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A ten step programme to change your life


Dr. Jim Williams F.I.A.C.



Adopting the Charlatan identity.



Containing the following valuable lessons:

1.    Do you sincerely want to be rich?

2.    What is a charlatan? What is he selling?

3.    Insights into the charlatan’s character

4.    The con artist and charlatan contrasted: a case study

5.    An overview of the charlatan’s world

6.    Seize control of life – become a charlatan!


Do you sincerely want to be rich?

I had a notion it was the title of a book by Dale Carnegie but
couldn’t be sure; so I punched the words into Google and waited to
see what came out.

Top of the list was a page for The Little Black and White Book.
A guy called Marc Stewart promised to make me rich using
something called”The Cornucopia Technique”. It came with a
bunch of small ads promoting more of the same thing, which made
it odd that anyone should need a book because apparently making
money is so easy, I’ll shortly have so much I’ll be giving it back out
of embarrassment.

So that isn’t your experience? Making money isn’t so easy?
Well according to the website it must be because”The Little Black
and White Book shows that everybody has the ability whether your
IQ is 55 or 155.” Which certainly impressed me. The owner of an
IQ of 55 would be functionally illiterate, and I guess would have to
make his pile without the benefit of reading even Mr. Stewart’s
book; so how much easier can it get?

Is Mr. Stewart a charlatan? I wouldn’t care to say. Actually my
lawyers wouldn’t care to say. We don’t know how touchy he is. I
decided against buying his book and I pass no opinion on its merits.
I decided to start on the road to riches by keeping my money in my


What is a charlatan? What is he selling?

The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary says a charlatan is: ‘An
empiric who pretends to wonderful knowledge or secrets.’

No, I’m not sure what an ’empiric’ is either.

There’s a tendency to think a charlatan is the same as a grifter
or con artist, but, apart from the fact that the product they peddle
is in both cases false, the two animals are different in important

The Dictionary tells us that a fraud is ‘a criminal deception’. By
definition it’s illegal and deliberate.

These or similar words don’t appear in the definition of
charlatan. Read it again. There’s no suggestion that the charlatan
is of necessity a criminal. In fact he may think his product is
authentic and made of the finest gold. And this makes sense,
doesn’t it? We don’t think of the thousands of astrologers as
crooks, even if we hold no belief in the stars.

The con artist is in the business for the money. His motivation
is greed and his approach is rational and calculating. The charlatan
too may be after money, but he’s also after much more complex
satisfactions. The clue lies in the ‘wonderful knowledge or secrets’
that the charlatan deals in. If you can persuade another person that
they’re genuine, you’ll get not only his money but his loyalty, his
admiration and his commitment *. These can be intoxicating. They
feed the charlatan’s vanity and self esteem and we see them
repeatedly among some of the most successful charlatans.

The ‘wonderful knowledge or secrets’ are what differentiate the
charlatan’s stock in trade from that of the con artist. The latter is
making a business proposition. He offers the mark the opportunity
to gain money. But it’s a zero sum. The con artist takes the money
and the victim gets nothing. He is always hurt.

It’s for this reason that most confidence tricks are finite. Once
the victim has lost his money, he usually realizes he’s been had.
The con artist then has to move on to a new mark.

The point about money is that it’s tangible: you know when
you’ve gained it and you know when you’ve lost it. But
knowledge? Secrets? How do you touch them or measure them?
How do you even know they’ve gone missing? Perhaps you’re
simply too dumb to recognize them? In short, they are ‘wonderful’
– exactly as promised.

A charlatan’s scheme isn’t inevitably a zero sum game, which is
why the charlatan’s victims will often continue to support him when, to
the world at large, his hollowness has been exposed. To take an
example: the field of complementary medicine is full of therapies that
don’t work in the manner claimed but are arguably harmless and may
even assist through the placebo effect. And in the meantime, the
patient has the satisfaction of taking control of his life.

