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Robert Wright tries to trash New Age spirituality, of which he is ignorant

July 30th, 2009 · 3 Comments

Do Shamans Have More Sex?New Age spirituality is no more pure than old-time religion.
By Robert Wright
Posted Wednesday, July 29, 2009, at 1:59 PM ET

Wouldn’t it be great to be back in hunter-gatherer days? Back before the human spiritual quest had been corrupted by the “relentless onslaught of Western scientific materialism” and “dogmatic male-dominated religion”? Back when there were shamans—spiritual leaders—who could plug us into “the realm of the magical,” show us “the reality behind apparent reality,” and thus lead us to understand “how the universe really works”?

The quotes come from Leo Rutherford, a leading advocate of neo-shamanism, which is a subset of neo-paganism, which is a subset of New Age spirituality. But the basic idea—that there was a golden age of spiritual purity which we fallen moderns need to recover—goes beyond New Age circles. You see traces of it even in such serious scholars as Karen Armstrong, who wrote in A History of God that early Abrahamic religion had created a gulf “between humanity and the divine, rupturing the holistic vision of paganism.”
As the author of the just-published book The Evolution of God, about the history of religion, I’m primed to do some debunking. But before I start, I want to stress two points: 1) I think it’s great for people to find spiritual peace and sound moral orientation wherever they can, including neo-paganism; 2) I don’t doubt that back before Western monotheism took shape there were earnest seekers of a “holistic vision” who selflessly sought to share that vision.

When it comes to debunking New Age religion, I think few can compete with ‘me’ (nemo at Darwiniana!), so it is not in the name of some agenda that I find Wright’s attempt to debunk ‘New Age religion’ a little bit naive, not to say ridiculous.
The question of shamanism is very complex, but it is not the same as the issue of New Age ‘religion’.
The psychic archaeology of the shaman is simply unknown to us.
The roots of the ‘New Age’ movement are much clearer, and go back to the Axial Age, and before.
To take a pot shot at shamanism in the name of debunking New Age religion is a bit outrageous.
We are talking about the immense complexities of Hinduism/Buddhism/Sufism, and much else.
Wright, most probably, has zero knowledge of these traditions but wishes to insinuate instead, on the way to his great secular vision.

Trash. Why do these hypester journalists get so much press, and those with some knowledge here nothing at all?

Let’s issue a challenge: screw up the courage to mention, that’s it, just mention, the tradition of ‘enlightenment’ in, say, Buddhism.
Note how these propagandists almost dare not do that little bit: it raises difficult questions they certainly can’t answer!!!

Tags: General · New Age

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Solar Hero // Aug 5, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    I don’t understand your outrage — Wright just said that shamans then and shamans now are shady characters, using tricks and “woo-woo” to earn a living off the rubes. You really think there was a shamanic-shinto code of honor?

  • 2 nemo // Aug 5, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    I can’t answer your absurd question. The issue is that shamanism is not easy to understand, and Wright’s not very accurate portrait is part of his strategy to debunk things (he hasn’t understood)

  • 3 Darwiniana » Log and mini-archive // Aug 6, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    […] and atheist intolerance7 on Sam Harris and atheist intoleranceStephen P. Smith on Scientismnemo on Robert Wright tries to trash New Age spirituality, of which he is ignorantSolar Hero on Robert Wright tries to trash New Age spirituality, of which he is […]

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