“Art depreciation” (Ener-chi)

scream

Like other New Age medicine proponents, Ener-chi founder Andreas Moritz was convinced that life force energy imbalances were the cause of illness and disease. But he put a twist on it by adding artwork to the equation and ascribing curative properties to his paintings. He said he could “imbue them with light-encoded energies” that correspond to bodily organs. Gazing upon the painting would therefore heal ailments of the blood, brain, eyes, liver, lungs, and much more.

He explained, “If one looks at the painting that corresponds to the heart, even for only about a minute, very profound changes occur in the life energy field corresponding to that organ. The flow of chi becomes fully restored, and any thought forms or emotional imbalances that have been locked in the cellular structure of that organ are systematically transmuted and released.”

Talk about a magic eye image. But despite having this painted panacea at his disposal, Moritz passed away at age 58. He was willing to die for his beliefs, noted the ener-chi.com website, which continues to promote his ideas. From the website: “Andreas refused to have invasive surgical treatments or procedures.”  

He is gone, but the Ener-Chi Wellness Center continues to trumpet his proposals. Such as insisting that every cell and organ has its own aura, and that the body’s collective aura is made of trillions of tiny ones. Further, these auras also affect Earth’s atmosphere. Moritz wrote, “Negative thoughts and beliefs, emotional trauma, and other experiential episodes get caught up in the ionosphere, triggering major global disturbances.” But that can be fixed with his paintings, too, as some of them are “designed to heal the Earth and her environment. One is meant to heal and awaken energies in the mountain and rock structures of the planet. Another one has a similar effect on the rivers, lakes and seas.” No need to plant a tree when you can just draw one.

The wellness center website contains several blunders:

  • It misuses the word energy, plus mixes it with undefined New Age Terms: “Ener-chi art affects the human body so that something spirals out from our light body to the universe. It cleanses the aura as well as the physical and mental bodies, and balances the chi force throughout the body. It transports energy in and out of the body.”
  • It makes extraordinary, unsubstantiated claims about an eminent, wondrous phenomenon: “Ener-chi art is designed to activate the codes within the DNA structure that are linked with total immunity to disease and make full use of the body’s enormous untapped potential.” Eliminating all disease or making profound, positive changes to DNA are advancements that would be announced by the Nobel Prize Committee chairman, not a schlocky website.
  • It throws scientific terms into a dish, but comes up with a muddled pseudoscientific gumbo: “Ener-chi assists in raising the body’s frequencies and loosening its density, so that one will be able to live and function in higher dimensions than is currently possible. Direct access to these realms will remove fear from life and replace it with the powerful love energies that are capable of accomplishing almost anything.”
  • It makes the hackneyed claim about seeking the root cause, which energy medicine practitioners use to dance around the fact that alt-med has yet to manage its first cure: “Ener-Chi Art addresses the original causes that are responsible for the physical, mental and emotional problems prevalent in our lives today, including those that are of karmic origin.
  • It includes the ubiquitous alt-med goodie about being holistic: “If healing is to be complete, lasting, and purposeful, it must occur simultaneously on all levels of the body, mind, and spirit.
  • It makes the appeal to antiquity: “Ener-Chi Art is based on one of the most ancient systems of healing and rejuvenation. A primary function of this art is to restore a balanced flow of life force energy, throughout the body.
  • Finally, there plenty of testimonials, praise, and self-promotion, but nothing in the way of empirical evidence, double blind studies, or an explanation of the products’ curative mechanisms.

How dangerous a given alternative medicine is can be determined by what the patient is attempting to cure and whether that treatment is used exclusively. There are some inherently hazardous techniques and products, such as black salve, bleach enemas, or staring at the sun. Others are innocuous, albeit futile. For example, trying to get rid of moderate back pain by using applied kinesiology won’t take away the hurt, but it won’t be fatal or cause any more harm beyond to one’s pocketbook.

So with Moritz’s artwork, if one used impressionism to fix astigmatism, it won’t help the peepers, but won’t do any more damage. But if using minimalism to clear clogged arteries, the consequences could be fatal.

Which brings us to the second and more nefarious plank promoted by Moritz. He felt that cancer could be wished away with the right attitude and by snuffing out unresolved issues. He wrote, “Constant conflicts, guilt, and shame can paralyze the body’s basic functions, and lead to the growth of a cancerous tumor.”

In actuality, cancer is normally is caused gene mutation, which can lead to unchecked cell growth. Vulnerability to these mutations are the result of life choices, genetics, and exposure to carcinogens.

