By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Mike Connor was a successful sales executive with Coca-Cola, pulling down a six-figure salary, when he realized something was missing from his life. So he quit his job and went on a spiritual quest. That was 11 years ago. Today, Connor calls himself a consciousness coach, and for $125 an hour, he can help you get a new job, a new house or a new wife, if that's what you want.
"I help people determine where they are, and based on that information, I help them start choosing different situations in their life," Connor says. "As you change the energy field around you, it changes how people respond to you."
It's a Friday night near University Park, and Connor is leading a small group in a weekly meditation session at the Unity Church of Dallas. It's an eclectic bunch, seated in a semicircle around him: a couple of Brazilians, a 7-Eleven manager in Coke-bottle glasses and a Cruella De Vil-type draped in jewelry and furs. Standing in front of a glowing candle, Connor asks them to close their eyes and direct their energies toward the center of the room.
"Do you feel that?" he asks after a few minutes of silence, looking around with a grin. "Pretty cool, huh?"
He's referring to what one of his followers (or clients, depending on your perspective), refers to as "the buzz," a purportedly palpable feeling of increased energy that believers say seems to follow Connor wherever he goes. "I leave here and feel like I'm walking about 10 feet higher," says a woman named Rachael, who's here with her husband of 37 years, a financial planner named Dwaine.
One by one, the 13 people in the room detail how Connor has helped them. "He brought out the me in me," says one of the Brazilian women. "I didn't have a job, I was pretty down," says another. "Now I hire people and balance the books at my new job." Later, two of Connor's clients call me at his request. One is a flight attendant on her way to France. Because of Connor, she says, she had the courage to end a seven-year relationship. Another, who identifies herself as an old friend of Mayor Laura Miller, says almost immediately after she began working with Connor she signed a contract to host a national television show. "What he does, I have no idea how it works, but I don't need to know," she says. "All I know is it worked for me."
There are a lot of people who don't get what Connor does, including his family back in Pittsburgh, who never imagined that the Catholic-altar-boy-turned-champion-college-swimmer would leave the corporate world and mainstream religion for an alternate universe of sporadic paychecks and bizarre New Age philosophy. Even Connor's wife couldn't handle it; shortly after the midlife crisis that triggered his departure from Coca-Cola in 1996, the couple split up, and Connor's ex took their two kids back to Pittsburgh. "She does not understand or get what I do," he says.
Connor, who still dresses and talks like a businessman, can't pinpoint exactly why he left Coke. "I wasn't discontented with where I was at. I had been very successful; I had some of the nicer toys of the day, and I enjoyed my life in many aspects. But there was just an inner gnawing that said there's more to do." A decade later, at the age of 47, Connor says he's finally figured out the secret to life.
In a nutshell, he believes everything in the world is surrounded by an energy field and that he can measure, or calibrate, that energy. The city of Dallas, for example, calibrates at a level of 125 (due to white flight to the suburbs), which is low, not to mention a tad politically incorrect, to say the least. Jesus, Buddha and Krishna calibrate at a level of 1,000. "I can help you determine, and this is what I do, I help people determine where they are on that scale, and based on that information, I help them move them up the scale of where they want to go."
While he claims everything he does is rooted in the science of kinesiology, his methods are decidedly unscientific. At seminars, for example, he teaches clients how to discern truth from falsehood through a physical exercise that seems like a parlor game. Hold your arms out parallel to the floor, he instructs. "If I say something that's true and push down on your wrist, your arm will stay strong. But if I say, 'Your name is Mickey Mouse,' your arm will go weak, because your body knows the difference between truth and falsehood."
Using this method, Connor believes he can determine the integrity of anything--from a book to a movie to a religion--and that he can determine exactly where it calibrates on a level of 1 to 1,000. His clients use this technique to decide whether they should take a certain job or move or even have children.
He can also predict the future. At one of his seminars, a client asked him if her pregnant daughter was going to have a boy or a girl. Connor closed his eyes, interlocked his fingers and assumed a yoga-like pose. "It's a girl," he declared after a few seconds. The woman slapped her thighs in delight. "Oh, I can't wait to tell my daughter. She'll be so happy." (No word by press time on whether Connor's prediction was confirmed by an old-fashioned sonogram.)
At another recent seminar, he charged clients around $199 to listen to a "medical intuitive" explain how she diagnoses disease by discerning colored auras vibrating around the organs. "What I teach doesn't work for everyone," Connor says. "You have to have what I call 'the eyes to see.'"
Indeed, Connor's skeptics, which extend way, way beyond his immediate family--say his claims are so much $125-an-hour hokum. Applied kinesiology, which is often used by chiropractors, is a pseudo-science, says Stephen Barrett, a retired Pennsylvania psychiatrist who runs the National Council Against Health Fraud and the Web site quackwatch.org. "What he's describing, it's a complete fake, and he's just using a lot of made-up words to describe what he does," Barrett says. "You know he can't demonstrate that there is an energy field, and he can't demonstrate that he modifies it, and he can't demonstrate that anyone could come in and intuit a diagnosis."
Connor shrugs his shoulders at this kind of talk. Old minds, he says, can't comprehend the leap in evolution that's occurred in the last 20 years. Besides, science will eventually catch up to what he's saying. And if it doesn't, he's not worried.
"You can't prove love. You can't prove bliss. It's a shallow world that we would live in if we didn't take a lot of things on faith," he says.