He Reminds Us That We Matter

Has Wayne Dyer Missed His Plane?

I have a bone to pick with Wayne Dyer, but first let me give credit where credit is due.

Through his prolific authorship and his accessibility as a speaker and talk-show guest, Wayne Dyer has given vast exposure to “New Thought” (New Age, Holistic Spirituality) principles that are genuinely life-affirming and liberating. Dyer’s work has been important in reanimating, in public discourse, ideas from ancient sources — at least as old as the Hebrew prophets, coursing through the ages by way of Jesus and the BuddhaMarcus Aurelius and AristotleRumi and Hafeztranscendentalism and Christian Science, the Unity and spiritualist denominations, A Course in Miraclesand contemporary writers such as Marianne WilliamsonJoan BorysenkoRobert Holden, and Deepak Chopra.

Dyer’s impressive role has been that of a translator or interpreter, slipping complex ideas into the everyday idiom. His felicitous phrasing speaks to the learned and the poorly educated alike, affirming not merely their worth but their inherent divinity.

HE REMINDS US THAT WE MATTER

In a world where computers bobble our frantic phone calls and we interact more often with machines than with humans, Dyer’s is a comforting voice. Yes, it challenges us to take responsibility for our circumstances, but it doesn’t leave us dangling; it also celebrates our intrinsic power and creativity, which enable us to transform our lives.

Dyer has made a vital contribution to spiritual thought. That contribution has in turn made him a celebrity. Was there a trace of bemusement in Dyer’s declaration that he ranked third after Eckhart Tolle and the Dalai Lama on the 2011 Watkins 100 Spiritual Power List (the “100 most spiritually influential living people”)? (On the 2012 list, Tolle and the Dalai Lama changed slots and Dyer was listed thirteenth.) Well, it hardly matters for a man who no longer seeks God but is God.

Okay, I get that. I won’t quibble over the distinction between being Divinity and being a vessel for the Divine. If (a) God is everywhere, and (b) human beings are of God… well, one can hardly be one-half or seven-eighths divine, can one?

Other teachers, including John Lennon, announce with impunity that Love is all there is. That being so, then Wayne Dyer, and you and I, and, I suppose, Caligula,* are love throughout, and according to this tenuous chain of logic we may reasonably assert our divinity.

ME, BEING PISSY

Even so, listening to Wayne Dyer on his weekly radio program, I struggle not to feel that he has ascended to a place beyond my comprehension. Perhaps that comes of his having been healed of leukemia by John of God. Perhaps I strenuously disagree with Dyer’s position on antidepressants and ADHD drugs – remedies in celebration of which we lesser mortals bow down to the heavens eight or nine times a day. Perhaps I sometimes wonder if Wayne Dyer has not lost touch with the distressingly hyperactive, the woefully underemployed… in short, with the ninety-nine percent of us who have not yet learned to manifest near-perfect health, copious prosperity… even the wherewithal to zip down to Abadiânia for a psychic-surgery session with John of God.

Oh, I’m just being pissy for no good reason. Maybe John of God is the Real Deal. Certainly the planet has been blessed with men and women who have extraordinary mystical and medical gifts. Wayne Dyer deserves our thanks for drawing public attention to the likes of Anita Moorjani.  I applaud his vision and courage as a spokesperson for the legitimacy of a truth for which science is not the sole testament. He has reinstated, alongside science, much older realities… those of mystery, enchantment, and childlike wonder… of miracles both rare and commonplace… of infinite possibility wherein scientific certainty seems ludicrous indeed.

Nevertheless…

OH, TO BE ORDINARY!

In a radio promo for his 2012 book Wishes Fulfilled: Mastering the Art of Manifesting, Dyer disparages all that is “ordinary,” then goes on to depict the ordinary human being in a way that makes me salivate. Ordinary people, he says, go dutifully to their ho-hum jobs, pay their bills, fill out sundry forms in the time allotted, and presumably present themselves at their suburban homes when the workday is done, perhaps sitting down to a family meal, weeding the tomato patch, romping with their two-point-four children, reading bedtime stories to the toddlers, reminding them to brush their teeth, tucking them in, and at last enjoying missionary-style sex with their spouses after the lights go out.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this scenario, Dyer stipulates, after which he paints with eloquence the higher calling of the soul, which [he says] seeks beyond all else expansion, with even greater fervor than it longs for happiness – although the soul that is denied expansion is, he laments, “miserable”  — which allegation moves me to point out that happiness, in the sense of not being miserable, is therefore at least commensurate with expansion as something every discriminating soul desires.

