Impolite Conversation is a place where we can talk about the things we were told not to discuss in polite company - politics, sex, spirituality & religion and money - as well as science, culture, personal development and more. Our content is not all risqué or even rude: When we use the word "Impolite", we're talking about an attitude - one of not blindly following conventions or authority, especailly when they divide (or even oppress) us. Are you Impolite? Find out more about us here and join or community here

Business Failing? Why Not Start a Cult?

It's legal, easy and tax-deductible - and there's no shortage of suckers

Outdoor Yoga cc Vahagn


Most businesses suck – they've got too many negatives and the odds have become increasingly stacked against them in recent years. Take just one example: You've got a shop, it's in a secondary shopping area, and ten years ago you were doing reasonably well, not fabulously well, but you were getting by. Then along came – they sell almost anything, and by signing up for Amazon Prime, a consumer gets postage free for a one-off payment once a year and prices below anything you can compete with. 10% or more of your annual turnover is wiped out at a stroke, and as people increasingly opt for buying stuff off Amazon, you progressively sink into the red. What can you do about it? (In passing, it’s worth noting that Russian communism and modern day, entrepreneurial capitalism have something in common: They both attempt to destroy the middle classes.)


The main problems with businesses are sales, or the lack of them, overheads, staff, dealing with local authorities and the Inland Revenue, and unsold stocks. In this world of laissez-faire capitalism, sex, gambling, and drugs stand out as businesses with such high profit margins and few of traditional businesses' negatives, that only one other business stands out as a golden opportunity, and unlike the former, it's legal everywhere: Start your own New Age business, become a guru or start a cult. The opportunities are outstanding.


Take yoga: Yoga, as defined by Patanjali, the first person to write about it – around 400 AD – said that the absence of thought is an essential of yoga. Oh yeah? What's that got to do with bending and stretching in your sweatpants on your yoga mat? How about starting your own yoga and getting the clients to pay you 30 quid an hour to jump up and down for an hour in a room heated to 40C? The P.T. Barnum adage that “there's a sucker born every minute” is as true today as when he said it. A woman I know said she used to work twelve hours a day, now thanks to her hot yoga, she can work sixteen. Whatever happened to balance?


Yoga, if you research it properly, is a connection of our own inner divine energy to the same energy externally – when that happens you go beyond thought. That Patanjali knew a thing or two!


Or, what about meditation? There's a lot of solid, independent body of research that says that meditation is no different from taking a nap, stroking the cat, or sitting listening to your favourite music with a glass of your preferred tipple in hand. It's fair to say that there's a small body of hard, scientific evidence too that testifies to the effectiveness of meditation. But equally, there's some 'science' from the 1970s, where one person's research is verified by another of the same persuasion – a bit like the police investigating the police. But the main problem with meditation, and hence the opportunity for the unscrupulous, is that there is no common agreement to what meditation is. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary defines it as a form of thinking, while an equally valid definition is that it is, at best, a form of not thinking. That being so, it is a hard area to research since the researchers are not comparing like with like.


It's a lovely business though: You might charge for a mantra – an "I am me," perhaps in a foreign language, will get you started if you need inspiration – and you might even charge up to £1,000 if you're barefaced enough.


Move to the USA, form a church to peddle your stuff and you won't even have to pay tax on it. Think about it: A thousand people each paying you 30 pounds a week is highly achievable and the power of auto-suggestion, the placebo effect and little miracles experienced en route will have you succeed beyond your dreams, with no need to worry about Amazon – at least until they also figure how to sell nothing at a price. Unless, of course, you have something in the way of personal integrity, which thankfully, most of us have.


But what about discretion? The ability to discriminate what's spiritually good for us or not? That seems in shorter supply.


As someone wrote a couple of thousand years ago, you either walk the path of pleasure or the path of joy – which path are you on? Note that there's no mention of financial success in these writings. Wonder why?


P.S. If you want to read something really astonishing and brilliant about the topic? Read the introduction the two Penguin Classics edition of the Upanishads, by Juan Mascaro, in it you'll find all you need to know.



Susannah Kaplan

About the Writer

no pic yet

Susannah is a freethinking north Londoner. She's allergic to country music, bullshit and south London.


Please log in to comment. You can join our community here.


Comments are moderated in line with The Guardian's community standards


Cynical article, but I suppose any business relies on your idea taking first priority in your customer's mind at a given time, it's just how persistent that pattern/association is when they are not engaging with your service.

What's Hot

Founder and Editor-in-chief Matthew Wherry sticks his head above the parapets and answers some questions

Dan Steiner applauds our 10th edition with a brief look at clapping's origins

What if you weren’t born where you were?
Which nationalities would you rather and rather not be?


A Poem by Impolite Favourite Amy Barone

A Solstice Poem

An honest & moving interview with an amazing mother who does

A poem by Impolite favourite Amy Barone

Novelist Judy Astley & Friends on the DOs and DON’Ts of Sleeping with Another Woman’s Husband


Unanswerable Questions for Brexiters #3

We asked for your support for refugees in Athens: Here's what Dan Steiner found, did and spent there

Editorial - Share this and help Mrs May stop OUTRAGEOUS & UNFAIR tax avoidance like the Grosvenor family's £3billion-plus trust scheme

Why I'm heading to Athens with a team of other experts to help refugees - by Dan Steiner

Impolite Writer and Homelessness Charity Expert Dan Steiner is travelling to Athens to support refugees - here's how you can help

Spirituality & Religion

Graham Roos Took his Mother on a Trip to Rome with 'a Spiritual Twist'. They did not enjoy it...

Are spirituality and religion two sides of the same coin?

Bestselling author Jane Owen's take on modern spirituality, whether you can find the meaning of life on the Internet and where she finds her purpose.

World-renowned Tantra teacher Hanna Katz explains there's much more to the ancient discipline than long sex sessions

Our regular contributor shares his experience of visiting a Death Cafe in London