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, May 12, 2010

Conversations with Peter Wink, Part 3



Another Wink Wednesday, sort of...

For most of you reading this, it's Saturday already. Where did the time go? But as this post was mostly completed and saved to my Drafts folder on Wednesday (hence the date stamp), I can at least pretend that I kept to my Wink-Wednesday schedule. My apologies for the delay.

Last week's non-post about my communications with Peter Wink gave rise to quite a conversation, resulting in even more comments than the first installment. Which just goes to show that you never know what might spark a conversation. Admittedly, though, much of the talk was devoted, once again, to the topic of online critics, with one (or possibly more) Anonymous commenters in one corner, and yours truly in the other. For those of you who think that conversation went on much too long, I apologize. But I hope someone got something out of it.

For this post, rather than spending a lot of time ruminating and philosophizing, I'm just going to lay out snippets of various exchanges between Peter and me so you can read some more of his thoughts on different aspects of this phenomenon we call the self-help industry.* In some cases I'll interject my own counterpoints because they were part of our conversation.

Since, as I explained at the beginning, I did not record our phone conversations but scribbled notes as we went, many of Peter's thoughts expressed during those conversations will be paraphrased. Hence this is not a verbatim Q & A interview.** I think some of you might have been expecting that, and perhaps this was why some felt that the previous posts had too much Cosmic Connie in them and not enough Peter Wink.

On the other hand, it could also be because I do have a tendency to go on and on about myself. I'll own up to that, with apologies to those who were bored or annoyed. (Jeez, I sure am spending a lot of time apologizing. Please forgive me for that.) Anyway, I do think I managed to get some Wink words in edgewise. And Peter has been actively participating in the "after-parties," the conversations following the posts.

When reviewing some of our earlier email exchanges, I came across something Peter wrote to me after our first conversation. He urged me to keep the blog posts honest as to what the interviews were about. Regarding my concern for the edginess, or lack thereof, of the series he wrote, "We should not make being 'edgy' a goal if that's not what it is. Let's present to your readers what I think and your opinion...The key is not to go into this with the goal to push something that's not there."

Fair enough. So here, in no particular order, are more thoughts, opinions, and insights from Peter, based on our original phone conversations in December of last year and, to some extent, on other exchanges.

* * * * *

It takes two (or two million) to tango
Some defenders of the self-help industry have accused critics of unjustly demonizing the industry. If you've been hanging around the discussions here lately, you'll know that I'm one of those "critics" so accused. In truth, I know and have said numerous times that we can't blame self-help for all of the evils of the world. I certainly don't. Peter contends that the industry isn't even to blame for many of the evils of which it has specifically been accused. He would actually prefer not to use the word "blame" at all, but would rather focus on the concept of responsibility. He's a big believer in personal responsibility – and the exercise of common sense – both by the creators of self-help products and their consumers.

As I mentioned in Part 2 of this series, Peter thinks that where self-help products and consumers are concerned, responsibility is a two-way street. On the one hand we have the sometimes wild and extravagant claims of the marketers. But on the other we have consumers – and that means all of us – who have our own sets of expectations, and who, in the U.S. at least, are very much a product of a culture of instant gratification.
(I won't presume to speak for my friends in the UK, Europe, Oz, etc.) We want everything and we want it yesterday, preferably without working any harder than we absolutely have to.

Of course I'm oversimplifying a bit, and am probably being insulting to the people who do know the meaning of work and sacrifice. That's not my intention. I am aware that many people do work very hard for what they attain, whether it's material wealth, good health, or other desirable goals. Not everyone is lazy, and not all people who are "lazy" in some aspects of their lives are lazy in others. (And as I mentioned in the discussion on the previous post in this series, even laziness is not necessarily a bad thing.)

However, as one of my all-time-favorite songwriters Leonard Cohen put it in a song from his 1988 album I'm Your Man, "Everybody Knows": "Everybody talkin' to their pockets/everybody wants a box of chocolates/and a long stem rose/everybody knows."*** (Forgive me; I just had to slip a good old LC quotation in there. It's been too long.) My point is that we are, as a culture, quite spoiled. We want to have our cake – or our chocolate, if you will – and eat it too. We want our roses delivered to our door. (Come to think of it, chocolate roses would be the best of both worlds. (I bet y'all were wondering about that picture I chose for this post. That, obviously, is not a picture of Peter.))

But I digress. Peter believes that there really are a lot of good information products out there that can help people improve their personal or professional lives. He acknowledges that there is a lot of junk as well. But even the best product is only useful if people actually use it. This isn't a matter of putting the blame on the consumer when shoddy products or vapid ideas don't "work" (as some self-help gurus seem to do, for instance. I won't mention any names.). But sometimes people don't even take the first step towards using a product. Peter says, "I can't tell you the number of products that were returned unopened, still in the shrink wrap, during the time I was working at Nightingale-Conant."

Obviously the "effectiveness," or lack thereof, of a given product cannot be gauged solely by the number of units returned. It's also true that many people get into the habit of buying product after product after product, after which they simply let their purchases gather dust on their shelves. Maybe that's mostly a symptom of our obsessively consumerist culture. We love to buy stuff, even if it's not particularly useful stuff...or if it's stuff that we choose not to use. For some folks, the act of buying is more of a thrill than actually putting that purchase to use. We can't necessarily blame the creators or sellers of those products.

I do think that in many cases, either because of highly effective marketing or their own longings, people initially get excited about a product and then either get bored with it or distracted by something else. I have no doubt that on some level, many really do expect instant results without really working for those results, and when they don't get those results they throw the product on the shelf with all of their other impulse purchases.

On the other hand, as I've noted in previous posts in this series
as well as other posts and other discussions – marketers, including self-help marketers, work very hard to create and encourage consumer expectations. Self-help leaders promise wonders and miracles and amazing results with little work. Even those who are more honest about the amount of work and the possible results still tend to employ hype. Yes, it's just part of marketing, but where's the responsibility? Is it all on the shoulders of the consumer?

"Yes! We are all individuals!"
As I also mentioned previously, Peter says you just can't make a blanket judgment about the effectiveness of products or the larger effect of self-help on our society, because society is made of individuals, and every person is different. "You have to consider the individual's state of mind at the point of entry," he says. "Emotions cloud our judgment more often than not. People who are either overly exuberant or overly depressed when they buy a self-help product, or attend an event, may not be the most objective judge of the product or event's effectiveness or harmfulness."

It only follows, then, that we can't get the entire picture from either the enthusiastic testimonials, videotaped during or just after an event, or from the individual horror stories that occasionally make the headlines, or appear on the critical blogs and other forums. It's also true that many events – not the terrible tragedies, of course, but the more mundane events – are open to interpretation, People see and hear what they want to see and hear, and that goes for direct participants in self-help events as well as outside observers on all sides, including critics and critic-haters.

Yes, but shouldn't event leaders be more careful in screening participants – at least as careful as they are about making participants sign those all-encompassing waivers and disclaimers? And if there are repeated horror stories that can be verified, might it not point to patterns we should watch out for? Could detecting patterns of harmful behavior have prevented the tragedies that have made the news in recent months? Is it right to just ignore the negative and tell ourselves that the positive experiences of others will somehow balance it all out?

Further, it's all well and good to talk about common sense and personal responsibility. But what about charismatic leaders who prey on people's vulnerabilities and work very hard to override an individual's common sense and b.s. detectors?

What do y'all think?

Gone Hollywood
"The self-help industry has gone Hollywood for no good reason," Peter wrote to me during one of our early email exchanges. He's often a man of few words, at least when he's writing, though he does love to talk – so I wanted him to 'splain what he meant.

Of course, while I was asking, I shared some thoughts of my own. (Those who don't care to hear me indulge myself yet again can just skip the next couple of paragraphs, but this was, after all, a conversation in which I too participated.)

I reminded Peter that ever since the 1990s, if not before, New-Wage/McSpirituality ideas have captured the fancy not only of film and music stars but also mainstream filmmakers, and have increasingly become themes in movies and TV shows. Further, in the past few years, even before The Secret, a whole new genre called
"Spiritual Cinema" arose. In other words, there's gold in them thar New-Wage ideas. Hollywood (not to mention Larry King and Oprah, especially after The Secret came out) did its part to finally push formerly fringe ideas much more into the mainstream.

And the gold flows both ways. While Hollywood types have long been mining the New Wage, in more recent years New-Wage types have been mining Hollywood. The explosion of the Internet, that great equalizer, made it easier for folks outside of mainstream show biz to grab their fifteen minutes (or more) of fame. Internet marketers and New-Wage hustlers began taking advantage of unprecedented opportunities to get their names and mugs before the public and reach larger audiences than ever. It was inevitable that some would start looking towards Hollywood, with greater or lesser degrees of success, to increase their fame and wealth.

What Peter meant by the industry going Hollywood was somewhat along the lines of what I had touched upon. He referred to the rash of "movies" in the wake of What The Bleep and, especially, The Secret. Peter doesn't really think much of The Secret, noting, as so many others have, that it is basically just repackaged material, though skillfully repackaged and cleverly marketed. Ever since The Secret, he said, dozens of people have tried to copy its success, making movies just for the sake of making them (and using many of the Secret "stars"). Basically they're just churning them out and throwing them to the wall to see what sticks, he told me. Peter said that when he was consulting for Joe Vitale, on at least a weekly basis he would field a call from someone pitching a movie idea that was guaranteed to be "the next Secret!"

To Peter's knowledge, not one of those offerings has enjoyed a fraction of the success of The Secret. I am not surprised.

You don't have to spend a fortune...
Peter thinks that most people can get practically everything they need, self-help-wise, from basic infoproducts. At the very least, he advises, you should start small and see if a given author's ideas resonate with yours. Buy a book. Listen to a CD or two. Actually make an effort to do some of the exercises and take some of the suggestions. A good book or other infoproduct, in his opinion, should be substantial and contain at least the fundamentals of the author's teachings; it shouldn't just be an empty gimmick, and it shouldn't be one long upsell for an expensive seminar.

Peter says you should think long and hard before committing to a pricey workshop that will cost you time and money (even if it doesn't cost you far more).

...but keep in mind that many gurus are out to make a fortune
Peter acknowledges that of course self-help authors and workshop leaders are out to make money. Anyone who refuses to see that is just being naive. That doesn't necessarily make the gurus bad; it's just a fact.

Moreover, to be truly successful an author has to do more than just write a book or two. Few people in the self-help industry (or any other industry) can make a fortune or even a decent living from just writing one or two books. They have to keep on creating products, and for most, the real money is in workshops and other events.

So, yes, one has to be cognizant of a guru's mercenary motives. If someone is profiting from you, of course he or she is going to try to get you to keep coming back. However, if the person is teaching practical skills that you really think will help you, there's nothing wrong with attending an event or two, as long as you can afford it financially and every other way.

