Susan Grey is a 73 year old “distance healer.” Operating out of her South Carolina home, she offers a type of alternative therapy that engages her purported metaphysical abilities, which are not limited to face-to-face contact. She defines herself as a “natural born healer, intuitive and empath,” and boasts a menu of therapies for both humans and animals that includes channeling entities, past lifetime Karma healing, Chakra cleansing, and water crystal treatments.
Susan is part of a larger movement of long-range healers with gifts said to include extrasensory perception, medical intuition (the psychic ability to sense information about one’s bodily condition), and energy healing (the ability to treat energy imbalances using “energy-based therapies”). Made possible by modern communication technologies, distance or remote healing allows ailing or “dis-eased” individuals to access their preferred method of care without leaving the comforts of home. Energy therapies have recently ballooned in popularity; one such treatment, Reiki, is the subject of a new TV series on TLC titled, “The Healer.”
Although there are notable differences between distance healing and so-called “faith healing,” it is also reasonable to question in what ways, if any, the two express a similar spiritually-minded anti-establishment fervor, and even potentially dangerous or predatory behavior. This post will examine the underlying influence of certain social movements in shaping modern distance healing, and how its unique historical legacy and esoteric spirituality has led to striking differences between energy healing and Christian Charismatic healing. For this blog post, I will identify energy healing under the category of “New Age” spirituality, a loosely defined umbrella term used to describe many modern North American religious movements that prioritize individual spirituality whose adherents distrust organized religion (and authority more broadly). Continue reading “Distance Healing: Internet-Age Religious Healing?”
“Black Israelite” faith centers on the belief that African Americans are the direct biological descendants of ancient Israelites, God’s “chosen people.” By adopting the Hebrew identity and its special religious status, followers of this movement connect themselves with a grand narrative of oppression, revolution, and triumph as well as at least partially reject the religion of White Christian colonizers.
The term encompasses a variety of distinct groups, which may claim separate titles, including Black Hebrews, Black Hebrew Israelites (BHI), and Black Jews—among others, and may hold somewhat divergent religious beliefs: some worship Christ, others practice more orthodox forms of Judaism, while others seem to mix several religious traditions.
However, it would do a great disservice to this movement to categorize it as solely—even primarily—a religious phenomenon; the historical, political, and sociological factors that spurred the creation of the first Black Israelite church in the immediate post-slavery era, and the circumstances that have molded this movement throughout American history are integral to any investigation of Black Israelite belief systems, as well as any potential revival of BHI membership in the current age.
Continue reading “Today’s Black Israelites”
Historically, the relationship between science and religion has been rather rocky—to put it delicately. With two millennia of clashes to hark back to, die-hard naturalists and devout theists seem to (for the most part) avoid each other’s company, viewing the two basic philosophies as fundamentally incompatible.
Yet as each side’s collective historical trauma fades more with each new generation, and with the rise of 21st-century-America’s unique cultural landscape, rigidity on both sides may be giving way to a willingness for dialogue, even marriage. An emerging pattern of philosophical syncretism between traditionally scientific and religious disciplines testifies to an increasing shift toward acceptance of scientific thought within religious institutions and, for some, the deification of technological advancement in the “Information Age.”
The Christian Transhumanist movement embraces both sides of this long historical divide. It fuses America’s most deeply-rooted religious tradition and a distinctly modern movement. Superficially, these two philosophies appear at odds, and members of each routinely express negative attitudes toward their counterparts on the other side. And yet, Christian Transhumanism retains more than just a small, fringe following.
Continue reading “Who are the Christian Transhumanists?”
Earlier this month, a Sikh-American man named Deep Rai was shot in the Seattle suburb of Kent by a masked assailant, who told Rai to “go back to your own country” before firing a bullet that barely missed his heart. Sadly, as of writing, the gunman remains at large and Mr. Rai is still recovering from his injuries, but the incident serves as a harrowing reminder that Sikhs are also leading targets of racist, xenophobic violence in this country.
Jasjit Singh, Assistant Director of the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund attributes anti-Sikh sentiments to people simply “not knowing who we are.” As a religious minority that is inherently on display yet attracts little public interest into their beliefs and traditions beyond the highly visible turban, there many widespread, harmful misconceptions about Sikhs. Below I have highlighted just a few of the most basic myths affecting the Sikh community.
Continue reading “Five Untruths About Sikhism”
While researching the intimate connection some conspiracists perceive between Lucifer and the Illuminati, I found Alex Jones’ InfoWars to be an excellent primary source of relevant examples of this belief in action. As of writing, InfoWars.com is receiving approximately 40 million views per month, and like it or not, InfoWars is creeping into the mainstream. Whether or not it is the cause or effect of these conspiracies propagating throughout the United States, InfoWars’ recent articles are in many ways the embodiment of contemporary American culture. Thus, I have compiled a list of 18 articles explicitly mentioning both Satan and the Illuminati, in order to demonstrate this unique and troubling belief’s central place in the current age.
Continue reading “A Comprehensive List of Alex Jones’ InfoWars Mentioning Satan and the Illuminati in the Same Article”
For many who believe in a global clandestine cabal as nefarious and elaborate as the Illuminati scheme to destroy religion and establish a one-world government, the conspiracy’s level of malevolence naturally implies an even fouler origin: the Devil himself.
The Illuminati conspiracy theory is possibly the most well known and widely adapted of its kind. Consciously and unconsciously, centuries of Illuminati paranoia has rooted itself deep into the American psyche, producing a robust myriad of modern iterations ranging from notorious conservative conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’ rants against the “globalist agenda,” to CBN founder and doomsday preacher Pat Robertson’s predictions of an imminent Satanic “New World Order,” as well as a never-ending list of alleged celebrity memberships—not to mention an extensive pop culture resume.
George Johnson—in his still disturbingly relevant classic, Architects of Fear: Conspiracy Theories and Paranoia in American Politics—describes a pervasive Illuminati legend developed through decades of folklore, which has influenced American right-wing conspiracy theories across all political and religious factions. For a certain subtype of conspiracists, this omnipotent organization has roots in the Christian tradition’s conception of pure evil; the Illuminati’s ambitions to simultaneously secularize the planet while concentrating all power in the hands of an international elite is a clear sign that only the ultimate supernatural villain could be behind the wheel, sending humanity on a collision course to straight to hell.
As is a common practice among conspiracy theorists (and arguably all human beings), the desire to uncover secret patterns that may apply a sense of order to our seemingly chaotic existence leads to leaps of logic, which in turn often blend together otherwise independent, even contradictory ideas. The Illuminati legend is the perfect example of this phenomenon; its diverse adaptations have brought together religious fundamentalists and ardent atheists under a common belief: the Illuminati threat is powerful and unmistakably evil.
Continue reading “The Layperson’s Guide to Lucifer, the First Illuminatus”
In light of recent accusations of Satanism, black magic, and all kinds of evil intentions directed against those who participated in last Friday’s mass ritual to “bind” Donald Trump, I contacted Michael M. Hughes—the organizer of the February 24th event and de facto public face of magical resistance—and invited him to set the record straight. Hughes shared his thoughts on religious freedoms, future relations with the Christian right, the political power of witchcraft and art, Judeo-Christian roots of magic, and the benefits of “self-exorcism,” adding moral complexity to this heavily polarizing event.
Continue reading “Dissident Magician: An Interview with Michael M. Hughes”