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Conspirituality

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Conspirituality

Derek Beres, Matthew Remski, Julian Walker

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A weekly study of converging right-wing conspiracy theories and faux-progressive wellness utopianism. At best, the conspirituality movement attacks public health efforts in times of crisis. At worst, it fronts and recruits for the fever-dream of QAnon. As the alt-right and New Age horseshoe toward each other in a blur of disinformation, clear discourse and good intentions get smothered. Charismatic influencers exploit their followers by co-opting conspiracy theories on a spectrum of intensit ...
 
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When we left our Austin conspirituality heroes in the last episode, Charles Eisenstein, New Age Q, was locking in his position as the philosopher—or jester—in the court of Aubrey Marcus. But what of this court? Matthew’s scene by scene analysis of some prime Marcus marketing porn will give us some clues. The video in question is for Marcus’s life-c…
 
Charles Eistenstein has had quite the pandemic. Essays read by millions, retweeted by Jack Dorsey, quoted by Ivanka Trump, held up as the poet philosopher of conspirituality—hell, he’s even been on the podcast! Given the response to this bonus episode, we've decided to release it into the wild as an important companion to Conspirituality 86. Julian…
 
In 2017, Charles Eisenstein addressed the SAND (Science And Non-Duality) Conference on our "obsession with measurement." A clip of that talk, published in 2019, put forward the question Is Science a Religion? Charles answered yes, offering a number of supposed parallels. Only—most of them don't hold water. Derek responds to his talk, breaking down …
 
Up to this point, we’ve understood Charles Eisenstein as the poet-philosopher of conspirituality, lending his Burning Man ritual workshop chops to the antivax faux-freedom movement. Out of deference to his apparent sensitivity and respectable writing skills, we’ve given him the benefit of the doubt—we even invited him on this show for two episodes …
 
Charles Eistenstein has had quite the pandemic. Essays read by millions, retweeted by Jack Dorsey, quoted by Ivanka Trump, held up as the poet philosopher of conspirituality—hell, he’s even been on the podcast! Julian tracks the transformative arc of malformed ideas garnished with spiritualized language that has made Eisenstein the romantic mascot …
 
On the day after the Winter Solstice, as the world tucked in for an Omicron staycation, a news flash came over the wire. Yoga International—one of the largest yoga media companies in the world—had been acquired by Gaia—one of the largest pseudoscience, pseudointellectual, conspiracy theory platforms in the world. While the CEO of Yoga International…
 
In 1969, Swami Vishnudevananda pioneered what has become a life transition ritual for the GenX and Millennial precariat: the Yoga Teacher Training (YTT) Programme. He was a cult leader rapist who thought yoga would help the world understand messages sent by UFOs. Not exactly confidence-inspiring. Not every YTT programme is bad—today's bonus host Ma…
 
"When we don't avoid people who think differently than we do, we gain an opportunity for growth and national renewal." So opens Red State Christians: Understanding the Voters Who Elected Donald Trump, a fascinating and insightful book by Lutheran pastor and journalist Angela Denker. Denker spent years on the road talking to Christians who voted for…
 
Derek investigates the origins of language through thinkers like David Crystal, Michael Corballis, and others, to investigate how two popular figures—Deepak Chopra and Rick Warren—sell their spiritual wares. Their patterns reveal the model many conspiritualist influencers use today.By Derek Beres, Matthew Remski, Julian Walker
 
The global pandemic response is a microcosm of the global climate collapse response. In both we get to see what’s really under the hood when the pressure is on. In the face of endless and relentless odds and near-constant demoralization, what stories do we turn to, what bonds do we form, and who do they help? Climate journalist emeritus George Monb…
 
In the 1990s, Westerners searching for enlightenment flocked to India. The pilgrimage represented an affirmation of status and authority in the burgeoning yoga economy. Julian reflects on his three months in the “middle circle” of the Osho Ashram in Pune, where he chased a destiny seeded years before in a South African basement. As an earnest yet s…
 
