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It’s been my experience that culturally and spiritually we live in deeply impoverished dark times.
As a result modern spiritual practice is largely impotent, empty and superstitious.
For example the following things are commonly sold and believed to be signs and symptoms of spiritual growth/experience:
Feeling good/blissed out.
Being physically flexible.
Eating a certain diet.
Obviously each of things are great things to experience but they literally have nothing to do with spirituality or spiritual growth—they simply are what they are.
Believing that such things as examples of high progress reveals quite a lot about the depth of understanding and experience of the person or the paradigm. How deeply impoverished might we actually be if physical flexibility and being nice is the paragon of spirituality?
On that same token if we took that vast majority of self-help, new age and spiritual books and distilled them down to the what they’re actually saying and why people are buying them, it would look like this:
It’s going to be okay.
You can do it.
You deserve it.
They’re wrong, you’re right.
This is great advice and we all want to hear it when things get tough.
We also might want to take an objective look and ask, if that is the majority of a subject matter addressed by a paradigm, then what does that imply about the people with in that paradigm, (the teachers and students)?
Just to be clear on how much of an a**hole I’m being in this article, what I am suggesting is this:
1. The vast majority of what is taught, bought and sold as spirituality and self-help is largely impotent, lacking in depth, and has little connection to the actual roots of the original spiritual tradition.
2. The vast majority of what is taught, bought and sold as spirituality and self-help in actual practice is the attempt at medication through self-psychotherapy manifesting as self-deception and repression.
3. Feeling sedated, relaxed, being, flexible, being quiet and eating a certain diet has literally nothing at all to do with spirituality.
The reality is, that spiritual knowledge isn’t weird, special or necessarily otherworldly, it’s more that we are deeply impoverished which makes us feel arrogant and stupid, so we feel a deep internal lack and thus a subsequent need to elevate something else to save us from ourselves.
Obviously anything that we don’t really understand and can’t relate to can seem out of reach.
For example, at one point in my life playing certain songs on guitar seemed like a superhuman feat, then I started playing guitar and practicing a few hours everyday. Then after a short time I could play those superhuman songs.
We’re not in touch with our own experience, instead merely operating at the periphery of consciousness in the hopes that somehow science, religion or spirituality will show us the way to figure it all out, some day.
We are conditioned to believe that these are vehicles of our evolution when actually they are symptoms and expressions of our own impoverished experience. We need not continue beating ourselves up, all we can really do is work with what we have and try to allow this process to unfold as efficiently and smoothly as possible.
There has been a massive effort through feudalistic monotheistic/atheist cults to destroy spirituality.
Reference historical events like the Cultural Revolution in China or The Spanish Inquisition, The Witch Hunts, the burning of various cultural libraries through out history, the desecration of sacred sites all over the planet, as well as the genocide of the Native American people.
What we can easily see from these examples is that those who buy into these kinds of institutions are deeply insecure and afraid, thus they feel the internal drive to destroy and suppress anything that is other than. This is quite ironic when we consider that religion claims to be all about faith, holiness and love while science claims to be about knowledge, objectivity and proof.
Well, if both of these things are true, then history would probably look a lot different.
A good place to start might be: what am I?
The basic options available to us are as follows:
A meat tube full of chemical reactions. (Science)
A meat tube with a punished soul that needs to be saved hanging off of it. (Religion/Spirituality)
A meat tube with full of chemical reactions with a soul hanging off of it that has electricity somehow running through it.
In essence, each of these supposedly alternative paradigms, are actually fairly identical and thus produce similar results. They are identical because each is based upon the same assumptions (unproven) about the nature of reality, those being:
1. There really is a solid physical world.
2. This solid physical world is made up of separate parts such as chemicals and particles.
3. This solid physical world and its separate chemicals dominate each other mechanically.
4. Our consciousness is somehow separate from this solid physical world.
5. This solid physical world had a beginning creating moment and thus a creator—or the big bang.
6. Things might suck now, but the best is yet to come at a later date—heaven, evolution, capitalism, scientism.
Following any of these is absolutely fine if the results these paradigms have produced are what we’re after, but please understand that we can’t really cherry pick our way through a paradigm.
If we choose to validate and identify with that paradigm then we need to be prepared to accept the karmic burden of that paradigm as well. For example, we can’t really say that we are proud to be American unless we are also willing to be proud of war (too many to name), genocide (Native Americans), slavery (Africans) and oppression (women) since in practical reality that has been the majority of of what has occurred and is still occurring under the umbrella of America.
It’s basically like saying, “Sure, Hitler did a few bad things, but he also had some good things to say.” Like saying, “I’m a Christian and I follow Jesus because I’m about love and compassion.” when historically, Christianity and Jesus’s teachings have played out in the exact opposite fashion.
Common sense and logic would show us that we can’t easily transcend something that we don’t understand or are completely unaware of. If you were in pain but you didn’t know you were in pain, would you care?
So it follows that it really makes no sense to believe we are going to transcend or progress if we aren’t aware of and deconstructing the present situation that we find ourselves in? A Macintosh from the 1990s will never run todays programs, no matter how clever we think we are. Thus it makes a lot more sense to understand who, what, when and where we actually are instead of childishly and naively ignoring it and then carrying this ignorance over into other realms like spirituality from other cultures from other historical time periods.
A great example of this naivety is the line of thinking which believes “it’s all one” or “all traditions share the same common purpose” or “all paths lead up the mountain” or “many songs, one truth.”
Saying this and believing it is not only illustrating a profound lack of understanding and experience, but also deeply disrespectful and demeaning to the history, practices and people with in a particular tradition.
It’s like saying, people were laboring and studying for hundreds if not thousands of years, just to arrive at the conclusion of being nice, loving people and having a flexible body? This is really what generations and countless people have dedicated their life to? Following the logic of modern pop spirituality, it’s fairly safe to say this is the belief.
The real situation is, if a person moves past the most generic and rudimentary level of a system then things can get really complicated quickly.
For example, the location of your dan tien can vary depending upon where you are on the planet and will also vary from person to person. It’s feeling quality, sensation and method of engaging with it will vary and change depending on what practice a person is doing and at what level their at with in that practice.
So what’s correct at one time and place, is incorrect at another.
Many people incorrectly think the dan tien is on the level of chakras, thus they’re interchangeable terms for energy centers with the same functionality. The reality is that the dan tien has drastically different function to the chakras as well as existing on entirely different vibrational frequencies. Working with each will produce drastically different results.
In addition, some people describe the perineum as the lower dan tien and then the actual lower dan tien as the middle dan tien instead. This gets even more complex depending on if the practice alchemical, medical, or martial, and if it’s nei dan, nei gong, chi gong, tai chi, ba gua, or xing yi.
All of these variables then add up to more complexity because each style with in each of those practices will have it’s own usage, application and philosophy.
Hopefully this gives you a basic idea of really how disrespectful I think it is to buy into the “all is one, many paths, one truth” idea.
Author: Brandon Gilbert
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock
Photo: flickr/Erich Ferdinand