Whirled Musings

Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Jerry Hicks on chemo: Abrascam gets a little help from Western medicine

Those of you who have been hanging around this blog for a while -- or who have been following New-Wage scams via other forums -- are probably pretty familiar with Jerry and Esther Hicks, whom I've called the George and Gracie of the New-Wage world. (The main difference between the Hicks and Burns & Allen is that the latter were intentionally funny.)


Esther and Jerry -- whom Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale has credited with inspiring him in his own "spiritual marketing" shtick (he says he even wrote the intro to the original edition of their first Sara book) -- have had a smashingly successful imaginary-friends scam going since the late 1980s. As many of you may also recall, they were big stars of the original version of The Secret. Then when The Secret got too big for its bitches...I mean, britches...Rhonda Byrne got greedy and had her lawyers try to manipulate the Hicks into signing away more rights than they were comfortable with signing away. They refused, so she cut them out of the moviemercial entirely and released a new version sans Abe-Hicks. I blogged about this back in December 2006. And on his old blog, Mr. Fire himself wrote that despite the elimination of his dear friends, the new version of The Secret was even better than the original.

At any rate, being ousted from The Secret was no skin off the Hicks' backs. Their initial public proclamations about the incident were the typically "loving" -- that is, euphemistic but secretly seething -- New-Agey pap you might expect, but as time went by they got a bit snippy about it. They even released a revenge DVD. (I may have doctored that cover a little, but not much.) I don't blame them for being p.o.'d at Rhonda, but in the larger scheme of things I also don't think it's as outrageous for scammers to get scammed as it is for regular people to get scammed.

In any case the Hicks continued to rake it in with Gracie's... I mean Esther's... hammy Abe performances. They churned out books and frauducts, they presented workshops, they hosted lavish cruises for their faithful following of seagullibles. And the money just kept streaming in, often surprising even them, according to some of their own comments over the years. Of course I would always read between the lines: "Jeez, we can't BELIEVE we're getting away with this crap." "Jeez, we can't believe we're STILL getting away with this crap." And so on.

But all good scams must come to an end...or must they? Some people are predicting the end of the Abraham-Hicks empire in light of the fact that Jerry Hicks, who first pushed Esther into channeling -- um, I mean "receiving" -- has been undergoing chemotherapy to correct an "exaggerated" white blood cell count. I was first alerted to this by my friend Kyra, who runs a couple of Abe-skeptic sites. She pointed me to her blog post about the matter: http://kyrasdiary.blogspot.com/2011/05/jerry-hicks-undergoing-chemotherapy.html

The problem -- and the point that threatens to shake the Abe-Hicks community to its core (or not) -- is that "Abraham" has consistently advised against resorting to doctors and conventional medical treatment. While some of the "teachings" of Abe seem to take a neutral stance towards medicine, the overall message is that the body knows how to heal itself, and that the Abe teachings can help you prevent or cure any ailment by getting your vibes in tune with health, abundance and joy -- all without medical intervention, thank you very much. To many Abe followers, this apparently translates into a mandate to stay away from doctors and medicine altogether.

Kyra shares a revealing quotation at the beginning of her blog post:

"In reality, we have never encouraged Jerry or Esther to take any sort of medication or medical treatment because we know it is easier to teach them with what they know how to find their vibrational harmony with energy." - Abraham Hicks 03/02/1997 San Francisco, CA

It isn't Schadenfreude that motivates Kyra to write about this matter, and while you may find it hard to believe, that's not my chief motivator in this case either. Let me make it clear: I don't wish illness on anyone, not even a professional scammer like Jerry Hicks.

I do think it's a bit premature to talk about the end of a good scam like Abe-Hicks. On a recent Squidoo conversation Kyra wrote, "I think Jerry and Esther will run out of steam before their gimmick does." And I think she's right. For now, Jerry and Esther seem to be doing what they can to keep the scam alive by framing the entire chemo incident in a casual, lah-de-dah tale of a possible spider bite that may have occurred while the Hicks were camping next to a yacht marina in Florida. (Yep, those foreign yacht spiders will get ya every time. Yet another argument in favor of arachnophobia.)