More than at this teleological inconsistency, however, I bristle at the scorn (if scorn overreaches, I’ll deal down to condescension) with which Dyer dismisses ordinary people leading ordinary lives. It rankles on two counts, the first selfish, the second philosophical:

  1. Wayne Dyer’s “ordinary” embodies all I ever wished for. When I had ordinary, I never failed to celebrate my rare blessedness. Outside the stability and contentment of marriage and active motherhood, I pay bills on time at gunpoint. I have known gaping loneliness that would welcome the intrusion of rowdy children and an ordinary man who loved me. If he carried in the groceries as well, I’d stick ‘til death and beyond.
  2. There are no ordinary people, and an “ordinary life” is an oxymoron. The fact of human life is always extraordinary, verging on miraculous. The face of any man or woman who has experienced three-quarters of a century displays elation and disillusionment, ease and exertion, and the courage sometimes required to take yet another conscious breath. The octogenarian doesn’t exist who has not one morning awakened in an unfamiliar universe. Live long enough and you must learn to navigate a course from which all known landmarks and guideposts have vanished.

When the time has come, in this incarnation or another, for greatness or glory, we cannot escape it any more than the fetus can remain immobile in the womb. Life’s engines urge us on at the pace of the tides and our own natures. The most impassioned exhortations will never make the sap rise out of season.

WELL DESERVED

Not having so much as laid eyes on Wishes Fulfilled, perhaps I speak in ignorance of its penetrating wisdom, but my comments relate only to the radio promo. If by not reading the book I deprive my soul of a one-time-only opportunity to enlarge, my soul will have to muddle along, puny and pitiful, refused even a glass of ale in bars where only confident, robust souls are served.

I should be more charitable to a man who just slipped ten notches on the “most spiritually influential” list. To be fair, Wayne Dyer speaks to millions, resonating with greater numbers than the Pope, evidently, whose Watkins rank is a pathetic thirty-fifth. Dyer has earned his wealth and fame. If his center has shifted under them, his is not the first; it won’t be the last.

———

* When several kings came to Rome to pay their respects to [Caligula] and argued about their nobility of descent, he cried out “Let there be one Lord, one King”. In AD 40, Caligula began implementing very controversial policies that introduced religion into his political role. Caligula began appearing in public dressed as various gods and demigods such as Hercules,Mercury,Venus and Apollo. Reportedly, he began referring to himself as a god when meeting with politicians and he was referred to as Jupiter on occasion in public documents. (Wikipedia)

7 responses

  1. I did enjoy your pithy writing, possibly because I only read one of Dyer’s books and that was 25 or so years back. Your writing style is entertaining and informative, two great qualities, along with this you are able to titillate the readers intelligence and bring us into your conversational writing style.

    I would suggest you bear down a bit more for I just get a sense that you are holding back and this possibly raises the question. Well where do you really stand on this guy?

    Your closing reference to Caligula of course acts as a metaphor and casts Dyer into the realm of a despot, mostly because the history of Caligula is prominently known. This really does not fall into the category of verifiable evidence. I do like your writing style, it is gutsy, provocative and holds my attention.

    All the best to you
    Tom Brown

    1. Tom — Thanks. I treasure your comments. Wayne Dyer being a human being, I don’t take a “stand” on him the way I might on “spending public money on ballroom dance in 4th-grade classrooms” … or on Dyer himself if he were running for public office. What I have to say is subjective: I get uncomfortable when he (a) mentions, on his radio show, having given someone a hundred dollars “just because” and then (b) asserts in the same paragraph, as it were, that money means nothing to him beyond enabling him to hand a hundred dollars to an ordinary guy or a down-and-outer. I don’t mind that he’s wealthy. It’s the implication that he can take it or leave it (i.e., wealth) — in the context of boasts about good deeds and jibes at “ordinary people” — that makes me squirm….

