16 September 2007

Being "spiritual"

Copy of a letter to a philosopher

You said that some Rosicrucian SS men gave some help to a Buddhist who was also a communist, because he, like them, was a spiritual person, and you wondered what I thought of this story. This is quite difficult to answer, so perhaps it is worth trying.

Basically, I am really just agnostic. People are always trying to get me to endorse some element in the modern ideology as desirable or ‘better’, and although I wrote The Human Evasion very carefully to avoid appearing to be advocating some approach to life, I did nevertheless acquire a sort of fan club (none of whom ever came to work here, either to find out more about my ideas or because I advertised our need for help).

According to this fan club I was supposed to be advocating ‘going with the flow’, which I suppose means following the line of least resistance, giving in to all the social pressures. And, I suppose, general hippie-ish dropping-out. What I am putting on my blog and website now provokes vitriolic reactions, and my ‘fans’ appear to feel let down because I have lowered my standards of wisdom and enlightenment.

I do not have any insight to speak of into what might be called spirituality. I never had an outlook like that and could not have seen how to start acquiring one if I had wanted to; I cannot imagine wanting to.

The person at the Society for Psychical Research who expressed the greatest appreciation of spirituality, wherever it might be found, was Rosalind Heywood [see also here, here, here and here]. She also played routinely on the element in human psychology which had appeared to me most incompatible with centralisation — viz. the belief in society as the source of significance.

When she wanted to influence someone, which was usually to the detriment of someone else, whether me or otherwise, she would always start by flattering the person for the significance which a numinous society had conferred upon them. ('You are/were a great Professor / Ambassador / Colonial Governor etc.')

So I think it is the case that all sorts of spirituality are likely to contain a belief in the significance to be derived from other people/society, even if this is not obvious because they consider themselves to be free and uninhibited by repressive bourgeois standards, or by a belief in capitalism or individualism.

A typical Rosalind anecdote:

While waiting in a corridor at Eton to meet her son, whom she was visiting, she had become aware of the presence of a great and infinitely wise (vaguely angelic) Being who brooded over and guided the Etonian goings-on.

You observe that this story gets in the information that her son was at Eton, as well as demonstrating Rosalind’s belief in the sacred numinousness of statusful social institutions. She had a similar story about waiting to meet an MP in the House of Commons, also presided over by a Being of superhuman wisdom.