The pathology of spiritual toxicity


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media Jam“Spiritual toxicity” is a poisonous characteristic of a spiritual environment, sometimes known as you. It’s characterized by negativity, manipulative thinking, and in some cases subversion of a spiritual norm. The most common source of spiritual toxicity is media.

You can diagnose the spiritual state of any community by its media. The more extreme, the unhealthier the community. That might sound a bit convenient, in the middle of the fake news environment, but it’s a common factor historically.

The Romans, not famous for their sensitivity, but famous for their murderous politics, managed a level of toxicity which created the hyper-expansive Republic, but reversed to create the decaying ghoul of the Roman Empire.

The Chinese version in ancient history was visible in the First Emperor’s reign. Almost all books were burned by the Legalists, to restrict knowledge. Restriction of knowledge ultimately destroyed the Chin. The end of the Chin in turn later started the period of the Warring States.

Love Chinese culture. I have Chinese immortals in my stories, including one guy who recited a poem. His friends asked, “Ancient?” He said, “Not very. I wrote it this morning.”

These are the practical applications of spiritual toxicity to human communities. This condition is an ongoing threat to humanity. It can cause insanity, inverted logic, and basically retard human development. It’s endemic, as a pathology, and it’s hard to fight if you don’t know how.

The other problem is “spiritual ecology”. The spirit, which for the purposes of this article means the mentality’s driver, exists in a real sense, reacting to influences and contaminants from all directions. It can exist consciously, in attraction or repulsion.

Rather unfortunately, the traditional reaction to spiritual toxicity is morality. Morality is cumbersome, not quick to apply itself, and positively lethargic in new innovations. It’s like sending an elephant to catch a flea. In a spiritual ecology, it’s a floating mass, not an active participant. The spirit acts quickly, and in multiple directions. A moral monoculture, as supplied by most religions, is hardly able to register, let alone stop, spiritual activity. You might as well send a rock to catch a rabbit.

The spiritual ecology is as real as the physical. It affects your personal reality, the one that matters most, directly. A toxic idea may be quite enough to provoke the same Fight or Flight reaction as a maniac with a machine gun.

Even Homo Sapiens, (a species “blessed” with a level of self-incomprehension on an almost unbelievable scale), can be affected immediately by certain types of spiritual toxicity. The Great Mystery Which is You doesn’t mind getting the hell out of spiritually toxic environments, whether it understands them or not.

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas. “Passive voice”, eh?

That reactive response, however, also brings with it some risks. The equally blessed human ability to run straight in to more trouble is reasonably well known. Reactive responses to spiritual toxicity can be irrational, and more to the point, useless.

A better option is systematic fightback. Ugly, nasty events have a unique character which is pretty consistent and easy to spot. Emphasis on toxic elements in ideas, like anti-Semitism, etc. are usually promoted by a fairly clear type of mentality. Toxicity, like any good pathogen, requires vectors and transmission. Stop either, (or preferably both) and you stop the toxicity in its tracks.

One of the reasons modern spiritual toxicity is so easily spread is that the medium for the vectors is communications. Forget airborne pathogens; this is a lot more efficient in spreading contamination of any kind. This is Digital Plague, live and well and coming to a nutcase near you.

…Or you. Some types of toxicity have sweeteners; sex, money, ego, power… Put it this way; absolute power does more than corrupt. It also takes over the person with the power, who becomes a mere tool of the power.

There’s a huge irony here, too, chuckling quietly to itself. Morality, that choke chain on human honesty, often offends to the point where the immoral is a welcome relief. Spiritual toxicity does well among the spiritually oppressed. The more oppressive the morality, the better it does, in fact.

Humans are natural hedonists, naturally avoid danger, and naturally prefer comfort and safety. (In my view, anything else is basically dishonest.) Morality feeds on these things, in the same way as spiritual toxicity, if not for the same reasons, at least notionally.

The problem, obviously, is how people react to the supposedly non-toxic moral spiritual ecology. This is the Supermarket of the Soul, the bland shiny face of spiritual consumerism. The various washing machines of the soul, like church, dogma, raging lunatics insulting their own belief system with every breath, and other marvels, abound.

Like junk food, junk morality isn’t good for you, either. It makes you more susceptible to spiritual toxicity, and like junk food, not healthy enough to fight it. The tides of spiritual toxicity, whether absurd assertions or perverse thinking, work on a numbers basis. If one form of spiritual suicide doesn’t get you, the others will.

…So what’s so bad about spiritual toxicity?

One thing, and one thing only. It disintegrates your identity. If you add a contaminant to that organism, it can’t function normally. For the spirit, that’s a type of chronic disease. It affects your thinking, your relationships, and even your relationship with yourself.

Been on speaking terms with yourself lately? Getting along OK with whoever/whatever is you? If so, your levels of spiritual toxicity are low.

If you’re spending a lot of time convincing yourself you’re right about things, that’s a high level. You may be at actual war with yourself on some or many issues.

