Conspiracy theories abound these days. In a rapidly changing world overrun with uncertainty, governmental distrust, and fear, it’s one way of making sense of the chaos. A conspiracy theory is defined as a theory that rejects the consensually accepted explanation for an event such as the pandemic and instead credits a covert powerful group or organization with carrying out a secret sinister plot unknown to the general public. Those who believe themselves to be really in the know, often feel superior to those who are blind to the actual nefarious nature of what is happening.
The fact that far-right groups such as QAnon have been promoting Covid 19 denialism, demonizing Dr. Fauci, alleging dystopian motives behind public health policy, and the dangerousness of the vaccine is common knowledge. What is perhaps less well known is that charismatic influencers with huge followings in the New Age spiritual and wellness community are also promoting bizarre conspiracy theories. These theories include the cause of the epidemic, the exaggerated dangerousness of the virus, the malevolent motives behind social distancing recommendations, the lack of efficacy of masks, and the safety of the vaccine.
What these seemingly strange bedfellows share is the conspiratorial mindset which can be characterized by three assumptions:
- Nothing happens by accident
- Everything is connected
- Nothing is as it seems
Since I endorse these metaphysical beliefs about the nature of reality, it’s been particularly fascinating to recognize that they also underpin the conspiratorial world view.
Another shared belief between QAnon and many members of the spiritual community is that we are in the midst of a Great Awakening. For QAnon the #hashtag, The Great Awakening, means awakening to both truth and facts about the Deep State. “At its core are lurid claims that an elite cabal of child-trafficking pedophiles, comprising, among others, Hollywood A-listers, leading philanthropists, Jewish financiers and Democrat politicians, covertly rule the world. Only President Trump can bring them to justice with his secret plan that will deliver what QAnon’s disciples refer to as “The Storm” or “The Great Awakening”. (1)
The notion of “awakening” is also a concept integral to the spiritual community. Though it’s the same term, the meaning is quite different. An increasing number of individuals are reporting mystical experiences, a shift in consciousness, which has been referred to as “awakening”. This is a complex concept to define, but central to it is the experience of the sacredness of everything as well as a mature state of awareness that transcends the experience of the separateness of “I” and “Other”. The YouTube video at the bottom of the post is an episode from “Buddha at the Gas Pump”, a podcast devoted to interviews with spiritually awakening people. There are currently close to 600 episodes.
Given the overwhelming scope and nature of the planetary problems we are facing, such as the collapse of the biosphere and the pandemic, which both call for global solutions, it is particularly unfortunate that efforts to come together to propose strategies and cooperation are often met with paranoia and conspiracy narratives about the global elite controlling the world from both the far right and the New Age/ wellness community.
Since 2011 the planet Neptune, which is associated with dreams, illusion, delusion, addiction, and loss of control has been exerting a particularly powerful influence on the collective consciousness, and in this last period even more so. Astrologer Alan Oaken called the current configuration a signature of “mass psychosis”. We are now particularly vulnerable to confusion and difficulty sorting out what is real and true.
There is an understandable temptation to throw up one’s hands in resignation, succumbing to a feeling that we simply have no idea what is really going on and have no way of finding out. That may in some ultimate sense be true, but nevertheless, all of us have a responsibility to resist that defeatist attitude and to continue to seek out the highest-quality in-depth journalism from a wide variety of sources that we can find, read critically, listen deeply, and engage in discussion with others, in order to dispel the paralyzing fog of confusion and disinformation that is making it so hard to see clearly.
Here is a thought-provoking conversation about conspiracy theories and the New Age/wellness community on the podcast “Buddha at the Gas Pump“. Rick Archer, the host, interviews three guests, a journalist, a cult researcher, and a philosophical skeptic. These three men also host their own podcast called “Conspirituality”. It describes itself as ” a weekly study of converging right-wing conspiracy theories and faux-progressive wellness utopianism.” As hosts of their own podcast, I found their tone and attitudes often dismissive, contemptuous, lacking in discernment, and all too ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. They were more respectful and measured as guests on “Buddha at the Gas Pump”.
(1) 09.20.2020 Jamie Doward The Guardian How the Qanon Conspiracy Theory is taking Root in the UK