Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Marianne Williamson: still so wrong

Note: This post has been amended; see text in blue.
~ CC, August 1, 2019

Among reporters and pundits and people whose mouths are agape over the sh-t show that American politix has become, the consensus seems to be that McSpirituality/New-Wage guru Marianne Williamson, whose presidential run I lambasted earlier this month, did better than expected on last night's Democratic primary "debates." (I still can't seem to bring myself to use the word "debates" without quotation marks, given the insane number of candidates and the arbitrary formats for these gabfests. Even so, I think that my current favorite, Senator Elizabeth Warren, shone as the true star.)

I will concede that Williamson's performance during last night's lineup was stronger than her previous effort, mostly because the CNN mods called on her more. That performance arguably gave her presidential shampaign some momentum, leading some watchers and would-be influencers to declare her
the unironic breakout star of last night's round (as opposed to being the ironic breakout star in the first round). And as with that previous round, her appearance led to a flurry of Googling; per GoogleTrends, she was the most-searched of the ten candidates during the debate in 49 of 50 states. (Montana was the lone exception; one wag suggested that it was because Montana Governor Steve Bullock was the number-one search in his own home state).

On stage, Williamson did seem to offer a couple of firm-ish policy ideas, controversial as some of them might be (e.g., her thoughts on reparations for descendants of African slaves), though invariably she would circle back to more abstract McSpirituality babble that sometimes didn't sound so different from fundamentalist hypoChristian talk about the devil -- such as when she warned of a "dark psychic force" in America. Despite this, or in some cases because of it, more than one of her utterances prompted some pretty loud and boisterous cheers from the live audience.

Not to mention the cheers on the Interwebs, as Williamson's online fans solidified her standing as the "orb queen" of the 2020 campaign.
In the Washington Post, Avi Selk wrote:
In the few minutes she got to speak, Williamson did not disappoint the online fan club of professed occultists, liberal peaceniks and ironic memeophiles who have gathered around the 67-year-old New Age guru’s metaphysical campaign for the White House...

...Williamson has harnessed
something from the body politic, whether love is the best term for it. Obsession might better describe her online community of devotees. Informally known as the “orb gang,” they celebrate Williamson’s mystical utterances with various levels of irony and earnestness — and a passion some of her rival Democrats might envy.
One person organizing what has been called "an occult task force" said that a group of 13 "chaos magicians," witches, and energy workers have been performing synchronized "gestures" to help their favorite candidate get airtime during the debates and throughout the race. Chaos magick, as Selk explains, is "a postmodern occult belief system that dates to the 1970s and bears similarities to the 'Course in Miracles' that Williamson preaches, insofar as both treat reality as a malleable thing that can be manipulated with ritualized thoughts."

Yup, sounds familiar. And Williamson does have quite the (religious) cult following, as evidenced by the fact that there are actually Marianne votive candles on the market. But let's put things in perspective. As Selk notes:
Magical thinking is not wholly alien to American politics. In “Dark Star Rising: Magick and Power in the Age of Trump,” the Blondie-bassist-turned-author Gary Lachman chronicles how a handful of Internet jokesters coalesced in 2015 to make ironic memes about Donald Trump somehow winning the presidency.
Yes, and as we've discussed previously on this blog, Trump has at least a small share of New-Wage/McSpirituality supporters, as well as wackadoodle fringe conspiranoid followers, who engage in their own kind of magical thinking.

But let's not forget
"Christian" magical thinking, of which the very vocal majority of the magical thinkers working on behalf of Donald John Trump are practitioners. They're out there. Way out there. And Trump is busily pandering to them and sometimes even pretending to be one of them.

So Marianne Williamson is not alone in attracting a cult following of magical thinkers and random irrational folk. There's definitely a cult of Trump -- and even though I don't believe in fighting cults with cults (which Marianne and her army of airy-fairies appear to be trying to do), so far it appears that the Trump cult is the more dangerous and destructive force, because it is by and large a cult of hate, and it is the one now in power.

All of which raises a few disturbing questions about what would happen if it really were to come down to Trump versus Williamson -- with the irrational, hateful MAGAnoids and the fiercely self-righteous prayer warriors/theocraps/Christian Sharia law proponents on one side, and the irrational, love-and-light-infused "chaos magicians" and new-age ninnies on the other. First, where does that leave the rest of the citizens of the republic -- those of us who are clinging to what is left of our sanity and critical faculties, and who want to elect a qualified president (like Elizabeth Warren, for instance) who will try to deal with real-world problems in a realistic and practical way that will be inclusionary rather than exclusionary?

Secondly, might such a rivalry set a horrid precedent regarding Church/State separation? Even though I've previously said (and still think) that I find Williamson's brand of McSpirituality, and her willingness to thread it throughout her political rhetoric, to be marginally less offensive and concerning than the "Christian" theocrap-ic efforts to take over American politix, I am still a firm believer in secular politics.

And finally, would a Trump v Williamson ballot ultimately result in Trump's re-election? I'm afraid we already know the answer to that question.

 * * * * *

Vox's Emily Stewart conceded that notwithstanding the new-agey babble, several of Williamson's statements last night made a lot of sense. Wrote Stewart:
One of her biggest moments was when she took aim at her fellow candidates on the issue of money in politics. “For politicians, including my fellow candidates who themselves have taken tens of thousands and, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars from these same corporate donors, to think that they now have the moral authority to say, ‘We’re going to take them on,’ I don’t think the Democratic Party should be surprised that so many Americans believe ‘yadda, yadda, yadda,’” she said, to applause.
Point taken. But if I may interject another plug, Elizabeth Warren is one of those who famously hasn't taken money from corrupt corporate donors either. Just saying.

Williamson also had some profound words last night about race and inequality, and unless you're totally in denial, you really can't argue with statements such as the one she made about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, and the role that systemic racism has played in that horror. She said:

This is part of the dark underbelly of American society -- the racism, the bigotry...We need to say it like it is. It’s bigger than Flint. It’s all over this country. It’s particularly people of color. It’s particularly people who do not have the money to fight back, and if the Democrats don’t start saying it, then why would those people feel they’re there for us? And if those people don’t feel it, they won’t vote for us and Donald Trump will win.
Yet Williamson seemed to be veering dangerously close to Trump I-alone-can-fix-it territory when she declared, in her closing statement:
...I want a politics that speaks to the heart. Because the only way to fight — you keep talking about how we’re going to fight Donald Trump. You can’t fight dog whistles. You have to override. And the only way you can override them is with new voices, voices of energy that only come from the fact that America has been willing to live up to our own mistakes, atone for our own mistakes, make amends for our own mistakes, love each other, love our democracy, love future generations. Something emotional and psychological that will not be emerging from anything on this. It will emerge from something I’m the one who is qualified to bring forth.
Now, that's a steaming heap of abject McSpirituality narcissism if I ever smelt it. On the other hand, it could be argued that Herr Twitler's "politics" speaks to the heart -- the dark heart, that is. Which sort of gives credence to the declaration by some that Williamson is in a sense a "progressive" version of Trump. See all that stuff about cults, above.

