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The Strange Case of Marlo Morgan

October 6, 2010

Back in the days before the internet took off as an effective means of opposing new age fraud, an American woman, Marlo Morgan, pulled off possibly the most brazen, stupid and above all, bizarre scam in the long history of bizarre new age scams.

It’s a story that illustrates the damage that can be done by a “positive” message. The entire indigenous population of Australia had its identity quite literally stolen, and suffered a form of cultural assassination. And of course, tens of millions of fans world-wide lost their cash and believed a whole lot of utterly fake information. 

Very simply stated, Marlo Morgan travelled to Australia in the late 1980s and returned with a bizarre story about meeting a hitherto unknown Aboriginal tribe, travelling with them through the desert for about three months, learning their secrets and being chosen by them to be the final guardian of their culture and their messenger to the world.

Marlo Morgan: self declared “guardian” of Aboriginal culture 

In fact the tribe doesn’t exist and Marlo actually spent her time working in a pharmacy in Brisbane, not wandering about in the desert. Aborigines themselves found her writings so offensive that they have unanimously demanded that Morgan admit the fraud and acknowledge that she does not speak for Aborigines.

Her self published “non fiction” account, Mutant Message Down Under, was a run away success in the US. Harper Collins recognised its potential, bought the rights and relabeled it “fiction” to avoid prosecution. Morgan wrote a Note From the Author assuring readers that the story was true — a statement which she seems herself at times to believe, but which her publishers see as part of the fiction. The book was a massive hit with New Agers. She appeared on Oprah, and her extraordinary story crossed over into the mainstream. Her bestseller was eventually translated into 26 languages.

Morgan reports that she was invited by the Australian Government to go to Australia and do “health work”. After helping a group of Aborigines she receives a mysterious invitation to an award ceremony somewhere in the desert. She is driven there by a mysterious driver and meets a mysterious tribe calling themselves the Real People, who make her throw her clothes and belongings into a fire. They instruct her to travel with them through the desert. They set off and Marlo receives horrendous cuts to her feet from walking over “razor-sharp” spinifex grass. She notices her tribe remain uninjured because of their hardened feet. By this point at the latest, Australian readers know there’s something wrong with this story.

This is spinifex grass:

It’s the grass that kind of prickles a little as it brushes against your legs when you walk through the dunes to an Australian beach. Spinifex, as you can see, grows in clumps. So what on earth was Marlo doing to injure her feet so horribly? Leaping from clump to clump? The Real People used a “special healing oil” to heal her feet. (Morgan was later selling this oil (tee tree oil) to her adoring fans back in the US.)

Her story becomes ever more bizarre. Her tribe tells her they have until now avoided contact with civilisation, including other “civilised” aboriginal tribes. She is the first “outsider” the Real People have contacted since long before the invasion and settlement by Europeans. No doubt that explains why the Real People have virtually none of the culture, traditions, customs or social relationships one would normally expect to find among Australian Aborigines. And maybe it is due to Divine Oneness, which the Real People regularly invoke, that their philosophy and lifestyle are virtually identical to pasty New Age clichés, popular New Age depictions of Native American culture, and, as several other critics have noticed, Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear series.

Maybe their isolation from other Aborigines over many centuries explains why the Real People regularly commit acts which would traditionally have led to the death penalty. Men’s and women’s knowledge and rituals, for example, are strictly separated. Yet Morgan learns mens ritual and sacred teachings, and even reports women using menstrual blood to “heal” men’s wounds.

Aboriginal groups are characterised by highly complex social structures which are of course known to each other and respected as a matter of course. Morgan’s Real People, on the other hand, have none of this complexity, forming an amorphous free-form glob. And of course, they communicate using mental telepathy, a skill which “fallen” modernised Aborigines have lost.

Just as unexpected is Morgan’s depiction of life in the desert. Wandering about in the Nullabor Plain in the middle of summer without water and without even a hat is a very quick way to die. But Morgan’s tribe do it, and they love it. They have magical powers and they can survive.

One reviewer, Chris Sitka, notes:

Marlo claims to have been taught many wisdoms by her guides. Yet she describes virtually none of the regular spiritual practices and day to day activities of actual desert people….Her people were not performing their ritual obligations. Instead of singing for the country they gave what Marlo describes as ‘a concert’….People ‘sing their country’ in ancient chants accompanied by dance and sometimes sand drawings. Instead of experiencing and sharing with us her observations of such activities Marlo describes a very Western like concert for which her clan manufactures instruments never used in Australian traditions such as wind chimes and flutes. What’s more they include in the concert a bullroarer which is a highly sacred instrument which women are forbidden to listen to. However it did appear in a Crocodile Dundee movie which may account for Marlo’s familiarity with it. Likewise the percussive instrument of Australian peoples are the clapping sticks. They do not and did not use drums. Yet Marlo has them making drums.

Morgan recounts how they came upon a water hole and her first impulse was to jump in. The Real People were wiser and told her to wait while they sat and meditated before the water hole. Soon two large crocodiles emerged from the water hole and waddled away, leaving Morgan free and safe to enjoy the water at her leisure.

Now, it is true that there are many dangers in vast desert areas like the Nullabor, but being eaten by a crocodile is NOT one of them. Any croc would have to traverse a couple of thousand miles of burning desert sands in order to inhabit such a water hole. Some commentators have evoked quantum physics to explain such events as these.

