Monday, July 05, 2010

In footnote, a few thoughts on Mind Games, James Ray, and his loyal disciples.

I woke up this morning thinking about Kristina Bivins.

I'll save you the trouble of googling various "gentlemen's sites" and such: Ms. Bivins was a Spiritual Warrior participant, one of several featured prominently in Mind Games. She's the woman who says at the end that she hasn't lost faith in James Ray and would in fact attend another of his events, given the chance. She feels that she got her $9695 worth, and that her life is much better in the aftermath of Sedona. If you watched the show, you may recall that Bivins was also the first to race up the hill to have her head shaved when Ray issued that challenge. (She's shown here pre-shearing.)

I always caution against reading too much into a person's demeanor, especially when forming opinions as to someone's guilt or innocence, so I don't want to violate that rule here. Still, in this case we have Bivins' own words to flesh out the imagery. Those words appear to confirm an impression I had as I watched Mind Games the way the rest of you did: as a viewer. How terribly blase, I thought. How very disconnected from the horror of it all. Bivins spent the entire hour-long show with a small but perceptible smile pasted on her mouth, and often seemed to betray some delight at describing the sundry hardships the group faced in Arizona, under Ray's messianic tutelage.

It was a smile that I felt I knew: that same beatific New Age smile that says I got mine, that exalts personal (in the strongest sense of that word) fulfillment above all else, that severs an empowered Now-liver like Bivins not only from other people's experience of the moment but, potentially, from the consequences her own actions may have for others. The ability to be happy and content when you are surrounded by pain, suffering and/or chaos is not, I think, a good (or admirable) form of happiness. One might go so far as to say that Bivins' smile bespeaks a world-view that scorns other people's pain. After all, the most hard-core followers of the law of attraction blame the victim for his misery: If you're not getting what you want out of life, and even if you're struck by tragedy (as happened in Sedona or, according to Joe Vitale, during the San Diego wildfires), it's because you're not putting the right vibes out into the Universe. Cosmically speaking, you got what you deserved.

It wasn't always thus. The original (postmodern) New Age, which flowed from the dislocating tumult of the 1960s, was rooted in collegiality and the brotherhood of man ("make love, not war") as well a Gandhi-like detachment from material things. These early devotees of the New Age were establishment dropouts both figuratively and literally; they upheld asceticism and self-denial. For the most part, they shunned wealth, seeking refuge from life's upsets by passing the bong or dropping acid in groups while humming along with the Beatles' Yellow Submarine. And though we need to be careful about romanticizing Hippie culture or its spin on spirituality, which was kooky in its own right, at least one could admire its stated aims: peace, harmony, a world community. The new New Age, in stark contrast, is about insularity and personal wealth. It's OK to be self-seeking and narcissistic. (Our pal Joel Osteen preaches this message from the pulpit.) What was once about a connection to God or at least some Higher Being is now about a connection to a higher bank balance or a new Rolls. And again here, I can't help but be reminded of today's Foreclosure Opportunism: Oh, you lost your house? Gee, what a pity...but more important, what a FANTASTIC break for me!

Early in Mind Games, Bivins tells Dan Harris, "We're there to try to create better lives for ourselves, to look at whatever is holding us back, and to push through that stuff so that we can create a better, more successful life." Aside from the robotic, redundant, mantra-like quality of those words, you have to wonder: Does she now think that she aced the test...unlike those three others who, by dying, revealed themselves as unworthy?

Does Kristina Bivins think she proved herself to be a true spiritual warrior?

31 comments:

Cosmic Connie said...

Good post, Steve. I don't wish to give short shrift to you and your impressive role in the 6-29 Mind Games episode, and I certainly do not underestimate the role that James Arthur Ray and certain of his colleagues played in making the self-help movement look pretty awful (and patently ridiculous, in some cases). But the most damning evidence against James Ray -- and against the smarmier aspects of the industry -- came from those Spiritual Warrior participants who declared themselves ready to jump right back into the game. I still can't get over that guy who is all but broke after throwing his money at JAR, but insists he's far better off.

