Category Archives: Life & Death


Today, people of every culture interconnect in our common search to find the meaning of life. Many believe the key to unlocking happiness and health is gained by spiritual enlightenment. They identify with spiritual influencers whose message rings true to the foundation of their existing beliefs. Some find influencers who offer interesting insights into alternate spiritual views. And some discover spiritual influencers who entirely shift their paradigm, opening hidden passages for understanding their place in the universe—an interconnected, conscious universe in which we’re all part.

Our conscious interconnected world is going through an enormous spiritual awareness change. Thanks to the internet and social media, we have far more access to influencers who have amazing grasps on human spirituality. Cyberspace is the new spiritual frontier. Many of the trailblazers are spiritual pioneers who have immense numbers of digitally connected followers. They understand the power of the web. They also know how to tap extraordinary states of consciousness and help others to find inner peace within cosmic chaos.

These world wide web followers aren’t all new age junkies seeking a trip with the next trendy mystic. Most are seeking solid, influential leadership. They’re looking for leaders with depth of character that match the reach of their cyber connections—spiritual influencers with integrity, wisdom, perseverance, discernment and, above all, genuine honesty and appreciation of truth. They’re the same characteristics people want for themselves.

Testaments to a higher power were once confined to scriptures and church pews. The information revolution drastically changed delivery of spiritual guidance. But the digital age hasn’t really changed message content. Now it’s far easier to get facts or at least acquire influential opinions of universal truths. The responsibility to appreciate spiritual guidance and put it to practical living still remains with the individual. It always has and always will. Spirituality is about personal choice and growth as a human being.

Watkins Books of London, England has encouraged spiritual discovery for 120 years. This esoteric bookshop specializes in works that promote contemporary spiritualism, self-development, mysticism and perennial wisdom. Every year, Watkins publishes a list of the world’s top 100 most spiritually influential people alive today. They’ve just released the 2017 list in the latest edition of the Watkins Mind Spirit Body magazine. It’s an interesting mix of minds.

Some are conventional heads of mainstream religious organizations. Some are high-profile media personalities. Some are leaders with political agendas. Some are journalists, writers, actors, philosophers and opportunists. One started as a yoga teacher. Another is a young female victim of violence. And still another is a musician and songwriter. His singing voice might not be for everyone but his words have phenomenal persuasive power.

Watkins doesn’t pull these names from a hat. They look at the individual’s track record, their reach and their influence on the masses. Although all who made the list are varied in age and ethnic background, they have much in common. In fact, they have one universal trait. They’re all excellent communicators. They’re media savvy, technologically switched-on and they make good use of it.

Watkins has three main criteria for selecting who’s on the Top 100 Most Spiritually Influential List.

  1. The person has to be alive as of January 1st, 2017.
  2. The person has to have made a unique and spiritual contribution on a global scale.
  3. The person is frequently Googled, appears in Nielsen Data, has a Wikipedia page, and is actively talked about throughout the internet. By taking into account the number of times that a person is Googled or how many times their Wikipedia profile is viewed, the list gains a highly democratic and transparent parameter.

Watkins is very selective in creating this list and does their best to remove candidates who spread hateful or intolerant messages. Ultimately, this list is meant to celebrate the positive influence of today’s spiritual teachers. You can read the entire list in the spring edition of Watkins Mind Body Spirit magazine but here’s a rundown on the spiritual influencers who made the Top 20.

20. Iyanla Vanzant

Iyanla Vansant is a 63-year-old African American lawyer, motivational speaker and spiritual guidance teacher best known for her spiritual books and many appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show. She also has her own syndicated TV talk program. Although Vanzant holds a position as an ordained priestess in the African Yoruba tradition, she’s widely referred to as the high priestess of healthy relationships.

Yoruba beliefs are an anchor to Vanzant’s spiritual beliefs and teachings. They hold that all people are part of one great spirit that eventually reunites in an afterlife. While on earth, each person is spiritually responsible for interacting with all other living things including the Earth itself. Life and death are cycles of existence and by growing spiritually each person achieves transcendence into a unified balance. Enlightenment is found in balance while living and through meditative prayer.

Iyanla Vanzant was born into poverty as Rhonda Eva Harris to a Brooklyn projects single mother on welfare. She developed herself through education and spiritual commitment to repeatedly being on the New York Times bestseller list and winning an Emmy. Her words of spiritual wisdom are:

“What I have learned from all of the difficulties in my own life is that human beings have very thick skin. I call that skin our spirit, our Highest Most Powerful self. Spirit is the key to everything we desire. It is our weatherproofing, our Teflon, our line of credit that assures if we just keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day; there will be a miraculous payoff.”

19. Arianna Huffington

While most people are familiar with Arianna Huffington from her days as a journalist and the creator of the online news aggregator, The Huffington Post (now the HuffPost), she has an immense spiritual and social conscience behind her. This is especially true in promoting women’s issues and addressing the serious issues of workplace fatigue and sleep deprivation.

Huffington has a life-long interest in spirituality. She’s been involved in the Rajneesh Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness and published a self-help book The Fourth Instinct followed by Thrive. Her latest release The Sleep Revolution—Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time is extremely influential in tackling stress caused by lack of proper sleep which causes immense spiritual drain.

Arianna Huffington is 66 and was born to working-class parents in Greece, becoming a naturalized American citizen. She’s now devoting her time and considerable wealth to her new startup, Thrive Global which is a net-based platform focusing on health and wellness. Huffington’s view is that people must rise above the basic instincts of survival, power and sex to find higher and better selves. A great Arianna Huffington quote is:

We need to accept that we won’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.

18. Tony Robbins

Anthony “Tony” Robbins is a well-known 57-year-old American motivational speaker, businessman and author. Robbins grew up in North Hollywood, California in a broken household with a dead-beat dad and an addicted mom. He parlayed a great personality and exceptional speaking skills into presenting on infomercials. He did this while working as a night janitor and now earns an estimated $30 million monthly.