Moritz claimed that cancer was rarely seen until the last half century and makes an even more bewildering assertion that it is never fatal. He said, “What kills a cancer patient is not the tumor, but the numerous reasons behind cell mutation and tumor growth,” and that these reasons include unbalanced emotional states, conflict, stress, feelings of inferiority, and lack of confidence.

However, cancer is more common today primarily because people are living longer. And if the disease were related to our emotions, it would be rampant in destitute locations like South Sudan and North Korea.

Moritz even saw cancer as beneficial and benevolent. “Cancer can be a way of revealing the source of such conflict…and heal it. The body can still cure itself, which it actually tries to do by developing cancer. Cancer is more a healing response than it is a disease. It is the body’s attempt to cure itself of an existing imbalance.”

So any smoker who died of lung cancer was just a pessimist. If they had only gotten to the root of why they felt blue, the disease would have gone away. And other animals who die of cancer, they were just a little stressed. Can you blame them? They are homeless, don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and they have no idea where their children are.

Moritz recalled that he had “yet to meet a cancer patient who does not feel burdened by some poor self-image, unresolved conflict, worries, or past emotional trauma.” He failed to consider that a terminal illness, with its pains and fears and seeing what it does to your loved ones, could be a real downer.

Like many alternative medics, Moritz blamed the patient for undesirable outcomes. If after receiving his “treatment,” the patient was unable to resolve the conflict, then he or she was causing the body’s natural healing processes to fail.

One thing Moritz and I would agree on: You need his paintings like you need cancer.

 

  

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“Unreal cluster” (Pleiades aliens)

ALIENTEL

Pleiades is an open star cluster in the constellation Taurus, 400 light-years from Earth. That’s far enough away that just seven of the stars can be seen without a telescope. Perhaps because seven has long been thought of as a lucky number in our culture, the star system has been pegged as the alleged home of a group of multi-dimensional, uber-evolved, benevolent beings that make contact with a very limited number of Earthlings.

The assertion that aliens and less than half a dozen humans are telepathically communicating on how to improve Mankind brings to mind Christopher Hitchens observation that, “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

But that would make for a two-paragraph blog post, so let’s branch beyond Hitchens’ reasonable declaration and find other points against the idea. A major one is that the Pleiades system is only 150 million years old. When Earth was that age, it was still being regularly bombarded and shaped by asteroid impacts. According to Scientific American, oxygen would not make its Earthly debut for another two billion years. Further, if the history of the universe were consolidated into a one-year calendar, humans would not have appeared until late on Dec. 31.

So if there is a populated Pleiades planet, its inhabitants would had to have evolved exponentially quicker than us to be even single-celled amoebas at this point, much less be capable of inter-solar system travel and possessing vast mind control powers.

And for being this advanced, they have supremely limited communication skills, as evidenced by their having reached only four people. In these cosmic missives, they reveal that they are concerned about our planet and our future and wish to help us ascend to another dimension.

Beyond that, there’s not a lot of constancy. Depending on who the Pleiadians are sending messages to, the ideas change. For instance, they are variously described as descending from the alien species Lyrans,  having coexisted with the Lyrans, or being synonymous with them. With regard to their connection to Earthlings, they are either ancestors of whites, Native Americans, or none of us. The extent of their travel can be either switching between the third and the ninth dimensions, residing permanently in the fifth dimension, or living in dimensions whose only specificity is that they are higher and mightier than what we can access – although, per the narrative, they are here to change that.

There are also contradictory reports as to their appearance. In some tales, Pleiadians are humanoids, albeit better looking versions of us. They are slender, with their women folk tending to be curvaceous. These descriptions, along with their vast intelligence, accomplishments, altruism, and pioneering spirit, represent an idealized version of humanity.

This often means Aryan features, although for those that prefer the mystical romanticized version of Native Americans, there are the aforementioned assertions that tribe members are descended from the aliens. A modified version has the Native Americans not being related to the Pleiadains, but continuing their teachings. This is the script favored by Lia Shapiro, who informs us that indigenous North American legends about Pleiadians have been encoded and kept secret, although she knows all about them, despite her being neither Native American nor Pleiadian.

Today’s aliens are only extremely distant cousins of tribe members, so much so that the former are portrayed as lacking pigmentation, possessing little to no hair, and having skeletons that are largely cartilage. Their brains have large frontal lobes and this provides a possible explanation for Pleiadians’ sense of intuition and their adeptness at multidimensional communication.

