In chapter 8 of my trade book The Consuming Instinct: What Juicy Burgers, Ferraris, Pornography, and Gift Giving Reveal About Human Nature, I discuss how various hope peddlers are uniquely successful because they cater to our fundamental Darwinian-based insecurities. Religion “grants” us immortality. Medical quacks “solve” intractable health ordeals. Self-help gurus offer us "prescriptions" for every imaginable life challenge. For today’s post, I’d like to briefly discuss a subset genre within the self-help movement: the New Age guru.
This morning I had the misfortune of catching a two-minute clip of Gary Zukav chatting with Oprah Winfrey. I had never heard of Mr. Zukav until today. I was struck by the astonishing vacuous comments that he was spouting delivered in a guru-like tone of haughty profundity. Of course, there are many other such spiritual “gurus” perhaps none more famous than Deepak Chopra (see my earlier Psychology Today article on the daunting task of choosing between competing spiritual movements). To any person steeped in an ethos of reason, science, and logic, these New Age proclamations are nonsensical gibberish. And yet to millions of people, these men are holders of universal truths that lie below the “vulgar” realm of mere material reality. You see, Chopra, Zukav, and their ilk have access to deeper spiritual truths that plebeian schmucks such as myself can never understand (as was “explained” to me by a Twitter follower).
In a sense, New Age gurus are akin to postmodernists within academia (see my earlier Psychology Today on the faux-intellectualism of postmodernism). They dispense meaningless drivel that masquerades as profound truths whilst in reality it is a mere exercise in obscurantism. Watch how I can easily become a New Age guru. Given my scientific work in evolutionary psychology and my Middle Eastern background, I am an evolutionary quantum hakim (EQH) and as such I channel cosmic energy using the EQH frequency. Because of my ability to tap into this ancient vibrational field, I have received the following three universal truths:
1) Compassionate intentionality is the illumination of the cosmic soul.
2) The transfiguration of cosmic consciousness is the astral oneness.
3) Harmonic convergence is the quantum energy of biofeedback singularity.
The prescription for being a New Age guru is the following: 1) Create verbiage that appears profound but that is otherwise meaningless. People will attribute their inability to understand your sentences to their own failings rather than to your charlatanism; 2) Be charismatic and self-confident in your delivery, and perhaps deceive yourself as to the veracity of your words. In the immortal words of George Costanza, one of the central characters of the classic sitcom Seinfeld: “Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.” See my earlier Psychology Today article on the adaptive roots of self-deception.
P.S. I generated the latter three sentences randomly but I can assure you that I could easily convince many people that these nonsensical sentences carry infinite and timeless insights.
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