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.)

Friday, March 20, 2009

All I need is a miracle...

Note: This post contains some highly scientifical and mathematical technical stuff. In light of some of the subject matter – and you'll see what I mean in a moment – I probably should have published this on Square Root Day, which was 3-3-09 – but, hey, better late than never. I'm certainly not going to wait until the next Square Root Day, which will be on 4-4-16, nearly three and a half years after the world may or may not be scheduled to end. So I settled on Equinox Day. I would call it the first day of Spring or the Spring Equinox, but it's the Autumn Equinox in Other Parts of the World (although, just to add to the confusion a little bit, Autumn officially began in Australia on March 1).

* * * * *

What if you're in a hurry?
What if you need a miracle fast?
What if things for you are urgent and you are desperate?
What then?
That's when you have to pull out all the stops and get help. But not from just any one person, but from a special group of people who are helping each other to achieve real world results.
I'm talking about a new online community where you can state your intention and others can hold that very intention for you...
~ Joe Vitale, from an email promoting his Attract Miracles online community

The teaser page for Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale's Attract Miracles site bears this large and compelling headline:

"What Would Happen if 8,185 People Held an
Intention for You Personally?"

In the weeks before the site went live in December of 2008, the headline on that page was followed by a mention of "the Maharishi Effect," and then the customary excited but vague promises about the miracles and wonders in store for participants. After the site went live, however, the Attract Miracles page changed. The promises were still there, the bit about the 8,185 folks was still there, but mention of the Maharishi Effect had disappeared. It lives on, however, in Joe's December 4 blog post promoting the site, although he published yet another blog post about the site on December 20, sans any mention of the Maharishi Effect.

But let's talk for a moment about those 8,185 people. Who are these people, and why are there 8,185 of them? Joe claims that is the number of people needed to change the world. He explains that 8,185 is the square root of one percent of the estimated current world population of 6.7 billion souls. (I whipped out my trusty calculator, and by golly, that's pretty accurate.) And Joe's goal is to have at least 8,185 members in his online community, though he implies that he thinks there will ultimately be many more.

While Joe doesn't fully explain this part on the site, the significance of 8,185 is rooted (so to speak) in a "scientific" formula dreamed up decades ago by the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who first achieved world fame by briefly being guru to The Beatles in the late 1960s. Don't get me wrong: Joe does write about the formula on the Attract Miracles page, but he doesn't mention the guy who made it up in the first place.

The Maharishi originally predicted that if a mere one percent of the population of any city were to practice his Transcendental Meditation (TM) program, this would reduce crimes, accidents, and illness in that city. This phenomenon came to be known as the Maharishi Effect, and advocates claimed that it established a new formula for the creation of "an ideal society, free from crime and problems." A few years later, however, the "Extended Maharishi Effect" was invented...er..."discovered," and the critical-mass projection was lowered to the square root of that one percent figure, whatever it might be. How the Maharishi figured all of this out, I have no idea, but then again, I don't have a scientifical mathematical mind so I couldn't be expected to understand. (Actually, it probably had something to do with Vedic principles, but I'm equally ignorant in that area.) The important point is that for many years now the Maharishi's minions have been on a mission to prove the existence and efficacy of the Maharishi Effect.

As noted, however, the Attract Miracles page, as well as Joe's December 20 blog post and subsequent mentions of his online community, do not directly mention the Maharishi Effect at all. One other little detail has changed as well. Both the current Attract Miracles page and the December 20 post mention that "more than twenty-three scientific studies" prove the efficacy of group intentions and support. However, on the December 4 blog post, as well as in The Attractor Factor and other earlier writings, Joe wrote that there were nineteen scientific studies. For years it was "nineteen studies," and now it's "more than twenty-three." (Or in some cases, as in that email I quoted at the beginning of this post, it's merely "twenty-three.") The exactness of those numbers is what I find so interesting (Prime Number Day, anyone?). Perhaps four or more additional studies were made up... I mean...discovered between December 4 and the day the Attract Miracles site went live.

But I quibble. The point is that Joe's declarations about the "scientific studies" seem to be a major selling point of the Attract Miracles community, which is not surprising, as science appears to be a New-Wage guru's best friend these days, next to online diploma mills...um...I mean, "universities." (Joe himself recently invented a brand new branch of science, "neurometaphysics.") Regarding the scientific studies relevant to his Attract Miracles community, Joe offers various impressive-sounding factoids about how they were published in respected, peer-reviewed journals, and were independently verified.

Oh, those pesky naysayers
As is the case with all of his posts, most of the comments to Joe's posts about the Attract Miracles community have been supportive. But at least one person challenged Joe on the "scientific" claims. This comment appeared
on his December 20 post:

John Curtis says

Can you send information on where these studies can be found based on this statement above??

“Twenty-three scientific studies prove this kind of group support works.”

Although John Curtis did not provide a web site link, I am assuming that this is the same person who runs the self-help-fraud watchdog site (and is the brains behind Guru-Free Week and the Scammy Awards). As of this writing, Joe has yet to answer the question and I'm guessing he won't, but if he does, more than likely he'll simply refer Dr. Curtis to The Attractor Factor.

What Joe does not mention, either on his blog posts, in The Attractor Factor, or on the Attract Miracles site, is that virtually all of those "scientific" studies he cites were conducted and/or sponsored by people and organizations affiliated with the Maharishi's vast empire (can you say "confirmation bias," boys and girls?). Here's a source I bet Joe wouldn't cite, if he were citing sources to back up that claim about peer review: http://www.behind-the-tm-facade.org/mdefect-peer2.htm

More about the Fales and Markovsky study cited in the link above can be found here, on counselor and researcher John M. Knapp's very informative TranceNet site.

