America’s Biggest New Age Expo Welcomes Conspiracy Theories Back In

After its founder rejected some conspiracy content, the Conscious Life Expo once again takes a more suspicion-friendly approach.
a table full of pamphlets and various weird crap
A scene from the marketplace at Conscious Life 2020. Photo by Anna Merlan

The Conscious Life Expo is the largest New Age health and wellness expo in the United States, and one of the longest-running. It’s usually a genial, chaotic circus. For three days every February, the halls of a Los Angeles Hilton burst with psychics, UFO experts, self-proclaimed lightworkers, and healers of all stripes, plus table after table of crystals, pyramids, oils, potions, and dubious cure-alls. And as founder Robert Quicksilver said recently, the expo made it through the pandemic by the skin of its teeth.


“We survived,” Quicksilver said in a recent phone call. “It wasn’t so easy.” The 2021 expo happened online, and 2022, he said, took place at its usual location, but was a little quiet. “People were still afraid.” 

With people less fearful of COVID, Quicksilver expects 2023 to be different. “It’s going to be as busy a show as it’s ever been,” he said. (His son, Michael Satva, a co-producer of the event, said they expect to see between 8,000 and 12,000 attendees.)  

This year, Conscious Life is also introducing a brand-new and potentially controversial element: the Rabbit Hole Room, the programming of which will be totally devoted to what could fairly be termed conspiracy theories. Featured speakers include anti-vaccine heavyweight Del Bigtree, whose lecture is titled “Transmuting the Agenda”; he promises to “expose the fraud, lies, and various conflicts of interest that have allowed the pharmaceutical industry to evade safety testing for vaccines, and invade our Government and medical freedoms!” (Exclamation mark very much his.) Sean Stone, son of director Oliver Stone, is giving a talk about “the Great Awakening,” a term usually used in QAnon circles. New Age filmmaker Frank Jacob will speak about how the Large Hadron Collider at CERN is “being used to open portals to other dimensions in a timeline war.” Laura Eisenhower, the great-grandaughter of Dwight Eisenhower, will discuss how attendees can “de-weaponize the dark technologies that have been implemented upon us.” And Mikki Willis, the filmmaker behind the viral faux-documentary Plandemic, is premiering what appears to be a full version of the film, with a panel of unnamed experts of some sort to follow. 


“The Great Awakening will reveal how the COVID industrial complex was used to advance a century old agenda to weaken and overtake America,” the program description of Willis’ talk reads. “For decades, scholars and survivors of totalitarianism have been warning us that America is under attack from within. We didn’t listen. Now here we are.” 

All of this promises to be either enthralling or mind-numbing, depending on your point of view. But it also represents a new era for Conscious Life: After years of denying that conspiracy theories are a major facet of the expo and a big draw for its thousands of attendees, its organizers are much more openly making a place for them. 

When we last spoke, in early 2020, Quicksilver was clear: He didn’t particularly like conspiracy theories, and he didn’t want that kind of content at Conscious Life.  

"I don't do disclosure or conspiracy stuff or secret stuff,” he told me in February of that year, just before the expo began. “It's more about healing and health.” 

As I wrote at the time, this was not, strictly speaking, true: For years, Conscious Life has hosted obvious conspiracy theory content alongside lectures about angels, miraculous healing, and alternate dimensions. UFO lectures tend towards the conspiratorial generally, since they’re fundamentally about the government covering up an enormous and consequential secret. In 2015, a conspiracy panel (literally titled “Conspiracy Panel” ) was hosted by Sean David Morton, a jolly UFO guy and financial conspiracy theorist who, along with his wife Melissa, later went to prison for filing fraudulent tax returns. (He maintained when we spoke at his trial that the couple followed the rules, and that various elites were simply trying to shut him up.) The following year, Conscious Life hosted a panel on the purported dangers of vaccines; its biggest draw was Andrew Wakefield, the ex-doctor whose now-retracted study falsely linking vaccines with autism created a panic that has never fully subsided.


Quicksilver was insistent at the time that panels like those had been blips on the overall face of what the expo is really about. "I learned my lesson and I stopped that," he told me in 2020. "I became disinterested in conspiracy stuff completely. There's things I'm interested in and things I'm not. If I don't like it or it's not my cup of tea it doesn't have to be at the Expo. I like art and beauty and spiritual things."

This year, Quicksilver, acknowledged, was a bit different, in large part thanks to his son. The Rabbit Hole Room is the brainchild of Satva, as part of his expanded leadership role at the expo. 

