Chakras aligned and conspiracies entertained at the Conscious Life Expo

A bit surprised to read that “The Expo has a darker side, however—it’s a place, explains [Glossy], where “crystals and chakras are a gateway to far-right consciousness.””

So believing in chakras and crystals is good and rational but being on the right side of politics is bad and irrational?

I would say that an expo exploiting the irrational side of people is dark from the beginning.


Chakras and crystals in that sense is basically a religious belief. An inchoate, syncretic one, but it’s essentially harmless to a degree.

If people decide to rely on chakras and crystals instead of going to a doctor, of course that is harmful. But then, it’s just as harmful if you eschew medical science in favour of prayer, or exorcism, or yoga.

It’s not, of itself necessarily harmful, any more than it is to be Christian, or Animist, or Hindu. (Those others just have thousands of years head start.)

So: rational? Probably not, but that’s almost exactly not the point of it. Good? If you rub a crystal or meditate on the crown chakra, that’s no more harmful than a prayer to St Anthony or to Vishnu.

You might be of the opinion that that is inherently harmful, and that’s certainly something on which an argument could be made, but it’s incredibly hard to make and maintain that argument without it devolving very quickly into something else again, so it’s usually a good idea to be very careful about how you put that argument.

In any case, welcome to BoingBoing!


Do you really need somebody to post a list of irrational far-right conspiracy theories for you?


If it makes you feel better, I’ve known old school Nazis who believed in chakras and crystals.


My experience with woo magnetism is it may start with one, relatively harmless woo, but rarely stays there. Crystals lead to detoxing lead to antivax, and while you are there, hey Q has the answers to your other questions, as well. It never ceases to amaze me how crunchy left wing hippie types get drawn into Q or adjacent conspiracy theories and alter their entire worldview to fit. Human psychology is just weird. I read a scifi novel once, Evolution, maybe?, that speculated that the human intelligence had evolved to the point that the brain could only barely handle the wiring, and was always teetering on the edge of insanity. Might be something to that.


Close. It’s bad and immoral. It’s rational in the economic sense of conservatives reaping a personal benefit.


I am with you in the camp of “all irrationality is bad and contributes to the problems we have in society”. I don’t agree when people call any woo “harmless”. I think all irrationality causes at least some harm in the form of devaluing expertise, science literacy, and faith in institutions.

That said, there are degrees of these things. If someone is rubbing crystals because it makes them feel a little better emotionally or whatever, I’m not gonna file that under “evil”. QAnon and Jan 6 and all that is thoroughly all the way into the evil bucket. There’s a spectrum of harm in between.


I find the distinction Charlie Pierce makes in his book Idiot America to be a useful one:

We will have to remember where our cranks belong in our national life, so that they can resume their proper roles as lonely guardians of the frontiers of the national imagination, prodding and pushing, getting us to think about things in new ways, but also knowing that their place is of necessity a lonely and humble one. There is nothing wrong with a country that has people who put saddles on their dinosaurs. It’s a wonderful show and we should watch them and applaud. We have no obligation to climb aboard and ride.

Cranks are much too important. They are part of the other America—Greil Marcus’s old, weird America. A charlatan is a crank with a book deal and a radio program and a suit in federal court. A charlatan succeeds only in Idiot America. A charlatan is a crank who succeeds too well. A charlatan is a crank who’s sold out.

There’s no doubt that anyone who can afford to buy a booth at this expo is a charlatan. The question then becomes to what degree – direct or indirect – a given charlatan poses a danger to others and to society at large and also how much he demands that everyone accepts whatever woo he’s peddling as reality (or, in case of Republicans since Prince Bush, as a viable alternative to reality).


As a couple of other people above have noted on the believer side of things it’s a spectrum - from the relatively harmless to others belief in crystal power and chakras to the harmful to everyone Q and conspiracy beliefs.

Even here though I think that the “harmless” beliefs can still end up hurting the believer and those that love them when one decides, say, to forgo cancer treatment because western medicine is not real and they are going to depend on crystals, acupuncture and herbs instead. I am sure that all of us have an example of something like that happening - if not in our own circle then, there is always Steve Jobs.

His death, to me, highlights that this isn’t about stupid or irrational people, it’s about some really basic flaws in the way that our ape-brains are wired and how easy it is to lose your way.

Then there are small players that have a booth or something. While I have not listened to the podcasts in the OP yet, on the ONRAC podcast I mentioned in the thread above they talk to a lot of those people and there is a combination of people. Some of them clearly believe what they are selling and some of them are clearly shysters. These people I wish we could regulate out of business regardless of their belief in what they are selling, because I agree they are exploiting people. At the minimum no one should have to pay a 1000% markup for a quartz crystal because it “keeps bad energy” away, and at the worst lead to the scenario above.

