The Re-Enchantment of the West, Vol 2 by Christopher Partridge

285a1cac14e174a-261x361.jpg Author Christopher Partridge
Isbn 9780567041234
File size 28.21MB
Year 2006
Pages 482
Language English
File format PDF
Category religion


The Re-Enchantment of the West Volume II This page intentionally left blank The Re-Enchantment of the West Volume II Alternative Spiritualities, Sacralization, Popular Culture, and Occulture Christopher Partridge t&t clark Copyright © 2005 T&T Clark Internationa] A Continuum imprint Published by T&T Clark International The Tower Building, 11 York Road, London SE1 7NX 15 East 26th Street, Suite 1703, New York, NY 10010 © Christopher Partridge 2005 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Partridge, Christopher H. (Christopher Hugh), 1961The re-enchantment of the West: alternative spiritualities, sacralization, popular culture, and occulture / Christopher Partridge. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-567-04123-9 -- ISBN 0-567-04133-6 (pb.) 1. Cults -- Western countries. 2. Western countries -- Religion. I. Title. BP603.P35 2006 200'.9182'l--dc22 Typeset by Tradespools, Frome, Somerset Printed and bound in Great Britain by MPG Books Ltd, Cornwall 2005047129 For Tom, Sam, and Jordan This page intentionally left blank CONTENTS Acknowledgements Introduction Chapter 1 WELLBEING: SUBJECTMZATION, THE HOLISTIC MILIEU, AND HEALTHCARE The Subjective Turn Spirituality, Religion, and Secularization The Holistic Milieu and Wellbeing Culture Well Blacon Nursing and the Mainstreaming of Holistic Healing Nursing, Healing, and Spirituality Ayurvedic Healing Nursing and Spiritual Development Quantum Healing Concluding Comments xi 1 4 4 6 8 13 20 22 27 30 31 34 38 Chapter 2 ECO-ENCHANTMENT Disenchantment, Re-Enchantment, and Ecology: Some Historical Notes The Problem with Christianity The Deepening of Ecology Mother Earth, Goddess Gaia Re-Enchanted Resistance Eco-Paganism Concluding Comments 43 51 54 61 65 73 80 Chapter 3 82 CLEANSING THE DOORS OF PERCEPTION: THE CONTEMPORARY SACRALIZATION OF PSYCHEDELICS Pre-Modern and Indigenous Psychedelia The Modern Spiritual Psychedelic Revolution: Phase One The Modern Spiritual Psychedelic Revolution: Phase Two The Modern Spiritual Psychedelic Revolution: Phase Three 42 42 82 83 85 94 104 viii Contents Contemporary Psychedelic Shamanism Contemporary Entheogenic Religions and Networks Psychedelic Spirituality and Religious Experience Concluding Comments Chapter 4 CYBERSPIRITUALITY Cyberspace and Cyberculture Multiple Selves, Virtual Worlds, and Separate Realities Cyber-Sociability Cyberia and Soul Space Techgnosis and Technopaganism TOPY Concluding Comments Chapter 5 THE SACRALIZATION OF THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL UFO Belief, Occulture, and Re-Enchantment The Emergence of Contemporary Ufology Ufoism as Theosophical Religion Ufoism as Physicalist Religion Passing Through Heaven's Gate: UFO Belief, Apocalypticism, and Violence Abduction Spiritualities Crop Circles Concluding Comments Chapter 6 DARK OCCULTURE: CONTEMPORARY WESTERN DEMONOLOGY Judaeo-Christian Demonology Belief in the Devil in the Contemporary Western World Satanic Panic Contemporary Satanism Contemporary Vampire Culture The Demonic as Iconic: Satanism in 1960s and 1970s Films Satanism and the Heavy Metal Subculture Demonizing the Extraterrestrial Counselling and Myth Construction Something Worth Screaming About Demonizing the Extraterrestrial in Religious Discourse The Reptilian Agenda Concluding Comments Chapter 7 THE END: ESCHATOLOGICAL RE-ENCHANTMENT Apocalypticism, Millennialism, and Millenarianism The Appeal of the Apocalypse 111 120 126 132 135 135 136 140 144 150 155 159 161 165 165 167 170 172 183 189 194 201 204 207 207 208 216 218 221 230 239 246 255 261 263 263 270 276 279 279 281 283 Contents Millenarian Adventism, Failed Prophecy, and Semiotic Promiscuity When Prophecy Fails Apocalypticism and Violence Popular Millenarianism Millenarianism and Conspiracy Occulture Concluding Comments Notes Bibliography Index ix 288 295 299 306 315 325 328 392 445 This page intentionally left blank ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This and the previous Re-Enchantment volume have been part of my life for several years now. During this time I have been aware that my thought and interests have been shaped by a steady stream of relationships, conversations, popular culture, academic discourse, and experiences. As such I am very conscious that there must be many people whose ideas, words, and artefacts have contributed to my thinking in ways that I am unable specifically to acknowledge in writing. To all such people I am deeply grateful. I am particularly indebted to the many