Saturday, December 10, 2011

Occupy AQAL

I am not alone in my dismay at the muddled “thought” that substitutes for the commitment to rigorous spiritual principles among the trendy spiritual gurus of mass American culture.

Deepak Chopra, Jean Houston, Marianne Williamson, and Neal Donald Walsch, and others of these media gurus have enunciated truths that contain relatively accurate insights from the perennial wisdom.  I have learned much from each of them.  In particular I have great fondness for Jean Houston, whose Mystery School program made such a contribution to my father. But something trips all of them up whenever they stray into real world politics.  Without exception, demonstrating not the slightest absorption of the spiritual truths they present, they come across as New Age liberals without a scintilla of integral insight.

They simply haven't studied the integral model at all.

Thus their glamorizing the Occupiers and misreading of their influence is telling but not surprising to anyone who has followed their work.  Not only does it spring from their ongoing falling for the pre/trans fallacy, it is also an expression of the very real confusion among Greens about the actual structure of the transpersonal realm.

As Wilber has often pointed out, Boomeritis Greens are particularly susceptible to the pre/trans fallacy because of their vehement rejection of reason.  Thus they are apt to label anything nonrational as transrational, thus falling time and again for the communitarian bling of the left's rejection of  individual freedom in favor of group rights.  Their embrace of the Occupiers is just the latest demonstration of the problem.

As a group, these media spiritual gurus lambaste our market economy, insisting that we must put “human values” before “economic values,” as Williamson demands in her speech to the Los Angeles Occupiers.  Indeed, our friends offer spiritual cover for the political demand for something they call “economic justice,” a very vague program centered on more vigorous redistributionist policies.

A Google search of the topic “economic justice” reveals a hodge-podge of ideas, demands, and assertions, so like the purpose of the Occupiers themselves, exact meaning of this slogan is difficult to come by.  (By the way, a recent Field Poll of Californians’ attitudes about the Occupiers neatly bypassed this lack of precision by asking people, “Would you say that you strongly agree, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat or disagree strongly with the reason for these protests?”—leaving to the respondent the assumption of just what exactly “the reason for these protests” is in the first place.  Needless to say, this vagueness rendered the results of the poll barren of significance.)

But Williamson’s harangue certainly hits on most of the assumptions of the economic justice crowd.  There is the condemnation of profit, the seeking of which is identified with greed.  There is the presumption that economic inequalities are somehow remediable.  There is the confusion of markets and morality.  And there is the complete (and in Williamson’s case, proud) lack of understanding of exactly what wealth is, how it is created, and how it is valued. 

This is all interspersed with New Age aphorisms and Second Tier presumptions that sound silly in their context.  She demonstrates at least cognitive familiarity with the precepts of the integral embrace, but at the same time demonstrates Boomeritis Green’s narcissistic conflation of integral with its own still-underdeveloped wave of consciousness.

This is generally reflected in a poor understanding of the role of personal responsibility in the emerging collective consciousness, and in particular the importance of facing and embracing our individual Shadows.  Without a robust practice that includes the essential element of Shadow work, transcendence into Second Tier waves is all but impossible.

She demonstrates the shallowness of her thought when she blithely asserts, without presenting any evidence, that the Occupiers represent some kind of new and transcendent movement.  “Martin Luther King said we need a quantitative shift in our circumstances and a qualitative shift in our souls.  That’s happening here.”

Perhaps.  But it’s equally likely that Williamson, Chopra, Houston, and the rest are just projecting their own desires for the consciousness breakthrough they’ve been predicting for a while now onto this disorganized and incoherent interest group.  Boomeritis Green looks at the Occupiers and sees its own self image as the “the change we want to be,” as Chopra carelessly intones to Luke Rudkowski of the soi-disant “We Are Change” grouping while visiting Zucotti Park.

Marianne Williamson positively gushes with enthusiasm for the coming of the New Earth.  “I personally see the Occupy Wall Street movement as a righteous attempt to self-correct American capitalism,” she told a group in Berkeley. 
Louis Brandeis said you can either have large amounts of money held in the hands of a very few or you can have democracy; you can’t have both.  So what that would means is, if you do have a social economic and political system which has strayed deeply into entrenched patterns of policy that put a large amount of money into the hands of a very few, then that is a threat to democracy.
We are here as stewards of American democracy.
This is where the spiritual transformational issue comes from.  For any movement, when you look at the founding of this country a la the Quakers, abolitionism, etc., what we’re talking about of course is the ideas that did not have the technological power of its time behind it, but these ideas were more life-producing and life-sustaining, and that is how evolution works.
And how does she see this “evolutionary” trend working through the Occupiers?  “Let us be loving,” she told the crowd in Los Angeles.  “Prepare your vessel, prepare your emotions, do not be self indulgent intellectually, emotionally or psychologically.  Women, hold the space for compassion and for love.  All of us: remember the children and talk to your friends.

“Keep it smart.  Keep it nonviolent.  Keep it growing.  There’s a marriage here of the spiritual, the internal change, as well of as the spiritual.”

