Spiritual and conscious communities are taking the world by a storm. It all began with innovators like Ram Dass and Alan Watts who opened the West to Eastern Philosophy. These ideas were adopted by the hippie movement of the 60/70’s and were largely ignored by the mainstream.
Fast forward to 2010 where places like Bali, Koh Phangan and Lake Atitlan started to attract hordes of visionaries, self proclaimed healers, mystics and all things in between.
Today, conscious communities are a major trend. Tarot, tantra, magic mushrooms and women’s circle are now mainstream activities due to influencers like Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Pollan.
The spiritual community claims to shift paradigms and rethink the way we heal, relate, work, have sex and work out. Often this includes things like Ayahuasca retreats, cacao ceremonies, ecstatic dance, shadow and inner child work as well as visualization and manifestation and most importantly connections to divine energies.
What many people in the midst of mass adoption are missing is that a lot of visionaries have already moved on.
The limitations of the spiritual community in terms of social, ethical and environmental impact are already discussed by a new group of visionaries that highlight the rapture ideology, spiritual by-passing and trauma obsessions of the conscious community.
This article is a collection of research and resources if you, too, have first doubts about the consciousness of the conscious community.
About the authors:
Viola moved to Bali in 2016 and lived there for two years. Whilst living there, she experienced yoga, sound healing, circles, free-diving, body work, tantra, temple nights, meditation, couples counseling and coaching.
Kahn was part of Christian churches for 22 years, first Pentecostal and then Hillsong Church. He left because of the double-standards, hypocrisy and scandals.
Trauma-obsession and rapture ideology
- Life is a Festival – Episode – The Neverending Healing Journey – Have you found yourself caught up in a never-ending healing journey? Are you rushing from workshop to ceremony to retreat trying to peel all the layers of your existential onion?
- Healing from Healing – Healing from Healing is a generative space for healing and transformation that casts a critical, skeptical, humorous and compassionate gaze at Healing Culture and its ideological and political underpinnings while highlighting the relational, cultural and contextual aspects of what it means to be healthy and happy.
- Recapture the Rapture – Jamie Wheal – Some of the biggest visions of the future depend on some sort of rapture ideology in which the few make it and the rest get left behind. Jamie Wheal cautions us to rediscover inspiration, healing and community–so we can work together to solve wicked problems.
- Rebel Wisdom – Rebel Wisdom looks to move beyond ideology. We create our content with the intention of engaging with the whole person – intellect, body, and intuition – to create honest discussions. Fuelled by social media, many have become trapped in reaction and ideology, yet big questions can only be explored with open-minded, self-reflective, grounded conversations
- Rebel Wisdom – Episode – Peak States and Ethical Cult Building – How do we use the most powerful consciousness hacking tools to transform ourselves and our lives, and what are the dangers? Jamie Wheal wrote the ‘how to’ manual for applied ecstasy, “Stealing Fire”, he describes the positive and negative effects of altered states and communities.
- Jules Evans – Having an ecstatic experience doesn’t necessarily mean you’re special, holy or spiritually advanced.
Sexual violence and power
- The Guru Mag – Tantric Abuse – These articles by journalist Be Scofield expose sexual abuse with in the modern tantra scene.
- Nahko and Medcine for the People – Kickstarted by a Change.org petition which has garnered nearly 5,500 signatures, scores of women accused the artist of “underage fondling, sexual grooming, and sexual abuse/intimidation.” The aim of the petition was to bring enough attention to the artist’s alleged misconduct to convince venues to stop booking Nahko.
- Koh Phangan’s Agama – Thailand’s Agama yoga school to close after sexual assault claims.
- ISTA – Tantra teacher Andrew Barnes accused of rape and sexual abuse.
Conspirituality – Conspiracy and spirituality
- Jules Evans – Why is there this overlap between New Age culture and conspiracy thinking?
- Life is a Festival – Episode – How Conspiracy Thinking Hijacked the Psychedelic Community – Over the past two years the optimistic spirituality of many within the psychedelic community has morphed into pessimism and paranoia. This synthesis of wellness and conspiracy thinking isn’t unique to the Covid pandemic. As today’s guest, philosopher Jules Evans explains, “Conspirituality” has been a feature of New Age thinking since its gnostic beginnings.
- The Banter – Aubrey Marcus: How A Wellness Guru Became An Irresponsible Covid Conspiracy Theorist – The best selling author and founder of a popular supplement company is a central figure in New Age disinformation about Covid-19.
Cultural appropriation and environmental impact
- The Psychedelic Leadership Podcast – Jamie Wheal – The Pitfalls of the Psychedelic Movement – What we are witnessing unfold in the psychedelic movement is truly unprecedented. We are reaching a tipping point where psychedelic medicines are rapidly entering mainstream society. But is this really a good thing? And how do we make sense of the sacramental and sacred use of psychedelics within the cultural context of late-stage capitalism?
- The Start-up (R)evolution – Kat Gordon – Ancient wisdom in modern companies – about social and environmental impact of using plant medicines.
- Hamilton Pharmacopeia – Synthetic Toad Venom Machine – about the decline of population of the sonoran desert toad and synthetic 5-MeO-DMT.
- Eric Federico Fridman – Navigating Cultural Appropriation in Cacao Ceremonies – The resurgence of cacao ceremonies and the view of cacao as a plant medicine has brought about a new wave of cacao ceremonialists… Many harsher critics view the title of cacao ceremonialist as inaccurate, as a means of cultural appropriation, and believe it is indicative of a new wave of colonialism in which this spiritual practice and other cultural elements are being exploited.
Summary: Bubbles and second-order effects
The thing is: Many conscious communities have formed tight bubbles whether that is on social media or in a physical location, such as Ubud, Santa Teresa or San Marcos.
This has bred an extremism and righteousness that neglects the second-order effects of their spiritual practices:
Often when we solve one problem, we end up unintentionally creating another one that’s even worse. The best way to examine the long-term consequences of our decisions is to use second-order thinking.
In a community where your own experience and interpretation is considered evidence, confirmation bias is to be expected: Confirmation bias is our tendency to cherry-pick information that confirms our existing beliefs or ideas. Confirmation bias explains why two people with opposing views on a topic can see the same evidence and come away feeling validated by it. This cognitive bias is most pronounced in the case of ingrained, ideological, or emotionally charged views.
The creation of conscious communities caused second-order effects where we replicated the power structures, sexual violence, hyper-focus on the individual, cultural appropriation and environmental destruction of churches, capitalism and patriarchy – the exact systems that we claimed to re-invent.
What we need is accountability, mentorship and mastery and the time and space to consider the deep impact and second-order effects of our actions in an ever-changing, complex environment.
So, if you just got into the spiritual community, a lot might be new, exciting, meaningful and life-changing for you.
Firstly, consider the diminishing returns in chasing peak experiences.
Secondly, consider that the visionaries have already moved on – and started to critique and question the spiritual community. But check out this podcast for a step beyond: On this episode, we begin with a review of the issues with spiritual communities from the dark side of manifestation to how toxic positivity functions like cancer. Alex Ebert explains how the critique of New Agism can become its own shtick.
So, the critique of the conscious community is like being in the conscious community – complex and full of unintended consequences along the way.
The real question is: What happens after the peak experience?
Spiritual growth is not about the ayahuasca ceremony or the next circle.
Life is the real ceremony.
Run in the field, chase the sun and the waves, eat a meal with those you don’t understand, rave, read, give back to your community, and always stay curious.