The other day I found myself enraged by a Facebook post from a girl I've known since kindergarten. In it was a diatribe of how done she was with the Corona measures and she'd added a photo on it that compared two things. On one side it stated what things were beneficial to a healthy immune system, things such as;
- fresh air
- healthy food
- having fun
On the other side was a list of things that the government wanted for us;
- stay indoors
- wear a mask
- stay away from people
- live in constant fear
- rat on everyone who does not
- do not feel free
- inject yourself with poison
In her message, she stated planning on demonstrating the rules and would hope everyone else to do the same. There are a lot of reasons why this post enraged me but one of the reasons it did, I realise now, is because I felt so deeply disappointed in her. We've lost another good soul to 'spirituality'.
I've known this girl since we were 4 years old and over the years we've shared more than a name. We were never close but just as I went through a burnout that changed my life and outlook, so did she. Neither of us ever fully recovered and struggle with chronic problems that we have no answer for and felt at many times, isolated and alone. Where I sought solace in therapy and art, she sought and found hers in spirituality.
I am no stranger to the path she's wandered onto, but it never really got its grip on me. This is partly due to the fact that I've seen close-hand how people can lose themselves and become a victim to people in this kind of life who are all too willing to abuse their good nature and faith for their own benefit. When I was a child I had eczema and growing up my mom tried everything she could think of to fix it for me. Nothing worked and so she welcomed help from other sources. Like her brother who, at the time, was working as an energy reader and could tell me what I would be allergic to. Or her sister who bought us 'blessed water' at exorbitant prices that would cure me. Over the years I bathed in terribly smelling Chinese herbs (that I should probably refer to as 'Chinese' herbs because although the proprietor of the shop was probably Chinese, I very much doubt anything he did was above-board. It sure was expensive though), I drank and ate all kinds of supplements and spent months on terrible diets. None of them prescribed by a doctor. None of them helped. Eventually, after I turned 13 it went away on its own, almost overnight. As these things do sometimes.
I was always curious about the non-ordinary, the agnostic, the psychic, the.. everything that wasn't the roman-catholic that I was raised to believe in but never did. So despite hating every minute of all of these things, I did them, even if I didn't truly believe in them. Part of me always felt that all of these things weren't quite right even if they were mystical and interesting. I read cards and meditated and hoped that one day I would learn how to levitate. Or at least.. that something interesting might happen. I tried these things on for size but eventually came to the conclusion that this was not for me. My poor aunt who fully believed spent much of her money on whatever she could get her hands on and although it's unrelated that she became seriously mentally ill later, the two are connected in my mind.
In the years since I took great distance from these interests of mine as it became more and more clear to me just how much of these things took advantage of lonely people, looking for a sign of something else in their lives. When a few years ago I started meditating again, at the advice of my therapist, it took me some time to get over my preconceptions that not all these things had to be wrong. There was a scientific basis for the benefit of this and that and so I let myself get into it. I love yoga and meditation is a daily part of my life. I truly believe that in this day and age when we are more estranged from our bodies and our own minds, that these kinds of things can help us restore a kind of balance which is invaluable. It didn't occur to me to view these things as spiritual until I heard someone mention that to him, it was. I thought that was beautiful.
It was around this time that I reconnected with my name-sake who was struggling, maybe even more deeply and lonely than I was. She had walked a bit further down that path of spirituality, I gathered. She attended spiritual circles of some sorts, believed in the healing powers of all kinds of things and paid hefty sums for healing treatments of the kind that I grinned at but I figured, if it helps her, then that's good. It's harmless. Just like I'm prepared to pay a good sum (although not as substantial as that..) for a massage, a sauna or a spa day. It does me good, even if there's no official reason for it, so who cares. Good for her. We talked of how unhealthy society could be and how things could and should be different and support each other's steps in caring for ourselves and offering kindness where possible.
In the meantime, she kept wandering on that path. Quite possibly feeling lonely and out of place as she often expressed she felt. In her social media expressions, she seemed to aggressively push against having to protect herself from the damaging influence of others and I wondered, idly, if she was feeding a beast that would keep craving more. If maybe, someone wasn't taking advantage of how she felt and her good nature.
Somehow, she's become the sort of person now that believes the government is brainwashing us, that Bill Gates is creating a vaccine that is actually poison and that you can heal a virus with hugs. Somehow, she ended up there. And somehow, she feels right in putting others at risk of disease, chronic illness and death, because it's what feels right to her instead of what is being told to her by a government she doesn't trust anymore. Somehow she became someone who truly believes that hugs and supplements can prevent health problems, despite, or maybe because of, all the health problems she still struggles with herself. And I am reminded that spirituality is not always harmless. There are people out there taking advantage of good-willed, loving, lonely and hurting people because they want to. Because they feel they should. Just like they did with my aunt. Just like a national psychic caused the death of a national celebrity because she advised handlaying instead of chemotherapy when she was diagnosed with cancer. Just like the elderly woman who died because the 'leader' of the group of people she lived with believed that it was time to move away from food and live purely, as nature intended, from light and air only.
Some spirituality is not harmless. It misdirects and abuses the good intentions of gentle people until they are even more bitter and even more lonely and find themselves so far from society that society no longer makes sense. Not in the way that we all often do, but in a deeper, more fundamental way. A way that reality or common sense no longer plays a role. And the people who guide them down this path, who helps them believe things they never thought they would feel strengthened and true in what they are doing.
Where spirituality can help provide the kind of balance and peace of mind that we need so desperately in these times, times of excess and fast-paced change, times of trouble and uncertainty, this kind of spirituality makes that which should be a safe haven, a pit of snakes.
Like we didn't have enough of those already.