And actually she may not even be all that "progressive," and certainly not a "leftist," according to at least one observer. Just ahead of part 1 of the second round of Dem "debates," Noah Berlatzky posted a critical piece about Williamson on NBC News' Think site, exploring an angle of the New-Agey "love and light" passive-aggressiveness and hypocrisy that I touched on in my previous post about Williamson's candidacy. Granted, Berlatzky went deeper into the issue than I did in my post, writing that Williamson's "supposedly empowering rhetoric masks a mean-spirited individualism." He explained:
Williamson, like conservative thinkers, often blames material problems on personal failures. Her ideology may sound airy and inoffensive, but it is ultimately one of neoliberal victim shaming. And it would lead to harmful policies if she were, by some miracle, to be elected to public office.
Over the 13 years that this Whirled has been spinning, I've written several times about the general theme of New-Age guilt myself, that is, about the New-Age "you create your own reality" mindset, which later evolved into the Law of Attraction dogma popularized by the atrocious New-Wage moviemercial The Secret. These seemingly empowering concepts have all too often been flipped, becoming just another excuse to blame people for their own misfortunes. Everyone from Secret creator Rhonda Byrne to Abraham-Hicks to Joe Vitale has jumped on that blame train. Marianne Williamson wasn't part of The Secret franchise, but much of her work is rooted in that same faux-empowerment mentality.

I do have a couple of minor quibbles with Berlatzky's piece. My husband Ron Kaye pointed out, and I agree with him, that Berlatzky's description of Williamson's current rhetoric as "hippie" is inaccurate. Historically the hippies were more benign than the calculating, crapitalistic manipulator that Williamson has become over the decades.

And I am not quite as sure as Berlatzky seems to be that the blame-the-vic/mean-spirited individualist mindset would translate directly to harmful policies in the unlikely event of a Williamson presidency, at least if the policy outlines on her Marianne 2020 web site are any indication. (Aside from various unscientific declarations on vaccines (on which she seems to have walked back a bit) and clinical depression and AIDS, she doesn't seem to be a complete enemy of science, at least where climate science is concerned. So in that regard she comes out ahead of the Trumpsters and that whole gang of GOP climate-crisis deniers. But then again, Trump et al. have set the science bar pretty low, so consider this faint praise.)

And where various other social and economic issues are concerned, ya never know. If she is like most of her fellow leaders in what my pal and blogging colleague Chris Locke of
Mystic Bourgeoisie fame calls the "Spiritual Industrial Complex," a Williamson presidency would end up being as much of a disaster for the poor and struggling as the Trump reign is turning out to be. It would just have different slogans and music and caps.

This could all be moot, of course. After all, it's doubtful that Williamson's stage performances will really gain her much traction. Perhaps debate coach Todd Graham, whose piece on the CNN site I linked to earlier in this post (
here it is again), and who gave Williamson a grade of D-minus for last night's performance, said it best:
The problem with Williamson in this debate is that for every legitimate criticism of our government she gave -- and there were several -- she lacked follow-up solutions. She derided the "political insider game and wonkiness and intellectual argument," without offering a clear picture of her practical alternative. And her closing statement was something about emotional and psychological gobbledygook that finished with a crescendo like she was singing the big finale of a Broadway musical.

And if you don't mind me citing myself, let's review the reasons that despite her claims in her closing statement about being uniquely qualified to beat Trump, Marianne Williamson is not the one to do it. Besides Trump himself, there are...

...[Trump's] base, too: a firewall of irrational, tenacious MAGA soldiers who stick with their leader through thick and thicker, through dumb and dumber. Included among these supporters are viciously hateful MRAs (men's rights activists) who fancy themselves "alpha males" and spend their social media lives raging against women, feminism, "SJWs" ("social justice warriors"), and all manner of "snowflakes."... Then there are the theocrats who still think new-age spirituality is the work of the devil. And of course there are the random racists, xenophobes, and garden-variety ignoranti who won't even consider anyone but Trump, because they see him as their only hope to save America from a host of real and imaginary (mostly imaginary) threats. The hatriarchy truly has Trump's back. And beyond Trump's base, there is a wide field of powerful Republicans who are bent on remaking America in their own image and that of their wealthy donors. That's a lot for one faux-accented, love-spouting guru to tackle, even if she is a bad-ass Jewish Texan.

However solid some of her ideas may be, Williamson's public persona and general flakiness, not to mention her utter lack of qualifications for the most powerful position in the world, overshadow all of those good ideas.
It's entirely possible that despite the spike from last night's gig, Marianne's momentum is slowing down, and that she won't be able to qualify for the September "debates" in her former hometown and mine, Houston. Regardless, she would be doing us all a favor if she would drop out of the race sooner rather than later. She can still continue to entertain us from the sidelines.

  Related on this Whirled:
Off this Whirled but on a related planet:
  • 12 August 2008: Brilliant, Gorgeous, Talented and Fabulous -- The above-mentioned Chris Locke at the Mystic B blog writes snarkily and cleverly about Marianne, A Course in Miracles (the source for her original cash cow), and more.
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Monday, July 29, 2019

Mr. Fire switches back from whine mode to brag mode, 'cos that's the way he Rolls

As I mentioned a few times in a recent two-part post about New-Wage/McSpirituality luminary Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale's pending divorce (see Part 1 in particular), Joe has been going through some tough times. He and his new "life partner," dilettante and self-described lightworker and authenticity expert Lisa Winston, have both published numerous Facebook posts and videos about the grueling experiences they've suffered for the past year or so -- particularly these past few months. Joe claims to have experienced trauma, grief, betrayal, and abuse, among other things. Judging from some of her own posts, Lisa has experienced health challenges and other stuff that almost made her want to hang up her lightworker hat. But the two are apparently staying strong, despite the fact that Lisa's main Facebook page seems to be missing, at least for me; I'm thinking that I am simply blocked, though for the life of me I can't figure out why. 

To my knowledge, Joe never publicly specified exactly how he had been abused or betrayed, and who did the abusing or betraying; it may or may not have had something to do with the divorce. I really don't know. But just in case you were worried about him, there's no need. He seems to be back to his old self, boasting about living the high life, and tantalizing his followers and customers with promises that he intends to spend even more of the money they've been throwing his way.

For instance, just yesterday he posted
a short video on Facebook suggesting that his next "company car" is going to be a 2019 Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV. The implication is that Mr. Fire is going to be using the car not only to show off how successful he is, but also to help him suck even more money from more people.

In the video Joe says that he first saw this car at an auto show when "we" went to Thailand. The other part of "we" would be the aforementioned Lisa W, who accompanied him to Bangkok late last year, not long after he had filed for divorce.

As he walks around the car, capturing it on camera from various angles and close up, Joe says, "I have fond memories of the Rolls-Royce Phantom that I had years ago..."

Oh, my, yes, so do I. (And here's another one; see under, "I paid five grand to ride in a Rolls, and all I got was this dumb blog.")

