Snake Oil Salesman, High Priest of Modernity, or Both?
Wayne Dyer, who died a few days ago, is the epitome of the high priests of the secular age, such as Tony Robbins and Marianne Williamson, who surreptitiously blend the language of Christianity into their pitch with seductive messages rooted entirely in emotion and feelings that appeal to the "worried well" generation where all of the creature comforts have been met in terms of easy access to food, transportation, housing, recreation, etc.
But the problem is that we've arrived at a point in time where the self is reflecting the larger society as a whole -- it's in a state of perpetual discontent in which therapeutic platitudes are just perishable band-aids hiding much deeper spiritual and moral failures.
The self-help gurus of our times co-opt and cloak the language of Christianity with the false and deceptive promise of self-realization, self-actualization, or whatever you want to call it. But man cannot perfect himself. There is the saying "Man is one dog-bite away from fallibility" that accurately describes what is wrong with these techniques. Can the indigent, mentally and physically disabled, sociopaths and psychopaths self-liberate through a false promise of perfectibility? What happens when a natural catastrophe or an accident destroys one's security and all is left is misery?
It is the neurosis of the 'worried well' that obsess with personal shortcomings in a society obsessed with success. It’s Americans following the high priests towards the mirage of moral perfection as the world burns while ignoring the inherent evil and corruption of man. It is highly doubtful a "self-actualized" person is going to solve the problems of Islamic terrorism, drug addiction, poverty, crime, hunger -- and the list goes on ad infinitum.
Dyer could have been an outstanding spokesmen for conservatism. According to CNN's report on his death, Dyer was a self-made man, an orphan who bucked the liberal ideology of victimhood without envy for the rich and successful in society. My guess is that with the success of his first best-selling self-help book, Your Erroneous Zones, and the large amount of money it made for him, he embarked on a career to reach the widest possible audience in the least offensive manner. He knew that touting a conservative message would alienate and cut off a huge segment of the population who might buy his books.
Like all of the self-help and new age gurus, Dyer's emphasis on feelings and emotions and how to feel good about oneself was like candy for the soul. It provided a temporary 'sugar high' but it was a buzz that wore off shortly after reading one of his books or listening to him lecture leaving you right back where you started -- living with the stark facts of one's personal reality of insecurities and inadequacies as well as the reality of a world filled with tragedy and evil.