Update: I never got around to making my point about the book cited here: the issues in general take in a lot of territory. The book is useful because it pits the the question in an array of contradictory issues that the left is not well equipped to face. And its perspectives are carefully put forward to address a real issue the interaction of neoliberalism and the New Age movement being one of them. The latter is well done, although by no means beyond reproach.
The book to one side, and requiring a lot of commentary, we come to something the older marxist world can’t deal with. You can’t attempt to explain religion with darwinism and dialectical materialism and be surprised if you create implacable emnity. The early secular humanism couldn’t even get secularism right, and the complicated nature of buddhism eluded them. A future movement attempting to realize a form of communism can’t use the tools created in the nineteenth century. Communists of the future will have one last chance perhaps to realize the project of postcapitalism and they can’t waste time and energy exposing religion as ideology and then attempting to impose their own. We can’t allow another round of dialectical/historical materialists posing as omniscient trying to use their views to debunk religions using economic generalizations. It is waste of time, and not likely to solve such intractable issues. This book shows what they can do, is look at the neoliberal takeover of religious elements, etc.. The purpose of communism is to deal with capitalism, not to create a new world religion of now dated materialism. And the fault is from both directions. Religionists, xtians and buddhists, can’t, to take one case, declare war on modernity as a kind of ‘kali yuga’ and foment a hidden fascist attack on freedom, etc..
We have repeatedly suggested a way out of this situation for marxists: (dump marxism!) and create a larger perspective based on the larger universe of the early modern. (Better yet use the macro model to include the full totality of ‘transitions’). Too much discussion assumes that physics solved the reality problem, marxist economics the last mystery done with, while religion was a conditioning instrument to manufacture consent (it was, and the sufis were the first to say so).
The question of modernity requires a careful study:
It is a rich resource indeed, with a mysterious hybrid of ‘spiritual’ and ‘materialist’ perspectives. At the end a truly stunning triad of Kant, Schopenhauer, Hegel recreated a universe of philosophy that can mediate the issues of religion. Historical materialism, and dialectical materialism, two brain dead subjects instead began to impose their reign of reductionist thinking. A materialist reaction was/is entirely apt, to be sure, but the endgame confusion and collision of idealism and materialism isn’t of any real value.
There is a lot to discuss here, but the point is to use something like the above to create a open field of opposites, not a party ideology trying to make a new society using faulty instruments.
The book in question here has a lot of interesting critique of various new age subjects, but let us keep in mind the difficulty of dealing with, say, buddhism, both on its own terms, and in terms of its expropriation by capitalist processes. I hold no brief for buddhism, but the attempt to use marxist instruments for a reductionist non-explanation is a major mistake, and the enemies of marxism are waiting for idiots to make the same mistakes all over again.
We should note that figures like Chopra and Osho have created dubious borderline cases this book discusses: capitalist spirituality bullshit. On the other side we have the failure of the left to see the real exploitation: the hidden spiritual slavery factor, the ‘work’ provocation of figures like Gurdjieff, and the occult plight of the victims of sufism and gurus. This exploitation is beyond the observation of marxist legacies.
The solution to these problems is to bypass them and not try to create a close thought system. Our suggestion of market neo-communism was to create a threshold level below which a degree of autonomous culture is allowed to thrive diversely. The business of communism can’t be to create a monopoly of thought, etc…
The idea of marxists taking on buddhism is almost grotesque: the occult schemes of buddhists are so fearful the best thing would be to find a way to dissolve this religion and create, on the left, an replica of the far different original in its moment of integrity..
The original post
http://www.gurdjieff-con.net/2016/08/16/selling-spirituality-the-silent-takeover-of-religion-kindle-edition-by-richard-king-religion-spirituality/ (amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Selling-Spirituality-Silent-Takeover-Religion-ebook/dp/B000OI161K)
This is an interesting study, but it illustrates why I have been critical of the classic marxist spectrum: the left has in this book a potent critique of new agism, but the contents leave the question of a basic standard, in a field where, if you have followed The Gurdjieff Con lately, even the buddhists have failed, with a standard set at the highest level/standard, enlightenment.
