Posts Tagged ‘New spirituality’


“For the times they are repeatin'”

I was recently asked:”How do you see things changing?”. I had had a few cool beers and a few warm sakes at that time and replied “Not a lot!”. But it set off a camel train of slow, plodding thought that traversed a wide desert of speculation. One can be optimistic. One can be pessimistic. One can be ‘realistic’ or one can be ‘idealistic’. It is all, equally, speculation, but some instances are worth considering, some tracks worth following…..

What significant changes have there been?
Firstly, length of life in many parts of the world has hugely increased, as has the reduction of physical pain. There are more people alive at this moment than the total of all those who have ever lived before – a logistical nightmare if the ladder of reincarnation is considered ( does anyone remain in the Land of the Dead? Or is there just a sign forlornly posted saying: “Gone to Birth, Back Later”?). Has humanity changed? Have we evolved? It may look as if we have, but if we look beyond the veil of ubiquitous technology, if we can look into the places in the world less touched by that flow of busy electrons, life goes on much the same as before – no better, no worse. In the technological world our lives are greatly supported, normalised, equalised by technology. It seems advanced, evolved. In those areas we can see the largest apparent change: the amount of information available to the individual. This does not equate with knowledge or education, though it may superficially resemble a greater degree of education.
All this technology and information has, so far, not seemed to initiate any evolutionary benefit to humanity. Indeed, take away technological crutches and the civilised inhabitants of the planet are even less able to cope with survival than the electronically dispossessed of the past or the present……

What is worrying about humanity ( the civilised, technological society, at least), is the direction of its collective dreams. These dreams do not seem to represent the aspirations and optimistic hopes for the future. Projections into the future are expressed in creative storytelling ( not in scientific projections of new discoveries). Contemporary storytelling dreams and themes are full of projections of termination, breakdown, dissolution. The archetypes of destruction are repeated endlessly. There seems to be little interest, little real dramatic ‘meat’ in a peaceful, enlightened, joyous future. “Heaven, (as the song says), heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens”. If a positive future is vaguely hoped for, but impossible to imagine, how can it be worked towards? We know very well the inventive scenarios by which the world may end, though in fact its real demise is just as likely to be the result of something altogether more undramatic and inconspicuous…….

With all our increased length of years is there any evidence that we are making the best use of this extra time? It really doesn’t look that way. Despite the proclaimed benefits of future technology, of mechanisation, of the end of drudgery for the general population, the dreams of the ‘fifties and ‘sixties have been shown in the cold light of day simply to be effective ways for big business to dispense with a costly human workforce. As far as increased leisure time: for some that may be a reality, but for many, the hardships of labour have been replaced by an absence of meaningful activity and sense of purpose, made worse by an education system that continually fails to allow human potential to flourish. We find instead personal creativity and exploration has been replaced with a mass, trance inducing, hypnotic visual drug that suffuses every home with a flickering simulacrum of knowledge about the ‘real world’……

When a nation cannot grow its own food, when its children cannot identify common vegetables, when practical ‘manual’ skills are treated with less value than the intellectual sophistry of the ‘professional’, when each year education is reduced to a scrabbling for test results in order to secure funding for schools, when popular media pander to the lowest common denominator of prejudice and narrow-mindedness ( whilst carefully presenting a ‘balanced viewpoint’), little wonder the glamour of vampires and alien invasion seems a good option…….

There is a feeling amongst those who are inspired by metaphysical and spiritual concepts that this is a ‘time of transition’. That we are finding, or needing, or approaching a “new spirituality”, and that somehow simply a progression of calendrical time will initiate a dynamic and transformational change in humanity.
Firstly, I should like to suggest that wishful thinking is not equivalent to spirituality. Hoping for the best is not a good way to accomplish lasting change, ( though it has life-supporting benefits that despair certainly does not possess). There seems to be little ‘new’ in the ‘new spirituality’. It is generally a reworking and revisioning of ‘old’ spiritual concepts, often in an ‘easy-to-do’ format. It is important to distinguish a ‘spiritual world-view’ from ‘spiritual practice’. It is much easier to find proponents of the former than the latter. A spiritual world-view is a cosmological map, a story that defines, explains and shapes how we fit into existence. It shapes how information is processed, how education is structured, how morals are formed. Spiritual worldviews are approximate pictures of the prevailing metaphysical beliefs in a society. Those interested in such things today are still a relatively small section of an increasingly scientised, secular society who often regard them as intellectual Luddites running away from ‘objective reality’.
Of those interested in spiritual matters, spiritual expectations, spiritual world-views, how many are regular spiritual practitioners? How many, that is, actually take time to modify their lives and practice to change how their mind, body, perceptions work? There seems to be a common misconception that someone interested in “spirituality” is therefore a “spiritual person”, though we do not make the same error in logic by believing that a person who is a football fan is therefore a skilled or professional footballer!…..

So one thing I would like to suggest is that we do not need a ‘new spirituality’ as we have yet to exhaust, or even fully investigate, the potential of all the ‘old’ spiritualities.
We will not benefit from a spiritual consumerism that rushes after each new exciting craze and every exuberant promise of effortless enlightenment. Effective spiritual practices do not rely upon only a set of beliefs or a certain view of reality. Effective spiritual practice is always going to be locked into a modification of the functions of the mind. They use methods that expand and elucidate, and by the experiences they create, they change our perceptions of reality. Never confuse ‘mind’ with ‘conscious awareness’ or ‘thinking mind’. Effective techniques are those that reveal the limitations of ‘rational thought’, exposing it as simply a storytelling, dream process. What ‘mind’ is, is difficult to define using the limited viewpoint available to our everyday way of thought. But to use an analogy: we are habituated to camping out in the porch of a great stately mansion, unwilling or unable to explore beyond our narrow confines to the vast halls, storeys, cellars, attics, that are our birthright and waiting for us to inhabit them……( or to discover their inhabitants)….

