Tag Archives: spiritual bypass

The Problem with Grace

If I were to pick one word that is central to my spiritual worldview, it would be Grace. And yet, I often find it to be the most difficult to talk about. It is profound as Truth and simultaneously problematic as a concept. It is a word that points to the deep nature of Reality and our soul’s relationship with God. But any explanation I can possibly think of is problematic if taken literally and applied inappropriately.

For instance, the words, “Everything is Grace,” can be either a soothing balm or a dagger to the gut depending on our understanding and application. They can be used to minimize danger, trivialize the suffering of others, or to spiritually bypass our own journey. They can also be that deepest reminder of our inherent OK-ness, even when our body, mind, and life circumstances are not OK.  They point us to the indestructible nature of Being, even in the face of death.

Ram Dass has often taught that the words, “Suffering is Grace,” are a tool that should only be applied to one’s own self. It should never be imposed outwardly on others. This is, of course, good practical advice and a safeguard from becoming a total dick, but it also points towards a deeper understanding than the words.

The semanticist Alfred Korzybski coined the now famous phrase, “The map is not the territory.”  Our ideas about the Universe are not the same as the Universe itself. A map is only useful if it takes us where we want to go. “Suffering is Grace” is one map that can be used to lead us right to the heart, even in the midst of extreme pain, but only in certain circumstances.

This map can also be used to circumvent our discomfort in witnessing another’s pain. Rather than using it to let go of our own discomfort, we instead minimize the other’s suffering. But Grace is not a concept to minimize pain. It is a force erupting from Infinity that grants us the capacity to hold it.

The concept of Grace is like a finger pointing at the moon. Move the hand, and it points us astray.

Sometimes Grace is what we pray for, like a mariner raising their sail and waiting for the winds to come. Other times Grace is more like dusting off an old window to allow in the light of the Sun.

Grace is all-pervading. That means that there is nowhere that Grace does not exist. It is the fabric of Existence itself, and yet… when I think of humanity’s worst atrocities and the most traumatic experiences of the human condition, there is no way I can call any of that Grace.

These inconsistencies create a doorway into a space that is deeper than words, where I no longer need to pin concepts to intuitive understanding and where I can truly rest in the spaciousness of Grace.

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White Men Spiritually Bypassing “Identity Politics” & the Allure of Jordan Peterson

“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

-Audrey Lorde, Our Dead Behind Us: Poems

There is a troubling belief gaining traction within the various spiritual communities I am apart of. In various ways, people are claiming that so-called “identity politics” further separate us into our individual differences, that somehow they widen the divide of “us and them.” I have seen teachings of Ram Dass, MLK, and Neem Karoli Baba used to support this view. This has been almost entirely expressed by white men. Not only is this spiritual bypassing of “identity politics” problematic for the world, but we can’t actually be whole until we consider their implications.

Jordan Peterson, a psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, has gained a following among mostly-white-and-male spiritual seekers. Due to his incorporation of Jungian Psychology, mythology, and transcendence into academic psychological thought, he is often seen as a “spiritual authority” as to why “identity politics” often oversteps its boundaries. In the video “Jordan Peterson Debunks White Privilege,” he states, “I can’t quite figure out why the postmodernists have made the canonical distinctions they’ve made. Race, ethnicity, sexual proclivity, gender identity, those are four dimensions along which people vary, but there is a very large number of dimensions along which people vary… There is an infinite number of dimensions along which people vary. So the postmodern question is, why would you privilege some of those distinctions over others?”

Here he is not making any real arguments of merit. He is simply using pseudo-intellectual lines of logic to obfuscate what should be plainly clear: these “distinctions” are four of the primary ways that we discriminate and oppress in our culture. This is not a philosophical abstraction. For people of color, women, and members of the LGBTQ community, this is a daily reality. So what he calls “identity politics” is a needed remedy to a system that unfairly privileges whiteness, maleness, middle-and-upperclassness, etc.

So-called “identity politics” don’t further ensnare us in our separate selves, they actually help free us by shining a light on our deeply embedded identities. For white, heterosexual, cisgender men, our identities are so thoroughly supported and reflected by the dominant culture that they are made invisible to us. The acknowledgment of these identities is often painful because it shows our complicity in an oppressive system. Actually taking the time to understand how white supremacy or patriarchy functions in our culture shows us the ways that they function in our own mind. This does not reify the ego, it only clearly names its underlying structure.

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