The Secret of Spiritual Materialism

Published under: Modern Generation Map, Spirituality

Remem­ber all the buzz sur­round­ing the pro­mo­tion of the “The Secret?”   There were the Oprah appear­ances, the Lar­ry King inter­views, the DVD ris­ing to #1 on Ama­zon – and then “The Secret II.”

All that hype got me to think­ing about our con­sumer-dri­ven demand for spir­i­tu­al prod­ucts – and what under­lies this phe­nom­e­non.  I must admit that my first impulse was to judge it harsh­ly – but, then I began to step back and explore my own per­son­al cul­pa­bil­i­ty in cre­at­ing this sensation.

Since begin­ning my spir­i­tu­al explo­rations back in the 70’s — I’ve dis­cov­ered that there are many ways to get divert­ed and dis­tract­ed on the spir­i­tu­al path.  The Bud­dhist teacher, Chogyam Trung­pa acknowl­edges that there are “numer­ous side­tracks which lead to a dis­tort­ed, ego-cen­tered, ver­sion of spir­i­tu­al­i­ty” where we end up only deceiv­ing our­selves into think­ing that we are devel­op­ing spir­i­tu­al­ly, when, in fact, we’re only “strength­en­ing our ego-cen­tric­i­ty through spir­i­tu­al tech­niques.”  He calls this prin­ci­ple spir­i­tu­al mate­ri­al­ism – and, in our cul­ture, where eco­nom­ic suc­cess is val­ued above all else, its no sur­prise that this mar­ket­place is grow­ing by leaps and bounds.

One has only to go online or into any book­store these days to find a dizzy­ing array of spir­i­tu­al prod­ucts, tech­niques, and ser­vices.  Ads abound for heal­ers, body work­ers, psy­chics, and schools for almost any mys­ti­cal pur­suit.  The under­ly­ing mes­sage seems to be that there’s some­thing miss­ing in our lives – and even more sub­lim­i­nal­ly, that there must be some­thing wrong with us.

I’ve felt this void – and it’s caused me to accu­mu­late far more mys­ti­cal teach­ings and para­pher­na­lia than I’d like to admit – crys­tals, pyra­mids, feng shui tchotchkes, you name it.  And, in the end, I still felt unful­filled – long­ing for some­thing more.

Through a series of inter­views with New Age gurus, “The Secret” explores the impli­ca­tions of the meta­phys­i­cal “law of attrac­tion.”  The basic mes­sage is that your thoughts cre­ate your real­i­ty.  What­ev­er you focus on, you’ll manifest.

Fol­low­ing this log­ic – is it pos­si­ble that my per­son­al attach­ment to being spir­i­tu­al­ly mate­r­i­al might actu­al­ly be co-cre­at­ing (along with every­one else) our cur­rent mon­ey-dri­ven mys­ti­cal mar­ket­place? And so, although I could write end­less cri­tiques on the pletho­ra of meta­phys­i­cal fads and crazes – it might be some­what hyp­o­crit­i­cal of me to crit­i­cize a real­i­ty that I’ve had a hand in creating.

Dur­ing an Esther Hicks “Law of Attrac­tion” sem­i­nar I attend­ed a few years back – I kept hear­ing every­one refer to “what they were want­i­ng” in their lives.  Peo­ple most­ly want­ed health, hap­pi­ness, and finan­cial secu­ri­ty.  But, I won­dered which part of them was actu­al­ly doing that want­i­ng.  Was it the wis­est part of them?  Or was it just their ego want­i­ng to be the cen­ter of atten­tion, want­i­ng to be pro­tect­ed at all cost.

I real­ized that the rea­son I was left feel­ing emp­ty after “The Secret,” the Esther Hicks sem­i­nar, and with oth­er meta­phys­i­cal teach­ings — was that none of them offered any insight into how to get my ego out of the way.  How could I allow my ego to step aside grace­ful­ly — so I wouldn’t end up being just be anoth­er spir­i­tu­al tourist shop­ping my way through an unful­filled life?

I did find a sim­ple yet pro­found solu­tion to this dilem­ma in the phi­los­o­phy of Tibetan Bud­dhism.  This tra­di­tion views the spir­i­tu­al path as a process where we cut through our con­fu­sion – until we reach enlight­en­ment.  Enlight­en­ment is defined as an awak­ened state of mind – where the ego has relin­quished con­trol.  This awak­ened state is not a com­mod­i­ty to be bought or sold – but, a per­ma­nent state that’s already there, wait­ing to be dis­cov­ered.  And, it can be dis­cov­ered through some­thing as sim­ple as med­i­ta­tion.  Just by sit­ting still and being qui­et on a dai­ly basis — imag­in­ing the sun appear­ing from behind the clouds, my clouds.

Amass­ing great col­lec­tions of books, teach­ings, sacred objects, and tech­niques aren’t going to allow those clouds to part.  So, the soon­er I get start­ed on my med­i­ta­tion prac­tice, the less attach­ment I’ll have to what’s being bought and sold in the spir­i­tu­al mar­ket­place.  And then I can just let it be — and smile.

Trung­pa, Chogyam; “Cut­ting Through Spir­i­tu­al Mate­ri­al­ism”; Shamb­ha­la Pub­li­ca­tions, Inc.; Boston, Mass­a­chu­setts; 1973. Here’s a brief introduction.

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2 Responses to The Secret of Spiritual Materialism

  1. Hey girl, I enjoyed this arti­cle. Thanks for help­ing with my grief over Twiz yes­ter­day. You are a good friend and I enjoyed your “reluc­tant paco” sto­ry as well.
    Hey and I am not a spammer! 🙂

  2. mrs.davies3 says:

    thank you for writ­ing this as it res­onates deeply with­in me yet i was unable to artic­u­late it. the lack­ing aspect you define is what makes it sad. the key is hap­pi­ness. just BE. BE grate­ful. BE kind. BE respect­ful. BE clear. BE open.


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