Review of 'Conspirituality,' Part One
I worked in the alternative health industry for a long time, and I definitely watched some people lose it during the pandemic. Sayer Ji comes to mind but not on your list - did some crazy live videos with his wife where he was just ranting seriously messed up messaging about how covid had come to help transform our DNA and that some people would die and that was part of our evolution as a species. Here is some hippy guy with a beard espousing some wierd cleansing of the population Nazi messaging - and people ate it up. One of the big tricks in this field is when you get kicked off social media or banned from Amazon Videos, you use it as proof that your message is starting to hit home and the machine is trying to crush you.
I read an article in Wired a long time ago that really made sense to me about the human brains inability to handle unfairness. This is the survival mechanism that lets people pick up and keep going after a tsunami kills everyone they love - your brain simply says 'do not process - too unfair'. It is this mechanism that has driven people to create gods and governments - the big trustworthy dieties on whom we can blame the deeply unfair, and also who are supposed to handle it for us.
I think that this ultimately though is to blame on the same thing you blame most things on - capitalism. Ultimately, there are tons of amazing alternative therapies. Let's pretend we had a culture that paid us all a reasonable living wage. Healers could then make their potions, and share them with those who needed them, and all would be beautiful. When your ability to live and feed your family is based on your ability to sell that potion, at some point almost everyone becomes a snake oil salesman - selling their solutions beyond the reach of where they are really needed, and making up applications that aren't the core of what the product really solves just to sell to broader markets.
Zach Bush is a clear one here - you can buy humic acid and volvic minterals on Amazon for $8 a gallon or something. Or from Zach Bush for $50 for a couple ounces in a bottle. In my opinion healthcare should, at its core, be about helping people. No matter how good your solution is - and pharmaceuticals play the same game - the second you are price gouging people for it you are just a capitalist pawn in my opinion, and no longer have any relationship to a healer of any type.
It is a hard one as I too spend a lot of my life in the deep realms of woo - I don't believe that there are actual hard scientific answers to some questions, and I certainly think dismissing it all and calling that science is also - not science. A good scientist, a real scientist would know that, until they can prove that my soul is not greater than my body, and that my energy won't continue in the web of consciousness after my death, that all we have is hypothesis - because they can't prove that consciousness is simply a chemical act either. The great scientists accept that much of live is a mystery - you may seek proofs, you may try to strengthen hypothesis, but believing that you know the answer when you have been unable to actually prove it is a distinctly unscientific perspective.
I actually think that the answers for us lie in pursuing the distinctly unbelievable and impossible with a healthy dose of scientific skepticism.
I appreciate your willingness to take this book on, Daniel, given that some of their criticism hits close to home. I haven't read it yet, but I listen to their podcast regularly, and it sounds like the book mirrors the podcast's strengths and blindspots. Much of my work and worldview overlaps with esoteric traditions and practices. I find that the podcast, at it's best, serves as an 'inoculation' against the seductive but incoherent (and often covertly predatory) messages and practices in the field. At it's worst, the podcast comes across as reductive, patronizing, and self-serving. I'm all for calling out predatory 'influencers' and 'thought-leaders' (which they do quite effectively) but if you're someone who's been victimized by the field (e.g. seduced into a cult, given up life savings as an offering to G-d, purchased snake oil at high cost, gaslighting after abuse, etc) listening to conspirituality might only serve to shame you more without honoring the parts of you longing to escape the dominant cultural paradigm that also causes tremendous harm
This book sounds sad and completely hypocritical. Of course that doesn't discount whatever nuggets might be in there but overall it seems pretty silly.
I so appreciate this analysis. I’m so often disheartened that we can’t hold the ambiguity of the middle where several things can be true at once, as opposed to these extreme corners of rigidity.
Hi Daniel, can you please give some sources for Zach Bush and Joe Dispenza regarding QAnon etc.? I have a friend who's into them and she says she's never seen any political utterances from those two.
I haven't read the book. And I take for granted that there is a mixture of light and shadow in the Wellness community, like all domains of human activity. But these are the types of people who told us during Covid to 'follow the science' even while our scientific institutions had obviously been corrupted by political interests. The official narrative dramatically exaggerated the dangers of Covid, especially for younger, healthy people and dramatically downplayed the evidence of adverse effects of the vaccines. It denied the potential role of preventative remedies, dismissed the concept of natural immunity, and suppressed early treatment options like monoclonal antibodies, all to serve a political goal of having everyone take the vaccines. When that wasn't enough, they used bribes and mandates to force people to take it.
