said before, dreaming is one of the few remaining natural wilderness areas of human behavior. Our challenge is to learn how we might best acquire and use our knowledge of this human territory and do so in a way that respects and conserves the essential nature and structure of dreaming as precipitant unpremeditated experience.

What is at stake?

With regard to sleeping there are two human possibilities at stake. One is the possibility of the significance of sleep as rest, as a way of “turning out the lights.” Sleep is a human being’s most intimate and immanent Sabbath, his or her own most hour of rest, relief, restoration, rejuvenation. When we are involved with dreaming “projects,” however, particularly with lucid dreaming projects, we never “turn out the lights,” we deny ourselves this most natural Sabbath of body and soul. Another possibility of sleep which is at stake in lucid dream study is the significance of sleep as “losing control” or as “letting go.’ The original word for sleep actually means “hanging,” “falling,” “flabbiness,” “looseness.” We say we “fall” asleep for good reason: it fits the essential structure of sleep. If you have observed yourself going to sleep you may even have noticed (though surely the psychophysiological study of sleep also shows this) that your jaw can fall open, that your body can suddenly “let go” of or “lose” its muscle tone. It is this very “letting go,” this very “losing of control” which is threatened by the study of lucid dreaming where, at times, it seems if the entire object of the investigation is to demonstrate just how much control we may have over what was previously believed (at least in the mind of the so-called typical common-sense oriented westerner) to be beyond our control.

While I do not want to minimize this more ethical and philosophical concern that the study of lucid dreaming is a potential (though admittedly small and distant) threat to the essential nature of human sleeping, I do want to emphasize that these are not purely abstract ruminations. I believe there is a potentially significant clinical and pragmatic danger as well. For example, I was recently speaking with a new colleague who, when she learned of my interest in the study of dreams, spontaneously mentioned that she had had a rather disturbing experience a few weeks previous to our conversation. She told me that she had read Stephen LaBerge’s book, Lucid Dreaming, and, without any further preparation or support, had decided to do some lucid dream work with her own dreams. She said that this had been an extremely disruptive experience in her life in which she felt there was “no resting.” Her experimentation went on for approximately three weeks at which time she decided, in her own best interest, to terminate the project. She described this period as follows: “It was horrible. I no longer could get a whole night of good, uninterrupted sleep. I was feeling uneasy. The value of sleep was determined by my dreams, by remembering dreams and by accomplishing things in dreams. Sleep became a place to achieve something, to accomplish something and not a place to rest.” Now, while this is admittedly “only” the experience of one person, it still is the experience of one person and, therefore, a potential danger of which we must remain aware. Fortunately the person who spontaneously offered this anecdote is a relatively aware and resourceful individual. We would be well advised, therefore, to give serious thought to what might be the potential hazards of such unsupervised experimentation, especially for those who are psychologically less “well-endowed.” I don’t pretend to have the answers to these particular questions but merely wish to suggest an alertness to these potential pitfalls on the part of those who are studying lucid dreaming,

Now, with regard to dreaming, there are also at least two human possibilities at stake in the study and application of lucid dreaming. The first of these is the possibility of dreaming as precipitant, unpremeditated experience. There are very few opportunities we have in the course of our lives to have our existence completely thrown at us, to have life explode around us, to be unexpectedly tossed plumb in the middle of an entirely uncontrolled cosmetic event. We can call this being cast into the world our “thrownness.” And yet this thrownness is only one of two fundamental characteristics of human existence of which we become aware when we think about what it means to be a human being. In addition to our thrownness there is, in every moment of our existing, our project, our projecting ourselves back in response to the world into which we have been thrown, that is, our responding to the world by answering in the form of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. So there is our thrownness, our being cast into the world, and there is our project, our response to that into which we have been thrown. While every moment of human existence has these two fundamental characteristics, dreaming is a mode of existing that emphasizes thrownness. Our dreaming consistently reveals this characteristic thrownness of human existence, allows us really to see the extent to which we are, in both dreaming and waking, cast out into a world which is not, most basically, of our own choosing. However, the deliberate premeditated study and application of lucid dreaming often attempts to undo this unique characteristic of dreaming experience by turning the thrownness of dreaming into a project, thus diminishing such fundamental characteristics of sleeping and dreaming as falling, being out of control, or being thrown. Naturally there is nothing at all wrong with the learning value of projecting ourselves within our dreaming but if this characteristic of human existence is overemphasized and pursued to the exclusion of perceiving and understanding our fundamental thrownness then our dreaming, as we have known it, may be threatened with extinction. The likelihood of this happening is extremely slight even in a single individual and certainly much less in the species as a whole. Never-the-less these are the kinds of potential outcomes to which one might want to attend if one sees oneself at all as a conservationist of human nature.

