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Psychic Capital: Tech and Silicon Valley Turn to Mystics for Advice 

Wednesday, Jul 15 2015
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Lanyadoo found a cheap apartment in the Mission, a then-seedy neighborhood with drug deals and stabbings a near-weekly ritual in Dolores Park. Almost overnight, Lanyadoo tells me, everything changed. The dot-com bubble loosed a staggering amount of cash on the city, although Lanyadoo estimates it was just a fraction of the wealth in the current tech boom.

Newly minted companies hired Lanyadoo to do private readings in their offices, a practice that continues today. Many required her to sign a nondisclosure agreement (another practice that continues.) "I remember one reading I did at a tech company and every single reading was about how unhappy the employees were at that particular company, and they were all talking about when they could vest out," Lanyadoo says.

The tech industry wagers a classic Faustian bargain, Lanyadoo says: the promise of enormous wealth and freedom in exchange for time, brainpower, and loyalty. The rhetoric of the sharing economy, in particular, offers the illusion of community within what Lanyadoo deems a "monoculture." She says that tech companies, with their foosball tables and climbing walls, enable a prolonged adolescence that, in turn, pushes employees to seek spiritual fulfillment in drugs ... or Burning Man ... or SoulCycle ... or psychics.

"So many people move here from the middle of the country, and they have traditional American values, but entering into tech requires people to either amp up their spirituality or to disconnect it and turn away altogether," Lanyadoo says. "My clients don't want to disconnect."

The irony is that the same free-spirited culture that inspired tech to experiment with spirituality is also threatening that spirituality's existence in San Francisco. "I've read countless articles about how all the artists are moving out of the city, but I haven't read much about what's happening to the spiritual values of the Bay Area," Lanyadoo says. "It's had a crippling effect." She speaks from personal experience. In December, she was forced out of her apartment in the Mission and relocated to Oakland, where rents are comparatively — if just barely — cheaper. And during the reporting of this story, Joyce Van Horn was boxing up her house of 20 years, the victim of a no-fault eviction.

Neither Lanyadoo nor Van Horn blames tech workers for her reversal of fortune, but the tech companies themselves aren't without fault. "Look, you can call them dot-coms, you can call them startups, you can throw a bunch of soda in the fridge, it doesn't matter: These are corporations. Just a new form of that," Lanyadoo says. Although she acknowledges that the opportunities she's had "have everything to do with San Francisco," she's dismayed by the city's drift into stratospheric wealth.

For Sally Faubion, what's happened in San Francisco is the realization of an ancient prophecy. "The Bible says the meek shall inherit the earth, and what are all these tech people but nerds?" In her own research, Faubion has discovered that dozens of tech CEOs' birthdays fall into the 1-4-7 trilogy that in numerology denotes a tribe of renegades and workaholics.

"Think about it," Faubion says, ticking off the names, "Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Travis Kalanick, Bill Gates, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Paul Allen, Larry Ellison, Elon Musk, Sheryl Sandburg ... it goes on and on."

If the billionaire meek haven't inherited the earth yet, they've certainly inherited San Francisco, along with its spectacular crash-and-burn destiny. But what about the bohemians and misfits who comprise what used to be called San Francisco's soul but is now just its mood? Lanyadoo says their extinction will pass unnoticed by the city's new generation. "There's been a huge influx of people here recently, but have they lost anything? How do you lose something you never had? They moved here for the technology. They've lost nothing."

In the future, the misfits and the bohemians, the psychics and the astrologers, the numerologists and the white witches will build communities elsewhere. Maybe even in faraway places like Ukraine, where, 10,000 miles from San Francisco, a man named Yegor waits for the devil to take back his gifts.

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Jeremy Lybarger

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