New Age Newbies and New Age Guides. . . Just Thinking Out Loud

Newbies in the New Age don’t realize that the New Age is like a foreign country, and they go into it without any guides whatsoever. Blithely meandering with rose-colored glasses, they wander into this shop and that tienda, not knowing the lay of the land at all, and expecting everything to be just peachy keen.  It is the land of the lotus eater, after all – what could possibly go wrong there?  It is like gypsies around the tourists in Rome, where the tourists get fleeced and the gypsies have a wonderful bonfire and give thanks to the god of tourism.

But at least with the gypsies a tourist knows s/he got taken. New Age gurus are a dime a dozen, and the tourists in New Age Land are such easy marks. Maybe it is the ‘Gullible’ stamp on their foreheads in invisible, magic ink.  It is a symbiotic relationship except for one thing: It is all about parasitism. The money only flows in one direction. And in the New Age the gurus don’t even have to try very hard – the tourists gullibly walk up and say, “Fleece me, Master! Fleece me!”  What is a good guru to do, after all?  Gurus have to uphold the honorable tradition of the good Maharishi, don’t they?  “Sure, Ms/Mr Innocent, I really don’t want to, but okay, give me some of your money.”  (And out-of-town gurus are so much wiser than locals – no prophet has honor in his home town, but there is plenty of profit on the road.)

The New Age is a mass of people who have never learned to think critically. That is my honest opinion.  Having been one of them for about 40 years, I am entitled to an opinion.  There are so many, many specialties in the New Age, too, so many directions in which to be misled.  I once listed all the areas I’d looked into, and it took 2/3 of a page, single-spaced – in paragraph form!  And when someone like Arlan Andrews or Chris Dunn or I tell New Agers, all of whom are newbies in one area or another – or lots of areas  -that they need to use some critical thinking, they actually refuse. They don’t want that! They want flowery phrases and warm fuzzies, and critical thinking rains on that parade.  It’s all about love and harmony, not asking, “But what does that mean?”  Scores of vague phrases are used, and I have become certain that no two people use any one phrase in the exact same meaning.

Those love and light folks are the people who jump on anyone who outs themselves as a critical thinker.  It happened to me last week over on Chris Dunn’s FB page. Chris himself was mainly being given a pass, I suppose because the people have it in their heads that he is one of their gurus, and maybe they think he agrees with them – even when he clearly states otherwise. (That amazed me; do they somehow think they misread him?)

In PMs, Chris and I bemoaned the missing logical real-world mental qualities in so many of them, and that even the ones who sometimes sounded like they had some capacity to think instead of emote – nope, those were the least sane of the bunch. Just as delusional.  Maybe more.  Simply asking them to show us their experiment became a two-day exercise in futility – it kept coming down to them accusing us of not believing them.  But it had nothing to do with belief: If it works, it works, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.  Their so-called experiments were done in the real world, or so they claimed, so why shouldn’t others in the real world be allowed to see the experiment?  It was a tough concept – and one that ultimately failed;  The experiment was never shown to anyone.

Delusion.  That is, really what the New Age is about to 90% of them. Delusion. Mostly self-delusion. And, boy, do the gypsies come a-runnin’ when they smell self-delusion.  You can almost see them rubbing their pocket-picking fingers as they fly to the prey.

I’ve worked 40+ years in engineering, and I am glad I did. It kept my feet on the ground, enough. Oh, like Richard Feynman, I checked out tons of New Age stuff. And one by one nearly all of them – given enough rope – hung themselves. NOT ALL, though. I accepted all tentatively, and those that failed, failed. And I checked them off my list. I was open-minded, and those proved their failures by their lack of efficacy or lack of evidence.

Arlan wrote that some of his scientist and government friends are interested in this stuff. I am not surprised.  After all, curiosity may have killed the cat, but it also is a very real and common human quality. That was the way it was, openly, back in the days of Arthur Conan Doyle and Harry Houdini. It was all considered a valid area of research then. I am glad to hear that some today are as open-minded as science used to be. At the same time, I can say that little of it has ever panned out – very little of it, in my experience.