In a recent update Jerry Hicks wrote -- or, more likely, had someone write for him:

On March 12, 2011 we flew from Del Mar to Boca Raton, Fl where we slept next to the dock with many yachts from many different parts of the world in the slip right outside our window. When I awakened the next morning I had a large welt on the inside of my wrist that looked like a giant fire ant bite. The most unusual thing about it was instead of the usual circular puss-like head that comes up from many insect bites it was a strangely cube-like head. It looked more like a spider bite. I put a Band-Aid on it and we continued the Panamanian cruise. It seemed to resolve into itself as time went along forming a pea-shaped nodule on my wrist. On April 18, I showed it to a dermatologist in Del Mar and she immediately decided to scrape it off and sent it in for a biopsy. We continued our seminar tour and returned to San Antonio getting ready for our spring East Coast run when we heard back from the biopsy results that there was something amiss relative to my white blood cell count and she put us in touch with a dermatologist in San Antonio who was an old school friend of hers. The subsequent blood test in San Antonio showed that my white blood cell count was extremely exaggerated and the physician insisted that I undergo immediate treatment with no delay. He pointed out a number of options, one of them was to use the “big guns” (heavy chemotherapy) and so we decided to go along with that and checked into the hospital on May 6th.

We were swept up in such an obvious current of amazing “path of least resistance” events unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. The strong feeling that we were proceeding in exactly the right direction continued as my response to these “big guns” was a week of no discomfort and none of the highly forewarned side effects. Everyone around us at the hospital kept speaking their surprise at my unusually comfortable experience. We are now in day 18 of a 28 day regimen of bringing my blood counts back into perfect balance...

...P.S. One of the most wonderful things that I’ve experienced was the following revelation that I had while in the hospital with all of those wonderful people taking care of us: Every person with whom we seemingly have a chance encounter while here upon this planet has the potential of exerting a purely angelic influence upon us if we will but allow it.

There's a good discussion about this matter on this Squidoo forum hosted by another Abe-Hicks critic, Dave Stone: http://www.squidoo.com/death-of-abraham-hicks-esther-and-jerry-hicks-creation

I am not nearly as familiar with the teachings of Abe as Kyra and Dave Stone are. But there does seem to be a disconnect between "Abe's" teachings on conventional medical treatment and Jerry's decision to pursue same -- and many might see this as hypocritical. Even so, true believers will always find a way to rationalize. F'rinstance, there's this comment, from Dave Stone's Squidoo page linked to above:

Crumb Bukowski May 27, 2011 @ 6:22 pm
Jerry said in his blog that the chemo trip was a path of least resistance for him. This only implies if he didn't treat the condition with medicine he would've perhaps worried that he couldn't recover his well-being by just aligning his energy. The dude is 80 or older and must've figured he would take the chemo AND do his best to stay in the vortex in order to recover his well-being ASAP. Just because Abraham would not recommend medical treatment doesn't mean either Jerry or Esther or anyone else need follow their recommendation. I admit I was taken aback when Jerry didn't say "Screw the chemo, I'm just gonna chill out from the workshop schedule and do some fishing and trust that the white cell count will return to normal in proportion to how easygoing I make things inside my head." But he sort of emphasizes that the decision was a path of least resistance and that is quite respectable. Who is anyone to criticize or sneer at someone basing a decision on the path of least resistance? Esther and Jerry only ever claim to do their best to benefit from the teachings; they have never claimed to be the ultimate ultra-shining examples of said teachings. Cheers.

Dave replied:

Uh, yes, they did. They have access to Abraham, if such an entity exists 24 X 7, and they quote them every step of their lives. Esther has been quoted, posing as Abraham, as saying that the prognosis could be changed in a single afternoon session with Abraham. I can give you the quote, if you insist, but maybe you should wonder why they just didn't do that.

More importantly, you might ask yourself why Jerry doesn't just come clean, instead of dancing evasively all around the point. He has a teaching opportunity here, a chance to genuinely help others. Instead, he's staying on the money track. And, oh, by the way, if you are not one of the A-H emissaries they occasionally float my way in disguise, you are a sucker, ready to concoct rationales to excuse them of questionable conduct.

But people who want to believe will continue to believe. As Kyra wrote on Dave's forum:

...I don't think that in the end this will matter to Abers... Seth supporters managed to excuse Jane Robert's slow, painful death and Christian Scientists found ways of diffusing Mary Baker Eddy's morphine addiction. I'm sure that the same thing will happen here. I do have to say, though, I'm relieved because I think this will encourage people who listen to Abraham's teachings to seek traditional medicine when something goes wrong (rather than intending to rely on Abraham processes). At the least, they won't beat up on themselves so much when they get sick. They'll say, if it can happen to Jerry, it can happen to anyone. And that's good to know because one of my biggest worries about the teaching was with people who were trying to use Abraham processes because they didn't want to go the path of traditional medicine.

