Marianne Deborah Williamson is a New Age
guru, woo promoter, conspiracy theorist, author and “spiritual advisor” to
She also got quite a bit of attention for being one of the candidates in the
2020 Democratic primaries, where she became something of a well-deserved
laughing stock. It was actually not her first attempt to run for office – in
2014, she also tried to run for the US House of Representatives. Both attempts
to run for office were motivated in part by the vague, fluffy and not entirely
coherent belief that the United States needs a moral and spiritual awakening. Though
not all her views on politics may be unreasonable – that said, she ran mostly
on a platform of gesturing and preciously few concrete policy plans – Williamson
is particularly notable for her “problematic” (stupid) views on vaccines
and various New Age bullshit
often promoted under the guise of anti-corporatist and anti-elite sentiments.
New Age nonsense
Williamson’s career in the New Age movement
was launched with her book A Return to Love, which was largely a
commentary and endorsement of a 1976 book of alleged channelings
known as A Course in Miracles
She has subsequently written numerous books, earning her the title “the high
priestess of pop religion”. She is, at the very least, one of the major
proponents of New Thought.
A central element in Williamson’s teachings
– and New Thought
beliefs in general – has been the non-denominational version of the prosperity gospel
beliefs: (variations over) the law of attraction.
In her 2012 book The Law of Divine Compensation it was formulated as: “To
whatever extent your mind is aligned with love, you will receive divine
compensation for any lack in your material existence. From spiritual substance
will come material manifestation. This is not just a theory;
it is a fact.”
so there. After all, she can state that it’s a fact because the whole point of
the idea is that you can make claims true by asserting them.
Other pieces of wisdom
offered by Williamson include:
- “Just beneath the surface, this isn’t politics it’s black magic.
Entirely a psychic
battle. Use your shield of Virtue and your sword of Truth”
- “disease is loveless thinking materialized” (Williamson is
understandably cagey about what she means by that, but it is false no matter
how you parse it)
- “Everyone feels on some level like an alien in this world,
because we ARE. We come from another realm of consciousness, and long for home.”
- “God is BIG, swine flu SMALL. See every cell of your body filled
with divine light. Pour God’s love on our immune systems. Truth protects,”
in connection with the H1N1 pandemic
- “Yin is feminine, earth; yang is masculine, sky.
When God is seen as He, the soul is seen as She. Just archetypes. Spirit
- “A wisdom culture is emerging from the imaginal cells of a
disintegrating individualistic society. We’re pregnant with the possible world.”
- “Every soul on earth is pregnant now with a new possibility. Do
you have the courage to face your fear and give it birth within yourself?” (Strange
references to pregnancy is a recurring feature in Williamson’s words of
When launching her presidential campaign,
Williamson said that
“I want this to be a campaign for people who are ready to be deep thinkers.
These are very serious times. We need deep thinking,” thus effectively
warning potential voters to pick a different candidate.
Williamson’s New Thought beliefs – and how
remarkably they reflect the New Thought beliefs of another presidential
candidate, Donald Trump
– are discussed in illuminating detail here.
Williamson is anti-vaccine. And yes, we
will repeat it: Marianne Williamson is antivaccine.
And that is the case even if she often sometimes across as merely moderately
sympathetic to the movement to those who don’t recognize the dogwhistles.
Officially, Williamson believes that
vaccine mandates are “Orwellian” and “draconian” and has compared
vaccine mandates to abortion, saying that the mandates interfere with what
people want to do with their bodies. “Personal choice” is, of course, a standard call from anti-vaccinationists,
who tend not to focus on the fact that it is their children they don’t
vaccinate nor on the immunocompromised members of their societies – in short
that the personal choice not to vaccinate is more analogous to the
personal choice to drunk drive with your kids unsecured in the back seat.
Williamson has, on numerous occasions, tried
to suggest she was walking back her anti-vaccine remarks, but they keep popping
up. In 2019, for instance, she claimed that
vaccines require further safety studies and raised concerns about something she
called “neurons-toxins” (you might think she meant “neurotoxins”, but
vaccines don’t contain any of those).
She also vowed that, as president, she’d order the CDC to establish “an
independent commission to review/reform vaccine safety,” being apparently
blithely unaware of the National Vaccine Advisory Committee.
