David Hawkins is a controversial spiritual teacher who claims that consciousness/truth can be objectively calibrated by the muscle test. This is an in-depth investigation into this claim.
IF YOU VISIT WIKIPEDIA and look up Dr. David Hawkins, the American psychiatrist who has over the last decade been putting out a lot of scientific-sounding New Age / New Consciousness philosophy in a series of books, magazines and lectures, you will be surprised to see that his entry in that online encyclopedia is almost blank. [It was once a substantial entry, a mirror of which you can see at search.com. It then disappeared altogether when a Wiki editor caved in to revisionist pressure and deleted the whole thing, only to return a year or two later with just a few lines when Wiki admin no doubt realized that blatant censorship was probably not good PR for them — link.] This is in stark contrast to the same entry just a couple of months earlier, an entry which was substantial due to Hawkins' controversial nature. As someone who naively believes in free speech, I could not understand how a Wikipedia entry could just disappear. [Alarmingly, the whitewashing continues — Hawkins' entire entry on Answers.com has since also been deleted.]
For those unaware of who Dr. David Hawkins is, here is a summary: Hawkins is an American psychiatrist who has become a high profile spiritual author and lecturer. He received his medical degree (M.D.) from the Medical College of Wisconsin in 1953, and also received a PhD in Health and Human Services from Columbia Pacific University (now closed). Hawkins currently lives in Sedona, Arizona, where he runs from home the Institute for Advanced Spiritual Research Inc.
Central to Hawkins' philosophy is a simple arm muscle testing technique, borrowed from an alternative therapy called Applied Kinesiology, which he uses to absolutely and objectively test the truth of any statement, calibrating it on an arbitrary logarithmic scale of 0 to 1000 (and sometimes higher), with different states of consciousness — shame (20), apathy (50), fear (100), anger (150), courage (200), reason (400), love (500), peace (600), enlightenment (700-1000) — located on different points on this scale, forming a linear and fixed one-dimensional "map of consciousness". This model of consciousness has metaphorical parallels to science's map of the electromagnetic spectrum, and it is not dissimilar to Ron Hubbard's Scientology emotional tone scale and The Sedona Method's hierarchy of emotions formulated by Lester Levenson, whom Hawkins worked with quite closely for a while (although he now classifies Levenson as a "fallen teacher" - link.)
This muscle test itself involves two people, one lightly pushing down the outstretched arm of the other to determine the muscle resistance whilst the particular statement is being said. If the muscle resistance to the downward push is strong in comparison to the baseline resistance when no statement is being said, then the statement in question is believed to be objectively true. If, however, the arm resistance feels weaker than the baseline resistance during the push down, then the statement is objectively false. In this way, it is possible to get a yes-or-no answer to any question you can formulate, or determine, for example, a person's or book's truth calibration by repeatedly stating that it is above or below a particular value and then testing whether this statement is true or false, and then repeating the process a number of times to zero in on an actual value. And Hawkins will claim, although nobody has ever scientifically verified this, that this number is as objective as a weight or height measurement, and that others testing for the same truth calibration, provided the testers and their motivation calibrate over the level of basic integrity (which is 200), will come up with exactly the same value. (In reality, Hawkins' students disagree on these "objective" values and usually have to resort to having Hawkins find the "correct" value.)
The physiological effect of a particular statement on the strength of the shoulder muscle that supports the arm is chosen for its ease to test, for the kinesiology reaction is actually seen throughout the body, including changes in brain waves, pupil dilation and gastrointestinal mobility. In fact, several different forms of alternative therapy use it as a feedback mechanism to the unconscious. (By definition the effect is unconscious otherwise you would not need another person to push down on the arm… you would feel your muscles weaken and the other physiological responses.) For example, if you go to a biodynamic psychotherapist (a system of psychotherapy developed by Gerda Boyesen), he or she will use feedback from your gastrointestinal track, usually placing a stethoscope on the abdomen to hear the gurglings in the stomach during the psychotherapy which is claimed signify emotional release, giving the practitioner access to the patient's autonomic nervous system and unconscious.
Hawkins, however, has settled on the two-person arm-pressing technique because it is the easiest to do. (There is a single-person muscle strength test used by some kinesiologists which involves making an an "o" with the thumb and index finger of one hand and then testing the muscle strength of those digits by inserting the thumb and index finger of his other hand and then pulling them apart to try to break the "o". I remember meeting a kinesiologist a few years back who was constantly fiddling with his hands in this way to test every decision that he was making.)
Hawkins' philosophy and teachings, which are presented scientifically using a lot of technical jargon (primarily from chaos and quantum theory), revolve around this muscle testing means to objectively calibrate truth, and the implications of this absolute certainty or absolutism in our lives. He claims to have personally transformed from an alcoholic atheist who felt that he was about to die (link) to an enlightened master back in 1965, and which he became a spiritual teacher, first teaching a few classes on Ramana/Advaita and A Course in Miracles before formulating his own teachings and presenting himself as an enlightened master in his book Power vs Force, which was published in 1995.
Although most would classify him as a New Age teacher, he opposes some aspects of New Age spirituality such as channeling, fortune telling and Wicca. He also confusingly interchanges the terms truth, consciousness, vibration, frequency and energy on his 0 to 1000 calibration scale or map of consciousness, bringing absolute objectivity into perspectives generally considered subjective and relative. According to Hawkins, there is no place in his cosmology for relativism — the idea that truth is not absolute but relative to some particular frame of reverence, so even a painting, sculpture, novel or movie has a single calibrated objective level of truth or vibration (muscle testing measurements are completely immune to the influence of the beliefs and values of those doing the tests — provided they have integrity). [link]
Although Hawkins' students can be forgiven for coming up with the "wrong" calibration, many of Hawkins' own calibrations, which of course are "true" because they have been done by the master himself, are a little mystifying and some are inconsistent. This is exactly what one would expect for a process that is more subjective than objective. His calibration, for example, for the percentage of the world's population over the integrity level of 200 fluctuations wildly — it is currently around 20%. (Hawkins would claim that this is because the calibration level IS fluctuating, but a much more obvious explanation would be that he is using a different reading to make a different point — in other words, the process is subjective.) Hawkins calibrates US President Bush relatively high at 460 (with only 20% of the world's population over 200 that is quite a compliment), whereas most people without a strong Republican political bias and certainly the majority of the world's population regard Bush as having compromised integrity. But the evidence of the eyes is obviously deceiving, and the muscle test in the right hands (aka Hawkins' hands) is infallible because Hawkins decrees it so, and in an impressive display of circular logic, Hawkins even uses the muscle test to verify the objective accuracy of the muscle test.