Tony Robbins is an expert in Neurolinguistics Programming (NLP) and developed peak performance coaching. This led to a large television and live audience exposure. He’s a highly sought-after speaker and veteran of many TED Talks. People describe Robbins’s performances as “mesmerizing”. He’s also the author of the motivational books Unlimited Power, Awake the Giant Within, Money: Master the Game and Unshakeable.

Since 1991, Tony Robbins has been a prominent philanthropist and spiritual leader. He has millions of devoted followers and contributes to causes like education in prisons and donating to over 100,000 health and human service organizations. One of Tony Robbins’s many sponsorships provides fresh drinking water to 100,000 people per day in India, preventing waterborne diseases that are the leading cause of child deaths in South Asia. Robbins is quoted saying:

Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible. If you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten. It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.

17. David Lynch

At 71, David Keith Lynch is one of the most spiritually influential people in the international film industry. He was raised in middle-class America and excelled at film producing, directing, screenwriting as well as being an accomplished musician, painter and still photographer. He’s best known for productions like Elephant Man and is the recipient of top awards from Cannes and Venice film festivals.

David Lynch adamantly promotes Transcendental Meditation (TM) as the core principle to his spiritual awareness mission. Lynch directly studied under TM’s founder, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and became a lifelong TM practitioner. His David Lynch Foundation uses TM specifically for targeting at-risk youths, women victims of violence and veterans suffering from PTSD.

Since 2005, the David Lynch Foundation has treated over 500,000 people and is rapidly expanding. Lynch has plans for an $8 billion corporate investment in worldwide wellness centers using TM techniques for spiritual enlightenment. Here’s how David Lynch puts it:

I started Transcendental Meditation in 1973 and have not missed a single meditation ever since. Twice a day. Every day. It has given me effortless access to unlimited reserves of energy, creativity and happiness deep within. This level of life is sometimes called “pure consciousness”—it is a treasury. And this level of life is deep within us all.

But I had no idea how powerful and profound this technique could be until I saw firsthand how it was being practiced by young children in inner-city schools, veterans who suffer the living hell of post-traumatic stress disorder and women and girls who are victims of terrible violence. TM is, in a word, life changing for the good.

In 2005, we started the David Lynch Foundation for Consciousness-Based Education and World Peace to ensure that every child anywhere in the world who wanted to learn to meditate could do so. Now, the Foundation is actively teaching TM to adults and children in countries everywhere.

How are we able to do it? Because of the generosity of foundations and philanthropists and everyday people who want to ease the suffering of others—and who want to help create a better world. If you don’t already meditate, take my advice: Start. It will be the best decision you ever make.

16. Fethullah Gulen

Fethullah Gulen is an Islamic iman and founder/leader of the Gulen Movement which promotes moderate Muslim teachings and practices. His exact birthdate is not clear as he was born in an impoverished Turkish village about 76 years ago. He became highly influential in the international Muslim community as a thinker, scholar, author, poet and educational activist who supports interfaith religious tolerance and opposes turning spiritual faith into political violence.

Gulen’s modern Islamic views and international influence did not sit well with hardline Turkish power leaders. He’s been charged with masquerading as a moderate while actively supporting subversive groups. Turkey has him on their terrorist list and is attempting extradition from the United States where Gulen is currently living in exile. The U.S. is refusing to cooperate and recognizes the Gulen Movement as a legitimate and influential spiritual force.

Fethullah Gulen is a strong supporter of science and education, seeing science and faith as compatible and complementary. He embraces all of humanity, regardless of faith, to progress with scientific advancements that make the world a safer and more spiritually prosperous place. Here’s what Gulen, one of the most influential Islamic leaders alive, has to say:

Be so tolerant that your bosom becomes wide like the ocean. Become inspired with faith and love of human beings. Let there be no troubled souls to whom you do not offer a hand and about whom you remain unconcerned.”

15. Alejandro Jodorowsky

Described as a “graffiti artist for the soul”, Alejandro Jodorowsy is Chilean-born filmmaker turned spiritual mystic. He’s 88 and spends his entire energetic time working freely for the benefit of others to discover spirituality within themselves through what Jodorowsky calls “psychoshaminism” and “psychomagic”.

Jodorowsky originally dropped out of school to become a clown and a mime before founding his own theater group that caught John Lennon’s attention. Lennon began to fund Jodorowsy’s film works and became influential in exposing Jodorowsky to Transcendental Meditation which Lennon was studying under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in India. Jodorowsky went on take TM principles and branch off into his own style of spiritual awareness.

Alejandro Jodorowsy is better known in Europe than America. He’s used his film works to open the gates of illumination where “Psychomagic” is introduced through visual means to “enlighten the soul”. Jodorowsky says it’s his shamanic model of therapeutic self-healing where the practitioner works within their unconscious mind. He also says:

Any person who has read a little psychoanalysis, Freud, Jung, knows that we have a collective unconscious: the myths, they are necessary for rationalizing the contents of the unconscious. In history there were lots of myths. We all have myths — except in America. In America, you have superman.

14. Matthew Fox

Timothy James “Matthew” Fox is an American theologian who founded Creation Spirituality in the mid-1990’s after he was expelled from the Episcopal Church for unorthodox teaching. Prior to that, he was a Roman Catholic priest who locked horns with the Vatican. Mathew Fox is 77 and lives in America where he heads his Legacy Foundation.

Creation Spirituality draws on mystical teachings of early Christianity and sets them in line with modern day concerns for blending human spirituality with environment concerns. It’s a “green” theology that has a huge following of new age seekers and converted disciples from many faiths including Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and Jews who seek a holy relationship with nature.

