Culturally Specific Spiritual Work?

So, first, there is this post that seems to be making the rounds, especially the specifics of “David’s” experience. The there is having David Gordon White’s bits about sinister yogis going through my head (he makes the point in miniature in his book on Patanjali). There is the recent post over at enfolding.org about therapy and mindfulness. The story of David, the experiences with mindfulness as part of disruptive reform program, and the history of revolutionary yogis, opens onto a broader discussion of adopting practices from other cultures. There is a common narrative about these that I think we ought to undercut.

That narrative kicks up around the occult scenes in the face of stories like that of David. There is more than a little ethnic Romanticism at the foundations of  self-identified ‘Western’ occultism (both among ‘magical’ and ‘religious’ strands). When confronted by these stories about the dangers of spiritual work, it manifests as otherwise sensible people muttering gnomic warnings or patting themselves on the back about how careful they are engaging with ‘foreign’ or ‘exotic’ cultural practices to which ‘Westerners’ aren’t well-suited.

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Truth and the Market

Otit de ja, o ku ta; owo l’w li nra eke. (When truth is offered for sale in the market, it finds no buyer; but lies are bought with cash in hand.)

(Yoruba saying, quoted and translated by J. D. Y. Peel, Religious Encounter and the Making of  the Yoruba)

Okay, let’s turn our attention away from the witches a little (not too far, mind you) and talk a little more about the market that is the world. We’ve talked about how unsettling this association between market, wealth, and home really is, but this quote highlights another axis of concern, truth and lies.

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Gnostic Canon?

Every once in a blue moon, because I am a nerd, I get the bug to think about putting together a reading list of books for would-be gnostics, a canon if you will. The few times I have actually started to pull that together, it’s not long before I shelve the whole mess in disgust. I am never satisfied with the list and I am never satisfied with my reasons for including material on it. I have tried to figure out why and I finally put it together when I was reading that interview with Allen Ginsberg:

Very oddly a lady saint Shri Matakrishnaji in Brindaban, whom I consulted about my spiritual problems, told me to take Blake for my guru. There’s all kinds of different gurus, there can be living and nonliving gurus—apparently whoever initiates you, and I apparently was initiated by Blake in terms of at least having an ecstatic experience from him. So that when I got here to Cambridge I had to rush over to the Fitzwilliam Museum to find his misspellings in Songs of Innocence.

I could put together a list of books that meant something to me, that had effects on me along the scale that Ginsberg is talking about in regards to Blake (just skip through that interview using find to locate Blake references–you won’t regret it), but it wouldn’t be anything more than anemic autobiography.

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