Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Goodbye to a Texas legend

This really has more to do with my "day job" than with the usual subject matter of this blog, but I wanted to make note of the passing of one of our local heroes, Houston television's "white knight in blue shades," Marvin Zindler (1921-2007). Marvin passed away on July 29 around 6:15 PM Houston time, succumbing to complications from pancreatic cancer. He was less than two weeks shy of his 86th birthday.

Marvin is perhaps best known nationally for being the inspiration for the Best Little Whorehouse In Texas franchise – the Playboy article that became a stage play that became a movie. But he was so much more than the man who closed down the cat houses in LaGrange and Sealy, Texas. Since 1973 he had been a fixture on Houston's ABC affiliate, KTRK-TV Channel 13, initially reporting on consumer fraud and later expanding his beat to include, among other things, dirty restaurants. His "Rat and Roach Report," with the rallying cry, "Slime in the ice machine!", was a welcome dinnertime staple on Friday evenings. Mmmm, tasty! Not that Marvin confined his activities to the Houston area. He also traveled the world on "goodwill missions" to help people who needed helping. For the most part these were medical missions, and he was accompanied by doctors and other professionals, "Marvin's Angels," who donated their time and their services to his good causes. And almost until the day he passed away – he even continued to broadcast reports from his hospital bed – he remained the "loudest man on television." Love him or hate him – and most of us loved him – you just couldn't ignore him.

There are so many ways in which Marvin Zindler differed from the New-Wage/self-help/pop-spirituality gurus I love to skewer on this blog. True, Marvin had an ego that could easily have put the lot of the New-Wagers to shame. From a very early age, he was an inveterate publicity hound and would do just about anything to get his name and picture in the news. But he wasn't just another fame whore. The man had a heart that was even larger than that ego of his, and he touched countless thousands of lives – not by selling vague promises of enlightenment or unlimited wealth via self-help books and DVDs and weekend workshops, but by actually solving everyday problems for everyday folks.

Marvin had several signature mottoes, but the one that made him a hero among so many people was, "It's hell to be poor." Unlike the current crop of
New-Wage entrepreneurs who are getting so much mileage out of being "formerly homeless" and now wealthy beyond belief, Marvin himself was born into affluence and lived a life of privilege. But he wasn't one to flaunt his wealth, at least not in the way that my favorite targets on this blog do, though he never hesitated to use his considerable resources and connections to help those in need. More importantly, he knew, and cared deeply, how "the other half" lived, and he spent much of his life fighting for the poor and disenfranchised. As well, he helped thousands of ordinary middle-class people fight back against shoddy business practices, tangled bureaucracies, or just plain bad luck. (I would have loved to hear his take on Secret creator Rhonda Byrne's "let them eat cake" philosophy.) For decades Marvin was also a fierce crusader against prejudice and racial discrimination, a cause that surely must have raised more than a few eyebrows in certain circles back in the day.

Ron and I were privileged to take part in the creation of Marvin's authorized biography, White Knight In Blue Shades, which was penned by Marvin's plastic surgeon and long-time friend, Dr. Joseph Agris, who accompanied Marvin on many of his worldwide medical missions. Doc Joe, a hero in his own right for several reasons, was a delight to work with, and clearly had a fondness for his subject matter. Instead of seeking a trade publisher, Doc Joe chose to self-publish, and proceeds went to the charitable organization he and Marvin had founded, The Agris-Zindler Children's Foundation.

The original working title of the book was an accurate though somewhat uninspired one: Marvin Zindler. It was Ron and I who came up with White Knight In Blue Shades, a title Doc Joe loved. The title referred not only to Marvin's status as a local hero (and his fondness for wearing white suits), but to his trademark blue sunglasses, which he wore in his later years to protect his eyes from the bright glare of the TV studio lights. It was only a couple of years ago that we found out Marvin himself never really cared for the name we had so lovingly bestowed upon his biography. But he did approve of the book, for the most part, and I guess that's what really mattered. (And I suppose it was a tribute to Marvin's stature in Houston that the Houston Chronicle book editor suspended his usual policy of snubbing self-published books, and actually did a write-up of White Knight In Blue Shades.)

In the days to come, Houston media will no doubt be saturated with tributes to Marvin Zindler. I usually get pretty weary of this sort of thing after a few hours. But Marvin...well, he was someone special, and I can't seem to get enough of the tributes. And even though I didn't know him very well, except through working for so many months on his biography, I'm truly going to miss him.

As will, I suspect, the vast majority of the people in this realm of rats and roaches, this blessed plot of dirty politicians and shady merchants, this precious stone set on a murky bayou,
this quirky town, this Houston. It truly will not be the same city without Marvin Zindler.

One of my favorite columnists, Ken Hoffman, pays tribute to Marvin in this piece.
Marvin Zindler's son tells of his father's final night.

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Must be something in the water...

Call it synchronicity, or perhaps I just "attracted" it with the Aquarius-themed graphics I've been playing with. Or maybe the fact that I was born under the sign of the Water Bearer has something to do with it. But I have just received a very exciting email about water and the Age of Aquarius.

"Now is the time," the email began. "It all starts now. As you read this, the excitement will build. Although you haven't known it, you've been waiting for this message."

Well, I love to find out about stuff I've been doing that I didn't know I was doing. In recent weeks I've been getting some lectures on that very subject, from various self-proclaimed experts. But had I really been waiting for this particular message? I couldn't begin to tell you. I did find myself getting excited, however, although that may have been partly due to the fact that The Rev happened to come into my office while I was perusing the email, and as he read over my shoulder, he slowly began to...oh, wait. Sorry. It's not that kind of blog.

Exciting news poured forth from the email:
We humans are prewired for limitless potential at a preplanned juncture in
time. Now is that time. Our sleeping DNA are awaiting frequencies - also
planned for eons - to awaken them and trigger them to express to their
fullest potential. Our company and what we're producing are a large part of that plan. We have the frequencies for the Aquarian Age. And guess what? You guessed it. Water is involved.
Well, of course water would be involved. And I've certainly blogged about water before. But this was something new, something even more scientifically advanced than the Water Blessing Labels I've previously written about. The email continued:
The Aquarian Age we are just entering is about water, the power of water -
She is the Water-Bearer* - and we have been guided to design and build an
extraordinarily powerful yet simple software tool called Aquaware as a
technological trigger for this abundant and amazing age we're moving rapidly into.
Well, I imagine you're excited too now, and you want to know just what Aquaware is, and how it works.

I'm afraid it's a bit too scientific and technical to go into on a blog like this, but I will share with you the explanation in the email:
In brief, Aquaware is software for PCs which impregnates water with
frequencies that are able to bring about objectives in the water-based human body. Those frequencies create geometrical forms that modify water's snowflake-like liquid crystals which, after ingestion, bathing, showering or direct application, then modify you at the cellular and molecular levels, and even at the level of your DNA, according to selectable intent. It's truly a marvel and works almost unbelievably well.
This is like nothing that's come before in terms of software or other
technological means - different approach, different math, different delivery
mechanism, different everything, and the change in the physical properties
of the water can be observed directly, including a difference in taste,
texture, wetness, etc. And as much water as you've worked with before, water modified with Aquaware will nevertheless surprise you in a big way.
I bet by now you are so excited you're about to wet yourself. If you're going to do that, don't you think you'd have a better overall experience if the vibes in your pee were accelerated via Aquaware?

The good news is that you can try Aquaware risk-free.
As it's free to try in order to prove it to yourself, there is nothing to
lose except everything that is toxic in your system of being, along with all
other superfluous detritus that no longer serves you. You'll adjust with
grace, beauty, power and intended effortlessness to the more natural you
that is prepared for limitless creativity and play in the coming Cosmic
Party.
The power of Aquaware is absolutely majestic. If you're an intuitive or are
otherwise sensitive to energy, you will know it upon the first few seconds
of being on the Website.** The excitement will immediately begin. In fact, it
has begun in you even now. We can feel it as we write this text.
My hands are shaking, and I bet yours are too. So c'mon, go with the flow; pay a visit to the Aquaware folks today. Or, as they put it in the email: "Explode into your new way of being by visiting Aquafrequencies today."

* Notwithstanding the fact that Aquarius is, in fact, an Air Sign.
**Hmmm....where have we heard something about magical Websites before?

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Friday, July 27, 2007

It's been a fun first year...

...And I'm just getting warmed up. Thanks to everyone for your good wishes!
PS ~ I am an Aquarius...

It's my blogoversary

Hey, everyone, it's been exactly one year (!) since Whirled Musings was launched into the blogosphere. If you don’t believe it, click here.

Come to think of it, that was probably my best post ever. It was certainly the most succinct.

I'm going to write more a little later, but right now The Rev and I are running out the door to meet with a client. Back soon!

And thanks, y'all, for sticking with me through all of my snarking and grousing. I couldn't have done it without me. I mean, without you.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

You really gotta WANT it (but you better not NEED it)

From time to time I get emails from people who have read my article, "The Wrath of the Secretrons," on the Committee For Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) web site. In that article I described some of the angry emails I’ve received from those who don’t like what I’ve written on Whirled Musings about the hit New-Wage infomercial The Secret.

By far, most of the folks who write to me about that piece are not fans of The Secret, and they weigh in on the "skeptical" end of the belief spectrum. But I recently received an email from someone who is a "believer," or has tried very hard to be. This person, who has been into spirituality for many years, has labored for years in the healthcare field. I was given permission to share part of this individual's email.

OK, so I am what you might call a "New Ager" (no 'w', as I am poor). I try to be a good person and do hope that my work [helping people] will bring me 3-fold what I have given out. I am now applying for disability after years [of hard work] plumb wore my body out, and I am currently struggling to keep my house. So, of course, I was interested in The Secret as well as the publications by [Jerry and Esther] Hicks when several of my friends drew them to my attention.

Unfortunately, no matter how positive I am, or how many affirmations and targeted meditations I have done, I still seem to be having what others have labeled as 'bad luck'. This has been quite disturbing to me. I have asked a few of my metaphysical friends WHY The Secret doesn't work for me..............and do you know what their answer is? Repeatedly? "[Then] you aren't doing it right."

Now I ask you, how positive is THAT? Instead of giving me pointers or talking to me about what I could improve upon, I get criticism.

I agree with you, that the reason that The Secret is working for those involved in it, is that they are making money off of people that are stupid enough to buy into it, [who], I might add, are [seemingly] no better off than when they started viewing and reading...

…Quite frankly, I am tired of being told that my year long…bad-luck-health-and-money streak [is] all my own fault for not thinking positively enough. (Maybe, just maybe, it has more to do with our current faulty health and medical programs in our country, lack of staffing in hospitals, and exorbitant fees for health care.)

I for one, applaud you. And, I AM a self professed new ager (no w!).

Thank you for the information, and for all the smiles. : )

In my reply, I told this person that I have received several similar emails from people who have genuinely tried to embrace the teachings of The Secret, and have made every effort to put the Law of Attraction to work in their lives. When things don't get better, or when they seem to get worse, these people have also sought advice and support from other fans of The Secret / LOA, only to find themselves hit with similar judgmental, non-helpful answers. It’s really just another form of New-Age guilt-mongering, which is every bit as destructive as traditional religious guilt-mongering – a matter I've previously addressed on this very blog.

In a subsequent email my correspondent wrote to me:

I don't understand how all of these supposedly 'evolved' and 'enlightened' people feel it is just to attack ANYONE, let alone someone else for having a difference of opinion. It goes completely against what it is they are trying to GRASP.

Heck, if I could get The Secret to work for me, I would be more than happy to report that to you, without feeling the need to berate you in any way....that is immature and quite frankly, scary.

My correspondent is not the only person who has had second thoughts about The Secret. On his blog a few months ago, my friend Blair Warren wrote about his own "turnaround." He’s written several other posts – some humorous, some serious – about the logical fallacies and other shortcomings of the Law Of Attraction, as taught in The Secret. Yet the stars of The Secret are still using that same "logic" to defend LOA as an actual physical law, on the order of the law of gravity. In so doing they seem to be demonstrating the same level of compassion that my correspondent’s friends have shown.

