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One way to tell real experts from people who look like experts is to ask them about the last mistake that they made. The expert is still chewing over that last mistake and asking “What should I have been watching for?” The nonexpert will dismiss a mistake as due to bad luck or say that it wasn’t a mistake at all, but due to uncontrollable circumstances.
— Gary Klein, a psychologist and chief scientist at Applied Research Associates in Fairborn, Ohio

Karen Rauch Carter wonders how people came to the conclusion that she is a quack. Carter says she wants to be of service to humanity, and claims she wants to be enlightened about how others view her work. This article has been provided to help her understand. We’ll see whether she means what she says, or whether she is just another lunatic on the fringe.

A questionable business model

The conflict of interest at the heart of Carter’s business indicates there is a problem.


Fraud occurs when someone has motivation, opportunity, and a rationalization. Feng shui fraud occurs when

  1. Someone intentionally makes an untrue representation about an important fact or event. In feng shui this regularly occurs in the marketing of a feng shui consultant’s techniques and abilities. Fraud also extends to tools and how someone markets their knowledge of their craft (including its documented history).
  2. The untrue representation is believed by the victim (the client).
  3. The victim relies upon and acts upon the untrue representation.
  4. The victim suffers loss of money and/or property because they relied on and acted on the untrue representation.

Karen Rauch Carter endorses and sells “tried and true feng shui solutions” that “offer a wide range of chi enhancements.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to speculate why Carter’s clients suffer a lot from problems that can be fixed by one of her “solutions.”You cannot verify the truth of her statements (testimonials do not count).

  • You do not know whether you actually need these items in your home or business — unless you believe Carter’s marketing.
  • You have no way of knowing (beyond Carter’s marketing) whether any of these objects for sale are indeed traditional cures — or whether they enhance anything beyond Carter’s bottom line.

Has anyone tried returning one of her “solutions” because it did not work as advertised?

Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.– Sophocles

Food for thought

Giovanni Maciocia made some interesting points that apply to feng shui just as surely as they apply to Chinese medicine. To paraphrase Dr Maciocia, the most important issue facing practitioners is not how to transmit the language of feng shui (an impossible task given the differences between Chinese and other languages) but how to transmit the clinical skills. The critical issue is not what words we use to identify something — the issue is whether feng shui students are able to master the ability to identify and diagnose environments accurately.

Unfortunately, the public is still at the mercy of the feng shui fraudsters and their marketing. People still must weigh the marketer’s language to determine whether their clinical skills are adequate. Learning how to read what the marketers are really selling is critical if you want to avoid being the victim of fraud.

Language helps us identify quacks and frauds

There is some interesting language in Carter’s definitions.

What She Says Reality Check
The five elements … are used to describe the five ways energy moves. Water describes a downward movement of energy, wood is an expansive movement, fire illustrates upward movement, earth describes a horizontal movement, and metal is a compressing movement. Organizing the motion and patterns of chi (energy) is the goal of feng shui.The bagua is considered “the map of feng shui,” and is one of the most essential tools for evaluating a site, space or environment. The word bagua is roughly translated as “eight sides,” which describes its octagonal shape. Academics correlate wuxing with systems theory. That would be difficult to do if we used Carter’s definition of the five elements.The five elements are used to describe interactions and relationships between phenomena. Wuxing literally translates to “five goings,” and the word “energy” is not synonymous with phenomena. Carter’s philosophy is not Chinese — and it doesn’t make sense in terms of systems theory.Based on her definition, Carter would have difficulty identifying forms by wuxing (wood = tall rectangle, fire = triangle, metal = round or elliptical, water = wavy, earth = flat or horizontal square). This skill is essential for conducting a feng shui analysis. How does Carter manage an analysis if her clinical skills are lacking in this important area?

I suppose Carter would also have trouble understanding the fengshui of Wenzhou, although this is a terrific explanation!

Carter further claims the goal of feng shui is to organize qi.
To quote the Book of Burial (Zangshu):

The Classic says, “The Qi that rides the wind stops at the boundary of water.” The ancients collected qi to prevent its dissipation, and guided it to ensure its retention. Thus it was called fengshui. According to the laws of fengshui, the site that attracts water is optimum, followed by the site that catches wind.

Where is the part about “organizing” qi? You won’t find it because it isn’t Chinese. It’s New Age Good Housekeeping. Keep that qi in order, little lady — just like your closets and the email Inbox — or else the clutter monsters will get you.

Carter thinks there is only one — the McBagua of McFengshui. Actually Hetu and Luoshu are “essential tools” for evaluation. But these are nothing like the New Age stop sign that Carter uses. Neither bagua was originally an octagon.


