Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – XIII

5 Elemental Challenges — Water

The stability of post-counterculture pop SBNR is threatening to become a definite complacency as cultural fragmentation proceeds.

One marker is the end of Mishlove’s Thinking Allowed on PBS in America. The show had interviewed major SBNR thinkers like Terence McKenna, Colin Wilson, Michael Murphy, Stanislav Grof or John Lilly, dozens of them, at a depth that interviews themselves have mostly now lost. Those guys did not look out of place alongside an Albert Ellis, an Oliver Sacks or a Stephen Pinker. There were backward references to the rest of Western SBNR culture thrown in too.

“Thinking Allowed” is the opposite of ideocracy. The show presented an almost unlimited variety in one single format on a trusted TV source that has now given itself over far more to scientism. A decade after the show ended it seems almost impossible to imagine anything similar happening again. With the net it should be easy in principle, yet I haven’t found anything of this scope and gentility. Most net coverage of SBNR is far too specialised to want to look over the whole in this truly creative and exploratory way. (Meanwhile BBC news recently included an apology from Peter André for his early work! ^_^)

Shallow commercial agendas also prevent thought. I’ve mentioned names like Marsilio Ficino, Johann von Goethe, William Blake, Rudolf Steiner, William James, Jean Gebser, Carl Jung, Aldous Huxley, Stanislav Grof, Lawrence LeShan, Robert Monroe, William Irwin Thompson, and Glenn Morris.

But I find that such names are quite rarely mentioned in the general SBNR discourse, though I could add a hundred more. James Redfield, Eckhart Tolle, Paulo Coelho, Neale Donald Walsch, Oprah Winfrey, and Rhonda Byrne are by no means adequate substitutes.

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32 responses to “Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – XIII

  • mirjhar

    There is a very entrenched association of intellectual rigour with scientism. Rejection of scientism shouldn’t (logically!) mean a rejection of intellectual rigour; but while the (irrational!) association of the two persists, so will the complacency to which you have just drawn attention. If reason means only bullish empiricism and “scepticism”, then let’s dispense with reason – so the feeling goes (I take it) – and understandably so. On the other hand, if imaginative and intuitive openmindedness means a loss of one’s reasoning faculties, then openmindedness is to be despised and mocked. I wish I knew what to do about this split. I’m still very much caught in it myself, straddling both sides, torn apart by it, arrogant and closed-minded and embarrassingly naive at the same time. 21st Century Schizoid Man! :)

  • Jason Wingate

    You seem to be obssessed with the new atheist approach mirjhar — you’ll notice I never mentioned it, although I will briefly do so in a future post in this series. There is no real need to mention it as it isn’t culturally important.

    If reason means only bullish empiricism and “scepticism”, then let’s dispense with reason – so the feeling goes (I take it) – and understandably so.

    “Reason” doesn’t mean this. Look at the names in this post. These are not people unable to “reason”.

    I wish I knew what to do about this split. I’m still very much caught in it myself, straddling both sides, torn apart by it, arrogant and closed-minded and embarrassingly naive at the same time. 21st Century Schizoid Man! :)

    Ah, the Crims!

    I recommend not beating yourself up just for being caught in natural cultural oppositions. I also recommend that if you currently do much debating with pseudoskeptics, especially online, you stop it. All the “cultural splits” you are talking about are painted by fear. In reality these splits haven’t existed in anything like the way pseudoskeptics paint them now — and we know that from research BTW, for example this. “Despising and mocking” is moral weakness, not a way to win an argument. Naïveté is another term for innocence.

    I also recommend you read on. Future series on this blog will give a very different picture of our culture from the one you seemingly hold right now as well as ways to come to greater wholeness on a personal level. (The latter are already present in the reading lists and prior posts as well. I encourage you to explore if interested.)

    And read more widely. Checking out any of the authors I mentioned in this post, if you don’t know them — especially the list beginning with Ficino, giants upon whose shoulders I stand — would be a much better use of your time than battling cultural groupmind orthodoxies.

  • mirjhar

    I must gently protest that the whole point of my post was to question, and not to assert, the identification of reason with bullish empiricism, etc.

    But I may well be obsessed, just as you say. (If so, I have my reasons.) So, it behoves me not to bang on too much about my obsessions (again!).

    I don’t know what is responsible for my giving you the impression of not reading carefully. But I take this impression to heart, whatever it means.

