Saturday, January 10, 2015

New Year, New Thought Rejected

New year, new beginning, right?  To some degree, yes.

Trouble is, there's no new beginning on an ancient issue: religion.  And to that, I have only to say that there's a lot more to be said on such issues.

So, 2015, for me, will yield more commentary on religion and the counter-points surrounding it.

Let's get started then, shall we?

I used to be a Christian.  Used to be an ordained minister to a small Lutheran community, too.  Studied theology, philosophy, history, and a little bit of counseling.  I'm not the world's smartest person.  My head's not full of mud, either.

So, in that respect, I think I have a few relevant things to say about religion -- in particular, Christianity -- and the philosophical ideals that give them a voice.

In recent years, I've been exposed to a spate of odd, interesting, semi-convincing, but largely unreal ideas about reality.  I say unreal because, after attempting to adopt them, experimenting with them, and pushing myself to take up a beginner's mind (an open mind as free from pre-formed conclusions as possible; a child-like willingness to learn), I haven't been convinced by them, and I've seen them provide key ingredients for damaging some of my most cherished relationships.

But this is par for the course when it comes to religious ideologies, isn't it?  So if someone you love takes-up some notions that directly influence the atmosphere of your relationships, what are you to do?  In my case, I attempted to see through that person's eyes what that person was seeing.  I'm not all-knowing, and I know that.  So perhaps there were things missing from my view that these soft-core religious notions were plugging in?  Worth looking into if I consider myself a man of dignity, which I do.

Here are some of the ideologies I've empathized with but come out discarding over the past few years:
  1. Taoism.  Nothing inherently wrong or distressing about this philosophical approach.  In fact, of all the influences I've entertained recently, I have the most respect for Taoism.  Essentially, Taoism is a long-standing Chinese philosophy that encourages its adherents to live in harmony with the "way" or "path" (Tao/Dao), which is to say, to live in harmony with all that is, and with whatever force it is that sustains all that is.

    So why would I reject such a philosophy?  Well, in truth, I have not rejected it or discarded it so much as found it redundant.  Who doesn't want to live in harmony?  We all do: Christians, Muslims, atheists, Taoists, Buddhists, FSMists and Jedis, too.  I'm no different.  What is different, however, is that aligning with a faction or ideology in order to give weight to a subjective desire is better left at that spot, and really doesn't help anyone when it is advertised as the "right way."

    While I can respect Taoism's emphasis on pure acceptance of what is, I'm just not compelled to take anything more from it than that.  And I had already arrived at that conclusion without the emphasis of Taoism a good number of years ago.  So tossing the label of Taoism onto my life-intentions and directions, to me, is entirely redundant.

  2. Deidaism.  Not an official term, honestly.  I put it together for the purpose of this article, and to describe in short the teachings of David Deida.  Mr. Deida mixes teachings on sexuality and spirituality.  His primary spiritual influences are Taoism, and Tantra.  Fairly benign teachings, overall, and what could be more fun than attempting to experience contact with those teachings through sexuality?  Seems like a pretty decent prescription.  And, overall, it is.

    But there's a problem laced throughout his writings that make a tapestry of connotation and fluff.  Basically, Deida decidedly emphasizes masculine/feminine duality.  That is, there is a certain energetic pull inherent in the make-up of men and women.  And depending on where they exist along the spectrum of masculinity and femininity, the greater the energetic attraction.  As if human beings are a Jackon Pollock painting of atoms, each with their place on the periodic table of 'energy,' and then randomly scattered throughout the population.

    So, the hearty mechanic may be the ultra-masculine force for maleness, and the quaint and demur woman represents the silent vixen dressed in a damsel-in-distress get-up (or visa versa).  Their place at opposite ends of the spectrum (Mechanic <-----------------------Middle--------------------->Damsel) makes for the most natural attraction, and the force that drives them toward each other is almost irresistibly compelling. BUT... Gay mechanics couple.  So do lesbian damsels.  It may be that Deida missed something in his theorizing.  For example, reality.

