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anon (not verified)
This is not a critique of

This is not a critique of "new age spirituality" per se but a segment of a book review and it does illuminate the difficulty of the secular world's approach to "spirituality":

" If you believe him, and he does state the case frequently enough that it is hard to say that he doesn’t believe himself, then the answer to our questions about what to do can be found from the earth directly. Literally. What does a stream desire? Sit next to it and listen to it. It will find a way to tell you. Have a problem with coyote eating your chickens? Talk to them about it. Many radical and liberal commentators sneer at Jensen’s perceived spiritual arguments. They call the lack of objective verifiability “mysticism.” They dismiss the similarity of Jensen’s arguments to native arguments as saying more about his attraction toward natives than the reasonableness of his arguments.

And they have a point. Jensen is a west coast environmental writer, not a redneck pissed off about the destruction of the only thing he knows, nor a traditionalist living in reservation squalor. When Jensen writes about his first-hand experiences (and successes) talking to the earth, it reads like other New Age authors speaking about the same subjects. But guilt by association should work both ways.

If we want to blame Jensen on the one hand for seeming like a well educated cosmopolitan liberal who is in touch with the earth, we have to accept that he is also echoing people with unquestionable links to life-ways that did converse with Wakantanka and that did not separate themselves from the food they ate, the ground they walked on, etc. Spiritual beliefs are a consistently difficult thing to present to a secular audience that has understandably negative reactions to the Abrahamic religions. This difficulty is apparent even in Jensen’s writing, which takes a utilitarian perspective on the topic. He says “if you want to know what the earth wants, you listen to it,” not “you should practice a lifeway that entails these rituals, includes these social roles, and practices these rites.”

How does the secular world express strong feelings of affinity and disgust, anger and despair? It appears that expression of feelings is delegated to politicians, to the media, or perhaps to a blog. Jensen is trying to make a break from this kind of mediation through his writing. Perhaps the question merits asking whether writing itself is a secular kind of detachment, but the effort is clearly there. Talking to a stream about what it desires is a very different political practice than saying that one should have an unmediated personal connection to the natural world without any particular advice about how one would have it. In a world of utter atomization and isolation, what arguments can we really have with someone’s expression of a connection that they truly have? The secular world doesn’t have a response to this human need and for all of its derision against traditional, spiritual, and even religious practices, fails entirely at satisfying the needs of anyone who doesn’t believe in the secular program. "


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