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The Kil Report
The Kil Report: Alternative Medicine,Scientific Method, Evil Skeptic, Scams, Fraud, Hoaxes, Critical Thinking, Enforma
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Wellness in the New Age: an Expensive Obsession

By David Glück
Posted on: 11/11/2005

Apparently, the New Age has become as commercialized as Christmas!

When Michelle and I go out to dinner at Teddy’s, our favorite greasy spoon, we both like to read a local rag or the funnies from today’s newspaper or even The Whole Life Times and share stories from whatever we are reading with each other before our meals arrive. Our waiter brings us water with a lemon in it (mine) and a Sprite without even being asked. Those drinks arrive almost the moment we sit down and spread our reading materials out on our favorite table. They know us there. (We actually have two favorite tables and a third slightly less favorite for backup. One cannot be too careful about this sort of thing.) Often, we will keep reading and sharing right through our dinners. At Teddy’s, it’s like family.

And it was at Teddy’s, while reading the newest copy of The Whole Life Times that I finally noticed something that hadn’t quite registered before. I say “finally” because I have been to many New Age expos and read many Whole Life Times and I hadn’t until that moment at Teddy’s, while eating a New York Steak at a very reasonable price, had this particular little epiphany. The New Age pretends to be about spiritual enlightenment and matters of the metaphysical kind, with smatterings of this or that way to realize that your part of a big “oneness.” And perhaps that really is the ultimate goal. But if the actual quantity of content means anything, the New Age is hardly about spirituality at all. Not directly, anyway. Remove the spirituality stuff (and really, there isn’t all that much to remove when compared with the bulk of what the New Age is peddling), and what you’re left with is the message, “You are not healthy. You are physically and emotionally sick and you need us. And by the way, your dog is sick too.”

The New Age would have us believe that road to spiritual growth begins with good health. And to that end, the followers of the New Age are absolutely (and possibly pathologically) obsessed with good health. It has to be, because at the expos, on the Internet and in The Whole Life Times, what they are mostly selling are curatives. They are selling direct curatives (usually alternative medicines and gizmos) for a host of specific ailments, or more general curatives in the form of practices (that are more often then not, quite expensive) aimed at detoxifying the mind and body and opening pathways for a healthy chi or chakra or whatever. In the New Age you must die healthy or it will take you much longer to live forever. The New Age, unlike many religions, has you living in hell right now. Remember, you are unhealthy and living in an unhealthy environment controlled by those who want to keep you unhealthy to protect their bottom line (and I suppose to some degree that’s true so it’s not a very hard sell). If you’re motivated and have enough cash, you can grow out of the hell you are living in, eventually. (I suppose that does beat an eternal lake of fire and brimstone if you’re inclined to seriously consider that as a possibility.)

Enlightenment through a healthy mind and body is going to cost you though. So if you’re not a person of means, you might want to put off your spiritual growth until your next incarnation. But make no mistake about this one thing: it is your unhealthy lack of clarity of mind that is holding you back. Perhaps you can beg, borrow or steal, find a motivational seminar and learn how to cast off those unhealthful thoughts that are holding you back and learn how to become “a money magnet” to pay for your progress toward enlightenment. (It may be possible to save some money by buying books and tapes and study at home for three easy monthly installments. But wait… There’s more!)

Let’s take a few moments to peruse some of the ads and articles in The Whole Life Times that caught my eye and led me to consider the possibility that “new agers” are obsessed with health and may view themselves as sick (un-well), or at the very least, always at risk and with the need to maintain a constant vigilance through one method or another to ward off becoming ill. And by the way, my intention isn’t to demonstrate that it’s crazy to be health conscious. It is only common sense that we should take care of ourselves if our plan is to hang around long enough to enjoy our grandchildren and partake in the joys of growing award-winning tomatoes for the local county fair. What I see in the New Age is more a fear of illness, aging and death so profound that it has built itself into a movement with the primary goal of avoiding the inevitable. I suppose that could also be said of many religions. But how many religions focus most of their publishing output on books and magazines aimed at creating a new (and yet ancient) medical paradigm? There are no two writers in the New Age who are more influential or prolific and, most importantly, best selling than doctors Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil, both of whom are selling medical advice in one form or another.