There is an expectation, an unconscious urge, for a sudden shift of consciousness, a leap, a transformation. Such expectations have always existed. The end of the world is always happening somewhere, in some belief system. It is either seen as the end of one age and the beginning of another, as as the end of the world itself. Psychologically, this seems to be a profound case of cop-out. It is the desire for everything to be suddenly all right, for everything to be ‘made better’, for the destruction and eradication of everything ‘bad’, the vindication of the ‘good’ ( with the understanding that the believer will be one of the survivors, not of the destroyed). We do not have to do anything, the good will survive whatever is happening. It is all rather neurotic, immature and pretty unrealistic. “If I am good, nothing bad can happen to me, I will be rewarded for my patience, my fortitude, my beliefs, my goodness.” This hope flies in the face of everyday experience. We see all the time that the unworthy attain great honours, the luck of the draw unerringly charging towards the lazy and the negligent. So this view of salvation is an attempt to self-validate by the ego, and has more to do with narrow vision than with spiritual vision…….( but you just see! This will all change when the time comes. What has been will fade away in the glory of……)

Any ‘quantum shift’ is likely to occur because of numbers of nervous systems or numbers of information links, possibly numbers of coherent minds ( though this seems unlikely – in most places the number of effective practitioners of meditative techniques is lamentably small, and, even at one per cent of population, would be unlikely to create the coherence storm necessary to ‘phase shift’ the whole planet). Inertia rules the world of man. Habit patterns dictate the retention of false equilibria, of redundant mechanisms…….

Perhaps the single most invidious and difficult concept that fuels much of our unconscious paranoia and frantic acquisitiveness is “evolution”.
The popular, ingrained abstraction from Darwin’s theory was already present within 19th century Victorian social models. Basically stated it is: ‘progress or die out’. Continually improve, continually grow, continually expand horizons or wither away, become anachronisms, go the way of the dinosaurs. Obsession with linear time and the idea of progress is our biggest neurosis, for with it comes the fear of failure, fear of falling short, fear of death, fear of oblivion, fear of being cast out of heaven, fear of not achieving our potential. Ironically it was not Darwin’s main concept that the strongest or fittest survived the evolutionary battle, but the most adaptable. Ironic too, that perhaps the organism or entity that most resembles or manifests our headlong cry for more, bigger, better, is none other than the elephant in the room – the florescent, seemingly unavoidable curse of cancer. Cancer is, perhaps, simply an obedient expression of our current yearning for non-death: cells that have forgotten how to die, how to behave in a dignified manner, instead holding on and accumulating for themselves, despite the catastrophic effect on the whole entity….

My direction and impetus of thought stuttered and lost energy when I saw a very coherent (though quite flashy), film on the conspiracy theory of control and world power. I had stopped looking at this sort of material a while ago – it so colours and flavours things with its insistence on malevolent deceit that it becomes hard to see beyond its own doom scenarios. But really the minority elite, who think they know best and have the means to cajole, kill or control all by their largesse and arrogant self-righteousness, have always been with us. They too, are a manifestation of cancer, of the endless desire to take charge, to move on, to survive at all costs, to evolve, to enter the gates of heaven, to become illuminated, to be saved, to escape, to be worthy, to scrabble to the top, to succeed.

Having lost our sense of deep history, we have lost the humour within the situation.
Time is cyclical, not linear. “Progress”is a great circle that only looks like a line forward because it is so vast. The few voices of the wise that have not vanished whispering or shrugging helplessly into the ether for good, tend to say the same things, and it is not to do with achieving, or trying, or getting somewhere else or somewhere better ( this tends to happen later with the commentators who ‘clarify’ the original words). What they say is: relax, cleanse, purify, see things more clearly.
There is nowhere to go – unless you want to find yourself back where you started. The wheel of Life is just that. The wheel of the Law, the wheel of Karma. If you are on it, it does not matter if you are at the top or the bottom – that will inevitably change. We run after an illusory future and trash what we have. We impose limitations where there are none. We assume a linearity, logic and objectivity where none ( or only an unfathomable one), exists. We do not need to improve life, just experience it as it is. We cannot avoid suffering by ingenuity, only by understanding. Science has reduced pain but not changed suffering. It can increase comfort but not create any more joy. Science simply shifts the focus of our suffering to somewhere else. Extermination of suffering, extermination of viruses, extermination of enemies, extermination of beliefs, will get us nowhere but deeper into the illusion of ‘better’. Before we decide to go somewhere else, we really need to fully feel where we are now. When we know that profoundly, the primrose path dissappears, the striving becomes ludicrous….

So, no, I see not much changing. It will be the same old surprises, the same old stories, the same old excuses. Until we value clarity of perception, and beauty and kindness and music, and know that what we have already is enough to share, nothing significant will change. Even extinction would not be new (survivors always over-emphasise their skill over pure, blind luck)….

The path to Illumination is a trick of the light.
Illumination can be found within everything at anytime. It is not necessary to be clever, to be good, to be righteous, to be spiritual, to be labelled as virtuous.

We are simply the dust that sings, and we must dance to be glorious – that is all.

For a moment we may seem to take a form and a coherence, to become important or significant, but that is not our nature, nor our purpose. There can be no transformation of essence, and the dream of form is illusory but real…….


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