Farces of nature
I am well aware that this is the tenth anniversary of 9/11, and I have observed several moments of silence and so forth, and I even watched Paul Simon's poignant unplugged solo performance of his nearly 50-year-old classic, "The Sound of Silence," at Ground Zero. But I started this post yesterday so I'm going to publish it today while the issues are still hot (so to speak). No disrespect whatsoever intended to the people we lost in 9/11, or their families and friends.
As y'all may know, we've been in the midst of a wildfire crisis in the Great State of Texas. Much of the state is burning, to the point where I wouldn't be surprised if legislation were passed to re-nickname Texas The Lone Char-State. The good news is that relief is on the way. On September 9, a blog post spewed forth from Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale (note to any newbies here: any irony in that nickname is completely unintentional). Mr. Fire wrote:
A few days ago I sent an email to my mailing list requesting people hold the vision of safety for all those affected by the Texas wildfires. I pointed out that more than two dozen scientific studies proved when a group holds an intention in meditation, that intention tends to come to pass.
People from all over the world sat and prayed, or visualized, or intended and requested that the fires diminish.
Almost instantly a friend who had been evacuated from his home due to the fires wrote to me saying the smokes seemed to clear, the power came back on, and he was told he could return home safely.
Friends of mine who were preparing to evacuate were told they were safe.
Then I looked at the news and saw that while the fires were still burning and there was no rain in sight, most of the larger fires around my area of Austin, Texas were either contained, put out, or greatly improved in containment.
That’s progress, but we’re not done.
Do I smell a fire-clearing audio coming on? I bet Joe and his best bud and bidness partner Pat O. are already in the studio. After all, look what they did for the BP oil spill last year.
The first thing I noticed about the blog post, apart from the overall silliness of the premise, was that all of the "miraculous" results Mr. Fire reported -- things that he implied were a result of his email blast -- happened in Central Texas and the Austin area. That's his neck of the woods. Meanwhile, in my neck of the woods (Waller-Grimes-Montgomery counties), things are still iffy, though they're better for the moment, thanks to the dedicated efforts of the firefighters and those who have helped keep them fed and hydrated. In fact, things are still iffy in Central Texas, too. Not that you'd ever know that from reading Mr. Fire's blog post.
Burned By Fire, the author of the Mr. Fire's Pyre blog, had an almost immediate response:
But here we are again, with Mr. Fire saying that people should use the power of their mind -- and use intentions -- to make the wildfires stop. It worked for his friends!
But in other communications, he'll tell you that intentions are for wussies. Or that he never said that thoughts create magical miracles.
So. What is it? What's the truth? If thoughts, words, intentions and unconscious beliefs create reality, what is Mr. Fire creating every time someone types in mrfire.com? Fire. Everywhere. Fire. Central Texas. Fire. Joe Vitale. Fire boy.
But don't try to blame Mr. Fire for thoughts creating reality, unless it somehow makes him look like he isn't unconsciously Law of Attracting Fire to central Texas.
What stuck out the most for me in Mr. Fire's post was the part where he waxed profound about the true meaning of the wildfires:
These fires probably represent our own inner anger.
Jeez, I would really hate to think that all of these fires in my area happened because I am such a hater and have so much inner anger. However, I did notice that Joe used the hedging phrase, "probably represent." That way, when the inevitable back-flash of criticism comes roaring his way, if he chooses to publicly acknowledge it at all he can invoke the Rorschach excuse, as he did a few years ago during the San Diego wildfire brouhaha (we'll have more on that momentarily). He can say that the critics are negative and are misinterpreting his words due to their own inner stuff -- spiritual or emotional imbalances that can, of course, be fixed by one or more of his miracle products or services.
If indeed “These fires probably represent our own inner anger”, then that also explains all the torrential, monsoon-like rain WE’VE been getting here in the northeast. Because I tend to be a fairly happy and contented person, and I assume, in this whole spirit of taking-our-lame-metaphors-way-too-literally, that rain is the opposite of fire.
If my neighbors were planning a barbecue or a day at the beach, well, sorry. I’ll try not to be so goddamned happy next time.
