January 29, 2008

Woo in Worcester: Let's Get Stoned

The ad above is one of many that appears in a circular that arrived in today's mail. The catalog advertises courses offered by Bay Path Adult Evening School, part of the Southern Worcester County Regional Vocational School District. Aside from the woo, there are a number of courses that sound like they would be useful and/or fun and/or practical. Overall, it looks like a worthwhile program that offers folks the opportunity to learn how to do everything from make puff pastries to fix a computer. I'm all in favor of making any kind of education to anyone who wants it in any way possible. Yay, Bay Path Adult Evening School.

Some things, though, aren't education. In addition to all the good stuff, there are a lot of courses in How to Be a Credulous Woo-ster. You can learn palmistry (unlock the secretes hidden in the palm of your hand!), numerology, chakra release (there's a dirty joke in there somewhere... particularly in conjunction with the palmistry course), how to succeed in life by hypnotizing yourself, an alternative medicine sampler workshop (for $5, you get to sample all the "drugs"), reiki and "qigong for organ cleansing" (steam-clean your spleen with the orgone machine!) There's even a course in "past life regression" which, strangely enough, is in a section marked "personal growth and development." Leaving aside all other considerations, it takes a pretty woo-full outlook on the world to consider any sort of regression a kind of growth. My inner child is not amused.

The ad reproduced above, though, was my favorite of the lot. I mean, people are going to shell out $29 to learn how to talk to rocks. I can show you how to do that for free right now!

First, find a rock.
Second, say "Hello, rock!"
Now wait for a reply.
If you hear one, seek treatment immediately.

Look, it's a rock, OK? It might be a pretty rock and have some interesting shape, but its just one or more minerals. It's not alive. Rocks have no personality whatsoever. If you want to talk to something with no personality, I have known several people who are just what you're looking for and I can likely dig up their phone numbers.

The first sentence of that ad is too wonderfully wooish for words... but I will find some anyhow. The energy of the earth is quite likely to kill you when it comes to minerals. See, we calls high-energy minerals radioactive. If you spend a lot of time talking to radioactive rocks, your hair will fall out and you'll probably get cancer. The "energy of the earth" is very hot and dangerous. Of course, all rocks contain energy. Crystals are very interesting when looked at through realistic eyes, too. They contain real, useful, quantifiable energy in the form of lattice energy. Some crystals can even produce a small electrical current when under pressure and the effect, called piezoelectricity, is employed in technology that does not require taking your quartz crystals out for a drink and a chat in hopes of getting to know them better.

That, to me, is a fascinating and wonderful thing about the world. If you squeeze a rock, you can get energy out of it. Why someone needs to launch into weird ideas about vague "energy" is beyond me. Still, "the more you handle stones, the more you will sense their energy?" C'mon. As we used to say in Brooklyn, "I got a couple stones for you to handle right here." Unless the rock you are holding is undergoing radioactive decay, you cannot feel the energy from a stone no matter how hard you squeeze it. In fact, if you ever find yourself handling a stone from which can feel energy radiating, drop it and get out of the area immediately.

Next the ad launches into some really bizarre babbling about stone layouts and chakras and affecting change in the aura and oh for Avogadro's sake, what planet are these people living on, anyhow? There are people worried about non-existent wheels (that's what "chakra" means in Sanskrit) somehow embedded along their spine getting... blocked. Look, you can pick up a big bottle of Metamucil and unblock your muladhara chakra for a lot less than $29. If you think this sounds like an exaggeration, by the way, it isn't. In old-fashioned yogic practice, one way of "cleansing" muladhara was to swallow a strip of cloth long enough to — how can I phrase this delicately? — extend from both ends of your digestive tract simultaneously and then gently pull it out of the nethermost orifice. A certain Tantric group, the Kapalikas, believed that one could indeed use a mineral to clean up the ajña (third-eye) chakra. Alas, they thought that this mineral was a ground-up mercury ore and most of them went completely insane.

As an aside, one of the Kapalikas other practice was banging their foreheads on the floor while reciting mystical incantations. I often feel like I'm banging my head on a wall when I try to explain to a true-believer that the world is amazing and complex enough without needing to inject a whole bunch of mystical nonsense of our own manufacture into it, so maybe I'm a Kapalika. Then again, nobody judges my holiness by the size of the bruise on my forehead, so maybe not. Still, I'm not rubbing mercury on myself, so I've got that going for me.

The ad concludes with the instructor promising to "make some sense and fun of it all," all for the low, low price of just $28.95. I believe I've succeeded in both making sense and fun of it absolutely free of charge. However, if you know someone in Worcester, Auburn or Oxford who is thinking about paying to take this class, have them read this entry and send me $20. I'll use the money to buy supplies I need for real research. If the readers has come away with a new knowledge of lattices and piezoelectricity they've already gotten more out of ten minutes of reading my tiny little blog than they'd get from 3 hours of crystal woo.

I note, by the way, that the same person teaching this class on how to Look Like an Idiot By Talking to Rocks is also teaching many of the courses on reiki, chakra releasing and aromatherapy. According to her biography she has:
...been actively pursuing an education in the alternative medicine field for over twelve years. She has completed post-graduate work in pre-med sciences and is now currently working on a master's degree in Human Nutrition. She is currently working at Earth Spirits in Sturbridge... She is a reiki master, educator, ballroom dancer and health advocate who believes that with healthy lifestyle choices our bodies will supply abundant energy and will properly defend against disease.
I guess she didn't get the memo about the radioactive rocks. I have never heard before of "post-graduate work in pre-med sciences." Pre-med is a term applied to undergraduates, usually those who are taking biology courses in hopes of getting into a graduate program in medicine, AKA medical school. Anybody ever heard of this designation otherwise?

P.S.: The following line of text appears on the Earth Spirits website:
Menopause Can Change Your Life ~ Check back for more info!
I guess that's what the past life regression class is for, eh?

Class dismissed.

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