I'm glad ABC made the effort to include people who not only participated in the fatal event but also remained loyal to JAR (or, in the case of one slightly disillusioned woman, turned away from JAR but still hold out hope for other gurus). That way the producers can't rightfully be accused of giving preference to critics of the self-help movement or to people with a specific axe to grind.

I realize I am looking at this from the perspective of a critic (with, nonetheless, a New-Wage past), but I think those endorsements of JAR at the end of the show spoke volumes more about the dark side of self-help than even the most thoughtful criticism and in-depth journalism.

RevRon's Rants said...

I find it ironic that during the '60s & '70s, the mindset of combat veterans - who were pretty universally reviled by the "hippies" - was more in sync with the "love" generation than are the New Age adults whom that generation spawned. I think it's safe to say that very few combat veterans would have sacrificed the well-being of a brother in arms for their own benefit. And I'm not talking about decorated heroes, either; just the run-of-the-mill draftees/enlistees who found themselves in precarious situations.

I personally found Ms. Bivins creepy as hell, but recognize that she exhibits the very narcissistic traits that so many of the New Wage "teachers" stress. On one level, I pity her, but on another, I can't help but feel revulsion when she parrots the mentality so succinctly chronicled by none other than Joe Vitale (which I mentioned earlier, but feel compelled to mention again).

Upon describing his ex-wife's descent into depression after being molested by Joe's therapist(?) "friend," culminating in her death, Joe closed the narrative with the statement, "Meanwhile, my own adventures continue." While he did revise the statement in a subsequent printing, only a fool would assume that he did so out of some newly-discovered empathy. More believable is that he did so because he caught flak for being so callous (as he did in the aforementioned blog post about the San Diego fires), and didn't want to alienate potential "customers."

"Buddha of the Internet," indeed!

Stever Robbins said...

As much as I'm horrified by survivors of the experience flocking back to Ray, it's an old finding in social psychology. People who experience a direct contradiction of their beliefs often become more wedded to those beliefs. The theory is that we are driven more strongly to be consistent than logical. When presented disconfirming evidence for our beliefs, we resolve the dissonance by reframing the evidence, not by discarding the belief. Robert Cialdini discusses the studies behind this in his excellent book Influence.

Anonymous said...

'Does Kristina Bivins think she proved herself to be a true spiritual warrior?'

Of course she does. In her mind she has undertaken an epic hero's journey, (Campbell has much to answer for) surmounted inhuman obstacles, done feats of derring-do, cheated death and come through it all unscathed as a superior person should. I bet she thinks it cheap at the price, poor deluded fool.

Then there's a certain Sully--who did take on a real razor's edge life or death challenge on behalf of 200 of his fellow men and delivered them all safely with just wet feet......

Rational Thinking said...

Stever makes an excellent point. In may own foray into new age-itis, I'd say this is pretty spot on. The ego cost of admitting you were mistaken can be so high that you carry on regardless - and of course you have to attempt to resolve the cognitive dissonance in whatever way you can. For what it's worth, that internal reframing may be more damaging than the original mistake. Because when the light finally dawns, the blow is far harder to take.

Steve Salerno said...

Stever & RT: You really think that's what's going on here? That this is a "simple" case of defending one's ideological turf/ego investment in the same way that, say, Sean Hannity defends any and all inconvenient aspects of conservatism?

Denisev8 said...

I watched the Mind Games show and, as usual, everything about James Ray creeped me out. I have participated in a sweat lodge ceremony for my own reasons, but there was no money involved and I was not following any spiritual guru. All things related to this one in Sedona had "stinky" written all over it.
Ever since "The Secret" was released I've been creeped out by James Ray. There's just something about him thinking he's God (just like many other of these guys). These "spiritual warriors" sure must have had low self esteem to begin with.
I just came upon your blog. Very Interesting!