As for his own books and teachings, Hawkins calibrates them as the very highest in truth of anything ever produced by anyone in the history of our planet, and that includes all the latest scientific journals and ancient religious texts/bibles. He calibrated his own book I: Reality and Subjectivity at 999.8 on the scale of 0 to 1000, just a fraction of a vibration point off the personal calibrations of Jesus, Buddha and Krishna. And for someone to be able to produce a teaching of such an elevated calibration they would certainly have to have have a similar personal truth calibration, so it is most likely that Hawkins calibrates himself somewhere up there at the end of his calibration scale with these avatars, although he has wisely, apart from a few hints, kept quiet about his own rating.
This makes his teachings enormously appealing to people looking for certainty in an uncertain world as they provide a means to justify absolute beliefs and values. And because Hawkins places himself at or near the top of his absolute calibration scale, some of his students even sleep with his book under their pillow because of its high vibration, and people have moved to Sedona to be near the master. But unlike other teachers and teachings whose validity rests on the faith or beliefs of those following them, no faith is actually needed to accept what Hawkins says because, according to him, it is as all scientifically proven with his arm-pressing technique.
As you can imagine, by presenting himself as a scientist able to objectively and absolutely test and calibrate truth by pushing down on another person's arm, Hawkins is one of the most controversial teachers on the New Age circuit. For his supporters (and for Hawkins himself), he is a brilliant academic, scientific genius and enlightened spiritual master who has discovered something of immense importance to humanity — a means to objectively test truth and calibrate consciousness for the first time in history. But to his detractors, he is an ignorant, self-serving, egotistical and right-wing cult-leader masquerading as a scientist and playing God, who has based his entire philosophy or "work" on a simple muscle technique misappropriated from Applied Kinesiology, an alternative and controversial therapy that itself regards the muscle test as neither objective nor conclusive on matters of truth.
This controversy surrounding Hawkins was naturally reflected on his Wikipedia online encyclopedia entry, and as Wikipedia can be edited by the general public, his page was hot with controversy value judgments. This was obviously a bone of contention for Hawkins, and so his private publishing company set up to exclusively publish his books, Veritas Publishing, started sending emails to those critical to his work to find out whether they were responsible for the negative entries on his Wikipedia entry and, if they were, to remove them.
Having written a critical article on Hawkins' calibration methods myself called Dowsing for God back in Feb 2005, I too received an email from Veritas Publishing last June asking me whether I was responsible for the Wikipedia critical posting "which contains false implications in reference to Dr. David Hawkins" being a cult leader, and, if I was responsible, "we would like to request that you ask Wikipedia [to] remove that paragraph." I wrote back saying that I was not responsible for this entry but that Hawkins was certainly acting like a cult leader in trying to silence legitimate criticism (calling someone a cult leader is a legitimate value judgment that fits the evidence in this case rather well). I heard nothing more from Veritas. Then I was informed by a Hawkins critic that I had been in touch with by email that Hawkins was starting to use the threat of legal action to silence his critics, claiming that what has been put out on the web was fallacious and therefore should be removed. For example, if you visit the website of The New England Institute of Religious Research (NEIRR), a non-profit educational organisation run by cult expert and academic, Rev. Robert Pardon, you will no longer find a single reference to Dr. Hawkins because he was threatened with legal action for publishing "libellous" comments on Hawkins. Running the Meadow Haven project concerned with helping victims of cults, Rev. Pardon did not want to divert money from this project to defending his right to free speech and so pulled the Hawkins material. (Instead, you will shortly see the information posted on the Apologetics Index in Europe.) [Most of NEIRR's allegations against Hawkins also appear on other websites such as Rick A. Ross and The Skeptic's Dictionary. However, these sites appear to have the resources to defend free speech so it appears that Hawkin's lawyers went after a weak target. When we put this to them we got no response.]
With the threat of litigation in the air, Hawkins' Wikipedia entry was promptly removed by a nervous administrator, who, rather than taking the time to tighten up the references, decided that it was just easier to delete the whole thing. The reason, entered by administrator Zscout370 on the 19th July 2007 was: "BLP issues, OTRS actions, emails of copyvios and litigation between parties. Had enough of Wikipedia being the pissing place for this pissing match." He also wrote, "you know what, no matter what everyone does or says, I am always getting emails about this being a BLP violation or some copyvio. Take your matches elsewhere, I am done with this." Wikipedia has a strict policy on Biographies of living persons (BLPs), and when entries get too heated — involving litigation, claimed copyright violations (copyvios) and official complaints through their Open Ticket Request System (OTRS) — entries are often pared down, although it is rare for them to be deleted altogether. [The general discussion now on Wiki admin forums is that Zscout370 was out of line making the decision to delete the whole entry just because he was tired of dealing with it.]
For me, It was a chilling development in a society based on the principles of free speech when anyone, let alone a spiritual teacher, appears to be using legal muscle to sanitize online references and biographies, so I felt it was time to investigate these matters more thoroughly and write this follow-up article on Hawkins. Of course, litigation is entirely justified for bona fide libel and copyright infringements, so my first port of call was to email David Hawkins' publishing company, Veritas Publishing, to ask them about their use of litigation to silence their critics, giving them an opportunity to justify their actions. I wrote, "I am very interested to know Veritas Publishing's official position on these matters and also the name and contact info for Hawkins' lawyer as I will be wanting to get statements from him regarding his legal threats. I am personally very interested in libel and issues of free speech, and want to understand your side of the story too and Veritas' position on free speech." An hour later, I received the following curt reply: "Hi Please contact our law firm at email@example.com".
