History, Evolution, and The Darwin Debate

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Harris’ repackaged ‘new age’ junk spirituality

September 16th, 2014 · No Comments

Harris has brought about a new form of stupidity, in the name of ‘spirituality’, no less. The call for spirituality beyond religion is a mantra of the New Age movement, but somehow Harris has to reinvent the genre for scientism, by separating ‘spirituality’ from the ‘supernatural’, a hopeless contradiction. The gesture, however, distantly resembles the old Samkhya ‘materialism’ of ancient yoga, jainism, and in some sense buddhism. To castigate the ‘supernatural’ is understandable given the confusion over the subject, but if you look closely you see that Harris, beyond belief, has excised ‘enlightenment’ from his package to focus mindfulness a recent new mystification of the original. Mindfulness is nonetheless a useful surrogate of ‘meditation in action’, but only as an introduction to something more complex.
I am all for replacing the ideas of the supernatural with something else, but with what? I don’t think that the path of enlightenment is dependent on beliefs in the supernatural, but unfortunately literal minds will think otherwise and rewrite the core out of buddhism. What a huckster’s mess of pottage.
These fakes are good sellers, so be prepared to defend yourself from Harris style congregations of idiots.
Meanwhile, gosh knows, I have been critical of new age gurus, but not because they are ‘epileptics, etc…’. The number of pathological spiritual types is numerous but it is completely misleading to think that Harris’ strategy can solve this problem. For every ten failures there is one success, but with Harris’ approach everyone will be a failure.

The prescription, Harris holds, is Buddhist-based mindfulness meditation. A Stanford-trained neuroscientist, Harris is a long-time practitioner of Buddhist meditation. He said everyone can, through meditation, achieve a “shift in perspective” by moving beyond a sense of self to reach an enlightening sense of connectedness — a spirituality.

Spirituality “is a name for all of the deliberate efforts people can make to cut through the illusion of the self, the illusion that there is a thinker in addition to the thoughts, or an ego as it is often called,” Harris, 47, said in a telephone interview. “Self-transcendence is the foundation of what I am calling spirituality.”

But, he warns, conflating mindfulness meditation or spirituality with anything supernatural — from the forgiving love of a Christian God to the cosmology of Buddhism — is a path to nowhere.

“My goal,” he writes in the book, “is to pluck the diamond from the esoteric dunghill of religion.”

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