As for the organizers of the expo itself, they are definitely exploiting peoples beliefs for profit. Even if they started out with good intentions over the years they have to have seen the results in the form of what I mentioned above and in the appearance of Q at their convention etc. So either they are evil capitalists that don’t care as long as they are getting paid, or they are as evil as Ron and Jim Watkins.

So I guess in summary I think everyone there is either being exploited or exploiting someone. It makes me angry and frustrated at times but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of will to regulate fraud that is tied to beliefs, so here is where we are.

I noticed that no one had liked your post yet, so I did. I think you are asking good questions, as opposed to “just asking questions”. I am making an assumption of good faith though about the one unclear thing in your post - that by “the right side of politics” you do not mean “the correct side”. Assuming I am correct, let me welcome you to the BBS!


Here’s another sad example. It’s a long read, but the author has some interesting things to say about PTSD and its links to lack of trust and conspiracy theories.


I thought the sentence: “organizers have grappled for years with how to reconcile the tensions between obvious charlatans and those who really, truly can talk to the dead…” was the really funny bit in the whole intro. Tensions that are hard to reconcile indeed.


New age woo is to facts as facts are to the freedumb movement.

No surprise someone adverse to knowledge would be fertile ground for another someone adverse to knowledge, they comfort one another I expect.

The first folk to go alt-right conspiracy cuckoo in my neighbourhood during the pandemic were woo practitioners.


In fact the science backs this up! People who believe one conspiracy are very likely to believe others, as well as all the pseudoscience. It’s no coincidence that QAnoners are also antivax and believe in “alternative” medicine, astrology, flat earth, and other such things. I don’t think we have a handle on why yet. It could be that conspiracy thinking is like a drug that people get sucked into, or it could be some sort of physical predisposition in some peoples’ brains for this sort of thing.


There was a time I would have said that as well, but years of listening to Oh No Ross And Carrie has convinced me that roughly half of the time woo practitioners are true believers in their own nonsense. The really successful ones like Sylvia Brown and John Richards are 100% full con artists who should all be in prison. The “little guys” with a table at an expo like this, though, reading palms or selling crystals? They likely believe.

At the end of the day though, there’s little value in guessing why people promote woo. Their actions are what matter, not their intentions. Spreading woo is harmful and we need to stop it regardless.


Pierce doesn’t exclude the possibility that the charlatan believes in their woo as much as the crank does; they’ve just managed to leverage it into money or fame. Some of the most successful grifters have done so by following Costanza’s Maxim of Lying.

Whether the charlatan believes their lie or not, you’re right that none of it is good. The charlatans are now in high political office in the U.S. and are pushing other ones into positions of serious responsibility.


Yes, invoking Costanza’s Maxim here is astute, and why we shouldn’t waste too much energy figuring out why they are scamming people. Many times they themselves don’t even know if they really believe or not.


Well part of it is that the world is big, complicated, and scary, and the reality is that things aren’t top-down, controlled in some way, which makes is scarier… to some degree, believing in a vast conspiracy is comforting, because at least there is something you can point to to why the world is fucked up like it is… the causes of our problems just aren’t that simple, so a conspiracy theory can be comforting, in the same way the belief in an all-powerful, omnipotent god can be comforting…


Why can’t we just ask all the conspiracy theorists to just, please, ya know, drill down a bit and just blame God?

Because we live in an age of secularism. Not everyone who buys into conspiracy theories are religious, and in fact, plenty of secular people, or atheists buy into conspiracy theories. On the other hand, plenty of religious people believe in science, and aren’t prone to believing in conspiracy theories. There are certainly theological lines of thinking that champion critical thinking and the like…


The Conspirituality podcast made a point about the crossover between yoga/crystal/wellness types and antivax, covid-deniers and Qanon which hadn’t occurred to me as someone from a country with a very different healthcare system.

Their point if I recall it correctly was that if you’re someone in the US, there is a good deal of impetus pushing you towards staying the hell away from mainstream healthcare.

So glomming onto crystals or meditation sessions or supplements for avoiding illness or whatever has some real financial and societal pressure behind it (taking into account the idea that you personally are entirely responsible for your health and wellbeing with no right to expect help from the government or anyone else).

And once you’ve pinned your hopes and fears onto whatever it is, when the government turns up to say “oh yes, we know we do nothing for you otherwise but here is this big scary disease we’re going to give you a free vaccine for”, there is this vast pool of scepticism and a degree of sunk cost to get over in order to be able to say “This time my crystals or nutrient powders and tantric meditation are not going to be enough, I need to get this vaccine.”

And once you’ve rejected that option, then there are all the conspiracymongers out there with ever so many ready-made justifications for you to use to stop yourself from accepting that your efforts are not good enough to keep your body pure and healthy.

And that brings us back to the inherent fashy-ness of the wellness movement. It all goes back to fascists one way or another.

So it’s not hard to get into woo and slide into fascism. They grew up together and they’re still best friends.