Dispirited: How Contemporary Spirituality Makes Us Stupid, Selfish, and Unhappy

C4Chaos shared the following link recently, which I thought would be relevant to members of this group. 

How Contemporary Spirituality Makes Us Stupid, Selfish, and Unhappy

What inspired you to write Dispirited?


The opening line of the book has raised some eyebrows, and some friends felt it ought to go, but it really seemed to capture the emotional motivation for this project:

When someone tells me that they are “Not religious, but very spiritual,” I want to punch them in the face.


Of course, I go on to note that I resist such temptations—for reasons of ethics and cowardice. However, this annoyance was something I wanted to investigate. Why did it wind me up so much?

This was combined with other factors. Partly it was frustration at writing scholarly, detailed academic work—which hardly anybody read. I wanted to do something with a more accessible tone, but that was still about ideas that interested me.

Thinking about my aggressive grumpiness led me to read lots of new-age and mind-body-spirit catalogues. This didn’t help. In many ways I became more and more annoyed by some of the materials and adverts that I encountered. However, I was convinced that these cultural phenomena were worthy of critical investigation.

My annoyance really peaked when I read through these catalogues, and saw that the endless sessions advertised in them all seemed to sit happily side-by-side. Yet if you literally believed the metaphysical and empirical claims they made and implied, they were more often than not logically incompatible. There seemed to be an illogical almost anti-rational and extreme open-mindedness. No claim, no matter how preposterous or unfeasible, seemed to be unacceptable—and to question the claims was seen as either spiritually naïve or as being locked into some kind of pro-conflict, old-religion mindset of harsh exclusivism. For me, when looking at particular new-age material this ‘everyone is right, all paths are valid’ approach was not only untenable and intellectually insulting, it all too often edged into smugness.

So I complained. I moaned to my friends. It’s usually only in conversation that you can see where an idea might lead, so in many ways this book was born in the beer gardens of Cheltenham pubs. And from my friends telling me to shut up and write it down if it bothered me that much.

[Interview continues here.]

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Indeed. We see some of my criticisms of kennlingus therein, with the latter's inner focus and therefore specious criticism of political activism as pomo relativism. Which is also part of what I'm railing about in the OOO thread concerning such inner, phenomenological 'states,' which seem not to be just part of an overall integral metatheory but the origin of such a theory. For example, consciousness per se as THE altitude in any-every kosmic address, discussed before. Also the kennilingual adherence to conscious capitalism, an outgrowth of the "capitalist form of religion" Webster discusses.

Yes, definitely his critiques line up with some of those you and others have voiced here over the years.  He has a blog where he takes up some of these issues and questions: Dispirited.

I will post more later, but looking at a few blog entries on the above-linked site, I notice he deals with a few issues I have also explored in recent writings (the question of the validity of multiple paths, the mystical universalism of New Age / perennialist spirituality, etc).  The immediate difference I see is that he appears to be arguing for an atheist-materialist view of reality as Reality, and does not appear to recognize or appreciate the "enactive" orientation we explore here.  But I say that with some reservation; I'll read more and will comment again then.

His 5/10/12 blog post, quoting Zizek. Sound familiar?

"New Age ideologists...silently impose a 'pure' procedure of Zen-like spiritual meditation as the 'whiteness' of religion. The idea is that all religions presuppose, rely on, exploit, manipulate, etc., the same core of mystical experience, and that it is only 'pure' forms of meditation like Zen Buddhism that exemplify this core directly, bypassing institutional and dogmatic mediations. Spiritual meditation, in its abstraction from institutionalized religion, appears today as the zero-level undistorted core of religion: the complex institutional and dogmatic edifice which sustains every particular religion is dismissed as a contingent secondary coating of this core. The reason for this shift of accent from religious institution to the intimacy of spiritual experience is that such a meditation is the ideological form that best fits today’s global capitalism."


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