As many critics would note, though, this is the area where many people get in trouble.

The real danger?
While Peter sees the self-help industry as generally benign and helpful, he does recognize that there is a dark side to the quest for personal growth, whether it's through secular self-help or more spiritual pursuits. (Of course, the two areas frequently overlap these days.) During one of our exchanges Peter wrote to me, "The most dangerous people in this industry are not those who are transparent frauds with idiotic products. They will take a few bucks and that will be the end of them. They come and go like the wind.

"The most dangerous are those who actually believe they are gurus and experts. They tend to be the most influential and outright dangerous. We have not seen the last Jonestown type incident." He says the recent tragedies that have made the news "are just a small time version of what can happen when you believe in gurus. "

Peter takes a dim view of external "gurus" of any type, at least when it comes to figuring out answers to the deeper questions in life. These are the questions we ultimately need to figure out for ourselves. There's nothing wrong with turning to others for advice, assistance, and expertise as needed, but as for looking upon anyone as the keeper of wisdom, that's a big no. "There are no gurus," he says. "That's a myth. Be your own guru. After that, it's all blind faith."

He's also a big believer in the saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it is." And, despite our cultural addiction to "easy steps" and magic formulas, Peter says, "There is no easy path." As was the case with a point made in Part 2 of this series that self-help gurus are more complex than some of their advice, I suspect that most of y'all have already figured those things out. It's good to hear those words from someone in the industry, though.

I do see Peter's point about people who are transparent frauds. To me, however, his statement raises the question of what to make of people who seem to be serial frauds with a long series of virtually useless products – the folks who won’t go away but just keep on coming up with one bizarre product or service after another, such as "magical" items, or overpriced “readings” or “therapies” or workshops. Is this a moral issue, or is it just a marketing issue and thus morally neutral for the most part (even if the person is making what seem to be outrageous claims regarding how the product or service "works")?

Food for thought, and I'd love to hear from all of you about this.


The future of self-help?
At one point I asked Peter if he really thinks that tragic incidents related to self-help gurus are going to continue to happen. "Or do you think people are finally waking up?" I asked. "As a result, do you think there will be more personal responsibility (a positive development) and/or more laws (not necessarily a positive development)?"

Peter said that he doesn't really foresee that in the long run, people will take more personal responsibility because of any individual event, no matter how tragic. He seems to be pretty much in agreement with me that the public has a short memory, even regarding tragedies where the body counts were very high (e.g., Jonestown in the late 1970s, which didn't prevent Heaven's Gate less than 20 years later).

As for whether or not there will be more laws and regulations, that's anyone's guess. Peter thinks that even if more laws and regs are passed, enforcement will be a challenge, especially if it involves the government. There simply aren't enough government agents to oversee each and every transaction and event. (For more about the issue of self-help regulations, see my March 11 post.)

Peter says he loves the self-help/self-improvement industry, as he has seen all of the good it can be and do. "The occasional hiccup happens in all businesses," he says. "At the end of the day, if someone wants to change, they will no matter what. Books and tapes are just there to help someone along.

"And," he continues, "I think people need help right now... if nothing else, at least a friend that can help give them some direction."

That's it for now, Dear Ones. There's still more to come, but next Wednesday's fare will be a bit lighter.

* We had a bit of a discussion on last week's post about the exact definition of self-help. Though I suspected that the Anon contributor who brought up the question was merely arguing for the sake of arguing, I provided what I thought was a helpful link to Chapter 1 of Steve Salerno's book SHAM. Also see his Saturday, May 15 post on SHAMblog.
** In my opinion, many verbatim interviews are difficult to read anyway, because unless someone is a very careful and eloquent speaker at all times during a given conversation, the spoken word just does not translate well to the printed word (or the onscreen word, as the case may be). Try reading some of those transcripts of interviews with witnesses at the James Ray sweat lodge tragedy, and you'll see what I mean. So, lacking a podcast or other audio format, this combination of paraphrases, quotations, and my own thoughts is just going to have to be sufficient for this series.

*** © ROBINHILL MUSIC;MCA O/B/O GEFFEN MUSIC;LEONARD COHEN STRANGER MUSIC INC. Like most of Cohen's work, "Everybody Knows" is hardly a feel-good song. But can you imagine sneaking it onto the playlist at one of those rah-rah self-help seminars?

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92 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yes, but shouldn't event leaders be more careful in screening participants "

How are you proposing event leaders conducted and do this?

At what point will an event leader be infringing on an individual's rights to choose for themselves and be responsible for their own well being? How would any one of us like to be denied access to a certain lecture or presentation based on superficial assessment by some stranger who does not know us from Adam but deems us unfit for attendance? Will we then cry elitism or some other accusation of discrimination?

Saturday, May 15, 2010 6:17:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Those are actually very good questions, Anon, and they are questions I've often asked myself when pondering these matters. I don't have *the* answer and have never pretended to have it. I inserted the question about pre-screening because it is one that has been frequently raised in discussions about the future of self-help events, and I wanted to put in a "counterpoint" to Peter's points about self-responsibility and common sense. I thought this would help plant the seeds for a meaningful discussion.

Your point about seminar leaders "not knowing us from Adam" is certainly valid, but on the other hand, much of the marketing of products, techniques, events, etc. is based upon the author/speaker/leader's implication that he or she *does* know us and that what s/he is offering will change our lives for the better.

As critical as I am of the self-help industry, I think you'll find that I have generally come out more on the side of free choice than of strict regulations or "baby-sitting."

Saturday, May 15, 2010 6:33:00 PM  
OpenID abalanceofhope said...

For the record, I'm refusing to participate in any post with / about Peter Wink.

He has a vested interest in protecting the reputation of his clients. Of course he's going to soften the blow of critics pounding on the egos and public images of those clients.

I suspect, by reading the last posts by you, Connie, that he is doing just that, all under the guise of "presenting the other side". He saw an opportunity to defend his clients when you came a-knockin', and he took it.

He is not to be trusted. It's all about money, and to hell with morals and all else.

I certainly don't want to be a part of any forum involving Peter Wink.

You're no better than the scammers, Peter Wink. You made your millions marketing the crap that's caused much more ruin than good.

Saturday, May 15, 2010 8:12:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Wink said...

Hi Everyone,

Anonymous raises an interesting question.

I have no idea if they did screen people.

I wonder if anyone reading this blog was actually at the event. That would clear this up once and for all.

To abalanceofhope --- no problem and thanks for the comment. No sense wasting your time.

Ciao,
Peter

Saturday, May 15, 2010 8:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the people like James Ray don't even bother to make sure what they are doing is safe, what frickin good would it do to screen the people who attend? Bet they screen them to make sure their credit cards are good!

Most of these gurus are just pulling ideas out of their asses and figuring a way to peddle them to people who are desperate or just plain dumb enough to buy it. I could never live with myself if I had to make a living by scamming people or helping other people pull off their scams, but thats just me. Scientology, Vittale, and now Trudeau? Impressive list there, Peter.

Sunday, May 16, 2010 6:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cosmic Connie

When it comes to this topic, "careful screening" might sound ok as theory or as a sound bite in an argument but in practice, "careful screening" doesn't have a leg to stand on. Basically because you and I would want absolutely no part of other people screening us and choosing for us, not once not ever.

We might want "careful screening" when it comes to what we might perceive as "medical-surgery" but not in any way when it comes to what we personally might perceive as "education".

Sunday, May 16, 2010 7:03:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

I will let Peter defend himself if he wishes, but I have enjoyed talking with him *despite* the people he has worked with. :-) I haven't changed my mind about those folks, though, and will continue to snark about them.

Whatever Peter's motives may be, I take responsibility for providing him with this platform. Rightly or wrongly, I felt it was healthy to hear from the "other side," even if I don't agree with that side on certain vital points.

As always, though, I appreciate everyone's participation here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010 9:10:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anonymous 5-16 6:05 AM said...

"If the people like James Ray don't even bother to make sure what they are doing is safe, what frickin good would it do to screen the people who attend? Bet they screen them to make sure their credit cards are good!"

Agreed, Anon. Unfortunately, having a valid credit or debit card (and available credit line or funds) seem to be the chief criteria. One of the other Anons raised some good questions about the logistics and implications of real "screening," which I'll address in my next comment...

Sunday, May 16, 2010 9:14:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon 7:03 AM said:

"When it comes to this topic, 'careful screening' might sound ok as theory or as a sound bite in an argument but in practice, 'careful screening' doesn't have a leg to stand on. Basically because you and I would want absolutely no part of other people screening us and choosing for us, not once not ever."

Again, Anon, that's one of the points that has always given me pause. Extensive pre-screening for "educational" events such as LGATs might not be practical or desirable.

My first objection would be that extensive pre-screening might constitute an invasion of privacy. I know it was mentioned previously that such screening might result in a sort of elitism/discrimination, and that's certainly a possibility, but to me it is minor compared to the privacy issue.

On the other hand... and this is a really important point, IMO: Once the participants are signed up, all bets are off. Many LGATs and other organizations are extremely intrusive and dig deeply into people's mental, emotional, and spiritual issues. (Even that "free personality test" that Scientologists offer to potential recruits is pretty intrusive, IMO.)

Moreover, participants basically sign away their rights to privacy when they sign the waiver forms. They give the seminar leader(s) the right to videotape and photograph them and use those vids and photos in any way the leaders see fit. I'm basing this on the James Ray waiver forms and others I've reviewed in recent years.

Putting aside the question of extensive pre-screening of participants, I would think that, at the very least, and whether or not they were required by law to do, smart seminar leaders would always have qualified medical personnel on hand to deal with participants' physical distress or emotional/mental crises (e.g., psychoses caused or exacerbated by something that took place at the event). I'm not just thinking about the James Ray tragedy in Sedona. I'm also thinking about San Diego, when Colleen Conaway committed suicide. And this isn't just about James Ray either. What about the Turning Point tragedies in Australia (e.g., Rebekah Lawrence)?
http://cosmicconnie.blogspot.com/2009/09/not-to-be-confused-with-leap-of-faith.html

I think people should have the right to choose and even to make mistakes. And some activities such as skydiving or even skiing are inherently risky. But seminars to enhance personal growth shouldn't be life-threatening events.

And the qualifications of seminar leaders themselves to take people's emotional and spiritual well-being into their hands is another topic altogether.

Sunday, May 16, 2010 9:48:00 AM  
Anonymous Dave said...

Connie,

I'm afraid I'm with abalanceofhope on this. While I usually try to adhere to the old "don't judge a book by its cover" saw, he looks like a snake-oil salesman, writes like a snake-oil salesman, and hangs out with snake-oil salesmen (or sales people) and defends them. He "loves" an industry that has more dubious characters in it than a Mel Brooks movie. Finally, as one of your anons pointed out - $cientology, Vitale, True-dough - nope, nothing on that resume would make me want to hang out with this guy.