One point seems clear, whether you believe in LOA and Abe or not: Jerry and Esther's long-running imaginary-buddies scam has earned them millions of dollars -- more than enough money, I'd imagine, to buy the very best in medical treatment and after-care. Thanks to thousands upon thousands of gullible souls, Jerry Hicks, former Amway exec and current pimp for Esther's folly, is able to afford to take that "path of least resistance" and employ all of the "big guns" he needs to help him maintain or regain his health, and perhaps even buy him a few more good scamming years. The same probably cannot be said of many, if not most, of his followers, and, for that matter, millions of other people who can't even afford basic medical care. So in that sense, I guess LOA and imaginary pals work very well indeed for some folks, not so well for others.

Something about that just doesn't seem right.

PS ~ For those who want to wear their Abe-Hicks skepticism, there's this T-shirt. Click on the pic for a slight enlargement, and here's the link to order.
(Note: I am not an affiliate -- just a sympathizer.)

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Calling all trannies! (and Harry Potter fans)

The headline for the Access class description was provocative, to say the least:

"Are You Willing to BE the 9 Trannies?"

To tell the truth, I've never really had any desire to be one tranny, to say nothing of nine. But Access -- the cultishly wacko sex-and-money org that was born when the ghost of Rasputin whispered into a bored/failed real estate agent's ear more than 20 years ago* -- is always challenging people to stretch beyond their wildest imaginings.

The 9 Trannies is/are one of Access' hot new schemes, and it fits right into the group's ongoing promotional theme of "Hogwarts for grownups."

The phenomenal success of the Harry Potter books and movies surely demonstrated that these books struck a very deep chord in their audiences of adults as well as children.

Could it be that the deep chord was the acknowledgment, somewhere in people’s universes, that what has been dismissed, as “magic” is actually more real than much of what we call the “reality” around us?

Are you one of the adults who wasn’t fooled that these were stories for children? Do you long to attend Hogwart’s yourself?

Now you can!

Of course Access isn't the first supposedly adult org to grab onto the Harry-Potter-style-magick-is-for-realz theme; Marcy From Maui's Law of Attraction forum members were all over that a few years ago when The Secret was just hitting its stride. (I've provided links on this blog to those discussions, but I'm not going to go back and hunt for them because I can almost guarantee you that the links won't work any more. Seems like every time I mentioned a Marcy From Maui link on this blog, it disappeared soon after.)

And the Harry Potter theme isn't the first one to have been exploited by Access. They've been all over The Matrix and Avatar as well. Avatar really captured their imagination with that whole human v. humanoid motif.

Anyway. I know this might come as a disappointment to some, but Access claims that the 9 Trannies class has nothing to do with a sex change operation -- although it appears that at least a couple of the Trannies are related to changing one's gender at will. Here's the breakdown of the 9 Trannies you'll learn how to do or be or whatever, if you take the upcoming Access class:

  • Transformation: the ability to change anything from what it is now into something different (demolecular manifestation is an example) [e.g., that dimwitted Ocean 300 scheme ~ CLS]
  • Transmigration: the ability to move from one location to another without transport, or faster than “regular” transport could take you
  • Transfiguration: the ability to morph something from what it appears to be into something different
  • Transsexualness: the ability to change the sexual energy of any moment or any thing at will
  • Transpiration: the ability to change what is going to occur into a different event
  • Transmutation: the ability to change something from what it is into something greater
  • Translocation: the ability to move something from one location to another
  • Transliteration: the ability to talk and understand any language
  • Transmogrification: the ability to change your appearance into something different

And here are more explanations, just to get you really excited and inspired:

Transformation is the ability to change anything from what it is now into something different.
Transmigration is the ability to move from one location to another without a car, plane, train, or bus – migrating across space.
Transfiguration is the ability to morph something from what it appears to be into something different.
Transsexualness is the ability to change the sexual energy of any moment or anything at will. It means you don’t function from your sexuality as the source of your reality. (Sexuality always requires judgment.)
Transpiration is the ability to change something that is going to transpire in the future and change it into something that doesn’t have to be, so something else can occur.
Transmutation is the ability to change something from what it currently is into something you would like it to be. It is a mutation from what it is into something greater.
Translocation is moving something from one location to another.
Transliteration is about talking in any language and understanding all languages.
Transmogrification is shifting what you look like into something different. You could for example switch your shape from being a man to a woman.
[In other words: a sex-change operation without the knives, stitches, implants, and hormones. ~CLS]

But does all of this Access Tranny stuff really work? Does it yield measurable, observable results? As it turns out, that doesn't matter, because Access has a fail-safe built right into the scheme:

What if you used the 9 trannies for the joy of it? What would be possible then? What it [sic] was just fine for you to be magic everyday? Would anybody notice? No – because it doesn’t fit their reality!