The second human possibility or human capability which is at stake with regard to dreaming is actually more serious and more urgent from a clinical point of view. What is often endangered in the study and application of lucid dreaming is the prior and more fundamental task of understanding the meaningfulness of dreams and, thereby, of coming to terms with just how things stand for us in our lives. Courageously understanding the meaningfulness of our dreaming existence involves nothing less than our own private confrontation with Truth. When lucid dreaming is taken up at the expense of such truth finding then we are undermining an extremely valuable resource for self understanding and development. I see we are almost out of time but, again, let me offer one brief clinical anecdote to underscore the importance of this issue.

A high school psychology teacher, who had taught a unit on dreams, including the recent study of lucid dreams, had a sixteen-year-old female student who reported that she had had a dream about her father. In the dream her father was the captain of a ship which was in great danger of sinking in the middle of a storm. The dreamer was standing on the shore watching her father out at sea with waves battering the ship from every direction. Oddly, the father was standing in the bow of the ship, directing its course while completely oblivious to the seriousness of the storm and to the facts that the ship was about to sink and that he would drown. The dreamer was at first terrified but then, having recently studied lucid dreams, she suddenly realized that she was dreaming. Then she also realized that she could simply calm the storm, which she did and then woke up feeling just great. She was still euphoric when she told the story to her psychology teacher who responded with almost equal enthusiasm. When the teacher told me this story, however, I expressed my appreciation for this student’s new found sense of competence and effectiveness in her dreams but then asked some further questions about her situation. Very soon it was revealed that she was a fine, very responsible student and person (almost excessively so) but that her father was a pretty heavy drinker, “probably even alcoholic” as the teacher added. Suddenly the import of this dream from a clinical point of view is far more serious. While the young person was permitted through her lucidity to gain an increased sense of her own competence, it should be asked if this was really necessary or even helpful in this case? Clearly neither she nor her teacher had dealt with the obvious dream danger to her father and its implications for both his and her waking existence.

Nor certainly did either of them deal with the fact that this youth feels entirely responsible for rescuing the father while dreaming (a terrible burden, even when successful) and with what this might reveal or imply for her waking life. Surely we are now aware of what a typical and crippling pattern such rescuing and enabling is for children of alcoholics, a pattern which can persist and wreak havoc well into a person’s adult life.

Unfortunately, in this case, it seems that this young person’s experience with lucidity was used to bolster her defenses against the awareness of these painful but important to see truths. The short term pleasure of lucidity and control in this instance came at the expense of essential, albeit disquieting, knowledge and self understanding.

(Corboy note: This case demonstrates how lucid dreaming does not necessarily equate with insight. It may just provide yet another area an already exhausting co-dependent rescue dynamic may play out--as if waking life isnt already burdensome enough.

This discussion took place in 1988. Recent work in sleep physiology has shown that in deep phases of sleep, the human body most efficiently secretes human growth hormone. If a person does a great deal of unskilled lucid dreaming, there is a risk that his or her body may not get sufficient night time opportunities to secret human growth hormone--a process needed for repairing the body, countering the effects of stress and maintaining repair processes.)


Corboy note: In this 1988 panel discussion, it also was mentioned that some research into lucid dreaming was done by the Transcendental Meditation program--not at all a reliable source.