kindnesses of those who agreed to talk with me about their beliefs, as well as to the scholars with whom I have chatted over the years. In particular, I want to mention (in alphabetical order) Eileen Barker, Ruth Bradby, Eric Christianson, George Chryssides, Andrew Dawson, Celia Deane-Drummond, Ron Geaves, Dot Gosling, Crawford Gribbin, Andreas GriinschloB, Graham Harvey, Paul Heelas, Titus Hjelm, Stephen Hunt, Jeff Keuss, James Lewis, Gordon Lynch, Joanna McRitchie, Gordon Melton, Kenneth Newport, Robin Parry, Mikael Rothstein, Hannah Sanders, Graham St John, Bron Szerszynski, John Walliss, Dan Wojcik, and Linda Woodhead. I also want to acknowledge my gratitude to all my colleagues in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies who, as ever, make the University of Chester such an enjoyable place to work. Likewise, thanks are due to Richard Morris of University College Chester library, not only for his diligent tracking down of some obscure texts, but also for his enthusiasm for the bizarre and for his thought-provoking questions. Many thanks and much gratitude also go to the Arts and Humanities Research Board for funding the sabbatical needed to complete this volume. Thank you too to Philip Law of T&T Clark/Continuum for his muchappreciated enthusiasm and patience, to Nick Fawcett for his careful editing of the text, to Edna Pottersman for her careful proofreading, to Slav Todorov of Continuum for seeing both volumes through the final stages, and to my good friend Rick Crookes for producing another excellent cover. Grateful acknowledgement is also made to Oxford University Press for parts of Chapter 2, which appeared in The End is Nigh: Failed Prophecy, Apocalypticism, and the Rationalization of Violence in New Religious Eschatologies', in J. Walls (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Eschatology (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005); Elsevier for parts of Chapter 6, which appeared in 'Alien Demonology: The Christian Roots of the Malevolent xii Acknowledgements Extraterrestrial in UFO Religions and Abduction Spiritualities', Religion 34 (2004); Routledge for parts of Chapter 5, which appeared in 'Understanding UFO Religions and Abduction Spiritualities', in C. Partridge (ed.), UFO Religions (London: Routledge, 2003). Last, but by all means first, my family and close friends make it all worthwhile. The book is dedicated to three of the most important of these who continually remind me that there are many more important and far more enjoyable things in life than academia and writing books - Tom, Sam, and Jordan. INTRODUCTION For those who have read the first volume of The Re-Enchantment of the West, little needs to be said by way of introduction to this second volume. For those who haven't, some summary comments are necessary. The Re-Enchantment of the West is about the alternative spiritual milieu in the contemporary Western world; it is about the variety of ways increasing numbers of Westerners are discovering and articulating spiritual meaning in their lives; it is about new ways of believing and the transmission of those beliefs in societies in which the old ways are inhibited and declining. Moreover, it should become clear fairly quickly that I am not working with the assumption that just because spiritual reflection is entwined with popular culture and urban myths it is therefore superficial; just because an alternative spirituality may not require its adherents to sit in pews and believe systematic theologies does not mean that it is, compared to mainstream religious belief, insignificant in the life of the believer; just because new ways of believing are not allied to the state or located in large buildings next to the village green does not mean that they are therefore socially insignificant; and just because beliefs are transmitted through popular culture does not mean that they are, therefore, trivialized.1 A point mentioned in the previous volume, which is particularly applicable to this volume, is that, to some extent, its shelf life is limited. Spirituality and popular culture are not static. That said, although futurology is a risky business, new streams of spirituality do seem to be carving out courses that allow some degree of prediction. Hence, not only do I feel confident that my overall thesis and its principal components will be relevant for some years to come, but also I suspect that as the years pass they will become increasingly obvious, even as my discussions of 'current trends' become dated. As the title indicates, much of what is discussed in these volumes challenges those theories that predict widespread secularization beyond the traditional religiosity of the pews. While the bare facts