    I know I do tend to respond only to one narrow aspect of what you write. By doing so, I don’t mean to disparage or altogether ignore the rest; I just know when I’m out of my depth, and judge it best not to comment on what I altogether fail to understand, or have not experienced. (Not the same thing – I have experienced many things I do not understand.) Awareness of (some of!) my own limits is not meant as a silent comment on what I know lies beyond them.

    I have recently ordered some of the books on your reading list. (“Path Notes”, in particular, arrived this morning.)

    • Jason Wingate

      So, it behoves me not to bang on too much about my obsessions (again!).

      Or maybe start your own blog?

      I know I do tend to respond only to one narrow aspect of what you write.

      I haven’t written about materialist v. non-materialist arguments in quite a while.

      I just know when I’m out of my depth, and judge it best not to comment on what I altogether fail to understand, or have not experienced.

      If what I’m writing isn’t clear to you, why not ask what I meant? :) This post isn’t about transpersonal experience, just culture. You know… TV shows and stuff. Not too esoteric.

  • mirjhar

    Your writing is very clear. The phenomena you write about are mysterious to me, but I do not hold you personally responsible for that!

    I was adding a speculative comment on what I take (however obsessively) to be a powerful reason why there is cultural fragmentation, along with the complacency in pop SBNR (to which you do explicitly allude).

    The lack of clarity in this and other comments of mine shows pretty clearly why I am nowhere near ready to write a blog of my own! :)

    • Jason Wingate

      Well then it’s I who don’t understand mirjhar… Could you explain how the things you brought up caused, for example, the complacency in SBNR?

      Complacency, after all, tends naturally to follow success, commercial gain, enormous expansion of numbers, and other things I detailed in previous posts. They seem to me to be very much their own reason.

      Furthermore the vast majority of those in SBNR don’t hold the views about it that exercise you — on the contrary, most seem to recognise no particular conflict between science and their beliefs, and as I mentioned before, the best ones constantly keep up with such science as concerns them.

      If anything in the pop SBNR world there is more erring on the other side — lack of engagement with science. Often this goes too far and claims science endorses SBNR more than is in fact the case, which is in itself a form of complacency.

      You yourself, who feel internally conflicted about a big fissure between official scientism and SBNR, are far from typical of SBNRs, and you are “torn apart” as a result rather than placidly complacent!

      So can you explain to me how what you laid out explains the complacency?

  • mirjhar

    It’s possible that I’ve misunderstood the mood of complacency to which you refer, as well as its causes; and that as a result I’ve gone off on a typical tangent (again); but I haven’t noticed any such discrepancy between my views and those of, say, Theodore Roszak (in many books), R. D. Laing (ditto), David Tacey (in “The Spiritual Revolution”), or Wayne C. Booth (in “Modern Dogma and the Rhetoric of Assent”), all addressing either the counterculture or its sequels.

    So I’ll persist briefly, to see if we can quickly sort out where the apparent misunderstanding is arising (and then take the discussion to e-mail, if that seems sensible, and if it really is becoming too tangential).

    It seems to me that scientific criteria of “objective observation” and logical reasoning (I hope to leave aside all controversies in the philosophy of science as to exactly what roles these two ideals play in science “as she is spoke”) are routinely misapplied (as in Laing’s “Procrustean bed”), thus justifying those whose concerns and activities are thus misrepresented in ignoring Western society’s mainstream criteria of validity for knowledge of any kind.

    The complacency which I (rightly or wrongly) took you to be referring to is that which results from the lack of a robust mechanism of critical feedback such as is believed (rightly or wrongly) to exist in science.

    (Once again, I’m sorry if I’m being irrelevant; it’s unintentional, but perhaps a besetting sin of mine!)

    • Jason Wingate

      The complacency which I (rightly or wrongly) took you to be referring to is that which results from the lack of a robust mechanism of critical feedback such as is believed (rightly or wrongly) to exist in science.

      Nope. Just common-or-garden complacency.

      The authors in my last para could certainly be seen as lacking rigour compared to those in the one previous. Equally they could be said to lack in vision and imagination, breadth of understanding, depth of mystical attainment, or sheer erudition and literary virtue etc..

      The complacency of much pop SBNR in allowing itself to be represented by those authors is mostly a matter of preferring the easy answer, the easy sell, and the pretty book cover, and congratulating itself too easily.