Salty Droid has fond memories too.

So does
ABC News. You will most likely get an error message a few seconds after clicking on that ABC link, but at least you can see that ABC did cover this matter back in 2010, and not exactly admiringly.

here's me, writing the following year about the 2010 segments and subsequent ABC News coverage.You might also find some other useful links here.

A former close associate and friend of Joe's, Mark Ryan,
also remembers Joe's Phantom, and he even wrote about how Joe came to lease it for a few years.

For the benefit of those who don't recall, and who don't feel like following any of the links above: Joe (in)famously used the Rolls-Royce Phantom for a few years to conduct pricey "MasterMind" sessions. The deal was that for only $5,000, you and another person with far more money than sense could ride in the back seat of Joe's Phantom, with him behind the wheel and one of his cohorts riding shotgun. The four of you would glide in comfort and luxury through area streets, gabbing about whatever you wanted to gab about, and he would treat you to dinner at the restaurant of his choosing. And the four of you would brainstorm all night about ways you could get rich. It was all supposed to be profoundly life-changing.

Alternatively, if you wanted Joe and his bud all to yourself for the whole evening, it would set you back not $5,000 but $7,500. Either way, you were responsible for all of your travel and lodging and miscellaneous expenses, including any therapy you might need later on down the road when you finally figured out what a waste it had all been.

After Joe's lease for the Phantom ran out and he had to return the thing, he continued to conduct his overpriced scam on wheels with other expensive brag-mobiles. (
Here's a blog post he wrote while he still had the Phantom, but had decided to start offering MasterMinds in other vehicles.)

And now, if we are to believe his Facebook vid, Joe is contemplating a brand-new ultra-luxurious Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV. Prices start at $325,000; in an October 2018 video
CarTV described it as, "The World's Most Expensive SUV!" The comments for the CarTV video are amusing, with some saying that the Cullinan looks "hideous," "vulgar," "like a funeral car." It will come as no surprise that a couple of others accuse the critics of being jealous; one wrote, "Envious peasantry in the comments who can't afford it!" (Sound familiar?)

No matter. Joe's fans and followers rallied to him, praising his choice, congratulating him in advance, and even suggesting that he start up the Rolls MasterMinds again.

So for those of you who were seriously worried about Mr. Fire's well-being, all is well. He's clearly still raking in the bucks, and is ready to Rolls on down that Scamworld highway.

PS added 2 August, 2019 ~ In a new blog post published on August 1, Joe gifted his fans and followers with an update on his recent activities. He ran through the expected laundry list of the stuff he is still doing after all these years... traveling, speaking, creating, filming, "singing," grieving (for his dad, who died in April, as well as for other unspecified family tragedies), learning, clearing, reading... and growing. Of the latter, he wrote:
The past year has been the most turbulent of my life in decades. Not just grief, but anguish. I walked the streets many evenings feeling despair. Yet during the day I’d smile and post happy Facebook and Instagram photos and videos. It’s been intense. I imagine I’ve been the caterpillar struggling to break free. I’m ready to fly as a beautiful butterfly. It’s also a reminder that there is always inner work to do. We all need to keep peeling the onion and getting clear. Even you. Even me.
Even Joe, the Buddha of the Internet?!? I am shocked. He wraps up the list by assuring his readers that he is "Still loving":
Despite a turbulent year of uncertainty and change – and at age 65 – I am soaking up the joy of a divine connection with someone who wants love, lust and laughter as much as me. As circumstances unfold, I’ll share the specifics of this news with you. For now, let it be known that love is alive and love is good.
If you just can't wait to learn the "specifics of this news," no problem. As I mentioned way up above at the beginning of this post, I already posted the spoiler last month in a two-part blog post that begins right here. For the benefit of those who are super-pressed for time and don't feel like following the link in the previous sentence, or even like scrolling up to the beginning of this post, let me give it to you again in a nutshell (emphasis on the "nut" part): Last November, Joe skipped out on the former great love of his life, his wife Nerissa Oden, with whom he had been for nearly 20 years, and he cast his lot with a SNAG (sensitive new age gal) dilettante named Lisa Winston, who has branded herself as a lightworker, "intuitive mindset strategist," authenticity coach, TV producer, and "gifted vocalist." Together those two are apparently planning to conquer the McSpirituality/New-Wage world. Here is a link to their official portrait, suitable for printing and flaming... I mean, framing.

Joe ends his blog post with
a parting (screen)shot at "critics," in this case a meme of a quotation by Theodore Roosevelt about how it is not the critic who counts but rather the dust-, sweat-, and blood-marred man who is in the arena striving valiantly and whatnot. If past history is any indication, this could almost lead one to believe that Mr. Fire is reacting to recent critical writings about him. To misquote Samuel Johnson, "Critic-blasting is the first refuge of a criticized scoundrel."

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Saturday, July 27, 2019

Blog Mitzvah? Whirled Musings turns thirteen

Today, Whirled Musings is thirteen years old. As I wrote a couple of years ago on the Whirled's eleventh blogaversary, and have mentioned numerous other times, this all began as a humor blog about New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality/alt-health culture and scams and scammers. But it grew more serious as the darker side of this culture became more glaringly apparent; the James Arthur Ray "sweat lodge" deaths in 2009 marked a turning point. And in later years, Whirled Musings grew more political as well. I still try to be funny once in a while, and I am sure there are times I'm unintentionally humorous, but there are some serious messages as well in these hundreds and hundreds of pages.

And as I wrote on
a New Year's post at the beginning of 2016, I never dreamed when I first began blogging that I would even keep it up for so many years. I simply decided to start writing and see how things went. Over the years I've gained a modest following, with the emphasis on "modest" rather than "following." And I've received my share of feedback over the years -- lots of criticism to be sure, but also lots of messages from people who have thanked me for either validating their own experiences or for helping to keep them from wasting money, time, or emotional energy on some scam or scammer. That's one of the factors that keeps me going.

For the most part, my blog posts (even the more serious ones) have been on the superficial side, but there's still almost always a deeper message or larger theme. Like me, my posts may be shallow, but they're shallow in a profound way. I've rarely broken any journalistic ground here, and haven't pretended to, although mainstream journalists have contacted me for help with major stories and features over the years.

And I have also covered a few topics that haven't been critically written about in many other places, such as the partially-Scientology-inspired sex-and-money cult
Access Consciousness... and the cult of Anastasia (not the late tsar's daughter but the imaginary babe in the woods)... and alt-health quack/conspiranoid/fascist Leonard Coldwell (who unsuccessfully sued me a few years ago)... and a predatory poser performance artist in Maui who calls himself Dreaming Bear... and more. I've also written about some scams and scammers that several others have criticized, but are worth a mention here, such as the Abraham-Hicks racket. I covered the civil and criminal cases of now-imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau extensively. And, oh, yes, I recently broke the news about Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale's divorce, which he apparently isn't talking about yet in public.

last year's Blogaversary post I described my blog as a fool's errand, which in a sense it is, because I'm just one little barking, snarking dog watching an endless caravan of scammers who will scam on no matter what. But I intend to keep on blogging anyway, and eventually I may even finally update my template, as I've been promising to do for the past eleven or twelve years.

