Lightmind Extract 020


~julian 11.25.04
the singular and unfortunate problem with pop spirituality is it’s
superficiality. I say this not as an arrogant intellectual
criticism, although it is this, but as a simple statement of fact
regarding the necessary lack of depth that allows for the
one-sidedness of positive-minded belief in the universe’s unseen

the result, of course, is that we have spiritual aphorisms that
are half-right and half-wrong, which I would suggest is a
situation worse than having no spiritual aphorisms at all, because
it creates a paralyzing double-bind that limits further inquiry.

of course, I come from that annoying sect of truth-seekers that
feel it might take more than a five-word sentence to describe the
ultimate reality of things in way that might be remotely
satisfying, or even mildly interesting.

so, each of the five aphorisms that I observe making up pop
spirituality; spoken with knowing nods and twinkling eyes from
macrobiotic kitchens to opulent yoga studios to computer
keyboards writing columns for new age publications, to
entrepreneurial business meetings, is saddled with this
unfortunate superficiality which generates the half wrong-half
right muddle.

now this need not surprise us, because these aphorisms arise
from the human psyche that is fundamentally split, and unless we
are doing the deep, messy, courageous work that heals this split,
by becoming more conscious of that which we have hidden from in
ourselves and the world, our philosophies will, perforce, be
reflections of and perpetuators of that split. so we create a
spirituality of denial and rationalization, a spirituality that is a
panacea, tranquilizer and sleeping pill for the mind that will not
face itself, the heart that mistakes saccharine for love’s
bittersweetness, and the body that confuses rigid adherence to
form with the liberation of life-force.

here are the five pop spirituality aphorisms:

1) everything happens for a reason
2) there are no victims
3) the universe never gives you anything you can’t handle
4) you create your own reality
5) all truth is relative, there is no such thing as “reality”

I propose that each of these statements about the nature of
reality is flawed in a way that makes it half-right and
half-wrong and therefore creates a double-bind that points
always back in the direction of self-blame, shame and further
splitting and ego-idealizing, whenever the half-wrong side
reveals itself.

this is because the level of consciousness that the statements
come from is itself one that is invested in maintaining the split
and in fact misconstrues spiritual progress as the state of being
fully immersed in the blissful dissociated ignorance that the
split creates. this dissociated self-assuredness gets assigned the
lofty title of “peace,” or “enlightened non-attachment.”

therefore, whenever reality asks that we look deeper than the
aphorism and face that which might give us genuine insight, we
sense the dissonance with the store bought aphorism and feel
that something must be wrong, and it can’t be the statement of
“universal truth” that we’ve bought into, so it must be our
experience. (of course, like anything else, as our consciousness
deepens and expands, we may need some larger, more
comprehensive and accurate aphorisms, if we are to continue

this is not to say that there is not such a thing as spiritual
progress, but to point out that the level of consciousness that is
perpetuated by these flawed aphorisms is not it! rather, the
aphorisms are the very defensive rationalizations that limit
direct contact with something that might produce genuine
spiritual progress, clear seeing and the first heartbreaking
glimpse of authentic compassion -reality as it is.


1) everything happens for a reason

a) let’s start with the half-right part of this aphorism, which
makes it, like all the others, so appealing.

one the one hand, it is based in the common sense observation of
cause and effect: all effects are set in motion by some cause, and
it implies the converse: all causes set in motion some effect. this
is logical and sound. at a deeper look, it also suggests the idea
that, in life, good can come from bad. in other words, it is a
variation on “every cloud has a silver lining,” and also “god has a
plan.” the benefit of these sentiments is that they help ease the
anxiety of living in a world where things are uncertain, where we
take risks, lose things we love and feel pain. some would say that
they give us faith in things “turning out alright in the end.” the
benefit of this aphorism is that it helps us to “trust the

b) now the half-wrong part. though the logical cause and effect
foundation of the statement is correct, the meaning is usually
further extrapolated in an illogical way that puts the cart before
the horse. that is to say, the statement is taken to mean that all
that happens right now, whether it looks good or bad, is in fact a
seed of something positive to come. sounds great doesn’t it?
that’s just the point, it makes us feel better! but it’s a quick-fix.