The stark nature of the con artist’s proposition is clear in a
classic contemporary scam.

* I say ‘his’ and might equally have said ‘her’. English lacks an inclusive
word covering both sexes and I don’t care for alternatives like ‘they’,
which can get a bit clunky when the reference is to one person rather than

Case Study: The Nigerian 419 Fraud

The 419 fraud is a scam on an industrial scale. It’s
initiated simply by writing to names taken from the
public record. It originated in Nigeria and gets its
name from a section of criminal statute.

The structure is always the same. The writer
is a bureaucrat in an organization such as a
central bank or UN agency. Due to a coup or war
(the details don’t matter) a large fund of cash,
typically $30,000,000 or more, lies forgotten in a
blocked account. The writer – who in a nice
touch tells you he has heard you are a
‘trustworthy person’ – together with his
confederates controls access to the blocked
account. He needs the cooperation of a foreign
party, which will allow him to create the
paperwork to send the money overseas. The loot
will be split 60% for the writer and his associates,
30% for you and 10% for expenses (these
proportions seem to be fixed in stone). Please
send the writer your overseas bank account

So that’s the deal: $10,000,000 for the use of
your bank account and no need to get out of your

But of course, you’re not going to allow this
stranger into an account full of your own money,
which he can strip. No, Sir! You’ll set up an
empty account for the purpose.

However getting at your bank account isn’t
the main aim of the scam. If you take up the
offer you’ll soon find yourself flying to Nigeria
(or wherever) and you’ll be taken to the bank or
the agency and you’ll meet the officials, and
everything will look as it should. Except that
this is Nigeria – you understand – and a small
bribe here and there and the payment of a fee or
tax is necessary in order to square someone who
is out of the loop or to lay hold of a stamped
piece of paper. Of course these payments go to
third parties, so you are told, and not to your
newly acquired friends, who share your
frustrations at the slow pace.

And so it goes on. The victim is bled of
bribes and fees until he realizes that this
transaction is never going to go through. At
which point he gives up, goes home, and in some
cases wastes even more money on lawyers’ fees
suing the Bank of Nigeria.

I used to wonder who fell for the 419 scam, until
I learned that a Scottish crook of my acquaintance
had been taken for $100,000. This made me wonder
about the people I sometimes drink with.

The 419 scam is brutally frank in disclosing its nature. The mark is
invited to join the con artists in carrying out a fraud. The deceit lies
not in disguising the criminal basis of the transaction, but in hiding
the fact that the mark participates as the victim, when he thought he
was one of the perpetrators. In this instance the victim is dishonest
as well as stupid and deserves little sympathy.

However the example serves to illustrate a point. The pitch made
by the con artist is directed at the victim’s greed. And, just as the
con man’s approach is rational and calculating, so is the response of
his victim. The difference between them is only that the victim is
ignorant as to what’s really going on. The victim goes along with it
because on the information available to him it’s a rational deal.

In contrast, the motives of the charlatan’s mark are as complex as
those of the charlatan and mirror the charlatan’s pitch. The
charlatan’s offer of ‘wonderful knowledge or secrets’ works because
it addresses an intangible, even spiritual need on the part of the
mark. It’s this neediness and not greed that is characteristic of the
relationship and determines its structure.

In the world of ‘wonderful knowledge or secrets’, the benefits
are only obtained when they are experienced by the mark. This is
very subjective: very irrational. It’s precisely because of the
vagueness of the charlatan’s claims and the difficulty of deciding
whether they have been fulfilled or not that many schemes of
charlatanry are not illegal.

To us as would-be charlatans, this is a blessing.


Insights into the charlatan’s character

I hate to say it, but, if you plan to continue, this is who you are. It
isn’t a nice picture unless you like money, fun, sex, revenge and a
boost to your self-esteem.

