"SPIRITUALISM" IN RC? NO!

At some RC workshops and conferences recently, the request has been made that we deal with "spiritualism" in RC. A few people want to relate astrology, seances, fortune-telling, and "past lives" to their re-emergence and to our theory. I have been surprised that some apparently well-educated people put these requests forward, but perhaps I should not have been. This sort of confusion is actively promoted in the wide world and we in RC function in the wide world too. Typically our education included great chunks of false information and pseudo-reality. However, such confusion should not gain a foothold in RC. Our theory should be quite capable of dealing with this as it deals with other patterned phenomena.

TWO MEANINGS OF THE WORDS

What is meant by the terms "spiritualism" or "spiritual" or "spiritual affairs"? To begin with it is necessary to understand that these terms are used in two contradictory ways. As with much of the English language, the same words can mean very, very different things.

First let us look at the positive use of the terms. Among most of the "standard" religions "spiritual" means a commitment to good, to a high standard of ethics, to the more pro-survival, pro-human aspects of the particular religion, a commitment to "loving thy neighbor," to hope instead of despair, and so on. Of course, even in these religions, the terms are often subverted to support oppression but they tend to retain their positive meanings.

There are also people who use these terms to indicate a high level of complexity. By "spiritual" they mean "aware," or upward-trend-oriented, or respect for and use of intuitive thinking.

Sometimes people use these terms to indicate that they reject (correctly) over-simplistic explanations of complex phenomena based only on the operations or laws of a simpler level of phenomena. The relationships of chemistry cannot be explained solely in terms of the relationships of physics. New laws arise on that level of complexity. The relationships of biology cannot be explained simply in terms of the relationships of chemistry. New interactions that are unpredictable from the simpler laws of chemistry (although consistent with them) arise on the biological level. So some people use words like "spiritual" to try to express their intuition that intelligence cannot be explained simply in terms of biology, nor awareness in terms of intelligence.

Often dedicated people have resorted to the concept of "the spiritual nature of humans" to express their determined confidence that the real nature of humans is not the same as the appearance given by humans' patterned behavior. We certainly look kindly on these efforts.

Such uses of these terms around the root form "spirit" have time-honored meanings are acceptable as long as this meaning is understood. The uses of these words need not be denied for these thoroughly understandable and acceptable expressions and ideas. People who use these terms in this sense are not contradictory to the attitudes of RC in the slightest.

THE ANTI-RATIONAL MEANINGS

More and more commonly, however, the group of terms around the word "spiritual" is used (and there is currently an upsurge of this) to cover all kinds of fearful retreats from reason. Under "spirituality" or "spiritualism" will appear:

  1. Projections of people's fears onto reality as a "spiritual" pseudo-reality.
  2. The rejection of rigor in thinking.
  3. The abandonment of thinking itself in favor of unthinking "belief."
  4. The accepting of unsupported statements or of preconceptions without question without debate, without any dialectical examination.
  5. Accepting surface appearances as as indicative of a "deeper" reality without inquiry, as to the actual causes of the appearance.
  6. Postulating new entities or concepts in explaining phenomena that do not require such new entities or concepts to explain them
  7. Rejection of the scientific method.

This kind of "spiritualism, "spirituality," "spiritual belief" is completely unacceptable for intelligent, thinking people. This sort of fearful unreason has nothing in common with the positive uses of these terms. It is against this second group of "spiritual" phenomena that we must take arms.

THE SOURCE OF THIS

Whence does the current upsurge in this kind of "spirituality" arise? Basically, of course, it arises out of patterns. Particularly it arises out of patterned fears. With specific particularity it arises in the present period from the widespread fears of the political reaction and repression that is currently dominating public life in the United States and most western countries. Historically, in every past period of political reaction, such a flight into mysticism and unreasoned "beliefs" has taken place. Defeat of any revolutionary effort is always followed by a wave of this kind of escapism. A group adopting these attitudes is analogous to an individual seeking "peace" or "comfort" in addictions to alcohol or drugs. It is another disguise for the familiar addictive pull to "give in" to unreason which distress patterns always exert upon their human victims and which we in RC have struggled so consistently against.

