While checking in over at DOF’s blog The Ballpoint Sketch, something I’ve been meaning to do for awhile now, I came across his entry on an essay by former New Age guru Karla McLaren that was printed in the May 2004 issue of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. The essay is a fascinating read on Karla’s journey away from her New Age beliefs to becoming a skeptic and it makes no bones about what a gut wrenching and painful process such a shift can be. This is especially so if you happen to be, as Karla was, a leader in the culture you are leaving behind. Do a search for “Karla McLaren” on Amazon.com and you’ll see some of her work which includes titles like Healing Your Aura & Chakras: Accessing Your Energetic Wisdom and Becoming an Empath: How to Develop the Power of Your Emotional Intuition. Now imagine embarking on a journey where you open up to the possibility that all these things you’ve published best selling books are all so much cotton candy and fluff.
Yeah, that’d be rough.
Karla’s essay is also a plea as she believes she understands why the New Age culture and the Skeptical culture are unable to speak to each other and she’s hoping to bridge that gap.
It is possible that our two warring cultures will never build a bridge across the deep rift that divides us. I know that in my own case, the transition from my culture to yours was long, arduous, and deeply painful. It was not an easy traipse across a well-constructed bridge. In essence, I had to throw myself off a cliff. I had to leave behind my career, my income, my culture, my family, my friends, my health care practitioners, most of my business contacts, my past, and my future. I say this not to garner sympathy but to show what the leap truly entails. The New Age is a complete culture with its own rules, ideals, infrastructure, and social life. When I finally realized that my cultural training had me teetering on a foundation of candyfloss and dreams – and worse, that my work had encouraged others to teeter alongside me, I was inconsolable, yet I had absolutely no one to turn to.
I’ve made it, I think, through my rage and horror at my own complicity in helping people remain susceptible – and perhaps through my grief and despair (though that’s more cyclical) about my own miseducation. Now I’m considering what to do from here. I’ve discovered in just the few (less than ten) conversations I’ve had with faith-based people that skeptical information is absolutely threatening and unwanted. What I didn’t understand until recently is that when you start questioning these beliefs, there’s a domino effect that eventually smacks into your whole house of cards – and nothing remains standing. Opening the questioning process is a very dangerous thing, and people in my culture seem to understand that on a subconscious level. In response to their extreme discomfort, I’ve become completely silent around believers – which is hard, because they make up most of my friends, family, and correspondents.
The essay definitely gave me some stuff to think about and I think it’s a worthy read for anyone who considers themselves a skeptic who wants to make a difference. I’m short on time at the moment so I can’t say everything I want to, but go check it out and let me know what you think.