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Re: Recovering from New Age Mumbo Jumbo
Posted by: sunshine ()
Date: October 07, 2010 02:47AM

This article in The Globe and Mail would definitely apply to the New Wage industry.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/07/2010 02:51AM by sunshine.

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Re: Recovering from New Age Mumbo Jumbo
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: October 17, 2010 05:55AM


An Original: Richard de Mille, Carlos Castaneda, Literary Quackery
Published by Wallace Sampson under Book Review, Faith Healing & Spirituality, Medical Academia
Comments: 12
An Original: Richard De Mille, Carlos Castaneda, and Literary Quackery

I was away in Nature – with a real capital N, and decided to insert an allegory this week instead of a medical subject. The genesis here was a sweeping of the mind and brushing away of cobwebs and detritus called worries and other preoccupations. The application to this here blog is – methodology. The experience is one of discovery, and of loss, and of bearing the burden of inaction.

Some thirty or more years ago a family member became enamored of a new book, The Teachings of don Juan by an unknown author, Carlos Castaneda. But mention the name now and one gets one of two responses: Who is that? Or, Oh, he is that literary fraud. But in the late 1960s – 1970s, two social movements had captured imaginations of youth, academics, and much of the intellectual world. They made fantasy seem plausible, and fraud seem believable – psychedelics and postmodernism.

Advocates of psychedelics, most of whom experienced drug-induced alterations, promoted revolutionary psychological ideas such as drug-induced multiple realities. The other, postmodernism, was and is the intellectual and philosophical movement originating in academia that similarly views of reality(ies) as possibly multiple. (The relation, if any, to alternate universes and relativity theories in physics I have to leave to philosophers.) But the ‘60s and ‘70s were decades of several revolutions in social and personal thought – paradigm changes – that brought fairy tales, delusions, and irrationality onto realms of plausibility, from which we are still reeling, and trying to deal with.

Carlos Castaneda wrote eight books (or was it nine?) on the same subject. He related meeting Yaqui Indian seer and healer don Juan Matus at an Arizona bus station and following him through mountains of Mexican Sonora and a series of hallucinatory drug-induced episodes and lessons of life. Later books introduced different main characters (la Catalina, don Gennaro.) At least three books made the NY Times best seller list, and all netted him millions of dollars. His books sold well even well after his exposure as a fraud and plagiarist. The psychedelic and postmodern mental states apparently became dominant enough and entrenched enough in modern folklore that believers could not yield their comfort with fantasy.

Then, after mentioning the name Castaneda, state the name Richard de Mille, and chances are neither one questioned will know who that is. Richard de Mille (1924-2009 died April 9. I found this out after starting this post. Richard (most people were on first name basis with him, as was I) was author of two key books on Castaneda, both written in the 1970s: Castaneda’s Journey, the Power and the Allegory, and The don Juan Papers.

Through Richard de Milles’s diligence and intellectual power, Carlos Castaneda was exposed as a fraud, and his eight books describing psychedelic rituals and perceptions of Yaqui Indians of Sonora were proved to be mislabeled creative fiction. Castaneda did not deny the charge and never brought legal charges against de Mille. (After the first $1 million, who cares, might even have been good for business?)

I read Castaneda’s The Teachings on a ski trip in 1970 or so. Fascinating. Given the 1960s psychedelic experiences, don Juan Matus, the Yaqui teacher, who leaped vast distances and moved immovable objects or whose spirit could transform into an animal, kneaded and molded younger minds into trying to concurrently rationalize, imagine, and dream single experiences in differing forms. Castaneda described standard interpretations of reality as “ordinary reality” and a others as a “special reality.” Another of his book titles was “A Separate Reality.”

The process of reading and following Castaneda’s odyssey required toying with mind-bending ideas. One such was human perception itself being faulty in that it disallowed more than one form of reality at a time. If this does not make sense to the 21st century mind, it didn’t make sense to this 20th century mind then, either, although not for lack of trying. .