The dominance of the charlatan over his victim satisfies a range
of psychological demands, which are irrational and to some degree
in conflict with each other. In consequence the charlatan’s
interpretation of the situation, including the truth or falsity of his
own theories, is often delusional and unstable. I mean that the
charlatan may believe he’s speaking the truth, or he may know he’s
a sham, or he may fluctuate between the two positions or, indeed,
hold to both of them simultaneously despite the contradiction. The
fact that Joseph Smith faked The Book of Mormon isn’t
incompatible with his being partly motivated by a sincere search for
religious truth. It may seem nuts, but that’s how people are.

The range of a charlatan’s motives is illustrated in the next

Case Study: The Girlingites 1

The Girlingites were a small nineteenth century
sect of English Shakers founded by Mary Ann
Girling. Their principal rules were the transference
of all their property to Mary Ann; submission to
her interpretation of God’s will and her leadership;
complete celibacy; communism; and unpaid labour
In later years she more or less openly maintained
her own divine origin and immortality.

The degree to which Mary Ann Girling was motivated by greed is
questionable. Although her followers were stripped of their
property, there’s little evidence that Mary Ann personally
benefited: rather she was reflecting a common understanding of
early Christian communism. No, what marks out her rules isn’t
greed but her extraordinary degree of control over the lives of her
followers: property, sexual relations, work, punishment of
children, beliefs, and disputes – all are to be as directed by Mary
Ann. This totalitarian system isn’t characteristic of most Christian
practice outside of religious cults and its origins almost certainly
lay in Mary Ann’s psychopathology, which caused her to seek out

The second feature of the Girlingite rules is Mary Ann’s claim to
be the sole and infallible interpreter of God’s will. This claim to a
high – even unique – mission is a strong indicator of a strain of
narcissism in her character. Other small clues confirm it. It was
said that: ‘”Mother” Girling… affects great care as to her own
personal adornment, even allowing her natural charms to be
heightened by the glittering effects of jewellery’.2 This despite the
extreme simplicity of her followers’ costume.

Finally, the isolation of the Girlingites shows Mary Ann to be in
rebellion against the world at large; and this resentment is again
characteristic of charlatans when confronted by real expertise. As
often as not they will refer to the opposition as ‘so-called experts’.3
It’s a telling phrase because it goes beyond simply saying that the
other guy is wrong. Instead the charlatan tries to reverse roles. He
tells us that the ‘expert’ isn’t genuine: he is only ‘so-called’ i.e. a
phony. And by implication the charlatan is the true expert.

The charlatan, of course, isn’t an expert. Or if he is, it’s incidental
and not part of the job requirement. For the con artist, however, the
position is different. Because the transaction is a rational and calculating
one on both sides, the mark may give the grifter’s proposed deal a cold
hard stare. For this reason, a con artist will often require some genuine
technical expertise in order to make the sale.


The con artist and charlatan contrasted: a case study

Both the grifter and the deliberate charlatan are dishonest and some
practitioners switch between the two operations.

   Case Study: Giacomo Casanova – Con Artist or
Casanova was an eighteenth century Venetian
adventurer. He was tall, handsome, charming and
intelligent; and despite his dubious reputation he
was always able to cultivate friendships with
important people.

Three of his schemes illustrate the relationship
between a confidence trick and the machinations of
a charlatan. Quite early in his career, Casanova
was introduced to a technique of adulterating
valuable mercury with much less valuable bismuth,
the result of which appeared to be mercury of
double the volume. The flaw was that the product
wasn’t in fact mercury and couldn’t be further
expanded by adding more bismuth. Casanova,
however, forgot to mention this aspect when he
sold the process for a handsome sum.

Again while young, Casanova attracted the
interest of a Venetian nobleman, Senator Bragadin,
and his small circle of gay friends. Initially this
was because of his ability to predict the future from
a system of drawing up pyramids of numbers. The
relationship developed and, for as long as the he
lived, the Senator could be relied on to keep his
young protégé supplied with funds.