concerning the decline of institutional Christianity, certainly in Europe, cannot seriously be questioned, this is very different from claiming that the West is becoming increasingly secular. As Bronislaw Szerszynski points out, 'the illusion that the sacred has disappeared is arguably a feature of all historical transitions from one form of the sacred to the next in a given society. Each transition can seem like an eclipse of the sacred in the terms in which it was organized 2 Introduction in the closing epoch; from a larger historical perspective, however, it can be seen as the emergence of a new sacral ordering.'2 These studies are about this new sacral ordering. In the first volume I argued that the alternative and holistic spiritual milieu is, in fact, far more significant than some scholars have suggested. One of the principal theses developed concerned what I understand to be a constantly evolving religio-cultural milieu. While it may look as though the West is experiencing creeping secularization because the most conspicuous streams of traditional spirituality, which have dominated the religious landscape for centuries, are drying up, this, in fact, is not the whole story. What we are witnessing in the West is a confluence of secularization and sacralization. Spiritualities are emerging that are not only quite different from the dying forms of religion, but are also often defined over against them, and are articulated in ways that do not carry the baggage of traditional religion. Unlike those forms of religion which are in serious decline, the new spiritual awakening utilizes thought forms, ideas, and practices which are not at all alien to the majority of Westerners. They emerge from an essentially non-Christian religio-cultural milieu; a milieu that both resources and is resourced by popular culture; a constantly replenished reservoir of ideas, practices, and methodologies that I have termed 'occulture'. That said, as I argue in Chapters 6 and 7, there are significant areas of Western occultural thought that are still influenced by latent Christian belief. However, the key point to note is that, more often than not, when these themes bubble to the surface in the West they carry an eclectic mix of occultural ideas and influences. In other words, they tend to be forms of detraditionalized Christian belief. What is occulture? Building on work done by particularly Ernst Troeltsch and Colin Campbell, in the first volume I developed their theories of mystical religion and 'the cultic milieu'. I expanded the narrow, technical definition of the term 'occult' to include a vast spectrum of beliefs and practices sourced by Eastern spirituality, Paganism, Spiritualism, Theosophy, alternative science and medicine, popular psychology, and a range of beliefs emanating out of a general interest in the paranormal. Going beyond what Campbell identified as 'the cultic milieu',3 occulture is the new spiritual atmosphere in the West; the reservoir feeding new spiritual springs; the soil in which new spiritualities are growing; the environment within which new methodologies and world-views are passed on to an occulturally curious generation. The final three chapters of the first volume examined the Easternization thesis, assessed the contribution of the 1960s, investigated the significance of popular culture, and briefly explored certain alternative spiritual themes within literature, film, and music. I was particularly concerned to demonstrate that popular culture is central to the efficacy of occulture, in that it feeds ideas into the occultural reservoir and also develops, mixes and disseminates those ideas. Put starkly, popular occulture is sacralizing the Western mind. Introduction 3 In the following studies of contemporary Western life, of occultural discourse, and of sacralized practice I have sought, perhaps rather optimistically, both breadth and depth of analysis. In general, this is the second book of a two-volume project on re-enchantment and occulture, which provides a deeper level of analysis than was possible in the previous volume. Hence, each chapter should be read with the overall theses in mind, each area contributing to the general understanding of Western religion and culture posited. In particular, while I am very much aware of their thinness in places, in focusing the general theories on specific Western 'life-paths' and, indeed, on what Pierre Bourdieu has termed habitus4 - I have also sought to contribute to understanding within the respective areas. That is to say, with the theories of re-enchantment and occulture in mind, each of the chapters can be read as separate essays that, I hope, will stimulate new thinking in their respective areas and