Symptoms of toxicity include:

  • Self-justification
  • Self-avoidance; dodging you own opinions, for example
  • Frequent conflict with friends
  • Hypocrisy on any level, for any reason
  • A hideous, all-embracing doubt which cripples your decision-making

Interestingly, anxiety, a paralysing dread for no materially identifiable cause, may be a symptom of onset. Ever had that feeling that you loathe something, and can’t define it? That it’s a danger, or hidden threat?

This is spiritual Fight or Flight, incarnate. It’s a survival instinct at the spiritual level. The human spirit, under-educated and largely ignored by spiritual monocultures which enforce conformity, but not spiritual life, (what a surprise) isn’t well armed to manage the threats.

I don’t want to write this idea in to any blind alleys or extended exercises in missing the point. The point is that spiritual toxicity is an active, working poison. Remember that, and act according to your instincts, which have got you through the last few million years.

 

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The psychology of ‘Not’: Meet your (unexpected) inner conservative


 

Paul Wallis, Sydney Media JamIf conservatism is famous for anything, it’s famous for what it doesn’t do. Conservative platforms since Thatcher and Reagan have been all about ‘Not’:

  • Not regulating.
  • Not funding.
  • Not culture.
  • Not education.
  • Not public health.
  • Not social justice.
  • Not science.
  • Not environment.
  • Not modernizing.
  • Not listening.

These Nots are basics, monotonously droned out by conservatives in every Western country on Earth without exception. They’re therefore usually ignored, and therefore not at all understood, by progressives. This range of Nots are everything about conservatism that any progressive has ever claimed them to be, and devalued accordingly.

The problem is that’s a very simple, and shallow, way of looking at conservatism. It’s also a great way of totally misunderstanding what Not really means in practice.

Paul Wallis books, sydney media jam

This book is all about creative ideas. Nobody has yet died of reading it, but it’s a pretty tough call for those not familiar with working with ideas. “Passive voice”, eh?

For example – The usual appeal to “tradition” is often based on a personal reward. It brings back to you things that barely exist anymore. Tradition, however, is also the incarnation of a range of Nots, too, if you spin it that way. These appeals to tradition are great for those lost in the modern world, modern thinking and modern initiatives.

Tradition can be a huge reward. It’s a return to the womb or the family home of childhood, a safe place in your mind. (You could call it a luxury, on that basis.) It’s also a well-known psychological manipulative process. It’s guaranteed to appeal to the insecure, the overstressed and the under-acknowledged. It’s particularly effective on the modern psychological plague, anxiety.

This is the major, classic version of ‘Not’. These pre-adult nostalgias are at their core all about things  that are ‘not’ the things now bothering you. It’s like watching an old TV show from when you were a kid; you’re back home, somehow, at least for a while.

Let’s be fair about this –

  • Everyone over 10 has an established ‘Not’ zone, and a range of experiences and preferences to back it up.
  • The ‘Nots’ are real, perfectly valid psychological buttons, and they work on anyone. People use their Nots as valid reasons.
  • There’s a natural, and reasonable, right to insist on your personal ‘Nots’.

The problems with ‘Not’ as a basis for anything start with the ultra-dangerous “Not real”. This is a double entendre in a whole new class:

  • It can mean your personal Nots are real.
  • It can mean that any reality which isn’t a Not, isn’t real.

The separation between reality and Not is based on deep Fight or Flight catalysts. Fear is always effective, delivering adrenalin to upgrade non-specific Nots to personal crusades or deeply held, sudden beliefs in anything and everything.

Case in point – Many people fear change, and by extension, progress. Others may fear ideas, which leave them lost and totally unprepared for the thinking that goes with new ideas and new things.  They feel insecure, and disadvantaged by these things, and, in fact, they are. Their Nots have excluded them.

This is another universal human experience. It can be a very honest experience.  Many are highly distrustful of the often fake, facile logic of business culture. They distrust it, both on the job and in general.  That distrust is usually backed up by truly lousy personal experiences, and the belief in Not, which is a natural defensive reaction to adversity, becomes entrenched.

It’s a type of logic, perhaps not very focused, but it can drive a drastic response to anything. It can also drive a demand for more Nots. Nots are both a combination of conflict evasion and a position for conflict. Any Not can be used as a stonewall reaction to any group. It can be a rallying point. Add some dopamine, and you can even use it as a basis for “friend or foe” relationships.

The reality or unreality of Nots in history

Put enough Nots together, and you have a society based on Nots. That would be all fine and ducky, but Nots have a 100% record of failure over time.

  • China had a policy of not introducing foreign goods, for decades; look at China now.
  • Tsarist Russia had a policy of two very separate economic classes, not connected in any way and a strict social hierarchy on that basis; look at Russia now.
  • The sun did not set on the British Empire; Not-style mindsets destroyed it with unpreparedness and mismanagement based on the Not mentality. Look at the UK now.

The moral of history is that it’s not about Nots. Nots are straws in a hurricane. Life isn’t, and can’t be, entirely about negativity. The question is this: Does everyone’s inner conservative, the usually self-serving Not-addict, recognize the risks? Probably, Not.