Friday, January 23, 2015

The Sinister Side of Spirituality

Spirituality is generally misanthropic in that it finds normal human pursuits of wealth, prosperity, romantic love, attachment to family, formal education, social status, etc. as misguided.

Spirituality has a close cousin in environmentalism in that it finds human progress as a catastrophe for the planet, it disregards rigorous science in favor of feel-good theories and it advocates a return to more earthy or native lifestyles; being vegetarian, going organic, practicing yoga (as an aside, I wonder how "yog-aa" has become the normative pronunciation in recent years) and alternative medicine, etc.  They have a romantic view of primitive cultures, and consider them healthier, no matter what the facts say.

The sinister side of this world-view is this: spiritualists and environmentalists gloat over every new disaster that befalls humanity.  Human suffering, whatever the cause, is proof to them that radical change is needed and that their perception that the world has gone haywire is correct and justified.

They might feel "compassion" at others' suffering, but this compassion is tinged with "understanding" and condescension.   A part of them is exceedingly glad whenever a seemingly unmanageable disaster strikes a region.  Be it a tsunami, an outbreak of an infectious disease, a widespread food contamination, a newly discovered side-effect of a much-used chemical, a conviction of a CEO of a successful company, a failed spaceship launch, and so on.  They feel vindicated and happy when the "other side" messes up.

To be happy when people are happy, and to be sad when they are sad, is antithetical to spirituality.  Spiritualists inwardly glow and gloat when others are sorrowful, and they are miffed when others are joyous and dancing around.  Similarly, environmentalists feel happy when they hear yet another news that a particular GM crop has been banned.  And they feel agony when a scientific paper lays out evidence that the GM crop is indeed safe and makes economic sense.

This kind of criticism can be levied at any philosophy and world-view.  But it is especially noteworthy in relation to spirituality because spirituality is, ostensibly, all about love and freedom.  But in practice, it frowns upon vast sections of humankind and finds their passions and desires as worthy of condemnation (code-worded as "non-judgmental understanding").  And environmentalism, for all its rhetoric, may be cruel in its effects (ref: the campaign against vaccines).

When someone suffers a heartbreak, for example, the spiritualist finds it an opportune moment to talk or reflect about what "real love" is and why "romantic love" is doomed.  When there is an industrial disaster, the spiritualist finds it to be just another symptom of a "dark age" in which material pursuits have overtaken our "higher" impulses and how Gaia is protesting in agony.  A devalued currency is proof to them that monetary theory is hogwash and that everybody should revert to barter.

For a spiritualist or an environmentalist, disasters are good news.  It affords them a fresh lease of self-righteousness and piety ("I'll pray for them").  Their confidence in their esoteric theories is renewed.

After all, if worldly people are happy and content, they must be wrong.  So, the suffering of worldly people is very welcome to them.


parul said...

HAhahahaha. Love the cartoon. :D

Pankaj said...

environmentalist as in people in the environment movement? for example the people protesting the keystone project?