Esther and Jerry Hicks, who are making a great deal of money sharing the wisdom of the Universe as told to them by Esther’s imaginary friend(s) Abraham, were the original muses for Rhonda Byrne, creator and producer of The Secret. Esther was in the initial version of the DVD, and although she doesn’t appear in the revised version, the Abraham-Hicks influence in Secret and LOA culture is undeniable. Esther and Jerry’s message seems to be that where LOA is concerned, compassion and mercy don’t enter into the equation. LOA as Abraham ’splains it is an immutable law, and that’s that; like it or lump it.

On The Rick Ross Cult Awareness web site, I came across a link to a very interesting article about the Abraham-Hicks phenomenon. It was written by UK journalist Robert Chalmers for The Independent. Chalmers recently traveled to Colorado, where the Hicks were conducting a workshop, and he sat down and spoke with Jerry and Esther. He even got to speak with Abraham for a spell.

The following exchange, I think, pretty much sets the tone for the "touchy issues."

"When you suggested, in Fort Collins yesterday, that if you think about a thing it will come to you whether you want it or not, and that a person draws their destiny to them; when I heard that, the words that came into my mind were: Auschwitz, Bialystock and Dachau. Are you saying that six million Jews invited extermination upon themselves?"

"We would never say they invited it wantingly or knowingly. But we unequivocally say that nothing happens to anyone without a predominant vibration that matches it." Just before Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, she says, "the people who did not want inconvenience left right away. People who are not accustomed to managing their life well, stayed."

"The poor people stayed."

"They are poor in vibration before they are poor in manifestation."

Okay, now I get it.

Chalmers writes that Esther and Jerry differ from classic charlatans in that they don’t seem to be courting popularity by saying what people want to hear. Esther admitted that she and Jerry "argued with Abraham for years" about certain ideas, such as the fact that people attract everything that happens to them, good or bad, whether they intend to or not. What about the innocent babies who are killed, Esther wondered. Well, Abraham had an answer for that, sort of, and Esther explains it to Chalmers, sort of. But when she and Jerry end up talking about a chicken they had named Renegade, this sort of cheapened the entire discussion for me. Not that I have anything against chickens, but c’mon, guys.

And here is the Abraham-Hicks take on victimization.

"Abraham," Esther says, "told us early on that the person receiving prejudice is the one who has the vibration that is attracting it. If I ever find myself feeling like a victim, things like that start happening to me."

"You say 'things like that' - the Holocaust?" [asked Chalmers]

"Well, no - that's big big big big big big big. I mean, it's ... huge. Probably the most victimised I have felt was over The Secret; but every part of it that happened, I acknowledge that there was a vibrational component of it within me."

Well, at least Esther admits that the Holocaust was a big deal and that she hasn’t ever suffered anything nearly so horrid.

Chalmers’ article goes into Jerry and Esther’s background, relating the tale of how they got into the imaginary-buds biz in the first place. You’ve probably heard the story before, but in this article you’ll get some more details that may, if you’re particularly unfortunate, bring up some unsavory visuals. (Esther, by the way, prefers to call what she does "receiving," not "channeling.")

There’s no denying that even as the Hicks have influenced Secret and LOA culture, it was The Secret that really catapulted them to fame. By their own admission, they’ve handsomely profited, both directly and indirectly, from The Secret.

It's hard to calculate," says Esther, "how much we have benefited from The Secret."

"Millions," Jerry interrupts. "Millions." These days, he says, "I can't imagine money not just pouring in."

Oprah Winfrey, who helped propel The Secret to mega-success by her endorsement, loves Esther Hicks too. She even had Esther on her radio show on XM not too long ago, but she won’t have her on the TV show because "too many people would be weirded out" by Esther’s fake-voice shtick. Esther told Chalmers, "Oprah doesn't think her television audience is ready for something so leading edge as Abraham. I want people who are ready for us to find us."

Well, there certainly seems to be a steady flow of people who are "ready" – enough folks to support an affluent lifestyle for the Hicks, although I must admit they don’t seem to be nearly as ostentatiously egotistical as some of the New-Wage hustledorks in The Secret.

And even though the LOA may be dispassionate, the Hicks have been known to commit acts of kindness. They’re not into charitable giving, though they do give their money away when the mood strikes them – but only to people who don’t give off "needy" vibes.

"What we are teaching," Jerry says, "is that you don't attract through need, but through desire. Like, we were in a little restaurant in San Francisco a while back and the waitress was just so wonderful. We gave her this envelope, with all the cash from that day's workshop. She yelled: 'Oh my God, you can't believe what you have done for me. I was going to lose my apartment.' We said: 'If you'd told us that, we wouldn't have given you the money. We did it because you were wonderful.'"

I’m surprised they didn’t take the money back after the waitress revealed her desperate situation. Anyway, I think the lesson here is clear. The real key to getting your problems solved – the real secret – is not merely to think positive, but to convince everyone else, including yourself, that you really don’t need anything. It’s okay to want money and other stuff, but not to need it. If you can convince yourself you don’t need it, then maybe you can fool the Universe, and you can get your stuff. In that respect, the Universe is sort of like an insurance company. If you can convince an insurance company that you’re highly unlikely to ever actually need the insurance, but you just want to pour your hard-earned money into their coffers for the sheer bloody joy of it, they’ll more than likely write you a superb policy. The rest of us – those who really are sick, and those who simply can't spare the bucks to enrich the insurance company – are S.O.L., insurance-wise.

So here’s my advice to the correspondent mentioned at the beginning of this post: Just be your wonderful self, and pretend everything is hunky-dory, and that your life isn’t in danger of coming apart at the seams. And if you ever get to the point where you're able to work again, and Esther and Jerry ever find their way into your healthcare facility, be extra, extra wonderful to them. If they're fresh from another workshop and have pockets full of dough, you just might get lucky.

Okay, here’s the link to that article in The Independent. It’s long, but very well worth the read.

OMT for everyone: If you haven't already, go see the movie Sicko. I think you'll find something to like about it – and even many things you'll agree with – even if you loathe Michael Moore and his politics.

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Imaginary friends: the more things change…

This isn’t the post I was originally planning to put up today; I’m still finishing that one. But I just received an email from someone who wanted to know more about the Mafu/Penny Torres/Ammagi cult, hoping that I might have some insider info. I explained to this person that my blog posts about Penny/Mafu, aka "Swami Blonde," were based upon spam emails I’ve received from her organization, and I referred the individual to a Mafu/Penny thread on the Rick Ross forum site.

There’s some sad and pretty scary stuff on that thread, and, as I told my correspondent, the more I find out about Swami Blonde and some of her followers, the more I believe they need to be institutionalized.

I especially think this after seeing a 20-year-old video of Penny. While reading the Rick Ross forum, I came across a link to an early interview by Meredith Vieira, from a defunct (1985-1989) TV series called West 57th Street.

Not much has changed since those prehistoric, pre-Internet days; if anything, things have gotten worse. The imaginary-friends segment of the New-Wage industry is still thriving, fueled by the gullibility of seekers, and held aloft by the obfuscation, rationalization and outright lies employed by the New-Wage hucksters. Listen to Penny's answer when she is caught in a lie about "curing" an AIDS patient who never had the disease in the first place. And a few minutes later, watch her as she blithely rationalizes being caught red-handed in another blatant deception.

In fact, if you ignore the big hair, the references to outmoded technology, the less-than-sterling production quality, and the lack of mention of The Secret and imaginary-friends moguls Esther and Jerry Hicks, you’d almost think you were watching an interview that was filmed last week.

As for the young Penny Torres who appears in that video – well, I’m no expert on psychiatric disorders, but I look in her eyes and I see a seriously disturbed individual. What’s even more disturbing is that, even today, she still has a following.

Oh, yeah, here’s the link to the video.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Master baiting on the phone

"Connect With the Masters Through a Telephone Conference," read the provocative announcement I received by email the other day. I was delighted to see that the message came from author and channeler Carolyn Evers, whom you’ve met here before. Through my favorite New-Wage spam service, Carolyn is promoting a series of conference calls she has set up with various Ascended Masters.

For example, there is Master Kuthumi, the square-jawed dude in the beret, pictured here. His next teleconference is scheduled for Friday, July 27. Hey, that’s the one-year anniversary of Whirled Musings! Can you believe it? The focus of the teleconference, Carolyn explains, is "preparation for ascension as the particles in the lightbody must be changed to accommodate the higher vibrations." I believe that this lightbody rearrangement is a nonsurgical, noninvasive procedure, but I really couldn’t tell from the email.

I’m a little concerned, though. I hope Carolyn doesn’t run into any trouble with The Rev Lynette Leckie-Clark, who, according to her web site, is the "chosen channel" for Master Kuthumi. If Carolyn is not careful she could find herself entangled in a nasty lawsuit, such as that filed by JZ Knight a few years ago when JZ found out that a lady in Berlin was messing around with her imaginary pal Ramtha. JZ won, Ramtha came home to Mama, and Mama is still raking in the millions from gullible dolts those who seek the wisdom of the ages. And then there’s that odd and disturbing love triangle between Saint Germain, Troika Saint Germain, and Wyoming psychic Molly Rowland, which I wrote about last month (scroll down to the second item). Interdimensional relationships can be so complicated.

Archangel Mikael is another Ascended Master who has graciously agreed to participate in Carolyn’s phone conferences. The last one was on July 18, but I’m sure another one will be coming up soon. So what does Mikael have to tell us? "Electrons react differently in the higher dimension as there is more spacing between them," the email explained. "We understood this before the fall in Atlantis. [Mikael] is urging us to remember."

And then there’s Mother Mary, who really gets around. Not only does she appear in porch lights and on pizza pans, but she has managed to pop into the body of virtually everyone who’s anyone in the channeling industry. Mother Mary is taking time out from her busy schedule to do a teleconference with Carolyn on August 15. "Mother Mary understands what it is like to lose a child," explains Carolyn. "She is calling the parents together who have lost a child to heal their hearts and their physical bodies."

But do these teleconferences really connect you to the Masters, or is it just Carolyn talking in funny voices? Well, she says it’s the real deal, and why would a nice lady like that lie to us? "Attendees are reporting remarkable connections to the Masters," Carolyn says, emphasizing that the Masters will be standing by to answer your questions. She doesn’t specify whether she splits the proceeds with the respective Masters, but I’m guessing not. But she does have a valid point when she asks, rhetorically, "Where in history have we been able to connect with an Ascended Master through the telephone and they answer our questions?" She concludes, "These indeed are amazing times."

Yes indeed they are, and what is even more amazing is that while you are at Carolyn’s website, you can order a Universal Akashic Reading, which will help you "understand the colors that were used to create your soul and what that means as to the part of the cosmic plan that you were called forth to complete." Plus she has several books and other products to sell you. Remember, this is the woman who has spoken to Julius Caesar.

If you really want to pick up some other-worldly wisdom from another source, I am sure my friend Blair Warren would be glad to channel his Ass-ended Master Ralph, who, among other things, has revealed the Law of Extraction to Blair.

But maybe dead masters and elevated entities aren’t your thing. Maybe you would benefit more from getting on the horn with a Living Master. I just received notice of a weekly TeleGathering bestowed by a genial-looking bloke in Montana who goes by the name of Sunny Baba, a self-described "man of nature" and "natural man." Do not confuse Sunny Baba with the hairdo-challenged guru and suspected pedophile Sai Baba, nor with Baba Babababarann, guru-ette to the Beach Boys.

Sunny’s weekly phonefest on "Awakening To Oneness" is hosted by a very evolved enterprise called Blue Diamond Pachamama, which offers "Integrative, and Alternative Wellness and Healing on call and at everyone's fingertips through live and virtual events." (Pachamama was an Inca goddess.) The Blue Diamond folks are also dedicated to "celebrating earth's new children including indigo, star, rainbow, crystal and otherwise gifted children," as well as to "presenting new paradigms for intimacy, relationship and self love and acceptance."

Like I said, evolved.

"How would your life be different if you could spend time with a Living Master?" the email asked. "What if you could ask questions, have a dialogue, and receive guidance from someone who is in transcendent state of god communion while being in active communion with everyday life, and do it from the comfort of your home or office instead of traveling to the Himalayas?"