One of the most frequently mentioned Maharishi Effect experiments was a 1993 group meditation focused on Washington DC. According to a piece by John Olmsted on the eSkeptic site:

In 1993, 4,000 meditators gathered in Washington, D.C. under the direction of physicist John Hagelin. Hagelin predicted in advance that the meditations would drive down the violent crime rate in the city by 25 percent that summer. Despite the fact that the murder rate actually rose, Hagelin announced a year later that his analysis proved that the violent crime rate fell just as he had predicted. In his recent book he states that the meditators "function essentially as a 'washing machine' for the entire society."

John Hagelin, as many of you may recall, has been the Presidential candidate for the Maharishi-affiliated Natural Law Party. Hagelin also seems prone to a brand of hubris peculiar to TM-ers; in July of 2007 he claimed that the efforts of his group of meditators, the Invincible America Assembly, was going to create unprecedented prosperity for the US and make the Dow climb to 17,000 within a year. Hey, nice work, Hagelin, et al. According to the article linked to in the second sentence of this paragraph, the group also insisted that because of its efforts, there would be fewer hurricanes and better US-North Korea relations. Again, nice work, guys!

Critics have also pointed to the example of Fairfield, Iowa, location of the Maharishi University of Management, and home to a thriving TM community. Since 1979, Fairfield has contained the largest group of TM and TM-Sidhi practitioners in the US. Yet in that time, there have been several years in which violent crime and property crime in Fairfield and the state of Iowa actually increased.

I'm not dissin' meditation, but...
Just in case it isn't entirely clear, I am not arguing with the notion that meditation can reap personal benefits to the meditator. There seems to be a lot of credible evidence supporting the effectiveness of meditation in stress reduction, relaxation and in some cases pain management, for example, although
serious TM advocates seem to be pretty adamant in their insistence that only their brand of meditation is effective. (And they tend not to talk about the potential harmful effects of TM on some individuals.)

At any rate, this isn't about about whether or not meditation, or even specifically TM, can help improve the physical, emotional, mental or spiritual health of individual practitioners. It's about whether or not a group of meditators can, by the simple act of meditating, influence external events such as crime or war or stock market fluctuations.

And, contrary to the claims of the Maharishi folks and purveyors of similar magic and miracles, those claims have not been proven by science. I will not go so far as to say that the Maharishi Effect has been been officially and thoroughly debunked, though many would argue that it has been. At the very best, it has never really been properly researched by parties who didn't have a clear pro-Maharishi/pro-TM agenda. At worst, it is, as former TM teacher Joe Kellett wrote on his excellent web site, Falling Down The TM Rabbit Hole, "incredibly outrageous pseudo-science."

Not that this has made a bit of difference to those who want to believe, and those who want to make money from those who want to believe.

History, economics, and (of course!) quantum physics
Joe swears that the basis of his Attract Miracles community is completely scientific: "nothing woo-woo about it!" And even though the late "giggling guru's" name is not evoked on the Attract Miracles site, Joe does seem to be promoting the Maharishi mythos by implying that focused group meditations were responsible for everything from the end of the Cold War to a rise in the stock market. He writes [and my interjections are in brackets]:

Want world peace?

Then you'll be glad to know a long term meditation that lasted from 1988 to 1990 coincided perfectly with the end of nearly every major conflict including the war in Afganistan [sic] and even including the historic end of the Cold War. [And there have been no more wars or terrorist attacks since then, right? By the way, people such as Charlie Wilson, Joanne Herring, and Lord knows how many Afghan resistance fighters would be really interested to learn that the Soviet-Afghanistan war ended not because of their efforts but rather because of the mighty meditations of the Maharishi's minions.* ~ CLS]

Are you worried about the economy because of bad news about the stock market, housing prices, or a credit crisis?

Take heart because another experimental study by The Scientific Demonstration Project [another Maharishi-sponsored project ~CLS] showed group meditation corresponded to a dramatic 12% rise in the stock market. [And, of course, the stock market has been on the rise consistently. ~CLS]

I could go on, but there are too many studies to list here.

Over the last 50 years the scientific evidence of the power of group intentions has piled up - and yet the media doesn't mention a peep!

Hmmm. Maybe "the media" don't mention it because it's...well...bunk. Moreover, as the above-mentioned former TM teacher Joe Kellett wrote, "What gets totally buried is that there is a difference between 'correlation' and 'cause and effect.' In other words, just because two things happen in succession it doesn't mean that one caused the other."

By the way, I know I've written about this a few times before (e.g., here, to give just one example), but I can't let a discussion of group intentions pass without mentioning Joe (Vitale's) efforts to rally a large group of believers to tame hurricanes. He did it with Hurricane Rita in his "Help Me Stop Rita" e-newsletter/email blast in 2005 (and later claimed success at re-routing the storm and reducing it from a Category 5 to a Cat 2). Then when Ike threatened in 2008, he copied and pasted from the Rita email and sent out a "Help Me Stop Ike" blast...and, well, we saw how that one went.

