Why does the New Age thrive in the United States? The willingness to put in hard work seems to be leaving American culture. In recent years we have come to value pleasure and positivity, accomplished with little to no effort. We “deserve”. Equality now means that everyone has the same level of input no matter what. Expertise has been relegated to the status of mere opinion, and people with real depth and breadth of knowledge are mixed in with everyone else.
As a nation we have lost sight of what equality and freedom really mean. We are equal and free to pursue our dreams. But our dreams have become nightmares to my way of thinking. We tend to be looking for constant pleasure, constant good feelings for the small self. We are lost in the pursuit of self-esteem, which brings us to desire whatever we wish to be fulfilled whether it is plausible or not. There is no reality testing, because that would hurt or bruise my self esteem.
The small, shrunken self, our individual self, defines love as pleasure and power. This superficial understanding is reinforced by superficial practice. So much of the New Age is about first-level practice as the final perfection. First-level practice involves the five senses, and no matter how sincere we are in its practice this level alone cannot take us to God and real Love. For so many, the final perfection is about having beautiful ideas that lull us into feeling good about ourselves and others. But true spirituality is not living in the land of the lotus-eaters.
In America we are so much about idea and image rather than reality testing . We rationalize and avoid owning and facing our mistakes. We protect ourselves, we numb ourselves, we run from things that hinder our growth rather than overcome them. We drug ourselves as a solution to our problems. We would always rather be the victim, so that we’re not accountable. In this culture, the one with the most problems and behavioral triggers is the winner. Being responsible for our actions, which would indicate choice and self-control, is not seen as a viable response to life’s situations.
Sadhana is all about owning and facing the truth, about calling something what it is. Sadhana requires courage, because it demands that we face and own up to the fact that we are the ones responsible for all we do. When we face and still the vibrations for which we are responsible, we then have the choice to realign our motives and therefore our actions. We can then choose to change our actions. Remember, all decisions made from the small self are specifically designed to keep the small self alive and in control. We have to know our system in order to get rid of it.
Evelyn Underhill speaks to true spirituality when she discusses the Dark Night of the Soul: “The ascending self must leave these childish satisfactions; make its love absolutely disinterested, strong, and courageous, abolish all taint of spiritual gluttony. A total abandonment of the individualistic standpoint, of that trivial and egotistic quest of personal satisfaction which thwarts the great movement of the Flowing Light, is the supreme condition of man’s participation in Reality”. As Johannes Tauler affirms, “we attain to the fullness of God’s love as His children, when it is no longer happiness or misery, prosperity or adversity, that draws us to Him or keeps us back from Him”. Ultimately, this means being able to live the words of St. Catherine of Genoa: “My me is God: nor do I know my selfhood except in God.”
As Underhill establishes, “The self, then, has got to learn to cease to be its ‘own centre and circumference’: to make that final surrender which is the price of final peace”.
We must as a nation and as spiritual practitioners face the deeps. We must know that we can never solve what is deep by superficial means. We have to go deep to solve the deep.
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