Wayne Dyer, “Lord” David R. Hawkins, and PBS

Dr. David R. Hawkins was basically introduced to the world by Dr. Wayne Dyer on PBS. Dr. Dyer has raised more than $100 million for PBS, and surely deserves our praise for this.

However, Dr. Dyer, a much-beloved motivational speaker and proponent of the controversial New Thought movement, has also endorsed a variety of questionable teachers, from Sathya Sai Baba to John of God, and from Esther and Jerry Hicks to Gary Renard. Additionally, he seems to have implied that he believes he may have been Saint Francis in a past life, and thinks (or his “ego” thinks) he should rank as being more spiritually influential than the Dalai Lama.

While Dr. Hawkins’ claim to being endorsed by Mother Teresa, Sam Walton, and Lee Iacocca has been disproved by his biographer, Scott Jeffrey, Dr. Dyer’s endorsement of Power vs. Force (Hay House, 2002) continues to stand: “Perhaps the most important and significant book I’ve read in the past ten years.” (Which makes one wonder what books he typically reads; although, in fairness, the book would seem exhilarating if one didn’t have all of the facts — on the order of one of the most important books ever written, actually, which appears to be why some people “rush to gush.”) Furthermore, Hay House still uses an altered statement of Mother Teresa’s to sell Dr. Hawkins’ books, despite the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Center confirming that Mother Teresa did not intend to endorse Dr. Hawkins’ work (she seems to have merely responded cordially to an unsolicited manuscript of Power vs. Force sent to her by Dr. Hawkins).

Dyer, Hawkins, the Hickses, and Renard are all published by Hay House. In fact, Dyer is responsible for Hawkins being added to the Hay House roster in the first place. Prior to this time, Hawkins merely self-published his books through Vertias Publishing (veritas meaning truth in Latin, though Veritas Publishing does not have the best track record when it comes to truth). Incidentally, the Hickses — Esther being the channeler of “Abraham” — use a similar scale (2004) to Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness (1995), which likewise seems to derive — whether directly or indirectly — from L. Ron Hubbard (1951).

Yet, Gary Renard, himself a controversial teacher and interpreter of A Course in Miracles, has also criticized Dr. Hawkins’ work in his Hay House book Your Immortal Reality: How to Break the Cycle of Birth and Death:

One of the things [Hawkins] does is use [Hawkins applied] kinesiology, which is muscle testing, to test the truthfulness of statements … making a kind of lie-detector test out of it… The hidden ego hook is that now the student’s attention is being put on the wrong place, focused on an illusory test of an illusory thing in an illusory world… [Hawkins] calibrates different teachings at various levels, from 1 to 1,000. People love it… [But] the Course [states]…’Spirit has no levels, and all conflict arises from the concept of levels.’… Enlightenment has no levels…things like tests and calibrations distract the student…and all it really leads to is a lot of wasted time… Add the lie-detector test to the mix and you have a lifetime’s worth of distractions… Don’t be discouraged by those who borrow from the Course instead of teaching it.

(Note that Renard has confirmed in personal correspondence that his “teachers” — that is, the ascended masters from the future, Arten and Pursah! — were referring to David Hawkins.)

It is curious that Dr. Hawkins would even assent to being published by Hay House, though it is actually a natural fit, since likely many of its authors he would rank as negative/false or calibrate below 200 (which, ironically, derives from Hubbard’s below 2.0). As we recall, Hay House authors Doreen Virtue, and definitely Deepak Chopra (who has also been featured on PBS), for instance, Hawkins calibrated as being below 200. Hawkins disagreed with the “astral circus,” and probably much of the Hay House catalog he would place under this peculiar heading. (We confess that we are unsure precisely what astral means, though we don’t believe it has, oddly, ever been given strict definition.)

Given the quality of Dr. Dyer’s endorsements and the work of Hay House authors generally, are Wayne Dyer and Hay House truly appropriate for PBS? (Especially considering that there are far-more-pressing mysteries to be solved?)

Should Dr. Dyer actually get a free pass since he is not apparently aligned with a particular established religion, though he is committed to a New Thought belief system? Let’s not forget that Dyer introduced David R. Hawkins to the world on PBS: a medical doctor (psychiatrist) who believed that organic cigarette smoking is not harmful, climate change is not human-originated (he was a Fox News viewer, considering Bill O’Reilly to be a “bellwether of integrity“), and “the mind has no capacity to tell truth from falsehood.” Dr. Hawkins even stated that he experienced a temptation to becomeRuler of the Universe” — a far cry from Christ’s temptation of political power over the kingdoms of the world, which Hawkins appears to have attempted to emulate (maybe the next person to do so will state that she was tempted to become ruler of the multiverse).

Followers of “His” teachings consider Dr. Hawkins as the Avatar and refer to him as “Lord,” while adhering to the pseudoscientific divination technique Hawkins Applied Kinesiology and wondering whether it might justify “immoral and illegal” actions such as “killing somebody” (which might have meant murder, euthanasia, or something else — no clarification was offered). We are by no means suggesting that Dr. Dyer or PBS saw this coming, but a little more investigation by Dyer and/or PBS in the beginning — e.g. regarding Hawkins’ endorsements, doctorate, methods, and knighthood — might have stemmed the tide before it got so far out of hand. This is not asking too much: Wikipedians discovered most of this on their own.

