Wednesday, June 27, 2007

For love and money, Part 3.

Looking back at all that has happened over the past year, Ginny says of Catherina, "She's a Svengali. This is a woman who saw an opportunity and took it. Because I believe that Gerry did not go looking for this. He would not have just gone off with Karen-down-the-street."

Gerry's brother, Rob, agrees wholeheartedly. "I drove with him in a truck for a year and he never mentioned any issues in his marriage. Ginny supported him in whatever he did. If he wanted to go sailing, he went. If he wanted to go to Sturgis, he went. My brother is not typically an infatuated-type person. This is a guy who, normally, if we went out and three hot-looking chicks went by, he'd tell me about his bike."

"In our will," adds Rob's wife, Jayne, "it even says that our children, if we die, would go with Gerry and Ginny. He was like Mr. Magoo! This thing was so out of character that we were concerned that [Catherina] was planning to kill him." If that sounds a bit hysterical, says Jayne, consider that "at around that same time we read in People about that guy in Brazil.* The only thing I felt a little good about is that Catherina actually did leave her husband, so maybe Gerry wasn't going to end up dead. He was just going to be used."

"I believe that she's a gifted, gifted individual," says Rob. "I think she was looking for money, and now she ends up with access to my brother’s inheritance as well as the Hamptons, one of the most affluent communities there is."

Cultish is the word Rob uses in summarizing Catherina's overall effect on his brother: "He's connected to nothing from his old life. He left his job. He left his wife. He refuses to speak to his best friend. He tries to have a relationship with his daughter, but it's too painful to her. She told him she doesn't want him at her graduation [this past month]. She told him, 'You can no longer speak to me unless you use real language. Whatever it may be, you need to speak to me like a normal human being.' "

For my part, I've long said in interviews that if there's a most insidious aspect of today's uber-Empowerment, it's that it gives people in its thrall an easy mechanism for rationalizing incredibly selfish, hurtful behavior—often in the name of "happiness" or "following your dreams!" Rob may have said it best: "I told my brother, 'I want to write a book called 'In the Wake of the Awakening.' Because what happens afterwards? What about all the turmoil you cause?' And I told him, 'For somebody who preaches love, you're certainly putting an awful lot of negative energy out there.' "


Finally, regarding the Think Love project that set all this in motion: Confusion reigns. A limited liability corporation, Think Love LLC, was registered with the New York State Division of Corporations in Gerry's name on October 2, 2006. (For the record, that's a month before the Election Day "consummation trip."), registered to one Jean-Claude Koven of Rancho Mirage, CA, clicks through invisibly to Rodrigues' personal site. (Koven would appear to be another latter-day "metaphysician," to use the label made recently popular by The Secret; his top Google listing brings up a quirky, introspective site titled "Conversations With My Dog.") However, if you Google "think + love + Rodrigues" and click on the first hit, you get the following error message: "The Think Love site (associated with Catherina Rodrigues) has been closed. We apologize for any inconvenience.", which loads as a "coming soon!," is registered to Brian Donohue of Toms River, New Jersey, who does not seem currently active in self-help circles, at least not under that name. Meanwhile,, parts of which are under construction, is a more traditionally spiritual site registered to a Norma Gomez of Orland Park, IL. Neither Donohue nor Gomez has any discernible relationship to/with Catherina Rodrigues. Rodrigues continues to tout her services as a speaker, life coach, and life coach trainer. Still, it's hard to get past the impression that her site was designed primarily to sell $20 "tee-shirts and pastel hats," as Ginny once put it.

Rodrigues says on the site that she's "committed to being a beacon of Light" and that her "intention is to create the healing energy of Love."

* I read about this, too, though oddly, I was unable to trace it down online in the time I had available. As I recall the basics of the story, an American man met a femme fatale-type who claimed to fall in love with him, lured him home to her native Brazil, took him for all he was worth, then had him murdered. I believe that her actual husband was in on the plot as well.


Anonymous said...

I can relate to Gerry. I think he is seeking something more to life. As generic as that sounds, it does have a seductive ring. That same urge to seek more is leading me to go through a similar journey of discovery but using more traditional methods. I am spending almost $100,000 on a graduate program that sold me on improved opportunity in life ... hopefully that turns into increased earnings, but that is no guarantee. My educational journey has added both financial and other stress on my relationship with my wife. As a result, we are now in counseling which runs about $300 a month. The added debt and stress has helped us choose to delay starting a family.

If I were to take the contrarian view of my journey, I would say that while the education may provide me more opportunity, it is also causing collateral damage that may last for years to come ... debt, regret of not starting a family earlier, and marital discord. All this caused by my personal drive and quest for fulfillment, that a graduate degree will enable me to do what I really want while also providing more earnings to support my family.