Rational Thinking said...

Steve - I think it's less simple than the comparison you mention. I should mention I haven't seen the ABC program (unavailable in the UK right now) - but generally speaking, the problem is two-fold. Firstly, a lot of these seminars/courses are presented in a 'spiritual' light (Spiritual Warrior is a perfect example). Firstly, anything that one has embraced as being spiritual, is far less likely to be critically examined and tested - because it's 'spiritual'. So, we might feel 'bad' about doubting its truth when experience doesn't bear out the teaching. For Law of Attraction, there's a built-in Catch-22: if it doesn't work it's because you're doing it wrong - and, let's not forget the real kicker, it's not working because you don't believe it will work. You can go round and round in circles with that one, believe me.

So it's not a surface ego investment that's at stake - of course there is that element, but rather a very deeply internalised, 'faux' truth, with a halo of holiness around it. And so you're not just realising you made a mistake, but maybe 'spirit' is wrong, too. That's quite a painful inner discussion.

Wayne S. said...

I believe the Mind Control special proves quite adequately Steve's assertion that all this focus on self help just fuels certain insecurities in individuals. Having grown up in the 70's in California I have known and still know many people involved with empowerment groups. There seems to be one defining characteristic to all of these people. That is a measure of dissociation with the world at large.

It can be seen in the actions of the young man who couldn't pay his bills and yet found the cash to attend Sedona and would do it again in the future even though people were killed in the process. It was shown by James Ray himself in his cavalier attitude to the suffering of those attendees who anyone who ever took a CPR/first aid class would know were in need of immediate medical intervention.

The only thing I disagree with in this post is the idea that the new age philosophy has it's roots in the 1960's hippie movement. New age thinking in America goes back to the 1800's with the founding of many new age religions; Christian Science, Religious Science, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witness etc. When ever human kind is faced with unimaginable horrors like civil wars, world wars, pandemics, depressions and the like we tend to reach out for spiritual answers and into this void step the con men and gurus to rape and pillage the faithful.

The problem as I see it with new age-ism is that we have taken the one statement by Rene Descartes "Cogito ergo sum. (I think; therefore I am), run with it, and failed to read further where he also wrote "Except our own thoughts, there is nothing absolutely in our power."

Duff said...

An excellent example of the empathy deficit Barbara Ehrenreich argues that ideological positivity encourages. Personally I think the very techniques of selfish help can have a tendency to increase narcissism and decrease empathy. Visualizing one's personal, materialistic goals with great emotion is literally the cultivation of self-centeredness (compare with loving-kindness meditation or Tonglen).

I'm not so sure 60's hippie culture was significantly more collectivist than 2010's New Age culture. "Make love, not war" has connotations of pursuing personal pleasures instead of violence, a step up perhaps but still self-focused hedonism. Some New Age communities are still very focused around collectivist endeavors and psychedelic spirituality with far less emphasis on personal wealth (see Reality Sandwich for example).

I think we should be careful to not lump all of Self Help or New Age into one homogeneous basket. Other Self-Help gurus and techniques focus deeply on empathy--Nonviolent Communication for example, or Love and Logic parenting (always empathize with your child first), or even Covey's 5th habit (seek first to understand, then to be understood). Similarly with New Age communities, some are highly materialistic, some highly hedonistic, some highly communitarian.

Elizabeth said...

Duff, I like your distinction of self-help and selfish help.

Furthermore, you say:

Similarly with New Age communities, some are highly materialistic, some highly hedonistic, some highly communitarian.

Good points.

I'd say, however, that, by and large, most of New Age (or, really, any) communities enforce some kind of brain-warping and spirit-squelching conformity, whether through their guru/leader-worship, or their insistence on adhering to THE ONLY TRUE principles espoused by them and them only.

I would argue that such conformity is contrary to genuine emotional (and/or spiritual) growth, although I can see how it may serve useful purposes for some folks.