For now, if you're looking at the Web version, there's a Donate button on the left-hand side, right under the blog description. (If you can't find it, just Paypal to or, or use the shameless beg blurb below.)

In other words,
please feel free to feed the Snark! But even if you can't donate, thank you for stopping by, and thank you again for your support over the years.


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Thursday, July 25, 2019

Colleen Conaway: ten years after

July 25 marks the ten-year anniversary of the day that 46-year-old Colleen Conaway died during a San Diego event held by New-Wage/McSpirituality guru James Arthur "Death" Ray, of whom Conaway was a devoted follower. She plummeted to her death from an upper-level balcony of a San Diego mall during one of Ray's weekend "wealth creation" seminars, and when Ray and his top people discovered she was missing, and later learned of her death, they kept it under wraps and partied on. Ray was later convicted of negligent homicide, not for Colleen's death but for the deaths of three other people in Sedona, Arizona, in October 2009. He served less than two years in an Arizona state prison, and has been spending the time since he got out of prison trying desperately to make a comeback in Scamworld.
~ CC

Every year at about this time, there is a gathering, in a desirable location undisclosed publicly until after the fact, of an elite-ish group of self-appointed "thought leaders" known as the TLC, which stands for Trained Liars Cartel... I mean, Transformational Leadership Council (aka the Transformational Leadership Council...of Death). They hold semi-annual meetings; the other one always takes place in late January. Founded in 2004 by Jack Canfield, co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul (aka "Soup for the Hole" in Salty Droid parlance) franchise, the TLC made Scamworld history at its 2005 event in Aspen, Colorado. It was there that Aussie TV and film producer Rhonda Byrne, desperately scrabbling for a new money grab, filmed some of the TLC members for what was to become the mother(f---er) of all New-Wage moviemercials, The Secret. This year's summer meeting of the TLC began yesterday (July 24) and continues through July 28.

Though he is no longer listed as a member, or even mentioned,
on their web site, convicted killer James Arthur "Death" Ray was a founding member of the TLC and was, as a consequence, one of the most flaming pants-on-fire "stars" of The Secret (he was the guy with the Genie). So you might say that it is bitterly ironic that the summer meetings of the TLC always fall around July 25, which was the day in 2009 that one of Ray's most faithful followers, Minnesota native Colleen Conaway, jumped to her death from an upper-level balcony of a San Diego shopping mall during one of Ray's "wealth creation" manipulation weekends. (If you follow the link in the previous sentence, you'll find some posts I've written on past anniversaries. And if the graphic on today's post looks overly familiar, it is because it is a repeat of the one I used for last year's anniversary post and which was originally created for the post I wrote the year before that.)

a 2013 Verge article about Ray called "The Death Dealer," Matt Stroud explained:
As part of a two-day seminar... Ray had instructed his participants to pretend they were homeless. Soon after, one attendee, 46-year-old Colleen Conaway, jumped to her death from the fourth floor of a shopping mall. A yet-unsettled lawsuit in San Diego claims that Ray knew Conaway had gone missing, but ordered the group to leave the mall without her. He and his employees did not contact police until six hours after Conaway’s death — and after leaving concerned-sounding messages on her cellphone, which she’d turned over to Ray’s staff before the homelessness exercise. She’d also given up her driver’s license, which led authorities to label her a Jane Doe until Ray’s people eventually faxed over a copy of her ID.
Salty Droid had some cynical words for Ray and his peeps; here's one of numerous posts he wrote about the tragedy.

Colleen's family was bewildered by her death and said she didn't have a history of depression or suicidal tendencies. To them it was pretty clear that she had been unduly influenced by her idol, Ray.

Though James Ray was arguably a rising star in the motivational racket before The Secret, it was his participation in that craven franchise that propelled him to the A-list. He only grew more arrogant and ruthless as his star rose, and at numerous live events he recklessly subjected his followers to emotional abuse and physical danger. It isn't much of a stretch to say that The Secret -- and the TLC -- are at least partially responsible for the deaths of Colleen Conaway in July of 2009,
as well as the deaths of the three people who died in Ray's Sedona "sweat lodge" the following October. It's very likely that Colleen's story wouldn't have gotten the traction it did had it not been for the Sedona deaths.

As I noted in last year's post and on numerous others, I've only covered Colleen's story superficially; some of my fellow bloggers, including the aforementioned
Salty Droid, have written in much more depth about Colleen. (And for the next few paragraphs I'm just going to copy and paste a bit from last year's post.)

For instance,
here's my friend in Germany, Yakaru, writing on the third anniversary of Colleen's death.
Not every “self help” teacher shares Ray’s dangerous combination of stupidity and sadism, but it’s a slick and ruthless system that has been constructed and refined over decades. Every possible devious sales technique has been worked into these routines.

Colleen walked into this trap, hoping to learn how to fulfill her dreams and get the best out of herself. Once she had committed herself to Ray’s program and handed over her money to him, he had immense power over her: she would have felt he held the key to her dreams and hopes.

In essence, James Ray stole her dreams and then set about selling them back to her at the highest possible price.
Also cited in Yak's blog post is another excellent post by Salty Droid, written in 2009.
After Colleen’s death Lynn [Colleen's sister] found that she had been filling out 3x5 cards with what looked like James Ray’s sayings or directives. They were all over Colleen’s house :: Hundreds of them :: Along with spiral notebooks full of similar gibberish. Colleen had been directed to keep a list of her ‘old limiting views’ and her new ‘harmonic views.’ Lynn sounded anguished recalling her feelings at seeing that Colleen had lined though many of the values that 2008 Colleen would have treasured. Scratching off pieces of herself :: one at time :: replaced with empty lies.

And now, ten years later, Death Ray is still struggling to make a Scamworld comeback, as recently mentioned again on this Whirled. Recently he has been peddling "Crisis Coaching ®, a flopportunity by which he helps other presumably disgraced people with their own "comebacks." Trouble is, he hasn't exactly mastered the comeback feat himself, which is bad for him (yay!), but good for the world.

Not that Ray doesn't have his small but loyal fan base; he does. But if there's any justice in the world, his evil little monkey wings have been clipped enough that he'll never get the opportunity to kill someone again. As he continues to find new ways to make himself relevant again -- and as his former club-mates in the Trained Liars Cartel party it up wherever it is they're convening -- my heart goes out to the family and friends who loved Colleen Conaway.

Never forget.

PS ~ As I have often mentioned here on my posts about Death Ray, if you're at all tempted to give money to Ray or to any other Scamworld scammer for any reason, give it instead to a worthwhile organization, such as
Seek Safely, which was founded by death lodge victim Kirby Brown's family to guide consumers and make self-help practitioners more accountable for their actions through legislation. (Here is the link to donation info.) So far, as I've also mentioned numerous times, more than 160 leaders in the industry have been invited to sign the "Seek Safely" promise, and not one of the A-list crew has yet done so. While some of them are now dead, such as Louise Hay and Wayne Dyer, the invitation has been open for years, but nobody who's really anybody in the industry seems very interested. That should tell you something.

