Thursday 28 July 2016

Why are so many modern spiritual people left/ liberal in outlook?

This is the question addressed by William Wildblood in a recent blog post to which I have contributed a comment:

It is an important observation that modern spiritual people are indeed notably left/ liberal in outlook; because it leads to the recognition that they are left/ liberal with greater intensity and conviction than they are spiritual. Their spirituality is eclectic, flexible, changeable - their leftist politics is dogmatic, solid and often fanatical. It is easy to see which they are most serious about. 

I became interested in New Age type spirituality from the late 1990s (i.e. before I was a Christian), in the sense of reading some of the recent and still active US writers. Up until then I had read a great deal of CG Jung, upon which much of New Age is based; and a lot of Colin Wilson - who never quite fitted into this category but overlapped with it. But from 1998 I read John Hanson Mitchell, James Hillman and some of his 'disciples' such as Daniel C Noel and Thomas Moore; and a smattering of others across the field, including most of the best known writers. 

At that time I was a libertarian centrist in politics - and would have been a Republican if I was American; and I noticed in interviews and personal reminiscences that these and other writers came across as fanatical Democrats of the most partisan type for whom even the mildest libertarian or conservative ideas were demonised - and on the other hand openly advocating seedy, corrupt, dishonest careerist Democrats as if they were spiritual exemplars leading the world to a higher future (e.g. the likes of Al Gore!).

And New Age writers were typically, almost universally, utterly in thrall to New Left concerns - and structured their theories inside such a world view. For example Ecopsychology (look it up) was supposed to be a fundamental biological-spiritual perspective on the earth - but in practise made all kinds of recent and ephemeral leftist socio-political assumptions - and seemed to operate as a Left Wing pressure group. 

A book that I read with great attention - the Soul of Shamanism, by Daniel C Noel - structured its entire analysis and argument within a context of politically correct 'sensitivity' to the imagined perceptions of 'indigenous peoples' - with an intensely moralistic inflection to this demand that stood in complete contrast to the 'amoralism' of the spirituality being advocated. I mean, those individuals who were deemed to have behaved disrespectfully to the supposed sensitivities of American Indians (by 'appropriating' their spiritualities and adapting them for modern Western usage) were 'damned' pretty strongly!

This happened so often that I eventually realised that it was structural to New Age spirituality; and undercut the depth and validity of that spirituality. The New Age was, in fact, being led by people whose own spirituality was at best shallow and insincere; and at worst merely a front for their primary aims which were Left-political. 

Nowadays, I see one of my main tasks as resynthesising spirituality with Christianity, in a Christian frame - i.e. with Christianity as primary but spirituality given full value as a necessary modern priority. 

And in this task I realise that very little of modern spirituality is relevant, because very little is worthwhile. Those authors who are worthwhile are those for whom politics is a very secondary concern - the likes of William Blake, ST Coleridge, Rudolf Steiner, Owen Barfield; and more recently William Arkle, Colin Wilson, Jeremy Naydler, and William Wildblood himself. 

By no coincidence these are also those whose spirituality is honest, sincere, often deep: and primary.


pyrrhus said...

I deal with such people, who are mostly good people, a fair amount. The main problems seem to be 1. extreme ignorance of actual political and economic history, and the related 2. extreme credulity with respect to the constant falsehoods and slanting of stories by the main stream media.....As the IT people say, garbage in, garbage out...

Bruce Charlton said...

@pyrrhus - I know what you mean - but if we are being honest and keeping our standards where they should be - these are mostly not 'good people' - in the sense that they are actively promoting evil: promoting, specifically, moral inversion.

This is actually an extremely severe sin - far worse than oneself doing evil, but then repenting it.

Of course, promoting evil can itself be repented (Thank Heavens! I have had a lot of this to do myself) as may any sin - but repentance is exactly what such people will not do, and what they tell other people (24/7 - directly and implicitly)) makes no sense; because they seemingly believe that inversion of The Good (Truth, Beauty, Virtue) is itself a higher form of 'Good'.

This is not to say that such people will not repent at some point in the future, perhaps even after death - so there is hope; but as things stand, they are the opposite of Good people, and (from an ultimate perspective) are indeed probably some of the worst people that have ever existed on the planet (since moral inversion and rejection of even the hope of repentance apparently used to be extremely rare).

Luqman said...

To pyrrhus: It takes those people you call good to take such evil to its furthest extent. Mostly, people who are evil in their hearts are also very self centered and will eventually discard anything that works against them. They may employ a destructive ideology cynically or opportunistically, but often (to them) not for its own sake. The people you refer to are what is required to propel leftism. Depending on how far gone they are it is possible one is able to sway some with the two points you mention. What you call extreme credulity is more accurately spiritual indolence or despair, which allows them to be led along by a mirage.

There is another category of person that are evil in their hearts and purposefully, for its own sake, part of large scale directed evil. The existence of such people requires explanation, and various people explain it differently.

Thomas said...

@Bruce - I understand that damnation is a real possibility, and some view it as very easy to slip into, while you view it as much more difficult. As a new parent I really struggle with this. What if, God-forbid, something happened to me and my children were raised more by society? Even though Tolkien lost both parents so young, he still grew up in a mostly good place, and I fear for how difficult it seems to find the right way, so easy to be mislead when we grow up with a corrupted culture, schools, etc. Even these people who have embraced evil are just accepting the "default" society option offers, and certainly were at one point innocent children themselves lead into corruption.

Maybe I'm a fool here, but it seems unbearable even that goodness and love which-once-was could really be corrupted or damned or lost forever.

pyrrhus said...

I totally agree with these points, the results are evil. But on a personal level, "good" means that I have seen them do generous, self sacrificing things. Which suggests to me that there is some hope there....probably I am too optimistic.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Thomas - What I am saying is not that damnation is difficult to slip into, but that Christ has gifted us a 'system' which makes it easy to get-out-from. I mean repentance, which has infinite power, and lies entirely under our own control. What we see around us in these end times is a vast an interlocking system to prevent people recognising this reality - but the reality remains.

@pyrrhus - I agree there is certainly hope. Their state of massive self-deception is brittle.