I think the key difference between Gerry and myself is that I have this idea of committment to family. But even so, and like Gerry must have, on a bad day I still think about leaving my wife because she is not entirely supportive of my journey.

I think the lesson to learn from Gerry's story is that when you take it upon yourself to grow and travel far, you simply cannot expect the people close to you to take that same journey or even support your efforts. The fact is that any journey you undertake will impact the people close to you in some way. I would never expect my wife to understand or discuss advanced statistics with me, but by dedicating our resources to paying for my education her options are reduced. If I do not expect my wife to understand my advanced statistical awareness, why would I also expect her to advance with me if I decided to increase my spiritual awareness? She may tolerate my growth because she loves me, but her toleration does not translate into full-on support or ideological buy-in.

Gerry must have had an expectation that as he advanced everyone around him must advance with his understanding, and speak his language. This is a false expectation.

Just a I would not leave my wife becuase she does not speak statistics, Gerry should not have left his wife and children because they could not speak new age empowerment.

If Gerry was really learning about love, he would have learned to stand by his family while supporting and accepting their differences as he grew in his own knowledge. In reality, I think Gerry was attempting to escape his responsibilities. I can also relate to that urge, but personally I always avoid setting myself free of all obligations because I see nothing but pain in that direction ... lost friends, missed vacations, missed career opportunity, no money, unhappiness. It's dangerous really, how empowerment's teachings can so easily be mis-interpreted as a virtual license to avoid the responsibilities of our lives.

Just like Gerry's journey, my educational journey has had a massive cost and caused collateral damage. I am seeking fulfillment the same as Gerry. My wife does not necessary support my journey, but just like Ginny she sticks by me. The key difference between Gerry and myself is that my journey stresses fulfillment and responsibility while Gerry's only stressed fulfillment.

They are two sides of the same coin. You cannot have fulfillment without responsibility. Gerry and new age empowerment thought otherwise and look what is cost him, his wife and his daughter.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, thank you for posting so eloquently and at such length. You raise very intriguing points and parallels that, I hope, will become fodder for discussion. It is quite true that self-help is hardly the only "path" that may entail collateral damage--that more traditional approaches have their downside as well. And actually, I have a dog in this fight (as the saying goes), in that my whole choice of a life and livelihood--writing--has, at times, had unfortunate repercussions for those around me. But I also think I have a solid rebuttal and can make important distinctions between some of these alternative avenues and self-help. I just wonder how others see it....

moi said...

Anon, quickly, I will say- everyone in life goes on some kind of journey. I also am seeking fulfillment in an advanced degree. I find that to be somewhat different, though, than the new age empowerment line. I think you nailed it on its head when you said: "It's dangerous really, how empowerment's teachings can so easily be mis-interpreted as a virtual license to avoid the responsibilities of our lives." I am not saying that empowerment is bad, just that some of the ideas that inform 'empowerment thinking' are based on very shaky premises which can lead to the kind of disasters Steve is writing about. I am all for journeys, though.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is quite a story. Talk about hypocrisy! And the thing at the end about how she's doing this in the name of "love" and "healing." It's just unbelievable. You wonder where she gets the nerve.

S.H.A.M. Scam Sam said...

And so far, between these two collateral damage stories, what has the cost been of all this "love" and "healing"? When you add up all the people Leslie, and Gerry, have introduced to it - the people who are suffering over the loss of a loved one, any sense of a cohesive family, and the loss of trust in how the world works - how much collateral damage are we talking about here? All the fighting, shock, loss of income, worry, living on with betrayal, cynicism, and disillusionment - for everyone who's come in contact with just these two mixed-up people - add it up.

How many of these people - especially the kids - will learn to never trust another human being? Never to marry? How many will learn that the highest ambition one can shoot for is to become ruthless in protecting yourself - especially against anyone holding vague notions about "spiritual awareness", "enlightenment", or "empowerment"? How many will assume this is the way of the world - and start deceiving and hurting others - as a way to get ahead? Should their victims be part of the tally as well?

Add it up.

Steve Salerno said...

Not that it's my place to render such judgments, but I think this is your strongest comment yet, SSS. Very powerful, very nicely composed. Nice sense of rhythm and symmetry, too--which is more than we can say for the lives of so many of the people touched, directly or indirectly, by the SHAMsters.

Anonymous said...

(Steve, this is a duplicate comment. I'm not sure you got the first one.)

