Sketchy Spiritualities & Shady Pseudohistories:
What People Need To Know

So there's a lot of people seeking their own spiritual paths, and I've noticed that many of them go at it in a very uncritical, ungrounded way. By this, I mean that they tend to fully commit themselves to unproven, unverifiable beliefs without doing any research into when and where those beliefs developed, and what sort of political viewpoints they reflect and serve.

The thing is, literally no religion or spiritual tradition comes out of a vacuum. For good or bad, they are always products of their time and place, and reflect the values, assumptions, and general knowledge of the people they originated with. Even religions and beliefs that claim their information was channeled or gifted directly from a divine authority are not exempt from this. (You'll notice, for example, that the Book of Revelation describes everything in terms and images familiar to 1st century people; for example, it's a scroll with seven seals, not a PDF with seven passwords.)

In this article, I'm going to explore some of the questionable to downright sinister history behind certain modern beliefs and practices, and how certain beliefs and ideologies are being used to prey upon or spread hate against the vulnerable.

Note that if you came to subscribe to any of these beliefs without understanding their history or politics, that doesn't necessarily make you a bad person. What it means is that those who work to hide or minimize the unsavory parts were successful. Now with that said, you do have a responsibility to understand and acknowledge them once you're made aware of them, and it's not okay to ignore them just because they make you uncomfortable or force you to question your beliefs. It's often unpleasant, but it's got to be done.

Table of Contents

Theosophy And The Rise Of New Age Philosophy

A lot of spiritual ideas going around today link back to or are inspired by the beliefs the Theosophical Society. The Theosophical Society was co-founded in 1875 by Helena Blavatsky, who had traveled the world and spent awhile studying Eastern traditions and quite possibly even made a few up, as she claimed to have visited Tibet at a time when such a thing was pretty much impossible, and her definition of a "tulpa" (as recounted in Magic and Mystery in Tibet) is not how actual Tibetan Buddhists define a "tulpa."

In any case, Theosophy incorporated many of the beliefs Blavatsky learned about, or at least her personal interpretations of them. One of them was the Yuga Cycle, which is described in texts like the Ramanaya (likely composed no earlier than 300 BC) and Mahabharata (compiled somewhere around 400 CE).

As for when actual concept of the Yuga Cycles got started, that one's harder to say. The idea of successive worlds or world rebirths is a common enough enough motif, ranging from Europe (EG, Ragnarok) to South America (EG, the Aztec five suns myth), at least. Of course, this doesn't mean that the Yuga Cycles themselves are an extremely old idea; in fact, they might be a relatively new spin on a very old motif. Luis Gonzalez-Reimann believes that the idea of the Yuga Cycles are relatively new compared to the actual myths contained within the Mahabharata. Reimann notes that while the yugas are mentioned in the commentaries, they aren't really mentioned within the myths themselves.

According to Blavatsky, the world is presently in the Kali Yuga - but all that's about to change because we're reaching the end of the Kali Yuga and we're about to enter the New Cycle, the Aquarian Age - commonly known these days as the Age of Aquarius.

Another thing Blavatsky taught was the existence of the six Root Races. Although Blavatsky herself didn't believe that humanity descended from non-human apes, the progression of the Root Races still strongly resembles the whole "progression of man" idea that stemmed from the popular misconception that evolution is linear. The first Root Race was an entirely ethereal, yet unintelligent race of beings. The second Root Race is less ethereal and more physical, and also more intelligent. The Third Root Race supposedly lived in Lemuria. The Fourth Root Race was so physical that they had begun to lose their connection with the divine, and allegedly lived in Atlantis. Supposedly, humanity as we know it comes from the Sixth Root Race, and when the New Cycle comes those of us who are awakened into the truth will survive to become the Seventh Root Race.

So to sum up these beliefs:

1. Everything is terrible right now because we're a kind of spiritual dark age, but that's about to change.
2. Humanity is on an evolutionary path to becoming more spiritual and more divine.
3. Atlantis and Lemuria were both definitely very real and not at all hypothetical.

These two basic ideas form the foundation of numerous modern spiritual beliefs. This includes ideas such as that "the veil" is about to lift, or that benevolent aliens are going to reveal themselves very soon. It also includes ideas like indigo children and starseeds. Depending on who you ask, indigo children are either the next step in humanity's evolution, or are here to guide humanity toward the next step in its evolution. Starseeds, allegedly, are alien souls incarnated in human bodies to help humanity reach the next step in its spiritual evolution.

