The systemic issues in Vedanta

Let me tell you why I lost my patience with Vedanta some decades ago.

To Vedanta, the state of realization of essential unity of atman and brahman, the first-person realization of the true nature of Self as one with brahman, is the fundamental metric of emancipation and spiritual success.

This state is acknowledged as identical to the state described in Patanjali’s Yoga as samadhi, union of the observed, observer and the process of observation. Samadhi exists as savikalpa and nirvikalpa, which are usually described as partial and full attainment of Self-realization. When nothing remains outside the “I Am” realization, samadhi is nirvikalpa, without remainder.

The problem is how to differentiate between a hippy who entered samadhi on LSD and was drastically changed by the experience, and a yogi who entered a samadhi as a result of a process of spiritual transformation. If the end result is the same, it’s the same, right? Also, the problem is that the experience of samadhi doesn’t necessarily produce an enlightened personality. I’ve seen genuinely insane people who had an experience of samadhi. The experience itself was authentic. According to Shankaracharya, this is not supposed to happen. Such an experience is knowledge that erases ignorance. All seeds of past karma are roasted in the heat of knowledge. The clouds have been blown away and the sun shines in all its glory. This is the ultimate end-result of all spirituality, all there is, non plus ultra.

Except that it isn’t.

The various schools of yoga came up with an inflation of terms that are supposed to deal with the obvious perceived difference in spiritual attainment between people who have had a first-person experience of brahman. First it was savikalpa and nirvikalpa. Then it was nitya nirvikalpa, the authentic nirvikalpa samadhi, no fucking around there. Then it was kevala nirvikalpa samadhi. Then it was sahaja samadhi. No, really, this is the real thing, the stuff before was not really it, but this is, we’re not shitting you.

One interesting thing I figured out when I entered samadhi in 1994 was that staying in that state would not suffice to make my spiritual position closer to that of Babaji or some similar spiritual superpower. Something else needed to happen, some kind of transformation that doesn’t exist in the metric of Vedanta, and which I therefore couldn’t put into words. Not knowing what that was, I put my faith into higher guidance which led me thus far.

I had a significant breakthrough when I was reading Bhagavata-purana, the part where the Kumaras are visiting Vaikuntha loka in order to see Krishna. The Kumaras are constantly in the state of samadhi, they are basically the end-result of all aspirations of yoga and advaita-Vedanta. However, when they actually see Krishna, they are so overwhelmed by the immense spiritual differential that they start crying and understand that there is more than samadhi, more than atma-brahma-advaita, more than the “I Am That”. Similarly, you have Shiva, the all-powerful Lord of all yoga, embodiment of supreme transcendence, possessor of ultimate power over all Creation, the sole being who could swallow the poison of Maya without being harmed, as he walks with his wife Sati and encounters Vishnu, and tells her, “this is my Guru, he is way greater than me”.

How is that possible? On what metric, by what criteria?

It took me a while to chew on this. The result, however, is unexpected. The result is that Vedanta simply doesn’t provide a valid metric for spiritual progress or evolution, that it lacks proper understanding of human makeup, it lacks proper understanding of the world and it provides almost no guidance. The single most obvious claim to veracity that Vedanta possesses stems from the fact that various beings, yogis et al., enter the state of self-realization of brahman. If not for that, it would have absolutely no merit, because every other claim that it makes can be quite simply falsified by evidence. Karma doesn’t follow predictions of Vedanta. The gunas don’t exist in any way other than as useful high-level behavioral approximations; they are obviously an impromptu invention that was supposed to supplant the Buddhist theory of elements (which BTW is confirmed by observational evidence in the advanced practice of yoga). The structure of soul doesn’t follow Vedanta‘s predictions, because the difference between the less and more evolved beings is not that the less evolved beings have more bad karma; they have barely any karma, which is why they are unevolved. The more karma a soul has, the more evolved it is; exactly opposite to the claims of Vedanta, but exactly following the Buddhist theory of kalapas and elements. Essentially, Vedanta is wrong on so many essential counts, it is useless for all practical purposes.

And here goes my radical statement: what if Vedanta is also wrong about samadhi? What if it’s not what Vedanta claims? What if Vedanta only provided a close-enough explanation of the phenomenon that everyone parrots the same cliches, and the reality is in fact something entirely different?