One only needs to read a Quantum Physics textbook to delve into the strange, mystical world of sub-atomic particles. None of the seemingly extra-ordinary events depicted in Mutant Message Down Under can be refuted by modern science…

Sorry, but the crocodile is not widely considered by physicists to be a subatomic unit. And if they did suddenly start appearing from nowhere, it would actually cause some substantial revisions to modern science.

The fun continues, as Morgan recounts her wandering over vast tracts of desert. The light brown area shown here is the kind of area she claims to have roamed about in. (For scale, the light brown area is about 1,000 x 1,500 miles.) While it may look plausible that a small tribe could wander about for centuries in that light brown area without bumping into anyone else, the reality is different. Apart from the fact that environmental degradation has made it virtually impossible to obtain sustenance from the land, Morgan was ignorant of an essential aspect of the culture she claims to know so much about.

Here’s a map showing Aboriginal territories.

Morgan’s journey would have taken her across dozens of tribal boundaries and her tribe would be bound by tribal law to request permission before entering any of these areas. Her tribe never does this. Nor is there any part left for the vaguely described territory Morgan’s tribe claim as their own.

The climax of the story comes as the Real People reveal to Morgan the true reason for “calling” her from the US.

Their “time” has come. They have fulfilled their duty to the planet, and they now wish simply to die out. They have chosen Morgan because of her “special abilities” and “good character” to learn their culture and master their spiritual traditions. The last “true Aborigines” have committed themselves to extinction through celibacy, and they have chosen a manic depressive middle aged American as the final guardian of their culture and their messenger to the world.

And tens of millions of people around the world believe it.

Aborigines, the real three dimensional ones, the ones whose ancestors left Africa more than 50,000 years ago, and who are still struggling to survive in the face of 200 years of systematic genocide, are not happy about this at all.


More articles collected on this site.

See also: Marlo Morgan: Lies don’t count as fiction

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56 comments

  1. Excellent article! What’s interesting about Marlo Morgan is that she admitted her fraud, and yet the media never really picked up the story and went with it. She was on Oprah, eh? Interesting. Thanks for posting, and you too keep up the good work. I’ll cross post this article on my blog. I am now subscribed to your blog!


  2. Thanks, Britt. And thanks for putting together such a fine blog of your own. I don’t know how I didn’t come across it earlier. I will definitely be linking to it in the future.

    Yeh, Marlo Morgan was on Oprah, and her book is still being used in schools and even the odd university course. She’s still giving public lectures on “Aboriginal Culture” as well. I was campaigning against it quite a lot a few years ago, and got to speak to a few people who met her personally. Their reports and Morgan’s behaviour in general makes me suspect she is suffering from a clinically diagnosable condition, maybe bipolar disorder. That would explain why she can flip from crying and admitting the hoax, to suddenly insisting it’s true again a short time later.

    Anyway, as we know, Oprah doesn’t fact check, and the rest is history. In terms of its factual accuracy, it is probably one of the most wildly inaccurate books ever written. One wouldn’t necessarily realise it unless one knew Australia a bit, but it would be difficult to get that many basic facts about a country wrong without trying.


  3. […] my earlier article for more details, and this article by Cath Ellis, for a more detailed account of the whole […]


  4. I recently found the book in a 2nd hand bookstore. Having read the opening 2 chapters I found it bizarre and stopped reading. I had no idea it was a ‘fraud’ but it is very badly written. I was shocked to see recommendations by people such as Elizabeth Kubler-Ross. I can only assume they was fabricated too. Very sad. Can anyone recommend to me an Authentic book about Aboriginal Culture? Many thanks…


  5. She certainly fooled a lot of people. The subject matter is little known, and it’s rare that people lie so brazenly and openly and still get published, so people tend to take it at face value. I suspect she suffers from bi-polar disorder or some other form of psychosis.

    In any case, I can recommend Daughters of the Dreaming by Diane Bell.

    Diane Bell was doing a doctorate in anthropology and lived in an Aboriginal community for a few years, and wrote an interesting account of her experiences & a good description of the life & social structures etc.

    Historian Henry Reynolds has also written some excellent histories, such as With the White People, about the earliest contacts between Aborigines and settlers/invaders; and The Other Side of the Frontier, about Aboriginal resistance to invasion – a rarely discussed topic.

    I linked to this in the text as well, but there’s a thorough account of the entire Morgan scandal here:
    http://marlomorgan.wordpress.com/helping-yourself-fabrication-of-aboriginal-culture/

    Thanks for your comment.


  6. […] devoted some space on this blog to the bizarre case of Marlo Morgan, enemy to the indigenous people of Australia. Her fake story about the death of “real” […]


  7. That the book came from her mind rather than her physical experiences doesn’t necessarily reduce the value of the mindsets shared in it.


  8. Her mindset is a large part of the problem. If you read the article, you will notice that she claims that “real” Australian Aborigines wish to die out, that she now speaks for them (after mastering their 40,000 year old culture in the space of two months) and that the surviving Aborigines are fakes. And, as you acknowledge, she’s making it up and selling it as a true story.

    It is hard to reduce the the value of that kind of mindset any further.


  9. “Back in the days before the internet took off as an effective means of opposing new age fraud”

    …this is my favorite phrase in all of blogdom now.

    And what a story, Yakaru! I had no idea that book was fiction. I read it back in the day.


