Category Archives: Culture

2 Connections to Bigger Patterns

Firstly, those following the wider process of death and rebirth that on a narrow level is currently playing out in Ukraine will probably be highly interested in this typically bravura lecture by Immanuel Wallerstein:

… since Ukraine currently exemplifies his “chaos” rather perfectly (its companion “bifurcation” is harder for me to swallow theoretically). Comparing the behaviour of this world system since 1945 with the one in Bali from the J. Stephen Lansing lecture I linked recently, I find it fascinating to see where they intersect. Competing myths. Wallerstein’s cycles of hegemony are bang on. He was turned onto systems by Prigogine. He and William Irwin Thompson might get on somewhat since they somewhat similarly see expansion and contraction.

(BTW the organisation Wallerstein mentions at around 31 mins is the Project for the New American Century — which I had somehow missed until now. Interesting!)

Secondly, and especially for those who haven’t yet looked at it, I’d like to speak again on behalf of acupressure. My fave books, as in the qigong reading list, are beginner-friendly, and there’s nothing like a little resilience and hardiness amidst all the world-system weirdness:

Acupressure’s Potent Points

Acupressure for Emotional Healing

I bring it up because of a scientific discovery which I’ve been meaning to post for ages. Over the last few years Joie Jones and Young Bae have actually been detecting the changes in stimulated acupoints using fMRI, and now they’re able to animate them on a screen so you can see them happening all along the meridian. EDIT: Sorry, forgot that the major breakthroughs actually involve ultrasound not fMRI. Jones demonstrates this here:

After you see, literally, the steadiness of the wave of chi moving through a meridian, you’ll never again wonder about the length of time you have to hold acupoints.

The connection again is self-organising systems. The meridians as a whole constitute one such system; acupressure, one way to adjust it. In order to link this with mythology and Kundalini you need a few more patterns. For now I’ll note that Carl Rogers-style psychology is about allowing self-organisation to occur. You yourself are a world, as the world-system is a world. Worlds interpenetrate.


Korean Shaman Ladies

Still waiting for things to clear before I come back and start properly again… I’ll just post odds and ends when I have a moment in the meanwhile. I love this video about Korean shamanesses, a culture that goes back a long way, and one I probably feel more at home with as “religion” than with anything most Westerners associate with that word tbh.

Korean shaman culture is quite vibrant and modern and has an interesting relationship with respectable society. Some Koreans take pride in this traditional folk culture whilst others predictably denigrate it as superstitious. As you can tell from this article by a Korean student in London:

Shamanic small ads

… the place occupied by these ladies isn’t so far from that of psychics, mediums and healers in the West. However the shamanic side is quite legit, with long-term inherited lineages and shamanic illnesses of initiation as well as these possession rites. There are some quite serious superstar shamans who do interesting work politically.

Long may the mudang ladies climb barefoot the chaktu blades say I.

Upcoming Attractions

Time to check in again. The new batch of stuff is getting closer and I can give you more of a preview.

As noted, I’m finished with personal psychology etc. for now. I’m going to try and offer a view of Kundalini experience that’s in key with what Glenn put out, more so than the post-theosophical stuff you mostly get now (although they dovetail fine).

From Glenn’s position you can look out over a wide landscape where all sorts of other things fit perfectly. Before he ever started the meditation that awoke Kundalini he was always interested in traditional religion and shamanism from a psychological angle. I’ve noticed that those who are instinctually into the fantastic really dig Glenn. The interface of all that with mythology will show some great ways to re-understand reality. I’ll be talking about the imagination a lot, giving ways to think about it that separate it from the idea of “false or unreal”, as well as the mythic from the “fictional”.

With reference to my own experiences, Glenn’s written examples, and some other stuff from the (mostly modern, not all) literature on spiritual experience, I’m going to try and show the shape of transpersonal as an exploration, bound up with how the world fits together, in a loose model you can use, trying to give flavour and feeling. I’ll link everything in to all the literature that explains it best. And all of this will happen in a new format which will shake things up a little.

By the end of the initial tranche, if you awaken Kundalini, you should be in a more advantageous position for harmonising your experiences, taking advantage of the work of preceding generations, and staying out of the rubber room.

