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Conspirituality

Religion & Spirituality Podcas

Dismantling New Age cults, wellness grifters, and conspiracy-mad yogis. At best, the conspirituality movement attacks public health efforts in times of crisis. At worst, it fronts and recruits for the fever-dream of QAnon.As the alt-right and New Age horseshoe toward each other in a blur of disinformation, clear discourse, and good intentions get smothered. Charismatic influencers exploit their followers by co-opting conspiracy theories on a spectrum of intensity ranging from vaccines to child trafficking. In the process, spiritual beliefs that have nurtured creativity and meaning are transforming into memes of a quickly-globalizing paranoia.Conspirituality Podcast attempts to bring understanding to this landscape. A journalist, a cult researcher, and a philosophical skeptic discuss the stories, cognitive dissonances, and cultic dynamics tearing through the yoga, wellness, and new spirituality worlds. Mainstream outlets have noticed the problem. We crowd-source, research, analyze, and dream answers to it.

Location:

United States

Description:

Dismantling New Age cults, wellness grifters, and conspiracy-mad yogis. At best, the conspirituality movement attacks public health efforts in times of crisis. At worst, it fronts and recruits for the fever-dream of QAnon.As the alt-right and New Age horseshoe toward each other in a blur of disinformation, clear discourse, and good intentions get smothered. Charismatic influencers exploit their followers by co-opting conspiracy theories on a spectrum of intensity ranging from vaccines to child trafficking. In the process, spiritual beliefs that have nurtured creativity and meaning are transforming into memes of a quickly-globalizing paranoia.Conspirituality Podcast attempts to bring understanding to this landscape. A journalist, a cult researcher, and a philosophical skeptic discuss the stories, cognitive dissonances, and cultic dynamics tearing through the yoga, wellness, and new spirituality worlds. Mainstream outlets have noticed the problem. We crowd-source, research, analyze, and dream answers to it.

Language:

English


Episodes

Bonus Sample: Chris Rufo’s Fascist Long-Game

5/8/2023
Florida governor Ron DeSantis appointed right-wing propagandist, Christopher Rufo, along with other conservative Christian education-activists, to the board of the tiny, progressive New College in Sarasota, FL this past January. They fired the president, installed prayer at the board meetings, forbade personal pronouns in faculty email signatures, and claimed DeSantis’s electoral victory gave them a constitutional mandate to make whatever changes they want. The invaders frame this hostile take-over as a test-case model to “recapture” universities across the state and the country. But who is Rufo really? He’s the guy behind the manufactured moral panic over Critical Race Theory that set conservative media, school boards and city council meetings ablaze with fear-mongering over “woke Marxism” in 2021. New College is the latest conquest in his explicit long-game to remake the fabric of America, one sadistic lie at a time. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:06:47

Brief: Marianne Williamson’s Spiritual Therapy Schtick

5/6/2023
Marianne Williamson? Inexperienced? Not at all. In fact, she does have a ton of experience… in New Age, on-stage pseudotherapy, where she solves the problems of the troubled with memorized lines from A Course in Miracles. She’s been doing these sessions at workshops and retreats for decades, and the schtick is always the same: if only the person would change their minds about their problem, the world would be healed. While this may fly on the workshop circuit, if you listen carefully you’ll hear that she gives the same answer on the stump. It comes through most clearly when she’s pressed on questions of strategy. She will instantly pivot to talking about the spirit and the soul. The effect is a disarming oscillation between the political and the personal. Are we talking about defeating fascists? No, no, that’s too worldly! We’re talking about opening our hearts. And if that feels good during a politically tense exchange, it’s because she changed the subject. To see how this sleight-of-hand works, Matthew examines two classic Williamson encounters to show that the answers she gives on the stump aren’t much different from the answers she gives on her New Age retreats. Show Notes That Time Byron Katie Gaslit a Follower about Trump | by Matthew Remski I'm Afraid of Trump—The Work of Byron Katie Being Rejected for Your Spiritual Beliefs | Q&A With Marianne Williamson Mindfulness can make you selfish: A pioneering new study examines the social effects of mindfulness Marianne Williamson with TYT's John Iadarola & Francesca Fiorentini Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:52:46

152: Tulsi Gabbard’s Krishna Consciousness (w/Nitai Joseph)

