The materialist manifestations of pseudo-spiritual practice risk decreasing spiritual health over time
Before this: I’m a Wizard now I guess.
Belief is fuzzy.
I spent some time trying to visualize belief. I bet someone else has done a better job of this already so if you know of a relevant link please share it. Here’s what I came up with and it’s good enough to suit my needs for this article.
The black dot is not the belief. It is the label we use as a placeholder for everything in this image so we don’t have to think about things too much.
The green circle is not the belief. It is the idea that exists at the core of the belief.
The blue spikes are not the belief. They are potential efforts by individuals or groups to manifest the idea at the core of the belief into the real world.
The red dots are not the belief. They are individual views and perspectives from which we attempt to understand all of the individual components built around the idea. Not everyone knows about all the possible red dots.
So where is the belief? How do I visualize the belief in the context of this image? A full circle around the whole thing seems inaccurate to me. Why? Is the diagram incomplete? A new colour-coded element as part of the bigger picture feels out of place — I don’t have an answer here. Please remix this if you’re so inclined. The end of this visualization is presently beyond me.
What is belief?
At times I’ve found that there is something Magickal that happens when I try to convert ideas into deliberate actions — the process seems to contain an unknown connection between the idea and the action that I can consider but can’t really understand. Similar to the type of unknown connection we expect to discover between Newtonian and quantum physics in order to achieve a grand unified theory of everything for physics. The types of stories I have to tell myself because I don’t really understand the subject feel like different types of stories, but they feel connected.
Does this make sense (spoiler: yes, no, and maybe):
Belief is quantum and ideology is Newtonian?
I keep going on AT LENGTH about how so many things are actually multiple things. The above view is how I sort of reconcile this perspective in my broader view of the world.
Let’s talk about capitalism and about belief and about ideology.
When I think of capitalism as an ideology I understand how to get to things like trickle-down economics, tax breaks for not-for-profits, small business loans, economic collapses, etc. The ideology allows me to consider various ways to integrate it with the materialistic/systems-based world we inhabit.
When I think about money I think about how I can tap a piece of plastic against another piece of plastic and get a sandwich. There’s something Magickal there — when I consider this from my former perspective and my present perspective it feels accurate, and I don’t share this feeling with my perspective on capitalism. Capitalism is a system that can be understood but a single economic transaction between two humans and the internet is so complex that it can’t be fully understood. (Why? macro vs micro, or systemic vs individual?) When I think about the stock market or cryptocurrency trading I see something Magickal as well — It’s something involving complexity and people and belief.
The main point here is that those things are demonstrably different in how I perceive them (and in how I perceive people as perceiving them) in ways that requires them to be considered with a separate mindset. Failing to shift mindsets when shifting between them represents a potential point of failure in my ability to understand things.
They’re kind of the same and kind of not and maybe they’re built on top of each other or maybe they’re part of the same spectrum. That’s the type of deeply imperfect answer that is way too satisfying for me as I work on this project.
I’m not fully convinced of the above, just FYI. Maybe capitalism involves faith for some people, for example, and not just money. Some people no doubt don’t view money as something that involves faith. These things are hard to compare but we can compare what their implementation in materialist systems looks like, and I think this is an accurate part of that: “faith-based belief seems harder to align with an increasingly materialist world than secular ideologies.” (Question: are people losing faith in money?)
Who runs the world?
Spoiler: any individual or group who can.
Religious power structures have been the dominant power structures on our planet for most of the time we’ve been putting rocks on top of each other. They still are throughout the world. I’m a big fan of secular democratic systems (more on that later) and I try to be mindful that this view has formed as a result of where I was born, what I’ve learned, and how I’ve reacted to who I’ve known.
I have only recently come to experience a degradation in my quality of life and the quality of the health of my environment and communities. It took me a while to understand this had happened. Until I experienced this degradation I wasn’t open to considering the type of belief systems present elsewhere in the world because I saw no reason to change that aspect of my mind.
Once I became open to changing my mind I discovered a whole bunch of different perspectives and opinions which hadn’t really been accessible to me before. I’m not saying this to say “I should have always been open to change” — that sentiment is meaningless to me. I was what I was and I changed when I changed. It started a long time ago as a result of the climate and a bunch of big stuff that seemed overwhelming and then I became open to things like Buddhism, spirituality or other esoteric forms of sense- and meaning-making.
I’ve known spiritual people and new age people and people of every religion and it’s just never been for me. As long as they didn’t try to force their beliefs on me I was happy to share space for them in my mind and heart. You can’t force belief on someone — you can only force them to lie about it. Through that lens I understand that history is often cases where huge groups of people have been forced to lie about belief in order to exist within the good graces of the power structure that controlled their lives.
None of this is to say that countless individuals and groups didn’t find shared comfort and purpose and solace in religious ritual. It seems unfair of me to judge the meaning-making capabilities of a feudal peasant from my comfortable position at the other end of the internet. I just hope they found some happiness. There are so many lives being lived that have none of the comforts of mine
Figuring this new stuff out was way more complex than figuring out how to integrate with the secular systems that exist around me because I was born in them. I didn’t have to understand I just had to do. A secular belief system or ideology is easier for me to understand in the context of our civilization (which is currently dominated by materialist systems as they are the most effective way to handle the infrastructure of civilization) than a faith-based belief system.
