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.)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

When "Enlightenment" really MEANT something

Don't give up on me, Dear Ones; as time permits I'm still working on (with every intention of finishing) my long-promised post(s) about my conversations with a self-help insider. Meanwhile, here's a quick & fun blast from the past.

The other day, just for the fun of it, I pulled an old book off the shelf and thumbed through it. The book is Age of Enlightenment, by Peter Gay and the editors of Time-Life Books. It's part of a long out-of-print Time-Life series, Great Ages of Man (yes, as I may have mentioned here before, there was a time, way back in the previous century, when Time-Life actually published books and not just nostalgic CD sets and DVD series).


Most of the old Time-Life book series stuck to a standard format of chapters followed by "picture essays," and the Great Ages of Man set is no exception. What caught my eye in Age of Enlightenment, which covers much of the eighteenth century, was the essay following Chapter 3, "In Search of an Ideal Society." Titled, "The Credulous Era," the section begins:
In the Enlightenment's mood of optimism, the difference between open-mindedness and gullibility was often indiscernible. The philosophes' insistence that old concepts be re-examined opened the door to a flock of irrational schemes and fakeries. If man's intelligence could solve all problems, then it seemed reasonable to believe that people with special gifts could manage special feats... Twenty-first Century Boulder/Austin/Santa Fe/San Diego, etc. Eighteenth Century Europe became a paradise for visionaries, pseudo scientists and outright quacks. They persuaded the educated and ignorant alike that they could perform a variety of wonders – e.g., transmitting invisible healing powers to others, giving birth to rabbits and even corresponding with the man in the moon.
The subtitles within the picture essay set the tone:

"A craze for easy cures." Magnetism was all the rage in the eighteenth century, and a few enterprising medical guys took advantage of this. Many folks know about Franz Mesmer and his "animal magnetism," but perhaps fewer know about a London doc named James Graham. Dr. Graham built a salon that contained a "Celestial Bed" supported by forty "magnetized" pillars. Apparently one purpose of this special bed was to treat men suffering from what is today called erectile dysfunction. Their powers could supposedly be fully restored by lying on the bed and sniffing incense while watching erotic dances. Today I believe such a setup would be called a "Gentleman's Club."
"A genius for mixing sense with nonsense." The Enlightenment was rife with "well-meaning savants who worked in the fringe area between science and fantasy." F'rinstance, there was German doctor Samuel Hahnemann, who discovered some worthwhile therapeutic drugs but also advocated remedies such as maiden's teardrops and crushed bedbugs. Hahnemann is perhaps best known for giving the world homeopathy.
"A booming market for frauds." The author notes, "So gullible were the rich and fashionable of the Enlightenment that a shrewd trickster needed only audacity to leap to wealth and fame." One example: a crude Sicilian peasant named Allesandro Cagliostro, who "became the toast of Paris when it was rumored that he could turn pebbles into diamonds and crones into lovely maidens."
Then there was Mary Tofts (sometimes spelled "Toft"), pictured above in a William Hogarth engraving. Mary convinced half of England that she could give birth to rabbits and rabbit parts. I imagine she was in great demand around Easter time.
"A public bamboozled by bubbles." Now, here's something that could never happen today:
...Naive investors, confusing paper certificates with real wealth, were so eager to buy stock that at one point shares were even sold in England "for an undertaking of a Great Adventure but no one to know what it is." Two ventures in particular caught the public's fancy. London's South Sea Company was set up to trade with Spanish America, and Paris' Mississippi Company was founded to exploit the wealth of Louisiana. Both companies were backed by their governments, which saw the stock issues as a way to erase the public debt. Investors stampeded to speculate in what was soon worthless stock. Prices rose astronomically. In 1720 both bubbles burst. Prices plummeted, thousands were wiped out and the two governments were shaken...
But all of that crap happened a long, long time ago. Thank Goddess we're far too sophisticated today to fall for anything even remotely like the nonsense they believed back then.

PS ~ For a good time, read (or re-read) the Enlightenment-era classic, Voltaire's Candide. Tell me if that Pangloss character reminds you of anyone you know or have read about.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Bond. James' bond...

...that bond, as you probably know by now, is a cool five million dollars.* (See updates below. ~CC)

By now it's all over the news: James Arthur Ray was arrested earlier today at his attorney's office in Prescott, Arizona. He has been charged with three counts of manslaughter for the three people who died last October after the infamous sweat lodge session at his Spiritual Warrior retreat in Sedona. You can keep up with the news here, and some of the many Tweets here.

