The post from yesterday is worth dwelling on because it shows a wrong-headed way to think about religion. The attempt of coopt ‘mindfulness’, and now ‘waking up’, are clearly designed to control and replace the legacies involved with the dictates of scientism.
And it wont work, although fake movements often succeed. The issue is to find some modernist platform for ‘buddhism’, traditions of ‘waking up’, and the rest of it. The problem is Harris’ narrow obsession with scientism, and dogmatic neuroscience. You don’t need neuroscience here. It confuses the issue.
The right way to modernize buddhism emerged sublinimally in the Enlightenment with figures like Schopenhauer: he created the basis for a view that can coexist with science. But the stampede of Eastern gurus has muffled this promising beginning. So I agree and disagree with Harris, but his formulation is singularly bad, and seems almost intentionally fake: sink the new age movement with phony substitutes.
A complete formulation of these issues done right exists already in fully modern form in the format of Osho/Rajneesh, who was poisoned, sent of the country, his commune dispersed. There are thousands of other treatments of these questions by gurus ad infinitum. Yet Harris, backed by unseen institutional orgs and what not, wishes to replace the entire tradition of meditation with mindfulness baloney.
The Buddhas look the other way when people shoplift their meditation techniques
I have been critical of Harris’ strategy on the new atheism front.
But I should interject that the Buddhas look the other way when people shoplift their meditation techniques. Harris is in the situation I have often discussed with respect to modernity, whose inherent dynamic seems to be to recast old legacies, and that is what Harris has done here.
But his foundations are flawed: the contrast of religion and spirituality is itself a new age mantra, and the trend of Harris’ thinking is to mechanize spiritual inheritance into a mechanical version that, well, can turn into a secular religion. The interpolation of ‘mindfulness’ for meditation/enlightenment is a dangerous downshift of potential, a freeze point that automatically injects a rigidity into the issue. ‘Waking up’ is a category long a fumbled football and we see Harris picking it up, but no doubt no for long. The gesture is an invitation to collision with all the far better versions, including the shadowy versions, like that of Gurdjieff.
Harris’ gesture will prove self-defeating: people will be driven to move away from the artificial format. And in the general the tone seems wrong: why filch an ancient set of techniques only to turn them into scientism-compatibility mode.
But why worry, a movement bent on ‘waking up’ will self-destruct at some point. Beelzebub is perched like a crow or buzzard on a tree near by, ready for the casualties. Better mean what you mean, and wake up.