    It's not uncommon though, when someone holds an ideal for human life above the messiness of reality, that the rest of their life starts to unravel, take strange turns, and relationships start to experience distress, and sometimes break.  Idealism is never the foundation for integrity.  So saying, Deidaism may be good for a peek into some helpful psychological differences between men and women, but taken as an ideal for living, in my opinion, it is highly destructive to people who could otherwise work things out between each other with a decent counselor.

  3. Eckhart Tolle(ism).  Simply put, Tolle writes after the fashion of mystics while straining at German Romantic Idealism, and adding to the salad a hefty dose of Taoism.

    His purpose is benign.  His message is to rid yourself of ego, and be the observer behind your conscience.  Problem is, that takes conscious deliberation; whatever you're observing you're also conscious of, especially when purposing yourself to be an observer behind your consciousness.  So Tolle's message is self-defeating.  It is good for an emotional massage, however.  Very comforting to have reinforced that it's okay to let go of things that don't serve you.

  4. The Law of Attraction.  The roots of this emotionally driven philosophy go back as far as 1891 with a gentleman named Prentice Mulford.  Quite basically, proponents of this notion suggest "like attracts like" because we are beings of pure energy.  So when you put out an abundance of a certain kind of energy, you attract that same energy back to you.  It's the East Indian spiritual idea of karma with quasi-scientific baffle-gabbing as the cherry on top.

    Recent proponents include Esther and Jerry Hicks (RIP) who travel around the world on privately owned planes, cruise-liners, and multi-million dollar house buses.  Their message?  The same: like attracts like, so if you want money, you have to assume and feel that you are your abundance, that you are not without, that you are everything, and that all of what is is geared to your well-being.  By placing yourself into that fantasy mindset, all of what you want (money, relationships, etc.) will simply come to you because those things will naturally be attracted to your desire for them.  And every desire comes with the imprint of its fulfillment, right?

    It's quite a popular movement in the Americas, and is basically the secular equivalent of Christian prosperity theology.  But just like many of the theosophical and New Thought movements, they are a self-selecting group of people who hold to non-falsifiable ideas wrapped in quantum mysticism, and layered over in endless anecdotes of confirmation biases

    Generally, the people who head these kinds of movements are skilled, informal psychologists that understand how to play to the deepest needs and desires of their audience.  They inevitably end up being treated as gurus (even if they reject the status), and string people along into believing that the reason why people don't have what they want is because their consciousness is vibrating at a lower frequency, and that if they would learn to vibrate at a higher frequency, they would be more in-tune with the thrums and loving overtures of the universe.  Such transcendence of conscience would manifest in greater emanations of desires being fulfilled and, thus, the universe has you swaddled and coddled and in place to receive riches beyond measure.

    Meanwhile, like Christians who thank God for intervening and saving the lives of loved ones (when in reality it was the hard work of surgeons and other medical personnel, not to mention specific constitutional issues of the patient), these New Thought proponents and LOAers disregard the fact that the good things that have come into their lives is as a result of purposeful action on their part.  The universe hasn't been handing out new cars like McDonald's does a hamburger at a drive-through.  These same LOAers rely on the same societal mechanisms that most everyone else does to achieve their successes (e.g., loans, working, gifts of money, etc.) but falsely attribute their riches to a conscious and benevolent universe.

    It's Christianity without El or Yahweh, or Jesus.  Higher consciousness is directly equivalent to the Christian notion of sanctification.  The death of the ego is directly equivalent to the crucifixion of Christ.  Coming into a higher frequency, a stronger emanation of vibrational energy is proportional to the resurrection.  And ALL of it is purely subjective and anecdotal -- which is the same problem Christianity runs into when attempting to prove it's own claims.

    That said, I do have to wonder then, why people who follow such obfuscations of sensibility like The Law of Attraction, can at once reject established religious mythologies (e.g., Christianity) while embracing their secular equivalent whole-hog?  Nothing has changed!  It's the same damned message but with different people.  Except, in this case, the New Thought adherents raise themselves, individually, to the status of a Christ, rather than concluding on an historical Christ-figure.

    So, yes: I reject the notions listed above because of their self-selecting, contradictory, non-falsifiable, and unapologetically confirmation biased notions.  Personal experiences amount to nothing more than personal experiences, and are not proof of anything but personal experience.  Taking personal experience any further than that equates to egocentrism, which is not a valid premise for whether or not something is true.

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