I can clear up some of the mysteries. Catherina hired me to create the Think Love website at, which I did. During that time I was invited to become a founding partner in the Think Love enterprise. To make a long story short, I was given the boot, because I wasn't in alignment, blah, blah, blah. Later I would find out what was really going on with Gerry -- from a anguish-filled email from Catherina's husband after he returned from New York. I was so appalled that I took down the Web site and canceled the invoice (payment was overdue, by the way).

Regarding Jean-Claude: He had been involved with Catherina and Think Love early on, but the business deal didn't work out. However, they remained friends. I was told that when Jean-Claude heard about Catherina and Gerry, he was shocked and dismayed.

Catherina's husband was also shocked and devastated. This affair and bizarre behavior seemed to come out of the blue. Catherina had changed dramatically as well. She was not the woman he knew and loved.

As readers might imagine, there is so much more to this story! So many people have been hurt and devastated. Obviously this a complex situation, with a lot to sort through and examine. My opinion is that the teachings and philosophies they were learning from various sources led them down this destructive path.

Steve Salerno said...

Thank you, Anon. I do feel the need to point out that there is always a risk in posting material from people who want to weigh in on a given situation, and who claim to have inside info. I'm especially wary in cases when such people want to make their comments anonymously. I debated a while before approving this comment, but I do feel that it stands on its own merits, in context.

However, I urge all readers--of this comment, as well as of my own series of posts that inspired it--to remember that there are (at least) two sides to every story. I tried to get meaningful comment from "the other side," here, and was unsuccessful.

Anonymous said...

Steve, I understand your hesitation to post my comment -- now that you mention it.

I was surprised to see everyone's names used in this story, in particular Catherina's full name.

I guess I'm not comfortable providing my name, given the delicate nature of my involvement!

I agree -- there are many sides to this story.

moi said...

Sham, I love your comment and think it is very insightful. But on a more optimist note, maybe the children and all those involved with these two people will have learned something about life and will not get caught up in pseudo spirituality and 'empowerment' traps.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, I use Catherina's full name because I don't think you can go out there with a commercial venture, preaching the likes of "love" and "healing," and then cry foul when someone points out the decidedly NON-therapeutic effect you have had on this family. (In fact, I see definite parallels between what happened here and a lot of the problems in the Catholic Church.) I also think that the contrast between Catherina's aspirations as a "life coach"--and the life that she herself, apparently, lives--is rather stark, and worth knowing about.

You will notice that I did not use the names (even the first names) of any of the children involved in this mess.

Anonymous said...

Steve, You're right about exposing the people behind a commercial "spreading the love" venture who don't practice what they preach.

I hope these two have given up the venture. Too many people have been burned and know the scoop for it to succeed now.

And, yeah, who would want to hire a life coach whose own life is a mess. Buyer beware.

Steve Salerno said...

Incidentally, folks, if you haven't already, you owe it to yourselves to check out Cosmic Connie's whirled musings blog ( What I too often tend to do with heavy-handed sanctimony, she manages to do with a lilting, irreverent wit. This week especially. Kudos, Connie!

S.H.A.M. Scam Sam said...


I could be wrong about all this, but I don't think there's an upside to discovering evil. Paranoia, fear, anger, alienation, loss of identity, embarrassment, sleepless nights - and tons of unanswered questions - these are just a few of the rewards of having your life torn apart by outsiders acting on the people you love, trust, and depend on. All we've really heard from are the adults in these situations and they're angry. Gerry's daughter sounds angry, too. And I don't think it's inappropriate. There just aren't too many other emotions open to you when you've been betrayed so deeply.

Think about it: None of the main drivers in these stories have shown any respect for the most basic boundaries that make family life, or even society, possible. They're incapable of any concern for the fact that their significant others are concerned about them - turning any concern into a maddening joke. And, as Anon said, this sinister influence is attacking these families from different sources - but where do the families turn for help? If they have a lot of money and know about him already (not likely) they could call the deprogrammer, Rick Ross, but, other than that, there's nothing left but a trip to get your "no fault" divorce - initiated by others and putting all your loved ones and possessions at risk - and which also adds the indignity of having the courts branding the faithful, concerned, confused, grieving, freaked-out, spouse as 50% of the blame for what's happening to them.

You still feeling optimistic?

Look, moi, what I'm saying is, except if you're sitting in Steve's chair, this is such a foul event, it's hardly what I'd call "a learning experience". When you're going through something cultish (Ron's word) it's more like Hitchcock's "Psycho", or "Rosemary's Baby". Can you imagine approaching Mia Farrow, at the end of that film and saying, "Look at the bright side,..."? I think that would be cruel.

But, like I said, I could be wrong.

moi said...

