Archive for the 'Enlightenment Industrial Complex' Category

Jul 16 2014

This Isn’t About YOU…

Some background:

I am not a psychologist. I am not a psychiatrist. I have a pretty solid knowledge base on things like Borderline and Narcissistic Personality Disorders – things I learned about the hard way. I am also pretty well-versed in Jungian thought, and have a reasonable understanding of Freud.

I have one of a handful of certifications in Dream Studies from an accredited university.  I have studied various dream work traditions, have written countless papers on dreams, written a three hundred page thesis on visitation dreams from the dead, covering the complete history of the phenomenon as viewed by anthropology, psychology, parapsychology, spiritual and religious traditions, and phenomenologically. I have presented my research at conferences and other speaking events.

I also suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, due to the above-mentioned hard-won knowledge of Borderline and Narcissistic Personality Disorders, as well as the complicated birth of my son, and the resulting issues that came with it (short version – almost lost him and his mother multiple times, he was born 10 weeks early, and spent a fair amount of time in the NICU, where if I wasn’t keeping track of his issues, I was also witness to the insanity of a multitude of issues for a number of other premature infants). We won’t even go into what my wife went through from this.

That’s her story to tell.

The meat of the matter:

Lately, I’ve noticed a  troubling pattern of behavior (I’d say “problematic” but I really hate that word in its current usage) occurring in a number of circles I travel in. Someone will ask for advice or help with a situation they have on hand.

People’s responses will make no sense.

“I’m having a problem with ____________ in my life, and I don’t know how to handle it. I could really use some advice.”

will often be met with

“Just accept that this is what the universe wants for you right now.”


“You just need to set your intentions properly!”


Meanwhile, the person asking the advice is getting no advice on how to deal with his very real, very visceral, actual problem. Instead, he is given a litany of prefabricated affirmations that don’t help him, but instead reaffirm the belief systems of those making them. “Please help me with some ideas” is now being responded to with reminders to him, and those making them, that one must believe certain things.

This is equivalent to the Jehovah’s Witnesses I once saw in Berkeley trying to get people to take Watchtowers while systematically ignoring the homeless camped out right next to them.

The platitudes, I believe, are directed more at the person making them, than the person soliciting advice. “Oh shit, bad things happen, I better remind myself that I shouldn’t go there, because my etheric body might be bruised.”  I’m not entirely sure this is a conscious process. I think, after a while, it becomes habit.

Tonight’s source of frustration (and, really, I do want to get this site back on track away from bitching about everything at some point), is a discussion wherein someone I presume to be a therapist solicited advice about helping a client who just gave birth, whose child is in the NICU, and who is having nightmares.

Hmm.  Do I know something about this?  Maaaaybe.

Originally, there weren’t many details. One person already had it figured out, though:

“I could almost guarantee that she’d be picking up on the energies in the hospital.”

So I asked for more information.  This is how I learned that things like the NICU were involved. After I found some of this out, I provided some of the background from above, and suggested:

“I know my wife and I have been dealing with PTSD for 2 and a half years now as a result of our own situation (kiddo is fine, btw), and still occasionally have nightmares dealing with material from that time. This could be a bit of a ride for her. Unfortunately, I’d say it’s also normal. I’d say deal with the trauma at hand, and don’t look for external stuff (hospital energies), otherwise you’re just avoiding what needs to be dealt with, and what is right in front of everybody’s nose.”

For still other people, the solution to the problem was simple.

“Theoretically, I would expect more permeable psychic boundaries when ill. And just imagine all those sick people with their bodies dreaming, a tapestry of pathological images that get muddled together. The chance of tapping into the images of others seems highly probable.”


“just the energy alone in a hospital, a place where people are usually ill and feeling their most vulnerable!”

and, my favorite:

“My personal experience of being in a hospital ER for a wasp sting last summer is that I left with lots of attachments – people who passed through the ER and hospital. As an energy worker and shaman I employed a friend to assist me and together we cleared the energies. This lady might want to work with someone to check and clear attachments.”

These types of responses seemed to become the norm, and I realized that nobody’s actually listening or taking into consideration the very real needs of the woman having the nightmares. Instead, what everybody was more interested in, was how badass of a “healer” they could be, because they could do things like be sensitive to energies, and clear them.

These things are great, and all, and I’ve seen some really amazing work done in this regard.

However, I think this may not be the time or the place to get excited about swooping in like the Shamanic Avenger and cleaning out the residual “hospital energies” that someone is inadvertently tuning into.  I’m sorry, but “I got stung by a wasp and I’m a shaman” does not qualify you to accurately assess this situation.