To which I facetiously replied:
Oh, silly girl. The rain can be likened unto tears. Perhaps there are too many sad and depressed people in your region, or too many negative thinkers in general. I’m not saying that YOU, personally, are sad and depressed — at least not on the surface. But what about all of that unconscious muck, the stuff beneath the surface? It sounds to me as if you need some expensive Miracles Coaching or some other frauduct or flopportunity to uncover and release your inner sadness once and for all. Meanwhile, could you PUH-LEEZE send some of that rain our way?
That exchange happened before there were any comments published at all on Joe's blog, but it was prescient. Later I went back to his post and saw this comment:
I agree that the outer world is a reflection of our inner world. Sending out love and energetic healing can do wonders for the world.
Here in Maryland we have been dealing with massive rain and flooding. Does this represent an outpouring of emotion or sadness like crying?
So... maybe our problem in Texas is that not that there are so many angry folks but that not enough people are grieving. I'm sure many are grieving over their losses in the fire, but maybe that's not enough to send the rains. You have to try harder, people.
This is not the first time Señor Fuego has put his foot in his mouth regarding fire. Some of you may recall that in October of 2007, when wildfires were raging through the San Diego area, Joe wrote a blog post that brought the critics out in force. He mentioned that his friends and fellow "stars" of The Secret had escaped the misfortune suffered by so many others in the area.
It's interesting to me that 45 homes burned near the home of John Assaraf but his is safe.
Same with the home and office of James Ray.
Same with the manager of Lisa Nichols.
Said Mr. Fire: "Instead of wondering why they attracted a fire, it might be wiser to wonder how they didn’t attract a fire." He also noted that he had spent the previous day or so riding in a limo with Lisa Nichols and John Assaraf, who, he declared, "are not focused on fires. They are focused on the fire in their soul." Instead of fretting over mundane things like wildfires, they "spend their time working, making a difference, writing, speaking, and changing lives." He added, "Fires don’t stop people like this."
I didn't provide a link to the original post, because the post has since been removed from Joe's blog. But I wrote several blog posts about it (here, here, and here), and so did my pal Steve Salerno at SHAMblog. Steve wrote:
Statistically speaking... Vitale's original premise was way off the mark. There are tens of thousands of private homes in the areas of San Diego ravaged by the fires. Out of all that, about "365 properties" were lost. Even in the hardest-hit areas, most residents avoided disaster. Some 48,000 people live in Rancho Bernardo alone, occupying some 20,000 homes. If Assaraf and Nichols defeated the fire through positive vibes, they had plenty of company. Thankfully.
Many people took such umbrage at Joe's blog post that the next day he turned it right back around and blamed the critics for choosing to interpret his words in a negative light.
Yesterdays’s [sic] blog post seems to be a type of ink blot test: people responded to things that weren’t even there. A few people even got angry, which I find surprising and revealing.
For example, I made no direct comments about my fellow Secret co-stars and why they escaped the San Diego fires; I also made no direct comments about those who were harmed by the fires.
What I did say was I found it “interesting” and I invited readers to consider asking a different question about the experience.
From there, the blog post was interpreted depending on the readers’s [sic] mindset.
Considering the few people who seemed upset, it seems under their feeling is the idea that victims and victimhood are real; there is such a thing as powerlessness and bad luck; no amount of healing or cleaning or clearing can help.
I find that mentality to be the real problem...
I personally find egocentricity, insensitivity, and nonstop hustledorking to be the real problems, but I digress.
In his latest post Burned By Fire also mentioned the San Diego fire flap, and had more to say about it in the comments section:
Isn't it amazing that John Asshataraf was completely unscathed from wildfires because of the wildfires in his soul?
"Fires," says Mr. Fire, "don’t stop people like this."
Too bad that wildfire in his soul couldn't save his coaching business, which has, apparently, gone out of business.
And of course, we all know what the wildfire in James Arthur Ray's soul was about to do.
Knowing all we know now, reading some of Joe's words from that time are downright frightening. No wonder Tattoo took down that blog post
"Tattoo" is a reference to Burned By Fire's take on Joe's recent offer to hold a $50,000-a-pop "mastermind" on Richard Branson's Makepeace Island off the coast of Australia. Joe said a $50k weekend with him and his cronies would be like a Spiritual Treasure Island. I thought it might be more like Gilligan's Island, except the comedy would be unintentional. Burned By Fire envisioned Fantasy Island, with Mr. Fire as the midg...er... little person, Tattoo.
