579. Conspirituality, with Derek Beres, Matthew Remski, and Julian Walker

A conversation with the hosts of the Conspirituality Podcast website. As they describe it, their podcast is…

A weekly study of converging right-wing conspiracy theories and faux-progressive wellness utopianism. At best, the conspirituality movement attacks public health efforts in times of crisis. At worst, it fronts and recruits for the fever-dream of QAnon.

As the alt-right and New Age horseshoe toward each other in a blur of disinformation, clear discourse and good intentions get smothered. Charismatic influencers exploit their followers by co-opting conspiracy theories on a spectrum of intensity ranging from vaccines to child trafficking. In the process, spiritual beliefs that have nurtured creativity and meaning are transforming into memes of a quickly-globalizing paranoia.

Conspirituality Podcast attempts to bring understanding to this landscape. A journalist, a cult researcher, and a philosophical skeptic discuss the stories, cognitive dissonances, and cultic dynamics tearing through the yoga, wellness, and new spirituality worlds. Mainstream outlets have noticed the problem. We crowd-source, research, analyze, and dream answers to it.

The term “conspirituality” first appeared in 2009 as the name of a Vancouver rap group that unironically dropped conspiracy keywords into beats calling for political awakening. In 2011, Charlotte Ward and David Voas used the term academically to analyze the growing overlap between the paranoid conspiracism of right-wingers and the New Age’s yearning for spiritual transformation.

Derek Beres is a multi-faceted author, media expert, and movement instructor based in Los Angeles.

He is the Head of Content Marketing and Community at Centered, as well as a columnist for Big Think and Psychedelic Spotlight.

One-half of EarthRise SoundSystem, he also served as music supervisor for the breakthrough documentary, DMT: The Spirit Molecule.

He is a co-host of the Conspirituality podcast. His new book, Hero’s Dose: The Case for Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy, is out now.

Matthew Remski is a cult survivor and researcher. His 2019 book, Practice And All Is Coming: Abuse, Cult Dynamics, And Healing In Yoga And Beyond, is the first systematic analysis of pervasive cultism in the modern yoga world.

He researches and writes on abuse in spiritual movements here, as well as for publications like GEN by Medium and The Walrus. His current research is pivoting to look at cultic dynamics in conspirituality and eco-justice movements.

He lives in Toronto with his partner and their two sons.

Julian Walker grew up in Zimbabwe and South Africa and has lived in LA since 1990. He is fascinated with the intersections of yoga/meditation, psychology, science, and culture. He has written extensively on cults and gurus, spiritual bypass and quantum woo in New Age circles, trauma and the body, and neuroscience and somatic psychology informing the practice and teaching of yoga. His writing can be found on Elephant Journal, Medium, and in the 2011 book, 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics, and Practice. He teaches yoga and runs teacher-training programs in and around LA. Julian is also a bodyworker and the ecstatic dance DJ/facilitator for his Dance Tribe events.

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Transcript of this interview.

Interview recorded December 5, 2020.