While Americans were transforming esoteric strains of yoga into a commodifiable industry in 1980, a young naval officer named Steve Bannon was picking up theosophical texts in metaphysical bookstores and practicing Zen meditation in secret while stationed in Hong Kong. He was wary of his countrymates liberal explorations of Eastern philosophies, aw…
 
Matthew responds to the robust feedback on the Sam-Harris-is-a-highbrow-conspiritualist bonus, and then stretches the terms around harm in the conspirituality sphere in another way, by looking at the spectrum of agency offered by different wellness/spirituality products. He interrogates the premise implicit in some of our reporting that the cogniti…
 
When Mike Flynn posted a video on July 4, 2020 in which his family recited QAnon slogans, it cemented the disgraced former National Security Advisor and U.S. Army lieutenant general as a MAGA patriot super-hero. On September 17, just 14 short months later, Flynn took the stage, bathed in light at the Lord of Hosts Church in Omaha, Nebraska to lead …
 
Derek shares a story from his time as a Lululemon brand ambassador to highlight the toxic merging of spiritual practices and consumerism. Not only does he detail Lulu's post-Chip Wilson pivot in an attempt to "own yoga," he also explores the histories of branding, money, and markets in an attempt to understand how we arrived at the influencer cultu…
 
We've talked a lot on this podcast about the selfie sermon: the kind of iPhone video native to Instagram influencers. Easily weaponized by conspiritualists, this sermon is equal parts intimate confessional, prophecy download, and motivational coaching, directly transmitted from your favorite self-anointed maverick expert. Social media seems perfect…
 
Kyle Rittenhouse walks away from the courthouse while Ahmaud Arbery's killers were found guilty and "QAnon Shaman," Jacob Chansley, was received significant jail time. Our opinions on each of these cases are likely determined by our political affiliations, which in turn are a reflection of how we think about morality, crime, and punishment. Julian …
 
COVID has been a recruiting windfall for hate groups in Canada, with new alliances and networks forged between white supremacists, xenophobes, and ethnonationalists in the fire of accelerated conspiracism. Joining Matthew to map out this landscape are street-level anti-hate activists Elizabeth Simons, the deputy director of the Canadian Anti-Hate N…
 
Bonus episode, piloted by Matthew. There is a subtle form of conspirituality that rides on the familiar dialectic of political cynicism and spiritual promise—but it's dressed for a button-down salon dinner in Harvard Square. No crystals in sight, no essential oils wafting through the room. Sam Harris isn’t sounding the alarm about the Cabal or the …
 
Conspiracy theories flourish during uncertain times. They're always with us, passed down through generations like alternate histories, yet they’re constantly reinvented when collective stress levels peak. Julian reports on the QAnon spin-off group that’s been camped out in Dallas’s Dealey Plaza for two weeks, hoping to catch a glimpse of a pantheon…
 
To prepare this curative episode, we listened carefully to alternative health consumers for many hours, taking an exhaustive history of life challenges on physical, mental, and emotional planes. We scanned the symptoms against our compendium of disease states and prescribed the precise substances that would mirror them. Then, we took minuscule audi…
 
Are emotions really separate from rationality? Is trusting science similar to religious faith? Do poetry and mythic archetypes disclose a reality beyond the material world? What might characters like Mr. Spock reveal about logical thinking? For this week's Bonus, Julian explores the relationships between scientific and religious world views through…
 
There is no avoiding the fact that conspirituality plays out against a backdrop of racially-charged politics and the echoes of colonialism. And from the beginning of this podcast project we’ve tackled things like the origins of yoga and wellness being tangled up with European fascist movements and racist eugenics. We’re speaking from and into a cul…
 
Okay, maybe the title is overstated. But, as Matthew explores in this bonus episode: what are the contours of social comfort and habitus — supported by faith and ritual — that haunt any layperson's relationship to science? When the pressure is on, be it acute or existential, do we really display "critical thinking" — or are we really skilled at pos…
 