But maybe it's just a result of my personal view that I wouldn't want to be part of any group (or movement) which would accept me as its member. ;)

Wayne S. said...

Many good points about a complicated subject. Maybe it's just that humans have an inherent need to relate to one another in groups. Unfortunately group thinking is usually only effective at reaching consensus, not conclusions. In step the charismatic leaders gurus or what have you to mold the group.

Thanks for the quote from the Groucho Marx school of philosophy Elizabeth. :D

Taleda said...

I watched the show last night (recorded) and felt sick and depressed. AND ANGRY. The ONLY part of the show that made me feel a sigh of relief was that someone somewhere was opening up truthfully and unafraid and saying HEY this isn't right - Mr. Salerno that is You. I have cashed in my piggy bank (literally) to buy your book - I wish I had known about it sooner.
I have fallen into my own trap, similar to JAR's professions of how to get rich, how to reach spiritual enlightenment, how to become a better more positive person blah blah blah by using the power of your Mind Speech and Actions, just as similarly proclaimed by other "guru" types.
It is a project called THE DIFFERENCE - and stupid foolish sheep that I was, I bought the jibberish hook line and sinker. The project's "visonary" a woman named Jacqueline Bignell, stated the cost was ONLY $2,000, but it has turned out to be far more, for me and others who have had to resort to monthly automatic deducted payments, because of the exchange rate between US Dollars and Australia.
I have fallen on financially difficult times, not to mention become AWARE with eyes wide open with respect to THE DIFFERENCE and its shinanagans. I pleaded twice thru email and once via telephone conversation, to be released from my financial participation due to hardhip - ONLY to be suggested to that reduced monthly payments was the answer. Which of course suits them, they will in fact get even MORE of my money that way.
There was NO understanding, there was NO compassion, there was NO empathy, there was NO Love and I certainly have not felt the 'oneness" Ms. Bignell constantly refers to. This reminds me of JAR's "play full on" principal - once you are IN you are IN DEBT DEPTH.
I have no idea what to do, I feel totally exposed and ashamed of my stupidity. How these televised survivors of the horrific Sweat Lodge ceremony can possibly STILL proclaim their support of JAR absolutely terrifies me. As stated by the bereaved Mother regarding JAR's carismatic persona and intelligent delivery of his presentation, Ms Bignell is certainly his female equal.
Mr. Salerno, have you heard of THE DIFFERENCE? If so, what are your thoughts? Thank You for any advice.
Sticking to my gut for self-help advice from now on ...

Taleda said...

I lost my original post. Suffice to say I watch the show last night (recorded) and was sickened.
I have also fallen into my own trap similar to JAR's professed enlightenment message of using Mind Speech Action to achieve what you want.
It is with THE DIFFERENCE. Its visonary, Jacqueline Bignell, is JAR's female counterpart. Now stuck and in a financial hardship, I have written twice asking to be released from financail (and ALL) participation, as well as a phone conversation during which it was suggested to me, "your monthly payments can be lowered" ~ all well and good for "the project" and Ms. Bignell because of the dollar rate exchange between USA & Austrailia. I will have given far more than the initial "for ony $2,000" if I cannot get out of this ridiculous situation.
Just as JAR promises, Bignell also spews one's general state of being will profoundly improve as "we" become a global community of 6,000 plus members sharing our journey of love and joy and blah blah blah.

PALEEZE ... I was stupid, foolish and a sheep going over the cliff.

How these sweat lodge survivors can still proclaim support of JAR is incomprehensible to me. Oh wait, yes the operative word here is survivor. Selfishly they speak of getting what they came for.

I am grateful to you Mr. Salerno; I have literally cashed in my pink piggy bank to purchase your book. Would that I had known about it sooner.

Wayne S. said...