Here’s a taster that may surprise you. I’d like to introduce you to this wonderful lecture by J. Stephen Lansing:

A Thousand Years in Bali

Sorry I couldn’t get it to embed. (If you want to get rid of the subtitles just pick the top option, “Choose language…”)

I reference the feeling behind these ideas a lot right now. Expansion of the holotropic spontaneity stuff, out from the personal and psychological, into the ecological and the cultural. This vid so beautifully introduces you to how patterns at a basic level “on earth” form through self-organizing complex systems. The background is ecology. I have a feeling you’ll be as glued as I was, but what you’ll note too is where he covers human beings partaking in this process via mythic imagination, ritual and democracy. It’s all very practical and actually observed in operation on mundane levels, unlike what most people think “myth” is — there’s nothing “escapist” about the mythic imagination, it is absolutely life and death**.

The vid is a perfect demonstration of a) How these relationships form in nature and ritual; b) How some of our modern science is actually able to understand this very well if we actually use it; and c) How if we use the wrong myths we ignore the science and slaughter the relationships. Always important to know who the good guys are.

What comes up on this blog will I hope get “under the skin” of such a view of reality and apply it to a life more like yours, especially if that life undergoes the amplification of energy and imagination in Kundalini. The deep meaning comes vivified under your eyes, as recorded in experiences going back millennia. The actualised shaman is the steward of his entrainments.

Stay tuned folks!

** “In using Escape in this way the critics have chosen the wrong word, and, what is more, they are confusing, not always by sincere error, the Escape of the Prisoner with the Flight of the Deserter.” — Tolkien, On Fairy Stories, and yes, modern fantasy culture figures in too…

Internet “censorship” of spirituality — the facts

So you may have heard the rumours that there are problems with alternative spirituality on the UK internet. People have found they can’t access spiritual websites from public browsers:

“Together with my wife, we run a holistic business which also mentions “spiritual healing” amongst other key services such as Reiki, Reflexology and Indian Head Massage. I was stunned to find that I could not access my own website as it was blocked for “religious” content. The message on the screen told me it was classified under “Alternative Spirituality/Belief”, and access was categorically blocked.”

Worried? Sign these three petitions, and I’ll explain.

This is not a government crackdown on us spiritual types! It is much more like a cockup, but one that may get worse if people like you and I don’t get the word out.

Here is what has happened:

1. For whatever reason, we don’t know why (some say it’s a law in France, some that it’s simply conservatives, some that it’s leftover scareys from the satanic panic of the 80s, etc.) internet filtering has for years been able to pick up alternative spirituality and filter it out.

2. So far the actual filtering has been done by ISPs and phone networks. This has affected public surfing eg. libraries and internet cafés, but very importantly, the orange phone network already has it too.

3. The key is that it works by opt out, that is, by default sites are being filtered, and you have to specify that you don’t want them filtered. Sometimes this is easy to specify (eg. when setting up internet at home) but with Orange you actually have to write to them to get that opt-out, otherwise you have no esoteric websites.

5. Cameron has come in and said that this opt-out filtering should be a requirement for all ISPs — to catch porn and terrorists etc. — and spirituality might accidentally get hooked up in that without anyone having seen it happening. This is not law, nor has a law been proposed. It looks like the ISPs are being asked to comply voluntarily. Cameron might go for a law if it doesn’t happen, but at the moment my opinion is that the government has no idea alternative spirituality is a standard opt-out filter.

So: Contact your ISP and ask them what their policies are on opt-out filters. State you don’t want spirituality to be filtered by default and will move to a different ISP if it is.

Nothing spiritual should be filtered from browsers and phones by default. (Some people want to voluntarily block sites with alt spirituality, but it should not be a default setting!)

If you are British, contact your MP! I don’t think parliament is aware this is happening.

At present I’m trying to find out what providers filter what stuff, but I think the only phone filterer of the esoteric is Orange.

The following is the letter sent to my MP via Write to Them but don’t copy and paste, or yours won’t be sent!


I’m writing about recent government proposals on web filtering for
Internet Service Providers. This “opt-out” filtering is intended to
catch pornographic and terrorist websites but I think parliament is
unaware that some ISPs are already filtering spirituality websites as
well. I haven’t been able to discover a reason — one theory is that it
is in response to a French law which doesn’t apply here. In any case,
sites in the category “alternative spirituality”, “alternative
religion”, “esoteric information” and so on have been routinely
filtered on an opt-out basis by some net providers for years now. There
is no reason for doing this as a standard opt-out service, and the new
government filtering initiative is a perfect opportunity to stop it

Probably the most important mobile network doing this is Orange. The
problem has also been seen happening in libraries, internet cafés,
McDonalds and Caffé Nero. Because the default filtering is opt-out in
nature, these establishments probably don’t even know they are doing
it. To opt out of the filtering on Orange apparently requires
contacting them — users who don’t know this may be experiencing large
swathes of the internet as unobtainable from Orange phones.

