Many are excited about the upcoming New Age movie, “Indigo,” written, produced, and directed by three renowned individuals who now live in Ashland – James Twyman, Neale Donald Walsch, and Stephen Simon. Appealing are the career opportunities, the camaraderie of movie-making, the promoting of spirituality and messages of peace and love. Promoters say it will stimulate the local economy and help our schools. But after examining the Indigo Child movement, and specifically the activities of co-writer/producer James Twyman, I see potential consequences for the community — and for children.
The Indigo Child concept was first popularized by the book, “The Indigo Children,” edited by the former husband and wife team Lee Carroll and Jan Tober. Carroll also portrays himself as a channeler for “Kryon,” a spiritual entity who predicted the coming of the Indigo Children – will wonders never cease?
The authors say that “the Indigo Child is a boy or girl who displays a new and unusual set of psychological attributes, revealing a pattern of behavior generally undocumented before.” For example, they act like royalty, have difficulty with absolute authority unless given choices or explanations, are easily frustrated, e.g. when waiting in line, are not shy, have difficulty with guilt-based discipline, are non-conformist, may seem antisocial and prefer to be with their own kind, and may have social difficulties in school. I, for one, see nothing new, unusual, or unheard-of here.
The Indigo Child concept may appeal especially to parents of children with mental health challenges, e.g. ADD, ADHD, autism, bi-polar disorder, conduct disorder, or a difficult temperament. Proponents target these label- and medication-wary parents. So, what is the harm in giving parents a positive spin on their children for a change — like Indigo?
Besides parents possibly foregoing beneficial, if not life-saving, treatment for children with mental or neurological disorders, some proponents of the Indigo movement, including James Twyman, infuse children with a false sense of human superiority and a bizarre paranormal identity. Mutilating science while claiming scientific proof, children are led to believe by trusted adults that they were born members of a new breed of the human race, the next step in human evolution, that their genes were somehow altered — perhaps as a result of divine or extraterrestrial intervention, or spontaneous genetic mutation accomplished by non other than the children themselves. Some children come to believe they are endowed with extraordinary powers such as clairvoyance, clairaudience, clairsentience, healing powers, pre-birth and previous life recall, etc. Tober and Carroll tell us that Indigo Children don’t fit in and feel uncomfortable when not with other Indigos. Small wonder!
Similar to the Indigo Child model, you may hear about The New Children, The Masters, Ascending Children, Star Children, Crystal Children, Metagifted Children, Millennium Children (or their evil counterparts, the “End-Times Children”), Children of the New Dream, Children of Aids (genetically altered child beings who are immune to all disease), and Super Psychic Children. James Twyman seems to prefer the terms Children of Oz or Psychic Children.
Not just about peace and love
Twyman, and other Indigo Child proponents, may try to shift our focus to the children’s message and mission of peace and love, but Twyman, for one, readily capitalizes on his own and children’s purported paranormal abilities.
Twyman sells books and Internet course based on the Psychic Children. He holds pricey Psychic Children conferences, camps, and fairs, charging about $300 for adults for the main conference. He offers an Internet course on telekinetic spoon-bending. He purportedly conversed with Jesus (“Jeshua”) who revealed to Twyman through a “Divine Partnership” the “secrets of Heaven and Earth,” which Twyman turned into an Internet course for required donations — with a suggested retail value of $150.
He purports to have frequently “conversed” telepathically from abroad with a Psychic Child he calls Thomas from Bulgaria, and other Psychic Children – providing more content for books and Internet courses. A “secret society of spiritual masters called emissaries of light” purportedly revealed themselves in the flesh to Twyman in Bosnia (before they disappeared) and conversed telepathically with him, from Bosnia, to show others the way — more content for courses and books.
Twyman often presents his own mental voices/thoughts and imaginings (hallucinations?) as real events, as real as your reading these words. He often does not distinguish in his communications between his purported mystical interactions and actual, in-the-flesh interactions. When confronted with suspected and admitted misrepresentations, he conveys that he would rather we focus on the truth of his messages than the truth of his experiences – and this seems to satisfy many people, but for others honesty is a prerequisite for credibility.
In response to a question posed by a New Age organization (see NHNE link, below), for an investigative report on Twyman in 1999, Twyman wrote reassuringly: “…as I have been telling those who inquire, Emissary of Light is not an organization, and I am not a guru. I am not asking for donations, and I do not seek either fame or adoration. This is not about me. It is about peace.”
Well, certainly Twyman has asked for and collected a wealth of donations (often required and collected using guilt-pressure) and fees. He created a “registered church organization” called The Beloved Community. He purchased 42 acres of property in the local area for Psychic Children retreats, to start a Emissary of Light type of monastery, and to house workshops for his new “Seminary of Spiritual Peacemaking.” He recently announced a five-year goal of 50 churches worldwide. After graduating from the seminary, Twyman suggests graduates can work with the Indigo and Psychic Children.
I believe adults are responsible for deciding what to believe, but as paranormal claims are key to Twyman’s growing popularity, and income, and as he targets minors around the world, I think we owe it to the Children of Oz to pull the curtain on the wizard by scrutinizing his claims.
Misleading reports of scientific proof
Twyman reports scientific proof of several spurious claims, including that children develop ESP at his fairs after Brain Respiration (BR) training. BR was created by ILChi Lee, AKA Seung Heun Lee, founder of Dahn Centers and many other organizations. (Lee and Walsch are also affiliated). Twyman and Lee have reported that the University of California at Irvine, specifically the Center for Aging and Dementia, has researched and “confirmed” the effects of BR. However, this department at UCI tells me they have not conducted any studies on Lee’s BR program, per se — let alone confirmed its paranormal claims.
