New-Age 'Spiritual Living' Confusion

Wow, I shouldn’t be surprised any more, but I always am. It seems the new-agers take the same apologetics used by religion, then add on top their notions of universal love, light, and the “heart” into an escapist stew of confusion.

I’ve been enjoying the atheism examiner columns by Trina Hoaks over at the Herald Examiner, but of course like every newspaper their religion section contains every scattershot belief system, all presented with equal validity.

So it was inevitable that one of the religionists would eventually feel like courting controversy by attacking atheism. And damn if it wasn’t a new-age ego buster, the “Spiritual Living Examiner” Marlena Rich. Her column is titled Atheism Stirs Heart?:

How is it possible to deny a higher force when actually experiencing the beauty of the natural world? -not just looking at and analyzing the aspects that compose a nice setting, but feeling at one’s inner core an inherent alignment with harmonious balance.

It is disturbing that the atheism columns are getting so much attention. Is it that we Americans get off on irreverence? I would like to draw the distinction between spirituality and religion and postulate that the true issues atheists have are not with spirituality but with the spiritual ego identity that arises within an ideology that people flock to rather than taking root within their own spiritual essence.

Surely it is possible to spiritually gain awareness and learn important concepts as a member of a particular religious organization, yet often people lose sight of the source from which that brand of religion arose. The ultimate question one must ask is, "Am I engaging in that which promotes within me a sense of balance and wholeness that draws from within the best of me?" Is that not what the great masters teach? So I must ask those who spend so much time and energy criticizing another’s brand of faith, is the criticizing promoting your inner sense of balance.

What is the pathway to overall wholeness in the biggest picture possible for humankind? From what are we hiding when we project negativity into the world? Motivation is the key question, because it will color all communication, all manifestation.

Where is the heart? Both an organ and a guidance system, we can look to our own for the ‘knowing.’ What is your Heart focus this Valentines month?

Heart focus? The heart as a “guidance system??” Promoting “inner balance?” It’s hard to argue with such descriptions. There’s nothing to latch on to, they just don’t really say anything or mean anything. Like astrology, the concepts are so vague as to apply to whatever ails you–a cure-all, a bliss pill. If something is not going right, all I need to do is find “inner balance,” get rid of my ego, and everything will be OK, right? I had to tell her what I thought:

Just more content-free new age confusion. Not one coherent sentence in the piece. Small wonder it’s so easy to start cults and gather followers among today’s “seekers.”

It’s about knowledge, not faith. About embracing the shadow, not denying the ego. It’s about understanding who we are from an evolutionary perspective, and accepting that life contains the full catastrophe–violence, competition, destruction–not just love, light, and some kind of vague notion of the retreat into the “heart.”

We all inhabit this world of conflict, and we’d do well to acknowledge that we are all subject to its rules. You cannot achieve the heights of bliss without plumbing your depths.

It’s time to grow out of these naive and limiting concepts and figure out the fullness of who we are [and where we came from]. “Spirituality” is deep self-awareness, not some pink, fuzzy fantasy.

Critical thought violation inventory: Argument from natural beauty, argument from authority, argument from negativity and criticism, argument from the “ego.” Another day–another Tolle-quoting new-ager.

Comments (3 comments)

Trina Hoaks / February 17th, 2009, 3:12 am / #1

I like the way you write. I enjoyed this very much!

I am glad you responded to Marlena. Good show!

And, thanks for the props. :)

BlackSun / February 17th, 2009, 2:57 pm / #2

Thanks, Trina!

Good on you for being an official and high-profile voice for atheism. Even though, as we know, atheism is not a religion, it's about time for it to have a place at the discussion table and the religion section of major publications. You and Austin Cline are pioneers in that sense (it's actually your job to write about it). Keep up the good work, I hope there will be many more atheist journalists taking their places in the future.

Valhar2000 / February 26th, 2009, 10:40 am / #3

Exactly what I thought when I read it, Blacksun. I don't think I understood anything she wrote, other than the various appearances of the words "and" and "the". I sometimes wonder if I just don't feel emotions that are common-place, or if I just don't associate common labels to them for whatever reason; the fact remains that when people lay into this sort of talk I can't for the life of me figure out what they are talking about.

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