Spiritual Materialism In New Age Music

Spiritual Materialism In New Age Music

The Illusion of "Enlightenment Technology"

 

According to the website for Bliss Music:

 

“We have taken one of the most ancient and proven eastern secrets to meditation (Shaktipat) and turned it into a powerful sound technology.

 

So when you listen to the meditation music, you can actually feel the peace washing through you, enabling you to experience states of meditation you may not have been able to attain in decades of practice.”

 

This is a fairly typical marriage of New Age music with New Age thought, but despite the genuine beauty of much New Age music, it suffers from one of the central weaknesses of New Age thought. That weakness is “spiritual materialism.”

What is spiritual materialism? It is the mistake of equating genuine spiritual enlightenment with one of its commonly-misunderstood side effects, which is a state of bliss, joy or peace. In serious meditation traditions, the moment in which the ego falls away is often accompanied by blissful or ecstatic feelings, but it is crucial to understand that those feelings are merely incidental. Enlightenment is not an emotional state. If we mistake an emotional state for genuine enlightenment, no matter how wonderful that emotional state is, we can only make ourselves more unhappy in the long run. Why is that?

 

Think about some of the other things that can give you feelings of joy or bliss- sex, for example, or drugs, or personal success. There's nothing “unspiritual” about enjoying sex, but the bliss it gives you is temporary. So if you crave that bliss and start to grasp for it, chasing after sex at every opportunity, the misery you'll create for yourself in the long run will be far more intense and lasting than the brief periods of bliss.

 

Sex is by no means unique in this way. Anything and everything that gives us bliss works exactly like that. All of the great spiritual traditions teach that the way to spiritual enlightenment lies in getting out of the destructive cycle of chasing after bliss and creating suffering instead.

 

So, if we just equate meditation with the ecstatic and blissful feelings that sometimes arise when we make a spiritual breakthrough, then we defeat the point of having made that breakthrough. Meditative bliss becomes something to grasp, something to chase after just like sex or drugs. When the bliss of the meditation fades, you'll feel even worse because you can't regain it.

 

There is no such thing as a “technology of enlightenment” and there never will be. The most beautiful CD in the world cannot give you any understanding you don't come to on your own, and in seeking enlightenment for the bliss it causes, you may make yourself even more unhappy.