It's often been noted that the alleged signs of being an indigo child or starseed are very much in line with those of autism and ADHD. And as someone who has both, I find the idea that my sole purpose in life is to help the rest of the world get its act together so it can spiritually ascend to be highly offensive. I'm a human being. I have physical and mental disabilities. I have physical, psychological, and emotional needs that this society is not set up to meet. It shouldn't be my job to make the rest of the world get its act together. I am not your sparkly space messiah.

Theosophy and New Age philosophies and practices in general have always been racist and appealed to racists. Blavatsky, a white woman, basically went around acting as if her own interpretations and takes were Capital-T Truth, and that only those who accepted them were spiritually enlightened and worthy of becoming part of the next root race. Blavatsky's teachings inspired the Thule Society, and numerous white people have presented themselves as spiritual leaders while boldly appropriating and fabricating Native spiritualities - take for example, Kiesha Crowther. Today, QAnon is very much inspired by New Age thinking. The so-called "QAnon Shaman" even had a Star Seed Academy on Facebook. The fact that such terrible people keep finding these ideas so appealing and so validating should catch our attention, and it should make us ask ourselves exactly what kind of values and assumptions are in them.

There is absolutely no denying that the concept of spiritual evolution rides on eugenics. While Blavatsky didn't believe in Darwinian evolution, many who did made a connection and incorporated the concept in some form or another. These days, you can readily find these people talking about things like "DNA activations" and "DNA upgrades." One site claims that upgrading your DNA will increase your IQ. Worth noting, the idea of IQ has strong ties to eugenics, and the majority of people who make a big deal about IQ these days have far right political views.

Now, I'm not saying you have to stop doing a spiritual practice or exercise that's genuinely benefiting you just because somebody claimed it would upgrade your DNA. You can keep doing it all you like. Just let go of the idea that it has anything to do with DNA or evolution, because it doesn't. Simply enjoy the benefits without attaching a ridiculous idea to it.

Alien-Focused Spirituality, Eugenics, & Pseudoscience

The 20th century saw the rise of spirituality that presumed the existence of aliens, both benevolent and malevolent. In terms of function, these beings behaved very much like angels or demons. Some wanted to help us ascend to a higher existence, others wanted to enslave us or even devour us.

Alien-focused spirituality has often been highly concerned with DNA, and that's not really surprising. The concept of DNA and the possibilities of what it might be able to do had a strong presence in the public consciousness in the 20th century. This can seem harmless enough at first glance, because it seems like a perfectly reasonable explanation for why an alien species might have abilities that we don't.

But the thing is, these beliefs are loaded with eugenicist assumptions and misunderstandings about the nature of DNA, evolution, and intelligence. For example, The Blue Planet Project Book, which purports to be the writings of a scientist working on a top secret government base depicts various alien races in ways that reflect this. For example, the "master" insectoid race essentially looks like humans with big eyes, bulging foreheads, and antennae, while the "servant" insectoids look much more ant-like, suggesting that the human form is inherently superior. Supposedly, grey aliens, or Rigelians, are genetically prone to illogical thinking, which renders them unable to make autonomous decisions and forces them to rely on a higher authority for instruction.

The Pulsar Project book, which claims to be a continuation of the Blue Planet Project Book, also depicts alien species in this way. For example, the book claims that the grey's "servants from Rigelian" (yes, that's spelled correctly) simply just follow orders because they are of low intelligence. The Thlaap'SH are said to be a "degenerative cloned form" of another type of alien, and therefore have low intelligence but also greater physical strength. This concept of a "degenerate" race that is less intelligent, yet stronger than its predecessor parallels hateful beliefs about Black people and the overall concept of the untermensch, or subhuman.

Now, I'm not saying that it's wrong to think that extraterrestrial life probably exists out there. However, these books contain so many basic factual errors about chemistry and biology that they cannot possibly be true. And these books aren't unusual; scientific errors are found all over alien folklore and in the words of those who claim to channel or communicate with alien beings. If these supposedly advanced alien beings can't even get basic details like these right, why should we believe anything they supposedly say? And shouldn't the fact so many of their claims sound like racist rhetoric with the serial numbers filed off be cause for concern and skepticism?