I read the first Castaneda books, and was left in a limbo between, possibility and improbability and the author’s delusional thinking or drug-induced hallucinations. The confusion was aided by the appendix of the first book, The Teachings of don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, which was the ostensibly real summary of Castaneda’s field work with don Juan for which he was awarded his PhD in anthropology at UCLA. The method used was ethnomethodology, in which the investigator is not a distant observer of a society’s social behavior, but an active participant in it. The investigation becomes experiential. And, in the process, scientific method becomes something other than science. But that was the new standard of the time.

Complementing such neo-ideation, was/is the takeover of academic departments and faculty by postmodernism, the neo-philosophy that formalizes varying perceptions and formulations of reality, going so far in some views to proclaim that language creates reality. It was and is an academic world where almost anything is possible, and there are no ground rules for determining the borders.

Castaneda’s PhD thesis had a ring of fantasy. Castaneda could not produce his original field notes – essential in supporting a PhD thesis – claiming that they were destroyed in a flooded basement of his Westwood residence. (Floods in Westwood?)

I began heated discussions about the writings because I became more and more skeptical and found what I thought were some errors of timing and of psychedelic plant use (no, I never smoked, inhaled, ingested, etc.) But just because of an error or two I could not dismiss the rest of it – a PhD, after all.

At about that time I was introduced to skeptical thinking through a local community college symposium at which several CSICOP members from Buffalo, NY spoke – and by an ensuing subscription to Skeptical Inquirer. It was in an early SI issue that I read a review of de Mille’s book or books, which I promptly bought and spent weeks devouring.

The first book, Castaneda’s Journey, is itself an allegory as the title states. Written as a partial imitation of Castaneda, de Mille introduces an imagined – or maybe not – meeting of himself and Castaneda, and an ensuing series of real-or-not meetings and dialogues in which de Mille is the student-seeker, and Carlos the mysterious shadow appearing-disappearing Teacher. This short work is itself a masterwork of layered, allegorical story-telling. This book is still in print, and I highly recommend it. Like good music or fine wine, enjoy the literary pleasure.

But Richard’s other major works were as different as phyla. The don Juan Papers traces Castaneda’s academic works in cultural anthropology at UCLA, through comments from his advisers, others who had input into the granting of the degree, and outside observers. The conclusion of most: the thesis was a work of fiction, perhaps based in some personal experiences, but mostly in works of others, knowledge of other cultural rituals and myths, synthesized into a nearly plausible epic analysis of the occult mysteries of native American tribes.

Perhaps most fascinating for us types is the inability of some academics to discard their beliefs, or to resolve their cognitive dissonance in some rational way…they continued to rationalize the episode of being taken in as good illustrative methodology, containing kernels of truth, and other face-saving imaginings. Academia. Peer review. Not always what we would like them to be. Humans run them.

The department chairman retains his silence in the matter, as embarrassing as it is. To complement the work is a series of analyses and commentaries by other prominent social anthropologists. It is at times heavy going through anthro-sociology jargon and working concepts. Four hundred pages of it, fortunately and mercifully punctuated at crucial points by de Mille’s interpretation, and identifying of contradictions. Indexed and notated in detail, this is the work of an accomplished academician researcher.

In both works, I marveled at de Mille’s attention to detail, to the lengths of comparing time intervals and dates of the same events in several books. It took a great memory and talent to see the contradictions, so often obscure and separated in place and context.

I asked Richard to contribute an article on his methods to Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine, which he did. [De Mille R, How I Learned Not to Believe Carlos Castaneda. Sci Rev Altern Med 1999; 3(2):11-14.] He has a short section devoted to some of this in each book as well.

Richard’s method derived directly from his academic career, about which I had forgotten. He had both MA and PhD in psychology, spent brief times at USC and UC Santa Barbara faculties, and more time as an industrial and career psychologist, and had done considerable research in various related fields. He said to the effect of, “I merely strolled over to the UCSB library and applied what I had learned.” He became an authority on social anthropology and ethnography – and a professional skeptic researcher along the way.

