A few weeks ago, Board certified anesthesiologist Dr. Madhava Setty appeared on a popular podcast hosted by yoga teacher J. Brown. Setty has self-published a book that positively explores conspiracy theories called WOKE. An Anesthesiologist’s View.
In the course of his discussion with Brown, Setty, who works in the Department of Anesthesia and Perioperative Medicine at Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA, offered the following opinions, without references or citations:
- Anesthesiology shows that consciousness is transcendent or immaterial.
- “Our [consensus medical] model of how consciousness and our bodies actually work is based on a paradigm that is not rigorous. We’re looking at it completely wrong.”
- Masks during COVID are not necessarily a good idea.
- Natural exposure to viruses can confer better immunity than vaccines.
- COVID vaccines have not been through third-phase trials.
- WTC7 collapsed due to controlled demolition.
- Mainstream journalism cannot be trusted.
These opinions are either false or deeply misleading and confusing to a New Age or yoga audience, which is typically science-intimidated, or science-illiterate. Together, these opinions may encourage the paranoid patternicity that is the hallmark of conspiratorial thinking, whereby belief in one conspiracy predicts belief in others.
The format of the podcast begins with and returns to Setty’s religious beliefs about consciousness, namely, that it can exist without the body. This core concern is then underlined as Setty guides the conversation back to metaphysics at the end. The sandwich bread of this podcast are Setty’s spiritual beliefs and then conspiracies are the sandwich fillings.
The episode is a masterclass on making conspirituality digestible. Throughout, Setty flatters Brown, praising him for his intuitions about the COVID vaccines being insufficiently, and other errors.
At the end of the episode, there is an exchange that reveals the emotional manipulation and soft religious zealotry at the heart of conspirituality, as well as the charismatic technique by which a leader merges with a follower.
In the lead-up, Setty has been talking about his belief in reincarnation. He states that all yoga practitioners believe in infinite consciousness, and therefore reincarnation. But this is historically false. One of the most famous meditation manuals in classical Yoga literature, for example — the Yoga Sutras attributed to Patanjali, c. 200 CE— says nothing about reincarnation, and suggests that the end-game of the spiritual quest is a complete evaporation of the consciousness altogether. The 12th century Dattātreyayogaśāstra specifically openly welcomes atheists to the practice of yoga (v. 40–45).
Setty says he believes that every “advanced civilization” ( he believes there are “many out there”) comes to the realization that reincarnation is a fact. He asserts that our world is suffering and absurd because most people have not come to the same realization. J agrees, and then circles back to the “official narratives” that they have debunked in the 90 minute episode. See the list above
Here is their exchange.
What you just said in the context of our society is a very radical position. It’s a radical position because if you embrace this idea of interconnectedness, it also means having to question these official narratives.
Absolutely. Right. Absolutely. Right. I mean, I believe these official narratives are in fact, the source of the illusion, because they’re forcing us to consider ourselves to be weak, finite and something that we have to defend at all costs. And this is leading to the kind of world that we have. [Emphasis added.]
Yes. And on some very intuitive level, I reject it.
You reject. Yes.
I reject that way of seeing the world and myself.
Correct. But here’s the thing, Jay, is that you see it intuitively, right?
Setty is not just saying that basic premises of science and historical fact are wrong and must be ultimately overturned by our intuition. That would be bad enough. He goes further, raising the stakes to peak conspirituality level, suggesting that if — unlike Brown— we don’t see through these “illusions”, we will continue in spiritual bankruptcy and endless suffering.
He bonds with J over this, while concealing emotional threats directed at everyone else:
- If we are not sufficiently “vaccine cautious”, or
- if we continue to reject the theory that the collapse of WTC 7 was an inside job, or
- if we continue to implicitly believe in public health experts…
- then WE will be responsible for ongoing delusion and pain in the world.
Influencers in the yoga world often present themselves as peacemakers offering a vision of global unity. In the podcast with Brown, Setty’s soothing voice and mellow affect carry this presentation well. But that same affect can cloak a kind of zealotry. The zealotry says that your beliefs about existence, the self, and what happens after death determine your access to knowledge about the world, and your capacity to love and be an ethical person.
In this exchange, Setty is a Doctor and scientist appealing to a religious belief system he cannot substantiate, and positions it as the ultimate arbiter of human goodness. He dismisses other pathways — including those that govern his profession — as delusional. If you want to live in an advanced civilization, and have peace, Setty suggests, you must believe as he does. But how? Not through shareable research or by consuming good journalism, but by intuition. And how will you know when your intuition is right? Presumably when it aligns with his.
Given this narcissistic and condemnatory view of people who don’t share his brand of yoga belief, it is unsurprising Setty is so cavalier with life-and-death information in the podcast: casting doubts on the effectiveness of masks and vaccines. It’s unsurprising he presents as being more interested in what you believe than in whether you are safe.
For a thorough analysis of the Brown/Setty conversation, check out Ep 43 of Conspirituality Podcast.