open up new avenues of enquiry. Chapter 1 WELLBEING: SUBJECTIVIZATION, THE HOLISTIC MILIEU, AND HEALTHCARE 'Wellbeing' - a more life-affirming and wholesome-sounding word would be difficult to find. Who could fail to be attracted by the promise of wellbeing? Perhaps the very appeal of the word says something about the culture in which we now live. For many Westerners, the pursuit of wellbeing is part of daily life. Advertising companies, of course, have not been slow to recognize this and to promote it. From the moment I wake up and crawl into the bathroom to shower with an aromatherapy 'energizing' soap, 'because', I am told, 'I'm worth it', to my breakfast which will reduce my risk of heart disease, to the numerous suggestions for healthy living presented to me throughout the day, and the wide range of healthy, toxin-reducing, energyenhancing foods and vitamins I can consume, I am continually encouraged to nurture the wellbeing of my whole self. Strategies for healing, health, and wellbeing have been democratized they are now no longer the preserve of the medical establishment.' They are a core part of a 'responsible person's' self-care. As Robert Wuthnow puts it, 'care, in the sense of attending to the self in its daily journey, becomes the key word, rather than the various cures suggested by medicine or traditional religion.'2 Again, as Wade Clark Roof comments, 'the body is central to healing experiences ... Whatever the type of healing, all such experiences are grounded in an embodied self that is in a continuous process of development and idealization'3 - hence the very common use of 'journey' and 'growth' metaphors within the holistic milieu. '"Health" is an idealization of a kind of self, and "healing" is part of the process by which growth towards the ideal is achieved.'4 More particularly, this idealization of the health of the self increasingly includes the 'spiritual'. Consequently, because the embodied self is understood to be the site of spiritual transformation, central to notions of wellbeing is a growing emphasis on spiritual health.5 Printed in large letters at the beginning of the popular Body Shop Body Care Manual is the word 'wellbeing'. 'The very word,' we are told, 'is a promise of the good life. Not in the materialist sense, but in the sense of a life well lived - in a state of contentment, robust health, and mental vigour.'6 While the word 'spirituality' is not explicitly used on this page, it is very clearly implied. Not only are we told that wellbeing is not about Wellbeing: Subjectivization, the Holistic Milieu, and Healthcare 5 'materialism', but also, accompanying the word, there is a large photograph illustrating what it is about: a beautiful, healthy woman, with her eyes closed, wearing an Indian cheesecloth shirt, sits in a cross-legged yoga posture, with one hand over, presumably, her second chakra and another over her fourth chakra.7 The picture is one of wellbeing and serenity. This is the tone of the book. As I continued to read through it (which left me feeling increasingly inadequate as a specimen of the human race) I was gradually introduced to a range of principally Eastern beliefs and practices, as well as several wholefood recipes. For example, in a section recommending Hatha Yoga, I am told that 'in Sanskrit (the ancient language of the elite Indian Brahmins), yoga means "union", or an integration of body, mind and spirit ... The discipline consists of a series of poses (called asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama), and meditation techniques, all of which improve health, strength, and flexibility, as well as help us find inner peace.^ Again, recommending t'ai chi, I am told that, if practised on 'a regular basis', it will help me 'to stay physically healthy, mentally sharp, and spiritually grounded.'9 Thinking of the process of Easternization - discussed in detail in the previous volume 10 - it is interesting to note that the vast majority of the book's preferred exercises and treatments have their roots in Eastern religious systems. Moreover, it is also clearly important for the authors and intended readers that these exercises, therapies, and preparations have their origins in ancient or indigenous spiritual traditions. In a way which suggests that ancient and Eastern origins are some verification of their value - which is in itself significant 1 ' - we are not only told at the outset that 'inspiration is drawn from traditional cultures around the world',12 but also regularly reminded of the origins of the practices and remedies described in the volume. For example: 'the use of essential oils... to promote physical, emotional, and spiritual health dates back at least 6,000 years'; 'for