When economic recession is threatening the living standards of ourselves and those dear to us, when large numbers of people are starving to death without effective intervention being taken by anyone, when exploiters and enemies of progress seem to repeatedly win elections with the votes of the people that they are exploiting, when the threat of nuclear holocaust seems to grow more imminent each month, then the pull for some kind of escapism away from thinking is understandable. Such problems may seem too terrifying to be thought about (certainly they are very difficult to think about without the tools of RC). It is probably inevitable that this kind of preoccupation with "spiritualist" escapism, with its alluring hope of "comfort" will arise. It is probably also inevitable that it will not only tend to penetrate the general population, but, since we are part of the general population and our ties with them are very close, will raise its head within RC as well.

A TOOL OF REACTION

What role does "belief" in and conversion to "spiritualism" play as an alternative to responsible, rigorous thinking? it plays the role in the wide world of a tool of reaction, a way to disarm the forces of progress, an alluring way to pretend to meaning and effort and organization without actually having to go against one's fears in order to do something effective. It plays on a group scale the same kind of a role as the retreat into alcoholism does for a discouraged individual. How can these ideas influence supposedly sensible people? Certainly there must be some pseudo-evidence adduced in their favor or their obvious role as unreason and confusion would lead to rejection by even the most frightened or discouraged people. As experienced counselors we know that as soon as a pattern is seen as a pattern by its wearer, it begins to discharge. Some kind of pseudo-evidence, some kind of masking of the real character of these ideas must take place What are some of these pseudo-evidences?

THE "EVIDENCE"

One of these, of course, is misunderstanding of coincidence. The almost complete misunderstanding of statistics among the population generally leads to misinterpretation of coincidence over and over again. For example, it does not require a very large number of people in a group for the chances to become very, very good that two of them will have the same birth date. Yet, many people can become convinced of "spiritual" or mystical significance in such a common birthday occurring in a small group. Naive people will think a coincidence which they notice is extremely significant, ignoring other coincidences which happened in large numbers around them but which they didn't notice.

A dream which has elements in common with an event that happened afterwards is often taken as fraught with significance even though several hundred dreams which took place in the same period of time are not remembered or are dismissed and not taken into account in assessing the role of statistics or coincidence with regard to the remembered one.

The operation of patterns in the production of what have been called "self-fulfilling prophecies" is often adduced as evidence for the existence of mystical forces. The victim of an accident-prone pattern, for example, will not only frequently dream of having an accident (the replay of previous accidents which installed the pattern and the distress which is attempting to come to light and be discharged), but will be "compelled" to walk into accident-likely circumstances over and over again by the operation of the same pattern.

There is, for all of us who still carry distress patterns, a pull to sink back into the pattern and to give up thinking. This is something we have recognized and fought against all through the development of RC. (It is not the only urge we have; we also have the drive of our minds to become free of distress, but all of us know this addictive urge to give in and go back into the familiar patterned rut.) This pull to passivity often takes the form of "believing" in some power that is "beyond us" and therefore an excuse not to be responsible for changing things, but for simply waiting for "fate" or "spiritual forces" to handle the situation while we remain passive. Essentially it is an urge to not think, arising out of the defeats and distresses which have befallen us.

VULNERABILITY TO DECEPTION

Our minds not only operate under the pressure of many patterns but also we have set up many trained sub-routines for handling the world. These can lead us into preconceived notions of what is going on and make us very vulnerable to deception. The whole institution of "magic" entertainment is based on the ability of a skilled person, who understands these preconceptions that accumulate on the person from training and learned subroutines as well as from their patterns, to "do the impossible" by sleight-of-hand or manipulation. The good magician does this to entertain, but the magician's ability to "deceive" us is an open view of the way we deceive ourselves or allow charlatans or spiritualists to deceive us, whether they do it awarely or cynically, or as "believers" themselves.

The vulnerability of human minds to deception occupies much of the attention of the society's legal structure. Within the context of the overall oppressive character of the legal framework there is still a formal attempt to arrive at objective truth. This is continually frustrated by the vulnerability of witnesses, victims, perpetrators, and lawyers to deceiving themselves and each other.

In scientific experiments it is an unceasing task to make the experimental results reliable through eliminating the capacity of the experimenters to deceive themselves or for their subjects to deceive or be deceived. Patterned motivations of the experimenter for money, fame, or priority of discovery are obviously serious problems; but also the entire scientific establishment and the history of science is full of the most sincere attempts at rigor being baffled by failure to exclude the possibility of the experimenters deceiving themselves. The "double-blind" check, for example, (In which not only the experimentee, but also the experimenter, is kept in complete ignorance of which subjects are experimented with and which are used as controls) has evolved as an attempt to deal with this pervasive phenomenon, the ability of the human mind to be deceived.