Let me provide an alternative explanation for samadhi. In samadhi, the limiting effect of the physical brain stops being the primary filter of reality onto consciousness, and that role is taken by the astral substance, which is inherently self-aware, it is of the nature of asmita, self-ness. In the astral mahat-tattva, God-presence and God-awareness are inherent in every kalapa, and you have to really work in order to mess with that, it’s that obvious. Beyond the astral, there exist the increasingly higher substances, whose kalapas carry a more essential quality of God, not just joy, awareness, clarity, consciousness and bliss, but deep, hard reality that’s different from the astral plane in ways similar to those in which a black hole is different from water vapor. If you concentrate an enormous number of astral kalapas, condense their essence, the way you would condense hydrogen in order to produce a star, and then collapse the star into a point in order to produce singularity, well, that point of singularity is of the quality of vajra, and its spiritual gravity is immense, it’s the difference between soul-stuff and God-stuff. There are also kalapas of increasingly higher order, and they make the spiritual essence of the Gods. So yeah, there’s your explanation of the difference between a hippy on LSD and Vivekananda, and difference between Vivekananda and Ramakrishna, difference between a disciple who had an experience of samadhi and a guru who could grant those experiences to others. There’s the difference between the Kumaras and Krishna. It’s not about how deep an experience of samadhi one had, or how long did it last, or how much without remainder it was; those concepts are merely attempts to fix a rotten boat by applying increasingly bigger layers of duct tape to the increasingly larger holes. The problem isn’t fixed by inventing increasingly “better” kinds of samadhi; the problem is fixed by abandoning Vedanta and adopting a better explanation of spiritual realities.

The common core of sectarianism everywhere

I recently commented on the similarities between the Open Source community and New Age. Since then I thought more about that and it seems to me that the similarities are far from being superficial. In fact, I think I’m on to something here. But let me explain.

They both think they are saving the world

In the Open Source community, “the enemy” used to be Microsoft, but now Apple seems to be taking over that role. Essentially, what makes them evil is that they make things everybody can use and find useful, and they make a shitload of money doing it. Of course, that’s not what the Open Source advocates will tell you. They will rant about closed source and proprietary code and what not, but there seem to be two main objections that weave through the arguments. First is “I don’t feel important and special if I’m using it because everybody can do it”, and “I can’t see the source so it must be spying on me in secret and I can’t trust it”. There’s a striking parallel between that and the opinions about the Catholic Church in the smaller religious communities. It doesn’t make you feel special because there’s a billion members, and there are all sorts of conspiracy theories about Vatican and all sorts of its supposed nefarious activities. Essentially, the big bad evil Sith Lord Emperor is in power and the valiant rebels must take him down, with the help of the Force, of course, because they are the good guys. When they take down the Evil Empire, suddenly everything will be right in the world. There will be no need for money because everybody will share things equally with others and respect each other. How they imagine they will remove conflict and disagreements in the world when they can’t agree on the color of shit even in the smallest of things they are in charge of today, I have no idea.

The things that actually work in the real world are the enemy

Let’s put it this way. If you want a computer that just works – all the hardware drivers work, all the software you need works, it’s fast, doesn’t get in the way, it’s difficult to break and will reliably allow you to do other work and completely ignore the underlying bells and whistles, what will you choose, assuming that you are technically proficient enough to be able to use just anything? Will you use a Mac, a Windows machine or a Linux machine? I’m in that exact position so I know. I used everything at some point, from Commodore 64 through a DOS 3.20 PC, Windows 3.11, 95, NT 4, 98, 2000, XP, Ubuntu Linux from Gutsy to Trusty, and a Mac Air laptop. You know what I use when I want things to work reliably, without interruptions, for years? I use Windows. It’s the most stable, the least problematic OS I know – with exception of Windows 10, which is only slightly better than Linux, in that every now and then some small thing breaks and I need to restart it. On a Mac, every OS upgrade breaks something important and I have to reinstall few programs I rely on, because they stop working properly and a new version needs to come out that is adapted to new crazy and pointless shit that Apple introduced just to fuck with it.