At least a million people use spirituality services every week in the
UK (meditation groups for example) and the research indicates they are
positive for emotional and physical health. Yet at some point, someone
has begun filtering for them as if they were in the same category as
websites encouraging terrorism or adolescent suicide! Whatever the
reason for this when it began, it has become truly ridiculous — there
are places in the UK where you cannot simply google for a yoga teacher.
Web traffic to legitimate and healthy businesses is suffering.

The concern now is that the government may recommend *all* ISPs provide
these kinds of default settings. If so, there is a good chance that
this kind of thing will become standard practice without ever having
been intended to affect spirituality. If indeed the government wants to
recommend opt-out filtering, spirituality should not be recommended as
a default setting. Protecting people from unwanted hardcore pornography
by default is one thing, but filtering healthy spirituality by default
is quite another.

Many thanks for reading.

Yours sincerely,

Couple of notes

First an important one: the posts of yesterday were not laying out “my way”, nor “Glenn’s way” come to that! They were just clearing space as against those who say all ways and goals are the same — which is what Jorge Ferrer is really doing too I think. (Please note in particular that I have no real personal interest in so-called “integral” approaches, no matter whose.)

I know I haven’t really got across this aspect of it, but Glenn’s way absolutely is shamanic, visionary, initiatory, mystery-school-like, mythological, frankly polytheistic and openly supernatural. There are ways to talk about that and maybe I’ll find them, but it requires a different way of communicating from the one I’ve used until now on this blog I think, and probably some experiment. In my defence, Glenn himself didn’t always talk a great deal about it, and for good reason.

Meanwhile, and kind of on that, the big thing to come out of yesterday seems to have been Andrew Rawlinson’s categories. I do think these are pretty cool, and make the exoteric jaunt worth it. They were laid out in Leon Schlamm’s paper:

Ken Wilber’s Spectrum Model: Identifying Alternative
Soteriological Perspectives

… which applies them to Wilber but isn’t just about Wilber by any means. And Schlamm got them from Andrew Rawlinson’s book:

The Book of Enlightened Masters: Western Teachers in Eastern Traditions

Once accepting the idea of multiple ways — irreconcilably multiple that is — this is a nice way of mapping the differences. It’s really the first good effort I’ve seen at giving some kind of thumbnail schematic guide to the varieties of paths — ironically, it is another bloody “4 quadrants diagram”:) but what can I do? It’s cool! — so I thought I’d reproduce the basic idea here for your reference.

I think Schlamm is right when he says:

This taxonomy is not only broader than any to date in the literature on mysticism but also far more detailed.

Two axes are used: “cool”{——–}”warm” (latter renamed by me from “hot”), and “structured”{——–}”unstructured”. “Cool” emphasises an ultimate which is fundamentally an aspect of “you”, whilst “warm” emphasises getting in touch with “something else”. “Structured” means there is a definite shape to the path and some kind of set of stages; whilst “unstructured” has the endpoint right in the neighbourhood of the beginning, so you can get there immediately if you can only get over your current perspective.

That gives four basic types of spiritual paths: ”warm structured”, “warm unstructured”, “cool structured”, and “cool unstructured”, each with its particular character. Paths can definitely bridge two or even three quadrants. None of this is “doctrinal” of course — giraffes don’t call themselves ungulates, and I don’t call myself “warm structured”! These are still the thoughts of a taxonomist, a Linnaeus.

But that can be useful! Indeed, poetry and prose can form a binomial nomenclature. And in practice, used loosely and with personal acquaintance with practicalities, my path does look broadly “warm structured”. As was Glenn’s, with some cool undertones. And that is very much the way I like it! Considering how much ground it has to cover, Rawlinson’s description of “warm structured” spirituality works reasonably well. (He seems to overdo stuff about “disturbing ordeals”, “willpower”, “gambling”, “cryptic passwords” etc., but then again, I haven’t read his book yet — apparently it’s a huge directory of Western teachers, so quite a few “ordeals” would indeed be involved I daresay. Some “crazy wisdom” stuff or Crowley etc.)

It is obviously oversimplified, as are all ways of categorising, and Schlamm’s discussion of it brings up some weird falsehoods for me. OTOH there are quite a few definite “hits”. The somatic nature of my kind of tradition is a good one — it always seems to confound other kinds of paths!

