Thursday, February 28, 2008

I paid my Tolle.

Congratulate me. Or send condolences. This morning I joined Oprah.com.

It wasn't easy, and I don't just mean that in a philosophical sense. One hates to descend deep into the muck of conspiracy theory (especially before that fourteenth cup of coffee), but I found that I was unable to register for the site under either my most common online user name—"IwroteSHAM"—or my customary business email address, steve@journalismpro.com. Repeated attempts to use either or both resulted in error messages. It was hard to resist the notion that I'd been locked out of the site, a suspicion that only grew when I tried a third, more random user name linked to a moribund email address and the registration sailed through. In case you were wondering, you can't register for Oprah.com with user names like, oh, say, "IhateOprah." Those are specifically blocked. I did try. Also, and interestingly, no sooner had my registration become active than I started getting spam from "Black Voices, The Premier Website for African American Lifestyles."

I joined Oprah.com in order to get a better handle on this whole Tolle online workshop that the Queen of Media (and motive force behind the political phenomenon of the 21st Century, so far) has been promoting with such a tireless vengeance. And, I wanted to see what people were saying about Tolle on Oprah's discussion boards. Those discussion boards are mind-blowing. In sheer numbers alone, you're working with an order of magnitude that's so completely foreign to the frame of reference of us mere mortal bloggers. I consider it an exceptional day here on SHAMblog when we cross 1000 unique hits. One post on the Oprah/Tolle boards, titled "AHA! moments from A New Earth," has been viewed 161,000 times! Most of the posts in that series are at well over 100,000 hits.

On the site I learned that "by reserving [my] seat for this 10-week interactive webinar"—it begins March 3—"[I'll] be able to: watch and participate in the live classroom webcasts; ask Oprah and Eckhart Tolle questions before and during class; connect with others who are seeking to become more aware of themselves—and the world around them; download and save [my] thoughts in an exclusive workbook; access the classroom video archives…and more!"

Curious about the "more," I started looking through various parts of the site. Eventually I wound up at the Workbook that's provided as a companion to the "webinar." Exercise 3 of that Workbook says: "Think about Eckhart's question on page 5: Can human beings lose the density of their conditioned mind structures and become like crystals or precious stones... transparent to the light of consciousness? What makes you feel more alive and open, less dense, less bogged down by heavy thoughts and feelings? Could this be the beginnings of what Eckhart is talking about?" I didn't fill in my Workbook yet, but my reflex answer would be along the lines of, "I have no friggin’ clue what Eckhart could be talking about. Nor, I suspect, does he."

Skipping down to Exercise 6: "Eckhart says, Humanity is now faced with a stark choice: Evolve or die. … If the structures of the human mind remain unchanged, we will always end up re-creating the same world, the same evils, the same dysfunction." See, this ticks me off because it so perfectly inverts, and really perverts, the nature of the problem facing us as a nation and a part of a global civilization (or the aspiration to same). At the risk of being adjudged too sane to be spending my time on Oprah.com, I would point out that it isn't "the structures of the human mind" that pose the gravest risks to and for mankind. The human mind is constantly evolving forward in its rationality and perspective, forever making strides in a very specific and pointed effort not to "re-create" the past. Indeed, it is the mind and only the mind that represents our best and last hope of transcending destructive rote/reptilian behaviors. Rather, it's the stuff beneath the "heavy mind structure"—the "formless" essence that Tolle wants us to get more in touch with—that keeps rising up and subverting the mind. What's inside us, under the mind, is precisely the problem. Personally, I think we need to arrange for Tolle to have a private screening of the 1950s sci-fi classic, Forbidden Planet. I can't take the time to explain here, but sci-fi buffs know exactly what I mean.

One other thing that requires comment, then we'll quit for today. (I reserve the right to revisit the topic after that webinar kicks off.) If you have even a cursory knowledge of Tolle, you know that the abandonment of "ego" is, in his metaphysic, a key prelude to reaching the state of Now that he urges among all those seeking spiritual harmony and a deeper, truer sense of self-knowledge. Now, in fairness to Tolle (and Oprah), he's not using the word "ego" quite the way a Freudian (or a critic of Donald Trump) might use it—but I find it hilarious anyway that on one of the Oprah/Tolle pages, directly beneath a highlighted section that emphasizes a technological plug-in you'll need in order to view the Webcast, is an ad that reads: "GET GORGEOUS! Good hair days, flawless makeup and a fabulous wardrobe are all within your reach. It's all in our new Beauty and Style section!" I guess they don’t want you to abandon your ego till you're done consuming everything the Oprah marketing machine can sell you. Oh, I almost forgot. I also learned that today's Oprah guest is Marianne Williamson, she of the "Course in Miracles," who famously wrote after 9/11 that we should "pray for angels to surround the Golden Gate Bridge," etc.