Well, you can get a chance to find out every Tuesday at 12 Noon ET / 9:00 a.m. PT / 10:00 a.m. MT. That’s when Sunny does his phone thing.

"Sunny Baba," the email continued, "is indeed a living Master who has achieved a transcendent state of god communion while being in active communion with everyday life. Sunny had to travel the world to find and sit with Living Masters, but he wants us to have the experience from the comfort of our own homes or offices. The transmission that happens is not dependent upon traveling long distances or searching for long years, and physical presence is not required; it can happen in a moment and by telephone."

Sunny, I was assured, wants to answer all of my questions, while taking me on a spiritual journey and creating "blissful transcendence and huge changes." It’s not about self-improvement; it’s about god realization.

You may be asking, "Cosmic Connie, just what is it that makes Sunny Baba a Living Master, besides the fact that he has traveled all over the world and has done some studying and thinking about spiritual stuff, no doubt smoking some really good weed and taking a few hallucinogenics along the way?" Good question, You. I don't know the entire answer to that question, but it seems clear to me that he didn’t purchase his credentials from a metaphysical college. He apparently earned them the hard way, through experience.

I have wandered and shared my light and wisdom in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Oregon, Idaho and Montana in a rebuilt 1931 Ford truck, that I updated with a new engine, brakes and mechanics. I towed a covered wagon... "a beautiful gypsy wagon" I built by hand that had stained glass windows, solar-powered lights and music, a fridge, stove and double bed. I am an artist in all parts of my life. I build my own homes, make my own clothes, and love to grow and gather my own food. I paint, and do stained glass windows; tan hides, craft and bead with the leather; design and make buckskin and other clothes; create 13 kinds of moccasins; build temples; re-build vintage cars; and create gypsy wagons. I love going barefoot as often as possible, and I live primarily out of doors.

Okay, I can identify with the "going barefoot" thing. I friggin’ hate shoes. And I wouldn’t mind living primarily out of doors as long as I had Internet access, mosquito repellant, and someone to build fires and hunt and gather all of the stuff that I needed. Actually, Rev can do all of those things, and he’s a damn fine cook, indoors or outdoors.

You can hear Sunny talk about the future of the Earth by following this link (click on the center image). Listening to him go on and on makes me want to go light up a doobie, and I don’t even smoke the stuff. Never cared for it.

Sunny, who no doubt has been a SNAG since years before faux-Native ham Dreaming-Bare had even descended to this plane of existence, also has this to say about himself:

I am very loving and a true gentle man…My life is all about beauty, creativity, romance, love, truth, and honesty… I am a natural man, not a product of my culture. I produce a lot and consume very little, a simple man with a clear mind and an open heart. My name is Sunny Baba, which means "Bright Brother". I have lived a wild / primitive life, and I carry that harmony and wildness into all that I say and do.

But for all you single ladies, sorry, gals, Sunny Baba is taken. He has found his "heart-mate" in 64-year-old Brooke Medicine Cabinet…er, Medicine Eagle. Separately and together they do all sorts of honoring-the-Earth things, and they seem to be involved in some sort of F-M-F arrangment with their "partner" Sally Hill to build a sustainable community in the Bitterroot Mountain area of Montana. Matter of fact, you can be part of this community too.

Actually, when you look at the photos, it doesn’t seem like such a bad life at that, though I wonder how many months of the year Sunny can actually go barefoot in Montana. And I have to admit that the guy has a ton of life skills that I sure don’t possess. I can’t even thread a needle, or hammer a nail in something without seriously injuring myself and destroying whatever it was I was trying to hammer a nail into.

Anyway, if you want a transcendent experience on the phone, call 1-900… I mean, click here. As for me, I think I’m going to go watch the movie Flashback again, even though Ron and I just watched it last night. I suddenly feel in the mood, for some reason.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Into the volcano (a tale of two Joes)


"My father says almost the whole world’s asleep. Everybody you know, everybody you see, everybody you talk to. He says only a few people are awake. And they live in a state of constant, total amazement."
~ Meg Ryan as Patricia Graynamore in
Joe Versus The Volcano (1990)

"Dear God, whose name I do not know, thank you for my life. I forgot how big… thank you, thank you for my life."
~ Tom Hanks as Joe Banks in one of my favorite scenes from
Joe Versus The Volcano

While there are cases in which unceasing wide-eyed wonder is a sign of psychosis, severe mental challenges, or the ingestion of some really good drugs, I'll grant that it would be pretty cool to live in the state of "constant, total amazement" that Meg Ryan’s character, Patricia Graynamore, described in Joe Versus The Volcano.

Put aside, for the moment, the small detail that the person Patricia is quoting in the movie, her father, is a ruthless gazillionaire who is all too willing to make a human sacrifice in order to obtain a rare resource he needs for his enterprise. The quotation is still pretty powerful in its own right. And the elder Graynamore is hardly the first person to express the notion that most people are, in essence, sleepwalking through life. Nor, for that matter, is he the first to say that people who are truly "awake" exist in a state of amazement. Buddha reportedly said much the same thing, which is probably where the screenwriters for the movie got the idea in the first place.

Joe Versus The Volcano is fiction, of course. But author and spiritual-marketing guru Joe Vitale claims he really is experiencing an almost continual state of amazement and wonder these days, the strong implication being that this is largely a result of what he has learned from Dr. Hew Len, the therapist who teaches a modern form of a Hawai'ian technique called Ho'oponopono. In his new book Zero Limits, which I wrote about on July 9 and July 10, Joe describes the "three stages of awakening." He says he believes he has reached stage three, which, he explains, is a state of almost constant amazement, wonder and gratitude. And at one point in the book, Joe even paraphrases the Meg Ryan quotation above, saying it came from "a character in a movie," though he didn’t name the movie.

Many years ago I recommended Joe Versus the Volcano to Joe Vitale. It's one of my favorite flicks. Okay, so I don't have the most highbrow tastes in movies. Actually, though, this movie is pretty deep, in a shallow kind of way – sort of like I'm shallow in a deep kind of way, which may be one reason that I like it so much. Yes, I do get all, or most, of the allegories and metaphors and life lessons in the movie, and I do get that I (and all of us) should pay heed to those lessons, as more than one person has been kind enough to point out to me. I liked the movie for all of those reasons, but also for its quirky charm, the soundtrack, the ambiance, and most of all, though it lasted only moments, for that scene with the surreal night sky over the ocean: the wheeling constellations, the enormous moon. I've seen the sky like that, and I wasn't in a state of delirium, as Joe Banks was in the movie, nor was I under the influence of any recreational substances.

Anyway, Joe V. rented the movie and said he thoroughly enjoyed it. He told me that what he especially loved was that bit about being asleep versus living in a state of total amazement. I guess this thought stuck with him.

I think we could all benefit from having more of a sense of profound wonder, a recognition that life can be experienced as a gift and not just a series of ordeals, unpleasant surprises, and gray routine, punctuated by occasional joy (as seems to be the case with most people). But is "zero state" via Ho’oponopono the way to Wonderland? Apart from the fact that it seems to be a safer path than hallucinogenic drugs – a point worth remembering on this fortieth (!) anniversary of the Summer of Love – is "zero state" achievable, or even particularly useful? More than that, is it desirable? To put it bluntly, when you wipe your mental slate clean of the effects of your memories, when you cease being so judgmental, does this mean you're really in touch with the Divine, or just more vulnerable to the next New-Wage trend that comes along?

You'll have to make up your own mind about that, but I think these are questions worth asking. I have to say that for me, it's been very tough not to view Zero Limits in the context of Joe's other work, and especially in the light of his penchant for overly-enthusiastic promotion.
Truth is, virtually everything Joe has ever promoted has supposedly cast him into a state of wide-eyed wonder and amazement similar to what he describes in Zero Limits.

I am sure some folks will point out that Joe is just an enthusiastic guy by nature, and that in any case, that sense of wonder and amazement isn't even the central point of Zero Limits or of Ho'oponopono. Taking "100% responsibility" for healing yourself and all of the problems that come into your awareness is the real point, they'll say, and that's accomplished, in part, by "cleaning" via those four powerful phrases: "Thank you," "I'm sorry," "Please forgive me," and "I love you." And the ultimate point, perhaps, is healing the world. "Peace begins with me," after all. (To me this is reminiscent of the "Peace Song," which was written over 50 years ago and is sung at the services in many Unity and other New Thought churches. "Let there be peace on Earth / and let it begin with me..." They've been singing that song for years and years. So where's the peace?)

Be that as it may, this post focuses on the sense-of-wonder angle because it is the one thing that really grabbed me about Zero Limits.
And it's one of the factors that led me to read the book again and try to filter out the things I found annoying the first time around.

Some history

Like most people who have built a public persona and gained a following, Joe Vitale has his share of passionate fans and fierce defenders, and that's putting it mildly.
Over the past several months, some have accused me of engaging in "Joe-bashing." Some have said it is very obvious I don't know him.
 

But I did know Joe during what he has referred to as his "Houston daze." Regarding that small but meaningful pun, he’s not the first and surely won’t be the last person to view Houston as a place from which to flee in search of greater things. As columnist Kristen Mack wrote in the Houston Chronicle recently, people come here primarily for work. It’s rarely a place to which one journeys for awakening or enlightenment. The climate alone, particularly on a steamy summer day, is enough to stifle any longing beyond the primal urge to immerse one’s entire being in a body of cool, cool water. And let's not even get into the traffic and the air quality.
 

There were many things I liked about Joe when I knew him back in the daze. I liked his love of books and writing and the fact that he was (and is) a voracious reader. I liked some of his earlier books about marketing, particularly the one I’m in. (Hey, it's just a cameo appearance, but you know I'm a narcissist.) I liked Joe's long-time fascination with advertising and copywriting – not just the how-to, but the history as well. Like Joe, I love those old-time ads, such as those reproduced in They Laughed When I Sat Down by Frank Rowsome, Jr. I liked Joe's sense of humor and the fact that he wasn't afraid to laugh at himself. I liked his fascination with the Internet; say what you will about him, for better or worse, he was one of the first people I knew to really grasp the entrepreneurial potential of the Net. In fact he introduced me to email and the Internet way back in the prehistoric mid-nineties (though it was computer-whiz Ron who actually got me online and taught me how to use the Net). I still use the Juno email address I got when Joe gave me a disk with an early (free) version of the email program. I liked that Joe was supportive and helpful in my earlier days as a freelance writer. Finally, as a hopeless cat lover myself, I liked that he adores cats, and even today, I think the Catarium he has on his Hill Country property is very cool.

So I'm not just some random "basher," and really not a basher at all.

Like many others, I have been turned off in the past few years not only by the breathless hype Joe brings to everything he promotes, but by the increasingly "out-there" ideas (and products) he is selling or promoting, The Secret being the most glaring example. (The logic he continues to employ in explaining the Law Of Attraction leaves me wondering sometimes who's the real satirist here: Cosmic Connie, or Mr. Fire? Is the joke really on me, after all?) Also off-putting is Joe's tendency to write excessively about his cars and other expensive toys, his wealth, and his fame. It comes across to me and many others as boasting, pure and simple.

With Joe, as I noted in a previous post, it is all too often difficult to separate the heart from the hype, the core messages from the messenger’s entire body of work (and, for that matter, from the entire New-Wage/self-help industry). It's not a simple matter of pulling salient quotations from a movie, finding kernels of wisdom in what was intended to be mainly popcorn fare. For me, it’s more like scrabbling for a tiny treasure, which may or may not be there, in a huge box of Styrofoam peanuts. (You'll have to excuse the metaphors; once I get started it's hard to quit.) The point is that even a sense of wonder and amazement, however genuine it may be, loses its sheen in a milieu of ceaseless marketing
.

As for "stage three" in the three stages of awakening described in Zero Limits, you will forgive me, I hope, for wondering how long it will be before Joe reveals that there is, after all, a "stage four," newly discovered, and you can find out all about it on his exclusive new DVD series. (In all fairness, he did say in the book that he believes there are at least three stages, so that certainly gives him some leeway to invent...er...discover, and market...additional stages.) [See PS below. ~CC]

It boils down to a credibility issue, and these are legitimate criticisms that do not come from a place of snarkiness. But I don’t expect Joe to change his style any time soon. And why should he, if it’s working for him?
 