So I then sent a polite email to Veritas' lawyer, Christy O. King of the DuBoff Law Group in Portland Oregon, to get an official statement regarding these matters. "In the interests of hearing both sides of the debate and writing a fair article," I wrote, "I was hoping that you might be able to let me know specifically what your legal concerns with regards to Hawkins' critics revolve around." The response was as curt as Veritas': "Thank you for your email; however, I have no comment."
I was not asking his lawyers on the specifics of a particular legal case, only to generally comment on the type of criticism they are targeting, so that, if anything, I could write an article that did not land me in a similar legal dispute! However, as Hawkins' lawyers DuBoff specialize in copyright, publishing and trademark issues, it is unlikely that the litigation is of a libelous nature. Rather, what Veritas is probably doing is effectively discouraging criticism by censoring the use of Hawkins' material in critiques. Although US Copyright Law does make provisions for "fair use" of copyrighted work, there are factors such as the use, nature of the work, quantity and effect on its value that complicate the matter, giving copyright law firms the ability to hassle anyone unable or unwilling to defend that fair use in legitimate criticism. This is not to say that this is what DuBoff is doing, only that it is a possibility to consider in light of their reticence to comment openly.
Attacking copyright issues involved in critiques is probably the easiest way to stifle them provided they contain substantial quotes of copyrighted material, but if Hawkins or his lawyers feel that he has been defamed in any way, libel litigation can also be pursued. In this case, success in the courts would depend upon the type of criticism. If, for example, Hawkins' critics present false facts regarding Hawkins, such as claiming that he does not have a PhD, then the statement is clearly libelous and he has every justification to defend his academic qualifications through the legal system. If, however, the claim is made that he received his PhD through an unaccredited distance-learning "diploma mill" university with such questionable academic standards that it was legally forced to close, then this is a statement of corroborated fact and cannot be classified as libel — a defamatory statement that is true is not libel! [There was initially some doubt that Hawkins completed his PhD because he apparently only got 59 out of the 60 required units — see link — but in California only 54 modules are actually needed so he did complete the diploma mill course.]
There is another very important category of criticism called value judgments. These are in the realm of personal opinion and often reveal as much about the person making the judgment as about the object of that judgment. For example, if someone was to claim that Hawkins is a cult leader, this is called a value judgment because there is no way to absolutely objectively determine whether a person is a cult leader or not — one person's cult leader is another person's spiritual teacher. However, value judgments are not completely relative, with some carrying much more weight or probability by fact of the amount of corroborating evidence upon which they are based and the accepted means by which that evidence is evaluated.
For example, cults and cult leaders can be identified fairly accurately (although never absolutely) by applying the means of Lifton's criteria to judge the evidence. Hawkins' arm-pushing organisation certainly seems to have most of these criteria, so it is likely, if you accept the Lifton model and use it to assess the accepted facts regarding Hawkins and his organisation, that Hawkins' organisation is a cult and that Hawkins is a cult leader. But again, this will always be somewhat speculative as subjective elements are involved (although in a court of law such criteria are often applied because the conclusion does not have to be absolutely true — just beyond reasonable doubt). There are also other sets of criteria that indicate the likely presence of a cult, such as the ones listed on the Rick A. Ross online cult database. But Hawkins' cult status remains, at least for me, a value judgment, although I would consider it highly probable, given the evidence and how it fits accepted cult criteria, that he is a cult leader. (Other critics believe that because he crosses the "beyond reasonable doubt" line Hawkins can "factually" be labeled a cult leader).
Value judgments are dependent upon the values of the person making them, even though those values can be almost universal in a society (and therefore almost regarded as fact). In terms of a legal point of view, value judgments are generally recognized as valid criticism in any free and open democratic society, and libel law cannot generally be used to stop this type of criticism. To quote Liberty's guide to human rights over here in Europe: The European Court has repeatedly emphasised the distinction between facts and value judgments and has held that a defendant cannot be required to prove the truth of a value judgment. The law takes a similar stance in the US and other democratic nations that support free speech, and so you will not be able to successfully prosecute someone for libel for merely expressing a value judgment. If you could, free speech would go out the window. (This does not appear to be something that Hawkins would be particularly concerned about as he is quoted on the SpiritualWiki as saying: We don't need freedom of speech; we need freedom from speech.)
Interestingly, it seems to be value judgments that Hawkins is most eager to stifle. When I was approached by Veritas back in June, the email centred around the criticism of him being a cult leader and gave justifications why he should not be categorized in that way. What is most surprising is that it totally ignored the infinitely more damaging criticism regarding the invalidity of objective calibration itself which is the corner-stone of his entire work. Why should Hawkins seem to care so much about value judgments — about what others think of him? (Possible reasons are covered later in this article.)
So to summarize, we have three primary categories of criticism:
- Criticism presented as verifiably true facts
- Criticism presented as verifiably false facts
- Value judgments (including criticism presented as unverifiable facts)
In terms of the verifiability of criticism, this is usually based in modern courts of law on objective evidence and reason (certainly not via a kinesiology technique), and the categorization is usually, but not always, clear-cut.
If Hawkins was to knowingly threaten legal action against criticism that falls into the first or third categories, then he would be abusing the legal system by using it as a tool to censor legitimate criticism and stifle free speech. However, there is another intriguing possibility: because Hawkins verifies truth in a completely different way to reasoning human beings — basically with a muscle test — his categorization of criticisms is likely to be somewhat perverted. For him, muscle testing is the primary means of verifying both factual criticism and value judgments, and therefore any criticism that is rejected by arm-pressing could be fair game, from his perspective, to legal action, regardless of whether it can be classified as a value judgment or not. And there is a third possibility (these possibilities are not necessarily exclusive) that Hawkins is a pathological narcissist who has lost touch with reality and become completely intolerant of criticism.