  • mirjhar

    Apropos of which, I could hardly believe my eyes when I stumbled across this priceless 5-star reviewed specimen at Amazon:
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/024196136X/

  • mirjhar

    You’ve made it clear that you weren’t thinking what I thought you were thinking, so it seemed inappropriate for me to add any more comments based on that misinterpretation of mine.

    Since you ask, however, I still don’t honestly understand why the question of “reason”, “reality”, and so on which so concerns me doesn’t strike a chord with others; and I can’t imagine how to discuss questions of spirituality and so on without mentioning it; but it would have seemed very jarring of me to go on about it any more, now that you’ve made it clear how tangential it is to the point you were actually making.

    And indeed, even I can just about see that it’s important not to obsess about it too much, because it can just get in the way, and provide an excuse for not learning anything. I haven’t even had a chance to open the Glenn Morris book that arrived today! Getting involved in a side-issue like this seems somehow significantly silly of me, and so I was trying to disentangle myself from it. But now I’m all tangled up in not knowing how to say whether the misunderstanding has cleared … blagghhh! … 8-#

  • martingifford

    Jason wrote: “The complacency of much pop SBNR in allowing itself to be represented by those authors is mostly a matter of preferring the easy answer, the easy sell, and the pretty book cover, and congratulating itself too easily.”

    That hits the nail on the head.

    • Jason Wingate

      Yeah. I don’t want to call this Peter André spirituality, but I think I just have. :^_^ (If you don’t know who he is, I envy you.)

      Did you ever check out Thinking Allowed? It’s so good that they can still manage to sell it on big price DVDs. There’s a ton of free clips here, quite a list of names.

  • martingifford

    Wow, I just looked at your Thinking Allowed link. That looks like an awesome list of people and topics. I don’t have a good internet connection, but I’ll check it out sometime.

    “A decade after the show ended it seems almost impossible to imagine anything similar happening again.”

    I suspect this is about people wanting to see it manifested. It’s about movement from theory to practice. I have ideas for a TV screenplay and a feature film screenplay that shows it manifested. But I found a good example already. I was watching Friends season 2 last night. I was really struck by the:

    Perfection… Completion… Stoppedness… of Rachel and Ross kissing under the stars of the planetarium with Wicked Game playing…

    Have you seen it? I find it impossible to express my feelings about it. That moment in a mere sitcom was like divinity on Earth! God’s and Goddesses. And that song is the most romantic song ever. Just melting into Being and Reality.

    Just knowing that some people have experienced such fulfilment is satisfying. And we cannot grasp it. We can only be it. That’s kind of bittersweet, but only when you are not being it!

    I think people are gasping for this bigness, especially women. But they settle for such smallness, presumably because they think, “Life is short, and I’m not going to solve the world’s problems, so let’s just take what’s available.” Yet that very thought and that very compromise causes the smallness and stops the bigness.

    • Jason Wingate

      That’s cool, I’m just putting the finishing touches to a series for next year on pop culture’s relationship to enlightenment, via my Kundalini angle. More centred on the fantastical though. I’ll be interested in your thoughts.

      Thinking Allowed, though, was a manifestation. Every one of those guests was manifesting their stuff in reality, affecting many others, it wasn’t just theory. The conversation itself was a manifestation, of a certain ability to explore, one that can’t be repeated in this kind of public venue now, owing to media fragmentation and general decline of the cultural milieu… more on this as I go…

  • mirjhar

    By the way, can the serious side of SBNR, the opposite of pop SBNR, be referred to as “classical” SBNR? :)

    • Jason Wingate

      Eh, why not? Goethe makes a good Brahms and Huxley a reasonable Stravinsky… William Irwin Thompson would probably want to be Miles Davis though.

      John Lilly is the Stones. The fall from there to Peter André rings true… problem is not pop but pap. :)

  • Brian Carter

    These interesting posts on SBNR 2012 suggest there is something special about 2012. But you don’t hold with the global 2012 popular meme of world-shattering events on December 21 do you? (Just asking)

  • martingifford

    Jason wrote: “I’m just putting the finishing touches to a series for next year on pop culture’s relationship to enlightenment, via my Kundalini angle. More centred on the fantastical though. I’ll be interested in your thoughts.