Unusual for extra-planetary visitors, some of these space tourists reveal their  personal names. This includes Semjase, a 330-year old expert in robotics, space travel, teleportation, and intergalactic linguistics. Depending on the channeler, Semjase and the other Pleiadians are said to be connected to Atlantis, Lemuria, or various New Age healing methods, particularly crystals, magic energy, and the unblocking of chi. They are also responsible for bringing dolphins to Earth, at least that’s what the ghost of JFK told channeler Barry Martin, who claims that the former president has assumed marine mammal form and communicates with him telepathically.  

It is noteworthy that Pleiadians brought us an esthetically pleasing, intelligent creature with a reputation for friendliness. None of the channelers have reported that the Pleiadians are the avenue which bestowed Earth with mosquitoes, cobras, or the stars of Monsters Inside Me. This is consistent with the mantle of idealism and benevolence that believers wrap Pleiadians in.  

Those believers include Barbara Marciniak, whom the aliens told that they share a common ancestor with humans, and that Pleiadians came from another universe to seed various planets in our universe. The Pleiadians appeared before we humans did, and ascended to the next evolutionary stage, Akashic Plane, or some such locale. While the Pleiadians have been around for hundreds of millions of years, we current Earthlings have the great fortune of living during the precise time that out interplanetary visitors have reached out to our fellow human Marciniak. And she is ready to guide us through our ascendancy to the next stage of existence.

If we reach high enough, may be able to do what the Pleiadians do. This includes traveling in time and to higher dimensions, where they contact beings that inhabit those realms. They are also capable of speed of light tricks to get around any annoying physics issues. This really comes in handy because they are known to bandy about in 1049 universes.

Like Young Earth Creationists, Pleiadian advocates believe in an unseen, benevolent higher power who communicates silently with humans. Both groups also ignore scientific evidence for the age of the universe. But while YECs think that starlight from hundreds of millions of light years away arrived here in 6,000 years, Pleiadian believers think the universe is much older than the cosmic background radiation and the amount of hydrogen in the universe indicates. And while Marciniak and her ilk think the universe will collapse, they also hold that it will immediately rebound to form another one, presumably with more shiny happy people.   

Another one of the four humans the Pleiadians have the means and desire to contact is Billy Meier, who claims to have been communicating with them since 1975. Unlike Marciniak, Shapiro, and Martin, Meier writes little if anything about what the Pleiadians tell him, but he has photos of alleged encounters. However, investigator Karl Korff has shown these to be hoaxes, and rather lazy ones at that. The photos came from magazines, catalogues, books, TV screen shots, etc. Meier also claims to possess a piece of alien metal, but has declined to offer it for examination.  

Because his “proof” is mostly photographs, he doesn’t mess with the obtuse indecipherable messages that Marciniak, Shapiro, and Martin deliver. Here’s an example from each. Marciniak: “If you can clear people of their personal information, they can go cosmic.” Shapiro: “One can come awake and realize the divine nature of who we are.” Martin:  “Aliens came to Earth with a sort of engineering animal to begin breeding softer, gentler creatures.”

The Pleiadians are 400 light years away and how they journey to Earth in far less than 400 years is not among the knowledge they are showering on their Earthly conduits. What they are letting them know, per Shapiro, is that they “bring wisdom and their purpose is to enlighten you.” They do this not by telling us themselves but through books and music that Shaprio sells. The music, she notes, is meant “to raise your frequency and vibration closer to the light created by a Pleiadian.”

Shaprio runs the pleiadians.net website, not to be confused with pleiadains.com, which is Marciniak’s domain. On that website, Marciniak writes that the Pleiadians are “here to assist humanity with the process of spiritual transformation in the years leading up to December 2012.” This was presumably to counter the Mayan apocalypse. That this is still on the front page shows that what Marciniak has in interstellar telepathic communication skills she lacks in website maintenance abilities.

Other than Meier, whose collection has been shown to be phony, the channelers give us nothing falsifiable. Nor is there affirming evidence of their extraordinary claims, nor proof of these experiences, nor an explication of the mechanisms behind telepathy and faster-than-warp speed travel. It would be within the capabilities of Pleiadians to explain how they have accomplished these supremely advanced scientific achievements. But there is none of that among their cosmic communiques. Instead, Marciniak offers digital recordings, books, videos, speaking schedules, and a way to make contact – with Marciniak, not with the Pleiadians.

“Tough cell” (Integrative oncology)

CANCER

Integrative means “to unify separate items.” Oncology refers to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. So, in a strict sense, exercise, nutrition, deep breathing, and meditation that are aimed at reducing the pain, nausea, stress, and other consequences of cancer could qualify as integrative oncology.