PS added 4 February ~ This post is what Wikipedia would call a "stub," and, unlike my October 9 post linked to above, I'm probably not going to keep adding to it. However, while it's still "new" news, I did want to add a link to a few items:
The related story published on the Good Morning America web site on February 4.
The transcript of Anderson Cooper's CNN show on February 3, refuting James Ray's statements in a sham interview for New York Magazine.
And no discussion of this matter would be complete without Salty Droid's take on the matter (it's worth it for the Photoshopping alone).

* Not long after James Ray's arrest, it became known that he was having a bit of a "challenge" posting bond, which would have entailed coming up with $500,000 in cash to get out of the slammer. Once again Salty Droid was on it (this piece also has videos about James' plea and his attoney's comments) . Some people misinterpreted the statements from the Ray legal team as being that James doesn't have the money, raising questions of how it is that Mr. Harmonic Wealth himself could be so cash-poor. But, as former James Ray employee Amy Hall commented on the Droid's blog...

Amy Hall Reply:
February 5th, 2010 at 7:34 pm

If you listen closely… the atty doesn’t say that James doesn’t have the money… just that it isn’t liquid enough to come up with the $500,000 cash that he needs. For God’s sake the man owns 5 houses! His parents own their own house, his brother owns properties in OK. They could come up with it if they wanted to. James is in solitary confinement. He’s on a Monk’s Holiday!

There's also an interesting discussion on the Rick Ross forum about James and his brand of Harmonic Asset Concealment, as well as the long tradition of same among LGAT gurus (Werner Erhard of est/Landmark Forum infamy comes to mind).

Update, 28 February 2010: As most of you undoubtedly know, after much ballyhooing about his lack of funds to get him out of jail under that original five-mil bond, James' bond was reduced to $525,000 on February 25. (Here, from the Droid's blog, is a link to a PDF of the order.) The next day he walked out of jail a free man, sort of. There are conditions on his freedom as he awaits trial for three counts of manslaughter. Among these conditions: He had to surrender his passport and can't leave or attempt to leave the U.S.; he has to provide his lawyers with a written itinerary in advance of any travel within the U.S.; and he cannot conduct, supervise, or participate in sweat lodges or any other event that might induce a "significant risk of physical harm" to others. That latter provision is open to debate, of course, since there are other varieties of physical harm besides cooking people to death or goading them into injuring themselves by striking a board or a brick. (Inducing psychosis that might lead them to kill themselves comes to mind. I'm just sayin'.)

Judging by some of his most recent tweets on Twitter, James is setting the stage for his newest shtick, playing on the theme of transforming darkness into light. (Well, hey, a guy has to make a living. And when life gives lemons...)

Anyway, as I've mentioned before, and as you've no doubt noticed, I have long since given up providing a blow-by-blow account of all of the developments in this ongoing story. Plenty of others have taken up the slack, though, and have done a remarkable job. Among them:

  • Good old Salty Droid

  • Cassandra Yorgey Since her blog does not appear to use tags, I am linking to her first post about James Ray, but on the right-hand side of the page is a complete list, with live links, of her posts on this matter.

  • The participants on the Rick Ross forum Not surprisingly, the James Ray thread is very long; the link is to the page first mentioning the lowered bond. You can go backward or forward as you wish. I find this forum valuable not only for the discussion of the matter at hand but also for the insights into LGAT (Large Group Awareness Training) techniques.

  • Terry Hall at the Bizsayer blog. Terry is married to former James Ray International employee Amy Hall, whom I quoted above.

A February 26 post by Steve Salerno at SHAMblog did give me pause for thought, however. Although Steve has by no means "switched sides"– as he takes some pains to explain – he did note:

...I'm getting a wee bit uneasy about the ardor of our collective assault on Ray. I think there is danger in piling on, as some of us have—including your host. I think that we run the risk of unwittingly marginalizing ourselves: that in our zeal to find and trumpet every last incriminating detail, background circumstance or untoward facial expression--while at the same time ignoring or rationalizing away any possible mitigating circumstances--we make ourselves look like, say, the liberals who once were accused of "Bush derangement syndrome"...

...while Ray may be the poster boy for reckless/venal self-help, we probably shouldn't make him out to be the Grim Reaper, Adolph Hitler and Bernie Madoff rolled into one. Certainly not until he has his day in court. The guy almost surely is a megalomaniac—but if you're telling me that he intended to kill those people, or that he didn't care if he did...I'm not buying it. I think that in the person of James Ray, we have a messianic blunderer with no sense of consequences who may have honestly felt that he was showing tough-love on that October day, driving clients to push beyond their limits. This is not in any way to excuse what happened in Sedona. If anything, it underscores why self-help is so stupid, so scary. And that is where our emphasis should now reside, in my opinion.

