A Critical Look at Esther and Jerry Hicks
WHO ARE JERRY AND ESTHER HICKS?
Jerry and Esther Hicks, authors of New York Times Best-Sellers such as Ask and It is Given, The Law of Attraction, The Vortex, and Money and the Law of Attraction travel around the country, giving workshops about the supposed Law of Attraction, an idea popularized and written on in the early 1900s by authors such as William Walker Atkinson and Napoleon Hill. Esther and Jerry’s hook is a “collective consciousness,” or entity, known as Abraham, that speaks through Esther and offers humans advice on how to utilize these alleged universal laws. Esther and Jerry gained enormous popularity when renowned gurus, such as Dr. Wayne Dyer and Louise Hay, began promoting their material. They were also featured in the original version of The Secret. They have since been removed due to contractual issues with the film’s producer. Here is a sample of their work: Introduction to Abraham.
THEIR CLAIM? That they are channeling (they do not use this word, but I am using it for clarity’s sake) a group of wise, all-knowing entities known collectively as Abraham.
MY DISPUTE Esther and Jerry are cashing in on the multi-million dollar industry of channeling. Channeling was the evolution of the Spiritualism movement, which began in 1800s with the “rapping” claims of the Fox Sisters. After the Fox Sisters admitted to fraud and Houdini outed various other fake mediums, Spiritualism began to die out. In Spiritualism, proofs were offered to convince people that a contact with the other side was occurring. This included–but was not limited to–knocks, ringing bells, and ectoplasm. Today, channelers have taken this idea of speaking for those beyond the grave (or of a nonphysical nature). Only now, the alleged medium or channeler doesn’t even need proof, just the allegation that they are receiving from another world and a nice philosophy to back it up.
CALL FOR CRITICAL EXAMINATION I’m willing to suspend my arguments against the Law of Attraction (for this entry) and go with the notion that it does exist, because Law of Attraction existing in no way inhibits my analysis of Esther and Jerry Hicks. Why? Because even if what Esther and Jerry claim about Law of Attraction is true, that doesn’t prove Abraham’s existence. And considering the repetitive jargon they use that has been and is used by channelers across the country for decades, their dubious past with Amway, their foolish endorsement of cold reader John Edward, their bogus predictions of global disasters in the late 80s, and their hazy understanding of science and psychology, I’d say that we have more than enough reason to doubt the existence of the group of beings known as Abraham.
THE RHETORIC A look at their rhetoric is important, because it has been around as long as the New Age movement.
1. You create your own reality. This one has been around since the very beginning. JZ Knight’s Ramtha says it too, and I will not go into the myriad of reasons why I consider her to be less than sincere. It will take little research, and between watching Jeff Knight’s and ex-bodyguard Glen Cunningham’s interviews on the Ramtha School of Enlightenment (not to mention the entire LARSE organization of former R.S.E. members who consider the school to be a dangerous cult) you can see that the evidence against her is mighty. Mafu also uses this catch phrase. Meredith Vieira confronted Penny Torres, Mafu’s channel, about her claims in the 80s. You can see this bit here: Meredith Vieira vs Mafu. Both are, in my opinion, completely ridiculous and use the same rhetoric to enchant auditoriums of people. Many other channels are famous for using this same bit.
2. You are an extension of Source energy. Different wording. Ramtha uses God, but still the same idea. They all use this in some way. Seth, Bashar, Mafu, Neale Donald Walsch. Walsch, author of the best selling Conversations with God series was recently involved in a plagiarism scandal. You can read The New York Times article on it here.
3. Law of Attraction exists. Law of Attraction was written about heavily in the early 1900s by authors such as William Walker Atkinson, who wrote Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World. More recently in the New Age world, the term manifesting has been used to explain the same phenomenon. Manifesting and Law of Attraction are all about visualizing, focusing, feeling your way into it. See Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz, The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale, or The Science of Mind by Ernest Holmes for more information.
So what’s the problem with them repeating catch phrases and passe ideas? Take a look at this quote from Abraham’s Orlando, FL workshop 11/10/2007: “We are suggesting that when you are receiving from source energy, you are not finding the words that have already been written. You are finding new explanation of it….Don’t go back and regurgitate what has already been written.”