I later read his autobiographical and biographical portraits of himself and his prominent mother, (My Secret Mother, Lorna Moon.) a script writer in Hollywood, who bore him out of wedlock to Cecil B. de Mille’s brother, William. Sin and secrecy were the behavior modes at the time, not public confessions or live-in arrangements, so Cecil B. raised Richard as his son, not telling him his real father was Cecil’s brother until William’s death, when Richard was in his thirties. Interestingly (to me) is that for part of his childhood he lived on the same L.A. street as my grandmother. We might have crossed “paths.” Perhaps not.

The heart of this tale is that Richard de Mille, himself the guiltless player of a real life mirage, was the key who exposed the largest literary and academic fraud in history, using techniques of research, objective methodology, intelligence, and diligence. Studying his methods I was able to construct techniques for teaching that I used years later, and that many other skeptics have developed as well.

Richard de Mille was a mild, retiring giant intellect with (insert superlative) writing talent. He was generous with time and a most gracious human being.

The lament: I wanted to write a re-review of one or both of Richard’s Castaneda books, but did not get around to it. I always wanted to visit him in Santa Barbara where he lived, but delayed in that also. A lesson re-learned all too frequently.

12 responses so far

12 Responses to “An Original: Richard de Mille, Carlos Castaneda, Literary Quackery”
# Dackson 25 Jun 2009 at 4:08 pm
The Castaneda books were touchstones of my teenage years, as I became involved with those who seriously (?) believed his writings. They were cool ( his writings, and the mushroom-eating believers.) Yet, long before I embraced skepticism I understood that his books were fiction. The ideas of that period faded away quietly, without causing the cognitive dissonance that so much anti-science thinking causes today.

Thanks for the recommendation of de Mille’s works – they sound like an interesting read for a former Castaneda devotee.

# lippardon 25 Jun 2009 at 6:21 pm
Less well-known about Richard de Mille, with whom I corresponded briefly in the mid-1990s, is that he was the author of one of the earliest publications describing Scientology, _An Introduction to Scientology_ (1953), for which he was awarded a Ph.D. from the diploma mill Sequoia University. He also wrote and edited other Scientology works for Hubbard, but they parted ways in 1953. He earned a real Ph.D. in psychology from USC in 1961.

This is partly recounted in chapter 12 of Russell Miller’s biography of Hubbard, _Bare-Faced Messiah_, which can be found online, as well as on his Wikipedia page.

# HCNon 26 Jun 2009 at 3:17 am
The only thing I remember of Castanada was this:

A young female student in my dorm was being harrassed by a follower of Castaneda. At that time in the mid-1970s magic mushrooms were the drug of choice (they were , and are still, available in abundance in the local parks).

At one point the young man took to pounding on this young woman’s dorm room door, and she was too scared to come out. After one of these late night disturbances the campus police intervened when he threatened violence, and he ended up in the local psyche ward.

As a teenager in the early 1970s I had already seen classmates trip out and fall out of society. I had even seen high school classmates go trhough re-hab. Having seen how drug use would make a normally intelligent person turn into a simpering idiot, this definitely made me think very little of Casteneda.

# TsuDhoNimhon 26 Jun 2009 at 1:07 pm
In the mid 1980s I was chatting with a elderly Yaqui religious leader from the Sonoran branch of the tribe who had come to Arizona to visit family.

We had had a sporadic acquaintance, meeting at public ceremonies and art festivals because I translated for his grandsons who were selling various things they brought up from Mexico. He bossed me around like he would any grandchild, and I refrained from inquiring into any cultural practices or showing signs of being a wanna-be shaman. We discussed many things, from the best place to get chocolates in Guadalajara to how to pack pottery for shipping.

Finally he asked me if I had read any of Carlos Castenada’s books … I had (yes, I was hoping for an intro to this conversation), and summarized the “Teachings of don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge”.