YouTube Video Chapters:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction to Conspiratuality
  • 00:04:21 – Investigative study into institutional abuse in Ashtanga Yoga
  • 00:08:09 – The Emergence of Conspirituality in the Yoga Community
  • 00:11:49 – Paradigm Shift and Metaphysical Notions
  • 00:15:02 – The Rise of Conspiracy Theories During Times of Crisis
  • 00:18:51 – Envisioning a Different Future
  • 00:22:28 – Influence of the Spiritual Community in the 60s and 70s
  • 00:25:37 – Vulnerability to QAnon in the Wellness Space
  • 00:30:00 – COVID Denialism and Financial Risk
  • 00:33:39 – Critiquing Nootropic Supplements and Bro Science
  • 00:36:52 – The Relationship Between Patterns and Dopamine
  • 00:40:19 – The Value of Things
  • 00:44:06 – The Wonderment in Creation
  • 00:48:01 – Technological Expansion of Spiritual Bypassing
  • 00:51:41 – Dealing with Loved Ones Believing in Conspiracy Theories
  • 00:55:09 – Managing QAnon and Conspiracies in Families
  • 00:58:58 – Collectivist Cultures and the Spread of QAnon
  • 01:02:43 – The Intersection of Employment and Spirituality
  • 01:06:15 – The Appeal of Incompetence and Manipulation
  • 01:09:27 – The Influence of Alternative Media Platforms
  • 01:13:10 – The Blurring of Facts and Truth in the New Age Community
  • 01:16:51 – The Need for Regulation in the Yoga Industry
  • 01:20:44 – The Need for Regulation in the Yoga Industry
  • 01:24:01 – The Influence of Celebrities and Media Figures
  • 01:27:52 – Monetizing Conspiracy Theories and the Addiction of Engagement
  • 01:31:17 – Cultic Dynamics in Yoga and Buddhism Education
  • 01:35:18 – The Importance of Citing Sources in New Age Spirituality
  • 01:38:30 – The Poetry of the Unknown
  • 01:42:29 – Understanding the Roots of Indoctrination and Compassionate Response
  • 01:46:02 – The Power of Actions and Karma
  • 01:49:41 – Continuing the Discussion

534. Meeting of Founders and Members of the Association for Spiritual Integrity

Meeting of Founders and Members of the Association for Spiritual Integrity

Forty-five spiritual teachers, members of “The Association for Spiritual Integrity”, met for four hours prior to the start of the 2019 Science and Nonduality Conference. For the first couple of hours, we engaged in a deep, honest discussion about the challenges teachers face, seeking to learn how we might better support one another. We then broke into six groups, each focusing on a particular topic. Then we reassembled and recorded the remainder of the meeting.

This video includes:

Introduction by Rick

Summary of discussions in each of the six breakout groups.

  • (1) Bringing forth women and feminine empowerment.
  • (2) Ongoing growth for teachers and continuing education, trauma, attachment, and shadow work.
  • (3) Creating community and peer support
  • (4) Healthy power dynamics and dual relationships
  • (5) The Ethics of the Spiritual Community
  • (6) The importance of awareness of teacher misbehavior and discerning between real misbehavior and false accusations.

A personal or professional commitment expressed by each teacher in the meeting.

Transcript of this meeting

Recorded October 24, 2019

YouTube Video Chapters:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction and Purpose of the Meeting
  • 00:01:04 – Discussion and Breakout Groups
  • 00:01:57 – Appreciation for Gifted Leaders
  • 00:02:52 – ASI: Continued Education and Growth
  • 00:03:54 – Incorporating Yin Teachings into SAND
  • 00:05:09 – Supporting Each Other in the Process of Bringing Balance
  • 00:06:15 – Creating a Safe Space for Teachers
  • 00:07:22 – Online Teacher Assessment and Community Support for Spiritual Teachers
  • 00:08:23 – Increased Support and Accountability
  • 00:09:26 – Creating a Referral Listing for Affordable Retreats
  • 00:10:28 – Difficulties with Dual Relationships and Power Dynamics
  • 00:11:31 – Power dynamics and emotional triggers
  • 00:12:42 – Keeping data on ethical behavior and misbehavior of teachers and guides
  • 00:13:37 – Awareness of Misconduct
  • 00:14:37 – Bringing forth the importance of the feminine and women’s voices
  • 00:15:39 – Spending time in silence and self-reflection
  • 00:16:35 – Commitment to Women’s Video Conference Group
  • 00:17:35 – Organizing Information and Workshops
  • 00:18:20 – Commitment to Authentic and Heartfelt Communication
  • 00:19:13 – Personal Commitments to Self-Care and Understanding
  • 00:20:05 – Creating Online Safe Spaces for Peer-to-Peer Interactions
  • 00:20:58 – Commitments to Marginalized Communities and Openness to Learning
  • 00:21:48 – Committing to Integrity and Love
  • 00:22:49 – The Teachings of Don Juan Matus and Padmasambhava
  • 00:23:48 – Commitment to Awareness and Empowerment
  • 00:24:51 – Commitment to Service and Divine Embodiment
  • 00:25:59 – Recommitting to Integrity and Healing for All
  • 00:27:00 – Commitment to Personal and Professional Evolution
  • 00:28:03 – Supporting and Connecting with Each Other
  • 00:29:05 – A Beautiful Thing We’re Creating
  • 00:29:54 – Appreciation for support and resources

