Category: Featured

Islamic Anti-christ is Trending. Again.

A depiction of the Islamic anti-christ Dajjal

In 2006, a child with only one eye in the center of her fore head was born in Chennai, India. The severe chromosomal disorder was aptly known as Cyclopia. When I went to research her case, the hospital told me that the mother was taking an unusual fertility treatment. There was a chance that she was the subject of an illegal clinical trial for an American anti-cancer drug. I wrote about her case in The Red Market and photos of the child went viral on the Internet after I posted them on my blog at at Wired.

The photos have since gone on to have a life of their own on the internet–particularly in the Muslim world. According to Islamic tradition*, right before the apocalypse a one-eyed prophet named Masih ad-Dajjal will emerge and teach a wildly popular and totally false gospel. People will follow the unholy teaching and get drawn into the Devil’s influence.

In 2009, the image that I took in Chennai went viral among apocalyptic muslims who were sure that the end was nigh. They wrote that the child was born in Israel and, as one viral e-mail stated, that “Dajjal will appear somewhere between Iraq and Syria , after the Battle of Istanbul takes place.”  At the time, the photo resonated with Iraqis who were contending with American occupation and violent inter-sectarian conflict. The battle of Istanbul had not yet happened, but the world seemed to be falling apart. When the viral emails spread thousands of hits would flood my website.

Every now and then there would be a voice of reason when moderate Muslim websites would debunk the new claims and link to my work as the original source of the image. For a time, the popularity of the image would die down. Today, however, a new brand of violent fundamentalist Islam is spreading across the Middle East. As this lunatic fringe of Islam sweeps across Iraq and Syria leaving a bloody wake of murder and destruction in its path, it’s no surprise that many Muslims feel that the end of days is at hand once again.

In the last week I have been getting an inordinate number of hits on my website searching for pictures of the cyclopian child. After the break I’ll post the photo, but beware, some readers will find it disturbing.

Read more “Islamic Anti-christ is Trending. Again.”

Launching A New Platform

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

Websites have a funny way of suddenly becoming obsolete. As the internet makes its relentless surge to ever shinier templates, old code starts to look like a quaint antique in a forgotten aisle of a thrift store. In honor of my new book coming out and my ever growing and diversifying workload, I decided that I needed a different platform. So I’m excited to introduce the the completely re-designed

Spend some time clicking around on those links up top. Marvel at the toolbar’s sleek slidy-ness. On the homepage I wanted long time readers to have an easy way to access my most recent thoughts and ideas while at the same time directing new readers to the books and feature articles that I’m most known for. The updated book section will have links to my ever expanding library of long-form titles and the article section is much easier to understand. That’s more or less standard stuff for a writer’s website. However, I’m much more excited about the new blog. I haven’t blogged regularly since the days when I was in India and I kept daily updates on the long-defunct site Trailing Technology. It’s time to test those waters again – to have a general space to dish about politics, speaking engagements, writing advice and rants about poor customer service (I’m looking at you Comcast).

Read more “Launching A New Platform”

The Enlightenment Trap

In 2012, thirty-eight-year-old Ian Thorson’s search for spiritual transcendence ended in tragedy on a remote Arizona mountaintop. His wife, a woman anointed as a goddess by an eccentric Buddhist community, held him in her arms as he slowly died from dehydration and dysentery. For Carney, a journalist and anthropologist who lived in India for six years, Thorson’s death was just the most recent iteration of an unspoken epidemic that connected intensive meditation and mental instability.

The Enlightenment Trap explores how Tibetan Buddhism in the West morphed from its roots in the Himalayan foothills into a fundamentally new American religion. For Thorson the entry point into this new faith was Geshe Michael Roach, the supreme spiritual leader of Diamond Mountain University.

Carney unravels the cult-like practices of Diamond Mountain to illuminate the uniquely American tendency to mix and match Eastern religious traditions like LEGO pieces. The result is that for some, enlightenment is a synonym for almost god-like powers and achieving it can become more important than life itself.

