Well there’s all sorts and their cat out there, we all know that, and #spiritualnoreligion is just another in a long line of mostly harmless self-indulgent fluff that leads nowhere in particular except perhaps to give the follower a sense of belonging and a chance to get laid. It’s great, there is no accountability or structure, unless it goes bad and becomes borderline cultish, mostly just the weak indulging themselves in themselves, sometimes with a mild mind manipulator leading the way.
Might as well let it all hang out at a music festival or concert if you ask me, where the majority jostle and compete for their own identity. You can party like it’s 1999, show off your Corbyn or Che Guevara social revolutionary T-shirt, and listen to an artist like Eminem you once admired open with a cliché-laden anti-Trump tirade, followed by a one-off ‘I say fcuk …… you say Trump’ duet with the Leeds Festival crowd. As someone said, if the 20-year-old Eminem met the 40-year-old Eminem, he’d punch the tosser in the face! Most sensible souls would say he’d be better off using his music as an anger management outlet, as opposed to stirring up racial hatred and division to prove his honorary black rapper status. What’s with the white man’s guilt, Eminem? I thought you were bigger than that, you giant cock.
Well, he’s not the only one, is he? We mostly project a TS Elliot landscape of mental devastation, everyone has to find mechanisms to cope with anger and stress; finding a cure tailor-made to your personality and circumstances is like trying to find a needle in a haystack, so most just hit the meds, and hope for the best. And at least there’s some research that’s gone into that, a pharmaceutical company has likely invested time and money in the development of a drug that can alleviate some problem or other, according to strict guidelines. Kind of like shamans and druids, who were nothing if not experts in the natural medicines available to them in their day. There’s always a trade-off between one size fits all and case by case prescriptions, and then there is freestyle, which involves a healthy dose of self-administering. And what’s wrong with that?
In modern mind body spirit matters there is a lot of self-suggestion, especially when it comes to the spiritual dimension. In some respects it has become a free for all with so many different unregulated approaches, a bit like the Internet and social media. Even to the extent that the seemingly endless possibilities of social media find a natural ally in the seemingly endless possibilities of new age spiritualism. And any idea that the way is narrow and long, and that repetition of the right exercises is part of that way, go out the window, along with qualified professional guidance. And that is the perfect feeding ground for one of humankind’s oldest practitioners, the charlatan, more often than not a self-styled self-appointed guru who leads people astray to further his or her own agenda.
There are charlatans, and there is Carlos Castaneda. He is way out there on his own as a charlatan of prodigious talent and success, who dominated a whole student generation in the 1990’s with a fantastic fantasy mystery spiritual business model based on a complete fabrication; that he was inducted by some shaman who never existed into a narcotics themed journey to enlightenment. With these often entertaining, always crafty and sometimes quite evil mind manipulators and control freaks, it is always buzzwords like journey, and ego, and perfection that hide a multitude of sins, and by sins we need look no further than such inconvenient obstacles to healthy living as the Seven Deadlies, the emotional boobytraps that the real teachers and masters try to help us recognise and avoid, that can be explored in the New Testament and expanded upon by your humble Priest in the safety of the local Church every Sunday.
Sometimes a good understanding of mainstream, whether it’s religion or music or medicine or movement, is the best place from which to sniff out unholy mixes that seek to deceive the gullible and impressionable, who stick to their false beliefs and gurus like limpets stick to a shipwreck, the wreck being the guru in this analogy and about as useful, with the whole deluded ensemble telling themselves how wonderfully enlightened and conscious they are. In this sea of contradictions and confusion, it sometimes serves to study what are often painful personal experiences and outcomes. And particularly outcomes, from an objective point of view as far as possible, although there is nothing wrong with subjective choices that lead to positive outcomes.
So first, how do you get to an objective point of view? If someone told you, you wouldn’t listen to the conversation, because the answer is only with hard work over long timeframes for gains that you’d consider you already had in the bag for free. Much better you find someone who’s already there in this objective place who waits until you’re ready to listen then tells you that you need to find space, while questioning your sense of yourself, and those who don’t measure up to it. That can be quite earth shattering!
This comes with a quite definite feeling or taste, which you can only tell in yourself at that moment, which can’t be proven or verified except by results further down the road, which are only recogniseable to others who have crossed the same threshold. What can be said is while certain people will naturally incline towards objective points of view, however they arrive there, others will go in the opposite direction, towards subjective points of view which they consider to have discovered themselves, and proceed to call objective!
And one of the most superficial subjective worlds, occupied by selfish types who consider themselves selfless and enlightened beings on a higher plane, is the one dominated by an endless outpouring of a clichéd love and light and beauty and nature, with props like crystals and candles and josh sticks, which these extra sensitive super souls claim to sense so deeply. And like with so many things in the sham spiritualistic world, it’s hard to know where self-suggestion ends and subtle forms of brainwashing begin. It should come as no surprise to those who know where to look that this outpouring of sticky sentimentality finds its natural home on social media, where what the ancients they claim to venerate would identify as vanity runs amok.