  10. I have to get around to posting about the opposition from Aboriginal groups. That’s also quite a story….Stay tuned….


  11. Here´s a link to an Australian radio documentary on assorted Australian hoaxes (as an mp3 file).

    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/hindsight/oh-the-stories-we-tell-an-incomplete-history-of/3032292

    The programme runs 50 minutes, the Marlo Morgan section starts 25 minutes in and runs for the next 15 minutes (so skip the first 25 minutes if you need to). There is a fair bit of indigenous koori contribution to the discussion during that 15 minutes – describing koori responses to correct the record and stop any film of the book being made.

    This book partly caused a lot of trouble for me, in an unusual way. It was one of my then girlfriend´s favourite books. She had me read it. She is German. I am Australian. I told her I found parts of the book to be untrue. I told her I felt that MM was a fraud. Smoking guns were the geographical and plotline content, aboriginal methods of birth control (sic), the description of how to make a didgeridoo (MM has clearly no idea of how a real didgeridoo is made and has never seen the method), and the allegation of cannibalism among aboriginals.

    My assessment of the book greatly upset the (ex-) girlfriend, so I partly blame that book for the harm it did to the relationship. The girlfriend also possibly has some sort of psychosis, as well as what she says is depression and “burn-out”.

    It gets even stranger because I am in a dating website which matches personalities based on 300 or so questions about myself. Of my 70 or so dating matches (out of millions of members worldwide), and inordinate number of them are either aboriginal women or new age shamanic types. The latest such match is a 50 year old American woman doing her walkabout (by camper van) up the coast of Australia, working on a screenplay and blogging her experiences in inter-species communication, inter-galactic energy, and communing with dolphins. She is besides all that, an accupuncturist, masseur, and charlatan. She even looks a lot like a younger version of Marlo Morgan. I wonder if she is a daughter of MM ? She has changed her name to what might be called a bizarre stage persona.

    There was a woman named Olive Pink who did bona fide anthropological work with Australian aborigines nearly a hundred years ago. I do not know what of her work was published widely or is still available, but I gather her work was authentic.


  12. Thanks a lot for that link of the Nyoongar Elder Robert Eggington speaking about his campaign to out Morgan as a hoax. I’d never heard Morgans “apology”. Those tears sound extremely fake to me.

    I must get around to writing about the campaign against her. It’s a great story, and that interview fleshes out some details I didn’t know before.

    I can identify with a great deal of what you write. That book is still extremely popular here in Germany. I spent my first few years here explaining to people it’s a hoax. (I’ve also had occasion to notice it’s a hit with the psychologically disturbed too.)


  13. I will first start off by saying, I believe in the beauty of questioning- and I was willing to read and consider what you’ve written… but you spelled civilization wrong, a number of times. I cant consider your opinion valuble when you can’t even spell a word that is pretty much the basis on this book.


  14. Tori, you’re kidding, right? Because most people know there are alternate spellings for that word, right? And most English-speakers know some words are spelled differently in other English-speaking countries… right?


  15. Tori, according to quantum physics I actually did spell it with a “z”. Non-locality and Heisenberg’s indeterminacy principle can explain why you saw an “s”.


  16. Dear Tori,

    Cant is spelled can´t and valuble is spelled valuable. Civilisation and civilization are the US and English spellings of the same word.
    But in general, spelling mistakes have little bearing on the meaning or rationality of sentences. I know you mean can´t, I know you mean valuable, and I know civilisation and civilization mean the same thing. There is no ambiguity or confusion or corruption of the meaning due to the spelling issue in these examples.

    I am presently reading the second of two books I borrowed on the subject of Sophie Scholl (21-22 year old German decapitated by the Nazis in 1943). I have finished the first book (2005 ?) & it is by one (German) author in English, and am now reading the second book (2009 ?) by an English author in English. The second book by an Englishman has various spelling mistakes, whereas I do not remember seeing any spelling mistakes in the book written in English by a German woman.

    Despite all the spelling mistakes in the second book by a native speaker, the second book (that by an Englishman about a German woman) is far superior in content and quality of scholarship to the first book (written by a German woman about a German woman) written with few if any spelling mistakes.

    By your critical assessment method (spelling mistakes) the second book should be inferior to the first book, but it isn´t inferior, it is better even with the irritating spelling mistakes. I know much more about Sophie Scholl by just reading half of the second book so far, by comparison with reading all of the first book without spelling mistakes. The problem with the first book is it is a sanitised (or sanitized) account inspired by a German documentary film (I think). Anomalously, the second book with the un-self-censored account, which has not been spin-doctored for the German public like the first book, makes Sophie Scholl actually look a better person than the first book does.

    It could be you (Tori) are just a troll, but then maybe I am just a troll-bater.

    Never mind any spelling mistakes, Marlo Morgan describes in Mutant Message how a didgeridoo is made by aboriginals, but her description of the method is totally wrong. She has apparently never seen or learnt how a real didgeridoo is made.

    But then, Americans or Amnesians cant (sic) even spell civilisation (sic) correctly, so how could one expect anyone who is not Australian (as both I (sic me, (sic sic we))), er I and Y(akaru) are) to know how to make a didgeridoo ?

    There is an unconscious irony in the title Mutant Message.

    I hope you can understand some of that.

    Better still, maybe you can find a book about Sophie Scholl and read that to yourself. Hopefully it will take your mind off Marlo Morgan.


  17. The funniest thing is that Morgan’s first (self published) edition has the worst spelling I have ever seen in a published work. She obviously spent about as much time proof reading it as Tori spent proof reading her own comment.

    Okay, I just dug it out of the box I hid it in. Let’s see how far I get before hitting the first error…… First page second sentence contains the word Aboriginie.

