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

ConspiritualityA 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 BeresDerek 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 RemskiMatthew 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 WalkerJulian 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, MediumFreedom Becomes You, 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.

Interview recorded December 5, 2020.

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

575. Swami Sarvapriyananda – Ethical Foundations of Nondual Spirituality

Swami SarvapriyanandaSwami Sarvapriyananda has been Minister and Spiritual Leader of the Vedanta Society of New York since January 2017. He was a Nagral Fellow at Harvard Divinity School during the 2019-20 academic year. Prior to this, he served as assistant minister of the Vedanta Society of Southern California for 13 months. Swami joined the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in 1994 and received Sannyas in 2004. Before coming to serve in the US, he served as an acharya (teacher) of the monastic probationers’ training center at Belur Math in West Bengal, India (the headquarters of the Ramakrishna Math and Mission founded by Swami Vivekananda, the chief disciple of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa). He has served the Ramakrishna Math and Mission in various capacities including being the Vice Principal of the Deoghar Vidyapith Higher Secondary School, Principal of the Shikshana Mandira Teacher Education College at Belur Math, and the first Registrar of the Vivekananda University at Belur Math.

ASI LogoThis conversation hosted by the Association for Spiritual Integrity explores the profound interconnections between ethics and Advaita Vedanta. An ethical life is foundational to the spiritual quest, a non-negotiable sine qua non to any real spiritual development. One can be good without being particularly “spiritual”, but there is no spirituality without goodness. But it is also true that ethics are a consequence of nonduality. For as long as thinkers have pondered ethics, they have searched for a foundation, a grounding, for ethics. Why should one be good and do good? The various answers thinkers have come up with through the ages – utilitarianism, deontology, and so forth – have all been found seriously wanting. Nonduality claims to provide a deep foundation for ethics. In this talk and Q&A, Swami Sarvapriyananda explores the philosophical and practical, as well as the individual and social dimensions of ethics in nondual spirituality.

Discussion of this interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Recorded September 28, 2020

First BatGap interview with Swami Sarvapriyananda

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

534. SAND Panel on Sexual Misconduct, Money, Power, Trauma & Ethics in Spiritual Communities | Also, Meeting of Founders and Members of the Association for Spiritual Integrity

Panel DiscussionPanel Discussion at the Science and Nonduality Conference on Sexual Misconduct, Money, Power, Trauma & Ethics in Spiritual Communities

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.

Panel Discussion including Jac O’Keeffe, Mariana Caplan, Craig Holliday, and Miranda Macpherson

    • 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 interview in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Recorded October 25, 2019

Video below and audio and audio near the bottom of the page. Audio also available as a Podcast.

ASI-LogoMeeting 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.
    • Distinguishing between women and yin-style teachings in a way to not exclude men from the conversation.
    • Action items:
      • to have each day of SAND have a 3-hour session led by women.
      • to have more yin-style teachings on the SAND website
    • (2) Ongoing growth for teachers and continuing education, trauma, attachment, and shadow work.
      • Teacher survey: what is working for you?
      • Online teacher assessment through which teachers can assess themselves.
      • Regular peer-group meetings, including teachers with younger teachers
      • Workshop around developmental trauma that shows up in the teacher role.
    • (3) Creating community and peer support
      • Among spiritual teachers
      • How to include more people of color and young people in the spiritual community, which tends to be white and middle class.
      • Monthly online and annual in-person peer group meetings for spiritual teachers
      • A system whereby teachers can refer students to other teachers, if appropriate.
    • (4) Healthy power dynamics and dual relationships
      • People will naturally come and go from spiritual training groups.
      • There should be a balance between teacher and student accountability.
    • (5) The Ethics of the Spiritual Community
      • Have something like the Better Business Bureau which would keep the data on teacher abuse.
    • (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.

Recorded October 24, 2019

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.