It took Dr. Hawkins’ biographer, Scott Jeffrey — a close confidante and devotee for about a decade — to discover the truth of Hawkins’ endorsements nearly 20 years after the initial self-publication of Power vs. Force (Veritas Pub., 1995), a book loaded with scientific-sounding language without much substance, combined with mystical testimony and several spiritual platitudes (such as love is more powerful than hate). For his efforts, Mr. Jeffrey — an excellent author, deep thinker, and creative individual —  has hilariously been labelled by members of Hawkins’ devoted community as “Luciferic,” a “Spiritual Snake,” and even a “Judas!” Hawkins being seen as basically all good, anyone who disagrees with his teachings or reveals uncomfortable facts related to him, we suppose is viewed as essentially all bad (all of that taught “unconditional love” just flies right out the window!). Love itself, in the Hawkins community, appears to be more about loyalty and love for Hawkins “Himself” and his “Devotional Nonduality community,” rather than for truth and our fellow human beings, including our “enemies.”

Is pseudoscience really spiritual or magical thinking, a precursor to rationality or the transcendence of it?

Is Dr. Dyer’s work truly comparable to that of Joseph Campbell and Leo Buscaglia (that beautiful soul otherwise called “Dr. Love“), both of whom were also highly beloved and have been famously featured on public television, and who are held up by PBS executives seemingly as a possible justification for Dr. Dyer’s motivational — yet demonstrably pseudoscientific and pro-New Thought belief system — pledge-drive specials?

Let’s start the conversation!

Michael Getler, the PBS ombudsman, has stated that “self-help guru” Dr. Dyer is “certainly the king of controversy as far as my inbox goes.” (Search “Dyer” at the Ombudsman Archive to see numerous comments throughout the years regarding Dr. Dyer.) According to Getler, “Not all of the mail I get [about Dr. Dyer] is critical, some is complimentary. But the vast majority of what comes to me is disapproving.”

Keep in mind that when we buy Dr. Dyer’s “whole enchilada” or another product or package during pledge drives, Dyer is just the tip of the iceberg — sort of a relatively palatable salesman and definitely likable ambassador-evangelist — of a seemingly grand and bizarre, if often entertaining and benign, world of fringe and outlandish (and possibly harmful if followed, such as eschewing sound medical advice in favor of “intuitive wisdom” or some such [although Hay House does use disclaimers to encourage customers to consult medical authorities]) theories offered by Hay House and endorsed directly in Dyer’s products. In any case, there does seem to be something inherently damaging or possibly negligent in not encouraging critical thinking, especially for a diverse PBS audience, and maintaining that everything is “positive” despite available evidence; and to get what we “really, really, really, really want,” it is essential that we relentlessly engage in positive thinking. Do such teachings truly help people? It seems unlikely, at least in the long run.

Such a doctrine of positive thinking to get what one wants is an example of Dyer’s commitment to New Thought beliefs, such as reincarnation and manifestation or law of attraction, to which he pins an apparent diverse array of religious and psychological traditions, such that these varied traditions conform to his preconceived New Thought concepts. Since New Thought appears to be relatively unfamiliar in detail to most people, this fact will conceivably go unnoticed; but PBS ought to be held to higher standards and be cognizant of such particular religious thought systems being portrayed as religious pluralism.

Do we really need to rely on this sort of stuff to get funding for public television? Surely there are other motivational proponents of pluralistic wisdom traditions that do not willfully suspend evidence-based reasoning? (Perhaps Dyer himself could become one, possibly under PBS’ guidance? Maybe Neil deGrasse Tyson, David Pogue, Bill Nye, SciGirls, or Sid the Science Kid could lend a hand? Or might Dyer be able to channel the spirit of Carl Sagan?) For example, how about one of the numerous people who have been affiliated with the Stanford School of Medicine’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE)? Or an expert in the fascinating and burgeoning field of Positive Psychology?

It seems we must be able to bring motivation to viewers (by the way — Hello, Reader: You can do it! We Believe in You!), and funding to PBS, without having to seemingly compromise our integrity and values in the process. When you look at the lineup of PBS shows:

One of these things is not like the others.

One of these things doesn’t belong.

…Did you guess which thing?

It seems PBS may be slipping toward the way of the History Channel, with its Ancient Aliens and other blatantly profit-motivated-over-educational programming. Also, it’s probably best not to set up in people’s minds that just because one has an advanced degree — “New Age spiritual doc (Ph.D.) Wayne Dyer” — one should necessarily be trusted as an expert in general, especially when one relies heavily on anecdotal evidence. How about a fun show on critical thinking instead, PBS? Or a more compelling and well-reasoned special involving motivational wisdom?

Dear readers, if you believe that Wayne Dyer should not be featured on PBS, or at least ought to have his programs more properly vetted — for example, by looking closely into what he is promoting before his fundraising specials are broadcast, so that the burden is not placed on unsuspecting viewers up to a decade laterplease express your views to Mr. Getler. Thank you!

Please also consider contacting Paula Kerger, President and CEO of PBS, who thoroughly understands the value of quality programming for our nation.

Additionally, please contact your local PBS station.

For a few excellent PBS programs of a religious, philosophical, and spiritual nature, consider Beyond Theology, Closer to Truth, and the classic series Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth. Such programs may not bring in as much pledge-drive funding, but at least they are more becoming our national treasure: PBS.

Readers Like You: Thank You.

[Compare The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan]

[Update: We were saddened to learn of the loss of Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. Dr. Dyer taught that one should not pass with one’s music still within one, and he exemplified this teaching. He was an inspiration to us and to millions.

Note that by 2015, he had raised more than $200 million for public television stations. Despite our misgivings, we can’t help but feel of a kindred spirit with a fellow PBS lover. God bless you, Wayne Dyer.]