In other words, just because the rest of the world doesn't acknowledge your achievement of tranniness, that doesn't mean it isn't real. It simply means that your magickal results do not fit the Muggles'...um...the humans' reality.

And to my lucky pals in the Denver area: y'all will have a chance to attend a Tranny class in June -- that is, if you have taken Access Levels 1 & 2 within the past twelve months, and you have $1,350 to blow on the Tranny class. Alternatively, maybe y'all could just apparate or use a Portkey.

I will be waiting for your reports.

* The Rasputin origins of Access are downplayed these days, to the extent that my little composite above would be more accurate if I had placed Rasputin's visage on Voldemort (He Who Must Not Be Named) rather than Gary Douglas's.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mean ABC 20/20 skewers (and crucifies!) gorgeous fitness model

“Being filmed in a Rolls-Royce with a gorgeous fitness model at your side is a lot different than being interviewed by a sharp mainstream TV news reporter.”
~ Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale,
February 7, 2010

"Being filmed in a Rolls-Royce with a boastful buffoon whose mailing list you paid THOUSANDS to get your hands on in order to expand your own scams is a lot different from being accosted in a parking lot by some bleeping mainstream TV news reporter wanting to quibble about the claims you've made in your infomercials."
~Jennifer Nicole Lee, gorgeous fitness model*

Y'all probably remember that last year Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale had an actual celebrity guest on one of his famous Rolls-Royce Phantom ride-alongs, as opposed to the usual lineup of irrationally hopeful wannabes with more money than sense. The celeb in question was "Bikini Diva" Jennifer Nicole Lee, aka JNL, who's most famous for hawking an exercise machine called the Ab-Roller Pro, and the ride took place in early 2010. This was a true breakthrough for Joe. And it was right in keeping with one of his own passions, fitness; after all, besides being the Buddha of the Internet, he is also the Charles Atlas of the Internet. What made the whole thing even more thrilling was that ABC News went right along and filmed the historic ride.

In a March 2010 post, Joe breathlessly blogged:

I confess that when Jennifer booked her evening with me for the Phantom Rider experience, I wasn’t sure how I could help her. After all, she’s already successful. And she’d already read all my books and listened to all my programs.

What was left?

But she later told me — as well as ABC News — that she got her money’s worth within the first 15 minutes of our conversation. We generated new ideas and came up with money-making plans she hadn’t thought of before. She loved it.

It was all one big party. A little over a month before he wrote that post, Joe had written another blog post about "attracting ABC news. This is the one in which he praised the sharp reporter who grilled him, Dan Harris. Some of us haters and naysayers saw it as kind of a proactive move: we figured he was thinking that if he kissed up to Dan (after all, they have so much in common! They both love indie music!), the report that ultimately aired would show Joe in a flattering light. And if things didn't go his way, Joe could always blame the mainstream media for stubbornly refusing to see all the good that the selfish-help industry does, or for editing out all the good bits. Either way, he had his bases covered.

Meanwhile, there was all that link love between JNL and Joe (not to mention the probable list love going on in the background). I'm sure JNL did pick up some marketing tips from Joe, and if so I'm guessing -- but only guessing -- that they centered on a few basic hustledork/hustledorkess principles:

1. Say anything you think you can get away with. People WANT to believe (well, except for those nasty mainstream reporters and those hater bloggers).
2. Don't be afraid to change your story as frequently as possible to make your marketing more effective. People love stories, and they have short memories (well, except for those nasty mainstream reporters and those hater bloggers).

3. Don't be afraid to pick your customer's pockets.** Find out your customers' credit limits and work around that. Forced continuity is the key to a healthy bottom line. And remember: Upsell, upsell, upsell!

Months passed, and finally ABC aired the results of those interviews in June 2010. The first one seemed like a fluff piece on the surface. One could almost hear Joe breathing a huge sigh of relief as some of his critics wondered WTF. But some saw the piece as a straightforward depiction of the facts, and the facts spoke for themselves. ABC didn't have to expend any effort make a buffoon out of Joe or out of the people who really pay $5,000 or more to ride with him. (JNL, as you'll see below, claimed she paid TEN grand. If that's true, methinks it's that list-love thing again.)