As for the bragging, friends of his have told me that they honestly don't think Joe is aware of how this appears to others. One person said that Joe still doesn't believe that all this – the wealth, the fame, the accolades – is happening to him, and that Joe can't understand why people like him so much. What sounds like bragging, this person said, is simply the expression of "an amazed heart."
 

I couldn't help wondering, though, why no one apparently saw fit to suggest that Joe tone down some of the parts in Zero Limits that seemed boastful, particularly those exchanges with Dr. Hew Len that painted Joe as a minor deity. I speculated that maybe early readers of the manuscript had offered this advice and it was ignored. One friend suggested that perhaps these people, having heard Joe relate these tales in person, understood the spirit in which he told them in the book. In person, Joe's pal assured me, these stories come across as joyous sharing, not bragging. Others have told me, and I'm sure Joe himself would say, that his purpose in relating his stories is to encourage other people towards similar success. ("If I can do it, so can you!")

Insightful as those comments may be, they did raise another question for me: Could Joe really be so unaware of how his words appear to others, when he is supposed to be an expert on marketing, persuasion, and perception?
 

It's one thing to share endless stories about your luxury sports cars, your celebrity and fame, or your growing status as a spiritual leader in a warm conversation with close pals, or even with folks who have paid a thousand bucks to attend one of your intimate weekend workshops. It's quite another to repeat these stories incessantly on the printed page (or on screen) to millions of perfect strangers. It doesn't come out the same at all.* Context is everything; the medium does matter. In fact, anyone who has ever been involved in an acrimonious online exchange with relative strangers could tell you the same thing. Many of us have, at one time or another, found ourselves embroiled in an online "fight" because the words we wrote appeared overly harsh to the recipient. More than likely those same words, spoken in person over margaritas or coffee, would have resulted merely in a spirited debate.
 

Nevertheless I understood what Joe’s friends were trying to say. Viewed through the eyes of his friends, I can almost believe that Joe is simply expressing gratitude, in the way that other Joe, Joe Banks, does during the luminous moment cited at the beginning of this post. "Thank you…thank you for my life." I get it, I really do.
 

But it still rubs me wrong the wrong way, as it does many readers, when an author engages in what appears to be excessive self-aggrandizement in a book. As a person who loves books and makes a living trying to help people write better books, I still think that someone somewhere along the line should have taken more responsibility to keep out elements that, for many, would distract from the core messages in Zero Limits. Supporters of Joe will no doubt point out that what I perceive as the book's flaws have not kept Zero Limits (and some of Joe's other books as well) from climbing pretty high in Amazon ranking. I submit that the success of these titles is as much a result of the power of aggressive marketing and promotion as anything else.

Speaking of which, call me closed-minded or easily distracted, but in my rereading of Zero Limits I am still finding it a challenge to focus on the more profound messages, particularly in light of one of Joe's latest marketing gimmicks. Someone suggested to me that marketing is so much a part of what Joe does and who he is that he can't not do it. Maybe so, but I can only take it in small doses. I guess you could say I've got a serious case of marketing fatigue.
 

Still, I thought it fitting to take a brief break from my routine of what some must have viewed as gratuitous sniping. But don’t worry, I haven’t gone soft on y’all. And no one has paid me off or anything. Tomorrow, or the next day, it'll be back to Snarky Town for me. My email "in" box is full of snarkworthy tidbits from my favorite New-Wage spam service.
But I felt, somehow, that I needed to write this post, if for no other reason than that I used to know Joe.
 

One more thing before I sign off: If you haven't done so already, go rent (or better yet, buy) Joe Versus The Volcano, which Ron and I watched again just the other night. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll roll your eyes. But I think you will mostly be delighted. Pick up some orange soda to drink while you're watching.
 

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get back to work. The Rev and I are not quite at the point where we can just pack up everything and go "away from the things of man," but we're doing work we love, and when our work is done for the day, we are going to venture out and about in Space City.
 
Which really isn’t a bad place to be at all.
PS - This post counts as a wrap for the increasingly ill-named Hawai'ian "Week," because the last portion of Joe Versus The Volcano takes place on a little Polynesian island that has a big volcano. Also, Tom Hanks plays a ukulele and sings (though it's an old-style cowboy song, not "Tiny Bubbles"). His voice isn't half-bad!

* Here is a video of Joe Vitale talking about Zero Limits at one of his weekend workshops.

PS added months later: Yup, I was right about that "fourth stage of awakening"....

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

More than synchronicity...

Miracles are really unfolding in my life. Yesterday I heard from a wacky artist who, despite his questionable taste in BLPs (book-like products), is definitely worth checking out. I give you LESMANiA. (Don't stare at the whirly art too long; it might put you in a trance from which you will never emerge.)

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Hunka hunka burnin’ lust…on Maui!

Just when I thought I was ready to finally wrap up the increasingly ill-named Hawai’ian "Week," I got this email last night that was so full of mana that I just had to share it with you, Dear Ones. The message came from my favorite New-Wage spam service, which never disappoints. The subject line read, "Be Kissed into Consciousness with Dreaming-Bear." On first glance that didn’t sound particularly Hawai’ian, but then when I scrolled down I found out that Dreaming-Bear, after flitting about in twenty-six states in the US and seventeen countries overseas, has finally alighted on Maui.

Dreaming-Bear Kanaan, aka "The Kissing Prophet" (for which moniker I think we have some ditzy Maui journalist to blame) is a poet, performance artist, and poseur extraordinaire who appears to be deeply in love with himself. Judging by some of the pics on his web site, he also must drink a lot of Red Bull. But he’s also got a mystical shtick, which is why I got wind of him from my New-Wage spam service. His spiritual credentials are pretty impressive: he is, according to the email I received, "an Ordained Mystic Shaman, Author of 8 Inspired Books, Compassion Troubadour, & an International Spiritual Teacher of Tenderness."

Among his books is a collection of poetry entitled Wild Love ~ Kissed into Consciousness. So far it has a five-star review on Amazon, based on three reviews, and if you read those reviews, particularly the first one, you'll see the writing style is remarkably similar to that of the poet himself. Wow, his gift must be contagious, huh? Of his poetry he writes:

I Am, therefore. I Write. Each poem is my own personal painting with words. What Michelangelo did with the Sistine Chapel; I have sought to do to the page of Existence with the palette of thought.*

According to the bio on Amazon, Dreaming-Bear "has been a Professor at various universities & colleges for the last seven years, he holds two Masters Degrees, one in Communication, & one in Native American Philosophy (being completed now)." He is currently traveling and speaking around the world in homes, schools, and public venues "in an effort to create communal ecstasy and spiritual rapture through a synergy of poetry, art, music, and dance; happening in sacred performance rituals called: Shaman’s Seduction."

I imagine things have been a little dull on Maui since the disgrace of Tilak, who for a time was one of the darlings of the conspicuously enlightened on that magical isle (although he didn't actually live there). Dreaming-Bear is younger and whiter than Tilak, and as far as I know he doesn’t keep little flashlights in his mouth, but he does seem to have an enthusiastic female following.

Here’s what last night’s email promised:

Come experience Ecstatic Love through a dialogue of divinity! Be a part of the High Vibration poetic darshan, all the while being aroused to inspiration through expanded thought forms; which untie your heart’s wings & allow the sacred within you to soar! Feel your mind, body, & spirit come together have a quantum-conscious evolution in the Now, as you so playfully discover your second-innocence. Let your senses be reborn through the essence of Oneness. Receive the activation & inspiration your soul has been longing for!

Here are three upcoming opportunities for you to commune with what is being described as "Hafiz and Rumi joining hands and hearts to walk into the 21st century & use Dreaming Bear’s tongue as theirs to deliver their ancient voices to a world hungry for Divine-Love."
~Maui Mass Media~

Reading further, I gained a little more insight into Dreaming-Bear’s shtick:

MauiTime Weekly writes of Dreaming-Bear:

Yeah, he's kinda really hot, too. I prefer to think of him as the kissing prophet. He whispers and flirts his message of peace in seductive language and varying degrees of undress. He says stuff like, "Make love to the moment" and "taste the holiness in the chocolate," so you know I’m totally down with that. Don’t let me steer you wrong, though — DB’s intentions are pure and true, of course, meant to inspire against the ravages and tragedies of war. DB believes in this generation, in this society, that we’ve really lost a sense of tenderness as a way of life. And when I say tenderness I mean kindness and compassion, kissing. Imagine for a moment kindness and compassion making out in the corner somewhere," he’s said on a YouTube video entitled "Chocolate Poetry." How sweet that would be, wouldn’t it? And that’s tenderness expressing itself in us. Mmmhmm... like I said, kissing prophet.

But ya know, I think you really need to experience a little hunka hunka Dreaming-Bear for yourself. Make sure you’re not drinking anything, because it might end up coming out of your nose and messing up your keyboard (I’m watching out for you, Tony). And you probably ought to empty your bladder too, unless you were planning on changing your underwear anyway.

All righty, then, Dear Ones, are you ready for a little Bear? Here are some samplers:

History, particularly modern history, has shown us that intense narcissism coupled with pseudo-mysticism can be either tremendously entertaining or terribly dangerous. I’m definitely leaning towards the former with Dreaming-Bear, particularly since he is ostensibly hamming and posing for a noble cause: peace. But I think it’s pretty obvious that his highest cause is himself. As a narcissist myself, I can relate. In fact, I find that Dreaming-Bear is inspiring me. He has convinced me, once and for all, of a deep truth about myself:

I gotta find me a shtick or a scam.

More Dreaming-Bear gossip here (scroll down to fifth item, "Dreaming-Bear redux").
For the scoop on Dreaming-Bear at Burning Man, click
here.

* Dreaming-Bear also has a book called The Comma Sutra. He's not the first to build a book around that particular pun; there's at least one other book with the same title. In fact, yours truly had this same brilliant idea back in 1992 or so, but I never did anything about it. You can read more about me and my bright ideas here.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Happy Anniversary, SHAMblog!

I'm probably going to put some more stuff up today (for one thing, we're not quite finished with Hawai'ian Week), but for now I wanted to alert y'all to the fact that today, July 17, marks the two-year anniversary of Steve Salerno's SHAMblog. Steve is the author of SHAM: How The Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless, and he began SHAMblog around the same time that the book was initially published.


I only discovered Steve's writing, and SHAMblog, a little over a year ago, and I think it is fair to say that Steve gets most of the credit (or the blame, depending upon your point of view) for inspiring me to begin my own blog. At that point, my "cosmic" snarkiness – which up till then had found the pinnacle (or nadir) of its expression via my book-like product, Cosmic Relief *– had been dormant for years. But somehow, reading SHAMblog sparked the snark in me. While Steve takes a serious journalistic approach to self-help/pop psychology matters as well as some new-age stuff, I decided to go the (mostly) humorous route with Whirled Musings.

Now I'm coming up on my own one-year anniversary (July 27). Thank you, Steve, for your continued support of my efforts on this blog. More than that, thank you for SHAMblog. Not only do you offer information and thoughtful commentary, but you have provided a lively forum for discussion of the good, the bad, and the ugly in the self-help movement. Happy anniversary!

* You will see, if you follow the link, that the numbers for Cosmic Relief are impressive: #4,133,361 in Books as I write this. I like big numbers! Also, in the interests of full disclosure, the single five-star review was written by a friend of mine. I didn't ask her to do it, though; she volunteered.

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Alohahahaha...

So, are y’all still in a Hawai’ian mood? The Rev and I sure are. I thought I’d take a day off from blogging after those long and serious posts on Monday and Tuesday, but I’m back now. And while I was dividing my time between lolling around in the pool and engaging in various private email discussions about matters of consequence, intrepid blogger Walter Terry was still hard at work on his eye-opening series about the disastrous marketing of the iCAP Release Meter. And guess what? Walter, like so many others today, has turned Hawai’ian himself. Read all about it on this post.


And then read Part 4 here. This is very interesting stuff, folks.