5/4/2023
What does it mean for a prominent American politician to come into power as the sleeper cell of an eccentric Hindu-American cult? Does she act independently, or has her God-man got her on speed-dial? Can she bridge the divide between left and right with the radiant glow of Krishna consciousness? Joining us today to help answer these questions is Nitai Joseph. He shares some heritage with Gabbard, because he also grew up in a Hare Krishna sect. He holds an MSc. in the Psychology of Coercive Control and has worked across a range of issues connected to ideology and manipulation, including cultic awareness, child sexual abuse prevention, adverse meditation experiences, and organizational ethics and accountability. Show Notes Gopala Govinda Rama Chant by Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa Chris Butler QAnon Anonymous Episode 211: Tulsi Gabbard P1 (The Cult) feat Mike Prysner QAnon Anonymous Episode 212: Tulsi Gabbard P2 (The Fascist Turn) feat Mike Prysner Tulsi Gabbard Had a Very Strange Childhood What Does Tulsi Gabbard Believe? | The New Yorker Chris Butler Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa: on “freedom” An Insiders Perspective on Tulsi Gabbard and her Guru | by Lalita | Medium Tulsi Gabbard 2016 Janmashtami Message ISKCON Abuse Timeline Definition of Betrayal Trauma Theory Archived ex-Hare Krishna message board Nitai can be reached via LinkedIn Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:32:41

Bonus Sample: Reimagining the Apocalypse

5/1/2023
Apocalyptic language is everywhere: in the marketing copy of wellness influencers and pseudo-documentary makers selling spike protein detoxes and vaccine fear-mongering videos, and in the fervent anti-trans panic stoked by right-wing Substackers. How we use language — and we use that how language to inspire actions — is everything. Derek imagines a better use of language, and of understanding, through the lens modern secular Buddhism. Show Notes The World-Ending Fire — Wendell Berry A Paradise Built in Hell — Rebecca Solnit After Buddhism — Stephen Batchelor Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist — Stephen Batchelor Buddhism — Alan Watts Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:10:53

151: Satan Wants You Watch Party (Spoilers)

4/27/2023
How, in the name of the Holy Virgin Mary, did Michelle Remembers—the book that started the Satanic Panic—come to be written? Who was Lawrence Pazder really? Did he encourage and exaggerate Michelle Smith’s recovered memories of ritual abuse? Did Smith tell him what he wanted to hear? Or was it a little of both? Canadian filmmakers Sean Horlor and Steve Adams have a new documentary out called “Satan Wants You,” and it fills in a lot of the blanks in our prior “Swan Song Series” reporting with incredible archival footage and brave interviews from friends and family members. Today it opens at Toronto’s Hot Docs Festival, which means the reviews embargo is lifted… and our review is: “Incredible work. Must see.” PS! If you haven't pre-ordered our fabulously interesting book, Barnes and Noble are running a 25% off pre-order promo. You can use "PREORDER25" as the discount code at checkout. Good from now till Friday! Show Notes Satan Wants You Conspirituality: UNLOCKED: Swan Song Series 4 | Michelle Remembers: Context & History Conspirituality: UNLOCKED: Swan Song Series 5 | Michelle Remembers: Themes & Framing Conspirituality - UNLOCKED: Michelle Remembers: Literal Symbols Conspirituality - UNLOCKED: The Courage to Heal Pt. 1 on Stitcher Conspirituality - UNLOCKED: The Courage to Heal Pt. 2 on Stitcher The Smoke of Satan on the Silver Screen: The Catholic Horror Film, Vatican II, and the Revival of Demonology | Journal for the Academic Study of Religion Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:37:22

Bonus Sample: Framing George Soros

4/24/2023
FOX News says he wants to destroy America. Candace Owens is scared to speak his name out loud. Mikki Willis is making a film about his assault on the American family. Dr. Christiane Northrup claims he caused the pandemic. Trump called DA Alvin Bragg a "Soros-funded animal." Who is this billionaire Jewish banker, a man so diabolical he can simultaneously be the greatest capitalist of all time and a communist chaos agent, so deceptive that he founded philanthropic organizations in 120 countries while supposedly being the "most evil man in the world?" And how does his financial influence in American politics actually stack up against the machinations of disciplined religious right-wing powerbrokers, supercharged by dark money? Show Notes The right’s obsession with Soros Soros on right-wing conspiracies against him GOP dark money Democrat dark money An overview of dark money 2022 biggest disclosed donor list Barre Seid donates $1.6B Harlan Crow and Justice Thomas Sheldon Whitehouse on dark money and SCOTUS Leonard Leo and SCOTUS Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:12:40