    That sounds interesting. I had a kundalini experience once. Holy heck, I was not prepared! Like getting struck by lightning. Too much, too fast. I pulled out of it, and I heard a nonchalant voice saying something like, “Oh, I thought you wanted to know about reality…”

    One tip that you are probably already aware of is to avoid a preachy tone. I found this very hard to do. Shakespeare can get away with it, but most modern writers cannot, especially if they think they have the answers – even if those answers are correct. Just the slightest hint of a preachy tone is a big turn-off. If you are concerned about that, then I’d be happy to have a look at a piece of your writing.

    My TV idea is about a street on a hill overlooking the city. It’s fantasy meets ordinary workaday life – and the conflicts between the two. The street’s residents are trying to keep the street exclusive for their kind and they are people practicing witchcraft, tarot, psychic stuff, and even a guy into alien contact. I see the opening sequence of views of the city lights from the hill then going down a trippy street with interesting houses and some modern apartments and then down a front path with fairy lights. I actually saw a street a bit like this in Australia, which gave me the idea. It’s also a bit like Harry Potter for adults in a modern city.

    The Film idea is about an American Indian couple who die a few centuries ago and become spiritual beings exploring various realms but becoming bored with it and therefore being attracted to physical life on Earth. He feels guilty because he was a hothead that caused their deaths back in America, so this time around he’s a bit of a poor pleaser and idealist. She, on the other hand, is a rich politician’s daughter. So it’s a “wrong side of the tracks” romantic comedy. She converts him from self-sacrifice into worldly modelling of her clothes, and he drags her into working in soup kitchens. Etc. I’m very surprised that the soulmates theme hasn’t been done like this before.

    You wrote: “Thinking Allowed, though, was a manifestation. Every one of those guests was manifesting their stuff in reality, affecting many others, it wasn’t just theory. The conversation itself was a manifestation, of a certain ability to explore, one that can’t be repeated in this kind of public venue now, owing to media fragmentation and general decline of the cultural milieu… more on this as I go…”

    Cool. But it’s still talking. I remember in Byron Bay around the turn of the millennium, there were firetwirlers and buskers and a whole carnival of life kind of vibe (that seems to have gone now with money moving into the area). I think people want to see something more like that. Dynamic, creative, loving, happy, wise living in the world. Something celebratory.

    • Jason Wingate

      Holy heck, I was not prepared!

      Yes, this is normal. A lot of what I’ll do focuses on preparation and so forth.

      If you are concerned about that, then I’d be happy to have a look at a piece of your writing.

      No, I’m not in the least concerned. I spend absolutely no time at all trying to write what people want to hear.

      Your movie idea sounds good — I haven’t been to the movies in years though, too much other stuff going on, sort of lost interest in it for myself. Same with TV for the most part, although I occasionally look at films I saw when young to check out what was resonating for a particular subpersonality at the time.

      As for celebration, it has always been profoundly important in linking the spiritual to culture, and should continue to be so I would have thought. :)

  • mirjhar

    “To say that ritual is needed in the industrialized world is an understatement. We have seen in my own people that it is probably impossible to live a sane life without it. … People in the West are just beginning to retrieve ritual from the pits of their ancestral unconsciousness. … We are facing here some kind of flawed process of self-caretaking. Who can create ritual in its proper space and sequence when there are no elders? .. A community that doesn’t have a ritual doesn’t exist. A corporate community is not a community. … What we need is to be able to come together with a constantly increasing mindset of wanting to do the right thing, even though we know very well that we don’t know how or where to start. This seemingly frightening position is amusing to the spirit that watches over you. … If indigenous people can tell the crooked from the honest person, it is because they live in the same community. In the West, people live in the illusion of a community and are thus unable to tell the difference between a real medicine man and a peddler. Their confusion is deepened by the intense craving for transcendence. … One cannot live in harmony with technology; one serves it and is fed with the hollow hopes of being fulfilled by it some day. Christianity invented or blessed the invention of the technological Machine. The bulk of people in the Third World today have experienced Christianity not as separate from technology but almost as part of it. … The Machine has made itself look beautiful by making other ways of life that have existed for tens of thousands of years look silly, shameful and uncivilised. … To be attracted to an ancient way of life is to initiate one’s personal spiritual emancipation. No ritual can be repeated the same way twice (in my village there are season rituals that are repeated – but never exactly). There are structures, however, that stay the same. Even in our drumming music we never have two people doing the same thing. I come into the drumming circle with my rhythm, with my talk. Somebody else creates a rhythm, and that person will then carry the rhythm. He has the burden to keep the rhythm going. What I do on the drum is my response to what I hear. So I talk back. I drum my feelings. That’s my opinion. When somebody else comes in with another drumbeat, that’s his opinion. So, we end up with a whole brouhaha of opinions that an outsider might find extremely synchronic and rhythmical or chaotic and noisy. To drum is to hear. This means that when someone cannot drum, that person has, among other things, a hearing problem. [Something wrong with his eardrums? – ed.] It is hard to create a rhythmical space with this kind of person. … I am called Malidoma, “he who is to be friends with the stranger/enemy.” … The West is crowded with people who want healing – this much I have been able to notice. … I have come to suspect that in the absence of ritual, the soul runs out of its real nourishment, and all kinds of social problems then ensue. … I suggest that ritual not be simply copied from one civilization to another but simply inspired by some culture still in touch with it. … Are we not of a common soul as proposed by modern thinkers such as Jung? If so, then what serves the soul of the Dagara may well prove to resonate in the soul of modern peoples also.” [Two big drums? – ed.]