What happens when a philosopher of science shows up at a flat earth conference to test out his theories about changing people's minds? This story catapults you into Lee Mcintyre’s new book, How to Talk to a Science Denier. As anti-vaccine and anti-quarantine protests flare up around the world, and the pandemic drags us all through financial and emo…
 
It's been over a century since Dale Carnegie began teaching the importance of extroversion, bringing with it a cultural shift that champions an aggressive social and work style. Gone were the days of championing introspection. This week, Derek explores his own relationship with introversion in Yogaland, wondering how a quiet form of self-investigat…
 
What happens when MLM sales and neoliberal life coaching collide with a yoga charisma that oozes with pseudofeminism? Where do we even begin? Exploitation. Heartbreak. Toxic mimicries of therapy, mentorship, political awareness, and community. In this investigative report, Matthew digs into the background of a recent article posted to Medium called…
 
With a new variant of QAnon circulating through white evangelical churches, protests against masks and vaccines are becoming more aggressive around the world. In Germany, a gas station attendant who asked a customer to mask-up was shot dead this week, and a Maryland man allegedly killed his pharmacist brother and sister in law, believing that they …
 
Meat is toxic. Dairy is toxic. Eggs? As dangerous as cigarettes. Garlic stokes the hormones. Avoid nightshades at all costs. Organic or bust. Eat according to your blood type. Eat according to your chronotype. Cacao resonates with the frequency of the sun, but never, ever add sugar to it. Sugar is toxic. Juice cleanses lead you to your highest self…
 
An audio essay loosely based on conversations Matthew has while parenting. Content is possibly appropriate for ages 7 to 11 — although who really knows. The main point is to deflate the media persona and cut back on the cynicism and hot-takery to discuss these things in a way that leaves the door open for growth and hope. Rules: use simple sentence…
 
Whatever one’s conception of “God” is, “John of God” should now be a nauseating name. For decades, João Teixeira de Faria pretended to heal an endless stream of pilgrims to his center in rural central Brazil through the Spiritist practice of “psychic surgery.” In reality, the miracle healing claims worked to cover up an obvious truth. João was sexu…
 
We’re grounding down. We’re letting go. We are going deep. We are finding the metta in our meta and tuning in to Source. This week we’ll either answer or transcend the core questions our listeners post in moments of parasocial vulnerability: Do you guys believe in anything at all? Are there any wholesome spiritual communities out there? Are all spi…
 
Julian traces the roots of today’s pandemic-era conspirituality back to What The Bleep’s quantum woo, The Secret’s privileged denial and grandiosity, and the dark lessons of why beliefs really matter, as revealed by James Arthur Ray’s deadly Spiritual Warrior Retreat. Show Notes Laura Tucker’s response to Nine Perfect Strangers Guru: The Dark Side …
 
Daniel Sherrell is the author of an extraordinary memoir and prayer book, Warmth: Coming of Age at the End of Our World, in which he recounts how, as a climate activist born in 1990, he has fought to manage, digest, and even celebrate the desperate tasks of the only age he’s known: the Anthropocene. The book is his homage to the resources that help…
 
On his family’s yearly trip to Manitoulin Island, Matthew detoxes from conspirituality influencer garbage, and returns with parts of a new plan. Warmth by Daniel Sherrell: 9780143136538 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books Living at the End of Our World (w/ Daniel Sherrell & Dorothy Fortenberry) | Know Your Enemy Lives Reclaimed — Mark Roseman What Cons…
 
This week, California Governor Gavin Newsom rode sane pandemic messaging to victory against the Republican-led recall election by a huge margin. Unsurprisingly, voting patterns perfectly matched the state COVID heat map, with fans of the recall suffering the worst outbreaks. Meanwhile, a strict lockdown in Australia, which is experiencing a Delta o…
 