You have to read your own knowledge into the chart since I’ve just reproduced it literally. For example, that Rawlinson has put “Taoism”, in its entirety, into the “cool unstructured” quadrant, must be just unfamiliarity with Taoism. This is actually a “warm structured” tradition as it has influenced me, and has been since pretty early in its history. (See the Baopuzi for example.)

But it still all kind of works as a handy compass, or thought-provoker, so here is the summary:

Upper Left: Warm Structured Traditions

1. Summary: The cosmos is vast and inhabited by innumerable powerful beings; liberation consists in finding one’s way through the labyrinth with the appropriate passwords. The teaching is never given all at once, but only when necessary and then only in cryptic form. This is typical of all forms of esotericism.

2. Characteristics: (a) initiatory knowledge (granted by another and may be disturbing); (b) hierarchical; (c) the exercise of will, which allows the practitioner to break through spiritual barriers in an ever-increasing series of leaps; (d) expansion away from a point; (e) Warm magic (necessary and powerful)—the manipulation of the laws of the cosmos in the service of self-transformation.

3. Further details: (a) Ontology: many powers/beings; (b) Cosmology: a vast
labyrinth; (c) Anthropology: man contains all powers (the microcosm/macrocosm homology); (d) Soteriology: the great journey or initiatic adventure; (e) Consciousness: divine and hierarchical; (f ) Spiritual Practice: a series of leaps/initiations—recreating the
cosmic within oneself; (g) Teacher: magician/knows the secret; (h) Spiritual
Transmission: by ordeal; (i) Nature of teaching: cryptic/esoteric; (j) Inner States: access to all levels, all powers; (k) Individual Spiritual Qualities: ecstatic, unpredictable; (l) Social Spiritual Qualities: a whirlwind of projects; (m) Traditional Way of Life: crucible/
means of transformation; (n) Entering the Tradition: by unexpected encounter; (o) Realisation/Liberation: serving the cosmic purpose.

4. Advantages/Disadvantages: there is plenty of help; the entire universe, from the colour of a rose to the celestial music of the archangels, is designed to aid the practitioner on the way (though some thicken the plot by saying that there are counterfeit designs as well); the task, however, is correspondingly awesome; the journey is demanding, even
dangerous–this is not an adventure for the fainthearted.

5. Images: magician/gambler: jump.

6. Examples: Hindu Tantra, Vajrayana, the Siddha tradition, Vedic ritual tradition, Kabbalah, Hermeticism, Alchemy, Shamanism.

Upper Right: Warm Unstructured Traditions

1. Summary: There is a divine power, quite other than oneself, which encloses us and is the source of liberation. There is no teaching—only love and submission.

2. Characteristics: bliss, love, obedience, discipline, wisdom.

3. Further details: (a) Ontology: only God is real (exists) and He is unknowable; <b) Cosmology: the universe is God’s creation/projection and is entirely dependent on him; (c) Anthropology: man is nothing before God; (d) acceptance of God’s will; (e) Consciousness: divine and universal; (f ) Spiritual Practice: submission; (g) Teacher: servant of God/embodiment of God; (h) Spiritual Transmission: a gift; (i) Nature of Teaching: only God; (j) Inner States: remembrance of God; (k) Individual Spiritual Qualities: giving love and responding to the love of others; (l) Social Spiritual Qualities:
serving the divine; (m) Traditional Way of Life: celebration of the divine; (n) Entering the Tradition: just ask for God (or His lovers); (o) Realisation/Liberation: to love and serve God.

4. Advantages/Disadvantages: we are always failing; but the solution to this
failure is simply to ask the divine for assistance; the reason that asking is the solution is that the central truth of Warm Unstructured ‘teachings’ is that love is freely given to all who request it (or, in the warmest version of all, it is given to every being whether it is requested or not).

5. Images: lover, martyr: submit.

6. Examples: bhakti, e.g., Chaitanya, Pure Land Buddhism, Sufism, Christian
mysticism, e.g., St Teresa, St John of the Cross.

Lower Left: Cool Structured Traditions

1. Summary: Liberation is within oneself, but it must be uncovered by disciplined practice.

2. Characteristics: (a) awareness is dispassionate and part of oneself; (b) the path is very restrained, the method is ordered and gentle, the practitioner starts on p. 1 of the manual and works his way through to the end, and everything happens as it should in the fullness of time; (c) all that is required is constant effort; (d) concentration on a point; (e) at a certain point of spiritual development Cool magical powers (optional and peripheral) appear, but they are incidental to the aim of spiritual practice, which is balance and timing.