However, most people who consider themselves integrative oncologists use the term because it sounds better than “malarkey.” They offer aura cleansings, naturopathy, and energy healing, all of which have no plausible mechanism by which they would arrest rouge cell growth.

While proponents try to spin it as offering the best of both the traditional and alternative medicine worlds, the term is almost never used by those who combat cancer with chemotherapy and surgery; it’s used almost exclusively by those who prefer beef liver regimens and crystals.

Integrative oncologists favor terms like “multidisciplinary, “synergy,” “patient-centered,” “holistic,” “mind-body-spirit meld,” and “optimizing wellness.” These vacuous words gloss over the fact that the techniques they offer won’t help cure a patient’s cancer. To do that, one needs chemo, radiation, targeted drug therapy, immunotherapy, or surgery.  

Again, in the strict sense of the word, there is room for integrative oncology. Wigs and prosthetic brassieres for post-mastectomy patients are examples of how a person can be helped with issues related to cancer without the disease itself being impacted.

Or perhaps a patient suffers from malnutrition, as cancer affects their appetite and digestion. It would therefore be valid to work with a dietician to come up with a meal plan that will provide the extra vitamins and minerals needed while battling cancer and undergoing treatment.

And since a potentially lethal disease causes dread, anxiety, stress, fear, and worry, it follows that meditation, guided imagery, or a massage to help deal with these emotions can be beneficial. Or the patient may be an erstwhile distance runner who is now incapable of much exertion at all. In this instance, an exercise plan that squares with this new reality is another good idea. So tai chi, yoga, meditation, and the like are all fine for dealing with the tangential issues of cancer. As long as there is no claim that any magical, curative energy is at work, it’s fine.

The nonsense comes from thinking, as Dr. Axe does, that one of the nation’s leading killers is going to be stymied by “vegetable juicing, probiotic foods, immune-boosting supplements, stress reducing techniques, and prayer.” He presumably followed his attorney’s advice by adding, “I am not claiming that is a cancer cure.” Having taken care of that legal cover, Axe dovetails back into, “I believe these natural therapies, either used by themselves or in conjunction with conventional medical treatments, may support the healing process.”

Like much alternative medicine, integrative oncology has seeped into our institutions of higher learning. This includes the University of Arizona, which offers a course on the subject. Despite a terse description of the field on its website, the university managed to squeeze in three logical fallacies:

“It is estimated that a great majority of cancer patients are using complementary therapies in addition to conventional care (Ad populum). As patients face a life-threatening diagnosis out of their control, they turn to therapies that offer hope and a regained sense of empowerment (Appeal to consequences). You will learn techniques such as those offered in Traditional Chinese Medicine (Appeal to antiquity).”

Bypassing conventional cancer treatment is almost guaranteed to be fatal. In the last year, there have been heartbreaking cases of persons trying to cure cancer with Gerson Therapy, veganism, or baking soda and lemon juice.

While not as drastic as those tragedies, integrative oncology mixes the legit and the looney. This creates a parasitic relationship, where chemotherapy, surgery, targeted drug therapy, and immunotherapy are considered in the same class of cancer treatment as are coffee enemas, frankincense, B12 overloads, and lots of sunshine. All those are types of naturopathy. The field has many forms, but the underlying theme is that the body has an inherent ability to heal itself if only it can be prompted by the right vehicle. This notion cannot be squared with cancer treatment. Incorporating iridologists, Reiki practitioners, or oily neck rubs is of zero value and could even be dangerous since a somewhat pleasant craniosacral massage is going to seem more attractive than another round of chemo, perhaps prompting the patient to forgo the latter.

That’s why UCLA’s Simms-Mann Center is wrong to proclaim that “the best medicine combines multiple modalities.” No, the best medicine is proven through metadata of double blind studies. More is not necessarily better. The removal of a malignant tumor isn’t going to be aided by listening to binaural beats.  

 

“Frequent liar miles” (Amino Neuro Frequency)

'Quack'

Amino Neuro Frequency is a treatment system touted as a way to reduce pain and inflammation. During a session, silver dollar-sized discs are applied liberally to the skin and this is intended to emit healing frequencies to the afflicted body part.

From afncourses.com, we learn that, “AFN discs transmit a unique range of frequencies through the neurons in the body. The nervous system picks up these frequencies, starting a self-healing and self-regulating process. They store and transfer radio frequency in the form of sub-harmonic signals, programmed to a specific frequency. The discs provide a biofield with information via sympathetic resonance. The connection from the patch to the body is made through the nervous system and the seven layers of bio energy the body naturally produces. The patch provides the signal to promote cellular communication to reduce stress and anxiety while restoring imbalances.”

