It’s How Much for Happiness? Questionable Self-Help Gurus
By Dan Berry
Self-Help Gurus are like members of law enforcement: They’ll always have a place in society because people will always have issues. Perform a Google search for any problem imaginable and you’ll find a self-improvement program promising a solution.
You can even find a self-help guru on KoldCast TV’s hilarious series Mother Eve’s Secret Garden of Sensual Sisterhood, where Mother Eve teaches a group of women the power of the vajayjay. That’s right, folks! Sassy, sensual, hilarious self-help guru Mother Eve enrolls a group of women in her workshop to learn and master life-changing, usually unconventional techniques in order to achieve the bliss of a perfect career, fulfilled relationships, and mind-blowing sex.
You are watching Episode 1 of Mother Eve’s Secret Garden of Sensual Sisterhood
The Self-Help and Actualization Movement is a staggering $11-billion-a-year business. But who’s to say we’re not just being scammed? Steve Martin put it best in an old comedy routine: “You too can be a millionaire! It’s easy: First, get a million dollars. Now…”
With so many people desperately seeking the solution to so many issues, it should come as no surprise that the self-help industry is rife with scam-artists and frauds. Here are four famous self-help gurus who sent the wrong message and caused people to suffer.
James Arthur Ray
New Age motivational speaker, best-selling self-help author of Harmonic Wealth, and a highly paid spiritual teacher who suggested clients could “create wealth in all areas” of their lives if they overcame hang-ups by shaving their heads, walking on hot coals, and bending rebar with their throats. James Arthur Ray was frequently featured on the Today Show, as well as Larry King Live, and was a guest speaker in The Secret.
Even though his company, James Ray International, was never Better Business Bureau accredited, receiving a C rating for seven complaints filed and two unresolved, Ray’s die-hard followers could not be dissuaded from his bizarre message and flocked en mass to his 2009 “Spiritual Warrior” retreat in Sedona, Arizona, where tragedy struck as three people died and several others were severely sickened during one of his sweat lodge ceremonies.
On February 3, 2010, James Arthur Ray was arrested in connection with the deaths. He was acquitted of manslaughter, but convicted of three counts of negligent homicide and sentenced to two years behind bars in November 2011.
Joe Vitale started off as an advertising copywriter before becoming a “metaphysician,” which apparently gives him the right to attach Dr. to his name. He became known through his marketing books, Buying Trances: A New Psychology of Sales and Marketing! and There’s a Customer Born Every Minute. Then he became a bestselling self-help author with The Attractor Factor, The Key, Zero Limits, and of course, his appearance in The Secret.
After contributing to the film, Vitale started earning even more money with his “Rolls Royce Master Mind Sessions,” in which people are asked to pay $5,000 for a ride in Vitale’s Rolls, a “Vitale steak” dinner at a local restaurant and a consultation on how to achieve greater success. Well, he was right about one thing. There clearly is a customer (read: sucker) born every minute.
Rhonda Byrne was an Australian talk-show producer who rose to worldwide prominence when she became the “brains” behind The Secret. Featuring a “dream team” of self-help gurus, this bottle of minty-fresh snake oil unabashedly appropriates and mishmashes familiar self-help clichés but managed to top the bestseller lists thanks to one Oprah Winfrey. And as we all know, the back of every dollar bill reads, “In Oprah We Trust.”
The greatest problem with The Secret is that it sounds wonderful when you say you can achieve anything you want in life. However, it doesn’t sound so wonderful when you deduce that if you don’t achieve something in life, it’s because the universe is mad at you. That’s the implied converse message. Additionally, the things worth achieving seem to be sportscars and the like.
Al Bundy and the Church of NO MA’AM
Though it was formed in TV land, this fraudulent church is among our favorites. NO MA’AM (National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood/Numb Old Men Anxiously Awaiting Morticians), was an anti-feminist group founded by Al Bundy in response to Women’s Bowling Night replacing the Men’s, and the nudie bar being turned into a Women’s Coffee House.
In order to obtain tax exempt status, NO MA’AM forms a church with Al Bundy as the reverend. The church is able to gain a national following despite attempts by Marcie D’Arcy and Miranda Veracusa De La Hoya Cardinal to expose the group for what it really was; an illegitimate excuse to not pay taxes.
Sadly, the Church of NO MA’AM quickly fell apart when Marcie was able to provide photographic evidence that Al had recently taken his wife, Peggy Bundy, out on a date and had a good time.
Dan Berry staggered onto the comedy scene while drinking heavily and skipping class at New York University. The warped mind behind The Prison Kite and HBO’s upcoming project The Bid, Dan has served as a network staff writer and is co-author of the soon-to-be-released biopic Madoff Uncuffed, documenting disgraced financier Bernie Madoff’s first year behind bars. Be the first person to follow him on Twitter @RealDanBerry.