by Ray Yungen
Without question, the most influential practical mystic today is talk show host Oprah Winfrey. Her predominantly female audience, numbering in the tens of millions, looks to her as the source of spiritual inspiration–even more so than church, in many cases.
I realize speaking critically of someone as warm and caring as Oprah might stir angry emotions in many of her viewers. Nonetheless, please keep in mind that with Oprah, as with the others I have written about, her obvious good qualities are not the issue here. While I might admire Oprah as a person, I am gravely concerned about what she promotes.
Somewhere during her career, Oprah read a book titled Discover The Power Within You by Unity minister Eric Butterworth. In line with Unity teaching, the book expounded on the Divinity of Man as perceived through mystical practice. Oprah embraced these views so earnestly that she advocated:
This book changed my perspective on life and religion. Eric Butterworth teaches that God isn’t “up there.” He exists inside each one of us, and it’s up to us to seek the divine within.1
Her talk show has launched many New Age authors into national super-stardom–authors such as Marianne Williamson, Sarah Ban Breathnach, Iyanla Vanzant, and Cheryl Richardson.
One such author propelled into prominence by Oprah, with regard to New Age teaching, is Gary Zukav. Zukav became a regular guest on the Oprah show following his first appearance in October of 1998. Afterwards, his book titled The Seat of the Soul became a constant fixture at the top of the New York Times bestseller list for an astounding two years!
The Seat of the Soul, pure and simple, is a spiritual primer or manual for New Age thought. It has gained such popularity even though it lacks the elements that have traditionally attracted a wide readership (i.e., novels, biography, scandal, health, etc.). The book’s basic message is, “Dwell in the company of your nonphysical Teachers and guides [spirit guides].”2
The Seat of the Soul has struck a resonant chord with an enormous number of people. The notion of “nonphysical guides and teachers”3 is now considered perfectly acceptable by a vast number in the reading public. When such a book is embraced by so many for so long it means the New Age is already here. Clearly, our society is not heading toward the cliff concerning New Age spirituality–we are already over it!
Oprah’s 2005 book, Live Your Best Life, highlights various areas of her philosophies. In the chapter on spirituality there is a story about Spiritual Energy. In it, there is a positive reference to a Reiki master who supports Oprah’s view that “we [humanity] are all interrelated.” This underlies Winfrey’s spirituality, that ALL IS ONE. Despite her charming personal manner, there is little doubt her viewers and readers are still being fed a consistent diet of New Age spirituality. (From A Time of Departing, 2nd ed. by Ray Yungen, pp. 102-104.)
1. Oprah Winfrey cited in Eric Butterworth’s, Discover the Power Within You (San Francisco, CA: Harper Row), front cover
2. Gary Zukav, The Seat of the Soul (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1990, Fireside Edition), p. 239.
3. Oprahy Winfrey, Live Your Best Life (Des Moines, IA: Oxmoor House, first edition, September 2005), p. 239.