“I don’t feel like I'm going to retire but he’s taking a stronger leadership role, bringing in new speakers and exhibitors and the Rabbit Hole stuff,” Quicksilver said. “This is all new energy.”

“I’ve brought in at least a third, if not more, of the speakers this year,” Satva told me. “My goal with the expo is to really make it trans-generational and bring in millennials and Gen Z who have a different approach to this information than the boomers did.” 

Deciding who to invite to present at the expo is a complicated thing, as both Satva and Quicksilver acknowledged. For one thing, since Conscious Life is such a major event, anyone who’s invited to speak is potentially growing their audience exponentially. There’s also the fact that some of the most popular types of presenters—like, say, psychics—are inherently hard to vet, though Satva and Quicksilver both say they try. 


“There’s a certain segment who are always charlatans and once we realize that we kick them out of the show,” Satva said. “And then there’s a segment that are really intriguing and having something profound that has an effect on people’s lives.” One of his biggest concerns, he said, was censoring the dialogue presented to the attendees. 

“We’re  an avenue for people to come and find their audience,” he said. “So I feel really strongly about there being a lot of different types of healers and psychics.” From there, he added, “I think it’s the responsibility of the individual to assess what’s in front of them to try to find fact from fiction. It’s a tricky thing to ask the public—but I don’t think there’s any other way to do it.” 

With conspiracy theories, it was the same, he said. “We don’t want anything inciting hate or violence. We don’t want anything political. And we want to be careful how we present anything related to health and healing.” 

“People talking about vaccines or alternatives, contrarian things, I’m okay with that,” Quicksilver agreed. “I don’t believe that, maybe, but it’s okay to have those conversations.” (Quicksilver said he’s vaccinated: “I believe in vaccinations. I think they’re a great improvement in human life. They’ve saved millions of lives. I think they’re a great thing, like running water or toilets. Humans created this thing to help us.”) 


But vaccine and COVID conspiracy theories seem to underpin a lot of what’s going on in the Rabbit Hole Room, and health and wellness are, in general, Satva said, “where it gets tricky.” It’s here he’s willing to go towards what looks like the fringe—this year, for instance, the expo is featuring “Tesla biochambers” and a device that promises to “heal the genome.” That fringe is where he hopes people can find real answers. 

A photo of a sign saying  "Plaza Ballrom. Wow! Aliens, massages, snacks, ideas and probably crystals."

A sign at Conscious Life 2020. Photo by Anna Merlan

“We have all these different healing modalities,” Satava said. “It’s really important to explore those and see, all right, is this some new technology that could save people’s lives and help heal them? That’s where I think the Conscious Life Expo does have a place to go to the fringes and find these new technologies. I think that’s an appropriate type of risk for us to take.”

There is one thing, Quicksilver said, that he doesn't want to see, even in the Rabbit Hole: “The QAnon nonsense—I have no taste or flavor for that. That’s an important distinction. It’s okay to talk about ideas which have possible coherence like conspiracy stuff and the pandemic stuff. But to go down the QAnon bullshit, I draw a strong distinction. Everyone knows that.” QAnon represents, he said, something he doesn’t like in conspiracy culture: “I can understand having conversations and points of view. But for people to say stupid things. That’s what QAnon seems like, a stupid thing.” 


He paused. “I hope that when you write that article you draw that distinction,” he added. “I don't want any association with the bad stuff. But I want to have an open mind and let people choose between different ideas.”  

One could argue that it’s not quite that simple. QAnon has bled outwards into other conspiracy theories and into the culture in general, and some of the discussions in the Rabbit Hole room—the Great Awakening, the ideas underpinning Plandemic—are getting perilously close to what Satva and Quicksilver say they don’t want at the expo. 

For that matter, Satva said, “I think the whole show is a conspiracy theory—the main room is all UFO people, the biggest conspiracy theory that’s ever existed. In some ways it’s funny that [the Rabbit Hole Room] is separated out. I think it’s kind of a way to make fun of us. We’re aware that we’re conspiracy theorists, and that we’re part of this censored society. We’re playing with that in a way.” They’ve even placed the room at the lowest level of the hotel; to get there, you go down a long hallway, into the furthest bowels of the building. “It’s to make fun of it,” he added, “but also to honor that we’re aware we’re dealing with these subjects.” 

“It’s wanted to present itself at the expo for years,” Quicksilver said, referring to conspiracy theories. “I’ve always struggled with what level is appropriate. I want people to get healing and find their path.” He is, he added, “pretty clear about what I believe. But at the same time people need a forum to have open minds and talk about stuff. So there’s an edge there.” 

And some of the speakers, he said, with a sort of laugh, “are right at my boundary.”