More recently, Joe has made a stunningly generous offer to the many thousands of people who may have wanted to attend his third and final Zero Limits Ho'oponopono event with the famous Dr. Hew Len (Austin, Texas, April 17-19, 2009), but won't be able to do so in person. Alas, the $997.00 event, which was limited to 100 participants, is now sold out. However, Joe has decided to offer absentee tickets for only $100.00 per person. What do you get for your $100.00? Do you get a chance to "attend" the event in real time via the Internet, so you can at least watch and listen, even though you can't participate? Do you get a special DVD and MP3 of the event, and maybe a free signed copy of the book Zero Limits? Nope, sorry – well, at least not as of this writing, although those are actually pretty good ideas. As of now, it appears that in exchange for your C-note you get to have your name written on a piece of paper, along with the names of all of the other absentee "attendees." But wait, there's more! During the event, all of the people in the room – including the great "Dr." Vitale and Dr. Hew Len, of course – will "clean" on you and your fellow absent ones. I don't think you even have to write down your issues or the things you want cleaned on; the Divine always knows. "Obviously," Joe writes, "being in the room and hearing Dr. Hew Len, myself, and everyone else, is the ideal, but if you can't make it there (since the event is sold out), being an absentee participant is the next best thing." So even though you don't get anything tangible for that hundred bucks, you do get a chance to get worked on from afar by two of the greatest cleaning minds in the whole racket, with the assistance of a whole room full of people who spent nearly ten times more money than you did to be in the presence of those minds. Think of it like sort of a yagya, but with faux-Hawaiian elements (aloha-yagya?). Or think of it as just one more example of desperation marketing the powerful magic of group intentions. (And read all about it here.)

But back to the Attract Miracles group. Naturally, you couldn't have a proper New-Wage $cheme without the invocation of quantum physics:

For the first time in history people from all over the world can gather in a single place without having to physically meet.

Quantum physics and ancient spiritual principles reveal that we're all connected on an energy level.

In fact, studies have proven that time and distance doesn't [sic] matter.

That's why you can hold an intention for fellow members and that energy instantly reaches them.

But now we can connect on a conscious level in real-time, too.

That's because for the first time in history, the Attract Miracles website provides a place for you to go any time you want to connect with the energy of the entire community.

This is far from the first time that Joe has used quantum physics to give credence to one of his mercenary schemes, and, of course, he's far from the only one to do this. It's S.O.P. in the New-Wage biz these days.

But why is he playing down the Maharishi origins of Attract Miracles? My first thought was that he might be trying to avoid possible negative connotations – after all, the Maharishi has been widely criticized over the decades for being everything from a lovable kook to an egotistical sociopath bent on world domination – and Joe wants to attract as large an audience as possible. But my second thought was that he simply wants to stamp Attract Miracles with his own brand. Knowing Joe, the brand-consciousness motive sounds the most plausible, and I wonder how long it will be before we start hearing about "the Vitale Effect," which, no doubt, will be an improved version of the Maharishi Effect, with additional magical and powerful properties. Or, to paraphrase countless New-Wage marketers in the past couple of years, "The Vitale Effect takes up where the Maharishi Effect left off! It's the 'Missing Effect!'" In keeping with the square-root theme, perhaps Joe can exploit a whole new realm by inventing a formula for change that utilizes imaginary numbers. (Here's a cartoon he might be able to use for one of his presentations.)

And one more point before we leave the topic of numbers: Mr. Fire seems to display some numeracy challenges when he declares, on the Attract Miracles page, "Today I live with my love, Nerissa, in a multi-million dollar estate and I recently added a $375,000 Rolls Royce Phantom to my growing exotic car collection."

Apart from the fact that I wouldn't exactly consider a Rolls Royce to be an "exotic car," there seems to be another inconsistency in that copy. I'm not real great with numbers myself, but it looks as if Joe may be off a few dollars regarding that "multi-million dollar estate", that is, if he's talking purely in terms of its appraised value, which, according to publicly available information, is currently less than $320,000. Am I missing something? Is he counting the value of his cars too? Or perhaps the total value of the rural subdivision in which he lives?

IM, I said
You might say that the present Attract Miracles site has been a long time coming. Joe was talking and writing about those "scientific studies" about meditation and group intentions even before The Attractor Factor was initially published in 2005, and he hinted that he was planning to do something significant with a form of meditation he invented, which he calls "Intentional Meditation," or IM. He was inspired to create IM when he read a book called
Permanent Peace: How to Stop Terrorism and War – Now and Forever. The author is Robert Oates, a senior policy fellow with – guess what? – Maharishi University of Management's Institute for Science, Technology and Public Policy in Fairfield, Iowa. A few years ago Joe wrote that his mission was "to establish an Intentional Meditation Foundation with hubs around the world, all using my book, and the meditation I teach in it, to lower crime and increase wealth globally. Now THAT is more than a goal, it's a mission." In The Attractor Factor he dedicates an entire chapter to IM. And there's a fairly recent (post-Secret) web site devoted to IM as well. Joe explains that IM differs from TM in that it is request-oriented, that is, you use it to get the Universe to give you specific things:

In the IM formula that I just described to you, you are quieting the mind as in meditation, and even merging with all that is, but you are also placing a request with the universe. That request will radiate out and reach the people who can help you achieve it. From there, magic happens. I know much of this may seem strange, but I'm calling it an Experiment so you can find out, with me, just how powerful this system can be.

I'm just speculating here, but I have a feeling that IM, or something like it, is the focus of a book idea Joe mentioned last November on Twitter. According to his Twitter entry, he was writing a proposal for a book that would "save the world, heal all money problems, and cause lasting peace. But I might be dreaming big." (Oddly enough, two days after he Tweeted about that book proposal, he sent out an email to his list promoting his new book, Expect Miracles, and in that email he wrote that Expect Miracles will very likely be his last book. He said he had no additional books in the works and no plans whatsoever to write another one. Either he is kind of forgetful, or he is banking on the fact that his readers are kind of forgetful, or his publisher looked at the proposal and said, "Forgeddaboudit !")

Joe isn't the first to have big ambitions for a branded meditation program, of course; once again he seems to be taking his inspiration from the Maharishi, or, more accurately, from one of the late guru's more prominent and eccentric followers. Make no mistake about it: although the Maharishi has passed on, there are people working very hard to keep his legacy alive. For example, even though the Fab Four as a group became disillusioned with the Maharishi nearly forty years ago (and/or vice-versa, according to Deepak Chopra), the surviving Beatles, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, are slated to headline a benefit concert on April 4** for the Maharishi-inspired David Lynch Foundation. One of the missions of the famously quirky director's foundation is to provide funds for teaching TM to at-risk kids so they can change the world from within. Part of this ambitious program involves taking TM into public schools.

