Monday, October 26, 2009

Cult Video Interlude, Part 5: "The Bliss of Debt"

In this clip, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (renamed "Osho" before his death) justifies "selling bliss" to the poor saps who cannot appreciate that which they cannot pay for. Such sophistry mixed with his obvious charisma and skillful verbal delivery apparently kept his luxury motor pool fully stocked. It also kept him in glittering glam-suits and high-backed chairs like something out of Lost in Space (and check out his gold watch). Hey, if people bought what he was offering while he was so openly solicitous about it, then caveat emptor! It astounds me that Osho's been dead almost 20 years, but the followers are still there, here, everywhere! I mean, can you argue with success? Of course you can! But even I find myself sort of mesmerized by the guy. OK, next?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cult Video Interlude, Part 4: "It Was My Pleasure"

Meet James Arthur Ray. He's one of the many self-help gurus out there who seem to have made a lot of money telling other people how they can make a lot of money. The message seems to be: "You can get rich with your mind, but you'll have to put in a lot of effort!" I always wonder, which is it? Do I just use my mind and a mystical "secret" (like The Secret)? Or do I put in effort?

The reason this person is up here as part of a "cult" series, is that he recently led a "sweat lodge" for about 50 people in Sedona, Arizona, in which (at last counting) three people ended up dead after Ray reportedly actively discouraged them from getting up and leaving when the heat of the lodge became too intense. As human beings lay injured and dying, say eyewitnesses, Ray left the scene. This is why skepticism can save lives!

I only made it to about three and a half minutes into this video. He tells some tiresome tale about how a manager at a restaurant taught him the meaning of life by repeating the quotidian phrase: "It was my pleasure." How these "gurus" drain thousands of dollars out of other people by finding faux profundity in the utterly mundane is the only marvel here. I guess it's showbiz, if something so unentertaining counts as showbiz. But I'll continue to avoid Ray and his ilk. It will be my pleasure!

UPDATE 10/25/09: After the incident described above, a skeptic sits through a free James Arthur Ray seminar and lives to write about it here.

UPDATE 2/11/10: Ben Radford goes into more detail here about the possible perils of sweating too much.

Cult Video Interlude, Part 3: "An Uncomfortably Intimate Evening...for Jesus!"

Have you ever found yourself watching the Trinity Broadcasting Network, perhaps late at night when you can't sleep? And have you ever been mesmerized not only by the high weirdness emanating from Benny Hinn or the station's perpetual hosts, Paul and Jan Crouch, but also by the soul-draining blandness of the station's many singers and entertainers? Well, then maybe you have set eyes on the swarthy phenom who goes by the name "Carman." I once did. But I did not focus enough on his dull interview anymore than to allow its narcotic effect push me into sleep. He's something like a cross between George Clooney and Jimmy Swaggart with a strange bit of Nick Cave's face. He apparently does "story songs," in which he narrates overworked tales of Christ's judgment. In this video, Carman has an uncomfortably intimate evening with a "male witch" named, ahem, "Isaac Horowitz." Yes, that's really the name. (The only thing left out of Carman's freakish rant is him yelling "Christ killer!") The two of them spar over whose spiritual gobbledy-goop is better, while the 80s-ish mishmash of pop goes on and on for a 6+ minute-long cringefest. If you make it to the end, you deserve honorary salvation!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cult Video Interlude, Part 2: "Atheists From Outer Space"

Sometime back in the early 1990s, I was walking through the fair city of Santa Monica with some friends, when we came across a flier taped to a lamppost. It said, "UFO Abductee Speaks!" or some such thing, right above a photo of a flying saucer from a 50s sci-fi flick. The venue was the Santa Monica Public Library. So, we all headed over there on the appointed evening and joined others to hear the story of the abductee. The auditorium was about a third full. We were greeted by a young, pony-tailed Frenchman who apologized that the abductee, a man who went by the name "Rael", could not make it to speak for himself. He then showed us a video explaining the story of Rael's close encounter with an advanced race of space aliens in the early 1970s. It also told of the aliens' creation of humans in a lab. Once I realized this was only a cult proselytizing event, I was sorely disappointed.

Anyway, here is Rael making an appeal during last year's "Blasphemy Challenge" phenomenon on the youtube. He claims the Raelian Movement as the "most important atheist organization in the world." Perhaps he's right. It is certainly the most imaginative atheist organization, even though Rael just happened to have his "revelation" a few short years after the release of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which dealt with the engineering of human evolution by space aliens. Coink-i-dink?

I do recall the Raelians wanted to build an embassy for the space aliens in Israel. I think their use of a swastika tucked into the Star of David may, uh, be a stumbling block in that endeavor.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Cult Video Interlude, Part 1: "Eyes Wide Open"

Here is Marshall "Do" Applewhite, talking directly to his followers and would-be followers and, evidently, to us today. Watch as Do spontaneously gives this Heaven's Gate initiation video the cumbersome title: Planet Earth: About to Be Recycled (Your Only Chance to Survive or Evacuate is to Leave With Us). (Punctuation provided by yours truly.) I would rather title this video: Trust Me, I Rarely Blink.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Preview of The American Book of the Dead

Henry Baum has written a new novel, The American Book of the Dead. If you haven't read his previous novels, Oscar Caliber Gun and North of Sunset, I recommend you do that with great alacrity. Get them here and here. (FULL DISCLOSURE: He's a friend of mine.) An...interview...with him and preview of the new book has been posted on the youtube.