Archive for the 'Myth, Music and Meaning' Category

Dec 09 2014

A Review: Clearing the Path: Opening the Spiritual Frontier by Dr. Robert Mark

Summary: Dr. Mark gets an A+ for writing an interesting narrative of his personal and professional development. However, a diminished grade for encouraging people to dispense with their critical thinking to entertain the possibility of higher powers and alternative realities. Discouraging a belief in science is a surprising part of this book and therapists especially should not take this advice seriously, lest they begin to practice unethically.
My acknowledgement: I was involved in Dr. Mark’s men’s program and have insights about him and his work. Perhaps there is no good ending in a relationship with people or organizations. This was true for me, so any negative views I express may be colored by my ending experiences.

I was very curious about this book when I learned it had been written and recently had a chance to read it. I surprisingly enjoyed it, as an autobiographical account of the author’s development as a human being and professional therapist. In person, Dr. Mark is both impressive and charismatic.

As the depth of his book demonstrates, he’s intelligent and highly skilled as a therapist. You can tell he has an ease and comfort with traditional forms of therapy and having seen him in action, I can confirm he is an exceptional agent of change in people’s lives.

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Feb 09 2013

James Arthur Ray: “Spiritual Warrior” Guru Sentenced to Prison

When writers resolve legal maneuvering to stop the publication of negative information, perhaps more will be known about the inner workings of personal growth weekends and their charismatic leaders.

If James Arthur Ray is an example, many of these leaders are more show than substance.This ABC video tells the story about how Ray manipulated his followers, then caused injury and death in his sweat lodge. His followers demonstrate how shocked his followers were by the incompetence and criminal neglect shown by Ray.

For Ray, his was the “big lie.” During his trial, his claims of expertise were proven to be lies and distortions. He really had no training in what he was doing, but had learned how to use his charm and ability to engage crowds in a way to make money. He knew the first rule in this game was to show your followers you knew what it took to be successful. Bluntly, you knew “The Secret” and would reveal it to them for a price.
Knowing several of the Chicago based version of this phenomenon, these individuals can be very charming and persuasive. They dress in role, whether new age jeans and silver bracelets or gucci loafers and big SUVS or flashy sports cars.

When you see them, you sort of think, “wow, they must know something I don’t…” The truth, though, is they know how to carry themselves and sell their biggest product, themselves. They can thrill you with attention and leave you wanting more or at least trying to figure out what you are doing with them.

In the USA, a large men’s program, The New Warrior Training Adventure, operated by the Mankind Project, has made an effort to create more transparency in its programs and reduce potential harm to participants. Still a client died on one of their programs and another committed suicide shortly after participating on a weekend.

Unlike Ray, no one on these weekends was arrested for negligence and while there were lawsuits and investigations, no charges were brought against any of the leaders of those particular programs.
When the guru is a psychotherapist or personal coach, the risk of harm gets amplified. Ray was convicted of negligent homocide in the deaths of three of his clients/followers. Prosecutors in the case wanted him to serve a total of 9 years, but the judge reduced the prison time to two years for each of the three counts of homocide to be served concurrently.

This means Ray will serve only two years in prison for the betrayal of trust which led to the deaths of three people who idealized him and paid exorbitant sums of money to attend his programs.

James Arthur Ray rose to fame via Oprah Winfrey’s interest in the “Secret”, a popular self-help movie and book. With Oprah’s seal of approval, Ray’s programs became more popular and costly.

Oprah has been strangely silent about her prodigy James Arthur Ray’s conviction on negligent homicide. I wonder what she really thinks.

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Feb 05 2013

“Personal Growth Weekends”, Cults, and How They Use Recruitment as a Strategy for Survival and Profit

Cults…I talk a lot about the Yearning for Zion Ranch (YFZ Ranch) and the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), but what are some of the characteristics of a cult?

Keeping it simple, it’s an organization of narcissistically driven (usually) men who use a variety of methods to manipulate and exploit vulnerable people.

Here are the essential characteristics of a cult:

  • mind control…use of bizarre religious or secular ideas to enforce the obedience of followers
  • emotional disclosure…participants are encouraged to disclose private, emotionally important information…while the leaders do not share emotional information with the larger group
  • recruitment…participants are encouraged/expected to go out and recruit others to join the cult organization using deceptive and manipulative tactics
  • restriction from all outside ideas and influences ( no radio, television, computer/internet, newspapers)
  • claims that the outside world is evil and will lead to the death or damnation of anyone who betrays the cult
  • participants are manipulated to believe that they can not survive without all the cult offers them
  • participants may also be physically and sexually abused, in addition to the pervasive emotional abuse
  • intimidation by threatening to harm others or animals, especially pets, like a pet white rat, a rabbit, puppy or kitten
  • leaders are a few men who directly benefit from the cult by abuse, manipulation, threat of harm, sexual control of women and intricate financial arrangements
  • methods during the activities include various rituals, guided imagery, psychodrama, native american spirituality, sweat lodges, and over-simplified and out of context psychological ideas
  • key to all these experiences is the claim they can “change your life”
  • marketing literature will often claim the programs are based on science, but they don’t mean research. These claims are often followed by non researched based psychological ideas, such as those of Carl Jung (the shadow and persona in personality archetypes)
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Nov 13 2011

Penn State and the Catholic Church

Examining the religious right wing activism defending catholic clergy sex abusers and the response of the church, it’s pretty easy to understand why Joe Paterno didn’t do anything to protect the children being raped by Jerry Sandusky.