3. Further details: (a) Ontology: everything has its place, everything comes and goes; (b) Cosmology: a harmonious whole; (c) Anthropology: man is the centre of the universe; (d) Soteriology: clear awareness, non-entanglement; (e) Consciousness: natural and particularised; (f ) Spiritual Practice: graduated and gentle; (g) Teacher: clear discriminator/guide; (h) Spiritual Transmission: learning how to use a map; (i) Nature of Teaching: open, complete, ordered; (j) Inner States: uncluttered insight; (k) Individual
Spiritual Qualities: unpretentious, simple; (l) Social Spiritual Qualities: responding to the needs of beings; (m) Traditional Way of Life: organic, intricate; (n) Entering the tradition: formal, public; (o) Realisation/Liberation: detachment brings freedom.

4. Advantages/Disadvantages: it is very easy to start and there is no disgrace in
being a beginner; progress is slow and gentle, like a flower opening in the sun; the drawback is that it may take a very long time indeed–perhaps eons–to complete the journey and you have to take every step of it yourself.

5. Images: yogi, craftsman: work.

6. Examples: Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, Theravada Buddhism, Zen, early Vedanta [Upanishads], Samkhya, Aurobindo, Plotinus.

Lower Right: Cool Unstructured Traditions

1. Summary: One’s own nature is liberation; everything else is illusion. The teaching is constantly given—the same truth over and over again—but no one understands.

2. Characteristics: being.

3. Further details: (a) Ontology: only the self is real, or reality is empty (sunya); (b) Cosmology: illusion; (c) Anthropology: man is identical with reality; (d) Soteriology: know yourself; (e) Consciousness: natural and universal; (f) Spiritual Practice: just realise; (g) Teacher: embodies truth; (h) Spiritual Transmission: none—truth already exists; (i) Nature of Teaching: there is no teaching; (j) Inner States: oneness; (k) Individual Spiritual Qualities: unrufflable calm; (l) Social Spiritual Qualities: let things be; (m) traditional Way of Life: none; (n) Entering the Tradition: there is no tradition, the Self already exists; (o) Realisation/Liberation: the Self is already complete.

4. Advantages/Disadvantages: the truth is simple, but the drawback is that it is very elusive; hence the practitioner (if that is the right word, since there really cannot be practice on an Unstructured ‘path’) is constantly failing; but that does not matter because truth is ours as of right, so we can always try again in the very next moment; nothing has to be set up—just by being alive, we are on the ‘path’.

5. Images: sage, hermit: let go.

6. Examples: Advaita Vedanta, Ramana Maharshi, Dzogchen, Mahamudra, Zen, Taoism, Madhyamika.

Tao as Universal Unconscious Mind

Leafing through this great Havens book on Milton Erickson I was struck by this:

[W]hile on the Research Service of the Worcester State Hospital he interviewed a catatonic schizophrenic who manifested a variety of bizarre behaviours and beliefs which struck Erickson as familiar. Eventually he was able to relate them to those of several primitive tribes, a discovery which puzzled him greatly because the patient obviously was unfamiliar with the beliefs and rituals of any of these tribes. These and other observations of the spontaneous development of identical patterns of thought and behaviour among separate individuals throughout the world and throughout history led him to conclude that basic human thinking and emotion are very much the same from person to person in spite of individual and regional idiosyncrasies. In other words, he observed that the human mind has an incredibly wide but finite range of potential patterns available to it and that everyone has the capacity to function within any one of those patterns.

The particular patterns that any given individual adopts or manifests, he realized, are a result of limitations imposed upon this original pool of potentials by culture and by the individual’s unique experiential history.

This is just so it. Humanity is bounded but infinite — but cultural humanity is far more bounded. The schizophrenic was tapping into the underlying pool — who knows exactly how. But (as with Jung) the behaviour tipped Erickson off to the unlimited nature of human cognition free of the social. The need to have the social be “everything” is quite strong, but partly thanks to a weird childhood in which recovery from polio played a major role, and partly to his great natural oddness, Erickson never had that need and brought a very objective eye to human beings.

That eye is the eye of the unconscious itself. Havens:

Erickson’s fundamental orientation towards life, perhaps the central theme of his work, was that people must learn to recognize, to accept, and to utilize, what actually is in order to meet their needs, accomplish their goals, and satisfy their purposes. Rather than lamenting, distorting, or denying the unpleasant facts of life or fantasizing about an easier, more ideal reality, Erickson proposed that people must experience and acknowledge the realities of their situation and apply whatever capacities they have in order to cope as effectively or purposefully as possible with those realities.