Matthew Fox is a highly influential speaker and author. He’s described, ““Matthew Fox might well be the most creative, the most comprehensive, surely the most challenging religious-spiritual teacher in America. He has the scholarship, the imagination, the courage, the writing skill to fulfill this role at a time when the more official Christian theological traditions are having difficulty in establishing any vital contact with either the spiritual possibilities of the present or with their own most creative spiritual traditions of the past….He has, it seems, created a new mythic context for leading us out of our contemporary religious and spiritual confusion into a new clarity of mind and peace of soul, by affirming rather than abandoning any of our traditional and fundamental beliefs.” On fundamentalism, Mathew Fox says:

I don’t think that fundamentalism has anything to do with Jesus Christ. They call themselves Christians, but if that’s Christian, count me out. Fundamentalism is built on fear and greed. They’re telling you to give them your money otherwise you’re going to hell.

13. Alice Walker

Alice Malsenior Walker is best known for her book The Color Purple which she won a Pulitzer Prize for best fiction. It went on to become a Steven Speilberg movie with Oprah Winfrey and Whoopi Goldberg. Since then she’s been a prolific writer and strong social activist, particularly for supporting rights of black women.

Walker was born to poor black plantation owners. She was blinded in one eye after being intentionally shot with a BB-gun which she credits with “being able to really see people and things, really noticing relationships and learning to be patient enough to care about how they turned out.” Walker rose from poverty through education and her writings. She was an editor at Ms. Magazine and then founded her own feminist publishing company Wild Tree Press.

Alice Walker is also known and respected for her activism in human rights not only in America but internationally. She coined the term “womanism” to make her following inclusive of all people regardless of gender, race or religious faith. Walker is a champion of the economically, spiritually and politically oppressed. At 73, Alice Walker has boundless energy and devotes it to helping others. She has a great quote about aging:

In South Korea, they believe that when you turn 60, you’ve become a baby again and the rest of your life should be totally about joy and happiness, and people should leave you alone, and I just think that that’s the height of intelligence.

12. Thomas Monson

Thomas Spencer Monson is the president and leader of the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Monson is considered by his followers to be a “prophet, saint and revelator”. He was a printer by trade but dedicated his life to the Mormon Church. At 89, Monson has removed himself from many church affairs due to failing health but still heads a collective group of nearly 16 million LDS Church faithful.

Thomas Monson has an extensive education and honorary degrees. He served in the U.S Navy at the close of World War 2 but was not in active combat. He’s been a presidential advisor for religious and private sector initiatives as well as a prominent leader in the Boy Scouts of America. He’s a staunch conservative and registered Republican who maintains strict religious doctrine, particularly in the institution of marriage that is sacred to Mormons.

Thomas Monson has served as a Mormon missionary around the world. Here are his words on missionary service:

I counseled many returning missionaries. I interviewed 1,700 missionaries all over the world. My advice to them is that you should study and prepare for your life’s work in a field that you enjoy.

11. Malala Yousafzai

At 19, Malala is the youngest spiritual influencer on the Watkins list and she’s a powerful one. She’s widely known as the Nobel Prize laureate who was shot in the head by Pakistani Taliban for promoting girls’ education rights on her blog. Malala made a full recovery from her near-fatal brain injury and has gone on to become one of the world’s most recognizable women who meets world leaders and addresses Parliaments and the United Nations.

In 2008, Malala was selected from a competition to write a youth blog for the BBC. She was 11at the time. Her strong written and verbal skills quickly gained acceptance from dedicated blog followers. On October 9, 2012 Malala wrote a post criticizing the Taliban. For this, she was sentenced to death and a Taliban gunman was sent to silence this teenage girl.

Malala is a tremendous personality and role model, especially for young women in developing nations. Currently, she lives in Birmingham, England and heads a number of international groups that promote spiritualism and the betterment for all cultures. Malala is a highly-influential change advocate and is quoted saying about traditions:

Traditions are not sent from heaven, they are not sent from God. It is we who make cultures and we have the right to change it and we should change it.

10. Deepak Chopra

There’s no denying the incredible following Deepak Chopra earned, regardless of the criticism he’s received from the scientific community. Chopra is 70 and of Asian Indian descent. He immigrated to the States in 1970 and is a licensed medical practitioner in internal medicine and endocrinology. In the 1980’s, Chopra began new age studies and quickly grew a dedicated sphere of influenced spiritual seekers.

Deepak Chopra was enlightened by his studies on Transcendental Meditation directly under Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and claims this transformed him into the thought leader he’s known as today. Promotion by Oprah Winfrey also helped Chopra achieve fame and fortune as an alternative medicine expert who promotes his own brand of teachings and products. He’s become wealthy in business endeavors.

Scientific leaders sharply criticize Chopra for overusing the phrase “quantum” is his writings and speeches. They view Chopra as a materialistic manipulator. Chopra is skillful in defense, using his phenomenal linguistic talents to explain views of how science and spirituality are intrinsically linked. He’s particularly in-tune with leading views on what consciousness is and, in turn, criticizes the science leaders for not exploring this untapped source of universal knowledge. Here’s a quote from Deepak Chopra on materialistic karma:

Karma is experience, and experience creates memory, and memory creates imagination and desire, and desire creates karma again. If I buy a cup of coffee, that’s karma. I now have that memory that might give me the potential desire for having cappuccino, and I walk into Starbucks, and there’s karma all over again.

9. Bob Dylan

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind”, says music legend and spiritual influencer Robert Allen Zimmerman, aka Bob Dylan. He’s now 76 and initially turned down a Nobel Prize but his genius in writing meaningful music keeps on rolling. In six decades, probably no other individual has had a greater impact on modern songwriting that Dylan. His singing ability may be questionable but his words are timeless. He’s sold nearly 200 million albums.

John Lennon said this about Bob Dylan, “I love him because he writes some beautiful stuff. I love his so-called protest things. But I like the sound of him. I didn’t have to listen to his words. He used to come with his acetate and say, ‘Listen to this, John. Did you hear the words?” And I said, “That doesn’t matter, just the sound is what counts. The overall thing.’ You didn’t have to hear what Bob Dylan’s saying, you just have to hear the way he says it, like the medium is the message…I respect him, I respect him a lot.