I appreciate your try to present some balance, but I'll be back when you're through with him.

Dave

Sunday, May 16, 2010 10:17:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Hi, Dave. I appreciate your honesty. Don't worry; I'll be back to Snarky Town soon. :-)

Sunday, May 16, 2010 10:23:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think people should have the right to choose and even to make mistakes. And some activities such as skydiving or even skiing are inherently risky. But seminars to enhance personal growth shouldn't be life-threatening events."

Waking up, leaving one's bed and entering the cold light of day is a potentially "life-threatening event". Going for a nice leisurely walk through Times Square in NYC (these days) could turn into a "life threatening event". Personal growth seminars are likely to be no more and no less a potentially "life threatening events" then having a latte' by the ocean at The Fig Tree Cafe' in Venice Beach.

Yes, living a life with gusto "shouldn't be a life threatening event". But alas it sometimes it turns out to be just that. Ask anyone who was ever part of any accident that ever occurred in history.

Sunday, May 16, 2010 4:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And whether a person can (as you suggest) and ever has actually TAKEN other person's emotional and spiritual well-being into their hands or not, is another topic altogether.

Sunday, May 16, 2010 4:21:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon, has it been 2,000 years already? :-)

I never said that all personal-growth seminars are life-threatening events. I just said they *shouldn't* be. But some apparently HAVE been worse than life-threatening. A given self-help guru's apparent negligence and willful actions at an event, which result in illness, injuries or even deaths of participants, cannot accurately be compared to someone going out into the cold light of day and, say, being hit by a bus.

Regarding your subsequent comment: If you think that no self-help leader has ever taken participants' emotional and spiritual well-being into their own hands (or attempted to do so), I would suggest that you are either not being very observant, or you are deliberately turning a blind eye to the things that go on every day. By the way, when I say "taken" I'm not suggesting that force is used, but my guess is that charismatic leaders often use coercive techniques to get people to "surrender" in some way.

Sunday, May 16, 2010 5:48:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

Here's a good comparison of similarly dangerous activities, just for you, anon:
http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/irwin-mainway/1185611/

:-)

Sunday, May 16, 2010 6:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Connie,

You got snookered, outclassed by a much stronger player, browbeaten, and eventually chastened by a first class PR master huckster.
Plain & simple.
Whoever this marketer is, his masterful manipulation of you and your blog is Social Media 101: Massaging your message to less adept bloggers.
Years from now, you'll list these "interviews" in your Top 10 Biggest Mistakes of My Blog.
No need to detail point by point where you went wrong and he went right. That's because no points were made in your thousands of words and his...save one.
And that point, which your clever friend casually and consistently presented, is this: "How people are helped, and by whom, doesn't matter as long as some are helped."
Hucksters stand by this credo, since it neatly absolves them of having to account for their fraudulent products and services.
You know this, as does Wink. Though since he set the terms for his conversations with you, he entangled you within the web of his PR scheme from the get go.
In the long run, all this matters little.
You'll continue to fight the good fight, in a valiant though losing battle against consumer fraud with a spiritual twist.
Your blog, for as long as you maintain it, will receive a relative handful of viewers. While the Chopra's, Dyer's, Vitale's, Robbin's, and Trudeau's of the world will receive MILLIONS.
Such is the way it is now, has been, and will always be.
Because people really don't care who helps them, or how...just as long as they're helped.
And in a way, who can blame them? From physical to psychological disorders, to financial crises, to relationship disasters, to uncontrollable and debilitating addictions, to chronic stress that filters out the happiness and sunshine from life, who doesn't need some kind of help and who hasn't at one time or another cried out for help and mercy to God, to the Universe, to anyone who will listen.
Hearing this massive and perpetual cultural lamentation, in walk the likes of Wink.
Unlike your commendable efforts to be a new age ombudsman that unfortunately reach a small audience, his future seems secure, big, and bright.
He will continue to prosper! Make new friends, market dubious products, bamboozle good-hearted though weaker spirits like yourself...all in a days work.
Millions of people will be touched by his actions. Strength in large numbers will assuage any nascent pangs of ethical guilt. That's because out of a million people who buy his snake oils from yet another master huckster such as those he's represented, a thousand perhaps, or even more, will statistically show improvement after receiving his product.
Of course, in most cases, this will simply be examples of the logical fallacy, "After this, therefore because of this".
No matter. He will proudly assert that his product helped 10's of thousands of people-logic and science to the contrary. No word on the 100's of thousands of people mislead, disappointed, and unhelped by his products.
Now here's the strange-and surprisingly disorienting part: There may indeed be a Higher Truth to what Wink et al do!
No, not a justification for outright fraud and abuse of those who seek help.
But...something from a Higher Perspective that may perhaps give Wink and his cohorts the cover of right livelihood after all.
Perhaps, if you're interested, I'll elaborate later.
Though I'll say upfront: This Higher View of helping for profit is disturbing indeed!

Monday, May 17, 2010 1:47:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has another person actually ever taken your emotional and spiritual well-being into their hands? Can you tell us about that? Were you drunk and at a party at the time? Did you press charges? Did you enjoy it?

What you are discribing is that type of victimology where one portrays another with special powers, all the power (in the story) so that all the other victimologists will rally round with burning torches and agree and nod and tell them how villianous that perp is.

I don't buy it. But you do. Let's agree to diagree.

I have a friend who's sibling (a brilliant and gifted story teller IMO) has posted all kinds of nonsense about them on the internet on different message boards . All 100% lies (since I know this person intimately.) And there are a long list of people outraged and offended and leaving comments them what a low life creep my friend must be. All these comments and reactions are based on untrue made up victimology and sibling rivalry.

Silly.

Monday, May 17, 2010 7:16:00 AM  
Blogger Peter Wink said...

Hi Connie,

Sorry to YOU that some of your readers do not want to participate in a forum with me. No problem, I do not take it personally. Still --- many are participating with me via email and now phone! Response has been great with people wanting to learn more about me, what I do and the industry as a whole.

Your faithful followers are in full swing and love their CC booster!

On to more relevant topics ---

Anon's question about screening is really giving me pause. Personally I've never been involved with a more physical seminar. Actually seminars were really never my focus. My initial feeling is that you can never be 100% sure about anyone or anything.

Anon ---- still racking my head around this. Very thought provoking and something I'll keep in mind for potential future endeavors.

May be the most thought-provoking question yet.

THANKS!
Peter

Monday, May 17, 2010 8:44:00 AM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

The notion that self-help programs allegedly help far more people than they damage, and should thus be immune from culpability for those who are hurt (or killed) reminds me of the case of the old Ford Pinto.

Despite media reports that tallied pinto design-related deaths in the hundreds, the actual count was actually less than 100. However, it was determined that Ford was aware of the design problems - and the likelihood of occupant injuries and deaths as a result - but decided that paying damages for the resulting lawsuits would be less costly than actually correcting the problem.

Unfortunately, there is no comprehensive tabulation of damage done by various purveyors of "self help" and LGAT programs, and certainly no objective measure of actual benefit provided. However, those cases that have been documented where people were damaged - emotionally and/or physically, or even dying - as a direct result of their participation in the programs represent a pretty clear indication that those programs failed to live up to their responsibility for at the very least, minimizing the potential for harm. The James Ray debacle is the most highly publicized example, but hardly the only one.

While I'm not in favor of implementing a rigid regulatory process to impose oversight and control over the self-help industry, I think that the very least that needs to be done is to implement measures to ensure that an individual or company's claims be substantiated by more than a "what if it works" evasion or a small-print, frequently hidden disclaimer.

My own personal code of ethics prevents me from participating in or promoting a business endeavor whose claims I know to be misleading or potentially harmful to its customers. That said, my own opinion as to another's ethics are ultimately irrelevant; I'd leave it to an informed marketplace and the courts to decide whether such involvement is actionable under either civil or criminal statutes. The key word in that statement is INFORMED. As noted in abalanceofhope's, Dave's, and even the anonymi's comments, one needs to attempt to objectively discern the agenda that drives another's actions, whether they be a critic, proprietor, or a promoter of a given enterprise.

And, despite the suggestions that placing the self-help / LGAT industries under scrutiny is driven by some hidden agenda, I would offer that such vehement objections to that scrutiny speak to an agenda much more cynical and insidious than that which drives even the most angry critics. Those who strive to minimize transparency inevitably have something to hide, and I somehow doubt that the protection of proprietary trade secrets is a significant factor in the SHAM/LGAT business.

Monday, May 17, 2010 9:37:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

RevRon's Rants (May 16, 6:00 PM) said...

"Here's a good comparison of similarly dangerous activities, just for you, anon:
http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/irwin-mainway/1185611/ "

LOL, Ron. I love that old SNL sketch. Of course as I noted earlier, I'm not claiming that all self-help events are dangerous or life-threatening. But some clearly have been, and my Anon friend's repeated attempts to gloss over these events with her usual stunning logic are amusing but not surprising.

Monday, May 17, 2010 10:24:00 AM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

"Has another person actually ever taken your emotional and spiritual well-being into their hands? Can you tell us about that?"

An honest look at the dynamic of a presentation leads to the following conclusions:
1) The presenter is typically perceived as being more knowledgeable on the subject being presented than are attendees, whether or not that knowledge is real.
2) The presenter is perceived by attendees as being in a position of authority, if only due to factor #1. The presenter's presentation skills and charisma reinforce this fact.
3) Given the above, it is inevitable that many - if not most - attendees would be prone to deferring their own perspectives, at least enough to ingest the information being provided.

When the topic of a presentation/product is an intimate evaluation of the attendees' emotional, spiritual, and intellectual characteristics, virtually any element that challenges the attendees' perspectives touches upon core elements of their being that may be quite fragile, especially since those who are in a fragile place in their lives tend to be drawn to events and programs that they think will help them bolster their strengths and/or overcome their weaknesses.

I taught meditation classes for years, and having worked extensively as a psychiatric tech, was quite cognizant of the similarity between a guided meditation and a hypnotherapy session. I was careful not to cross any lines and challenge core beliefs or encourage potentially traumatic memories. I also made it a point to closely observe students after each session, to ensure that participants were in a good place, and that the activity hadn't triggered any significant stressors. IMO, taking these steps was a critical element of my responsibility as a teacher. Unfortunately, in far too many instances that I have observed, the leaders of LGAT programs tend to completely overlook or discount the potential effect of a program upon some attendees, and many - if not most - lack even the most rudimentary training that would enable them to perceive (much less, deal with) such issues if they were to arise. They were usually focused upon selling their products and/or subsequent events.