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Thursday, July 18, 2019

Mr. Fire and his new "Twin Flame": burning a path of destruction? -- Part 2 of 2

In my previous post I wrote about the pending divorce between New-Wage luminary Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale and Nerissa Oden, who had been central to both his personal and professional existence for two decades (case number 18-2637 in the 207th District Court in Hays County, Texas). Joe's new amour de sa vie is a former lounge singer and current New-Wage dilettante (self-styled coach, "lightworker," and so forth) named Lisa Winston, whom most of you probably never heard of before you met her here (and to think that I'm not even getting paid for the publicity). Lisa, like Joe, is discovering the power of storytelling in the service of commerce. But as I said in Part 1, it's wise to look beyond the stories.

Stories can be powerful, whether or not they're true
Lisa Winston has written at length about many terrible things she has experienced in her lifetime: the tragedies, the traumas, the abuse, the dark nights of the soul. Much of her current branding, and certainly much of her book, Your Turning Point, is based on her backstory. Among other things, she says she has been raped and otherwise sexually abused several times, she has been married to men who cheated on her, she has experienced multiple business failures, she has dabbled with substance abuse and sexual promiscuity, she has fought breast cancer (and watched her mother die of the same disease), and she even lost her home in the San Diego wildfires of 2007.

It was that last item that caught my attention, for I recall quite an extensive flame war, if you'll pardon the expression, over the 2007 San Diego wildfires -- this was in the heyday of The Secret -- centering around a now-deleted blog post that Mr. Fire himself wrote about those very disasters. Since the original source material is no longer there, you'll have to rely upon the Whirled archives,
such as this October 26, 2007 post, in which I wrote:
Mr. Fire tells us that while 45 homes burned near the home of Secret star John Asshat Assaraf, John’s home is safe! And so are the home and office of another Secret star, James Earl Ray…oops, I mean James ARTHUR Ray. (James EARL Ray is deceased, and so, because of him, is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Sorry; I keep getting my James Rays mixed up.) Furthermore, the manager of yet another Secret star, Lisa "Hairdo" Nichols, also escaped the fires unscathed.

"Instead of wondering why they attracted a fire," writes Mr. Fire, "it might be wiser to wonder how they didn’t attract a fire." Mr. Fire says he has spent the last day or so with Lisa and John, who, he says, "are not focused on fires. They are focused on the fire in their soul." What sets them apart from others, apparently, is that they "spend their time working, making a difference, writing, speaking, and changing lives." Same goes with
Dr. John Demartini, yet another Secret star and a friend of Joe’s for more than 20 years. Like the others, Dr. Demartini lives a life of passion and purpose.

"Fires," says Mr. Fire, "don’t stop people like this."
If that statement of Joe's seems a little bit dismissive to you, or perhaps even offensive, you're not alone; scads of other folks also took offense at Joe's implication that people whose homes were destroyed were somehow at fault for not being skilled enough in the Law of Attraction.

Mr. Fire apparently took offense at their offense, and passive-aggressively defended himself in a subsequent blog post, which also seems to be missing in action. But
here's the historical record on this blog. As so many New-Wage gurus do when they're criticized, Joe turned the criticism back onto the critics.

And here is
a followup, in which I noted that Mr. Fire had "cleaned" his blog of all the negativity (this is the post with the comments section containing the discussion about "Jonathan" and Marian, as cited in my previous post).

I'm assuming that Lisa Winston's home was one of those destroyed in these wildfires. Judging from
this November 2007 article in which she is mentioned, I think I'm right. I wonder what Lisa would have thought of Joe's dismissiveness and arrogance back then. It's all moot now, I suppose, since she and her Twin Flame are currently in the slow and tortuous process of metaphorically burning down yet another house while trying to convince themselves and the world that the inferno is the radiant light of the Divine.

But... oh, yes, stories. We were talking about stories. Please know that I am not making light of the grueling emotional experience of caring for a dying parent, or struggling with cancer, or losing everything in a wildfire, or any of the sexual or other types of abuse that Lisa claims to have suffered over the years -- or, for that matter, the fears and frustrations around business failures and financial crises.

But I would be remiss were I not to don my Captain Obvious uniform and point out that Lisa Winston is now enthusiastically exploiting these dramas and traumas and fears and frustrations in the service of selling... well, whatever it is she's selling. There is of course nothing extraordinary in her use of her dramatic backstory as a framework for her current marketing efforts. It's so commonplace as to be banal for those in the selfish-help industry to spill their guts about all of the mistakes they've made and the horrible experiences they've had.

For instance, Joe has gotten a lot of mileage out of his "formerly homeless" tale, which centered in Dallas or Houston, depending upon the version you read, but which no one can really confirm, so we'll just have to take it on faith. And for years he teased us with his "plan to fight homelessness," Operation YES, which he said was inspired by his own long-ago experience, and which he first announced in 2008. In some promos he said his plan could end homelessness in one day.

Some folks -- and I was certainly one of them -- wondered exactly what Operation YES was and what it was supposed to do. Was it a charity? Was it a solid proposal for an actual plan to collaborate with community residents and leaders, and/or local and federal governments, to tackle the problem? Was it a plan to build quality, affordable residences for the homeless, or to provide job training and employment assistance for those who wanted it? Nope, nope, and nope... none of the above. People asked him about it for years, and for years he refused to really answer the question with anything but a "just wait, you'll see, it'll be great" dodge, and when persistent people tried to corner him to get details, he had a tendency to get a bit snitty about it. His dodging the questions about Operation YES inspired numerous snarks from various bloggers...
like this one.

But it turned out, and this will probably come as no surprise to you, that Operation YES, when it was finally "launched," was
just another sales funnel for Joe and some of his hustledork cohorts. I think there was some book involved, to make it seem as if something of concrete value was being provided up front. Wikipedia mentions OpYES in passing, though it's really a stretch to classify it as "Humanitarian work." Someone probably needs to get in there and correct that.

Though Operation YES is a big nothing, Joe is still milking the "formerly homeless" cow and has even recently helped someone else do it, which explains, in part, his repeated trips to Thailand. If you thought Thailand was just an exotic beach destination, a paradise for expats and tax scofflaws, or an attractant for disgusting middle-aged Western sex tourists in search of nubile females or underaged boys, then baby, you don't know Thailand. These days
it's apparently also a hub for Western-style hustledorkery and motivational money grabs. Joe helped a rich millennial in Thailand, Andres Pira, pen an autobiographical/inspirational homage to the Law of Attraction, titled Homeless to Billionaire. Pira is a real estate developer and founder of the Success Events org I linked to above. Here's a blog post Joe wrote while the work was in its early stages in December 2017. And here's an early teaser for the book, a video in which Joe boasted about his own rags-to-riches story and casually mentioned that he is now "living the lifestyle of the rich and famous."