    I will gladly bend to Tori’s value system (or valu system!) and accept that standard UK orthography is objectively wrong, if she will apply that same standard to Morgan’s Mutant Message.

    (Incidentally the first sentence contained a factual error.)


  18. Touché!


  19. Well done sir / madam!

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Poe's+Law


  20. Aha, but now the question can be posed: What was Marlo Morgan thinking when she wrote or typed Aboriginie ?

    Is that a spelling error ?

    Or is it a typographical error ?

    Is it her error or the error of the typesetters at the printing works (& / or does self-published mean self – printed / self- duplicated) ?

    Is it phonetic spelling for the benefit of the Amnesian audience who might otherwise pronounce the word incorrectly, gine as in nine not gine as in Jenny).

    Or was it just her way of suggesting the conventional spelling is wrong and only the real people know how aboriginie should be written (some would argue that the spelling is koori, which begs the question how many times does the word koori appear in the book ?)


  21. Well she spells properly in other parts of the book, so it’s not deliberate. On the basis of the rest the book, I it seem sto be a product of a profoundly disordered and scattered mind.

    “Koori” doesn’t appear in the book as far as I can see. No surprise there!


  22. I suspect Marlo Morgan discovered there was an audience and a market for pseudo-spiritual writings in the USA – as a by-product of her original money-making enterprise importing & selling Ti-tree oil.

    She needed a way of working her apocryphal anecdotes about Australia into book-length, once they proved popular with her Amnesian Ti-tree oil customers.

    Where her (defective) memory & (over-fertile) imagination was not up to the task, she borrowed (plagiarised, sic, plagiarized) material from other cranks or frauds or from American native anthropological sources.

    In one way it is a case of the blind leading the blind.

    In another way, it could be a case of “The true facts must be erased from history”, one of my favourite (sic favorite ?) quotes, from Gore Vidal, I think.

    Alternatively, “All roads lead to $”. In Marlo Morgan´s case roughly $2 million.

    I wonder what she has done with the money ? Maybe she gave it to a charity, if she is as spiritual a being as she wants other people to believe she is. i.e. The one person selected by the Real People to convey their message to humanity.

    There is no evidence that Sophie Scholl helped distribute leaflets for personal profit, the leaflets were given out free of charge to unwitting recipients.

    I consider that Sophie Scholl had more spirituality than scores of Marlo Morgans combined.

    The sooner people forget about Marlo Morgan, the better.

    How about a global philanthropical foundation with a campaign to hunt down unread copies of her books and recycle them into something else ? (Confetti ? Or toilet paper ?)

    The better of the two White Rose books I have read is Frank McDonaugh (?), Sophie Scholl The Real Story …


  23. I’ve corresponded with a couple of people who had personal dealings with her. Each of them reported that she was extremely nasty, aggressive, and fundamentally dishonest. (I suspect she has a genuine psychological disorder.)

    As for the money, she claimed at one point she gave it all to an Aboriginal charity, but that was as true as all her other claims.

    Yeh, recycling them would be a worthy project. In fact I recall a quote from someone suggesting “pulping them to make new paper for people to write sensible things on”.


  24. Perhaps Marlo did make up the story. So what. It does not change the primary message which may be completely lost to you. who cares so much about the details of whether a croc lives in the desert, or if they crossed tribal boundaries, blah blah. The message is still one we can take tigress and learn something very valuable. Maybe you should read it again, and put your ego and need for being right by making others wrong, aside.


  25. Well thank you too for not putting your ego aside while commenting and trying to make me wrong.

    And my primary message was obviously lost on you: she claims that the “true” Australian Aborigines want to die out, and asserts that SHE is now the guardian of Aboriginal culture and messenger to the world. She is still giving public lectures on “Aboriginal culture”.

    Aborigines – the real ones, whose culture you acknowledge (and don’t care) that she has stolen, have survived 200 years of genocide and still today face oppression, poverty and the systematic destruction of their culture. Their continued survival depends in large part on international interest. They have earned that world wide interest and respect, and Morgan is parasiting off their hard work and endangering their survival.

    Are you really sure you wish to continue supporting this destructive and racist fraud?


  26. “The message is still one we can take tigress and learn something very valuable.”
    Dear DeAnna,
    Please take your time and explain to me (us) what the message is, in your opinion. I am not sure what you think the message is, and your posting is only vague about it. It would perhaps clear things up or advance the discussion if you explained both what the message is, and what it means to you, and what you think the value is in it.
    Reports have it that a Hollywood studio was prepared to buy the rights to film the book, but I think you are refering to the book´s spiritual value, not the monetary value of the story.
    I am also not fully sure what your sentence quoted above means, particularly the part where you type “we can take tigress”.
    There is another quote along the lines of “You can fool some of the people all of the time (syndrome A) and all of the people some of the time (syndrome B), but you can´t fool all of the people all of the time.”
    Marlo Morgan appears to me to be talking to people who suffer from syndrome A.


  27. This is a racist evil site.


  28. Explain, Jim. What’s racist about it? What’s racist about fighting the lies of someone who’s probably contributing to the destruction of aboriginal culture?


  29. Probably a troll.


  30. Probably?

    Well, okay, there’s no such thing as certainty in science, but I’d say the chance he isn’t a troll is pretty negligible for our purposes. ;)

    Of course, it’s an open question as to whether or not he’s a hit-and-run troll, which I’m not quite as confident about, but yeah, he’s probably not going to come back, and is likely busy patting himself on the back for supporting Morgan’s racist magical aboriginal tropes.