So let's look at some of the main criticism that has been leveled at Hawkins and see what criticism category it falls into:
- Hawkins' use of Applied Kinesiology's (AK) muscle testing procedure is entirely misappropriated and an abuse of that diagnostic system. This is an indisputable fact — Category 1 criticism. Hawkins took up muscle testing after seeing a lecture given by fellow psychiatrist and Applied Kinesiology proponent, Dr John Diamond. According to Susan Diamond, Dr. Diamond's wife, "David Hawkins attended one seminar of my husband's way back in the mid 1970's and that is it… As far as we know, Hawkins had has no training in Applied Kinesiology which is a very intensive course of about 360 hours or so. If that is the case, then he should not be using muscle testing which he calls Applied Kinesiology." (quoted from an Answers.com article that has 'disappeared' in the same manner as Hawkin's Wikipedia article) Even the president of the International College of Applied Kinesiology has stated that, "It is unfortunate that Hawkins repeatedly uses the term applied kinesiology to describe his methodology because this could not be further from the truth. He uses a single muscle test which in itself, forms the fundamental basis of AK but is but one of very many aspects of AK procedure, practice and training." (Due to criticism from those involved with AK, Hawkins seems to be in the process of removing references to Applied Kinesiology from his books and lecture material, and using the term muscle testing instead, but rest assured that it is a standard applied kinesiology test he uses.)
- There is absolutely no scientific evidence to suggest that muscle testing can be used in any way as a reliable truth detector, even by those proficient at it, despite Hawkins' false claim that "peer reviewed" evidence (in the usual academic sense of the expression) exists. This is an indisputable fact — Category 1 criticism. Double blind studies have been done on AK muscle testing and shows that it does not give reliable evidence, even when just used in its original and much more limited way as an alternative diagnostic tool. (Research references - spiritualteachers.org) And besides, muscle testing is so easy to do, involving absolutely no cost and little training, that if it was able to objectively assess aspects of our reality then you can be assured that this would quickly be confirmed by research and that this research would be written up and disseminated by Hawkins and his supporters, and Hawkins would be nominated for the Nobel prize and be considered the greatest thinker of the 21st century – rather than being nominated for the 2007 Bent Spoon Award! All, however, is suspiciously silent in the Hawkins camp except for wild testimonials and periodic assertions by Hawkins himself (rather unsurprisingly) that muscle testing's objective accuracy has confirmed many times in the hundreds of lecture demonstrations that he has given over the years, despite the fact that lectures are not the controlled environment needed to validate muscle testing (just as shows are not the place to evaluate David Copperfield's magic). And no one can claim that this lack of corroborating evidence and a controlled environment for such a simple technique is not due to a lack of incentive: magician James Randi is prepared to hand over a million-dollar prize money should its validity as a truth detector be proved. (Hawkins gets out of this one by stating that everyone who has ever researched muscle testing and found it to fall short of being an absolute truth detector has no integrity or was using the arm of a subject with no integrity.)
- Hawkins presents some questionable academic qualifications and claims such as his PhD in Health and Human Services from a private unaccredited distance-learning university called Columbia Pacific University (CPU) which was closed by court order for failing to meet standards set for private universities. This is an indisputable fact — Category 1 criticism. In fact, the university was of such poor standard that The Associated Press reported that the State of California, where it was located, had been trying to close it down almost from the day it opened, saying that CPU "had virtually no academic standards." CPU was giving out PhDs to students who had been with them less than 12 months and for papers with little or no research, and one student even passed writing a paper in a language the examiner could not understand! California's Deputy Attorney General Asher Rubin called CPU "a diploma mill" as well as "a consumer fraud, a complete scam" and a "phony operation" which offered "totally worthless [degrees]… to enrich its unprincipled promoters." But this has not stopped Hawkins using this questionable academic title on all his books and lecture materials, although he is always careful never to mention the awarding body. (Hawkins has also been linked with claims that he has studied at the Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research at Columbia University, but Joan Jackson, representing that department, has stated that, "I do not have any record of a David Ramon Hawkins studying at our Institute." [email source and link] This misconception has arisen because Hawkins states that his training psychoanalyst was a professor at Columbia University, without clarifying that he did not himself attend Columbia University. He lists on his CV under "Awards and Recognitions": "Training Psychoanalysis by Prof. Lionel Oversey, M.D., at Columbia University Psychoanalytic Institute," This can be misleading in its ambiguity.)
- Hawkins has some questionable honours and titles, questionable in that the awarding organisations can be difficult to identify, the honorary titles have been modified on his website, and some are self-styled or vanity awards. This is an indisputable fact — Category 1 criticism. For example, his website used to state that he had been "knighted by the Danish crown" but this was removed after Bjarne E. Pedersen, Deputy Private Secretary to Her Majesty the Queen of Denmark, declared that the order in question was not of Dutch origin. It is also claimed that he has been knighted by the Knight Brother of the Sovereign Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem in the Americas (link), although this title has been modified on his website to Sovereign Order of the Hospitaliers of St. John of Jerusalem (link). He also has vanity entries in two editions of Who's Who. (This does not necessarily imply that he has bogus awards per se, only that it is not clear-cut where they have come from or what they actually mean. Of course, if one defines bogus in relation to awards as meaning self-serving rather than independently awarded, then they could most certainly be called bogus.)
- Hawkins is obsessed with self-styled honours and titles. This is a value judgment — Category 3 criticism — although it is supported by the long string of such honours and titles that he has chosen to list on his website, something that is unusual for a spiritual teacher.
- Hawkins misuses scientific terminology and concepts in his books and teachings, and in so doing demonstrates a lack of scientific and mathematical understanding. This is an indisputable fact — Category 1 criticism. From logarithmic scales, to absurd and meaningless numbers plucked out of thin air (such as the energy of a loving thought being 10 to the power of minus 35 million megawatts), to the use of chaos theory terminology, to the ubiquitous New Age quantum theory justifications… it is all there in black and white in his books. He also claims that it is the adrenaline hormone that makes the muscle go weak during the muscle test, a statement that must contradict his training as a medical doctor (adrenaline, as any high school student knows, makes muscles stronger, ready for fight or flight). Like many New Age teachers, Hawkins does not understand the difference between using a scientific theory as metaphor, and using it as an explanation. As a result, to those who are not scientifically trained (his target audience), his work comes across as scientific and therefore much more credible, and he rides on the back of this scientific respectability. However, when challenged by those with scientific understanding, Hawkins takes the position that his system of truth has a higher truth rating than science and so science cannot be used to determine the validity or invalidity of his work. In other words, he has is cake and eats it too. Hawkins also contradicts prevailing scientific evidence on issues of the dangers of tobacco and the imminence of anthropogenic global warming (he arm-presses that humans aren't responsible). He also advocates high-dosage vitamin therapy for psychiatric patients, a treatment that the psychiatric profession has long rejected (although this does not invalidate vitamin therapy per se, it does invalidate his claim that he "revolutionized psychiatry" or changed it in any lasting capacity).
