Esoteric: intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest

Even a small cult can be incredibly profitable. There’s this freaky alternative medicine quack in Australia who runs a scam called Universal Medicine — his specialties are “esoteric breast massage”, “esoteric ovary massage”, and “connective tissue therapy”. My first objection has to be that he doesn’t understand what “esoteric” means.

The esoteric principle is that we are love – innately and, unchangeably. The principles of the esoteric way of life date back to the oldest forms of knowledge and wisdom. Whilst ancient in their heritage, the principles of the esoteric life in human form have not out-dated themselves in relation to what is required of mankind to live in harmony and thus arrest any wayward conduct that does not build brotherhood within and amongst our communities everywhere.

The esoteric means that which comes from our inner-most. It is the livingness of love that we all carry equally deep within and it is this livingness that restores each and every individual back into the rhythms of their inner-harmony and thus from there, the love is lived with all others.

You want to know more? Here’s a short documentary on Serge Benhayon, the guy who founded it. He’s a bankrupted ex-tennis coach with no medical degree, not even the slightest training, and he came up with the idea for his ‘therapy’ while sitting on the toilet. But he’s also the reincarnated spirit of Leonardo da Vinci, so you can trust him. Right.

He’s raking in $2 million a year, and he has 700 followers. I’ve got more followers than that! You slackers have not been sending me a sufficient fraction of your income. All you have to do is go to my donation page and type in the amount of $3000 and click send, and if 700 of you do that, I’ll have made somewhat more than Serge Benhayon. Even better, unlike Serge, I promise not to fondle your breasts and groin or stick you with acupuncture needles.

Ick. That sounds like a threat. Even if you don’t send me any money, I promise not to do that. I think I just realized why I’m not getting rich. I’m not extortionate enough.

Anyway, one of his many laughable comments in that video is this one:

I can’t be brainwashing intelligent people and educated people.

Ha. Intelligent and educated people are just as easy to fool as anyone else. You just need the right hook, and you can sucker ’em right in. (Damn, again — just realized another reason I’m not making a fortune is that I’m not tapping enough suckers with the right bait.)

Case in point: it turns out that Benhayon has followers in the University of Queensland medical school who have been pissing pro-UM stories into the scientific literature.

Mr Benhayon’s acolytes include Christoph Schnelle, a UQ faculty of medicine researcher who was the lead author of three articles on UM health practices.

He and eight co-authors are now under scrutiny for an alleged failure to declare their roles in what has been described as “a dangerous cult” by Professor Dwyer, who is now based at the University of New South Wales.

The ABC has obtained video of four of the researchers publicly advocating UM practices, including two doctors.

Two more researchers are presenters at the Benhayon-founded College of Universal Medicine.

The others are a naturopath and a psychologist who practice at UM’s Brisbane clinic, and a director of its UK-based charity.

See? You can fool educated people.

By the way, Benhayon calls the ‘esoteric’ practices of Universal Medicine the “Way of the Livingness”. More like the Way of the Banality.


  1. Sastra says

    Sounds familiar. The word “esoteric” is deliberately coupled with their metaphysics of Universal Love in order to convey the rare and privileged status of the people who buy into this crap. Other people aren’t as good at nonjudgmental acceptance and harmony as WE are. It’s passive aggressive religious intolerance.

  2. says

    By the way, I have this esoteric gravel that I’m selling, one ineffable pebble at a time. Whoever gets the most gravel will, needless to say, be the most enlightened, so send money to the address we’ll be showing in a moment. An ESOTERIC moment! Don’t be fooled by my imitators with their commonplace trashy gimmicks.

  3. rietpluim says

    Ha. Intelligent and educated people are just as easy to fool as anyone else.

    In fact, they are more susceptible to woo. You’ll find more higher than lower educated people in the acupuncturist’s and homeopath’s waiting rooms.

  4. cartomancer says

    His usage of the term is not entirely at odds with its Greek root. Literally the Greek esoterikos means “relating to things that are further within”, esotero being the comparative form of eso “within”, so “of-further-within”. However, its usage even in Classical Greek has always been to indicate something that is private and not shared with the public at large – the secret teachings of the philosophers that you have to be privately initiated into their society to learn. The antonym is exoterikos – public, for general consumption. Using it to mean “of the inner parts of the body” is rather radically idiosyncratic.

