Lately it seems like everyone is noticing a pattern in the weave of society. We have the same Prime Minister again, Russia are extolling alarming edicts, alternative culture is turning back the clock on technological advances in music, culture is re-homogenising, diverse sexuality is once more a virtue, and Chanel monochrome is back in fashion!
Is this just another case of history repeating? Is it truly the same shit, but on a different day?
What I’m wondering is what all of these cyclical trends means for spirituality and religion as a civic force in the very near future? It wasn’t too long ago that social scientists and anthropologists were unwavering on the fact that religion would be subsumed by scientific thought and spirituality would cease to influence masses. Many said that before too long, medicine and chemicals would be able to answer all the questions for which we’d previously looked to God, Buddha, Allah, Aphrodite, Mother Nature, Huna, the Inner Child and so on and so forth. We would be liberated from mystery, fundamentalism would be undermined, and Truth would be an open-access resource.
None of that has happened, and I strongly believe that the reason why that is, is because in the face of failure or humiliation-those social commentators and culture creationists by making their cutting statements, created simultaneously a taboo and a challenge to believers. Whether they meant to or not, but those who so eagerly tolled the death knell for faith (blind or not) sounded a tune to resurrect all belief, virtue and spiritualism across the globe that divided the modern world into those that raised their voices louder than the echoing din and those who went silent and let their passion bubble in their throats- you tell me which of the reactions you think more dangerous!
When I was fifteen, all I really wanted to do what whatever my parents told me I couldn’t. And if I felt that per their authority, that I was put in a position where I actually couldn’t, boy was I mad, and upset, and confused, disempowered. I did not like the feeling of impotence. I imagine you can appreciate this coming from a teenage boy, so can you expand your thinking to wonder how many religious people felt when told “you can’t believe. Society will destroy your reason to, and call it progress”.
The beauty of the academics affiliating abject secularism with modernity is that pastoral, rural, digitally disenfranchised, politically demoralised and traditional individuals and cultures become further detached from their counterparts, socially degraded and in some cases vilified simply for retaining their faith. Sometimes this faith is the one their grandmother had, was born into, lived by and perhaps died by. Once again, the first world asks for change at a genetic, physiological, habitual, mental and cultural level within one generation-that we forget in one generation what was built over hundreds of generation.
But then, this is a case of history repeating too, because it’s what today’s big religions asked of the world’s population when they demanded allegiance and conversion for the sake of unity for political and cultural solidarity. I’m not saying it’s right, like at all, but nonetheless if you’ll allow me a lot of boiling-it-down, this fact exists. Religious leaders and followers, up until very recently were in charge of making history and charting the course for emerging individuals, communities, cultures, and countries to navigate futures by. The difference is of course that religious groups did not-and still do not-forget the power of masses who do not flock to metropolitan centres like moths to carbon-emissions. So long as any fire on the spectrum of spirituality burns anywhere from mountain sects and monasteries, to inner city churches then we will find that when any kind of “cure” is introduced, we will be treated to a frightful epidemic, immune response. As we have in the Sudan, Egypt, India, Tibet, Palestine, Iran, Ireland, and even in our own backyard where the spirituality of the custodians we welcome at every official ceremony is continually ignored as a tool to close that gap we keep promising we will.
Indeed, who do we look to now to make our history? Religious followings seem to have all the power of high school cliques-completely overpowering in the arena they’ve commandeered and outside of those, the rest of us zip around oblivious (think Mormonism, Scientology). Politicians and presidents might like to think it is them who make our history now, but all I see in my country is policy Indian-giving and backtracking until everything is half-done. Every decisive action is met with protest until the media ignores it. The media might also like to think it’s them who make history, and they’d be right because the fabric of the agenda is more and more related to what they weave. One might suggest that our history-makers now are nothing more than a bunch of faceless boardroom-dwelling dictators who found a better place for their totalitarianism than public service. They indulge the science, they endorse the celebrity, they raise the suspicion, they pitch the language. And in that essence, have we not just prescribed to a new form of biblical worship? I mean they provide you a newspaper in every hotel, and daily I am faced with adolescent guardians of my train platform shoving publications into my hands.
Maybe the cycle of religion will not turn a revolution as fast as fashion, but as we begin to fear the power that has been invested into the current pillars of society, perhaps generations to come will use their devices to rediscover that ignorance is bliss, or at the very least you can use it to keep the world out.
Who do you look to for leadership? Who makes history for you, if anyone? What do you think about the part that spirituality, the metaphysical has to play in the forward movement? Email me firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @papabayj