That may seem obvious — it’s the classic wisdom and never outdated — but the point is that “we” are not merely what “we” think ourselves to be. Your consciousness begins your physical life far less local to your body. Much of the most interesting stuff in your mind is stuff you never really look at after you become localised. Hooking into the body you start to leave the non-bodily behind — and then you hook into a cultured body, and get caught in language. But just reach behind and unhook those, and you have things you had no “conscious” idea about, mental aspects that already understand life in a less biased way than you do, so you can lean on them. As Havens says:

His most general observation was that people have both a conscious mode of functioning and an unconscious mode of functioning. The conscious mind represents a prejudiced and limited perspective on reality which can result in various distortions and behavioral anomalies. The unconscious mind, on the other hand, is a flexible system of thought and awareness which perceives and responds to the literal or objective qualities of reality. It is relatively unprejudiced, is very intelligent, and contains a vast reservoir of previously acquired, experientially based knowledge and memories.

The relation of this to “spirituality” is for example: just think of everything as having an unconscious mind. You can learn to tap into it by these and all sorts of methods. In an STE you become conscious of it, including as a whole — hence “cosmic consciousness”.

Holotropic Spontaneity and Carl Rogers XIII

In us humans the joy of being in nature brings us energy that enables seeing “into the heart of things” as Wordsworth says... "Three Worlds" by M.C. Escher, CLICK FOR LARGER VERSION

In us humans the joy of being in nature brings us energy that enables seeing “into the heart of things” as Wordsworth says… “Three Worlds” by M.C. Escher, CLICK FOR LARGER VERSION

Artistic expression can be very useful if worked as a personal therapy. A feeling of having understood experiences and feelings, of having re-understood or recontextualised them in a form that makes them compost, even of having been understood, follows naturally with spontaneous creativity, and engages non-social parts of the self. You never know, you may reveal beauty as well. Gradually one can move towards the inexpressible. A possible book is this, for example, but instructions are perhaps not necessary — just keep Rogerian principles in mind and see what comes. Doing this occasionally for a change, rather than regularly, is very good too. Professional artists may find it pays to jettison professionalism.

Kundalini is to me associated with nature itself, the creative movement of the Tao, moving us beyond appearances... "Peace" by Patrick Woodroffe, CLICK TO GO TO HIS PAGE

Kundalini is to me associated with nature itself, the creative movement of the Tao, moving us beyond appearances… “Peace” by Patrick Woodroffe, CLICK TO GO TO HIS PAGE

— Rogers’ approach comes very much into its own when working with subpersonalities. To discover parts that seem to be “not exactly oneself” is natural when one considers shatteredness. The trick in understanding them is often to realise how used to them you already are on a subliminal level, and bring that long-established relationship up to conscious listening, which will refresh it. Simply being with a part in a Rogerian way, truly understanding its point of view and resonating with it, is often what is really necessary for harmony. It may spontaneously transmute or join a whole that is deepening in meditation — a process described in Assagioli’s work by the way. One useful book derived from his methods is Firman & Gila’s Psychosynthesis. (2002)

Thus I’ve realised My own attraction to some kinds of artistic image comes from how they show nature as leading beyond its own surface to a profound heart... Leaf wrapped in red petals by Andy Goldsworthy CLICK FOR LARGER VERSION

Thus I’ve realised My own attraction to some kinds of artistic image comes from how they show nature as leading beyond its own surface to a profound heart… Leaf wrapped in red petals by Andy Goldsworthy CLICK FOR LARGER VERSION

— Actually, anything can be brought into this process. Stuff you are naturally good at or which seems linked to your Campbellian “bliss” can play into healing. Bad feelings and depression can be tremendously transformative when you know how to let go of the masks they are challenging. Even rather non-“blissful” boring/repetitive tasks can sometimes help with processing. It can be useful as well to have any artistic or other objects around in the meditation space that give you the right mood or bring you to what is important as you see it. Anything that reminds you of what is beautiful and important to you. Aim high. (What you contemplate, you imitate).

I’ll come back to art and culture in spirituality for upcoming series.


Carl Rogers

Carl Rogers

So, with apologies for the delay, to the excellent Carl Rogers. I will cover him from the SBNR angle, opening up his ideas for anyone’s personal use. (This is a propos of the ‘summaries’ I promised of useful psych for transpersonal purposes.)

