As I’ve said, I try to avoid the word spiritual as much as possible but there are times, especially now, when it can not be avoided. I’ve spoken, albeit reluctantly, of ‘a spiritual crisis’ by which I mean that nothing is sacred anymore, and that, now, seems to also include speaking and writing the truth. This is in part a result of the Enlightenment, and a reaction to the twisted, faux spirituality promoted over millennia by the Catholic Church in Europe and elsewhere and its inbred cousins, consumer capitalism, colonialism, patriarchy and liberal individualism.
Let us be grateful for the hard-won intellectual and personal freedoms afforded by the Enlightenment and the (imminent) demise of these oppressive end exploitative ideologies and beliefs, but what has accompanied it, to the detriment not only of humans but the earth and everything that lives and otherwise exists on it, in it, is connected to it, is part of it, is what we might call, despiritualization.
I haven’t thought in terms of despiritualization before, I didn’t even know it was a word. It was Russell Means of the Oglala Lakota people, of the Sioux tribe1 who spoke, in 1980, about ‘the European materialist tradition of despiritualizing the universe’ — and this is even more apt now than it was 40 years ago.
I have no idea what it means to say ‘spiritual’ — if an idea is a product of reason, of logic, but I have what you might call a thought/feeling/belief. It is tenuous and slippery and I can only know what it is not — it has nothing to do with logic or reason. Once upon a time you might at least have said : it’s non-physical, or immaterial, but in the light of quantum physics which shows that the binary of material and the immaterial is far more fluid than we have been led to believe, a radical rethink of what matter is and what matters has begun. It is possible now to begin thinking and working in terms of a new materialism, which does not despiritualize the universe, and which includes a different approach to what is, or might be, sacred.
And what is sacred?
To begin : everything matters, all matter matters, everything has a right to exist, to remain, to leave, to change or to stay the same.
This is, potentially, a revolution — a revolution of everyday life.
This is the work. And if you’re not doing the work : it’s time.
( … )
These thoughts were partially inspired (there is that word again, with its root, like the word ‘spirit’. from the Latin ‘spiritus’ = breath) by rewatching the documentary made by VPRO Tegenlicht in The Netherlands about Paul Kingsnorth (I am not sure which country you need to be in to be able to watch this video on Youtube but it’s not Nederland which seems odd) and his essay The Language of the Master.
What is also interesting for me personally about this idea or narrative of despiritualization is that enables me to contextualise my profession, such as as it is, in a different way. If i am a narrative therapist or a posthumanist therapist, or if I am a spiritual carer, my job description could include a kind of via negativa : working to stop, or resist, or undo, or even deconstruct, the despiritualization of the universe. Maybe the next time someone asks what I do i will say : I’m an anti-despiritualization worker.
More than 300 Sioux were massacred by the US Army at Wounded Knee in 1890.↩