Meet Aaron Rodgers’ controversial darkness-retreat guru, Aubrey Marcus

Meet Aaron Rodgers’ controversial darkness-retreat guru, Aubrey Marcus
Video aaron rodgers aubrey marcus

In February of this year, Aaron Rodgers signed up for a darkness therapy session: For four days, the four-time NFL MVP contemplated his football future in isolated darkness in a 200-square-foot room at Sky Cave Retreats in Southern Oregon.

“The darkness invites us into a core-splitting honesty where we are moved beyond our constant posturing,” Sky Cave’s website promises. “Heightened sensitivity and the opening of the subconscious can naturally begin to arise as early as the 3rd day of the retreat and continue to intensify as the retreat progresses.”

According to founder Scott Berman, “Aaron Rodgers is good friends with Aubrey Marcus and Marcus did a dark retreat in Germany a few years ago. Some of Marcus’s close friends have come out and done a darkness retreat with us here.”

Afterward, Rodgers talked with Marcus on the latter’s self-titled podcast, saying of his mindset from the experience: “Instead of trying so hard to be … not just a football player, what if I just embraced that I am a football player and look at how f-king beautiful it’s impacted my life?”

Aubrey Marcus (left) with wife Vylana and “good friend” Aaron Rodgers, who he reportedly inspired to try a darkness retreat. Vylana Marcus

A spiritual guru of sorts, Marcus — who has spent up to six days at a time in total darkness — is an ex-MMA fighter, a poet, a holistic health philosopher, an entrepreneur, a public speaker, a self-help expert, a host of ayahuasca plant medicine retreats and a fan of open relationships.

He has more than 523,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel.

But Marcus, who has been dubbed the Joe Rogan of conspirituality — a portmanteau of “conspiracy theory” and “spirituality” — is also a controversial man.

Born Michael Aubrey Christopher Marcus, he is estimated to be worth somewhere in the region of $27 million.

  2023 NFL Draft class rankings: Eagles, Texans, Colts, Seahawks top the board with grades in the 'A' range

A resident of Austin, Texas, Marcus shares a long history with Rogan.

The two co-founded Onnit, a supplement company that has been accused of selling questionable products full of questionable ingredients.

(Marcus stepped down as Onnit’s CEO in 2020. Rogan is not part of the company, though he does promote its products on his podcast.)

Marcus himself has spent as many as six days in a darkness retreat. Andrew Hetherington/Redux
The spiritual guru has more than 523,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel. Andrew Hetherington/Redux
Marcus hosts ayahuasca retreats as well. Andrew Hetherington/Redux

There have been complaints about subscriptions and fees on Reddit.

Earlier this year, Dr. Anna Nordvig, a board certified neurologist, reviewed Alpha Brain, one of Onnit’s best-selling products, a “cognitive enhancer” that promises to boost memory and focus.

She listed some of the most commonly reported side effects associated with the nootropic, including nausea, dizziness and diarrhea.

Marcus is said to be worth around $27 million. Suzanne Cordeiro/Shutterstock

Clinical neurologist Dr. Steven Novella, meanwhile, has accused Onnit of citing studies “to make it seem as if their claims are evidence-based when they are not.”

He also accused the company of engaging in the “deceptive use of evidence” to sell products.

Neither Marcus nor a rep for Onnit returned requests for comment.

Last year, Marcus hosted a festival called Arkadia, which promised to provide attendees with “an opportunity to rapidly expand your consciousness, within the backdrop of radical celebration.”

One of the speakers at the Las Vegas event was Zach Bush, a medical doctor described by McGill University as “a rising star in the health guru space” who infuses “his denial of germ theory with spirituality.”

However, the denial of germ theory is seen by many as a “pseudoscience movement.”

Marcus’ wife, Vylana, calls herself a “medicine woman” and “visionary sound alchemist.” Vylana Marcus

Dr. Bush, himself a controversial figure, famously said that children with autism “intrinsically know how to access the quantum field of consciousness.”

  Fantasy hockey mock draft 1.0

“Autistic children,” in his words, “are engulfed in the full quantum experience — the real multi-dimensional space around us, seeing all layers of humanity and its patterns of behavior.”

At the festival, Marcus — who has a history of championing polyamory — and his wife, Vylana, ran a workshop on relationships.

According to her website, Vylana’s passions center around “leveraging various modalities and mediums within the healing arts to support the expansion of both individual and universal consciousness.”

She is a self-described “visionary sound alchemist” and “medicine woman.”

Dr. Zach Bush, a germ-theory denier, has worked with Marcus and took part in his Arkadia Festival. Zach Bush MD/Facebook

Although Marcus has publicly dismissed the idea that he’s “leading a cult,” there is a Reddit community dedicated to debating and debunking his various philosophies and practices.

Many of the discussions center around Fit for Service, a business founded by Marcus.

According to Fit For Service’s website, Marcus and his colleagues offer “curated masterminds and transformational in-person events with world renown coaches, experts in healing modalities, and musical headliners.”

Potential clients are assured that they will become more empowered “physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, romantically and spiritually,” so they can be “fit to be of service.”

Joe Rogan is a friend of Marcus’ — the two founded Onnit together. Getty Images
Onnit supplements have been a source of controversy among some doctors and customers.

Earlier this year, Derek Beres, co-host of the Conspirituality podcast, a show dedicated to exposing New Age cults and wellness grifters, penned an open letter to Marcus and his followers.

In it, Beres asked Fit For Service clients to question whether or not they want to keep spending up to $20,000 per year participating in the program.

Matthew Remski, who hosts the Conspirituality podcast with Beres, told The Post that Fit for Service possesses “all the hallmarks of a culty, content-free pyramid, but it also functions as a bog-standard coaching business, promoted through parasocial glitz.”

  Inside Aaron Rodgers’s Country-Spanning Real Estate Portfolio

Beres also questioned why Marcus had offered a platform to Marc Gafni, another prominent New Age thinker.

Marcus’ Fit for Service training program promises to make participants more “physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, romantically, and spiritually” fit. Fit For Service

As The Post reported in 2020, Gafni — born Marc Winiarz — stands accused of repeatedly committing sexual assault against a 13-year-old girl in 1980. Gafni, now 63, was a university student at the time.

In a 2015 New York Times profile, when asked about the assault, Gafni responded: “She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.”

A claim filed by the female in question in 2020 is ongoing, according to a lawyer for the plaintiff. Gafni denies the allegations in that lawsuit.

Neither Gafni nor his lawyer replied to requests for comment.

Marc Gafni (top) a regular Marcus podcast guest, has been accused of sexual assault. @marcgafni/Instagram

Gafni, a former Orthodox rabbi who reportedly taught Tantric sexuality at a school in New York, has been accused of sexual misconduct in both the US and Israel.

Marcus has had Gafni on his podcast as a guest numerous times since the accusations emerged.

Marcus referred to one podcast with Gafni, recorded in March of 2022, as “the single most paradigm shifting podcast I have ever recorded.”

According to Remski, “Marcus certainly seems to have the charisma and the organizational chops every cult leader wants to have.”