for most of the people on the planet and with much of the
misfortune that strikes even our very privileged lives, this
extrapolation does not apply. the aphorism veers into a vaguely
intuited (and so undeveloped and un-matured) notion of destiny
and benevolence in “all things.” the all encompassing use of the
word “everything,” leaves no room for honestly interpreting the
chaos, tragedy, plain good luck and essential mysteriousness of
human life.

although there is a cause and effect relationship inherent in all
events, some are intertwined but not related in a linear way,
some are situations in which “the blindness of fate” produces a
punishing result from a well-intentioned action, still others
produce a beneficial result from a malicious act. good people
suffer and sometimes find no relief or resolution, evil people
prosper and often die wealthy and pampered. disasters happen
that make no sense and some victims of brutal crimes live
incredibly diminished lives as a result and never are given some
profound reward that would make them not wish that their
tragedy had never happened. (for me the question is, how do we
practice in a way that acknowledges and makes space for these
inevitable truths, in fact uses them as fuel for awakening, rather
than attempts to side-step and rationalize them so that we can
return to a child-like state of naivete?)

because of this actually quite narrow construct, two
subconscious, erroneous, yet powerful conclusions are drawn:

i) one shouldn’t feel or express one’s authentic feeling about loss,
tragedy, disappointment etc. because the spiritually correct
perception is that “it’s all for the good.”
ii) people who have been deeply devastated by life are just
misperceiving the “perfection.” ie: famine, war, rape, loss of
loved one’s, family dysfunction, all are part of some grand
universal intelligent plan in which “everything” is happening for
our ultimate edification. this is a distortion of the genuine
insight into cause and effect and inter-relatedness that has very
different implications.

and the result, i think is very limiting, in that:

iii) it makes it easier to abdicate responsibility and action that
might come from trusting our felt experience rather than our
manufactured rationalizations
iv) it glosses over or “candy-coats” our pain, the very pain that
we have split off from in the first place and that
healing/spiritual practices could help us to embrace and feel
more fully in order to come into greater wholeness and more
compassionate, aware relationship to the world around us.
v) it places “faith” in an all-good parental external force, rather
than in our own discovery of “god within” as the voice of our
vi) it perpetuates a circular-argument type of belief that the
good things that happen to us are meant to be, and are divinely
orchestrated, rather than the product of social conditions,
economics, genetics, psychological conditioning, our own hard
work and sometimes, unexplainable good luck.

these manifestations of the half-wrong aspect of the aphorism
“everything happens for a reason,” again, limit our range of
inquiry and actually create a callousness around life’s inevitable
suffering, a closing of our hearts, to some extent and an
adherence to externalized notion of a string-pulling controlling
intelligence in “the universe;” while creating a temporary feeling
of trust and quelling our anxiety and sense of responsibility, this
limits our potential to heal and be in direct relationship to
reality and therefore to our authentic experience and that of
others around us.

perhaps a more useful construct might be grounded also in cause
and effect, but expanded to include chaos, luck, mystery, the
myriad contingencies that determine whether or not lemon’s turn
into lemonade and what can actually be done about it, if anything.

*thats as far as i got*

2 Responses to “Lightmind Extract 020”

  1. 1 marmalade

    From what I skimmed in this entry, the author’s opinion makes sense to me.

    I’d only add that even though these views aren’t perfect, they are better than other views. One thing I always need to remind myself of is that everyone is coming from a different perspective, at a different level… or, as my Grandmother used to say, eveyone is doing their best for where there at.

    By the way, my Gandmother was a New Thougth/New Age type. And so the author would probably say she is half right and half wrong.

  2. 2 muddypractice

    “Everyone is doing their best for where they’re at”…

    Even though to some ears this statement may sound like a cop-out of sorts, or even
    “meaningless”, I think I pretty much agree with that.

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