lemmie lay down a few observations about the way things generally flow in terms of new age stuff that I have noticed over the years, and at various times researching the greater sub-nodes of new-ageism. One observation i see time and again is the slow decay into materialism…
What I mean by this is that as soon as something becomes a self-help fad, various modernist forces roll in to take over. the corporations use a vague and westernized pastiche of Buddhism (and soon enough, the Jordan Peterson brand of overtly psychologist butchery of Jung is next) to make the drones feel more fulfilled and “mindful” about themselves, becoming more productive late-capitalist “think-fluencers”. Or some such amalgamation of buzzwords coastal corporate/media/institutional worker bees like to label themselves as in the absence of a genuine personality.
i notice this happening in the “psychedelic community” currently, where you had this rush of intense interest a few years ago, Terence McKenna and Alan Watts seemed like they were major cultural figures come alive again. Then the fedoras and hipsters and unserious types roll in, and BOOM, its another way just to feel better about yourself being post-modern driftwood.
all the new-agey hippie-dippy woo stuff is now taking a backseat to neuroscienceTM, and just like that, psychedelics are gutted of all metaphysics, become captured in the discourses of scientism, and rendered into nothing but again, self-help with a thin layer of “mindfulness”. Now psychedelics effecting the purely physical brain is the name of the game.
And of course, the new age was always enveloped with “radical” (institution, cathedral-sanctioned) politics in the mesh of western counter-culture, so modern psychonauts find themselves in bed with the “sj-dubyas”. Back when Facebook was the main facilitator and propagator of the new-age psychedelia revivalism on the internet that Terence dreamed of coming one day (he would be sourly disappointed, believe me), I witnessed this happen in real time; I witnessed anthropologists bemoan the Neo-colonialism of the whole thing, the breakdown of gender, race, “sexism”, mass-orgy advocacy, “sacred sex-work” ,etc. you name it. It was the usual politics of degenerate modern liberalism and the almighty ID-POL, whereas genuine revolutionary politics were caste aside for “salcktivism”; Somehow, some way, if enough people took these plants, then we would all be living in a post-humanist dream. I am not one to caste this all aside as nonsense, I do find a lot of this stuff intellectually stimulating and interesting, but deeply mortifying to my “trad” sensibilities, if you know what i mean.
And to the credit of the first series of post-colonial problematizations, they are largely correct in that hipsters going to the Amazon to do drugs really don’t have the same cultural grounding and roots as people whom are indigenous to these plants and experiences. But on the question of religion and Entheogenic experiences themselves…
Talk to various stoners long enough, and observe that they have this acrid and abject hatred for “organized religions MAAAAN”, and what they really mean is Christianity, the religion of MOM AND DAD! they say (or rather used to say) “I’m spiritual but not religious” and they can’t define what that spirit is; .Now a days a lot of them skip this nicety altogether, similar to how the progressive cultural left by and large abandoned LARPing Tibetan Buddhism (as understood by California) and cast new-age stuff behind in the 80s, and became full on atheistic, anti-religious and materialist.
A lot of the current crop of psychedelic people don’t even view it as this great metaphysical awakening, but somehow brushed by the parts of philosophy and theology in Jungianism, and choose to dwell on a narrow view of the human unconscious as a purely biological-creative force. Not all of them do this, but a growing number of “mainstreaming” popularizers of psychedelia are shilling out to this materialist worldview. Joe Rogan is the perfect representative of this internet phenomenon, the “enlightened” guy that loves ragging on religion, can’t really define his (liberal) worldview, Bro-science, Neil Tyson quotes, becomes slightly and mildly edgy but then backtracks, etc. Joe Rogan is the model of psychelia as understood by the “casual”, the tripper that wants a rush, an nothing more. How can anyone that has experienced such profundity shut their being off to various higher possibilities of existence. But i digress…
These are some of the complaints i have with the psychedelic community in its current manifestation, and furthermore, most of them are generic left-liberals anyways….The problem is that when you have a worldview that is not grounded in a proper metaphysical foundation, when wisdom is comprised of Facebook quotes, when rituals become a way of “breaking down the door just to see whats inside for kicks” as my best friend once put it, then what is the point of inner exploration?
What ends up happening is you ultimately attract very fickle and misguided people that treat spiritual and psychological practices like a giant buffet table. And after that initial phase of nebulous and abstract spiritualism and woo, you end up with the meat-grinder of the material, the all-seeing panopticon of the Kali-yuga-age of matter, we only see and feel matter, therefore this piece of plant matter is thrown into the machine matter of my brain, and i have this exploration of myself in sounds, images, and unconscious content.
This really clicked for me as I watched a short lecture by someone i know (without doxing) who is really big in this field, talking about the exprience of Christ being tempted by the Devil, and Jacob’s latter. That these things “did not actually happen, but were images”, and that “Jesus successfully purified himself or else if he did give into temptation, then we would all be still looking for another character like him”. The savior of mankind is just a character experiencing a trip, and that trip does not lead to any pan-psychic, or extra-metaphysical reality, but it is now “all in our heads” so to speak. Not even Terence himself believed this; Its similar to the hand-wringing and total evasion of the God-question when it was presented to Jordan Peterson, how he squirmed out of giving a solid answer to appeal to his largely millennial audience that is hostile to any sentiments of genuine spiritual belief.
This is why i largely have left all of this stuff in the rear view. I am interested in all of these things on an intellectual level, but I now have come to see the dangers in a spiritualism that is not grounded in a solid worldview of religion and practice. What ends up happening is that the forces of materialism come in to exploit the vulnerabilities to such a loose and nebulous series of mish-mash beliefs. The proper set and setting is a vital necessity, psychonauts should know this, and dare I say it, if you do not come from the proper cultural and religious context that utilizes various Entheogens, then perhaps you should not be exploring these things at all, and sticking to a spiritual practice that is unique and simpatico with your cultural context; The fact that a lot of psychedelic people actively deride the term Entheogen, spiritual plant, plant of the divine, etc. tells you all that you need to know about where the psychedelic community is heading.
(Artwork done by me, entitled “firmament”, oct 2018, acrylic on canvas).