    The word became very popular in the Twelfth Century Renaissance to mean the powerful nature-manipulating magic that ancient philosophers such as Aristotle were meant to have had, but kept to themselves. There was a story going round (as recorded by Alexander Nequam) that Aristotle himself had saved all the really good stuff and had it buried in books in his tomb – which was protected with magical wards that would only break down at the Day of Judgment, when the devil would enter and use Aristotle’s esoteric sorcery to destroy the world.

  5. KG says

    You’ll find more higher than lower educated people in the acupuncturist’s and homeopath’s waiting rooms. – rietpluim@3

    That’s probably just because they can afford it.

  6. rietpluim says

    KG One explanation I’ve heard is that lower educated people are more inclined to accept a physician’s authority, where higher educated people tend to have more confidence in their own judgment, even on subjects where that confidence is amiss.

  7. says

    Yeah I figured out a while ago I could make an actual living in the US if I was willing to be unscrupulous and convince people of garbage crap or appeal to people’s base vile side (see: far-right), but unfortunately I have too much integrity for this world.
    for now

  8. bcwebb says

    Looky here:
    Looks like Mr Schnelle is about to get a few questions about his thesis topic:

    Esoteric Connective Tissue Therapy for chronic low back pain to reduce pain, and improve functionality and general well-being compared with physiotherapy and massage: two randomised controlled trials
    23 April 2018 9:30am

    Name of Candidate:
    Mr Christoph Schnelle

    Milestone Type:
    Confirmation of Candidature


    Title of presentation:

    Esoteric Connective Tissue Therapy for chronic low back pain to reduce pain, and improve functionality and general well-being compared with physiotherapy and massage: two randomised controlled trials

    Prin: Dr Mark Jones; Assoc: Prof Luke Connelly

    Monday, 23 April 2018

    9.30 am


    Room 234, SPH, Herston
    About Milestone review

    One of the many advantages of completing your HDR at UQ is knowing that you will be supported every step of the way. UQ Medicine has a milestone process tailored to the specific skills and attributes required in your field of research.

  9. says

    I have a book called “The Universal Medicine”, and it turns out the UM is ……. tobacco!
    Well it was published in 1659, so (JamesVI/I notwithstanding) the author does have an excuse, AND a really great title:
    “PANACEA; OR The Universal Medicine, BEING A DISCOVERY of the Wonderfull Vertues OF Tobacco Taken in a Pipe, WITH Its Operation and Use both in Physick and Chyrurgery. By Dr EVERARD, &c.”

    It’s much better than old “Let me fondle that for you”‘s version, being full of actual Scientific Evidence like this “It fell out that at Antwerp one gave a Gentle Womans Cat that was somewhat fierce Poyson to drink; The Cat run madding up and down, trying but in vain to vomit up the Venome. The Gentle Woman thought of a way how to wrap up a Leafe to Tobacco bruised in butter, and to thrust that down the Cats throat, this was done, and the Cat soon cast up the Poyson and es∣caped.”

  10. Sastra says

    I love how, at the end of the video, the “esoteric healer” responds to a science-based critic with “We respect him; he should respect us.” The truth question of whether or not the treatments have any validity is thus turned into a relationship question about whether or not people with different opinions can get along. Classic issue-ducking technique, popular with the Spiritual.

  11. microraptor says

    rietpluim @6: Having worked with uneducated people, I can tell you that that idea isn’t true at all. They just latch on to cheaper woo like homeopathic pills or weight-loss hormone treatments while telling you that they’re secret remedies that Big Pharma doesn’t want you to know about.

  12. cag says

    #2 Kip T.W. – I have Esoteric Quantum gravel for sale. My spokesperson, Cheepac Dopra, will swear to the efficacy of my E.Q. gravel. Call within 10 minutes and get an extra pebble. Don’t delay.

  13. says


    Ya, I’m getting some experience with these kinds of spiritualist trends recently.