The literal translation of bagua is “eight diagrams.” That is where the term Eight Diagram Theory originated.

Chi is the word used most often to describe the invisible energetic forces that are being changed or manipulated when using feng shui. The American description most closely aligned with this concept is “life force”. More scientifically, it is the intelligence-holding vibration of sub-atomic particles, which make up all matter. “Invisible energetic forces” are a dead giveaway that we are in the mental theme park of McFengshui.If these “forces” exist, they can be measured. If they cannot be measured then they exist because of a belief system. Carter is promoting a belief system: life force, sometimes known as the aura — a New Age concept borrowed from 19th century Vitalism and now found in Intelligent Design (Creationism). (Shows how modern “new age” really is.) Carter has also embraced the fraud of bau-biologie.

“More scientifically” is a joke — there is nothing scientific about Carter’s statement. It’s New Age word salad of the Deepak Chopra Anthropic Principle.


If Carter is going to claim some scientific backing for her excrementizing, then she needs to follow the rules and provide provenance. Because her ideas are found in history books, not modern science. Feng shui works in the world of classical physics, not below the Planck length!

Carter has actually explained our universe the way that the ancient Greeks understood matter.

For example, if we continue to divide matter we get to atoms, try to divide atoms and you get quantum fields. What does spacetime look like at the quantum level? Probably a quantum chaos. — Astronomy 123: Galaxies and the Expanding Universe from the U of Oregon

Rather than explaining the quantum foam (the chaos), Carter’s universe consists of nice, orderly particles — the “music of the spheres” of the ancient Greeks — an affinity she shares with William Spear.

Quantum physics refers to a tightly defined branch of science. In the realm of bad science however, quantum is used as a blanket term to explain almost any phenomenon, no matter how absurd. — Frank Swain, biologist

Carter’s word salad suggests her ideas were obtained from other McFengshui adherents. After all, “intelligence building” isn’t Santiago Cognition Theory. The fabric of space can tear and reform in new ways, and it exhibits mirror symmetry that is violated in some cases. The nonconservation of parity, which is vitally important to understand if you are a feng shui consultant, is a typical stumbling block for McFengshui.

Feng shui is a system, or way of purposefully arranging an environment so that it positively affects those who live there. Although many cultures used various methods of feng shui to help themselves live life more harmoniously, it was first logged and documented by the Chinese culture – thus the popularity of their name for it. The words feng shui are translated as “wind and water,” which describe the two forces that shape the environment. One visible and the other invisible, they both impact our lives constantly. In the mental theme park of McFengshui all of this is true. After all, it sounds vaguely reminiscent of the greenwash that emanates from the Pyramid School created by Nancilee Wydra.McFengshui is a late 20th-century belief system that works off the Placebo Effect.Let’s look again at the definition in the Book of Burial (Zangshu):

The Classic says, “The Qi that rides the wind stops at the boundary of water.” The ancients collected qi to prevent its dissipation, and guided it to ensure its retention. Thus it was called fengshui. According to the laws of fengshui, the site that attracts water is optimum, followed by the site that catches wind.

The environment of Wenzhou was not “purposefully arranged.” Wenzhou was arranged to fit into the environment. That is the critical difference between McFengshui and real feng shui.

In authentic feng shui, cities, suburbs, houses — even horse barns and dog houses — are sited to fit into the environment. The article on Wenzhou illustrates the point that the city was sited for astronomy and its environment.

The same thing is true of every capital city constructed by Chinese, including the original construction of Beijing.


The objective of real feng shui is to play by the planet’s rules. Feng shui provides the rules that have enabled the longest continuous civilization in human history to survive. When we ignore the rules we invariably make more trouble for ourselves — think Katrina and the missing wetlands. Think of the missing mangrove forests that would have prevented so much devastation from the 2005 Asian tsunami. Think global warming.

It is no coincidence that McFengshui does not acknowledge global warming or have a response beyond “buy more stuff” — in this case “chi enhancers.” McFengshui is stuck in the 19th century, talking about life force and auras and reeking of colonialism.


Real feng shui does not exist to arrange the environment for our personal gain. It exists to fit us within the environment. By doing that feng shui keeps us safe and healthy. That is why feng shui can be used to combat global warming and environmental disaster.

The First Peoples nearly succeeded in terraforming the entire Western Hemisphere before Europeans arrived, and they did it by the planet’s rules. That’s why it has taken us until the last 20 years to realize the hemisphere was terraformed.

The McFengshui crowd would rather believe fairy tales about “universal feng shui” than give credit where it’s due. They keep repeating this outrageous lie because it suits their financial goals, not because there’s any truth in it.

If it walks like a duck, looks like a duck, and makes the same sounds as a duck, it is probably a duck.

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