One needn't be "drunk and at a party at the time," as you so dismissively imply, to have one's emotional well-being manipulated and even harmed by a session leader. Furthermore, your asking, "Did you enjoy it?" is eerily reminiscent of the approach once taken by unscrupulous defense attorneys as they attempted to deflect responsibility from rapists to their victims.

Monday, May 17, 2010 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon Monday, May 17, 2010 1:47:00 AM:

Thank you for your very thoughtful comment. For weeks I have been mulling over all of the concerns you raised, and more, but I thank you for taking the time to express them.

It's very possible this series *was* a mistake, but since I had no particular goal in mind I don't think I can draw any conclusions at this point. I know that in the first post I made a big deal (in a mostly humorous and lighthearted way) about my fears of being "played," and many people probably think I am indeed being played, big time.

I do think it is stretching it mightily to say I have been "browbeaten" and "eventually chastened." Not so, though I realize you are basing your opinions on your interpretation of what I have written in this series so far.

While some might see some of the statements I've made in this series as conciliatory, I see them as part of my own ongoing reflection of the issues involved. (And these are issues I've mulled over in previous posts too, long before I ever contacted Peter.) One of these questions is: What parts do our own (sometimes unrealistic) expectations play in the good, the bad, and the ugly in the self-help industry? On the heels of that question, however, is always the acknowledgment that marketers often create, encourage, and prey upon those expectations relentlessly.

In my view, the presence of gray areas does not exonerate the gurus who do real harm, nor does it excuse the mounds of useless products. Moreover, the net effect of my conversations with Peter is that I have not in fact changed my mind about the industry or about the individuals he has worked with. But the fact that I don't see Peter himself as evil doesn't mean I've been "snookered."

Whether I have been "outclassed" or not seems moot, as I wasn't in this as a competition.

You wrote:
"...no points were made in your thousands of words and his...save one."

From a purely "writerly" standpoint, that has been my biggest concern from the outset.

I know that some of my readers are growing impatient with my "temporary suspension of snark" and are waiting for the day I get back to doing what I do best. :-)

In any case, Anon, I am very interested in hearing your thoughts on the 'higher perspective' of helping for profit.

I don't know about the rest of y'all, but I think the conversation is really getting interesting now.

Monday, May 17, 2010 11:08:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one, at least not me, is saying that you were or are "claiming that all self-help events are dangerous or life-threatening."

I was suggesting that all of life, excluding nothing, could be and has been for one person or another potentially dangerous and life threatening.

I was suggesting that "self-help events" are no more nor less potentially dangerous or life-threatening, then using a public bathroom or buying and selling an ice cream cone. Connie, correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to be implying that there is something especially nefarious and uniquely dangerous and life threatening, distinct from just walking out our front door in the morning or getting into our cars, about "self help events" that should be avoided and criticized and scrutinized.

Based on their individual back story and experiences most people think that the entity or phenomena that they personally deem threatening to themselves, is a threat to everyone and needs special criticism and scrutiny.

Clearly life on earth and exposure to a life lived with any passion where one chooses to leave the protection of their home is potentially "dangerous" and "life threatening" and I am not attempting to gloss over that reality in any way whatsoever. Just trying to inject some context that I perceive as missing and that I hope is useful and fair and adds some balance.

Monday, May 17, 2010 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The notion that self-help programs allegedly help far more people than they damage, and should thus be immune from culpability for those who are hurt"

Who said this? Whose "notion" is that?

The only time I have ever heard that type of notion expressed is by critic themselves. Talk about fighting windmills and fantasy villains of your own creative writing.


No responsible person or person of any value or integrity who cares about people would ever utter that notion nor operate from it.

A critic's self promoting propaganda is all that is.

Monday, May 17, 2010 11:16:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Connie, you said But the fact that I don't see Peter himself as evil doesn't mean I've been "snookered."

Do you think that scamming people is evil? If you do, do you think that helping others scam people is evil, too? If you do, but you don't think that what Peter does is evil, please tell me how you would define snookered. Not trying to be snarky. I just want to understand.

Monday, May 17, 2010 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon May 17, 2010 7:16:00 AM asked:

"Has another person actually ever taken your emotional and spiritual well-being into their hands? Can you tell us about that? Were you drunk and at a party at the time? Did you press charges? Did you enjoy it?..."

etc. etc.

I was all set to reply but Ron (May 17, 2010 10:54:00 AM) posted a response that, IMO, says it all. I must say, though, that your gratuitous question about my being drunk or at a party during a hypothetical situation did nothing to bolster your own arguments.

Monday, May 17, 2010 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Addendum to my comment (directly above) to Anon: I don't buy the "victimology" scenario in any neat self-help-is-evil and self-help-customers-are-victims package. It's never that simple. I've never said it is. In my storied "more thoughtful moments" I have often acknowledged that there are shades of gray. Is it possible you are overlooking my own acknowledgment of ambiguities because it makes it easier for you to demonize "the critics?"

The example of your friend and the friend's storytelling sibling seems to be a tale of (relatively) unknown individuals caught up in online game-playing, an activity that unfortunately goes on every day. While I understand your reason for using this as an example, it does not, in my view, compare with the well-documented cases of various sorts of abuse committed by very well known self-help leaders and organizations

I realize that criticism of self-help gurus and products is often based on hearsay and anecdotal evidence, and that even eyewitnesses are not 100% reliable. On the other hand, the glowing praise and and accolades of these same gurus are also based on hearsay, anecdotal evidence, and less than reliable eyewitnesses and participants.

In my own clumsy (and admittedly snark-leaning) way, I have sometimes tried to present a more nuanced view. This series is the latest attempt to do that. I find it interesting that my attempts here have earned me far more criticism from the "side" I've snarked about than from those who are disappointed by my diversion from the "regular programming" on this blog.

Monday, May 17, 2010 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Peter (Monday, May 17, 2010 8:44:00 AM):

Thanks for weighing in. I was puzzled about one part of your comment:

"Anon ---- still racking my head around this. Very thought provoking and something I'll keep in mind for potential future endeavors.

"May be the most thought-provoking question yet."

Since there have been so many (perhaps too many) "Anon" comments here, and it gets kinda confusing at times, could you point to the specific comment to which you were referring?

Thanks!

Monday, May 17, 2010 11:57:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon May 17 11:09 AM said:

"...I was suggesting that "self-help events" are no more nor less potentially dangerous or life-threatening, then using a public bathroom or buying and selling an ice cream cone. Connie, correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to be implying that there is something especially nefarious and uniquely dangerous and life threatening, distinct from just walking out our front door in the morning or getting into our cars, about 'self help events' that should be avoided and criticized and scrutinized..."

Anon, usually when people say, "Correct me if I'm wrong," they actually believe that they are utterly correct. But I'll take you at your word.

You're wrong.

As I have explained before to people who have asked why I focus my snarky eye on the self-help industry, it is because, due in part to my own experiences and observations, this is an area that I have long found interesting, in ways both positive and negative. Some blogs focus on politics, or climate change, or basic human-rights issues, or any number of other issues the bloggers are interested in. This one focuses on self-help, pop spirituality, and new-agey stuff.

One might just as well go to an animal-rescue blog and ask the blogger why s/he is focused on saving poor little doggies and kitties from euthanasia at the pound when surely there are more important issues in the world.

More relevant to your comment, though, I have NEVER said or implied that the self-help industry is particularly dangerous, nefarious, or life-threatening. Maybe that is your own projection (perhaps to support you in your own villification of critics?). In fact, though my snark is heavy I have always been a relative lightweight when it comes to actual criticism, and I have, if anything, erred on the side of underestimating potential harm. That's why, to name but one example, the James Ray tragedies took me quite by surprise.

I don't see how one could possibly compare the Sedona death lodge -- in which clear and repeated attempts were made by the leader(s) to make conditions more extreme in order to "challenge" the participants, ultimately resulting in deaths and injuries -- to buying an ice cream cone and, say, contracting e coli because the guy at the counter forgot to wash his hands after going to the bathroom.

I do appreciate your attempts to add balance and context to this discussion. My big concern is that too much "balance" and "context" will blur and ultimately erase from the public's mind the very real harms that have been done to real people. And that doesn't do any of us any good.

Monday, May 17, 2010 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Wink said...

Hi CC,

I'd love to know something just for fun...

What does everyone else do for a living that is so perfect? Are all the people they work with and for perfect? Are their distributors and bankers perfect? How about their investors? Is their company perfect and has never done anything even perceivably wrong? How about remotely? Customers ever filed a claim against them? Any animal testing? Possible fraud? Show me the perfect company run by perfect people. Please. :-)

Many people will automatically dismiss my questioning as defensive. I'm not defending my industry right now. No reason to as it has good seeds and bad seeds like every other industry. I'm just curious where all the perfect company's and careers are? I want in. Please humor me with one example.

This is all as absurd as the animal lovers prancing around in their leather shoes. Remember the saying about people who live in glass houses.

Ciao,
Peter

PS...the most controversial entity I ever worked with had nothing to do with self-help. Self-help could not touch it. This company poisoned people daily. They robbed their business partners and shareholders of millions. They were indicted and many were hurt. And what's most absurd is that I'd bet most people reading this blog eat this company's product quite often. Does this make all the readers and customers evil? OR does this illustrate the widespread business ethics challenges EVERYWHERE in corporate America?

Anon - what do you do? Please share.

Monday, May 17, 2010 12:31:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon May 17 11:16 AM wrote:

"[Quoting Anon May 17 1:47 AM] 'The notion that self-help programs allegedly help far more people than they damage, and should thus be immune from culpability for those who are hurt'

"Who said this? Whose 'notion' is that?

"The only time I have ever heard that type of notion expressed is by critic themselves. Talk about fighting windmills and fantasy villains of your own creative writing.

"No responsible person or person of any value or integrity who cares about people would ever utter that notion nor operate from it."

Anon, I agree with you that no responsible person or person of any value or integrity would ever utter or operate from that notion -- and I certainly do not believe that all self-help leaders base their businesses on that idea. However, IMO, the self-help industry has often attracted people who seem to operate their businesses by this deplorable notion, even if they don't exactly put it into their mission or vision statements.

It might be more accurate to state that most self-help leaders (and their followers) would agree in principle that charlatans and wrongdoers should be punished or otherwise held accountable (legally, morally, etc.), but that they do not perceive *themselves* as being culpable. In some cases they may have to turn a willful blind eye to their own culpability or ethical murkiness, but they do not count themselves among the bad guys and gals.

Monday, May 17, 2010 12:53:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Addendum to my above response to Anon 11:16 AM:

"A critic's self promoting propaganda is all that is."

I don't know how this could apply to my contributor, who is as Anonymous as you. S/he doesn't seem to be engaged in aggressive self-promotion -- at least, not any more than you are.