- Hawkins dismisses those who criticize his theories with the ad hominem argument, stating that they calibrate below 200, the basic level of integrity, and so are not in a position to criticize him. This is an indisputable fact — Category 1 criticism. Hawkins places himself and his philosophy beyond criticism because his vibration and that of his work is so much higher than that of everyone else on the planet. In this way, Hawkins does not need to face up to criticism — it is beneath him to do so. This also discourages his supporters from breaking rank because to do so would be indicative of their low vibration. So anybody who does not agree with Hawkins, by definition as he is a master, does not have integrity and so should be dismissed. (This is actually one widely accepted criterion for a cult leader.)
- Hawkins is politically right-wing. This is a value judgment — Category 3 criticism. But there is a lot of evidence backing up this judgment. Hawkins has calibrated Republicans as higher than Democrats, President Bush as having a high vibration (460), supported the war in Iraq, and believes in the spiritual superiority of men over women (he has stated that women cannot reach full enlightenment because only the male body can handle the energy). In fact, he has used calibration to justify a whole array of right-wing political positions, making him the darling of the conservatives. Hawkins also states that America has the highest calibration of any country in the world (421) which is why it is so dominant, with 50% of its population calibrating over 200, the basic level of integrity. (That figure is only 20% over 200 calibration for the rest of the world.)
- Hawkins is a cult leader and his organisation is a cult. This is a value judgment - Category 3 criticism — and has been covered earlier in this article.
- Hawkins is a pathological narcissist / egotist. This is a value judgment - Category 3 criticism. Although looking at a list of criteria for narcissism Hawkins does seem to fit the bill. For example, Hawkins does seem to have a grandiose sense of self-importance (he claims to be enlightened and to having written the most truthful material in history), he does seem preoccupied with power (Power vs Force), he does believe he is special (listing honorary titles and his diploma mill PhD on his CV), and he does seem to be intolerant to criticism, defining its vibration below 200 and therefore not even worth addressing.
- Hawkins is a dishonest man who is conning people into buying his books. This is a value judgment — Category 3 criticism — and one that I personally do not share. Hawkins seems to be deluded rather than dishonest, and probably believes a lot of the material that he puts out. But you can never be sure.
- Hawkins can never have had a true mystical experience because any experience of oneness with the universe (which is what mysticism essentially is) could never result in the formulation of a system of philosophy or map of consciousness that rejects 80% of human beings on this planet as below basic integrity. This is a value judgment — Category 3 criticism. But it is true that his philosophy does seem to be highly judgmental, closing the door to compassion with his definitive calibration. Can you imagine the other spiritual teachers up there at the top of the calibration scale with Hawkins — Jesus, Buddha and Krishna — judging 80% of humanity this way? But this has to be a value judgment because mystical experiences translate notoriously badly into spiritual philosophies, so it is also quite possible that Hawkins had genuine mystical experiences that inspired him to formulate naive spiritual philosophies. [Hawkins also believes that the make-up of women's nervous systems means that they are unable to handle the very highest spiritual frequencies, which is why so far there are no women calibrating over 700. To many, including the author, this seems to be pure sexism disguised as spiritual philosophy, indicating that Hawkins may not be the spiritual sage he presents himself as. Again, this is a Category 3 criticism.]
This list above is in no way meant to be definitive — I have no doubt there are other criticisms of Hawkins (some of which are mentioned later in this article), but this list covers, as far as I am aware, the current main ones. The fact that so many are factual and verified, and that so many of the value judgments are highly probable, does not bode well for this "spiritual teacher".
The most damning are the first two which completely pull the rug out from under Hawkins' whole philosophy by invalidating the muscle test as an objective truth detector, taking away Hawkins' justification for absolutism. Without arm-pressing, Hawkins' whole objective calibration theory crumbles to the dogma it actually is, as does the authority he has mustered by writing the highest calibrated book in history (and by implication being one of the highest calibrated beings of all time). Take away muscle testing and suddenly Hawkins stands before us as the naked Emperor he actually is — a right-wing, opinionated and contradictory New Age teacher trying in vain to objectively justify an assortment of personal dogmatic beliefs and opinions. Hawkins is well aware of this fact, which is why he is now distancing himself from applied kinesiology as his position is being weakened further by proponents of that alternative diagnostic system because they too reject and invalidate his use (or rather misuse) of their muscle testing technique.
As long as Hawkins' retains an absolute objective view of calibration, he knows he is on shaky ground, and so he has started to refer to his use of muscle testing and calibration as "right brain exploration", a far cry to his original left brain arithmetic description outlined in his book Power versus Force. In fact, we may see calibration itself played down in the future as Hawkins knows that it is his Achilles heel, being so amenable to scientific validation, validation it consistently fails. And using the excuse that those who cannot validate it calibrate under 200 is disingenuous: after all, if 50% of US citizens (according to Hawkins) calibrate over the necessary basic level of integrity, then a full 25% of any arm-pressing double act should have access to infallible truth testing, and this is clearly not the case even in his own organisation of followers (who I presume would calibrate higher than the national average).