thousands of years, many cultures have practised some form of massage with the aim of easing physical, mental, and spiritual ailments'; 'yoga originated 5,000 years ago in India'; t'ai chi is 'an ancient martial art that originated in China'; 'lemons are believed to have been cultivated in the Indus Valley [where the Indian religious tradition originated] around 2500 BC'; 'the eucalyptus tree has been a source of spiritual and medicinal remedies for centuries'; 'Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India, is a centuries-old holistic health-care system'.13 Similar statements can be found in numerous other general health and wellbeing texts. Indeed, we will see that even within the nursing profession such information is understood to be significant. For example, one professional handbook for nurses (and many could have been chosen) includes the following statement: 'Many alternative therapies practiced today have been used since ancient times and come from the traditional healing practices of many cultures, primarily those of China and India ... The Indian principles of Ayurvedic medicine stem from the Vedas, the essential religious texts of Hinduism ... '14 While the significance of the pre-modern and the indigenous has been discussed in the first 6 The Re-Enchantment of the West volume,15 the point here is simply to note that this shift tends to be interpreted in terms of a turn towards the holistic, the healthy, the natural, and the spiritual. As Kimberley Lau has argued, 'implicit in popular discourses surrounding aromatherapy, macrobiotic eating, yoga and t'ai chi is the belief in personal transformation through alternative, non-Western paradigms of health and wellness.'16 The Subjective Turn In order to locate this culturally and socially, it will be helpful to look at a recent study of spirituality in Kendal - a small town in Cumbria, north-west England. The research, which was carried out by a team from Lancaster University, led by Paul Heelas and Linda Woodhead, arrived at some interesting conclusions that relate directly to the importance of wellbeing culture.17 Their findings are particularly important in helping us to understand the wider significance of 'the subjective turn' and what they refer to as 'the subjectivization thesis'. Indeed, much of their evidence for this religio-cultural shift is consonant with key ideas already discussed in the first Re-Enchantment volume. Consequently readers of that volume, who may also have read The Spiritual Revolution by Heelas and Woodhead (which was, unfortunately, published while the first volume was in press), will not be surprised to learn that I am in broad agreement with their conclusions. Before continuing, it should be noted that, to reiterate the comments made in the first volume, 'religion' and 'spirituality' have specific meanings in the following discussion - and indeed in subsequent chapters.18 In particular, 'spirituality' is understood very clearly in terms of the turn to the self, or 'subjectivization', rather than being related to mystical forms of traditional religion, as, for example, the French terms spiritualite and mysticisme suggest. In other words, we are not here thinking of the interior knowledge and experience of a transcendent reality external to the self which is what Heelas and Woodhead would understand to be 'life-as spirituality'.19 'A spiritual atmosphere,' says Sri Aurobindo, 'is more important than outer conditions; if one can get that and also create one's own spiritual air to breathe in and live in it, that is the true condition of progress.'20 This emphasis on the primary importance of the 'atmosphere' within describes the subjective turn that Heelas, Woodhead, and others, including myself, believe to be so important for an accurate understanding of Western religion and culture. Hence, following numerous eminent scholars, including Eric Hobsbawm, Anthony Giddens, and Charles Taylor,21 Heelas and Woodhead identify what they believe to be 'a major shift... away from life lived in terms of external or "objective" roles, duties and obligations, and a turn towards life lived by reference to one's own subjective experiences (relational as much as individualistic)'.22 Indeed, there is also what might be described as a purposive bohemian shift, a shift away from that which is expected of us We 11 be ing: Subjectivization, the Holistic Milieu, and Healthcare 1 in society, towards the subjective life and to the development of its potential, a shift which, we have seen, can be traced back through punk culture to the 1960s (although one can go even further back, of course, to manifestations of bohemianism, alternative spirituality, and holism in the nineteenth century).23 More specifically, it was in the 1960s that we saw the emergence of a strong grass roots, self-oriented, ecologically aware health movement.24 This turn towards the subjective life in the West has to do with, as Heelas and Woodhead argue, 'states of consciousness, states of mind, memories, emotions, passions, sensations, bodily experiences, dreams, feelings, inner conscience, and sentiments - including moral sentiments like compassion. The inner subjectivities of each individual became a, if not the, unique source of significance, meaning and authority.' 