SSS, I was just thinking about the fact that about every one in this world suffres and is disappointed. How do we deal with it? The only way, imo, is to look at those kinds situations as an unfortunate aspect of life and to accept that human nature is never going to be perfect. We can either become a little bit wiser from having gotten through those experiences, or else dwell on them forever and become bitter. I have had my share of family madness (though it had nothing to do with self help), so I am speaking from the point of view of someone who has gone through loss and disillusion . And I am not a Pollyanna. It has just been the way I have made it through dark periods in my life.

S.H.A.M. Scam Sam said...


Sure, people behave in horrible ways, and can probably get away with it (for a while) but only if it doesn't, eventually, spur us to action. My view is, as long as we accept SHAM, then it will continue - and we'll learn to accept even more. And then this horrible stuff becomes what our lives are all about.

To my ears, such passive talk about "acceptance" sounds downright un-American. You say SHAM hasn't touched your life - yet - but somehow (with Oprah, Rosie, Ellen, Rhonda, Tony Robbins, etc., selling it) I think it eventually will. But only if we accept the wreckage it's made - and do nothing. Anger has it's uses, y'know? I'm not going to leave people (like those that Steve is covering) alone with this pain. It's bad enough as it is. I think to feel no one cares enough to do anything, as well, just compounds their misery.

I don't think anyone should just accept being made "helpless", as Steve wrote. I think we should become aware of "the teachings and philosophies they were learning from various sources [that] led them down this destructive path" and go on the offense. I mean, why let Rhonda Byrne, etc., spend their ill-gotten gains in peace? Tease them, as Connie does, or start showing up at their events, if you have the time, and question them openly. Steve wrote a book. (And will, hopefully, write another.) I debate Secretons and their ilk - or, if necessary, shun them altogether. I've contacted reporters, and informed my friends - many of whom are starting to 'get' it - and I've started a band to spread the word. (And, I'm happy to say, my fellow musicians are supportive.) Considering the level of threat, which is considerable, I don't see how a truly compassionate person can do otherwise. Our families, friends - and even society - are under threat. As one of my friends said, referring to the Old West, when con men showed up selling some magic elixir, "What these people don't understand is, we'll chase them out of town with a shotgun."

That, moi, is the American spirit.

Cosmic Connie said...

Thanks for the kudos, Steve. And now some for you: This is one of the best series of posts, resulting in one of the best discussions, that I've seen here in a while. I like Moi's balanced approach to the matter of self-help (it's very much like Ron's attitude, come to think of it), but I definitely understand SSS's point of view, since he has been scarred by the SHAM/New-Wage culture. And although as the first Anon mentioned, there are non-SHAM paths to self-improvement that can cause collateral damage, there is a peculiar type of...well, evil...with SHAM -- particularly in its pop-spirituality guises.

So many of these pop-spiritual gurus claim to take their ideas from those of the great spiritual traditions such as Buddhism. They speak of love, and yet the "love" they practice is that of the most narcissistic sort. Maybe in the larger scheme of things, "evil" is too strong a term to use for these people. But for the folks who have been directly and indirectly harmed, "evil" seems to be the best description.

And what do you want to bet that when his money runs out, Catherina will decide she and Gerry are no longer vibrationally compatible?

Steve Salerno said...

SSS, re the shotgun, one hopes that you're speaking metaphorically. On the other hand, I can very much understand the anger of those who watch these charlatans play havoc with people's lives (and completely mess up people's heads in the name of "enlightenment"), pocket everyone's money, then just go on with their merry lives, driving their ultra-fancy cars home to their gated compounds, as if nothing had happened and no damage was done. I do feel that there's accountability here. The problem is, how to achieve that.

One of the more frustrating interviews during the research phase of SHAM took place with a gov't official (I do not feel that it's proper to name him, since he tried to recant later, and the episode did not make it into the book) on the matter of "practicing medicine without a license," which is an accusation I would make against many of the alternative-med types. Why doesn't the gov't enforce the rules, or at least look into it meaningfully? I couldn't get a straight answer. But I think the same complaint could be lodged against many of these magical-thinking types who presume to "doctor" our heads. It's like someone said to me when I made the keynote speech, re SHAM, to a convention of psychologists last year: "You know," she said, "believe it or not, some of us actually went to school for this." She was understating, of course, for ironic effect--they ALL went to school for it. But her point stands: How is it in this society that just about anyone can hang out a shingle or come up with some hot new concept in "actualization," build a groundswell of support, maybe land a book deal and/or an appearance on Oprah, and then go on to function as "psychologist to the masses"? All without any credentials and/or the accountability that goes with it?

They're questions worth asking.

Steve Salerno said...

And the funny part is, Connie, that in my experience (at least based on the people to whom I was exposed during my research for SHAM), these matches made in New-Wage Heaven have no better survival rates than any other relationships. Eventually the partners end up vibrating alone. As it were.

