Tag Archives: New Age

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)
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Thinking Makes It So

The Play Scene in Hamlet, Charles Hunt 1803-1877

The Play Scene in Hamlet, Charles Hunt 1803-1877

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so…. Shakespeare, from Hamlet, Act II, scene 2)

Everything old is New Age again

A New Earth, by Eckhart Tolle

In 2008, Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle and two million of their closest friends met once a week for ten weeks, online, for the purpose of studying Tolle’s 2005 bestseller, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. The live interactive seminar was reportedly the first of its kind, with all seven continents represented.

In what had to be the planet’s largest-ever classroom, Tolle and Winfrey fielded comments and answered questions via Skype, E-mail, and telephone. The ten 90-minute sessions are available free on iTunes in large-screen, standard-screen, and audio-only formats.

Here’s the thing: A New Earth, stripped of its packaging, isn’t all that new. The message is three thousand to four thousand years old. Tolle certainly deserves credit for reviving this ancient wisdom, compiling it, and presenting it in a way that appeals to millions and keeps them off the street, at least for the length of time it takes to read 336 pages of rather dense prose. If he seems to suggest that A New Earth might literally save the human race… well, who’s to say?

New Testament, New Thought, New Age, Old Story

Another spiritual-genre phenomenon, A Course in Miracles, appeared in 1976 but didn’t gain widespread attention until 1992 with the publication of A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles,” by Marianne Williamson. Tolle owes much to ACIM and Williamson and to dozens of other authors, including Wayne Dyer (whom I greatly admire) and Deepak Chopra (who contributes the rich and ancient Hindu mystical perspective), writing in the same vein but offering original approaches and ideas as well.

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey, 2004, photo by Alan Light

My daughter refers to all this as “Christian Science Lite.” The authors’ debt to Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy and her remarkable explication of Christian Science, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures
(1875), is undeniable. Mrs. Eddy’s writings in turn reflect New England Transcendentalism, particularly the work of Emerson. They’re part of a metaphysical tradition articulated by the likes of Marcus Aurelius, Rumi, the Buddha, the authors of the Torah and the Christian Bible, and many others..

Christian Science would have gained wider acceptance, I think, had it not been for the emphasis on forgoing medical treatment in favor of a strictly spiritual approach, although my Christian Scientist friends tell me that they are by no means forbidden to seek medical attention. In any case, the New Thought movement emerged in the late nineteenth century making rather less noise about doctors and healing; today’s Unity Church is part of the New Thought legacy. I have not included the much-loved Power of Positive Thinking, by Norman Vincent Peale, as part of this tradition because Peale emphasizes faith, hope, resilience, and the miraculous intervention of a loving and very personal God, whereas authors and philosophers from Mrs. Eddy to Eckhart Tolle use, to varying degrees, the vocabulary of science and math. One exception, however, is Marianne Williamson, who combines old and new spiritual practices in a way that is graceful and beautiful to see.

(Christian Scientists are blessed with great generosity of spirit. Even so, they tend to bristle, I’ve observed, when hearing Mrs. Eddy’s complex yet practical message described as faith healing or positive thinking.)

According to Christian Science, as I understand it

  • God (“Divine Mind”), being perfect, creates only perfection
  • Human beings, as God’s divine ideas, are not susceptible to sickness, sin, or death
  • All reality reflects God’s attributes: It is loving, spiritual, eternal, intelligent, joyful, harmonious, and so forth
  • Matter is nothing but a manifestation of thought; it is insubstantial and illusory
  • It is “mortal mind” (“error”) that produces the appearance of anything other than well-being
  • Negative emotions proceed from the false beliefs that people can be separated from God and that matter is real
  • Jesus had a perfect understanding of the divine nature, thus manifesting the “Christ principle”
  • You and I, attaining that level of understanding, would also manifest the Christ principle

Thus, poverty is the manifestation of an erroneous belief in “lack.” War and family strife are examples of the “lie” of inharmony.

Compare these tenets to the “mind-body” metaphysics of modern adherents; I think you’ll find more similarities than differences. More important, though, is that you choose the guru who speaks your language. You might read something out of Chopra that resonates with you in a way Tolle’s writing does not.

Rumi