Alien-focused spiritualities also claim that the government or some other sinister agency or entity is hiding the truth from the masses. This puts them squarely into the realm of conspirituality - the blending of conspiracy theory and spirituality. This also gives them an inextricable link with antisemitism, as basically all conspiracy theories either begin as antisemitism (see: adrenochrome and blood libel, and also lizard people and blood libel) or are tied into it eventually (see: blaming "monotheists" or "the elite" for deliberately keeping everyone in the dark about the truth).

In my opinion, it's impossible to separate today's alien-focused spirituality from eugenics, pseudoscience, and conspiracy theory because these things are built into its very foundations. These are not ancient traditions that had oppressive ideologies forced on them long after their inception. They are modern ideas literally created from oppressive ideologies that actively harm people today. While I'm fully sympathetic to a desire to meet beings from other worlds, we cannot ignore the origins and history of modern alien-focused spirituality.

Wicca: The Ancient Pagan Religion That Isn't

Wicca is not a New Age religion, but it did emerge in the 20th century. It's often claimed to be the continuation or reconstruction of an ancient pagan religion, but it's certainly not ancient, and quite frankly it's barely even pagan. If anything, Wicca is something more of an attempt to paganize culturally Christian occultism.

For example, the Wiccan Rede ("an' it harm none, do as ye will") is not based in any pre-Christian moral philosophy; rather, it's more of a riff on the Golden Rule. This isn't a bad thing in and of itself, but it doesn't actually connect back to any pre-Christian belief systems. Likewise, the Law of Three has no basis in pre-Christian European beliefs, either. However, it does reflect the Christian view that justice will always be delivered by a higher, supernatural power.

Wicca's Lord and Lady do in fact resemble some pre-Christian European deities, but once you really start looking into actual myths and folklore, you find that they're just two-dimensional imitations of these figures. They lack the rich, complicated myths and lore that their historical counterparts have. Many Wiccans claim that these other deities they resemble are all reflexes of the Lord and Lady, but in reality the Lord and the Lady are more like personifications of Hermeticism's masculine and feminine principles.

The fact that Wicca only has two divinities while every known ancient European religion has a large cast of diverse figures should be a clue that it's not as old as some people claim. The fact that it lacks a rich corpus of myths and folklore should be another clue. One last clue is that Wicca lacks a genuinely animist worldview. While it does recognize the world as sacred and magical, it does not ascribe personhood to the actual elements and forces of nature. It has deities of nature, not deities that are nature.

The Wheel of the Year? Also a 20th century invention. (And when you actually stop and think about it, the idea that an entire continent with such a wide variance in their seasonal cycles would all celebrate the exact same festivals on the exact same days is utterly absurd.)

The issue isn't that people practice or believe in Wicca or Wiccan ideas, per se. The problem is that many people think Wicca is genuinely reflective of pre-Christian European practices and beliefs, and that many of them have bought into the whole "all gods and goddesses are aspects of the Lord and the Lady" line. It's one thing to recognize and acknowledge that myths and mythological figures have a lot in common across the world, and it's one thing to have your own ideas as to why that might be, but to outright come out and claim that they're all actually the same gods is crossing a line. You are in effect declaring your own belief system supreme, and placing everyone else's in a sort of hierarchy beneath it. And what with Wicca and its adjacent ideologies being a primarily white phenomena, the inherent colonialism in this cannot be ignored.

Sometimes people dig their heels in on Wicca's alleged ancient origins, and nothing good comes of it. They have to rely on conspiracy theories and pseudohistory to justify why there's no pre-20th century evidence of Wiccan belief or practice. They perpetuate falsehoods and muddle our understanding of genuine history, belief, and practice. (No folks, the Catholic Church did not steal pagan traditions wholesale.) They effectively prevent people from learning the rich, complex truth about the past and what people genuinely did and believed by leading them to believe that their false, oversimplified version of history is all there is to it.

Again, I'm not saying that you can't be Wiccan or find value in some Wiccan ideas, but we have to stop perpetuating pseudohistory and religious colonialism. If you want to carry on with Wicca and its ideas, you have to square up with its actual history and understand the cultural context it came from.

If you're curious to learn more about what genuine pre-Christian European religion might have been like, I suggest Arith Härger's YouTube channel. He only focuses on Scandinavian paganism so it can't be taken as a definitive statement on the entire continent, but it's still a pretty good place to start, especially the videos on animism. (Though I suggest staying out of the comments section, because the subject matter attracts a significant number of white supremacists, unfortunately.) I also talk about things people actually did and believed in Writing Historically Accurate European Magic & Witchcraft: A Starting Guide.