  31. Been away from the internet for a few days.

    Having spoken to many dozens of Morgan fans over the years, I suspect Jim’s insightful critique.is a genuine reflection of his ideas. He is of course referring to racism against Morgan’s non-existent Aborigines, and not any actual humans. It is no exaggeration to say that Morgan has been unanimously condemned as a “fraud and a spiritual thief” by the entire Aboriginal culture in Australia. But Jim isn’t interested in any of that. The spiritual super race of noble savages has been attacked.


  32. I don’t remember if you have already brought up the following details or rumours ? In the blurb on the edition of the book in (the fiction section of) the Coffs Harbour City Library MM or her propagandists relate how the book is being published / represented as fiction due to death threats, despite everything in the book being non-fiction (sic).

    I am not 100% sure, but media reports seem to allege that it was the supporters (accepted or disavowed ?) of Marlo Morgan who were making the death threats against bona fide aboriginals who were irate about the Mad Maven.

    This verbal aggression somehow became transformed & inverted in MM’s self-serving book advertising.

    Diagnostically, I think it is true to form for someone like MM, possibly she’s insane (or more insane than most of us, including me).

    Change of subject.

    I was thinking today about whether philosophically there should be no bridge or overlap betwixt faith on the one hand (religions) and spirituality on another hand.


  33. I know that Morgan told the FBI she was being followed by a group of Aborigines who had issued death threats. It’s probably a distortion of what she was told about the seriousness of her breach of traditional tribal law, and the fact that they travelled to the US to prevent a hollywood production of the book, and followed her for a short time after, interrupting her public lectures to make a short statement, before leaving.

    I also think there’s some value in the term spirituality. If New Age gurus stop killing people, stop ripping people off and stop calling themselves scientists, and stop being such a bunch of ignorant assholes, I might even be prepared to discuss it with them.

    I understand Sam Harris is writing a book defending the use of the term at the moment. I find Harris excellent, except when he’s trying to smuggle meditation into his lectures.


  34. I’ve been looking at the terms “religious” and “spiritual” lately on my blog, and there have been some interesting comments. My problem with making a distinction there is that many “spiritual” people I’ve known, mostly from my Christian days, are just as “religious” as the people at other churches, but they use the term “spiritual” to differentiate themselves and their practices. Like they have it right, and the others don’t, they’re right with God and the others aren’t. I recall basically being taught that “in our church we’re spiritual, those poor saps over there are just religious.” I see “spiritual” people deluding themselves by making that distinction. I’d like to see “spiritual” people stop deluding themselves. :) I’m curious to see what Sam Harris has to say on the topic!


  35. You know, thinking about it, Morgan’s thing is like a much more extreme version of the “sanitizing” (whitening) of jazz so that people wouldn’t have to expose themselves to the uppity black musicians with their a-hippin’ and a-hoppin’ and culture born from being unfairly discriminated against by a privileged class.

    She’s offering the Di$ney theme park version so people don’t have to look at actual aborigines. Why preserve the actual culture when she’s provided the souvenirs and the bland, easily digestible kids’ meal? Dang uppity aborigines expecting us to eat it off the bone instead of stuffed with homogenizing fillers, sweetened with saccharine newage tropes, and in a conveniently microwavable tray. Privilege, what privilege? We’re doing this for their own good, not our own entertainment.


  36. @Yakaru & @Mariah
    One of you could initiate either a Sam Harris section and/or an “Un-redefining Spirituality” section.

    By “un-redefining” I mean something like: what should spirituality originally mean if religion had never adopted/redefined spirituality.

    I don’t think there is any metaphysical god and anyone who claims there is a god is some combination of irrational, self-deluded, gullible or fraud.

    I think there are a few spiritual people out there (after first eliminating everyone who professes faith) and their spirituality is of no connection to religion.

    For example a female beekeeper I met this year who slept in the forest at night near the bees might be spiritual minus the religious contamination.

    There are other cultures besides aborigines who do not have a concept of god in their myths or cosmologies. It should be possible there is or was some culture that did not have god/s and did not have myths either. (I think there is some small South American tribe whose language prevents them from making things up, I don’t know what their view of themselves vis-a-vis existence is.)


  37. It’s a very interesting discussion, Donald Telfer! I admit, most of my musing on “spirituality” are about people who use the term to mean “not religious” but are just as religious/superstitious in their own way.


  38. I’ll put up a post about the possibility of harmless woo (i.e. spirituality) in the coming days (unless I forget), so hold your fire!

    @BD
    Morgan herself is mad as a hatter, which has probably helped her to hit the “magical Negro” nerve so successfully. She’s spitting out all the racist cliches she doesn’t realize she’s absorbed over the years. And above all, her assumption of the right to expropriate anything from Aboriginal culture that fits her purposes is pure colonialist supremacy. Usually new agers stop there, but she’s gone the extra steps of claiming to possess the “real” Aboriginal culture, claiming the “real” Aborigines want to die out, and telling the real Aborigines to shut up and stay in their place.

    New Agers have told me straight out that the “real Aborigines” have left the planet, and the remaining ones have lost their purity.


  39. New Agers have told me straight out that the “real Aborigines” have left the planet, and the remaining ones have lost their purity.

    Another annoyance: “purity.” No such thing, and speaks of cultural imperialism.

    Of course, the real issue is real versus fake.


