The prior weekend, Ethan had been invited to help staff an initial mini-seminar sponsored by the same cult he was confident had helped him so much in the past. It was held several hundred miles from where Ethan lived, so he stayed in the local sponsor’s home.
Sometime mid-seminar Ethan phoned Danni, upset that he’d violated his obligation to participants by sharing too much about his own personal struggles. In subsequent calls to her over the next several days, he told her that he
The MLM culture I experienced included a symbiosis with self-help and prosperity cults, which seem to orbit its periphery in order to exploit a population made vulnerable by its already-suspended ability to think critically. The MLM events I attended often featured motivational speakers who encouraged listeners’ involvement in these cults. The pursuit of material wealth was central to MLM’s message; and high-level distributors pushed neophytes to read books and listen to audio programs authored
The changes in Danni over the years were so insidious that I hadn’t really recognized them; but I finally realized that I no longer knew her. The sweet guileless woman who only wanted to help others was now totally consumed by her pursuit of material wealth—a pursuit that recognized no bounds. Danni’s rationalization for her ambition was that the more material wealth she possessed, the more resources she’d have to help those in need. However, her expressed motive wasn’t the issue for me. That Danni’s
Danni’s flawed thinking was by no means the result of stupidity. By then, she was living almost exclusively inside the MLM culture where critical thought was disparaged as negative and counterproductive. “Believe in the products, believe in the company and believe in your upline” was an oft-repeated mantra that actively contributed to critical thought suppression. This was simply one more indicator that Danni’s thinking had been crippled by her exclusion of influences outside that bizarre culture.
I’ll never forget one of Danni’s prospects who had contacted her seeking answers for his multiple sclerosis. Mark headed an exceptionally nice family that included an adult daughter who suffered the ravages of lupus. I went with Danni to their home with a full complement of her MLM company’s products to demonstrate their efficacy with “kinesiology”. This is a pseudo-scientific and highly subjective method of testing the effect of any substance in physical contact with the subject’s tissues—often