She has earlier stated that
“I understand the controversial aspects of vaccinations, and I share many of
the concerns” (2011) and that she believes that the “skepticism”
is healthy (2015) and that while vaccines do protect against measles, she is
rather concerned about the “overload” of vaccines
(know your dogwhistle!).
She also claimed that Big Pharma
apparently covers up results of studies of vaccines they don’t like and that
vaccines are currently not being independently tested (utterly false),
and she has elsewhere suggested that there is a link between vaccines and an
worsening of health among American kids: Indeed, Williamson claimed that
the incidence of chronic disease in children has risen to “54%”. That’s false,
but what is particularly telling is that the figure comes from antivaxxer Robert Kennedy, Jr’s
Children’s Health Defense (Williamson stated that she was JAQing off
over the causes of those putative numbers, but immediately continued to talk
about vaccines, even though vaccines couldn’t have been the cause
even if the figure had been correct; here
is a discussion of how Kennedy arrived at the figure. The figure is not correct).
Moreover, Williamson has suggested that the existence of the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program shows that vaccines are unsafe.
Of course, you might claim that she is just
pandering to the antivaccine crowd, not necessarily sharing their beliefs.
Which really doesn’t matter. Pandering to the antivaccine crowd makes you
antivaccine – whether you share their beliefs in your heart’s heart or not is
pretty fucking irrelevant (though evidence is, for the record, pretty strong
that Williamson does share them and is just desperately trying to come
across as reasonable – no one likes being called “anti-vaccine”).
We’ll also include a dishonorable mention to Faye Flam for her clueless defenseof Williamson’s antivaccine views.
Other forays into denialism and
Williamson has called for a ban on
claiming that it can cause cancer (no, there is no evidence that shows such a link) and, to frame it as anti-corporatism, that the use of glyphosate helps
whose patent on glyphosate expired in 2000.
She is also a GMO denialist,
and has for instance linked to the anti-GMO
conspiracy organization Center for Food Safety. In addition, Williamson has
dismissed antidepressant drugs
as “medicalization” of normal sadness (“a normal spectrum of human
despair, normal human despair, which traditionally was seen as the purview of
spirituality and religion”), and suggested that her New Age wellness advice
is much better. There is an illuminating analysis of Williamson’s
anti-psychiatry rhetoric here
and her disease-denialist rhetoric in general here.
According to herself,
she isn’t anti-science, though: “I am not anti-science (that one is almost funny,
given how much I quote Einstein).” Of course, as JoeWV points out, “[q]uoting
Einstein doesn’t make you pro-science but accusing all of western world’s
universities, doctors, hospitals, governments and scientific organizations of
being bribed by pharmaceutical companies is what makes you anti-science.” What
is true, though, is that Williamson does have a long history of
spreading fake quotes attributed to Einstein.
During her 2020 presidential nominee run,
many of her more idiotic quotes were brought to light. Williamson herself often
responded by claiming that they were taken out of context, so here we will
present a few in context:
- “In the traditional Western medical model, a healer’s job is to
attack disease. But if the consciousness of attack is the ultimate problem, how
could it be the ultimate answer? A miracle worker’s job is not to attack
illness, but rather to stimulate the natural forces of healing. We turn our
eyes away from sickness to the love that lies beyond it.”
- “God is all that is good. He creates only love, therefore he did
not create sickness. Sickness is an illusion and does not actually exist. It is
part of our worldly dream, our self-created nightmare. Our prayer to God is
that He awaken us from the dream.”
- “When a child presents a cut finger to his or her mother, the
woman doesn’t say, ‘Bad cut.’ Rather, she kisses the finger, showers it with
love in an unconscious, instinctive activation of the healing process. Why
should we think differently about critical illness? Cancer and AIDS and other
serious illnesses are physical manifestations of a psychic scream, and their
message is not ‘Hate me,’ but ‘Love me’.”
The picture her critics painted of her as
an idiot offering grifts and nonsense to people in difficult situations is, in
other words, accurate. There is a good analysis of some of the dangers associated
with Williamson’s ideas here.
Diagnosis: To some extent, at least, a
love-and-fluff version of Donald Trump, complete with post-truth rhetoric,
denialism and New Thought bullshit. We won’t say she’s “as dangerous as Trump”,
but she’s pretty damn dangerous.