The Many Cults of Money & Ego

Spiritual movements and ideologies that focus on obtaining wealth are nothing new. Prosperity gospel, the Secret, the Law of Attraction, manifestation, and all such notions can be traced back to 19th century New Thought movement. Followers were told that if they repeated affirmations and visualized themselves as wealthy, money and fortune would come to them.

The fact that this has been going on for so long shouldn't make it any less disturbing. If anything, we should be alarmed that money cults have proliferated for so long. Jesus certainly never promised his followers Earthly wealth; rather, he told them to shun it. Yet many American Christians believe that capitalism was ordained by God, and that God showers blessings upon the faithful in the form of money. The Law of Attraction and the Secret effectively teach that poverty is not caused by systemic inequality, but by one's own bad attitude or lack of faith. This isn't to say that a positive mindset isn't helpful, but rather that blaming poverty on people's attitudes or spiritual condition is victim blaming; and in the context of Christianity, blasphemy.

These ideologies are incredibly self-centered and individualistic. They don't help people become more aware of the world around them, nor teach them how to form and maintain healthy communities, nor to value performing acts service to others or doing the right thing for its own sake. Instead, they put a religious spin on capitalism and personal gain. It's extremely self-evident when you see people talking about "manifesting abundance" - IE, drawing in wealth and prosperity to themselves. They believe that manifestation is this incredibly powerful phenomenon, yet it never occurs to them to just manifest the end of poverty altogether. And I'm not saying that they should try to do this, because issues of inequality aren't going to be solved by people sitting around thinking happy thoughts. But if they tried, it would at least demonstrate that they possess some sense of communal responsibility.

I don't think anything demonstrates the kind of ignorance Law of Attraction proponents exploit better than the way many multi-level marketing schemes instruct consultants to apply it. In fact, the very structure of a multi-level marketing scheme is inherently unsustainable. The only way to make any real money back is to recruit more consultants, and there's only so many people who can be recruited. And once a certain amount of people are recruited, the market becomes oversaturated, and supply quickly outpaces demand. In addition, many MLMs don't let consultants pick their own stock, but instead send them a shipment of whatever that may or may not be in demand. When one looks at the operating structure of an MLM, it becomes obvious that no amount of modern folk magic will bring these people success.

Similar problems reveal themselves when you take a closer look at socio-economics. Poverty traps - systems that actively prevent people from earning more than a certain amount of money - exist everywhere. Redlining is still a massive problem. Disability benefits are yet another poverty trap. The idea that everyone can (at least theoretically) just magic themselves out of these situations is absurd.

And speaking of disability, disability is a major hindrance in making money - many disabled people simply can't pull as many hours or do as much work as an abled person. It's impossible. And in money-focused worldviews, disabled people are often blamed for their own conditions, and told that if they just had enough faith God would heal them, or if they just tried the right diet or the right spiritual practices they'd get better, or whathaveyou. (And this isn't to say that good eating habits aren't helpful, but it's not realistic to expect them to cure everyone's chronic conditions.)

Finally, the tough truth about having wealth: It makes people selfish. By spiritualizing gaining wealth, we are spiritualizing a path toward becoming an ever more selfish person, one who does not have real friends and community so much as close business associates. Those who make it to the very top can sit in their penthouses and contemplate how lazy and immoral the poor masses supposedly are.

A healthy spiritual philosophy will encourage self-growth, but it won't be some kind of purely individualist thing. It will encourage sharing resources and helping those in need, rather than treating the acquisition of wealth as a sign of moral or spiritual advancement. Also, it won't glamorize helping others to the point of self-destruction, either; it will place a healthy emphasis on self-care - any ideology that teaches you to destroy and sacrifice yourself probably only exists to make someone else wealthy.

The Trap of Traditionalism

There's a fair number of people who completely reject these newer ideologies and try to reconstruct a "traditional" approach to their religion. At first this might seem like a reasonable way to avoid the problems of these modern traditions, but it's fraught with problems of its own.

First, many ancient cultures are often poorly understood, and there's a lot we just don't know. Sometimes all we have to work on are vague or secondhand descriptions, if even that. Some descriptions of ancient practices and beliefs are suspect because they were written by people who didn't have enough contextual knowledge to understand what they were looking at, or worse, had a hostile political agenda.

Apparently, pagan Romans got the idea that Christians were murdering babies. Had Christianity not become the dominant religious impulse, we might have gone on thinking that this really happened.