But that’s exactly what they are doing! Their greatest innovation is from William Walker Atkinson’s books on Law of Attraction. Furthermore, Abraham uses this regurgitated Law of Attraction as proof of what they say. In their interview with Peter Beamish, they say, prove it to yourself and manifest something and show yourself that what they are saying is true. However, even if what they were saying was true—even if we are to assume that Law of Attraction is so—the accomplishment of manifesting is not proof of Abraham’s existence. Law of Attraction would only prove that manifesting exists. It would be like if an entity informed you of the law of gravity and you went out and threw an apple into the air and it fell. Anyone who understood that principle could awe you and convince you of their validity, but that doesn’t make them nonphysical. It also does not prove the myriad of other things that they claim, including, but not limited to:
1. You are the creator of your own reality. 2. You are here in this body because you chose to be here. 3. You are an extension of Source. 4. You can be, do, or have anything. 5. Your emotions guide you. 6. You cannot die. You are everlasting life. 7. Abraham exists (once again, for affect)
Many people have said, regarding Abraham’s validity, that they do not care about the messenger–just the message. But if it is just about the message, people can find this same material in sources outside of Abraham, said in the same way—over and over and over again. But they don’t, because the allure of Abraham extends beyond the Law of Attraction and includes these other premises that Abraham can’t prove, particularly the promise of eternal life, which Abraham’s very existence seems to validate to those who participate in their teachings.
THE IMPORTANCE OF AMWAY I’d heard that Jerry Hicks had been involved with Amway pre-Abraham, but that didn’t raise any red flags. After all, plenty of people make money in sales. That doesn’t make them bad people. However, as I listened to Jerry and Esther’s interviews, I noticed that they would actually avoid mentioning Amway. Instead, they would just say that Jerry had made his millions before their Abraham work and leave it at that. The interviewers that were already head-over-heels in love with Abraham wouldn’t go any further. More credible sources, like The Independent and The New York Times, would mention the Amway connection, but leave it at that. Esther and Jerry’s unwillingness to discuss this roused my interest.
On the surface, their Amway past doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. They were making money the good-old-fashion American way, selling soaps and appliances–right? Wrong. Check out Dateline’s two part expose on Quixtar (one of Amway’s new names):
In the expose (particularly the second half), Dateline reveals that the distributors who profit most make their money from selling motivational seminars and courses on how to get rich to their downline (recruited distributors below them). In an article called “The Hidden Persuaders” by Tony Thompson, Thomspon says “The majority of the wealth of the tiny number of top-ranked distributors in this country comes not just from the sale of Amway products but from selling motivational materials and organizing seminars and rallies for the people below them.”
Jerry was one of these top-ranked distributors. He and his wife Trish are actually listed as crown level distributors (that’s higher than diamond) in 1979: In the Introduction to Abraham audio clips, in the segment called “Living Think and Grow Rich.” Jerry states that “it [Think and Grow Rich] worked so well for me that in a very brief time I was able to build a multi-national business, touching meaningfully the lives of many thousands. I even began teaching the principles that I was learning from the book.” Esther actually met Jerry in 1976 at a “business presentation” where he was doing just that (Behind). As seen in the Dateline expose, Amway distributors sell their own, companion materials (CDs, tickets to seminars, and books) to renowned works like Think and Grow Rich to make more money off their downline. In fact, this is where most of their money comes from. Jerry was using this same trick with his own Think and Grow Rich “business presentations.”
Not fishy enough for you? Check out A New Beginning I, where Jerry discusses him and Esther’s life while they were residing in Arizona, just before their first interactions Abraham. He writes about how successful his multi-national distributorship had been, and went on to write, “We toured the northwestern states with our motorhome, took repeated trips and cruises to the Virgin, Caribbean, and Hawaiian Islands and all the while, we continued to add to our business” (Hicks 108). That’s exactly what they do now–travel the country, give seminars, and add to their business. Only, back then, they were using Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. Then, as Jerry sates in A Message from Jerry & Esther: Oct/Nov/Dec 1997 (from their website, Abraham-Hicks.com): “Abraham appeared. And as Abraham began to respond so wisely and unconditionally lovingly to my questions, we wanted to immediately teach what we were now learning to our business associates…but questions soon began to flow from outside of that circle of our business partners…which then drew us outside of that relatively small arena to others who in turn told others who taught others who told others…”
So they packed up Think and Grow Rich and started selling their own Abraham materials to their “business associates” [I can only assume their Amway downline] who in turn brought in their “associates” till it just got bigger and bigger and bigger. I for one, find this highly suspicious. It seems to me that Jerry, clearly already brilliant at selling the concepts of Think and Grow Rich, found an even better way to package them.
If you press Esther and Jerry about why they don’t talk about this, they will say, as they did in The Independent’s interview, it’s “utterly irrelevant.” I on the other hand, find it incredibly relevant.
For more information about Jerry and Esther’s Amway past, check out the article I set aside specifically on this here.