There are many kinds of patterned motivations that will lead a person to "believe in" or participate in these "spiritualistic" activities. For the promoters of this kind of "spirituality," there is often profit to be made. This is a small thing for the elderly "spiritualist" or "psychic" supplementing her tiny welfare check by reading tea leaves or the gypsy lady telling your fortune from the lines of your hands. For the mass publisher of horoscopes, or the psychic promoter securing grants from "extra-material" or psychical foundations to show that spoons can be bent in front of the video camera in an impressive way, the financial stakes may be larger. There is profit, there is fame, and there is a mass following possible for people who deliberately use this fearful confusion to make careers out of deceptions.

SERVING OPPRESSION

Most important of all, the upsurge of this kind of "spirituality" and its promotion serves the interests of oppression. If people's motivation to change the oppression, to eliminate the oppression, to do away with the threats to the welfare of humankind stay channeled on actually accomplishing these things, the status quo is indeed threatened. It is very much in the interests of the powers-that-be, of the business-as-usual forces, of the profit-above-all exploiters that people be deluded and distracted from doing something about repression, into a helpless, powerless mode that is addictive in its reliance on patterns and passive in its effects.

It is not strange that this phenomenon would impinge upon RC. People in the wide world are vulnerable to it and all oppressed groups are feeling, in the current period, an extra measure of oppression and an extra measure of desperation, as everything seems to be going the way of the oppressors and the world seems to be headed for nuclear holocaust at a fast clip. RC is very much a part of the wide world. We not only deliberately make contacts in the wide world and seek to be influential there, but we come from the wide world and all our ties are with it. RC involves only a temporary separation and only in a few respects from what goes on everywhere. RCers, too, are suffering a great deal from the downward trend in the collapsing society. RCers, too, are terrified of the sometimes apparently inevitable nuclear holocaust. It is not at all surprising that the lure of this kind of reactive "spirituality" would affect RCers as well. It is not surprising that people (and patterns) are attempting to discuss it in RC. On the one hand the patterns do this in order to secure some kind of endorsement of the sinking into the addiction and taking the addictive road. On the other hand the humans involved are seeking to get the problem out into the open so that they can discharge about it, think about it, and be clear about it. They certainly want to resist it rather than go downhill with what they must intuitively sense is a downward trend.

FOR REALITY, AGAINST PSEUDO-REALITY

Shall there be tolerance in RC for this kind of "spirituality"? No. RC is based on intelligence, on logic, on the scientific method. RC is the application of the scientific method to human behavior and to social interaction. It is consistent with the earlier attempts at applying the scientific method to the society and to economics.

For RCers to amuse themselves by casting horoscopes, playing with Ouija boards, telling fortunes, or recounting stories of their "past incarnations" might possibly be acceptable as a recreation. As self-deception or as a substitute for reality, it is totally unacceptable.

Any good magician can produce ten times more impressive proofs of "spirituality" or "spiritual phenomena" than are adduced by the "believers" in the field. The difference is that the magician will honestly tell you that this is deception, that he or she is simply taking advantage of the rigidities of the human mind to produce these impressions. He or she is proud to proclaim that there is nothing "spiritual," nothing extra-material, nothing mystical involved at all. The greatest of the magicians made an avocation of debunking this kind of pretense and took great pride in doing so.

This kind of "spiritualist" nonsense should, with all the tools at our command, including our primary one of discharge and re-evaluation, be eliminated from RC activities. That patterns arise in these disguises gives us an opportunity to deal with them and discharge them, but to "play" with them, to allow them to be taken seriously, to endorse them, or treat them as anything but the patterned downward-trend influences they are, composed of distress and unreason, would be a real mistake.

WIDE-WORLD ALLIES

Those of you who are interested in wide-world connections in this struggle against "spiritualism" and mysticism (which ties into the struggle against pseudoscience in the wide world and against "creationism" in the biological sciences, for example) may be interested in an organization of scientists and magicians who devote their skills to exposing the so-called "proofs" in this field. They are known as "The Skeptics Society." They publish a magazine called "Skeptic". The magazine's address is P.O. Box 338, Altadena, CA 91001. Among the members of the Committee are such familiar names as Martin Gardner, F.H.C. Crick, Carl Sagan, and Isaac Asimov.

Harvey Jackins
Seattle, Washington, USA


Last modified: 2016-12-20 06:43:20-08