Tuesday, 26 July 2011


Many of those who are my age group will remember the 1980s and 1990s as a time of exciting spiritual discoveries and the testing of many different belief systems. The very definition of the New Age is its eclecticism, the famous spiritual smorgasbord from which the individual could choose what they felt attracted to and create their very own unique world view. Mixing and matching was in. Though I never confessed to the New Age or any other form of religious or spiritual beliefs with ardour and conviction, I guess in a sense I had one foot in the New Age field and one in the Transpersonal or Integral field (as the Wilberian system of thought is called today). While the New Agey way of being is still inspiring people to become spiritual seekers, it does seem to me that the heydays are over. We threw a great party but now is time to sober up!

Of course, as always this a subjective point of view. But I've been thinking how there was a sort of spiritual wave movement and how it seems to have started to settle. Eclecticism just doesn't seem to have the allure it once had. You can only mix and match if you believe the systems you're referring to are relevant to your life in some way. Being a spiritual omnivore looks a bit wishy washy and undecided to me. People running around attending a lot of spiritual seminars all the time are often just spending time, distracting themselves rather than addressing the real issues of their lives. It seems important to me that people don't get hooked on holding onto old ideals but embrace new ways of being, as well as decide on who they really are and where that could take them in the future. What kind of person do you want to be rather than what kind of different person do you want to be? Perhaps this should take precedence to the belief system; maybe it's more important than concerning oneself with what kind of spirituality is defining one's identity.

I settled on a world view after ten years of research, and it hasn't changed much since then. Practical life took over and dealing with emotions became the focal point. Every now and again I revisit theories or here say about the current spiritual situation, mostly by checking things out on the internet. What I've noticed in myself is that there are two fundamental problems. On the one hand I don't feel a lot of excitement about either new age ideas or integral theory - most of the time I'm yawning or even feeling annoyed and only rarely do I sense a spark of interest as in "wow this I can apply to my life!". Most things just seem to complicated and/or hypothetical. On the other hand there's an inner conflict which is tearing me apart. I don't seem to be able to reconcile an expression of spirituality with the less spiritual side of life. I feel like a chameleon, trying too hard to adapt to different groups of people and ideologies. This is very obvious when I write for a general public, or make artwork. I feel uncomfortable about being overtly spiritual and talking in spiritual terms. I've been beating myself up over this, thinking that I'm just not focused enough... not spiritual enough... etc... but maybe it's really a sign that I should pay attention to?

Ken Wilber (check out the loft series at www.integrallife.com) has been talking a lot about bringing a contemporary form of spirituality into every day life as most of what religion used to represent has become redundant. In general, religions represent exoteric ways of approaching spirituality - it's mostly a dualist world view with a God who is separated from the individual.  Rituals and ceremonies pay an important role in this kind of thinking. Modern spirituality, on the other hand, is mainly esoteric and inwards looking. God is not seen as separate from the creation, on the contrary human beings are co-creators of this reality. In other words, we are not subject to some divine rule but intrinsically part of the divine and all that is. I agree with the idea that we are one with everything and more powerful than what meets the eye. But I also think that at this point in historic time there is a limit to how creative an individual can be, and that there's a danger in starting to force oneself to become more than what is humanly possible at any given moment. This is mainly where opinions differ among spiritual people. I have been fretting over this dilemma for the past ten years as I have felt pressure to perform better than I really feel able to. So how can I get away from all these inner conflicts?

Well, perhaps the solution is to become more centred in who one really is in this moment, in this place, in this body, at this point in historic time. It's almost as if spirituality has become as uncomfortable as religion. For different reasons, yes. But maybe it's time to move on and become less focused on the whole issue of spirituality. What I sense is that spirituality can easily keep us in a dualist position even when the belief system is about oneness. Whether it be fairies, angels and crystals (the New age) or levels, stages and quadrants (Integral Theory), it can really all just become distractions and a form of entertainment. In the end, the reality of life as such is usually a different matter altogether. I want to uncover my authentic self as it manifests itself in this time and place. Do I really need any paraphernalia or pretty theories to do so? To me, the answer is no. It's surprising how difficult it is to see yourself exactly as you are right now, without all the striving and manifesting to become happier and more spiritual. This has been said before, for instance Chogyam Trungpa talked about "spiritual materialism" already a long time ago. It was all about people who are taking on the spiritual cloak and pursuing spiritual ideals much as people pursue material possessions.

Spirituality as much as religion and other forms of belief systems (ecological thinking being a case in point) tend to become another set of rules with a great deal of restrictions attached to them. "Can't do this, can't do that..." - well this is not really embracing "all that is" and reaching for the experience of real oneness. Instead, dualism and polarisation really kicks in. Very often the restrictions don't even make a lot of sense, they exist because they seem to be a way towards greater approval by some authority or another, or because they make people feel secure. As soon as you think, "that person is not as spiritual as me", you're deep in trouble. You have drawn a clear dividing line between yourself and someone else. The tendency of the mind to polarise is, per se, a normal thing, but when it's done in the name of spirituality it becomes a very false attitude indeed.

My point, however, is that there comes a time when even spirituality itself becomes redundant. Instead, this could at least for some of us be a time to sink into ourselves and exist as exactly the person we happen to be in this particular life. Perhaps you're someone who will ascend in 2012. Perhaps you're not. Accepting that you don't know which you are could be quite liberating. Perhaps there is no ascension at all or maybe it's very different from here say. You know some things of a spiritual nature with great certainty but equally, you don't know many things with certainty. Liberate yourself and accept that this is true to who you are right now. What is valid and relevant, right now? Quietly discard the old and accept the new. It could be a greater connection to life through the heart, after all, an evolutionary step towards greater heart centredness has been predicted. If this is true it means that it's there for us to receive if we are able to open up to it. Yet my point is that we cannot open up to the simplicity of the heart's beauty if we keep distracting ourselves with shiny things and grand ideals. Do what you feel you need to do (e.g. keep the body/mind in sync) and stop worrying about whether it's spiritual or not! I think this kind of respect for the self is the true essence of self-love.

Artwork: An old postcard from the 1980s. This is how I feel a lot of the time!


  1. Thanks for this post. I too think that spirituality is taking a more practical approach these days. It's about making sense of who you are and what is happening to you and around you. I do think that this approach is making spirituality more accessible to everyone, rather than some new agey thing that only dreamers are interested in. I wrote a book: "What On Earth Are We Doing Here: Exploring the Case for Human Suffering" that helps people make sense of their ordeals in a practical approach.

  2. Thank you for your feed back! I hope your book will do well. I shall look it up.