I am the Woo Fighter.
In both New Thought movement and in women’s spirituality subcultures, I witness too much woo.
Woo is a term for pseudoscientific explanations that share certain common characteristics, often being too good to be true (aside from being unscientific)… Woo is used to blind or distract an audience from a real explanation or to discourage people from delving deeper into the subject to find a more realistic explanation. (RationalWiki.)
In my earlier posts here, I have warned my readers of classism and ableism presented under the guise of New Age spirituality and positive-thinking.
As I noted then, their woo effectively functions to gaslight victims of the unjust system and of violence, while upholding the supremacy of the privileged people’s perspectives over of those who are oppressed. Instead of delving deeper into the subject of patriarchy, kyriarchy, capitalism, and other institutional systems of society, their woo explains that victims allegedly chose to become victims because of their mindset or character defect. While positive thinking can greatly help shape attitudes and thus affect human behaviors in a more constructive way, in and of itself it’s not a magic thinking that will make victims into fictions and oppressions into a fantasy.
The infestation of New Age philosophy and grotesque distortions of the historical New Thought teachings within today’s New Thought centers and teachers is not a mere passing trend, but is rather a product of the commodification of New Thought churches into profit centers that peddle books, videos, and retreat tickets by self-appointed gurus who may be promoting certain aspects of New Thought but often without the requisite understanding of its historic and philosophical contexts, and often mixed with a number of questionable New Age elements.
Likewise, today’s women’s spirituality industry is full of woo that generates millions of dollars in profits to those who sell that woo. This is a stark departure from the women’s spirituality and feminist theology movements of the 1970s that sought to undermine the predominant capitalist-patriarchal system. With the increased acceptance of non-Christian spirituality in the West, however, this became a new business opportunity. The self-appointed psychics, healers, authors, and other Female Lifestyle Empowerment Business people prey on desperate people at difficult and challenging crossroads of life, tell them that they are somehow defective people in need for help (and this “help” means their products and services), offer them unqualified, pseudoscientific, and unethical “diagnosis” (despite most of them not possessing any license to practice medicine or clinical psychology) along with their silver-bullet lotions and potions (or their retreat programs or books or $500-a-session webinars, or whatever).
Today, I declare myself to be a Woo Fighter.
It’s time to bring back sanity, ethics, reason, and justice to spirituality that has morphed into “spiritual entrepreneurship.”
In particular, I will target my righteous wrath toward:
- Those who guilt-trip and shame their clients and prospects into buying their “spiritual” products that they can’t even afford.
- Those who tell people that they are “investing in themselves” when they shell out the precious little money they have on whatever the programs or products — with false and misleading promises of guaranteed success or wealth.
- Those who misappropriate indigenous, non-Western, and ancient cultural traditions without sound scholarship, due respect, and understanding of history, anthropology, and traditional cultures.
- Those who place the emotion over the reason.
- Those who excuse poor judgment and recklessness by saying that they are just “following their heart.” (And teach others to do the same.)
- Those who weaponize their woo to abuse people and promote classism, ableism, white cultural supremacy, victim-blaming, body-shame, and others.
- Those who use astrology, spiritual omens, “bad energy,” or any other woo-woo language to excuse their lack of responsibility, their flakiness, their hate speech, or their exclusion of those whom they don’t like.
- Those who sell spirituality to the highest bidders and to the affluent, while acting like those who are poor that they don’t deserve it.
This is just a short, incomplete list.
If you’re not working for a world that works for everyone, you are not practicing a real spirituality.
Your spiritual awareness should naturally lead to a consciousness that leads to ethical, honest business practice and drive for social justice. This is true whether you’re Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Pagan, “spiritual but not religious,” or anything else, even if you’re an atheist.
Discussion? You are invited to my new Contemporary Priestess discussion forum.
Addendum: If you think “woo” is a “racial slur,” here is a very likely definitive etymology of “woo-woo,” which originated in 1983 and first used by New Age musician George Winston as recorded in the New Age Journal, most likely as an onomatopoeia imitating the sounds of a New Age music. According to the Xinhua Zidian, the official Chinese characters dictionary published by the Chinese government-sponsored Commercial Press, there are over 150 Chinese characters that sound like “woo” according to the Beijing standard pronunciation, some of which mean “bad,” “raven,” “pollution,” “five,” and “nothing.” Also Wu (sometimes romanized as Woo) is a common Chinese surname. While one of such Chinese characters happens to mean “witch,” “shaman,” or a “sorcerer,” the American English usage of the word woo almost always refers to paranormals, New Age, and various other non-traditional spiritual activities by white people. It is almost never used in reference to any East Asian traditional religions or spiritual practices (except, of course, for versions of those which are stolen and misappropriated by white Americans). Another theory that woo-woo derived from “voodoo,” is even less credible with no documented connections. Once again, the word woo almost invariably refers to the white New Age movement, not Afro-Caribbean traditions (except, of course, those that were stolen and misappropriated by white Americans!). Coincidence does not equal etymology.