I mean, if John Gray and Barbara De Angelis couldn't hold it together....!

S.H.A.M. Scam Sam said...

Yes, Steve, I'm sure my friend was speaking metaphorically.

Regarding your point: I was recently talking to a bunch of scientists and they were claiming they were helpless to inform the public, against the onslaught of celebrity spokesmen, which I think is silly: If I can turn people's heads around on this, then, why can't our best informed scientists? Why is it that I can't find a clear statement, from scientists or doctors, regarding the "possibility" of SHAM-inspired nonsense being true and the "probability" it's totally bogus - which, I think, is the very opening these charlatans exploit?

BTW - did you see that piece on new age-y Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins? Did you notice that he's telling people to "take risks" - something doctors and scientists don't seem capable, or willing, to do - but SHAMers are imploring fellow believers to do constantly?

Gotta go,...

Steve Salerno said...

I think you're missing the forest in the trees here, SSS. Point is, people don't WANT to be told that this stuff is bogus, so scientists are the LAST people they're going to listen to. Consumers who've already committed themselves to self-help have made their bargain with the devil, and don't want to be confused with facts.

S.H.A.M. Scam Sam said...

I hear you, Steve (and I agree) but what about the rest of us? We're the ones who have no idea what's coming once someone gets into it. We're sitting ducks. Meanwhile, the SHAMers are using pseudo-science, the courts, etc., to clobber us over the heads as we're trying to be fair, loving, and compassionate to the very people out to screw us over.

There's got to be a way,...

moi said...

SSS, I have been directly affected by Sham, recently. I posted a comment about it the other day, but it was only a small part of the story. That's why I participate on Steve's blog- because I am angry about it. However, I also don't want to come off too strong and marginalize people who mean well and have a lot of integrity in their approach to helping others.
Also, I don't think we should just sit back and not demand accountability, but we also have to be careful in the way we speak about it because the language of blame usually just has the opposite effect. However, if I were gerry's wife, I would not be calm and understanding.

Anonymous said...

I wanted to take a moment to thank you, Steve for working with me to get my story in the best shape for presenting it. It isn't going to un-do anything but maybe it will make someone think twice before they go down a road that can lead to a lot of hurt for all concerned.

I am glad to see that your readers are reading these stories and responding to them in a significant way, not just as a form of entertainment. This isn't Lifetime TV, unfortunately it was my real life. Or the life I thought I had until so-called self-help came along and snatched that life away.

Don Grogan

Steve Salerno said...

Believe me, Don, these are stories that, I only wish, didn't need to be written. You and I have talked about this off-blog as well, but I wanted my readers to know how much I appreciate the courage of all those who were willing to go public with these dark, private moments. And you're right: If it just manages to give vulnerable people pause, to persuade a few of them that there IS another side to all this feel-good blather, then maybe we'll have salvaged something worthwhile out of the chaos and hurt.

moi said...

"They speak of love, and yet the "love" they practice is that of the most narcissistic sort."

Connie, your comment really hits home. And the circumstances involving 'vibrational' compatibility are indeed interesting. It's very easy for people to use the vibrationally incompatible line when they want to shirk their emotional responsibility to another person. How can you argue with that?
I am sure someone, at some point, if they haven't already done it, will claim they have a machine that measures VC, and they will charge $5,000. for couples to get tested.

Steve Salerno said...

Folks, there's an obvious play on words that's been lurking on the periphery here, and though I realize that it's somewhat tasteless in this context--and also applies primarily to just one gender--I'm going to throw it into the mix anyway: It occurs to me that most of us would be better off with a vibrator than with one of these New Age types who worries so much about good vibrations. And I'm not just saying that to be clever. If I had to contend with the chameleon-like narcissism of a partner who'd been "schooled" in today's self-help, I'd say thanks but no thanks. At least the actions of the vibrator can be predicted.

Steve Salerno said...

P.S. to the above: It's late, and I've been at this a long time today. Cut me some slack, please. I intend no disrespect to those who've suffered due to self-help.

Anonymous said...

LOL! I think you and Connie are onto (or, on) something. Boto’o’popopopo and good vibrations. Who could ask for anything more?

S.H.A.M. Scam Sam said...


One thing I've found fascinating about all this is how, when addressing christianity, people have no qualms about speaking passionately. But, when addressing SHAM, they worry about coming on too strong - when, to me, SHAM is able to do it's damage precisely because it gets such a free ride. Benevolent con men are still con men. At least christianity suggests outreach to your fellow man, while SHAM drives people to narcissism, navel gazing, and neurosis.

