Not For Consumption

It is unpopular idea time, but honestly, I’ve stopped caring.

Lemurian seed crystals are tokens of savagery and exploitation, first and foremost, not blessed healers of light bodies and twin-flame karma. Palo santo and white sage are cultural treasures of native people, all equally endangered, and not for the cleansing of the white, European settler-class. Neither shamanic practices–even if they come from Siberia, intentionally gifted, but so damn often sold–nor yoga–stripped of its profound spiritual dimensions–will save our conscience.

I am fed up with the commercialization of spirituality, so often wrapped in the allure of the Other and “ethically sourced” to meet demand. It’s not the “curated experience” of social media I subscribe to, because the self-help and New Age industry is valued upwards of twelve billion dollars. Therefore, the ads and products that cater snake oil fantasies and self-centered pampering are everywhere, by necessity. Therefore, this shallow, market-driven image is all most people see of powerful spiritual technology the world needs. Because, you see, it is not about you or me or any one ego and their commodification and fetishization of wisdom, often misappropriated from indigenous cultures somewhere. It is about the healing of the world outside of the plagued body of modern hyper-capitalist society. As long as we condone this theft, we partake in the wounding-rather-than-healing of our present selves and eventual futures.

Of course, it is easier to believe the fantasy rather than confront the truth. And the New Age Movement has readily developed a mythopoetic space almost entirely detached from truth or consequences–a marvelous sleight of hand that directs attention to potential truths and away from problematic realities. In fact, a corrupt and extractive machinery is in place to strip natural landscapes of their living and mineral elements and resell them for profit, rarely shared by the local, impoverished folks trampled on to get at this wealth.

The so-called West is hungry for this bounty, and they’ll ironically praise it, too. Centuries of alienation from Nature–the first and truest healer–and their own ancestral wisdom has left a void within, screaming for meaning. Arriving just after orgiastic colonial genocide and imperialism flush from the spoils, capitalism helped an afflicted people forget themselves. In one stroke they crowned themselves Divinely Justified, in fact Destined, and at the same time upheld the classist disparity of their forefathers. This they handily disguised with the idea of democracy, but rarely its practice. In time, when the myths of their forefathers began to fail, the disenchanted youth cast nets wide afield for new spirit-ways to consume and achieve the momentary quiescence of a horde of ancestral debt.

Thus, the New Age flowered in 1960’s counter-culture, its revolutionary spiritual zeal soon fading to human embers now fully entrenched in the machinery. True seekers remained outside, a marker of the movement’s abject moral failure to live out its promise. It took decades to infiltrate, normalize, and commodify the essence of the hippie, but they had it well under wraps by the turn of the millennium. Just in time for eBay, Amazon, and Etsy. Just in time for a generation raised entirely on the aesthetic to flood Instagram with artfully arranged photography, all selling an idea if only for likes and followers.

Don’t get me wrong, the New Age wasn’t the only thing corrupted. My thesis is that nothing sacred has not been profaned by the monetary grasp of capitalism. The Spiritualist movement of the previous century suffered much in the same way from charlatans and staged seances: creepy psychic twins and the original myths of Atlantis and Lemuria churning out notoriety and book sales, retreats and miracle cures. Earlier, more decidedly Christian eruptions of spiritual market frenzies exist, though the invisible hand of the Free Market did not always completely fondle such enthusiasms. That which it could not corrupt, it destroyed via their clerical propagandists filling their Sunday collection plates.

Nor do I intend to say that the spiritual/religious outbursts of the past four centuries have nothing to offer us. Many struggled against the very forces that eventually bought them out or brought them down. How could any counter-cultural movement endure and succeed against a system that encompasses all aspects of society? How can rebellion become a meaningful act? Eventually capital concerns overwhelm any good idea. Eventually, the market wins.

A different approach is needed. A zealous commitment to operate outside of the machine of capitalism is necessary, now more than ever. We fast approach our collective reckoning, so great that not even capitalism might survive. In the crises to come, it might devolve back into feudalism and mutate yet again. Those of us whose faith is axial must find a path toward survival, even as we struggle to defend whatever little remains unspoiled.

It starts, perhaps, with re-centering our worldview and denying the consumerist compulsion to feed the void of meaning within each of our psyches. Our new center must be within the world of the undying–that which resists objectification and reduction to commercial use. Within this ephemeral space, we can operate like ghosts and relate to the ghosts that we have long neglected. Those howling in the deep wounds of our cultural and historical injustice must be heeded, fed, washed clean, and given light. Our offerings must be actions that materialize reparations and rebuild kinship. Each service should obey the laws of reciprocity, worked out over hundreds of millennia, in complete defiance of inequity. All beings are related; all beings are obliged.

I do not know if this can ever truly happen. The dominant paradigm is seductive and powerful. There is no guarantee that our fate won’t be like those unknown movements that failed in their apocalyptic enterprises and were condemned to silence and effete academic study. But I am entirely convinced that we must try for our own sake.

True, none of the spiritual technologies are meant for you or me or any one ego, but we operate from within this experience. Maturing in spirit and mind, perhaps strength and resolve lies not in the fragile Self, but in the Eternal Whole of our communities.

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