That mishmash of pseudoscientific language never gets around to explaining how the treatment works. But it does reference resonance, cells, frequency, harmonics, energy, and the old alt-med standby, imbalance. Proponents are content to toss a hodgepodge of science-like terms into a caldron and hope the resultant gumbo impresses or at least confuses.

They were unable to persuade the folks at factualphysicaltherapy.com, who noted that, “This explanation is so vague, it can be connected to any problem a person has. There is no condition that they can’t help.”

The discs allegedly decrease pain levels within minutes and are effective for 72 hours. There are many testimonials to support this. Skeptic leader Harriet Hall wrote that one such anecdote had a patient describing his pain level going from 10 to 2 in just a few minutes. This prompted her to wonder, “If the pain is caused by injury or inflammation, how could it resolve so quickly, without time for tissue repair?”

Indeed, there is nothing in the way of controlled scientific studies to support this claim or any of the others. Trying it out one’s self is an unreliable method to determine the efficiency of a medical product or treatment. That’s because the self-administering patient will be unaware if symptoms were resolved because of the treatment, some other cause, or merely time. The opposite is also true. If the subject’s symptoms stagnate or worsen, that person might be the anomaly. These are reasons why control groups and double blind studies are needed. When neither the subjects nor the researchers know which group is receiving the authentic medicine and which group is receiving the placebo, the efficiency can be ascertained with much more accuracy, especially when scores of such studies are conducted.

Double blinds studies are especially crucial when researching treatments for illnesses that are not serious or chronic. That’s because the immune system and the body’s recuperative abilities will generally restore good health and this normal course of business can be wrongly attributed to a purported medicine or technique if we rely on anecdotes instead of data. Double blind studies also help determine the proper dose and to develop treatment protocols. .

With Amino Neuro Frequency discs, there are the additional problems of practitioners having no idea what a human cell’s frequency would be, how the discs would access and hold energy, what type of energy it is, how it is imparted to the patient, and how this is beneficial.

Embedded frequencies are becoming more of an alt-med buzzword. Hall notes that proponents usually employ the word “frequency” in isolation. But the word is meaningless unless the speaker specifics what kind of frequency it is. Frequency is defined as the number of repeating occurrences of an event per unit of time. When used legitimately, it refers to phenomena such as revolutions per minute, heartbeats per minute, waves of light per second, etc. Just throwing out the word “frequency” is taking a science term, using it incorrectly, and trying to hawk a product with it. In other words, the epitome of pseudoscience.

Further, it is impossible to embed a frequency. One might be able to embed an object that produces vibrations or electromagnetic waves that have a frequency, but that would require a power source. And even if a product contained such a generator, there is no evidence that subjecting a body part to a set frequency would have an identified benefit for a specific organ.

“Fleeced lightning” (Phil Parker)

FL

Phil Parker and his Lightning Process sounds like a bad lounge act, but in fact is an even worse form of make-believe medicine. It is another instance of supposed mind control magic, and while Parker’s claims are somewhat less extravagant than other alt-med peddlers, he boasts of doing plenty, none of which is backed by double blind studies or an explanation of the mechanism behind it.

Parker holds that we experience stressors from sickness, pollution, relationships, work, school, finances, etc., and that these mess with our sleep, immune system, digestion, and rational thinking. This, in turn, creates a wide range of medical conditions. So he offers a three-day training course that allegedly helps patients recognize the body’s stress response mechanism and reduce the frequency and intensity of such stressors. Next, the persons will manage their long-term health through the use of neuroplasticity.

While neuroplasticity has applications in areas such as brain damage, vision defects, or Cochlear Implants, these must be undertaken by medical specialists using advanced technology and is not something persons can tap into themselves during a long weekend retreat.

But after such a weekend, Parker says the Lightning Process will help sufferers conquer Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, migraines, backaches, Multiple Sclerosis, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, overeating, low self-esteem, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and general malaise.

Such wide-ranging claims are almost always a pseudoscience giveaway. Consider a legitimate medication, ibuprofen. We know that it treats specific areas: Pain, fever, and inflammation. And in an article for Business Insider, Lydia Ramsey explained that ibuprofen works by “latching onto to an enzyme called cyclooxygenase and blocking it out. This keeps the body from making a molecule called prostaglandin, which generates the inflammation that often leads to pain. With that molecule blocked, the pain begins to subside.”

