For some time Oprah Winfrey has been drifting further and further out to the fringes of “New Age” philosophy, which is strewn with “self-help” claims. And her fans have faithfully followed the star without much meaningful critical thinking, somewhat like cult members enamored with a self-styled messianic leader.

oprahnewearth.jpgOprah’s ongoing spiritual odyssey last year included a revelation called “The Secret” (see YouTube clip), a DVD concocted by Rhonda Byrne, a former Australian television and film producer.

Ms. Byrne’s supposed spiritual breakthrough consisted of little more than a synthesis of existing “positive thinking” theories based largely upon what is called the “law of attraction,” essentially you get what you want if you wish hard enough for it.

Skeptic Magazine reporter Michael Shermer labeled Byrne’s bromides “incredibly materialistic and narcissistic…magical thinking…”

But there is a rather dark flip side to the “law of attraction” through its apparent indictment of those that somehow are blamed for attracting negative things.

John Norcross, a psychologist and professor at the University of Scranton in Pennsylvania who researches self-help books stated within a news report, “So that would mean that if you’re poor, you have somehow earned it by your thinking, If you’ve been sexually abused, you’d be surprised to hear that someway, you’re responsible for that…Cancer victims. Sexual assault victims. Holocaust victims. They’re responsible? The book is riddled with these destructive falsehoods,” Norcross concluded.

Nevertheless many of Oprah’s rapt devotees were ready to believe whatever “secret” she had to share, after all, who better than a billionaire talk-show host to lead them into the “promised land.”

For decades Winfrey has cultivated a cult following. And millions of Oprah fans appear willing to do whatever Winfrey wants, whether it’s buy a book or a DVD.

But this year has Oprah Winfrey “jumped the shark“?

Now she is enrolling her TV following to receive enlightenment.

That’s right, USA Today reports that more than 700,000 Oprah fans have recently signed up for a 10-week Web seminar with their talk show sage and her latest guru Eckhart Tolle, author of A New Earth, yet another self-help book recommended by Oprah’s Book Club.

However, this guru’s bio is just a bit strange.

tolleheadshot1.jpgAfter a somewhat sketchy foray into academia and years of severe depression, Tolle (photo left) on his 29th birthday, found himself in the midst of suicidal despair. He has said, “I couldn’t live with myself any longer” and Tolle “felt drawn into a void.” It was at this juncture that his “mind-made self, with its heaviness, its problems, that lives between the unsatisfying past and fearful future, collapsed.”

Then suddenly “the next morning ” when Tolle woke up “everything was so peaceful” and he had “no explanation for this.”

Some might observe that the young Tolle snapped and had something like a nervous breakdown, but according to Oprah’s latest revelation, this is when her guru became “enlightened” (see Tolle interview)

To see how strange Tolle can be watch this YouTube clip.

Eckhart Tolle’s version of enlightenment includes a belief in what he calls “painbodies.”

Tolle’s painbodies appear similar to what Scientologists call “Body Thetans” (BTs), a pesky, negative and nasty thing that should be shed as soon as possible.

Oprah Winfrey apparently has bought into this “magical thinking.”

Has she been hanging out too much with Madonna and Tom Cruise?

But it just isn’t enough for Winfrey to simply embrace such beliefs herself, she wants to proselytize and convert her television audience.

Are we witnessing the beginning of the Oprah Winfrey cult?

Hundreds of thousands of diehard Oprah fans that not only adore the star, but are willing to embrace whatever belief system she preaches and praises through her television talk-show pulpit?

It seems like that old Oprah, which audiences often identified with, is slipping away and a new identity is emerging.

Oprah may be shedding the cocoon of simple celebrity stardom to evolve into and come forth as something else–a kind of tranformational guru and televangelist.

Stay tuned, but don’t “drink the kool-aid.

Note: CultNews (Rick Ross) has been a guest on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” twice (1989, 1992). And the old Oprah coffee mug still sits up on the shelf.

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7 comments untill now

  1. FishyFred @ 2008-03-13 20:53

    Oddly enough, last night’s premiere of Root of All Evil on Comedy Central featured Oprah versus the Catholic Church. Arguing that Oprah was more evil, the first sentence out of Paul F. Tompkins’s mouth was “The only difference between Oprah and Marshall Applewhite is that Oprah hasn’t bought her audience matching track suits and sneakers yet.”