I reckon that some of you cult-watchers will be alarmed at the prospect of the Maharishi's legacy seeping into our schools, but look at it this way: if at-risk kids are preoccupied with meditating, they probably will not be out killing people over a hit of crystal meth, or shooting their teachers and school mates, or setting wildfires, or, far worst of all, sending naughty pictures of themselves to their friends via their cell phones. Even so, the creation of vast new generations of TM drones is kind of an unsettling prospect as well, notwithstanding all those disclaimers on the TM.org site that TM is not a religion, philosophy or lifestyle, and that all TM instruction in schools is free and voluntary. Equally unsettling, for that matter, is Joe's own vision for the future of education, as mentioned here recently (first item).

Not surprisingly, Joe Kellett has something to say about David Lynch's big plans. Quoting from a July 2005 story about Lynch in the (London) Independent, he writes:

Furthermore, Lynch believes this:

Students who meditate, Lynch assured the New York Post yesterday, will: "Start shining like a bright, shiny penny and their anxieties will go away. By diving within, they will attain a field of pure consciousness, pure bliss, creativity, intelligence, dynamic peace. You enliven the field, and every day it gets better. Negativity recedes."

There's more. With his new outfit, Lynch also intends to ease tension for all the rest of us by putting together "peace-creating super groups of 8,000 meditators" around the world, who will all chant simultaneously for peace and harmony. It is important that each group [emphasis mine. ~ CLS] has 8,000 participants because "it's the size of the square root of one per cent of the world's population."

Hmmm. Is any of this beginning to sound familiar? Of course, the big difference is that David Lynch envisioned multiple groups of eight-thousand, while Joe's Attract Miracles community presumably involves only one group of eight-thousand-plus – a minimum of 8,185, to be exact. Maybe it's that extra 185 folks who give Attract Miracles the edge. Maybe it's the power of the Internet. Or perhaps Joe's magic is stronger than David's or the Maharishi's. Must be that Vitale Effect at work.

I don't know about those "hubs around the world" that Joe mentioned in some of his writings about IM (and that David Lynch seems to be advocating as well), but it appears that the Attract Miracles site is definitely set up to increase wealth – Joe's wealth, anyway, as well as that of his partner in the current scheme, Craig Perrine, who calls himself the Maverick Marketer (a name he came up with well before the McPalin campaign laid claim to the title of "Maverick"). As it turns out – and I know this will come as a shock to you – the Attract Miracles community is basically a multilevel marketing setup. It costs a mere $1.00 to join, but you get $12.50 per month for every person you refer, for as long as those people remain members. That sounds like an amazingly good deal till you get further down the page and discover that the $1.00 is just a trial membership, and after 30 days, you get to "keep the service" for "only" $37.00 a month ("less than a cable bill!" Joe enthuses).

It's kind of like a prayer circle, or, perhaps more accurately, like Marcy From Maui's Powerful Intentions site, except you have to pay actual money to receive the prayers or powerful intentions of other members.

Your definition of "skeptical" may vary...
For the benefit of those who might be skeptical, Joe has this advice, which is a variation on the New-Wage credo that although doubting is perfectly normal, it will only impede your "progress."

Truth is, the only thing stopping you is your own doubt.

Admit it. You're asking yourself things like...

  • Will this really work?
  • Will this really work for me?
  • Should I trust this guy about what he's telling me?

All good questions, of course.

But it's that very voice of doubt that is keeping you from moving forward.

I know it's tough to swallow, but doubt is the reason most people don't take action, and consequently why most people stay stuck...

Joe eases the doubter's concerns with his "priority assurance policy," which he says is "beyond fair." Once you register, you gain instant access to the Private Members Area, and if you're not "thoroughly convinced" that AttractMiracles.com is for you, all you have to do is contact Joe's office within 30 days and your membership and access to the Members Area will be canceled.

I'm not sure how this reconciles with the fact that your trial period, the part that only costs a buck, is only seven days. Presumably if you cancel within that time period, you won't be charged $37.00 for your first month. Seven days seems to me to be a pretty short amount of time to determine whether or not something so momentously life-changing is working for you. The sign-up blurb (as opposed to the "priority assurance policy") says you can cancel any time, but, if I'm understanding it properly, it seems pretty clear that unless you decide within seven days that the community isn't for you, the Attract Miracles site is going to extract at least $38.00 from you. And maybe more, if you don't time your cancellation just right.

But $38.00, or maybe more, is chicken feed compared to all of the billions of real dollars, potential dollars and even totally imaginary dollars that are floating around Miracle Town. (Don't underestimate those potential and imaginary dollars, by the way. They can result in lots of real dollars for a few people. Funny how that works.) According to Tweets Joe posted on Twitter just after the Attract Miracles site went live, people were signing up like crazy for his new community, and miracles were being created left and right. To hear him tell it, this is a veritable miracle-making machine.

"What can it hurt?"
Perhaps you're saying, "Oh, come on, Cosmic Connie, enough already with this snarkastic stuff. You're only contributing to the overall problem of negativity, just like
that nasty old mainstream media that largely created, and is certainly perpetuating, the so-called 'economic crisis.' Besides, even if mainstream science hasn't validated the Maharishi Effect and the power of group intentions, what can it hurt if people want to get together and support each other with their mutual positivity? And don't forget that members do get a lot of bonus products with membership, and they even get a chance to personally ask Joe questions, so at least they're receiving some tangible value for their thirty-seven bucks a month."