Hawkins' position therefore would actually be more tenable if he moved back to a more overtly dogmatic worldview, relying on his perceived authority as an enlightened master with many impressive titles and qualifications, rather than giving it an easily dismissed pseudo-scientific justification. His one-dimensional map of consciousness, although not particularly original, is a valid hypothesis widely accepted by many (but not all) parts of the New Age community. What is original about Hawkins' map is the numerical detail — the pseudo-scientific veneer — he puts on this concept. However, as the pseudo-science is becoming too much of a liability, Hawkins may have to remove some of the numerical detail as it is clearly contrived given the fallibility of the muscle test. In the words of Sarlo, editor of Sarlo's Guru Rating Service, "Unfortunately, he has leaned rather too heavily on what turns out to be a thin stick, and it cannot support all the weight he wants it to."
It is also interesting that Hawkins writes in his book I: Reality & Subjectivity that "The human mind is incapable of discerning truth from falsehood," because, as the muscle test according to him is able to discern truth from falsehood, this implies that the mind is in no way involved in the kinesiological response. I presume he is referring to the conscious mind as the subconscious mind certainly has to be involved in the kinesiological response as he admits the response includes changes in the autonomic nervous system. But if the conscious mind has no influence over the autonomic nervous system, then autogenic-type training in which one can learn to consciously control the autonomic systems such as the heartbeat rate would be invalidated, as would many healing imagery techniques and therapies. So evidence would not support Hawkins' assertion that the mind is somehow completely uninvolved in his truth calibration process — in other words, it is not as objective as he would like it to be.
One question that does arise is why Hawkins seems to have used litigation and/or the threat of litigation only over the past few months. What could be triggering this sudden possible desire to silence his critics? Unless he is using it simply for copyright issues, one reason might be that, due to his recent interview on Oprah Winfrey's radio show, which will certainly generate huge interest for his work, Hawkins could be flexing his legal muscles in an attempt to sanitize the web as much as possible so that potential students are not put off by official encyclopedia entries like the one on Wikipedia. Another factor might be that Hawkins, unable to counter valid criticism, has resorted to trying to silence the source of criticism. (All this is conjecture until more is known of the types of litigation that have been involved.)
At the end of the day, however, the Hawkins phenomenon says more about society in general than about Hawkins himself, showing the seduction of absolute philosophies, no matter how inane. Some people will always champion anything and anyone who gives them the illusion of certainty, just as many did with Hitler in the 1930's and Bush in more recent times, suspending their critical facilities in order to satisfy the emotional need for security. Hawkins offers that security with his absolute map of consciousness, and for this reason, it is unlikely that Hawkins will disappear even if the New Consciousness communities start to accept that his arm-pressing truth detector is entirely contrived. Hawkins will no doubt continue to defend the indefensible with weak ad hoc explanations and ever-inflated claims of his personal authority and high spiritual development, and possibly litigation, to silence his critics and stamp out dissent. Fortunately, the power of free speech always prevails over the force of litigation, and what Hawkins and his followers has managed to get censored from Wikipedia and NEIRR will resurface elsewhere on the web.
The title of this article is "The Emperor's New Clothes" because this well-known fairy tale fits the facts about Hawkins and his claim to be an enlightened master with important and absolute teachings. Hawkins is the emperor presenting the finery of his absolutism to the world, justifying it by claiming the infallibility of a kinesiology arm-pressing technique. (The term "absolutism" which Hawkins uses to define his position can fittingly also refer to "a political theory holding that all power should be vested in one ruler" — Hawkins!) And anyone who dares to question the emperor's new clothes is a "low-cal" — a person too low on the calibration scale to appreciate the the emperor's fine weave and therefore someone who should be ignored if at all possible.
And this charade is playing out in front of us, with Hawkins holding his head high at the top of the calibration scale with the likes of Jesus, Buddha and Krishna. And the towns people in our fairy tale are the majority of the New Age / New Consciousness movements, as well as many of those from more traditional religions who regard Hawkins' "scientific" work as justification for their absolutist belief systems and spiritual hierarchies. Spiritual absolutists just love spiritual and truth hierarchies as this allows them not only to categorize (judge) without appearing judgemental (not generally considered spiritual in New Consciousness circles), but also to bolster the spiritual ego with an absolute and objective spiritual self-classification. And couple this with their fear of being calibrated below 200 and you have a recipe for mass delusion, such as what we see with regards to Hawkins and his calibrated worldview.
Whilst there are a few voices of dissent in the New Age / New Consciousness / spiritual movements, the majority of criticism for Hawkins' assertions and theories comes from those outside all spiritual movements — the scientific reductionists [eg] — who attack Hawkins' use of pseudo-science. These people are not afraid of calibrating below 200 as they reject calibration altogether.
Hawkins presents his work with a lot of scientific jargon in a move that impresses only non-scientific people (the majority of the population). Because of this, the criticism he faces is primarily from hard-headed skeptical materialists — those who tend to be outside the New Consciousness, New Age or modern spiritual movements (his target audience). The result is a polarization of debate, with spiritual people on the one hand feeling that they need to defend Hawkins from this onslaught from hard-headed reductionist scientists, and scientific people on the other hand who end up dismissing Hawkins as just another example of irrational and cultist spiritual philosophies. And this polarization is encouraged by Hawkins' dismissal of the often valid points his critics are making by calibrating these people themselves, in an ad hominem attack, as below the threshold of integrity and therefore not worth addressing. And the flip side of this is that if you accept Hawkins' authority and see the value of his work, you are probably of high spiritual calibration. (Ad hominem criticism is actually only valid on Hawkins himself because his main justification for his work rests on the authority of himself as an enlightened master genius who can write books with the very highest truth calibration. Were he to try to base it on the strength of his philosophy alone, he would not have the high profile he has today because it just would not bear the weight he places on it.)
This polarization of criticism, which I have no doubt Hawkins is encouraging, acts as a smoke-screen for the holes in his work by pushing debate into an us-and-them issue: of course those awful scientists who reject anything remotely spiritual would reject Hawkins' work. After all, they reject all spiritual beliefs and philosophies! And this is the reason why Hawkins is such a controversial character and why his Wikipedia entry was so heated — divide and conquer, that is his motto.
But surely there are more people in the New Age and New Consciousness movements who are scientifically literate enough to reject Hawkins' contrived calibration? How come so many seem to be silent in this debate?
