If you’re on the path to peace, you’ll find out pretty quick that those be shark-infested waters! A guide for toe-dipping, the Curse of Darwin and who’s who in the spiritual zoo.
Twenty years’ down the road less traveled and that gorgeous, lonely path is now some of the most fought-over real estate on the planet.
This far along, and with a little bit of overview, I wanted to write about the world out here, reflect upon the hullabaloo, and offer some insight to those considering a bit of a Walkabout.
From Cusco to Ubud; Kathmandu to Ko Samui, it’s true that New Age profiteers have hung their shingles everywhere you’re thinking of heading.
They eclipse the pretty views of nature, and lure would-be questers with a buffet of spiritual experiences. A booming spiritual industry sells anything you can think of – shamanic travel, kundalini for cats, conscious fashion, chakra readings, weird medicine, yoni massage, activated pet-wear, transcendental panties and sacred gardening.
The business plan is to promise you nothing less than the life you’ve always dreamed of.
If your dream is more Martin Luther King than Martha Stewart, they’ll either ditch you, or help you ‘evolve’ to one less ‘angry’. They will reprimand you for being ‘negative’ and encourage you to aspire instead for personal radiance, orgasmic joy, funky tribal fusion outfits, ageless beauty and great sex.
Their banner – sometimes subliminally, but often just blatantly – features a heavily opiated anorexic woman in a yoga pose. She hovers pornographically, in shimmering soft focus, above what first appears to be a chakra, but turns out to be a cosmic asshole.
For between US$50 and US50,000, the New Age’s shamanic businesspeople will also sell you a balm for all your suffering. If you’re worried about the suffering of others, most will just call you a moaner, or a projector, fogging up the psychic realm with low vibrations.
Only a few will gaze out across the remaining wilderness to sigh before saying… “Yes, it took me a long time to come to yoga for the right reasons.”
The New Age rests its superiority over traditional elites like bankers, lawyers, doctors and big business by pointing out their trails of victims and self-serving ambition. But contesters for the enlightenment dollar are often worse offenders.
Why? Because they will promise to help you while they exploit you, using a language of spiritual cliché, pop psychology, pseudo-science and hope that a businessman, in even the most treacherous field, would rarely dare exploit.
Does this mean we should shun the path, turn our backs on Yoga and all its glittery cousins?
No! I mean, No Way! As the madness amplifies, the scene diversifies, thousands are setting off to search for a better way and many will find ,if they have eyes to see them – guides who are fit for the coming of age that is upon us.
Weathered and bewildered by their own stumblings about, earnest yoga teachers, healers, activists and therapists in the alternative movement will admit to rites of doubt, confusion and dark nights of the soul in the dizzying storm of ‘the movement’s’ crescendo. They know all about the in-fights and rivalry, fakers, shakers and ball-breakers who eclipse more humble workers on so-called spiritual soil.
As teachers they do a heroic job, balancing on one hand the competitive silliness of their industry, while nudging students to toward compassion, non-violence, kindness, selflessness, trust and devotion with the other. If you can get that sorted, you’re halfway home.
There are some where I Iive. People like Cat Kabira, Les Leventhal, Sky xx, Lesley White at Smiling Buddha, Meg Maskell, Daniel Li Ox, the crew at Bali Silent Retreat, Chiara Ram Ramella and her husband, Mino. Seek them out if you can. They stand in the eye of the storm, holding space for one heck of a shift.
But in general, yes… The Way has been snatched from the humble fingertip of the solitary dreamer where it famously alighted, and turned into a billion dollar business fraught with all the power games and scams of any surging market.
What a shame. But not a surprise. You can’t really blame the New Agers, or even the American MBAs who exploited them in a stampede for universal franchise of spirituality.
Not really. They, like me and you, are victims of a flaw in the very fabric of the western brain. A shadowy hoax in our reality you could call the predator effect.
There’s a shark in the ocean of Western thought, placed there deliberately, and designed to keep us enslaved to frustrating lives of fear and despair, racing against each other to escape the looming shark bite called natural selection.
It’s the Jaws in your own neural waters you have to face, and evaporate, if you really want to be free.
It’s not your job, your divorce, your mortgage, illness, sadness, wonky headstand, backed up colon or your saggy kundalini that’s the main issue, really.
Even if you get those things sorted, you’ll discover it’s your own Great White Sharky thinking – and that of the guy next to you – that will undermine you eventually.
There are teachers who know this, and can change your life completely.
But to get the best out of them, you need to make your own peace with the problem, and I am going to start you off.
If you want to put a face it and call it the devil, then that would be the face of Charles Darwin. Poor thing.
It was Darwin’s thought-virus that was used to validate the idea of a life driven by suffering and survival, that pit brother against brother in a fight for existence hosted by a hostile environment, ruled by a cranky god.
Darwinism is the root cause of human sadness in the West. It’s your part in it you need to make peace with.
His ideas, backed by a ruthlessly expanding colonial elite, created a Survival of the Fittest epidemic pitching the strong against the weak, justifying violence and bullying, slavery, the subjugation of women, expansion of empire and the abandonment of the Irish to famine. In the mid 1800’s Darwinism became the carefully chosen banner under which we slaughtered Indigenous, animals and environment as we supported an indifferent elite upon whom we entrusted our own survival. His was an argument used to contest the end of slavery in the States, and adopted by Nazis and other not very nice people. The ‘fit’, Darwin ‘proved’, were supposed to get rid of lesser beings so a more perfect human could ‘evolve’.