A FOOLISH ENDORSEMENT OF JOHN EDWARD Abraham, who claims to be all-knowing, seems to have difficulty discerning the authenticity of those who claim to communicate with the deceased. In one workshop, a questioner asks Abraham about alleged psychic medium John Edward. I have included a transcription as Exhibit D under the Abraham Hicks Files, if you’d like to read it. Abraham validates his abilities, stating that he is a “superb reader of energy.” However, Edward is known for using a technique known as cold reading to dupe his audiences. In a cold reading, fraud psychics probe for information in a very round-about way to convince someone that they are reading minds or communicating with the dead. Many see John Edward using this skill when he says things like “It sounds like Mary” or “I’m getting a B name, Bobby or Barry.” James Randi gives an excellent explanation of cold readings in this video : James Randi and Doris Collins “Cold Reader”. There is also a brilliant article he wrote called “The Art of Cold Reading.”
And cold reading is not the worst of his offenses. When Dateline covered Edward, they caught him cheating when he tried to pass off pre-obtained information as revelations from the spirit world. In this next bit, the Dateline interviewer confronts Edward about the incident.
To see the full article, you can go to: John Edward: Hustling the Bereaved HOCKENBERRY: So were you aware that his dad had died before you did his reading?
Mr. EDWARD: I think he-I think earlier in the-in the day, he had said something.
HOCKENBERRY: It makes me feel like, you know, that that’s fairly significant. I mean, you knew that he had a dead relative and you knew it was the dad.
Mr. EDWARD: OK.
HOCKENBERRY: So that’s not some energy coming through, that’s something you knew going in. You knew his name was Tony and you knew that his dad had died and you knew that he was in the room, right? That gets you . . .
Mr. EDWARD: That’s a whole lot of thinking you got me doing, then. Like I said, I react to what’s coming through, what I see, hear and feel. I interpret what I’m seeing hearing and feeling, and I define it. He raised his hand, it made sense for him. Great.
HOCKENBERRY: But a cynic would look at that and go, ‘Hey,’ you know, ‘He knows it’s the cameraman, he knows it’s DATELINE. You know, wouldn’t that be impressive if he can get the cameraman to cry?’
Mr. EDWARD: Absolutely not. Absolutely not. Not at all.
Outside of cheating and using cold reading techniques, the producers of John Edward’s shows are known for editing them to make it appear that he makes more “psychic hits” than he actually does.
For further on John Edward’s alleged abilities, here are some good articles:
Demystifying John Edward of Crossing Over Investigating Spirit Communications The all-knowing Abraham seems to fall short when looking to the sincerity of psychic mediums. What else may they not be privy too?
BAD PREDICTION: The Handbook for Joyous Survival – Any takers? *Abraham quotes cited between A New Beginning I and Special Subjects tape: Joyous Survival.
They also seem to fall short when they try to predict the future. Anyone remember when Abraham was warning of the great earth changes? Abraham told Jerry in the recording called Joyous Survival (you can find this in the special subject series), that we were “very near this realignment” and that the “realignment is in progress already” and would happen in his lifetime (Special). These conversations were in 1989. It’s nearly 2011 now.
Regarding the great earth changes, Abraham said, “These changes will be very abrupt…” (Special) and “…volcanic ash will be experienced in all parts of your world, as the volcanoes around your earth are simultaneously activated. Face masks and goggles will be of great value” (Hicks 79). They give great specifics about earthquakes across the U.S. and enormous water damage on the east coast (Hicks 74). Afterward, they said, “your transportation will be severed, so will your economic lines, so will your government” (Special). And “In any event, when the great realignment is upon you, you will not question it, because it will be far beyond anything you’ve experienced before” (Special).
In case you were doubting them, they wanted you to remember they are nonphysical. “We are aware that you may have difficulty accepting the reality of this physical event, but we encourage you to acknowledge our broader perspective” (Hicks 79). Not exactly the you-discern-truth-for-yourself campaign they’ve been on recently.
Some Abraham followers now rationalize this prediction away, saying that we must have changed our consciousness enough to change the earth. But in the Joyous Survival tape, Abraham likened stopping this change as being like trying to gather people together to stop the sun from coming up in the morning. Abraham told a story of Esther realizing that “There are those things that have been set into motion, agreements that have been entered into that are outside of her [Esther’s] creative alteration here through this conscious thinking wanting” (Special). In other words, this wasn’t something she or anyone was going to be able to stop from happening, because we “agreed” upon being here during a time of great disaster.
In the 05/16/1993 workshop, Abraham admitted that their expectation of when the changes were to occur was wrong. Though they had strongly expected we were on the brink of realignment in the fall of 1988, evidently the energy had dispersed. They also said that they had believed we were close in 1990, but again that energy had subsided. In 1994, Esther, Jerry, and Abraham revised A New Beginning I, stating, “When that is [realignment], we don’t know” (Hicks 81). I am surprised, considering there were many who were willing to “acknowledge” their “broader perspective.”
