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.

 

www.sydneymediajam.com

Religion decoded and made useful


 

 

Beliefs are supposed to mean something. In the Golden Age of Meaninglessness, you get a brochure, not a meaningful belief.

Religion is not dogma. It’s not an excuse. It’s not a means of personal moral superiority, however banal and pointless. It’s supposed to be useful. Religion, in most of its original forms, is a codification of both belief and conduct for spiritual benefit. In many ways, it’s just common sense.

The degraded forms of religion we see today are far removed from benefit, despite the fact that religion in some cases is all some people have. The tedious, pompous and often obsessive forms of religion aren’t much use, however, in delivering value.

Religion basics

Consider the basics:

  • “Thou shalt not be a jerk”. This covers all forms of misconduct which cause injury. All religions have this basic tenet.
  • Worship: Worship what, how, and why? Can you have a real religion, based on “Just add worship”? If you have no idea what you’re believing in, how do you worship it? Unless it serves some useful purpose, seems rather unfair.
  • Belief: Humans only actually believe something they trust. They trust it because they’ve seen it proven in some form. Any other “belief”, however tiresomely expressed, is hypocrisy.
  • Religious deities: One god or many? One god and saints, or whatever, the usual format is to break down religious subjects in to examples, parables, with a story and a range of metaphors. This applies from the Bible to folklore. It’s a common teaching method in ancient and modern societies.
  • The soul: The worst defined subject in human history, the soul is the nominal incarnation of self. It doesn’t have ascribed values, material or otherwise. This lucky concept is the recipient of any amount of babble which is supposed to be good for it. If the average soul could get a word in edgewise, it would tell the babble where to go, or demand that the babble explain itself. “Preaching to the speechless” could also be described as incredibly hypocritical and cynical.
  • The Afterlife: This remarkably poorly defined subject is the reward for “whatever”, the mass of bullet impacts and asteroid strikes life delivers to most people. As explained by people who have no idea what it is, it’s a pretty iffy reward. “Bribed with Heaven and threatened with hell” isn’t much of an improvement. It’s an exertion of assumed authority which can backfire, causing resentment and discouragement. Credible rewards are based on something; this dismally expressed topic delivers very little.
  • “Evil”: Evil simply means injury. Evil is a one trick wonder. It causes injury, in whatever form. Any fool can be evil; it’s a devaluation of oneself and a useless range of possibilities.
  • Good: A rather shoddily defined expression which deserves better. Good can relate to acting responsibly, being kind, or, in fact, acting like a normal human being. If you commit an act of kindness, you know why you do it. True good doesn’t big note itself.
  • Moral pretensions: This is the age-old pretension of being good. It’s false by definition. Actual good is also practical, rather than pretentious. To claim to be good is making a necessity out of a virtue; not a great idea of you don’t have that particular virtue.
  • Morality: These supposed “life rules” have to make sense to be effective. Morals are useful, provided they’re practical and applicable to situations. Otherwise, they’re just more spiritual spam churned out by ignoramuses trying to be authoritative.

Religion 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?

If you’re thinking that a lot of this is just common sense, you’re right. The original sources of religions were directly involved in practical needs. Why would a farmer, 5000 years ago, believe anything that wasn’t common sense? Imagine telling a subsistence farmer that they need a whole new range of things to not only do, but believe unquestioningly. Not very appealing, is it?

What use is self-promotion by others to people in real need? The original sources of the major religions were positively minded, from Confucius to the latter day religions. The Confucian idea of turning society in to an extended family, in fact, applies as well to the Warring States era as to modern times. Everyone knows extended families work well, too.

The original sources were practical people. None of these people were mere talkers. Jesus and Buddha were fundamentally teachers, and good ones. (For the non-press-release version of Jesus, read The Gospel of Thomas.) The Prophet Mahomet would go out and plough people’s fields himself. Moses was a lawgiver and a source of a code for people who needed cohesion. It’s a very practical approach to living in a wilderness/desert.

Believe what you will, but be aware that none of these sources was anything but useful. If religion diverges from usefulness, it’s obviously not as it was intended.

This wasn’t McReligion. You couldn’t just order a god to go with a side dish of pretensions like you can now. The original sources promoted responsibility, not excuses and evasions. They also weren’t obsessed with materialism.

Some of the best exponents of religion are practical in the sense that their every conscious moment is devoted to helping others. This help in turn benefits others indirectly. Some of them aren’t even members of a religion. They simply practice it, and make themselves very useful in the process. If religion is the process of putting useful things in to practice, however, they qualify as religious people.

You don’t have to be a saint to be a practical religious person, with or without a particular religion. You don’t have to preach about something you barely understand yourself to be effective and practical.

You don’t have to be a jerk, either. However fashionable being a petty little attempt at a real person may be, the jerks are always the useless, the greedy and the mindlessly addicted selfish, causing injury to others.  The one trick wonder is only that and no more.

Believe what you trust, not just any old garbled dogma. Put in to practice what you believe, and avoid injury to others. How much simpler could it get?

 

www.sydneymediajam.com