While this is mostly the blind leading the blind around in self-congratulatory circles, occasionally someone finds an eye from somewhere, and begins to lead whoever is prepared to follow in self-destructive directions. As is said, in the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king, and as is observed, that little kingdom built by any one eyed animal, even one with a rat’s intelligence, almost always draws an increasing number of the impressionable into its orbit, with increasingly destructive consequences for those on the fringes with everyday responsibilities, due to their connection with those right in the thick of things.
Undeliverable promises are made, big life changing decisions are taken, normal rules of conduct are stretched then broken, and existing loyalties and commitments are undermined by shared adventures that start as dirty little trysts at Aysgarth Falls and end as tools for blackmail in the hands of the lead manipulators that emerge from the shadows to create climates of fear, until the participants are engaged in a full on, self-indulgent fuck fest that is about as far away from healthy secular values as it’s possible to be. And at that point, the vacuous language and imagery of sham spiritualism is reinforced by the lightweight ‘likes’ of an ever growing circle of self-absorbed, insecure wankers who become addicted to social media sites like Facebook and Instagram, without ever having done the hard mental or spiritual yards that allow for a solid appraisal of what might be true or lead somewhere, and what is patently false.
Clearly we aren’t referring to a search for the closest MacDonalds or Starbucks here, or a new job, or even the way around a spaghetti junction; and what’s wrong with creating a social media account with content that generates some source of revenue to complement or replace other forms of revenue? All this new technology and much much more is to be admired and utilised to make a hard life a little easier. It’s the New Age Spiritualism that leaves a lot to be desired. Especially as it seems to blend happily with dangerous ideologies like Progressive Socialism, which together drive laws and lives onto the road to hell paved with good intentions. At least you get to vote out those pedaling political fantasies, with spiritual crap and the social media, it’s beware the buyer!
Could it be that both are largely unaccountable, in thrall to intentions rather than outcomes, and virtually unchallenged in any meaningful, coordinated way? Each take turns in covering for the other, and as you’d expect both venerate nature and nature is under attack from climate change, and anyone who doesn’t float around in this virtue signalling happy hippy bubble saving the world is an out of touch heretic, as opposed to a force of nature that draws on many objective sources, including a grounded appreciation of human nature, to arrive at sound conclusions and recommendations.
It’s a definite feature of human nature that the false is more attractive than the true, it has and always will be like that, but that doesn’t mean that truth can’t at least have its say, even if an unnatural act that everyone has fallen into can’t be reversed. It can even be that the last piece of the puzzle that falls into this ugly self-serving picture that calls itself noble brings about the exile of the one source of objectivity equipped to save the day. That is how life works.
And sometimes small and perhaps even personal events disguise a much bigger underlying battle, where conscious good has its back turned while involved on one level and unconscious bad strikes with a knife in the back on another. So I have to go back 20 years to an opportunity I used to create space for an authentic spiritual journey, at least in intention. I was working at the time for a conservation organisation I catalysed in 1990 called Save The Rhino on an endowment aid sub-brand called the Global Rhino Fund. The idea was to create a structure with a number of small individual funds for different Rhino populations in different areas that provided long term community based support at one end and an attractive sponsorship opportunity for big private philanthropists at the other.
And as often happens at organisational crossroads, while I was beginning to work this rich investment seam during a very successful month campaigning in Los Angeles, my Founder partner in London Dave Stirling unearthed one of Richard Branson’s henchman, a Progressive Socialist called Robert Devereux, and began a restructuring process to accommodate him and his boutique charity hopes and dreams. When I returned from Los Angeles it didn’t take me long to see where I stood, and that what they wanted in London and what I was selling in Los Angeles were incompatible, and that I was in an untenable and even dangerous position regarding the likely outcomes of entirely different expectations, with me stuck in the middle. And I also did some research, and I discovered that authentic spiritual journeys, or the way, actually start on a much higher plane than normal life; and I wondered if the varied and challenging work I had done setting up Save The Rhino was high enough, in the non-elitist practical sense required, especially if I doubled down and sacrificed my Rhino career for the common good!
So I got some crossroads help from a good witch in Oxford, a Jungian analyst called Carmen Reynal, who helped me perform a little dance which included a Lord of The Rings fancy dress wedding in the Yorkshire Dales, and a very positive and quite ballsy clean cut exit from Save The Rhino that left the London lot in full control of their chosen agenda. Then I took my first wife Mouse off to see the Northern Lights at the most Northern point of Europe over the winter equinox for a break, while also anticipating that I might find the conditions there to begin some kind of a spiritual journey.