25 As is clear in The Body Shop Body Care Manual, the 'promise of the good life' is not so much a promise 'in the materialist sense, but in the sense of a life well lived - in a state of contentment, robust health, and mental vigour'.26 It is a state in which individuals achieve 'the good life' through personal discipline and commitment to the path they have chosen. They seek life skills, depth of understanding, and spiritual insight to enable them truly to know themselves and to be their own authority. This subjectivity-centred mode of life is, however, quite different from, and even antagonistic to, what Heelas and Woodhead refer to as 'life-as' modes of being: the key value of life-as is conformity to external authority, while the key value for the mode of subjective-life is authentic connection with the inner depths of one's unique life-in-relation. Each mode has its own satisfactions, but each finds only danger in the other, and there is deep incompatibility between them. Subjectivities threaten the life-as mode - emotions, for example, may easily disrupt the course of the life one ought to be living, and 'indulgence' of personal feelings makes the proper discharge of duty impossible. Conversely, life-as demands attack the integrity of subjective-life. This is because the latter is necessarily unique. 27 The subjective turn is, as the findings of the Kendal Project suggest, evident throughout Western society. This, of course, as 1 argued in the first volume, has enormous implications for our understanding of the extent of 'religious' commitment and influence in the West. We cannot simply seize on the decline of 'religion', dismiss 'spirituality', and declare 'secularization'. Things are rather more complicated than that. The subjectivization thesis, which is similar to the 're-enchantment thesis',28 seeks to explain both secularization and sacralization. While Heelas and Woodhead have not attempted to account for the dynamics and significance of occulture, and while they do not claim to offer the only explanation, they do claim to have provided a theory that significantly contributes to an overall understanding of why, on the one hand, 'religion' (especially traditional, institutional Christianity) is declining, and why, on the other hand, 'spirituality' is replacing it. Their central thesis is relatively straightforward. Western culture is witnessing a massive and welldocumented subjective turn. Invoking the common-sense Durkheimian

Author Christopher Partridge Isbn 9780567041234 File size 28.21MB Year 2006 Pages 482 Language English File format PDF Category Religion Book Description: FacebookTwitterGoogle+TumblrDiggMySpaceShare The Re-Enchantment of the West challenges those theories that predict widespread secularization beyond traditional institutional religiosity. Spiritualities are emerging that are not only quite different from the those forms of religion that are in decline, but are often defined over against them and articulated and passed on in ways quite different from those of traditional religion. In particular, it is argued that such contemporary Western spirituality is fed by a constantly replenished reservoir of ideas, practices, and methodologies, which is here termed ‘occulture’. Moreover, such occultural ideas both feed into and are resourced by popular culture. Indeed, popular occulture is a key feature of the re-enchantment of the West. Demonstrating the significance and ubiquity of these ideas, this book examines, for example, healthcare and nursing, contemporary environmentalism, psychedelia and drug use, the Internet and cyberspirituality, belief in UFOs and extraterrestrial life, demonology and the contemporary fascination with the figure of Satan, the heavy metal subculture, popular apocalypticism, and millennial violence.     Download (28.21MB) Contemporary Religious Satanism: A Critical Anthology No Religion Higher Than Truth Paranormal Nation: Why America Needs Ghosts, Ufos, And Bigfoot Biblical Demonology: A Study of Spiritual Forces at Work Today Religion and the Culture of Print in Modern America Load more posts

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