Snake oil

The hazards of reading copious amounts of books about spiritual paths include:

  • Only the very best and very worst are available from the library, and the very best are usually checked out with a waiting list that is anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months. The very worst are obviously bad, so you can avoid them, but the ones that might have decent (but unknown) value are not available for borrowing.
  • Not being available for borrowing means that potentially informative books must be purchased.
  • Books that are potentially informative are upwards of $10 a shot, which means you have to budget your purchases — and then end up leaning towards the books that are likely informative (or renown for their value).
  • Potentially informative books are hit and miss. Many seem to be informative on the surface, but about 75% of the time are either a) regurgitation of things other people have already written, almost word for word, and not as well; or, b) great looking but utter trash when you dig into them.

I thought I was lucky when I found a book last night that fit into the “potentially informative” category at the library in ebook form. I downloaded it with the intent that if it actually was of value, I’d probably pick it up. It ended up fitting into category “a”: rephrased commonplace stuff with a “Celtic Druid” bent on shamanism. Except it was obviously regurgitated from OBOD-flavored druidism with only about a half chapter regurgitating what all the shamanism books repeat over and over (drums and ritual tools to get to ecstatic trance), followed by common wiccan rituals found in almost any book on wicca out there, heavily Gardnarian, Alexandrian, or Georgian in flavor. So… not as informative as it seemed to promise. But tolerable, though I closed it after the extensive chapter on the eight major holidays, turned the page, and saw more of the same.

The library also had an ebook copy by someone I’ve read time and time again as being the utmost authority on shamanism, but I’d never gotten around to finding a copy of his first book. They didn’t have that one even available, but I don’t know that I missed out so much. The sequel was started off as a bunch of personal back-patting about how great he was and how much he’d contributed to the understanding of shamanism, proceeded to bash science for several pages, and then proceeded to tell the audience that he was such a master of his discipline that his personal experiences are better than the scientific method and entirely verifiable as long as you do things his way. This, believe it or not, I can largely overlook, but then he committed the cardinal sin of resorting to what some of us refer to as “woowoo” methodology. Essentially, you weren’t doing things right if you didn’t do it his way and he was going to explain just what you could expect (except for the parts that he was “forbidden” to divulge). Then he went into Lilith-bashing (which is a quick way to get me annoyed with you, especially when you adopt the flawed Christian mythology around her instead of reading the actual texts in the Torah or the Apocrypha, and totally disregard the Gnostic’s gospels surrounding Lilith). I started to get turned off because his misogynistic colors started to show at that point (it was a “evil”, hyper-sexualized Lilith he claimed tried to “tempt” him), but still — maybe there is some value in what he has to say…

Then, he crossed a line that goes into the woowoo territory that I can’t swallow. He claimed to do a large-group shamanic trance (okay…) facilitated by two large quartz crystals giving him the power to share his power spirits with such a large group of people. Grinding halt. I think crystals are a bunch of hogwash, but even then, I was willing to give this guy a chance to redeem himself, although his arrogance was starting to grate. But then, he had to have several participants suddenly materialize dimes in their fists as proof of their shamanic journey. But no! They weren’t shills for this thing that increasingly stank of fake mysticism — he assured the reader it was not so! So much that it became a matter of “he doth protest too much”.

But, take his word on it. He’s the authority. It really happened! Because two dimes showing up in people’s fists are proof of a shamanic ecstatic experience…. how?

I closed my reader. Closed my eyes. This is the person that people claim is the highest authority on shamanism, reduced to cheap parlor tricks to “prove” his students journeyed to other planes. Woowoo.

Good gods, I don’t usually get pissed off reading these books, even when they try my patience. But this guy is the exact kind of “authority” that I thoroughly dislike — talks mumbo jumbo with a guru bent, implying you can only learn the right way through him unless you go off into the wilderness and live with some indigenous tribe in the upper Amazon. And you have to trust him because his method is beyond questioning…

That book, in my opinion falls firmly into category “b”; worthless garbage with almost no redeeming value. You’d lean more for an Urban Witch Fantasy Romance novel. And we know how I feel about those.

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