Millions more respect Bob Dylan as a musician and spiritual influencer. President Obama called Dylan, “The greatest influence on American music ever.” But perhaps Bob Dylan put it best:

“The times, they are a-changin”

8. Rhonda Bryne

Rhonda Byrne is best-known for writing The Secret which is one of the all-time bestselling self-help books. It’s based on the timeless law of attraction but Byrne had a special way of delivering the message that caught on with a mass of spiritual followers. Since she released The Secret in 2006, the 66-year-old Australian has sold 20 million copies and grossed $300 million in print, audio and film rights.

Rhonda Byrne was hugely helped by Oprah Winfrey and promoted as a revolutionary spiritual influencer. Byrne’s secret message is that through the power of belief, you’ll achieve everything you wish for. Critics have been harsh on Byrne. The New York Times took exception with Byrne’s repeated reference to quantum mechanics which is a popular new age catch-phrase. Others call Rhonda Byrne’s works “pseudoscience” and denounce her suggestion that applying impenetrable physics to the inner workings of the mind is irresponsible journalism.

Say what you might, but you can’t argue with the secret to Rhonda Byrne’s success as a top spiritual influencer. It obviously works on the minds of millions of Byrne’s fans and continues to keep her elevated after over a decade in the public eye. Rhonda Byrne claims she’s been blessed with success and has this to say:

So many of us don’t actually believe that we deserve the blessings that life has to offer us. Somehow we believe that those blessings are reserved for other people. But that simply isn’t true. You are as deserving of life’s gifts as anybody else.

7. Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist is Paulo Coelho’s breakout book that carried him to spiritual influencing fame. Coelho is 69 and from Brazil. He wrote many books, papers and articles before The Alchemist was published in 1994. Like so many top writers and influencers, Paulo Coelho suffered many rejections before Harper Collins gambled on him. He’s never looked back, nor ever forgot his roots and what led him to spiritually influence millions around the world.

Paulo Coelho was raised in a Jesuit school. He declined the priesthood in favor of being a writer. His parents thought he was crazy and three times committed young Paulo to a mental institute. Three times he escaped and kept on writing. For years he lived as a South American hippie, experiencing life from pot to politics—subversive politics, that is. With The Alchemist, Coelho told a simple story of a simple man seeking enlightenment only to find it right back at home.

Paulo Coelho is recognized by pop stars like Madonna and media influencers like Oprah Winfrey as producing life-changing works that resonate with millions. Coelho is a modest man but recognizes his contribution to culture and advances. It’s now through a virtual Paulo Coelho Foundation with a physical headquarters in Geneva. Coelho says this about culture:

Culture makes people understand each other better. And if they understand each other better in their soul, it is easier to overcome the economic and political barriers. But first they have to understand that their neighbor is, in the end, just like them, with the same problems, the same questions.

6. Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

Jaggi Vasudev is an Indian yogi, mystic, visionary, humanitarian and spiritual leader whose life and example influence millions upon millions of people. He started as a yoga teacher and grew up in a moderate Indian family. He’s now 58 and Vasudev’s following grows beyond what Hollywood ratings only imagine. He initially lived as a chicken farmer while he practiced the inner workings of yoga by applying Transcendental Meditation techniques. That led to a slow but steady group of pupils before critical mass took off.

Vasudev explains, “The word ‘yoga’ means ‘union.’ Union means you begin to experience the universality of who you are. For example, today, modern science proves to you beyond any doubt that the whole existence is just one energy manifesting itself in various forms. If this scientific fact becomes a living reality for you—that you begin to experience everything as one—then you are in yoga. When you are in yoga, you experience everything as a part of yourself. That is liberation, that is mukti, that is ultimate freedom.”

Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev credits the power of the media and internet for amplifying his message and allowing him to be a world leader in spiritual guidance. He’s a technological wizard as well as a mystical one. Here’s Vasudev’s take on technology:

As there is a technology to create external wellbeing, there is a whole dimension of science and technology to create inner wellbeing

5. Oprah Winfrey

If there’s ever been a rags-to-riches story, it’s Oprah Winfrey’s. This incredible lady has spiritually influenced millions of lives and dozens of other spiritual influencers. Oprah is 62 and now a multi-billionaire but she sure didn’t start that way. Oprah bounced from home to home in black Mississippi, wore dresses made from potato sacks and was pregnant at 14. Today, she dines with royalty and is treated as such by peers and followers.

It’s because Oprah is genuine. Totally genuine. And she looks for that in the thousands of people who pass through her media shows and allow Oprah to promote their books and causes. Oprah emerged as a spiritual influencer over 20 years ago but she’s not a traditional churchgoer. “I have a church with myself: I have church walking down the street. I believe in God force that lives inside all of us, and once you tap into that, you can do anything”, Oprah says.

This phenomenal influencer has something else to say about spiritualism:

 It isn’t until you come to a spiritual understanding of who you are—not necessarily a religious feeling, but deep down, the spirit within—that you can begin to take control.

4. Eckhart Tolle

Ulrich Leonard “Eckhart” Tolle is a German-born resident of Vancouver, Canada. He’s 69 and has been a lifelong learner and writer who came to fame in 1997 when his book The Power of Now became a NYT bestseller. Tolle followed with A New Earth. Together, they’ve sold millions of copies and propelled Eckhart Tolle into being one of the top spiritual influencers alive today.

Tolle is another of Oprah Winfrey’s protégées and he earned it by producing timeless works that resonate with masses. Tolle had an unhappy childhood and claims that was the instigator in his life’s work to help other better themselves. He suffered from depression, anger and fear and used mind power through meditation to overcome it. His inner transgression led to a life-changing epiphany where he saw the division between an unhappy past and a fearful future. He decided to forever live in the moment.