But it's not as simple as dismissing every claim of human sacrifice. Apparently, many bog mummies were in fact ritually slaughtered, most of them around 700 BC to 200 AD. And what's even more horrifying, a high number of the victims were disfigured or disabled, suggesting that these were extremely ableist societies. So while many people have tried to dismiss more alarming descriptions of pagan ritual practices as imperialist and/or Christian propaganda, it seems that there were cases where this really did happen.

This kind of thing creates a problem for the traditionalist. Either they have to consciously choose to disregard some traditions, or they have to disregard the evidence and create a pseudohistory, or they have to engage in illegal and immoral practices.

Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with taking inspiration from old traditions, or trying to recreate old traditions in a way accommodates the realities of modern society. That's perfectly fine. But we have to acknowledge that not every tradition is actually doable, let alone desirable.

Another problem with trying to stick with a "traditional" approach is that traditions are constantly evolving. Many of us tend to think that Satan was always more or less the way Christianity portrays him, and that Satan was the only leader of the fallen angels. But the truth is far more complex; the figure of Satan and the theology around him evolved organically for hundreds of years. Nowadays we kind of tend to assume that the Greek pantheon was always led by Zeus, but in it seems that in Mycenaean Greece, Poseidon was the most important god - and a chthonic deity. Anytime two cultures get together and swap stories, syncretization happens. Beliefs and practices also varied depending on region and socioeconomic status, so what the wealthy city dwellers did and believed may have been a far cry from what the rural farmers did and believed.

Many who call themselves "traditionalists" simply cherrypick whatever old traditions will justify their bigoted, authoritarian impulses. They may claim that it was these traditions that kept societies of the past strong and free of corruption, and claim that any divergence from their cherrypicked traditions was degeneration. In other words, it's fascism in a pagan hat.

This kind of thing happens with some (though certainly not all) Scandinavian reconstructionists. They use their ideas of what "traditional" Scandinavian culture was like to justify their hatred and exclusion of non-white people. (Never mind that racial categories hadn't been invented yet, and the Vikings themselves were anything but exclusionary.)

Again, there's absolutely nothing wrong with taking inspiration from old traditions, but it's important to be mindful that traditions are constantly evolving, constantly syncretizing, and are always diverse. There was never any point where traditions were in their most perfect or pure state. They were products of their environments, and reflected the lived realities of the day. It's also important to be mindful that there's a lot we just don't know for certain, and that whenever we try to fill in the blanks or decide which information was distorted or false, we can't help but impose a few of our own biases. And that's not inherently a bad thing, but it is absolutely a thing.

So by all means, study the past to help you move forward into the future - but don't get some weird idealized version of the past stuck in your head, or start thinking there was some golden age you should try to recreate. And definitely watch people who call themselves "traditionalists" as an excuse to act on their cruelest and most hateful impulses.

The Subjectivity of Mystical Experience

What I know for certain is that if you practice certain skills and disciplines, and if you perform certain activities, you can induce certain kinds of experiences. I also know that sometimes, you can have an experience that is truly inexplicable through our present understanding of things.

You can, for all seeming appearances, summon and talk to gods, angels, demons, faeries, dead celebrities, and even characters from your favorite fictional works. You can, for all seeming appearances, project your consciousness out of your body, enter the realms these entities live in, and interact with them. And they will tell you things, and sometimes these things will catch you off guard and surprise you.

I do not begrudge anyone who wants to try and have these kinds of experiences. Contrary to what scaremongering puritans would have you think, you are not likely to draw in evil entities or otherwise find yourself in some sort of horror movie situation, particularly if you're very specific about who, what, and where you're trying to reach.

Where we have a problem is when people become so attached to the idea of their experiences and their explanations for them are 100% objectively true and real that they cannot accept new information that undermines this notion. Let's say, for example, someone has a past life vision about living in a sparkling crystal city on the moon, only to later learn that there's no evidence of such a place ever existing on the moon. Rather than consider that their vision wasn't exactly what they thought it was, they decide that there's a vast conspiracy made to keep the existence of this moon city a secret from the people.

Now they've stepped into conspirituality. And now that they've decided it's plausible that someone or something is hiding their moon city from the masses, any number of other conspiracy theories - all of them hateful and dangerous - start to become plausible. If they can hide the moon city, then they can cover up and hide all the miracles cures and push "unnecessary" treatments on people. And if they are doing that, then exactly who are they, anyway? I'll put it this way: it's not coincidental that so many members of wellness communities ended up going into QAnon.