The language there is a little technical, but we get the basic idea of why the medication works. By contrast, this is what passes for an explication of Parker’s program: “The Lightning Process gives you powerful tools to use brain-body links to influence your health and life. The tools involve gentle movement, meditation-like techniques and mental exercises. With practice you can use them to change the way your nervous system works, switching on pathways which promote health and switching off ones which aren’t so good for you.”

This gives us nothing concrete and there is also no mention of side effects, which is another pseudoscience giveaway. An ibuprofen bottle warns of the risks of nausea, dyspepsia, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, dizziness, rashes, hypertension, and more. The seemingly refreshing lack of side effects in alternative medicine is due to such products lacking any active ingredients, which means they are having no impact on the patient’s body.

Another red flag is Parker’s claims being sometimes vague, such as promising to “help with performance” or “improve esteem,” concepts that are difficult to quantify. But at least that is better than his more dangerous claim of being able to cure Multiple Sclerosis. While that disease has no cure, there are treatments available, and a patient who eschews those for Parkers’ three-day training program are going to make a bad situation even less tolerable.

Indeed, as the skeptic surgeon blogger Orac wrote, “A cancer patient would be infinitely better off trying immunotherapy, targeted therapy, or chemotherapy, rather than trying to use the brain to create thoughts that will kill cancer cells.”

To be clear, Parker does not claim cancer-killing abilities and most of his assertions are relatively benign in an alternative medicine landscape that includes staring at the sun for weight loss, bleach enemas to cure autism, and anti-vaxxers tormenting parents whose children died from Whooping Cough.

Because he focuses on comparatively tame maladies like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, back pain, and headaches, Parker’s techniques may seem to work, owing to the fluctuating nature of illnesses and post hoc reasoning. The one area besides MS where he does cross the line into becoming dangerous is claiming that the Lightning Process will help with mental disorders. A person with such conditions should by getting psychiatric care, not attending a seminar.

But plenty of persons do seem to be attending. On his website, Parker writes of “thousands of success stories from those who’ve changed their lives and health.” That is followed by links to newspapers, magazines, television stations, and blogs. What he doesn’t point to is anything the way of double blind studies. His website has one isolated example of research, but this was  alone study featuring a non-random sample of nine persons with no control group. One zero-blind study on a miniscule number of subjects falls well short of the scientific standard, and it’s easy to see why Parker favors the alt-med tactic of emphasizing anecdotes over data.

What he lacks in empirical evidence and research, however, he makes up for in books and videos, which is yet another pseudoscience giveaway. Someone practicing genuine medicine is going to offer only products and/or treatments. Further, they will be able to explain in scientific terms the mechanism behind what they are offering. They will not be hawking multimedia products that take hours to get through, with only a hazy description of how it all works.

In Parker’s description, the Lighting Process is a means to improve athletic performance, relieve chronic fatigue, vanquish anxiety, end panic attacks, zap Multiple Sclerosis, lose weight, and stop headaches. Such a multi-faceted wonder would be announced in peer reviewed journals and at Nobel Prize ceremonies, not in Facebook posts and advertisements laden with all caps and exclamation points.

 

 

“Think tanked” (New Thought)

GIANTBRAIN

The New Thought positon can be summed up as, “Believing something makes it so.” By that logic, since I believe that the New Thought movement is bonkers, it is. But let’s delve a little deeper.

Proponents do not believe that if I think that I am a cow, I am. Rather, they think that consistent and correct thinking regimens will lead a person to get what they want out of life, be it money, love, peace, or that extra-cushy recliner.

The movement’s central point is that our thoughts or beliefs determine our existence, especially in the  health realm. New Thought began in the 19th Century and, rare for the time, was primarily led by women. It had been founded, however, by a man, Phineas Quimby, in days when people were named Phineas Quimby.

He felt that that tapping into the power of the mind was how Jesus performed healing miracles attributed to him in the Gospels. While Quimby was unable to manage the instant fix that his savior did, he saw about 500 patients annually and explained to them that their condition or disease was something their minds could control. By combining low overhead with religious trappings, Quimby developed an ideal business model. Customers came in, emptied their pockets without getting a product or service in return, and left to recruit others.

One of Quimby’s disciples, Mary Beth Eddy, formed the Christian Scientists, who maintain a form of New Thought with their extreme faith in the power of prayer. Contrary to popular belief, Christian Scientists are free to seek medical care in limited circumstances, but the church holds that prayer is most effective when there’s no accompanying treatment. Using medicine is seen a demonstrable lack of faith and if the patient would only show more trust in God, he would heal them.

One of Eddy’s students, Emma Hopkins, took the New Thought movement national. Her contemporary, William Atkinson, attributed his recovery from mental, physical, and fiscal setbacks to the power of belief.

