Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – XV

SBNR’s very effectiveness, and the loyalty shown it, has made it some enemies. The new-atheist arguments about SBNR being pseudoscientific, incoherent and “just plain wrong”, are probably best known at the moment. (Although one should not overlook the religious and academic arguments about lazy, anti-community narcissism either. ^_^)

Some of this is incitement to discrimination, and should be opposed — but the arguments themselves usually implode if prodded. They often lack a proper understanding of myth. Usually they are talking to their own constituencies and rarely if ever address the great SBNR writings or achievements, preferring to beat up on the less educated, an unedifying spectacle.

Accusations of “pseudoscience”, for example, against pop SBNRS who talk of “humanity evolving to a new species” or a “new quantum spiritual reality”, are really silly when used to dismiss SBNR altogether — scientific terms are simply being used mythically, something scientists themselves frequently do. Since scientists publicise their visions for the non-scientific to live by, they should not be surprised when their mythic terms are turned to new uses. That’s what humans do with the stories they tell. That’s life in this species.

Of course, it would be nice if all those pop SBNRs could themselves learn to tell mythic from literal uses of terms! :) And I’ll continue to argue for exactly that over the weeks ahead by showing how sensitivity to language can improve SBNR. But the solution to oversimplification is not some other oversimplification. Myth exists and certain scientific words have become mythic words.

Adherents of orthodox scientism have to pretend myth doesn’t exist, another unedifying spectacle. Although this can never be admitted, scientistic anti-SBNR is itself based squarely on myth — the myth of the world becoming free of both religion and spirituality (see part II of this series). These prophecies imagined a world with no imagination, and told a myth about a world with no more myth. Without understanding it, they thus were keeping myth and imagination alive.

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Addendum to this post: quiz!

Who said this:

It’s so beautiful — it’s such a magnificent thing to live in the universe and to understand the universe in which you live, to be a part of life and to understand the life of which you are a part, to understand why you were born before you have to die… And it’s so sad that people go to their grave without understanding why they were born in the first place.

Answer next post!

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6 responses to “Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – XV

  • mirjhar

    I don’t know, and haven’t Googled for it, but it would add to the ironies you’ve already mentioned if the source of your quiz quotation were Richard Dawkins. And it very well could be, so that’s my guess!

    • Jason Wingate

      I’ll never tell until Thursday!

      But tell me mirjhar, did I hit here on the cultural resonance of any of those other points you were asking about? (Repressive misuse of rationality etc.) I posted this partly with you in mind.

  • mirjhar

    Your post did indeed strike a chord, and I even suspected you might have had me partly in mind – glad to know I wasn’t being paranoid! :)

    Talking of paranoia: I was tempted to go off on several tangents, one of which was the mythical quality of medical psychiatry. (Mental illness is a myth, but we are mythical beings, so mental illnesses are as real as we are.) Another tangent would have been the fact that every culture has its own form of magic, and our culture’s form of magic is a very odd one which denies and suppresses magic itself.

    But I won’t do that. :)

    And seriously, it’s far too easy me for me to rant about science’s lack of understanding of myth, when I don’t understand myth myself. I mean, not only am I academically ignorant of the social anthropology of science (surely that is an actual academic speciality? – if it isn’t, it ought to be!), but much more seriously, my belief (if that’s the word) in SBNR is almost all in my head, and not embodied in any spiritual practice or discipline, which puts me on a lower rung than even the crudest pop SBNR adherent. (I suspect I really need to learn some of the basic stuff about chakras. A lot of mine must be pretty much welded shut.)

    There I go again! You were probably right when you suggested that some of my more tangential comments would be more at home in a blog of my own – but I can’t yet imagine a serious (as opposed to deliberately comic) blog written by someone who is avowedly as clueless as I am. I suppose it could start off clueless, but record a gradual accumulation of clues, thanks to the kindness of readers – who would then be leading the blog, rather than “following” it! Worth thinking about, I suppose. (If I start something like that, I hope you’ll sprinkle a few clues in my way.)

    I haven’t been bothering to argue with Dawkins-style atheists recently, by the way. My baptism of fire in that regard was early in 2010, when I attempted to discuss SBNR-type matters in a couple of general philosophy forums – a big mistake. How unreasonable “reason” can be!

    • Jason Wingate

      No I’m glad you got that I was partly responding to you, although I always wanted to make points like those and I will do over the next couple of posts too to build a slightly different viewpoint.

      Another tangent would have been the fact that every culture has its own form of magic, and our culture’s form of magic is a very odd one which denies and suppresses magic itself.