Also, so much of the SHAM's it's-all-about-me focus is on the desperate and dying - it's creepy. Especially when you consider the sexual component (and there's almost always a sexual component.). It's like discovering we've been living with vampires.

I don't know about you - and I'm not going to judge you for your choice - but I'll stand with Don, and Ginny, and choose not to be calm and understanding. To me, SHAM is just wrong and, just like with a vampire, it needs to be exposed to the light of day as soon as possible.

Steve Salerno said...

SSS hints at an interesting point. Nowadays, in the name of spirituality and mysticism, SHAM puts forward a vision of life that rationalizes and even endorses attitudes and behaviors that would never be acceptable (and would, in fact, be considered quite sinful) in traditional, orthodox religion. This is a booming trend, as I note in my prior posts on Joel Osteen and his Church-of-Divine-Greed-and-Hedonism. The new gospel takes its cue from 60s/70s-style hippie culture (and, come to think of it, may be purposely aimed at that enormous midlife demographic): "If it feels good, do it" has become "If it feels good, it's godly." It's a way of positing a so-called religion that attracts its flock by making them more comfortable with their libidinous or avaricious natures.

moi said...

SSS, I think you and I just approach these things differently. However, you don't want to see me when I'm angry.
The more I read the comments on here, the more I realize what a cultish, weird situation I was in myself 2 years ago and how I had absolutely no idea about the ride I was in for. I do agree that Sham gets an easy ride because it seems so benevolent on the surface. What really shocked me is the way that sham spirituality can be used to justify behaviors that are usually associated with the word 'player' (Steve touched on this in his last comment). I know this goes on outside of sham and is rampant in our culture, but what is deceiving about the sham variety is that it's hidden underneath a veneer of 'love' and 'healing' and usually people don't see it for what it's worth until it's too late. At least I didn't. Luckily I wasn't married when it happened.

Steve Salerno said...

Moi, the key point here--and I mean THE key point--is the one you make in-passing, where you write, "Sham gets an easy ride because it seems so benevolent on the surface." As I say in my book, that is the perverse genius of all this--it just sounds soooo good. I mean, who could argue with "self-actualization and total personal fulfillment"? Right? And yet look what can happen, in practice....

S.H.A.M. Scam Sam said...


Believe it or not, your last comment brightened my day - and I want to thank you, sincerely, for it - I think it's a brave thing to say. I could sense your anger - and I like it - not because I get off on distress, but because I like sanity, and anger's the healthy, natural, reaction to the dynamics of being 'played':

When a con is exposed, both, the con man and the 'sucker', are revealed to be fools, engaged in a deception. The con man, then, shakes his/her fist at the heavens - but the sucker shakes his/her fist at the con - and (once they get real) the con man.

That's what I want to see more of in society, instead of this 'don't snitch' campaign, or the 'don't hate the player - hate the game' nonsense. As a man who has tried - sincerely tried - to find the good in all people, I don't see any use in being nice to people who try to warp that conviction.

And, yes, you ARE lucky you weren't married. Marriage is so psychological - I got so wrapped up in (and forgave so much of) my spouse's mental state - that I really got my nose rubbed in SHAM when it all came apart: finding a hidden duffel bag - yes, Connie, an entire duffel bag - of psychic tapes featuring discussions of our life. Reading journal entries where 'energy' is taken from between people's legs - real heady stuff for a husband who was protective, and emotionally attached, to a spouse who (if I wasn't around) just couldn't give a damn what I thought or felt.

The fallout has been, seriously, crazy-making.


I, too, can't tell you how happy I am you're doing this series. SHAM (the book), and the Mystic Bourgeoisie site, were great for helping me get my mind around all this. But, as you're aware, there's an outsider-looking-in quality that only these stories can get around: this is the meat. I can identify, totally, with these people. Both of the tales, so far, has had, at least, one 'a-ha' moment for me, where I remember something just like it or it deepens what I already know. Like Don said, "This isn't Lifetime TV, unfortunately it was my real life. Or the life I thought I had,..." and having it exposed lets us know our lives, however deceived, were real. Write the book, man:

It may not end SHAM, but it'll cause an earthquake that'll shake it to it's foundations.

Cosmic Connie said...

What SSS said, Steve:

You already have a good beginning here.

And I agree with you about the merit of vibrators over the "good vibes" gurus. :-)

Anonymous said...

