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.)

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.

And once again, 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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Anonymous Tony said...

Hi, Connie!

I am going to rank thins entry as one of your best. It is revelatory, cutting, and, as usual, humourous. Keep up the good work.

Off-topic: I saw SICKO and while Moore's directorial genius is obvious, it was a pretty bad flick that had no real basis in reality. (I'm not trying to start a debate or anything, though. :-P)

Have fun ... Tony.

Friday, July 27, 2007 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Hey, Tony, and thanks! And actually, "Sicko" isn't really off-topic. While I didn't agree with some of Moore's points, I enjoyed the flick... but then, I liked "Drop Dead Fred" too, so that gives you an idea of my taste in movies. :-)

Friday, July 27, 2007 6:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Connie,

Great stuff. I was looking up the Pale Blue Dot - related "thought experiment" by Ann Druyan and i found your blog. Wow. And from TX no less!

Anyway, when my wonderful ex-gf announced she was "into THE SECRET", i had a bad feeling. I guess my skepticism is what brought the breakup upon me. Hey if that's not evidence, i don't know what is. Forget for a moment the 6 million Jews, etc., killed by Hitler -- they just had negative attitudes. In fact, all people with medical problems have bad attitudes too. The ex-GF's dad, and my mom also died from all the negative intentions they put out. They are responsible for their lot in life.

And hey, doesn't The Secret sound a bit like EST as practiced in the 70's?

I was cornered by a couple of Mormon/LDS guys the other day. I had to bite my lip to keep from telling them "Carl Sagan died for your sins!"

Blessed are they who walk the path of the man in corduroy and turtlenecks.

Monday, July 30, 2007 1:59:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thank you, Anon. It's always good to hear from a "Saganite." :-)

Unfortunately, you're far from the only person whose relationship went sour as a result of one partner getting into "The Secret." Of course, from the Secretron perspective, you're the one who caused it to go bad, since you're obviously "not ready yet" for the advanced knowledge taught in "The Secret."

And yes, the mindset expressed in "The Secret" has been compared to est. That's no suprise, since many of the "teachers" in the DVD have experienced est first-hand (as well as, collectively, virtually every other self-help/New-Wage scheme on the planet). But other influences are apparent as well; "The Secret" is quite a hodge-podge of recycled knowledge. According to the article I linked to in this post, the revised DVD is more disjointed than the first one, due in part, presumably, to the absence of Abraham-Hicks.

Thanks for your comment, and I hope you'll keep coming back here.

Monday, July 30, 2007 10:08:00 AM  
Blogger Dean said...

Hello Connie -

In this comment thread, 'Anonymous' compares "The Secret" to Werner Erhard's EST movement. While there are some parallels, The Secret/LOA would be better compared to the Word-Faith Movement, a.k.a Positive Confession, a.k.a "name it and claim it" (or "blab it and grab it").

For those not familiar, I suggest a crash course of watching either Benny Hinn or any Trinity Broadcast show featuring Paul and Jan Crouch. (Bring aspirin, and you'll need it to fight the headache you will develop from rolling your eyes.) In a nutshell, Word-Faith is Christian Science wrapped in a shell of Pentecostalism: "Jesus wants you to be rich! And if you pray for it hard enough..." Of course, failure to get rich through prayer is evidence of the weakness of one's faith.

When Janis Joplin sang the line, "Lord, buy me a Mercedes Benz" she probably didn't mean it as a literal statement. Word-Faith grabbed the concept and is currently running towards the end zone with it.

Saturday, August 11, 2007 3:36:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Good points, Dean. What's really funny is that so many of the born-again Christian cults say that New-Age stuff is the devil's work. Yet they're pushing the same ideas -- just using different terminology.

And I was wondering why I had a headache these past few days... now I get it! It's from rolling my eyes. :-)

Monday, August 13, 2007 2:47:00 PM  
Blogger Steven Sashen said...

Now that we're getting the first wave of people for whom The Secret "doesn't work," be on the lookout for an increase in advertising from the various "gurus" who will reveal the SECRET Secret behind The Secret... for only $497 if you buy before midnight tonight.