Taleda, there must be some way of blocking payments to this group. Credit card companies generally will do it if you ask them in writing. So will your banking institution. I imagine that if it is through payroll deductions that could be stopped too.
If you signed any contract get a copy of it and read it to find out how they handle canceling the contract. Don't let them bully you into keep paying them and don't beat yourself up over it. Anyone can fall victim to these con artists. Good luck

Steve Salerno said...

Taleda: I had not heard of Ms. Bignell or "The Difference," but her Twitter page is enough to induce vomiting (and brain cramps): http://twitter.com/thedifferencetv

I will look into this. But please tell us--in the meantime--how your "journey of love and joy" began. Also, what specific form did your "financial contribution" actually take? What did you sign up for, etc?

Widening the lens, people need to realize that there are hundreds of these poor-man's Rhonda Byrnes or James Rays wandering the global landscape. We must be ever vigilant. As Taleda's experience shows us, all it takes is one weak moment...

Taleda said...

I am touched by responses to my situation; Twitter aside, you should read her (Bignell's) Facebook Profile:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Jacqueline-Bignell/93074777411?ref=ts
As well as The Difference Facebook "fan" Page:
http://www.facebook.com/#!/TheDifferenceFilm?ref=ts
And oh yeah, she's there on Youtube with her reiteration of her "vision" ...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCA3sw6kYFc

If you really want to get ill, Youtube has a plethora of vids with her & "collaborators"; simply type in The Difference Jacqueline Bignell.
Whine without cheese, yes I and all the others signed contracts. Mine has the info re my need for monthly payments broken down into $100/mth for 2 years. However, because of the dollar rate exchange, I will be spending far more than the $2,000 which until I can figure a way out of this, who knows how much it will really cost?

I've already spoken with my Bank (Chase) and am doing as advised; keep emails and have a phone conversation. My last (3rd) email was early Monday morn, thus far no reply. Phone conversation was as mentioned previously, no backing down but suggesting lower monthly payments - ahhh yeah right. Person did say she'd speak with JB re my situation and JB would decide what to do - and that has also thus far been nothing.
I very much want to go post this experience on The Diff's FB page, as well as JB's profile page and see if that shakes anything up (pardon my pun, "we" are now in the Shieve Shaking Team development phase) Ooops my bad ~ I mean SIEVE. My concern is legally am I allowed this without consequences? You wouldn't believe the crap on the diff website, the diff Media Mastering Mentor Program crap-ola we are supposed to print, read and do ...
Ahhh my journey of love and joy and blah blah blah - the first phone call, person said specifically "we found you thru the work you do on the internet (red flag) and were inspired by your selfless nature, the love you give to all and the joy with which you journey thur your life." So I asked, "what work?" Response was, "your website, your blog, your facebook networking etc. ..." I am a one woman biz owner, Sanctuary Massage, I rent a room to do my spa work out of another business. I live with my Mom otherwise I'd be homeless, literally. I worry every single day about money.
I try not to be cynical, I want so desperately to believe that those who profess "goodness" really have a calling, and yet ... my face turns red as I consider my Lord Buddha ~ he never once asked for money as he shared his message of Love Joy Peace Good Will and how to end Suffering.
I had a near death experience, actually I believe I was dead and the paramedics brought me back from the indescribably white light; all i remember are 2 black eyes a smile below a black mustache and the mouth saying, "it isn't your time". My life changed that day in Nov 1998. As we all have life altering experiences, I cannot fathom WHY my experience should be shared with the world as a difference maker? BTW, nobody connected with the diff knows about my experience, I've never told anyone, except my Mom & Son, until now.

Wayne S. said...

I don't know which country you reside in but in the USA where I reside there are legal aid clinics that don't charge for services. Some lawyers/barristers also do pro bono (free) work on occasion. Having a professional go over your contract with an eye towards finding loop holes to take advantage of couldn't hurt.

If you can't find anyone to help you there you might contact the Rick Ross institute for the study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements.
http://www.rickross.com/
Mr. Ross himself is a lawyer and might be able to give some advice to you.

Just remember that no matter how this all plays out that one day it will be in the past and you will be a stronger person for it.