We also have a problem when people claim to know the nature of a deity better than the actual culture the deity was originally worshiped in. When you have a modern American claiming that Odin would never condone violence, or that Hecate was all love and light, or that Apollo was totally straight, something's gone very wrong. I'm not saying that true and accurate information can only be found in ancient texts, or that modern people must adhere to literally everything that ancient people did and believed. We absolutely do need to acknowledge that religious beliefs and practices have always been organic, diverse, and constantly evolving. But to think and claim that literally everyone but you got it wrong is egocentric and presumptuous in the highest degree.

Now for something else: the recent phenomenon of reality shifting. For those who don't know, the practice of reality shifting essentially uses the same methods used to induce lucid dreaming or astral projection to supposedly project one's soul or consciousness into another reality. Now, I am fully sympathetic to the kids out there who are doing this to escape the humdrum of pandemic life, and I do not believe that these practices are in and of themselves harmful. Rather, the real harm comes from the bold and unprovable metaphysical claims people try to attach to these practices.

Many who advocate and practice reality shifting claim that these experiences are 100% objectively real, because literally any world you can imagine exists somewhere out there in the multiverse. Ergo, you can make up a world of your own and shift to it because it actually exists somewhere in an alternate universe. Thing is, this cannot be objectively proven, so claiming that this is absolutely, definitely what is happening is dishonest. (Some claim that a CIA document titled "Analysis and Assessment of The Gateway Process" proves that reality shifting is real. However, the document doesn't actually talk about reality shifting; it's more about regular old astral projection with a pseudoscientific spin.)

Meanwhile, there's a far more likely explanation - reality shifters are essentially giving themselves lucid dreams, or are inducing some other extremely vivid dreamlike state. Their visualizations and whatnot prime their brains to experience their chosen elements.

Some reality shifters incorporate the "Lifa App" into their experiences, which is in effect a program or object that allows them to make changes while they're shifting. Now, if you operate on the assumption that you've hacked your brain into giving you your own personal holosuite experience, there's nothing wrong with this. But if you're operating on the assumption that this world is in fact real, everything is wrong with it. You are - at least, in your own perception - intentionally warping a reality and overriding real people's autonomy to have things your own way. It's morally indefensible.

Now, I don't believe that they're actually entering other realities, let alone harming or violating real people. However, they believe they're doing this. And we have to ask ourselves how this kind of thing might influence their choices in the real world. Again, it's not the shifting itself that's the problem; it's the assumptions and mentality that are being packed into it.

There's also the risk for emotional harm. Because reality shifting is such an immersive experience, and because people genuinely believe it's real, anything that happens there is going to feel real. Thus, there is absolutely a heightened risk of sustaining emotional trauma from one's shifting experiences. Now, I'm not saying that this means that you absolutely can't or shouldn't try shifting, but rather that the belief that it's all literally real could have a substantial psychological impact on people.

Now with that said, part of me can't help but wonder if part of the backlash against reality shifting is driven by the fact that it calls so many people's assumptions into questions. If a teenage girl can go hang out with her favorite TV show characters using the exact same techniques you use to visit your spirit guardians and whatnot on the astral plane, it really calls into question just how objectively real and trustworthy your experiences are. Literally any justification you can come up with to dismiss her experiences can be used to dismiss your own.

And speaking of fictional characters and astral planes, I've seen a few people sincerely claim that their favorite works of media were based on their own past lives in other realms or planes of reality, which is both hilariously ignorant of how the creative process even works and incredibly disrespectful to creators. The idea that a TV show where the plot and characters are largely dictated by the whims of executives who think they've figured out the latest formula for commercial success could be significantly based on real events of any kind is absurd. Meanwhile, the possibility that one's apparent experiences on the astral plane were inspired by one's favorite TV shows is significantly more plausible.

And if we're not talking about an executive-driven media piece? I cannot overstate the absolute self-centered gall in being so absolutely certain that its creator was inspired by your own experiences, doubly so is the author belongs to a marginalized category you don't. Like, if you think this can possibly be true, you do not understand the creative process. Creators don't just pull ideas from the aether. We spend hours considering and trying out different ideas that we hope will make a good story. We change our minds partway through the process. And when it's finally finished, we often as not feel like we could and should have done better.