Meanwhile, continuing with Hawaii Week on Whirled Musings, here are a few more tidbits for the pupu platter

Hidden messages in the four magic phrases
In my previous post I shared the exciting news of my introduction to the magical mystical ancient Hawai’ian healing system,
Boto’o’popopopo. Towards the end of that very lengthy post (yes, Walter, I know I am sometimes a bit long-winded :-)), I mentioned four powerful phrases used by practitioners of Boto’o’popopopo: "Thank you." "I am sorry." "Please forgive me." "I love you."

What a beautifully interconnected world we inhabit. Several other ancient Hawai’ian healing systems use those very same phrases. As you know from reading my previous two posts (also very long), practitioners of a modern form of a path called Ho’oponopono use these phrases as well for "cleaning."

And then there are devotees of Yoko’ono’onono, which combines ancient Hawai’ian wisdom with primal screaming. Yoko’ono’onono followers are also very fond of using those four mystical phrases, but they generally "sing" them, believing that words are most powerful if they are "sung" rather than spoken. A unique vocal style is employed; experts have likened it to the sound of a cat being eviscerated.

So anyway, I thought these four phrases were innocuous enough, until my friend Blair Warren got me to thinking. He said he had been suspicious of these sayings from the beginning. Referring to one of the major New-Wage masters, he wrote:

Remember the four magic phrases he has been using since he started gearing up for his big Ho'oponopono promotion?

"Thank you." "I am sorry." "Please forgive me." "I love you."

I mean, what is he thanking us for? What is he sorry for? What is he asking for forgiveness for? And how can he "love" people he has never even met? Could these just be empty phrases or is there something more substantive behind them? I think I know the answer.

With help from my Ass-ended Master Ralph and a few sleepless nights, I have been able to crack the code and discover the full translation of these phrases. Here is what I discovered:

Thank you (for giving me money).
I am sorry (but it wasn't enough).
Please forgive me (because I want more).
I love you (for being so gullible).

Now I can see why he likes this method so much.

Remember, the Universe likes greed.

All I can say is thank you, Blair, and thank you, Ralph.

I’m just wild about Kahuna Harry
If Boto’o’popopopo, Ho'oponopono, or Yoko’ono’onono haven’t healed what needs healing, maybe
Lomilomi will. Lomilomi is an ancient Hawai’ian technique that includes massage. Now, that sounds like my kind of ancient Hawai’ian technique. You may have seen Barbra Streisand practicing it on a hapless Robert DeNiro in Meet The Fockers. Well, that wasn’t the half of it.

Recently I got an announcement of a new book about Lomilomi, Wise Secrets of Aloha: Learn and Live the Sacred Art of Lomilomi, by Kahuna Harry Uhane Jim with Garnette Arledge. Here's what the publisher's web site said about Garnette Arledge:

Beloved author Garnette Arledge had an intuitive flash when she first met Kahuna Harry that she would work with him on a book. She had to ask him three times before the Halau Guardians said the time was right. She resides in Woodstock, NY.

Here’s a link to the story of how Garnette met up with Kahuna Harry, who is the last Kahuna of Lomilomi lineage. So now you know.

Leave your fat behind
Are you fat? Would you like to go to Hawai’i to lose some of that lard? An Avatar master named
Angela Treat Lyon, along with a really cool guy who goes by the name of Souldancer, run these one-week Hawai’ian retreats to help you do just that. The retreats combine yoga, EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), and "cleansing," though maybe not the type you do with those four magic phrases we discussed above. And it’s all in a beautiful tropical location on the Big Island of Hawai’i. The next retreat is in October.

Here’s a video.

And here’s a link to more info.

Well, it’s time for me to go to dinner with the Rev and our out-of-town guest. So go pour yourself another one of those fruity drinks, or smoke a Hula Girl cigar, and I'll catch up with you again tomorrow. Aloha, y’all!

PS ~ I guess I should clarify something, since I’ve gotten a couple of private emails: My June 27 piece, "Mahalo, Dr. Yew," is satire. Dr. Yew does not exist except on this blog.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Add some more Zeros to his annual income…

(Part 2 of 2)
Link to Part 1

Note: We continue Hawai’ian Week with a piece that is very, very long, even for me. I’ll warn you right now that it is neither a straightforward review of Zero Limits (although within the copy you will find some actual opinions about the book). Nor is it a critical analysis, and I am not even going to make an attempt to tackle it from the classic skeptical/critical-thinking point of view. If you are in a hurry and just want various readers’ opinions in order to help you make a buying decision, click here. If, on the other hand, you’d rather "enjoy the journey," pour yourself a tall fruity tropical drink – and that’s "tall" in the classic sense, not the Starbucks sense – and read on. You might just want to print it out and take it out by the pool to read it. Be sure to use sunscreen.

............................


Wash away my troubles, wash away my pain
With the rain in Shambala
Wash away my sorrow, wash away my shame
With the rain in Shambala

~ Shambala (lyrics by D.Moore)

"Imagine wiping your mind’s slate clean and starting over without preconceived notions, so you can live in a world of daily wonder," reads the copy on the back jacket flap of Joe Vitale and Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len’s new book, Zero Limits (Wiley, $24.95 US). "Imagine if anything and everything were possible. In fact, everything is possible when you look at the world free of mental constraints…"

What an appealing idea: to be cleansed of all pain and anger, all guilt and worry and general emotional sludge. Or all sins, for that matter, if you happen to believe in that unfashionable concept. In one way or another, humans have probably always been engaged in the quest for purification, and have sought it everywhere – in churches and temples, via holy books or sacred sex, on the road to Shambhala or the path to the peak of Mount Shasta, across the ocean or just down in the river. We all want a chance to start over. We all hunger, in our own way, for redemption.

And as for living in a world where anything is possible, that notion is pretty much standard fare at any New-Wage banquet these days. To imagine anything less – to even hint that mental, emotional, physical or logistical limitations might keep a person from reaching his or her big dream – is to invite pity or scorn from the conspicuously enlightened, to be branded a negative thinker, a naysayer, or worse.

Most of all, people today want to believe in miracles and magic – or things that seem like miracles and magic, anyway. That probably explains the popularity of Joe Vitale’s 2006 article, "The World’s Most Unusual Therapist," which spread around the Internet like nothing he’d ever written. "I estimate about five million people saw that article," he writes in Zero Limits. The article told of how Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len had cured an entire ward of criminally insane patients – without ever seeing any of them – when he was a staff psychologist at the Hawai’i State Hospital in the 1980s. "The psychologist would study an inmate’s chart and then look within himself to see how he created that person’s illness. As he improved himself, the patient improved."

Joe went on say he was skeptical at first, though his definition of "skeptical" and, say, Skeptic ranter Mike, would probably not be even remotely the same. Skeptical or not, Joe was definitely interested enough to track Dr. Hew Len down and begin a correspondence. Eventually they began conversing too. The more Joe learned, the more Dr. Hew Len’s concept of "taking 100% responsibility" for everything in one’s awareness made sense. Whenever something comes to our attention, we become "responsible" for it. If it’s something negative, we can "clean" it – whatever it is – by working on ourselves, using four powerful phrases: "Thank you," "I’m sorry," "Please forgive me," and – the most powerful phrase of all – "I love you." This is an oversimplification of the modern method of Ho’oponopono, but, in combination with the story of Dr. Hew Len’s miracle in the psych ward, it was enough to light a very big fire.

Joe says that everyone who read the article found it hard to believe. "Some were inspired. Some were skeptical. All wanted more." Zero Limits, he says, "is a result of their desire and my quest."

What Ho’oponopono is really all about, as Joe writes repeatedly in Zero Limits, is "clean, clean, clean." Done correctly, this can be used for everything from personal healing to healing of those around us to the healing of the world. Even wayward rockets can be guided back on course. At one of his workshops Dr. Hew Len told attendees about a NASA engineer who came to him "because of a problem with one of their rockets."

"Since she came to me, I assumed I was a part of the problem, Dr. Hew Len explained. "So I cleaned. I said ‘I’m sorry’ to the rocket. Later, when the engineer returned, she explained that the rocket somehow corrected itself in flight."

Did doing ho’oponopono influence the rocket? Dr. Hew Len and the engineer think so. I spoke to the engineer, and she said it was impossible for the rocket to correct itself. Something else had to happen that was in the nature of a miracle. For her, it was doing the cleaning with Dr. Hew Len’s help.

Joe adds that he can’t say he bought this story, "but I also have to admit I don’t have another explanation for it."

Not surprisingly, Joe does not name the rocket scientist who availed herself of Ho’oponopono, nor does he give any other details such as the date, the type of rocket, the nature of the malfunction, and the like. I’m sure it was due to privacy concerns. Anyhow, it’s good to know that even at NASA there are open-minded folks.

Ho’oponopono may seem simple, but it is not easy, warns Dr. Hew Len. It does take commitment. Joe quotes Dr. Hew Len as saying, "This is not a fast-food drive-up window where you instantly get your order. God is not an order taker. It takes constant focus on cleaning, cleaning, cleaning." Which – you’ll pardon me for stating the obvious – is quite a bit different from the Universe as a big mail-order catalog, where you just flip through the pages, etc.…

A little history…
The word ho’oponopono means, "To make right, to rectify, to correct," and traditional ho’oponopono was a native Hawai’ian method of conflict resolution. Self I-Dentity Ho’oponopono, the modern form taught by Dr. Hew Len and now championed by Joe Vitale, was founded by Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona (1913-1992), a native Hawai’ian healer.

Dr. Hew Len met and began learning from Morrnah in 1982. He had heard of a "miracle worker" who was lecturing at hospitals, universities, and even the UN. She reportedly healed his daughter of shingles, and at some point he decided to leave everything in his life behind to study with her and learn her healing method. "Since Dr. Hew Len was also experiencing difficulties in his marriage at the time, he left his family, as well," Joe writes. "That’s not too unusual. There’s a long history of people leaving their families to study with a spiritual teacher."*

Although he thought Morrnah was a bit bonkers at first, Dr. Hew Len stuck it out with her and learned her methods. "I stayed with her till her transition in 1992," Dr. Hew Len told Joe. It was during this time – specifically, between 1984 and 1987 – that Dr. Hew Len had his stint at the Hawai’i State Hospital.

It was in the summer of 2004 that Joe first heard of Dr. Hew Len’s miracle at Hawai’i State Hospital. He heard the tale – at least in its bare-bones details – from a close friend. His friend had heard this story about the miracle therapist, and he happened to share it with Joe during the National Guild of Hypnotists conference in August 2004. Joe thought the story sounded fishy but intriguing. He did a bit of poking around online but didn’t really find any information. At the same conference a year later, the same friend mentioned the story again. He whipped out his laptop and they started Googling. Not too long after that Joe finally tracked down Dr. Hew Len and began corresponding with him.

A match made in book-deal heaven
After his initial email contact with Dr. Hew Len, Joe decided to hire him for a consultation by email. He gave some thought about what he should ask him about. After all, he was doing pretty well in his life; he had "the books, the successes, the cars, the homes, life partner, health, and happiness most people seek."

Finally he decided to work on his weight. He had lost 80 pounds and was feeling great. He’d even built an exercise shed in his yard and had written a lot on the Net about his weight loss, the fancy exercise equipment in his shed, and his new interest in bodybuilding. All of this had inspired him to give himself another nickname: "The Charles Atlas of the Internet." Still, he had about 15 pounds left to "release." He decided that would be the issue he’d work on with Dr. Hew Len.

He sent him an email about it, and Dr. Hew Len responded within 24 hours. He told Joe to talk to his body and tell it that it was fine the way it was. He also told Joe to drink Blue Solar Water (more on that in a while). And he added, "Your e-mail has the feel of elegant simpleness [sic], a gift beyond compare."

Believe me, the kissing-up gets worse. This is just the beginning.

And so began a new round of adventures and money-making ops for Joe and Dr. Hew Len. Joe went to a couple of Dr. Hew Len’s seminars and workshops and really got to know the man and his teachings, then wrote that famous article…and almost before he knew it, he and Dr. Hew Len were writing a book together. Actually, the lion’s share of the book was written by Joe, but it was with the blessings of Dr. Hew Len, who is very much a presence in its pages.

