While terms like “transformative,” “integral,” and “evolutionary” now prevail, in the 1970s and ’80s, and a while in the ’90s, “New Age” and “New Thought” were the common terms and many said them without scorn. My father wouldn’t have called himself New Age because of the associations with going feral, having wild fun, wearing non-traditional clothing, and such naughty things. But he did call himself a New Thought proponent mastering metaphysics. He walked around with a copper pyramid on his head, read books every day about how to make money with intention alone, and had a secret building for the radionics machine and laminated pictures of the pastel St. Germain. From the time I was tiny we talked about Seth’s descriptions of parallel reality and the oversoul. I thought at the time I was learning a lot, and in many ways I was. I’m grateful for getting to move past the limits we’re normally told bind humanity. I learned healing techniques that were miraculously effective.
Papa lived to nearly ninety, and I still haven’t gotten over his absence. Remembering him pains me because I love him so dearly and I can’t yet emotionally grasp mortality. He was a dear man. I admire many things about him, appreciate him and like it when people see him in a good light. However, many people like me suffered from being in such families and communities while committing the crime of becoming sick. And I want to reach out and say: it’s OK. You can still be loved. You can still be accepted. You very possibly didn’t do anything wrong, at least not deliberately, and if you did, there was some reason for it.
New Thought began as a 19th century reaction to Calvanism, with Quimby, who died in 1866. As my father lay unable to get out of bed for a year at the end, blind and often hallucinating things like floating goat hooves dropping ashes on his head, he had me read one of his favorite books by Quimby to him. I believe it was mostly meant for my benefit to once again try to convince me I was doing something wrong, which he felt led my difficulty holding up a book, my arms being weak from chronic illness that had left them paralyzed for long periods. For some reason, my father didn’t apply the principles to himself the same way he did to others. Quimby said we become sick because of a wrong belief.
I understand there is something to that. Studies show heart attacks often come because someone’s heart has been broken emotionally. Type A personalities get heart disease more often. People who believe a higher power loves them get sick less often. Laughing is great for recovery. Emotions, behavioral patterns and worldviews affect health overall. Being positive is great!
But I feel it’s incorrect to blame the victim of an illness that instead is truly the fault of a toxic society, medical negligence, food additives approved of by the FDA, vaccines delivered when counterindicated, pesticides, food cheap enough for the impoverished to buy, an accident, birth defects, or the proven health compromise that arises from childhood trauma. If a nurse gives an entire class of students a shot and they all become ill, it’s not because each one believed something wrong and needs to learn better. My father disagreed. Because of all he read daily decade after decade, the sermons and CDs he listened to, the videos he watched by people “channeling entities,” he was convinced it really was the victims’ fault.
I don’t blame him. If those books hadn’t been so ubiquitous, he would never have taken that turn. Book stores, workshops, lectures, products. It was all big business, telling people who they could succeed in business by having the right beliefs. My father was hypothyroid. Not having to work any harder than he had to probably appealed to him more because of that. He’d always wanted to find ways of passive income that meant he could avoid going into work every day. We who have been blamed by our New Thought families and communities for being ill can forgive them for the damage that did us by understanding how they were manipulated by the prevailing system. It’s not their fault they had a problematic belief that it was our fault we were ill because of our problematic beliefs. Ironic, yes?
And he did seem to affect his life with belief and intent. He dreamed where to get a job, what stocks to buy and when to sell them. He drove across country repeating, “I see my way clearly now” and his eyesight dramatically improved. He sometimes lost weight by writing the amount he wanted to weight on the mirror, without diet or exercise. He sent healing to a few people who got well immediately. He decided a collie would be good to have, and one rang our doorbell days later. Coincidence, or something more?
Many aspects of New Thought and New Age are beautiful and productive, such as the awareness that everything is connected literally on a molecular level, holistic healing with herbs and organic food and meditation. And reverence for the Earth — though that wasn’t Papa’s interest. But few people are aware of the background to the New Age coming from Madam Blavatsky who apparently admitted she had made up the masters she was said to be relaying information from. Not enough people understand that early people who claimed to have UFO alien encounters were connected to the fascist William Dudley Pelley, who started the Silver Shirts to echo Hitler’s Brown Shirts. Pelley was our neighbor, basically, in Noblesville, Indiana, and his Soulcraft no doubt had an effect on my father’s spiritual and occult beliefs. He became enamored of the dangerous and illogical cults that arose from Blavatsky and Pelley. I don’t know if Papa realized how racist those core authors were.