Does it ever, ever end? Pretty soon Oprah is going to be all New Age, all the time.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

I found something interesting how Oprah has actually become more egocentric since Troll. I subscribe to O Magazine and she gives a little ditty of wisdom each month. In the March '08 issue she speaks of how she "never had a bad relationship with money." Does that not sound the height of narcissism? If anyone is honest with themselves, they have had difficulties in relation to money. Even if one is Paris Hilton, or born into money, they've either had people wanting the money, or trying to keep the money, or make the money. Oprah used to pretend allegiance with her audience, but no longer does that. She use to speak of her dirt poor upbringing, but now there is a tone of superiority to her monthly ditties. She seems to have bought into her own hype. She cannot do an interview in the mag without throwing herself into it. Such as, "I remember when I met Nelson Mandela." I can see her sitting there waiting to interrupt her subject so she can speak of herself. I don't think Troll has been good for Mama Oprah.

Elizabeth said...

"I joined Oprah.com in order to get a better handle on this whole Tolle online workshop..."

Yeah, yeah, Steve. ;) I wondered how long it would take you. Admit it, you are ready to abandon your heavy mind structure and get gorgeous.

Elizabeth said...

Anon, the signs that Oprah has lost touch with reality have been growing stronger with each passing year. That ego of hers has a potential to swallow the known universe soon.

Yes, her comment of never having a bad relationship with money is priceless (no pun intended). And so is the one she made yesterday, on her show devoted to freegans. She admonished people to think seriously about how much they *really* need in life, in terms of material possessions. Coming from the queen of consumption ("Oprah's favorite things!!!") this was a good one, I thought.

Steve, I tease you, but I too wanted to register for Tolle/Oprah course in enlightenment. You know, my own dense mind structure has been weighing on me even heavier lately. But, lo and behold, my registration was never approved -- after several earnest attempts. And I too got somewhat suspicious, since I have sent critical remarks to her site in the past (under my real name), when the registration process was not yet so challenging.

So I gave up, but will be looking forward to your continuous and no doubt enlightening updates on your own spiritual progress, courtesy of Oprah/Tolle.com

Steven Sashen said...

You're a braver man than I, Mr. Salerno.

I thought about signing up to check out the fare, but thoughts of agonizing projectile vomiting kept my pinkie from pressing Enter.

And, I am SO tired of the "Humanity is at a critical turning point" mantra.

People have been saying it for thousands of years and it hasn't been true yet.

That line is 100% sales pitch. It makes everyone involved feel special and powerful and important (i.e. arrogant, and more cloying than patchouli).

All I can say is "white is the new black," and "Tolle is the new Chopra."

BTW, I found out that the next print run for Tolle's book is 4 MILLION copies.

Hell, if I sold 4 million copies of my book, I think I might find the strength to tolerate people who thought I was 100% full of it... or I'd pay people who would tolerate it for me.

Anonymous said...

Is Oprah charging for the "webinar"?

Steve Salerno said...

Steven: Well said.

And remember: "Humanity is the new black."

(I have no idea what that means, and I'm sure that someone will find something sinister in it...but it makes about as much sense as rest of the New (W)Age mantra.

Steve Salerno said...

Anon: Not that I can see, so far. Maybe she'll spring it on people as they get settled in their assigned seats.

Yekaterina said...

Anon,
Oprah has no other option but to say she's never had a bad relationship with money. A person with a bad relationship to money supposedly cannot attract wealth, right? This is just another case of rewriting truth to fit the mumbo jumbo script. Next we'll be hearing that she never had a bad relationship with her weight.

Anonymous said...

"Next we'll be hearing that she never had a bad relationship with her weight."

How much you want to bet that will be in April's issue?

Anonymous said...

This maybe mean, but I got to say it. The Troll's book title, A New Earth, reminded me of Tolken's Lord of the Rings with an elf included! Do you think I can make this observation on Mama Oprah's discussion board?

Monica Pignotti said...

onicaAs someone who also debunks shams, I just joined Oprah's forum for similar reasons and wrote about it on my blog:

http://psychjourney_blogs.typepad.com/monica_pignotti_/

I was pleasantly surprised to see a great deal of criticism of Tolle on Oprah's discussion board causing the true believers much distress, so it seems that there is at least some intelligent life out there.

Anonymous said...

If Tolle is all about ego transcendance and getting free from one's personal story, why does his personal story matter so much in the marketing of his material? (Ditto for BK and her time on the floor with the roaches. Note: there's no way to disprove her story here. If she actually was in a halfway house, that halfway house would be bound by legal requirements of confidentiality to say nothing at all.

That's the thing about anyone's claim to have once been homeless or depressed and suddenly cured. All the care agencies who looked after them would be required by law to keep silent and there'd be no way anyone could prove or disprove the formerly homeless or mentally ill claim--not unless the person signed release forms permitting the halfway house or case managers to speak up.)

Also, go look at the price breakdown for Tolle events. The seating is priced according to physical proximity to Tolle--odd, if his teaching is meant to transcend matters of ego and celebrity. If a teaching is really good, it should make no difference whether someone is in the back row.)

Go to Google.

Type 'Eckhart Tolle' and 'Platinum' into the slot. You can do this just on the
Google main page.

Or, if you want to be precise, type ET's full name into exact phrase slot and
the words 'platinum' and 'seating' into the all words slot.