In June, Planedemic creator Mikki Willis appeared on Living 4D with Paul Chek to discuss what “really happened” at the Capitol on Jan 6. During the long-ranging talk, Willis took some time to attack a VICE News article that we were featured in. Unfortunately for Willis, we have the audio from the Election Night party in Austin being referenced. Der…
 
Paul Chek will tell you how much he’s influenced the fitness industry. He’ll tell you that he popularized Swiss Balls, and about his time working with the Jordan-era Chicago Bulls and then the championship Lakers. The kinesiologist and founder of the Chek Institute, which offers numerous training programs under the slogan, “We teach the science of …
 
A QAnon-themed Stop The Steal, anti-vax, Covid-denial roadshow came to an untimely end in mid-August with their fearless leader succumbing to COVID pneumonia on a ventilator in Florida. He denied the virus was real until his last breath. This week, Julian chronicles the 84-stop Arise USA Resurrection Tour led by the recently deceased former CIA age…
 
Psychedelics are all the rage in the investment world, with hundreds of millions of dollars pouring into research-based startups in the hope of finding interventions for addiction, depression, PTSD, end-of-life anxieties, and much more. But is it too much? Are we, as has happened with numerous substances in the past, placing too much faith in plant…
 
After watching the Almost 30 podcast hosts bond over Zach Bush’s Jesus-like qualities, Matthew explores the barren friendship landscape of wellness gigworkers. From the transcript: We engage with friendship pornography by consuming attractive images and vicarious sensations of friendship for the sake of pleasure, without having to engage with the c…
 
Spirituality, ill-defined a term that it is, often implies both an emptying out and an addition. What leaves is the vacuous clinging to achievements that are supposedly preventing us from seeing our true nature. What’s granted is a new mindset, a novel way of being, one in which you are at peace with both yourself and the world. Where does the driv…
 
One of the most debated topics in spirituality (and beyond) involves the origins of consciousness. Most neuroscientists agree that it’s emergent—the physiological systems of the body create what we call “consciousness.” Derek revisits his 2018 conversation with Michael Gazzaniga, whose 1961 studies on split-brain patients revolutionized the discipl…
 
Santa Barbara surf coach Matthew Coleman murdered his two young children in Mexico nearly two weeks ago. He told the FBI that he was “enlightened by QAnon and Illuminati conspiracy theories and was receiving visions and signs revealing that his wife possessed serpent DNA and had passed it on to his children.” Beneath the peak chaos of this story li…
 
Conspiritualists amp up their victimhood-fetish by comparing anti-vaxxers to Jim Crow-era African Americans and Jews under the Holocaust. Meanwhile, Tucker Carlson questions vaccines, bangs the CRT red-scare propaganda drum, and swoons over Hungarian fascist Viktor Orban. For this week’s Bonus, Julian compares Fox News’s idealizing coverage of Orba…
 
With guests: Philip Deslippe, Jules Hartley, Janja Lalich, and Stacie Stukin We’ve convened an expert panel this week to remember and discuss Katie Griggs, aka GJ. She died in an LA hospital on the evening of August 1st. LA Magazine was the first outlet to confirm the death with the RA MA Institute, which Griggs co-founded in Venice, CA. The cause …
 
This past week, Matthew defined “Wellness Pornography”, working from the ideas of C. Thi Nguyen and Bekka Williams in their essay “Moral Outrage Porn”. In this bonus episode, he asks: How do we measure the violence of wellness pornography when it becomes clear that it fuels vaccine hesitancy? When wellness pornographers directly indoctrinate people…
 
The YogaVaxGate Instagram post turns out to have been a bellwether for the $88B industry packed with science skeptics and spiritual bypassers. When Wolf Terry got trolled for daring to argue in Yoga Journal that getting vaccinated was an act of non-harming, the stormfront was clear. As thousands of yoga studios ponder opening amidst the stop-and-st…
 
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