Anyway, as I've noted here before, despite all of Joe's kissing up by describing Dan Harris as tough but fair ("and I really liked him!"), ABC did not return the favor . The segment they finally aired on June 29, 2010 was mostly about James Arthur "Death" Ray, but it was also about the selfish-help industry in general, and Mr. Fire was showcased briefly and not flatteringly towards the end. (Here's Salty Droid's take on it: http://saltydroid.info/death-ray-mind-games/ )

So I imagine Joe rued the day that he ever agreed to be interviewed by ABC. But he showed them. As another proactive measure, he'd had his sweetie Nerissa (who says she is his wife, although to my knowledge he's never described her as such) record the entire interview with her flip camera. And he provided a link on his podcast blog on July 12, 2010, in a brief post entitled, "ABC News TV interview -- not aired." He wrote:

ABC news interviewed me for almost an hour early this year. But what they aired six months later was about one minute of the 47 minute interview.

Of course, they did their best to mislead, distort and stay negative. You can listen to the entire unedited interview right here. It's sincere, positive, and complete. This was recorded by Nerissa as she held a flip camera in my office.

Enjoy.
Joe

And now, after watching last night's 20/20 segment, I'm thinking that maybe the lovely fitness model Jennifer Nicole Lee doesn't like ABC so much either. She even threatened to have them arrested.

20/20 and Consumer Reports teamed up for a report on infomercials and some of the top infomercial stars. One of the ABC reporters caught up to JNL in a parking lot outside of her tanning salon to ask her about some of the claims on her infomercials for the Ab-Roller Pro.

She apparently did not like the questions.

"You're obviously trying to skewer me!" the distraught but gorgeous fitness model cried, more than once. She also said more than once that ABC was trying to crucify her. Or at least it appeared that she said these things more than once. It could be that the nefarious ABC editors looped it back around to make it appear that she was just repeating herself because she didn't have any credible answer to the reporter's questions. You know how those "gotcha" media types like to twist people's words around and take them out of context. It's too bad Nerissa wasn't there with her flip camera.

Of course Salty Droid had already skewered and crucified JNL -- as well as her Phantom mentor -- nearly one year previously, but important gorgeous fitness models like Jennifer Nicole Lee don't pay attention to those negative naysayer hater blogs. Evidently gorgeous fitness models, like New-Wage hucksters, are too busy inventing new frauducts and flopportunities, and then making up new stories about how they became successful by using the new creation. The stories they tell vary depending upon the frauduct or flopportunity they're promoting.

F'rinstance, a few short years ago Jennifer said, on Oprah, that she got skinny partly by an exercise routine that included "Baby Squats." She used her toddler Dylan as a weight while she did squats. Later when she began peddling the Ab-Roller Pro she ditched the kid from the backstory and said she she got skinny and fit just by using the Ab-Roller Pro. (That word "just" was apparently one of the main points ABC questioned her about.)

And even though ABC didn't mention this bit, I'd like to point out that even later, JNL decided to make it sound as if she got skinny and rich by hanging with overpriced success gurus, as quoted by Salty in the "Phantom Menace" blog post I linked to above:

“My name is Jennifer Nicole Lee, and I went from fat to fabulous, from poor to rich all from coaching and watching those who succeeded in their own lives, and then applied their trade secrets to my own life.

I recently enjoyed a chance of a life time being coached by Dr. Joe Vitale …

I gave myself the treat to visit with him, and purchased his “Rolls Royce Mastermind Meeting”, which I paid a hefty price of $10,000. And it was worth every penny!”

Alas, ABC had to go spoil things by asking her about the inconsistencies in her various success stories, as well as grilling her on whether or not the before and after pics in her promo material were Photoshopped -- and, to add insult to injury, questioning her claims that she got her fab body by working out a mere three minutes a day. That darned mainstream media again.

During the parking lot "grillfest," JNL finally said she'd had enough, and told the crew they could schedule a sit-down interview that very day. So, according to the reporter, the ABC folks waited...and waited...and waited... (apparently JNL simply sat in her car and drank bottled water while they were waiting). Finally ABC heard from Jen's lawyer, who told them never to contact her again, and if they even tried to do so, Jen would have them arrested.***

Take that, mainstream media!

"Dr." Joe Vitale, who of course is also known for changing his own "success" stories as the mood suits him, could have told her there would be days like this, and he probably did. In fact, another star of The Secret, David Schirmer, aka Shameless Schirmer, aka The Mini-Madoff of Melbourne, aka The Wanker of Oz, could have told Jen the same thing. After all, he got skewered by the equally mean Australian media, which resulted in some investigations into his business affairs by the ASIC (the Oz equivalent of the SEC), which ultimately resulted in his getting banned for life from practicing in the financial trade in Australia.