It should be noted that Andres Pira is a Thai baht billionaire, and 1 Thai baht equals 0.032 United States Dollar, meaning that one billion dollars in Thai bahts is equivalent to $32,371,500.00 in US Dollars -- at least as of the moment that I'm pounding out this sentence. So the word "billionaire" is relative. (For some reason this reminds me of Joe's "multi-million dollar estate," which is how he described his house for years in order to use its monetary value as a marketing hook. But it turned out to have a market value of considerably less than half a mil at the time that the Mr. Fire's Pyre blog caught him in the fib, after which he changed his marketing. Although like most other properties this one has gone up in value considerably since then, and it is a lovely home from what I've seen, it is still well below being even a million-dollar estate, say much less a multi-million dollar one.)

Still, Andres Pira is Thai-wealthy, and would even be US-wealthy -- though not a billionaire -- if he lived in the US. But we'll have to take his word for it when he tells his own
homeless-to-billionaire backstory, since we weren't there. One point that does seem clear is that his narrative is giving The Secret a new boost for a new generation of marks, since Pira claims that he reached a big turning point in his formerly distressed existence when a friend gave him the book instead of loaning him money as he'd requested.

No doubt about it: stories are powerful, whether or not they're completely true. And hucksters love to tell stories. Some of those tales may be exaggerated, and some are totally false, like
imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau's tales of the "Brotherhood" and the GIN Council, as well as his backstory about the recording of the GIN upsell CD series, Your Wish Is Your Command -- all of which suckered thousands of people into giving Trudeau millions of dollars between 2009 and 2013. (Joe himself helped promote Kevin's lies in order to get people to join GIN.) As well, "confessional" stories told for marketing purposes may be promoted as being brutally honest, but generally have a tendency to underplay the tellers' own misdeeds, or to frame those misdeeds in a tale of massive redemption. It's usually all but impossible to know for sure what's true and what isn't, and most fans and followers simply accept the stories on faith.

In any case, transforming dysfunction into dollars is the most common form of New-Wage alchemy, so it's not surprising that Lisa Winston would do it too. If I had any real ambition I would do that myself, instead of wasting my time pounding out posts on this little blog for no money (donations are always warmly welcomed, however, and at this point very much needed). As I've said many times before, I've gotta find me a scam...

The point is that serial misfortune and a chronically dysfunctional life are not barriers to entry in the motivational industry; on the contrary, they're very often advantages, if you know how to commodify them. And in any case, numerous other luminaries who are much more successful than Joe or Lisa have had colorful and sometimes troubled pasts, a notable example being guru-to-the-stars and current Democratic presidential candidate
Marianne Williamson, whom I wrote about in my previous post. (As it happens, Lisa Winston supports Marianne for president, writing earlier this year, "I supported her campaign physically when I lived in LA and I fully support her again. It's time for a rise in consciousness and time for real change." Whatever you say, Lisa.)

After she'd been struggling for years, things were coming to a head for Lisa. Writing in Your Turning Point, she describes a financial crisis experienced when she decided she absolutely must invest in an expensive "coaching program." Her head told her she couldn't afford it, but her higher self or whatever gave her the green light.

I had to split the down payment between three credit cards... When it came time to start the program and come up with more money per month than my rent, I was faced with challenges. So, as per years of business coaching advice, I jumped in, said yes to stretching, and I learned problem solving on a whole new level. The mastermind required that I fly to San Antonio for a few weekends, so I found a way to do that, too. Long story short, this decision was one of the defining moments that led to my dinner with Joe. You wouldn't be reading this book if not for that decision.

So all's well that ends well, and you have my permission to read between the lines. You probably won't be far wrong. The chronicle of pain that Lisa recounts has a happy ending, and much of it seems to revolve around Joe Vitale, the deus ex machina that appeared like magic on the stage of her troubled life.

Or, to use another metaphor, Lisa hopped right on that Vitale "escalator through life," which he wrote about in Spiritual Marketing and in The Attractor Factor. It's like deja screw, all over again.

Indeed, "enjoy the ride"... that is, until the escalator malfunctions, or you get tossed off.

And now, past and present troubles notwithstanding, it appears that the Joe-and-Lisa snow must go on.

Two hucksters for the (exorbitant) price of one
From all indications, Joe and Lisa are shaping up to be a farce to be reckoned with: Scamworld's newest
MystiCouple, you might say. And they seem poised to ignite the world with their timeless message of what passes for love in their nation of two. They've already done Thailand and Italy together and are making plans to go back to Europe. On May 15 of this year, Lisa wrote this on her Facebook page:
Our precious friend Ivan Nossa is working on our European tour, starting next May!! Joe, Ivan and I will be speaking in many countries including Italy and Slovania, bringing our messages of love, joy, hope, healing, possibility and inspired action to people in bigger ways. I am beyond excited, grateful and blessed that my mission is getting ready to expand in ways I could never imagined. Here’s to a life of miracles!
Slovania! I'm impressed. Maybe Lisa and Joe will ultimately be honored with a chainsaw statue like that of Melania. Anyway, watch out, Europe. If the rising tide of fascism doesn't get you with real hate, our self-absorbed New-Wage pickpocket pair might get you with fake love. Hold on to your wallets.

her Global Voice interview I cited in my previous post, Lisa talks about having the honor and joy of accompanying Joe on his most recent trip to Thailand. She was, she said, blessed to be able to hang out with "thought leaders." One such was Chicken Soup for the Soul magnate and Transformational Leadership Council founder Jack Canfield. She was thrilled to be able to pose for pics with him and to network with all sorts of other fascinating folks. Asked by the interviewer what was coming next, Lisa replied:
Well, I’m honestly still in transition. There are many things in the works that I’m not able to share just yet. There are amazing things “in the works” for my Mindset Reset TV Show and my co-host, Robert Clancy and I. As well, I’m in the midst of creating a companion workbook for “Your Turning Point,” as well as the audio version. I’m writing a few other books, several of which I’m co-authoring with Joe. Joe and I have plans to do an album or two together. I’m creating a program from my live event. There will be other live events in the future. I may start minimally coaching again because people are asking. I’m very much focused on speaking gigs this year on. So, the world is my oyster and the possibilities, endless. I’d love to update you later this year!
Hmm. I'll just bet there are some things she wasn't able to share just yet, possibly because Joe was still trying to get her to keep a lid on some things while he was working out ways to come out ahead in the divorce. I'm just projecting, of course, based upon my own cynical worldview and what I've seen in similar cases. Lightworkers might view things in a different... well... light.

While we're awaiting those amazing "in the works" things and the other stuff that Lisa can't yet share, she and Joe have already produced quite a lot of content together. For example, there's this one, on "Overcoming Public Speaking Fear." A friend of mine laughed and said that the first part of this and other vids they have done together look and sound like Grandpa and Grandma trying to figure out how the Interwebz works.

The video was to promote a late October 2018 "Intensive" event in Austin called, "Own The Stage." Joe had also
promoted it on his blog earlier that month, via a PS in which he wrote about how "open and playful" he and Lisa had been with each other on their vid.