Joe himself implies that he's making a real sacrifice by offering membership so cheap. "Because of how much is included for members of AttractMiracles I've been advised to charge $97 or more each month," he writes. "I know I could and it would be well worth it, but I won't. I want to help as many people as possible." What a guy.

Since "value" is subjective, I won't attempt to argue this point. Joe does offer a bunch of free videos and other products for members, though some of it is available for free anyway (e.g., his December 2007 talk in Maui on creating "15-minute miracles"). I'm sure he also offers members opportunities to ask him questions, though you can also do that for free on his blog, and sometimes he even answers. (Alternatively, if you want access to him I suppose you could just pretend to be with some New-Wage magazine or film production company, and he'd probably jump at the publicity op.) Beyond that, however, I have no doubt that some people believe they are getting good value from their Attract Miracles membership. Just recently, f'rinstance, I saw a comment on Joe's blog from a guy named Barry Thomas Bechta, who thanked Joe for the value he is providing through the Attract Miracles community. And Barry ought to know value; after all, he's one of the people who was smart enough to invest $5,000.00 to ride in the back seat of Joe's Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Okay, so I'm still being snarky, and some might ask me how I am qualified to go on so much about something when I haven't experienced it firsthand myself. What could it hurt for me to invest a buck to take it for a test drive for a week? Am I really that cheap? Or am I, as more than one disgruntled reader has speculated, simply afraid of something I don't understand? Actually, I am afraid, but what I'm scared of is getting my sensitive information into an auto-payment agreement for something like this. (I keep thinking about the problems people have had with folks such as Joe's new pal Kevin Trudeau, although in all fairness I will say that the Attract Miracles site was apparently set up well before Joe met True-dough, and is most likely not affiliated in any way with True-dough. Kevin did give Joe some marketing advice about upselling, though, so that might be a red flag regarding some of his future enterprises, particularly if they involve infomercials.) Besides, I would imagine that the Attract Miracles community only wants like-minded people, not snarky cynics. I'm sure that even as a lurker I simply wouldn't add to the positive energy they are trying to build. No, joining does not seem to be an option for me. But I'd be glad to hear from those who have joined and have found it helpful (or not).

As for the question, "What can it hurt?", I'll concede that on the surface the whole thing seems harmless enough for those who have $37.00 a month to spare, but a better question might be, "Is it really helpful?" And I don't mean that in the subjective, personal-experience/personal-taste sense. What I mean is, are there measurable positive results that can credibly be attributed to the group intentions of the Attract Miracles crowd?

While we're waiting for those measurable positive results, I'd say that if spending thirty-seven bucks a month to be a member of a New-Wage mutual masturb...I mean...cheerleading group will really make you feel better, go for it. You might make some new friends, get to do some networking, maybe even make a few bucks yourself. I will warn you right now, though, that you'll probably have to put up with a bunch of other people whining and moaning about their awful lives, or bragging about their small triumphs, as they sometimes do on Joe's blog. But remember, you're there to support them, and they're there to support you if only they can stop focusing on their own stuff for a few minutes. Most importantly, of course, you'll be helping support Joe, and at least one of his cronies, Craig, in the style to which they've become accustomed. At the very least, you'll enable them to continue to buy those pricey Siglo cigars so they can sit around together with a couple of their other cronies and mastermind even more creative new ways to separate you from your money... I mean, to save the world. You really can't put a price on that.

All I'm saying is this: Don't delude yourself that you are participating in an experiment that has actually been validated by science. And don't blame me, or any of the other "naysayers," if that thirty-seven-dollar-a-month investment does not reap world peace, an end to crime, an ever-rising or at least stable stock market, or even the miracles that you so desperately want in your own life.

The monkey on our backs
By the way, when Googling for information about critical mass, group intentions, and spirituality, I came across
this page, which is one of many that cites the "hundredth monkey" phenomenon. The hundredth monkey myth has been even more thoroughly debunked than the Maharishi Effect. Very simply, the monkey tale did not unfold as it has been spun by New-Wage believers, who were inspired by a 1979 book, Lifetide, by the late Dr. Lyall Watson. When pressed by skeptics, Dr. Watson ultimately admitted that the hundredth monkey phenomenon was, as he wrote in 1986, "a metaphor of my own making, based...on very slim evidence and a great deal of hearsay. I have never pretended otherwise." (Actually, he did pretend otherwise, at least until he was called on his pretense.)

Not that the truth really even matters. Some myths just never die. Especially the profitable ones.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I GOTTA find me a scam.

PS ~ In case you missed it earlier, here is the link to my November 2007 blog post about the Maharishi and related matters.

And here's a link to a TM discussion on RichardDawkins.net.

And here, one more time for your convenience, is a link to Joe Kellett's site, Falling Down The TM Rabbit Hole, which offers a detailed critical opinion of TM, including a good debunking of the Maharishi Effect.

Oh, and don't forget John M. Knapp's marvelous TM-Free Blog.

Last but emphatically not least, for another snarky but very knowledgeable perspective, do check out Jody Radzik's Guruphiliac blog; he has written extensively about the late Maharishi. In a recent blog post about the above-mentioned David Lynch Foundation and its mission to get TM into schools, Jody wrote:

TM™ is not secular meditation. TM™ is a religion, and a destructive cult in every sense of the word. While we agree that meditation is good for all regardless of faith, TM™ meditation comes with so many strings attached to a wildly fantastic mythology (including all their so-called "science") that you may as well be dunking kids in full-on Christian baptisms.

Amen, Brother Jody.

Addendum 29 March, 2009: Skeptico wrote a good post about a related topic, remote healing and the power (or lack thereof) of focused intentions. This was in response to an article on distance healing that recently appeared in the Huffington Post. Here's Skep's take on it. Darn it all...more inconvenient truths for miracle seekers and sellers. But read it. It's good.