The most discreditable of Casanova’s operations
was a seven yearlong fraud carried out against a
French noblewoman, Mme d’Urfé. He claimed he
had the power to cause her death and regeneration as
a youth by magical means. The details were typically
flamboyant and, at the scheme’s height, he persuaded
the lady to fling a box of jewels weighing fifty
pounds into the sea after first dedicating them to the
planets (though he took care to substitute the same
weight of rocks); and then capped the operation by
having himself and his victim ceremoniously bathed
by a hooker in the guise of a water spirit.

Casanova’s schemes were always rational and
calculating like those of a con man. He was never
deluded as to the nature of what he was doing.

The bismuth and mercury scheme was a simple
confidence trick carried out for money and
motivated by greed on both sides. And like most
confidence tricks it was short lived and collapsed
when it failed to deliver.

The real basis of the relationship between
Casanova and Bragadin’s circle was the fondness
of a group of older men for a young lad on the
make. The fortune telling was incidental and over
time it faded from the picture. It was never the real
reason why Bragadin gave Casanova money.
Casanova’s motive was initially greed but his
memoirs show a genuine regard for his benefactors.
The latter seem to have been moved by little more
than kindness. What the affair represents is
Casanova in a charlatan role exploiting the paternal
feelings of Bragadin. But out of this seems to have
developed a real though unorthodox friendship.

In the business of Mme d’UrfÉ, Casanova’s
motive was overwhelmingly greed, but the
flamboyance of the scheme must have been very
flattering to his self-esteem. Above all the duration
of the relationship and the lack of any mercenary
motive on the part of the victim mark it out as a
piece of charlatanry. Casanova’s pitch was in
essence the classic charlatan’s proposition: spiritual
progress, in this case through the world of magic.

One aspect of the Mme d’Urfé affair is worth noting. As we’d
expect, Casanova’s pitch was an offer of ‘wonderful knowledge or
secrets’. In effect he claimed to be a magician, and the lady in turn
was his pupil. This master/pupil or guru/sanyasin relationship is
typical of charlatan schemes. The charlatan is the superior party –
the master – because he possesses the key to the mysteries.

This can also be true in the case of a con artist’s scam. But just
as often it isn’t. Sometimes the grifter gains the confidence of the
mark by pretending they’re equal partners, both in the same boat
and having to take care of each other. If you read the case study of
the Nigerian 419 scam again, you’ll see that a supposedly equal
partnership lies at its heart.


An overview of the charlatan’s world

At this point it may help to draw the elements of our lesson together
in a table giving an overview of the charlatan world.

The world of con artists and charlatans

Confidence trickster Charlatan
  • greed


  • self esteem
  • power hunger
  • resentment
  • lust
  • greed not essential


  • rational/calculating
  • always dishonest


  • unstable
  • often narcissistic
  • may be honest

Required skills:

  • authority in technical field
  • friendliness/charm
  • fast talk
  • technical skill

Required skills:

  • ‘moral’ authority
  • charisma
  • rhetoric
  • technical skill optional

Nature of victims:

  • greedy (materially needy)
  • rational

Nature of victims:

  • spiritually needy
  • Irrational

Nature of Offer:

  • Financial/material

Nature of Offer:

  • Spiritual/psychological

Nature of Relationship:

  • Trickster as technician
  • Trickster as equal partner
  • Inherently finite relationship
  • Zero sum

Nature of Relationship:

  • Charlatan as guru or rebel
  • Charlatan superior partner
  • Long term relationship
  • Not necessarily a zero sum

Legal basis:

  • Intrinsically illegal

Legal basis:

  • Often lawful


Seize control of life – become a charlatan!

Do you seriously want to be rich?

To return to where I came in. I was fifty years old and thinking
about life. And, taken as a whole, it was pretty good. I was happily
married, I had three children who gave me few causes to worry, I
enjoyed my work, and I was living a comfortable if not lavish
middle class lifestyle.

Yet, I asked myself: why wasn’t I rich?