And anyone who had questions about this unprecedented, nonsensical process was aggressively painted as a conspiracy theorist and suspected of being a far-right Trump-loving deplorable.
I don't know the exact position of the authors on Covid. But I do know that Lissa Rankin referenced their work as support for her public denouncement of Charles Eisenstein (while using her platform to shame the 'willfully unvaccinated'). The politically-naive liberal apostles of scientific rationality were THE biggest cheerleaders for the greatest abuse of governmental power in our lifetimes.
On the big issue of our day, they got it wrong. On the big issue of our day, they were agents of a great, great evil. And yet they purport to position themselves as the moral arbiters of the healing community. They can go fuck themselves as far as I'm concerned.
The wellness practitioners who fall under the auspices of a licensing college provide a less sensationalized and highly regulated "norm" that still holds a lot of viability and offers relief for people suffering from various conditions. That said, I understand where the authors and podcasters of Conspirituality are coming from because I saw it happening too. After all, I lived in Sedona, Arizona (New Age capital of the world - LOL) and I currently live in a similarly bent population on a small island where every second person is a yoga teacher or practitioner.
Still, I don't appreciate the authors' blatant take-down and apparent naiveté on specific subjects and people who have fallen into their pit of opinionated attacks.
I was genuinely astonished at some of my "New Agey" friends and acquaintances who flipped to the QAnon angles. I thought they'd lost their minds too.
Much of what we have encountered over the past decade reeks of intelligence agency manipulation, and that requires a clear view of how and why the DoD, for example, took control of the pandemic narrative. It's not a conspiracy. It's how they operate. Observe the use of certain words and language styles, primarily via media coordination and repetitive headlines across countries that have collective interests, such as the Five Eyes:
and the Trusted News Initiative:
(CBC/Radio-Canada announced its participation in the Trusted News Initiative in September 2019.)
I recommend Ken DeGraffenreid's book, The Cox Report, or any of the other suggested reading on the IWP website: https://www.iwp.edu/faculty/kenneth-degraffenreid/
Also, Mark M. Lowenthal's book: https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/intelligence/book268258#description
I attended some lectures by Mr. DeGraffenreid and others at the IWP in 2000.
I am still learning about the authors of Conspirituality, but I looked at their Facebook page, particularly the reviews. Interesting, to say the least: https://www.facebook.com/conspiritualitypodcast/reviews
Keep the conversation going. The dialogue in this thread is outstanding, and I remain curious and engaged. Thank you, Daniel, for the openness and perspective and willingness to engage on areas that hurt a bit for those of us who are Steiner fans, among other topics.
Loved your fair analysis. I have been a part of the health and wellness community since the 2000s and have always marveled at the flow of cutting-edge information from the fringe to the mainstream via many expos, conferences, and trade shows. The information I gathered from tried-and-true practitioners was completely beneficial to building a sense of caring for my “temple.” But I was also always clear that anyone striving to make themselves a place in society by being a public expert has to some degree commit out loud to their own strong theories more than they might privately. And so all information—and sales pitches, especially—was taken with a grain of salt, and my own underlying belief that I can maintain my health and wholeness without continuously, endlessly purchasing supplements, programs, or subscriptions. And in the meantime, I’ve watched many people who were, to me, progressive underground health heroes turn into loose canons and/or purveyors of insecurity, creating businesses based on seeding their audiences with the idea that they have shocking information that places them and their followers ahead of the curve. I watch who lives healthfully without much grandeur about it. I take in what helps me think critically and make discerning choices, and leave the rest. I watch the reductive materialist and the consprititualists, and feel content that I belong to neither end of the spectrum.
Here are some pertinent quotes about reason and rationality from Rudolf Steiner lectures on the World of the Senses.
“In regard to reality, our thinking is utterly incompetent, it is inconclusive and no judge of what is actually true. “
“Thinking can be correct but still not true”.
“Therefore a proof gained by means of thinking will never accord in any way with reality”
"Our relationship with thinking must not make thinking the judge of things but to allow it to be an instrument through which things speak to us.