* If you're interested in that Afghanistan-Russia conflict, From That Flame is a fascinating fictionalized account involving one of the heroes of that war. Oddly enough, there is no mention in the book of the Maharishi Effect. (In the interests of full disclosure: The publisher of this book is a friend of mine, but I'm not getting any compensation for mentioning it.)
** Gullibalooza alert: If you can't make it to the David Lynch wingding, don't worry. Also on April 4 is a big to-do at the Unity Church of Dallas: the Conscious Community Expo & Concert, sponsored by The Peace Project. There will be messages, lectures and performances by scads of New-Wage luminaries, including Mr. Fire himself. According to the write-up on The Peace Project's web site, the rationale behind the big expo/concert is that "a collective, united consciousness has been scientifically proven to manifest results." The event is the culmination of the Peace Project's 10-month-long "Crime Reduction/Peace Enhancement Study" for AGNT (the Association for Global New Thought). One stated purpose of the gala is "to provide each community that uses THE PEACE PROJECT protocol substantial proof that these kind of community events are effective in increasing harmony and reducing crime – without cost to their city." Sound familiar?

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18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh my, all these intentions but where are the results apart from what they've been able to manifest for themselves through taking other peoples money? Don't you just love it how these guys think they are the worlds brains on everything personally intended. If only they knew what egotistical fools they look but then hey it pays well right? So, who gives a toss about how it looks when you can rake in a few dollars from a bunch of gullible people. That is I suppose unless they really really really do believe in God. Somehow I think that is also part of the plan, evil plan but its a plan.

Friday, March 20, 2009 5:41:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon, I honestly don't think they care that they appear foolish or egotistical to some, as long as there are enough gullible souls to keep them in business. Evil? Maybe, maybe not. But definitely shrewd and scheming.

Friday, March 20, 2009 6:04:00 PM  
Anonymous MT said...

I find Ho-Joe Vitale to be one of the most odious of the New-Wage bunch. Sadly, I got suckered into Ho'oponopono and what a sham it turned out to be. Perhaps at some point, if I have recovered enough dignity, I will comment on your Ho'oponopono bloggings with some of my experiences.

In the meantime, thanks a big bunch for this excellent post!

Friday, March 20, 2009 6:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Xanadu Xero said...

If it takes less than 9.000 Tranced'N'Mental Meditbators to Change Things... why is the world so, uh, f----d up?

Better question: Why do The Ascended (Ass-ended) $$$CHARGE$$$ to Change them? How bout they
Save Humanity for FREE, then set up a legitimate business?

Friday, March 20, 2009 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

MT, there's nothing to be embarrassed about. I can see why Ho'opo would seem attractive. But I look forward to hearing about your experiences, and if you need a respite while you are gathering your wits about you, try this (if you haven't already):
http://cosmicconnie.blogspot.com/2007/06/mahalo-dr-yew.html

Friday, March 20, 2009 10:53:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

XX, I have often asked myself those very same questions. But I have a feeling that the New-Wage marketers would say that (1) they have to make a living; and (2) people don't really think something is valuable (and therefore won't use it or take it to heart) unless they have to pay real money for it.

There's certainly some truth to both points. Everyone has to make a living, and I suppose selling crap to people is marginally better than robbing banks or selling crack to school kids. As for point 2, alas, just because people *think* something is valuable doesn't mean that it is. 'Course, "value," as I said in my post, is often a subjective judgment...

In any case, you're right: the New-Wage gurus are still raking in the big bucks, and the world is still f----d up. Maybe it's because there are just too many negative Nellies like you and me around. ;-)

Friday, March 20, 2009 11:00:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

I think it worthy of note that throughout history, none of the great spiritual masters ever sold anything. They realized that they had gifts which humanity needed, and offered those gifts freely, for no other reason than the betterment of humanity.

The Christian Bible even has a lesson about those who would sell "special" products, proclaiming that the products would enhance one's chances of entering the "kingdom." Those hucksters were referred to as money-changers, and I seem to recall the story of an enraged Jesus chasing them from the temple. The modern hustledorks are no different from the biblical moneychangers. And when you add the fact that some of the new moneychangers claim that their own obsession with material wealth is actually endorsed by the sages, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to imagine what the sages' reaction to them would be.

I take comfort in the belief that these Newage snake oil salesmen will ultimately be discovered for the charlatans they are. Given the public's opinion of the financial schemers, one can barely imagine the disdain that these so-called "spiritual" teachers will face, once the general public gets to know them - beyond their carefully constructed and controlled personas - as well as some of us have. And all the phony degrees in the world won't be able to restore their credibility.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Ron, I think you're right for the most part, though I have a feeling that the most clever and creative New-Wage hustledorks will continue to find ways to attract new suckers.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009 6:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Vikram said...

Love your style, Connie. I found this one too long, though, for a single blog post. Still, good stuff.

Starting a membership site is a great way IM folks (that's Internet Marketing, not Intention Manifestation) "attract" huge profits.

In Mark Joyner's book, The Great Formula, Joe actually shares how he "attracted" a BMW 645ci. I'm sure he used a similar "intent" for his Rolls. Here's how he did it:

I quickly announced that I would hold a four-part teleseminar series called Attract a New Car. Obviously, everyone who liked the book would be interested in this new twist. And who wouldn’t want a new car?

Now here’s where I did something unique:

I allowed anyone to attend the teleseminar for free. I didn’t charge a cent. This made people curious, it assured an audience, and it also guaranteed buyers. All the people who didn’t make the calls would want to hear the audios sooner or later. So, of course, I recorded the calls. What I was doing was creating my next product. I did the teleseminar and it was a blast. I had guests come on so I didn’t have to do all the work. This made the process a breeze. I recorded it, had it transcribed, and turned it into a product.

