Former San Diego City Councilman Bill Mitchell was channeling one day this spring, tapping into his Higher Self to ask why he had gained so much weight, making him tip the scales at 222 pounds.
An inner voice answered.
"It said, 'Just take a look at your ignominious anomaly,' " Mitchell said over breakfast recently.
"I said, 'What?' I didn't know the word, yet it came to me when I was talking to my Higher Mind. My Higher Mind knew it, and so I looked it up and it (ignominious) means 'a false dishonor, a false disgrace.' "
Voila! The realization--that lurking in his mind was a secret sense of personal humiliation--enabled Mitchell to change his thinking, forgive himself and shed 17 pounds practically overnight.
So began the latest turn in the metaphysical odyssey of Bill Mitchell, the former two-term city councilman who represented La Jolla, Rancho Bernardo and other northern San Diego neighborhoods.
Turned out of office in 1985, when he was defeated by political neophyte Abbe Wolfsheimer, and then soundly trounced in his 1986 bid to unseat Rep. Jim Bates (D-San Diego), the 54-year-old Mitchell had retreated into the relative obscurity of private life to sell real estate and ponder his next calling.
Now he's found it: Motivational speaking. And the one-time politician is anxious to join the ranks of the locally inspired Rev. Terry Cole-Whittaker and Zig Ziggler, who gives inspirational messages on a nationally syndicated radio program, by putting on seminars and preaching to people that the secret to full lives and even fuller wallets is in the enlightened self.
"This is what I talk about in my course, that if you program your living computer, which is your subconscious mind, so that you have nothing but positives in there, it is impossible for anything to happen to you but positive," Mitchell said. "So anything that happens to you that's negative in your life is because it was programmed in your mind."
So far, Mitchell has put on only one paid seminar--actually a three-hour continuing education course held Sept. 17 and sponsored by National University, where Mitchell's 23-year-old son is a counselor. The course was entitled "Moving to Success . . . An Evening With Bill Mitchell."
The reception was so warm--100 people showed up--that Mitchell now says he's ready to hit the lecture circuit. In preparation, he has made motivational cassette tapes initially entitled "How to Succeed Without Efforting" ($15.95 a set), hired a public relations agent, scheduled another seminar in January, printed a brochure billing himself as a "consultant to management," and set his in-town speaking fee at $1,500 for the first three hours.
Mitchell says he hopes to peddle his philosophy principally to managers trying to get the most out of their sales staffs, but he's willing to help anyone. He says he has begun to give free lectures to juvenile delinquents and is counseling several people, including an alcoholic waitress with an IQ of 170.
What he offers is a mix of reconstituted Christianity, Eastern meditation, a form of social Darwinism, divine guidance, self-determinism and an I-Think-Therefore-I'm-Rich psychology, not unlike the gospel of prosperity that is popular among the upwardly mobile set.
In Mitchell's view, there are no accidents:
The bum on Skid Row is wallowing in filth because, deep down, he wants to. Horrible diseases such as cancer are self-punishment. If a speeding sports car squashes you like a bug as you are walking across Broadway, then you were asking for it.
"Subconsciously, your program was something negative that attracted that accident," he says.
International atrocities are a little stickier to explain, but their origins follow the same pattern. There is the case of genocide during World War II.
"Perhaps the collective consciousness came from Adolf Hitler saying they were bad people, to the point where maybe they wanted to punish themselves," Mitchell said. Then he lowers his voice, "You know, this is getting touchy here. You can get a lot of Jews mad at you for saying that."
Election Loss No Accident
It was also no accident, then, when Mitchell's political career bottomed out, although he seemed like a pretty sure bet at the time to win reelection to his third term on the City Council.
Since he was first elected to the council in 1977, Mitchell has become known as one of San Diego's more colorful characters. Sometimes he would show up at public functions in a Scottish kilt and his rambling discussions during public meetings often made it obvious that he was not paying attention. But his "Mitchellisms" are what became legendary around City Hall.
There was the time he suggested that the Fire Department save time and money by not chasing false alarms--a statement he vehemently denies--and the classic story about his complaints regarding the 911 emergency telephone system. Mitchell asked: How was anybody expected to find the 11 on the telephone dial?