Maybe Jen and Joe can take another ride in his Rolls and whine about it together over Vitale steaks in the Vitale Cigar Bar. And if there's room for two more, maybe they can invite David Schirmer.

* She hasn't said it, but I bet she's thinking it. And in all fairness, Joe probably wanted her list too...or something.
** "Don't be afraid to pick their pockets" is actually advice that Joe gave me years ago, more than once.
*** Interestingly enough, though, some of the questionable claims (and photos) have since been modified in the Ab-Roller Pro infomercials. This is probably a combined result of numerous consumer complaints and the ABC grillfest.

PS ~ Here's the vid of JNL and ABC. You can also watch it (and the rest of the infomercial episode) on http://abcnews.go.com/2020/.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Burning question: What happens when Fire meets a straw man?

The other day when I read a tweet by Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale, I figured he was gathering more ammo to use in his ongoing battle against some of his critics who (unlike me) actually seem to have an in-depth knowledge of the teachings of Christ and/or Buddha. I saw this tweet from May 3:

Reading 'Going Broke With Jesus'

The link Joe provided was to a site selling an e-book telling the shocking truth about what the Bible really says about money. The meta-title appearing at the top of the screen reads, "Bible Money | Christian Money | Jesus Money." Oh, yeah, work those search engines, baby.

Anyway. True to my prediction, Joe came up with a blog post a few days later: "Eye Of The Needle, Or The Shocking Spiritual Truth About Money." As it turned out, however, the "truth" was not so "shocking" -- rather, it was the same-old same-old defense of New-Wage materialism, which some perceive as greed.

From where I sit as a critic (aka "hater"), it appears to me that one of Joe's main reasons for writing that blog post was not so much to announce that money isn't evil, but to serve notice to those darned critics to please leave him the heck alone. That said, I think his "confrontational" post is a direct reaction not so much to my own ongoing snarkitude (or even to the muckraking efforts of some of my blogging colleagues such as Salty Droid), but to the well-worded criticisms from some more spiritually oriented people on previous Mr. Fire posts, such as this one: http://blog.mrfire.com/how-much-is-enough/ and this one: http://blog.mrfire.com/who-else-is-listening/

On his "Eye of the Needle" post, I noticed that while Joe says we shouldn't let our speculations about what Jesus or Buddha would do guide our opinions about money, he certainly uses his own speculations about Jesus and Buddha -- based on all of the prosperity-gospel propaganda he can get his hands on -- to bolster his argument. He must have been up all night researching. But that's just one of numerous quibbles I have with the points he made in that post.

I have discussed these issues numerous times on this blog and on other forums, but I think it's time to revisit them. To begin with, when it comes to wealth and spirituality, it seems to me that Joe, as well as other New-Wage gurus and fans and wannabes, are battling a straw man. And when I make reference to a straw man, I'm not talking about Joe's attempts to argue with those who take issue with him on theological or spiritual grounds. I'm talking about his larger message: his claim that his critics are saying money is evil.

In his latest blog post, as well as his other spirited defenses of his brand of New-Wage spiritual materialism, Joe completely glosses over the fact that not one of his main critics -- or the critics of the New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality industry, for that matter -- has based his or her arguments on the premise that money is evil. Nor do most of us say that all rich people are evil. I've known too many goodhearted rich folks to believe such a stereotype.

It seems to me that for the most part, what critics have done is not to promote the false belief that money is evil, but simply to point out ways in which the love of money has prompted New-Wage gurus (and other money-obsessed types) to do evil things. I cannot pretend to speak for anyone else but myself, but I'm not "judging" Joe because he has money or because of what he does with his money. He can buy 100 Rolls-Royces, for all I care, just like his ex-guru, the late Rajneesh/Osho, did. But I do find his constant bragging about his acquisitions annoying, especially when he drapes it in spirituality and implies that he got this stuff because he is living a good, clean, "awakened" life and is practicing spiritual principles.