You’ll understand that I took it for granted that I wanted to be
rich. In fact I did want to be rich.

So why wasn’t I? The implication contained in books such as Marc
Stewart’s, is that wealth is primarily a matter of desire. Sure, there are
certain tricks to be learned, but these are secondary and can be picked
up even by morons and illiterates. And that was precisely my
complaint: I wanted to be rich, I had the desire, and yet I wasn’t.

Which suggested a hidden flaw somewhere between desire and

The clue, I think, lies in that word ‘serious’. Back then when I
was fifty, I asked myself: did I seriously want to be rich? What did
it mean to be ‘serious’? Well, for a start, I could have read Marc
Stewart’s book as a token of earnestness, I guess. And I suppose
there were other life choices and life changes I might have made.
Because for everything there’s a price to be paid, and even if the
money is lying in the street, you have to bend to pick it up.

This is a book about making money out of being a charlatan –
though those readers who like to pamper their egos, dominate other
people and have lots of sex should also find it interesting. In that
respect it fits in a class with self-improvement books found on
airport bookshelves. And, that being so, it’s right to ask yourself at
the outset the question that I did at the age of fifty: do you seriously
want to be rich?

The reason that the sale of self-improvement books is greater
than the number of readers who’ve turned themselves into
multimillionaire powerhouses with fabulous bodies, irresistible sex
appeal, perfect health and the spiritual insights of the Buddha is in
part that we don’t seriously want these things. Not enough to pay
the price. Not if it means getting out of the lounger and quitting
beer and fast food – for ever.

The reason we buy such works is because they answer our
spiritual neediness, even though the thing they sell, the ‘wonderful
knowledge or secrets’, doesn’t live up to its billing. When we buy
such a book, we feel we are responding to the need to change
ourselves: to become better. But, in reality, all we show is that
we’re receptive to a charlatan’s pitch.

Yet, don’t worry about it.

You’re a potential sucker, but so what?

All wisdom starts with an insight.

So this is my pitch. It’s time to reverse roles and, instead of being
the victim of charlatans, you can assert control and become a
charlatan yourself. And in this respect, there’s a crucial point of
difference between my message and the stuff you’ll find in all the
other books.

Most programmes of self-improvement are defeated by our real
inadequacies, our pathetic limitations as human beings. They
encourage us to overcome such weakness by changing our nature,
when in contrast the great principles of Tao state that we should sail
with the current: that we should work with human nature not against it.
The present course does that. It takes those things in us that are
shoddy, second rate and disreputable, and out of them creates a life
in which we are rich, the centre of attention, the fountain of all
knowledge – and a first class stud if that’s what we want. Selfmastery
has no place in this programme. Moral change is
unnecessary. Some attempt to learn your chosen subject is useful,
but only to a level that is fun to study and allows you to talk
bullshit. Charlatanry isn’t a project of self-improvement: rather one
of self-realisation because it takes the self that you already are and
simply directs it to a profitable outcome.

Of course, such a life isn’t without its pitfalls, but this book also
tells you how to recognize and deal with them.
Always provided you make the decision that this introduction
calls for. First you have to assume the charlatan identity. The
useful table below has been prepared in order to help you.

Should I become a charlatan?


  • Large amounts of money
  • Admiration of followers
  • Control over others
  • Reputation as a sage
  • Revenge on so-called experts
  • Publicity and centre of attention
  • Lots of sex
  • Fun

  • Abuse and ridicule
  • Harassments from victims’ relatives and authorities
  • Paranoia
  • Insanity
  • Imprisonment
  • Assassination

Incidentally, if you take up the charlatan life, you may also discover
the whereabouts of the Lost Ark of the Covenant, invent a perpetual
motion machine and achieve immortality. But these and similar
benefits assume that your bogus theories turn out to be true, which
is something you shouldn’t count on.

And that’s it so far as this introduction is concerned.
Do you seriously want to be a charlatan?

To read the cover sheet, click here.

For background, click here.

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