  40. There’s a book of film criticism titled “Faith and Spirituality in World Cinema”, which I have not read, apart from excerpts, but which I intend to read in future, after I procure a copy. The first three words of the book title are the germ of thoughts about the various possible definitions I have been having of the word spirituality and any assumption of a connection of spirituality with faith.

    I may not myself use the word spirituality in the most accepted sense (i.e. Most accepted sense being other-worldly spirituality ? – rather a less common meaning of something that some species of animals with higher consciousness – not just humans – might have that exists in their relation with the natural world.)

    As regards the word soul, I try to treat it as a banned word. I think soul has connotations of an afterlife, but there is no afterlife.


  41. Thanks for starting that new post, Yakaru. I did want to leave a comment here about this “spirituality” discussion, then can carry it over there if you’d like. I’d never even considered a distinction between “spirituality” and “religion” because, as I’ve mentioned, in my experience people use spirituality to basically mean their own religion is more spiritual! And, I find that people who consider themselves spiritual, are not willing to listen to the dangers of religion, because they themselves are not religious, and they already know THEY are better than the silly religious folks anyway. Again, my experience.

    I also have a bit of a problem with people taking words and redefining them a certain way, given that this is what religious people do. I think it’s useful or at least interesting to talk about ideas, and to define the terms we’re discussing, but using the word in a way that’s different from common usage (and trying to make a point by using the word that way) or even re-defining it annoys me. And taking it a step further and arguing about definitions is basically what the religious people are doing!

    I like the discussion from Wikipedia: “Historically, the words religious and spiritual have been used synonymously to describe all the various aspects of the concept of religion. Gradually, the word spiritual came to be associated with the private realm of thought and experience while the word religious came to be connected with the public realm of membership in a religious institution with official denominational doctrines.”

    I am interested in this discussion of “spirituality” as discussed by people who are definitely not religious.


  42. @Mariah
    Tolstoy was not religious, although I think his wife got him to consent to being baptised just before he died.

    In his novel Anna Karenina there is a character Levin who constitutes Tolstoy writing about himself (“Leo” Tolstoy in English is in Russian “Lev” Tolstoy, hence Levin in the novel).

    I might be seeing something in the novel that is not there for Tolstoy or his other readership, but to my way of experiencing the novel, Levin is a spiritual person and hence Tolstoy himself was likely a spiritual person, yet Tolstoy was an avowed dedicated atheist. (I think.)

    Tolstoy probably published non-fiction material that discussed his philosophical outlook, but I have not read it.


  43. @Mariah,
    Yep – spiritual people are often a quite snooty towards the merely “religious”. Just listen to Deepak Chopra.


  44. On spirituality conceptually as a term:

    Elephants are said to never forget, or they have long memories. I have seen a video of a domestic elephant, perhaps in Thailand, having a large mirror to look at. The elephant wanted to look behind the mirror (which was mounted on some sort of fence, so the elephant had to crane over the fence to see behing the mirror).

    Those two characteristics of elephants suggest to me the possibility that elephants are one of the few higher vertebrate animals that may have a sense of their own being.

    In the case of humans, I think we go further and have a sense of not only being but of also becoming. That being-ness or becoming-ness goes beyond just being an organism that feeds and reproduces. It only operates within the organism while the organism is still alive. It is nothing to do with ghosts, after-life, the supernatural (sic), heaven, paradise etc.


  45. Back on the topic of racism, I think I should mention just how much the “Magical Negro” trope really seems to click with my perceptions of Morgan thus far. The tribe is passive in the story, simply passing on their knowledge to the white protagonist, leaving it up to her to carry on their wisdom. Like many mentor figures, they’re resigned to death (which provides a convenient excuse if no one finds them wandering around). Meanwhile, real aboriginals aren’t simply waiting for some white newager to listen to them.

    The fakes have a touch of Magical Native American/Ethnic Magician as well in the medical department. I suspect any aboriginal folk medicine would look at least vaguely similar, though I’d doubt it’d be nearly as effective. Fairly standard altie trope and fits with some cultural relativism, kind of like the East versus West trope where Western science uses cold, boring intellect and the Easterners/Native Americans/medicine men use warm, fuzzy, exotic intuition because apparently they were gifted with magical senses to counterbalance their implied intellectual inferiority. Of course the truth is trickier than racism depicts: Scientific advancement is dependent on a lot of circumstances those people didn’t have when they developed their folk medicines. “Western” science is more effective and advanced essentially because the western world got lucky on the prerequisites. There’s nothing inherently “white” or “western” about science, just an association born of historical accident.

    Silly thing that comes to mind, rereading the bit about musical instruments are the scenes in children’s cartoons where talking animals end up improvising western musical instruments out of the environment for the big western musical number. Even if they’re in, say, Africa.


  46. The authentic aboriginals were male-dominated polygamists. A woman, white or otherwise, would not be entrusted with tribal knowledge/”secrets”. At events where they put on cultural displays or conduct experiences for visitors/tourists I think they do so for money.

    In that they are like most people. (Visitors have to pay to enter some cathedrals in England.)

    Marlo Morgan writes (lies, plagiarises ?) that she was taken by car from the city (which she describes in a way that reads like Sydney, but she worked in Brisbane).

    Hence there should be some person with a car & a drivers license, who has a name & a photograph of themself, & who met Morgan and who met the “Real People”.

    If you ever got the name of such a person out of MM then went through all the official records of NSW and Queensland drivers for the last 20 years, which I guess include photographs, you would find no-one (dead or alive) who could conceivably verify MM.