(For more details about what some of the stellar "teachers" in The Secret have been up to in the past few years, click here.)
I sent this comment to Mr. Fire's blog on the same day his Texas wildfires post was published:
And here’s what’s going on in my part of Texas, where we’ve been under mandatory evac since Tuesday.
Must be a lot of angry people out here. Or maybe they just didn’t get your email?
To his credit he published it and merely replied, "Stay safe." Really, that's the only appropriate thing to say to a hater like me. So far, though, my comment has been the only remotely critical one he has published. Most are more along the lines of this one:
Thank you for cleaning on the Wildfires. I have been doing this work for many many years as a spiritual practice.
It is wonderful that you can inspire so many people to join in and lovingly minimize the impacts of Natural Disasters. Earthquakes, floods, storms, hurricanes, tsunamis, wildfires, tornados [sic], pollution, global warming, HAARP, chemtrails, etc. can all be mitigated with enough conscious directed Love Power. Keep up the Good Works.
Peace of I,
Bishop Howard Dugan
And then there was this:
I am grateful that you reached out to your community on this. I did ho’oponopono and prayer work when I first received your email newsletter request.
When you mentioned wildfires in Texas as “contained” above, I must say a good part of me viscerally bristled at the suggestion. My whole upbringing consisted in being told to be obedient, and “containing” my fire.
I see that as the core message of the wildfires. It’s more about passion than peace. Be wild! Be fire! Blaze in all your glory! –or the will riots in a potentially destructive way as the will is enraged at being held down, dried and bound. God knows what happens when that spirit explodes. Homes are lost (homes reflect our self, or “being home for our own selves”) and trees burn down, land is parched. Sometimes lives are lost that didn’t escape before destruction engulfed them.
The message: If I don’t self-extinguish my flame, then the outer world is no longer bereft of my gift. And I don’t need feel or be explosive. I actually don’t feel THAT explosive at all; yet because of the email in my inbox, I took that as a personal call for cleaning… I explored it and, yes, I can consciously detect the seething and simmering anger at being denied to express creative will symbolized by the fire element...
Joe replied that these observations were very wise.
So... maybe what caused the wildfires was not an overabundance of anger, but unexpressed passion?
I think my own comment was was pretty mild, all things considered. Anything about Texas wildfires is going to hit pretty close to home -- literally -- since the area where Ron and I live is still under mandatory evacuation notice. As of this afternoon (Sunday, September 11), they will finally be lifting it in some areas because the firefighting efforts have gone so well in our county. Perhaps some of Joe's minions will credit that progress to the redirection of their love-bombing to our area.
On the other hand, many Christians or other traditional religious people will no doubt credit it to their prayers. The other night I was reading the county fire updates on Facebook, and someone started a thread with a prayer to banish Satan, who apparently started the fires. I thought at least one person would respond skeptically, but it was nothing but a chorus of "Amen." I decided not to join that conversation.
Despite the New-Wage love-bombing and the Satan-banishment efforts, it's not a done deal yet, and Ron and I have evacuated, devacuated, and revacuated several times over the past few days. We've had to spend nights in our van, cooped up with five dogs, two cats, and what few essentials we were able to fit into the van. The stress level has been high, but we are acutely aware that what we have experienced has been extraordinarily mild compared to many, many folks who have lost everything, or don't yet know what they've lost because they can't return home. So even though it sounds like I'm whining, and I sort of am, I am more profoundly grateful than I can express that I don't have more to whine about.
We certainly have it easy compared to our dear friends Christian and Lisa Seger at the organic goat dairy Blue Heron Farm, makers of the most exquisite chevre I've ever enjoyed. Christian and Lisa, who are celebrating their seventh wedding anniversary today (9/11) let us camp out in their front yard the other night. They're also currently putting up thirteen or so members of an evacuated family from another area goat dairy, as well as that family's goats, alpaca, and assorted other domestic critters, plus the goats from yet another dairy farm. At last count there were 107 goats on Blue Heron's ten-and-a-half acres. Besides tending to the usual nonstop farm duties, the Blue Heron Farmers and the refugees (well, some of the two-legged ones, anyway) have helped to coordinate relief efforts for affected area farmers as well as for hard-working firefighters. They are all to be applauded.