As is usually the case on SHAMblog, an interesting discussion follows.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

A little motion on the ocean

Another drive-by (or swim-by, as the case may be) post while I'm dealing with "real work" deadlines and trying to finish my long-promised piece based on interviews with a self-help industry insider...


As you probably know if you've been hanging around my Whirled for any length of time, there's an incredibly silly, kinda sex-culty thing going around called ACCESS Consciousness (formerly ACCESS Energy Transformation). My most recent post about ACCESS was in October of 2009, though it made its debut on this Whirled on June 6, 2007, and had an encore appearance on June 12 of the same year. I mentioned it again in May of 2008 (scroll down to the second item, "Warning: ACCESSories on the loose"); and then again the following July (scroll down to second item, "ACCESS: It just gets worse"). I would tell you exactly what ACCESS is, but after nearly three years of blogging till I'm blue in the face about it, I still don't really know. All I can really say for sure is that it seems to make people all silly and giggly, and apparently inspires women of all ages to show their cleavage.

"And that's a bad thing?" you ask. Okay, there's nothing wrong with cleavage, and maybe the silliness and giggling aren't so bad either (blog fodder, after all), but the cultishness is a little disturbing when you think about it. Thinking is frowned on in ACCESS, but not here on my Whirled.

At any rate, the ACCESSories are still doing their thing, and now, apparently, they are spreading the love to the world's oceans, which are choking with plastic. ACCESS is going to save the oceans, or part of one of them, anyway, by magically transforming the plastic into... oh, I don't know. Fish? Fish poop? A new info-product? They don't really say.

An alert reader gave me the heads-up about a new ACCESS-related website, Ocean 300. Although it doesn't seem to be fully functional yet, and doesn't yet mention ACCESS anywhere that either Alert Reader or I could see, the project has been touted in recent interviews given by Gary Douglas, an ex-Realtor and the founder of ACCESS. And the mantra, "How does it get any better than this?" is pure ACCESSspeak.

What the ACCESSories are gonna do, it seems, is utilize a technique that supposedly allows them to "transform matter at the molecular level," as described in the print-on-demand-published work, Magic: You Are It. Be It, by Gary Douglas and his sidekick, Rasputin. Oh, I'm just kidding about Rasputin, whom Gary fired a few years ago. (You can't really trust those dead Russian faux-monks, you know.) These days, Gary's main sidekick – and his co-author on Magic as well as several other books – is Dr. Dain Heer. Both Gary and Dain tout their proprietary brand of alchemy, which was originally "given" to Gary by Rasputin or someone or something from another dimension.

But lest I get too far off course, here is the skinny on Ocean 300, straight from their web site:

Ocean 300's target is to change the continent of plastic that is currently floating in the Pacific Ocean.

This mass of floating plastic has been called the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," "The Plastic Ocean" and "The World's Biggest Garbage Dump." Ocean 300 asks, How does it get any better than this?

300 people will board a ship in 2011 and sail into the plastic zone. Using an energy called Molecular Demanifestation, they will invite all of that plastic to change and transform into elements that the ocean can handle and dissipate with ease. This has never been done before and may create an awareness in the world of what else is possible, beyond what many have decided is not.

Ocean 300 will be releasing information, videos and testimonials showing you how to change and transform things using Molecular Demanifestation. What if you could change a glass of wine to be the most delicious, refreshing and nutritious treat for you [sic] body?*

Is this going to be one of those luxury cruise-ship deals, such as those hosted by Esther and Jerry Hicks and their imaginary bud(s) Abraham, or "Scientist" Bob Proctor, or any number of other New-Wage gurus? At this point it's not clear, but my correspondent had a few questions about Ocean 300's planned mission:

...The goal is phrased rather vaguely -- transforming plastic into 'something the ocean can handle.' What does that mean, exactly? Convenient that nobody on the boat would be able to observe whether the transformation had occurred at all. And then, of course, they leave and whether what they did made any difference whatsoever would be determined how?

This is touted as a demonstration of their technique that is going to open the world's eyes to what they can do. So why pick something like this, in 2011? Why not go to Haiti now and transform earthquake rubble into down comforters and stacks of pancakes and save some lives? Now that would be a demonstration. (As if I didn't know why.)

The moving graphic of the ocean is a little odd -- a veiled shark and a little Nemo-like fish going in opposite directions. The accompanying photos of divers looking at stuff looks to me like a fishing net clump, not the problem in the ocean they are going to fix. The bits of plastic are tiny, tiny, things.

No price mentioned. I bet it is going to cost a lot.