      1. P.S. I’m reminded of Kevin Bacon’s disarming confession on the PBS radio program Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, that, being weary of the spotlight, he went about incognito for a while and discovered that he “hated it” because, he said candidly, “No one knew who I was!” Wayne Dyer might take a page from KB’s book. I hope that, if I amass millions during the next two or three decades (I’m 64) and someone calls me on it, I have the honesty and the presence of mind to reply, “Yeah, I’m loaded! Ain’t it great?”

  2. I too can relate to your questioning the pedestal(ed) wonder. He does have a positive message, I guess I just question someone who speaks of spirituality on one hand and yet has “manifested” and holds on to millions in the bank. I would also like to add Dr. Oz to this list. These people are for middle to upper class people who have nothing but time and money on their hands.

    1. M. Haggerty — Thanks for your note. I don’t know much about Dr. Oz. Your comment, however, prompts me to suggest that Dr. Dyer himself might be a bit uncomfortable about the extent of his wealth, inasmuch as he often refers in an “aw, shucks” sort of manner about a check he’s sent someone or a spontaneous gift to a maintenance worker in his complex… as if to say, “I might be rich but I’m also generous.” He’d be better advised to leave the subject alone. He’s entitled to his wealth, though it’s in poor taste to talk about it. We the public, however, are not entitled to know how he uses his money. What we ARE entitled to — if we claim it en masse via the foolproof strategy of not buying his books — is original material in the work he continues to churn out.

  3. I agree with most of what you wrote. Dyer has a good message though I think he and others have a strange attitude toward what’s possible. He has written that even people in the poorest countries can control their destiny through attitude. He also has at least one book devoted to manifesting things and personal conditions. I thought his writing was about accepting what is, and going with the flow? I have noticed many such contradictions. A little judgment pops out at times as well. He lamented his comment in Pulling Your Own Strings about going to the person that can help you, when he wrote, “remember, the clerk is a jerk.” He also write about smokers somehow not having it together. As an ex-smoker and ex-addict he should know that the willingness to change doesn’t come until it comes. I suspect his characterization as an addict is a bit exaggerated, for effect, as well.

    My main gripe with Dyer, though, is that I found Your Erroneous Zones and You’ll See It When You Believe It to be uncommonly excellent books but most of his work seems like repetitious regurgitation of the same ideas. I don’t think he has written an idea that was original to himself in a long time. I know it is a criticism he claims is easy for the non-believer to make; but it seems like he has become money-centered and it is easy for someone who has found huge financial success to claim anyone can do so.

    It all seems like a familiar theme. I enjoyed Eckhart Tolle’s earlier work, too. But either he, or his handlers, seem to have made the whole thing dollar-focused. His CDs are expensive yet made of recycled CDs. When I complained to his people that I could not simply rip them and enjoy because the titles referred to different erroneous songs which messed up the sequence the tracks would play in and the names and cover art that would be assigned as well, I got an apology by email and that’s it. Nobody cared that they were selling faulty merchandise. Also, since I left their website I not infrequently receive emails asking me to pay hundreds or thousands to come to his seminars. I paid $40 for a hour-long talk once, and that was okay, but now I guess the common person doesn’t deserve the same guidance as others.

    It’s all a little disappointing. My advice is to take what you can use and leave the rest with most of these types.

  4. I really enjoyed article. You are beautiful writer and fun to read. My perception is that your mixed feelings about Dr. Dyer may be based on the fact he speaks to one part of you and alienates another.

    As someone working to build on Wayne Dyer’s work and add my own perspective to it, I understand how messages like these can touch some frustration, even anger in people. It can sound condescending and critical of “ordinary people”.

    What I have come to in my own work and what I believe to be true of Dr. Dyer’s work is we are trying to speak to that large segment of the population that does feel stuck in their ordinary lives and is looking for a message of hope to lead them out. There are many people living quiet lives of desperation doing the job, the bills, and the other “ordinary” things in life. They silently hold the belief that they are here on the planet to do something more magnificent, but they are dealing with a lot of conditioning that tells them to toe the line and be part of the herd.

    My goal and my message are targeted at those people. I think people who are perfectly satisfied with what you describe as the ordinary life, have every right to be. I don’t think you should take Dyer’s message as critical of you choosing to follow your path. I think you should understand that he is working to shake people free from a situation where they are really stuck.

    As for Dyer’s own evolvement, he’s on his path too. I don’t find anything false or pretentious about it. I think he is doing what he has done his whole career. He is showing us the next step. The choice to take or not remains ours.

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