What devastating stories. They are painful to read. To us on the outside it all seems so clear, but to the people wrapped in this, they seem to lose all bearings and connection with reality. Their entire sense of values gets skewed. When one of the people in your story says it's "like being on crack," it doesn't sound like it's far from it at all.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon, I agree totally (though I say that having never been "on crack"). As I write in my book, many people who fall into the self-help trap are merely replacing one addiction with another. At the very least, they tend to be addictive-type personalities (or people of high addiction potential) who are indulging a drive that may lock them into self-destructive behaviors of various forms: Whatever they end up doing, they're going to go off the deep end with it.

Folks in this category need REAL help, not Marianne Williamson.

Cosmic Connie said...

Steve, you made an interesting point when elaborating on something SSS had hinted at:

"Nowadays, in the name of spirituality and mysticism, SHAM puts forward a vision of life that rationalizes and even endorses attitudes and behaviors that would never be acceptable (and would, in fact, be considered quite sinful) in traditional, orthodox religion."

Most people seem to have a need for religion or spirituality in some form, and there's been a lot of talk over the past decade or so about this need being hardwired into our brains. On one level, SHAM spirituality simply appears to provide self-indulgent people with a way to have their cake and eat it too -- to pick and choose what they like about various religious/spiritual traditions and discard the rest. In many cases people distort the teachings of the great traditions to suit their own needs. People have always done this to a certain degree, but it’s rampant today. Whether it’s Joel Osteen with his brand of “prosperity Christianity” or “Mr. Fire” (who actually calls himself “the Buddha of the Internet”), with his New-Wage spiritual materialism, it’s everywhere.

Yet – and I think the Rev and probably Moi would agree with me here – one reason for the rise in these hybrid forms of religion and spirituality is that traditional religions (particularly traditional Christianity), with their dogma and emphasis on a fierce and punishing deity, no longer meet the needs of many people today. We’ve discussed this here before. There’s a lot more narcissism today, more self-indulgence. But in my more optimistic moments I would like to think that at least some people are seeking new paths because they are longing for "the next level" of fulfillment. They have, you might say, become too sophisticated for the traditional parent-child relationship to God (or Whomever) that traditional religion demanded.

I will quickly add that such optimistic moments are rare for me, because I look around at all of the wacko things people are embracing today, and it’s clear to me that many folks have simply traded one form of delusion for another. I can’t say I see much evidence of sophistication in New-Wage culture. Even so, I remain more sympathetic to human spiritual longing than many cynics.

However, the rules of decent human behavior should be pretty much the same no matter which spiritual path or religious tradition one follows. If your beliefs cause you to do something that hurts the people you love, there’s either something dreadfully wrong with those beliefs or with the way you’re interpreting them. Whether you call it sin or just bad behavior, if you break up someone’s marriage and/or cheat on your own spouse in order to find fulfillment, you are wrecking many people’s lives. And more than likely, you are wrecking your own as well, though you may not see it when you’re in the throes of your “transformation.”

I could go on and on about this, but I’ll just start rambling again and we don’t need that. :-). Bottom line: We’ve seen some devastating examples of hurtful behavior just in those two stories Steve has shared so far. SSS has his own devastating story as well. I stand by my opinion that there’s a good book here, Steve.

Steve Salerno said...

Ahhh, Connie, you open such a can of worms (for me, anyway) when you get into the subject of today's designer spirituality. (As one of my SHAM sources put it, we live in the era of the "build your own religion" kit.) Back when I was trying to be a practicing Catholic--mostly so that my wife didn't have to go to church alone on Sundays--we would have SO many arguments about this: about the idea that you can't call yourself a Catholic unless you're willing to abide by ALL of the rules the church imposes (including the bans on premarital sex, contraception, abortion, divorce, etc.) Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that people who indulge in any of the above behaviors are bad people; I'm just saying that they're not Catholics, regardless of how often they attend church or how much money they drop into the collection box. Point being, one is either dogmatic about his religion--or one is not truly part of that religion. You can't simply pick and choose which elements of a religion you're willing to adhere to, basing those choices on (mostly) matters of personal convenience. Religion isn't supposed to be easy. It's supposed to involve sacrifice and "making the hard choices." After all, we're not talking here about following a political party where you accept certain party planks and reject others. In religion's case, these are supposedly the rules that earn you eternal salvation! They're not up for discussion.

Which is a long way of saying that many people today have bastardized religion and morality and related constructs because they want to try to be "spiritual" (or at least SEE themselves as spiritual) in a secular way. If they can't live up to the demands of the religion, they simply create a new religion that allows them, in essence, to be and do whatever they were going to be and do anyway, religion or no religion. They have basically one commandment, and it goes as follows: THOU SHALT DO WHATEVER THOU WISHES, AND CALL IT GODLINESS.