A nod to skeptics
For those who were wondering, as I often have, about the truth of the famous Internet story, Joe does appear to have gone to considerable effort to substantiate the particulars of Dr. Hew Len’s work with those criminally insane patients. He was, apparently, able to verify the bare-bones facts, at least to his satisfaction, and probably to that of most of his readers. But as for a cause-and-effect relationship between Dr. Hew Len’s Ho’oponopono and the improvements seen in the ward – that will just have to be taken on faith, which is no problem for the majority of Joe’s readers.

On several occasions he asked Dr. Hew Len for clarification of the story, and in a chapter titled, "Skeptical Minds Want to Know," Joe includes a rather detailed statement of facts from Dr. Hew Len. This statement contains a list of conditions in the high-security ward in 1984 when Dr. Hew Len began working there, as opposed to 1987, when his spiritual guide Morrnah told Dr. Hew Len his work at the hospital was done.

"What did I do for my part as the unit staff psychologist?" Dr. Hew Len adds. "I did the Self Identity through Ho’oponopono process of repentance, forgiveness, and transmutation for whatever was going on in me that I experienced consciously and unconsciously as problems before, during, and after leaving the unit each time."

He writes that he did not do any therapy or counseling with patients on the unit, did not attend any staff conferences on patients, and took "100 percent responsibility for myself to clean with the stuff in me that caused me problems as staff psychologist."

As his work on Zero Limits progressed, Joe still had questions about Dr. Hew Len’s work at the hospital. Dr. Hew Len gave him the name of a woman who had been the social worker during the time Dr. Hew Len was there. Joe followed the lead, and the woman, Omaka-O-Kala Hamaguchi, wrote a fairly lengthy letter to him, in collaboration with Emory Lance Oliveira, another person who’d been a social worker there at that time. The ward, Hamaguchi and Oliveira explained, was a newly opened forensic unit called the Closed Intensive Security Unit (CISU). The letter shared details such as the fact that Dr. Hew Len didn’t appear to do much work, often came in late, never attended staff meetings, and didn’t keep records as required – but he always seemed happy and at ease, and everyone at the hospital liked him. (I know what you’re thinking: nice work if you can get it. And what a creative excuse to give your boss for coming in late, not attending staff meetings, etc.: "I was doing Ho’oponopono to help clean the company’s problems!") The writers also confirmed that as the years went by even some of the most severely ill patients in the unit appeared to be getting better, and the entire unit seemed to be "coming alive" – even the plants were thriving. Things and people were all around more functional. They also noted that Dr. Hew Len had shared some of his ho’oponopono techniques with the staff.

Of course this is anecdotal evidence, related by people to whom Dr. Hew Len specifically referred Joe. Furthermore, you don’t have to be a hardcore skeptic, or knowledgeable about research protocol or medicine, to figure out that Joe didn’t present any hard evidence of cause and effect. But this information really doesn’t seem to be available. For now, the essence of the story – the miracle part – will, as I noted above, just have to be taken on faith. And that’s what Joe is banking on; his target audience doesn’t require hard proof.

In another apparent nod to skeptics, Joe also acknowledges that lots of folks will think Dr. Hew Len is off his rocker for numerous reasons, not the least of which is the man’s habit of talking to chairs and rooms. Joe relates an anecdote in which Dr. Hew Len is having a conversation with a conference room Joe rented for an event. The room tells Dr. Hew Len its name is "Sheila," and Sheila expresses its (her?) approval of the event.

And then there is the story of the chairs. In fact, one reviewer on Amazon had an issue with this story:

Joe relates a conversation he had with Dr. Hew Len wherein Dr. Hew Len talks about having a conversation with chairs in a meeting room. Joe relates it as though Dr. Hew Len has said these things to him. In fact, the entire vignette was lifted VERBATIM from an interview between Cat Saunders and Dr. Hew Len that had been published in the Seattle Times in September of 1997 ("100% Responsibility and the Possibility of a Hot Fudge Sundae: Cat Saunders gets the scoop on Haleakala Hew Len"). It made me question how much of the "friendship" between Joe and Dr. Hew Len was invented for literary license.

Now, it is possible that Dr. Hew Len did tell the story to Joe pretty much as he told it in the interview with Cat. Sometimes when a story becomes part of someone’s repertoire they do tend to use the same phrases over and over again. Still, the reviewer is right; it is verbatim. And even a repeat storyteller doesn’t repeat the exact words every time, unless of course he or she is reading from a script, which Dr. Hew Len didn’t seem to be doing. So that reader’s point is well taken. (Note that the reader is not suggesting that Joe invented Dr. Hew Len, only that he may have invented some of the conversations between himself and Dr. Hew Len.)

As for speaking to rooms and chairs, hey, I don’t necessarily hold that against Dr. Hew Len. When I was a child I used to almost drive myself crazy wondering what it was like to be, say, a chair or a wall or a rock or a tree – wondering if these things actually had thoughts and feelings. That’s pretty common with kids, and it also figures in many "primitive" religions. I think it’s called animism. And even today I still yell at my computer, and have been known to say a few choice words to the occasional chair when it runs into me. The furniture in my house is sometimes so clumsy. Maybe if I tell it I love it that will help.

Granted, it’s possible to carry one’s regard for inanimate objects too far. And it is probably not a good idea to tell a pack rat or clutterholic that all inanimate things have thoughts and feelings. But the mere fact of speaking to objects or thinking of them as "alive" does not an insane person make – well, not in my unqualified opinion as a non-medic, anyway.

Despite his humor and seeming irreverence at times, it is pretty apparent that Joe believes Dr. Hew Len is the real deal. (Or at the very least he sincerely wants his readers to believe he believes it, so that they in turn will believe it.) So the word "skeptic" is, as you might expect, used quite loosely in this book.

News flash: Secret not the ultimate breakthrough after all
Although he has capitalized heavily on his role as
"Metaphysician" and promoter of the Universe’s Wish Book in the hit infomercial The Secret, in Zero Limits Joe seems, at first glance, to renounce major portions of the teachings in The Secret. For example, Secret culture, courtesy of Abraham-Hicks, is very much focused on "intention," as evidenced in Marcy From Maui’s Powerful Intentions Forum. In Zero Limits, however, Joe has an entire chapter on "The Shocking Truth About Intentions." (It’s not as shocking as "The Shocking Truth About Jonathan" that appeared in The Attractor Factor, but it’s still pretty shocking if you’re a real intention-ophiliac.) Citing a few researchers and philosophers, Joe makes a case for the view that intentions are merely thoughts after all. But where do the thoughts come from? That’s the big mystery. At best, says Joe, "a clear intention is nothing more than a clear premonition."

Yet for a while Joe was one of the big promoters of the power of intention. Later in the book he writes:

As I kept growing and having insights, I worried that all my previous books were wrong and were going to mislead people. In The Attractor Factor, for example, I praised the power of intention. Now, years** after writing that book, I knew intention is a fool’s game, an ego’s toy, and that the real source of power is inspiration.

Well, heck, Joe, Wayne Dyer could have told us that. And did.

The point, I think, is that Joe has discovered that inspiration is the real key to genuine breakthroughs; intention is just "a limp rag" by comparison. Still, he is not entirely renouncing The Secret. His infamous "Universe as a catalog" bit notwithstanding, he does like to emphasize that he was one of the few on the DVD who spoke of "taking inspired action" to get what you want, rather than just sitting around wishing and hoping. In Zero Limits, in fact, he touts Secret creator and producer Rhonda Byrne as an example of a person who did take inspired action. He recounts a dinner conversation with her (I’m thinking this took place during his much-ballyhooed vacation on Maui last September), in which he asked Rhonda, "Did you create the idea for the movie, or did you receive the idea?"

Rhonda had once told him that the idea for the movie teaser came to her "suddenly and within a few seconds." It took only ten minutes to make the preview.

"Clearly," Joe writes, "she received some sort of inspiration that led to the strongest movie teaser in history." What he wanted to know from Rhonda now was whether the idea for the final movie feature itself came from inspiration, "or if she felt she did it for some other reasons."

After pondering on Joe’s question for a long time, Rhonda finally replied that she wasn’t sure. "The idea came to me, for sure. But I did the work. I created it. So I’d say I made it happen."

From there, Joe takes the "inspiration" ball and runs with it.

Her answer was revealing. The idea came to her, which means it came to her as an inspiration. Since the movie is so powerful, so well done, and so brilliantly marketed, I can only believe it’s all the Divine unfolding. Yes, there was work to do, and Rhonda did it. But the idea itself came as inspiration.

Joe continues with the story of how the movie really took off after it had been out for several months, "and the buzz for it was reaching historic proportions."

Rhonda sent out an email to all the stars in it, saying the movie now had a life of its own. Rather than stating intentions, she was answering calls and seizing opportunities. A book was coming out. Larry King was doing a two-part special based on the ideas in the movie. An audio version was coming out. Sequels were in the works.

When you come from the zero state where there are zero limits, you don’t need intentions. You simply receive and act.

And miracles happen.

Just thinking out loud here, but it seems to me that it helps if those "miracles" were set in motion by months and months of intensely aggressive marketing. And come to think of it, there’s a word that rhymes with "inspiration." It’s called "desperation." Rhonda, by all accounts, was emotionally and financially desperate at the time she was conceiving The Secret. She’d reached a nadir in her life. Even after she became "inspired" by reading Wallace Wattles and others, and ended up making The Secret, her woes were far from over. The story goes that Channel 9 in Australia backed out on promoting and broadcasting the movie, and Rhonda found she’d run out of money. Once again, desperation came into play: she was desperate to get her investment back. That’s when she called on her Internet marketing buds, who knew a good moneymaking op when they saw it – and the rest is viral marketing history.

Once the movie "had a life of its own," and the money was rolling in, "answering calls and seizing opportunities" was, I imagine, a no-brainer for Rhonda.

Reconciling the past with the present
Despite its astonishing commercial success, the bottom line is that The Secret just wasn’t the ultimate breakthrough. Zero Limits is – for now, anyway. But that could change in the time it takes for Joe to crank out another book.

In fact, as I mentioned in Part 1 yesterday, and as you might have inferred from the Attractor Factor quote above, Joe does acknowledge that some of the things he wrote about in earlier books seem to be inconsistent with what he learned from Dr. Hew Len and writes about in Zero Limits.

He says he was actually bothered by this. In the chapter from which I pulled the Attractor Factor quote, "Choice Is a Limitation," Joe discusses his attempt to reconcile two apparently conflicting philosophies: the concept of the world as puppet and the individual as the puppeteer (as implied in The Attractor Factor); and the concept of the individual as the puppet, with the Divine as the energy pulling the strings. He says he can’t help but wonder if both philosophies are right; we’re both the puppet and the puppeteer. "But that only works when we get out of our own way," he says. "It’s our minds that drive us to overdrink, overeat, frolic, steal, lie, and even spend too much time worrying about how the world works."

Hey, Joe, watch what you say about frolicking.

He is at his most honest and authentic when he admits to realizing that he really doesn’t have the answers after all, as in a passage near the end of that chapter:

Tonight I have the world figured out. (I think.)

Tomorrow I’m not so sure.

I long for comic books again.

Don’t we all, at times?

But then he kind of spoils it, for me, anyway, by wrapping up the chapter with a dialogue between him and Dr. Hew Len. Dr. Hew Len is talking about how everyone in the world is playing a role in the Divine play. "Even a janitor?" Joe asks. Dr. Hew Len says, "Yes! There are janitors and garbage collectors who love their work. You don’t think so because you are imagining playing their roles. But they can’t play your role either."

Joe concludes that his role is that of "inspirator" (his word). "I write books to awaken people, or to be more exact, to awaken me. As I awaken me, I awaken you."

And I write long blog posts to put people to sleep. But if you’re still awake, I want to add that despite his attempts to reconcile those apparently contradictory philosophies within himself, Joe still had a twinge of conscience about some of his earlier books. "I wanted to recall my books," he writes in a later chapter. "I felt they were misleading people. I told Dr. Hew Len that I felt like I was doing a disservice to the world."

To Joe’s great relief, Dr. Hew Len responds, "Your books are like stepping-stones. People are at various steps along the path. Your books speak to them where they are. As they use that book to grow, they become ready for the next book. You don’t need to recall any books at all. They are all perfect."