    This reminds me of the Australian judge Marcus Einfeld whose car was caught and photographed speeding by a roadside camera. He avoided the fine by giving himself the alibi that he was interstate at the time and had loaned his car to a woman from the US who must have the speeding driver (not Marlo Morgan). He did not know that the woman in question had previously died in the US. This eventually came to light when a disgruntled ex-girlfriend of Einfeld’s solicitor went through her ex-boyfriend’s garbage and serendipitously found incriminating documents about the speeding case. Einfeld went to prison for perjury, but he got to keep his judge’s pension.

    It might take locking MM up in a mental institution for a while to rehabilitate her. It might help her to learn to stop lying.


  47. Australian Aborigines are not in the habit of kidnapping tourists, stripping them naked and throwing their belongings into a fire either. And the idea of someone “learning” Aboriginal culture well enough to reach the status of a highly initiated Elder a couple of months is also somewhat arrogant. If she had have claimed she walked through Tibet for a month or two and mastered Tibetan Buddhism and is the new Dalai Lama, I doubt new agers would have swallowed it so readily.

    She also claims to have invented a particular kind of fly screen that fits on the outside of windows on older houses, and taught a group of “urbanized Aborigines” to make them and start a business. Racist stereotypes aside, that’s insane. Those fly screens were around in the 1800s.


  48. I very well understand that Mutant Message from Down Under is a hoax. Marlo Morgan passed off her work of fiction as non-fiction, deceived millions, did not help Australian Aborigines and made a little money. I do not justify what she did. But does that mean the opposites are true?

    Do Australian Aborigines remain unkind, unthankful, worthless and dirty?

    Is greed beneficial?

    Is money not built on a myth?

    Does consumerism not destroy?

    Are property rights really more important than human rights?

    So, yes, one middle aged, deluded and confused female miscreant — who apparently didn’t kill anyone, didn’t destroy an environmentally sensitive areas, or steal land — has been righteously vilified when her work proved to be a hoax — thanks to mighty warriors for truth, justice and whatever.


  49. “Do Australian Aborigines remain unkind, unthankful, worthless and dirty?”

    That was pretty much how Morgan portrayed them, in contrast to her fictitious “real” Aborigines.

    Incidentally, she made more than a little money. By 1996 her book was already heading towards the $100 million mark, all made from people’s interest in Australian Aborigines — an interest which Aborigines themselves earned. That interest is essential to their continued survival as a culture, and Morgan has robbed them of it.


  50. Yakura, so you’re saying that the Aboriginal culture’s survival is predicated upon the hierarchical and money-based system that has been in the process of destroying it?


  51. Hi Mark,

    Sorry for the delay in posting your comment.

    Actually, no, I didn’t say that at all in the post. I was talking more about the way Marlo Morgan and her publisher (Rupert Murdoch’s Harper Collins books) have exploited the world wide interest in, and sympathy for Australian Aborigines.

    Morgan actually stole their identity, quite literally, and poses as a “true Aborigine”, and substitutes her own fake and deeply racist version of their culture as if it were real.

    They have fully earned the international interest, recognition and respect that they have gained over the previous decades and centuries. This is an important source of protection for them, against the destructive forces in Australian politics and society. Morgan exploits this interest for her own financial gain. She has also exploited the interest and good will of the readers who she has lied to.


  52. Sorry, guys, but reading your comments, sounds so negative and destructive. You are the ones that know everything, right?? Calling a person bipolar, liar, should be locked up etc. ….eh?
    If only your comments had been constructive and not almost hateful.

    This book did not exploit the interest for the aboriginals to me – on the contrary! And some comments I have heard, has been instead judgement towards the whites in Australia that have not recognised the indigiounes ones. Maybe this book instead got the problem more out in the open, and such the Australian government have had to recognise and contribute more to the Aboriginal´s society?
    This does not happen only in Australia, but also in US and other places with indigiounes people. E.g in South Africa where they are forcing the San-people to stop hunting and move into societies. Some beautiful beings that live in balance with nature and can communicate with animals.
    It is about time we start to learn from these people`s valuable knowledge and wisdom. Otherwise, we will just destroy everything on earth.

    Have any of you ever been with e.g. shamans and similar people who lives a what some call a spiritual life and experienced what they are doing? How they help and heal other people? Mostly, healing is of your mind, the way you think, your belief system. When your mind heals, the body follows. A true e.g. shaman or medicine man or woman actually dedicate their life to help others. And you know what, the teachings in MM book is what you find among indigenous spiritual people from Africa, Australia, Asia, Mongolia, Siberia, North and South America but they are done in different ways in different places, and different ways are used to reach the same – healing and wholeness of mind and spirit, living in respect with earth and surroundings.

    And there are other people like this tribe in Australia, that has chosen to come forth because the time is urgent. A small group of medicine men and women, descendants from the Incas, chose in the 80-ies to come down from the mountains in Peru to teach their knowledge to the West – to those that has chosen to listen and learn (before they reincarnated this lifetime). Who knew about them?
    This group will die out also. They say that in the future, the shamans will come from the West.
    Up to now, their teachings/knowledge have been dedicated to a few people, and you are chosen, you do not choose yourself to become e.g. a shaman. The power you have can be used for the good but also for the bad. That is why you are chosen as regard to your integrity and moral – mostly from childhood time the teachings starts. When you work as a shaman or healer, you have to look at your own thoughts, how you think, what you say, how you live your life with integrity etc. It is quite a challenge, as well as your life is dedicated to help others.