While I'm pretty sure that many prayers have been said by the believer contingent during this ordeal, I don't think any of the harried workers on the premises have had much time or inclination to do any of the things Mr. Fire has suggested, such as practicing Ho'oponopono or EFT Tapping, and I am pretty sure that they do not have the money to hire a boiler-room Miracles Coach. But I bet they'll come through it just fine nonetheless. (They've been busy making special Fieldstore Fire Chevre to help get themselves back on their feet.)
Meanwhile, the firefighters here and elsewhere in my state continue their heroic -- and I do not use that word lightly -- efforts to contain and ultimately douse the flames. In my area, the firefighting team is made up of 98% volunteers -- people who have given freely of their time and energy, missing work and risking their lives, to keep the rest of us safe. Our county is asking employers not to dock these volunteers' pay. But according to the buzz on Facebook, some companies are doing just that, and some folks are afraid they may lose their jobs because they missed work.
And despite Mr. Fire's suggestions for us to affect reality by pretending we "remember" the fires being put out by rain, so far the firefighting team has been relying on trucks and various aircraft, such as Black Hawk helicopters and DC-10 tankers. The weather, alas, has been stubbornly uncooperative. At least that's how it is out here in Waller County. Maybe it's different in Mr. Fire's circle of influence in Central Texas.
* * * * *
At its essence, Joe's Texas wildfires blog post is little more than a rehash of his past messages about Hurricane Rita in 2005, and Hurricane Ike in 2008. And those "scientific studies" he cites about how group intentions influence events such as fires, hurricanes, and so forth are all affiliated with the Maharishi/TM cult, a fact he consistently fails to mention. I noticed that he now says there are more than two dozen of those studies. When he first began blogging and writing about them there were just nineteen studies. Later on there were twenty-three. Now there are more than two dozen. The evidence must really be mounting. (For more information on this and the Mr. Fire branded McMiracles, see http://cosmicconnie.blogspot.com/2009/03/all-i-need-is-miracle.html.)
Regarding Mr. Fire's efforts with the mighty winds, I've written about this numerous times before, but will mention it again for the benefit of those who are new or who just want to review. He tackled Hurricane Rita via an email blast and a couple of articles on his Web sites in 2005 (http://www.mrfire.com/article-archives/new-articles/stop-rita.html). If you read the post to which I linked you will notice the implications that the loving intentions from him and his minions neutralized the storm; never mind that parts of Louisiana and East Texas were devastated, and the Hill Country, where he lives, was never in any danger anyway. A few years later he recycled the same email to "stop" Hurricane Ike. We saw how that one went over.
And just last month one of his fans, a guy named Jason who writes a blog about "secrets of manifesting mind power through forbidden science," recycled it again to "stop" Hurricane Irene on the East Coast: http://mindofpower.com/536/help-me-stop-irene-it-worked-before/
In a follow-up post, Jason wrote:
Well, the dreaded forecast for a Category 3 or 4 Hurricane Irene battering NC, NYC and the East Coast… didn’t happen.
She lost strength and began moving NNE, weaking [sic] to a Category 1 by the time she hit land. Of course the media is trying their best to make things sound as bad as they can… but in comparison to what they were expecting, Irene couldn’t withstand the multitudes of empowered people projecting their thoughts for Irene to weaken and dissapate [sic]. So, I’m calling the experiment a SUCCESS!
So you folks on the East Coast who were affected by Irene can rest easy. It would have been far worse if not for the noble efforts of a Joe Vitale wannabe.
As you may have figured out from Jason's comment as well as from "Bishop" Howard Dugan's remark above, Joe isn't the only F.M.M.D. (Faux Master of the Natural Disaster) workin' them storms and other forces of nature. I've written about several of them, most notably, a Florida woman who goes by the name Phoenix/Spirit Diva. She channels messages from the storms and is always saying that hurricanes are telling her that they're all about love and that they come in peace, so we should think loving thoughts about them and not be skeered. Matter of fact, for his latest fire post I think Mr. Fire may have borrowed some of her shtick when he advised, "Send love to the fires and see them burn out."