The problem with the New Age or New Consciousness movements is that they have become very commercial and very incestuous, particularly in Northern America and Canada. Authors and teachers write forwards in each others books, give each other glowing recommendations and praise, share the same publishers and speak at the same venues to the same New Age spiritual audience. So most do not want to upset the apple cart — staying in line with beatific smiles is far more lucrative. And who wants to be publicly calibrated below 200 by Hawkins… what a spiritual insult and, worse of all, one that most of your peers will probably believe!
Many mistakenly believe that by rejecting Hawkins' philosophy, they are rejecting New Spirituality and New Consciousness, as Hawkins is now so entrenched in this movement that he has come to represent it in many people's eyes. But nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, a rejection of Hawkins' philosophy is an affirmation of true spirituality. (Hawkins' philosophy represents a major step backwards spiritually.)
Hawkins now wields enormous power by having made himself the absolute authority on consciousness and truth ratings. And even if this is illusion, the name of the game in PR for even spiritual people is image — it does not matter if it is real or not. This is why there are not more dissenters in the spiritual communities. And of course, calibration works both ways. Hawkins can bestow the honour of a high calibration on someone, flattering the ego of say a politician or a talk show host, which is likely to open some important doors for him. He says that those attending his lectures calibrate in the 400s making them "special", which of course is reciprocated by them being more willing to accept Hawkins' flattering teachings and more willing to accept demonstrations of calibration without a critical eye. (By flattering his audience, he basically preaches to the converted.)
And as Hawkins' grip on the New Age / New Consciousness movements gets stronger, so does the weight of his calibration judgment. Do these movements really want to be giving this amount of power to one individual, handing Hawkins the opportunity to reintroduce the same type of absolutism that has enslaved humanity for so many millennia in the form of organized religion? After all, what is the difference between Hawkins dictating objective truth or calibration to us (via muscle testing) and the Vatican dictating their official interpretation of the bible and Jesus' work? Both are assuming authorities that they don't have: Hawkins by way of his authority being able to write the most truthful books in history, and the Vatican by way of their authority in being official appointed by God to interpret Jesus and his teachings.
Absolutism, which Hawkins calibrates at 650 (way above relativism which he calibrates below 200) is a throw-back to our past, and had been rejected by the New Consciousness movement because it is a recipe for authoritarian control and abuse. All absolutist philosophies are founded on a particular set of rigid assumptions or dogmas that remain unquestioned because they are "true". For Islamic Fundamentalism, for example, this dogma is the authority of the Imams and their absolute interpretation of the Koran; for Christian Fundamentalists, this dogma is the authority of the Vatican or evangelists and their absolute interpretation of the Bible. And for Hawkins' calibration theory, this dogma is the authority of Hawkins himself and his absolute interpretation of the results of muscle testing.
When a person or group decree how reality should be defined — what is true and what is false — then that person or group effectively control the lives of every person that accepts their authority and/or their worldview. This is how Islamic Fundamentalists, for example, can be manipulated into becoming suicide bombers, and how cult members can be persuaded to commit mass suicide. If these people where not absolutists, they would not have this blind obedience to authority. And this is why absolutist philosophies are so dangerous — their rigidity causes intolerance towards anyone or any philosophy that opposes their authority to define reality, and as such, one will find absolutism behind most of the wars and conflicts throughout human history, as people battle to establish the truth of their particular ideologies. It is, therefore, ironic that Hawkins states that his goal is to "bring about… relief of human suffering" when most of humanity's suffering has been caused by absolute philosophies and the clash of absolute philosophies. (This makes a mockery of Hawkins' high 650 calibration of absolutism.)
Asking what is wrong with absolutism in spirituality is like asking what is wrong with a dictatorship in a democracy or what is wrong with a society run by religious fundamentalists. Absolutism brings intolerance, judgment, enslavement, and the stifling of new ideas… as well as security and certainty. And so in times of deep uncertainty and insecurity, the comfort that this type of worldview will often outweigh, in many people's minds, its occlusion of liberty for both body and mind. It was only when absolutism gave way, in Western society, to relativism that we had the explosion of new thinking. Otherwise we would still be back in the dark ages, looking to an external source of authority to evaluate our reality.
What individuals like Hawkins do not understand is that relativism is not just some wishy-washy ineffectual philosophy where all points of view are equally valid. Relativism, which tries to set up no absolutes or authorities, is the only way to reach a united humanity, and does not suffer from the potential power abuses of absolutism. If we understand that our truths and moral values do not negate the differing truths and values held by another group of people, we are less likely to reject them, start a war with them, or try to convert them. We live and let live, learning to live "relatively" in peace. Only relativism gives humanity a viable future.
From a spiritual point of view, relativism is vital to growth because it shows us the contrived nature of our philosophies and beliefs, so that our egos have less and less to hold on to, giving us a chance to develop true humility (a quality underestimated in today's ego-centred societies and one that gives a true indication of genuine spiritual development). Hawkins' enormous ego (a value judgment but a very probable one given the evidence), which is obvious to most of those outside his organisation, is likely to be a consequence of his delusion of certainty in being able to map consciousness objectively. An illustration of Hawkins' enormous egotism is the statement he made about himself on the front page of his personal website at davidhawkins.info: "Just as Einstein's Theory of Relativity was the hallmark of scientific discovery, Dr. David R. Hawkins' discoveries are the E=mc2 of human consciousness research and spirituality." (Very recently — end of September 07 — Hawkins took this site down and has this domain now forwarded to Veritas.) It is pretty hard to interpret statements such as these in any other way than rampant egotism.
Hawkins tries to inject more complexity into his essentially linear one-dimensional map of consciousness by claiming that anything over 499 is non-linear, but this is just another instance of the misuse of Chaos Theory and his general pseudo-scientific babble that has little actual meaning, even in the context in which he uses it. (If one insists on using terminology from Chaos Theory as a metaphor then it would be more correct to label all consciousness as non-linear because of the complexity of the mind and brain. But to state that non-linearity starts at one particular point in consciousness is complete nonsense.)