Then I went to everyone on my list and said the audios were now available at www.AttractaNewCar.com. I sold the audios for $97. How'd they do? I made enough money to buy a brand-new BMW 645ci — a luxury sports car worth more than many people's homes, over $90,000.


He further shares how he actually paid for an endorsed email list of 250,000 subscribers, to whom he hawked his wares. He ends with (I can imagine him rubbing his palms and exclaiming with glee), "What a beautiful formula this is!"

Monday, April 06, 2009 9:14:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Vikram, thank you for your comments. I'm the first to admit that I have a tendency to write over-long blog posts. I recognize that the convention for this medium is to write in "sight bites" to avoid screen fatigue in readers. (I did try to make it a little more readable by dividing the post into sub-heads, but I realize that it's still pretty loooooong.) Of course, there's always the option of printing it out to read, but then you can't follow the links. Besides, people are busy and may not have time to read an over-long post. Anyway, point well taken: this was indeed a long post, and if I were advising a client about blogging, I would advise them to, "Do as I say, not as I do." Or if I were ghosting someone else's blog, I would certainly follow good blogging practices more closely.

I appreciate the info about Joe's "formula." That's consistent with other stuff I've read about his "attract a new car" program, which he has pushed more frequently than just about anything except the Miracles Coaching scheme. (I love the little bragging note about how the BMW he attracted cost more than many people's homes. The same is true of the cars he continues to "attract," such as the $250,000 custom Scorpion, and, of course, that Rolls-Royce Phantom, which begins at $350,000. Of course, he's running those expensive Rolls-ing Mastermind sessions to help offset the latter cost, which I suspect has strained even *his* mighty budget.)

As an aside: I've also noticed that Joe took a lot of the stuff from the Attract A New Car promo material and used it on his joint-venture "Money Beyond Belief" site. This is the site where, along with master tapper Brad Yates, he touts a "Quantum Tapping System." Tap your way to wealth, in other words.
http://www.bradyates.net/MoneyBeyondBelief.html

Since the purpose of the Money Beyond Belief site is to promote Brad's impressive powers as well as Joe's, the implication is that Brad was also somehow responsible for Joe attracting that $90k BMW. The caption under the pic reads:
"Joe and his brand-new 2005 BMW 645ci -- a $90,000 luxury sports car he attracted after a teleseminar with Brad Yates!"

Anyway, it's deceptive at best for Joe to use the word "attract" or the concept of "attraction" when talking about how he gets the money to buy his expensive toys. He makes it sound like magic, like something effortless -- after all, that's the selling point. (It sounds even more like magic when it's presented in the context of that magic tapping stuff.)

Yet the truth is that Joe works diligently and constantly, and he always has, for as long as I've known him. He is continually scheming and plotting to find creative new ways to get people to part with their money. It's easier for him these days, but it is not effortless.

He and his Siglo cigar buddies are particularly brilliant at coming up with new ways to test people's capacity to swallow anything. One can just picture these guys sitting around smirking and smoking after cooking up a new snake-oil scheme, and then going out and putting on their "game face" -- you know, that mock-sincere "I want to help you" shtick they use to reel in their customers. What's amazing is that people are still buying it. But hope springs infernal, as Steve Salerno recently wrote on SHAMblog...
http://shambook.blogspot.com/2009/03/hope-springs-infernal.html

Monday, April 06, 2009 4:16:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

And speak of the devil, or, rather, the Siglo group, I just saw this Tweet on Joe's Twitter page:

"Preparing for relaxed evening with @billhibbler @craigperrine @patobryan Gonna talk about life, cigars, guitars, steaks, marketing, money."
http://twitter.com/mrfire/status/1465238971

Translation: "Gonna sit around congratulating ourselves once again on being masters of the universe, while cooking up still more ways to pick the pockets of the gullible. What a life!"

Monday, April 06, 2009 4:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Vikram said...

You're absolutely correct, Connie, that Joe works diligently and constantly. That's something you will never hear him mention to his audience. Oh no, those are just inconsequential details ;)


The people in Internet Marketing circles all know he peddles worthless crap disguised as "spiritual science". Unfortunately, none of Joe's fans seem to recognize that, despite the fact that Joe has even publicly revealed (as he did in Joyner's book) his real strategies for generating income - selling a second glass to a thirsty crowd. Then wash, rinse, repeat.

It ain't the secret laws of the universe that are making Joe rich, it's the universal stupidity of people :)

One marketer I follow actually spoke the truth in his newsletter:


Those so-called jet-set merchants are working their tails off.
(Even the crooks, and scammers work like crazy to rip you off).

But they make it sound oh-so-perfect that you think that you'll have less work than ever before. That you'll no doubt struggle to the top of the hill-- and then magically coast down.

Getting down hills is harder than getting up.

And when you get down, you find there's yet another hill. And heck, there's a freakin' mountain range.


Astute viewer comment on a YouTube video where Joe waxes eloquent about the cigars made by some Austin smokeshop:

"Lung Cancer is spiritual?"

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 12:36:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Wow, Vik...an Internet Marketer who really tells the truth about the "jet-set merchants." That's pretty rare. Thanks.

As for Joe, he has on occasion mentioned that he works a lot, but that the work he does is so much fun it doesn't SEEM like work. I have also heard him say that his strategy is to only do the stuff that's fun for him, and hire someone else to do the stuff that's not fun. (Which is pretty much what Tim "Four-Hour-Work Week" Ferriss and many other New-Wage gurus advise.)

