October 14, 2012, Snake Oil for Sale!

Not sure to where I begin with this one, but here goes…
I want to post this review of a YouTube video created by some woman named, “Teal.” Don’t know if it’s her real name. In her video called, “How to Raise your Vibration,” “Teal” claims, though she never divulges her authoritative sources, that “raising one’s vibration” is the result of one’s “commitment to personal happiness.”
Now, I get that the notion of “raising one’s vibration” or “frequency” has enjoyed some popularity for some time. The notion that vibrations were sacred appeared first in the East, in ancient Brahmanism, from which Hinduism descended. The Vedic cosmology claimed there were 14 planes (or worlds) of existence. Buddhism asserted that there were 31 planes of existence. However, it was Hinduism, primarily through Advaita Vedanta conceived by Adi Shankara, that claimed that the universe, represented by Brahman, was a “pure consciousness.”

Thus, the idea that the universe is a form of consciousness is very old, and existed long before the West got wind of it through the ancient pre-Socratic philosophers like Parmenides and Anaxagoras who conceived the universe as something like “the mind of God.” The idea that consciousness evolved or was capable of being “raised” in modern times seems to be first recorded by Ramakrishna, the 19th Century Hindu mystic and later updated by the 20th Century guru Sri Aurobindo. These spiritual metaphysicians, along with the Theosophist master Helena Blavatsky, who lived about the same time as Ramakrishna, all asserted the idea that the planes of existence, divine consciousness and sacred frequency were the same. These streams of spiritual ideas helped formulate what has been called since the 19th Century as the “Law of Attraction.”

The Law of Attraction’s main premise is that consciousness is superior to the physical, an idea that runs back to the ancient Vedantic principle that Brahman is the divine consciousness and the material world an illusion. In the West, this idea was latched onto by Theosophy and the New Thought Movement in the late 19th Century. The New Age spirituality and the principles of the Law of Attraction are essentially the culmination and combination of Theosophist and New Thought ideas.

Which brings us back to “Teal” and her video, which purports to be a “how-to” manual in drawing good things by only engaging in “good thoughts.” According to “Teal,” if one is to live a full and complete life one must make a “commitment” to “personal happiness.” This is done through the “raising of frequency” through “feeling good.” Yes, we’ve heard this all before. It’s from New Thought author W.W. Anderson and his book, “Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World,” published in 1903. Napoleon Hill followed with his, “Think and Grow Rich,” which was followed by the Secret, up to the present day with LOA proponents and New Age trance-channeler Esther Hicks.

While Theosophy and the New Thought Movement often placed humans as “divine” figures, neither movement tried to elevate personal happiness, or enlightened self-interest, at the forefront of their philosophies. That occurred with the rise of the New Age, with its emphasis on spirituality as commodity. Capitalism has long corrupted all forms of religious enterprises, so this isn’t such a surprise. It is interesting to note the uniqueness of the New Age shift to the concerns of the person and not say, the redemption of groups of humanity, as we have in the Organized Religions. This shift of elevating personal happiness to a spiritual goal coincides with neoliberal conceptions of personal liberty, acquiring property and the rights of the Individual.
“Teal,” like all who wish to ignore the scary parts that make up existence, is promising her hapless clients the virtue of magical thinking that will transform them into perpetual happiness machines.
This teaching amounts is the worst of snake-oil salesmanship, which may not be fair to snake-oil salesmen because at least they had oil, which was something tangible. People like “Teal” only give lip service and fluffy-sounding claims that cannot be verified by anyone.
How convenient.

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