But when you listen to people, you’d get the impression that a Mac just works, never breaks, and Windows machines always have problems with this or that, and if you have problems with Windows and you don’t want the proprietary prison that is Mac, get Linux, that will solve all your problems. My experience, however, is that you need to have Linux on your desktop if you want to keep your skills sharp because shit is always breaking down and you need to keep fixing it, and all of it’s done from the command line, and keeping current with that helps you from getting lazy; essentially, you’re constantly in the role of a system administrator, not a user. With a Mac, things just work until you install an OS update. Then everything goes to hell, then you fix it and it keeps working for another year, when there’s a new OS update. With Windows, you install it and it just works for 10 years. When there’s a service pack, you install it and it still just works. Things break as an exception, not as a rule. You need a major OS upgrade so infrequently, you will often be having two major hardware upgrade cycles in between. With 2000, XP and 7, I kept suspending and waking up the machine for so long, I’d usually shut it down only when I went away for a vacation, and rebooted only to install some major software upgrade. Essentially, the machine with Windows behaves like a toaster, only I had toasters break more frequently than Windows machines. It’s incredibly reliable. If a Windows machine is unstable, in 100% of the cases you have a hardware failure, 80% of which is a bad RAM stick. Unfortunately they broke this polished reliability somewhat in 8 and 10, and 10 GUI is now on the reliability level close to that of Mate desktop, which is the most reliable and usable Linux window manager that I know of, which means that it usually just works, with occasional stupid shit happening without any apparent reason, like quarter of every icon missing where the shortcut sign is supposed to be, because [reasons]. Fixes with reboot. Other than that, the machine behaves like a toaster, which means, it just does what it’s supposed to, quickly, reliably, every day, so that I can do whatever else I do when not fixing the computer.

The similarity with the New Age is apparent. If you say something positive about the main-stream spirituality to someone in the New Age circles, it’s like praising Hitler in a synagogue. You can say all you want about the main-stream being spiritually sterile, obsolete, corrupt, power hungry and godless, though, and just watch the audience’s eyes glow and hearts warm with happiness as you do, but if you say something positive about the main-stream religions or something negative about some New Age nonsense, they’ll turn into harpies and try to scratch your eyes out. But the smartest people usually come from the main-stream, from the exact organizations that are supposedly devoid of all spirituality, corrupt and dark, and all those supposedly creative people in the New Age communities usually just rehash other people’s ideas, write bad poetry and literature and are intellectual midgets who think they are giants.

There is a huge number of “contributors”…

…but they mostly simply copy things from the few actual major contributors, who all originate from outside the movement. Just think about it: in the Open Source community, the greatest number of “contributors” either duplicate each other’s efforts, or contribute very simple, trivial things of little use, like ten different text editors that are all either the same or they are shit. The greatest contributions come from great companies, like Sun Microsystems, IBM, Google or Apple.

Again, the similarity with New Age is striking. When I was on the Kundalini mailing list, there were exactly two people there with original techniques that were not simple rewrites or rehashes of previously available stuff: Angelique and myself. There were practitioners of Vipasana and Dzogchen who did their stuff according to tradition with little or no innovation, there were practitioners of all sorts of pre-existing techniques and systems, and those who were the most innovative, in the sense that they did their own thing, were usually the craziest one with most problems, which would be easy to correct by simply switching to some traditional approach. So basically you had a group of people that appeared to be extremely fragmented and individualistic, but when you had to summarize and see who was it that did something useful that actually worked, you got several old traditions and two original contributors who were actually proficient enough to invent techniques and approaches through their own personal practice. Out of what, six hundred people or whatever the number was? However, whenever people spoke about traditional systems, you would get the impression that traditional systems are restricting, limiting, and inferior to the freedom and individuality of New Age.

Infighting and sectarianism are rampant

Let me quote something from Wikipedia. It’s not a list of Linux distributions, it’s a tree of distribution-types:

Basically, everyone in this tree hates every other branch, and they all hate Apple and Microsoft. But when you ask them what they are all about, they’ll talk about unity, love, freedom and creativity. I don’t even need to mention similarity with the New Age communities, do I? You just can’t believe this shit.

The moment something has a chance of actually succeeding, it is denounced as the enemy

If it doesn’t work reliably, it’s a creative small independent community or an individual who is boldly experimenting with advancing [x]. When it actually works to the point of other people wanting to use it and it becoming the main stream, it’s the evil cult of money and power whose only purpose and agenda is to limit and enslave others. Replace x with [software, spirituality, food, soap, toilet paper].

