Selling Spirituality


Something is bugging me today. It’s about (what do you call it?) “new age spirituality.” I don’t even know what to call my own set of beliefs (not quite Buddhist, not quite anything else) so I’ll just call it new age – even though that term really bugs me.

I left the church years ago because I couldn’t find the Truth I needed in Christianity. I found these “new age” beliefs, like reincarnation and spiritual evolution, and they felt right. “I’m spiritual, but not religious,” I started telling people. I believe in God, but I also believe it’s very important to think for myself. I find spiritual truth through personal investigation and soul-searching.

What’s really bugging me now is that I find myself in another religion. The “new age movement,” once a bunch of rebels and spiritual pioneers, has become a religion with a set of creeds, scriptures and central leaders.

We don’t have the pope; we have Eckhart Tolle. (He’s not a bad guy; I’m just saying people believe what he says.) Instead of a bible, we have a recommended reading list. Our version of life after death is borrowed from Buddhism. Our pilgrimages end in Sedona rather than in Mecca.

Okay, so, having some common beliefs and structure is not so damaging. It’s everything else that has glommed onto the movement over the years.

This “spirituality” used to be about simple meditation, peace of mind, community support and connection to Nature. Now it has more to do with expensive retreats, crystals, attracting wealth and the latest book from the guru of the week. It’s become a very materialistic religion. It’s about having stuff – books, CD’s, nicknacks, drums, and what have you. These objects are intended, no doubt, to help us on our spiritual path toward greater wellness, peace of mind and spiritual connection. I’m just worried that we have placed too much emphasis on the stuff and not enough on the non-material connection we have, for free, with divine source.

I think one reason we have become so materialistic (besides the obvious neediness of Ego) is that some of us have chosen to make a living by helping people on their spiritual paths. And making a living requires one to charge money for things. Since I can’t charge money for someone sitting in a room alone meditating, I need to charge for books, seminars, and the other nicknacks of the spiritual trade.

I’d like to believe that most spiritual entrepreneurs honestly want to make a positive difference, help people, and earn the money that customers are paying. I know there’s nothing wrong with charging for products and services, no matter how “spiritual” they may be. But I also can’t help wondering if the soul train has gotten just a little off-track.

There’s all this talk about how you can’t have a successful life without lots of money, and people using spiritual concepts only to try and get more money for themselves… It just smells funny. The queasy feeling I used to get with church dogma, now turns my gut when someone tries to sell me a $300 rock that supposedly has spiritual powers.

I don’t have an answer. I’m still sorting out my thoughts on this. I would like to get your feedback. Surely I’m not the only one with an opinion around here. Fire away.

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About Craig

Craig lives in Calgary, Alberta.
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13 Responses to Selling Spirituality

  1. Hi Craig,
    You know it’s funny, I was just talking about this very same thing last night to my boyfriend Todd. We were watching The Mentalist and there was a guest character on the show, and the lead character Patrick Jane thought she was a flake because she called herself a psychic. I’m not sure if you watch the show? Anyway, Patrick himself is considered a psychic but he’s never believed it all that woo-woo stuff – according to him he just has strong intuition.

    Anyway, how this is relevant to your post is that last night I was feeling just like you. I don’t exactly know where I fit in the spiritual realm. I have never been religious but I became spiritual a long time ago. It’s sort of that thing that you say – when I heard of reincarnation it just felt right. And that’s I suppose how I operate. With everything that is available in our new age society I have only done what my intuition tells me I need. I have never experienced many of the spiritual healing modalities out there. For me good old talking is what seems to work best.

    However, having said all that 🙂 I also believe that there is something out there for everyone. I have no issues whatsoever with energy workers or light workers or what have you. For a long time I have said to myself: “as many people as there are on the planet, there are that many paths to enlightenment”. As it stands today that’s about 6.88 billion!

    To the cash grab that is becoming the new age movement, let’s send them love because if they are greedy for money they must be living in fear 🙂

    Craig, I love your posts! Keep ’em coming 🙂
    Colette

  2. Laura McLaughlin says:

    Hi Craig,
    I hear ya. My thoughts lately are this. The bible speaks of god being this unconditional source of love. Well then why don’t we just say he is love. In the time of the bible being written there were a lot of hardships that people had to endure. no equality, war, famine…! The bible was likely a source of inspiration for people to keep pushing on. What helps people to push on, love!! As the bible says, accept god and let him reside inside of you (his holy spirit) and once you accept god, then you shall spread the gospel. well when you think of god as love, when you accept love into your heart and soul, it changes you, it transforms you, it heals you, and as this happens and you are joyous, you inturn share this love with others – spreading the gospel/word. I recognize that as I am filled with love, more and more in the last 2 years, my life just seems to flow. people come and leave my life at exactly the right moment. doors open and doors close. as we trust there is a beautiful experience of receiving more of gods love to enter our lives. it’s a process of opening up. of letting go of pain/fears or in biblical terms the devil, and letting love in, or in biblical terms god. There is a great source of connection with each other as we open up. When you imagine a box being open light floods in, then a butteryfly might fly by…. hope you enjoyed reading my thoughts. laura is love…

  3. Pingback: In praise of atheism | Still Waking Up

  4. soulfire1 says:

    I do feel you Craig. I have struggled with these concepts myself. It’s funny I know everything I need in life, spiritual life is within myself. And yet I constantly look outside trying to see what makes other people “spiritual” or loving. I don’t know if I am grasping for a community to share and receive light and love with. Or if I am looking for a healing model that “works”.