    She doesn’t really fit the definition of cult leader, but I think televangelist is a good label.

  2. Excellent article on Oprah and The Secret:
    http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2007/03/05/the_secret/

  3. Tolle’s teachings aren’t very similar to Scientology, at all. As one is like a loose philosophical set of ideas, and ScienT is a creepy, physical cult. Oprah looks like she’s trying to save face since the Secret was such an obvious flopper. Tolle seems to collect together many different ideas that more closely resemble meditational practices and surrendering to the Now ideas. The article draws bad parallels. Maybe the only similarity the two have are money is exchanged, Tolle’s cost being the very least, but at least his info is a summation of many metaphysical insights where as the other one is science fiction brainwashing hogwash.

  4. evaravenwood @ 2008-04-16 18:13

    Well Tolle is an interesting personality, true enough. However anything that Oprah does to expand that huge audience’s thinking away from the rage, power monging, control issues of the big three religions, I say more power to her! It is more than time for a new way to see the world, and I hope she will bring on many people who think completely different and offer different ways to see spirituality and thus the world.

    The only difference is that when the rest of us go through our spiritual and emotional treks, the world is not watching. I think she handles it all extremely well!

  5. I think that your comments about Tolle are more than a bit extreeme… He has been around a long time as a spiritual teacher…HIs message is not very different from that of the relax and breathe deeply Zen. His background is far less skecthy than this web site. Oprah’s version of Tolle I call Tolle light … it is more Oprah than Tolle… she interupts him, interprets the book on the web cast and moves the agenda pf the web series…

    The show is not worthless but Tolle’s message is being mediated by someone (Oprah) who really does not understand it… Tich Naht Hahn and Tolle are very similar and both teach a method meditation and kindness… they are not selling anything but books… that is not true of Oprah… she is selling everything under the sun.

  6. well, whatever Oprah has done today, has been a miracle for all the years she has been famous. just imagine the boost a person gets, when he/she is trying to cope up with some of the god-send tests of life, and after being successful in their tests of life, they get a platform where they can tell and share their experience with other in my opinion she has been truly a cult figure and a televangelist

    JWP
    ——–
    Suffering from an addiction. This website has a lot of great resources and treatment centers. http://www.treatmentcenters.org

  7. Several months ago, after writing an article on Project BLUEBEAM, a conspiracy theory of mind-blowing proportions, I received a handful of emails, from different people, all referring me to the same book. The book is called A Course in Miracles and many refer to it as the “New Age Bible”. The emails detailed how this book and accompanying course had changed their lives, how like me, they used to worry about the state of the world, but now they understood, “Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God.”

    A Course in Miracles has an interesting history and it all started when Dr. Helen Schucman, a non-religious Jew began working with Dr. William Thetford in 1958. It seems Dr. Thetford had ties with the CIA and was working on Project BLUEBIRD, which was later rolled over into the MK ULTRA Project.

    A Course in Miracles was published in 1975 and Dr. Schucman signed over the copyright to the Foundation of Inner Peace, later FIP assigned the copyright and trademark to the Foundation for A Course in Miracles. The same year Gerald Ford instructed the Rockefeller Commission to investigate the CIA’s activities in the US and MK ULTRA briefly became known to the world, before drifting back out of the minds of most Americans. Dr. Schucman left Columbia University in 1976, never claiming financial rewards or celebrity status for the book that has been sold around the globe and translated into 17 different languages. Schucman often lamented to Father Groeschel that she was afraid that the book would gain a cult following and it seems she was correct.

    According to The Miracle Times website, in January, Marianne Williams will begin teaching the 365 day Course on Oprah and Friends XM Satellite Radio. The site states, “A Course In Miracles is a masterpiece of mind training, impeccably crafted to catalyze within the individual an experience of thought not bound by the constraints of time, space, or human organizational principles. Through our practical application of lessons in the art of forgiveness and in the psychology of self-responsibility, we are awakened to the memory of our Divine Inheritance.”
    http://www.losangeleschronicle.com/articles/46708

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