And, as my now ex first wife will testify, I did, and some! In fact, I made it step by step right to the threshold where two different worlds coincide, and the results were spectacular and very much in line with what others like one of the c20 and c21’s greatest thinkers Ouspensky, who have made it to the same space, experience. It is very hard to talk about what actually happens, except to say landscape and mindscape merge, and to unfortunate spectators or bystanders it is all a little crazy and inexplicable, but quite harmless in the context of an adventurous outing to catch the Northern Lights.
Except that there is no going back. From there I began to look at how I could make sure I didn’t get dragged back into wildlife conservation while I built onto this experience; and that ended up, via the Pennine Way, and three years on the road living out with Gypsy Packhorses, in a secret Mevlevi or Whirling Dervish Lodge in the Eastern Turkish mountains over the winter of 2001, where I did spiritual study and practice mostly tailor-made to my own requirements. As far as I can see that mix, including the quite remorseless travel routine of eat, sleep, exercise, pack, walk, unpack, exercise, eat and sleep, was for three incredibly hard years in all seasons camping out 99% of the time the real deal as far as creating hostile conditions friendly to spiritual development is concerned. No doubt it’s horses for courses, but from the point of view of what I put into that experience to get marginal results out, the whole charade of new age spiritualism is weak people kidding themselves and others in ways that make them weaker. I know it’s hard to quantify gains, and even goals, but at least be honest about it.
I had the foresight to carry with me enough treasure to make my contribution to the lodge and its esoteric work, and visited from time to time from Istanbul between 2005 and 2013 to the everlasting suspicion of my ad agency partners, until it became clear that the battle to insert market based democracy into the space between secular authoritarianism and religious totalitarianism was lost, and my friends at what was in effect an unknown, privately funded, esoteric Sufi circle saw the mainstream Islamic writing on the wall, and used what was left of my donation to close down their work and the lodge, and leave for safer climes.
To where I have no idea. Perhaps I’ll bump into them one day. I was developing my own work in Istanbul, one part of which was to create a small cell of Turkish woman entrepreneurs in an environment conducive to the design, and partial testing, of an emerging market investment model prototype for foreign investors and Turkish woman entrepreneurs – work that was only recently completed. My ongoing spiritual development is a private thing, it includes some morning exercises, and a work life play balance that I’m very happy with and wouldn’t change for anyone, except perhaps the Living Buddha himself. I took some risks and made some sacrifices to find my way, and had some incredible luck, which included being opened up like a tin of sardines by a jobbing Bodhisattva in London.
So I can say with some authority that while spiritual development is each to his or her own, there are shared characteristics of method and outcome quite apparent to those who know about authentic efforts in this direction. You might say that a mix of flexibility, willpower and self-discipline in the accomplishment of certain aims over long time frames is one hallmark of someone who has been on such a journey. There are others. It is very difficult to tell unless you have been there yourself. So much of what’s out there in the marketplace in terms of personal growth, fortune telling, and even meditation and chanting – with crystals for energy and candles for light – is at best harmless fun and games, as useful in the modern world as going to the gym, or for a swim, or even dancing in a club or drinking with your mates down in the pub. At worse, it leads off step by well worn step into sects and cults.
And even in that respect, those who seek sanctuary on a cultish trip or tip are often free to do as they will. Generally, normal rules apply, as long as outcomes aren’t too damaging to the normal fabric of life, and those involved don’t go in too deep and change not for the better but for the worse in ways that start to upset and damage those around them trying to lead normal lives. Mostly, as long as they don’t begin to show signs of behaviour that indicate unhealthy mind control and obsession, and especially brainwashing, they are left alone.
What normal society quite correctly doesn’t like is efforts in this direction that destroy families and disturb children, where cultural traditions and morals are broken, or when, to put it another way, someone with real life responsibilities disappears down the rabbit hole, into the arms of a whole cast of weirdo characters living in some heavily incensed fantasy world of egoless spiritual journey make believe, which they kid themselves and others has real value. And often the biggest lies and scams generate the most money.
And particularly if it begins to become quite clear to those in a position to analyse and judge that a particular product, sold to the public in a certain way, is nothing more than a front for sexual advances with empty short term promises and threats that equate to basic manipulation and mind control, that end up taking gullible wives and innocent children off their normal hardworking, long suffering husbands in ways that break up healthy family units. And even more so if the vision seen in some amazing three eyed crow dream the night before is set to take over the world, from a sickbed in the Yorkshire Dales. The onus is on those equipped to identify what seeks to trick the gullible out of their time and money, and those who call a spade a spade, to join forces, and nip such fantasies, which sadly sometimes do succeed, in the bud. Or you might be the next man looking for some new order to help you get through a blue monday!