If the Yaqui hadn’t been 90+ years old and arthritic, he would have ROFLed all over the lawn!

# Newcoasteron 27 Jun 2009 at 1:45 pm
I too, read a couple of Castaneda’s books in the late 70’s but I don’t think I ever considered them as anything other than fantasy, or at the most an exaggeration for literary purposes. They did at the time seem more of a literary version of psychedelic music and art that was popular in the era, and looks dated and silly when we look back on a lot of it today. Ironically, I was introduced to the books by a friend who was an engineering student…who are known more for beer induced pranks like assembling a Volkswagen in the Dean’s office, than for an appreciation of exploration of “alternate realities” or “mind expanding” drugs.

I enjoyed the books at the time, but put them away and forgot about them. They certainly weren’t works that I ever considered inspiring, or worth re-reading. Unlike some other commentators who are coy about their drug use, or HCN who gives the typical anecdote about somebody going crazy, I confess to experimenting with hallucinogenic drugs in my youth (hey, it was the 70’s, give me a break) but have no bad experiences to report. Hallucinogenics were safe, enjoyable and fun drugs, and it is too bad they were demonized along with everything else in the “war on drugs”.

# HCNon 27 Jun 2009 at 7:32 pm
Sure it was an anecdote, but it was my introduction to Casteneda. So that colored my opinion.

Newcoster said “Hallucinogenics were safe, enjoyable and fun drugs, and it is too bad they were demonized along with everything else in the “war on drugs”.”

To which I say “meh”, safe or not… personally I am not impressed with those who need extra chemical substances to enjoy themselves.

I also despise the “war on drugs.” It would be better to legalize the stuff. Then they can be regulated and taxed. Criminalizing recreational chemicals has never worked, as was experienced in the early 20th century during Prohibition. It just creates a criminal underground, and the chance of getting something with unwanted ingredients.

Altered mental states should be fine if done without impacting anyone else. Just as much as I hate drunk drivers, I also hate drivers who are under the influence of other drugs (many happen to be legal prescriptions, like sleep aides and narcotics). Just as I hate the smell of tobacco smoke, I also hate marijuana smoke (even if it is legal, I don’t want to smell it).

Also, there is nothing special about altered mental states, as noted by certain writers (there are others, like a sci-fi writer a friend likes that glamorizes altering the mind with external forces, it is not just through chemicals). It is just another way to avoid reality. If you don’t like your reality, do something to make it better. I have family, hobbies and exercise, but that does not work for everyone (like a relative who is bipolar and requires real medication).

# Newcoasteron 28 Jun 2009 at 1:36 am
HCN said “personally I am not impressed with those who need extra chemical substances to enjoy themselves.

As I said it was the 70’s, and I wasn’t trying to impress you or anyone else. All enjoyment is chemical my friend, whether its your own adrenalin and endorphins, or mescaline from eating Peyote. I wasn’t promoting drug use, or driving while high…that was a bit of a left turn strawman on your part. I don’t think people who never took a trip would react to Castenada in the same way as those who did. Thats’ all.

HCN also said “… there is nothing special about altered mental states…It is just another way to avoid reality. If you don’t like your reality, do something to make it better. I have family, hobbies and exercise, but that does not work for everyone (like a relative who is bipolar and requires real medication).”

Spoken like someone who has never had a dream or a nightmare. I enjoy reality just fine. Hobbies and reading are both ways of exploring alternate realities and mental states. So is watching a movie. People with bipolar disorder have chemical imbalances that give them an altered mental state which they tend to really enjoy (well the manic side anyway) and most dislike taking chemicals to make them “normal”

I agree with you that the government has no right to prohibit people from taking drugs if they choose to, and that the “war on drugs” is a huge waste of time and money pursuing a narrow politico-religious agenda.

# HCNon 28 Jun 2009 at 2:38 pm
Newcoaster said “Spoken like someone who has never had a dream or a nightmare.”

That is a normal brain/mental activity, and is not truly an altered mental state. I should clarify that I meant using outside chemical means or even other ways like sleep deprivation.

