Atheist/Humanist/Non-Religious

How New Ageism almost ruined my life, and why Marianne Williamson makes me cringe

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  • #140900

    Ohio Barbarian
    Moderator
    • Total Posts: 7,829
    @ohiobarbarian

    I promised @davidthegnome I’d write something about my experience with the New Age movement and why I now think it’s nonsense, so here it is. Please note that I am putting this in the Atheist/Humanist/Non-Religious forum for a reason, as opposed to putting it in Alternative Spirituality or General Discussion or something. It is not my intention to denigrate anyone’s deeply held beliefs; I am only talking about my own personal journey and how it impacts my views on politicians and New Ageism.

    The election of 1980 came as a shock to me. I was 21, and simply could not believe that the American people were stupid enough or angry enough to overwhelmingly elect Ronald Reagan, whose policies did directly and negatively impact me. I was on an inside track to join the Foreign Service, and that was immediately derailed because there was no way I could ever participate in implementing the policies of that disastrous administration.

    My world was shattered, and I searched around for something, anything, that would make it make sense again. Back then, New Age and spiritual bookstores were all over the place, and I ate it up. Eventually I met, fell in love with, and married a woman who was whole hog into New Ageism, and I dived in. Visualization, pendulum power, pyramid power, various forms of meditation, astrology, the Tarot, all of it. And I really believed that if I just visualized clearly enough, just channeled the spiritual energy through cards or the horoscopes enough, that I would be materially rewarded and everything would be cool.

    I moved from my home state of Texas to the Denver area, partially because my wife told me that Colorado was at the center of some powerful mystical lines of force, fully expecting that we would find success. It didn’t happen. It turned out that she was an unmedicated paranoid schizophrenic, and I was really just a privileged, spoiled brat throwing a kind of life-choice tantrum that really pissed off my manipulative parents. I went through half a dozen jobs a year until I reached the point no one would hire me, Bachelor’s degree notwithstanding.

    No matter how much visualization and astrology and Tarot I practiced, things just got worse. We were staring homelessness in the face. Finally, in desperation, I joined the Navy. It was probably the best thing I could have done at the time, and it did show me I could do things, positive things, that I never really believed I was capable of doing before. It certainly put the spoiled, privileged brat part of my psyche firmly in its place. Within a year, I was convinced that New Ageism was bunk. Within a few years, I knew that something was horribly wrong with my wife. A few years after that, after she steadfastly refused to get the help she needed and tried to split my head in two with a meat cleaver, I ended the marriage.

    Then I embarked on the hard, slow slog to the relative comfort and stability of county bureaucracies, found the love of my life, and now live in a nice place.

    There was one big bump in that road. When we were closing on the house, there was a major hangup with the last stage of the process. My mom had sent us a few thousand bucks to buy furniture for the new place, said it was a gift right on the check, and I reported it. Silly me. The bank wanted all of her financial information, which she understandably refused to provide, and said that the loan could not be approved.

    So here we were, sitting in a rental with black mold in the basement, knowing that the county would foreclose on it soon because the absentee landlord hadn’t paid property taxes in ten years, looking at disaster. Desperate, I breached protocol and contacted the seller’s realtor directly and told her what was going on, and I prayed to Freya, the Norse goddess of hearth, home, and family, among other things. I figured it couldn’t hurt, and that Freya might not be busy that day. Why not?

    The very next day, the bank called and said corporate had approved the loan. Whew! Then, a day after we moved in, we saw a ger falcon, very rare in these parts, and one of Freya’s birds, in the back yard. I even got higher than a kite, thanked Freya, and swear I heard her say “You’re welcome.”

    Now, did Freya actually intervene? I like to think so, but I’m sure not going to try to convince anyone else that she did. Did two real estate agents and the sellers, who were counting on getting the money so they could purchase their new home, call the bank and threaten to sue them if they denied my loan? Yes, I know they did because they told me so. Did someone with a brain at the bank overrule the people demanding information from my mother? Definitely. I’m in the house, aren’t I?