    And then I have personal writings from the divine on spiritual life. I want so much to share this, without charge, as I know these loving words should not be sold only given. But how do you do that, this blog is great, but I would love to put this in a book. But the idea of charging for the book saddens me because there should be no need to purchase the love of the Divine.

    Also I have enjoy many spiritual groups and they all charge money. In a way I understand it. They are giving their time and resources to enhance our spiritual awareness and life. But in the other way I think, the Divine is universal unconditional love and would give to all without thought of receiving in return. So if we are teaching the divine should we not emulate the Divine of true giving without thought of return?

    I also fear that the people who most need these spiritual quests, these words, these spiritual models, cannot afford what many people are selling. I have 4 different people recommending different models of healing and all cost money. I have very little, enough to take care of my basic needs but not more. As much as I would like to try these models I cannot deny my family basic necessities to further my own wants. So how do the poor receive what the new age is selling?

    Funny thing is I know all I need is within but I want to use what others have found within to help me heal. Sharing in a unity of human experience, derived from separation and duality. It is complicated isn’t it?

    • Craig says:

      Soulfire, if you want to give away an e-book, then you may feel free to do so. There is always plenty of free spiritual advice available, at the library, at free workshops, etc etc. The poor will always find lots to get for free. And there are also opportunities to pay for things and give back to the providers out of gratitude for their work.

      I suppose that my spiritual healing teacher would be able to charge less if the airlines gave him free airfare to come to Canada, and the community halls gave him free space to teach in. Also, if he didn’t have to eat or live somewhere. But considering all he gives me, I have no problem paying him $375 every 3 months (even though cash is really tight right now).

      All that said, I hope I don’t sound like I’m arguing with you on this. 🙂 I do appreciate your feedback and this is an interesting discussion. And I appreciate your generosity in wanting to help everyone regardless of whether they can afford it. You have a good heart.

  5. Craig says:

    Thank you, Colette, Laura and Jenn for your feedback. I guess I’m bothered by people who are focusing on materialist greed, and using spirituality to get it. However, I’m also bothered when customers expect to get something for nothing when they go to a “spiritual” practitioner. Psychics get calls all the time from people asking for free advice. And I get calls too, from people who want me to do healing work and counseling work for free, because it’s “spiritual” and besides, they can’t afford it. (And yet, they never work for free themselves.)

    It’s fine to provide some services for free – I do this blog for free, even though it takes time and effort, and people get something out of it. There are lots of free workshops and e-books that coaches give away, to provide a service and also attract new clients. There is more and more free stuff available all the time.

    There comes a point, though, when that coach or spiritual healer or psychic opens the mail and finds bills to pay. And he can’t call up the bank and say, “Hey, could we do a trade? I’ll give you a tarot reading and an amethyst necklace I made if I can get free interest on the mortgage this month.”

    God’s love is always free. However, the people that channel that love and apply it in specific ways, well, they have to pay the bills just like everyone else. And they need their clients’ support to do that. It would be great if we didn’t need it, but we do for now.

    So if you’re doing something nice for someone else, no matter how spiritual it is, then it’s okay to charge for it, without any guilt, as long as there are people willing to pay for it. I just take issue with the Midas-touch theology going on around me – turning every relationship into a source of cash. Hm. It’s a fine line, I guess, and it’s okay to experiment. God isn’t going to smite anyone for erring a bit on one side or the other.

  6. soulfire1 says:

    It’s true Craig, this world costs money, even for those in the roles of spiritual leadership. I guess I just wish the world would support the spirit world more. But then anyone could claim “spirit” in the name of profit and not in the name of love.

    I think, I would pay for a counsilling session but then when I receive the similar from a “spiritual” advocate I stop and wonder what their motives are. Are they really there to serve me, as I would pay for service, or are they out to take my money.

    I think that is the funny thing with western, and for me Canadian society. My western doctors bills are paid for by the government, but the people who have truly given me the most healing are not paid for by the government. I know we do pay for it in the end, government or not, but like I said it’s complicated.

    And then there is my background. I grew up in a Catholic Church, which in a way was free, though again not. The community donated money to care for the needs of their spiritual advisor. Those who could afford more put in more, those who could afford less put in less. Therefore the whole community supported each other for spiritual development. But now a days with spiritual healers that do not have a community they require food, clothing, shelter, transportation. And if you want to be a part of that healers community you need to support them financially as they support us spiritually.

    So I do see the need for giving from both sides of the table. And you are correct there are ways the poor can receive spiritual information for free, like you stated.

    Sometimes I wonder if I really need a healer to help me on my physical quest in life, and then the pain hits me and I reach for that which is supported by our system, prescription medication. I think, if only I could save up my pennies and go to a spiritual healer who will truly help me in my process of self healing. And then I go out for dinner. I know I am denying myself, probably what I need most in life, and pursuing pleasure over it. Maybe that is a part of the materialistic me that needs healing. I can see where using my funds to support a healer, to both assist me and continue in assisting others would be a process of healing my materialism.