It is quite a surprise that Hawkins is able to sell his absolutism into New Consciousness movements, but he has managed to do this, not only because of the incestuous nature of these movements mentioned above, but because he dressed up his philosophy in impressive-sounding pseudo-science. After all, who can argue with the validity of the muscle test which, according to Hawkins, "has been [successfully] demonstrated repeatedly in front of large audiences worldwide," and which bamboozles the scientifically naive with its "logarithmic scale", "strange attractors", "megawatts", "critical point analysis", "non-linear dynamics" and "quantum" explanations.
And this has been aided enormously with some remarkable endorsements for his books, including one from Mother Teresa herself for Power vs Force which reads, "beautiful gift of writing…" (although one Hawkins critic did tell me has that he "emailed with people who represent her [Mother Teresa] and they wrote two times to Hawkins for her letter of endorsement and received no reply. They gave up." Hawkins therefore needs to be more explicit with regards to how this endorsement was made and perhaps produce a letter or some other evidence.) Another high-profile endorsement was by New Age author, Wayne Dyer, who wrote that Power vs Force was "Perhaps the most important and significant book I've read in the past ten years." Also quoted on the back of this book is an endorsement by Sam Walton, billionaire founder of Wal-Mart (Hawkins has praised Wal-Mart so it is likely that Walton would have given his book a good review, but strangely Walton died three years before the book was published… so must have viewed an earlier manuscript), and there is a fantastic endorsement by Sheldon Deal, a chiropractor who was a former chairman of the International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK) who wrote about Power vs Force as being "Overwhelming! A masterpiece! A lifetime work!" (Unfortunately for Hawkins, chiropractic researchers who reviewed the studies that came out of ICAK concluded that "no valid conclusions could be drawn concerning their report of findings.")
Put all these impressive sounding factors together and you have a very powerful marketing and PR tool that is being successfully used to sell Hawkins and his books. But sounding impressive is not the same as being impressive, and anyone with the ability to look below the surface will see that this emperor really is in the buff. And it is a shame that those within the spiritual communities seem unwilling or unable to reject his absolutist philosophies, leaving it to the reductionist skeptics who can easily be dismissed by Hawkins and his supporters.
When we accept official pat answers offered to us by absolutism then we no longer seek the answers within our own being. Even if we are personally involved with a muscle test, this is not equivalent to finding inner truth in the spiritual sense because the most important aspect of inner spiritual enquiry is determining our own meaning and context — this is the heart of the spiritual process and its challenge is what helps us grow to maturity. But with Hawkins' absolutism, this process is eclipsed by a pseudo-objectivity that insists on interpreting our rich multi-dimensional inner environment and responses in an absolute way using Hawkins' one-dimensional map of consciousness. This is entirely counterproductive not only to spiritual growth but to normal development of healthy and mature human psychology.
Hawkins may appear to many as some sort of humorous, perhaps egotistical, avuncular and harmless sage preaching the message that love, for example, is a higher calibration than hate (what could possibly be wrong with that?), but the way that he does this through pseudo-objective absolute calibration actually promotes righteousness, judgment and prejudice, the very qualities at the heart of all fundamentalist and intolerant belief systems, systems which have caused most of the world's misery. So even taking Hawkins completely out of the picture and just examining his calibrated worldview in isolation of the man himself (if that is possible), we find a system of philosophy that spreads a single person's absolute view of "truth", rather than general loving kindness, and when a system of absolute truth is set free in the world, it causes tremendous division and divisiveness, which is exactly what we see with Hawkins' philosophy. The vocabulary used by Hawkins to describe his philosophical system may repeatedly include the words "spiritual" and "love", but the system itself is actually anything but, betraying these qualities at every turn.
This is why there are those of us who are deeply spiritual and still reject Hawkins' work, unafraid to be calibrated below 200 because we do not care what the New Age community thinks of us. We feel compelled to publicly expose this charade because we understand that what appears to be a philosophy encouraging spiritual growth and moral behaviour will actually have the opposite effect, spreading the rigid dogmas of absolutism that scupper all chance of developing psychological and spiritual maturity. We understand that a rejection of Hawkins' philosophy is not a rejection of true spirituality but an affirmation of it. And it is high time that others in the New Consciousness movements also call a spade a spade. All it takes is a little honest perception…
He's got nothing on!
* * *
Do we just accept that the naked emperor is wearing fine clothes just because we are too afraid that our candidness will get us calibrated below the basic level of integrity? Where is the truth and self-respect in that? So here is my message to Dr. Hawkins:
You state on your website that that the purpose of your work is to "discern truth (essence) from falsehood (appearance, opinion) and thereby advance the level of consciousness to bring about greater happiness, success, spiritual advancement, and the relief of human suffering." Surely, with such a noble objective, you would be only too happy to set up an experiment that demonstrates, beyond reasonable doubt, that muscle-testing in the right hands can be used to discern objective truth? After all, the whole validity of your work rests on this.
And you must know that your demonstrations at lectures and talks, no matter how public, cannot be considered objective enough to assess your muscle testing theories — just as you would not claim the verity of magic by stating that it has been repeatedly and successfully demonstrated at a magician's show. Why not just do something a little more definitive? If muscle testing really works the way you describe it does then you could win the lottery and give the money to starving children; you could win James Randi's million dollar bet and silence those skeptics forever; you could bring the comfort of your absolutism to the world's population, and even win yourself a Nobel prize in the process.
But to dismiss every single experiment that has ever been done on kinesiology, all of which reject your claims, on grounds that the researchers calibrated below 200 is disingenuous without setting up similar experiments with your own hand-picked researchers. What is so difficult about that? And playing down calibration by now describing it as "right-brain exploration" may get you out of the corner you have painted yourself into but it actually invalidates the definitive nature of your map of consciousness.
If you can't give that definitive proof, then have the honesty and courage to admit that your absolutism is not scientifically justified and that you were wrong in believing that muscle testing can objectively calibrate truth, and reclassify your map of consciousness as a hypothesis (the very relativist position you deride). But if you believe that you can give that definitive proof but won't, then shame on you because you are choosing not to relieve human suffering by showing people how to discern truth (essence) from falsehood (appearance, opinion). So which is it going to be?
Over to you Dr. Hawkins…