Recently Bentinho Massaro has begun charging for skype sessions at a rate of $600 an hour. Receiving 80% negative responses on Facebook for this tactic, he concluded the only explanation possible was that people were jealous (of his success).
Bentinho never thought for a moment the 80% negative comments might be telling him something about his focus on turning spirituality into a quest of fulfilling desires, and feeling good, rather than focusing on Self-Realization, knowledge, and devotional service to others.
He added that feeling jealousy meant these negative people were ready to move on past their limiting and negative core self-judgments, and join him in personal and world abundance through adjusting their “vibration” levels so as to live in “Endless Well Being and Fulfilled Desires for All.”
How is this a spiritual life? How is this different from what Gordon Gekko of Wall Street who said: “Greed is good. Greed is right. Greed works.”?
It works like the placebo effect. You feel better for a time because an authority gave you a medicine. Sometimes that is the only thing you needed for that illness of the moment and you report to the world your cure. But it is inevitable that the good news of that happiness fades and a few months later an even bigger "illness," psychological or spiritual, will manifest itself and you begin to see through the shallowness and repetitious nature of the medicine.
Fulfilling desires is an endless treadmill of goal-directed actions in order to stay happy through actualizing the self through successful acquisition of objects or implementations of goals. You are always on the run, climbing mountains in his case.
With Bentinho we find a young man, filled with himself and his mission, with the briefest understanding of pop psychology and feel good spirituality, preaching to an unsophisticated audience, “Follow me and I will help you get whatever you want. I will free your fettered self to claim its world thereby actualizing your “higher self.”
Bentinho next said it did not strike him as odd or unusual at all to charge $600 an hour which was a frequent criticism. In fact, he stated:
“I feel that what I offer is worth so much more than what I charge that I never feel like a fraud even if I would charge a million dollars.”
This is pure narcissism. He is so carried away by his “success” to this point, that he considers his words more valuable than gold.
Let us take a closer look at his methods.
His overarching belief is that it really does not matter what is going on in the now (our inner and outer world); our problems arise from core negative beliefs about ourselves, as well as negative evaluations of others and about what it happening in the world. What we need to do is identify those negative thoughts, realize they are our thoughts, and therefore we can toss them out and create a subjective world of “endless well-being and fulfilled desires for all” by getting rid of negativity and blocking concepts.
First of all, this method does not work except as a band aid for a moment. It suggests he believes that just by changing our evaluations about ourselves and the world, we can get what we want. If it were only that simple. This is just magical thinking.
Ending negative thoughts about ourselves can free us to a degree and certainly make us feel better, and even make us better able to function in the world. The technique of monitoring and dropping negative self-talk is part of cognitive behavioral psychology which is known for its short-time and short term fixes.
It is also called cognitive reframing, where we look at some point of suffering in our lives, find the thoughts that cause guilt, depression, fear, or functional blockage, and find a new interpretation that dissolves the suffering. This usually requires outside help to get out of our frame and cast the situation in a new and conflict-free light. That is where the $600/hour consultation comes in.
For Bentinho it is always the mind that is the problem. If the mind gets rid of negative, self-defeating concepts, it magically opens a way for desires to be fulfilled. That is, feeling positively about goals creates situations whereby they will be fulfilled, either because the mind now can find ways to succeed, or magically, opportunities will open up because you “vibrate” on a “higher” level, and “resonate” with a “higher truth” of a “higher self.”
But these methods are only effective on the level of mind and emotions and goes no deeper into our Consciousness. It only deals with thought forms and emotions arising in the Now, and can never get deeper into the Subtle body, the unconscious mind, the Causal Body, or the Love/bliss body (Turiya) that Ramana, Nisargadatta, and Robert Adams speak of. Nor is there much room for God or grace; salvation is always my doing.
Thomas Burns summarized the cultic implications of Bentinho’s method thus:
Ed, thank you for calling this. It isn't really about Bentinho. He is representative of the very natural tendency people have for an easy answer, and the 'teachers' that emerge to cater to that need. His new thrust of late has been a wholesale copy and paste of the Law of Attraction with an Advaita cloak, 'Believe it and you can be it'. Indeed! That snake oil prophesy has found a new messenger and as always needy and eager consumers.
Bentinho is not alone in his teaching a positive spin on spirituality. The spin is so compelling because it allows his followers (more like fans!) to believe that they too can be mythic heroes in their own transformation stories. Initially cognitive shifts, insights and good feelings can come. These temporary insights can seem very convincing and the 'good' feeling states themselves can be quite addictive. A state of bliss can be an efficient way to end any real curiosity about our odd and conflicted natures. It also leads to a trend of bragging on social media about MY story of how 'I' changed, the classic Before and After picture! This creates a very public echo chamber of bliss stories and the not so subtle invitation for others to join the bandwagon. Critical discernment suffers as people self censor to stay on the side of the new 'good feeling' norm and of course, as in the case of all manner of sect like thinking, criticism and critics are slowly and surely banished, or shamed to look at the their own so called 'limiting beliefs'.
Bentinho says we can identify the negative beliefs and get rid of them. But who or what is the "we" who is doing all this, the I? Surely it is the mind, and the mind cannot move beyond itself to the Self, to Turiya or even most of the Subtle Body and certainly not the unconsciousness, reachable only through psychotherapy with a trained analyst.
Accessing these levels requires entirely different methods, such as following the thread of ‘I Am’ to the root of Consciousness, where true happiness, true joy, Self-Realization, and utterly complete self-confidence lie because you have found yourself at your root, rather than on the surface in the Now where the objects, feelings, and understanding are constantly changing.
Bentinho has you dealing with whatever arises in awareness in the Now which will forever hide the source that is being reflected in the Now. You will never reach the source, the true Self, the divine aspect of You, until you follow the thread of awareness of the I Am downwards into the Self. Otherwise you stay on the surface and do pop cognitive/behavioral psychology.
Also, Bentinho’s method of taking frequent 3-5 second "inner breaks" to get a fresh view of "what is," certainly does not compare with hundreds or thousands of hours or meditation or self-inquiry required by Advaita and other traditions as a method of discovering all aspects of yourself. Nor do those 3 second snatches allow you to really find the empty expanse of the interior space that contains all inner phenomena, and allows for the stillness necessary to experience Consciousness lighting up by means of its own awareness.
His method also requires us to abandon discriminative wisdom which is often critical, and which arises from experience. For example, wisdom allows us to see our realistic limits, such as having no talent, yet wanting to be a famous actor, artist, or mathematician with no math ability. Using his method we would attempt to cast off that accurate recognition of our limits in order to free ourselves to become a successful actor or mathematician (fulfilled desire). Our desires would be at war with our own wisdom about our limitations.
The same thing about the rest of the world: there really are “bad” things in the world that just don’t go away if we don’t judge them, from wars, to dictators, to environmental degradation, to animal cruelty. In this world, our empathy for the suffering of others leads us to compassionate action to change things for the better against the status quo acceptance of misery and pain as being part of life. We become our brothers’ keeper.