The Last Temptation of Dogma: An Ironic Tale of Fundamentalism


[In this episode of Evolver Los Angeles: Six months after returning from a most epic trip to Colombia and Mexico, our heroes experience a significant calling to reckon with a long-standing dilemma that all of humanity has faced... but will they find the answers? Read on to find out!]

Lately we’ve found ourselves wondering whether our emergent community is capable of avoiding -- or destined to perpetuate -- biased and oppressive belief systems, cherry-picked cosmologies, and self-serving philosophies, much like our dominant culture has done with great success (at least up until this point, anyway).  As a community built largely by individuals choosing to opt out of the values and beliefs of an increasingly obsolete and fundamentally self-destructive paradigm, we can't help but notice the irony: Are we filling the void of antiquated understandings and fear-based behaviors with our own dogmatic principles?

Your truth is fascinating (and, ahem, trust us, so is ours). But as soon as it has to be everyone else's truth in order for us to relate, things start to get a little sticky. (We know. That we wrote this is in and of itself an attempt to get you to relate to us. Irony is no stranger around these parts.) We all fear being lost, wrong, misunderstood and misrepresented, and that can drive us to influence others in order to gain support. Our participation in the conscious evolution of the human and planetary organism is not without contradictions, hypocrisy, and ego-based fears generated by the mutating human spirit, and it’s no stranger to dogma, either. We project onto others both the images we want to create, and sometimes, those we are incapable of changing within ourselves. How then do we evolve responsibly?

Let's actually take a step back to put this in perspective a bit. This was supposed to be our second co-authored article about something else entirely. But what happened was…we got distracted by something that as Evolver Sporeganizers, we've experienced more than let's just say… a lot. You've likely experienced it too, both on the giving and receiving end.  But finally, it became too big a question for us to not address: Is our approach to our worldview(s) dogmatic?

A recent situation found us navigating some unexpected harsh criticism along with what felt like really unwarranted "spiritual" judgments about honor and keeping our word. We felt sucker-punched. Probably you can relate. We've all been guilty of judging others, and victims of the cruelty ourselves. Of course it's easy to shrug it off, take responsibility for how we reacted to the situation and find solace in knowing that was "their shit." But that's not so easy all the time. And we got to thinking pretty critically about it all, most specifically, the cycle of judgment, dogma and pushing (consciously or unconsciously) beliefs onto others as we move further into these changing times. We felt compelled to explore the challenge in connecting our head with our hearts. We want to truly tap into the powerful portal the cosmos offers and be present and conscious for the obvious shifts at hand. (After all, it’s 2012. If we’re not transcending now...then when?) But what if we're wrong? What if the "right" answers to anything in this material world don’t truly exist? Is it possible that our body-mind-spirit has its own survival agenda, compromising and manipulating in order to do so, and what if our insistence is simply a consequence of that? Does that give anyone the right to tell anyone else that they need to do anything?

In our own relationship we've ebbed and flowed through judgments. Nearly two years into working together on Evolver LA Spores, we butted heads both publicly and privately. Challenged by the often-difficult aspects of collaboration, one of us even considered leaving the group we'd worked so hard to build together. Recognizing our deeper feelings towards each other helped us through that and into deeper levels of self-inquiry, as well as what it really means to consciously evolve responsibly (as in, stay constantly present without judgment or expectation). This is an especially hard lesson to learn when recognizing that, actually, you are the problem. And we were both the problem.

Krishnamurti said, "it is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society." Up ahead in the not-so-distant future, we can see what looks like an opportunity to transition from our collective illness. Mindfulness, Compassion, Presence, and Patience sit like gargoyles at the entrance of a New World. For many, they are scary looking idea-beings we’re not so sure we can trust yet. The fear of letting go of fear and judgment as we make our approach towards these values finds lots of us along the way becoming insistent about a whole lot of things, slowing some of us down, making it incredibly difficult to navigate when we're constantly tripping over the insistence and persistence of so many dogmatic beliefs.