Anyone hear Abe harping on earth changes now? Nope. No need. All is well. Guess I have to put away my face mask and goggles.
Equally appalling is Abraham’s lack of understanding around psychology. In an Asheville, NC workshop (10/26/2007) Abraham responds to a guest’s question about the nature of Schizophrenia. Here’s what they say:
ABRAHAM:…and often, a sort of other perspective is born in this. It’s like who-you-are keeps calling forth, calling you forth. And if there is a very resistant personality that won’t allow you to go, often another personality emerges to go….That desire to be free just keeps spurting out in another way and another way and another way….Some who have very fast moving energy just find other ways of getting around that, and these multiple personalities is often one of those ways….And, if you know him well enough, tell him you have a good friend named Abraham who is also Schizophrenic. Meaning we have many perspectives that are emerging. In other words, we are not one mind. We are not one thinker. We are a cumulative, collection, culmination of consciousness.
Really, Abraham? What would you being Schizophrenic have to do with you having multiple perspectives?
Google Health defines Schizophrenia as “a mental disorder that makes it difficult to tell the difference between real and unreal experiences, to think logically, to have normal emotional responses, and to behave normally in social situations.” Regarding “multiple personalities,” once known as MPD, now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), Medicinenet.com says that “some professionals continue to be of the opinion that DID does not exist” and that it is “a mental illness that involves the sufferer experiencing at least two clear identities or personality states, also called alters, each of which has a fairly consistent way of viewing and relating to the world.”
To summarize: Professionals do not doubt the existence of Schizophrenia. DID is questioned. DID deals with an alternative personality. Schizophrenia does not. They don’t have anything to do with each other. Yet it makes sense why Abraham would blend the two, as there are popular misconceptions about these two very different mental illnesses. Once again, if Abraham is so unaware as to the nature of the mind, how are we to trust that they have any understanding of the supposed metaphysical laws that they speak of?
CONCLUSION Jargon reminiscent of so many other dubious channelers, a suspicious Amway past, a naive endorsement of John Edward, false earth predictions, and a serious lack of understanding on science and psychology culminate to suggest there may very well be more to Abraham than all-knowingness. Abraham has yet to produce any information that can prove their validity, and I am certain that will remain the case. I hope that the information that I have presented will incline people to look at Abraham Hicks from a more critical standpoint. I have offered what, to me, is enough evidence to say that it is highly likely that Abraham is a cash-cow creation of Jerry and Esther Hicks. Though they are marketing geniuses and have cleverly created a seal-proof philosophy that offers no objective means of testing, I submit that they are doing what so many psychics, mediums, and channelers have done before them. Duped millions.
REFERENCES Atkinson, William Walker. Thought Vibration or Law of Attraction in the Thought World. Out of Print Edition.
Chalmers, Robert. “Interview: The Couple Who Claim They Can Make You Rich beyond Your Wildest Dreams.” The Independent [London] 8 July 2007. The Independent Website. Web.
Hansen, Chris. “In Pursuit of the Almighty Dollar.” Dateline NBC (NBC News). 7 May 2004. Television.
Hicks, Esther and Jerry. 2002. A New Beginning I. Texas: Abraham Hicks Publications.
—-. Special Subjects Tapes Vol. 1: Joyous Survival. Abraham Hicks Publications, 1998. CD.
—-. 2007/10/26 Asheville, NC. Abraham Hicks. Rec. 26 Oct. 2007. Abraham Hicks Publications, 2007. CD.
—-. 2007/11/10 Orlando, FL. Abraham Hicks. Rec. 11 Nov. 2007. Abraham Hicks Publications, 2007. CD.
—-. Carribean Cruise 2010. Abraham Hicks. Abraham Hicks Publications, 2010. CD.
—-. “A Message from Jerry & Esther: Oct/Nov/Dec 1997.” Abraham-Hicks Law of Attraction Journal. Abraham Hicks Publications. Web. 09 Aug. 2010.
—-. Abraham-Hicks Law of Attraction Introductory CD. Abraham Hicks Publications. Web. 15 Mar. 2009.
Nickell, Joe. “John Edward: Hustling the Bereaved.” Skeptical Inquirer 25.6 (2001). CSI. Center for Skeptical Inquiry. Web. 10 Aug. 2010.
Salkin, Allen. “Shaking Riches Out of the Cosmos.” The New York Times [New York] 25 Feb. 2007. The New York Times.
Thompson, Tony. “The Hidden Persuaders,” Time Out, June 22-29, 1994.
She does have a sense of humor. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zpBb4P-phKk.