In practical terms Rogers is one of the most important important modern sources for self development. To sketch in his ideas really doesn’t take long. He was not a transpersonal psychologist but at every stage I’ll show the direct relevance of his stuff to transpersonal goals and ways, and he will be a major support for a lot of transcendent concepts to come. His work becomes a useful touchstone on issues like natural spontaneity and developing meaningfulness, especially in an initial practice where peace and stability are the watchwords. Anyone meditating and/or doing chi kung, wanting to increase harmony and meaning to prepare for Kundalini, should find this series gives supportive ideas and ways. It will also surreptitiously set up ideas that later prove lot bigger and more important.

Writing on Maslow and other psychologists before, I tended to blend them with other things exercising me. This Rogers series will definitely situate him within subjects I always cover, but will focus directly on his own thinking, with many verbatim quotes. Series after this may not focus directly on psychology for a while as I move to being more of a wissenskünstler, but it will all tie in.

The format is short posts again, at an interval of four days. Hope you enjoy it, thanks for reading!

Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – XXII

Academics — Do they mean us??

This is just an afterword to the series now.

In researching I perceived a before-and-after effect when I’d grasped some of the history of SBNR. It’s a damn interesting history, especially if you have a good teller. Nevill Drury is great, an SBNR himself, with many books to his name on subjects like shamanism and sound healing. Also an MA in anthropology who has written good history books on the New Age, which is close enough to be very useful. Here’s a very watchable video of his lecture outlining the basics of his history:

The New Age Movement – Swedenborg Centre, Sydney

… and illustrating that all-important many-stranded nature of SBNR. If you want more I do recommend his book:

The New Age

… which you can get for a penny now as you can see. Drury covers Swedenborg, Mesmer, Theosophy, William James, the psychoanalysts including Jung, Maslow and Perls, psychedelia including Watts and Leary, Grof, acupuncture and other alternative medicine, Krishnamurti, Joseph Campbell, Castaneda and neoshamanism, quantum mysticism and many other things we need to know, from a very readable popular standpoint, quite reliable and with good illos. Knowing this gets you into play on the multi-levelled, multimythic nature of SBNR.

In researching this series partly I thought my duty should be to read some academic sociologists. If you want to do the same, note that anyone can peruse The Journal of Alternative Spiritualities and New Age Studies (JASANAS), a project of the Open University which has put its 5 issues up online for free consultation. That’s a genuinely impressive academic publication with a lot of useful facts and some interesting theories if you want them. Academicese is often in full effect.

Of the in-print professors, if you must, the one who to my mind is most in tune with aspects of SBNR thought is Christopher Partridge:

The Re-Enchantment of the West: Volume 1: Understanding Popular Occulture
The Re-Enchantment of the West, Vol II: Alternative Spiritualities, Sacralization, Popular Culture and Occulture

This is a guy who takes SBNR seriously as thought as well as culture. He knows about pop-cultural aspects too.

Paul Heelas is the other known UK academic defender of SBNR:

The Spiritual Revolution: Why Religion Is Giving Way to Spirituality Heelas and Woodhead
Spiritualities of Life: New Age Romanticism and Consumptive Capitalism

The first volume, co-written with Linda Woodhead, is a good research effort on SBNR in the UK. The second answers the occasional need for a “defence of SBNR” against Christopher Lasch or similar tomfoolery — Partridge and this volume of Heelas together will certainly do the job. Heelas mentions Durkheim a lot, which is apparently what some folks want, and I think most readers will find his arguments cogent. But he doesn’t cover the thinking of SBNRs themselves very well — they are mostly assumed to be quite mute creatures.

This book tackles the US:

Spiritual, but not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America

… well if a little briefly. Again, good basic historical perspective.

On the other hand I’d also recommend something with a truly SBNR perspective and some real imagination. William Irwin Thompson’s five-line dismissal of Lasch in:

Reimagination of the World: Critique of the New Age, Science and Popular Culture, Spangler and Thompson

… is probably sufficient in itself unto that task.:) This is a real book by real thinking SBNRs (Thompson’s a professor too don’t forget, and his friend David Spangler is no slouch either) about SBNR, science, all sorts of things — including critiques. I probably disagree with half of it, but these are the kinds of thoughts I wish more SBNRs were able to have. Shows how you can be historically imaginative rather than defaulting to commonplaces. The book is transcripts of spontaneous talks and conversations which gives it a naturalness I find useful.

After writing this series I discovered a four-part Thompson online series on the same subject called “THINKING OTHERWISE – From Religion to Post-Religious Spirituality”, but you’ll have to google it as the site seems down right this sec.