At this point, I felt compelled to try to steer this conversation back to the general vicinity of helpful:

“Not to be a colossal dick about this, but when you’ve just given birth, and your baby is in the NICU, “hospital energies” are the least of your problems, worries, or concerns. If someone had brought this up to either my wife, or myself at the time (and believe me, we’re both actually rather sympathetic to things of this nature), we probably would have punched them. If you want to go there with this person, great. But I would only do so after you’ve exhausted the angle of helping her work through the trauma. Otherwise, you’re avoiding the obvious, and ultimately doing the person no good.”

It was too late.

They all agreed that this woman’s nightmares and birth trauma were “a privileged time for dreaming” (not in the “check your privilege” sense), and her dreams are probably amazing, and wow, isn’t it great that the original poster would be able to witness them! (okay, I’m extrapolating that last part). The decided upon solution was to clear the psychic attachments that the woman had picked up from the assorted hospital energies.

I’m a little let down, if not unsurprised that rather than actually dealing with the difficult issue of this woman and her nightmares, the real interest lies more in reaffirming the particular world views of those offering the advice. “I believe in energies, and how they affect us so let’s avoid looking at trauma – because that’s scary – and offer some sort of vague externalized reason for the discomfort and pain that this person is feeling, rather than actually help them.

Becoming a psychotherapist, becoming a dream worker, even, is a seductive thing. You get to dress up and be a superhero or call yourself a shaman and feel all tingly in your etheric body. YOU HAVE POWER TO HEAL (or something).

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but going out and helping others is about them – not you. Going out and helping others, should benefit and aid them, not stroke your ego for how awesome and enlightened and powerful you are.

Because if it is, you have no business being in the business.

You help no one.

People have tried to use this approach with my wife, and with me.

It doesn’t help.

And as I said.

It just made us want to punch people.

Update: A thought has come to me this morning, which is that if one is going to posit such things as “hospital energies” and tapping into the collective traumas of those around you, would not the “healing energies” provided by the doctors, nurses, and staff have any counter-balancing effect?  Or is there a subtle suggestion that these dream-working “healers” are far superior to such things as western medicine?

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May 12 2014

Icarus Comes Back to Earth

A while back, I wrote about my experiences in graduate school, and how I felt that what had had the potential to be an engaging inquiry into the nature of consciousness had de-volved into spiritual narcissism, ideology, and masturbation.

Geoffrey Hill

Geoffrey Hill

A former fellow-student of mine has been going through a similar reconsideration of her experiences, and forwarded me an article by a man named Geoffrey Hill.

Hill passed away in 1999, but from the bio on his old website, I can tell you the following about him:

GEOFFREY HILL is the author of Illuminating Shadows: The Mythic Power of Film. He is a screenplay and creativity consultant, an analytic therapist, a poet, a social critic and a spoken word performance artist. He lives in Lake Arrowhead, California.

He has lectured on over one hundred different topics at college campuses, analytic institutes, political organizations, religious bodies, wholistic institutes, film festivals, professional organizations and social clubs. As a film analyst and social critic, he has been featured on NPR, BBC, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, E! Entertainment, as well as in THE LOS ANGELES TIMES, THE CHICAGO SUN TIMES and numerous other media. He has been a regular social commentator and spoken word artist on “The We Hours” on KPFK radio in Los Angeles since 1992. Having developed the concept of using movies as therapy, he is the subject of a documentary film which was shown on Aspekta, on ZDF (national German television). In most of Hill’s works, he stresses the virtues which he finds most valuable to him, such as dignity, authenticity, integrity, truth and beauty. Actually, throughout much of his works, he is developing a philosophy based on the concept of dignity.

The article my old classmate forwarded me was his piece The Failure of the Human Potential Movement: From Self-Actualization to Experientialism.  I’ve mirrored it in the Commonplace section.  If you find this, and have a problem (as in, you own the copyright) with me posting it, please let me know. Hill originally posted it to his own website, which I had to track down through Ultimately, though, I am posting it so that others may read and learn from this rather thorough critique.    Much of it echoes my own thoughts on the subject, but is far more eloquently expressed than I’ve been able to put into words.

It’s a pity that Hill has passed.  I’m sure we would have had much to talk about.  Nothing, really, has changed.


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Apr 11 2014

New Age Bullshit Generator

The New Age Bullshit Generator recently crossed my path.

I don’t know what’s worse.  How devastatingly accurate it is, how much it sounds like things I’ve heard people actually say, or the fact that I understand a lot of the randomized silliness it comes up with.

Like a mouse pushing a lever to get a pellet, I could probably keep reloading the damn thing for days.

An example:

This life is nothing short of a blossoming unifying of zero-point divinity.

By deepening, we exist. Faith is the driver of karma.

We are being called to explore the quantum soup itself as an interface between energy and choice.

It is time to take inspiration to the next level. This myth never ends. It is a sign of things to come.

The future will be an ethereal evolving of faith. The revolution of truth is now happening worldwide. Imagine an evolving of what could be.