Brief: Unmasking Liana Shanti (w/Jennings Brown)

4/22/2023
Jennings Brown is becoming the Dr. Who of cult journalism. Every few years he pops up on a very different planet in the cultiverse, and tries to repair the timeline. These days he’s deep into the story of a cult leader who seems to have no “presence” at all. Liana Shanti has managed to recruit about 180 women into her lucrative fever dream of Satanic Panic, recovered memories, starvation diets, and family destruction—all from behind a keyboard and a podcast microphone. Who is Liana Shanti, and why isn’t she Liane Wilson any more? Show Notes Inside Liana Shanti’s Lemurian Mystery School — Jennings Brown Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:42:55

150: Spiritual Influencer Theory

4/20/2023
Julian and Matthew go big-picture in this tour through all the elements that construct and drive spiritual Influencers. At the center of the parasocial storm is charisma, which covers over the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of wellness content. Charisma is the only real currency in unregulated spaces. It’s compensatory, and very anxious. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:14:48

Bonus Sample: From Rabbit Hole to Research (w/Jaigris Hodson)

4/17/2023
Our Listener Story this week comes from Dr. Jaigris Hodson, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair for Digital Communication for the Public Interest at Royal Roads University in Victoria, British Columbia. Dr. Hodson shares her pandemic journey with inflammatory breast cancer, and how, even as a misinformation researcher, she was vulnerable to the hope sold by alt-health grifters. After completing treatment, she turned her research attention to cancer misinformation, and is now innovating research methods for analyzing how emotion drives misinformation consumption and virality. Show Notes Jaigris Hodson | Royal Roads University The Podcast: Digital Public Interest Collective Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:28:32

Brief: The Promises & (Mostly) Perils of Ketamine Therapy

4/15/2023
Though not specifically a psychedelic — ketamine is a dissociative anesthetic — ketamine therapy is being touted as a depression treatment and, for some, a new form of spiritual healing. And indeed, some of the results are promising. But with Ketamine Wellness Centers and Field Trip Health both shutting down ketamine clinics across the country, leaving clients scrambling to find relief. Are these psychedelic entrepreneurs placing too much emphasis on scaling and shareholders and not enough on healing, even though their marketing efforts claim the opposite? Derek looks into the sordid developments of ketamine therapy, including the botched trials that ultimately received FDA approval. Show Notes Ketamine infusion: The new therapy for depression, explained New analysis claims the FDA rushed ketamine’s approval for depression treatment Excessive drinking costs $249 billion. Can one dose of ketamine curb alcoholism? ‘I’m terrified’: Patients scramble for treatment after 13 ketamine clinics shut down How ketamine-fueled dreams can promote a spiritual approach to mental health and therapy Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:32:49

149: Spiritual Heartbreak

4/13/2023
“I would pursue transcendence and live with its inevitable close cousins, disappointment and heartbreak, for most of my life.” So writes “Steven” (not his real name) in the first of our six spiritual heartbreak stories from our Patreon supporters. “The spiritual by-passing of folks like Marianne Williamson and Eckhart Tolle kept me spinning in a cycle of abuse and unable to see clearly enough to end an abusive marriage with a Unitarian minister.” That’s from Katherine—story number three. And in our final story, Lynn writes: “I will say even though I've been through a really awful trauma and still have to deal with that residue, I am now happier than I've ever been in my life. I enjoy just being a simple person now, without the ever exhausting pressure of having to perform my religion, to awaken my consciousness.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:23:13

Bonus Sample: JP Sears’s Woke CBD Grift

4/10/2023
JP Sears is selling CBD. His new company, Awaken, recently sent out a marketing email extolling the benefits of CBD. Derek looks at the science behind the claims. Show Notes CBD is everywhere. But is it a scam? Inverted U-Shaped Dose-Response Curve of the Anxiolytic Effect of Cannabidiol during Public Speaking in Real Life Pioneering UAMS Study Warns of CBD Supplements’ Harm to Gut Health Can Cannabis Help Your Gut? The Impact of Cannabidiol on Human Brain Function: A Systematic Review Cannabis, Cannabinoids, and Sleep: a Review of the Literature Does CBD Help With Insomnia? Cannabidiol (CBD): What we know and what we don't Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol Cannabidiol (CBD): a killer for inflammatory rheumatoid arthritis synovial fibroblasts A single dose of cannabidiol reduces blood pressure in healthy volunteers in a randomized crossover study Immune Responses Regulated by Cannabidiol Can CBD Benefit Your Immune System? CBD and Heart Health Efficacy and Safety of Cannabidiol and Tetrahydrocannabivarin on Glycemic and Lipid Parameters in Patients With Type 2 Diabetes: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Parallel Group Pilot Study Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:06:28

