“I’m spiritual but not religious,” she once told me, and I was actually impressed. It sounded so smart. At the time. In the context. It’s embarrassing to admit what a chump I was. But I was. A tool. A fool. An unwitting enabler of this grandiose self-absorbed bullshit. It wasn’t until I encountered the book, Spiritual, but not Religious: Understanding Unchurched America, that I — suddenly, thunderstruck — understood it was a context-free cultural meme, a buzzword, a badge of membership in some amorphous faux-community held together only by the vague belief of its members that they are “not New Age.”
So I started Mystic Bourgeoisie to explore what else might be hidden under the hood of nicey-nice sentiments and trendy affirmations of the type that are common as dirt here in Boulder, Colorado. Of course, I quickly came to realize that Boulder and Sedona and Big Sur had long ago lost whatever lock they once may have had on the market for mystically rationalized narcissistic personality disorders. Such spiritual-but-not-religious not-really-New-Age notions and nostrums had been packaged, marketed and widely exported, such that — thanks to middleware mediums such as Hay House, The Secret, and The Oprah Winfrey Show — they now constitute many of the unexamined “core values” of middle-class, middle-of-the-road America: a.k.a. the Mystic Bourgeoisie.
Emphasis mine. This kind of thing is why I forgive him for taking six months in between posts. Not to mention that he, unlike myself, is willing to actually spend irreplaceable time reading page after page of drivel in service to this insight. I can barely make it through one woo-filled post by Deepak Chopra.
The only useful thing I picked up from geometry class was the fact that every attempt to prove a point has to rest on a given, an unexamined assumption. Somewhere around the time that I discovered a love for philosophy, I realized that this could save one a lot of time in arguments, by looking at what the other person’s unexamined assumption was and starting from there. And if there’s one common thread running through New Ageism, it’s a blissfully narcissistic unawareness of why they believe what they believe.
As an aside, let me reiterate that this also reminds me how much I despise the word “spiritual”. I do my utmost to use the terms “reflective”, “contemplative”, or good old “philosophical” when asked about my non-religious views of the big picture. I think I’m also going to start calling myself an “aspiritualist” to go along with being an atheist. After all, more people seem to believe in some vague, amporphous “Ultimate Creative Force”, to use one variation on the theme I recently heard, than in a Big Daddy God anymore. These people need a sharp poke in the eye as well.
But anyway, yes — it seems to me that this no-man’s-land, where pop philosophy/psychology and declawed religion meet, doesn’t get enough attention. And I guess I can’t blame people with actual brains for considering it beneath contempt and refusing to subject themselves to it. But I do wholeheartedly agree that you have to be somewhat au fait with this stuff to really have a sense of where the average middle-class American gets their values from.