Friday, September 28, 2007 12:11:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Hi, Steven! Good to see you here. And you're right; in fact, several of the gurus have indeed come out with variations of the secret behind the secret behind The Secret... and some, of course, have chosen to reveal OTHER ancient secrets that take you way *beyond* The Secret.

I gotta find me a scam... :-)

Friday, September 28, 2007 4:08:00 AM  
Blogger Steven Sashen said...

Hi Connie... I forgot to tell you that you can tap into this plan:

Seriously, don't tell anyone about this

Friday, September 28, 2007 10:35:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Ooo! Sign me up now! :-)

Friday, September 28, 2007 10:55:00 AM  
Blogger Steven Sashen said...

Ya gotta pay to play!


Friday, September 28, 2007 1:50:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Sorry, my credit cards are all maxed out, but...

Tell you what I'm gonna do. Let's do it the New-Wage way... trade-offs! I'll give you a 30-minute Akashic or tea-leaves or Tarot "reading" in exchange for The Secret Secret Behind The Secret. Or I'll write a glowing five-star review on Amazon for your next five books. Or I'll make a celebrity guest appearance in your next infomercial. We can work something out. :-)

Friday, September 28, 2007 1:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Connie:
I know it's been a few years since your original post but I just found it and had to respond.

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I too was wrapped up in the old Abe thing and finally got out of it a few months ago. I even attended a workshop.
I hate the word "dangerous" but in the context of my circumstances I have to use the word. Abe was dangerous for me because of my family background. I was severely abused as kid growing up and with a lot of therapy, 12 step work and too many other things have come out of the other side to be emotionally healthy.
But as a kid, in order to survive I had to disassociate, pretend what was happening to me wasn't really happening to me. I had to find "the positive" in the most horrific situations.
To use an analogy, instead of looking at the glass as half empty or even full, I would drink from empty glass and convince myself my thirst was being quenched.
Abe's teachings played directly into that old way coping which as child saved me but as and adult was crippling me.
I do best when I can honestly what really sucks in my life and what is incredibly beautiful in my life. Denial sends me on a dangerous path.
Thanks for you your blog and keep it up.

Saturday, October 30, 2010 9:45:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon Oct. 30, thank you for sharing your experiences. I've long observed that New-Wage gurus and belief systems seem to attract more than their share of people who have had serious issues in their lives, such as physical or emotional abuse. And all too often the New-Wage gurus/leaders are more than willing to take advantage of the peculiar combination of vulnerability, neediness, and general dysfunctionality that lifelong abuse can create. In some cases -- and there is one I could name personally but will not in this comment -- a few "lucky" dysfunctional individuals are brought into the guru's inner circle, and the cycle of abuse continues, albeit generally in more subtle ways than the abused person experienced growing up. Sometimes it takes years for the abused person to wake up to the fact that he or she is still being abused.

The guru uses and takes advantage of the former abuse victim for as long as that person will allow, and in turn the former victim finds ways to abuse others. These highly dysfunctional individuals can become some of the guru's most fierce supporters, often doing the very dirty work of dealing with critics so the guru won't have to soil his or her lofty image.

But I digress. I think of Esther Hicks (and her hubby Jerry) primarily as entertainers. That's why I've sometimes referred to them as the George and Gracie of the New-Wage world, or of the Imaginary Friends industry. Esther is a fair stand-up comedienne when she gets going with her Abe shtick. Sometimes, of course, her humor is deliberate, though there's generally a "serious" message behind it. More often than not, though, Esther is unintentionally funny, IMO. What's not funny (well, it can be, but sometimes it's pretty sad) is that so many people take the Abe teachings so seriously.

Anyway, I'm glad you got out of it with your emotional health intact. There's much more on this blog about Abe and Esther and Jerry. At some point I will actually add tags with their names so those specific posts can be found more easily. For now, they're all tagged with "Imaginary Friends." If you follow that tag you may also meet a few other amusing imaginary pals and their enterprising imagineers.

Sunday, October 31, 2010 12:29:00 PM  

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