He’s Joe Paterno and probably feels entitled to do whatever he wants, just like Bill Donohue, Bishop Finn of Kansas City, the catholic pope, and the entire catholic church hierarchy.
Bill Donohue, Executive Director of Catholic League Center for Religious and Civil Rights,

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Jan 20 2011

Scope of the Child Abuse Problem in America

The numbers of children abused in America each year are staggering.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates 879,000 children were victims of child maltreatment in 2000. Of this total, 63% of the children were neglected, 19% were physically abused, 10% were sexually abused and 8% were psychologically abused.

I think we all have to agree it’s easier to ignore or deny the estimate that 87,900 children may be sexually abused in our country each year.

How do we wrap our minds around these very high numbers of children abused and neglected?

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Jan 14 2011

Facebook Revolution: Truth to Power

We are truly living in a remarkable era.

Truth telling via internet media like Facebook, blogging, and  other ways to transmit words and images has brought revolutionary change to places like Egypt, Tunisia and now Libya, one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world.

Truth to power. May it bring us more peace, justice and democracy all over the world.

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Apr 20 2009

Kate Winslet and the Movie, The Reader: The Critics View

Many of the major movie critics identified several flaws in the movie, The Reader.  The flaws included being hard to believe, reductionist (the death of millions of Jews to the issue of literacy), morally ambiguous, and character development lacking depth and sharpness.
Read them here.

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Apr 14 2009

Pat Bowlen, Owner of the Denver Broncos and Josh McDaniels, New 32 Year Old Head Coach, “The Emperors With No Clothes” Fired by Jay Cutler

Ok, making the symbolism easy, Pat Bowlen and Josh McDaniels represent the shallow, narcissistic leaders in our world who have been exposed as the “emperors without clothes!”

I have really enjoyed this story. Just as McDaniels and Bowlen have been trying to manipulate Jay Cutler, treating him slightly less than a piece of property,

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Apr 05 2009

Ad Hominem Logic: The Denver Broncos Begin Damage Control or How You Explain Why a Potential Hall of Fame Quarterback Refuses to Play for Your New 32 Year Old Head Coach, Josh McDaniels

Damage control. It usually starts with finding ways to impugn the character of whoever is causing you trouble.  Ad Hominem Logic. I have talked about his before…it doesn’t matter what someone says, they are bad, so whatever they say is bad too. And don’t do it yourself. Have someone else spread the rumors…enter Stefan Fatsis.
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Nov 02 2008

Continuing Saga of Young Luke Skywalker and the Strengthening of his Psyche

When last we knew, Luke was sliding down the side of the Dark knights exhaust system, turning surrender into victory. He let go of his quest to fight to fight the Dark knights on their home turf. Darth Vader could have killed him, but knew it would be like suicide, if he killed his own son. What was it like for Darth to know his son would rather face oblivion than to join him in his shallow, materialistic quest for power. No doubt it forced him deeper into the Empire with all its shallow show and pathological search for power.
At his young age, Luke knew there could be no real power without integrity and justice. It wasn’t until he was safe after being rescued by his friends he remembered Lord Vader and the Dark Knights had taken him to a windowless room and left him to weave in and out of consciousness, weaken him to enforce a pressured loyalty from him. Luke remembered during that time the Dark Knights had returned with a baby Loth-cat and a pipe with the hallucinigenic liquid, ronsibotison that turns to vapor upon exposure to oxygen from the planet Dagobah.

The Dark Knights told Luke they would inhale the vapor, then ritually kill the Loth-cat. Luke faced them, told them he and they would not. Even at this early stage, the force was strong with Luke. He stared at these Dark knights and quickly they left, seemingly having forgotten why they had come. Luke remembered something about 20th Century history where pedophiles would threaten to kill a child’s pet mice, gerbels, cats and dogs to gain a sick type of power over them to keep them silent. It was a type of coercive psychological abuse to force these young children to fear the death or injury of a beloved pet. He looked back much later to wonder if these Dark knights had actually gone ahead outside of his view to turn their sinister threat into reality.
It was a simple victory of victories for Luke at this time. He had no audience for his stand. He could only be proud of himself.

After his rescue, he listened to recordings made from the powerful satellite orbiting the darkness of the Dark knights. He could hear them degrading him as a “emotionally broken down” would be Jedi knight. “We will never hear from him again,” they said, congratulating themselves on their ability to talk wango (star wars for “talking smut”) behind Lukes back.

Luke was not uninjured. He was wounded in ways he would search to turn to strengths. He surrendered, but found a deeper source of integrity and peacefulness being true to himself and his values honed into his Jedi psyche.

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