The False Science

Las Vegas, Nevada. Built in 1938.

Las Vegas, Nevada. Built in 1938.

I’ve been spending time in Los Angeles lately, and I’ve found that many of the stereotypes are based in truth. Everyone, including the contractor who redid our bathroom, has a screenplay. The produce is good. And a lot of people talk about astrology.

But it’s not limited to what Da Vinci called “the false science by which fools rule their lives.” In Los Angeles, you also hear about the Mayan calendar or red-string Kabbalah or past-life regression—a mishmash of occult pursuits that we might put under the broad heading of spiritualism.

It seems to me that this stuff encourages self-involved people to become more self-involved. Spiritual types often talk about the “universe” in the same way that a certain kind of Christian or Jew sees the hand of God in every banal event, or a certain kind of New Yorker broadcasts every little conversation he’s had with his shrink. And while these examples may show that narcissists are drawn to whatever feeds their narcissism, I do think that spiritualists are more likely to confuse causality with their own egotism. I’ve never heard of anyone visiting a psychic in order to learn how to be more generous with other people.

That said, and since I’ve got to be in Los Angeles anyway, I’d like to be more tolerant of spiritualists. I really would.  It’s not like anyone was ever harmed by learning a little patience.

Cosmic Connection by Carole Lynne

Click to learn more about the book.

This brings us to Carole Lynne’s Cosmic Connection: Messages for a Better World.  Lynne, according to her own introduction, is a “Spiritualist minister” and “psychic medium.”  She is also the author of Consult Your Inner Psychic and How to Get a Good Reading from a Psychic Medium. Needless to say, I’ve never had cause to consult her previous books.  Regardless, in light of my West Coast experiences, I wanted to read Cosmic Connection with an open mind.

I ran into trouble pretty quickly. The title suggests that the book will describe Lynne’s particular philosophy, but it’s really a memoir, “one woman’s story of her personal spiritual experience.” Thus Lynne describes her journey (to use a common spiritualist term) from psychic teenager to professional medium.  But this was not the problem.  It could actually have made for an interesting story—that is, if Lynne was able to tell it with any sense of narrative or critical distance.  Instead, we get a series of loosely related life-events, presented with a strange mixture of vagueness and specificity.

For example, there’s her section on “The Sitting Project,” a series of “channeling sessions” conducted with two friends: another medium and a “no-nonsense, logical-thinking retiree.”  (Yeah, right.)  During these sessions, Lynne channels a spirit called “My Guidance,” which teaches her about “The Essence of Essence.”  If I understand it correctly, this Essence is synonymous with God.  And when the Essence “created us, we were not only given free will, but also part of the responsibility for the universe.” Thus if we “evolve in a positive way” so does the “Power of God.”  And if we “evolve in a negative way,” so does the Essence as well.

I can imagine some readers thinking, What’s wrong with that?  To which I’d reply, Nothing really, except that I had to get through nearly ninety pages of transcribed sessions to find it.  And that the sessions are a mixture of free-associated poems, incomprehensible “commentary,” and descriptions of a place called Kalpulpulpik.

I also had a tough time with her chapter on healing.  Apparently, while Lynne approves of traditional medicine (the book is dedicated to her medical doctor, chiropractor, and her dentist), she sees the Essence as a kind of spirit-world HMO.  And she “proves” this with a series of hallucinatory (or perhaps hallucinated) anecdotes.  In one dream, her chronic foot pain is healed by two androgynous beings “draped in gray capes.”  In another, two healers using “some kind of strings” remove a cyst “from her tailbone area.”  My favorite was the story wherein she heals herself.  At a party, Lynne feels a cold coming on and sneaks off to ask for “help from the spiritual world,” while lying on a pile of coats.  Here, at least, I could commiserate: I too have ended up on the coat-pile, if only when drunk.

But it is too easy to mock the gibberish, the tales designed to demonstrate her gifts.  What interests me instead is the way in which Lynne interacts with the world—or, more accurately, does not interact, at least as shown in Cosmic Connection.  Lynne has a sincere desire to demonstrate that we are all somehow related, that our fates our linked.  She exhorts us “to realize that we are not separate beings, and to evolve to a consciousness that finds poverty, pollution and war unthinkable.”  But little seems to pierce her sphere of self-regard.  Travel, for example, would seem to be an opportunity learn how Lynne feels about other cultures and other spiritual paths.  But it makes no apparent impression on Lynne, except as an opportunity to reinforce her own abilities.  In France, Germany, and India, she has visions, but she doesn’t see a thing.

I think that was why I felt such resentment as I read this book.  It wasn’t just the author’s insistence upon the veracity of the unverifiable.  It was her great need to demonstrate that she is wise and above all spiritual.  Thus, in a book that takes pains to suggest the author’s humility, there is very little acknowledgment of mistakes or missteps. Her largest regret seems to be that when she was younger, she hid her spiritual light under a bushel.

Still, I should admit that, as a semi-practicing Jew, I have my own unverifiable beliefs.  I can’t prove the existence of God, just as Lynne can’t MapQuest Kalpulpulpik.  And maybe her beliefs seem silly to me only because I am not used to them, just as the pagans used to mock the Hebrews for their paucity of gods.  Maybe.  Or maybe Cosmic Connection exemplifies the utter self-absorption of some spiritualists, and their willful anti-intellectualism.

I have learned that they are not all like this.  In Los Angeles, I’ve become friends with an extremely funny, kind-hearted guy who also happens to have a profound interest in astrology.  For him, the stars function as a kind of religion.  But he has never tried to convert me, just as I’ve never tried to convert him to Reform Judaism.

And when I get back to L.A. in the Fall, I hope to see him. I may even try a meditation class.  But that’s about all the spirituality I think I can handle.  Reading Cosmic Connection has taught me something after all—that I am a bit of a hypocrite.  As much as I’d like to be tolerant of other’s beliefs, I’d rather have my eyes put out than suffer through another page of such unbridled narcissism.

Gordon Haber writes about religion and culture. His short story collection, Uggs for Gaza, is available from Dutch Kills Press. He does not live in Brooklyn.