It’s only seen as positive and creative as long as it’s useless or actively harmful. When it actually starts being useful, it becomes boring and is denounced by the community of thrill-seeking ego-motivated misfits. For instance, when Ubuntu started being actually useful as an end-user-oriented distribution that could actually be installed on normal people’s computers and used to do actual work, it was immediately and universally denounced by the Open Source advocates as a commercial sellout. Prior to that, the professed goal of the community was to increase Linux adoption in the general user base. However, as that started to happen, the Linux advocates no longer felt special just for using Linux, and now had to use some “pure” shit that’s not contaminated by the plebeian main stream adoption. Similarly, when each New Age person is doing their own thing and stumbling in the dark, they praise each other as great examples. However, when someone is actually successful, and others come to him in order to learn, it’s seen as a negative example of a cult following and falling to the Dark Side. I’d say it’s the same thing: jealousy of someone else’s success, and frustration because of the possibility of a realization that originality is not necessarily a good thing if it actually stands in the way of accomplishing goals. Also, different approaches that can’t make the basics work are hardly originality; more likely, they are abortive attempts. For instance, if you can’t manage to concentrate, it’s a better idea to learn some reliable preexisting method than to experiment. Experiment only when no preexisting method is available or satisfactory. However, neither Open Source nor New Age, for the most part, are actually doing things on the bleeding edge of human endeavor. Open Source is mostly reproducing shit for free that someone else had already done for money, and New Age is no better; its stated goals are mostly re-hashed Vedanta with some Buddhism and Christianity. If something is actually new and original, it stands alone outside the New Age community, rejected because it went outside the dogmatic boundaries of a group that’s supposed be free from dogmatic boundaries.

Kundalini, hazards and safeguards

I guess I should say more about things that make people go crazy in the context of Kundalini work and spirituality, since I already mentioned it in passing. Also, the stuff that is protective against that might be useful so I’ll mention that, too.

So, the stuff that’s closely related with what one could be called Kundalini psychosis:

  • Entitlement. If you think you have rights, you’re fucked, because the first thing you do when things get unpleasant, and they invariably do, is to feel victimized and whine. This essentially collapses your energy system and you get caught up in a vicious circle of hurt-whine. Immature whiners with rights are a very nasty sight in the context of Kundalini.

  • Egomania. In this context it’s usually spiritual egomania, sounding very much like advaita-vedanta, and it sounds either like “I am God, I am the Divine Self, there is no higher authority above me, I’m on top of the world”, or, in milder cases, “I don’t need to respect anyone because you are all just persons, and I bow only before the Self”. Tough shit, because in advaita-vedanta brahman is the Self in all beings, regardless of their enlightenment, and a true jñani of vedanta bows before all. The difference between jñana and egomania is that a jñani, who sees one atman in all beings, bows before all beings, and an egomaniac wants all beings to bow before him because he fails to understand the true nature of atman. Egomania is actually a symptom of a wrecked vertical and usually accompanies serious energetic starvation; it doesn’t mean Kundalini is rampant, it means Kundalini is blocked, or at least constrained at some level.

  • Feeling of invulnerability. This was the bane of my failed students. They learned powerful techniques of cleansing astral and pranic bodies, and felt as if all their actions are reversible; they could experiment with anything and simply use kriya to remove the adverse consequences. The problem is, they didn’t understand how kriya works, and why I, who taught them, am so careful about avoiding sinful activities. You see, sinful deeds have two main consequences: they mess up your energy system and they restructure your karmic body, because you made a choice of a certain kind and you literally became the person who made that choice. The first part can be cleansed and repaired trivially with my technique. The second part, not so much. In order to fix damage to your spiritual makeup inflicted by sinful deeds, you need to recant, you need to “undo” the choice, make another, different choice, and make amends. Unfortunately, once people start feeling invulnerable, they get addicted to the feeling of power, and then → egomania and → fail. When people talk about the dangers of Kundalini this aspect is almost never mentioned; usually people talk about overheating, too much energy coursing through the chakras and nadis, things breaking and blah, but in my experience, the worst danger comes not from improper handling of Kundalini and the physical damage to mind and body, but from the feeling of invulnerability and invincibility because the techniques you learned work exceptionally well, and you think you can fix anything, you are up to any challenge, God loves you and wouldn’t allow you to fail, you will always be protected and safe, and you can experiment with all sorts of shit, cast morality aside, treat the world and beings in it as if they are your playground and toys, and it’s all about you. This is a major hazard and a point of failure. No, the technique is not omnipotent, and no, you are not safe. You are vulnerable, you are at risk, and God will not save you if you make choices that reject him.