Aided by Thorson’s private papers and cutting-edge neurological research, the book reveals the profound impact of intensive meditation on the brain. Carney exposes stories of miracles and black magic, sexualized rituals, and tantric rites from former Diamond Mountain acolytes. The Enlightenment Trap is a gripping work of investigative journalism that reveals how the path to enlightenment can be riddled with danger.

The Enlightenment Trap was previously published under the title A Death on Diamond Mountain by Penguin Random House in 2015. This is the 2017 re-release.


Praise for A Death on Diamond Mountain

“A deeply engrossing account of spiritual ambition gone awry. At once illuminating and distressing, it is a riveting plunge into the liminal territory where naïvety, sexuality, and spirituality overlap.”
Mark Epstein, Md, Author of Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart and The Trauma of Everyday Life

“An engaging and sobering account of a group of Westerners who are prepared to sacrifice everything in their desperate quest for transcendence. A Death on Diamond Mountain illustrates the promises, pitfalls, and deceptions of a young man’s search for Eastern wisdom that starts in a Tibetan monastery in Nepal and ends in a cave in the Arizona desert.”
Stephen Batchelor, Author of Confession of a Buddhist Atheist

“The quest for supreme bliss goes spectacularly awry in A Death on Diamond Mountain, Scott Carney’s masterful account of a bizarre tragedy in the Arizona wilderness. A tenacious reporter who writes like a dream, Carney delves deep into the tangled lives of this saga’s key players, whose motives range from pure to venal. The haunting, multilayered story that he comes away with is one that will resonate with anyone who has ever pursued even the smallest measure of spiritual peace.”
Brendan I. Koerner, Author of The Skies Belong to Us

“The transmission of Buddhism and spirituality from Asia to foreign lands is prone to misreading, confusion, and, in some cases, very real danger—all of which happened on American soil at Diamond Mountain. Scott Carney’s deftly narrated story is shocking. His should serve as a warning about self-styled, so-called teachers and how their misinterpretation of meditation and yoga techniques is not only unskillful but can result in tragedy.”
Matteo Pistono, Author of Fearless in Tibet and In the Shadow of the Buddha

“In a masterful narrative, Scott Carney explores the dark side of our obsession with Eastern religions and philosophies. But in this search for Nirvana, some find insanity. Others find death. Carney takes you on a perverse spiritual journey that ends tragically on an Arizona mountain whose soil has long soaked up the blood of wanderers.”
Trevor Aaronson, Author of The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terrorism

The Iceman Cometh

A dilapidated farmhouse in the Polish countryside creaks and groans on its foundation as six men hyperventilate inside one of its frigid rooms. The windows are caked with frost and snow piles up outside the front door. Wim Hof surveys his students with stern blue eyes as he counts their breaths. They are lying in sleeping bags and covered in blankets. Every breath they expel appears as a tiny puff of mist as the heat of their bodies crystallizes in the near-arctic air. When the students are bleached white from exhaustion, Hof commands them to let all the air out of their lungs and hold their breath until their bodies shake and shudder. I exhale all my breath into the frigid air.
Read more “The Iceman Cometh”

Talking About Red Markets

Talking Red Markets at the American Enterprise Institute on October 28th

Two-part lecture at Brandeis University

Over the last few weeks I have been giving a string of lectures around the country about the Red Market. My audiences have been in academica, among public policy think tanks and large and small media outlets. All told they represent a very wide ideological spectrum–from the left to right wings of the American political sphere to a broad sampling of the medical, religious and activist communities. Since my book came out in June there has been a renewed interest in the ethical and economic conundrums that allow for criminal markets for human tissue to flourish. There is a bill circulating in policy circles to commercialize and regulate human tissue, and a group if activists who are planning pilot programs to reassess the National Organ Transplantation Act. The FBI has taken up the case of children kidnapped for adoption and conducted DNA tests on a child that I wrote about in the book. Meanwhile new organ brokering scandals seem to pop up ever week.  It is important that people weigh in on this debate now and get involved before a small group of people decide the future of the tissue transplant system. We are going to need a diverse group of people and viewpoints represented to ensure that upcoming revisions don’t create new holes for illegal markets to flourish.

Click on the pictures for links to two lectures: One at The American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. The second at Northwestern University in Chicago.

50 minute lecture on The Red Market at Northwestern in Chicago in September