They and others in the movement downplayed creeds and rituals, and most departed from traditional Christianity by rejecting, or at least redefining, the notion of sin. They projected an optimistic view of human nature and felt that the divine could be found within all of us. This gave rise to the idea of a power being inside everyone, and this power could be harnessed to change one’s lot in life, including the vanquishing of mental and physical ailments.

Despite their iconoclastic views, they embraced the Bible when it fit their agenda, such as favoring Mark 11:24 (“Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”) These days, the Home of Truth follows the teachings of Hindu advisor Swami Vivekananda and the New Thought movement has some Buddhists in its ranks. Most adherents, however, are quasi-religious in nature and a few are even secular.

One secular example is Tony Robbins, who while not completely onboard with the movement, ascribes an unrealistic amount of potency to mental exercises, affirmations, and self-confidence. Another secular example was Norman Cousins, who treated his collagen disease with intravenous Vitamin C, comedy movies, and a peppy attitude. While he recovered, exactly how much his unorthodox treatment had to do with was never ascertained.

Among the quasi-religious, Deepak Chopra argues that quantum physics enables persons to seize control of all aspects of their lives through the right thinking process. Another quasi-religious version is touted by Esther Hicks, who highlights the Law of Attraction. This holds that humans can bring into their lives whatever they focus on, be it good or bad. Yet all NFL players concentrate on winning the Super Bowl, yet only one team does so. And lovelorn persons obsessively think about the object of their affection without that object ever coming around.

While there are various New Thought schools, most emphasize that something ubiquitous is in control of our lives and is ready to benefit us, if only our thoughts can access this mighty force. It may be described as a god, spirit, energy, or life force, but in any case, health, wealth, and other desirable outcomes are inevitable if we think about them the right way. Adherents believe they can determine their situation by willing a deity or mystical energy to do it for them. This can be attractive because it is free, painless, easy, and gives the practitioner a feeling of being in charge.

But while the power of positive thinking can help with attitude and performance, scientific tests of the power of belief to cure serious illnesses have been uniformly negative. Carol Tavris of Skeptic Magazine wrote that a research team catalogued 179 patients with lung cancer over eight years and found that optimism, pessimism, and neutrality all had no bearing on cures or long-term survival rates. Thinking that the techniques work results from post hoc reasoning, selective memory, and the Forer Effect. And since less-serious illnesses usually fluctuate, their eventual end is credited to finally getting the thought process right.

As far as thoughts helping one succeed in life, we hear stories about Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, or Mark Cuban, and the massive dreams they stayed with until fame and fortune resulted. In these tales, the figure’s positive outlook is referenced. But highlighting only these stories is to commit survivor bias. We never hear about the much more voluminous instances of dreamers who never wavered but also never achieved. The only benefit to their positive outlook was to feel more positive; it did not lead to the desired results.

Indeed, one of the philosophy’s problems is that it equates feeling empowered with being empowered. Another issue is that New Thought holds uncompromisingly negative views of doubt, fear, and worry, even though these are sometime necessary and, in the long-term, often beneficial. A seasoned employee, put on a 90-day probationary period, can use the consequent fear to work harder and become more efficient. A person with a potentially fatal diagnosis can use this fear to get their affairs in order, reconcile with those they’ve hurt or been hurt by, and reevaluate what matters in life. By contrast, a person convinced they can whip leukemia with good vibes and happy thoughts will do none of those things while also succumbing to the disease.

Other detriments of being overly optimistic can include unreasonable amounts of gambling and being unable to realistically analyze one’s financial picture, romantic relationships, or job prospects.

Most distressing is New Thought’s rejection of Germ Theory and our knowledge of how diseases and cures work. Members of Idaho’s Followers of Christ church consider pharmaceuticals to be satanic, while others think mental states are what cause disease. Believing that health and illness are determined by the amount of one’s faith and the fervency of one’s thoughts will lead that person to feel it’s their fault if the conditions stagnate.

And in the end, the strongest evidence against persons being able to control their health and lives by wishing for it is that adherents of such notions keep dying.

“Poison your name” (Kabalarian philosophy)

MAZE

The short version of what Kabalarian Philosophy is: It’s nearly identical to numerology except that letters replace digits.

The long version of what it is can be found in “Life’s Purpose,” a treatise by the field’s founder, Alfred Parker.

For the medium-length version, continue reading.