And now let’s talk about the protective things, things that keep you safe:

  • Faith. You need to understand that your life is not under your control. You were born here with suppressed memories, suppressed powers and in a situation you have no control of. Your true nature is not known to you, but it is known to God. God knows who you truly are, and knows what you truly need for your greatest good. The only way for you to not end up wrecked is to put your faith in God and to listen, cooperate and obey. Which brings us to…

  • Obedience. If you want to learn how to be God, first learn how to kneel before God, and pray. In your faith, be obedient, be diligent, be mindful of your duties and don’t ever do anything that would desecrate things that are holy. The only way to achieve true power is to allow the flow of power through your being, and that is achieved through faith, obedience and

  • Love. However, love without clarity is blinding and dangerous, because it is vulnerable to illusions. So through faith and obedience you absorb insight and knowledge from God, and you are mindful of your situation, you are mindful to the reality of the world and this manifests as the greatest benefit to your surroundings, whatever that may look like. But in order to correctly balance your actions you need

  • Surrender. Sometimes God will decide to do things you don’t understand, and for reasons you cannot see. You need to accept that you are in a valley and your horizon is limited. Since you don’t know what’s truly going on, you need to accept the fact that God knows more than you do, he can do better, and in order for you to learn better you need to surrender to his guidance and simply be aware and awake to what’s going on, without passing judgements. This means

  • Detachment. It doesn’t mean giving zero fucks, it means caring deeply, but not binding yourself to interpretations of what’s going on, and being in a position of learning, not judging. Thinking you understand what’s going on is a form of attachment. The proper attitude is to take in what’s going on in all of its aspects, but not pass judgement. Rather, allow the truth to come to you gradually. To be detached is to be receptive, and not to close oneself off in the conceit of assumption. It is the position of a true scientist, who mindfully observes, but never passes definite judgement. However, you need

  • Responsibility. When you decide to do something, be aware of what you decided. Don’t feel victimized by your choices, and don’t be remorseful. If you did something right, nod and proceed. If you did something wrong, figure out what was the nature of the mistake, understand it fully, then correct it and proceed wiser for the experience. Agonizing over failure is useless and creates an energetic state that tends to perpetuate errors. Instead, you need to be not nonchalant, but relaxed about your fallibility. Yes, you will make mistakes. It’s the part of the process of figuring things out. It’s important to figure out what was wrong, and to fix it. If you can’t fix it, do better next time, wiser for the experience; pay it forward. The best approach to mistakes is not to get crippled by them, but to be enriched and wisened by them. When you make mistakes, think of yourself not as a sinner, but as a Jedi Padawan in training. Yes, you can make mistakes. You can make a wrong call. You can be deluded, you can be deceived, you can be led astray, but you are still powerful, worthy, good and with a great destiny ahead of you if you keep learning from your mistakes.

  • Trust your instincts. As you get wiser, your instincts get better. Initially, they are shit, but later on, they become close to infallible. Initially, you need to suppress all negativity, because it is bound with ignorance and contaminated by low-energy structures within your energetic bodies. However, as you progress on the path of spiritual evolution and purification, you need to trust your anger, trust your hatred, trust your cynicism, and you must trust your love, desire and compassion. As you incorporate aspects of God into your being, you must learn to trust them. This is a difficult lesson for people to learn, because initially they learn to doubt themselves and their instincts and desires, and to trust only God, but as things progress, God gets closer and closer, and difference between what you feel and what God feels is vague. Opposite of egomania, this is the state of sublimation of ego, of its perfect attunement to God, in will, character and essence. As much as it is dangerous for a beginner to trust his instincts, because his instincts are filth, it is even more dangerous for an advanced yogi not to trust his instincts, because they become the will of God.

