Conspirituality – the wellness community meets the far-right

An interesting theme of the last few years has been the increasing connection between parts of the wellness community and far-right conspiracy theory, conspirituality. For some people it has become almost cult-like, as seen with the QAnon movement, with its belief that Trump is the true leader battling a satanic movement within the “Deep state” of paedophiles at the highest levels.

For years the “alternative” movement has been associated with a distrust of mainstream medicine, preferring alternative medical practices, and with the pharmaceutical industry to whom were attributed sinister and conspiratorial tendencies. This has often been linked with a distrust of government who are in many cases funders of healthcare and medical practitioners, and of experts and specialists. Evidence-based rationality is supplanted by belief, very often ill-supported by evidence.

Democratic society is based ultimately on consent. When distrust gets so high, consent can be withdrawn, and authoritarianism can take its place. Arguably this trend is already observable across the globe.

The fertile ground of the pandemic

The pandemic, where an unseen virus terrorises populations across the world, is proving to be fertile territory to heighten this tendency and link it with far-right politics. The latter has long been a breeding ground of perceived sinister plots, often associating governmental actions with a “hidden” group of people with plans to take over and rule in their own purposes. Such a tendency was especially seen in Nazism, with its belief in an international Jewish-Marxist plot to rule the world. Today we are seeing a renewed upsurge in such far-right activity. QAnon has an anti-Semitic side to it, for example.

Thus we’re seeing at present a whole range of conspiracy theories, such as anti-vaxxers, or the idea that Bill Gates has put microchips in the vaccine to control us, or that we are at risk from 5G mobile technology.

As with other political movements, a strong facet is the power of belief, especially where it links with a community of fellow-believers. “Alternative” people are typically highly individualistic, what the American philosopher Ken Wilber in “A theory of Everything” describes as “Boomeritis”: “I’ll do my thing; you do your’s”. He finds this tendency amongst the Boomer generation, what he calls the “Green meme”, narcissistic, obsessively self-absorbed and convinced of its self-importance at the expense of others, and he is sceptical of the extent of its ability to develop into higher levels of spirituality, regarding it as stuck in this stage of evolution. This is where I’d suggest that the current Conspirituality are stuck. Faced with deeply unsettling change that, in the case of climate change, is potentially existential, a whole part of society is looking to revert to old belief systems with a modern twist.

An Ego defence against change

Some political scientists suggest that the Far Right upsurge is a defensive reaction, particularly amongst an older, less educated but property owning generation against change. The forces increasingly aligned to tackle climate change and the needs of the impoverished masses in this increasingly unequal world are more about what unites us and brings us together, what protects and nourishes us. They are seen as a threat, like a Marxist plot. Herein lies a great divide.

I’m struck by how the alternative movement, if movement is an appropriate word to use, has got diverted into “Conspirituality”, ie a conspiracy-theory dominated world view of spirituality. Indeed there is a whole trend in society that is anti-government, highly distrustful of authority and institutions, but needing reassurance, safety and stability. The tragedy here though is that so much about this “movement” risks being lost in the process.

An adversarial perspective

The Far Right specialises in a “Them-Us” dichotomy, or a “friend-foe” adversarial perspective. There is a hidden enemy with sinister intentions. Very often it is racist, regarding certain ethnic minorities as the danger to be eliminated. One example is the widely-held view that there is a Great Replacement taking place, where Muslims plan to dilute and weaken the white race. There is also a strong authoritarian feature, where “we’ll tell you what is right and what is wrong”. We’re seeing this tendency in White Supremacism in the US.

This is, to me, where Conspirituality has lost its way and is being caught up in a version of Ego defence where narcissism reigns supreme, and well-financed “strong men” are using the vulnerabilities of democracy to undermine it. What is missing, arguably, is a perspective that is inclusive, respectful, and tolerant of different positions. To many, across many spiritual traditions, spirituality is about love, forgiveness, compassion and connectedness. In this arena, widely seen in mystical traditions, one does not have enemies but instead one has people who might have differences but at a higher level are all One.

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An article on conspirituality and the far right