Steiner was fabulous.
I appreciate your open mindedness about this book because I would personally not give it the time of day for a number of reasons. In my opinion the authors pathologically disparage the people and the reasons for this political shift while missing the aptness and cultural usefulness of these “conspiracy”theories. Also I am adverse to the author’s rationalism, materialism and apparent ill will in their over reaching attempt to cancel new agers by equating them with eugenics and naziism. Yuck ! This makes me consider the direction of their thought as primarily reactionary and "counter revolutionary"and in service to the status quo. During the pandemic I noticed an ironic failure of rationalism. I watched many people do the right thing (imo) for the wrong even crazy reasons and others do the stupid thing for excellent reasons ( according to the moment) My point is that the crazies are an important bulwark against totalitarian conformism, governmental coercion and political correctness. Some people need be able to say no for no good or defensible reason.Besides these voices are no threat to anyone but those in power who have far greater control over the cultural narrative. Many people are fed up. They see how the standard narrative is sneakily manipulative, heavily spun and full of lies of omission. This is why one of RFK's main campaign promises is to stop lying to us .
I recommend this short pdf which repudiates the idea that Steiner was a racist or a fascist - https://static.goetheanum.co/assets/medias/Anthroposophy-and-Racism.pdf
Daniel, I think you could write a more reasoned and nuanced book-length analysis of the "consciousness industrial complex," as I've been referring to it for years. A real "follow the money" deep-dive into the space as it has become since the 70s (through the 80s/90s "new age" take), the 2012 pivot point, and our current era (in alignment with the "4th Turning" which turns completely in the 2025/27 window, which is kind of the next "2012." There are obvious themes of lack of critical thinking across the mass of the culture, but a focus on spirituality that sells (to the people who can afford to buy it) with a pretty detached perspective towards those outside that circle of support. I'm part of it and okay with that to a certain extent because good messages and practices are getting out there; but also think that it could afford having it's shadow pieces revealed... particularly how themes of service to the whole or activism are studiously avoided in our marketing in favor of themes around "self care," manifesting an ideal life, pursuing dreams, create the world through resonance (which is deeply embraced by many privileged and arguably entitled constituents. Happy to connect up for a call sometime and heartstorm a draft of the outline. You have a really unique way of writing from both a disengaged impartial observer's voice, but somehow also from within the subject you're reviewing. That couldn't be more true for this space, since you've experienced a great deal of attention from the industry as well. Not to take anyone down, per se, but to expose where "spiritual" culture is as captured by late stage capitalism as any of the other parts. It's important to name the thing to be able to transform and transition from the thing.
Vent away! I used to follow a few of these types on twitter, because I initially liked their rational, logical approach. But as well as all of the issues you bring up, I'll add that the cerebral narcissism evident in the comments seemed like a game of 'cleverness one-up-manship.' And that kind of gets to the heart of the matter. Criticism should come from a place of humility.
But yeah, they are a useful tool when you discount for all of your qualifiers, Daniel.
I liked your book Quatzecoatyl, btw!
Oddly enough, in their supposedly good-faith attempts to defuse the culture wars, the Conspirituality gang are really doing nothing but throwing fuel on the fire. I’ve listened to a few episodes of their show and understood their motivation and approach clear as day: they are grifters, trying to make a mill by calling out grifters.
In the process they are really doing a lot more harm than good. AFAIK they propose no real alternative structures for movements, progress, or societal evolution.
Just more blue church, decline and fall type thinking. From my personal experience and extensive reading and research, magic is real, mass media and culture is not our friend, and many of the supposedly debunked wellness modalities change lives for the better every day.
I agree with much of your criticism. I was following their work for a while, because I think they make some good points, but I think they seem more motivated by personal resentment than an earnest desire to understand why certain problems in the wellness community exist. I was hoping for something more sophisticated than alternative medicine = fascism = bad. It’s very black and white thinking and will unfortunately only add more fuel to the fire to polarization on these issues. I feel badly though, because I am pretty sure unhealed trauma from abusive experiences in the spiritual world, is what is fueling some of the black and white thinking from at least one of the authors. Thanks for separating out their good arguments from their reactionary stuff to offer a more grounded analysis!