I don't think that everything Joe offers is worthless, but there seems to be a lot of redundancy, cleverly repackaged to make it not seem redundant, and many of the products he and his buddies come up with are worse than useless. Here's MY personal all-time favorite, so far (which I've mentioned numerous times on this blog, but I gotta do it again):
http://www.psychicdemand.com/

Ah, yes, and the cigars... well, Joe learned from Dr. Hew Len that if you just use Ho'oponoponoponoponoponoponoponoponopono* "cleaning," you can smoke and eat junk food and do pretty much anything you want and it won't hurt you. Joe discussed this in "Zero Limits." He wrote that he was kind of reluctant to let Dr. Hew Len know about his fondness for cigars, since Dr. Len is such an elevated being and all that, but Dr. Len reassured him that smoking is a very spiritual thing -- otherwise, why would it be so much a part of Native American religion? Dr. Len failed to mention that the lung cancer rate among many N.A. tribes is sky-high, despite the fact that the word or concept of "cancer" doesn't even exist in some native languages.

Meanwhile, Joe is prepping to go to Peru in May and, he says, speak before a stadium of 35,000 people about the Law of Attraction. Or 30,000 people, depending upon which blog post or Tweet of his you're reading. And he supposedly is going to meet the President of Peru. The Latin American market is a huge one, ripe and ready for all sorts of magic and miracles, and Joe is even brushing up on his Spanish so he can communicate better. And then, and then... he's poised to go to Russia in September -- yet another large and gullible population, if the popularity of scheming entrepreneur Vladimir Megre's imaginary friend "Anastasia" is any indication:
http://cosmicconnie.blogspot.com/2007/03/babe-in-woods.html

Oh, dear. I just got yet another headache from rolling my eyes.

* Sorry... that's one of those words that once I start spelling it, it's hard to stop.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 10:16:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

BTW, I mentioned in this post that "Zero Limits III," Joe's upcoming dog-and-Ho'oponopony show (April 17-19, Austin) was sold out, but that he was selling "absentee attendance" tickets for $100.00. Well, surprise, surprise... they were able to "expand the room" and now a few more actual seats are available, but they're going fast!

I have the feeling, though, that if you don't have a thousand bucks to spend, or even a hundred for the aloha-yagya, you can learn more than you ever wanted to know about Ho'oponopono by going to this site:
http://spiritualcompassconnection.com/hooponopono.html

All that chanting and tapping with a pencil eraser and such... geez, it kinda sounds like a training ground for obsessive-compulsives, doesn't it?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009 11:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Asher said...

Very thorough blog Connie! You've been doing a lot of research... :)

The one problem I see with the claims that the TM organization is trying to get rich etc is that they are a NON profit organization - so how can they be personally getting rich? All the money goes into various worldwide projects to remove poverty and is helping some of the poorest countries in the world like Guinea Bissau and Cambodia etc.

That benefit concert in New York with successful meditator's like Paul, Ringo, Jerry Seinfeld, Howard Stern and Cheryl Crow etc was a great event to raise money to teach 1 million at risk kids around the world.

In South America you wouldn't believe the poverty, war and disease that these kids have to face. But now thanks to the David Lynch Foundation 10's of thousands have learnt Transcendental Meditation and are quickly growing in inner peace, happiness and creativity.

You can see a video of David in Brazil with 4,000 students here:
http://dlf.tv/2009/city-of-children/

Peace! :)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009 3:47:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks for your perspective, Asher. You ask, "...so how can they be personally getting rich? All the money goes into various worldwide projects to remove poverty and is helping some of the poorest countries in the world like Guinea Bissau and Cambodia etc."

So are you insinuating that all of those grandiose peace palaces and such that the TM-ers have built and continue to build didn't cost a cent?

You also wrote:
"In South America you wouldn't believe the poverty, war and disease that these kids have to face. But now thanks to the David Lynch Foundation 10's of thousands have learnt Transcendental Meditation and are quickly growing in inner peace, happiness and creativity."

So does this mean that they're still living in poverty, war and disease, but that they just feel better about it?

The poor and undeveloped areas of the world are and always have been sitting ducks for proselytizing by the affluent, whether they're Christian missionaries or TM teachers.

With all due respect, Asher, I still think TM is a religion that comes with a lot of religious baggage. It's easy to pretend otherwise and let TM slip in through the back door, because (unlike fundie Christian missionary types) TM-ers aren't overtly threatening hellfire and brimstone for those who don't accept their late leader as a personal savior. TM-ers employ a more subtle mind grab, but it's a mind grab nonetheless.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009 10:33:00 AM  
Blogger Bob said...

Since importing and smoking Cuban Cigars, even when traveling abroad, is illegal for US citizens it begs the question are the Wimberly gang members illegal aliens or do they really care about obeying US laws??

http://cigars.about.com/od/legalhealthissues/a/cubancigars.htm\

and


http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/programs/cuba/ccigar2.pdf

Monday, December 21, 2009 4:48:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Good questions, Bob. I have no idea whether the Siglo cigars smoked by the Wimberley mafia are the Cuban variety or not, and I actually don't care enough to research it or to send an email to Pat O'Bryan asking him, although he has graciously offered his services to me. I'm even too lazy to go back and watch the Wimberley gang's cigar videos, which might provide a clue.

I lazily Googled and did come up with this...

http://cigars.about.com/b/2009/04/06/new-siglo-cigars-from-altadis.htm

To me, the big question is: Don't these guys worry about getting oral cancer? I may snark about them but I don't wish any illness on them. But maybe they think they're above all that, being kings of the world and masters of the universe and all that. Besides, 'spensive stogies are a visible and very portable symbol of affluence. Not to mention that the act of smoking those stogies provides a powerful and obvious metaphor for the Sigloids' business operations.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009 9:48:00 AM  

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