To say it was a slow burn would be inaccurate. It was just plain a bonfire. Sparks to high flying flames. Embers floating upward on newly created thermals, warm and glowing, a continual burn. That was this past summer as I traveled about taking in new sights. Hiking in Nature.
That collective place, that I call the “Real World,” where I feel at home.
There was a crescendo, however. You might say. A peak. Not a turning point, and it wasn’t like things diminished in anyway afterwards, but it was a stand out moment. The day I did the Green Lakes hike.
You see I had been building toward this adventure for a while. Slowing increasing my hiking distances. Acclimating to the higher altitudes. And while the trail markers seemed to indicate a shorter distance, they were wrong. I knew it by what maps revealed and planned accordingly.
This hike, while longer, reminded me of one I did in Montana. To Avalanche Lake. That hike was shorter in distance, but it similarly ended in a spectacular view. A total sense-flooding awe. A take-your-breath-away moment.
This new mission built from the Douglas Fir forest, to the many waterfalls, to the rainbow of wildflowers, to the lakes and surrounding mountains.
A sort of reach out and touch God journey.
This is a form of Spiritualism I practice. I believe the true Source is in every being and form on this planet and the way to get in touch is to be there. Experience firsthand. While reading about places and our environment can be transformative, the real transformation, the real awakening comes out there.
At least for me.
This may sound a bit vague, but here in modernity Spiritualism has been taking a different turn as of late. No longer are the majority of people attaching themselves to the practices and dogma of single church entities. Ancient texts are being given an upgrade. Content is being blended, shaken, and stirred. People are seeking a true communion directly with the Source. And being more self-sufficient in their searching as opposed to relying on a bishop, pastor, cleric, patriarch, priest, vicar, preacher, rector, chaplain or an ecclesiastic.
They are cutting out the middleman. Or at least one middle man.
While many are following legitimate and diverging pathways to self-enlightenment, the ways of old, and the society which surrounds it, have a heavy influence. One that is hard to escape.
To keep this in perspective, one must remember that the entrenched churches of old in America are corporations. Non-profits that incorporate and don’t pay taxes. It’s a blend of consumerism, corporate loopholes, and Constitutional privilege.
This is not to say the old ways are bad. Government stays out of religion, as it should, but the corporate mentality pervades much in this culture. Package, deliver, and sell.
And while I, and many others, strive to keep that “packaging” out of our practices and to remain true to the natural and theological world as possible, many, as they explore new pathways of communion have welcomed the merchandising of religion.
That may sound heavy, huh?
The “merchandising of religion.”
Just let that sink in for a moment.
The exchange of dollars for something tangible of value, a contractual promise for a promise, is now so thoroughly inbreed into this nation that some believe everything can be bought. Acquired. Possessed. Stocked in the pantry.
Absolutely Everything. Even God.
It’s counterintuitive when you’re asked to donate to a mega-church claiming it will pray for your soul, that your hard-earned dollars will pave the way to spiritual paradise, ensure your passage through the gates of the Divine. It takes no actual “work.” You just slip the maître d’ a twenty and you move straight to the front of the line. Take your seat in that divine restaurant to leisurely devour a gourmet serving of ethereal existence.
It’s totally illogical to think that God somehow needs money and that by giving cash to a corporate entity you will become “spiritually rich” yourself, as the evangelical minister exclaims. But there are always believers. Searching for something beyond themselves.
Only now, many think they can buy it. Like buying a car. Or a home. Or a glazed doughnut to be eaten – four hundred calories of theological edification, right?
No question about it, as a nation, we have become insatiable consumers. Manufacturing has largely been shifted to other countries, and as Americans we have been going through a growth in purchasing – an unprecedented shopping spree. We no longer create, we procure.
I suppose it was inevitable, but this worship of stuff has turned into a religion of its own of sorts. As we seek out spiritual connections a new market has developed to sell it to us. To advertise and indoctrinate us with the new dogma. One that has the undercurrent of you being able to buy your way to that eternal spiritual kingdom.
And some of that focus has been in the emerging market of self-care products.
I agree that self-care, self-appreciation, self-worth, and self-love are important attributes to becoming whole. One can’t advance in any way, if they engage in self-devaluation. But self-care is not the same as self-change or self-growth or self-enlightenment.
I recently read an article about “makeovers, shopping, and redecorating.” The author basically dissected the television shows that promote physical appearance and interior decorating as pathways to success and spiritual growth. If you only look a certain way, emulate “successful” people, pamper yourself to the extreme to confirm your self-worth – then, and only then, will you actually be successful, complete intellectually and spiritually.
As the author notes, “Material comforts are comforting . . .”
“It’s a little bit curious that as our political discourse is concerned with economic inequality — and the soaring costs of health care, education and homes — the cultural conversation is fixated on the healing powers of luxury items. What does it mean, that materialism is now so meaningful? “Generation Wealth” posits that extreme spending is a symptom of a civilization in decline. Americans may not have what they need, but at least they can get what they want, even if it’s on credit.”
The healing powers of luxury – indeed.
I would note that it’s not comfortable to make a Spirit Quest. To leave the boundaries of comfort and safety, fast and suffer the extremes of weather, to be forced inward and yet beyond the physical body.
It’s not comfortable to do Shadow Work. It’s not cushy to engage in deep introspection. To examine our primitive selves. To root out our negative emotions. Envy, greed, selfishness, hatred, and rage. To examine our desires for power. To admit these sentiments are a part of us, and try to balance and eliminate them. Not feed them with extravagances or luxury, which do nothing to expand the spirit.
No, it’s not comfortable to journey out into the far boundaries of Nature. To find out what you’re really made of.
True. There is some monetary cost to travel to have the adventure, but that cost pays for a true experience, not some physical item, a costume you can hang in the closet. That cost doesn’t change the makeup on your face, or your haircut, or your manicure, or the clothes you wear – thinking that these external changes will somehow translate to a change of spirit soul. Bring about enlightenment.
I’m afraid that spiritualism is not a commodity you can invest in. There won’t be an IPO of the spirit soul on Wall Street, and you won’t find your soul purpose in a physical makeover.
If you want to reach inward, outward, and upward, start hiking . . .
Photos: What I found at the end of the hike 🙂 I tried setting the panorama as the feature pic, but it wouldn’t fit. You sort of have to imagine that view as arcing around you.
The article that inspired this piece was titled: The New Spiritual Consumerism, and it was published in the New York Times.