A while ago, a friend was flirting with the idea of doing an Avatar course (thankfully, she ended up giving it a miss).
I’ve done Landmark Education’s Forum (worthwhile, but won’t comment further here, as this will be the subject of another post). I’ve also read a shitload of self-development stuff over the years (all the usual suspects), attended a Christopher Howard weekend seminar, even read a friend’s copy of The Secret (herk) – hmm…there’s another post. Before I dig myself in any deeper, my point is that I’m no stranger to this stuff and am generally cynical, but not necessarily dismissive of all of it.
I’d never heard of Avatar. Naturally, I hit Google with a vengeance. Here’s what I turned up.
Avatar is an offshoot of Scientology, and probably the silliest cult I’ve come across – wait, I’m forgetting the Little Pebble…but I digress.
There is the usual mystical genesis that is common to all these quasi-religious con jobs. The founder, Harry Palmer, claims to have had a revelation in a float-tank.
For the uninitiated, a float tank is basically a coffin with warm salt water for you to float in. When the lid is closed you’re in total darkness. The idea is to empty your mind of the noise of thinking by removing all sensory distractions. I’ve done a few floats. Relaxing – interesting even, the first couple of times – but it’s something you, erm, get over.
Anyway, our Harry claims it was revealed to him while in this float tank state of sensory deprivation that we all came from a distant planet, “Estro”, and that humans are afflicted with inner “entities” from other worlds that are the cause of all our problems. His Avatar courses eventually “exorcise” these alien Entities and hey presto – we’re happy and fulfilled, and able to live full, powerful lives.
Basically, this nut saw an opportunity to make big bucks by re-modelling Scientology (he was a director of a Scientology centre for 15 years). He presented it in a more low-key mode, added a bit of Hindu here, a bit of ancient Chinese wisdom there, with a heaped cup of New Age pop-psychology and more than a pinch of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming).
In a similar manner to the now completely discredited cult, the Sanyassins (or Orange People, or Rajneeshis), he mixed up a light brew of easy philosophy combined with promises of quick fixes and dreams-come-true especially designed for affluent Westerners looking to satisfy material and spiritual yearnings without putting in a lot of real work or time on themselves – and prepared to pay a hefty upfront price for the privilege.
Palmer’s beliefs-create-your-world idea is just recycled NLP theory, which in itself is very hypey and California flavoured but at least can be beneficial in my experience, and unlike Avatar, is not a quasi-religious cult that preaches that we are inhabited by tiny aliens that can only be exorcised by doing all the Avatar courses (and making the Avatar Masters and Palmer rich in the process).
So, from my readings, Avatar is a Mickey Mouse version of Scientology – and that’s some indictment! And Harry Palmer is a fruitcake (a rich one) and as false prophets go, about as avaricious and tacky as they come. Still, it seems there are plenty of gullible souls lining up at Avatar Centres around the world with their spiritual begging bowls pleading, “Please sir, may I have some more.”
They might do well to check out the following links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harry_Palmer_%28Avatar%29 (Don’t miss the “Avatar Critics” section.)
Have a flake-free weekend, folks.