Monday, May 17, 2010 12:57:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It might be more accurate to state that most self-help leaders (and their followers) would agree in principle that charlatans and wrongdoers should be punished or otherwise held accountable (legally, morally, etc.), but that they do not perceive *themselves* as being culpable. In some cases they may have to turn a willful blind eye to their own culpability or ethical murkiness, but they do not count themselves among the bad guys and gals."

Who on earth does what you wrote above not apply to? Which levitating person with a halo hovering over their head do you not apply what you wrote to Connie?

Monday, May 17, 2010 1:02:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

Peter,

I'll bite. We (Connie & I) run a business that helps people create, package, and publish their books. We've never taken on a project for a client whose product we suspected was even remotely likely to cause readers harm. Neither have we taken on any projects that we believed to be consciously misleading to people - especially where their emotional, physical, or spiritual growth and well-being were concerned.

We have done work for people in the past whom we later learned to be quite unethical in their dealings with others (whom would likely be familiar to many people, were we to name names). At that point, we ended the relationship.

We have an agreement that if *either* of us feels uncomfortable with a client or their project, we'll pass on the project. That's not saying that we're perfect. Only that we're committed to being ethical.

I realize that it can be challenging to adhere to a strict code of ethics in business dealings. Heck, we'd be in much better financial shape if we just looked the other way when something seemed smarmy to us. But we each make our choices. We either strive to be as ethical as possible and accept the limitations our choice might place upon our business, or we take on anything that looks lucrative and attempt to rationalize our decisions to others (and ourselves).

IMO, abandoning the attempt to follow a code of ethics because there are worse examples in the world, or not trying to improve our own behavior because others are imperfect seems cynically defeatist at best, and like a weak argument for rationalizing unethical behavior, at worst.

Monday, May 17, 2010 1:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I don't know how this could apply to my contributor, who is as Anonymous as you. S/he doesn't seem to be engaged in aggressive self-promotion -- at least, not any more than you are"

By "self-promotion" I meant, promoting the validity of and need for the critic himself and his criticism. They create an imaginary villain and an imaginary "notion" to rail against. You yourself appeared to distance yourself from that "notion" and felt the need to reword it, as it was so obviously fictional hysteria, not spoken in the real world.

Monday, May 17, 2010 1:06:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

I think it worthy of note that the self-help industry is one of the few areas where an individual with no documented experience or expertise, no formalized education, no quantifiable product, and no evidence of actual viability can actually generate a significant cash flow, with no regulatory repercussions should their products fail to perform as presented. It's no wonder that charlatans are attracted to such an industry, as it clearly represents the low-hanging fruit on the grifters' tree.

Monday, May 17, 2010 1:18:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Peter, you raised some good questions in your latest comment, and I was going to respond in detail, but once again Ron beat me to it. :-)

Truth is, when money -- or the prospect of money -- comes in the door, ethical considerations all too often fly out the window, or at least get pushed under the metaphorical furniture to make room for the money op. This is true in ALL industries. All too often, businesses will get away with whatever they can get away with. That's why laws and regulations become necessary, though some of the laws and regs arguably do more harm than good.

I agree with you that most if not all industries have their bad seeds and bad deeds. The latest BP oil spill makes some of the self-help industry events look mild by comparison. One of the first things that the owners of the oil rig that exploded did was have eyewitnesses sign waivers that they had not witnessed what had happened and didn't hold the company culpable.

Self-help leaders would never do that. Oh, wait. James Ray did.

At any rate, I find the issues around the self-help industry fascinating enough that I'm not willing to let them go by the wayside because of the misdeeds of BP or, for that matter, those of another BP -- Big Pharma. I'm stubborn that way, LOL.

Monday, May 17, 2010 1:21:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

"They create an imaginary villain and an imaginary "notion" to rail against."

Try selling that idea to the families of those who died at James Ray's events. Or to someone who sees the teachings of their own religious faith being twisted beyond recognition in order to increase the huckster's cash flow. You'd be just as effective trying to convince people of the appropriateness of Ford's decision to let people die rather than incur the extra expense of fixing the Pinto's design. Your rationalization is getting progressively weaker. You probably should have stuck with your "2,000 years" schedule.

Monday, May 17, 2010 1:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"However, IMO, the self-help industry has often attracted people who seem to operate their businesses by this deplorable notion,"

I cannot even begn to imagine what you are basing such a sweeping statement like this on Connie and why you would think it was accurate enough to utter in public.

Monday, May 17, 2010 1:33:00 PM  
Blogger Peter Wink said...

Hi CC,

I totally agree with you on all counts.

I too (yes, me) have discontinued relationships with people based on integrity issues.

I'm still waiting to hear about the perfect company who always deals with perfect people in a perfect way. And what is perfection and integrity --- as compared to what? This is all subjective in the end.

One man's trash is another man's (or woman's) treaure and vice versa! Again we seem to be on a topic that will ultimately come to no new conclusions. Hopefully, we can find some common ground some time in these posts. Same old nowhere arguments by the same people all the time. Getting old already.

Ciao,
Peter

Monday, May 17, 2010 1:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I think it worthy of note that the self-help industry is one of the few areas where an individual with no documented experience or expertise, no formalized education, no quantifiable product, and no evidence of actual viability can actually generate a significant cash flow, with no regulatory repercussions should their products fail to perform as presented. It's no wonder that charlatans are attracted to such an industry, as it clearly represents the low-hanging fruit on the grifters' tree."

And "successful" authors, bloggers and ghost writers are different how?

Monday, May 17, 2010 1:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will this original critical writing team at Whirled Musings still be drooling over this one single "sweatlodge" story over and over and over and over and over and over ten years from now and trying to use a single isolated 'story" from the evening news as the basis for filling a blog invalidating millions of other people?


And, re: the "presence of gray areas"?

A gray area filled with a whole lot of grandiloquent writing is all you got IMO.

Monday, May 17, 2010 1:48:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

"And "successful" authors, bloggers and ghost writers are different how?"

By offering an actual product, rather than empty promises. We don't hide the fact that a book's success isn't guaranteed; we only provide products that meet or exceed established industry standards. We tell clients up front, before they've spent a dime, that the success of a given book is a crap shoot, with many variables that are well beyond the control of the creative and promotions teams. And we NEVER tell a prospective client that if they follow our directions, they'll end up wealthy, famous, or even happier.

On blogs, we express opinions. Some folks agree with our opinions; some don't. And a select few feel so threatened by those opinions that they do everything they can to discredit the messengers, especially when they're unable to effectively challenge the opinions themselves.

Monday, May 17, 2010 2:06:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon... "drooling" over the James Ray event? No one is getting any pleasure out of these tragedies, least of all the loved ones of the victims. As for the rest of us, we're not "drooling," but neither are we going to dismiss the events as irrelevant. I am assuming Mr. Ray's trial will be over well before ten years is up.

And James Ray's sweat lodge is NOT the only fatal self-help incident that has ever occurred.

You are simply not paying attention.

You wrote, "A gray area filled with a whole lot of grandiloquent writing is all you got IMO."

I always thought "grandiloquent" meant pompous, bombastic, overly lofty, or pretentious. I strive for a more simple writing style here, for the most part.

At any rate, don't let the grandiloquent gray door hit you in the butt on your way out! :-)

Monday, May 17, 2010 2:10:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

"what is perfection and integrity --- as compared to what? This is all subjective in the end."

We've gotten into some "lively" discussions with others on this very point. "Perfection" is something we should strive for, IMO. Just as we recognize that it represents an unachievable goal, we simultaneously refuse to accept that unattainability as a plausible excuse for abandoning the attempt.

Where ethics are concerned, I disagree that "ethical behavior" is that subjective a concept. There are fundamental rules of decency that transcend rationalization, despite the fact that great effort is sometimes expended to do so. Might seem like an "old, nowhere argument" to some, but until such time as we achieve that universal perfection, I think the debate remains relevant and essential.

Monday, May 17, 2010 3:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"A gray area filled with a whole lot of grandiloquent writing is all you got IMO."

I regret writing this. I am sorry. *sends self to corner for a time out*

Monday, May 17, 2010 3:30:00 PM  
Blogger Chuck said...

In 1960 I established as one of my Definite Major Purposes to Help People
That has evolved into the enjoyment of SHARING information on HOW TO improve one's perception of self and ability to Grow and prosper, based on THEIR definitions of prosperity.
Some of that information is created by me in the form of CD's Books and Videos. Other information is gleaned from the MASTERS.
What I OBJECT to is some of (if not Many) of the Pompous Modern GURUS assume everyone needs Help and spend a lot of time TEARING down the Fabric of self to re-mold.
And charge ridiculous prices for this PAP.
I freely enjoy being the messenger..what a person does with that info is their Issue.
But hose WHO HAVE bothered to follow up and spend time in a synergistic relationship have found Success.
We have a now 4 year running weekly Podcast in a Talk Show format, which has benefited Many.
Focus Society of Overachievers
Just completed 250th episode, all available for download FREE

Monday, May 17, 2010 4:28:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon wrote:
"'A gray area filled with a whole lot of grandiloquent writing is all you got IMO.'"

I regret writing this. I am sorry. *sends self to corner for a time out*"

No worries, Anon. Once upon a time I *was* often grandiloquent, never using a five-cent word when a five-dollar one would do, until I realized that using big words all the time made me sound like a pompous ass.

As for gray areas, I would probably have more of those if it weren't for Clairol Natural Instincts.

Monday, May 17, 2010 5:03:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks for weighing in, Chuck. I think you've hit one of the big problems right on the head -- the perceived need to "tear down the self" in order to re-mold it. Notwithstanding Picasso's assertion that "every act of creation is first an act of destruction"... does everything and everyone necessarily need to be (re)created?

Monday, May 17, 2010 5:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"-- the perceived need to "tear down the self" in order to re-mold it.."

This is one of those concepts that is said and repeated as part of the critics lexicon to add mass to and have something to rail against and raise a fist in protest about on the internet but which I have never seen in practice nor experienced myself nor do I know anyone who experienced it nor do I know anyone who has that perceived they "needed" to do that to others. 100% ridiculous baseless victimology IMO.

Have the authors of Whirled Musings ever experienced this "tearing down" and "remolding" being done to them without their permission by some "leader" who "held them captive" ? Or is it is all just lobbing around sound bites to create drama and imaginary villains to write a juicey blog about.

Monday, May 17, 2010 7:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Connie, do the link/sites promoted on the left side of Whirled Musings home page represent your point of view?

If Whirled Musings chooses to post them on it's page, do you not have to answer for all the views that are espoused at those links and the impact of what you are exposing others to? Or do you just wash your hands of that and recognize that others are free to choose for themselves what they take on and that people are adults?

Don't the totality of Whirled musings and the link/sites promoted on the Whirled Musings side bar have to be considered when one is assessing what your views are on these subjects you are discussing since you are advocating and promoting those sites?