Seating is divided into bronze, silver gold and platinum.

Read the price differential for tickets based on how close you want to sit to the stage. Platinum price seating is for the first three rows.

Now...a question.

If a teaching is supposed to transcend the speaker's personality/history and is meant to liberate the listeners from suffering generated by their own personalities and personal histories----

Then, (unless one is visually or hearing impaired), what difference does it make how close one sits to the person doing the speaking?

Its the teaching that should matter, not the speaker's own embodied personality. Whether one sits in the back or front row shouldnt matter.

IMO the verbal context is all about transcendence of personality and personal history--yet the social context and price structuring seem to imply, nonverbally that the speaker's presence and personality do remain important enough to influence price structuring.

So we have a combo of verbal and non verbal elements that combine to form a possible double bind.

Tolle may not be aware of this, but if it potentially undermines the message that he sincerely wishes to get across, then as a thoughtful teacher, he would be well advised to re--think this arrangement and design something that doesnt generate
a rank ordered class structure tied to money and ability to pay or charge up credit cards.

For it is possible that this rank ordered fiscal/seating structure might, without people being aware of it, insinuate some obstacles and subvert a teaching process in which Tolle sincerely wishes to help people transcend personal history and class, but which may subvert what he is trying to accomplish.

The possible problems generated by the rank ordered seat pricing, named by precious metals and tied to proximity to the speaker might possibly have the following effects:

The verbal content would possibly influence participants consciously, but the nonverbal elements of price structuring might provide an unconscious teaching that personality remains important, after all--contradicting the stated content of the teaching and impairing the pedagogical impact.

Enlightenment and celebrity would be subtly tied together and transcendence of craving would, in this context, remain subtly linked to a social state (celebrity) that many of us do crave and are taught by our culture to crave.

The price differential would also bring in, nonverbally, matters of class--those who have the money (or credit) to afford front row seats, with financial and social stratification based on ability/willingness to pay hierarchically rank ordered
by bronze, silver, gold and platinum---the last three being precious metals and themselves objects of craving.

(If people have a hearing impairment this could be solved by supplying headphones.)

Ive been to events where rows close to the speaker were priced higher, but this price difference was donated to charity and clearly spelled out as such,

Anonymous said...

I found Miss Piggy a much more inspirational role model than Oprah.

Miss Piggy never recommended anything but herself--no hidden agenda, no marketing empire, nothing.

Everyone who watched MP laughed with her, had fun and never had to spend a cent--beyond paying their monthly cable bill.

Remember the old endorsement--'Miss Piggy is the thinking man's Farrah Fawcett-Majors?'

Bring Miss Piggy back!

What you saw was what you got.

Resurrect Flip Wilson and his Church of Whats Happining Now--that will really brighten things up.

Anonymous said...

This cognitive suicide is being driven by the highest levels of People who actually control Governments. They want a Global Government with a dumbed down serf-like work force.I wish i was joking about this.

Why do you think that education departments have sprung up all over university campuses in the last 40-50 years teaching perverse psychobabble horse manure that you are required to know before you can teach in a public school?

As a hard scientist (physics and mathematics) i have to wonder WHY people endorse a flighty bunch of cr@p like psychology/psychiatry based on NOTHING- no science- zilch...it is a hoaky bunch of made up garbage.

As an example, the MBTI used widely by schools and employers is based on the work of Jung, a man who did drugs and channeled entities to get his information on archetypes.

You wonder WHY the school system does not teach critical thinking skills?
One of the Rockefellars, who made massive endowments to education", said he didn't want a nation of thinkers but of workers.

Check out ACIM another brain scrambling device that Oprah endorses...and i believe through a man named Thetford has some very shadowy ties.

My point?
This is deliberate, driven at very high levels...just like Bush's North American Union, like the massive indoctrination generated by the pharmaceutical companies to get kids to ingest dangerous psychoactive drugs like ritalin to help destroy their brains.
You want to know why the kids are fat?
The amount of MSG in the food increases 10% every decade..it is a neurotoxin that causes lesions in the hypoathlmus, and causes obesity.

Oh yeah, i forgot, i am just a paranoid rambler..
You might however want to check the information out for yourself..and do not be surprised when you see western civilization collapse entirely.

Anonymous said...

I am so greatful to Eckhart Tolle and Oprah for turning me onto Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor and her beautiful book ""My Stroke of Insight"". Her story is amazing and her gift to all of us is a book purchase away I'm happy to say.

Dr Taylor was a Harvard brain scientist when she had a stroke at age 37. What was amazing was that her left brain was shut down by the stroke - where language and thinking occur - but her right brain was fully functioning. She experienced bliss and nirvana and the way she writes about it (or talks about it in her now famous TED talk) is incredible.

What I took away from Dr. Taylor's book above all, and why I recommend it so highly, is that you don't have to have a stroke or take drugs to find the deep inner peace that she talks about. Her book explains how. ""I want what she's having"", and thanks to this wonderful book, I can! Thank you Dr. Taylor, and thank you Eckhart and Oprah.