Tuesday, 27 February 2018

My fascinated aversion for scholarly fake spirituality

There is a great deal of scholarly fake spirituality around the place - oh yes, a great deal of it! There has been, indeed, a lot on my own bookshelves - although pressure of space is weeding out this genre, incrementally.

Over the past century, genuine religiousness has been deeply resented by the literary and intellectual establishment - but scholarship has been tolerated (until recently). This dual pressure has led to a large and semi-respectable genre of scholarly pseudo spirituality; which consists of non-religious/ spiritual myth-disbelieving people writing about religious, spiritual and mythological matters.

Other branches include travel books, country life books, wildlife books, therapy and self-help books (these especially!); books about all manner of things that are flavoured and permeated by the implication that the authors is a spiritually sensitive and deep, soulful kind of person... but not, of course, actually religious in any open/ serious/ life-changing/ 'fanatical' way! 

Such work is therefore pervaded by irony - and thus is regarded as safe. Indeed, it may be praised as subversive - especially insofar as it attacks Christianity, traditionalism, and recent history.

Thus authors may write about the soul, spirituality, myths, fairies and folklore; and especially comparative religion... describing - in a positive way - the religions of other-people in other-places... and the more 'other' the better.

The authors of this genre are... what is the best word?... evasive about their own spiritual and religious views. This may be done by irony, or may be done by complexity. That is where the scholarship comes in.

Such authors are keen to project themselves as spiritually aware and deep and wise; on the other hand, they do not want it to be thought they are simple-minded, 'fanatical', 'religious fundamentalists' of any kind! (Such persons are not just low status, but are hated and feared.)

They do not want to be regarded as simple, so they are complex - they do not wanted to be regarded as simple so they are evasive - they do not want to be regarded as simple so their work is chock-full or facts and references and comparisons... They do not want to be regarded as fanatical so they are ironic and self-aggrandising...

(Reading such work, one is nearly always aware of a person trying to seduce the reader; often - one feels - quite literally so! Such books seeming like a roundabout and deniable 'dating profile'. It is no surprise that such authors of scholarly fake spirituality invariably embrace/ advocate one or other, or all, aspects of the sexual revolution. Maybe that is the whole point of the whole exercise, if truth be told?)

Probably the great fount of such work has been CG Jung, and his many offshoots and followers - some overt admirers, others covert and rivalrous.

There is a great deal that is wrong with such work. Being obvious, praised, widely available - it absorbs and ultimately always wastes effort, time and energy from serious spiritual seekers - leading them into a blind alley where they may get stuck or abandon the quest for reality. It creates a class of fake spiritual 'experts' who again inevitably either dissipate or deflect any spiritual seekers who fall into their gravitational field.

Such work confuses, and it subverts. It is not religious - but it is not even spiritual - because its its spirituality, its 'benefits', inevitably and always reduce to mere psychotherapy - that is, to making people feel better, here and now, in this life.

Scholarly fake spirituality is in essence an elaborate kind of tranquilliser drug - it is pleasant in the short term, but always creates dependence (difficult to stop using it) and often creates addiction (an appetite for more of the same, in a stronger dose).

In sum - it is not safe for spiritual seekers to engage with such books! Such books are (implicitly) designed to capture and hold exactly such persons!

But once you have spiritually-found; once you are actually-religious as a base for spiritual seeking - then such books are safe enough; and may then (but only then) be read and experienced with pleasure and profit, enjoyed for what they are and what they really have (while filtering-out the unsavoury aspects).


Readers may guess from the above, and they would be right, that I speak from experience about this literature; that I was myself captured and held, addicted and dependent-upon, such literature - for much of my adult life. Its spirit, indeed, is all-but pervasive in the world of scholarship as applied to 'life'. A currently fashionable and influential example of the genre is Jordan Peterson... just think about it.... 

1 comment:

  1. As I read this I immediately thought of professor Peterson and lo and behold at the end you put him forth as a current example. For such persons it appears that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, are only social control mechanisms with some good ideas tacked on but now that their influence is waning the obvious solution to western decline is to engage in the very practices and beliefs that have led to that decline (but with a shift in emphasis which, of course, will make all the difference). Reason, Evidence and Logic will save us (these people have never read Chesterton I guess). It is reason, evidence and logic that have brought us to the state of the west today. But, as you point out, if the underlying assumptions are wrong then everything else will lead astray as a result.

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