Living in the “now” is the core principle of Eckhart Tolle’s works and the message has been well-received by millions and millions of fans who are spiritually influenced by this quiet man. Tolle has his share of critics but that doesn’t bother him. He lives in the moment. And he’s convinced there’s an overall spiritual intelligence at work in the universe. Tolle says:

I don’t believe in an outside agent that creates the world, then walks away. But I feel very strongly there is an intelligence at work in every flower, in every blade of grass, in every cell of my body. And it is that intelligence that, I wouldn’t say created the universe. It is creating the universe. It’s an ongoing process.

3. Bishop Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu is one of the world’s most recognized spiritual influencers. He’s a South African Anglican bishop who is also a leading social rights activist. At 85, Bishop Tutu is highly active in world affairs and keeps company with most world leaders. He’s been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom but this holy man feels best at home with the common person.

Tutu came from humble beginnings in apartheid times and rose through the seminary although he really wanted to become a medical doctor. That just couldn’t happen for a black South African back then. He’s an early riser who equates prayer with the same principles as meditation. Although he’s a staunch Christian, Desmond Tutu doesn’t believe everything in the Bible. “You have to understand is that the Bible is really a library of books and it has different categories of material,” he said. “There are certain parts which you have to say no to. The Bible accepted slavery. St. Paul said women should not speak in church at all and there are people who have used that to say women should not be ordained. There are many things that you shouldn’t accept.”

Bishop Tutu is very liberal on views like gay rights, women’s issues, family planning, assisted dying and abortion. He’s also a strong supporter of efforts to battle climate change. He’s a moderate but tremendously influential in spiritual circles. He also has another interesting quote about the Bible:

When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.

2. The Dalai Lama

The “Dalai Lama” is actually the title for Tibet’s spiritual leader. The current one who is so well known and loved is the 14th in succession His real name is Tenzin Gyatso and he’s 81 years young. This jolly fellow is an amazing spiritual influencer and he’s absolutely idolized throughout the world. Except in China. There, there’s a price on his head and he’s exiled from his homeland.

The Dalai Lama claims three commitments to life. First, he’s a human being and committed to truth and compassion for others. We all want happiness. Not suffering. Second, he’s a spiritual leader—a religious practitioner. He understands that views and beliefs vary but deep down, we’re all the same. Third, the Dalai Lama is a Tibetan. He feels a complete responsibility for his people’s welfare despite he can’t safely return.

Meditation is the basis of the Dalai Lama’s Buddhist practice. He averages about six hours a day in meditative prayer but is not regimented. He’s always ready for a good joke. “Humor makes you happy and healthy”, the Dalai Lama says. “That’s the meaning of life.” He’s repeatedly quoted:

The purpose of our lives is to be happy.

1. Pope Francis

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Bishop of Rome and the papal leader of the Roman Catholic Church is listed as the #1 most spiritually influential person alive in the world today. Just the numbers support it. Pope Francis leads 1.285 billion parishioners in every one of the world’s countries. He’s 80 and originally from Argentina. In the Pope’s early life, he worked as a bar bouncer and was an excellent Tango dancer. Rumor is—he had a few girlfriends.

Pope Francis is a reformer but cautiously so. He’s exceptionally bright and considered a chess player within church ranks—always planning careful moves in his actions. He has some tough issues to tackle as the Roman Catholic Church has strict, conservative views on celibacy, women clergy, gay rights, abortion and contraceptives. He’s a simple man in materialism, refusing to move into the papal suite and prefers to stay in a small Vatican apartment. He’s also an accomplished chef who makes a mean paella.

Although the Pope is obviously a devout Christian and the spiritual leader who influences over a billion people, he’s receptive to learning opposing views and freely chats with the likes of the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. He even recently welcomed Donald Trump. Pope Francis fervently believes in God but not quite how you might think:

I believe in God – not in a Catholic God; there is no Catholic God. There is God, and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator. This is my Being.

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So that’s a wrap on Our Top 20 Spiritual Influences Alive Today. At least according to Watkins Mind Spirit Body magazine. You see they range from 19 to 89 in age with 70 being the average. They’re male and female—black, white and brown. They’re fabulously wealthy. Some with money. Some without materials. But all are flush in spirit. They’re diverse in backgrounds but common in communicating a simple message that real wealth is being happy and healthy in life.

How this post started is that I’m a lifelong student of health and happiness. Right now, I’ve got both. What I don’t have is something to help others find the same. I feel I can offer 60 years of life experience where I’m only now getting a grip on reality. For many years, I’ve recognized and studied the interconnected concept of consciousness. It started with a personal experience in 1985 where death brushed me and upped my curiosity from exposure in the Native American sweat lodge culture. It was profound. Not just spiritually influencing. It made me realize there was a truth to why we behave and feel the way we do. That led to my first book No Witnesses To Nothing and now to my newest project Interconnect — Finding Your Place in the Conscious Universe.

It’s meant to be a simple, straightforward look at universal forces that interconnect us within a unified existence. It’s not preaching religion but does touch on spirituality. It’s an attempt to make sense of physical and spiritual forces that affect our lives. It’s about influencing others to reflect on their happy place. Interconnect — Finding Your Place in the Conscious Universe is ready in the fall of 2017. If you’d like a free advance reading copy (ARC), email me at and I’ll be happy to send you a digital copy.

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OJ Simpson is the world’s most famous criminal who got away with murder. On June 12, 1994, NFL Superstar Orenthal James (O.J.) Simpson slashed and stabbed his estranged wife, Nicole Brown-Simpson and her acquaintance Ron Goldman, leaving them to die in pools of blood outside Nicole’s home in the West Los Angeles community of Brentwood. OJ fled. He was eventually taken down after a slow-speed chase in a white Ford Bronco shown live on national TV.

The white Bronco show opened a much larger act when OJ Simpson was tried live on international TV. It was the first of its kind — possibly the catalyst to reality shows. People were mesmerized by plastic theatrics played throughout eleven long months where a host of larger-than-life characters mocked jurisprudence. OJ got off. But the file never closed. Today, the OJ Simpson case stays open in the court of public fascination.