    Malidoma Patrice Some (1993)

  • mirjhar

    (These questions also hark back to parts IV and VIII of the series, I think.)

    Does the complacency you discuss here derive from the fact that SBNR was once part of a counterculture, but is now part of the cultural mainstream (insofar as there is a mainstream any more)?

    And is this in turn because there is a market for SBNR, as for other things, and in order to qualify as part of the mainstream, nothing is any longer judged except by the standards of the marketplace? Do you relate “cultural fragmentation” to market-dominated values? And/or to philosophical postmodernism?

    (Sorry if too many questions at once, or if off at a tangent, or grabbing wrong end of stick, or banging drum too loud!)

    • Jason Wingate

      Since I wrote about “post-counterculture pop SBNR”, said that “Shallow commercial agendas prevent thought”, and sprinkled mentions of “commercial gain” and “easy selling” through these comments, what else could I have been talking about but “market-dominated values”?

      (But I certainly didn’t and wouldn’t say nothing is judged by other than commercial standards. There is integrity around, but the complacency has eroded it.)

      • mirjhar

        Oh yes, I meant to quote that sentence of yours as a preface to my reply, but forgot.

        Just checking that I wasn’t misunderstanding your meaning all over again!

        • Jason Wingate

          …. and the commercial model has slipped into the metaphysical teaching. A lot of the message of current “teachers” is that you can have anything you want if you order it up correctly, which is crass at best and at worst psychotic.See the last sentence of my post of today.

          • mirjhar

            The worst thing about ordering from the cosmos is that you can never get through to customer services.

            I’m not even sure that they’re willing to deliver to Earth any more, as it’s such a rough neighbourhood.

  • Clare Daniel

    Jason, i’ve been kinda dipping in and out of the SBNR posts (which has more to do with my current fuzzy state than the posts themselves) but this post re-enforced why i knew i’d found something special with you when i did.

    Jung, Huxley, Grof, Wilson… to find the words.
    they embody the core of where i am and where i want to go, and you’re the only person i know who speaks of all that they represent in such a gently bold and cohesive way.

    and that thinking allowed show really is brilliant, isn’t it? i started to gradually become aware of it through repeated chance youtube watches. must take a more sincere interest in devouring full episodes at some point.

    also, seeing as i mention it, i found your place by typing “god tao peak experience love” into google :)

    • Jason Wingate

      Clare! What a nice surprise to find you hanging out at the bottom of this enormous thread! :)

      Thanks so much for being reached. The fact that it speaks to you means a lot to me. Much different stuff coming up as well. I hope the fuzziness isn’t too deleterious.

      Yes that’s exactly how I found Thinking Allowed. I’m wondering if I can get some local library interested in ordering the whole set of the DVDs. That show really is a monument, it’s 15 years of Mishlove’s life.

      i found your place by typing “god tao peak experience love” into google :)

      That happens to be my phone number. :)

  • Clare Daniel

    and it means a lot to me that my being reached means a lot to you, which is a nice feedback loop.

    *holds on and tries not to dissolve*

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