Taleda said...

Hi Steve, Wayne and others, Thank you Steve for allowing my venting on what is really the JAR debacle!
I am born in the USA and proud to be an American. Reside in Las Vegas NV currently (go figure, the capital of tawdry promises) I am also a US Navy VET 1973-1975.
Today is Friday with zero response and so, I am going to do a bit of posting on The Diff FB Page as well as JB's FB Page.
I am also going to my Bank and get that ball rolling.
Wayne you are awesome! Thanks a million for the Legal/Pro Bono advice, AND about Rick Ross.
Would you believe I'm basically not a "negative" person, live like a duck - let the crap roll off me like water, but this JAR & Difference abuse has really got me riled up and world wide needs to stop, somehow - to bad there aren't laws requiring credentials for those who profess to be visionaries, aka charlatans, flimflamers, hustlers, conmans etc.
Steve, ordered your book from Borders yesterday, looking forward to its delivery.
Thanks again all and down the road I'll let you know what happens.

RevRon's Rants said...

Taleda - I don't presume to speak for Wayne, and what I say might sound like nit-picking, but having acted as Compliance Liaison for a financial advisory / legal firm for 4 years, I learned how essential the picking of nits can be in a legal/financial setting.

That said, what Wayne offered you was a suggestion to seek professional legal advice, and didn't actually constitute legal advice, per se. Had the categorization of his comments as representing pro bono legal advice been let stand, it could be construed as constituting an admission of practicing law, which he clearly was not.

Given a number of individuals in the LGAT industry's propensity for using litigation to silence critics (and the visibility of Steve's blog), I thought it prudent to clarify the matter and eliminate a potential target for the hustledorks' shenanigans.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program... :-)

Wayne S. said...

Thanks RevRon, clarification of this issue is always a good idea. I am not, as you say, a practicing lawyer in any way, shape or form and what I suggested was getting advice from someone who is an expert. Nit picking is good.

I tend to get my blood boiling on this subject because I have been dealing with people and groups like these most of my adult life having grown up in the 70's in California and am still living there.
Good luck Taleda, and yes, let's get back to the regularly scheduled program. :)

Taleda said...

I never thought Wayne was doing anything other than offering up some friendly thoughts :)
I shall email Steve directly regarding the hilarious & expected outcome of my FB postings yesterday on The Diff page & JB's page.
Suffice to say, in this instance expectations did not cause suffering, but much laughter.
Ciao all ..

SustainableFamilies said...

Duff I have to add something about non-violent communication knowing a number of people who love it. While on the one hand, the wonderful thing about it is that it helps people consider others, it also, almost completely removes responsability of others to be there for you. On the one hand this can be a really good thing, because any time we set out to make others be there for us we will fail and everyone will suffer.

On the other hand, people who practice philosophies in which no one is responsible for anyone else, even if that STARTS as a compasstionate statement of self reliance... winds up having a sense that they should never be there for anyone else because no one needs anyone.

I think the idea that no one needs anyone, be it you needing others or others needing you... creates a state of indifference to the suffering and need of other humans.

Vera Keil said...

Exactly. Your post covers so much of the outrage I also feel toward the direction the 'new age' has taken.

Having been in a new age cult myself, I can offer this insight: the little smile on Blivin's face also denotes her conviction that bodies don't matter--it is worth dying to achieve, or even chase, the spiritual benefits promised and believed in. She has been brainwashed to think Ray can offer his followers something better than mere life. NOW I see the tragedy of this view, but I can relate to her self-delusion.

Mike Cane said...

>>>These early devotees of the New Age were establishment dropouts both figuratively and literally; they upheld asceticism and self-denial. For the most part, they shunned wealth, seeking refuge from life's upsets by passing the bong or dropping acid in groups

Wait. WTF? Let me parse that.

>>>These early devotees of the New Age were establishment dropouts both figuratively and literally; they upheld asceticism and self-denial.

