I’m in a waiting phase. Literally — I am waiting in one country to be allowed to enter another. Creatively also — I am waiting to see what happens to a project I have been working on for many years, which has hit a bump and needs to develop into something new. And spiritually — I am waiting for a new stage in my life to begin, and feel filled with uncertainty.
Culturally, we are also waiting, aren’t we? Waiting for this pandemic to be over. …
As we’ve explored in previous newsletters, New Age culture has had something of a shocker during the pandemic. It has, in the words of Jamie Wheal, turned into a ‘rat’s nest shitshow’. While preaching health and wellness, spiritual influencers have promoted anti-vaccine, anti-mask, anti-lockdown disinformation and woo-woo alternative cures, just as the United States’ COVID body-count nears a new peak. New Age culture has blood on its hands.
The wave of New Age bullshit has provoked a backlash within spiritual culture, a Reformation, a fight for its soul, with an opposing movement of what I’ve called ‘critical spirituality’. Podcasts and…
Rick Archer emerged from a troubled youth to become a leading teacher of Transcendental Meditation. 12 years ago, he left TM and started Buddha At The Gas Pump, a podcast where he interviews spiritual teachers. It now has millions of views and downloads. I talked to Rick about how spirituality has changed since he first started meditating in 1968, and how he thinks New Age culture has fared during the COVID pandemic.
How did you get into spirituality?
I grew up in Fairfield, Connecticut. I’d had a troubled home life. My father was an alcoholic. My mother nearly succeeded in…
Two cheers for the work of Theodore Roszak, a Californian academic who died 10 years ago, and who is one of the more intelligent chroniclers of New Age spirituality. I’ve read four of his books now, and find much to admire in his prose. Encountering his work in New Age culture is like coming across a dapper gentleman in the heart of a steaming jungle.
And yet even here, in this most literate of New Age authors, one sees the cultural flaws that brought spirituality to its present sorry state. …
This is an interview with Eileen Dunn, a life coach who moved to Tulum in October 2020 with her partner Alba, to run a yoga studio. She tells me about her experience of living in Tulum, one of the New Age capitals on the global wellness circuit, during the COVID pandemic.
Tell me about your move to Tulum.
I’m an East Coast girl, New Englander, grew up in Maine, then lived in Boston. I moved to Denver, I was there for six months, met my partner Alba there. This opportunity to buy a yoga studio in Tulum fell into our…
My oldest friend is back in town this week. Yesterday we met for a drink in London Bridge. ‘I have a treat for you’, he said.
The treat turned out to be a bundle of emails I’d sent him in 2000, the year after we left university, when I was living in Seville, trying to write a novel.
I remember that as one of the hardest times of my life.
The novel was rubbish. Seville was hot and lonely. Plus the trauma of difficult drug experiences was beginning to bubble up and drown me.
But you wouldn’t guess that from…
In the autumn of 2020, in the middle of the pandemic, Dr Emily Grossman and her partner decided to move to Totnes, a small town in Devon that is popular with eco-hippies. Emily looked forward to escaping the Big Smoke and being surrounded by like-minded spiritual activists. A friend encouraged her to join some Totnes online chat groups. It was a rude awakening.
Dr Grossman says:
The groups turned out to be rife with people posting anti-vax, anti-mask or anti-lockdown content, or saying that Covid is no worse than flu.
When she went into town to get groceries, she came…
The documentary maker Adam Curtis wrote in 2010: ‘In Mad Men we watch a group of people who live in a prosperous society that offers happiness and order like never before in history and yet are full of anxiety and unease. They feel there is something more, something beyond. And they feel stuck.’
The system in which the characters are stuck forces them to live divided lives in divided selves. Don Draper, in particular, has learned to put on a mask in order to get ahead and leave behind his background of shame and poverty. But the cost of this…
Wellness has not exactly bathed itself in glory during the pandemic. Over the last 18 months, it’s probably made the COVID crisis worse, spreading misinformation, anti-vaccine propaganda and far-right conspiracy theories.
The pandemic has brutally exposed wellness for its irrationalism, hyper-individualism, and homicidal selfishness.
Even before last year’s shit-show at the fuck-factory, wellness looked pretty silly.
I blame Gwyneth Paltrow, who held up an over-priced mirror to wellness’ ugly face. Her online shop and Netflix show, Goop, received much-deserved mockery for flogging ridiculous wellness products like a psychic vampire spray and a candle that smelled of Paltrow’s vagina.
‘I’m finding it really hard. I’m worried that if I tell people the truth, they’ll put me in a strait-jacket. I’m afraid to tell my own husband.’
It’s June 2020, the middle of the COVID pandemic, and I’m in a room full of dead people. The official title of the gathering is the annual conference of the International Association of Near-Death Studies (IANDS), which brings together researchers into near-death experiences (NDEs) and ‘experiencers’ themselves, who have come back from what in some cases would technically be described as death, with vivid accounts of journeys beyond the veil.
This being the…