Finally, also from the SBNR camp itself I should mention Robert Forman’s Grassroots Spirituality:

Grassroots Spirituality: What it is, Why it is Here, Where it is Going

… which was a wider concept and an attempt at “gathering the tribes” for democratic purposes. I’m not sure how well he pulled it off — he wanted to do it by harmonising belief systems into more singular linguistic statements, eeeeesh — and he casts the net a little wide for my liking.

But he’s pushing ahead with it as you see from his “Forge Institute”



That’s the end of this series — hope it was interesting, and thanks for reading!

If anyone has any questions jogged by it, don’t hesitate to comment.

This series hasn’t included anything “inner”. We’ll now be moving on from exoteric history and the next series of this kind will be completely different and much deeper, to get to the juicy stuff — what SBNR is really about, believes, and so on. Looking at the history really helped me understand all that, but next we’ll need to combine it with other stuff such as the nature of spiritual progress and “enlightenment” etc. That stuff will probably be much more sustainedly intense than anything I’ve yet posted on the ‘Box.

The next series will be about Carl Rogers and psychology, which will also set up themes for what follows.

Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – XXI

Odds and Ends

We truly are talking about a worldwide phenomenon here. Transcendental Meditation was brought to South Korea by American soldiers stationed there — it joined the already extant local qigongs. Academics have suggested that Israeli New Age practices are sufficiently local to merit the term “Jew Age”. The former President of the Republic of Slovenia, Dr Janez Drnovšek, became a well-known SBNR author.

Knowing this, it’s interesting to consider these two anecdotes from a doyen of religious studies:

A few years ago I was having breakfast in a hotel in Austin, Texas. At the next table sat two middle-aged men in business suits, both reading newspapers. One looked up and said: “The situation is really heating up in the Middle East.” He paused, then continued: “Just as the Bible said it would.” The other man said: “Hmm” and went on reading his newspaper. The statement about the Middle East was delivered in the same matter-of-fact tone that someone in, say, Boston might say: “Just as Thomas Friedman predicted.”

Not long after this I was in a London hotel on a Sunday morning. I thought that it would be nice to attend an Anglican matins service. I went to the concierge, a young man whose name tag said “Warren” and who spoke with an unmistakable English working-class accent — clearly not an intern from Pakistan.

I asked him where the nearest Anglican Church was, and for some reason added “Church of England parish.” He looked at me with a blank look, then said: “Is this, sort of, like Catholic?” I said: “Well, not quite”. He said that he did not know, but would look it up. The information that he subsequently gave me turned out to be wrong.

What impressed me, while he was rummaging in his computer, was not that this young Englishman evidently did not go to church. That is now commonplace in English society. What was more impressive was that he genuinely did not know what the Church of England was.

— Peter Berger in Religious America, Secular Europe? (2008)

It’s a great vision of the divergence of the two continents… but it implies this very false simplicity: secular or religious. The fact that both the continents in question are seeing a roughly equal increase in SBNR ought to register but doesn’t. Obviously that’s the nature of a book with such a title, but I can tell you that Peter Berger, whilst he totally understands modern societies are inherently pluralist, thinks that SBNR is just a fairly fluffy and insignificant bricolage of inner children seeking a toy harmony with the cosmos. Yes, even though SBNR is in fact the natural spiritual expression of that democratic pluralism, as we’ve seen. That seems confounding to you and I but it’s quite normal in some areas of academia. (But not all!)

The latest UK census data arrived whilst I wrote this series, and 14.1 million people (around 23%) chose to state they had no religion. The number of atheists, at a minuscule 29,267, is far, far less than 0.01% even of this number. Academics like Heelas and Woodhead (1994) have been saying for years that the slack of religionlessness has not been taken up by atheism and they are definitely right. The number of pagans is barely double the atheist figure (56,620), a very tiny presence, itself easily outnumbered by adherents of Jediism in fact (176,632), whose force is however fading now. (Will Disney revive it?)

Heelas/Woodhead estimated the number of people regularly (weekly) attending SBNR classes, healings, workshops etc. at 900,000. My bet is, this figure has increased to hit the 1.5 million mark by now at the very least. But it doesn’t include people like me, who only attend such things occasionally, mostly meditating alone or in private groups. It might not even be counting the same people each week. The actual numbers are probably far higher.

SBNR is real, and it’s here. But as I mentioned before, it remains invisible to many academics, because of their prior engagement with worldviews that cannot acknowledge its existence.

Familiar? :)