    I am firmly convinced that New Age mysticism, visualization, Tarot, astrology, whatever, have no material world impact on people’s living circumstances, and that relying on such things to improve one’s material lot is a very foolish thing to do. Then I saw Marianne Williamson’s tweet:

    …Millions of us seeing Dorian turn away from land is not a wacky idea; it is a creative use of the power of the mind. Two minutes of prayer, visualization, meditation for those in the way of the storm…

    Like millions of us visualizing a hurricane changing in its course might actually make it happen, could actually have a physical, real-life impact? Yes, Williamson really believes that. I’m sorry, but that’s nonsense. As far as Williamson goes, Kyle Kulinski speaks for me:

    New Ageism can be fun, and it can even help some folks find a sense of inner peace. I have no problem with that. But don’t pretend that it can change the course of hurricanes, address social and economic injustice, eliminate student loan debt, or save our civilization from total collapse in the face of climate change. Neither can pagan rituals or Christianity, for that matter.

    As Thor told me, even the Fates can’t fix stupid.

    Marianne Williamson needs to stop pretending that she is a serious candidate and go back to the safety of her nice New Age bubble, IMHO. That is all.

    We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.--Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    With Bernie Sanders, we have the receipts. --Nina Turner

  • #140907

    ThouArtThat
    Member
    • Total Posts: 1,403
    @thouartthat

    @ohiobarbarian

    Hi ob,

    Yep – would agree completely on the bogus nature of New Age metaphysics.

    I did not fall so far down the rabbit hole and only dabbled at the edges.

    I have found it better to explore more reliable methods of spiritual growth via meditation and self inquiry.

    TAT

    "In a Time of Universal Deceit - Telling the Truth Is a Revolutionary Act."
    - George Orwell

    "They must find it difficult ... Those who have taken authority as the truth,
    Rather than truth as the authority."
    - Gerald Massey

    "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."
    - Jiddu Krishnamurti

    “Wisdom tells me I am nothing.  Love tells me I am everything. And between the two my life flows."
    - Nisargadatta Maharaj

    • #140959

      Ohio Barbarian
      Moderator
      • Total Posts: 7,829
      @ohiobarbarian

      @thouartthat Zen is better, IMHO. At least, it has been better for me. It’s definitely helped me from the Navy on, from time to time. Mainly, it always helps me focus on the critically important thing to do in the immediate future, or it shows me that doing nothing for now is the best choice.

      And the Way of the Laughing Buddha is a sanity-saver.

      We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.--Franklin Delano Roosevelt

      With Bernie Sanders, we have the receipts. --Nina Turner

      • #140963

        ThouArtThat
        Member
        • Total Posts: 1,403
        @thouartthat

        @ohiobarbarian

        Hi ob,

        Yep – each of us has to find the meditation practice best suited to our own nature.

        For some it is Zen.  For others it might be Noting or Vipassana or Dzogchen.  Finding the right meditation method is part of the path.

        TAT

        "In a Time of Universal Deceit - Telling the Truth Is a Revolutionary Act."
        - George Orwell

        "They must find it difficult ... Those who have taken authority as the truth,
        Rather than truth as the authority."
        - Gerald Massey

        "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."
        - Jiddu Krishnamurti

        “Wisdom tells me I am nothing.  Love tells me I am everything. And between the two my life flows."
        - Nisargadatta Maharaj

  • #140909

    NV Wino
    Moderator
    • Total Posts: 3,175
    @nvwino

    I have a New Age story. I was involved with a “mind expansion” (for lack of a better word) group. We did an exercise to be the magnet of the universe and attract  whatever we wanted. I decided to generalize rather than be specific. I asked for a knight with shining armor.

    Two weeks later, as I worked the northern Renaissance Faire, I met a man whose last name was Knight, and he had a collection of armor. We had a… well, let’s skip the adjectives and just say… an affair. I left SoCal for NoCal and moved in with him. The eventual outcome? Turned out his armor was a bit tarnished. But it brought me out of the smog to where I am today.

    “As we act, let us not become the evil that we deplore.” Barbara Lee
    “Politicians and pro athletes: The only people who still get paid when they lose.” William Rivers Pitt

    • #140961

      Ohio Barbarian
      Moderator
      • Total Posts: 7,829
      @ohiobarbarian

      @nvwino

      You get it. I must admit I’d never before entertained the concepts of the New Age movement and smog in the same thought. Oh, that leads down a most satirical road…

      We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.--Franklin Delano Roosevelt

      With Bernie Sanders, we have the receipts. --Nina Turner

  • #140965

    GZeusH
    Member
    • Total Posts: 1,563
    @gzeush

    OK, K. Kulinski — as non-religious as they come —  I’ll have to put his name in the lightning bolt carousel.