Maybe that's the problem with the fires that are still burning: the firefighters aren't sending them enough love. On the other hand, I would think that it would be difficult to convince a fire that you love it while you are furiously dousing it with water and chemicals in an effort to destroy it.
So what is it with these fires? Too much anger? Not enough grief? Not enough love? Stifled passions? Or Satanic influences? Maybe Goddess just hates Texas. That's okay; a lot of people do. I kind of like it here myself, but my liking it isn't enough to keep the fires away, apparently.
But enough nonsense. If you really want to help the firefighting and fire relief efforts in my area or in Central Texas, here's just one of many blog posts that lists some good options. (In the interests of fairness I will add that on his blog, Mr. Fire actually provided a link to real assistance sources, although it was focused on Central Texas.)
And if you're even thinking of spending money on frauducts or flopportunities from some New-Wage joker who claims to be able to help you communicate with hurricanes or wildfires, slap yourself on the wrist and funnel that money instead to genuine relief efforts for people whose lives and livelihoods have been torn asunder by the elements. If you can't donate money or food or clothing or other essentials, but still want to help out, donate time if you possibly can. And instead of drawing on New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality buffoons for inspiration, seek it instead from people such as Houston chef Chris Shepherd and his colleagues, who showed their love by organizing a food truck brigade rather than by tapping and Ho'oponoponoing.
At the very least, I recommend buying plenty of organic goat cheese and other products from small farmers affected by the Texas wildfires. (Blue Heron Farm, Swede Farm, and Fairwoods Farm, for starters.)* Eat at restaurants that buy from these farmers, such as one of my favorites, Backstreet Cafe in Houston. (Here for your drooling pleasure is Backstreet's autumn veggie menu.) Another good one I haven't tried yet but hope to soon: Vic & Anthony's Steakhouse. Haunt the farmers' markets, such as Urban Harvest and Magnolia Farmers Market. Patronize grocers such as Revival Market that specialize in locally sourced food. And no matter where you live, do whatever you can to support your local small farmers and producers. They work their butts off to bring you delicious, healthy, wholesome food, so the least you can do is to show them love in the way that matters most: by purchasing the products of their labor, and spreading the word about the good work they are doing.
* Disclaimer: I am not getting paid, either in money or cheese, for these endorsements. However, I do have a stake in keeping these small farmers in business because I really like them and I am utterly hooked on their goat cheese. So there's that.
Addendum 20 September, 2011: On September 15, nearly a week after he wrote the wildfires blog post I linked to above, Joe posted a follow-up.
Here’s an update on the Texas Wildfires situation that I asked you to help resolve in my last post:
The last I heard, the largest fires are mostly contained or stopped. The people I personally know in the Austin or Houston area have all returned home. And rain is expected by mid-next week.
All of your praying, meditating, visualizing and more, have all helped.
But we can’t stop now.
There are at least 1,500 people who lost their homes.
All of the fires are not out yet.
And we need more than a little rain...
To his credit, once again Joe provided a link to sources that are taking real-world action to provide wildfire relief. But his main theme was clearly that he (and of course his followers) were the miracle workers responsible for the fires being stopped or contained, as well as for the rainfall.
He used this post to address much of the criticism he'd received without directly acknowledging it. And as the fawning comments came in, he went out of his way to pat the fawners on the back, telling them that it's the good and loving folks like them who keep him going. And it also seemed clear that his main agenda, besides his usual self-promotional one, was to give the critics a big "so there!"
There's this, f'rinstance, from an Anders Svensson:
To be frank, what a piece of bullsh-t!
You would do a lot more good for the world if you started to spread understanding of human induced global warming and induced people to take action instead of doing meditation
You might want to re-read the post and note all the action I requested. Meanwhile, thank you for proving my point.
Granted, Anders left himself open to such a response by going on the offensive and using an expletive, as well as by failing to acknowledge that Joe had recommended action. However, Anders' criticism did not "prove" any point Joe was trying to make. A fan responded to this little exchange:
I kind of think that Joebot Keith is unaware that he's causing even greater laughter with his brown-nosing.