Lisa is no stranger to solo videos either, and in this one (and I apologize in advance for the earworm), she "returns to her first love, singing." Sadly, it appears to be an unrequited love, as singing does not seem to love her back. Were lousy acoustics and/or poor recording quality to blame for the fact that the performance sounds like karaoke Thursday at the Ramada lounge? I couldn't say, but I wasn't impressed. [Note: A few days after I had published the preceding, I found another link to this performance on Lisa's own Facebook page, and in the accompanying comment she did make a mention of "karaoke night," so I guess I have a pretty good ear. (She also said she had a cold that night.) ~ CC, 22 July 2019]

Not that I can sing either -- goodness knows I can't -- but on the other hand, I  have never tried to brand myself as a gifted vocalist. Lisa may indeed be gifted in that department, but maybe it's a gag gift. By the way, here's a screen shot of my visit to YouTube to watch the video. This is the original link I saw after searching for "Lisa Winston vocals" on Google. I had not been searching for information on sociopathy and psychopathy and liars before my preview. Do the YouTube bots know something we don't?

Vocal limitations aside, I'd say that Lisa is a more talented singer than Joe, who has billed himself as "the world's first self-help singer-songwriter," and has decreed several of his albums to be bestsellers. Take this 2015 recording (please). (Again, apologies for the earworm.) Is there deliberate irony in the warning, "Don't Take the Hook" and the montage of images showcasing the many ways in which Joe both took the hook and is trying to hook others?

With all of that vocal talent on tap, I can't wait till Joe and Lisa record an album together, as they've been threatening to do. They could very well be the next
Garth and Kat, that is, if they really step up their game, maybe hire a vocal coach. As I recall, Joe already went the vocal coach route a few years back, but if at first you don't succeed...

I can't really fault Lisa for trying to find other ways to make a living besides being a singer. Having had numerous friends in the arts over the years, I know that music, much like the visual arts, is a very difficult way for most folks to make a full-time living, no matter how much talent and skill they have. So it is understandable that Lisa would want to dabble in other ways to pull in some money, such as "coaching," which, due to the very low entry bar, is a fallback for so many folks. That said, I have to add that both she and Joe arguably do less damage with music that is marketed as entertainment (earworm potential notwithstanding) than they do with more straightforward and expensive selfish-help and McSpirituality offerings.

Although I've roasted her mercilessly here, I actually feel a sort of affinity with Lisa Winston. Consider this: Her "business," at least according to her Facebook profile, is called Cosmic Love LLC... and I am Cosmic Connie. Spooky, huh? But wait, there's more. Even though Lisa seems on first glance to be just another New-Wage/selfish-help phony, a closer look reveals that she may not be just your garden-variety poser. Instead, in light of the fact that much of her branding in more recent years has centered around her professed love for, and expertise in, that popular conceit known as "authenticity" (here is a 2015 vid where she announces her entry into the authenticity racket), she is not merely phony: Lisa Winston is authentically phony. Or phonily authentic, if you prefer. Similarly, though I may seem to be merely shallow, I am, upon closer examination, revealed to be profoundly shallow. Or shallowly profound, if you prefer; it makes no difference to me. Where serious shortcomings are concerned, I like to think that both Lisa and I go below and beyond normal expectations.
Speaking of Cosmic Love LLC, you may wonder what type of company it is. Good question. There is
a generic, auto-generated non-description on Facebook, which says nothing more than that Cosmic Love LLC is based in San Diego and that so far a grand total of six people "like this topic." Google is no more enlightening. Maybe Cosmic Love LLC was once active but is currently inactive, or maybe it is just a prop to make Lisa seem more credible in the business world, or maybe it's simply aspirational, or maybe it's a means to funnel money... who knows? I don't, and the corp-wiki sites aren't telling.

Why this matters
Why focus so much on gossip about the personal lives of my subjects? Usually, even at my "meanest," I focus more on the public personas rather than the private lives. But here's the deal (as Joe used to say a lot in his promotional copy): When you build a brand around that private life, and you use personal details as a very public marketing tool, and you hold forth as a spiritual leader or guru, a conduit for truth and "authenticity" -- and, by implication, as an example for others to follow -- maybe you should be held to a higher standard of behavior than the average self-centered or misguided bumbler who doesn't live the most exemplary life. As I wrote in
a 2009 blog post:
...unlike most celebrities (with the exception of those who cross over into the self-help world themselves, such as Suzanne Somers), selfish-help/New-Wage/McSpirituality gurus aggressively and disingenuously use their own ostensibly perfect lives as marketing tools. They are continually promoting themselves as being happy, healthy, wealthy, self-actualized, self-realized, fully awakened human beings who have everything they could possibly want, including amazing relationships. Occasionally, to make themselves seem likable and accessible, they will mention that they're only human and are still a "work in progress" or some such disclaimer. But the dominant message is that their astounding achievements (and, of course, their enviable possessions) prove that they are a cut above ordinary humans, and that they can sell you the secrets to make you a magnificent human specimen as well.

Most important of all, when other celebs, most notably Hollywood types, show off how successful they are, their main purpose is fairly innocuous: to draw attention to themselves. They aren't trying to manipulate people into forking over thousands of dollars for a weekend workshop in order to try to create a life just like theirs. By contrast, as noted above, all too many hustledorks use their carefully crafted public images as their primary marketing tool, their goal being to convince as many people as possible that anyone can have an exemplary life like theirs, if they are only willing to "invest" a few thousand bucks, or a few hundred thousand, in the right products and workshops and retreats.

And all too many people buy into the message, spending thousands of dollars they don't have, and not really seeing any genuine improvements in their lives.
Some of them even end up dead, as we've seen this past month.
The reference to death is a reflection of the fact that I wrote that post shortly after Joe's fellow Secret star James Arthur Ray had conducted his fatal "sweat lodge." (In a blog post that he wrote not long after the tragedy, Joe got a bit defensive when asked about the event; see the comment from "Duff" on October 20 at 3:30 PM, and Joe's snappish reply the next day, which began with, "You have no idea what went on in that sweat lodge.") The publication of my post was also well before the days of the #MeToo movement, and I'm afraid that some of my copy reflects a selective moral compass, since I tended to give entertainment celebrities and some politicians a bit of a pass in the bad-behavior category. But I stand by my opinion about the arguably greater import of the personal behavior (and misbehavior) of motivational and spiritual/religious leaders. 

Turning to more recent content, let's do a little unpacking of Joe Vitale's May 5, 2019 speech at the Unity Church in Wimberley. I mentioned it in my previous post and both linked to it and embedded it, but here's another direct link to the video. Specifically, let's talk about the story Joe told about how he and his "new relationship" -- that would be Lisa -- "manifested" their month-long trip to Italy earlier this year.