534. SAND Panel on Sexual Misconduct, Money, Power, Trauma & Ethics in Spiritual Communities

Panel Discussion at the Science and Nonduality Conference on Sexual Misconduct, Money, Power, Trauma & Ethics in Spiritual Communities, with Jac O’Keeffe, Mariana Caplan, Craig Holliday, and Miranda Macpherson

  • Introduction by Rick Archer
  • The spiritual awakening sweeping the world may be critical to addressing our critical problems.
  • Ethical breaches by spiritual teachers sabotage this awakening.
  • How the ASI was founded. Its role & perspective.
  • Qualities and Characteristics of a healthy teacher, student, and spiritual community.
  • What to look for in a spiritual teacher
  • The student’s responsibility.
  • Healthy teacher/student relationships.
  • Support for teachers recognizing their blind spots.
  • Are higher consciousness and more ideal behavior correlated?
  • Continual growth and learning, even in the teachers’ seat.
  • Discriminating between Awakening, Integration process, and actualization.
  • Abiding exclusively in nondual awareness vs. developing a multi-layered perspective.
  • What contributes to unhealthy behavior or cult-like tendencies.

Questions and answers

  • Guru addiction
  • Money issues in spiritual communities
  • The responsibility teachers and students share
  • The importance of therapy.
  • Teachers referring students to other teachers.
  • How long to stay with a teacher
  • Teachers inviting students to give them feedback

Discussion of this panel in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Transcript of this discussion.

Recorded October 25, 2019

YouTube Video Chapters:

  • 00:00:00 – Introduction and Purpose of the Organization
  • 00:02:40 – Establishing Guidelines for Spiritual Teachers
  • 00:04:40 – Introduction of Spiritual Speakers
  • 00:06:29 – Qualities of a Healthy Spiritual Teacher and Student
  • 00:08:38 – Pursuing Growth in Spiritual Communities
  • 00:10:47 – Accountability and Ethics in Teaching
  • 00:12:47 – The Role of Humility in Teaching
  • 00:14:31 – The Role of Trust in Teacher-Student Relationships
  • 00:16:17 – The Process of Idealizing Teachers
  • 00:18:23 – The Interplay in Unhealthy Relationships
  • 00:20:25 – Higher Consciousness and Behavior
  • 00:22:22 – Aligning with Integrity in Sexuality, Money, and Power
  • 00:24:26 – Embracing Lifelong Learning
  • 00:26:20 – Finding Balance and Growth in Education
  • 00:28:08 – The Tricky Spot of Non-Dual Awareness
  • 00:30:02 – The Deterrent of Fixed Notions and the Endless Possibilities of Awakening
  • 00:32:02 – The Problem with the Search for Enlightenment
  • 00:33:49 – The Danger of Group Think in Spiritual Communities
  • 00:35:41 – Challenging Group Think and Teacher-Student Relationships
  • 00:37:41 – Recovery from Guru Addiction
  • 00:39:35 – Working on Our Relationship with Money
  • 00:41:30 – The Illusion of Giving in Spiritual Teachings
  • 00:43:30 – Mobilizing Teachers in the Shift
  • 00:45:27 – The Power of Students Speaking Up
  • 00:47:02 – The Development of Spiritual Maturity
  • 00:49:05 – Engaging in Good Therapy and Trauma Healing
  • 00:50:43 – Referring a Student Out of Their Depth
  • 00:52:12 – Long-term relationships with students
  • 00:54:24 – A Teacher’s Role in Empowering Students
  • 00:56:09 – The Need for Connection and Support in the ASI Community
  • 00:58:01 – Music Interlude