    • #141137

      Ohio Barbarian
      Moderator
      • Total Posts: 7,829
      @ohiobarbarian

      It wouldn’t hurt the kid to have his tailfeathers singed.

      We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.--Franklin Delano Roosevelt

      With Bernie Sanders, we have the receipts. --Nina Turner

  • #141044

    David the Gnome
    Member
    • Total Posts: 1,253
    @davidthegnome

    My experiences were tame compared to yours.  I dabbled, really.  Read a lot of books – and occasionally tried different chants or meditations.  I was so overwhelmingly depressed as a younger man that I was desperate for some kind of meaning.

    I was 20 or 21 when I met a fellow who became, for a time, a sort of “spiritual mentor”.  I had run into him before, when going to a local smoke-filled bar with my parents.

    But, one night we decided go to his place, play a game of chess and smoke a joint.  I’d never had more than a few hits.  That night I smoked at least half a full joint myself.

    Lost my shit a little, cried, shook, told him my life story, how miserable I was, how I had tried to kill myself.  Lying down there, gazing up into the star lit sky behind his house in the northern Maine woods (great view), i had a feeling of, hmm, destiny.

    He did something few people, up till then, had done for me.  He listened, he spoke offered thoughts and advice… and compassion.  Would have loved the man just for listening.

    I was so painfully shy, so frustrated with myself that I could almost never speak in complete sentences to anyone not family.

    Anyhow… over the next several months, we got to know each other.  Smoked large quantities of marijuana, played chess, discussed literature, religion, history…

    Every question I had about life, he had an answer for.  Neither of us were part of any church, we slowly became like a weird, two member cult.

    Once he really began to trust me though, he let things slip.  He hid Confederate flags in his room.  He was a terrible misogynist, had been beating his girlfriend for years.  The last thing was what finally drove me away.

    For a time, I had felt like… like the world was far simpler, more black and white.  That I was on my way to finding god, or my higher spiritual self or something..

    Looking back now… it was mostly bull shit.  The answers he gave, the mentoring, was nothing I could not have gotten from any half crazed preacher, evangelical or what have you.

    It was more the way we were always in nature.  In beautiful, forgotten parts of the forest.  The way we once tracked a deer close enough to touch it.  The pride I felt the one time I managed to win a chess game against him.

    In truth, he was nuttier than a shithouse bat.  Loved people like Alex Jones and Ann Coulter – but none of that was apparent at first.

    It looks months, afterwards, thinking, reflecting, to figure out for myself that he and his philosophies were something I wanted no part of.  Broke my damn heart though.

    Since then, I have not had what you might call a close friend, spiritual mentor, preacher, or whatever.  My comfort is in my family and my fiance – and our two cats… and occasionally, the conversations I have with kind, intelligent people here.

    One good turn deserves another.  A good story, my friend – and it reveals a lot about you.  How you came to wisdom and maturity, and the crazy, painful journey you took to get there.

    I dont know much, but I dont believe in coincidence.  I think things happen for a reason.  I hope that one day I am half as wise as you.

  • #141293

    Babel 17
    Donor
    • Total Posts: 1,993
    @babel17

    If you believe in everything, you believe in nothing.

    I think the explanation for her belief sounds better when expressed in science fiction terms. Think infinite parallel universes all moving to the future and the human mind can sometimes cause an intersection between them. The trick, I suppose, is being to accept that sometimes the universe is just flat out strictly only serving lumpy gravy with its cold mashed potatoes, end of story.

    Philip K. Dick didn’t believe in everything, and he could be mocking of dilettantes, but he did believe in the I Ching, and alternate dimensions, and he sincerely claimed that it was the I Ching that decided the plot of his novel The Man in the High Castle. The Amazon series that greatly expanded on that uses both the I Ching, and especially alternate universes, to good effect.

    Interestingly enough both the book/Amazon series, and PKD, do not espouse the kind of passivity associated with what gets called “Wu”.

    Lol, and in this universe, if I don’t get my butt to the gym, then the workout never happened. ;) Laterz!

    https://www.tulsi2020.com/

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