Again, I'm not saying you can't have spirituality, or that you can't go and try to talk to entities on the astral plane, but please do not be a pigheaded dillweed about it. It's one thing to have your own perceptions and interpretations of your mystical experiences, but trying to force others to accept them without evidence is a violation of their boundaries. And when the evidence ends up conflicting with your beliefs, then it's time to rethink your beliefs.

In closing

So what's the takeaway here?

History matters. It's important to understand and acknowledge the actual history behind anything. Beliefs and practices don't just fall out of the sky free of contemporary sociopolitical influence. And while many historians and anthropologists are biased and while people have gotten many things wrong, there is no big sinister conspiracy to hide the truth.

Lately I've been watching Religion For Breakfast, a YouTube channel that examines religion from an academic standpoint. I recommend checking it out, because there's a lot of really interesting content that'll help give you a good sense of how religions develop and progress. Plus it clears up a lot of misconceptions that people have about the rise of Christianity and the role and impact of religion on society on the whole.

Your own biases have to be taken into account, too. You are a product of your time, place, and lived experiences. The significance and meaning you find in old myths and folklore may be significantly different from what their originators intended - and that's okay. However, you cannot assume that your own perspectives are the best or most objective, particularly not without any read study into the times and cultures they came from. Like, trying to figure out the "true" nature of Hades and Persephone's relationship without knowing anything Persephone's role in Mycenaean Greece, let alone her cult? Yeah, not really advisable.

Don't commit yourself to explanations or interpretations you can't actually prove. It's okay to favor certain explanations or interpretations, but it's not healthy to get so attached to them that you can't let go of them if actual evidence suggests something else. It's okay to be at least a little agnostic, or to accept that spirituality can be useful or valuable without each and every aspect being literally true.

A lot of us have been taught to conflate having pure faith with being a moral person, but the reality is that these two things have nothing to do with each other. You can be a moral person with little to no faith, and an immoral person with very strong faith. If you end up believing in conspiracy theories because of how you approach your faith, that's not moral.

Be more mindful of what kind of attitudes and worldviews different spiritualites cultivate and validate. Does it explicitly or implicitly blame people for their socioeconomic status? Does it imply or state that rich people are more enlightened, more spiritual, or just better in some way? Does it encourage conspiracy thinking, or outright claim there's a big sinister conspiracy? Does it foster an "us vs. them" mentality? Does it teach people to focus on their own personal growth and progress while underplaying or undervaluing the importance of communal responsibility?

If you want to be spiritual, try to cultivate healthy forms of spirituality. I think Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg's Twitter thread on faith is a good place to start. I also suggest Sunny Moraine's thread on spirituality (which partially inspired me to write this article).

Respect people's boundaries and set your own boundaries. Don't expect people to just adopt your own spiritual/metaphysical views because you say they're true, and don't let people bully or guilt trip you into adopting spiritual/metaphysical views you aren't comfortable with or don't seem right. Understand that appealing to divine authority or divine wrath to police people's behavior and thoughts is spiritual abuse and manipulation, and the idea that the will of the gods is to be obeyed without question is fascist. Understand that literally any belief system can and will be twisted by abusive people.

Anyone who implicitly or explicitly tells you that you're disrespecting them by not taking their own spiritual or metaphysical beliefs as 100% Capital-T Truth is behaving inappropriately, and has an unreasonable definition of "respect." Anyone who conflates believing unprovable claims with being moral or worthy is at best being very irrational, and at worst abusive.

In any case, healthy spirituality nurtures compassion and kindness, and cultivates awareness of the world and people around you. It accepts and addresses the present realities of life. It accepts that some things are unknown, and may never be known. It doesn't moralize believing in unprovable dogma. It nurtures optimism that things can get better (as it encourages people to do better) while also not setting unrealistic expectations for results, lest disappointment drive them to pessimism.

Don't harass or bully people for having different beliefs. And it doesn't matter how weird or silly they might seem. It's one thing to be critical of beliefs that encourage hateful attitudes, conspiracy thinking, and inappropriate behavior. It's another thing to mock teenagers for simply trying to find their own path and bully them when they've fallen prey to bad information because they hadn't yet had the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to recognize it as bad information. I'll put it this way: If you have the time and energy to mock and bully someone, you have the time and energy to raise awareness and educate people. And it costs nothing to be kind and compassionate.

I hope you found this article useful and informative. If you liked it, please share it with your friends and on your social media, and please consider supporting me on Patreon. Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great day!

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