(I ask all the above because a few times you have promoted yourself a certain way in your comments but then promote more extreme view via the links on your home page.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 8:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Picasso's assertion that "every act of creation is first an act of destruction"... does everything and everyone necessarily need to be (re)created?"

I don't know Picasso nor the context of this quote but I am going to assume that Picasso made that "assertion" based on his own actual experience of grappling with his own art and as an invention that served his own art and that that "assertion" was about his own art...he was not talking about some perpetrator out there or even other artists for that matter......

You seem to be flipping it and using it as a finger pointing blame tool directed towards others......

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 8:10:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Once again, Anon, I've allowed you to go on long past the point that most other bloggers would have quit publishing your ceaseless arguments. You need to look into why you are so obsessed with me. Is it just because I am the only blogger who is enough of a pushover to keep publishing your stuff?

We could go on and on and on and on and on with our points and counterpoints. I do have answers to all of your latest round of accusations but am tired of arguing about the same things over and over. If it makes you feel better to think that I am simply copping out because I have no good answers or that I am afraid to address criticism (as you have claimed before), be my guest.

You make snide remarks, apologize, say you're leaving, and yet you keep coming back. Yes, I know, it's my fault for allowing it.

I have no doubt that some of my snargets, if they're taking time from their busy schedules of creating magical products, are snickering into their hCG and thinking that I'm finally getting what I deserve for my years of snarking. Yet these snargets themselves refuse, for the most part, to publish critical comments on their own blogs, much less repeated critical comments from the same person(s) over and over and over.

You are not going to change me or the direction of this blog. You are in fact only reinforcing many people's negative view of LGATs and the drones they churn out.

Several people -- not just those on "my side" but also those on the "other side" (in the self-help/critic "wars") have expressed to me that they have grown weary of this nonstop arguing and that it is not adding anything to this blog.

As I have suggested before, you simply need to go start your own blog. You can blog anonymously if you wish. Nobody will ever know who you are.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 9:45:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

ok

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 9:58:00 AM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

connie i know you've linked to this wall st. journal article by your friend steve salerno before, but i thought it might add perspective & be food for thought for anyone who thinks self-help is always benign & that james ray sweat lodge was just 'one isolated incident.' like you i don't think the industry is evil or that it is always dangerous or harmful, but nobody should ever make the mistake of thinking sedona was the first and only time people were killed or harmed.

in his article salerno also reminds us that lots of stuff in lgat programs is akin to brainwashing/psychological warfare. therefore imo, issues about people exercising 'free choice' become irrelevant for many participants after a certain point during the event. i think youve said that before too in some of your posts.

this isn't even to mention the pressure & coercion some ppl experience from the beginning when friends coworker or loved ones try to get them to sign up for an event. i know that organizations like landmark make a stab at weeding out those who 'are there against their will' but there are so many ways pressure is exerted both inside & outside the organization to get people to sign up.

like you i try to take a more balanced view but i think where things like s/h is concerned, especially the expensive events, its better to be a little cautious even if it means your not living life 'full-on' in the eyes of people like james ray or lgat fans.

anyway ive gone on long enough heres the link to steves article:

http://tinyurl.com/2flbypt

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 11:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

adrian

if there is "no 'free choice' after a certain point during an event", and "coercion" is present and "pressure is exerted both inside & outside of organizations in so many ways", your conclusion of "its better to be a little cautious" is grossly understated .

where things like what you detailed are concerned, I would stay out of harms way and never touch one of them with a ten foot pole. not now, not ever, no matter what!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adrian

i forgot to note: "brainwashing/psychological warfare." A person would have to be bent on self-discorporation to walk into that. Caution would not be enough.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010 12:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Connie,

In my May 17th post, I offered to present a disturbing justification for the actions of Wink, Vitale, Trudeau, and the like-if you were interested.
You said in reply that you were.
First off, my skeptic’s credentials. I am a rationalist, skeptic of all things psychic and all manner of charlatans, hucksters, socially functional psychopaths and "spiritual" tricksters.
I am also a lifelong Yoga advocate.
Go figure!

Wink answers the criticism he's received in these comments by essentially saying this:
His people and products are no more unethical than most corporations. Nobody's perfect, including those who accuse him of bad faith. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone at Vitale and Trudeau, two of his clients.
Nevertheless, two wrongs don't make a right, as everyone learns in school.
Wink's written justification of his career is lame. In fact, it appears, Connie, that in paraphrasing his answers in your blog, you have presented his self-help ideas more articulately and intelligently than he is capable of.

Here's my main point: The best way to police the self-help industry is by example, not criticism!
Write and market your own self-help book and show them how it's done!
I have only recently realized the truth of this disturbing "revelation", an enlightened version of "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!"
Truth is, it's very hard to write and successfully market a self-help book. You need a gimmick, and a knack for self-promotion.
People won't buy a book unless it has a captivating gimmick that gets attention and speaks to their subconscious and their raw & uncut deepest dreams and desires.
Many of us have a knee-jerk reaction to gimmicks.
So, for example, when we look at Joe Vitale's output over the last 10 years, it's replete with gimmicks. And we righteously tune out.
However, guess what? Wink tunes in & makes a fortune off Vitale.
Sadly, and shockingly, I've realized that from a Higher Perspective, the universe itself may indeed be a gimmick… Gimmick #1!
We are selves in need of self-help gimmicks because our Higher Self, the one in touch with the Universe of Higher Principles, is the Source of all earthly self-help gimmicks.
The bigger & better the self-help gimmick, the closer we get to acknowledging the Universal Gimmick.
And the more grandiose the gimmick, the more money you make.
May the best gimmick win!
Chopra, Dyer, Robbins, and Vitale are masters of the self-help gimmick. That's why their works resonate with 10's of millions of people.
And that's also why many millions of their readers find self-help value through their gimmicks. They know how to speak the language of the Universe with self-help gimmick talk.
Know how to tap into the Eternal Gimmick, and you’ll know how to tap into the heart & minds of the self-help seekers.
In short, we criticize much of the self-help industry because as skeptics and rationalists, we see-through their gimmicks and we take offense at their gimmickry.
Yet, what if from a Higher Perspective, the Universe is a cosmic gimmick which smiles upon our gimmickry?
What if the path to true self-help of any kind begins with a gimmick?
As the Gimmick Guru might say:
"Find your self-help message. Try to help people. Discover the most exciting, new gimmick to propel your self-help message. Market your self-help gimmick like crazy, the wilder the better. Stay positive and upbeat. Ignore skeptics and critics of your work."
And always remember: "The Self that you seek to help represents and reflects the Universe-the ultimate timeless Gimmick."

Thursday, May 20, 2010 4:31:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks, Anon (May 20 4:31 AM). In the end, it really is all about the gimmickry. At the very least you have provided an excellent lesson in marketing. :-)

Somehow this leg of the discussion puts me in mind of the little rhyme that I first published over a year ago (I added a couple more verses after the James Ray Sweatgate tragedy):

http://cosmicconnie.blogspot.com/2009/05/all-thats-missing-is-music.html

Of course not everything in self-help is an out-and-out scam. Still, there's a reason that I use that word in my lyrics, and it's not just because it's easier to rhyme than "gimmick."

I realize that even the most vacuous-seeming teachings may be of value to some people. It's not up to me to determine whether someone else is drawing much-needed inspiration or false hope from a given guru's latest bestselling book. I get that. Yet it seems to be true that while gimmickry can provide a starting point, it can also get in the way of the message.

Case in point: Joe Vitale's co-opting of Dr. Hew Len's "modern proprietary" version of the traditional Hawaiian conflict-resolution technique known as Ho'oponopono. Did he truly capture the essence of those teachings or did he corrupt them by over-simplifying and adding his own "gimmickry?" (In all fairness, Joe did write in his book, "Zero Limits," that he was presenting his interpretation of this form of Ho'oponopono. Yet by using his "Zero Limits" gimmick in his writings and events, he was conveying a certain authority and presenting "his" version as the correct one.)

For that matter, did Dr. Hew Len himself (and his late mentor) corrupt the *traditional* Ho'oponopono? If some people get value from these 'newer' versions, even the Joe V "Zero Limits" version, does it matter in the end?

Damned if I know.

You write, "Know how to tap into the Eternal Gimmick, and you’ll know how to tap into the heart & minds of the self-help seekers."

Not to mention their wallets. And that seems to be the real motivating factor for so many of these gurus. I'm no enemy of capitalism, and people do have to make a living. To me, though, the cynical manipulation of people's deepest dreams and desires seems more egregious when coming from a self-help or spiritual leader than when coming from, say, an auto manufacturer or beer brewer.

"Who are you to determine what's in the hearts and minds of these gurus?" their defenders might ask. "What difference do their motives make if their teachings are solid?"

The answer is that sometimes you can't separate the motives from the teachings, or the message from the messenger. (I'll have more about this in a future post.)

The big problem with the money motive is that in order to keep the money machine oiled up, the gurus have to keep coming up with newer and better gimmicks. Does Truth (whatever that is) somehow get lost in the dueling gimmicks?

I wonder if there will ever be a point at which gimmick-burnout will seriously cut into the profit potential of the selfish-help/New-Wage/McSpirituality industry.

I would be interested in hearing others' perspectives about this too.

OMT: I don't have any interest in "policing" the self-help industry, but I still think criticism is one of the healthiest ways to help keep things in balance. If one joins the fray oneself by peddling self-help products, then one's own motives for criticizing will always be suspect. (Not that critics' motives aren't continually being second-guessed anyway by those on the defensive, but being a self-help peddler oneself just adds another layer of suspicion.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010 11:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is an otherwise successful citizen to do if one day in mid life they wake up and find themselves isolated from others, perhaps stuck with attitudes and habits that seem to be holding hem back in places? What if they also have an impulse to improve their life in some way and they do not want to lay on a therapist couch twice a week nor go on meds nor join a rock climbing club and they are not book readers? Where does a person turn to if they are fed up with part or all of their life?

Get another tattoo? Buy lottery tickets? Drink two instead of one glass of wine a night? Smoke weed? Accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior?

Thursday, May 20, 2010 1:29:00 PM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

Anonymous, there was a time or two when I felt pretty much the way you describe. I sought out groups of people with whom I shared interests and passions, rather than frustrations and pathologies. That, along with my own spiritual foundation, worked quite well to help me lift myself out of my funk.

Unfortunately, so many of the self help / LGAT programs specifically target the individuals' discontent, and promise an easy way of relieving it. That discontent is quite frequently (if not always) there for a reason, and I think it's better to work through it than to salve it over with buzzwords, trendy books, audio products, workshops, and an unending procession of increasingly costly events, most of which promise a lot, but leave the reader or participant yearning for that "next step" that they're assured will satisfy their needs, but which generally serve as mere introductions to that "next big thing."