And today, when you’re in Brentwood, California, you can take the OJ Simpson murder scene tour with guide Adam Papagan. Adam is a wealth of knowledge about the OJ case, the characters and the locations from where the trial of the century played out. Adam takes you from Nicole’s condo, where blood soaked the walk, to the Mezzaluna Restaraunt where she ate her last meal. He’ll guide you through moments before OJ’s frenzied attack and many hours till the famous freeway fallout. And Adam will tell you things left lingering behind the scenes that let OJ Simpson get away with murder.

The only thing Adam Papagan doesn’t have is a white Ford Bronco. But he’s working on it. Adam not only has a tour company website, Facebook page, Twitter account and great TripAdvisor stars, he’s currently crowdfunding capital to buy a white Ford Bronco to make your OJ crime scene tour complete.

I invited guide Adam Papagan over to the DyingWords shack for a talk about the OJ Simpson case and what to expect when you take his OJ Simpson murder scene tour. Adam’s fun and he knows his stuff. Here’s how our chat went down.

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Hi Adam! Welcome to DyingWords. I think you’ve got a real cool crime-scene tourist business going and a hell of an idea about using a white Bronco as a tour vehicle and mobile OJ museum. How’d you come up with it?

Hi Garry, thanks. I grew up near Brentwood so I’ve been obsessed with this whole thing since I was a kid. In high school, I was talking to a friend about OJ and she told me in the 90s her father, a guy by the name of Stu Krieger, came up with The OJ Tour. After months of lobbying, Stu agreed to take me on the tour and it was amazing. He gave me his blessing to keep the tour going and I gave it informally for ten years after that. Word started to get out to the point that strangers started hitting me up on Facebook wanting to go on the tour. That’s when I realized it could be a thing.

We don’t have a regular tour vehicle, but a Bronco would be perfect since that’s the vehicle everyone associates with OJ. There’s so much OJ memorabilia from the trial and his football career, so I figure we can turn the extra space in the back of the truck into a museum.

It’s been 23 years since the tragic and brutal Nicole Brown Simpson — Ronald Goldman murders. Why are people still so interested in this case?

There’s still debate over whether he did it is probably the biggest reason. There’s some unresolved business there that’s very intriguing. It also has a lot of glamorous aspects which I think people are fascinated by. A lot of it is nostalgia too. The case was a huge part of the 90’s. It’s so of its time.

There’s been gobs written and reported on the OJ case. Like in so many high-profile murders, I suspect a lot is misinformed or outright BS. Give us a Cliff’s Notes tour of the events leading up to the murders.

I wasn’t there, but what I believe happened is OJ got pissed when Nicole didn’t invite him to have dinner with the family after their daughter’s dance recital. He went home and for the next couple hours got madder and madder. Before his flight to Chicago, he went to Nicole’s house. Maybe just to spy on her, he did that, or maybe with the intention of killing her. Either way, Ron was there and got caught in the middle. I think OJ did it and more than likely he planned it out in advance.

Looking back, how solid was the evidence against OJ?

Not very solid. He had a motive and an opportunity, but there were no witnesses and the police didn’t do a very good job with the investigation. But this case isn’t about evidence. The Not Guilty verdict was inevitable.

What do you think happened to the murder weapon? The knife?

OJ probably ditched it at the airport before his flight. A skycap said he saw it happen but they were never able to prove it. Maybe he threw it out the window of the limo. We’ll never know.

I just re-read the autopsy reports. It shows Nicole was stabbed 5 times and Ron Goldman was knifed 30 times. That’s a lot of overkill. What made OJ snap?

OJ was a jealous guy. It drove him crazy that she was playing him with a young boy toy. OJ probably recognized Ron from the neighborhood. I saw some 20/20 or Dateline or something where a forensics expert said some of Ron’s wounds were extra deep as if the assailant were accenting a point with the knife, like “So, you think you can kiss MY wife?”. That sounds like a movie, though.

What do you make of OJ’s headspace after the murders? What was he trying to do?

I think he compartmentalized it like he did a lot of his personality. His whole life people loved him and he could get away with anything. I think he was genuinely baffled when the hammer came down as hard as it did.

There’ll never be another live action scene like the slow-speed chase. Take us through the white Bronco ride.

The Dream Team negotiated with the LAPD to let OJ turn himself in on the morning of June 17th, five days after the murder. OJ had his lawyers stall so he could make a getaway attempt. The plan was to have his best friend Al Cowlings drive him to Mexico. On the way, they stopped at Nicole’s grave in Orange County. By this time the news had gotten out that the Juice was Loose and they were spotted. At this point, they had to turn around and head back to Brentwood. OJ had thousands of dollars in cash and a disguise with him. No charges were ever filed in connection with the case because they thought it would distract from the murder trial.

What happened to the original white Bronco? Any chance of buying that thing?

OJ’s former agent Mike Gilbert has it in his garage in Central California. He’s been offered hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years but won’t part with it. I don’t think there’s any chance I’ll get it, that’s a lot of $80 tours.

What’s your take on the police investigation? Was it as screwed up as the trial indicated?

Definitely. They mishandled evidence and failed to secure the crime scene. Cases get dismissed for that kind of thing all the time. On the other hand, the LAPD has a long history embellishing evidence to help their case. I think it’s very possible they’ve framed an innocent man. (Not OJ, though. He was totally guilty.)

What are some important pieces of evidence that never came out at trial?

There was a woman who almost got in a car accident with OJ few blocks from the murder scene. She sold her story to the tabloids so she never got to testify. There were also the shoe prints from OJ’s “ugly ass shoes” that didn’t come into play until the civil trial. But like I said, evidence wasn’t a factor in this case.

Okay, let’s talk about the trial of the century and the dream-team defense. How’d that circus get so crazy?