Brief: The Spirituality of Vaccine & Mask Panics

4/8/2023
Why do so many inflammatory culture war issues crystallize around vaccines and masks? What is so compelling about these forms of public health and mutual aid, that they become central to the right-wing imagination? For some, straight-up libertarianism might be a sufficient answer: the knee-jerk allergy to being asked to do anything as a social player. And beneath that might lie conspiratorial notions of Fauci being a Red, Bill Gates monetizing polio, or George Soros controlling Congress. Matthew argues that even those are surface stories, covering over a trembling anxiety about the status of the body in relation to the State, and God. Show Notes Rudolf Steiner on Traditional Childhood Illnesses and Vaccines Biss, Eula. On Immunity: An Inoculation. Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2015 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:29:23

148: Marianne Williamson and Asshole Jesus

4/6/2023
Is Marianne Williamson’s promotion of A Course in Miracles any more relevant to her political persona than Biden’s Catholicism? If it demonstrably informs her every instinct and communication (as we expect it would given she sermonizes out of it every day), then yes, it is. If it leads her to suggest that meditation can help contain nuclear waste, divert hurricanes, heal the “scam” of clinical depression, or “boost the immune system” against COVID19, then yes, it is. Is it sexist to highlight Williamson’s reported history of interpersonal abusiveness, when male politicians get away with far worse? There is definitely a double standard to resist. But when a candidate builds a political persona on being a love-and-light wayshower, it’s important to evaluate what that actually looks like ground-level. It’s also important to consider whether immature behavior might be a plausible outcome of following the Jesus of A Course in Miracles, who is a huge asshole. Finally: if Williamson is the only candidate out there talking about reparations and M4A, is it reactionary to dismiss her on religious or behavioral grounds? Not if you’re actually interested in a functional progressive politics, free from magical thinking and charismatic bafflement. Show Notes Williamson’s COVID meditation, Facebook Live Read: Pope Francis’ May prayer to Mary for the end of the pandemic | America Magazine Marianne Williamson’s ‘abusive’ treatment of 2020 campaign staff, revealed - POLITICO Marianne Williamson is a controversial AIDS-crisis figure for gay men. MARIANNE'S FAITHFUL | Vanity Fair | June 1991 Project Angel Food Rocked by Feuds The Divine Miss W — People The Power, the Glory, the Glitz - Los Angeles Times Marianne Williamson Bows Out as Pastor - Beliefnet Marianne Williamson's Democratic debate performance raised eyebrows. But she's no friend of the left. Marianne Williamson responds to Politico article alleging abuse toward staff - BBC News Here Are The Presidential Candidates Women Have Been Donating To Marianne Williamson on Her Insurgent Campaign Against Joe Biden ❧ Current Affairs Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:20:14

Bonus Sample: The Final Battle

4/3/2023
Why did Trump kick-off his 2024 presidential campaign in Waco, Texas? Who were the Branch Davidians, anyway? Julian unpacks the incendiary streams of far-right anti-government militia history and religious apocalypticism that our former president is tapping into as he faces legal jeopardy. It all goes back almost 300 years to the original Great Awakening that QAnon and New Age channelers tried to remix in 2020. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:06:39

147: The Censorship Megaphone

3/30/2023
Listen… Can you hear it? All across the propagandist right and the free speech center, there's a new rallying cry: it's time to fight the “censorship industrial complex!” Researching and documenting digital disinformation—and coordinating to combat its malevolent agendas—is now all being described as a pseudo-academic scam, a hoax covering up an authoritarian liberal campaign of vile and secretive censorship. Now, as it turns out, this gnashing of teeth and shedding of tears at the cruel injustice of social media censorship, and the swift, brutal cancellation of anyone daring to go against the mainstream narrative is actually not new. We’ll look at the broader topic today, as well as some specific variations on the victim of censorship gambit, which uncannily often precedes being handed an even bigger megaphone. Show Notes Conspirituality + Glassbox Media Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:59:06