The revolutionary left is thus confronted with issues that classic historical materialism, dialectical materialism couldn’t possibly handle. In fact those subjects can’t even handle economics or communism. That doesn’t mean a neo-communism has to ditch its legacy, but an entirely new one is needed that can handle economics, communism, religion, philosophy and so on. That is why we have spoken in our ‘manifesto’ of ‘floating fourth turning points’: the one field that has all the resources needed is the early modern in its totality. And yet just at is end the whole of culture, including marxism, downshifted into an almost baffling contraction, scientism, bad materialism, positivism, etc…This situation was bad enough then, now the entire culture has changed and noone will listen to straight marxist jargon. Perhaps people think Zizek has remedied this. Nonsense. And the new age world abandoned by the left has drifted into corporate idiocy, and there is worse, hidden fascism.
I think that we have created this new approach here, in one way, in fact, but the resources, beyond Last and First Men, are dispersed over several hundred posts. But these can be distilled. But it takes more than one set of resources. My particular approach may not take. The entire marxist canon needs to be replaced, asap…That’s not even controversial, not as hard as it sounds, but very hard to square with diehard marx cultists. This situation is going critical and the left is paralyzed, and would prove incompetent if it wasn’t.
It is sad that a generation after 1989 the average marxist website is still churning our marxist boilerplate, has minimal public resonance, and no ability to stage a movement. This doesn’t have to be that way: if we examine the Sanders movement, the OWS, we see that potentially a post-anarchist neo-communism, or real socialism, as a movement would spring up very easily. Perhaps the old left has to be abandoned to their cult with a remnant to start over. I can understand, the monumental browbeating of Marx/Engels created a canon, a consensus of sorts and a movement. If that consensus has to be replaced there is obviously hell to pay to get people to agree. It could hardly ever happen. That is why I wrote Toward a New CM with such an open container approach: a core communist foundation can move without its classic canon to create a new systematics on the fly, as long as the basic foundation, the core of the original manifesto is there. We can evade confusion by embracing it: take the ‘dialectic’, throw it out the window, and redefine it as an ultra simple version: a spectrum of views, with a core modernist mainline.
That then includes the early modern components of religion/reformation, science, liberalism/socialism, ideas of causality/freedom, spinoza to german classical philosophy, the enlightenment, romanticism, etc…You see the point: the early modern contains resources we do agree on until they disagree wit themselves, and we have no real problem there with that, as history. Still, even that is problematical with some. Scientism has taken over and we can’t even discuss ethics anymore, as Nietzsche slips into the apple, like the worm that he is. But all in all this strategy can be made to work and could redo the core of what marx/engels intended almost at the drop of a hat.
We need a new communism that isn’t going to dogmatize in the classic marxist fashion. It is possible to bring this off. The term ‘marxism’ goes out the window, along with the rest of the baggage, which can be placed in a museum.
Take the classic, Socialism, Utopian or Scientific. Out the window, or into the museum. There may be a problem with utopian socialism, but marxism can’t produce a scientific socialism. Marxists seem to have fallen asleep. There is a hoard of critics of such classic legacies, scientific socialism doesn’t exist. A socialist praxis does exist. Marxists seem to wish to drive into a battle in a classic car. They would be cut to pieces. Drop all of it and use ‘just in time’ principles based on a solid constitutional communism. And, I must note, some parts of the classics are actually very useful, like the idea of primitive accumulation. These can be re-factored without any problem.
In any case, we need to produce something fast in the void created by Sanders, and the confusion over ‘revolution’. But why worry. Let us be glad the term has entered public discourse at a new level. but let’s consider that we have to take the story of the three little pigs: you can cavil ‘revolution’ all you want and attempt mainstream activism but in the end the plans for the house of brick has to be ready. This confusing situation drives everyone to reject revolution, then throw all effort down the drain pipe of a system too dominating from protest movements with placards, and even the latter are almost outlawed…
We never got around to our book on ‘selling spirituality’: there are many things there, but the issue of buddhism versus corporate spirituality is most cogently raised. But is the left really ready to deal with the original religions?
We must leave that to another discussion.