    Read e.g. Bear Heart, Alberto Villoldo, James van Praagh, John Anderson, Castaneda, Brian Weiss, Robert Lake Thom and more.

    And spirituality, what is that? Is it among others to live more in truth with you (whom you truly are, if you have figured that out)…. what you intuitively know is good and right, and not follow the flock/what is dictated you. Ref. religious dogmas etc.

    Personally, I believe in reincarnation (which I did not do before until my husband was terminally sick many years ago – many things happened – what some call paranormal or mystical – but this is another story). And e.g. if you take this from the Bible that “what you sow, you harvest” is actually a spiritual message. (By the way, there are spiritual messages in all religions, but as we know, words are twisted and interpretated in such a way to unfortunately to have power/control over people).
    We today do not listen to e.g. the medicine people and others that have warned us for decades to take care of the earth and nature. Think about all the pollution and destruction and wars and trouble we will have to come back to face – in next lifetime. Not a nice situation. We will always be responsible for what we do, one way or another. We have free will, and we have the power of choice. What we create in this lifetime, we will face in the next. This is karma. Not a punishment, but a consequence of our actions – good or bad – we will have to be responsible. It is a Universal Law.
    When you point a finger to others, you point to yourself. Meaning, as we reincarnate, and e.g. in this lifetime judge someone of another religion, you might have been of that same religion in a past lifetime. But if you have not learned to be less judgemental or accept that we can e.g. get along peacefully with others from different beliefs – that there is something positive in everything and live in peace with each other – we have not learned – our soul has not advanced.

    So listen to the teachings in MM book, whether you think it is fake or not, it does not matter. Think about what we are doing, how we live our lives and what we are contributing with.


  53. PS – I would also recommend the books of Dannion Brinkley and Eben Alexander (near death experiences) as well as Moorehouse (on remote viewing).

    [Apologies for late addition of this extra comment. I didn’t notice it in the moderation queue after the first. –Site owner]


  54. Sorry, guys, but reading your comments, sounds so negative and destructive.
    –So you thought you’d add your own negative comment. Okay, well we agree on one thing then — that criticism is important and worth doing.

    You are the ones that know everything, right?? Calling a person bipolar
    –What I wrote in a comment was.
    “Morgan’s behaviour in general makes me suspect she is suffering from a clinically diagnosable condition, maybe bipolar disorder.”

    liar,
    –Yes, she is clearly lying, though if she’s bi-polar, that would alleviate some of her culpability.

    should be locked up etc. ….eh?
    –And you are also lying. I never said she should be loocked up etc.

    If only your comments had been constructive and not almost hateful
    –I thought my comments were constructive. For people who don’t like being lied to, they were constructive and useful. For people who prefer lies, not so much. So be it.

    This book did not exploit the interest for the aboriginals to me – on the contrary!
    –Aborigines say it exploited them, and gave a multitude of reasons, many of which are contained in this post. The fact that you feel empowered to pronounce them wrong shows exactly what is wrong with that book. It leads people like you to arrogance and hubris.

    And some comments I have heard, has been instead judgement towards the whites in Australia that have not recognised the indigiounes ones. Maybe this book instead got the problem more out in the open, and such the Australian government have had to recognise and contribute more to the Aboriginal´s society?
    –The book was lies from start to finish. Deliberate, explaoitative and racist lies. The only people served by it is Morgan and her publishers who have made millions off those they fooled, like yourself.

    Have any of you ever been with e.g. shamans and similar people who lives a what some call a spiritual life and experienced what they are doing?
    –Yes.

    How they help and heal other people?
    –What they try to do is absolutely nothing like Morgan says it is. Some similarities are there these days of course, because New Age ideology sells. Some Aboriginal shamans are just as keen to make a buck as anyone else.

    ….This group will die out also. They say that in the future, the shamans will come from the West.
    –All this “dying out” of indigenous peoples is an old racist myth invented by C18 anthropologists like Blumenbach and others. They didn’t know they were being racist. But you have absolutely no excuse for your ignorance of where your “knowledge” comes from, nor of how racist your ideas in fact are.

    Read e.g. Bear Heart, Alberto Villoldo, James van Praagh, John Anderson, Castaneda, Brian Weiss, Robert Lake Thom and more.
    –van Praag is a scammer and fraudster, Brian Weiss is a pseudo-scientist who doesn’t understand the nature of evidence, Casteneda I found kinda interesting once, but he also made it all up. He just didn’t steal anyone’s identity while doing it.

    And spirituality, what is that?….
    –Don’t lecture me about spirituality. You know absolutely nothing about me.

    So listen to the teachings in MM book, whether you think it is fake or not, it does not matter. Think about what we are doing, how we live our lives and what we are contributing with.
    –How about you think twice before spreading racist ignorance.


  55. I feel outraged at her attempt to describe Australian Aboriginal people. The peoples of Australia had a wonderful dignity and integrity of which this woman has no knowledge at all and she has behaved very foolishly, and ignorantly and probably not understood what she has done. Marlo Morgan has done a cut and paste job and made something so beautiful, ugly and cliched. The book is a terrible insult to the first peoples of Australia.


  56. I don’t know what else she could have gotten wrong. The worst thing about it I think, is that unwitting racists like the previous commenter think they have the right to lecture Aborigines about what their culture is. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. She’s still giving lectures about “Aboriginal culture”.



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