Bonus Sample: Losing My Charisma

3/27/2023
Recording the audiobook at a swanky Toronto studio sends Matthew down a memory hole to wonder about performance, self-awareness, and anxiety, and their relation to charisma. “Whatever charisma I have or project into the world has always been both prompted and tempered by the belief that becoming larger, that reaching out and creating an impression would soothe a confused or immature sense of self. That if I could be seen, I would be loved, and if loved, I would be real. “If there is an anxiety at the core of the influencers we study, it might be related to this. This week I had the opportunity to meditate on it, to remember how charisma formed around and within me, first through an arts education, and then as a yoga and wellness entrepreneur. It’s made me wonder whether and how I’ve been that much different than Zach Bush, or Mikki Willis, or Katie Griggs. I know how to project that voice, I know how to put on my resting guru face.” Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:08:20

146: The Reality of Online Child Abuse (w/Håkon Høydal)

3/23/2023
Conspiritualists are not wrong that Jeffery Epstein’s downline has so far evaded justice. Or that the highest levels of the Catholic Church aided and abetted child sexual abuse for generations. They are not wrong about the existence of child sexual abuse materials circulating online, and that children are coerced, abducted, and sometimes killed in order to make them. But their narratives are contorted by panic, mythology, stereotypes, paranoid and grandiose assumptions, and the antisemitic conspiracy theorizing of QAnon, which spread like wildfire through yoga and wellness social media during the pandemic and has now normalized as the “groomer” meme. They say that child sexual abuse is a planned, nefarious, top-down attack on innocents. They say that its purpose is to turn the world away from God, to starve humanity of hope. Matthew sits down with Håkon Høydal, an investigative journalist in Norway who has spent years researching and exposing the most abject behaviors on the dark web. His work reveals a very different landscape. It’s a banal world, close to home, hiding in plain sight, presided over by young men who are making reckless choices after having decided that their pathological and criminally harmful impulses will never be understood, much less treated. Show Notes Hunting Warhead | CBC News VG exposed the largest child sexual abuse forum. It was run by the police. Porn site founder accused of sex trafficking arrested in Spain - The Globe and Mail Sex offender treatment scheme led to increase in reoffending | UK news | The Guardian -- -- -- Support us on Patreon Pre-order Conspirituality: How New Age Conspiracy Theories Became a Health Threat: America | Canada Follow us on Instagram | Twitter: Derek | Matthew | Julian Original music by EarthRise SoundSystem Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:03:19

Special Interview: Nostalgia for the Superego (w/Sam Binkley)

3/21/2023
Matthew sits down with Sam Binkley, Professor of Sociology at Emerson College in Boston to discuss his 2007 book Getting Loose: Lifestyle Consumption in the 1970s. We cited this very helpful work as we dug into the sociology of conspirituality for our own upcoming book. Here’s a thumbnail of Binkley’s argument: The 1970s ushered in a period of “getting loose” in relation to the body, work expectations, family relations, and political allegiances. This happened as the great moral and political questions of the 1960s deflated without resolution, even as they enshrined looser social mores around sex and finding meaningful work. The cultural yearning for structural change found its home in the project of the self, facilitated by an accelerated consumerism that expanded the conflation of agency with consumption. Getting Loose characterizes this inward turn as a retreat from the terrors of revolutionary freedom. Show Notes Getting Loose — Binkley -- -- -- Support us on Patreon Pre-order Conspirituality: How New Age Conspiracy Theories Became a Health Threat: America | Canada Follow us on Instagram | Twitter: Derek | Matthew | Julian Original music by EarthRise SoundSystem Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:09:53

Bonus Sample: The Privilege of Wellness

3/20/2023
There are a number of philosophies presented in yoga spaces as "universal truths" that turn out to be little more than directives in an echo chamber. And there are protocols presented as therapeutic in wellness spaces that blur the line between spiritual rhetoric and pseudoscience — and some are quite dangerous. Derek looks at his experiences as a student at Jivamukti Yoga as well as the recent "ozone enema" podcast between Gwyneth Paltrow and Will Cole to discuss spiritual rhetoric and pseudoscience. He opens with his experiences as an international music journalist to provide a framework for thinking outside of your box, be it a local yoga studio or the websites you treat as gospel. Show Notes Gwyneth Paltrow Admits to Getting Ozone in Her Rectum -- -- -- Support us on Patreon Pre-order Conspirituality: How New Age Conspiracy Theories Became a Health Threat: America | Canada Follow us on Instagram | Twitter: Derek | Matthew | Julian Original music by EarthRise SoundSystem Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:11:09