To him, though, it probably wouldn’t have mattered one way or another as long as they told him the secret to making money with his mind. A culture based on money and scarcity can lead people to desperation. But to me, discovering that aspects of the history of his beliefs was a big deal. It was relevant to me that people like George Hunt Williamson, who wrote books which seemed full of light and integrity, that influenced my life on a profound level, was an avowed supremacist. Williamson edited Pelley’s magazine Valor in the 1950s. Putting that together helped me unravel my beliefs and distance myself from those people.
It also led me to write a novel manuscript called Giant Jack, in part to provide a fictional friend to others who encountered such beliefs through family and community and our culture in general. The protagonist struggles with ideas about Atlantis and ancient giants, reincarnation of old souls — the things that have been part of the New Age agenda for political reasons which are not innocent. By learning the history, he is able to break free, at least in his mind. However, I don’t discount energy healing in the book. That would be hypocritical, as I’ve participated in that successfully countless times, and there are an inordinate number of studies showing people such as Olga Worrell were able to affect matter with energy sent from their hands.
What psychology leads to people such as my father, and maybe yours, shaming someone for being ill? In New Thought and New Age circles, it comes from being told so often with people claiming authority that that’s the way it is. They say it adamantly, repeatedly, to huge numbers of people who then say it themselves. They may have anecdotal evidence of a few people who won the lottery over and over or got rich or found their ideal mate using their techniques. They may skew facts like the Maharishi’s claim they lowered crime. Why do some people take them at their word?
People take ministers and missionaries, newscasters, military history, and the medical industry at their word. Our culture couldn’t exist as it is if more people were independent thinkers who questioned authority. And the tricky CounterIntelligence community knew some people saw beyond traditional religion and other mainstream aspects and were looking for something different. And CounterIntelligence waylaid those suspicious people into being strung out on the idea that we create our own reality entirely. No co creating, no victims of deceit, no reason to blame the FDA etc. for promoting products such as Aspertame that destroy neurons.
All we have to do is stay positive, not revolt against corrupt politicians, go alone with draconian foreign policies that destroy third world countries so the US can make money importing drugs. As my father said, “There should be no activists.” We just have to blame ourselves and anyone else who reacts negatively, who gets angry and wants to sue them for their resulting disability. We only have to say, “Cancel, Cancel!” to anyone trying to come up with something to do about mass surveillance, pollution, or lies in history books. They wanted people to blame us for our illness, our reactions to chemical in the water, food, and air. The corporations behind them didn’t want to take it, themselves.
Blame isn’t attractive at all if we point fingers at our New Age families and can’t let go of resentment, but if we intelligently and calmly place it where it really goes, on the people who created and promulgated the hoaxes to begin with, we can clear ourselves of any lingering shame about having brought about our own illness through not bring ruthlessly positive at all times. Seeing the problems in the world and longing to do something to change them isn’t inherently bad. Identifying broken aspects of our culture is not weak character that needs to be canceled. It’s a wonderful part of being a caring human.
And then, we live our emotions as gracefully as we can, helping each other along, finding joy in activism and seeing history clearly as well as in being and appreciating the beauty of the moment.
I love hearing the bird songs outside my window in Berkeley and walking wherever I go, saying hello to the trees I pass.
I’ve lived a wild life with many long periods of pure nature such as living with bears and sea lions in the forests or howling with the wolves in canyons, other times in a dynamic city, or on an isolated island.
I care about truth, no matter how many beliefs and heroes I have to let go of. I find the process of searching through layers of media deception to uncover reality fascinating, as is understanding the history of their manipulation of society.
I teach fiction writing with UCLA X Writing Program, Writers.com, WritersCollege and my own Tantra Bensko’s Online Writing Academy (OWA). I have a couple hundred short stories, around 100 poems, as well as articles, art and photography, in magazines and anthologies.