While I don't judge any New-Wage guru for the simple fact of having or spending money, what I do "judge" them for is the way they constantly and ruthlessly promote their (and their buddies') frauducts and flopportunities, as Salty Droid would call them, so other people will hand over THEIR money, which in many cases they can't afford to do. One example that comes to mind is the hard-sell campaign for Joe's pricey Miracles Coaching program, about which quite a bit has been written recently. The author of several critical pieces, In The Limelight blogger Jonathan Timar, confronted Joe on his "How Much Is Enough?" blog post, and the ensuing conversation was interesting. http://blog.mrfire.com/how-much-is-enough/#comment-198628

Here's a link to Jonathan's original Miracles Coaching piece: http://inthelimelight.net/2010/07/01/joe-vitales-miracles-coaching-hypnotic-marketing-at-work/
And here's a direct link to my comment on the dialogue between Joe and Jonathan:
http://inthelimelight.net/2010/07/01/joe-vitales-miracles-coaching-hypnotic-marketing-at-work/comment-page-1/#comment-7188

One main focus of Joe's "Eye Of The Needle" blog post was that his teachings and practices are in perfect keeping with the teachings of Christ and Buddha. Many take issue with that, of course, and some have taken the time to argue the fine points with Joe. As an agnostic, however, I have no attachment to Buddhism or Christian theology, and I don't base my criticism of Joe or any other New-Wage guru on whether or not their behavior is in keeping with Buddhist or Christian principles. I do get annoyed at what I see as a misuse of Christian or Buddhist concepts for marketing ends, although of course Joe is far from the only person to have done this. And New-Wage gurus certainly aren't the only ones who exploit spiritual figures for their own ends; there are plenty of prosperity preachers who earnestly tell their followers that Jesus H. Christ wants them to be rich, and dadgummit, He will make them rich if they just fork over to the preachers.

Another message in Joe's post is that critics are self-righteous and have a holier-than-thou attitude. While I understand how we can come across as self-righteous (and sometimes we are), the truth -- and again, I am speaking for myself -- is that I have never thought I am in any way better, or more holy or righteous or spiritual, than the people I criticize. As I noted above, as an agnostic, I'm not in the holiness contest at all. I have no interest in spiritual oneupmanship.

However, as I also mentioned earlier, I have a feeling that Joe's "Eye of the Needle" blog post is his response not so much to my brand of snark as to the serious challenges he has been fielding from people who actually possess some spiritual depth. He generally seems reluctant to concede that these folks might have a point, and that maybe he has been a bit over the top in his "spiritual" marketing. Instead he seems to just keep rationalizing, and finding more material to back up his perspective, while continuing to get reinforcement from the fawning Joebots. "Amen, Joe!" "Oh, thank you for that!" "This came at just the time I needed to read it!"

What about judgment?
"Judgment," as I've discussed numerous times before, is kind of a dirty word in the New-Wage community. Christ and other great spiritual figures famously spoke against the self-righteous form of judgment too, of course. A couple of friends and I were having some private discussions about these matters, and one friend made the point that where wealth and its lack are concerned, there is plenty of "judgment" to go around. It's not just a matter of critics being "judgmental" of those who have money. Law Of Attraction believers and New-Wagers in general are also quite judgmental of people who don't have money, or for that matter, of people who suffer from illness or other misfortunes. I've written about this very point too on several occasions. It used to be that sufferers of misfortune "created their own reality." Now, in these post-Secret days, they've "attracted" the bad stuff, including poverty.

In many ways these judgmental attitudes towards poverty and those who don't have money are no different from the hoary elitist mentality that likened poverty to moral depravity. More than likely, however, the New-Wage attitudes are informed less by classic elitism than by the classic motivational mentality of New-Wagers' idols such as Napoleon Hill and Wallace Wattles. The latter's 1910 book, The Science of Getting Rich, was famously what got the Secret ball rolling for Rhonda Byrne back in 2004, when her life was at a low point and her daughter gave her a copy of SGR. Wattles believed a fulfilling life was not possible without wealth, and he wrote that a “normal” person cannot help wanting to be rich, and that if you don’t become rich, “you are derelict in your duty to God, yourself and humanity.” He stopped short of saying that being poor is a crime (although there's a lot to be said for the argument that in our plutocracy, those who don't have money are criminals until proven otherwise, as Barbara Ehrenreich, among many others, has pointed out http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article23260.htm).

Apropos of some of the above, here is a fairly recent blog post from one of Joe's b.f.f.s Randy Gage, whom he has frequently quoted: http://www.randygage.com/blog/poverty-is-evil/

In my opinion Joe is correct about a couple of things: We as a society have scads of emotional (and moral) judgments around money, and in some cases these judgments don't serve us and can actually keep us from trying to improve our lives. But he neglects to mention that there are, as my friend pointed out, equally vehement judgments about the lack of money. More importantly, the New-Wage racket of which Joe and his fellow Secret stars are a part is fueled by those very judgments.

