How the Wellness Community Lost Its Mind
Review of 'Conspirituality,' Part One
Despite my caveats presented below, I highly recommend Conspirituality. This new book — based on the popular podcast of the same name— offers a comprehensive analysis and a much-needed corrective of disturbing trends in the alternative health and wellness culture, which has embraced many bizarre ideas and paranoid fantasies. As these ideas spread virally, they exacerbate schisms in American society and provide support for Alt Right movements and dangerous demagogues.
For those who don’t know, the term “conspirituality” was coined around 2011 to describe the bizarre fusion of conspiracy theories (ranging from the sensible to extremely paranoid and phantasmal) with the yoga and alt-wellness community. This started over a decade ago but exploded after Trump’s election, when various popular angelic and ET channels declared the charlatan-in-chief a secret “light worker” sent by G-d to cleanse the elite of demonic pedophiles. It reached another level with the Covid crisis, where many declared the rushed vaccines to be a mechanism of technocratic control, part of a New World Order takeover, loaded with nanoparticles designed to cull the sheeple herd. Suddenly, influencers across the once-liberal yoga community started parroting QANON talking points.
Conspirituality traces the development of this ideology from its origins until today, analyzing and deconstructing the ideas and motives of popular thinkers and activists such as Kelly Brogan, Zach Bush, Charles Eisenstein, Joe DiSpenza, Aubrey Marcus, RFK Jr, Guru Jagat, Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, Christiane Northrup, and many more. The problem with Conspirituality is it swings too far in the other direction, throwing the baby out with the esoteric bathwater. It acknowledges yet trivializes the legitimate basis of many people’s distrust. Still, for many of us, this is a necessary book to read now, as we continue to live in a post-Covid philosophical abyss filled by professional grifters, misinformation maestros, and charismatic opportunists.
Co-authors Matthew Remski, Derek Beres, and Julian Walker are former yogis and cult believers who have renounced their previous ideals. Like many apostates, they seem driven by an overwhelming desire to reject, ridicule, and even crush the entire complex of ideas and practices they once cherished. I am well aware of this hyper-critical tendency because I also experience it, at times, in myself.
Inevitably, Conspirituality made me reflect on my ideas, and past efforts. In my work, I try to balance intuition, psychedelic vision, and knowledge gleaned from psychic and paranormal experiences with science, discernment, and logic. I don’t always succeed.
One area where I feel called out by the book is in my past promotion of a possibly approaching mass transformation of human consciousness or a “dimensional shift.” This was a focus of Quetzalcoatl Returns (originally published as 2012: The Return of Quetzalcoatl). The authors argue that the specious promise of an inevitable metamorphosis detached people from believing in the necessity of taking action within the existing political system to confront social injustice and the ecological emergency. I will revisit this later, as it stings a bit.
First, I want to explore some problems I had with the book. In my next newsletter, I will focus on what makes it such an invaluable, important text for people to tackle now.
Old Cults to New Cult
Ironically, Remski and his fellow authors end up proselytizing for a different cult. Violently ridiculing everything “woo” such as subtle energy or the possibility that we possess souls beyond our physical bodies, they turn into reductive materialists and devout atheists, allergic to anything not backed by scientific evidence.
Although it has many millions of adherents, liberal progressivism still fits the definition of a cult. It has a set of self-limiting beliefs and applies familiar rhetorical strategies, including the knee-jerk tendency to ridicule and mock anything that is not currently proven or accepted. It is a shame that the authors and podcasters can’t overcome this limit, as it makes their project much less effective than it might have been. It appears they developed extreme counter-paranoia. For example, the former yogis now claim that all modern yoga practices are rooted in a murky legacy of 19th Century eugenics, promoting “body fascism” as well as, unconsciously, political fascism:
“One of the most influential yet hidden aspects of modern yoga” is “its spiritual and shameful obsession with eugenics,” they write.
And again: “The strains of body fascism that arose to support and glorify the paranoid and grandiose nationalistic movements of the early twentieth century are still lingering in yoga and wellness cultures in internalized form.” And in case we still haven’t gotten the point: “Modern yoga and wellness” echo with a “(now-depoliticized) body fascism that was over a century old…”
The authors redundantly harp on an “unconscious eugenics theme” in all modern yoga, “that flaws in bodies should be identified, corrected, and bred out of existence so they no longer trouble the advancement of human evolution or the conscience of the privileged.” This becomes self-parodic overkill. Sometimes an asana is just an asana.
Among the historical figures they rake over the coals is one of my heroes, Rudolf Steiner, whose work I know well. In an effort to summarily dismiss Steiner’s ideas and achievements, they write:
According to Steiner, if knowledge accumulates in stages, or must be syncretized from different perspectives, or be updated when new evidence emerges, it can’t have real value. Luckily, Steiner argues, the eternal is accessible to the man who trains himself to see beyond the husk of the mundane world and into the vibrant tableaux of oneness. And wouldn’t you know it—he thinks he’s just the man for the job.
“When scholars argue that fascism depends on devaluing academics and glorifying anti-intellectualism, this is a great example of what they’re talking about. It’s a short trip between Steiner touting his pseudohistory book and Hitler coining the term Lügenpresse (“lying press,” or in today’s parlance, “fake news”) to deride any legitimate journalism that would push back against the Third Reich.
The first paragraph offers a badly garbled misconception of Steiner’s ideas. The second seeks to make Steiner into a proto-fascist. In fact, Steiner warned against the Fascist movement that started to gain traction in Germany in the 1920s. Adolf Hitler wrote a screed against Steiner in 1921, and Steiner’s Anthroposophic movement was persecuted by the Nazis after his death. The actual Fascists saw Anthroposophy — promoting benevolent occultism — as a serious enemy.
I might suggest that the Conspirituality authors become guilty of a kind of “neo-fascist” purging of their own. Their total rejection of all esoteric and occult possibility forces a blind obedience to establishment ideologies and reductive materialism. This is never questioned in the book. Their rigid conflation of every alternative and esoteric practice with eugenics and proto-fascism — even something as seemingly apolitical as an olive oil cleanse internalizes “beliefs in impurity” — suggests shadow projection on their part.
Throughout the book, the authors also make sure to estimate the amount of money and social media impressions made by almost every alternative wellness influencer with conspiritual tendencies. This is meant to make them seem more venal, but I find it one-sided. Wouldn’t it make sense for the authors to reveal their own financial rewards and media stats as well? After all, they also seem to be succeeding with their efforts. Don’t mainstream pro-vax and anti-QANON influencers also reap financial reward for their work? I imagine Fauci, for example, is doing okay. Repeatedly insinuating that the target of one’s attack has financial reward as their primary motive is a common ploy of “smear” journalism and a slightly low blow.
Thanks for letting me vent for a bit. Next time, I will turn my attention to the many extremely useful parts of their analysis.