People have misconceptions about the judicial system. It’s not about right or wrong it’s about which side plays the game better. The defense had a better strategy and scored more points so they won. The media play helped the defense plant doubt about OJ’s guilt too. OJ was a veteran entertainer and they were able to use that to their advantage. It’s not unlike the 2016 election.

Give us some gossip about the trial characters.

Let’s see… Marcia Clark took Scientology classes and had a poster of Jim Morrison in her office. Fred Goldman works at a department store in Phoenix. Kato ordered a grilled chicken sandwich at McDonalds minutes before the murder.

Marcia Clark, the main prosecutor. Was she in over her head or did she get a bad shake?

Both. The defense was a lot more polished and used to being on TV, plus they had more resources. But she was also the victim of sexism.

What are your thoughts about how the jury demographics and change of venue affected the verdict?

The defense strategically stacked the jury with people who would be sympathetic to OJ. Apparently, after jury selection, OJ remarked, “If this jury convicts me, then maybe I DID do it”.

Judge Ito? What was that guy all about? I read he did off-the-wall stuff like offering to take the jury up for an entertaining mid-trial Goodyear Blimp ride, took a personal vacation during final summations and even did a bizarre product placement for “Broccoli Wockly” on his desk so the cameras could promote it. Is that shit true?

I think he was a little star struck and got taken for a ride, like a lot of people who have a brush with fame in Hollywood. I’ve never heard the Broccoli Wockly thing but those hour glasses he kept on his desk were pretty weird. The jury went on all sorts of outings so I wouldn’t be surprised about the blimp. Ito was the only one smart enough to not write a book, so it’s hard to say.

Okay, I gotta ask you about the glove fitting in court. WTF happened there?

Which time? When OJ tried on the glove from the crime scene that supposedly didn’t fit it had shrunken some, plus OJ stopped taking his arthritis medication so his hands would swell up, plus it kind of did fit. What most people don’t know is that the next week they had him try on a brand new pair of the same gloves and they fit perfectly.

Was having cameras in the courtroom the fatal flaw?

They certainly helped the defense, and it was definitely good for the people. If it weren’t on TV it wouldn’t have gotten nearly as big.

Vincent Bugliosi’s book “Outrage — 5 Reasons Why OJ Simpson Got Away With Murder”. I’m sure you read it. What’s your thoughts on it?

It’s at the thrift store a lot, I’ve skimmed it. Bugliosi doesn’t really have anything to do with the OJ trial and his Helter Skelter book is kind of boring. Mark Furhman’s book is the best, so I kind of stopped after that one.

I understand OJ is still in jail on an unrelated robbery conviction. What’s eventually going to become of him?

He’s up for parole this year but I don’t think he’ll get it. It’d be in his best interest to stay quiet and continue to fade into legend.

Take us for a ride on your tour.

I use some proprietary tour information so I can’t tell you everything, but we go to the murder scene, obviously, Rockingham, the restaurant, and a few more. I use a lot of my first-hand knowledge of what Brentwood was like at the time of the trial.

When you visit these scenes, how do the neighbors respond?

No one has ever said anything. One time while giving the tour I ran into Pablo Fenejves, Nicole’s neighbor who testified at the trial and later went on to ghostwrite OJ’s book “If I Did It”. He was walking a dog, which is the same thing he was doing at the time of the murders. That was surreal.

What’s the craziest question you’ve been asked?

I had one guy who was a lawyer who wanted to explore the case from the perspective of Jason Simpson being the murderer so he paid me extra to take him to the restaurant where Jason worked and approach it from that perspective. He wrote me some months later to tell me, after careful investigation, he thinks OJ did it.

Tell us about your plans to acquire a white Bronco and how people can help you out with crowdfunding.

Broncos are fairly common but because of their iconic status they are a little pricey. Doing the tour in the Bronco will be pretty conspicuous, so getting it will trigger me having to get a bunch of tourism licenses and insurance. I don’t really make any money on the tour as it is, so I’m asking people to chip in to help cover all the additional overhead.

Where can people get involved and what’s in it for them?

We have an IndieGoGo page. Also the We have prizes like stickers and t-shirts as well as the option to book a tour. We’ll also send out a link so you can do a virtual ride along. The campaign runs until June 17th, the anniversary of the Bronco chase.

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Adam Papagan is an artist, comedian, and talk show host from Los Angeles, California. His past projects include immersive video installations, collaborations with outsider musician David Liebe Hart, and the podcast Juicing the People v. O.J. Simpson. He also hosts There’s a Place: The ASMR Talk Show on and Inside Outside on KCHUNG Radio. He began his career at age 15 on public access television.

Help support Adam’s crowdfund goal through IndieGoGo and get that white Ford Bronco chasing slow through the crime scenes in Brentwood. Check out Adam’s OJ Tour Website and connect with him on Facebook and Twitter. And please share Adam’s white Bronco campaign — it ends on June 17th — 23 years to the day since OJ fled in his white Bronco after viscously murdering Nicole and Ron.


Ordinary people have a sun dance fascination with famous folks. They worship bright lights but rarely waltz with military heroes and historical figures. Same with movie stars like Sundance’s Robert Redford. Sports jocks are honored. Some politicians are revered. So are daredevils. Religious and spiritual leaders. Business successes. Inventors. Philanthropists. Chauvenistic cooks and reality TV show hosts. Even the odd crime writer has their day of fame and following. Some people are famous for being famous like the Kardashian Klan but most in the spotlight have earned it. Some are good folks. And some are disastrous. Like those in the fatal sun dance between Sitting Bull and Custer with his men of the United States 7th Cavalry. 

It’s not surprising when celebrities check-out and say goodbyes that the unwashed masses take notice. Some last words from dying demigods are inspirations from the departed. Some deathbed utters are foundations for lasting legacies. And some dying words are just plain stupid or hilariously funny.

In no particular order of importance — except for the last oneread to the end — here are a few fatal words from famous people checking-out.

Diana, Princess of Wales – “My God. What’s happened?”

John Lennon – “I’m shot.”

Bob Marley – “Money can’t buy life.”