What?! That's what they *stated*. They were hypocrites just as their latter-day incarnations!

>>>For the most part, they shunned wealth, seeking refuge from life's upsets by passing the bong or dropping acid in groups

That's not seeking "refuge" -- that's blitzing your mind into imbecility. And where did the money come from for the damn drugs? From Capitalist Pig Daddy or Housewife Drudge Mommy.

I've been enjoying catching up on your posts, but really, that bit made my head explode for its incongruence with the reality I saw all around me in the 1960s and 1970s. There is a straight line from today's SHAMsters back to the ones of that earlier era. Hell, even Kerouac despised them -- and they worshipped him!! He knew a phony from a mile away too.

As for this specific woman you point to, you have no idea what mood pill -- or cocktail of them -- she might be on. I'm surprised that never crossed your mind. My god, the number of people out there popping pills so they can "cope" is astronomical. If we ever have a second Great Depression (which I think we will), the outbreak of violence that will follow from people who can no longer afford their pill crutches will be record-setting.

RevRon's Rants said...

Sorry to hear about your head exploding and all, Mike, but I think a key phrase in your comment is "the reality I saw." I saw something completely different, and more consistent with Steve's description. Living with a bunch of other folks, so we didn't need to take anyone's money. All had jobs & chores to keep the place going. We worked hard to make a place that felt comfortable & nurturing.

There were some drugs, but I guess I missed it if anyone blitzed their mind into imbecility. Worst I saw was the occasionally dingy morning, capped with the phrase, "I don't think I'll do that again."

Bottom line here is that most broad-brush characterizations are false.

Steve Salerno said...

As I thought I was clear in saying in the post itself, I was not exalting Hippie culture. I was simply contrasting the New Age then vs. the New Age now. Or maybe it's my use of the term "New Age" that's fouling the waters. Perhaps I should use spirituality instead. At one time--and not all that long ago--spirituality meant a commitment to either the sorts of principles preached in the Ten Commandments or the kindness and asceticism associated with the Dalai Lama and the like. In any case, it referred to a personal search for a higher meaning that did not have to do with material riches or the pleasures of the flesh. Now we use spirituality as a convenient cover or euphemism for selfishness and hedonism. We've redefined behaviors and traits that were once the farthest thing from spirituality in order to make the tent large enough to accommodate today's self-seeking, money-driven narcissists--and to make the gurus' pitches as salable as possible.

RevRon's Rants said...

Just to be clear, I wasn't exalting a hippie "culture," either. I merely reported on my own experiences of the time, as differentiated by the perspective Mike offered.

It was a time of many new avenues to be followed. Some were no doubt as destructive as Mike described. Some more idyllic that my own experiences. And depending upon the individual, those avenues led to a deeper spiritual hunger, obsession with materialism, narcissism, and for some, nothing more than vague memories or a sense of nostalgia. It was neither a one-size-fits-all experience nor a precursor to salvation or downfall. It merely was. We made of it what we would. And some cashed in, as described in Steve's post.

Steve Salerno said...

I guess my overarching point is this: We have become an unapologetic Culture of Me. (We've been a Culture of Me for a while, but it's the unapologetic part that has changed.) And you can argue that that's good or that's bad. But whichever way you go, don't call it spirituality, please, because that cheapens and perverts the concept. I have frankly had it with people who say they're seeking Christ from the driver's seat of a Maserati--and I blame people like Joel Osteen for that as much as I blame Byrne, Vitale, Robbins et al. If you want to be a selfish prick, be a selfish prick; just don't tell me you're doing it in the name of being One with the Universe.

a/good/lysstener said...

Steve, I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed Mind Games, and how brilliantly you came across. You were like an oasis of reason in the middle of an arid desert of insanity, with no pun intended. You're even more impressive on air than you are in print, which I hadn't thought possible. Am I being too gushy? :-)

Anonymous said...

I second a/good/lysstener's post!

Barbara