  • Renounce self. This means also renouncing self-criticism, self-doubt, and self-control. After you’ve been kneeling before God for years, being an obedient servant, being mindful and listening to His will for so long, you need to renounce the last vestiges of self that define you as non-God. As you completely renounce yourself and your identity as a limited being, you understand your nature as that of a limited vehicle for God. This is a humbling and transformational event, after which you see it as your duty to keep refining the vehicle you inhabit in order to be able to use it for the greatest possible good.

So, basically, when a beginner-yogi thinks he’s God, he’s deluded and has a serious problem, but he likes the idea a lot and it makes him feel powerful. When an advanced yogi thinks he’s not God, he’s deluded and has a serious problem, but he likes the idea a lot and it makes him feel powerful.


New Age as the Open Source approach

New Age borrowed a great deal from classical Hinduism, Buddhism and Yoga, and the list of such adoptions would be too extensive for this format, but the process didn’t necessarily go only one way. It is my opinion that New Age actually contributed some important new aspects to the classical lore. It’s as if New Age treated all its sources according to the GPL license; it took everything it found interesting, but it also left the open-source contributions in the thoughtspace.

For instance, the New Age lore on Kundalini is much more extensive than anything I could find in the classical literature. In fact, the classical writings are often deliberately deceptive and written in some sort of code, where the “key” for proper understanding was orally transmitted from master to disciple. Also, the chakras and their connection with the higher bodies are much better understood and explained in New Age. The problem with the classical concepts of lineage is that very few people actually had the opportunity to experiment with the techniques and contribute to the lore; essentially, it’s like closed-source software, where small isolated communities of programmers work on problems, compared to the open-source community where many more brains can be thrown at a problem and contributions are pooled together. Of course, not all contributions are equally valid or even positive, but the same can be said of the classical Upanishads. Not all ideas were equally brilliant, or ever contributed to the solution of any kind. One of the greatest contributions of the Kundalini mailing list from the 1990s is that it pooled together all sorts of people who mostly unwillingly experimented with Kundalini experience, and you could see what worked and what didn’t. Sometimes it was worth more to see the consequences of a wrong approach, and seeing a lot of people go crazy on a pattern told you volumes about going crazy. To me, personally, the most valuable aspect of the entire thing was confirmation of the reality of the phenomenon, confirmation of the basic concepts I personally established by experimentation, and understanding what happens when you don’t do it the way I did. Also, I got several useful ideas about things I personally hadn’t thought of, but once I tried them they were quite intuitive. I, too, contributed my personal findings to the data pool.

The problem is the same as with the open source community – most contributions consist of hundreds ways of coding a notepad or a calculator. There are many different “projects” and micro-communities that don’t necessarily do things the most efficient way, but at least you have choice. There are people who merely copy other people’s work and present it as their own in order to bloat their ego. Essentially, you need a certain amount of skill in order to be able to safely navigate this mess, but you can say the same about the classic literature about spirituality. In any case, the New Age Kundalini community probably did more for extending the bleeding edge of human knowledge about yogic mysticism into the realms of unknown than any single conventional school of yoga that I know of. In fact, while the New Age community was busy really exploring spirituality and doing often messy experiments in vivo, the traditional schools of the time were mostly doing jack shit. They were merely rehashing old ideas, having mediocre results, and boasting their ancient authentic lineage. So, it’s something like Linux. When you hear about the way it was made, you are tempted to conclude that such a thing can’t possibly work and that a traditional operating system would be much more reliable. In reality, if you want your server to run reliably, run it on Linux. The fact that it is open source exposed all its flaws and made it possible for them to be fixed quickly and easily. The fixes and contributions were all made public and contributed to the overall reliability and quality of the system. The chaos and the bullshit that is often part of the creative process tends to cancel itself out because for the most part only the useful and good stuff is actually used, and the rest is summarily discarded.

The problem is, there’s usually quite a lot of theory that is never properly tested and is merely accepted; sometimes, wrong conclusions are propagated because they seem to work well in the limited range they were tested in, and sometimes things are accepted because they simply feel good, or because they were accepted from a trusted source. There are many problems, for sure. However, if one actually approaches things carefully, vetting sources for credibility and competence, and avoiding obvious confirmation bias, such an approach to things can be quite helpful. I do, however, admit that I made greatest progress when I worked alone and relied on my personal methods of testing things, because then I could feel comfortable exploring ideas that were so uncommon and “out there” that I couldn’t really rely on anyone’s feedback, and silence was the best company.

