Who is Esther Hicks and why should we care?
Some of you may know Esther Hicks as the Law of Attraction (LOA for short) guru who professes to channel messages from multiple beings from other dimensions, collectively known as ‘Abraham’. Others may be familiar with Hicks from the controversy over the documentary (and subsequent book) called ‘The Secret’ (2006), where Hicks refused to be a contributor because her commission of $500,000 wasn’t enough, at least by her standards. Others may know Hicks simply as the charlatan that she is. Others may have never heard of Hicks and, quite frankly, don’t care.
But we should care, for we need to be wary of people like Hicks and her clone-like disciples.
Anyone who has embarked upon a spiritual journey will have — or soon will — come across the idea of the LOA, and inevitably to Hicks, arguably its chief proponent. Before we blindly believe in the spiritual teachings we are exposed to, it is important to view ‘spirituality’ as an ideological paradigm like any other, which should be subject to critical scrutiny. Indeed, it behoves us to adopt an open and slightly cynical, inquisitive mindset into the multifarious belief systems which comprise ‘spirituality’ and which, more often than not, reek of hypocrisy, contradiction, and downright drivel. The LOA is one of them.
So, let’s look at Hicks and question why she feels compelled (she would say ‘chosen’, or ‘guided’) to spout such bullshit, other than the obvious: to make zillions of dollars.
Esther Hicks was born Esther Weaver on March 5, 1948. She claims to be a channeler of dead people, although she prefers the term ‘receiver’: she doesn’t like labels and yet feels the need to invent her own, because being different gives her a misplaced sense of superiority over her channelling competitors.
Hicks is known for talking about herself in the third person — a clever stunt that seemingly removes all accountability from herself as regards to what she preaches — and claims to channel approximately one hundred otherworldly beings, albeit with the collective worldly name of ‘Abraham’. Why inter-dimensional, extra-terrestrial beings would collectively assign themselves an obvious name from the Old Testament is anyone’s guess, so let’s just assume it’s down to lack of imagination.
The inherent creepiness of her ruse is attenuated when her real motive for talking in the third person becomes evident: that she is bent on scamming people out of money. Is a fraudster preferable to an overt creep? Hicks is both, so you decide.
Unsurprisingly, the voices inside Hicks’ head started speaking to her after she read the works of Jane Roberts, another self-professed channeler who died in 1984, leaving the market open for Hicks. Depending on whether we ask Hicks, or use our faculties of common sense and reason, these books either opened up her mind to communicate with whatever it is she claims to communicate with, or it demonstrates just how credulous people are to psychic woo. Either way, Hicks saw an opening in the marketplace and sought to fill it with her ramblings about the LOA.
Esther’s partner in crime is her husband, Jerry Hicks. Before they struck it rich by exploiting and subsequently cashing in on people’s fears and desires through the promulgation of the LOA, Jerry was a former actor and world class salesperson. So, Jerry’s ability to fool people, plus his ability to extort, plus Esther’s claim to channel inter-dimensional beings?
You do the maths.
Jerry’s main contribution to his wife’s ruse is that vomit-inducing ‘tough sell’ to most of the products in the Hicks dynasty, and indeed it has paid off big time, resulting in a net worth of circa $10 million. The ‘Abraham-Hicks’ brand is big business: Hicks has purposefully elided her own identity with that of her inter-dimensional alter ego, suggesting either a clever marketing stunt, or her multiple personality disorder, or both. Esther is reluctant to be interviewed, and therefore reluctant to be held accountable; but in a rare moment of introspection, in an even rarer occasion when she wasinterviewed, she realised that — heaven forbid — some people might dare to think that she is completely bonkers. Well, duh.
‘I’m sitting here, and I am uncomfortable, because people don’t like Mormons’ she said, ‘people don’t like Amway, people don’t like channelers.’
People don’t like them? That seems a very reductive statement that smacks of someone trying to worm their way out of any sort of accountability, or any sound, rational, logical justification for their absurd claims. I mean, it couldn’t be that there’s something spurious about Mormonism, Amway, and channelling, so it must be the error of those people who feel that way, surely? I can’t help but get the feeling that, underneath the many masks and the histrionics, Hicks is a woman hiding a victim complex: she could use a dose of whatever self-help bullshit she spews out to the masses. Indeed, it is a commonplace that ‘spiritual’ teachers preach about the very thing that they are themselves lacking in — it is a form of psychological displacement, transference, projection, whatever you want to call it: it’s easier to bypass your own demons by focusing on those of others, all in the name of ‘self-help’.