And I bet they won't have much trouble finding 300 suckers to cough up whatever it's going to cost. After all, our precious oceans are at stake.

According to one of the Ocean300 legal pages, the enterprise is legally based in New Zealand, where, as it happens, ACCESS has a pretty strong presence. (Australia is similarly fortunate to have a significant ACCESS presence.) Here's the legal lowdown, in case any of you U.S. citizens should foolishly decide you want to sue Ocean300:

This Agreement shall all be governed and construed in accordance with the laws of New Zealand applicable to agreements made and to be performed in New Zealand. You agree that any legal action or proceeding between Ocean300 and you for any purpose concerning this Agreement or the parties' obligations hereunder shall be brought exclusively in a federal or state court of competent jurisdiction sitting in New Zealand . Any cause of action or claim you may have with respect to the Service must be commenced within one (1) year after the claim or cause of action arises or such claim or cause of action is barred. Ocean300's failure to insist upon or enforce strict performance of any provision of this Agreement shall not be construed as a waiver of any provision or right. Neither the course of conduct between the parties nor trade practice shall act to modify any provision of this Agreement. Ocean300 may assign its rights and duties under this Agreement to any party at any time without notice to you.

On Bonnie Coleen's Seeing Beyond radio show site, there is a recent (January 27, 2010) interview with Gary Douglas, but I'd be careful downloading that if I were you. When I tried to do it, it locked my computer up. That might have just been my slow satellite Internet connection, but it still might be better to err on the side of caution. If you do want to give it a whirl, here's the page that lists the show's recent Podcasts.

My correspondent, who happened to catch the interview, wrote:

Now I don't expect much science knowledge from a Santa Barbara Realtor, and maybe he was having a really bad day or had a bad night's sleep, but he does seem to be having basic troubles with language in the interview. He uses "evaporate" instead of "condense" when describing an accessory's business that removes water from the air. That could just be technical ignorance, falling in the sub-high school range of knowledge. But then he gets the words "past" and future" mixed up twice, then catches himself. It is almost like he just isn't paying any attention to what he is saying. And I think there is a third one where he gets two basic words reversed (increase and diminish, I think it was near the end of the softball "interview"). He also mentions what he charges for his seminars ($10,000) and I haven't heard that before.

Perhaps Gary was inspired by hearing about the cost of James "Death" Ray's infamous Spiritual Warrior retreat.

All right, maybe juxtaposing ACCESS with The Ray is unfair. As far as I know, ACCESS hasn't killed anyone yet, although arguably it has contributed to the deaths of a few marriages and other close relationships, and possibly a few billion brain cells.

On the other hand, it is apparently allowing people like Dain (they call him the "Body Whisperer") Heer to get laid. He has described himself as being pretty much an unhappy loser before he discovered ACCESS, but just look at him now. Dr. Dain seems to have truly become a sex starlet in the New-Wage industry. And it's not just the young ones like Summer and Rikka who are enchanted; apparently gals of all ages love him and his body workshops.

But now it looks as if Dr. Dain might have some competition in the sex-starlet category. I recently discovered an apparent up-and-Comer, a Dr. Steve, who is delivering three-day ACCESS "Body Workshops." Here's one of his promo vids, complete with candlelight, unwanted background noise, and strategically lowered eyelids. Here's another one, sans the candlelight but still with the strategic eyelids. As I asked on a recent Tweet, would you buy a three-day body workshop from this SNAG?

I'm sure Dr. Dain has nothing to worry about, though. There seems to be an endless supply of cleavage and giggles to go 'round.

Regarding "Dr. Steve's" videos, my correspondent mused, "This new guy, plus Dr. Dain, make me think the great Pacific garbage patch is going to get a treatment with oil, or grease." Not to mention slime...

If phony sexuality doesn't work for you, there's always just plain weird and creepy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TYV0JAKGtvM&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUH-Tu4LEuA&NR=1

You gotta love those computer-simulated voices.

Yep, ACCESS just keeps growing, and growing, and growing, much like that big wad of plastic in the ocean. The day may come when the rest of the world discovers it, but I am thinking that ACCESS or one of its "leaders" might have to actually kill someone for the rest of the blogosphere, not to mention the mainstream media, to take notice. For now, I will continue to try to keep you updated here on my little Whirled.

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

Can't get enough enlightened sexploitation? Get on your knees NOW, Slave, and click here.

In an oceanic frame of mind? Swim on over here. Or here.

* My correspondent said that in the above-mentioned radio interview, Gary Douglas claimed that by using his "molecular manifestation technique," he can wave his hand over a glass of bad wine and turn it into really good tasting wine. "I guess walking on water is next," mused my friend.

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