      I wouldn’t see that as a tangent. After all I said we have the myth of no myths, and the imagination of no imagination, so why shouldn’t we have the magic of no magic?

      I’d add though that it hasn’t done anything to stop the enormous growth of SBNR, a point I’ll also make on Thursday.

      my belief (if that’s the word) in SBNR is almost all in my head, and not embodied in any spiritual practice or discipline, which puts me on a lower rung than even the crudest pop SBNR adherent.

      Well I think you’re being a little harsh on yourself there!

      Everyone begins from where they are after all. And I don’t think you need to open all your chakras right away either… although getting a healer to take a look at your energy is always an interesting and usually a profitable activity.

      In my next series I’ll intersect SBNR with mainstream psychology via Carl Rogers, that may give you an in for thinking about practice etc. in a way that feels doable from where you are. I use all that stuff myself, not just the esoteric weirdness you know.

      If I start something like that, I hope you’ll sprinkle a few clues in my way

      Only too happy to sprinkle my fairy dust wherever it is needed. :)

      And I’m glad you don’t talk to those guys… yes I had the same experience once and I wouldn’t disagree that it taught me a lot about the mutual alienation of certain cultural strands at this time… but that’s one of the reasons I’m writing this series, so people can get some better cultural definitions…

  • Clare Daniel

    Carl Rogers… of course, of course you’re into Carl Rogers.

    i had a loose idea last year i wanted to head in the direction of counseling so i attended an entry level class, and it introduced me to the humanistic approach. I’d never heard of Rogers before then, but reading and hearing about his life’s work totally inspired faith in my own intuition, that there were others out there like me who cared about the sincere development of human potential, and that we’re all working towards ‘that’ point of being exactly who we want to be.

    i think from then it was a few months till i found Colin Wilson through his Superconsciousness, and i thought, right, this is it, it’s actually real!

    and even if, just to bring the modesty in, none of this is /the truth/, it’s certainly a most beautiful and inspiring journey into the heights of feeling.

    what you were saying about getting a local library to bring in the complete thinking allowed series is an interesting idea, and by looking at their prices probably the only way us mortals will ever get a hold of it.

    how would you go about that, is it a straightforward thing to do? just nip into a library and make a request?

    on the quiz… i’m inclined to take a cynical edge and say the trick is in the person saying “it’s so sad that people go to their grave without understanding why they were born”, because who could ever say such a thing, that they /know/ why we’re here. i tend to think it’s pure self-indulgent speculation whenever someone speaks about such things.

    also, to talk about it being a sad thing seems to be quite disconnected from the heart of spiritual unity, which is /surely/ the very thing they’re trying to express. it’s the duality of saying “it’s so beautiful, what i understand, and it’s so sad people don’t see it like me” that’s a bit… sensationalist?

    as for who, i don’t know enough people to begin to guess. ego defences to the wind though, i’ll go with a materialist atheist, and their purpose of life is the furthering of the species, but they emphasize the majesty of it beyond simple procreation.

    • Jason Wingate

      Carl Rogers… of course, of course you’re into Carl Rogers.

      Oh yes, and you’ve just illustrated why. He’s so good at forming that kind of gateway — the first of a one-two punch with someone like Wilson doing the two — and also fits in with so much else. I will make all the transpersonal connections in the series upcoming — enough that anyone will know all they need to know basically.

      I got into Rogers thanks to Glenn who put a couple of good mentions of him into his second book, Shadow Strategies.

      Glenn was more-than-mortally gifted for chi kung but I always knew something in his previous psychology training had predisposed him to deal with unexpected transpersonal experience in what I considered to be a particularly felicitous and creative way. Yet that training hadn’t actually inculcated any transpersonal beliefs as Glenn always told me “the Findhorn stuff” being true was a total shocker to him. Until Kundalini he was still a materialist. Much of the secret turned out to be Humanistic Psych especially Maslow and Rogers.

      how would you go about that, is it a straightforward thing to do? just nip into a library and make a request?

      Ah, well I’m getting a bit ahead of myself there. The idea is more that I’d like (in this re-localising world) to get local healers, yoga teachers etc., interested in having access to those vids for educational purposes. There are all sorts of healers and such people around here… then they could all write to the library together perhaps, and even contribute something to the cost in return for having their names associated with the DVDs at the library. Something like that.

      It’s just a thought and could go in other directions… with everything going on at the moment I don’t know if I’ll have time to do it, but we’ll see.

      Thanks for the guesses, tune in tomorrow! :)

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