So, let’s look at Hicks’ contribution to the multi-billion-dollar self-help industry and the tactics she has successfully deployed to fleece millions of impressionable people.
Hicks has translated the voices in her head into multiple books, lectures, workshops, and even a cruise. The mention of Hicks by Oprah Winfrey, who is known for her penchant for all things woo, no doubt galvanised her popularity amongst the gullible masses.
Hicks is predominantly known for her preaching on the LOA; a half-woo, half-pseudoscience that New Agers have increasingly fawned over since the release of ‘The Secret’. In essence, the LOA is a belief that the Universe exists to serve our whims and desires. Obviously, many affluent, influential, and gullible people — like Winfrey — like to believe that stuff like this is actually real: in an increasingly secularised world, we all need something to believe in, right? It’s a surefire money-maker and lends itself to a sense of magic to our otherwise empty, materialistic existence; and yet the irony is that LOA gurus — in particular those who contributed to ‘The Secret’ — appeal to the masses’ mammonism by claiming that, through the LOA, we can manifest material riches beyond our wildest dreams, simply by thinking about it, and by believing we are deserving of it. Whether or not we are in fact deserving of endless abundance is another story, suffice it to say it is no coincidence that the LOA gained popularity amongst millennials in an increasingly narcissistic, materialistic, and self-entitled culture.
Hicks is truly the master of the quantum-woo routine, or the predisposition for investing mystical ideas with a pseudo-scientific basis that, in reality, has zero basis in actual science. She spouts the notion of the ‘observer effect’, which put succinctly, allows people to shape their own reality using their feelings, or in spiritual jargon, ‘energetic alignment’. And how is Hicks privileged to such knowledge? Through her magical channelling of dead people, or inter-dimensional beings, or whatever the latest trendy term amongst the New Agers is.
Hicks’ scheme for telling you how to live a wonderful life consists of the following (my own thoughts are in bold):
· You are a physical extension of that which is non-physical. In other words, we are a soul that inhabits a body. Nothing ground-breaking there.
· You are here in this body because you chose to be here. Did I?
· The basis of your life is freedom, and the purpose of your life is joy. Well, duh.
· You are a creator; you create your reality with your thoughts alone. Not through my actions, too?
· Anything that you can imagine is yours to be or do or have. Sounds too good to be true, right? That’s because it is.
· You are choosing your creations as you are choosing your thoughts. Once again, she is stating the obvious, for we all have free will.
· The Universe adores you; for it knows your broadest intentions. There’s so much wrong with this, I’m not even going to bother…
· Relax into your natural well-being. All is well. Like most of Hicks’ platitudes, it sounds good, but lacks any real substance.
· You are a creator of thoughtways on your unique path of joy. In other words, happiness is a choice. Such a statement is ludicrously reductive. And what the fuck is a ‘thoughtway’ other than another fancy yet meaningless New Age neologism?
· Actions to be taken and money to be exchanged are by-products of your focus on joy. ‘Money to be exchanged’. In other words, if you want to be happy, give Hicks your money. A clever marketing tactic using language association, which is no doubt one of Jerry’s machinations.
· You may appropriately depart your body without illness or pain. With analgesics, sure we can. But try telling that to the soldier slowly bleeding to death on the battlefield. This is another example of Hicks’ penchant for absurd and often uncompassionate generalisations.
· You cannot die. Various religions and sects have been spouting this one for thousands of years.
So, what we have here are all the elements of feel-good gibberish. In one fell swoop, Hicks appeals to the disempowered and the lost. Chiefly by exploiting people’s fears and desires — like all good marketers — she gives the disempowered the means to feel empowered and gives the lost a feeling of purpose and hope. Her philosophy, or should I say Abraham’s philosophy, has all the hallmarks of semi-religious, cultish bollocks that thousands of people so gullibly fall for.
Here’s a quote from the website Rational Wiki which neatly sums up my own response to Hicks’/Abrahams’ philosophy:
“The basic theme is that the Universe has a consciousness and “adores” everyone (this provides easy “meaning” to existence and confers cosmic significance to individuals); that people can create anything they want just by thinking about it (no effort required to reach whatever dream you may have); and that people are immortal (no need to fear death). This is the ultimate in McDonald’s theology: all the fears people have of meaninglessness, insignificance, lost goals and dreams, and ultimately death are taken care of, without the person needing to do anything.”