Then there's this subtle attempt to demonstrate that Joe's noble firefighting efforts have been vindicated:
Thank you. Love your work. The call to action for Texas was inspired and I’m gladly participating. Looks like you’ve touched some hearts (and some others’ nerves)...
...Peace and blessings to you!
Then there was this one:
- Marilyn Gordon September 17, 2011 at 11:01 pm
- Dear Joe,
Thanks for the beautiful messages you’ve been sending out about the wildfires, about attracting our good, and about finding the spiritual source. I’ve been sending people in your direction by posting links in my newsletter to your articles, products and gifts. Thank you, Joe!
To which Joe replied:
Joe also tweeted several times about the rain and said he felt like going out and dancing in it.
It's really no surprise that Joe would imply that his efforts had something to do with the rain. We saw that one coming a mile away. Yet despite the lovely vision he'd painted in a previous blog post/email blast about rain putting out the fires, it wasn't rain that caused the turning point in the fight against either the Bastrop fires or the fires in my area. It was the nonstop efforts of firefighters. In light of the early returns on his blog and Twitter page, though, I have a feeling those details won't be the focus of any of Joe's subsequent email blasts or blog posts about the magickal power of group intentions.
Regarding those magickal intentions, I'm reminded of my guy Ron's recent comment on Facebook:
Just a thought: If all the LOA followers actually believe that their thoughts redirected the Texas wildfires (and previous storms) as Joe Vitale claims, they must also assume some responsibility for the people who were harmed or even killed by the redirected events. You just can't have it both ways.
In a subsequent comment Ron added:
Joe's pronouncement reminds me of an old joke: A man walks up & down the street, snapping his fingers furiously. After a while, a passerby stops him and asks, "Why are you snapping your fingers so frantically?"
"I’m keeping the elephants away," says the man.
"But there are no elephants here," says the stranger.
"See. It’s working," says the man.
Joe apparently never learned the real-world relationship between causation and effect (or more likely, he assumes his followers never learned it and aren't likely to learn it now).
One commenter on Joe's September 15 wildfire post decided to expand the conversation:
konstantinos September 17, 2011 at 2:47 am
Hello Joe, Moving on to a different topic, I sincerely think it’s time to give a “once and for all” response to the people who doubt your academic credentials. All of us who got acquainted with your work and mentality will not be affected whatsoever, but I think that you should now allow people to mess with your reputation. You owe to yourself! Again, thanks for your inspiration! Best, K
A critic or two? At last count there were many more than that. I do agree with one thing Joe wrote: "My body of published work alone can out weigh any need for academic credentials." It certainly is possible to publish lots and lots of stuff and even be successful without a college degree. But that only raises the question: Why did he feel the need to purchase questionable credentials and call himself "Dr." Vitale in the first place?
In case you're new here and are wondering, one of his "doctorates" is in metaphysics, from the University of Metaphysics/University of Sedona, which until a few years ago was on the accreditation blacklist in Texas, meaning among other things that it was a ... degree misdemeanor to use such a degree to publicize one's business. As I wrote about here in 2009, the company was taken off that list in 2007 because it was deemed to be a religious institution, and due to that whole separation of church-and-state thang, religious U's are not subject to the same accreditation rules as secular U's. This means that, generally speaking, it's easier to get by with phony or questionable religious credentials than other types of credentials. Heck, even I am an ordained minister (Universal Life Church) and am legally able to perform weddings and stuff in the Great State of Texas, even though I am an agnostic. I got the "ordination" on a lark years ago. Not that you'll catch me going around doing ministerial things; I kind of think that would be hypocritical. It would also be somewhat disrespectful of the efforts of my friends who really have gone to seminaries for years and have actually studied and worked to get divinity degrees. Joe is also an ordained minister, though I suspect he got his ordination the same way I did.
Joe's other "doctorate" is in marketing, and it's an "honorary" one, based on some of the books he's written, according to an interview published in one of his hometown papers a few years ago. That degree is from a very questionable online "university," Belford, which is still on the Texas accreditation blacklist. Here's that list.
And as for his claim, "I simply don't pay attention to people who mess with my reputation..." Uh-huh. And if you believe THAT, he also has a $50,000 Island Mastermind Weekend to sell you.