AntiOppressionism and the New Age Reformation by Maria Tidisco
"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. —Marcel Proust"
Hell is a form of joy so intense that it becomes unconscious. —Lewis Thompson
Not one of us is free. We can delude ourselves all we want, but the truth is, as long as one being remains oppressed, the entire planet is destined to suffer. Oppression is so widespread and so pervasive that we, in the New Age movement, are often overwhelmed by it to the point of immobilization. This is understandable, but immobilization never got anything done.
The New Age movement, as I understand it, is rooted in the principles of love, equality, and conscious living, and its aim is the eventual liberation of all beings. These are glorious ideals, which I have always held very dear to my heart. It is because I cherish these ideals so deeply that I am angry.
I see the New Age movement as suffering from a number of serious flaws. Although its principles are commendable, its cohesiveness as a movement is weak and, at times, nonexistent. This is because, to date, the New Age does not see itself as a movement so much as a playground of opportunities for individual, internal, psycho-spiritual exploration. This type of exploration is initially valuable for personal growth and healing, but a lifetime of seeking external validation of our own self-worth does not leave much room for active service.
I have been a part of the New Age movement for many years and have lived in its vortex, San Francisco, for much of that time. I can trace my deep longing for the San Francisco culture back to my early teens spent on the East coast, and I felt an almost alarming pang of belonging as I stepped out of the airport shuttle in front of my hotel on Haight Street during my first visit. Since then, I have zealously immersed myself in the New Age milieu, devouring anything of substance that could help me hone my emerging philosophy and goals. In the midst of this elation, an elusive sense of dissatisfaction took root and, eventually, grew into a dense and impenetrable forest.
This forest all but obscures the principles of love, equality, higher consciousness and liberation that the New Age movement claims to hold so dear because it is rooted in the soil of self-indulgence, denial of evil, and general dissociation and disorganization. We lack commitment to action and to the long-term goal of liberation. I recognize that I have encountered strong individuals and small groups that are committed to social change, but for each of these encounters I have had ten experiences of upper-middle class dilettantes whose sole purpose seems to be to choose an eloquent divine name for themselves and obsess about their last rap session with an angel. We need to get serious. In order to get serious, we have to get angry.
The New Age movement has a very real enemy. That enemy is mass social oppression. To me, pain and suffering are absolutely unacceptable. The majority of my colleagues have great sympathy for pain and suffering, but are not angry, and, therefore, remain uncommitted in their spirit. In order to feel bona fide anger, we have to integrate evil. The New Age movement is notorious for denying evil and, at the same time, wanting to save the world. This, of course, is hypocritical. There is nothing more hypocritical than a spineless, false prophet.
The New Age movement as a whole lacks solid character, long-term commitment, unified spirit, organization, and suffers from self-indulgence and from the blatant denial of evil. As long as we shake our heads in sympathy for the oppressed and chant “Om” in circles holding hands once a week, we can continue to exist on a superficial community high, feel good about ourselves, and not have to do anything real. Or be anything real, for that matter. I know that not everyone is satisfied with this arrangement, so I am posing an alternative. It is called “Anti-Oppressionism.”
Anti-Oppressionism is a New Age belief system based in love, equality, conscious living, and with the eventual liberation of all beings in mind. It differs from the general New Age climate in that it embraces evil rather than denies it. It encourages careful study of the forms oppression takes in the world and of the psychological dynamics of the evil-dominated, power-driven mind. It is aware of the process by which we normalize oppression by degrees as forces in our culture stealthily tighten the vise on our freedom. It advocates the awakening of latent anger and hate through the controlled environment of psychotherapy, which can be supplemented by workshops and deliberate self-exploration in these areas. It strives to integrate the darkness into the light to fuel our drive to bring about a better world.
Carl Jung speaks about the “shadow of the self,” which is the potential for archetypal evil in all of us. As we work through the biographical repressions of the personal unconscious, we inevitably arrive at the archetypal evil of the collective unconscious, and when we do, we find something familiar. We find hate, anger, power lust, and the most chthonic impulses of the survival instinct, which are the root of all strong dualistic tendencies. We can either embrace our dark side and integrate it to help abolish mass oppression, or we can deny it or project it onto a scapegoat individual or group.
Denial of evil means denying half of our power. If we follow denial through to its logical conclusion, we find that it culminates either in repression that demands an inordinate amount of energy which decimates our general effectiveness, or that it eventually seeks outlet in projection. Projection of evil is responsible for the majority of pain and suffering ever inflicted by human beings, from Hitler and Charles Manson to domestic violence and child abuse. By integrating evil, we see that we are involved in a war. We need to accept that we hate mass oppression. And we need to understand this enemy in order to fight it.
