Sound and Fury Signifying Nothing: A Visit to the Body, Soul & Spirit “Alternative Thought” Expo

March 30, 2011

It's the Holy Trinity. Within the last year, I’ve completed the Holy Trinity of the new age, alternative medicine and holism expos in Toronto.  First, I attended the Total Health Show and reported my findings with friend Michael Payton in commentary that appeared on the National Post (”If it talks like a quack“).

Then, I joined fellow skeptics from the Centre for Inquiry and Skeptic North to investigate the Whole Life expo last November.  As I described on various blogs, that experience ended in confrontation with organizers and security staff, accusations that a couple of members of our group took unauthorized photos and consequently many of us (including those that had done nothing wrong) being summarily escorted off the premises.  Michael, who was with me that time too, had been threatened with being thrown over a railing by one of the volunteers running the show, but Metro Toronto Convention Centre staff decided taking photos was a much bigger concern, at least in terms of protecting their lucrative rental agreements with Vitality magazine.  They ignored our accusations.

Now this past weekend I decided to check out the Body, Soul and Spirit Expo at the CNE.  I’m pleased to report that this particular Expo appeared unsuccessful in terms of the paltry number of participants.  There seemed to be only about as many attendees as vendors, the space was small and had a decor indicative of a very low budget.  Though limited in size, I still managed to make a few friends.

First stop: Kabbalistic astrology, where I learned that the Kabbalah predates all the world’s religions!  A few simple follow up questions and the wisdom of this particular initiate was tapped.  So we moved on.

In quick succession we visited the Messiah Foundation International (Do you await a Messianic personality?), Psychic Lai (winner of the Houston Press award of “Best Psychic 2005″), Lakeside Angel for Akashic Record Consultations (”A hummingbird is seen as a messenger between the worlds”) and then a Palmist. The palmist quickly deduced that I’m a very logical and analytical person.  Now that could be in my palm lines, or it could be evidenced by the notebook sitting in my palm.

We come to the climax of this story.  I met Brian, President of the Eradicator. No, my mistake, as he quickly corrected me. The product is called a Lotus Shield which protects against geopathic stress and EMF radiation.  He, the person, is The Eradicator.  The Eradicator seems to have never met any of The Skeptics before and seemed immediately frustrated by impertinent critical questions about his device and its function. The conversation turned to dowsing rods, to homeopathy and finally - of course - to problems with the medical community. When I defended the latter I was told “You can go now. I’m done with you.”

But I was not quite done.  I informed the organizer of this rude behaviour.  My $12 entrance fee was reimbursed (thanks Mr. Eradicator for buying me lunch) and Brian was warned that he’d be removed from the Expo if he didn’t shape up and accept some critical questions from paying visitors.

I’m not sure if what we’re experiencing is a response to the skeptic movement flexing its muscles, but I definitely noticed a different tone at this particular Expo. Vendors were far quicker to withdraw from difficult questions and state things like “I’m not here to argue with you” in response to the same respectful but challenging queries I’ve always asked at these sorts of shows.  The latter was a response from a lady selling negative ion bracelets to my question as to why positive ions were so much more harmful to your health than negative ones.  My previous question, “What are ions?” had been answered with “ions are molecules.”

Realizing I was wasting both our time, I asked one final question before moving on “Can you ever have too many negative ions?”  No, she said. Now think about that. Wouldn’t that eventually make your body negatively charged, and if the problem is that most people have an excess of positive charge, wouldn’t we have a bigger problem on our hands than ion imbalance, namely an inability to do anything without flying into the people beside you via electrical forces?

Finally we had a nice long chat with Heather Hannan, Vice President of the Sound Reiki Institute, “Exploring the art and science of sound healing.”  She was a pleasant woman, but a little confused. Firstly, in her exhortations on sound, she claimed sound moves fastest through the “space time continuum” than anything else.  I think the folks over at the light therapy booth might have something to say to that.

She also claimed quantum physics - and even string theory - for support of the assertion that positive effects of sound are measurable at the molecular level. At least that’s what she had been taught by practitioners of tantric quantum physics, a quantum mysticism Deepak Chopra-style pseudoscience.  And, to add insult to injury, she was proud to announce partnership with Magda Havas, famous for her declarations regarding health effects of low energy level EMF radiation and wifi.  Havas was intrigued by sound reiki’s ability to fix problems caused by EMF fields!

I thought talking to ghosts at the Spiritualist Church was crazy, but after these holism expo experiences over the last 12 months, that judgment needs to be put into a whole new perspective.