According to Kabalarians – if that’s a word – a person’s name is invariably and completely tied to one’s fate. Your strengths, weaknesses, personality, successes, failures, traits, relationships, health, sicknesses, and favorite dessert are all predetermined shortly after birth when your parents name you. Whether you are dubbed Donald, Diane, or Dweezil, your experiences are locked in. So if Donald had a brother Darryl and another brother Darryl, his two siblings would have identical life events and behaviors.

If names had this power, however, persons who have legal name changes would become drastically different persons, and this does not occur. Lew Alcindor took the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar without any being any different than before, except for his religion, and he adopted the name because of Islam, rather than converting to a new religion because he changed his name.   

Similarly, women who take their husband’s name would, without exception, turn into markedly different persons after marriage. This is not the case, despite protestations to the contrary from some frustrated husbands I’ve talked with.

Nevertheless, from kabalarians.com, we are told that the field is “able to reduce any name to a mathematical formula based upon letters in the name.” The philosophy further teaches that each language’s alphabet has a consistent mathematical order through which a name can be quantified. Analyzing the letters in a name will supposedly reveal the owner’s personality, attributes, and future.

While numerology is the most obviously similar pseudoscience to Kabalarian Philosophy, it also resembles astrology and fortune telling. That’s because the Forer Effect, subjective validation, and self-fulfilling prophecies will convince some customers that it works. Also, much like a horoscope, crystal ball gazing, or Tarot reading, the traits revealed by a Kabalarian analysis will be voluminous, general, and sometimes contradictory (i.e., “You often like to be challenged, but sometimes retreat to your comfort zone”). In other words, every reading could apply to most anyone. By using broad terms and avoiding specificity and detailed predictions, a Kabalarian analysis can seem impressive to the uninitiated.

Of course, the idea of everything in our lives being preprogrammed could be depressing, intimidating, and scary. It would also make for a pointless philosophy to follow. After acknowledging that names determine everything, there would be seemingly be nowhere else to take the philosophy. But, like many good scams, Kabalarian Philosophy presents both the problem and the solution, the latter involving money.

For a price, Kabalarian practitioners will come up with a new name for their customers, who will be shed of their limiting moniker. Amazingly, 100 percent of persons who patronize Kabalarians have a name that needs to be fixed. No client seeking Kabalarian services has ever had a parent that, by chance or design, had come up with a name that benefited their child.  After a session or three with a practitioner, the client will experience “control of their life, happiness, mental freedom, and personal success. A name change will change the conditions in a person’s life and will allow the expression of one’s true purpose.”
 

While Kabalarian Philosophy does put a creative spin on a time-dishonored principle, it still manages to commit the appeal to tradition and authority fallacies. The website notes that, “China has had name analysis for centuries. Confucius said that if he were made emperor, he would change the names of all the cities because even cities are influenced by their names.”

While the philosophy has similarities to horoscopes and crystal balls, the key difference is that astrologers and seers largely tell their customers what they want to hear. Kabalarians, meanwhile, impart a foreboding vision of what lies in wait. This enables them to retain customers by promising to find them a new moniker and resultant rosy path ahead.

Once this is accomplished, the Kabalarian website promises that the client “will change your thinking pattern. By changing your name, you are consciously invoking a mental law. This is a fundamental step to creating health, mental harmony, and peace of mind. Speak to a qualified Kabalarian consultant to insure you are making the proper change, as it profoundly affects the rest of your life.”

They misspelled ensure, but, hey, they’re the mathematical language experts, so there must be a reason. Still more advantages: “By changing to a balanced name, you can build greater positivity into your thinking and happiness into your life. As you become mentally free of destructive patterns of thought and habits, you will fulfill the greatest potential of your mind.” I’m surprised they didn’t promise the purchase a winning lottery ticket.

Meanwhile, it’s not just the mental attributes of a person that is affected. With the wrong name, which everyone who has not seen a Kabalarian practitioner seems to have, illnesses will also result. These afflictions are unrelated to genetics, lifestyle, and diet, but are determined by whether you are named Barbara or Stephanie. But never fear. The practitioner, for an additional charge, will “predict health weaknesses based upon the imbalance in the name” and will devise a new handle that will destroy your dyspepsia, vanquish your varicella, and put the kibosh on your kidney stone.

Likewise, successful business owners, athletes, scientists, politicians, and entertainers owe their position not to hard work, talent, and vision, but to “the mathematical value of their names.” After a KP session or two, your new name “will attract better conditions” and “develop the resolve to make the changes necessary to free yourself of destructive habits that hold you back.”

So once you become a Fortune 500 CEO, you can buy the Kabalarian empire and help train others on how to succeed. Or better yet, you intentionally run it into the ground so no one will be a threat to overtake you.