The excess of ACCESS
Monday on SHAMblog, Steve Salerno began his series of "collateral-damage" self-help stories. Or perhaps I should say, "selfish-help" stories. All too often, people who become immersed in SHAM/New-Age/New-Wage paths get so absorbed in their own quest for personal fulfillment that they neglect and sometimes abandon their spouses, their children, their responsibilities. Not only are bank accounts depleted; that's just the beginning. Often marriages are wrecked, families are torn apart, lives are ruined. Irreparable harm may be done not just to the original follower or student or trainee of the SHAM method of choice, but also to his or her loved ones – hence, "collateral damage." This is a "dark side" of this subculture – a side that, as you’ve probably observed, I normally don’t get into on this blog, preferring instead to focus on the silly aspects.
Even so, I am eagerly following Steve’s new series.
Though I’m one of the designated class clowns of the anti-New-Wage movement, I am not completely isolated from the "dark side." For example, a couple of days after I wrote a smart-alecky post about a vacuous-sounding phenomenon known as ACCESS Energy Transformation, I received an email from someone whose spouse has recently become involved in ACCESS. The person who wrote to me was devastated, claiming that Gary Douglas, founder of ACCESS, had advised the spouse that "marriage is a four-letter word." The spouse was also allegedly told to begin having sex with new people in order to "learn more." My correspondent added, "He [Douglas] is now starting my two young kids [in ACCESS] and I am very scared and upset…"
Needless to say, I sympathize with this person, especially if the kids are being recruited into ACCESS as well. And that may very well be the case. According to the ACCESS Kids page on the web site, "Kids come for free to all Access classes until age 16 because they are willing to change." The ACCESS folks are currently offering a class called "X-Men: ACCESSing Conscious Children." Hmm… I wonder if they’re violating a copyright or two with that X-Men thing? Food for thought… Anyway, here’s what the blurb says:
One of our targets is to start Access Schools. The children coming in now are far more willing to be aware, they are more willing to change and have a different reality. What if we acknowledged the consciousness of the children? What if all the "labels" of disabilities such as OCD, Autism, ADD etc are actually talents and abilities? What if we acknowledged our kids for what they know? What if they were more physic (sic) than we have been willing to admit? What would it take to expand yours and their awareness of what else is possible? This truly is a unique class where we will offer tools to assist you in changing the way things are. It’s important for children to be able to access their abilities.
ACCESS schools? Now, that’s a truly frightening thought. And notice how the copy is structured to appeal to those who believe in the existence of Indigo children. (For the uninitiated, "Indigo child" is, more often than not, New-Wage code for "spoiled, obstreperous brat.")
As for ACCESS’s message that marriage is a four-letter word, that may be a matter of interpretation on my correspondent’s part, but, as I wrote to this person, the whole ACCESS spiel strikes me as being irresponsible at best in its approach to intimate relationships. Some of the classes – and much of the philosophy, as expressed through the founders and the attendees of the workshops and demo sessions – seem to encourage abject selfishness and even promiscuity. There is, for instance, the "intensive" class called "Truth of Sex," based upon a book by Gary Douglas and his cohort Dain Heer. That book is titled, Sex Is Not a Four Letter Word, But Relationship Often Times Is – a faintly clever (if somewhat cumbersome) title, and harmless enough in and of itself. But there’s no telling what they teach in the class. I did get the distinct impression, as I noted on my piece the other day, that ACCESS is very much about sex.
I realize, of course, that I am hearing this story only from my correspondent’s perspective and not from that of the errant spouse or, for that matter, from Gary Douglas. Still, knowing what I know about ACCESS, the story seems entirely plausible. Despite my compassion for my correspondent’s plight, however, I really could not offer much assistance, other than to provide a sympathetic ear and a link to the Rick A. Ross Institute, one of the best resources for information about cults and controversial groups and movements.
On a slightly lighter note, we have the story of a woman who was bilked by an "ACCESSory" (as ACCESS folk sometimes call themselves), but seems to have survived with her sense of humor intact, and was even able to get a small measure of revenge. On condition of anonymity she gave me permission to share her story.
Dear Cosmic Connie,
Once again, I thank you for bringing to light the bulls--t that is called ACCESS. I have been a victim of that scam because the ACCESSory that I consulted with happened to also be a lover (well, ex-lover) of mine. And I fell for him, hook, line, and sinker. I wanted to look for a better way to manage my bipolar disorder besides taking harmful pharmaceuticals. (Hey, that’s how Rhonda Byrne started believing that she could change her world – with thoughts, right?)
It IS true that ACCESS does put a heavy emphasis on sex. I know this because usually after an ACCESS "session", I'd ended up sleeping with him. He used that whole Rasputin-esque* swagger to lure me into his bed. I personally didn't object to the bed games, but when my wallet started becoming lighter, I thought, "Wait a second.....he's like a high-end earth crunchy New Wage gigolo."
When I was getting sick of the ACCESS sessions and [the ACCESSory] kept asking for $50 per session (which isn't as horrid as $125 per session, but then again I'm a struggling art student), I decided that after I had written a $50 check to him, I decided to cancel it as soon as I realized my mistake. Of course, that ACCESSory went apes--t when his money didn't go through....
Also, I was starting to really dig him and then coming to the harsh conclusion that he was manipulating me sexually to his own whim. (This also happened to me in the past at the hands of an ex-boyfriend, a hypno the-rapist who specialized in NLP.)