It was Darwin who argued that, actually, universal intelligence seeks a blood bath. He showed that dominators and manipulators are selected for by nature itself, in an effort to create superior beings through a linear process known as ‘evolution’ which loved nothing more than gladiatorial battles of life and death.
He put the gun in the hands of ‘progress’, pointed it at animals, wildlife and ‘savages’, nerdy kids, fat girls, boys who were bad at rugby, and argued that it was our duty to nature to blow out the brains of the meek – or at least cower them into submission.
The smoke from three centuries of this gunfire has utterly choked up the Western notion of reality. It has left us all wounded, blood-stained, lonely and estranged from the gorgeous cosmos of bliss and elegance with which earlier humans had been having a divine romance for ages.
Mad with fear for our own survival, we still argue about whether qualities like compassion, mercy, collaboration and quietly pottering about in peace are inferior traits to be weeded out by government and evolution. We get blue in the face about whether animals have feelings, if morality is a ‘construct’, whether genes are selfish and if we will suffer a debt for contamination of a mechanical biosphere.
Today its still Darwin behind our sneers at the underprivileged, the lazy, the tubby, the confused and dreamy. We use his thinking when we feel superior to others if we are better looking, better paid, score higher marks, or kick bigger goals in cooler clothes
But In academic circles Darwin has already had the colour sucked out of him by Sociologists who don’t even argue anymore about whether Darwinism has any actual merit.
In a word, they agree. It doesn’t.
Darwin and his ism were the perfect brand, and the perfect trick of reason at a moment in history when the ruling materialist elite required a public to swallow the notion of empires built on the suffering, exploitation and humiliation of others.
It’s because of the Darwinian misadventure we have tolerated a culture in which the bullies are entitled to all they can get, while the rest can suck it up.
Why? Because we are fundamentally bullies ourselves.
That’s the sneaky logic by which we really live today, and from which we are desperately trying to escape… if only we could see it.
Instead we blame our anxiety on the banks, sugar, military industrialists and the International Situation – on others, generally, because we don’t yet realise it’s our own Darwinised selves we’re sick of.
Darwinism is behind our stress in this indifferent, scarcity-afflicted universe we invented. It’s behind those first squabbles over toys at pre-school, through competitive sport, scaled schooling that favors the ‘best’, status, loneliness and on and on. In a culture which ‘wars’ over peace, drugs, poverty, religion, cancer… it’s a fight over everything. Surrender? Be damned!
To see this in action you don’t have to visit the halls of government, the New York stock exchange, or peek at the machinations of Greenpeace or the Bill Gates Foundation. Nasty politics, in-fighting, rivalry, ladder-climbing and bullying are alive and well in the playground, on the road, at mothers’ groups, yoga school, in the surf, the local disco and creep in to our relationships. No?
They’re the reason many won’t hop out of the rat-race. Terrified of ‘failing’, of being left behind, devoured by their rivals, or just found ‘unfit’ in a competitive universe they can imagine being ploughed into dust at the bottom of Darwin’s ruthless pyramid – because that was the fate of millions before them.
When you attempt to break this bondage your question should be… who, or what, can I trust?
It’s the right one, because those who can’t quite give up the impulse to dominate, even if they say they are ‘at one with the divine’ are just like the sharks in Finding Nemo, who want to be vegetarian.
And because walking into a new cosmology requires a complete break from the old one – at least for a while.
This is not a matter of character, but of a cultural virus sewn deep in our bones and jellies. In general, we’re tired of the anxiety, the lack of trust and happiness, but we don’t know where it’s coming from. We want out. We want happiness. We want love and fairies, good waves, picnics… and a nice cup of tea.
It’s not only because of evil leadership we can’t have this peace – we’re all destroying it, because we don’t trust it..
But hang on a minute! Isn’t this all a bit far-fetched?
Wasn’t Darwin just a nice quiet man who killed a lot of finches?
Actually, no. Charlie gave the game away in the title of his book, which was, in full:
“On the Origin of Species
by Means of Natural Selection,
or the Preservation of Favoured Races
in the Struggle for Life”
(thank you, Meg Maskell)
He paid a bitter debt for these philosophical efforts. In a personal tragedy that was poetic in its unfolding. Darwin confessed to his diary near the end of his own exhausting, lonely life of conflict, that…
“I cannot endure to read a single line of poetry… those parts of my brain now atrophied.
The loss of these tastes [poetry, literature, scenery and art] is a loss of happiness…
My mind seems to have become a sort of machine for grinding general laws out of a collection of facts.”
The Autobiography of Charles Darwin.
His theory, he frankly writes, came from disenchantment with God, and a failure to see any sort of design in life.
“I can see no evidence of… design of any kind
in the details [of the universe]”, he wrote.
Seriously? He couldn’t?
Was that because he was consumed with mild depression, unpopularity, sea sickness and doubt about whether he should have ever given up a life of partridge shooting afterall?
Darwin was making, actually, an unfathomably dumb statement.
Given that Leonardo Da Vinci had already exploded the boundaries of human thinking in art, engineering, biology, aviation, physics, chemistry… everything, all after looking closely at nature.
Da Vinci’s doodles of flowers and waves revealed an innate architecture behind everything from flying machines to dripping taps a full four hundred years earlier!
How could Darwin have missed it?
I was desperate to know.
And, since there was but a 3-hour taxi ride, one squalid night in Guayaquil and a picturesque flight between me and the theme park using his name as its billion-dollar mascot, I knew exactly how to find out.
I booked a one-way flight to the Galapagos.
To sniff around in Darwin’s underwear and see what evolved from there.