In collaborating with others who share common goals, particularly on this heralding-a-new-path of intentions, we've more than once felt a little bit bullied, had fistfuls of pointed fingers shaken at us, been told we need to: Transcend, Heal, Drink (More) Ayahuasca, Make Lots of/Give Up More Money, Meditate, Avoid Television and Committed Relationships, Grow Organic Vegetables, Go Vegan, Occupy, Eschew Corporations and Politicians, and so on. By no means are these necessarily bad suggestions. But that they're so aggressive and absolute is where we find ourselves struggling. Ironically, these commands often come from individuals who have the keen awareness that we are all, undoubtedly, One. (Are we then really judging anyone or just further exploring our own self-inquiry?) And they have been prefaced with statements that seemed judgmental and condescending themselves like "this isn't coming from my ego"; "I don't want to hurt your feelings, but"; "what you don't understand is…".  And, well, we don't understand. It actually did hurt our feelings. And really? Of course it was coming from your ego. All of it has been immensely confusing! That's the paradox of being human, though, isn't it? We are contrary by nature. We are trapped inside egos, even when we most definitely think we're not. And of course, if all that stuff isn’t coming directly at us, we’re likely dishing it out, too, projecting and justifying our certainty about a great many things.

The cosmic joke is indeed on us -- we're (seemingly) alone in this universe and certainly alone in our egos -- and that can be incredibly uncomfortable. So we do strange, destructive things (not unlike the fourteen strangers who came to Delmak-O in Philip K. Dick's wonderful novel, Maze of Death) even -- and often after -- we (re)discover the truth. Like so many on this path who have had an awakening (be it a kundalini experience, psychedelic journey, great trauma or serendipitous mystical moment), we know that the energy released within us is most intense. Tuning in to the emergence of a new world, a new possibility for our species and the arrival to our understanding of something no one can quite put their finger on, can bring about our excellence by allowing us to become fully engaged in what feels like "our calling." (And as a negative consequence, it can also flood us with an addiction to fear, creating an environment where parasites and egoistic thought loops can grow or even lie dormant for years before re-emerging.) Perhaps it's in order to motivate us to push ahead, or perhaps it's just a coping mechanism, or maybe some other reason entirely that the ego invites its closest friend and ally: Dogma. Because we’re so enraptured by these exciting new possibilities of a world that we think represent the antithesis of the prevailing paradigm, we don’t recognize dogma for what it is. But a closer look reveals the same: “This is the way      

One way to notice the bubble of judgment forming is the simple feedback of defensiveness. Whenever we share a viewpoint and feel we have to protect it, feel embarrassment or shame, or even feel an unwavering confidence, we are in a place of judgment or dogma. This matters not whether our beliefs are good-natured and helpful. Who among us has passed judgment not just on those who do not share our beliefs, but also on our brothers and sisters who’ve walked this path right along side us?

Fundamentalism always feels right to its believer. It is a warm blanket on a long, cold night through exhaustive self-inquiry. But what do we believe, really? Why? Isn't everything just circumstantial? Surely any great movement in history has kept its nascent followers up at night wondering these things. And the closer one looks at fundamentalism, the faster it begins to collapse in on itself.  It makes us wonder, is total openness the true absence of dogma? But who among us is always completely open to everything without judgment?

Many of us have explored ways of reinventing ourselves, been the walking cliches of a movement a long time in the making, and sought a coherent new story. We've bounced back and forth following our calling from both sides of the spectrum -- wanting to be part of a shifting world, but not impermeable to the temptations of the convenient existing world. It’s natural to want to run away from the buzzing of an oppressive, parasitic civilization and towards spirituality, psychedelics, yoga (or any of the myriad other belief systems that have formed amongst our ranks), but it’s also incredibly challenging to stay there. Still, the frenetic pulse of Something Coming now permeating through our network into the mainstream is quenching a painful thirst for many of us who have long championed these alternative views. But, does that mean they're right? When we are confronted with people (in this community or not) forcing beliefs down our throats, we can’t help but ask ourselves: Are these ideas the be-all end-all? Just because we’ve figured some things out, do we ever stop our quest? Do we hold tight to our beliefs and ideas no matter what new information comes to us further down the timeline? How do we maintain openness to everything -- good or bad -- while honoring and exploring what we feel called to pursue in our lives right now?

