The Earth-Spirit exposition is this flea market of New Age products and ideas which pops up around once a year. So I felt I had to go to find out what it’s all about.
The way we originally wanted to cover this at The BEAST was to register as a vendor, get our own table, and sell “Hitting You In The Face With A Stick” therapy. But this would require actual money up front, so it never ended up happening. Also you might have noticed we’ve been busy with other issues at the moment.
I met up with a few other skeptics, wearing clothes which I imagine are similar to what rich people wear. My shirt had buttons. Rich people wear those, right? Anyway, the point was to look like I had money so that vendors would have more patience for my questions. These people might wear lots of hemp jewelry and talk about love and peace a lot, but they’re just as capitalist as any used car salesman.
The main area had 7 or 8 rows of vendors’ tables, and off to the side was a separate room for a speaker. Each speaker had an hour, and I showed up just as the one I really wanted to check out was starting. It was called “How To Make Superquantum Healing Music” with this guy:
At first the four of us were the only ones to show up, so he sat backwards on a chair facing us to show us that, although he was well past middle age, he’s still “hip” and “with it.” Then he took some questions about his superquantum healing music.
“How does it work?” I blurted out. This prompted a random jumble of pseudoscientific buzz words which you could put in any order you liked and it would still fail to answer my question. Pretty much any question we asked was met with that kind of non-response. At one point in the middle of this, he mentioned that he used crystals in his songwriting process, some of which were from other star systems. He told us about how he had been working with crystals since the 1990s. I didn’t doubt that. Then he said that he had been talking to the crystals, and that they talked back to him. I asked if he discovered the interstellar origins of his crystals by communicating with them via psychic means.
“Yes, but that’s not that important,” He responded quickly in what had to be the only straight answer he’s ever given in his entire life. And then he was right back to his carnival barker’s sales pitch of indecipherable gibberish. Some of my friends who blow glass have this saying: “It’s OK to talk to the glass; but when it talks back to you, it’s time to check your ventilation.”
An aggrivating factor about this guy is that in college he was studying to get into electrical engineering. But he explained to us that he found that TOO BORING LOL AMIRITE?
After he let us go, it was time to check out the rest of the vendors.
This guy was standing like this, alone, the entire time I was there.
The first place I hit up was a supplement salesman. He was selling iodine. He made sure I understood it wasn’t magnesium iodine, which is POISON. So this was different from what you get in most stores. The way you can tell if you’re iodine-deficient, apparently, is to put a drop of his elixir on your hand. If it dissolves within four hours, that means that you need to buy his product immediately! After I took my test droplet, Rebecca Watson from Skepchick tried it, but spilled most of what was in the dropper instead of just the one drop. I’m not sure if this was accidental, but if not I have to congratulate her for thinking on her feet like that.
[EDIT: I should probably note here that this was only two days after the Sendai earthquake/tsunami which severely damaged several nuclear power plants in Japan. Some businesses were taking advantage of the panic to sell iodine pills to people who were scared of getting thyroid cancer from exposure to nuclear radiation, even as far away as New York. This person didn't mention it, but he definitely diverted our attention towards that particular product.]
Some of my old friends from Lily Dale‘s Fellowship of the Spirit were there. So were some Reiki practitioners. But I felt like I couldn’t keep up my poker face with them so I just watched from a distance as some sucker laid down while a quack pressed his middle and index fingers against their temple. This went on for like a minute before I started feeling too voyeuristic and had to leave.
One of the things I learned from the superquantum healing music guy was that there are really 12 “chakras” and not 7 as many of the rest of the New Age people would have us believe. Was there dissent amongst the ranks? Is this a controversy? Was my new friend being persecuted by a dogmatic elite in the Woo-Industrial Complex? I decided to get to the bottom of it by asking some of the vendors.
The first thing I found regarding chakras was a plastic bag with some rocks in it. It was a “healing kit” and the cover promised that there were rocks inside along with instructions on how to “use” them with your seven chakras. $35. The woman selling them confirmed that there are in fact 12 chakras, 7 within your body and 5 more extending above your head. She made a gesture, presumably to let me know what the concept of “above your head” meant visually.
Another vendor confirmed the 12 chakras idea, but then elaborated that there were really many, many more. But then some of them were called “meridian points.”
“If I just pointed to a random spot on the human body, would it probably be one of those?” I asked. This is a touchy subject for acupuncturists because it essentially implies that anyone can stick needles in someone at random points and will inevitably hit a “healing point” of one kind or another. She paused for a minute and said that that was probably true.
The last vendor I visited was definitely my favorite. They’re called Eckankar and they had charts:
I quickly became kind of fascinated with Eckankar. They have this leader named Harold Klemp and they’re very into dreams, reincarnation, and songs about the “light and sound of God.” The soft-spoken people I talked to explained that Eckankar was very different from a religion because religions became dogmatic and controlling. This was not the case for them because they just have rigid beliefs about the “higher realms” and require a $130 annual membership fee, which are neither dogmatic nor controlling. Right?
A seemingly nice lady explained to me that other religions are just influenced by the true “holy spirit” while they had managed to tap into the real divine essence itself. I asked if maybe the whole Eckankar business was doing the same thing and that it was just packaged in a way that appealed to them personally, similar to how they perceived other religions. She said she could see what I was getting at, but that she had personal, spiritual experiences to back up her feelings about God, aka SAGMUD.
“But all religious people say that,” I shot back, probably with a little too much belligerence. At this point I felt like I’d hit my limit and really needed to get away from these people as soon as possible. Our conversation devolved into them resorting to the “Take it or leave it” approach. Besides, as my frustration with these people increased, the possibility of being revealed as a non-believer (which would probably result in some kind of Invasion of the Body Snatchers-esque point-and-scream mob scene) increased proportionally.
After saying goodbye to my fellow investigators, I stopped by the iodine supplement salesman to show him that I still had an orange mark from the test droplet I took earlier. It looked almost identical to how it did a minute after I applied it. In fact I was starting to get kind of worried that he would be spinning around a large plate across the table with a blue test tube on it, saying “And now, Dr. Jones, you will give me the diamond” in exchange for the antidote to the poison I had just applied. But it turned out that he just wanted $35 for a bottle of iodine.
“It’s almost faded. You definitely need this!” He insisted. I told him that I just had to run to my car to get my wallet. In reality I just went to my car to get the hell away from this madness. He’d have to settle for a payment on the astral plane, or in my dreams, or in a past life, or some other such nonsense.