James Arthur Ray: Downfall of a “Spiritual Warrior”

March 2009

Times have been tough for Matthew Smith. A self-proclaimed “Star Wars” fanatic from Clifton, N.J., Mr. Smith, 38, was laid off from his job as a retail manager five months ago and has been living on unemployment ever since. His dream of starting his own business fizzled along with his marriage — one was directly tied to the other, he says. And his efforts to find a new job have so far been futile.

“My life has not been working,” he said, as he stood inside a huge ballroom at the Westin Hotel on Saturday along with 500 other people, many of them also unemployed and looking for something better.

But this was not a job fair. They were here to see a motivational speaker and self-help guru, and paying a hefty price to do so: $1,297 for a high-decibel, two-day seminar. In this case, the speaker was James Arthur Ray, one of the emerging names in the $11 billion self-improvement industry, and the event was called the Harmonic Wealth Weekend.

Continue reading James Arthur Ray: Downfall of a “Spiritual Warrior”

Science and the Problem with Chi

Chi Gong: The Ancient Chinese Way to Health by Paul Dong and Aristide Esser

Chi theory is an ontology, in which it is pointless to declare one’s belief or disbelief prior to understanding. In this excerpt from Chi Gong: The Ancient Chinese Way to Health, author Bruce Holbrook addresses the root of the controversy, which is neither logic or science, but cultural impedance.

The concept of chi is confusing to Western readers, not because it is a difficult one, but because our own culture stands in the way.

Occidental civilization is based on certain religious and philosophical premises which invite false translation of chi and related concepts. For example, our philosophy forces a choice between two fundamental levels of reality, which in the Chinese worldview are but a single one. That historically recent epistemological expression of our civilization, science, forcefully fights against comprehension of a single reality. Through out this section, therefore, “science” and related terms such as “physical,” are used within quotation marks when they refer to Western concepts. This may promote correction of the false, but very widespread, ethnocentric assumption that Western science is the only form of science.

Our “science” is firmly based on inanimate models and data-recording devices, whereas chi (in the central sense of this book) is intimately related to distinctively animate phenomena and cultivated human sensing. An additional problem is that Western science–especially “medical science”–has become dogmatic, so that it rejects any logical conclusion which lies outside its paradigm. The prevailing attitude is: If we can’t deal with it on our terms, it does not exist, because only our terms are valid. Cultural anthropologists call such systematic ignorance “ethnocentrism”–being confined, unaware of the confinement, by one’s own culture.

Western scientists can describe in unparalleled detail a decline in metabolic energy and regenerative capacity, but as soon as they state or suggest that these are the causes of natural dying, they are refusing to answer the question at hand: How does a human die of natural causes?

Given such widespread ethnocentrism, it is only natural therefore that Western thinking beyond the scope of “science” has surrounded chi with a mystical aura, while “scientific thinking” has reduced and deformed the concept into something manageable on its own terms. Such terms are untrue to the original concept and reality of chi. Beyond that there is a natural difficulty with distinctions among different kinds of chi. This can give rise to the impression that Chinese thinkers indulged in unnecessary conceptual multiplication to compensate for their own weaknesses in natural scientific understanding. Nothing could be further from the truth. Continue reading Science and the Problem with Chi

Meditating on Death Increases Happiness, Study Shows

Philosophers and scientists have long been interested in how the mind processes the inevitability of death, both cognitively and emotionally. One would expect, for example, that reminders of our mortality—say the sudden death of a loved one—would throw us into a state of disabling fear of the unknown. But that doesn’t happen. If the prospect of death is so incomprehensible, why are we not trembling in a constant state of terror over this fact?

Psychologists have some ideas about how we cope with existential dread. One emerging idea—”terror management theory“—holds that the brain is hard-wired to keep us from being paralyzed by fear. According to this theory, the brain allows us to think about dying, even to change the way we live our lives, but not cower in the corner, paralyzed by fear. The automatic, unconscious part of our brain in effect protects the conscious mind.

But how does this work? Continue reading Meditating on Death Increases Happiness, Study Shows