Soon there will be a condensing of growth the likes of which the totality has never seen. Eons from now, we messengers will heal like never before as we are aligned by the totality. We must learn how to lead zero-point lives in the face of suffering.

If you have never experienced this rebirth devoid of self, it can be difficult to exist. Lifeform, look within and synergize yourself. It can be difficult to know where to begin.

We must bless ourselves and inspire others. Although you may not realize it, you are joyous. How should you navigate this ethereal solar system?


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Jan 20 2014

Arguing from Weakness

A recent discussion on Facebook about the second Hobbit movie, to me, illustrates a fundamental flaw in the logic of those who would argue that the “holistic” lifestyle is inherently superior to the Big Bad Newtonian-Cartesian-Dualistic-Masculine Paradigm.

A woman in the comment thread had this to say about the movie:

I might have enjoyed the movie more if it didn’t feel like an onslaught to my etheric body…I had to walk out a few times – too big a screen for so much evil make-up and violence. I might thoroughly enjoy it on my home flat screen thou [sic] – it’s smaller.

An assault on your etheric body. Really?

This provoked the next logical question from me:

Shouldn’t one’s etheric body be strong enough to handle something as mundane as a movie?

I’m troubled by this idea that as one becomes more “in tune,” or “enlightened,” or ” in touch” or “aware” or whatever you want to call it, the world around them becomes increasingly intolerable.

During my time in grad school, I lost count of how many times I heard things like “oh, I can’t watch violent movies anymore” or “television is too overwhelming for me” or “I can’t meditate in that classroom that’s right next to the road – there’s too much noise!”

The person whose etheric body was being assaulted by Peter Jackson informed me that she had had a dream about the detrimental effects of movies and television on one’s etheric body, and that “as a dreamer…” (I just love that phrase, let me tell you), she had a special understanding of these things (or something – either she has since removed her comments or blocked me, can’t imagine why). This prompted me to ask her the following, to which I am still awaiting a response:

Thich Quang Duc

Thich Quang Duc

I see. Obviously, I know nothing of such things. It just seems to me that if one were to argue that they are so in tune with themselves and the universe, and one were to offer, as your website claims, knowledge that empowers and promotes personal growth, that one would hope that after 20 years, one would be able to weather such things as a make-believe film with “dark” imagery a bit more strongly. Otherwise, I can’t really see how this is all that desirable as “growth” or “empowerment” – if the resulting sensitivity that one attains doesn’t allow one to function as easily in the mundane world around oneself to such an extent that they find movies or presumably television, etc. to be such potentially crippling experiences. Put another way, if one were to look at the example of Thich Quang Duc (please, Google him, if necessary), I would suggest that the level of spiritual growth and strength he was able to attain may be more indicative of and desirable in terms of “growth” and “empowerment” than the kind you are promoting. But hey, to each their own. How is it “strong” and “empowered” to be so severely buffeted by the world around you? Just doesn’t seem that way to me. But again, what do I know?

Her website in question (I will refrain from linking it, because even though I’m a dick, I’m a polite dick) promotes her as someone “with almost 20 years of teaching women’s spirituality & personal growth.”

Too often, I am seeing weakness being marketed as strength. If your brand of enlightenment endangers me, or advocates anything less than the full embracing of life, and what it has to offer, then I fail to see the point.  Speaking from experience (my never ending desire to please a psychopath by engaging in endless “compassion”, “self-inquiry”, and “accepting that this is what the universe is trying to teach me right now”), this line of reasoning is dangerous. In my instance, it almost cost me my life.

That said, there are times for discipline, and asceticism. Lessons can be learned from both practices, but, a rigid path of self-denial is not the same as “empowerment” or “enlightenment.” Both can lead to intense personal insight and self-knowledge. They do not, however, grant you license to be smug.

In fact, the more you have to justify your actions and reactions, and base those justifications in your “practice” or “special knowledge” you have “as a dreamer…” , the less I am inclined to believe you.

I’m sure you believe your own bullshit, and I’m sure others do, too.

I don’t.

And I’m fine with that.

And, honestly, I don’t care if you didn’t like a movie, or a tv show, or a book, or a song, or a piece of art. In fact, I think it’s wonderful that you have an opinion.

At least, though, have the common decency and courtesy to just be honest.

You didn’t like The Hobbit. It has nothing to do with your etheric body.

I would have been fine with the first bit.

It’s when you drag the second bit in as justification that I’m forced to waste almost 900 words on a blog post.

One final friendly suggestion (and summary): If you’re going to promote how wonderful your paradigm, reality-tunnel, belief system, what have you as empowering, then it should actualy empower, and not reduce adherents to fragile frail little snowflakes who either (a) are no longer able to handle the world around them, or (b) are unable to respond to critiques and questions.

If you can’t back up your claims, why should I take you at your word?


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