Thursday, May 20, 2010 2:11:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"That discontent is quite frequently (if not always) there for a reason, and I think it's better to work through it than to salve it over"

Ron, "work through it" on their own? Are we encouraging people to stay separate from one another and stay in isolation with their concerns and issues?

I know segregated hermit people like that, does not look like a good road to take.

Thursday, May 20, 2010 7:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"there was a time or two when I felt pretty much the way you describe. I sought out groups of people with whom I shared interests and passions, rather than frustrations and pathologies. That, along with my own spiritual foundation, worked quite well to help me lift myself out of my funk."

Ron, you have described your unique path and combination of choices that worked for you, and it sounds great but can you muster any appreciation for others who choose their own unique approaches to working things out with clusters of other people even when it might look radically different from your own? Even when it might even look off to you and might even occur to you like they are not using "common sense" or worse, being conned, because the way and choices looks different from your own? Do you perceive taking a different path than you as a threat to your own path like so many religious radicals?



"There are certain things you can only know by creating them for yourself." Richard Feynman,

Friday, May 21, 2010 7:47:00 AM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

Anon, if you feel the need to challenge a point, please at least READ the point you're challenging, and attempt to structure your challenge so as to address the context. NEVER did I recommend becoming a hermit; as a matter of fact, I was pretty clear in advising people to seek out others.

And for the record, what you refer to as my "unique path" is unique only to someone who is unfamiliar with the concept of common sense. Seeking out people who share a common element that is based in their shared pathology might eventually help an individual work through their situation, but it is, at best, a very circuitous route. Seeking out those who share one's most positive traits - a passion for some endeavor, and for life itself - is much more effective in fomenting that passion than is seeking out those whose souls are as broken as your own.

I realize that this concept is diametrically opposed to the LGAT ideology, but the end result can be the emergence from one's struggles, rather than what literally constitutes a transference from one pathology to another. Simply put, I'm not an advocate of the emotional / spiritual methadone that the LGAT approach represents.

Friday, May 21, 2010 9:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"And for the record, what you refer to as my "unique path" is unique only to someone who is unfamiliar with the concept of common sense."

Ron, you used your own discrimination and values and your own brand of "common sense" and went where they took you, and it sounds like you did just fine, maybe better than fine, sounds like you prospered and cherish where your choices led.

Why would anyone equally endowed with powers of discrimination and "common sense" end up any less than you? Why do you reject the idea that your path was unique to you and your value and your life?

Friday, May 21, 2010 4:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ron: It also could be a generational thing.

You may be much older than most people on the internet. My father and grandfather had a tendency to reduce most arguments with some nebulous and indisputable ( in their eyes) closing remark including the words: "common sense", that one just could not questioned and if one did one were going against the venerated "common sense". It was a baseless manipulation tactic but I respected them knowing that it is what drove and guided them and how they explained themselves and their choices in that era. I will extend the same respect to your use of "common sense".

Saturday, May 22, 2010 7:53:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

"You may be much older than most people on the internet..."

Nice use of condescension, Anon.

For the record, Peter Wink himself has said several times in our conversations that people need to exercise COMMON SENSE in order to keep themselves from getting sucked into useless, wasteful or harmful self-help stuff. And if you consider Peter to be "much older" than most folks on the Net then you must be an adolescent. Your latest argument certainly sounds adolescent.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:55:00 AM  
Blogger RevRon's Rants said...

"Why would anyone equally endowed with powers of discrimination and "common sense" end up any less than you?"

Never said they would. That common sense isn't called common for nothing, and would (hopefully) alert *anyone* before they got manipulated, scammed, and/or programmed. If the common sense isn't there, the person would likely never see the cliff before they walked off. And they'd probably deny the existence of the cliff, all the way to the bottom.

My path is far from unique (beyond its specific events and details). Neither is the path that so many have taken, a circular route from program & process to program & process, most of which are built upon the same basic ideas and marketing approach, but with different hooks & buzzwords. I simply chose the less circuitous, less expensive route that bypassed the dependency-perpetuating programming and ever-increasing payments.

Funny thing is, I actually started trying to use common sense when I was still very young. However, I can still remember how satisfying it was to revel in my own profound wisdom, and to smugly dismiss the intelligence of people who had already made the mistakes I demanded the right to make. It took some time to realize that perhaps they had already begun to understand their folly and move beyond it. Still working on that part. :-)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010 11:41:00 AM  
Anonymous noleters said...

People like aussie secretion star David Schirmer are snake oil salesmen in my view. That guy hooks onto anything that will pick at the heart strings in an attempt to make money. How can that not be so obvious as now when he is claiming to be some newage church guru. Its sick, so sick while so many suffer in the wake of these guys greed. Pure evil.

Saturday, May 29, 2010 7:17:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Glad you mentioned David Schirmer, noleters. I know it's been a while since I "visited" him here. (He's another one who claims that I don't get my facts right on this blog. Go figure, LOL.) Wonder what he's up to these days?

Saturday, May 29, 2010 1:01:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Well, I did a brief Google and just answered my own question.

http://www.thesecret.com.au/554/where-does-money-come-from-part-6/

Looks like he's working on a book documenting his own "amazing success story."

Snark chum. Pure, delicious snark chum.

Saturday, May 29, 2010 1:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Oh Be Newman said...

Quoting the Wednesday, may 19, 2010 blog post: "...Peter's point about people who are transparent frauds. ...the folks who won’t go away but just keep on coming up with one bizarre product or service after another, such as "magical" items, or overpriced “readings” or “therapies” or workshops. Is this a moral issue, or is it just a marketing issue and thus morally neutral for the most part...?"

My comment/question is: What is morality if it isn't a culturally or personally subjective standard of behaviour? Is marketing an exception to morality? Is that some "unwritten" law of a capitalistic system, kind of like "all is fair in love and war... and money"? I say let the buyer beware, but personally (I try not to let culturally imposed do's and don'ts weigh in too heavily) I think the lessons we need are in our everyday choices. What motivates us? Are we looking for another way to avoid our responsibility, and therefore fall "victim" (Help, rescue me!) to self-help schemes? Can we really blame the "gurus"? Yes, they can be ruthless and petty as they go about working their "magic," but if we want the hollow version, they will certainly deliver. How can we complain about that? As the story goes, one day a long time ago a man hung on a cross... looking deep into his soul he forgave those who "know not what they do," and "behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom." I think there is a hint in there: Any idea that it is necessary to have a go-between involved in our relationship with the Divine, be it Jesus Christ or Adolf Hitler, is one of the oldest lies going. Gurus like Jesus Christ knew this and was happy to give the glory to his Father. Gurus like Adolf Hitler (I won't mention any current furor's names here now) would just assume you don't think and feel for your self, or find your own direct communion with the Divine, but rather come to depend on them (just keep buying their products) for all your enlightenment needs.

Blessings, Oh Be

Monday, May 31, 2010 12:48:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Hi, Oh Be, it's great to "meet" you. I just followed your link and have been spending time on your fascinating blog.

You raise an excellent question about a point to which my own cynicism (if you want to call it that) seems to have temporarily blinded me. That passage of mine that you quoted, regarding the assumed moral neutrality of marketing, is very revealing, isn't it?

"Is marketing an exception to morality?" you ask. "Is that some 'unwritten' law of a capitalistic system, kind of like 'all is fair in love and war... and money'?"

Good questions. Most of us take it for granted, at least on some level, that marketers exaggerate, fudge the facts, or sometimes lie, and "it's just marketing." Even worse, people (or organizations) sometimes commit atrocities in the name of commerce, and then shrug it off as being "just business."

Am I part of the problem for just taking for granted that many marketers do scummy or scammy things? Hmmm....

Your larger point is spot-on too: "Any idea that it is necessary to have a go-between involved in our relationship with the Divine, be it Jesus Christ or Adolf Hitler, is one of the oldest lies going."

Actually, that's pretty much what Peter Wink said too regarding the guru phenomenon.

Thanks for stopping in, and I hope you'll return.

Monday, May 31, 2010 3:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Connie , at some point, might your considerable investment in criticizing "self help" block you out of doing or even considering something with other people that might appear to be "self-help", even though it might be a huge contribution to the life you want?

Might your expressed view of others doing things to help each other where there is an exchange of $ and time involved, limit your involvement with groups where there is an exchange of $ and time involved, in a way that is detrimental and even inappropriate? Inappropriate in the sense that one day it occurs to you that there is some opportuity for you but that you are inclined to protect that which you have been espousing with such enthusiasm, so you do not do it? Are you not cut off ( or at least constrained ) tfrom all religion and self help now and in a position that you have to do it your way and prove that what you have been saying is mostly or at least partially true?

Have you not talked yourself into a corner in other words, where you are actually less free than more free to make choices and express yourself and be involved with large communities and people who might have something to contribute to you?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 7:23:00 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Oh, Lord, here we go again...

Anon June 1 7:23 AM: I've asked myself all of these questions and continue to ask them frequently. I am very aware that things aren't all black or white; there are shades of gray, etc. I've written whole blog posts about my uncertainties. I've provided links to those posts numerous times.

I have never said there is anything wrong with the exchange of money for goods, services, expertise or wisdom. (Critics of the critics just don't seem to "get" -- or are simply refusing to admit -- that most of us aren't squawking about the exchange of money per se.) Moreover, I have many friends and allies who are into spirituality and self-help, and even mainstream religion.

Over the years I have in fact been involved in "opportunities" through various New-Wage groups and individuals. Let me just say that these experiences have greatly influenced my "critical/snarky" stance today.

It seems to me that the only way one can really benefit from hanging around the folks I snark about is to become a true believer and a cheerleader for those people. Even that is no guarantee of success, though. So, no, I don't think I am missing any great opportunities by not joining ACCESS Consciousness, or attending a James Ray seminar, or paying five grand to ride in Joe Vitale's Rolls Royce.

Bottom line: I am striving to maintain a consistency here (and in my life) without slipping into the infamous "foolish consistency" that is the "hobgoblin of little minds." That can be tricky for anyone -- critics, true believers, and everyone in between.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 10:30:00 AM  
Anonymous Jean D said...

Hi Connie, Anon's posts are filled with circular and diminishing language;that which plants doubt in order to talk others into and out of things. I think I pointed that out before on a previous post.
Anon's language reminds me of guys(I say guys because I'm heterosexual) who have tried to override my "No,I don't want to have sex now." This type of person consistently practices techniques of negation, cancellation, and minimization in order to "get his way."
Anon's posts also remind me of folks who try to talk others into doing drugs. The message is: "I know what's good for you better than you know what's good for you.If you'll let me,I'll convince you why you need this."