Dreaming is a necesary for a healthy mental state.

# Dackson 29 Jun 2009 at 1:57 pm
“To which I say “meh”, safe or not… personally I am not impressed with those who need extra chemical substances to enjoy themselves.”

Well, my morning espresso and my afternoon pale ale certainly enhance my enjoyment of reality.

Tripping on LSD and psylicybin mushrooms was fun, although I didn’t feel the need to do it more than a few times. (The mushrooms make you feel pretty queasy, which might have been why they lost their appeal.) I probably was lucky that I never had a “bad trip,” but my faulty memory doesn’t remember any particularly bad experiences among my friends. In fact, I came to understand the dangers of drugs by seeing the effects on my friends of the more addictive drugs like coke and pot – not the hallucinogenics.

# Calli Arcaleon 29 Jun 2009 at 2:01 pm
People with bipolar disorder have chemical imbalances that give them an altered mental state which they tend to really enjoy (well the manic side anyway) and most dislike taking chemicals to make them “normal”.

Oh, you know a lot of bipolar people, do you? You’ve *asked* them how they feel about meds, and haven’t just assumed that they really enjoy having blackouts, being unable to hold down a job or even maintain normal friendships, and being at the mercy of emotional mood swings that come with no warning?

I admit I don’t know a *lot* of bipolar people. I know two. Both sing the praises of lithium. And they don’t just hate the depressive state. They hate the manic state too. And of the two bipolar people I know? One of them doesn’t get the blackouts. That means she gets tortured doubly — after returning to normal, she *remembers* what she did, what she said, and what she thought while she was like that.

Don’t flippantly assume that people with mental disorders enjoy their involuntary altered states of consciousness, just because you have enjoyed *voluntarily* altering your state of consciousness. Don’t forget about that key word, “voluntary”. Bipolar mood disorder is no picnic.

# Wallace Sampsonon 09 Jul 2009 at 2:39 pm
Thanks to the commenters. Although the direction went a bit adrift on psychedelics, I found your comments to trigger the kinds of discussions long behind us in the 60s-80s. Nevertheless, the experiences were crucial to the understanding of Castaneda, and to the socio-mental status of those decades.
I spent enormous amounts of time and effort trying to understand what was going on and I think many others did as well. How did such imagination and pranking become greeted with such belief and success, and how did they seduce a generation?
I carried the lessons with me to my dotage, and the skepticism engendred affect my attitudes still. Fakery I hope becomes easier to detect – from refrigerator repairmen to presidential candidates – and we have had some whoppers in that last category. And yet so many people still go along. Just as they do with chiropractors and medical quacks.
Richard de Mille belongs on a stamp, a bill of some denomination – if one can be found that won’t be devalued in a year or two – or even on a capital building.
BTW, a fellow named Cashill wrote a nice book in 1995 on recent literary hoaxes. He’s working on some more recent ones also. WS

# myotison 24 Aug 2009 at 8:02 am
“How did such imagination and pranking become greeted with such belief and success, and how did they seduce a generation?”

I would guess that Castaneda’s skill as a story teller coupled with his insight into the human condition allowed him to give us a sense of hope that we badly needed.

the fact that through his allegory he was able to connect to some desire or longing that many of us could relate to.

“The ideas of that period faded away quietly, without causing the cognitive dissonance that so much anti-science thinking causes today.”

Unfortunately it hasn’t really faded away. Just take a quick look at the New Age section of your book store and you will see what I mean.

Authors like Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra and “don” Miguel Ruiz, author of the suprisingly successful book “The Four Agreements”, are some of the more famous individuals who have managed to take Castaneda’s ideas, repackage them, and sell them to an audience that is filled with fear and longing and desperate for some kind of solution.

In fact, I don’t even remember there being a New Age section in my bookstore when I bought my copy of “The Teachings of Don Juan”. You could argue that Castaneda spearheaded the entire industry.

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