Curt Cobain – “It’s better to burn out than to fade away.”

Terry Katch (Rock musician) – “Don’t worry, it’s not loaded.”

Humphrey Bogart – “All you owe the public is a good performance.”

Joe DiMaggio – “I’m finally going to see Marilyn again.”

Elvis Presley – “Just a minute. I have to go to the bathroom.”

Leonard Nimoy (Spock’s last Tweet) –  “A life is like a garden. Perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory. LLAP.”

Bing Crosby – “That was a great game of golf, fellers.”

Oscar Wilde – “Either that wallpaper goes or I do.”

Hunter S. Thompson – “Relax – This won’t hurt.”

Adolph Hitler –  “I myself and my wife – in order to escape the disgrace of deposition or capitulation – choose death. It is our wish to be burnt immediately on the spot where I have carried out the greatest part of my daily work in the course of a twelve years’ service to my people.”

Robert Alton Harris (California Gas Chamber, 1922) – “You can be a king or a street sweeper, but everyone dances with the Grim Reaper.”

William Somerset Maugham – “Dying is a very dull and dreary affair. My advice to you is to have nothing whatever to do with it.”

Surgeon Joseph Henry Green – “Stopped.” (Checking his own pulse as he lay dying.

Salvador Dali – “I do not believe in my death.”

Queen Elizabeth I – “All my possessions for a moment of time.”

Errol Flynn – “I’ve had a hell of a lot of fun and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”

John Quincy Adams – “This, is the last of earth. I am content.”

Buddha – “Work hard to gain your own salvation.”

George Bernard Shaw –  “Sister, you’re trying to keep me alive as an old curiosity, but I’m done, I’m finished, I’m going to die.”

Erskine Childers (Irish Nationalist facing firing squad) – “Take a step forward, lads. It will be easier that way.”

Che Guevara – “I know you have come to kill me. Shoot, Coward. You are only going to kill a man.”

Julius Caesar – “Et tu, Brute?”

Leonardo Da Vinci – “I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”

Thomas Edison – “It is very beautiful over there.”

Karl Marx – “Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”

Sir Winston Churchill – “I’m bored with it all.”

Luciana Pavarotti – “I believe that a life lived for music is an existence spent wonderfully, and this is what I have dedicated my life to.”

Crazy Horse – “Hokahey! Today is a good day to die.”

James W. Rodgers – “Bring me a bullet-proof vest.” (Asked for a last request when facing a Utah firing squad in Utah.

Dylan Thomas (Welsh poet) – “I’ve had 18 straight whiskies. I think that’s the record!”

Alfred Hitchcock – “One never knows the ending. One has to die to know exactly what happens after death, although Catholics have their hopes.”

Charles Darwin – “I am not the least afraid to die.”

Thomas J. Grasso –  “I did not get my Spaghetti-O’s. I got spaghetti. I want the press to know this.” (Convicted murderer using his last words to complain about his last meal.)

Amelia Earhart – “Please know that I am quite aware of the hazards. Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others.” (Last radio communiqué before her disappearance.)

George Washington – “It is well, I die hard, but I am not afraid to go.”

Prophet Mohammed – “Oh Allah. Pardon my sins. Yes, I come.”

Jesus Christ – “It is finished. Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Francis ‘Two-Gun’ Crowley (Texas Electric Chair, 1931) – “You sons of bitches. Give my love to mother.”

George Armstrong Custer (Lieutenant Colonel – Brevet General, U.S. 7th Cavalry) – “There aren’t enough Indians in the world to defeat the 7th Cavalry.”

General John Sedgwick – “They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.”

Crowfoot (American Blackfoot Indian Orator) – “What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”

General Philip Sheridan – “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”

General Alfred Terry – “Now Custer, Don’t get greedy.”

Custer – “Holy cow! Look… at all… the fuckin’… Indians.

There’s an untold story about Custer and his death at the last stand. It’s about the American Indian Sun Dance and how the immense psychological impact on native warriors was the root cause of Why Custer Really Lost The Battle of the Little Bighorn.

What started as a blog post about forensic evidence found at archaeological excavations on the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument in southern Montana turned into a book. For years, I’ve researched a subject that fascinates me. Why did a small, old-west American skirmish become a huge historical happening?

The answer is because the white society of the time simply couldn’t comprehend how a crack cavalry unit led by a fearless, military genius like “Boy-General” Custer being wiped out by a bunch of primitive savages. Well, Custer was no genius and the Sioux and Cheyenne were not primitive. Nor were they savages. That’s a myth. It’s bullshit. It’s part of 140 misleading years of Custermania.

While reading accounts of the Little Bighorn Battle, I came across a quote. “Custer’s troops instantly changed from offense to defense and were immediately overrun by an overwhelmingly aggressive force”. I stopped and said, “What instantly and immediately changed?

The fight changed because of a complex and universal mindset the Sioux and Cheyenne soldiers had. Their Cavalry opponents had no concept of it. That’s the mental clarity and collective consciousness a determined human force has when psychologically prepared and dedicated to a greater purpose. Sitting Bull’s leadership through Sun Dance ceremonies properly prepped his men. They broke their opponent’s will to fight and supercharged their own. That’s Why Custer Really Lost the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

In the late 1800’s, U.S. Government policy of genocide on indigenous citizens was a crime against humanity. Custer’s defeat solidified a Euro-American mentality that demanded revenge on native people. The Little Bighorn was a pivot point. It led to century-long injustice from white on red that’s slowly being repaired. Sun Dance Why Custer Really Lost the Battle of the Little Bighorn is a small step towards helping people understand the insightful and emotionally powerful impact the Sun Dance had on Custer’s foe. The Sun Dance caused Custer’s annihilation. It’s an incredibly powerful force and a universal lesson we need to learn.

If anyone would like an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of Sun DanceWhy Custer Really Lost the Battle of the Little Bighorn — I’d be happy to give you one when it’s ready. Just email me at