The above-title teasers on this month’s The Whole Life Times (November 2005) cover read “Stairway To Fitness,” “Homegrown Thanksgiving” and “Dog Meditation.” The feature story is about local small bookstores. So that’s three out of four teasers relating to health on the cover. (Okay now. I can see how quickly this will become tiresome, if not for you, for me. But I will press on.) The table of contents has five stories out of nine pertaining in some way to health. (Actually it’s nine out of nine if I stretch a bit. For example there is the story about some vegans who kept a turkey for a pet.) The stories include a review of a restaurant that serves delicious raw food only, an article on making your Thanksgiving meal using local ingredients preferably bought at a farmers market or better yet foraged by yourself rather than buying stuff that was organically grown but trucked in thereby polluting the environment (which would adversely affect your health), a favorable article on vasectomy for birth control (which I happen to agree with), a holiday supplement survival guide, and the joys of using a Stairmaster. Oh, and one on meditating with your dog.

The regular monthly articles come in at five directly related to health, four with a mix of health and other concerns and two political articles. That’s pretty much nine out of eleven from the regulars. And since I think Bush is bad for our health, make that ten out of eleven.

Now, on to the ads. (I’m not going to count all the ads. You are just going to have to trust me on this one.) The magazine is free so it must be supported by paid advertising. Apparently, there is not a quack practitioner or psychic healer out there that can’t come up with enough money to place an ad in The Whole Life Times, so the ads must be very reasonably priced. The important thing however is that the vast majority of the ads are for curatives. Even the full-page ad for Transcendental Meditation boasts that it “Reverses Biological Aging and Increases Longevity.” They know the concerns of those they are marketing to, and spirituality for this ad’s sake is obviously tangential to better health. There are several ads for pet psychic healings and a surprising number of ads for holistic dentistry, a growth industry, I guess.

One of those ads comes with a “Tooth / Organ Relationship Chart” that I cut out and put on the tack board over my computer. I have no idea what the chart means and there is no explanation for it in the ad. But it is cool-looking and it complements my “Chart to Iridology” nicely. Above that ad is one for Colon Hydrotherapy. The pictures on those always creep me out. They never show a real colon of course. There is a drawing a healthy colon and an unhealthy colon so you can be suitably startled by the difference. On the long list of the benefits that a healthy colon will bring to those who wish (or are willing) to endure that procedure is “Happiness.” “Gloominess” is on the list under the unhealthy colon. Anyhow, you get the point…

I don’t mean to pick on The Whole Life Times in particular. If they didn’t target those who identify with the “new paradigm” that is the New Age, they wouldn’t last very long. Check out any New Age expo and you will encounter exhibitor after exhibitor and lecture after lecture primarily pushing better medical and mental health by way of a revolutionary (often ancient) medicine, practice, process or device. Creating a consumer need is at the heart of capitalism. It can’t hurt, from a sales point of view that they support a deep mistrust of mainstream medicine (and science) and take every opportunity to demonstrate, with hand-picked grains of truth, myths and fallacies of logic, that you are actively being hoodwinked by a corporate medical industrial giant that has no investment in curing you of anything. That theme is like a mantra with these people. Creating fear works. Ironically, like any good capitalist, they know their niche market, a market that they helped to create and a market to which they pander. The goal is sales. Make no mistake about it: sales of alternative medicine and wellness have grown into a multi-billion-dollar industry. And they would prefer it if you bought their products rather than those your doctor might prescribe.

Remember, “You are not healthy. You are physically and emotionally sick and you need us. And by the way, your dog is sick too.”

The sad truth is that there are enough people out there who believe the above statements, and in their obsessive pursuit of wellness, have allowed illness to become the centerpiece of their growing movement.

Now if you will excuse me, Michelle and I are going out to dinner at Teddy’s, where they always serve my salad raw.

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