The way Joe told it, they decided after some discussion that they wanted to go to Italy, and they decided they wanted to stay there for 30 days (even though Joe says he'd never stayed anywhere for 30 days), so they bought their tickets and found a villa to stay in. To me this indicates that they already had the means to travel to Italy and stay for 30 days. So why would they need to spend all of the effort, as described by Joe, making a "vision board" -- cutting up books and magazines and slapping the pictures on a wall like a couple of first-graders working on a classroom project? Were they just vision-bored?

Granted, Joe did add that after they'd bought the tickets and found the villa and so forth, he had the inspired thought that maybe they could have someone else pay for the trip. So he called up a guy he knew, and voila! The guy put together not one, but two Italy events within 30 days, featuring Joe. But Joe had been to Italy before on a speaking gig. Some of his books had been published in Italian. And presumably this guy, who as it turns out was Joe's Italian publisher, knew he could make a little money off of Joe. After all, as Joe told his Unity audience, his books are number one bestsellers in Italy, and he is even more popular than the Pope. Yes, he really said that.

So there's nothing even remotely mystical-manifest-y about this. The infrastructure for the dream trip was already well in place. While Joe uses terms such as "inspired action" to make the things he buys and the trips he takes sound all spiritual and stuff, the trip to Italy that he took with his new "partner" was really at its essence just two people deciding they wanted to take an overseas vacay that they already had the means to take anyway -- thanks to Joe being a multi-millionaire or a billionaire and thus able to live the lifestyle of the rich and famous, as he loves to remind everyone, particularly when he is trying to sell them something, which is most of the time. The alternative explanation is he has actually been lying or seriously exaggerating all along about his wealth, and he really needed to have someone else subsidize his vacation. Either way, it doesn't say a lot for his credibility.

Judging from tales he has told for many years, though, Joe has cash all over the place. Money is always miraculously showing up in his life,
such as the time he found an extra $12,000-plus in a Paypal account he'd forgotten he had. And he has also spent years showcasing his numerous very expensive cars and a rare guitar collection and fancy watches and other pricey toys. So even if he didn't have ready cash for a trip to Italy, I'm thinking that if he and his new love wanted to go that badly, he could have sold something and easily paid for a 30-day vacation.

In short, we can be reasonably certain that Mr. Fire and his flaming twin would easily have gotten themselves to Italy even if they hadn't destroyed expensive books and pasted pictures on walls, and even if Joe hadn't "manifested" a New-Wage dog and phony show to promote the Vitalian version of the Law of Attraction. As I said in my previous post, take that "manifesting" tale he told in his Unity speech with a grain of salt.

Why does this matter? Again: It matters because Joe, like so many other marketers and persuaders, uses exaggerated or contrived stories to persuade people to open their wallets and their hearts. It matters.

It's not all about me, but some of it is
A few of you may think that this post, which is long even for me, is also pretty mean, even for me. You may say that I am viewing this entire situation from a crassly materialistic perspective, that I am focused on the profane rather than the sacred, that I am so hopelessly cynical and such a "hater" that I can't even begin to see the Divine at work behind this "love story." If you believe that, then you will almost certainly claim that I am projecting, and that my criticisms are a reflection of my own "stuff." I am pretty sure that's the approach that the subjects of my posts take, if they even notice them.

If criticizing the critic makes you feel better about your own choices, go for it. Just know that I've been fielding those same counter-criticisms for the nearly 13 years that this blog has been in operation, and that decades of personal experience and observation, predating this blog by years, have taught me that one really can't go too far wrong by viewing "motivational" and "spiritual" luminaries through a cynical lens.

Still, I would be less than truthful if I denied that there's some of my own "stuff" in all of this. Of course there is. To begin with, Whirled Musings is and always has been an unabashed expression of my own ego, even when I'm not being "mean" but am just trying to be funny, and/or trying to help keep people from being manipulated or harmed. I've never denied this.

And I still feel residual guilt for not having been a better friend to the late Marian, Joe's first wife, for not making more of an effort to reach out to her after Joe left her. More than likely I could not have prevented the tragic downward spiral her life took, but maybe I could have been more "there" for her. It appears to me that many people failed Marian, and I feel that in my own way I was one of them.

But although my "stuff" is a filter, it does not blind and deafen me. I think that a lot of light and clarity gets in through that filter, and that when it comes to the topics on my blog, I'm right more often than I'm wrong. You may think I'm wrong about that; if so, feel free to share your thoughts here.

As I've indicated, I don't pretend to know everything about either that story or the one that is unfolding now. While it is true that I knew Joe personally and that he and I (and Ron) were friends for years, neither Ron nor I have communicated with him in a long time, and the last communications were not friendly. Suffice to say that I think I know enough about his patterns of behavior with friends and associates (and with his first wife) to make reasonably informed conjectures, based upon the information he shares publicly, about what is going on now. It's possible that even Lisa, at some time in the future, may see their fateful meeting less as a "turning point" for her and more as a crossroads where she entered into a bargain she may regret. Maybe I'm totally wrong about that; perhaps patterns, like rules and promises, are made to be broken, but I'm just saying.

For now, though, I can only imagine how I would feel if I were in Nerissa's shoes. Even as Joe's first divorce was far from "easy and effortless" for Marian, it doesn't appear to be a picnic for Nerissa, judging from some of her Facebook posts. "I exist," she felt compelled to write, probably because her husband and his new girlfriend have been insouciantly, almost arrogantly, carrying on as if she doesn't, and appearing to use the Universe/the Divine/God et al. to justify their own selfish choices. It really makes you wonder if people who do that sort of thing
have any conscience at all.

I'm very aware that much of this is not my story to tell, even as the story of Marian and Joe was not my story. I can only assume that when and if she is ready, Nerissa will tell her side too. One thing is clear: Joe is past the point where he can control this narrative, because he's not the only one in it.

I guess the takeaway here is so simple as to almost sound simplistic: stories are just stories, and like opinions, everyone has (at least) one. But always keep in mind that hucksters know better than anyone how to use the power of storytelling to their own advantage. And falling hard for their narrative can be dangerous if you make any sort of important decision based upon the appeal of a good story. You could end up squandering money or time or energy or all of the above. In extreme cases you could end up sacrificing your life.

On a larger scale -- and forgive me for venturing into politix here, but I think this is important --
falling for an appealing or entertaining narrative can be the path towards destruction. America learned that the hard way in the 2016 US presidential election, and we may be slammed in the face with the lesson again in 2020. We may never fully recover from the damage. Hell, the world may not fully recover.

Do I think that New-Wage crapitalists are as potentially dangerous and destructive on a global scale as the "most powerful man in the world?" No, of course not. But they still have the potential to do harm, on a smaller scale. I really don't care if you buy Joe's and Lisa's products or if you listen to their music or watch their videos, or if you sample the offerings of any other selfish-help or McSpirituality or alt-health or New-Wage hawker. If you're moved to do so, go for it. Just look at all of it as entertainment rather than a serious guide to living. And don't make any big investments of money or emotion based upon the narratives that Joe and Lisa, or any other hustler, are weaving, because it's a pretty sure bet that those narratives are, to say the least, riddled with plot holes.

* * * * *
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