This is why--though people who've read this blog know my feelings on how we should deal with terrorism and radical Islam generally--I still have to give those people credit for being religious. When you're willing to set yourself on fire and die for the cause... Well, we can talk about how sick radical Islam is at its core, or what "terrible" people terrorists are, but you can't deny that many of them are sincerely religious in a way that most Americans cannot even imagine. They are devout, and they walk the walk...even if it means walking into a preschool with a vest loaded with C-4.

moi said...

To add one additional comment, since we're on the subject: I've done the orthodox religious thing- in Jerusalem in the early 90's. I lived the life and tried to fit in (into orthodox Judaism). I really liked living in such a tight community, having the regularity of festivals to observe, and the certainty that came with such belief. But in the end, it seemed to me that it in order to live a lifestyle like that, you have to squeeze your soul into a box. It's not an easy life. However, the people who follow those religious principles sincerely, which, imo, does not involve hate in any form, have a more sophisticated sense of ethics than does the average person. In the economy of new age spirituality, there is no system of ethics. The prevailing idea seems to be that if you're aligned with the universe, good things will happen to you, and to others around you. So, if we all just attended Tony Robbins workshops, got manifestation coaches and thought positively 24/7, it would be a great world, right?

And about what you say, Steve, about religious dogma, I hesitatingly agree that you can't really call yourself an adherent of a specific religion unless you observe all of their practices, but that situation may be do to the fact that religions, once they are institutionalized, tend to get monopolized by the ideas of a few people. Once that happens, debate stops and the religion becomes stagnant to a certain degree. But this is a complicated topic and would need a blog of its own to get to the heart of the matter.
(btw, I once met Helen Prejean. I think she would have an interesting take on some aspects of Catholic dogma).

Steve Salerno said...

Moi, I think you make a good point about how sometimes a fringe group of True Believers (or so they conceive themselves) will hijack the religion in order to create an entirely new (and almost always fanatical) agenda, thereby making that religion irrelevant, and "un-user-friendly," to just about everyone else.

I don't think we can say that in the case of Catholicism--which has actually been trying to make itself more relevant and ecumenical in recent decades. The result, alas, is that, while (a) it has NOT been successful at attracting the young people it needs to ensure its survival, (b) it HAS succeeded in totally confusing and, in some cases, infuriating the older Catholics who take their religious beliefs most seriously. My mother-in-law, for one, still doesn't eat meat on Fridays (even though that was hardly one of the original commandments); it's her way of protesting some of the "reforms" that have taken place of late.

Charlie Brown said...

Here is some food for thought. To justify the evil, destructive, selfish things you do to the people who love you by saying: "Its my journey they cant understand!" Is reprehensible and disgusting. As for Mr Anon, please take whatever book your reading and throw it out the window before you destroy your life and your family with a halo over your head and a smile on your face.

Charlie Brown said...

Thank you for posting this Mr Sham. I am sorry about what happened to you. I too Have had my family destroyed by crazy self help fanatics.

Anonymous said...

Two people, not two people- those two people met and were incredibly attracted to each other, in fact- inseperable. The relationship was not sanctioned by a speaker or a leader. Rather, he was just another observer.... a wonderer, a worrier even- of what would
come of it....

littleplanet said...

Ah, this was a gripping tale...with a very sad outcome.

Strange - I've learned in my life, how to carry my little dream deep inside, require no support or understanding even from those closest to me, and make sure it harms no-one - financially, emotionally, psychologically, or romantically. To me this is just common sense.
Although I can feel disgust at Gerry's behavior - the main poke I'd want to take at him is this: One can certainly figure out how to hone in on the fulfilment of a dream without causing chaos. If that's the result, the dream is poison. To me that's just common sense. If common sense has departed, then serious help is required. (as in trying to reason one's way through alcoholic logic.)

But then I'm just full of bah and humbug for just about any species of self-help drivel I can imagine.
Perhaps that's arrogant...but I was taught that style, wit, good grace, humor and superhuman effort (it's only one life's worth!) is all a good bet for "improving" one's lot in life.

My little dream aches inside me every single day. I'll be damned if it gets between me and my loyalties.

(and then there's loyalty to self)
yup. as natural as breathing.
Only when we're suffocating, are we even aware of that. Otherwise, it's a given.

Steve Salerno said...

LP: Thank you for this comment, as well as the obvious time and energy you're putting into toggling back through blog archives. Great to have you aboard.

Yes, this was a sad story all-around. Perhaps most of all for his daughter, who doesn't quite seem to "know what hit them."

Anonymous said...

you may be "interested" to hear the co-founder of THINK LOVE Chris Hindle killed himself. He had been coached by Catherina for many years, then parted with A LOT of cash to fund the Think Love wrist bands.. all a failure. He's dead now. I'm sure they would say thats just "his journey" :(