The Syndicate

I was listening to the Nonsense Bazaar, one of my favorite podcasts on weird stuff, and one of the hosts discussed the connections between weird metaphysics grifters. He christened this The Syndicate, and I realized how absolutely appropriate it was. I’d like to go into something that is very obvious in the world of spiritual scams – so obvious it’s disturbingly easy to miss.

If you find any grifty religious/spiritual group and pursue it’s origins you often find others like them very quickly. Some online guru is just channeling beings dreamed up by another scam artist, while doing affiliate marketing with a fellow grifter. An exceedingly weird religious group directs you at courses taught by an only slightly less disturbing organization. If you pursue this for any amount of time, it starts to seem very connected.

The podcast Conspirituality noted a whole guru ecosystem, where some new internet influencer will suddenly hook up with other more well-heeled ones. Once you’re in the ecosystem you get to start exchanging audiences, expanding together, and so on. Plus you want to connect with new talent so they don’t steal your audience.

Now do I think this is some kind of conspiracy? No, it’s just networking by people of similar interests, its the influence of ideas, and of course it’s driven by people who see dollar signs and power. You don’t need a conspiracy, so though there may be some tiny conspiracies, good old greed explains plenty of it.

However I think there’s an issue here that The Syndicate also helps give the illusion of truth.

We humans decide things are true not in simple linear fashion – though it may look like it – but by a web of associations. People we trust, classes we took, experiences we had, techniques we learned, all come together to help us evaluate truth. Even something that comes as a revelation only seems so as it rests on a substrate of past experiences.

The Syndicate has people linking back to each other, to past teachings, and to various forms of content. It has people recommending and boosting each other. It is a web of associations that can give the appearance of truth. Even if this is not intentional, if it’s just people helping each other rip others off, it’s “close to truth.”

When it is intentional, it’s pretty damn effective. In the world of spiritual grift it’s also easy – a dash of Theosophy, some alternative medicine, and then some conspiracy theories and you’re good. Team up with a few others and you’re good.

I think this is important to remember. The network of people busily selling you fake spirituality for real money can seem true because of the network. Something that should set off someone’s alarms may, under the right conditions, do the opposite.

(Come to think of it, the way I recommend podcasts, some of which refer to each other, should make you suspicions . . .)


The Map Is The Mirage

Earlier I commented on how my own meditative work was slowed when I focused less on doing it and more on reaching milestones.  When I focused on milestones, I got frustrated or risked taking shortcuts.  When you have a map, you can forget the importance of the journey – and no matter what you still have to make the journey.

This was part of a realization of why many esoteric documents may resort to obscurity and symbolism.  Too much of a map, and you end up inviting frustration and confusion.  However, I want to share another realization from my “contemplation of maps” – that detailed “mystical maps” also invite self delusion.

One of my interests is keeping an eye on spiritual grifters (indeed, it comprises a surprising part of my podcast listening).  As I follow the grifters I also wonder about the followers.  These followers will report spiritual experiences, alien incarnations, but heir descriptions were filled with jargon, repeated conspiracy theories, and so on.  They seem quite sincere, but their experiences often seemed to be, well, a little too imagined.

I’m sure we’ve all had times in meditation or magic where we realized “I am deluding myself,” of course.  Remember when you had expectations and later realized you’d made some of it up?  When you map out experiences you can make yourself believe you’re experiencing them.

I think some people taken in by spiritual grifters imagine these experiences as the grifter gives them a map.  Do this meditation to awaken your starseed self, be it Blue Avian or Pleadean!  Do these meditations and you’ll experience Angel communication!  Tell people their needs are met by “doing x to get y,” throw in some social pressure, and people will imagine all sorts of things.

Plus the grifters get to sell books, amulets, talks, get internet exposure, and so on.  If it goes stale, just make up some new grift and do it all over again.  Some people selling spiritual ephemera go through multiple entire belief systems.

Thus we can see another reason for use of symbolism or a little obscurity in mystical documents.  Not providing too much of a map lowers the chance people will delude themselves.  I imagine finding the right balance is a challenge, and makes me appreciate the many monks, magicians, and philosophers who found it.

As a closing note, as stated earlier, I believe mystic practices are fundamentally liberating and should be shared far and wide.  I’m just realizing it’s good to require some work, skepticism, and analysis of those you’re trying to reach.

– Xenofact