The faith-based system requires the adoption of something which cannot be conclusively proven but is also of profound significance to some people. And even the most cursory exploration of the field of religious studies will show that belief/faith/religion all apply to materialistic expressions of our culture that are not divine or spiritual in nature.
Faith (which I guess includes some irreligious or nontheistic behaviour) and ideology appear fundamentally different and yet somehow related. This is hard stuff to talk about and understand but it’s all around us so and impacts our lives so we need to understand it.
Belief is Quantum and behaviour is Newtonian?
Converting the fuzzy inner desires of our gloriously complex minds into materialistic things like language or action involves (this may be wrong) converting the source energy (biological + metaphysical?) into a different type of energy (hi-fives).
What is lost or changed in that conversion? Are there different ways to achieve that conversion? Is the conversion the same for everyone and we just don’t see it when we look at others because of our biases — or does something fundamental happen at some core strata of reality relating to consciousness and energy that means that we can’t be generalized and are all truly and fundamentally unique?
It looks like science is going to be able to explain a lot more stuff in the coming years (and the progress we’re making is incredible), but also the explanations we often get are incomplete or suffer from other biases. This is probably usually less true with established science rather than stuff on the edge, but it’s always important to note that every system probably has flaws because every human has flaws (and we’re all amazing) and we exist within flawed systems. (AI will have flaws if we make it like us/we should probably make some AI like us)
The scientific breakthrough we’ve seen and will see in the coming years are amazing. It’s so important to be aware of the nature and intent of projects like Neuralink — if only to maintain a healthy understanding of what’s happening with tech. A lack of healthy understanding makes it harder to react in a healthy way when business/tech throw big world-changing things at us. So many people I know just live in fear of what big tech will do to them next (although I don’t think they verbalize it this way, so I may be projecting and/or wrong)
I’m excited to see a lot of the cool tech being explored and discovered but I’m concerned about the biases of the systems that will foster and support these efforts. Many of the worst things that have happened in the world during my lifetime have been caused or exacerbated by technology. A lot of the time the technology causes what can be described as spiritual harm to individuals and groups. This seems consistent.
I do not want technology plugged into my brain to cause me spiritual harm. Some technology I use on the internet already does that and the consequences are pretty fucking dire to us.
The level of rationalism and materialism required to create something like Neuralink represents a very intense level of ideological focus — very intense levels of ideological focus often spawn dogma. Maybe not in the people who are leading the efforts — what about those that follow?
If there is more to the world — If Magick is real (Magick here is defined as energy or information present in reality which can be measured or discussed but which does not appear to be bound to the laws of physics) then these hyper-materialistic efforts will risk catastrophic shortfalls in their ability to achieve their goals.
Somewhat like what’s happening right now all around us.
Look to the wise old women in remote cabins for deep understanding of many complex subjects
I mean probably not exclusively but geez: pay attention to the people who pay attention to things.
The above is an example of my using a trope or a meme to bring us to a shared sense of understanding about where I’m coming from before I try to make my point. The type of thing I’m telling you to look for can also be found in foolish young men in decadent palaces (under the right conditions).
We need to take a step back and think about how we used to understand the world and compare it to how we understand the world now. This isn’t to say that we should adopt one understanding over the other it means that everything feels really fucking complicated all the time and we often simply need as many tools and resources as we can muster.
I feel like this is a pretty accurate general statement: The more rigid and structured our efforts to understand and convey an ideology => the more it aligns with the materialistic requirements of consumption => the more likely it is that certain key elements risk being excluded or omitted from discussion of relevant systems.
I feel like a lot of stuff I’m saying these days is really fucking obvious but I don’t know that I’ve seen it conveyed in a way that has clicked for me before. I’m certainly open to people saying “You’re wrong about X here’s how it works/how I think it works/how person Y thinks it works”.
Can I have witches and scientists on my side?
I follow a bunch of individual members of both groups on social media and the positive impact of their ideals on their lives are often clearly evident. This is true even though many individual efforts or beliefs are seemingly incompatible to many others.
What is the most holistic way to approach belief? Is that a necessary thing to consider? I think it is — but I know I didn’t used to think that. I understand that some people will view this shift as the manifestation of a mental health crisis (we all live during a global mental health crisis) and some people will view it as an awakening.
I’m on the fence/it’s probably both. I think there are different versions of this for different people at different times though, so it’s possible this position is incompatible with someone else worldview. I understand why someone would only want witches or only want scientists and maybe I’m only open to both right now because I feel our whole world is on the cusp of some pretty big changes. It looks like people felt this way in the 60s though and the change didn’t come, so who knows?
What happens if the perspectives I take around the implementation of my beliefs aren’t broad enough to ensure a full picture of my beliefs and their impact? Are the pitfalls of improperly executed belief worse than the pitfalls of improperly executed ideology? How can this be considered, let alone measured and understood, in a way that doesn’t present as fundamentally overwhelming?
Those are probably rhetorical questions
That’s not to say I have the answers to them, I just don’t think I’m open to really exploring answers directly right now. I’m still trying to understand the nature of the questions. I’m still trying to figure out what combination of red dots I occupy as I consider this idea I’m exploring.
I hope reading through my thought process has been of some value to you. If you’d like you can support me on Patreon because I’m fun and charming and sometimes I say smart things and I like to eat sandwiches.
If you scroll lower you’ll see a sexy picture of me.