Oily-skinned psychic children
At Twyman’s psychic fairs for children, kids are persuaded to believe that sticking a lightweight spoon to their forehead is a result of psychokinetic power. The fact is that everyone can stick a lightweight spoon to their forehead if they first rub the spoon on their skin, especially the forehead and chin, coating the spoon with slightly sticky sebum.
At Twyman’s psychic children’s fairs, parents paid for their kids’ ESP powers to be tested (charging subjects is unheard-of in scientific research) before and after participation in ILChi Lee’s BR training. The children were asked to identify certain shapes, colors, or simple words while blindfolded. Lee shows a video at his website of blindfolded children reading books held close to the face. But, the blindfolds were provided and the tests conducted by the program’s staff. Naturally, Twyman and Lee report amazing results.
Magicians and paranormal investigators have continually exposed “x-ray vision” as flimflammery, e.g. perhaps the blindfolded person can see through a space between the blindfold and the nose, a pinhole in the blindfold, cloth that appears opaque but is translucent when held close to the face, or verbal cues are provided by testers or shills. Sometimes it’s a matter of working with probabilities. For example, when asked to pick a number between one and ten, most people pick seven.
Using handicapped children
Twyman presents severely handicapped children and young adults at his psychic children’s fairs – e.g. a young woman called “Grandma Chandra,” who is known for her psychic readings using an alphabet board or mental telepathy (even over the phone for a mere $100) and a six year old boy named Nicholas, who has purportedly written a book full of spiritual adult-level insights (since age three) with an alphabet board. Twyman also offers telepathically received messages from a severely handicapped boy from Japan named Koya.
Telepathic powers can easily be imagined, or fabricated, especially when the purported sender is not able or available to object. Claims of telepathic powers are not hard to test and have been discredited many times. Mental telepathy is implausible, and as such, the burden of proof (or at least of solid, credible evidence) lies with the claimant. Without compelling evidence via unbiased, carefully controlled, and replicated tests, deception or delusion is fairly assumed
Facilitated Communication, whereby someone physically assists a handicapped person in using a communication device, has so often been shown to convey the thoughts of the facilitator (often unintentionally by hopeful parents) that this method simply cannot be trusted.
Imagine how frustrating, if not cruel, to have someone else claim that his/her own thoughts are yours while you remain helpless to protest. Telepathic and facilitated communication engenders high risk of subjugating a helpless person’s true thoughts, feelings, needs, and wishes — and high risk of defrauding a trusting audience.
Through ILChi Lee’s Brain Respiration training and Twyman’s own Internet course, Twyman teaches psychokinetic spoon-bending. Twyman says that if you can bend a spoon mentally, you can bend the world toward peace mentally, the logic of which eludes me.
There are possibly dozens, or more, ways to perform spoon-bending, e.g. an invisible cut or weak spot in the spoon, special prop utensils sold to magicians, chemical metal-softeners, slowly revealing a hidden bent spoon, sleight-of-hand, distraction – with new methods devised as old ones are suspected or exposed. Even the elusive mentalist Uri Geller, much admired by Twyman, was rendered inept on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show in the early 70’s when the station exercised some controls against cheating, like using the station’s props rather than those from Geller’s own bag of tricks. (Watch a video clip of the show.)
Spoonbending ala Twyman’s Internet course involves sheer power of suggestion — choose a thin metal spoon to begin with, bend it manually again and again (weakening the metal), and shake it to, as Twyman says, “use the force of gravity.” Psychological yes; kinetic yes, but obviously not psycho-kinetic. In week-four, readers are instructed in the same cadence to take out a $10 or $20 bill, hold it tightly, feel how it will help children connect with each other, fold the bill in a piece of paper, put it into an envelope, and send it to Twyman’s organization to pay for his Psychic Children gatherings.
On his website, Twyman provides a fork-bending demonstration on video where he bends a fork without his even touching it, just by coaxing it a little bit with his finger – amazing! Amazingly deceptive, that is. Hank Lee’s Magic Factory sells online a melting fork for a costly $695. Keep those peace and love donations rolling in, folks.
Put your mouth where the money is – $2.5 million!
The James Randi Educational Foundation offers over a million dollars to “anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.” Similar organizations offer additional large sums of money, totaling about 2.5 million. I implore Twyman, ILChi Lee, and their cohorts, or just one of the purported millions of psychic adults and children to come forward and take the scientific challenges. You owe it to children around the world, as it is the children who ultimately will pay the price if they are being deceived or used to deceive others.
If Twyman can really bend spoons with his mind, which he reports he couldn’t even stop doing after he met his first Psychic Child, he can certainly pass relatively easier scientific challenges. Twyman can use the money to further his stated goals of world peace and love, to save the dolphins. Winning would create a shock-wave throughout the scientific community – as none of the few who have ventured to apply has ever proceeded beyond the preliminary test.
As the New Age movement grows from marginal to mainstream, we need programs for New Age consumer protection. We must caution educators and parents about, and object to, programs with paranormal underpinnings, like the Indigo Child and Brain Respiration, which are fervently marketed to private and public schools. We need age-appropriate critical-thinking skills programs in education, starting in the early grades. We must educate ourselves and our children on the scientific method of inquiry, how to evaluate studies and spot pseudo-science and pseudo-scientists. We must help our children to develop radar to detect and avoid deceptive New Age profiteers – no matter how noble their stated cause.
Meanwhile, I take one statement of Twyman’s as a certainty, his quote to the Medford Mail Tribune: “…anyone that would want to make me their leader is a sick person.”