I'm offended by any posts that call into question what you're doing,Connie,although it actually speaks to your power and success at snarking or you would not have been targeted. Anon is obviously well-trained in LGAT sales. So,Bravo, Connie! Whatever you do,don't abandon your mission and don't question your abilities.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 12:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So, no, I don't think I am missing any great opportunities by not joining ACCESS Consciousness, or attending a James Ray seminar, or paying five grand to ride in Joe Vitale's Rolls Royce."

Connie, what do these three pet examples you site have to do with the untold number of opportunities to be with other human beings working on what it means to be human and what is possible for the world and for the future for you and me and everyone?

Why the fixation one those three old and odd examples? It seems to me that any person obsessing on such old and extreme and absurd examples of any area of life for a long period of time would be constrained more than free, and possibly end up out of touch with current reality.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 12:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jean D.

Do you see Connie as needing rescuing by you? I asked questions which Conie chose to post and respond to. Have you not noticed that Connie is no slouch or child, and repeatedly shows herself to be a formidable thinker and person in general. Is vilifying rigorous discussion necessary in order to make your point Jean D? Connie has shown that she can go toe to toe with non- agreement, for which I respect her allot! She has almost never resorted to personal insults. The mobbing/ganging up thing that happens on these blogs is telling. Ironically, this mob thinking and behavior on these blogs seems very "culty" IMO.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks, Jean, your points are all well taken. The various Anon arguments I've been fielding since this series began (and even before that) certainly do seem to be the product of extensive LGAT training. And it's an endless cycle of attack and retreat, attack and retreat. Some of these people are OBSESSED. Either they are desperately trying to convince themselves that their chosen way is A-Okay, or, as you implied, they really see blogs such as mine as being a threat to the LGATs in some way. Perhaps both factors are at play.

As always, I get to choose how much or how little time and energy I spend 'defending' myself and my blog (and subjecting my readers to the exchanges).

I have published most of the comments and have even replied to most of them just because I think they address perennially relevant issues. Even though the issues have been discussed at length on this blog before, a new reader might not have had a chance to go through all of the posts. However, even *my* patience has limits, which is why I sometimes reject comments that rehash the same arguments over and over.

I published this latest Anon comment because it raised a "new" issue -- new in the sense that the Anon(s) hadn't raised it before in recent discussions. But I recognize it as being part of the same old attack-and-retreat strategy.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon June 1, 12:12 PM:

Joe Vitale is STILL offering his pricey Rolls rides, and he heavily promotes them all the time. ABC's 20/20 even went out to his place in Texas a few months ago to film one of these sessions.

James Ray is still promoting his events and himself. How successful he will be in light of his current legal troubles is anyone's guess, but apparently he still has a large group of loyal followers.

ACCESS Consciousness continues to do its damage, and in fact I was recently contacted by a media outlet that may be planning an expose on this culty org.

These examples are not only current; they are the tip of a very, very large iceberg. Or crap pile, if you prefer.

You are either hopelessly out of touch yourself, or you are just trying to yank my chain by using your favorite passive-aggressive LGAT techniques.

You may be protecting your anonymity, but your motives seem glaringly obvious.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon 12:21: I don't see Jean D as being part of a mob or a gang. I appreciate her support and the insight she has offered here and on other forums into the workings of LGATs and related matters.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Connie, say what you want but the mob tactics are cultish and such conduct would be frowned upon on any off-line community setting.

"These examples are not only current; they are the tip of a very, very large iceberg. Or crap pile, if you prefer."

If that is so, then why would need to flog the same three examples to to the extent that you do?

And am I mistaken Connie, is "anonymity" not a reasonable and completely acceptable standard on the internet and not a sign of any bad intentions or motives? What is "glaringly obvious" about the other 4 billion people posting anonymously on the www every day?

Calling people out their anonymity when they disagree with you is weird. You would not call people out on being "anonymous" if they were supporting your views and posting "insights" you personally deemed on track with Whirled Musings agenda.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 1:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But I recognize it as being part of the same old attack-and-retreat strategy"

This is victim jargon and positioning yourself as a "victim" Connie.If you were actually being "attacked" you would not have to and you would not choose to post a comment. Calling the law enforcement would be more appropriate. I am glad you have a a choice about posying so I know you are at all times in control and responsible for your blog.

Using colourful language like "the same old attack-and-retreat strategy" is a one-up tactic. no more no less.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 1:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Jean D said...

Personally,I think the U.S.needs regulation of the self-help industry. All seminar leaders must undergo training and certification.

The other day I was talking to a woman about "self-help" scammers. She told me several years ago, she attended a free seminar with a friend. After the lecture,people paired off to "talk". The guy she was partnered with began to ask,"What aspects of your life do you want to change?" She told him she was content and didn't want to change anything. This made him start asking personal questions to which she replied,"My life is none of your f***ing business!" At that point,like vultures waiting for carion,four people,who were apparently watching the group,swooped in,made a circle around her,and began to use language geared toward making her "realize" how unhappy she was.

At that point,she stood up and shouted,"All of you need to get the hell away from me!" She then found her friend and pulled him out of the building,warning him to never invite her to such an event again.

I'm sure the LGAT folks will read this anecdote and say,"This woman had some issues or she would not have been so hostile!" Wrong,folks! Getting angry and hostile is a sign of good mental health. There's a mechanism of self-protection that exists within us from millions of years of evolution. It is outrage that makes us reject danger,but is also this very mechanism that LGAT leaders break down.(One of the classic publications about the dangers of being "too nice" is "Creative Aggression" by Bach and Goldberg.)

I believe Colleen Conaway lost her life because she became angry and wanted out of the game. Unfortunately, a few months later in Sedona,James Ray destroyed the altruistic nature and outrage of his participants which resulted in 3 more deaths.
Had normal human outrage been present among the Sedona participants, news stories would have appeared something like this: "On October 8,2009,the Yavapai County Sheriff Department was called to Angel Valley near Sedona to escort James Arthur Ray and his employees out of town after Ray's assistant,Megan Fredrickson called and indicated they were afraid to leave their rooms. Apparently Ray had angered his participants when he refused to let them tend to several people who had exhibited distress during an imitaion sweat lodge activity. As participants began to help each other, Ray reportedly shouted at them to stop,but participants shouted back and threatened him if he didn't get out of their way. At that point,Ray and JRI employees ran to their rooms and barricaded themselves inside, then called for help.
To date,all participants are making full recoveries and are expected to join in a class action lawsuit. James Ray and JRI have made no official comment."

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 1:37:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon: Just because someone agrees with me, that doesn’t mean this person is part of a mob. However, I understand your point about “ganging up.” It is done all the time in online forums, whether critical or “true-believing” forums. It is done offline too in various ways. That doesn't make it right, of course.

But one person agreeing with me on a forum doesn't make it a mob, either. And whenever you come on this forum (or Steve Salerno’s) with your accusations that critical bloggers and their regular readers are being “culty,” it reminds me of Pee-Wee Herman’s “I know you are, but what am I?” sthick. All too often it's just a way to detract from the real issues about LGATs (or whatever else we happen to be discussing).

I use the three examples (Vitale, Ray, ACCESS) because they’re easy and convenient, and most people who come to this blog with any regularity have heard of them. I don’t have the time or inclination to provide a detailed list of other examples every time I write a casual blog comment.

I could just as easily ask you why you continue to flog the same arguments over and over and over on my blog and Steve Salerno's, for that matter.

I didn’t say your anonymity was in any way related to your “glaringly obvious” agenda. I merely said that despite the fact that you hide behind anonymity, your agenda seems glaringly obvious. (That agenda seems to be to defend LGATs against critics.) Either you misunderstood my statement or are resorting to your favorite tactic of twisting my words.

You are correct, though, that I am being inconsistent when I criticize the anonymity of Anons who disagree with me and not those Anons who do. I apologize for that. It’s just that few of the Anons who agree with me about one point or another are quite so obsessive as you. THAT seems a little weird to me but maybe I should be flattered.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 2:09:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

Anon wrote:

"Using colourful language like 'the same old attack-and-retreat strategy' is a one-up tactic. no more no less."

Not a tactic. Just the way I see things. And I don't see myself as a victim here either. Your LGAT may teach you that certain words and phrases are "victim jargon" but maybe you need to learn to think outside the LGAT box once in a while.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 2:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I called you "weird" now you are calLing me "weird"????
Stop stealing my "tactics" !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 2:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You want to have it both ways Connie. You can't say you are being "attacked" and accuse others of using "tactics" on you (when all that is happening is a discussion, which you, as moderator, are willngly choosing to post) and then say here, you don't see yourself as a victim. The language you are using is that of a person who sees themselves as a victim in this circumctance , somenone being done to by another. No?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 2:34:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

You do employ an attack-and-retreat tactic, Anon. But that doesn't mean I feel victimized by it in any way.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 2:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see why you would say that, and how it might look like an "attack-and-retreat tactic". That is not my intention. My sole intention is to argue my point and question yours. It gets personallish at times by all posters. Singling me out for nit picking Whirled Musings because I am not here cheering you is an unfair and inaccurate distortion of what is going on here. There are many unique voices posting here, all "employing" different "tactics" to express views they are attached to or feel strongly about or want to promote in this discussion.

The way I see it, with the exception of a few minor slips where I was uneccessarily insulting, which I apologised for, I have been consistently mild in my choice of words compared to certain name calling others who contribute to Whirled Musings.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 3:07:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

I'm not singling you out, Anon. I'm responding to (most of) your comments, and since you comment more than just about anyone else here, I'm going to address you more frequently than I do other contributors.

But you're right; you are milder in your choice of words than some contributors.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 3:50:00 PM  
Blogger Cosmic Connie said...

It occurs to me, particularly after having had lots of time to study on these matters in the past couple of years, that one point I did NOT mention in this post or in the discussion, is that even Peter's suggestion to simply buy an inexpensive self-help info-product or two can be risky, depending upon how you purchase it.

Buying at a brick-and-mortar store or off of Amazon or some other third-party retailer should be okay, but buying directly from the guru, e.g., in response to a mass email or even off the guru's web site, can lead you right into a trap of endless, relentless marketing.

I was reminded of this again recently when reading the Internet marketing expose on The Verge:
http://www.theverge.com/2012/5/10/2984893/scamworld-get-rich-quick-schemes-mutate-into-an-online-monster

"The path to internet riches begins with an introductory product, such as a book or DVD. This is often a loss leader: the real value for the Internet Marketer is that it allows him to capture your contact information. Once you’re in the system, your inbox will be flooded with offers for software, DVD sets, and coaching programs costing several hundreds or thousands of dollars."

So while I agree with Peter that in theory there's nothing wrong with sampling the free and cheap stuff, and that it can be a good idea if you're curious, I also think you have to be careful how you do it -- particularly if you're an addictive sort or are otherwise vulnerable.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012 11:59:00 AM  

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