I’ve noticed in perusing the selections of new age, self-help books that the writers and spiritual teachers who are having these epiphanies have something in common: They are educated professionals. Not necessarily trained in fields like divinity or even psychology–although a number of practicing ‘shamans’ and gurus have backgrounds in counseling, these people figured out the meaning of life. For themselves anyway.
These are people who have had material sucess, and more often than not, they come from wealthy, or at least upper-middle class families. At some point in their lives, they decide to travel, to abandon the trappings of their comfortable lives. What this means is they visit exoctic spiritual locales like India, Peru, China, and Egypt. They’re usually well connected with other wealthy friends and acquaintences who set them up with this guru or that teacher, or some healer in these remote places. They experience an opening, an awakening, or a healing that sounds something like: “cha-chiiing!”
They come back to their river front homes and write their books, and because they have important connections to somebody who knows somebody in publishing, they get a book deal and speaking engagements, and the whole merchandising kaboodle.
Although they all profess that what they discovered is an innate ability or knowledge posessed by everybody, sometimes they trademark their esoteric little treasure:The Reconnection® and Psy-K® are two that come to mind right now; I know there are others.
Who are the people these things are being marketed to? Most of them are also educated, well-off professionals. These are people who have the means to go off to secluded ashrams and temples to ‘find themselves’. These are people who in their youths, have wealthy parents and trust funds cusioning their yuppie vision quests, and in their 40s on, have savings, or the support of a spouse, or make a good living in a profession. So they spend their money on crap like crystals and meditation classes and healing and blessing sessions and pilgrimages to whereever. They have a disposable income with which they can play Quest for Enlightement. They have the time and the means to contemplate the deeper, vaster meaning of their lives, because they are not so bogged down with things like debt, and juggling which credit card to use to buy groceries because there isn’t enough money in the checking account to cover the electric bill and pay for milk and toilet paper.
The eduacated and well-heeled in this world have also had the luxury of not believiing anything. I’ll say right now that the first atheists were the priests of the Old Testament, or Torah. If they really believed there was a god, they wouldn’t have dared to make such arrogant, self-serving, humanity-sacrifcing pronouncements. Their ‘law; was concerned cheifly with real estate and offerings owed the temple. The priests were the first kings of this world, and ruled the superstitious peasants through fear. They could not have actually believed in a just god who would mete punishment to the evil, or the priests would have been certain of their own punishment.
So the rich can toy and experiment with spirituality, and they have through the ages. While the impoverished and uneducated are left with their superstition and are controlled by the ruling class through fear-steeped religion. In a nutshell, the ruling-elite are entitled to Conversations with God, and the rest of us are left with fundamentalism.