And while Joe may get tired of having people second-guess his motives -- which seemed to be another clear message in his post -- we critics get tired of being endlessly pop-psychoanalyzed by the gurus and their followers. We grow weary of being told that we're full of hatred, that we're poverty-stricken losers (Joe and another b.f.f. of his, Kevin True-dough, have said as much), that we're unhappy with our lives, that we're railing against things we don't understand because we feel inferior to those who supposedly do understand these great mysteries, or that we're simply trying to keep others from realizing their dreams and just want to drag everyone down to our level. I should add that the gurus themselves very rarely engage the critics directly, since it wouldn't look good for them to be involved in something so negative, but their lap dogs and followers do the dirty work for them. I've been on the receiving end of some of that stuff, so I know what I'm talking about.

One more point: In his "Shocking Truth" blog post Joe invokes Jay Leno and Donald Trump, admonishing us not to judge their motives either. He says they may very well be deeply spiritual beings, and that for all we know, Leno's cars and Trump's ostentatious wealth could be spiritual expressions for them. But Jay Leno and Donald Trump are entertainers and businessmen and don't pretend to be anything else. Unlike Joe, they have not donned the mantle of spiritual marketer or Buddha of the Internet. In any case, once again Joe is waving his straw man about, trying to reduce the issues to a crass and simple envy of wealth -- a strategy that is certainly more comfortable for him than addressing legitimate criticism of dodgy business practices or just plain ridiculous marketing. Besides being another blatant attempt to silence or at least discredit his critics, his post also adds a whole new level to his rationalization of his own apparent wealth obsession.

But sometimes a straw man can catch on fire, and once it gets going, that fire can be mighty hard to extinguish.

PS added 6 June 2011 ~ Same song, next verse: Like a cat swatting at one of those fishing pole toys (except, one suspects, in a spirit of seething anger rather than playfulness), Mr. Fire once again bats at his favorite straw man: the money-is-evil mindset which he likes to pretend is the basis of his critics' arguments. On June 5 he published what appears to me to be a desperation post regarding "The Real Secret" about money. The Real Purpose of the post is to promote his free e-book, Attract Money Now, which, of course, he wrote and made free only because he cares so much about your success. (The Real Purpose of Attract Money Now is actually to promote his Miracles Coach boiler-room scheme, but that's another story, already discussed here.) In the June 5 post, he plays his favorite card, the conspicuous-altruism card. He introduces that hand by noting that once you clear all of those mental blocks about money and start attracting it, that money can allow you to do all kinds of good things. Then he shows you how it's done.

In the last few weeks I gave away three cars.

The one that I gave away today was one of the most expensive and emotional ones I’ve ever owned. But I let it go.

Word has it that Mr. Fire tried to sell "Ladybug," his beloved yellow Panoz roadster that was once owned by rocker Steven Tyler, on eBay for $100,000, but he could only get $30,000 for it. I suppose you could consider that to be "giving it away." (See PPPS below.) He has also been known to give (or at least to promise) cars and other cast-offs to some of his most loyal minions. But if the Carcissist of the Internet really is paring down his stable of beloved brag-wagons, I would lean towards the explanation that times must be tough rather than that he is doing this because he's just such a generous guy. Either that, or he's making room in his life and his garage for replacement expensive toys. But of course that's just my opinion; there I go second-guessing the motives of a great man again!

PPS ~ I just went back and looked at some of Mr. Fire's tweets; on May 26 he wrote, "Awaiting staff fr [Miracles Coaching]. One gets my BMW Z3 as gift." That's the reward for being a good little boiler-room "coach," I guess. And on June 4 he tweeted: "Giving away my BMW 645ci today," and he provided a link to his Attract A New Car web site. Which car will be next to go? Francine?

PPPS ~ Never let it be said that I rely merely on gossip or third-hand information. Here's the link to the eBay listing for "Ladybug," Mr. Fire's yellow Panoz roadster: http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=140546927673+&viewitem=&clk_rvr_id=231921425543

And here's a snippet of Mr. Fire's hypnotic marketing copy that got the offer all the way up to $30,000 in this now-closed bidding war.

Steven Tyler -- yes, THE Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and American Idol -- bought this incredible car new in 1998...I LOVE this car and will only part with it for $100,000 or more, else I'll just keep it. If it means anything, I'm a star in the movie The Secret, and author of numerous bestselling books, such as The Attractor Factor, so some might think this car was owned by two celebrities.

Here is the link to the bid history for that celebrity-studded ride (I bet things really got exciting when the bidding finally broke the three-figure barrier): http://offer.ebay.com/ebaymotors/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewBids&_trksid=p4340.l2565&item=140546927673

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