Just sit back, imagine your perfect life, and let the all-loving Universe bring it to you because, according to the LOA, the Universe exists to serve us and has nothing better to do than pander to our every materialistic whim. So, not only does the LOA promote egocentrism, self-entitlement, materialism, and greed, it promotes idleness to boot.
One thing that can always be counted on in the self-help world is that every major proponent and self-ordained guru is in it for the big bucks. We need look no further than the conflict between Esther Hicks and the director of the film ‘The Secret’ to illustrate this point.
There is so much about ‘The Secret’ that is at once laughable, irresponsible, or downright insane that I can’t adequately critique it here. Suffice it to say, the film peddles the idea that the almighty and unassailable LOA can help people manifest whatever they want — from sports cars to making their incurable brain tumour disappear. The author of the book and producer of the eponymous film, Rhonda Byrne, claims to have corrected her failing eyesight in just three days, simply through the power of positive thinking; and subsequent LOA acolytes have made similar claims, including changing the very shape of their bodies overnight, simply by visualising themselves thin, or with bigger breasts (add narcissism and vanity to the list of things promoted by the LOA). I’m not suggesting these people are full of shit, but…
Esther Hicks appeared in the original cut of ‘The Secret’ to the tune of half a million dollars, but when Byrne wanted to release an ‘extended edition’ (adding even more bullshit) Hicks demanded more money. Naturally, if Hicks had applied her own teachings, and simply thought about getting more money, then the omni-benevolent Universe would have granted her wish; but it seems the LOA doesn’t work, not even for its chief proponent. It worked out badly for Hicks, and the conflict ended up with Byrne omitting every appearance of Esther and Jerry Hicks in the movie, creating some seriously disjointed narrative flow in what is already an incohesive mess of soundbites from popular self-help gurus and quotations from influential figures (from Abraham Lincoln to Leonardo Da Vinci) taken out of their historical and semantic context.
In a classic comeback, Esther said her issue with not being paid enough wasn’t down to the fact that she had issues with the movie and the director, but rather her alien alter ego ‘Abraham’ decided that it would be best if they renegotiated the contract. And when that ploy didn’t go her way, Hicks (or Abraham) spat her dummy out, and pulled the classic stunt of releasing her/their own version of ‘The Secret’ called ‘The Secret Behind the Secret’ — another example of Hicks professing her ‘privileged’ knowledge: of course, only she knows the real secret; a secret that — according to the film — has been protected by thought-leaders for thousands of years; a secret that is so arcane and mystical, and a secret that is so secretive, that Byrne decided to share it with the world in a cheesy film via Oprah Winfrey.
To be sure, where there is one charlatan making money hand over fist, others will follow. To quote Rational Wiki again:
“One such set of wannabes is the World Legacy Project or “Solutions”. This outfit of scammers and schemers set up camp telling the world they can do just about anything from curing cancer to becoming uber-wealthy just like Bill Gates! “All you have to do is dream”, says Mari Tierney, the founder of the Legacy organization”.
A quick look into the backgrounds of the people involved in this stunt reveals they were convicted of fraud, criminal theft, and served jail time. Just saying.
Channelling has become a bit of a trend amongst New Agers, a bit like being an ‘empath’ or a ‘light worker’. We’re so desperately in need of a sense of identity and belonging in an increasingly depersonalised and disconnected world, we seek to assign such labels to ourselves, or so it seems.
My main beef with channelling isn’t whether there is any empirically verifiable basis for it, but rather the tendency for channelers, such as Hicks, to absolve themselves of all accountability for their so-called messages, or indeed the tendency for channelers, such as Hicks, to use their alter egos as a scapegoat, as illustrated in the example of Hicks’ feud over ‘The Secret’: it’s a classic case of shunning responsibility, because the channeler would say ‘they made me do it’. As teachers and guides, self-help gurus have a responsibility to be authentic, and as their punters we need to invest a degree a trust in what they say and do: they are accountable; and their accountability is part of their authenticity, which builds trust. And so, when accountability shifts from the guru to a disembodied collective of aliens and ghosts called ‘Abraham’, where is the trust, and where is the accountability?
Are you seriously going to make life-changing decisions and take life-changing actions based on what someone who claims to channel inter-dimensional being tells you to do?
It is, of course, your call. But the point is this: I urge you to be mindful of the money-grabbing charlatans. Just because they dress themselves up as ‘spiritual’ or self-help gurus does not make their intentions any less unscrupulous; it’s simply their hook to fleece their target market, exploiting people’s dreams and fears, like all good hustlers do.
Hicks is such a hustler.