What is New Age

In the previous article I wrote down some thoughts about why the New Age wave collapsed, but then it became apparent to me that the more important question is how it came to be and what it actually is. I then tried to think of a sound-bite that would explain it in a single phrase, but that’s not easy because of the vast diversity of the phenomenon. However, as I thought more about it yesterday, typing a brief summary of the article-to-be into my laptop before checking out for the night, one idea stood out as the most important.

New Age is the bastard stepchild of Modernism. It is an attempt of finding a form of spirituality that will not be threatened by science.

You see, the basic idea of Modernism is that “the old age of religion and ignorance is over; now is the time of science and progress”. Mankind is to raise above the ignorance and superstition that held it chained to a rock for ages and is now taking its destiny into its own hands.

This attitude was overwhelming in the salons of the Western civilization, but it didn’t produce one universal outcome. The simplest way I can use to describe it is the contrast between Friedrich Nietzsche and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, where Nietzsche represents the main-stream of Modernism, and de Chardin represents the New Age.

I teach you the Superman! Mankind is something to be overcome. What have you done to overcome mankind?

All beings so far have created something beyond themselves. Do you want to be the ebb of that great tide, and revert back to the beast rather than overcome mankind? What is the ape to a man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just so shall a man be to the Superman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame. You have evolved from worm to man, but much within you is still worm. Once you were apes, yet even now man is more of an ape than any of the apes.

Even the wisest among you is only a confusion and hybrid of plant and phantom. But do I ask you to become phantoms or plants?

Behold, I teach you the Superman! The Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Superman shall be the meaning of the earth! I beg of you my brothers, remain true to the earth, and believe not those who speak to you of otherworldly hopes! Poisoners are they, whether they know it or not. Despisers of life are they, decaying ones and poisoned ones themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so away with them!

Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and those blasphemers died along with him. Now to blaspheme against the earth is the greatest sin, and to rank love for the Unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth!

Once the soul looked contemptuously upon the body, and then that contempt was the supreme thing: — the soul wished the body lean, monstrous, and famished. Thus it thought to escape from the body and the earth. But that soul was itself lean, monstrous, and famished; and cruelty was the delight of this soul! So my brothers, tell me: What does your body say about your soul? Is not your soul poverty and filth and wretched contentment?

(Friedrich Nietzsche: Thus Spoke Zarathustra)

This is quintesential Modernism: all spirituality is bullshit that was invented to distract mankind from its impotence in the face of the material world that is harsh, brutal, merciless and great. Now, mankind has power over the world, it has knowledge, it has science, it is the driver and no longer a mere passenger. All blind leaders, such as religion and culture, that served mankind as a comforter serves a child, need to be abandoned now in face of a breast full of milk that is science and technology. Mankind is not only free, it now has the true guidance of knowledge and awareness of its surroundings.

However, there were dissenting voices, that agreed with the general sentiment of such statements, but interpreted the available evidence differently. Interestingly, the greatest and most sophisticated alternative to Nietzsche’s interpretation came from the Catholic Church in form of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who would probably have been burned at the stake in different times for heresy. Be firmly seated now, for I am to quote things that might shock you by the very fact that they come from a singular source.

Joy is the infallible sign of the presence of God.”

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”

Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”

Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.”

Do not forget that the value and interest of life is not so much to do conspicuous things…as to do ordinary things with the perception of their enormous value.”

Matter is spirit moving slowly enough to be seen.”

By means of all created things, without excaption, the divine assails us, penetrates us, and molds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, when in fact we live steeped in its burning layers”

God is not remote from us. He is at the point of my pen, my (pick) shovel, my paint brush, my sewing needle – and my heart and thoughts.”

The universe as we know it is a joint product of the observer and the observed.”