Besides, as Joe had explained earlier in Zero Limits, even the books that are "out there" are still in Joe, because there is no "out there." So Joe is, presumably, still working on "cleaning" them, which is good news for those of y’all who own Joe’s earlier books. Since I own a few of Joe’s earlier works, I assume he’s cleaning them for me. I do wish he’d get busy on my cats’ litter boxes while he’s at it. You can, too, now that you know about them. I expect to go out in my hallway and have everything smelling clean and fresh by the time I get finished with this post. So y’all get busy.

By the way, if you want to take a break from this for a while, there's an interesting discussion on free will v. determinism (and unjustified pride, as well) over at Steve Salerno's blog.

She ain’t heavy; she’s my sister
About ten years ago Joe wrote a book called Spiritual Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Formula For Easily Creating Wealth From The Inside Out. (This book was later recycled revised and expanded into The Attractor Factor: 5 Easy Steps for Creating Wealth (or Anything Else) from the Inside Out.) In the "Author’s True Confession" on page 13 of the 2001 E-book version of Spiritual Marketing, Joe revealed:

I wrote this book for one person: My sister. Bonnie had three kids, was unemployed, and was on welfare. It hurt me to see her suffer. I knew her life could be different if she knew the five step process I developed for creating whatever she wanted. I wrote this material for her, and only for her, in 1997. She’s now off welfare and doing fine. She’s not rich yet, but I think I’ve shown her a new way to live life.

But the "new way to live life" apparently didn’t quite take. According to a tale he relates in Zero Limits, Joe was griping about his sister’s problems – to perfect strangers, no less – many years later. He recounts a conversation he had with Dr. Hew Len in October 2006, when the latter came to the Austin area to visit with him. Arriving at a local restaurant to meet with Dr. Hew Len, Joe found his new friend deeply engaged in a conversation with "two retired Mexican women who seemed to be hanging on his every word." Joe got some coffee and joined Dr. Hew Len and the ladies. "Tell these ladies what you do," Dr. Hew Len said to Joe. So Joe told them a bit about his books, his appearance in The Secret, and how he tries to help people find happiness.

Dr. Hew Len said, "Tell them how you handle problems."

Joe replied that in the past he used to try to solve problems, whether his own or someone else’s, whereas now he just lets them be – but he cleans the memories that cause them. "As I do," he explained to the women, "they get resolved and I’m okay as they get resolved."

Dr. Hew Len asked Joe to give an example.

"My sister frustrates me," I said. "She’s been on welfare, had her home broken into, had her identity stolen, and more. She’s not happy and it frustrates me. I’ve tried to help by sending her money, books, movies, and even the DVD player to play the movies. She doesn’t make any effort to change. Bu now I don’t try to change her."

"What do you do?" one of the ladies asked.

"I work on me," I said. "Now I understand that the life she has isn’t anything she is doing. It’s a program, or memory, that is being played and she’s got in its web. It’s like she caught a virus. It isn’t her fault at all. And because I sense it…it means I share the same program. I have to clean. As I clean, the program will come off her too."

When the ladies asked what Joe did to "clean," he said, "All I do is say ‘I love you,’ ‘I’m sorry,’ ‘Please forgive me,’ and ‘Thank you’ over and over again."

Joe explained to the ladies how the phrases are like magic words that open the combination lock to the universe. Dr. Hew Len said that he liked Joe’s "virus" analogy, and he went on to explain to the women about the idea of taking 100 percent responsibility: "When you clean yourself, you clean the program from everyone."

Joe writes that much to his surprise, the Mexican ladies actually seemed to understand the complicated principles Dr. Hew Len was talking about. "We were talking about mind-bending concepts," he wrote, "yet they seemed to relate to them. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were simply tuning in to Dr. Hew Len’s vibe, much like a tuning fork sets a tone for everything around it that can feel its note."

To me this just raises the question: is Joe is implying that these old ladies – who had never even attended one of Dr. Hew Len’s seminars or read one of Joe's books – couldn’t possibly understand this "advanced" stuff on an intellectual level? But the bigger question is this: with all that cleaning work Joe is doing on his sister’s life, will her fortunes finally turn? I would think this would be the case, especially since Joe’s work will presumably be enhanced by the cleaning that his readers do for his sister, as her problems have now become theirs too. Or perhaps the fact that Bonnie actually got to sit in (though not drive), Joe’s Panoz Esperante, Francine, will be the real key to cleaning her of that "virus" she caught.

Or will it take yet another book to finally make her see the light?

Y’know, I wish Bonnie would write a book. I think she should.

Never overlook an opportunity to sell
While the most devoted fans of Joe Vitale might not mind the continual hustling – and while Joe himself
has expressed puzzlement about criticism of the sales pitches in the book (which he doesn’t see as sales pitches at all) – I found that one of the major distractions throughout Zero Limits was his endless promotion of his books, products, workshops, and services such as "Miracles Coaching." In virtually every chapter there is some mention of something he and/or one of his business partners is selling, along with the web site URL. And, as one Amazon reviewer noted, "…he doesn’t weave it skillfully into the story – each time, it comes across as a jarring sales pitch, like one of those product placements in a movie where the guy drinks a Coke out of the can and has to hold it in an unnatural manner so that you can be sure to see the label."

Among the many products Joe mentions are the Fit-A-Rita, which he thought up in the course of creating a company to market a nutritional supplement. The project was on hold, pending review of the packaging and web site by an FDA attorney. At the time, Joe was in a bodybuilding fitness contest and was out drinking with friends. While drinking a margarita – a rarity for him – he said, "What we need is a Bodybuilder’s Margarita." And as soon as he said it, he knew it was a good idea.

When he told the story to Dr. Hew Len, the latter said, "Good for you, Joseph. You weren’t attached to the first product and wanting things to go your way, so the Divine gave you a new moneymaking idea…Good for you, Joseph, good for you."

Joe’s openness to the Divine also led him to "receive" an idea for "clearing mats." "These are mats you place your food on to clean it and you before you dine," he explains. Unfortunately, the web site he lists, www.clearingmats.com, doesn’t seem to be working at this time. Or maybe Joe got a "cease and desist" order from a woman who already sells clearing mats as part of her "Feng Shui For Food" kit.

It occurred to me that Dr. Hew Len himself may be sitting on a gold mine. In a rather lengthy appendix (which was taken almost verbatim from an article on Dr. Hew Len’s web site, although a few diagrams were added), we are told that we should drink plenty of Blue Solar Water, and should also cook in it and rinse in it after bathing. Dr. Hew Len tells you how to make Blue Solar Water yourself. But it seems to me that making it for every conceivable use would get to be kind of cumbersome. Wouldn’t it be really cool if there were a company that offered genuine proprietary Blue Solar Water ™ that had been specially infused with extra cleaning power by Dr. Hew Len AND Dr. Joe?

Another fact we learn in Dr. Hew Len’s appendix is that it is good to eat plenty of strawberries and blueberries because "these fruits void memories. They can be eaten fresh or dried. They can be consumed as jams, jellies and even syrup on ice cream!" Too bad Joe has discovered he has a food sensitivity to blueberries. But once again I see a marketing op: Specially infused blueberry and strawberry jelly, jams, and syrups.

Joe has said that his purpose in constantly promoting his books and products is to serve, not to sell. Besides, one of the most miraculous "products" mentioned in the book doesn’t cost a dime: it is the "cleaning" web site he and Dr. Hew Len created together. And it’s perfectly free. You just go there and get cleaned. Of course, while you’re there getting cleaned, there’s plenty of opportunity for your wallet to be cleaned as well. You can buy Zero Limits and other related products, sign up for some "Zero Limits" coaching, or sign up for a workshop or two. Heck of a deal!

Joe Almighty
Apart from the endless promotion of his products and services, what I found most distracting about Zero Limits were the numerous anecdotes in which Dr. Hew Len expresses his high regard for Joe. With all due respect to the older gentleman, I seriously began to wonder if he’d gotten hold of some of that legendary
Hawai’ian weed. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But I have to question some of the "wisdom" imparted by Dr. Hew Len, as related by Joe.

We learn, for example, that Joe was pretty impressed by the power and success reflected on his new business card that featured a hypno-whirly graphic and a picture of him and his car Francine. Most of you who have been following Joe’s writings online have heard about Francine. Repeatedly. Regarding the picture of him and Francine on his business card, Joe writes, "I knew I looked confident and probably radiated wealth in the picture…"

But he didn’t know just how powerful the card was until he showed it to Dr. Hew Len. Dr. Hew Len, after studying it for a few moments, assured Joe that the card was a powerful cleaning tool. "You can use it to clean that brown gunk from your fingernails," Dr. Hew Len explained, "or to remove the green crud that gets between your teeth after you've eaten one of your healthy meals that was specially prepared for you by your special meal preparer."

Okay, I am only kidding about the brown gunk and green crud. But Dr. Hew Len DID tell Joe that the card is an excellent tool for cleaning negativity and bad memories from any person or object that Joe swipes it over, including himself. I can see it now: hundreds of seekers lining up at a seminar to be "swiped" by Joe's business card.

Furthermore, according to Dr. Hew Len, the Panoz car is an excellent cleaning tool too, by virtue of its logo, which is based on the well-known yin-yang sign. It is, by all indications, the perfect vehicle for such an advanced spiritual master as Joe.

Later we learn that Dr. Hew Len had the idea for Joe to be photographed with his cigar and Francine. As a matter of fact, Joe was uncomfortable in the beginning about letting Dr. Hew Len know how devoted he is to his expensive Cuban cigars. When Dr. Hew Len saw some cigars in Joe’s exercise shed, Joe feared that he would get a lecture about how bad it is to smoke. He needn’t have worried. Dr. Hew Len assured Joe that is not the case (all science to the contrary be damned).

"I think it’s beautiful," [he said.]

"You do?" I asked.

"I think you should smoke a cigar with your Panoz car."

"What do you mean? Have a picture taken of me in front of Francine with a cigar in my hand?"

"Maybe, but I was thinking you can smoke while you polish her or dust her down."

Joe told Dr. Hew Len he was afraid the latter might ridicule him for smoking, especially in light of the fact that a reader of Joe’s blog had recently lectured him on the evils of tobacco. Dr. Hew Len replied, "I guess that person never heard of the American Indian custom of passing the peace pipe, or how smoking in many tribes is a rite of passage and a way to bond and share and be a family." (Trivia fact you won’t find in Zero Limits: "Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among American Indians and Alaska Natives, yet of the 217 Native American languages spoken today most, if not all, do not include a word for 'cancer.'" And in case you are interested, here is a link to more information about potential health hazards of cigars, both from smoking them and from secondhand exposure to their smoke.)

The conversation about Joe’s cigars came in the wake of a dialogue in which Dr. Hew Len had implied to Joe that you can eat anything with no ill effects, as long as you tell your food you love it. Clarifying his own fondness for consuming chili dogs and cheeseburgers, Dr. Hew Len said, "Before I eat anything, in my mind I say to the food, ‘I love you! I love you! If I am bringing anything into this situation that would cause me to feel ill as I am eating you, it’s not you! It’s not even me! It’s something that triggers that I am willing to be responsible for!’ I then go on and enjoy the meal, because now it’s clean."

Same deal with cigars. As Joe learned from Dr. Hew Len, the key is to love everything. "When you do, that thing changes," Joe writes. "Smoking is bad when you think it is bad; hamburgers are bad when you think they are bad. As with everything in the ancient Hawi’ian traditions, it all begins with thought, and the great healer is love."

No offense – and I realize that Dr. Hew Len himself is quite slender – but there are a lot of really overweight Hawai’ians running around. The late great Iz, who tipped the scales at 750 pounds, was one of them. And despite any "cleaning" Joe may have been doing for his own food, it seems he still has food sensitivities. Not to worry, though; I’m sure there’s another money op for him in that as well.

The story of how Joe got his Hawai’ian name is another example of the high regard in which Dr. Hew Len holds Joe. People who have been reading Joe’s online articles may have seen the words, Ao Akua above his signature. That’s the Hawai’ian name given to him by Dr. Hew Len after a weekend workshop Joe attended in his early Ho’oponopono days.