Yet each newbie New Ager has to do his/her own exploring and covering ground that has been covered so many millions of times before by others.  Each one roves like it is an undiscovered country.  Because it is new to them, they (we) have always acted as if no one had ever been (t)here before.  Part of the reason for that is that there are no tourist agencies that specialize in New Age Land.  There are no organized tours, no B&Bs with local experts, no double-decker buses, no dive shops, no parasailing tows for getting the lay of the land – but most of all, no maps.  The trails that exist are a criss-cross thorough the New Age Jungle with signs put up by the gurus.  Their ‘guides’ mostly amount to friends who have been aimless wanderers, too.  The aimlessness of it is worn as a badge of honor. “Let the spirit guide you” is a common phrase, but what it means is basically “Intentionally do not have any plan.”  A plan, after all, spoils the whole ‘in-the-moment-ness’ of it all.  These are the same sorts of people who stay at Hiltons and take 2-hour bus tours in every city they visit, and have to have High Tea on their first trip to Mother England.

Without any plan, New Age Land can’t be visited on a two-week holiday/vacation.  It takes a lifetime to cover all the bases.  Not many of us can or does their tourist traveling ‘off the map’.  Most can’t deal with the delays and frustrations of the unknown – not to mention the fears of being stuck or being held up by ‘bandidos’ on, say, rural Mexican roads.  (That one, ROFL, is a favorite of mine – folks thinking that young Mexican males would waste their lives waiting alongside rural roads for the very occasional gringo to pass by.)  But the same timid folks will venture out into New Age Land as if it is populated by My Favorite Ponies and Cinderellas and Three Little Pigs – and no one else.  It doesn’t occur to them that there might be Big Bad Wolves in New Age Land.  Enter the gurus, the highwaymen of New Age Land.  And their message?  “Trust me!  I will show you the way!”  It is amazing what a practiced smile and some buzz words can wheedle out of the pocketbooks of newbies.

Each one of those willfully uncritical, ‘sloppy thinking’ newbies will learn – and for some, it will be the hard way. They are, after all, supporting an entire industry, one in which the CEOs are smiling, smooth-talking  gurus.  But wouldn’t it be a nice thing if there were New Age Guides, to help people negotiate the twists and turns of those meandering trails to get to the other side of the jungle without taking a lifetime of sillinesses to get there?   After all, none of them can hang on to all of the New Age specialty areas; they have to leave most of them behind.  Actually, all it would take would be a short series of classes, to arm the newbies with a modicum of discernment and quiet questioning, to show them a little bit of critical thinking, some practical tools for dealing with guru and shaman claims.  And it isn’t merely the pocketbooks that gurus try to dip into:  New Age women are notoriously easy marks for gurus.  Few if any gurus go very long without sex.  And being on the road, that sex is catch-as-catch-can – and the catch of the day is an attractive and compliant New Age woman. Does anyone remember when shaman meant a fake and a hustler?  Somehow in the last 20 years or so, shaman have gotten into the good graces of New Age folks.  If it was Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan, it has taken an awfully long time to take hold.

The classes would not pooh-pooh any of it. They would just give the newbies a little brain muscle with which to test out things. I for one am tired of seeing so many people trade their cows in for magic beans like Jack. A little street smarts is not a bad thing.  Then our streets wouldn’t have so many magical beanstalks.

One of the things I have never wanted to be is a New Age guru.  I had the background, and if I’d wanted to, it seems like it would have been the easiest thing in the world.  Perhaps in one of my past lives I abused such a trust and now have an inborn aversion to repeating past mistakes.

That last is said with conviction: I am certain the reincarnation is more likely than the Judeo-Christian one-life-and-out or the Mormons with their ‘pre-existence’ which somehow was somewhere else and not on Earth.  My critical thinking 40 years ago said it makes more sense, and I’ve had few moments since then when that wasn’t true.  I had this certainty back then that no self-respecting creator would make a Universe that made no sense, as the Judeo-Christian universe does not.  My biggest doubt was some twenty years ago, when I wondered, “Well, what if it isn’t true?”  And I concluded then that it gives much more comfort to me than the hell and brimstone or the ashes to ashes viewpoint, so I chose to continue, simply because it still makes more sense, and it also makes me feel better to have a more sane Creator than angry, jealous old Yahweh.  And besides, we will all find out a short time after we die, and what difference does it matter what we though in this lifetime?  Que sera, sera. and all that rot.   But one more thing: My belief in reincarnation has made me a better man.

Certainly a more sane one.

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