So he tried sending me "friendly" phone calls (always from private numbers), and I'd hang up on him. Then [he] texted me "Fine, continue feeling pathetic."
Sadly, I am $150 short. Luckily it hasn't affected me too much since it's summer break, but DAMN, I hate being ripped off in any fashion!!
I do not mind you sharing this story, in fact........I want EVERYONE to know this story, maybe it can be Google bombed to the #1 hit in a search engine. ACCESS is a f-----g fraud and it's the most severe since it IS under the radar of many die-hard skeptics and the like. A "bar" reading is just a ploy to get laid and take someone's money!!!
Arm everyone with knowledge!!!!
Not too long after sending me this email, my correspondent wrote me another one describing how she pranked her ACCESSory ex.
Dear Cosmic Connie,
I just recently did an IM [instant-messaging] prank on the guy who was doing the ACCESS. Basically, I had an IM bot pose as my fiancé and get real huffy on that guy. I didn't save the actual conversation, but the ACCESSory did call me and say, "This isn't funny!"
THEN [the ACCESSory] IMs me:
ACCESSORY: please stop all contact with me. i would really appreciate it
ME: give me my money back.
I KNOW you scammed me.
I told my fiancé EVERYTHING, and he is f-----g pissed.
ACCESSORY: That's not what someone with a supposed good nature would do.
i didnt scam you. the energy work we did together helped you a lot. whether you know it or not.
ME: No, that novelty wore off when my bank account was dry
ACCESSORY: you can think whatever you want
ME: You manipulated me
ACCESSORY: and you had the choice to do whatever you want.
and tell your fiancé if he has anything to say, he can call me
other than that, please delete me from your life
ME: you're already dead to me, so HAH
Notice how the ACCESSory argues that the "energy work" he and my correspondent "did together" was beneficial. He seems to be saying that she’s just too unenlightened, or simply too lacking in awareness, to realize how much it helped her.
I am not trying to portray my correspondent as an utterly innocent victim who had no choice in the matter, and she doesn’t appear to be making that claim either. To an extent, the ACCESSory is right; she did make choices. And, while losing $150.00 is a tough lesson, it certainly could have been much worse. She didn’t lose thousands of dollars, or, worse, her spouse or her family or her life. Still, if the story unfolded as she describes, it seems that her ACCESSory friend was manipulative and that he took advantage of her vulnerability. (Back in the day when I was hanging around New-Agers, I encountered quite a few guys who operated very much like this one, so her story sounds very plausible.)
Some might say that attempting to manage a serious health condition such as bipolar disorder with something like ACCESS is foolhardy at best, and they would point this out as an object lesson in the hazards of "alt-med" and the like. That’s a discussion for another day; all I'll say now, though some skeptics and critical thinkers will disagree with me on this matter, is that I honestly can’t fault someone for wanting to at least explore non-pharmaceutical or non-traditional methods. I think we can all agree, however, that ACCESS was clearly not the answer to this woman’s problems. And if the ACCESSory tried to lead her to believe it was the answer, shame on him.
Equally important, if not more so, her story is one that has been repeated time and again – not just with ACCESS, of course, but with countless other cults and cult-like groups. In the endless quest for self-gratification, the leaders and practitioners of these "paths" or "technologies" or "ways of life" all seem to resort to the same basic types of subterfuge. They are skilled manipulators, and words are their tools and their weapons. Whether they’re after money or sex or both, they couch their selfish desires in lofty, nebulous language, perhaps throwing a proprietary bit of pseudo-scientific or pseudo-spiritual lingo into the mix to make themselves sound advanced and evolved – and to confuse or intimidate their prey. I'm not saying that everyone who becomes involved in ACCESS is either a victimizer or a victim. But ACCESS, with its nonsensical mantras, "hands-on techniques," and the apparent focus on sex and body issues, does seem tailor-made for today's New-Wage predator.
As I’ve noted before, ACCESS is not really much more than a blip on the skeptics’ radar. With the exception of the brief description that I first saw on Quackwatch and have since seen on a few other sites as well, there’s little critical buzz about it. Most people haven’t even heard of it. Heck, I hadn’t heard of it myself until recently. ACCESS founder Gary Douglas is a former Scientology member, and some of the elements of ACCESS are clearly borrowed from Scientology, notwithstanding Gary’s claims about having "channeled" the information back in the early 1990s. But ACCESS has yet to achieve a fraction of the notoriety – or the membership – that Scientology has gained over the past few decades. According to a non-article on Wikipedia (follow the link and you’ll see what I mean by "non-article"), there are less than a thousand serious practitioners worldwide.
Yet ACCESS has quite a web presence, and there are numerous active groups in the US and Down Under; one can see its growth potential – not to mention its potential for doing real damage. Thanks to ACCESS, my second correspondent lost $150.00 and, perhaps, a bit of her faith in people. My first one may very well lose a spouse and kids.
So I’m keeping my eye on ACCESS. And, as usual, I’m open to hearing feedback, both pro and con.
* The allusion to Rasputin is relevant because supposedly Rasputin originally helped channel the ACCESS information to Gary Douglas back in the early 1990s.
PS ~ In honor of the subject of Steve Salerno’s first "horror story" – the tale of a follower of pop-spirituality guru Marianne Williamson, who popularized A Course In Miracles – here’s a recycled bit from my BLP (book-like product), Cosmic Relief. This was done back in the day when I had only vector clip art to work with, so it’s a bit crude… but it gets the point across. And though it's fifteen years old, it's really not all that outdated. (Click on the pic to access a larger and more readable version.)