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.

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.

482. Panel Discussions on Ethics and Spiritual Teaching

Ethics and Spiritual Teaching Panel at the Science and Nonduality Conference

  • Questioning whether higher consciousness and ethical behavior are tightly correlated.
  • The founding of
    the Association for Spiritual Integrity (formerly the Association of Professional Spiritual Teachers).
  • The attempt to formulate a code of ethics that might apply universally in the contemporary spiritual community and enliven an understanding of what may or may not be appropriate, giving students greater confidence in their own discernment and discrimination.
  • Ancient traditions held the teacher beyond reproach and students surrendered their own will. This may have worked in monastic settings but generally does not work today.
  • Preventative support so we’re not busy doing cleanup.
  • Power hierarchies should not be an essential part of spiritual development and can lead to abuses.
  • Spiritual awakening does not necessarily qualify a person to offer advice on relationships, finances, etc.
  • Ethical training of some sort is integral to most honored traditions.
  • The issue of sexism and patriarchy in spiritual organizations.
  • Entering the teaching profession prematurely.
  • All too often, when teachers are challenged on their behavior, they ignore the challenger or become defensive.
  • How do we offer the possibility for redemption and atonement?
  • Moving away from a culture of competition to one of cooperation.
  • The importance of humility.
  • The importance of teachers not identifying with their role and thinking that students’ devotion is about them.
  • South Africa’s “Truth and Reconciliation” as a model.

Discussion of this panel in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Recorded October 27, 2018

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

 

A Discussion on Teacher-Student Romantic Relationships

  • The Association for Spiritual Integrity does not have a moralistic, judgmental orientation. It’s a community endeavor. We don’t agree among ourselves on certain points. We’re trying to balance our subjective perspectives with standards that fit our contemporary culture.
  • A key point of disagreement is the issue of teacher-student romantic/sexual relationships. None of us are rigid or adamant in our opinions.We’re trying to work it out.
  • There are exceptions to every generality. In graduate school, psychotherapists are taught that it will never be appropriate for therapists and their clients to become partners.
  • Relationships tend to be the most challenging aspect of people’s lives. These challenges shouldn’t bleed into a teacher’s teaching activities.
  • When a teacher/student or therapist/client relationship transitions into romantic involvement, the potential for growth is undermined.
  • Sometimes “divine compulsion” arises in your spiritual path, shattering your conception of appropriate behavior.
  • The problem with teachers who haven’t transcended desire and explored their own shadow.
  • There can be a huge disparity between the apparent enlightenment of a teacher and their behavior.
  • Isolation and being closed to constructive criticism can be very dangerous for a teacher.
  • If a teacher doesn’t have friends other than his students, he might want to ask why. If he doesn’t have regular relationships and is always on a pedestal, he won’t get real-world feedback.
  • The culture is changing anyway. We’re just trying to give voice to values that are becoming lively in collective consciousness.
  • There can be a lot of practice involved in having your actions be a reflection of your deepest understanding.

Discussion of this panel in the BatGap Community Facebook Group.

Recorded October 26, 2018

Other BatGap episodes with these participants:

Recorded October 26, 2018

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