Donald Trump is a devoted believer in the power of positive thinking. He has given speeches at Tony Robbins seminars. In 2015 he suggested—absurdly, but it’s telling that it even crossed his mind—that Oprah Winfrey might make a good running mate. Marianne Williamson’s D.C. rally wasn’t the first time I heard language at a political event that made me think of daytime television: At the Republican convention that nominated Trump, the speakers included a prosperity-gospel pastor, a multi-level marketer, and a professional motivational speaker.
There are enormous differences, of course, between that and the rhetoric I heard at the Unity church three years later. But that gap is notable in itself. We’re used to seeing religious coverage that stresses the left and right wings of Christianity. On some subjects, such as Middle Eastern policy, we hear about the left and right wings of Judaism. Well, here are the left and right wings of New Thought. Of American metaphysical religion. Of the postmodern, consumerist, Oprah-friendly sort of spirituality.
When Williamson went on the socialist podcast Chapo Trap House in June, she told the interviewers that A Course in Miracles “says one day you will realize there is nothing outside you. You know, whether it was Buddha saying life is an illusion or Einstein saying time and space is just an illusion, albeit a persistent one.” It’s an odd thing to say while arguing that you can improve people’s material lives, but she is not the first candidate to try to operate on both the physical and the spiritual planes. One day maybe we’ll awaken from this simulation and realize that Marianne Williamson’s campaign was just a dream. But for now, she wants your vote.