There is neither spirit nor matter in the world; the stuff of the universe is spirit-matter. No other substance but this could produce the human molecule. I know very well that this idea of spirit-matter is regarded as a hybrid monster, a verbal exorcism of a duality which remains unresolved in its terms. But I remain convinced that the objections made to it arise from the mere fact that few people can make up their minds to abandon an old point of view and take the risk of a new idea. … Biologists or philosophers cannot conceive a biosphere or noosphere because they are unwilling to abandon a certain narrow conception of individuality. Nevertheless, the step must be taken. For in fact, pure spirituality is as unconceivable as pure materiality. Just as, in a sense, there is no geometrical point, but as many structurally different points as there are methods of deriving them from different figures, so every spirit derives its reality and nature from a particular type of universal synthesis.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

As you can see, I quoted probably the single most influential source of all New Age. To quote Wikipedia, “His posthumously published book, The Phenomenon of Man, sets forth a sweeping account of the unfolding of thecosmos and the evolution of matter to humanity, to ultimately a reunion with Christ. In the book, Chardin abandoned literal interpretations of creation in the Book of Genesis in favor of allegorical and theological interpretations. The unfolding of the material cosmos, is described from primordial particles to the development of life, human beings and the noosphere, and finally to his vision of the Omega Point in the future, which is “pulling” all creation towards it. He was a leading proponent of orthogenesis, the idea that evolution occurs in a directional, goal-driven way, argued in terms that today go under the banner of convergent evolution.”

So, essentially, unlike Nietzsche who thought that the goal of evolution is the next better animal called Superman, unlike the contemporary evolutionary biologists who think that evolution doesn’t really have a goal and is simply a feedback loop that favors the organisms that are better suited for the environment, de Chardin re-introduced Augustine, who thought that God attracts us towards him, through space and time, from the point of omniscience beyond space and time, where the final form of creation was known from the start, and the initial conditions were set in the beginning of time as to produce it, and we are now traversing the spacetime from Alpha-point to Omega-point. Essentially, what de Chardin states is that we were already shown Superman in the form of Christ, and we are in the process of collective transformation of mankind as a singular unit, towards the Omega-point, in which Christ becomes the reality that is collectively achieved.

Knowing all that, the conclusion that seems to impose itself is that all of New Age seems to be the process of having de Chardin rehashed and recycled by inferior minds.

Sure, you have Vivekananda and his “one God, many paths“ approach. You have Yogananda and his concept of raising the “vibratory level” of human body/soul unit in order to be able to approach God and attain higher levels of consciousness, and his religious syncretism where all religions and their teachers are placed in a single lineage, trying to force it all to make sense within a singular system. You have Osho and Richard Bach and Paulo Coelho and zillion others, but essentially, what one gets from it all is that the purpose of the Universe is to help you learn and evolve, that nothing is really bad or evil, that if something feels better it must be more true, and you therefore get an echo-chamber of confirmation bias where everything that confirms the feel-good ideas is integrated and everything that questions the whole concept or those involved is rejected as “negativity”, where negativity seems to become the replacement-word for evil in the worldview without evil.

Being the bastard stepchild of Modernism, the New Age shares its basic idea that what we do matters, that it is important, that some things are better than others and that we are on an evolution-vector. However, as Modernism gave way to the post-modernist despondency, which sees no difference between cultures, races or ideas, and where one’s emotions are the supreme judge of value and even permissibility of anything, the feedback loop of “I have the right to feel good”, and “everything that doesn’t feel good violates my rights and is evil”, quickly brings the entire thing to the point of structural collapse, because truth was relativized and warped and raped so much, it no longer means anything outside of “the thing that makes me feel good”. The entire community “followed their bliss” into an autistic echo-chamber that isolated itself from all diverging opinions so much that it fails to make sense to anyone who is not already heavily invested in the system. Having started as a Modernistic evolutionary system that makes clear judgments about right and wrong, better and worse, superior and inferior, and defines greatest good in terms that make sense and make demands upon the individual, the transformation into a post-modernistic state, where everything goes as long as it feels good to the individual, where “heart-centered” female spirituality of emotions dominates the narrative and is explained as God-based and an achievement in itself, and every idea that compromises the “I feel love” emotional state is perceived as disruptive, negative and, essentially, evil, degraded the whole movement. By creating a framework that is perfectly unappealing to the best minds, it committed intellectual and spiritual suicide and is now a decadent backwater of the stupid, narcissistic and cowardly.