by ProfDave, ©2021
(Jul. 6, 2021) — Dr. Wayne Dyer was on CPTV one Saturday morning when I happened to tune in. It is mildly disturbing that my tax dollars are going to support his religion, but I trust they will have my religion on next week out of fairness [Not!]. Generally, I do not support so-called fairness rules for private broadcasting – another word for censorship – but I do demand it of tax supported government broadcasting. Public broadcasting is only valuable to the extent that, beholden to no one, it is conscientiously objective and balanced. PBS, sadly, is not. Dyer is a very suave and articulate gentleman, I must say, a representative of many gurus these days and a great favorite among the elite, BUT!
Principle One in recovery is “realize that I am not God,” but Dr. Dyer is obviously not in recovery. Denial, maybe? And he has a lot of company! This confusion goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden – the notion that some sort of non-rational experience can give us divine prerogatives, freeing us from created subordination to the real Lord of All. Instead, the fruit of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” shows us just how badly we are wrong and how viciously reality bites.
Up front, we have to recognize that Dyer’s epistemology is not like ours: he’s not playing with the same deck of cards we are (maybe not a full deck either). He separates the realms of spiritual and material reality. Reason, logic and science belong to the realm of material things and the senses. Spiritual things are known only by “experience” and “imagination.” You can, he promises, learn to create your own world with your imagination. Sounds like an invitation to insanity to me.
Given this disconnect between material and spiritual, reason and experience (whatever that is), it is not surprising that Dyer’s argument is inconsistent. He advances his thesis by stages. First, Dyer says the Creator has set a part of himself in each of us. Then he identifies this divine spark as our essential self – our souls. Then he asserts that we are therefore gods. At this point he misquotes Jesus. Finally, he claims we are not merely immortal, but eternal – the very “I AM” of the Hebrews! Forgive him, Lord, for he knows not what he says!
While Dyer is entitled to his own ego-theistic world view, of course (let’s hope he doesn’t have to deal with reality much), I want to make two points. 1) Don’t confuse or mingle this with Christianity or Judaism and 2) don’t try this at home. Be warned of some inherent risks, such as insanity and self-deception.
First, Dyer holds a very different conception of spirituality than is found in the Judeo-Christian world view. To lift phrases from the New Testament without their Hebrew conceptual milieu is unscrupulous. “The divine spark” is not at all the same as the image of God, nor is the “soul” god or a part of god in either Greek or Hebrew thought. The purifying, empowering presence of the Holy Spirit fills us, raising us above our self, but never becomes our self. Indeed, anything resembling Holy, transcendence or holiness is entirely missing from Dyer’s discourse. This is ancient pantheism in modern dress. To say that mankind are temples of the Holy Spirit (Christian), spiritual as well as material beings (Hebrew) or even spiritual beings in earth-suits (Greek) is very different in western thought than to say that they are gods or God Himself.
Second, Dyer holds a very different conception of divinity than is found in the Judeo-Christian world view. Here he really gets inconsistent. He calls God “Creator” at one point, then turns and calls us all eternal. How can God create something that always exists? Here he betrays his Indian roots. Both Brahman and Buddhist cosmologies assume an eternal cosmos – either the gods are part of the cosmos or the godhead is the cosmos. Judeo-Christian cosmology has a self-existent personal being who creates the cosmos, linking spirit and matter in finite time. To be the I AM (JHWH, the unspeakable name of God), you have to be self-existent, the uncaused cause of everything else, the Holy and wholly Other. That is too big for my imagination, but evidently not for Dr. Dyer’s. Clearly, Dyer’s worldview is not Christian or Jewish.
Finally, don’t try this at home. Millions in Asia may be able to balance believing that the world is an illusion with moderate success at living in it, but even in India, as Ravi Zacharias was fond of saying, you look both ways before crossing the street: it is either you or the bus, not both. I am told that pantheism can be accommodated to practical living as well. But in the West, with our notions of rationality, omniscience and omnipotence, it is just too dangerous to think you are god. Certainly, it is ego-gratifying and confidence boosting on good days, but if you take your ego-theism too seriously you could get hurt. If you jump off a tall building, you may fly like a bird, but you won’t land like one. Imaginary worlds do not work very well on bad days, either. And if you are god, you have no back-up. How do you deal with other folks who think they are god, too?
Beyond the disconnect from physical and social reality is the disconnect from moral responsibility. How do you deal with the dark side of your own nature? When your will says “I am not an alcoholic,” but there you are in the drunk tank again – it is called “denial.” Dyer talks largely about love and social justice, but if you are the ultimate judge of what those things are, to whom are you responsible? If you are god, is there anything that would be wrong for you to do? Anything to keep you from taking unfair advantage of your position? Using your omniscient and omnipotent powers to rig the lottery, get your rivals killed, steal what you want, rape any man, woman or child you hanker after? How do you determine when you are wrong? You have no backup. Who is going to call you on your rationalizations? And what if the real God, whom you have been impersonating, shows up? Only one man in history made a credible stand at being God. He had no dark side and they crucified him! Good luck, Dr. Dyer!
David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College. He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota. He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020). He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.