All Paths are Valid?

I was reading about The School of the Living Light, which “focuses on spiritual development, meditation, channelling and healing courses.” I shouldn’t, I know. But I was. It contains much of the usual blend of reiki, channelling, healing and ‘ascension’.  But what I also noted was this text:

There are many paths to spiritual growth and transformation, all of them valid, we are simply offering one way, it may be your way.

This seems to directly reflect a theme I explore in Dispirited. The claim that of the many paths: “all of them are valid”.  I am always nonplussed by this. Does that mean that all Spiritual paths are effective? That none don’t work? Is valid here a synonym for ‘true’? Or for ‘efficacious’? This is how I address this in the book:

Across the spectrum of contemporary spirituality, the question of: “yes, but who is right? Which account of reality has more explanatory and predictive power than others?” is set aside, often in the name of inclusivity or liberal openness. But inclusivity of belief is not belief at all, but a posture of un-truth, of not knowing even what truth is. The seemingly benign world of spiritual syncretism, particularly in the new-age movement, is a blend of arrogance and nervousness. Arrogance regarding somehow have transcended the need for demonstrating the full basis and rationale for beliefs, and nervousness about actually being called upon to do so, especially when having invoked half-understood concepts imported from science or philosophy.

I am still fairly confident that this isn’t too harsh. Reading the page at http://schoolofthelivinglight.co.uk/classes-workshops/what-is-the-light-body/ there is this section:

wakening your light body creates a level of harmony, aligning your physical, emotional, and mental energy bodies so that your spiritual shimmer is activated. In a series of three workshops you will work with the seven centres that affect them. (These are not chakras).

If the seven centres that impact your ‘bodies’ are not your chakras – do you still have chakras? Do they conflict? Do we have both? Which is true – this or a chakra-based account? They are invoked at http://schoolofthelivinglight.co.uk/downloads/chakra-meditations/ so it seems we have both.

My aura is starting to feel a little overcrowded…

Soul Loss?

I know, I know – I was going to look at Julian Baggini’s 12 Rules for Heathens – and I will keep that promise. But: I didn’t know then about Soul Loss.

‘What is Soul Loss?’ I hear you ask. What indeed. It is ‘one of the main reasons people get ill, from a shamanic point of view‘. After telling me that shamanism dates back 40,000 years (I am not even going to begin with that claim) the article ends its first page with the helpful: Physically, the symptoms of soul loss can be pretty much anything.

So how do I know if I’ve lost mine? A shaman will help. The main cause is trauma in the past.

Now – were this all a set of metaphors for psychological distress and its impact – that might actually work perfectly well. We may have problems linked to our past, and we can use a range of images to explore and picture them and this may well help. But what struck me here was the literalism:

In a soul retrieval the skilled shamanic practitioner leaves their own body and enters into shamanic reality. This is usually (but not always) done to the accompaniment of a shamanic drum or rattle. Working with the help of their power animal(s) and other guides, the practitioner finds the soul part of the person they are journeying for and attempts to persuade it to return. If it agrees to return, the part is then gathered up, brought back to this reality and then literally blown back into the person’s body. [http://www.therapeutic-shamanism.co.uk/soul%20retreival.html]

I really am not sure what this might mean… So I looked at other Soul Retrieval providers – such as http://www.devimangohealing.com/whatissoulretrieval.htm where (after the 40,000 years claim is repeated) there is some very similar material. It seems that the key text here is the 1991 work by Sandra Ingerman called Soul Retrieval:  Mending the Fragmented Self. I have ordered a copy – and will report back.

In the meantime I note that http://www.liberate-online.co.uk/Soul-Retrieval.aspx offer soul retrieval by telephone (I wonder if it is available by text?), and that at the same site there is the claim:

So, how does soul loss manifest itself? How does someone know that they are affected by soul loss? In my experience, clients tend to make statements such as, “I don’t feel all here” “I feel lost” “I feel part of me is missing” “ A part of me died when she died” “I feel like I am constantly searching for something, but I don’t know what it is”– all these statements are indications of soul loss.

I would, from my perspective, probably rather suggest that these are indication of grief, lonliness, or existential angst at the absurdity of life. They do however also have the effect of making people feel vulnerable and at risk of exploitation by those peddling ‘answers’ which claim so much. In reality, these troubles often cannot be fixed, and certainly not easily and with ‘spirit work’, surely when people read (same site):

Everyone suffers soul loss at some point, either in the current life or former lifetimes, yet this can be swiftly rectified. It is a real blessing to do this work, the results can be miraculous!

They can begin to sense why the Mind-Body-Spirit world makes me so angry and upset?

Energy?

This morning, I was (and I knew it was probably unwise..) at http://dawnofenlightenment.co.uk/ and was reading away – largely interested in how the word ‘enlightenment’ is used in Mind, Body & Spirit (MBS) contexts. This interest derives from my work on Buddhism, and my concern that MBS materials often seem to imply that their usage is equivalent to what Buddhists mean by enlightenment or ‘awakening’. But, as is so often the case online, I was distracted. I was distracted by the line below – the first line at the website (which is largely an advert for a MBS fair/event):

There is a definite change in direction and in the flow of energy around the universe at this time.

This led to two initial thoughts: what do they mean by ‘energy’, and how can they be sure (of this change)? Looking at the organisers, I realise that their use of the term may be linked to their being Reiki ‘healers’. The foundational belief for Reiki is that there is a universal life energy, which is all around us – but actually Reiki has very little to say about what this energy is, and what its characteristics are, and how it can be accounted for, perceived and demonstrated. In looking at the nearest Reiki centre to me at http://reikimassage.wordpress.com/what-is-reiki/ I noticed this phrase:

There is no belief system attached to Reiki so anyone can receive or learn to give a Reiki treatment, the only prerequisite is the desire to be healed.

Now this is interesting! This seems to very much chime with my claims in the book that there is a disavowal of belief in the MBS milieu. If you assert nothing, it would seem that you can side-step the burden of proving anything, and be free to claim anything. Further to this, is there not a fundamental conflict between the belief in the Reiki energy force and the absence of beliefs? While I have written (with Dr Paul Fuller) on the issue of ‘beliefs vs no-beliefs’ in a Buddhist context – at least the Buddhist account seeks to engage with this tension. In MBS it seems a way of evaporating tensions.

If we have no beliefs, it might seem that we inhabit a post-conflict setting of holistic consensus. However, such a setting seems at odds with the substantial implied truth claims of the MBS world – that there is a life energy, that we survive death as spirit, that there are angels, and the like. If we disavow belief – how can we disentangle these claims?

What you will notice at a MBS fair is that there is no attempt to do so – and the (seemingly contradictory) claims of all these practitioners, with all their varied accounts of reality (with differing implied metaphysical models, beings, accounts of personhood, etc.) all sit happily side-by-side – as though all can be true at once.  They cannot. This is part of what truth means – and this is part of my argument (in the first chapter of Dispirited) that the MBS movement presents a threat to our understanding of what truth is – and disengages its audience from the use of intellectual rigour and caution.