    So you see I do agree with healers charging as a means of support for themselves and continued life in serving the community. I just wish we lived in a land of fantasy, like in Star Trek, where all our needs are met, including our healers needs.

    When I do realize my true need to give up my materialism and start supporting someone or group to assist in my healing process, where do I start? Where do I turn. When everyone is saying they can assist. Who do I say no to, and who yes?

    Complicated.

    • Craig says:

      Yup, it’s complicated. I appreciate that you are putting thought into it and spending the time to discuss it and expand on the idea. Thanks.

      A system that seems to be working well is for counsellors and practitioners to put on free seminars and give away free e-books, to connect with groups of people and demonstrate who they are and what they do. This gives people the chance to get to know a service provider a bit before committing to spending the money. Otherwise, if you don’t know the person, why would you take the risk? So, lately, I’ve been getting out to different meetups, downloading free e-books, reading blogs, etc, getting to know different professionals in this “spiritual” field. Some I resonate with, and others I don’t. I spend my money on the ones I know, like and trust.

      As for Western vs Eastern medicine, it seems that Western health care is getting so expensive, and so many people don’t have health insurance, that the playing field may level out in the future. Drug companies, HMO’s and hospitals are getting so inaccessible and ineffective that people are forced to turn to “alternative” healing methods. We will always need both the scalpel and the reiki (so to speak), but I see a future where the scalpel no longer has a monopoly. In fact, we are already seeing some benefits packages including reiki and similar treatments. Anyway, the future is what we make it.

      Thank you for your thoughts. (They were free, right?)

  7. soulfire1 says:

    I’m glad we talked. I think I’ll look into those workshops and ebooks you were talking about.

    Thank you for your FREE thoughts, and yes mine too were free. LOL

    You have given me a lot to think about. I always appreciate open conversation, lights up what is dark inside. I’m glad I’m getting to know you.

  8. nora martin says:

    What you have said about materialist problems in the “new age movement” (or whatever you want to call it) reminds me of all the times in the history of Christianity when various people looked at the Church and realized that it had gotten off the track (outlined by Jesus in his life and teachings) and onto human-centred ideas. I think that any time religion (for want of a better word) becomes human-centred as opposed to spirit -(or Spirit)centred, there will be problems–because humans are flawed, even when acting with the best of intentions.

    I have decided that it is important for me to belong to a church, even though it’s not perfect, because it keeps me accountable (I hate the word “accountable”, because it has become a jargon word for things that I don’t believe in, but it seems to fit here) and stops me from following every whim just because it feels good at the time. It sounds to me as if you are finding your own version of “church” (if I may use that word loosely) as you continue your search for your spiritual path.

    I continue to pray for you on your journey, and I value hearing what you have to say as you have the most astounding insights. Thanks for sharing it with me.

    Love,
    Nora

  9. Laura McLaughlin says:

    i get an overwhelming thought that we need to rely on god more than on people, as nora so graciously stated. These were my thoughts as well as i was reading the earleir texts. His advice is free. It is not biased. It has only one focus, for the greater of all. It’s amazing, as I ask god for help, people will strike up conversation with me later and their words will soothe my soul or songs will come on the radio that just sing to my ears, or my dog will come up to me and lick me. As we remember life is a treasure, and as we live our life like christs, walking beside him always, as he is here now, it is the age of his return, once you accept him into your life, then you are filled with love. church is a great place to become centered, as well as many other places, like your home, the great outdoors, the space where you are cradling a baby in your arms…. when we need to seek out something from someone else, that means we fundamently don’t recognize that we have everything we need. we do, with jesus christ and god and the holy spirit. I am not christian in the traditional sense, I call myself spiritual, because all faith backgrounds resonate with me. Praying, meditating seem to me to be the same word. Everything I do, is a meditation a prayer to god. I give thanks.

    • soulfire1 says:

      “walking beside him always”, “, once you accept him into your life, then you are filled with love”

      Though I believe Jesus was a great messenger of God and embraced God’s light within, I do not believe you need to “accept” him into your life. I believe all the prophets and messengers of God show us the path of unconditional love. And if we can embrace that unconditional love you are on the right path if you wish to live as God, since God is unconditional love. If one wishes to embrace Jesus as a prophet or savior to help them on their journey with God they that is wonderful, for them. But I do not believe it is necessary for “salvation” as Christians believe. Perhaps for those Christians they “need” Jesus to help them maintain the love in their heart. What I see unfortunately is zealous Christian’s who condemn all people who do not believe in Christ to hell. I have been told myself that I am a minion of the Devil because I hear God’s voice and received messages to share with the world. And yet all I have receive is only words of unconditional love. They consider the Bible the absolute word of God and disregard new messages form God because they believe there were no more messengers to come after the bible writers. So it’s not Jesus or his example that I have a hard time with, it is the bible and people’s fundamental following of it. There are concepts in the bible that I completely disagree with. They are not statements of love, but hate, war and eternal hell.

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