Birthing a New Story is much like tending a spring garden: Seedlings are most fragile when they first pop from the soil as they are irresistibly delicious to predators.  Our current perceptions of truth and meaning are also quite vulnerable in these early stages, both to our own ego’s persistence in the inherent "rightness" of its beliefs, and also to parasitic energies that can prey on our naiveté in claiming to know anything with an absolute certainty. As the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould reminds us, “The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best -- and therefore never scrutinize or question."

In our experience, we find that many of us are becoming trapped in our stories cleverly disguised as insight or the quintessential alternate reality narrative (perhaps even with a touch of pareidolia). Our primary concern is that it feels like a new class of fundamentalism is evolving and perhaps jading our efforts. The irony, of course, is that at no time in recorded history has there been an absence of fundamentalism. Perhaps the most transcendent monks or yogis may have achieved this state, but at large, societies have gathered around shared beliefs generated by only a few, but perpetuated by the masses. We pass them down through the ages. We fight wars and carry on hatreds because our parents and our communities insist that we do so. We quest on towards ideals, retell stories, and pursue possibilities…mostly because it doesn’t feel right not to. But holding tight to any belief ultimately obscures our view and ability to experience other possibilities…that may also be just as right.

Still, it is 2012.

Things are different on so many levels now. Could shedding this dogmatic behavior of insistence and ridicule be the great calling of our time? Maybe that is why it feels as if we are truly at the precipice of a change never before experienced by humans. Maybe it is not our personal awakenings, shamanic experiences, sensible solutions to economic, agricultural or environmental issues, or our art that are to be our greatest legacies; maybe it's actually harnessing Total Openness and the ability to find sanctity in staying in this Present Moment that will allow humanity to truly transcend the world Dogma has built. (Or maybe that's just our dogmatic belief. The irony is still not lost on us.)

From a sustainability standpoint, the human race must consciously continue to observe its thoughts, actions and judgments and what the consequences are if we ignore, disrespect and disregard our home and our role in it. We can easily justify following our dogmatic pursuits for clean air, food, and water, justice, freedom and expression. We can bring rituals and ceremonies into our lives to nourish our own inner resilience so that we cultivate new patterns and wavelengths that most serve the planet, too. And we are also aware that perhaps… none of it really matters. Perhaps it is egotistical to think we have already broken the confines of our egos and our judgment while still pushing our beliefs on others. Perhaps the postculture will be just as insistent about its tenets as in societies past. Maybe we do need to constantly build a new world and burn it down as Burning Man proposes. (And maybe that means we also let new people share the experience.) The point is, the moment we insist on anything, we lose sight of virtually everything else.

What it comes down to for us in following this hurricane of self-inquiry is consciously experiencing our reality and accepting the only real truth (here we go again) we can identify: Change. Letting go, ironically, seems to be the one thing we can actually hold on to. We're all unfinished works of art. That means many things will shift as we grow, most definitely our minds, our opinions and, if we're lucky, our beliefs. Evolving responsibly calls on us to be always mindful of this. Of course, we'll all do what we're called to do, but for us, what we've learned is keeping that Dogma on a tight leash is the healthiest way to make sure no one gets bitten.  

Until next time, you can find us mining the regenerative minerals of the Noosphere while supporting creative community and telling the best stories we can while dogmatically resisting the latest temptations of dogma.

Keep in touch with us on Twitter @jillettinger & @bazanovic

*Persus 9*

Image by Ape Vision, courtesy of Creative Commons license.