Maybe.  However, others not so attuned to the mysterious ways of the Divine expressing Itself in the unfolding material realm are a bit more skeptical. 

Perhaps that’s because the principal web site of the Occupiers doesn’t so much invite people to a New Age weekend seminar as it does to assert that:

the only solution is WorldRevolution

Over on Neal Donald Walsch’s web site, Walsch entered into a colloquy with a commenter named Sinclair, who asserted that “Occupy is basically a mélange of communists, socialists, anarchists, the homeless, fringe people, and economic casualties who are disrupting the rest of the society in a selfish and unconstructive manner. This is not going to end well for Occupy or for liberal reactionaries who instinctively support leftist demonstrations.”

Walsch challenged Sinclair to document these claims, which Sinclair proceeded to do at length over the next several days.  Sinclair, who says he himself was once homeless and spent a good deal of time in leftist activities, gives chapter and verse of not only the left origins of those who started Occupy, but of the grievances they agitate with.

Interestingly, once he accepted that challenge, for some reason Walsch ceased participating in dialogue, but not before asserting,
We’re holding protests such as Occupy Wall Street—because we don’t know what else to do.
You see, Sinclair? We thought it was a political problem. Then we thought it was an economic program [sic]. Those were the only two things that we seriously considered, because we thought our Collective Life was a dyad. And it’s only occurred to us lately that it’s not about that dyad. It’s about the Third Thing that makes the triad. Humanity’s problem is a spiritual problem. It has to do with what people fundamentally believe about themselves and each other–and yes, about God, and the purpose of all of life.
And because more and more of us see this, it’s become very clear that we can’t paint a better picture by using the same brush strokes in the same places with the same colors we used before.
Something’s got to change. 
It’s time to tear up the canvas and start over. It is this awareness that is producing the Overhaul of Humanity. It is this awareness that has created the Occupy Movement.
This has nothing to do with “Conservatives” and “Liberals.” That’s why there is in many areas a coming together of Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party. Both sides of the political spectrum see clearly that the political system in broken—and that people in the middle class are being deeply hurt because of it. BOTH sides want to “wake up” Wall St. and get the rich titans to stop their abuse of the middle class. Both sides want that abuse of power to end. 
This is not, I repeat, about Liberals and Conservatives. This is about PEOPLE . . . people tired of life the way it now is on this planet.  (Italics and caps in the original)
This is all very earnest claptrap.  A model of Boomeritis maunderings, it springs from emotion and eschews intellectual rigor.  Getting "the rich titans to stop their abuse of the middle class" may work as an Obama campaign slogan, but it has no meaning as a political or economic fact.

As long as Walsch, Williamson, Chopra, et al., conflate spiritual evolution with leftwing political causes, they will continue to undermine the good they've done by pointing to a deeper path.  If they demonstrate such a lack of intellectual and, frankly, moral rigor in their sacralizing the Occupiers, how are we to take seriously their spiritual insights?

I have observed at length on this blog that the major impediment to any numerically significant leap into Second Tier consciousness as a permanent trait is not the Right Hand political economy but our Shadow material, both individual and collective.  The hurdle we face is where, in key lines of development, we remain stunted, wounded, and stuck. 

If, for example, my center of gravity in the relational line of development is still in a prepersonal wave (amber or earlier), then my inability to be open and vulnerable in order to  form and maintain supportive and loving relationships with my peers is an absolute drag on momentum toward the breakthrough into the integral realms.  This is because I/we must fully occupy the personal waves—orange and green—before Spirit will feel the authentic pull to the higher stages. 

From a psychodynamic perspective, unhealed childhood or adolescent trauma will fester in our unconscious, robotically generating thoughts and behaviors emblematic of that period of our lives.  These pesky and persistent thoughts and behaviors, because as adults we are unaware of where they are coming from, puzzle and frustrate us.  They have the effect of keeping us focused on our personal “issues,” thus blocking the universal empathy that characterizes healthy green and is the necessary threshold to the higher levels.

This blockage at the collective level is the red narcissism that Wilber tirelessly points out keeps green stuck in its immature Boomeritis phase.  There can be no escape into the Second Tier until this is by and large healed and integrated.

Unawareness of this prerequisite is precisely what animates our media gurus’ misapprehension of the Occupiers’ actual intentions and impacts.  So while they are correct when they say that we have, at root, a spiritual challenge, they are wide of the mark in insisting that the Occupiers specifically, and the Left generally, represent the vanguard of the Second Tier.

Parenthetically, this is more evidence that Wilber’s schematic from Up from Eden that conservatives ascribe interior and liberals exterior causes to our problems is too simplistic to form the basis of an integral politics.

To actually guide us toward authentic breakthrough, our media spiritual gurus will have to withdraw their projections and stop conflating leftist politics with spiritual evolution.  A genuine integral politics must begin with an embrace of the entire spectrum of consciousness, with its recognition that everyone has partial access to the Truth.

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