    1) Superiority and conflict generation, but then

    2) falling back on triviality, mere “difference” and such

    Really backwards approach to knowledge, disagreement, and everything…

  14. rietpluim says

    microraptor To be fair, I have no data to backup my assertions. It is an impression I get from my own environment and from browsing skeptic websites. It would be interesting to see some actual research but I haven’t found it.

  15. jrkrideau says

    I give him + marks for declaring that he never said that he could cure anything. (We would want to check the promo material on this)

    Sure he is either a fraud or an idiot (who believes the crap) but there are far more evil people out there who will steal every penny you have or can beg, borrow, or extorted from piteous GoFundMe appeals,offering miracle cures for deadly cancers. For an outstanding piece of dog shit doing this see Dr. Burzynski.

    Compared to Burzynski, and many others, Serge Benhayon is a snow-white lamb. Besides, it looks like he is just fleecing a few well-to-do fools and that does not bother me at all.

  16. indianajones says

    Just btw, Today Tonight is a really crappy source. I would be sus if they said the sun is coming up tomorrow and want to find another source, put it that way….

  17. tacitus says

    I once came up with an April Fools about the discovery of the “Mountain Top High” — i.e. a less than scientific explanation for the euphoric feeling you get when reaching the summit of a hill or mountain — the usual crap to do with lay lines, and the peaks of mountains being the focal points of the energy flowing through the Earth, etc. etc.

    I was going to create a (single page) website and everything, including maps for sale that pinpointed the best mountain top highs, and even an opportunity to buy a franchise to sell your own MTH maps in your local area.

    Then I realized this was basically just what the pseudoscience scammers do, and it didn’t seem that funny anymore. Mind you, should I ever need the money…

  18. weylguy says

    Considering the relentless meltdown of Americans’ rational abilities (intelligent, educated or whatnot), it still amazes me that nobody’s tying it to increased environmental pollution, rising junk food/fast food consumption and other crap in our bodies that may be having an adverse affect on our brains. I’m aware that our national IQ is going down, but what’s the cause?

  19. chrislawson says


    “I never claimed to cure anything” is not a sign of integrity, it’s an attempt to avoid being charged with fraud.

    Also, just because he’s only fleecing a few people now doesn’t mean he won’t branch out in future. And at the very least he’s polluting UQ’s medical research program.

  20. chrislawson says


    I looked the supervisors up. I can’t tell what PhD Mark Jones has but it’s unlikely to be medical — I’m guessing statistics — and Assoc. Prof Connelly’s qualifications are in economics. In other words, it looks like they should not be supervising a medical research PhD. If it turns out that they, too, have an undeclared interest in this scam then they should lose their jobs.

  21. chrislawson says

    I can’t be brainwashing intelligent people and educated people.

    What’s the over-under on how long he takes to claim that his intelligent educated critics have been brainwashed?

  22. chrislawson says


    It’s not true that IQ has been dropping in the US. The study that claimed this is highly contentious, and other researchers using the same data came to completely different conclusions. And I note with exasperation that the HuffPo story on this linked as one of its key sources a white supremacist website. While I doubt the HuffPo writer had a white supremacist agenda themselves, it’s pretty clear that they did not do due diligence on their research and just linked to the first Google hit on the topic.

    I’d also point out that the original “study” claimed that Westerners had lost FOURTEEN IQ POINTS on average since the Victorian era. That’s a whole standard deviation. To put this in perspective, it would be the same statistical change as a 10 cm (4 inch) drop in average height. This simply does not coincide with obvious observations of the world around us.

  23. Pierce R. Butler says

    chrislawson @ # 24: … the original “study” claimed that Westerners had lost FOURTEEN IQ POINTS on average since the Victorian era..

    Whether true or not, we should call this the nnylF effect.

  24. billyjoe says

    Before long we’ll be so dumb we’ll be saying the average IQ has dropped below 86.

  25. chrislawson says


    Nnylf effect indeed. Certainly describes “scientific racism” — it gets stupider and stupider over time in contrast to all the evidence.

  26. billyjoe says

    BTW, Queensland is in Australia’s north.
    Australia’s north is like America’s south.

    (I live in the southern most part of the southern most state of Australia – excluding Tasmania, which doesn’t count)

  27. billyjoe says

    Close but not quite.
    Tasmania actually looks more like another part of the anatomy that mostly only females possess.