It wasn’t the first time Joe had acquired a new name. In 1979, as a follower of the late controversial guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (now known as Osho), he had become Swami Anand Manjushri. "At that time in my life, when I was still struggling with my past, contending with poverty, and searching for meaning, the name helped me start fresh. I used the name for seven years." It was natural for him to wonder if Dr. Hew Len would or could give him a new name. Everyone who took Dr. Hew Len’s workshop had the right to make the request, but that didn’t necessarily mean it would be granted.

Joe needn’t have worried, of course. About a month after the seminar, he received an email from Dr. Hew Len:

Joe:
I saw a cloud come up in my mind the other day. It began a transformation of its self, churning slowly into soft, soft yellow. It then stretched its self out like a child upon waking into invisibility. From the invisibility the name
Ao akua, "Godly," surfaced.

And that’s how he got his new name.

But I think the ultimate example appears in a chapter entitled, "How To Receive Greater Wealth," in which Joe recounts a conversation he had with Dr. Hew Len when the latter was in Austin doing a workshop. The dialogue took place in Dr. Hew Len’s motel room in Austin. Joe writes, "he and I sit like master and disciple. The only thing is, he treats me like the master."

"Joseph, you are one of God’s original 10."

"I am?"

I’m flattered but admit I have no idea what he is talking about.

"You came here to help awaken the Divine in people," he explains. "Your writing is hypnotic. It is your gift. But there’s more."

"More?"…

"You are the J man for business," he says. "Do you know what that is?

I don’t have a clue and tell him so.

"You are the Jesus of business," he says, "the point man for change."

As he speaks, I’m thinking I’d better keep this conversation to myself. No one will ever believe it. I don’t…

But Joseph just couldn’t keep it to himself. Later in the conversation Dr. Hew Len says, "There’s a wreath around your head, Joseph. It’s made of money symbols, like eagles." This leads into a discussion of one of Joe’s past lives as a great orator. He’d often had flashes of such a life but just thought it was his imagination and ego at work. But Dr. Hew Len had picked up on it as a real memory. According to Dr. Hew Len, Joe was a great orator who was mobbed and murdered, and a 2,500-year-old ring he wears today, which comes from ancient Rome, is helping to heal that memory for him.

As the conversation draws to a close, Dr. Hew Len is staring at Joe, and then at his feet.

"Joseph, my God, I should be sitting at your feet," he says, genuinely moved by whatever he sees in me. "You are as gods."

All righty, then!

Time to get serious
Did I like anything about Zero Limits? Yes, believe it or not, and as much fun as I’ve made over the past few months, there were points at which some of the ideas in this book approached something like profundity (at least to me, though you should keep in mind that I am, in truth, a very shallow person). The most thought-provoking parts were generally when Joe was quoting Dr. Hew Len. I thought Joe himself was at his best explaining the principles of Ho’oponopono in the Epilogue and in Appendix A, "Zero Limits Basic Principles." And there were times when he used a bit of self-deprecating humor that seemed genuine – much like the Joe I used to know. Not surprisingly, though, I would have enjoyed this book more without the constant self-promotion and boasting, which Joe calls "service."

As for the actual value of the book for those who are genuinely interested in Self I-Dentity Ho’oponopono, I think it’s probably a good beginning. Then again, as a few reviewers have noted on Amazon, most of this information is available for free on Dr. Hew Len’s web site and other places on the Net.

Some skeptics may think I’ve been way too easy on this book. But the truth is that even I occasionally retract my claws. As I have written previously, I have considerably more empathy for those engaged in spiritual searching than is often apparent in my writings. Some would say that in my own circuitous way I too am so engaged, even here on Whirled Musings. I believe that exploring the mysteries of human consciousness, and trying to find answers to the big questions in life, are almost always worthy quests. Further, I do NOT believe that poverty is noble – from all indications, it breeds as much evil as an obsession with wealth does. Nor do I believe that material wealth and spiritual fulfillment are mutually exclusive.

But I do not believe that it serves anyone’s spiritual or emotional growth to read incessant boasting about material wealth and fame, even if the brags do emanate from an Internet Buddha.

As for Self I-Dentity Ho’oponopono: truth be told, I believe that those "four magic phrases" touted in Dr. Hew Len’s version of Ho’oponopono can have beneficial – if not exactly miraculous – effects, at least to the person who is uttering or merely thinking the phrases. If, for example, these words can neutralize a person’s tendency to blame others for everything, if they can diffuse potentially destructive anger or promote tranquility, and, especially, if they can keep a person from drowning in despair about situations over which they truly have no control – I say, use ’em. And actually, the concept of "100% responsibility" is kind of a refreshing departure from the Rhonda Byrne school of indifference.

I am tempted to say that, as spiritual paths go, Ho’oponopono, even in its modern commercialized form, seems relatively benign, at least for people who are not suffering from emotional or mental disorders. For the latter, or even for those who are prone to New-Age guilt (or traditional religious guilt), Ho’oponopono could be bad news. On the other hand, it certainly seems to be a lot less harmful than, say, Scientology or some of those nasty cults Jody talks about on the Guruphiliac blog. It may seem I am "damning with faint praise," as the saying goes, and, indeed, my take on 'Pono is a far cry from the stated promise that it holds the key to "a world where everything and anything is possible – a universe with 'zero limits'." But that's me: the wet blanket at the mystics' orgy.

I do have problems with the idea that one can chain-smoke cigarettes or eat unlimited amounts of greasy foods with impunity, simply by "cleansing" the substances before ingestion. And, as in most New-Age/New-Wage/alternative paths, I believe Ho’oponopono can be very harmful if people rely completely on, say, "cleaning" via those four phrases, rather than taking action when needed, or seeking real medical help for themselves or loved ones when necessary. Even Joe Vitale avails himself of traditional medicine at times. He had an emergency appendectomy not long ago, and has seen M.D.s for other conditions since.

Apart from the above, I am not even going to attempt to tackle the science, or rather the blatant lack thereof, behind Ho’oponopono. I will leave that to the real skeptics.

As for Dr. Hew Len – he may very well be a wise, grandfatherly shaman type. But I do wonder if, after all, he is about half a bubble off plumb. And it’s not because he talks to chairs or has conversations with rooms or sees spirits and symbols. It’s because… well, see "Joe Almighty" above. Now, maybe Dr. Hew Len just knows what side his palaoa is buttered on these days. Or maybe he’s that sycophantic reverent to everyone. Hey, we’re all gods; we all have a spark of the divine. The alternative explanation is that Joe Vitale really is a holy man. If so, Heaven help us all.

The hype goes on forever, and the selling never ends…
A reader/reviewer on Amazon named Rosemary Heenan, who calls herself an "integrative coach," says, "
This may be the last book you have to read!" With all due respect, Rosemary, we heard that about The Secret. In any case, don’t count on this being Joe’s last book. He is already gearing up for promotion of his next big breakthrough work that goes beyond The Secret, Zero Limits, and everything else: The Key. So let’s just say that Zero Limits is the last book you’ll ever need to read until Joe comes out with the next last book you’ll ever need to read.

And then of course we have the true raison d’être for most New-Wage bestsellers: up-selling. The early warning comes at the end of the introduction, when Joe writes:

Please understand that this is the first book in history to reveal this updated Hawaiian method for healing, called Self I-Dentity Ho’oponopono. But also please understand that this is just one man’s experience with the method: mine.

It is, indeed, mostly one man’s experience, though enforced by a 34-page chapter smack in the middle of Zero Limits called, "The Evidence," which is a string of testimonials from satisfied attendees of a Vitale/Len event last fall. Included is an anecdote from Joe’s domestic life partner Nerissa Oden, who used Ho’oponopono during an exercise at a three-day Landmark Forum event in October 2006. Landmark Forum is the latest incarnation of est. You’d think that a woman who lives with the Buddha of the Internet wouldn’t need such things, but I guess it’s something to do with a long weekend.

Anyway, in the intro Joe goes on to say that while the book is written with the blessing of Dr. Hew Len, it’s written through his own lens of the world. Sounds like a good honest disclaimer, doesn’t it? But there’s always a "but." "To fully understand Self I-Dentity Ho’oponopono, you need to attend a weekend training and experience it for yourself." He mentions the same thing at the end of Appendix B.

It just so happens that Dr. Hew Len and Joe will be doing a Maui gig November 30-December 2 for $1,000.00 ($1,500 after Aug. 1). This does not include airfare, accommodations, or meals. Although Joe says that Dr. Hew Len is the star and Joe
will just be the sidekick, the (nonrefundable) payment for the workshop is to be sent to Joe.

Not all of the gigs are so pricey. The classes listed on Dr. Hew Len’s own web site are less expensive. (But you still have to pay your way to Hawai’i or Colorado or California or wherever, of course.) And I imagine his prices will go up if he hitches his wagon to the Vitale star.

Don’t shoot the critics
In the end, of course, it really doesn’t matter so much what I think of Zero Limits, which is number 160 on Amazon as I write this. And as I mentioned yesterday, Joe and his allies are
putting their own spin on the words of the critics. One responder found it fitting to offer a couple of reassuring quotations:

"Ridicule is the tribute that mediocrity pays to genius."
~ unknown

"Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices, but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence and fulfills the duty to express the results of his thought in clear form."
~ Albert Einstein

They do love to drag Albert into their discussions. He was one of the unwitting stars of The Secret too. In fact, we’re basically hearing the same arguments from Joe’s defenders that we heard from the Secretrons (who are one and the same, in many cases). The critics, we are told, are not actually commenting on the merits of the work in question, but simply revealing themselves to be:

  1. Envious
  2. Unable to understand complex ideas
  3. Unable to appreciate the genius of those they criticize
  4. Angry or negative
  5. Drowning in their own mediocrity
  6. All of the above

But these are old and very tired arguments.

And just in case some JoeBots*** were thinking that now would be a good time to remind me, I am well aware that I am not the one with the $150,000 sports car, the custom Rolex watch, the trips to Maui, the seven-figure income. So I’ll make a bargain with the JoeBots. If they won’t remind me that I am not in possession of a Panoz Esperante, a first-class ticket to Hawai’i, or wealth beyond understanding, I won’t remind them that even the most faithful and ardent among them are highly unlikely to be hobnobbing with the Maui millionaires any time soon either. Somewhere deep inside themselves, they know it. And so does their hero, their Buddha of the Internet, their Jesus of business, their point man for change.

But that won’t keep him from aggressively marketing, or them from eagerly buying, his next breakthrough book or miracle product.

PS – Walter Terry at ROI Copywriting continues his series on the iCAP Release Meter. You should read it.

PPS added Oct. 2007 – I recently found a particularly interesting one-star review of Zero Limits on Amazon. Unlike some who were simply disgruntled with Joe Vitale or with New-Wage/self-help culture, this reviewer seems to be very much into Ho'oponopono, as taught by Morrnah (who originally taught it to Dr. Hew Len). This person says Zero Limits does not capture the true essence of Morrnah's teachings, and goes into considerable detail to explain. Here's the permalink to the review.

PPPS added Jan. 2008 – Here's an interesting discussion on a Ho'oponopono forum.

* Regarding people leaving their families in pursuit of spirituality (or something), Steve Salerno wrote about a few modern-day cases on his blog recently.
**As for the years that have passed since Joe wrote The Attractor Factor, the hardcover edition was published by John Wiley & Sons in March 2005. The paperback edition (which, presumably, had identical content to the hardcover) was also published by Wiley in October 2006. Granted, much of the content of the book is based on an earlier work, the above-mentioned Spiritual Marketing, which Joe has said he originally wrote in 1997 (though a few pages before that, he says he wrote most of it in 1999). That one was published by a Print On Demand company (1stBooks, now AuthorHouse) in 2001. But there was also a fair bit of new material in The Attractor Factor, and, one would think, conceivably there was time to make a few revisions between the hardcover release in the spring of 2005 and the paperback release in the fall of 2006. On the other hand, Joe probably would have had to rewrite much of the book, and he probably just didn’t have the time. Besides, from the publisher’s perspective, if The Attractor Factor was selling well, there wasn’t any compelling reason to make changes, even if the book no longer reflected the author’s beliefs. And besides, as Dr. Hew Len said, all of his books are perfect already.
*** Thanks to
Blair Warren for coming up with this term.

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