Contemporary Western culture does a good job of denying everything real and leaving us with a stagnant cesspool of automated mediocrity that we are supposed to call daily life. We are increasingly becoming the servants of technology, and our individuality and creativity is irrelevant and expendable. We are to deny death and we are to deny life. We are to exist as ghosts in limbo. The human spirit cannot withstand this level of insult. It will rebel. To be human is to evolve, to become whole, to discover our true selves. When we breathe with our living spirit, we tremble with electric potential, and in that trembling are swallowed by the moment and are driven ruthlessly into its ecstatic heartbeat. With the chains of oppression broken, we are truly alive. Heaven is not in the afterlife, it lies outside oppression.
The representational archetype of Anti-Oppressionism is a type of militant bodhisattva called the Revolutionist. The Revolutionist is the symbolic representation of the Hero in war/lovemaking with his/her archetypal shadow along the Hero’s Journey. The Revolutionist is committed in spirit, and has truly taken the principle of unity to heart, for he/she does not make a dualistic split between good and evil, but understands that our heart beats to the rhythm of both, and, in this understanding, aims to reroute the energy of evil into hatred of oppression and the energy of good into social activism.
The yin/yang symbol is representative of this unity of good and evil, for it shows that the two are in constant motion in relation to one another, and that the seed of one resides in the other. Seize the seed. It leads to the undiscovered frontiers of our psyche, and can propel us at warp speed right out of the dull orbit of perpetual, self-indulgent, egoic masturbation of New Age dilettantism. It is only by facing evil in ourselves that we become ready to face evil in the world. And once it becomes real to us, we instinctively respond with rage against the spiritual violation that it inflicts.
I see tremendous power and potential for social change in the New Age movement. The foundation of love, equality, conscious living, and liberation of all beings gloriously shines in our collective consciousness more vibrantly than in any other place in Western culture. The New Age does not see its full power because it is blinded by its own achievements. We collectively embrace Gaia as a living organism and the Buddha’s Four Noble Truths to end suffering, but the next millennium demands more than each of us addressing our individual pains. The Buddha did not face nuclear warfare. The era of meditating on mountain tops is over. Those of us who understand more have the responsibility to do more than our share.
Isolated individuals can volunteer a couple hours at a soup kitchen, participate in a swim-a-thon for Leukemia, or give a homeless person some change now and then, but collective groups with pooled resources and a unified spirit can do more. I visualize groups of Revolutionist renegades banding together and amassing resources to educate others in the dynamics of mass oppression, support charitable causes, and envision new ways to bring about the ultimate goal of widespread liberation. Service to charity is only one way to bring about our goal; education is another. A unified collective group has more potential power than a thousand well-meaning, isolated individuals. We are far more overwhelmed as individuals than we are as a unit. We advocate unity; let’s get together and share. Spread the spirit. If the world took the New Age principles to heart, we would attain liberation.
It is very difficult for me to see all this potential lying dormant. I wake up every morning with the dream of a better world vibrating in my consciousness, the serrated edges of reality grating against everything I hold dear. I understand that I am oppressed and feel this oppression very deeply. I have never been very good at denial; I have always opted for pain. Pain has given me great strength and clear vision. Pain belongs to the realm of life and death, while denial allows only a limbo between the two, lifeless and uninteresting. We all experience pain as a constant in life, and it is our task to learn from it rather than run from it. We have the option to sink our teeth into the beast even as we are being trampled underfoot.
Not only do we need to face pain, we need to translate it into action. Action is a social phenomenon. The New Age consciousness needs to be transferred from the psycho-spiritual to the social realm. This is not just for the promotion of greater giving, but for the renewed energy and electric bonding that comes from sharing and uniting around a common cause. We are all in this together, and we need to help each other, encourage each other, and fully understand the tools and strategies available to us to support our mutual goal. The New Age movement is too dissociated, and lets the energy aroused during workshops dissipate ineffectively afterward rather than using them as meeting grounds to focus on consolidating a continuous flow of conscious energy around a lifestyle and a common belief system. I would rather live the high than dabble in it. I know many of you would too. But, in general, the New Age is disembodied, and transcendence is an outdated paradigm. The real work is right here, fighting mass oppression; the awakening of higher consciousness is merely basic training for this battle.
The chart below contrasts the elements of the general New Age climate with the vision of Anti-Oppressionism. The principles of love, unity, equality, conscious living, and the eventual liberation of all beings remain common to both.New Age Anti-Oppressionism Denial of Evil Integration of Evil Psychological/Internal Sociological/External Self-indulgence Social Change Unorganized/Uncommitted Organized/Unified Spirit
The hope for a better future lies in changing the conditions of the present. It resides in education and acceptance of our challenge. It demands focus, discipline, sacrifice, character, intensity, and the proper mind-set to sustain these qualities. The proper mind-set arises from simply taking a good look around with open eyes. If your eyes are open, let your voice be heard.
Maria A. Todisco, Ph.D., is an educator, transpersonal psychologist, writer, and researcher/editor for Balthazar Productions. She holds a Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology (East-West Psychology), and a traditional MS in Counseling and Human Services. Dr. Todisco can be reached by mail at 608 South St. Andrews Place #502, Los Angeles, CA 90005, or by e-mail. For more information, send $5 for a pamphlet addressing the background philosophy of this statement.